Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Max as a CAD

One Hundred Eighty Fourth Post: Max as a CAD

There needs to be a plugin for Max to add some more CAD features. Max shares a lot of features with CAD now. It is a sort of 3D CAD, but some things such as plotting, dimensioning, and page format are missing. AutoDesk, the company that produces Max, probably doesn’t want to market a product that would have the same features as some of the other software packages it has.

I talk about this feature because I am using Max to make a technical drawing. It makes it easier to draw because you see the part in 3D and it is easier to change the values of the drawings dimensions. So far the program has worked great. I am learning more features as I go. The only problems that occurred were mistakes in how I imagined the drawing and how it has to work. Max help me find those errors.

Only 24 days to Christmas. And only 23 shopping days and less if it has to be delivered. But until Christmas gets here... May the Creative Force and Holiday Spirit be with You

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Digital Pictures

One Hundred Eighty Third Post: Digital Pictures

Ok. First off the Steelers didn’t beat the Colts yesterday (11-28-2005). I thought the turning point was when they kicked on onside kick to start the second half. I don’t know why Cower did that. It lead to a Colts touchdown. The Steelers were still in it then at 2 scores behind. The Colts had 9 points in field goals, but if the Steelers could get the offense together they still had a fighting chance.

I tried the Maya 5 learning addition yesterday. It has the same features as Max just arranged differently. I find that the Max interface is more basic and easier for beginners to use. (Of course, I have worked with it more.) Maya’s interface is a bit more graphical, but I had trouble adjusting sizes of the basic primitives by hand. Instead of adjusting once a point is placed on the screen, I guess the user must use the “scale” button or type in values in the properties window. I prefer Max, but there is a lot of professional designers that use Maya.

But while discussing 3D programs let’s not forget the 2D. I am talking about digital photos. Once you use a digital camera you wonder how people took pictures without it. But the fact that it is easy and fun to use has opened the world of photography to anyone. But with so many great shoots it is hard to make your shoots stand out. My tip is to buy a $20 or so tripod. It doesn’t have to reach the floor. It just has to hold the camera steady. The second tip is to move around the area to be photograph and take the time to find the right view. Digital cameras are very sensitive to bright lights so be aware of the light source. Also, as the book says, never point the camera at the sun in such cases you are capturing a sky view.

The tips are simple, but you can use the camera for more than just preserving memories. There is also an artistic and technical uses. The perfect shot is easy to snap, but first you have to find it. That is were you design the shot and pick the perspective. It is more than just an image. It is art. The technical side is taking a photo of the tractor deck so next spring you can put it back on. Also descriptive photos may be taken to show how a machine works. Its up to you. But until you snap the next photo.... May the Creative Force and Holiday Spirit be with You

Monday, November 28, 2005

Maya vs. Max

One Hundred Eighty Second Post: Maya vs. Max

Well it is always confusing shopping for Alias’s software. I haven’t ordered anything. But you can get the learning addition free. It seems like the product can do a lot it just needs so many software packages for different areas such as architecture, design, games, film, and web graphics. 3DS Max is a bit more versatile than Maya, but it has the same fault when it comes to plugins. They are too expensive and numerous.

But I recently learned from the forums on that Autodesk the company that produces Max has purchased Alias. Now that is one way to boast revenue by owning two of the biggest names in 3D graphics. We can expect some changes in 3D in the next few years.

I have been really working out lately. Trying to lose some weight. I was told to lift weights to build muscle to burn fat and calories. My workout is lifting weights about 4 times a week alternating muscle groups. I take a pair of ten pound dumbbells and lift until muscle failure. The complete workout only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. You don’t have to lift heavy weight. Just do exercises like pushups to muscle failure and your done.

But until the Steeler beat the Colts on Monday night.... May the Creative Force and Holiday Spirit be with You

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Good Places on the Net to Learn

One Hundred Eighty First Post: Good Places on the Net to Learn

I’m always searching for ideas for projects or a place to learn more. Recently it has been writing that I am doing. (But it is my art that needs improvement and practice.) So I went to Barnes and Noble web site and checked out their classes they offer for free. It is a great idea and I wish Amazon would follow. At they had a science fiction writing class for free I read on and discovered: . It appears to have some good writing classes to get some ideas or get out of a writers block. Education is expensive, so it is a nice find when you find something that helps a self study or creates a new project. Plus it is the interaction that makes these sites valuable.

On another note, “Good House Keeping” magazine had some good advice for diets. It says to lose weight slowly by cutting 20% of your calorie intake. That combined with moderate exercise will lose weight and keep it off. This is on page 215 of the November 2005 magazine.

