Saturday, December 4, 2010

Eggbot Printing




After reading about the Eggbot at Evil Mad Science and seeing it in action at the East Bay Mini-Maker Faire I was hooked and ordered one.  I've had great success printing on eggs and ornaments.  The trickiest part of the whole process is developing a .svg vector art file that prints good results.  Because it uses an actual pen (a fine tip sharpie), printing must be done using lines instead of the usual dot matrix method.  That means filing in regions of solid color must be done using zig-zaging and/or multiple vectors.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Giant Robots and the Tesla Coil

You might be wondering what my tesla coil has to do with giant fighting robots.  The answer to that would be the film Real Steel.  After posting my tesla coil for sale on Craigslist, I was contacted by Rob Nokes, a sound effects recordist and editor.  While not looking to purchase the coil, he was interested in recording it for his work on Real Steel, a film about boxing robots, and to possibly use in the TV series Bones.  He brought his recording equipment, and we worked for about two hours to get a variety of robot-crunching/circuit-popping sounds.  I configured the coil to produce various arcing sounds while Rob worked the microphones.  I don't expect to have my name next to Hugh Jackman or executive producer Steven Speilberg, but I might just listen a little more closely when the robot boxers face off and throw a few punches.
Setting up a few microphones
Recording various effects

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wind Direction Finder: Nearing Completion




The wind direction indicator has seen a good deal of progress since my last post.  The vane and indicator cases have been finished and much of the programming completed.  The vane electronics and power supply are housed entirely within PVC pipe to prevent moisture from damaging the device and to allow easy mounting to the top of the mast.  The vane itself has been built from recycled parts: a pop-up sprinkler, panda express chopstick and beer can. I'm currently working on a way of securely mounting the PVC to the top of the mast where the vane will transmit from.  The vane is powered by two AA batteries which should supply the transmitter with 90+ hours of continuous operation; more than enough for a weekend of sailing.

The display electronics have all been placed in a waterproof pelican case.  They will be powered from an external 12v battery typically stowed in the hold of the boat.  This display device shows graphically and numerically the wind direction relative to the boat.  I have also incorporated a 5min and 1min countdown timer helpful in small boat sailing for timing the start of a race.  From the display, you can also turn off the vane transmitter to conserve battery power.  The vane will still require some power to listen for a "turn on" signal to resume broadcasting the vane direction.  Interfacing with the display electronics is done through a capacitive touch sensor mounted on the inside of the pelican case.  This keeps the electronics protected from water, even if the Kraken were to pull the boat under.

Wireless wind vane and display box with battery

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wind Direction Finder: Graphical LCD and Wireless Upgrades

Xbee radio with adafruit 3v logic adapter
The original plan for my wind direction finder was to begin with a wired system, then graduate to a wireless system, but after learning more about wireless transmitters and because of the clear advantages of going wireless, I decided to jump right into a wireless system and include a full graphical LCD as well.  This new setup will require two micro controllers, one for the sensor and transmitter and one for the receiver and display panel.  I'll be using 2.4GHz Xbee modems to transmit and receive sensor data and a KS0108 128x64 liquid crystal display.  Now that the system will be made wireless, the transmitter at the top of the mast will have it's own separate battery, making power conservation a more important factor to consider.  I've implemented new code between the micro controllers that allows the transmitter to be turned off and on remotely as needed.  While the transmitter will still consume a small amount of power "listening" for the signal to turn on again, it should save conserve battery power and allow the transmitter to remain "asleep" when the boat is being set up and taken down, or when wind direction information is not needed.  Once the display and additional micro controller have arrived in the mail, I'll begin construction and further iterations of the code.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wind Direction Finder: Building and Coding

I've made steady progress on the small boat wind direction finder. Soon after the magnetic shaft encoder arrived in the mail, I mounted it to a 1/2 inch pvc end cap and attached a phone jack to the 5V, analog, and ground leads. This end cap/sensor configuration will be secured to the boat on the end of a foot long length of 1/2 inch pvc pipe. The pipe will raise the vane above the mast, away from the sails and lines as well as provide a solid, but removable way of attaching the sensor. (see photo below)

Before coding, I connected the sensor to the "analog input 0" pin on the Arduino (female phone jack ->; screw down electrical connector ->; breadboard ->; Arduino... a very round about way of doing things but it works) to feed sensor data to the micro controller. From here it was straight forward to write a code that would map the sensor readings to 360 degrees of wind direction. (see above photo)

Turbulent airflow around the wind vane, vibration in the boat, and the high sensitivity of the sensor will all cause an undesirable rapid change in the readout of wind direction. This can be solved by taking a number of readings within a short period of time and averaging them to provide the wind direction, free from unwanted "noise". Converting the code to produce an average reading proved somewhat problematic. Sensor readings close to "dead ahead" are either large (close to 360) or small (close to 0), but averaging these gives headings around 180, the completely opposite direction! With a bit of math and a few if statements I was able to hash out an averaging system that gives accurate readings in any direction. (for those interested in how this works just e-mail me, I'll explain and send you the code)

