Sunday, December 6, 2009

Touring the East Coast and the 2001 National Scout Jamboree

In a previous post, I recounted my experiences at the 2005 National Scout Jamboree where I served on staff for the Action Center C bikathlon event. Here I will tell of my travels to the East Coast as a boy participant at the Jamboree in 2001.

My Jamboree adventure started many months before I even arrived on the East Coast. In order to attend the Jamboree, you must be part of a special Jamboree Troop that meets before hand to prepare. So besides participating in my home troop's activities (Mission Hills, Troop 104) , I had to join a Jamboree Troop (Jamboree Troop 647), comprised of scouts from many different troops. We went on camping trips and did team building activities much like a normal troop so we could work well together and be organized for the trip.

In addition to staying at the Jamboree site at Fort AP Hill for 10 days, doing all manner of scouting activities, we toured the East Coast before and after the Jamboree event. Because I have been back to the Jamboree since my first visit, my East Coast travels stand out more in my memory than my stay at Fort AP Hill.

While touring, we visited historically, economically, and politically significant places in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. I was thrilled to be able to see the reconstructed Mayflower, important battle fields like Gettysburg, Independence Hall, and so many other locations significant to the birth and growth of our country.

In Pennsylvania, we visited Lancaster County where there is a large population of Amish. Seeing a thriving community using horse drawn buggies and shops of hand sewn quilts put my technologically cluttered life in perspective. Unsurprisingly, I took interest in their pneumatic ceiling fans, and compressed air milking machines.

Further south we visited Wall Street, the Statue of Liberty, the Capitol, White house, and National Mall. While in New York, our troop went to the viewing deck on top of the World Trade Center. When the towers came down just a few months later in September 2001, I could still clearly remember the view from the top.

As we arrived, the Jamboree site became the 6th largest city in Virginia and even received its own postal zip code. A bus system, communications, hospitals, post offices, a radio station, and newspaper were all set up at Fort AP Hill for the influx of scouters who would be living there. I participated in as many activities as I could, although I didn't spend any time at the merit badge midway (I figured I could earn merit badges back at home and didn't want to miss out on other events unique to the Jamboree). It was great meeting scouts from across the nation and around the world, and working with my troop as we cooked our meals, washed our clothes, and went to events together.

After dinner one evening, a huge water fight broke out in the small valley that divided our subcamp. Water balloons, squirt guns, wash basins, cups; anything that held water became a weapon. (I think it helped that we had just been to Gettysburg and that there were a couple large Confederate and American flags being waved around, albeit, Old Glory had few more stars than during the Civil War).

One particularly rainy afternoon, a thunderstorm passed over the Jamboree site. When the flashes and thunder came at the same time, we knew the storm was above us but didn't know just how dangerous the storm could be. Less than 100 yards from where we were, a scout in the camp next to us was struck by lightning. Luckily his scoutmaster saw him in time and performed CPR, saving his life.

After the Jamboree, we toured a few more days and finished our adventure at the King's Dominion theme park before flying home. Volcano, at King's Dominion, is the most intense roller coaster I've ever been on.

My daily recordings (The Captain's Log) for the 2001 National Scout Jamboree

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Alaskan Cruise 2004

In August of 2004, my grandparents, both my aunts and uncles (on my mom's side), my parents, brother and I departed Seattle on Holland America's, Ms Amsterdam, for the inside passage.

Never having been on a cruise ship before, I was amazed at the size and organization of the ship. Cruise ships are like floating cities. Restaurants, theaters, a library, pools, bars, all sorts of recreation and entertainment; the number of things you could do on board seemed endless. But despite having so much to do on board ship, most of our days were spent on land in the ports of call. We began in Seattle then visited Sitka, Skagway, Juneau, and Victoria. The ship would travel mostly at night from one city to the next and be ready for us to disembark in the morning.

View Alaskan Cruise in a larger map

In Sitka (originally a Russian settlement), my brother, dad and I went on a bike hike before touring the small town on foot. We were taken on our bicycle tour through the nearby wilderness and beautiful island coastline. The most intriguing part of the trip was our stop at a whale park. The small, wooded park by the coast had underwater microphones letting you listen to the high pitched calls whales made to each other as you watched them pass.

After arriving in Skagway, my dad and I went on a kayaking trip where we were given a new perspective of the beautiful coastline. We paddled around islands and down narrow inlets where tall pines grow right along the edge of the rocky coast. The wilderness there was better preserved than I'd seen anywhere else.

Juneau was the most exciting port of call during the cruise. Here I took an aerial tram to the top of the mountains neighboring the town and hiked back into the city. I also went on a dog sledding adventure with my aunts and uncles. Our sledding adventure began with a helicopter flight over glaciers and mountains to a dog camp where the sled dogs wanted nothing more than to pull you as fast as they could across the glaciers. It was a wonderfully unique and exciting experience.