But until you eat so much on the holidays, you have to go on a diet.... May the Creative Force and Holiday Spirit be with You

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Perpetual Motion

One Hundred Eightieth Post: Perpetual Motion

There is a lot of interest in motion from Newton’s Laws to Einstein’s Relativity. It may be surprising to note that much about motion is based on perception. This is who animation works. It has frames that are viewed at a fast rate to they appear to move. But there is one thing about motion that I wonder if you have experienced.

I used to fish with my father as a young boy. After we were at the lake for awhile and nothing was bitting I would watch the water. After a while the ground where I was sitting appeared to be moving with the water. It was sort of an illusion, but I felt the motion. Preparing to leave, getting in the car, the land felt like it was moving and it took a while to wear off before the sensation was gone. The feeling can be compared to watching an IMAX move where the scene pans and you feel motion. It is just an odd thing I was thinking of and I wonder how many people experience this.

Back to my workout. I have to do some reps with the dumbbells. I’m almost finished, just have to do some curls. But until then... May the Creative Force and Holiday Spirit be with You

Friday, November 25, 2005

Tech Drawing as Art

One Hundred Seventy Ninth Post: Tech Drawing as Art

Here is a question to consider. Is a tech drawing a piece of art. After all it starts with a simple sketch from the imagination. It can be on a scrap paper, edge of a notebook, or scribbled on a napkin. But just because it is a drawing does that make it art? It can be drawn with the same techniques of a artistic drawing, but it lacks symbolism and a deeper interpretation of what the work stands for and the emotions is inspires. Or it could be that it doesn’t lack anything.

A technical drawing represents a product and shows how that product works or is assembled. It has to convey a complex meaning that can be easily understood by anyone who sees the drawing. It has symbols that represent different components such as the electrical components. It’s deeper, profound, symbolic meaning is the inventive thoughts of its creator that came together to show an organized drawing and maybe even create something new and different.

So maybe it is art. A friend of mine how showed me how to do 3D in AutoCad, said that the technical drawings are so complex and what they represent is art to him. I am being to understand that he was right. But your opinion may vary, but whatever it is... May the Creative Force and Holiday Spirit be with You

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Putting Up the Christmas Tree

One Hundred Seventy Eighth Post: Putting Up the Christmas Tree

After the meal on Thanksgiving it is time for football, but there is still two things that need done and they are putting up the Christmas tree and putting up the outdoor Christmas lights. Both are hard work and depending on how neatly it was put away decides how much work it will be.

The Christmas tree can be fun fixing the branches and hanging the ornaments. It is also fun because this is where the gifts go. So you spend an afternoon with your family listening to Christmas music and finish putting up the tree. Be sure to test the lights before you hang them or it makes the task that much harder. I had two fuses replaced to a string of lights on my tree. The fuses are small and difficult to put in a little plug that is recessed. You have to put the bottom in first and push it back, but it is too tight of fit.

So everything is finished and to show off your hard work and preserve the moment in a memory, you decide to take a picture. So you snap a few shots on the digital camera. Upon looking at them on the computer you notice none of the shots turned out. Again taking a picture of a tree is not an easy task. There are problems with the lighting, bulbs reflecting light, some areas are lit where others are not, any motion blurs the lights, and the whole tree doesn’t fit into the view. Good luck with that photo.

As for the outdoor X-mas lights, well, you will untangle then another day when you have finished the tree and there isn’t ice on the roof. And when you do put up those tangled lights with burned out bulbs.... May the Creative Force and Holiday Spirit be with You

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Almost bought X-box 360

One Hundred Seventy Seventh Post: Almost bought X-box 360

I almost bought the X box 360 over the web from I put it in my cart because it said it was in stock, but it keep saying the configuration wasn’t available. Oh well, I saved $700. I don’t think the 360 has any killer apps yet. All the games available are on other platforms or PC. Personally I think the PC is a better game machine than any current console. It use to be the consoles were faster and they still are, but since the install problems of PC games have been corrected the PC reigns over any console. Do you remember DMA channels and IRQ setting. That along with the sound card not working used to make PC gamming difficult. But all that has changed.