The remainder of the project is mostly mechanical in nature. A wind vane needs to be attached to the sensor, the pvc pipe needs to be affixed to the mast, wires run, and a dial created for easier readout. More to come later....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Arduino METAR Weather Reporter



For those who can't view the video or are looking for a bit more explanation, I'll explain what's going on. The Arduino is wired via breadboard to control the 16x2 LCD character display. The code running on the Arduino scans the incoming data on the (virtual) serial port and when it sees a '#' identifier it loads the subsequent 46 characters into its memory. It then divides the weather data to the two lines of the LCD and discards extra information like the airport identifier and 'remarks' section.

The code running on the computer is written in Processing and controls the data being fed to the Arduino. The program begins by loading Weather Underground and looking for the appropriate airport identifier. Once found, it takes the following text (the current weather information) and sends it to the Arduino through the serial port.

METARs are a good source for uniform weather data. The same METAR standard is used world wide, meaning any weather website (not just Weather Underground) and any airport identifier could be input into the program and used to display current weather.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Wind Direction Finder for Small Boats

My dad has been an avid small boat sailor his whole life and has shared his passion with me by taking me sailing many times.  Being a tinkerer, he continually improves his boat, changing cables, removing winches, adding lines, etc. to make sailing easier (and faster).  He recently sold his Coronado 15 and purchased a Holder 20, and as you might expect, many new alterations needed to be made from the get go.

A Holder 20 (not my dad's)
One such improvement was to address an issue all small boat sailors face: how to see the tiny wind vane atop the mast. Knowing the wind direction is crucial because it allows the sails to be set to best take advantage of the wind. The vane needs to be at the top of the mast, clear from interference from lines and sails, but this location is difficult to see being far away, in an awkward location, and more often than not - directly in the sun. (The wind vane in the above photo can be seen as a black speck above the mast)

There are existing systems that will transmit wind speed and direction data to a screen mounted in the cockpit of the boat. However, you've got to be prepared to fork out the cash. This entry level system from Tacktick (http://www.tacktick.com/products/145) costs £459.99... that's over $900 American! ...and cost prohibitive for many small boat sailors.

Enter the Arduino micro-controller solution. I proposed that a practical solution was feasible using an Arduino to detect wind direction and display it in the cockpit for a fraction of the cost of existing products. With my interested father as a corporate backer, I've set out to design and build said instrument.

The R&D for this project will be broken up into a couple stages. First, an appropriate sensor needs to be found that will output angular position over 360 degrees. The sensor shaft also needs to be able to continuously rotate so as not to provide faulty data after reaching an end stop (as would be the case with most potentiometers). After some online research, I found this device (http://www.usdigital.com/products/ma3/) from US Digital that should fit the bill. The sensor must then be mounted to the mast with an appropriate wind vane.

Second, the sensor must be connected to the Arduino (by a small cable through the mast) and a suitable program written to collect the incoming analog data and process it into a usable information. (Note: I imagine some form of averaging needs to be performed to reduce jitter and provide a more stable readout)

Lastly, a display needs to be made to make the wind direction information easily viewable. Ideally, I'll have an LCD screen showing wind direction relative to boat position, but as a simpler prototype I could create a ring of LEDs indicating wind direction.

Once a working system has been developed, further improvements could be made such as: wireless transmitting from wind vane to Arduino, powering the device via solar panel, adding a hot-wire anemometer, temperature gauge, or solid state magnetometer for additional nautical data.

I'd like be able to build the project for under $100 (nearly 1/10 the cost of the TackTick), but knowing how project costs quickly add up (see this blog entry), I think I'll double that and hope for the best. Either way, it should be a great solution! Stay tuned...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ultrasonic Range-finder with LCD Character Display

I purchased a 'Ping)))' Sensor from Radio Shack today, and after soldering pins onto my 16x2 LCD character display, I set out to create an ultrasonic range-finder with my Arduino.  As far as the hardware was concerned, wiring the LCD panel took the most time.  I am quite pleased, though, with the level of contrast control obtained from the potentiometer (seen in the upper left corner of the breadboard).  This simple adjustment makes it easy to get a crisp character readout on the display.  The device runs on a nine volt battery and gives accurate distance readings from 2cm to about 3m at increments of 1cm.  You can power the device via USB instead of a 9volt battery and when connected to the computer in this way, range data is sent to the computer via virtual com port.  Below is the code being run.

