Shave brush stand

The problem: How do you store your shaving brush between uses?

Water will gather at the base of the bristles and mold
The brush will deform and the bristles will curl over
both the 1sr and 2nd problems here

The Solution: A brush stand. There are some lovely commercial stands that I’m sure do a great job, and eventually I may buy or make a more beautiful solution, but for now, I work with what I have… Plastic covered steel wire.

Start with a big 'V' of wire and bend a small "ledge" into the point. Give yourself plenty of extra wire.
Finish bending in a depressed section. This part is pretty tricky and takes some trial and error. You want the "back" wide enough to be stable, but not so wide that it's hard to get to the next step
Bend some more, then add a little twist. I tries something more symmetrical, but this was the only way the thing was rigid enough to stay upright. if you want to add clamps or glue, you could probably sort out a different arrangement. This has actually grown on me now, though.
Test fit... adjust.
Test fit... adjust.
There you go... Stuff you probably have around the house and 30 minutes of messing around.

Of course, I’m not the first to attempt this. After (yes, after) making this, I came across this Instructable:

Not bad. I like the inclusion of the razor in the stand, but I prefer one that works with the cup. Wet brushes drip, and I’d rather have mine drip into the mug than onto the counter.

Note: Both the mug and the pliers belonged to my grandfather. The brush is a Tweezerman Deluxe shaving brush. It looks like the same one as in the linked Instructable, and I can say it is a good brush.

New old bench grinder

Over the holidays my father gave me an old bench grinder he had in the basement. The thing was not in great shape, but it’s a tool I certainly needed. My dad is one of those guys that always seems to have an extra [whatever you are looking for]. I’ve got a battery charger that came to me the same way.

Here’s what the bench grinder looked like when I got it:

Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: Before

It’s a Wen Model 1030 with a 1/3 horse power motor. You may no know it, but Wen is a real American company. They’ve been making tools since 1951 and are still around (located in Elgin, IL). This specific model, the cost $60 back in 1974 (you could drop an additional $10 to get the model with an included work light). Looks like you can still get into a 6″ grinder with work lights for $70. I think the old ones look better:

Bench grinder: After
Bench grinder: After

I swapped one wheel for a buffer. The one I have, though, is too small, and sits too close to the housing so I’ll be adding in some spacers and a larger wheel when I get a chance. I’m pretty pleased with the result, though. Here’s one more set of before/after:

Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: After
Bench grinder: After

Could be better (work light, painted, etc.), but it’s great for now.


I just went to the Wen site and registered the grinder… we’ll see if I get a response.

Vibrabots are vibrating

In the few days between the beginning of winter break and the actual holiday a very exciting thing happened: One of Dillon’s friends slept over. Ok… not that exciting to me, but Dillon was over the moon. His buddy came over, and I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the “normal-ness” of the visit. My boy is unusually smart, and unusually cerebral… he spends a lot of time in his own thoughts. The down side is that this makes him a little bit of a “weird kid.” I completely love this about him, and I’d be disappointed if he were completely normal, but I know it can be tough to be a “weird kid.” Seeing the normal interactions (or non-interactions in the case of 9-year old boys with video games) during the sleep-over was excellent to me.

The one thing Dillon did want to make sure they were able to do was to make little vibrabots. A vibrabot is basically anything that moves via some kind of vibration. The simplest, and so the variety we built, is a battery pack, some legs, a small DC motor, and an offset weight. Naturally, I popped over to American Science and Surplus for parts, and found everything I needed for 2 ‘bots:

Ginger and Chocolate

Dillon’s friend chose the Ginger Altoids tin (left over from an attempt to poison me) with the legs positioned toward the outside of the tin allowing for a bottom mounted motor. Dillon opted for the closer set Chocolate-dipped tin which required a different approach to mounting the motor. We thought about a vertical mount, but went with the simplest alternative and mounted it on top. This made the wire-up a little more bothersome, as the wire I originally used was too stiff and broke off the first time we opened the lid. That and the fact that the motors need 3v — easily provided by two AA batteries in parallel  — but the battery clip I had was setup in 1.5v series. Fixed that with a sweet hack:

The green wire is the key

AS&S even had different weights as little plastic discs. We used the 1g discs, and they provided plenty of movement. After about 10 minutes of playing with different leg shapes the guys wer back to the video games, and I was left to clean up… and to finish the pizza. I see what Dillon was so excited about.

New bench, part 1

We inherit traits from our parents. Everyone knows this. Dad has a bad temper? You can bet the kids struggle with it. Mom’s a bit of a pack-rat? Don’t be surprised to find boxes of useless crap in the basement. My father has a tendency to buy stuff he doesn’t really need. I’m not talking about useless things, just things that he may not have an immediate application for. Consequently, I’ve been known to occasionally buy things I might, eventually, someday need (including an unreasonable number of domain names).

There is, however, something to be said for recognizing things that are just plain useful, even if you can’t use them right away. Take, for example, the big, rectangular plastic tubs I encountered at American Science & Surplus this summer. I didn’t need them right away, but I did know they would be useful, so I bought every one they had at $2 each. Too bad they only had 8. Finally, though, they are seeing some use:

BEnch with 4 drawers

Last fall I’d banged together this little table from scrap I had laying around the garage. This was before the shed went up and I needed to store both a lawn mower and a snow blower. The idea was that the off-season tool went on top, and the on-season tool sat underneath (mostly). It worked great, but with the off-season tools now in the shed, it was just a place to pile crap, until I started getting the garage/shop sorted.