Thanksgiving is here. It is a day of giving thanks. It is also the start of the Holiday Season. The day after it is time to shop. I think it would be nice to have something on my site for the Season. As of now I haven’t updated the site much (other than the Blog), so I need something interesting. Maybe something that is original. The only problem is that I don’t know what that something is. So if you have any suggestions email me at:

May the Creative Force and Holiday Spirit be with You

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Brainstorm Story: “Universal Drawing”

One Hundred Seventy Sixth Post: Brainstorm Story: “Universal Drawing”

The day has been slow. I was wrapping and organizing gifts with only 31 days until Christmas. See, you should have read my previous post of the importance of ordering early online and pre-ordering the X-box 360. There is still plenty of time, but don’t wait.

And now for the presentation of the story idea. It is just something I was thinking I don’t know how much I will develop it. I have other stories yet to finish. I think the idea is original. Although some of the ideas are taken from history. Here is the story idea:

The scene is a culture that is forbidden to read or write. This is common in many oppressed cultures. So to communicate with each other they use the universal means of communication which is drawing. They create drawings that are more profound and contain more self expression. Such drawings are used to express feelings and communicate. These are more than just images they express intangible things like poems that can not be written. But this is just the beginning. The drawings lead to inventions and eventually the collection of knowledge. The drawers learn secret arts and magic. The scene is set in the past or a different world, but the signs they draw on walls or carve in trees is sort of like the Internet is used today. (They are the hackers of their time.)

It is amazing what a simple drawing can do. Just think how powerful and meaningful your next art work is. In the meantime... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, November 21, 2005

How will X box 360 influence gaming?

One Hundred Seventy Fifth Post: How will X box 360 influence gaming?

The X box 360 comes out tonight 2005-11-22, but how will it due? There are already people standing in line and many who pre-ordered the system. This is common when a new system comes out. Is it worth the money?

It is fast with a processor with 3 cores each running at 3.2 GHz. (From the specs on the Amazon description.) The system is going to be sold out for awhile and Microsoft has an advantage by using “Direct X”, the same thing PC’s use. The system hasn’t really changed the way we play games, but it does add features to how the console will be used like a media system. There have been attempts to create such a system with the best attempt about 15 years ago. It was the “Philip’s CD I.” It played video cd’s and had some great games, but it didn’t sell. There have been many great systems that didn’t make it including: Sega Dreamcast, 3DO, Sega Saturn, NEC Turbo Graphics 16, Atari Links (a portable system), Nintendo Game Cube, etc.

Maybe it is time that a system bridges the gap between computer and game system. I think PC’s are the best system anyway. The games are cheaper, enabled for online, and the games are usually more diverse. The only advantage a console has is its ability to be designed specifically for games so that it is manufactured more powerful and cheaper than a PC. However PC’s catch up fast. The only reason the system will be successful is that Microsoft is behind it. Compare how fast the computer is and how powerful its graphics now today and how the graphics have changed one year from now. It is too early to speculate what Sony will build. However, Nintendo has to build and awesome system to avoid the same fate as the Sega Dreamcast. The good thing about Nintendo is that they support their system so the Game Cube will still be used, leaving then a lot of time to build that perfect system.

Was the X-box used to its full potential? The main point is to watch how fast the technology changes in graphics and processing power. Then we will see the impact of the X box 360.

But until you get your own 360.... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Advertising with Online Auctions

One Hundred Seventy Fourth Post: Advertising with Online Auctions

I have been surfing auctions (Ebay and Amazon) and have found that if you have a business or a website auctions can be a great place to advertise and get business. This is nothing new. Every seller on Ebay knows that. But I want to look at this and see what it means for an artist testing the water to see how their art will sell.

I have seen such art up for sale. All you have to do is search “original art” or “original comic art.” Then switch the order from price low to high. Now you can bid on some pretty interesting auctions. Lots of stuff starts at less that $1, but be aware of the shipping.

Now this is the perfect media for a starting or amateur artist. Not only can they promote their site, but can have fun and earn a little cash. Just post an item and hundreds or thousands of people see you work and learn about your site and what you do.

I haven’t tried it yet myself, but is something I have considered. Think about it. And May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Secrets of Drawing

One Hundred Seventy Third Post: Secrets of Drawing

There is a secret to drawing. One that has to be discovered oneself. The instructors show you technique, explain the theory, and even show you how they draw. Until the student draws he will never put together the pieces learned.

For example take a technical drawing of a machine. It can have gears and all the pieces that need to be assembled, but the actual figuring of the problem is done by the imagination. This leads to the question: How does one explain how a drawing solves a problem without showing the steps to the drawing? However in those steps the thought behind the steps is lost. The student must work through and develop their own interpretation of the drawing.