/* Ping))) Sensor and LCD Readout

This sketch reads a PING))) ultrasonic rangefinder and displays the
distance to the closest object in range. To do this, it sends a pulse
to the sensor to initiate a reading, then listens for a pulse
to return. The length of the returning pulse is proportional to
the distance of the object from the sensor.

http://www.arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/Ping
http://glennlangton.blogspot.com

created by David A. Mellis and Tom Igoe
modified to include LCD readout by Glenn Langton
*/

// include the library code:
#include

// initialize the library with the numbers of the interface pins
LiquidCrystal lcd(7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12);

// pin number of the sensor's output:
const int pingPin = 5;

void setup() {
// set up the LCD's number of rows and columns:
lcd.begin(16, 2);
// set the cursor to column 0, line 0
lcd.setCursor(0, 0);
// Print inches to the LCD.
lcd.print("inches");
lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
// Print cm to the LCD.
lcd.print("cm");
// initialize serial communication:
Serial.begin(9600);
}

void loop()
{
// establish variables for duration of the ping,
// and the distance result in inches and centimeters:
long duration, inches, cm;

// The PING))) is triggered by a HIGH pulse of 2 or more microseconds.
// Give a short LOW pulse beforehand to ensure a clean HIGH pulse:
pinMode(pingPin, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(pingPin, LOW);
delayMicroseconds(2);
digitalWrite(pingPin, HIGH);
delayMicroseconds(5);
digitalWrite(pingPin, LOW);

// The same pin is used to read the signal from the PING))): a HIGH
// pulse whose duration is the time (in microseconds) from the sending
// of the ping to the reception of its echo off of an object.
pinMode(pingPin, INPUT);
duration = pulseIn(pingPin, HIGH);

// convert the time into a distance
inches = microsecondsToInches(duration);
cm = microsecondsToCentimeters(duration);

Serial.print(inches);
Serial.print("in, ");
Serial.print(cm);
Serial.print("cm");
Serial.println();

// set the cursor to column 8, line 0
lcd.setCursor(8, 0);
lcd.print(" ");
lcd.setCursor(8, 0);
lcd.print(inches);
// set the cursor to column 8, line 1
lcd.setCursor(8, 1);
lcd.print(" ");
lcd.setCursor(8, 1);
lcd.print(cm);

delay(500);
}

long microsecondsToInches(long microseconds)
{
// According to Parallax's datasheet for the PING))), there are
// 73.746 microseconds per inch (i.e. sound travels at 1130 feet per
// second). This gives the distance travelled by the ping, outbound
// and return, so we divide by 2 to get the distance of the obstacle.
// See: http://www.parallax.com/dl/docs/prod/acc/28015-PING-v1.3.pdf
return microseconds / 74 / 2;
}

long microsecondsToCentimeters(long microseconds)
{
// The speed of sound is 340 m/s or 29 microseconds per centimeter.
// The ping travels out and back, so to find the distance of the
// object we take half of the distance travelled.
return microseconds / 29 / 2;
}

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Scouting Recap

A speech I presented at my Eagle Court of Honor:

Since starting as a Tiger Cub Scout in first grade, I have come a long way through Scouting to arrive where I am today. It has been an amazing journey through which I have struggled, endured hardship and laughed, but in every experience I learned something.

Throughout Cub Scouting, my den leader (a.k.a. Mom) provided Den 2 of Pack 104 with phenomenal field trips, getting us to go places and do things few people get a chance to do. We toured a land fill and radio station, raced cubmobiles, went grunion running, attended a city council meeting and backpacked all BEFORE I was a Boy Scout.

My transition into Boy Scouting wasn’t a hard one (even if I did have to let go of pinewood derby races) because my older brother had already told me about many of the activities I could expect in Boy Scouts. As long as he was in the troop he mentored me and we enjoyed many outings together.

I quickly learned the ropes (literally as well as figuratively), and acquired many Scouting skills I would need for future trips. My father became Scoutmaster not long after I entered the troop and served in that position for the majority of my Boy Scouting years. We enjoyed many engaging meetings and exciting trips together, while also sharing ideas for improving the troop.

Occasionally on outings, a Scout’s creativity can overflow. I’ve found that hiking sticks provide excellent leverage for launching dried cow patties, slippery grass on a dew-covered hill is the best surface for urban canoeing, and when trying to catch mini bears (i.e. chipmunks) you run the risk of them dashing through your tent.

Of all the outings I’ve been on, a few stand out from the others. Emerald Bay’s “Rugged E” was filled with cliff jumping, night kayaking, and war canoe trips. Philmont Scout Ranch included over 70 miles of backpacking, amazing campfires and a hilarious train ride. My participation in the 2001 and 2005 National Scout Jamborees allowed me to tour the east coast, meet Scouts from around the world, and applaud the President’s address to the Boy Scouts of America. These experiences have been some of the best in my life.

