Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lake Tahoe, Meeks Bay (N39.04 W120.11)

Light on the posts this week, we were up with Jasmine’s research group in Lake Tahoe camping out and helping out testing robots. So in contrast to the the blog name, this is going to be a robot related post. Since it is summer break, all of the undergrads were out on break and the lab needed some help on a deployment doing miniony things like assembling the robots and herding the submersible robots out on the water.  Just as an FYI, soldering on a small boat is a surprisingly difficult thing to do.

So as the work entailed hanging out on a boat and paddling about Lake Tahoe, it was very strenuous indeed. :)  We also were able to take an afternoon off and went for a hike up to a lily pond at Sugar Pine Point State Park. It was very pretty for the whole hike and not much of a serious climb but a pleasant hike.  Overall, quite a lot of fun, some research accomplished, and another body of water added to the kayaks’ resume.

This was our view from Meeks bay for most of the week

This was our view from Meeks Bay for most of the week.

And this is the view from a beach out to meeks bay

And this is the view from a beach off of Meeks Bay.

I'm taking our 1.5 mile commute from the campsite to the ROV test site

I’m taking our 1.5 mile commute from the campsite to the ROV test site.

This is Jasmine doing a little robot rangling.  They took some serious pushing to get moving in the water.

This is Jasmine doing a little robot wrangling. They took some serious pushing to get moving in the water.

We improvised and started using the kayak tops to move the robots about in the water.  It was much easier this way.

We improvised and started using the kayak tops to move the robots about in the water. It was much easier this way.

The ducks were fearless and obviously habituated to humans.  This one later stormed the boat in a attempt to steal food before we scared her away. later some vicious duckling cutely attacked us on the beach while we were sleeping.

The ducks were fearless and obviously habituated to humans. This one later stormed the boat in an attempt to steal food before we scared her away. Later, some vicious ducklings cutely attacked us on the beach while we were sleeping.

And the pond from our hike.  Tahoe is rather amazingly blue all around.

And the pond from our hike. Tahoe is rather amazingly blue all around.

Uvas Canyon County Park (N37.08 W121.80)

We went to another of the Santa Clara County Parks today, this time Uvas County Park.  One of Jasmine’s labmates was interested in going with, so we had a third party on one of our exploratory hikes for the first time!

First off, it was rather slammed on the drive out there because the park entrance coincides with the Swedish-American Patriot League (Yes, this is a thing.) and they were having their annual midsummer festival.  Other than this snafu, the park was rather pleasant. We hiked every inch of trail on the park and only went about 6 miles so it wasn’t a large park. Most of the park centered around a creek and a bunch of waterfalls associated with it. As it has been a couple months since rain and it was still a running creek, it was a very pleasant hike.

Overall verdict is fun little hike, but the kind of short trail means were not going back for a while.  Once was fun.

This is what a lot of the trail looked like with mike on the trail.  Hes not as evil as he appears in the picture :)

This is what a lot of the trail looked like with Mike on the trail. He’s not as evil as he appears in the picture. :)

I haven't ever seen this sort of flower before, i dub the the zombielion.

I haven’t ever seen this sort of flower before; I dub the the zombielion.

This is one of the smaller waterfalls cascading into  a little pool, it was all really pleasant and relaxing up there.

This is one of the smaller waterfalls cascading into a little pool, it was all really pleasant and relaxing up there.

Giants Baby Booties

I made a pair of Giant’s colored baby booties for some friends who were moving out of the Bay Area a few months ago. I had seen a picture of baby booties that looked like little tennis shoes and knew that was what I wanted to do so I found a free pattern online here. I really like this pattern; it even had a video that showed a bootie being knit in case you get stuck.

The finish product awaiting feet to warm.

The finish product awaiting feet to warm.

These booties very easy to knit. The only issue I had was the size of the knitting needles that it called for in the pattern. Size 4 knitting needles are really tiny! I didn’t have any problem with the actual knitting, but I felt like I was knitting with tapestry needles the whole time.

A quarter is wider than all five needles!

A quarter is wider than all five needles!

This was a fun project. I’m glad I did it and that the booties are now in use.

The little Giants fan.

The little Giants fan.

Wire Wrapped Earrings

So this weekend we had some extra robot work to do so no travel adventure, but I decided to add a post about some jewelery making I have done recently.

We had some copper wire around and I had initially tried to use it to wrap around a piece of jadeite I had found at the beach up in Seattle. It turned out very poorly but it gave me a new idea to just to wrap up nothing. So I ended up with a chamfered tetrahedron of wire and this is how it was made.