This answers the question: Can a computer be programmed to think? I believe the question should be: Can a computer draw? This is not a question of rather the computer can draw from programmed instructions, but rather can it draw an original work from those instructions. (Similar to what Data on STNG could.) A person can’t explain the exact thoughts they had while they were drawing. If they new that they would know the secrets of the mind, or rather the secrets of drawing.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Builder Brushes

One Hundred Seventy Second Post: Builder Brushes

In 3DS Max there is a creation panel under compound objects that lets the user subtract shapes from other shapes. A neat feature, but Max doesn’t really do good on this one. Sometimes the result of subtracted objects is too complex and “messes up” the entire drawing.

Here I think it is the way the program is calculating the shape. (Of course, I am no program expert, but read along.) Max is probably calculating the shape as one whole, instead of counting the shape and the whole as two different objects. Unreal Editor is an example of how brushes make it easy to draw. Unreal sees the level as space that has been subtracted from one mass. So the shape is there or it is empty. If Max had brushes it would be much easier to draw, but that isn’t the point. The point is that if Max had selectable shapes of that regions the shape was subtracted from everything would work better. For example if the subtraction was in the wrong place instead of redrawing the whole shape, the user could just move the subtracted region. I hope that makes sense, because it is hard to explain. If you have ever tried to draw in Max you understand that the subtract feature is necessary, but could use improvement.

30 minutes on the treadmill to burn 60 calories of fat. That is my workout. Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers only lifts at most 20 pounds and does all his speed stuff on the balls of his feet. So with a little work and not much weight you can get into shape. By the way Polamalu made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Go Steelers!

May the Creative Force be with You

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Still New in 3D

One Hundred Seventy First Post: Still New in 3D

When you start to draw in 3D it is difficult because the options and menus of the program are so vast. Drawing basic shapes is easy with many to choose from at the start, but as you start to draw more complex models, you realize it takes a little knowledge of the program.

But there is much to be learned and discovered about 3D drawing programs. These programs are built out of complicated math formulas and code. It isn’t the formulas but the drawing process that needs refined. It is getting easier, but there still is many features that need to be simplified. In my opinion the way we draw 3D will change in the next 5 to 10 years. Of course it is going to improve with time, but I am interested in the interface and techniques used to draw.

I would like to see a plugin that combines the features of Auto Cad and 3DS Max. Something that would let you draw from Auto Cad directly in the Max format. Now you can import, but it is more complicated. Though, I have Auto Cad 14 and not the recent version.

Slow day today. I feel that I have to work out like a pro athlete to lose weight. 30 minutes on the treadmill can get boring. I saw a treadmill on sale at Amazon. It had a reading rack. How do you read when running or walking?

Any how.... May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Getting New Technology

One Hundred Seventieth Post: Getting New Technology

Ever notice that here in the United States when new electronics are released we have to buy them. X-box 360 and iPod Nano are among the newest, but it could be with anything. As a kid I always had to buy the newest video game. I bought Mario 3 when it first came out. Somehow my parents avoided the rush and managed to get a copy.

Then there is the second part of buying the newest technology. It becomes outdated and you never use it. I have seen kids (and I use to do it myself) play a game for a week and then never play it again.

Why do we do this. Who knows? I think as we get older we start to finish our video games, read the entire book, and use the gadgets. Of course, there is always that one thing you bought and never used, but it is stacked in the closet somewhere.

Until you see the commercial that has that something you must have... May the Creative Force be with You

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Weight Game

One Hundred Sixty Ninth Post: Weight Game

Well as of today I need to lose some weight, so I’ll start tomorrow. Dieting is tough, but when you think about it some of those dieting foods, they are good such as fruits, vegetables, and fish. I once saw on a news show that Lay’s Potato Chips couldn’t sell in China. Lay’s was looking to expand there market to a land of a billion people, but they just weren’t successful. They failed because the Chinese were smart and wouldn’t pay more for greasy potato chips when they could eat fresh fruits, berries, and nuts at a cheaper price.

Here in America the food is everywhere. You know it is high in calories, but it tastes so good. Starbuck’s coffee with whip cream excellent, but to many calories. It seems that the best place to eat is “Subway” or that is at least what Jared says.

My weight lose plan is no gimmick. Lift weights 3 times a week to build muscle to burn fat and combine that with walking 20 to 30 minutes each day. That combined with cutting fat and calories should lose my weight at a steady pace.

On another note I saw a Microsoft ad on television during Sunday night football. It had an accountant how drew comics after work. The comic was about a super hero who used math and laser vision to fight crime. The commercial did mention were to find this comic, but the background of the commercial had good art. So if anyone has seen this email me.