Scouting’s journey has impacted me, and not just Scouting in general, but specifically those people who taught, encouraged, disciplined, and supported me. I am grateful to my parents, Scout leaders and friends for all they have invested in me along the way. Your contribution has made me a better Scout and I will continue to grow and learn --being prepared to do my best and doing my best to be prepared.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hello World: Starting out with Arduino

I recently purchased an Arduino Duemilanove from http://www.adafruit.com/.  As my "Hello World" beginning code I modified a sketch to signal SOS in Morse Code from a blinking LED.  A picture of the Italian made open hardware micro controller and my code are below.

/* SOS Blink

Blinks LED in Morse Code "SOS", repeatedly.

The circuit:
* LED connected from digital pin 13 to ground.

Created 5.15.10
By Glenn Langton
http://glennlangton.blogspot.com

based on an orginal by H. Barragan for the Wiring i/o board

*/

int ledPin = 13; // LED connected to digital pin 13

// The setup() method runs once, when the sketch starts

void setup() {
// initialize the digital pin as an output:
pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);
}

// the loop() method runs over and over again,

void loop()
{
/* Code S */
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(500); // wait for 1/2 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(100); // wait for 1/10 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(500); // wait for 1/2 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(100); // wait for 1/10 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(500); // wait for 1/2 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(300); // wait for 3/10 second
/* Code O */
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(1000); // wait for 1 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(100); // wait for 1/10 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(1000); // wait for 1 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(100); // wait for 1/10 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(1000); // wait for 1 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(300); // wait for 3/10 second
/* Code S */
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(500); // wait for 1/2 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(100); // wait for 1/10 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(500); // wait for 1/2 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(100); // wait for 1/10 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on
delay(500); // wait for 1/2 second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off
delay(300); // wait for 3/10 second

/*Pause 2 seconds for next SOS sequence*/
delay(2000);
}

Friday, May 14, 2010

Eagle Project at the San Fernando Mission

To achieve the highest rank in scouting, Eagle Scout, you must plan and execute a service project.  Here's a description I wrote just after completing my project at the San Fernando Mission.

Project Description

Monsignor Weber is the administrator of the San Fernando Mission, and responsible for the Archival Center and Mission grounds. He is also in charge of the Mission Museum. Monsignor Weber told me of the need for the Mission Museum artifacts to be labeled. The majority of the artifacts on display have no labels. The labels that are in place are poorly written, made on deteriorating material, and are often incorrect. Unfortunately, there are no personnel at the Mission who can reasonably undertake this task.

There are many rooms that make up the entire Mission Museum collection; however, my project will only be encompassing the two rooms with the highest traffic and greatest need. These connected rooms will be referred to as the North and South Museum rooms and contain many items from the Pope’s visit to Los Angeles, Indian baskets from all parts of California, and items from when the Mission was first built and used.

How My Project will be of Benefit to the San Fernando Mission

Without anyone to undertake the job of creating labels for the museum artifacts, this job has been left undone for 30 years. The labeling of the many artifacts on display would help the Mission with a job that would otherwise never have been accomplished. Over 30,000 students a year visit the Mission on field trips as part of their study of California history. Labeling the artifacts on display would give a more interesting and comprehensive understanding of the Mission Museum. The San Fernando Mission is the most important landmark in all of the San Fernando Valley and surrounding area, being the first settlement in this area of California. The history of the Mission would be made more available to the community and students, who regularly visit the museum. Many of the 21 California missions, including the San Fernando Mission are in need of money for structural repairs and artifact preservation. There is currently legislation that, if passed, will support the missions with this much needed money, but there is controversy over the separation of church and state that is preventing these measures to be taken. This eagle project will help to preserve the history and importance of many artifacts at the San Fernando Mission.

Carrying out the Project

My project, being of an intellectual nature, required the help of adults capable of good writing and proofreading. While I was able to use fellow scouts and peers for such tasks as data entry, cleaning of cabinets, and cutting of mat board, I sought the more qualified help of adults to perform the intellectual tasks. I was able to gather support from adults in my church, school, and troop. This provided the unique experience of having to delegate responsibility and oversee a project in which most of those working under me were much older, unlike what I had experience doing with those mostly younger than me in a troop or patrol setting.

Labor

The total amount of labor invested was just over 600 hours. That amount of time was divided between 30 people over the course of approximately two years. I invested about 100 hours of my own time, half of which was spent on planning and the other half of which was spent distributing responsibilities and overseeing progress on my project.

Due to the nature of my project, though many people are involved in the label making process, the majority of the man hours contributed falls to a few individuals. At the start of my project, there were many tasks and responsibilities to be distributed such as making sure labels were written, data entry, proofreading, and etcetera. As the project continued, tasks became more specific and individual work such as specific basket research, or approval by the Monsignor was narrowed down to a few crucial people.



Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Census Burro


A typical phone conversation at work:

United States Census Bureau, Glenn speaking, how may I help you?

Hello? I missed a call from this number... who is this?

You've reached the administration department at the Van Nuys local census office, what did your message say sir?

I wasn't left a message, what is this about? I already turned in my census form.