So take up some 22 gauge wire and wrap 3 times around a 1/2" rod.

So take some 22 gauge wire and wrap 3 times around a 1/2″ rod.

After each of 3 wraps start a new set of wraps till you get 4 sets. Clip the wire to about 18 inches of length

After each of 3 wraps, start a new set of wraps till you get 4 sets. Clip the wire to about 18 inches of length past the wraps.

Turn the wire loops into a rough tetrahedron then wrap a loop around each of the loop intersections. It will look a little rough at this state, you have to spend on time straightening out the wraps time it looks neat.

Turn the wire loops into a rough tetrahedron, then wrap a loop around each of the loop intersections. It will look a little rough at this state; you have to spend some time straightening out the wraps before it looks neat.

This is what the finished products looks like after all of the straightening.  I really need to get a decent macro camera :)

This is what the finished products looks like after all of the straightening. I really need to get a decent macro camera. :)

Cast Iron Skillet Pot Holder

A couple of years ago, we got a bit frustrated trying to use potholders on the cast iron skillet. The pot holder always ended up in the food in the skillet so we decided that we needed a custom-fit potholder for the handle. The first one that I knit was a simple tube that didn’t work very well so I came up with a new fitted pattern. We used the second one for a couple of years, but when we moved to Sunnyvale, our stove top worked a bit differently and the potholder bore the brunt of it.

Not so functional as a potholder.

Not so functional as a potholder.

I made a new one from the pattern I used last time. I used the same yarn as the washcloth and used no. 8 needles. The gauge was 10 sts = 1 3/4 inches.

  1. Cast on 17 stitches.
  2. Knit in stockinette stitch for 2 1/2 inches.
  3. Decrease to 11 stitches and continue until piece measures 4 inches.
  4. Sew up side and wide end.

It’s not very complicated and takes about 15 minutes from start to finish.

The washcloth is knit flat.

The potholder is knit flat.

The completed potholder.

The completed potholder.

The skillet is so much easier to use now!

The skillet is so much easier to use now!

Future versions of this pattern will be modified to knit in the round on the double pointed needles I already own.

Calero County Park (N37.17 W121.77)

In our apparently never ending quest to go to all of the Santa Clara County Parks, we added one more this weekend: Calero County Park.  It is just a little southeast of Almaden County Park, and really much of the same, just not quite as nice and a little further drive away.  It has one main draw as far as we can see: it has a small reservoir full of powerboats. Not being a big powerboater myself, I would probably end up skipping this park in the future.

The hike we did was pretty pleasant with the standard rolling grass hills with sparse stands of trees, mostly Scrub Oaks.  There was a surprising amount of wildlife on the hike; we saw a bunch of deer, three different sets of Turkeys, a bunch of various birds, and a rattlesnake.  Our biggest issue of the day was the weather.  It was sunny and in the low 90’s and there wasn’t much shade.  And we only brought one liter of water for our 9 mile hike so both of us were happy to get home and get some water.

There were a couple of small duck ponds on the hike, with tons of bullfrogs croaking

There were a couple of small duck ponds on the hike with tons of bullfrogs croaking.

This is pretty much what most of the hike looked like.

This is pretty much what most of the hike looked like.

There are a couple of turkeys in the shade under the tree and a deer in the shade behind the tree. At this part of the hike I was jealous of the shade.

There are a couple of turkeys in the shade under the tree and a deer in the shade behind the tree. At this part of the hike, I was jealous of the shade.

And here is the reservoir, hard to tell from the picture but the lake is about 2 miles long and had maybe 30 boats circling around it.

And here is the reservoir.  Hard to tell from the picture, but the lake is about two miles long and had maybe 30 boats circling around it.

Lucky Bamboo Propigation

About 7 years ago, Jasmine and I were walking through Chinatown in San Francisco and, as a spur of the moment decision, we bought some tiny lucky bamboo.  It was 2 dollars for a 4 inch sprout so, in the spirit of Chinatown, I bargained down to 2 for a dollar.  I put them in a small pot and about a year later we didn’t know for certain if the plant was real or plastic.  In another year the bamboo was obviously growing so we actually bought a real plant! :)  Fast forward to the present and our bamboo is growing like crazy out of the pot so I decided to trim it back and plant the clippings.

This is the original lucky bamboo plant, pretty overgrown

This is the original lucky bamboo plant: pretty overgrown.