And until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tech Drawing

One Hundred Sixty Eighth Post: Tech Drawing

Ever try to draw a technical drawing? It sounds easy enough. It is easy if you are given the basic design of the drawing and measurements as would happen in a drawing course. This time however you are given a problem where you have to create the design from scratch and figure the dimensions. Now that is a lot more difficult isn’t it?

Well what can you do to complete the drawing. Thanks to CAD and other drafting programs it is a little easier. Some CAD programs are set where you can change one part and have the other pieces change proportionately. Still it is back to fundamentals of planning a drawing with a sketch, figuring out all the elements, and drawing a neat, clean, final drawing.

I have trouble with this even though my drawings are not professional. There is just so much to figure when drawing from scratch. Often, the drawing lets you see the areas which seemed to work in your imagination that do not work otherwise. So it is back to the drawing board. And while your there... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Experience Counts

One Hundred Sixty Seventh Post: Experience Counts

The thing about writing, art, science, or practically any other profession is that to get an opportunity for a job it is helpful to have some experience by oneself. Meaning all the drawings made, stories or poems written, science experiments made are all part of experience even though it may be non-professional. The young high school student learns this when applying for college. The college wants to know how much the student is serious about their profession by seeing what things they have done so far.

On page 120 of the “Harris’ Farmer’s Almanac 2006", Rob Simbeck, the author, writes about keeping a nature journal. But the interesting fact of the article is when he describes how he keep a journal of events until one day he decided to write a story. That is how his writing career began. So the lesson to learn is that all the work you do in the field you want to get into is valuable. Also, it is important to record that work.

On another note is something I learned from surfing Amazon. There is a couple of books on the different types of mechanical movements. This would be useful when designing a machine or building a robot. I haven’t got the book, but as an idea I may start my own collection of mechanical movements. When shapes are used in the design there is tons of possibilities. In a class a teacher could have the students design a machine based on the mechanical movements. The possibilities are there.

But in the meantime.... May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cross Hatching

One Hundred Sixty Sixth Post: Cross Hatching

I would like to learn how to ink comics. Of course my drawing isn’t the best, but inking is an art form altogether. It is a skill to learn. I like black and white comics. If you are working with limited printing capabilities, inked artwork is the way to go. I have been looking at older drawings from the “Farmer’s Almanac”, “Mad Scientists Club,” to old “Popular Mechanics.” The one thing that stands out in these drawings is the use of cross hatching. The artist is probably using one size tech pen and outlining and cross hatching (cross hatch is cris cross pen strokes) the dark areas. It is a simple technique that gives some good results. Look for it in classic publications.

Today’s trend in comics is the Japanese anime style of comics. That is some interesting art. I prefer the traditional American style though. Companies like Marvel and DC have all the great super heroes I grew up with. Greatest super hero ever is Spiderman. Greatest super villain ever is Dr. Doom. Of course this is one great debate.

I also miss the good cartoons such as “He Man”, “Transformers”, “G.I. Joe” and others. But I guess I’m not a kid anymore. But when I write stories or draw my own drawings, it will be influenced by the heroes real and imaginary that I grew up with. And of course, so will yours.

But until then... May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, November 11, 2005

Is Relativity Correct?

One Hundred Sixty Fifth Post: Is Relativity Correct?

Brainstorming is so fun. It is the start of a new project, answer, or idea. I like to brainstorm as long as possible. I like to think through a solution to see how plausible it is before I start working on the math and drawings. Of course the one thing you get when finished brainstorming is a bunch of ideas that don’t work. You can only hope that one will give the answer. It is better to find out if an idea won’t work before spending time solving it.

Projects aren’t the only things that don’t turn out. Sometimes theories are wrong. Just Google relativity. You will see sites that claim relativity is incorrect or claiming Einstein was wrong. Of course with any theory there is going to be debate. But the question is how can you claim something is wrong when you don’t understand it? Is there anyone how understands it the way Einstein intended?

One site seems to have extensive papers, but is difficult for us non physicists to compare theories. The site doesn’t seem to sell anything. It just offers its papers. See it at I would prefer not reading through all the papers which I didn’t do. Instead I would prefer key facts that stand out. I believe if something would prove relativity wrong it would be a simple discovery not a mathematical error. Of course this is open to debate. See what you think.