It's possible you could have been called in regards to a job opportunity sir, but please listen to your message and call back.

Oh! ya, I took that test thing to work for the Census Burro, I'll listen to my message.

[hangs up]

United States Census Bureau, Glenn speaking, how may I help you?

Ya, I was just talking to you.  I listened to my message... so does this mean I'm hired?

No, sir, you have to be interviewed and selected before you are hired.  What was the job reference number given in your message?

Oh, I needed that? I didn't write it down.

Please spell you first and last name for me, sir.

My name's Alejandro Velasco-Ortega.

Please hold while I look up your file.

[call continues....]

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Few High School Memories

Sailing after the prom boat and launching water balloons at it | Running the mile | Prom with no dancing | Class favorite: "desert island dream" | Circus Club | Biking to school every day | Physics homework at Will's house | Going from no uniforms to polos | Juggling in the talent show | Stop motion video projects | Europe trip with my Spanish class | APs | Juggling in the fashion show | Slip-n-slide | Chapel | Lunchtime conversation | Failed Sr. class prank and the fundraiser party after | Proposals and marriages | Campus lock down from gunman across the street | Night games | Homecoming floats | Only going to one football and one basket ball game | Spirit Day | Flour babies

Some videos from my high school days:
Cassette recording of Dr. Teague performing "Iguana Man" and talking about Hydrogen bonding


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Scouting Europe Trip 2007

In the summer of 2007, I returned to Europe as a junior leader of Mission Hills, Troop 104. We toured England, Ireland, and Spain.  Below are my daily recordings, a slideshow and a few memories from the trip.

At the start of our trip, my brother and I were nicknamed Ackmed and Muhammed because of our beards (or because of our terrorist plot depending on who you asked).  Despite our new names and look we had no trouble getting through security on any of our flights around Europe.  In England we visited Westminster, walked across tower bridge, and toured the tower of London, all with lots of juggling interspersed.  We got around on the tube, and visited St. Pauls, Portabello road, and the Imperial war museum where I saw Lawrence of Arabia's (This dude,T.E. Lawrence, is pretty awesome so that's why I was so excited) gun and personal belongings.  We stayed at the Baden Powell hostel while in London and later took a riverboat down the Thames to Greenwich to see the naval museum, and Prime Meridian.  Our next stop was Little Abington's where we stayed the night at a British boy scout camp (smaller and closer to the city than ours, but similar in most other ways).  Then it was on to the Duxford Aerodrome, and then to Cambridge where I cajoled my way into King's College to visit a friend studying abroad there.  We then flew to Dublin, Ireland, and after staying there a night, continued north to Athlone.  There we saw locks on the Shannon River, and the ruins of Clonmacnoise.  Spain was next on our journey.  We stayed in Madrid (in a hostel right above the hotel I stayed in on my first trip there) and I revisited Plaza Mayor and the Crystal palace, getting horchata at the little restaurant where I first had it (I'll admit it wasn't as good as the first time I tried it).  Toledo and Segovia were next on our journey.  In Toledo we saw a rich mixture of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian architecture and enjoyed browsing the many sword shops in town.  We took a train to Segovia where we saw a Roman aqueduct and learned about the history of the area.  From there it was back to England were we continued to the World Jamboree.  Though not as large (in numbers or area) as the National Scout Jamboree, there were scouts from all around the world joining in a rich mixture of language, culture, and tradition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of scouting.  We stayed a little longer in England and visited the British museum, seeing the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, and many artifacts collected from Britain's Imperial past.  Just before the close of my journey I hid a memory card in a subway ventilation shaft near Hyde Park for a friend visiting London later that summer.  What a trip!

My daily recordings (The Captain's Log) for the Troop 104 Europe trip in 2007





Wednesday, April 28, 2010

College Pranks Declassified

At the risk of making enemies out of current friends and spreading devious ideas, I have declassified a few college pranks. Proceed with caution!
Below you'll see some...
Pranks I've pulled: Pranks pulled on me:
TPing a house Fish placed in all our cups/toilet/tub
Taking all the furniture from an apartment All our doors removed
Sealing a doorway with wood Sword taken from our apartment
Stringing a room with yarn Streamers hung from the dorm ceiling


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From Dams to Drains: Adventures along Putah

I originally planned to recount a trip to Lake Berryessa with some friends, however, I decided to expand this post to include some of my other adventures along the 20 mile stretch of Putah Creek from Lake Berryessa to Davis.  The map below shows the locations of these adventures so you can go on a few of your own!


View From Dams to Drains: Adventures along Putah in a larger map


I'll begin with the point furthest west, Lake Berryessa.  Many of my trips here actually occurred a few thousand feet above the lake!  It's a great place to go flying and affords a unique perspective of the area.  Get in touch with some pilots at Cal Aggie Flyers and they may take you on a flight!