Our stop in Victoria signaled the end of our cruise was nearing. We toured the city on foot, enjoying the city's gardens and watching street performers, and later in the evening took a carriage ride pulled by two Clydesdales.

My best memories were made doing things on shore, but three activities I thoroughly enjoyed on board were, an art auction, dancing with my aunts and uncles, and watching the scenery pass from the forward viewing deck. It was amazing to watch as glaciers broke off and crashed into the ocean and pods of orcas swam around the ship.

I've been astounded by places like Yosemite Valley, the Great Smokey Mountains, and Kilauea, but the Alaskan wilderness is unique in that it is so much more expansive and still remains in pristine condition. Cruising the inside passage gave me a chance to experience some of this abounding natural beauty in person.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Los Angeles Baptist High School Europe Trip 2004

In an effort to better document some of my travels, I'll be doing a series of posts on my past traveling adventures. It's not always easy to recall the day to day activities of these trips so I'll do my best to describe some of the trip highlights as well as what I took away from these experiences.

When my Spanish teacher Senora Mac (Mrs. McCollum) passed out flyers in class promoting a class trip she was leading to England, France, and Spain I didn't think my parents would support me going. It wasn't a particularly long or inexpensive trip, but my parents saw it as an educational opportunity and to my surprise and delight they allowed me to go. My brother, a few of my close high school friends, and a number of other students (some of whom I didn't know well, but became friends with during the trip) signed up. 22 students (and a few chaperons) left for their 10 day trip on June 22, 2004.

Having only been out of the country once before to Vancouver, British Columbia, visiting London was my first experience with a substantially different culture. I enjoyed little challenges like learning to look the other direction when crossing the street, figuring out what change I should give using different coin denominations, and adapting to a slightly different vocabulary. I remember thinking the food was rather bland and the weather rather dreary, but at the same time being very excited about the historical significance of places I was visiting and things I was seeing.

When we arrived in Paris via the Chunnel, I experienced the difficulties of a language barrier for the first time. Having lived in Southern California my whole life, I used some Spanish occasionally, but generally speaking, it was never hard to communicate because much of the Latino population knows at least some English and I was studying Spanish in high school. Here, however, it was different and I had to rely on my friends who had taken French as well as a bit of charades to get by. I felt, as many do, that Paris was an exceptionally beautiful city and was captivated by the architecture and city life. Although, there were two things I felt Paris could have a lot less of: war memorials and smokers.

In many ways, visiting Madrid was like returning home to Los Angeles. The climate, architecture, and language all seemed relatively familiar. However, we took a day trip to Toledo where I was exposed to a mixture of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim culture in a city that looked much as it did hundreds of years ago. It was strange to see shops close early in the day only to reopen later, but I enjoyed being able to stay up and eat Tapas late at night as is common in Spain.

An important lesson I took away from this trip was learning to come prepared to appreciate what you will see before you see it. For some of the places we visited and things we saw, I only knew as much as the tour guide could comment on in a few seconds or a brief caption in a museum could explain. I wasn't able to fully appreciate what I was seeing. When I returned to some of these same locations on later trips after having learned more of their history, I was more excited visiting the second time than when I had first been there. With just a little bit of preparation, you can appreciate so much more during your travels.

My daily recordings (The Captain's Log) for the LAB Europe Trip 2004

Monday, November 2, 2009

The National Scout Jamboree

For many, the National Scout Jamboree is the culminating experience as a Boy Scout. It's scouting at its finest, incorporating some of the best scouting activities, with the best scouts and leaders from across the nation and around the world. In recent years, the Jamboree has been held at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, a military base that is converted every four years to welcome tens of thousands of scouts for a ten day adventure.

In 2001, I participated as a Boy Scout and in 2005 I returned as staff for the Action Center C Bikathlon event. Similar to the Olympic Biathlon (where athletes cross country ski between shooting stations), the Bikathlon involves mountain biking through a wooded course and stopping to shoot at various stations before continuing to the next station and on to the finish. One's score is a combination of both shooting accuracy as well as biking time. This and a myriad of other activities are available to the 40,000+ scouts who stay there and 300,000+ visitors that attend the Jamboree. Climbing, scuba, pioneering, shooting, archery, boating... the list goes on and on. With so much available, it isn't possible to do everything offered.

There are two things though, that really make the Jamboree stand out. One, is the cooperation of thousands of people, many of whom have never met. My bikathlon team was comprised of men and women, young and old, from across the country, with little other than scouting in common. But that alone was able to unify our team and allow us to begin working together the day we met. The other attribute that sets the Jamboree apart is the emphasis placed on developing character. Scouts and staff alike encourage each other to become men and women of character who embody the Scout Oath and Law in their everyday life. I have never seen this anywhere else on such a scale and without it, such an event would not otherwise be possible.