And in the meantime... May the Creative Force be with You

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Beating Kasparov at his own game

One Hundred Sixty Fourth Post: Beating Kasparov at his own game

Today I picked up “Kasparov Chessmate” at the bargain software display for $9. I played one game and lost. I don’t think I’ll be playing against Kasparov anytime soon. But winning was not the point. The game is fun to play. The graphics aren’t impressive, but the computer is challenging allowing the player to practice skills before facing a real opponent. I haven’t tried it online yet. So far the only thing that I don’t like is that when you review the game, you can’t stop the review and continue to play from that stopped move.

Also on the magazine rack was the “Harris’ Farmer’s Almanac 2006.” These things are great. I remember when I was in grade school the teacher would read some of the stories to the class. Flipping through I found on article on writing children’s books. It seemed like more of an advertisement that how-to article, but there is one point to be seen here. That is an artist or writer collecting a portfolio could easily build a children’s novel in no time. It would be good for an artist to start because the style of art is more forgiving. It lets the artist use their own style and the pictures don’t have to be realistic. They just have to capture the interest of the reader.

I like those Starbucks coffee shops. I was at the one at the grocery store. One frozen coffee $4.50. What a deal. LOL... Anyway I remember hearing that Kasparov was finally defeated by the super computer, but there was controversy. He claims they programmed the computer to match his style and not to play anyone a game of chess. Something to Google anyway.

But until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Easy Book on Relativity

One Hundred Sixty Third Post: Easy Book on Relativity

The book “Relativity: The Special and the General Theory” by Albert Einstein is a book that makes the theories easy and is worded so the reader can better understand it. It is “relatively” easy. I was reading the beginning of the book and noticed that it is written like a novel someone would reading for English Class. The sentences are complex, but they flow together to let the reader understand there is a profound meaning to understand here. The same meaning would not be understood if it weren’t emphasized. But it also has simple comparisons like the relative movement on a train. The book is good. It is something that can be read in a relatively short time.

Also from the same publisher of Make comes “Virtual LEGO” a book about the LDraw tools. You can download the tools free. The only thing that is missing is the ability to save in DXF format for compatibility with other CAD programs.

One thing I noticed today is that a ten year old knows about as much as I do on the computer. I may know programs such as Flash and other graphics programs, but he is rapidly catching up. Of course today’s children are going to become computer whizzes, they are growing up with the technology. But I bet there are some things us old timers can create using the programs that can still impress the younger generation.

But until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Problems with Improvising

One Hundred Sixty Second Post: Problems with Improvising

One problem with lacking materials, or time to come up with a suitable rig, is that constructing a workable machine or device is made much more difficult than it would be with the proper tools. It is difficult to construct working machines when the tools and labor are available. Think about the design when the tools and time are available. The product is drawn, prototyped, and then tested. Hiking through the woods or being in an area far from any town, the best tool the tinkerer has is a Swiss Army knife or a multi tool pliers.

This is the problem you face when trying to answer a MakeShift solution or watching an episode of Macgyver. It is also popular on “Junk Yard Wars,” a show that puts teams against each other using the equipment they find in the junk yard. Once you try it for yourself, you find that although you might indeed have a valid solution, it is not possible to manufacture the machine due to the fact that the materials aren’t available. So the only thing to do is try to find some other solution with the materials on hand. It forces you to think harder for the solution. But it just might happen that the less obvious answer was better and you would have missed it without the challenge.

Also when you improvise there is no easy way to figure the forces and test how the pieces of the machine are going to work. Making specialized parts would take time. So it is an art form tinkering with the machine until it works. As in the book “Caveman Chemistry” you now have technical knowledge in a primitive world. (Which is a discussion itself.)

I write this as I am brainstorming ideas for MakeShift 04. On this one I’m not seeing the use for the available items, but I do have one plan that may work. I want to explain it, but I can’t reveal my answer at this time. So in the meantime.... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, November 07, 2005

Friction Fire

One Hundred Sixty First Post: Friction Fire

I was at the hardware store yesterday and picked up the things I needed to complete the first experiment in “Caveman Chemistry.” It is mostly basic a 2 by 4 and a dial rod. The only thing is that I don’t have is the wood to ignite. The main ingredient, but I will try to ignite a ball of a couple of sheets of crumpled paper until I find suitable wood.

Fall is the time to clean out the shed or garage to get ready for winter. In doing so you come across all the old projects, gadgets you saved, or the things you couldn’t find to put anywhere else. In my shed I have magazines and sales flyers on a bookshelf. The rest of the shed is filed with tables and trunks. I want to build a little wood working area. I also never started my train set on the tables. I guess I’ll set the train around the Christmas tree.