Another great way to experienced the lake is by foot.  There are a number of hiking trails to explore and geocaches to find in the Putah Creek State Wildlife Area.  An evening hike to watch the sunset over the lake is an especially good trip.  The lake can also be enjoyed at night.  A campfire by the lake and an midnight swim can be quite the adventure with friends.  I will add a disclaimer here though: the water isnt' the cleanest and I don't know the legalities of campfires in the area, so you might check on this before you go!

Monticello Dam and it's spillway can be seen well from both land and air.  This prominent structure (what creates the man made lake) makes a good halfway point for a round trip bike ride from Davis.  Be sure to watch for cars along the road and take plenty of water and sunscreen because it can get hot during the summer and there are long stretches without shade. Along the way, you can stop in Winters to enjoy the small main street or have lunch in the shade along Putah as you get closer to the dam.

About half way to Winters from Davis, where Road 95A branches off from Russell, is Stevenson's bridge.  This curious bridge is covered in graffiti and can be a fun place to take pictures.  You can climb down below the bridge to see even more graffiti and get a closer look at Putah.  It's a narrow bridge though, so keep an eye out for cars and if you venture below watch for broken glass.

One of the prettier places along Putah is in the UC Davis arboretum.  This redirected branch of the creek flows south of the main campus under bridges and through gardens.  The lawns by Lake Spafford make for a great picnic location.  You'll see students jogging or biking along the paths and plenty of ducks milling about.  The paths are lighted in many areas and safe for an evening walk (or even paddling around in a tub!)

My final adventure along Putah goes underground both physically and figuratively.  After flowing through the arboretum, the creek continues till it empties into a storm drain at Mace Boulevard.  With some effort, the grates can be removed and you can continue underground, but keep in mind this is likely trespassing so continue at your own risk!  The storm drain has one main channel that leads north under Mace with smaller tunnels that you can crawl through branching off the main.  You'll see graffiti on the walls and as the water gets deeper you may spot crayfish or other water creatures.  I've yet to explore the tunnel fully, so the rest remains a mystery!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ninjaneering

nin·ja
–noun, plural-ja, -jas. (often initial capital letter)
a member of a feudal Japanese society of mercenary agents, highly trained in martial arts and stealth (ninjutsu), who were hired for covert purposes ranging from espionage to sabotage and assassination.

en·gi·neer·ing
–noun

  • the art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences, as physics or chemistry, as in the construction of engines, bridges, buildings, mines, ships, and chemical plants.
  • the action, work, or profession of an engineer.
  • skillful or artful contrivance; maneuvering.
nin·ja·neer·ing
–noun
  • the art or science of making stealth practical application of the knowledge of pure ninja sciences, as ninja physics or ninja chemistry, as in the construction of ninja engines, ninja bridges, ninja buildings, ninja mines, ninja ships, and ninja chemical plants for covert purposes ranging from espionage to sabotage and assassination.
  • the action, work, or profession of an ninjaneer.
  • skillful or artful contrivance; maneuvering.
Ninjaneering forms a union of innovative design and super secret arts to create deadly useful tools that can, on occasion, be useful for everyday tasks. Take the scenario below for example.  At first glance you might observe one individual standing on another; the purpose of which is not very clear.  However, because I have taught your mouse pointer special ninjaneer skills, it can reveal how a ninjaneer interprets this scene.

Here, the stealthy eradication of Musca Domestica is taking place while simultaneously evading the imminent danger of poison gas inhalation.  All this is done while precisely calculating the centroid of each ninjaneer to allow for a perfect balancing of forces on the nimble ninja bodies. The beauty of this so perfectly executed task can only come with a well trained nimble ninja mind and nimble ninja body.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Highlights from My Trip to the Winter Games

My adventure began February 11th as I departed the Burbank airport for Seattle, Washington.  Upon arriving in Seattle, I connected with friends and spent the day exploring Seattle, seeing Pike's Market, the original Starbucks and the Space Needle.  We feasted on a Thai food and later that evening drove to Bellingham (just south of the border) to spend the night.  In the morning we drove across the border and took the Skytrain into downtown Vancouver.  The torch made it's way through the city not long after we arrived and that night we watched the broadcast opening ceremony only a few blocks from where it was actually taking place!

Over the next few days, we explored downtown Vancouver, Stanley park, Granville Island, Gastown, and the Vancouver Live Cities, having a fantastic time taking in the sights.  It didn't take long to master the light rail transit and learn our way about town.  A bit dismal at first, the weather improved over the course of the trip with the last days being sunny and warm (warm for Canada anyways).  We stayed in a rented house in Langley, about an hour's drive outside the city (my last night in Canada though I spent couchsurfing in Coquitlam).  After the Canadian adventure, I returned to Seattle where I spent one more night before flying home.  While my budget didn't allow for me to see any events live, I didn't feel as though I had missed any of the Olympic experience.