Below are some video clips of things I did while on staff at the 2005 Jamboree, as well as my daily recordings of what happened during trip and a slideshow of some of my photos, enjoy!

My daily recordings (The Captain's Log) for the 2005 National Scout Jamboree

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Davis Photo Project: The Results

Though most of the cameras went missing, I am thoroughly impressed by the results of the surviving Craft Center camera. Being a disposable camera, the image quality is not always great, but people's creativity and the effort they put into going places with the camera exceeded my expectations. Some of the photos (likely taken at night?) didn't come out and weren't included in the slide show. Also, a few others were taken by a friend of mine to finish off the roll of film. Many thanks to those who helped me with the project and all those I don't know who contributed to the project to make it happen.

I'd love to hear from the people who took the photos! Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas about the project or suggestions on how future projects could be made better by commenting on this post. Thanks again!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Davis Photo Project: The Locations

Map showing the locations of the cameras (indicated with a red square)

The four cameras were placed at noon on Monday and collected at noon on Wednesday. When I checked on their progress Tuesday, two of the four cameras were not there. When I decided to collect the cameras on Wednesday, another was also gone. It is possible that the cameras could have been taken and were in the process of being returned however, I'm lead to believe the missing cameras were stolen because I checked each location twice with a little more than an hour in between each check. Also, the two that were missing Tuesday were still not there Wednesday, with no more website tags having been removed from the signs and with one sign missing altogether.

If however, I am mistaken and the cameras were out being used, please contact me by commenting/e-mailing/calling and we'll get the cameras developed and the photos posted! :)

Camera placed next to the Craft Center behind the Silo

Camera on the landing of the SE stairwell in Wellman Hall

Camera placed at the MU bus stop

Camera placed next to the STA Travel center in the MU

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Davis Photo Project

The goal of this project is to see what pictures people will take around the UC Davis campus. Four disposable cameras, each with 27 shots, will be placed around UC Davis in high traffic areas. I'm hoping for pictures of people, bikes, buildings and other surroundings passersby find interesting. The next Davis Photo Project post will show where each camera was placed and the final post will include the photos people have taken.
The sign that will appear with each camera

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bunny Patrol

We're big fluffy bunnies
We attract all the hunnies
After seven years
We're still having fun.
Now we're under 30
Still looking so dirty
And we'll still go out
On Easter egg hunts.

Singin,singin, singin
Pass me a basket I'll hop on my feet
If you find the eggs you'll find a treat
We have big tails of cottony white
Do not pull on them we'll put up a fight

We are the bunnies
We come from the valleys
Of San Fernando
Of Los Angeles.
We try not to be
Too prissy for you
But we have big pink ears
Most of the time.


We call him the leader
Of this sad patrol
From Troop 104
You know us all.
Now we will leave you
As we end our song
We know you are snoring
So we'll leave you alone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Close encounters with the Three Wolf Shirt

The sun was slowly sinking below the horizon and a cool ocean breeze brought the smells of the Pacific wafting around us as we walked by the shops along Venice beach. As the light was fading and the wind began to chill our hands, a strange sensation came upon us. It was a mysterious radiant energy, emanating from a nearby shop. We were inexplicably drawn in by its captivating power. Helpless to resist, we had to determine the source of such a wonderful force.

Then we saw it. Those who'd never heard of the fabled Three Wolf Shirt stood dead in their tracks, paralyzed by its magnificent power and unsure how to react. It was only because I was wearing a Reddit shirt and had a deep respect for the apparel that I was able to approach and have my picture taken. Had the shirt been on a male individual, it would have been a different story. I would have stood back in awe unable to approach, as women undoubtedly would be flocking around him. I left that day a changed man. Having come so close to such power was an experience I won't soon forget.

How do you make Christ look great in your life?

This video reminds me of Matthew 6:20-21.

I saw this yesterday in church, though I do agree with John Piper on the use of media in sermons.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why I keep my goals a secret

photo by borghetti

Some people say one way to help achieve your goals is to share them with others. When you share your goals, you gain others' support and encouragement. While this support would seem beneficial, I haven't always found this to be. As a matter of fact, unless I'm sharing my goals with someone specifically so they can keep me accountable, I've found the opposite to be true. I lose motivation to work towards my goals.

In high school, I became really excited about building a Tesla coil. I did online research, bookmarking a number of pages I was going to use as references; I started collecting plastic 2-liter bottles to build a salt water capacitor; and I made the mistake of telling everyone about my Tesla coil goal. After the initial excitement wore off and the hard work hit, I lost my motivation. Everyone already knew what I was going to do and had praised me for it, so why did I actually have to build it?