Going through the sales flyers in the shed I have 2 or 3, "year old" RadioShack ones. I like RadioShack. Years ago some people didn’t like that they didn’t stock the popular brand names. They had Tandy and RadioShack labels. The good things about these products was that Tandy and the RadioShack label were made in the good old USA. I don’t know if they still are made in the USA, but there still are a lot of interesting things at RadioShack that can’t be found at other stores. (At least those that aren’t online.)

But as you clean your shed look for things that are interesting that are potential projects or something that didn’t quite work that you forget about. A couple of hours of cleanup could lead to months worth of projects. But until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reinventing the Wheel

One Hundred Sixtieth Post: Reinventing the Wheel

In the book “Caveman Chemistry” it states that the Indian tribes never invented the wheel. It goes on to say that although they had circles in the jewelry and crafts and sleds to pull, they never built a wheel. Admittedly, this does seem odd, but in the Indians defense there was no roads to use carts on.

But what about reinventing the wheel? A lot of design tips say don’t waste time reinventing the wheel. In other words, if something is invented and works don’t waste valuable time and resources inventing your own version. In Make vol. 03 Dean Kamen adds his advice to such work. He states that if you do product research on an existing product you end up with a modified version of that product. You accentually add a cup holder to the original design. (This text is paraphrased.)

This means not to try to reinvent the wheel, but if you, the inventor, are designing a wheel to exhaust your methods of how you envision the wheel before you research ideas of past inventors. Maybe your wheel has adjustable sizes to balance the load. Or maybe it has adjustable tire pressure for different weights and terrains. The tire would perform just like the original with minimal improvements if you had referred to the original tire’s design.

The reason I am interested in this is because of Makeshift 04. The description says, “Don’t be afraid to kiss frogs!” That advice comes from Kamen’s advice that you don’t get great results until you try some unknown possibilities. In the Makeshift 04 the supplies are limited, so in order to complete it, I am going to have to invent a new way to use a common invention. I don’t want to give anymore details away, but stay posted to Constructors Corner. And maybe, you might want to enter the Makeshift challenge yourself. But in the meantime... May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Miscellaneous Musings Cont.

One Hundred Fifty Ninth Post: Miscellaneous Musings Cont.

I’m still reading “Caveman Chemistry” by Kevin M. Dunn. It has a different way of presenting chemistry. It goes beyond the theory and presents the experiments and explains how they fit into the whole scope of our existence from caveman to present.

Chemistry is a difficult subject to understand. It has math that helps break it down and drawings of the molecular structure, but one must work with it for a while to fully understand it. There is just so much to learn. But once you study a little chemistry, you be begin to realize that there are many things to discover. All the elements and compounds have tons of methods to combine them and separate them to their basic building blocks. The science is imperfect, so perhaps there is just some elements that have been missed or formula untried. The fact that it hasn’t been fully explored leaves the imagination waiting to create something new.

In other topics, I haven’t been drawing lately because I was doing more reading. But some of the reason my drawing needs more improvement is the fact that I often draw without reference. Reference is just a picture or real object that the artist uses to visualize textures and see complex pieces of the drawing. This helps with fine details and drawing more realistic shapes. Another way to improve or learn to draw anatomy is to trace over people in magazines. I have learned both these tips from taking the Joe Kubert Super Villain correspondence course.

I still like drawing from the imagination, but if using references improve the overall picture I guess I should try it. The artist is still drawing from the imagination and drawing an entirely different picture, so it is only a drawing aid. But until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, November 04, 2005

Miscellaneous Musings

One Hundred Fifty Eighth Post: Miscellaneous Musings

I finished a book on small engine repair a few days ago. It was very interesting. Although it is harder to work on cars today due to the electronics, small engines are simple and haven’t changed. The only problem is that it is often cheaper to buy parts then to fix them. Although, if your weed-eater won’t start or stops while your cutting the bank, a little understanding of engines is invaluable.

The question that I have about engines is how we can learn more about other types of engines and make tweaks or little improvements to the small engine. In county fairs they often race tractors. And once you learn how a small engine works you start to wonder how electrical and jet engines work.

The book I have recently started reading is called “Caveman Chemistry.” Just skimmed the book, but it explains the modern world using the basics of chemistry such as making fire from the friction of wood. I have had chemistry classes and some of the stuff is starting to come back. My chemistry teacher said something like, “ it is more chemistry than you could ever forget.”