Step 1 – Cut the cane to about a 4 inch length, cutting very cleanly a half inch below a node.  Remove all the leaves but the top one.

Step 2 – Put the canes in a mix of water and perlite (fine stones) about 2 inches deep.

The cut sprout into the water before adding the perlite.

The cut sprout into the water before adding the perlite.

Step 3- Change the water every couple of days and wait a couple of weeks till you can see little nodules pushing out of the base.

Roots! I don't know why I just think its really cool to grow your own plants

Roots! I don’t know why, but I just think its really cool to grow your own plants.

Step 4 – Plant in soil.  And your done!  As a bonus, the original plant should have sprouted some extra canes of its own.  Next time I’m not going to let the bamboo go so crazy.

South Bay Wreck (N37.55 W122.16)

One of the random things I noticed in my looking up places to go kayaking in the San Francisco Bay was the South Bay Wreck.  Apparently in the 40’s they sunk an old destroyer (USS Thompson DD-305) in the bay to use as target practice during WWII and they just left her there to her ignoble fate afterward.  Once I heard about this I just had to go.

We started from Redwood City at the eponymous Port of Redwood City and went up the Redwood Creek til we got in the bay proper.  Once a bit in, even though it was low tide, we just beat straight for the wreck.  It was a close call over part of the bay which was only one foot deep, but our kayaks don’t have much draft.  It was really cool once we got there and certainly worth taking a look at a giant hunk of steel slowly becoming a island.  It is both amazing how well the boat has held up in 70 years and how much nature is completely taking over in the same time.

We then turned back around after an hour hanging out and having a beer on the water which, to my mind, is one of the nicest things possible to do.  The trip back got a little choppy at max flood in a 10 mph headwind after 10 miles of paddling, but we persevered and made it back to port all safe and sound.

It is a little surreal to see an old shipwreck, even if it was intentional

It is a little surreal to see an old shipwreck, even if it was intentional.

I added a Jasmine for scale.  I think the total length at low tide was 250 ft or so.

I added a Jasmine for scale. I think the total length at low tide was 250 ft or so.

The seaweed is taking over!

The seaweed is taking over!

The water seemed nice so we lashed the kayaks together and I wend for a little swim. Since the water was about 60F Jasmine declined to join.

The water seemed nice, so we lashed the kayaks together and I went for a little swim. Since the water was about 60F, Jasmine declined to join. Also, seal Lloyd says Ar Ar Ar to his brethren we saw earlier in the day.

Trying to work on my map drawing, a rough guide to our day.

Trying to work on my map drawing, a rough guide to our day.

Silver Chopsticks

Some friends of ours were getting married and I wanted to make them something for the wedding, but I was kind of stumpped on what to get them.  Then the thought came to me silverware is traditional but no one ever has a pair of silver chopsticks so there you go.  I ended up doing a lot of research on the sizes of chopsticks, and it turns out there are many papers written about the optimum size of chop sticks, which I find somewhat hilarious.  I ended up going with a slightly smaller than average 8″ long by 0.16″ x 0.16″ square which ended up feeling pretty good to hold in your hand even though silver is much heavier than wood.

At the end of the day, the recipe for whitesmithing is easy – just keep hammering till it is the shape you want.  I would anneal the silver with a torch every 100 hits or so and then sand it down to 1000 grit in the end.  We tested them out before handing them over and they work surprisingly well; I think I’ll have to make another two sets.

The staring stock, it looks a lot like chopsticks right?

The starting stock. It looks a lot like chopsticks, right?

Cut to length and then file of the top edge to its final angle and the bottom edge to a circle.  If you don't you will start upset then end of the material and start cracks.

Cut to length and then file off the top edge to its final angle and the bottom edge to a circle. If you don’t, you will start upsetting the end of the material and cracks will form.

Hammer alot! I didn't touch the first 1.5 inches, just radiused the next 3 inches, then made the next 2 inches a circle, and dimpled and tapered down to 0.1 inch diameter the last 1.5 inches

Hammer a lot! I didn’t touch the first 1.5 inches, just radiused the next 3.5 inches, then made the next 2 inches a circle, and dimpled and tapered down to 0.1 inch diameter the last 1 inch.

The finished product all packaged up in nice velveted box I made. I was actually quite pleased with the outcome and wanted to keep them :(

The finished product was then sanded and polished and all packaged up in nice velveted box I made. I was actually quite pleased with the outcome and wanted to keep them :(