Fast forward six years. Nearly everyone I'd told had forgotten about my Tesla coil endeavors, but my references were still bookmarked in my browser and I still wanted to build the coil. With a nearly completed engineering degree, machine shop, and time at my disposal, I was also better equipped to take on the more difficult aspects of design and construction. I started working again towards my goal, but this time, I didn't announce it like I had before. When people asked what I was up to, I would tell them I was working on an electronics project, but not go into much detail. While I did update my progress on my blog and outline some of my goals there, I wrote mostly about what I had already accomplished and couldn't receive the same sort of support or approval as I would telling someone in person. As I neared the completion of the coil, I began telling people about my project. At this point, however, I had the momentum needed to see the project through to completion.

As it turns out, psychologists have looked at how telling others about your goals affects your motivation to achieve them. It is believed that by telling another about your intentions, you achieve part of your 'identity goal' simply by talking about it.

I enjoy telling others about what I hope to accomplish. I've also gained valuable insight from people who have already achieved goals I am pursuing. However, I've found it's in my best interest to let my actions do most of the talking.

What Happens at College Part 4

Senior year you look to the future. Your future career, schooling, and living arrangements. You'll likely be taking elective classes that will determine the focus of your major while you think of what line of work you're interested in pursuing. You'll also take the GREs, LSATs, EITs, CBEST, or other tests to help you in your pursuit of graduate school or a job.

In your last year at college, you'll guide the future of others too. Having taken most of your classes and most of the professors in your major, others will come to you seeking advice about courses and instructors. You'll also be able to direct the future of the clubs and organizations you are apart of by continuing to lead or by encouraging members to pursue their goals for the group. Before long, you'll graduate and move on to the next chapter in life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mjöllnir I: play time

A few shots of the coil taken with the shutter open for 15 seconds (PowerShot A650 IS)

Solar Flare

Tea anyone?

ARC de Triomphe

Monday, August 24, 2009

Adventures in Healdsburg

When we first arrived at the Davis airport, Breanna and I met the instructor who had rented the plane before us. He handed me a paper clip with the keys to the airplane and said, "you might try using this to keep the window shut." Evidently, the window latch had fallen off during taxi and was somewhere in the run-up area. After many unsuccessful attempts to keep the window shut, we took off in our more breezy Cessna 152. We were headed to Healdsburg, a little town north of Santa Rosa, to celebrate Kirstin going to vet school.

Our 40 min. flight took us west over Lake Berryessa, past the vineyards of Napa Valley, and by the highest landmark in the area, Mt. St. Helena. I couldn't help but think of how much time we were saving by cutting the 2 hour drive to less than half the time and how we were able to enjoy a beautiful view of the valleys below.
Above the vineyards and country roads of Healdsburg

More wine country through the window that wouldn't shut (Healdsburg airport can be seen in the distance)

We landed at the Healdsburg airport where Kirstin was waiting to pick us up. We drove to her house and soon after we arrived, toured parts of her family's 80+ acres. Later, we celebrated with her friends, family, and coworkers over barbecued burgers, salsa made fresh from the garden, and cake. Everyone enjoyed the food and company. As the evening progressed, I noticed a layer of clouds slowly approaching from the south. Though I was warned by a few at the party about the fog, I was confident that the weather reports would be accurate and the cloud layer wouldn't reach us till after we left. But as the outside temperature continued to sink, so did my faith in the reports. The drop in temperature hastened the formation of clouds up the valley. Checking the recently updated online weather reports only confirmed what I already suspected, we weren't going to be flying anywhere that night.

I felt bad for not getting Breanna back to Davis when she expected and for imposing myself on my hosts, but at that point there wasn't much I could do. It seemed that flying had increased our transportation time rather than shortening it. However, we were warmly welcomed to stay the night and after Breanna and I made a few phone calls letting people know we would be late in returning to Davis, our adventure continued.

Kirstin, her mom Kathy, Breanna and I then drove to Ed and Jean's house (close friends of Kirstin's) where we stayed up talking into the early hours of the morning. Breanna and I spent the night there and woke to a generous breakfast of omelets made with fresh vegetables from Ed and Jean's garden. Kirstin stopped by in the morning to join us for breakfast before heading off to a short day at work.

Still waiting for the cloud cover to burn off, Breanna, Kathy, and I decided it would be fun to go riding. Just as we were about to leave, Kirstin arrived back from work and we all went to her place together. Having nearly no riding experience, I had to be shown everything. Luckily, I was surrounded by real experts and before long was able to walk and trot around the arena. Now it was time to put my very elementary knowledge of riding to use. Kirstin led Breanna and I on a short ride up Pony Hill. From the top, we had a great view of the valley below, but above us, the clear sky beckoned our return to Davis.