I recently got honorable mention for Makeshift Challenge 03. See it at:

But for now.... May the Creative Force be with You

Thursday, November 03, 2005


One Hundred Fifty Seventh Post: E-books

Whatever happened to the idea of e-books becoming commonplace, especially from retail giants like Amazon and Walmart? They had a few advantages over print such as saving the printing and paper. The main thing that was going to make them popular was their portability. You can’t easily carry 20 books with you while you are traveling, but a notebook, handheld, or e-book view could literally hold hundreds of books.

Sure Amazon sells these books, but the price is about the same as a print book. In my opinion, e-books haven’t developed as fast as they could because of the copyright and piracy issue. Usually when you download them you have to activated the book for each device it is put on. (I will have to research this further.) So there may be some problems backing up and moving these files.

I admit I was able to put an e-book on my Palm. I had to activate the book on Adobe’s site, but after setting up an account it is cool to have a complete book on my palm with pictures and being relatively easy to navigate. I still prefer to have a print book because of the ability to flip through the pages and read the pages that interest me the most. This e-book thing is something to look into though.

So you, the reader, must be the judge. Is the electronic book better? It can be downloaded instantly and searched through easily. It is most importantly portable, but it has a file format, printing, and transferring file problems. Or is it better to let the technology develop and have a tradition printed book that has all the indexing, skimming, marking, writing and all of the other benefits of a physical book?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Classification of the Sciences

One Hundred Fifty Sixth Post: Classification of the Sciences

The sciences are vast and so have been divided in to different subjects to learn, study, and work in. But when engineering is considered the application of science and again is divided into the different fields: electrical, mechanical, chemical, civil, etc. But in actuality, the distinction of the fields overlaps because knowledge from all fields is required to complete even the simplest of design. An engine is an example of this. Here chemical energy is converted to mechanical, but at the same time the combustion relies on an electrical system. The engine can be precisely controlled with a computer. So in design situations the more you know in all fields the better.

But let’s take a look at mechanical. In my opinion the mechanical world has already peaked in its discoveries for now. It started with the industrial revolution and continued in WWII were the Germans were ahead of the United States in areas from parachutes to jet engines. Mechanical design is still unique to the design problem meaning the basics are the same but the designs are different and still need to be thought through and calculated for every problem. But until another force or physical occurrence is discovered, mechanics though interesting and challenging, will not have anything “ground breaking” that is completely new design. It needs to have something as revolutionary as a “Star Trek” warp drive engine.

In my opinion, electric engineering and computers are the fields that have the most potential for technological advancements. This is given by just the number of people who use or work with computers. The field is large hobby. That combined with the funding computer companies spend to stay competitive is why its popularity will cause advances. It is still a relatively young science. Also there are stories about people like Nikola Tesla claiming they invented unbelievable technology that was keep from the public. If the rumor is true or not is up to the reader, but maybe, just maybe, there are things with the electrical force yet to be found.

(Please note that I am in no way an expert. I have a little experience with the mechanical. Most of this is based on how I felt the field of engineering were when I chose mechanical and how I view them now. I think it leaves a lot open for debate. But until then... May the Creative Force be with You )

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Readable Formats

One Hundred Fifty Fifth Post: Readable Formats

Imagine a time 20 years from now. Arguably not a long time, but a lot can happen in 20 years. You now have children or your children have grown and you now have grandchildren. Technology has always been a great influence on everyday life. Now the world is no longer dependent on oil thanks to ethanol and non waste producing nuclear fuels. But one thing hasn’t changed in 20 years and that is the use of computers. If anything it has grown. Whole houses are know integrated with computer controls.

The thing that interests you is not the latest virtual reality games, but to share with the children that journal you wrote 20 years ago along with the trip across Europe where you took hundreds of digital photos of your journey. Fortunately, the JPEG format you pictures are in is still supported as legacy file format, but there is just one little problem. The journal you wrote was not saved in text format. It is in a proprietary format of some obscure word processor. Now you journal has survived not being lost in the last 20 years, but reading it in the new upgraded word process the journal file is unreadable.

So the moral or question raised is what current formats are going to be supported 5 to 10 to 20 or more years from now. The standard web formats will probably be supported, but is there going to be a library of formats that can read files without having the original software. If not current files will be useless unless preserved by the maker of the file.

It also raises the question how will future generations study our culture if we cannot preserve all file types. Now with computers it is possible to leave children with experiences and memories that film just couldn’t accomplished. That painting that was lost in the attic is now comparable to finding a Photoshop file from 15 years ago.

How will it these files be preserved. It is a question we must ask. But you might be able to ask that engineering company that has drawings over a hundred years old or Disney which has cartoons from 1930. The importance of preserving memories is apparent. It will be interesting to see how it is solved.