Vancouver is a beautiful city.  I recommend traveling there if you're looking to explore the Pacific Northwest.  I'm glad I had the chance to visit the Winter Games and would recommend making the trip if you have the opportunity.  Someday, I hope to visit the Summer Olympics as well!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Opening the Time Capsule


Written December 31, 1999

Hi, I am Glenn Nicholson Langton.

I am in 7th grade now and just came back from a vacation in Hawaii with my family and Uncle Art and Grandma Owl.  I am really excited about the new millennium, century, score, decade, year, month, week, day, hour, minute, second, and so on.  I will spend my time talking about the new millennium 2000!  I think the millennium will bring many new inventions and interesting things but I also think it will bring more sin and sad times.  Only the Lord knows what it will bring.  I am 12 years old, my brother Ryan is 15, I like food with cheese and buttery tastes, my favorite color is green (that is why the card is green), when I grow up I want to have a big house, a solar car, and I want to be a marine paratrooper who flys planes and does chemistry work (I do not know if this can be done).  I really like science and enjoy reading Boys Life, National Geographic World, and Tintin books.  I was the one who was interested in doing the time capsule.

In light of the Y2K, projections and reflections for the millennium and century. By: Ryan Langton

I think the new millennium will bring many changes in our way of life just as the previous one has.  These changes will affect some of the same areas of our lives as the previous changes have, including: transportation, science, technology, food, culture, and commerce.  With the right use, I think many new products can be put to work in a way that will benefit mankind. On the other hand, without guidance from our Lord Jesus Christ (meaning if man doesn't include him in the picture) I don't see a very bright future.  Personally, I have a hope for the future in Jesus Christ. I still wonder how anyone can live day by day without the hope of Jesus' return.  This is certainly something I look forward to in the future.  Earth is generally a nice place to live (at least for me), but heaven will be a whole lot better.

Until then, see ya later alligator!

What will the new century bring?  By: Stephen Langton

1. Loss of Privacy
2. A greater understanding of genetic code
3. Fewer story tellers and more listeners
4. Writing on paper will be less and less
5. New diseases will appear
6. God's word will continue to be shown to be true

By: Jeralynn Langton

A time capsule - what an interesting idea.  Four of us - thanks to God, will have time and eternity with our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our family will spend eternity together! For now, we will enjoy being a family here and supporting each other as we use the skills and talents God has give us.

What does the future hold?  We can't be sure and that's a good thing. I think:

1) Stephen and I will like to camp even after Ryan and Glenn have moved out.
2) Stephen and I will live on Blackhawk St. for many, many years
3) Stephen and I will one day again own a dog
4) Stephen and I will one day manage the Bantles apartments in Burbank
5) Jeralynn will learn basic computer skills
6) Jeralynn will have organized a Girl Scout Troop #671 reunion by the time the capsule is opened
7) Ryan will pursue his love for herpetology and be a research writer
8) Glenn will change his major in college a couple of times before focusing in on something
9) LA will have an earthquake equal to that of 1994
10) California will have a homosexual governor
11) Vacations in space will be an option
12) Ways to test for deafness and operations to correct it will be done in the womb
13) There will be a mega vitamin that takes care of all nutritional and caloric needs
14) There will be no need for telephone wires
15) The butterfly population will suffer near extinction
16) Clothes will be laundered with super sonic sound to clean them
17) Most of the world will eat products made to "look like food" but it's really nutrients from the sea
18) People will be able to have an electronic chip implanted near the ear to be able to receive radio waves and "tune in" to their favorite stations
19) Doll faces and G.I. Joe figures will be made to look like the child who is the owner
20) Cloud seeding will be perfected and used world-wide to help eliminate droughts
21) Cars will be programmed to take the owner on a pre-determined route w/o driver controls on special rails


List of items in the capsule:
A shoe horn
WWJD bracelet
Leather bookmark
Four letters
Bag of postage stamps
Pen with ether bulb
Boys' Life magazine
Clothes pin
Peppermint candy
Three SoBe caps
Broken watch
DARE key chain
Four pogs
Cereal box magnet
1/2 a walnut shell (for making a toy boat)
Typewriter spacing ruler
Shell necklace
Four short biographies in a paper towel tube
Family Christmas photo from Hawaii
Four glass beads and a bird tag in a plastic container
Plastic heart with words: Grandma Bantle "Symbol of Spreading Love"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A French Family Visits America...

... is a children's book my grandmother recently had published.  I'm very proud of her hard work and success.  Here is a summary from the book's website:

Summer has just begun and Kristine is excited to plan her whole vacation. She is, however, surprised to see new neighbors as she awakes one bright morning. After observing how the new children played and talked, she decides to befriend them. The four kids seem to like the same toys as Kristine except that the children appear to need some help in using the toys. But how could Kristine help when she couldn’t speak French and the children could not speak English? A French Family Visits America delightfully follows how Kristine reaches out a helping hand to welcome Marianne, Benjamin, Camille, and Elise. From enjoying chocolate chip cookies to celebrating birthday parties, Easter, and Thanksgiving, readers will have a splendid time following the foreign children as they embrace American culture.