Walking around the arena, being taught by the experts

The view from atop Pony Hill

Life rarely goes according to plan. But sometimes, significant changes can create an adventure better than what we planned for.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mjöllnir I: It's alive!

It's working!!! Mjollnir I came online today. Here are some photos of its first successful runs. Without any optimization of the primary coil, I have achieved spark lengths of 20 inches.
In the daylight it is difficult to see the longer arcs because they are so thin. In the picture below, I attempted to adjust the exposure and fstop on my camera to make the sparks more visible, but I'll probably be able to take better pictures at night.
Below is a video of the coil in action!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why you might see my brother climbing trees

The following is an anecdote written by my brother Ryan, seen below with his Triton Cockatoo, Cupid.
Well, I decided to go with the real short crew/buzz cut for the balance of the summer. So I did. When I got to school, the scarlet macaw I had to feed basically thought I was a completely different person and hissed and tried to bite at me through the cage. I was also not wearing my normal EATM uniform because it was a work day.

Then, when I got home, I approached Cupid's cage just like I usually do to say 'hello'. Her crest went up and she headed to the back of the cage. I thought she was just being a bit nervous, but she was actually totally spooked out. So, when I opened the cage door, she hit the floor in no time flat and flapped out onto the ground. I didn't want to scare her more, so I didn't grab her, but then she flat took off--from the ground! She went up over the backyard fence and out of sight. I headed out to go look for her and couldn't find her anywhere. I figured she couldn't have gone far because she barely made it over the fence and swooped low once she did and I hadn't seen her fly up anywhere so I was totally baffled. And, naturally, since she probably could see me from wherever she was hiding, she didn't call out like she usually does because she didn't want me to know where she was! So, I headed back inside and took a nap.

I awoke to a knock at the front door from my neighbor across the street. She had seen Cupid and wanted to let me know. So I went out with her and she showed me the shrub she was sitting on. So, I walked back inside to get some cashews. When I came around the corner again and looked at Cupid again (from like 50 yards) she could tell I was after her and flew up into a tall pine tree across the street. I went over and located her with the neighbor and her husband, children and children's friends and then proceeded to ponder the situation. I realized that she was spooked by my appearance and, because that was aversive to her, she would not fancy my chasing her up a tree unless she knew I had friendly intentions. So, I went back to my house with the kids stationed on the grass at the base of the tree to keep an eye on her (four 7 & 8 year old girls). I changed into my regular EATM uniform (which is normally what she sees me in when I come home) and found a hat to put on. I came back out with my ladder and bamboo retrieval pole and then proceeded to call her name, whistle my tune to her and get her attention. She signaled that she knew it was me then by doing her head bob and making happy noises.

So, I told the kids to keep an eye on her in case she spooked again and set the ladder up to get to the first branch of the pine tree. I had to do a bit of scouting out of this particular tree beforehand. Kind of hard to describe. If you saw it you would understand. Anyway, this whole time the kids are calling Cupid's name and saying, "Wow, this is just like Animal Rescue on Animal Planet" and asking me why I cut my hair, that I should wear a wig and how I was going to climb down. So, I did my best to answer their questions as I scaled the tree--bamboo pole in hand. I had to reach way way out, but Cupid did recognize me and walked on to the pole without much coaxing and got to my hand. I tossed the pole down to the kids (much to their delight) and then proceeded to climb down the tree--one handed.

After making it back on the ground, I was met with cheers from the kids and sat down on the grass with them to show them Cupid up close and answer another bunch of questions and listen to their stories. Meanwhile, two friends from the zoo drove by and stopped in the middle of the road to see what I was up to, so I walked over with Cupid and the kids to say 'hi'. While in the middle of the street, another car coming the other way had a recent EATM graduate who also stopped to see what was up and her boyfriend hopped in the shotgun seat right afterwards (she was coming to pick him up). After that I excused myself saying that Cupid should probably go home now since she had had quite an adventure.

Something similar to this happens at least once a week. I am convinced that before I move out I will have climbed every tree within a quarter mile of Cupid's cage. No joke.

Here I am with my brother's bird

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mjöllnir I: first run and the aftermath

I was hoping that upon completion, I'd simply plug in the coil and everything would work perfectly. That didn't happen. I'm writing this entry from the CAE lab on campus because the coil damaged a few things, my internet being one of them. Below is a picture of the assembled coil.
After tuning the safety gaps and main spark gap I placed the assembled secondary and toroid above the primary coil and connected them to a good earth ground. The first time I turned on the coil, arcs were generated from the secondary to the inside tapping point on the primary coil. I pushed the tapping point flat and ran the coil again. This time arcing occurred to the secondary ground wire. Again, I pushed that closer to the secondary to avoid the arcing problem. During the first two runs I also noticed "racing arcs" along the secondary coil. This is caused by over coupling between the primary and secondary coils. I will need to raise the secondary a bit higher to prevent this from occurring. The third time I turned on the coil, there was no arcing to the primary, but moments later I heard a loud popping sound over the spark gap and a shower of sparks and smoke shot out of the line filter. I immediately turned off the coil, but as I would later find out, the damage had been done. Below is the line filter with a hole burned into the casing just above the green ground wire.
Having run the coil twice before (and just the primary a number of times) I'm baffled as to why this occurred. With the line filter gone, I didn't want to run the coil again for fear that the house electronics would be at risk(the line filter prevents voltage spikes from traveling back into the house wiring). I then went inside to do more internet research only to find that... I didn't have internet. The router no longer shows any signs of life. I'm hoping that only the 12vdc transformer that powers the router is broken but I have yet to find out. I tried plugging an Ethernet cable directly into the cable modem, but unfortunately that hasn't worked for me either. For now it seems I'll have limited internet access and a good amount of troubleshooting to do.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mjöllnir I: secondary construction and strange phenomena

The slow, tedious construction of the secondary coil has begun. I have to make approximately 1200 turns with a quarter mile of wire. Below is a picture of me taken just after I started. I've been listening to TED talks as I work, getting up to stretch every 20min. and to start the next talk.
Now, on to the strange phenomena. Whenever I activate the primary coil, my smoke detector (on the wall roughly 12 or so feet from the coil) goes off. With no smoke being generated, it seems strange that the alarm would be tripped. Also, the alarm shuts off immediately after I turn off the coil. I have reasoned that the alarm must be detecting something generated from the coil during operation. When activated the coil produces light and sound from the spark gap, and electromagnetic waves from the coil. Without having tested anything yet, my guess is that the EM waves produced from the coil are causing the sensitive electronics in the fire alarm to detect a small current. See here for how this part of a smoke detector operates.

UPDATE: after 15 hours of coiling, I have finished the secondary coil and am beginning to coat it in polyurethane!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mjöllnir I: time for ear protection

Mjollnir I is closer to completion with the secondary coil being the only major component yet to be made. I've recently completed the safety gaps on both the Terry filter and capacitor bank, and have finished making the primary spark gap. In the picture below, you can see each of these parts connected and ready for operation with the magnet wire for the secondary coil in the foreground. Upon completion of the coil, the safety gaps and main spark gap will need to be adjusted for optimal performance. Besides the secondary coil, I still need to construct a strike rail to protect the primary coil, a switch box for ease of operation (right now I'm still plugging and unplugging the coil to operate it), and purchase a fan to quench/cool the spark gap.

The primary spark gap I chose was a multi-gap design based on the Richard Quick multigap. Rather than having two electrodes (making one big spark), I have ten electrodes, which forces the arc to be distributed across nine separate gaps. This improves electrode cooling by distributing the heat over more electrodes, and makes smaller arcs, which can be easily quenched. When the gap arcs, plasma is formed between each electrode, making a highly conductive path for electricity to follow. This creates a connection across the electrodes for longer than is needed to discharge the capacitors. By quenching the gap, the plasma is removed, suppressing the arcs and improving the coil's efficiency. Below you can see the main spark gap in operation (taken without a flash).
In the close up below, the plasma between the copper tube electrodes is clearly visible. When the coil is operating, it is EXTREMELY loud. So loud in fact, that I need ear protection if I'm going to be operating the coil for any length of time. Unfortunately, this means that I run the risk of waking up my roommates or neighbors if I want to work on it at night(which is when I seem to make the most progress). Now for the secondary coil!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Who's reading my blog anyway?

That's what I was wondering this afternoon. So I took a look at the statcounter I have set up on my blog page and this is what I found. While the majority of hits are from the states (over 90%), I've got viewers in every continent but Antarctica. Somehow I don't think these are regular readers, but it's an ego boost nonetheless.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Google takes over yet another area of my life...

Today I got my Google Voice account. You can read about it here, or watch the video below.

My new number is (818) 584-6846. I chose this number because it would be easy to remember, just 5-TINTIN. As a kid I used to love the Tintin series and since then have often incluced it as part of my online usernames.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mjöllnir I: steady progress

Construction on the coil has seen steady progress. The chassis has been completed, although the top has yet to be screwed down to allow easier access to some of the components. The primary coil is also nearly complete after a full day of work. 5/8ths inch Plexiglas was used to space the spiral primary. After some difficulty using the drill press(the bits tend to 'bite' the plexi as you exit the back, destroying the piece :/), I milled the Plexiglas in the student machine shop on campus. I then wrestled 60 feet of 3/8ths inch copper tubing through the holes, making 13 turns on the primary coil. This should give an adjustable inductance around 57.2 micro-Henrys. The spacing on the coil is not perfect, but I'm hoping that with a little more tweaking it will serve its purpose well.
I have ordered 2000 feet of 26 awg magnet wire for the secondary coil and am eagerly awaiting its arrival in the mail. Making the secondary coil will likely be the most challenging task yet, but it will also mean I am nearing completion of the coil. One issue I am currently facing however, is that I'm unable to find 4 inch PVC piping in Davis. I may have to make another trip out to Lowe's in Sacramento to find the right PVC for the secondary. Next, I'll be focusing on constructing the main spark gap for my coil. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It started in a bar on a Friday night...