Find out more about Marjorie Bantle's book here: http://frenchchildreninusa.com/index.htm

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Shoes



I recently took it upon myself to make a pair of shoes.  They turned out more like moccasins, being made entirely out of leather, but they serve as decent footwear and are quite comfortable.  I first decided to make these shoes after I tried to make a pair of slippers (bottom right).  The slippers didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, but I learned a bit about making shoes in the process.  If you take a second to consider your feet, you'll realize how awkwardly shaped they are.  It's no simple task to make a pattern that will cover your foot and provide your piggies with a cozy place to reside.  I found a design online and adapted it to make the shoe you see above. I liked the design because it uses a single piece of leather and forms nicely around your toes.  The shoes look like they could be from the Stone Age though, so I'm probably not winning any fashion awards with this one.




Monday, January 25, 2010

Life on the Lot



"So what exactly were you doing over Christmas anyways, Glenn?"  I was managing a Christmas tree lot for Mission Hills, Boy Scout Troop 104.  Let me tell you about it!

Every year, Troop 104 raises money for their scouts to go to summer camp and on outings.  They do this by organizing one large fundraiser a year instead of doing many smaller ones as some other troops do.  Many people are already familiar with Boy Scouts selling popcorn and Girl Scouts selling cookies as fundraisers; Troop 104 sells Christmas trees.

As manager of the lot, my job was to ensure that everything ran safely and smoothly.  I would arrive in the mornings to deliver cash to the register and welcome the first shift.  Typically, there would be two people working the sales shed and two on the lot, but depending on who was scheduled or available to work, this would vary slightly.  Throughout the day, I would stop by the lot making sure there was enough change in the register, the flocking equipment was working, trees were being opened and placed in water and a number of other operational duties were taken care of.  I would also fill in when people didn't show up for their shift or when extra help was needed.  At the end of the day, I would count our earnings with the treasurer and make the lot ready for the guard shift to start.

Another duty as manager was to make sure enough buckets, stands, nails, flock, and other supplies were ordered before we ran out.  I also counted, unloaded and signed off on our shipments of trees and was the go-to guy for any questions or problems that arose... and problems did arise.  This year, we faced torrential downpours that turned the lot into a muddy swamp.  After laying old carpet and digging channels for the water to drain, it still took a couple days before the lot was easily used again.  Even when problems needed to be fixed, I really enjoyed my work.  Everyone I worked with did their best and their efforts made my job a delight.

 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Can guys and girls be friends?


Photo by CakeFace Originals

Those Who Say It Can't Be Done

Some will argue that in a guy/girl friendship, one individual will always develop romantic feelings for the other. They believe it could occur early on, or take years to surface, but eventually when those feelings emerge, the friendship must come to an end.  Often, these same people believe that for a guy/girl friendship to even begin, there must be some level of attraction in one of the individuals.

Why It's Possible

Despite what some may say, there's no reason why guys and girls can't have a truly platonic relationship.  If romantic feelings do develop, they should be addressed honestly, but those feelings don't have to end the friendship.  It ultimately depends on each person involved, and how they respond.

An acquaintance once said, "It's natural for friends to fall for each other, but what it takes is that level of maturity and responsibility to be able to understand when you shouldn't take the friendship in a romantic direction. It's one thing to be sexually attracted to a member of the opposite sex, especially your friend, but it's necessary to be able to tell when a romantic relationship would not be not be wise.

Love is an uncontrollable emotion, to try and control it, you are harboring yourself. Don't make any rash decisions, but interpret your friendship."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Boys and Guns

Boys like guns. It might be the loud report and smell of burning gunpowder, or the ability to shatter clay pigeons flying through the air, or possibly it's that guns are tools that demand a great deal of respect. For me, it's probably a combination of all these things and more.

As a kid, I was always jealous that my brother had a BB gun, and I would frequently ask to borrow it.  I ended up shooting it more than he did and would invite my friends over to shoot aluminum cans and targets taped to stacks of newspapers.  My parents wisely laid out rules for our use of the BB gun so that we would develop safe gun handling habits.  Later in Boy Scouts, I was exposed to rifle and shotgun shooting.  This presented new challenges, with moving targets and targets at much greater distances.  Naturally, I moved on to hand guns after this.  I later inherited my grandfather's .22 Winchester 68 from my uncle and began to learn about proper gun cleaning and maintenance.

I'm not a gun expert by any means, nor do I own many firearms or go shooting often, but I enjoy the hobby and am always willing to learn to shoot guns I'm less familiar with.  Firearms might seem dangerous, and indeed they can be if mistreated, but by exercising proper safety, shooting can be enjoyed by anyone.