We were celebrating Rachel's 21st at Sophia's in downtown Davis when the texting service Chacha was brought up in conversation. (Text any question to chacha (242242) and they'll respond within minutes with an answer. Pretty amazing, right?) We decided to put Chacha to the test and were coming up with questions to ask. Wondering what kind of response we would get from a subjective question, we wondered, why not ask if we should dye our hair blue? Rachel and I entered our texts, but before we sent them, we pinky swore we would do as Chacha said. Unfortunately, we both received a text along the lines of "pursue what your heart says." Again we texted Chacha, "yes or no?" No more than a minute had gone by when Rachel received the resounding, "Yes, of course you should dye your hair blue!" While again I received the less definitive answer to do what my heart told me. We decided however that this was close enough to a positive response! Not wanting to have her hair permanently dyed, we agreed before hand that temporary dye would suffice for Rachel.

Sunday came and Nick decided he would join the dye fest... here Carissa is giving a bit of dyeing instruction as Nick and I start the bleaching process.
Bleached hair! I'm kind of shocked looking in the mirror for the first time. :O

Here comes the blue....

.... and shampoo and rinse, shampoo and rinse, shampoo and rinse...

I have blue hair now! woohoo! (and I look like a Nerf dart, haha)

Rachel, you're next!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mjöllnir I: starting construction

I was excited to find the two sites I frequent most on the internet both have Tesla related logos:
Having received many of the parts I ordered in the mail, I've started construction of the coil. In the picture below you will see the NST in the upper left, with a line filter (this protects the house and neighborhood from the coil which can cause power surges back into the grid) next to it. The capacitors which will make up the capacitor bank are in the middle and a half assembled NST protection filter is below the NST on the left. I also have here the copper tubing from which the primary coil will be made and a bag of 1Mohm resistors. A few tools and wires can be seen on the right.
I'm still waiting for the high voltage wire to come in the mail, so in the mean time I'll be constructing a chassis to hold all these goodies and support the secondary and top load. More to come later!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mjöllnir I: already over budget

The second post on my tesla coil project and I'm already over budget. This doesn't bode well. My goal was to stay under $300 for the initial project, but purchasing things online adds up, especially with shipping costs and minimum purchase limits. Right now I'm at $320 dollars. Luckily, the only major componet I have yet to purchase is a couple thousand feet of magnet wire.

Next step will be to work on construction of the NST protection filter. I'm using a design by Terry Fritz.  A filter is needed to protect the transformer from high voltage surges created in the primary that can make their way back to the the relatively delicate windings of the neon sign transformer. This filter protects the transformer in a couple of ways. It 'removes' the transformer from the primary coil circuit via the 1K Ohm resistors, the safety spark gaps ground high voltage spikes by allowing them to easily arc to ground, the varistors shunt high voltage to ground, and the capacitors also help absorb (and bleed off via the resistors) voltage spikes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mjöllnir I: the beginnings of a tesla coil

Mjöllnir was Thor's hammer. According to Norse mythology, Thor's hammer had the power to throw lightning bolts. As Thor was the god of thunder, this seems only appropriate. The most identifiable parts of a Tesla coil (the tall secondary coil and large top load) are also roughly hammer shaped. For this reason (and the fact that it will release bolts of lightning) I felt Mjöllnir was a suitable name for my Tesla coil. When further research revealed Mjöllnir meant 'crusher', I pretty much had to go with it.

My goal for this project is to successfully design and build a Tesla coil at relatively low cost. All in all I hope to spend less than $300 total (right now I'm just over $100 for the NST, toroid components and cords). I hope to achieve a spark length of about 30in. with the largest theoretical length being 36.6 inches for a 15000volt, 30ma transformer. After completion of the basic coil, I expect my tinkering and alterations/improvements will increase the cost, but $300 will give me a good goal for the initial project.

To test my neon sign transformer (and to have a little fun in the process), I threw together a simple Jacob's ladder using an old coat hanger I stole from my roommate (thanks Ian ^_^). Note the plasma created between the two electrodes as the spark travels up the ladder.
After staring at a coat hanger and being mesmerized for far too long, I decided that my transformer was working. On to the top load.
Here is the toroid I created using 4" aluminum dryer ducting and an 8" pie pan I bought from ACE hardware. The size and shape of this top load gives a theoretical capacitance of 17.4 pF. My goal (to tune the coil to it's 1/4 wavelength frequency) was 17.2pF. I'm guessing the theoretical capacitance will be a bit high anyway so this should do just fine.

The next major step in the design of my coil will be to determine the appropriate tank capacitor size given the power output of the transformer. This will require a few calculations and some time spent online hunting down suitable high voltage capacitors. More to come later!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

On being yourself

A friend of mine once posed the question, "What does it actually mean when people say "be yourself"?" Here are a few of my thoughts...

My first reaction is that it's impossible to not be yourself. Telling someone, "be yourself" is like saying, "Obey me by doing whatever you want!" How can they not?

There's more to it than that though. When people say "be yourself," they are actually encouraging you to change. People have the tendency to conform out of a fear of rejection. So, for example, when teachers encourage their pupils to "be themselves," they are encouraging them to be creative and fight against their tendency to conform (they're saying, "don't be afraid"). While this is actually telling them not to be who they are (they are, after all, more likely to be afraid and conform), it encourages new perspectives to be formed and confidence in one's decisions.

On a grander scheme, if we were to truly "be ourselves," we would quickly fall into a life of mediocrity or worse, depravity. There is a great deal of good in people, but ultimately one's sinful nature will dominate. We should aspire not to be ourselves, or even to be who we want to be, but to be who God wants us to be. It's not enough to be yourself, you have to be greater than yourself.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What Happens at College Part 3

Junior year you grow deeper; deeper in your relationships and more deeply involved in your studies. If it hasn't already, school will likely feel overwhelming. However, the study skills you've developed in your first two years and the friends you've made in and out of class will help you pull through the tough times. Classes will be specific to your major and will really open your eyes to your area of study.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable amount of work and activities you'll be involved in, you'll find time to give back as well. If you're involved in student clubs or organizations, you'll be encouraging freshman to join or helping to organize events. As a Junior, you'll have established your priorities in college and will invest heavily into those areas most important to you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Reflections on my time in Davis Christian Fellowship

Sunset over lake Berryesa

More than any professor, class, club, sport, or hobby, my involvement with Davis Christian Fellowship has made the most impact on my life during my time at UC Davis.  I was first introduced to DCF my freshman year when a high school friend of mine, Jason Pope, invited me to his core group he co-led with Will Klier.  I didn't attend Friday night worship gatherings or go to many events, but I was connected to the small group in the Tercero guys core.

The DCF house at 312 A street

When I began looking for housing for Sophomore year, I was introduced to Jason Conklin who was then apart of a Segundo core group.  Together, along with Matt English, who was in my Tercero core group, we began looking for housing and found a place at Sundance, apartment 216.  Sophomore year I continued to infrequently attend Friday night gatherings and other events.  Towards the end of my sophomore year, Jason, Matt, and I began looking for a fourth roommate to help share the cost of rent.  Unable to find another person, we signed the lease anyway to live there another year.  Just after this, Jason Pope, asked if the three of us would like to live at 624 Villanova.  Wanting to move to Villanova, but having already signed our lease, it seemed as if our timing could not have been worse.  It was then however, that fellow DCFers Gabby, Shannon, Joanne, and Caralee contacted us hoping to take our apartment.  The transition went smoothly as we signed our lease over to them and moved into our new place at Villanova where Jason Conklin, Matt English, Jason Pope, Ian Dick, Marc Madrigal and I lived Junior year.

Dinner with the girls of apartment 216 and the villanova boys

Junior year I became more involved, attending Friday night worship, weekly core group, winter retreat, and many other events.  I felt apart of the community, able to contribute in a meaningful way and grow spiritually as I was encouraged by those in the community.  Jason Pope married his high school girlfriend and left Villanova to live and work in San Diego.  Senior year came and Jake Hosier, Harry Jin, and Tim Oldenkamp joined our house.

Villanova house fiesta to discuss a few items on the house agenda

Senior year I was continually blessed with the love, guidance, and support of my roommates and friends in DCF.  The more I gave, the more I was able to receive.  It wasn't the activities, or places we went, or things we did that influenced me so much as it was the people, with their concern, generosity, and love.  Their concern for my spiritual growth, selflessness in time and attention, and love that wasn't afraid to confront or admonish.  I have never seen or experienced this kind of love anywhere else.  Davis Christian Fellowship is a Christ centered community where the power of the Holy Spirit is alive and active, working in and through the lives of those in the community.  I am thankful to have been apart of this community and hope that I will be able to show others the love of Christ that was so selflessly shown to me.