It turns out that by complete coincidence, the space underneath the table perfectly fits 4 bins with just the right amount of space for some rails and a center 2-by. I dug around the garage for enough scrap to get this thing together, spent a few hours making noise and sawdust, and ended up with something pretty dang serviceable.

The best/strangest part is that I know where each bit of scrap came from:

  • Treated 2x4s and 2x6s 1x6s from a porch we built at our first house
  • Untreated 2×4 from the pirate ship in the back yard (staging material)
  • Untreated 2x2s left over from my cousin’s loft bed
  • The middle, front horizontal piece is a bit of trim from the kitchen remodel at our first house
  • The rails and from, bottom horizontal piece are parts of a bunky-board that we never used
  • The top sub-strata is scrap I actually got as scrap from a friends garage (2 years ago)
  • The top surface layer and the back panel are MDF from a rocket ship play blind that Dillon and I built 5 years ago

The plan, now, is to build two more single width units to go with this one. I’m thinking I’ll include a way to attach them to one another to create a single, long work surface. The height is perfect for the work I need to do on my motorcycle.

Book day

My Dear Wife is in the last semester of her Master’s program at UWM. This means that she has an unreasonable amount of

Any day that ends with a big stack of new books is a good day.

schoolwork to do. She’s also decided that now would be a good time to increase the level of volunteerism from a damn-lot to a friggin-lot. Then there is this freelance job we are tag-teaming. The bottom line is that in order to get all of the things done that she is obliged to do, she needed some uninterrupted, at home, fsck-off-and-work time. My solution: Book Day. Essentially, Book Day is a day where the kids and I leave the house as soon as breakfast is finished, and come home when the street lights come on. During the hours in between, we do a bunch of book related things. Ta-da! Book Day.

Primary Phase: MPL 13

The East Library was my library when I was a kid. When I say that it was my library, I mean that when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time there. When I skipped school in High School, I ended up there more often than is normal… or probably healthy. I had my first taste of flirting with a girl named “Cara” (who also gave me my first, and AFAIK only, fake phone number). This is the where “someone” left a little vial of ammonium sulfide in the breezeway, just to mess with people. This is also the place where I checked out a book on Unix 12 years ago, and never brought it back. Yup… 12 years. The entire Harry Potter series was written, published, and made into movies in the time it took me to finally get back to that library, but on Book Day, I did it. I paid for the book. I can again walk into any Milwaukee County library, including my beloved, if smelly, East (13), and borrow a book, tape, album, CD, DVD, or MP3 player. You could only get the first three of those the last time I checked out a book.

Secondary Phase: Book Graveyard

Leaving the East, we headed over to what used to be one of my favorite book stores, but is now closed and for rent. Where the Schwartz’s on Oakland used to be, we found some sort of used book sale/fund raiser. Basically, it was 30 folding tables piled with used books with only the slightest attempt at organization. Surveying the scene, I knew there was nothing for it but to look through the whole place. I set the kids loose in the small books and set to it. This was definitely a worthwhile stop. I got a handful of shop books, and Dillon discovered three Redwall books he was not even aware of! Once we had more books than we could easily carry, I figured we’d better be off.

Tertiary Phase: The Mall Bastards

Next stop: Bayshore Towne Center. I don’t love this place, with it’s fiberglass rocks and pretend neighborhood, it always creeps me out a little. Our destination here was the Barnes & Noble. We headed straight for the second floor, and spent some time in the kids books section. I wandered off to look for metalworking books (slim selection here) and came back to find that Dillon had finished the book he’d intended to buy, and Rose was off talking to strangers. That girl cannot see kids having fun without needing to join in. Dillon picked out a different book, and we headed out by way of the stationary section. I’ve been on the lookout for some nice writing paper, but was disappointed by the flowery thank you notes and invitations that B&N offered.

Quaternary Phase: The Other Library

Figuring I’d already have to explain the amount of money we’d spent (the library book being a good portion of it), I decided we’d better catch our breath our neighborhood library. The North Shore library is a respectable, small, suburban library, and this was my first real trip into the stacks. Good, but not great. If I want anything specific, I’ll almost certainly have to request it.

Rosie found more little kids to goof around with, and Dillon worked his way through a handful of age-appropriate manga before I realized that we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We gathered up our selections (Molly and Rose had a long drive to a gymnastics meet the next day, and had requested a book-on-CD) and headed to the counter. Dillon checked out his books, and I stepped up to the counter after him with my shiny new library card. The girl behind the counter did her thing and we were off again. It was actually a little anticlimactic.

Quintessential Phase: Moto Mag

Not quite ready to go home, we popped over to the Borders, planning to get a snack and maybe start in on our new books. We didn’t make it 10 feet before we had more books added to our day’s haul. I found a Cafe Racer magazine, Rose found a book she just had to have, and Dillon selected the 1st of the Guardians of Ga’hoole books. Dillon is sort of a sucker for these books series… like his mom and dad I suppose.

We bought the last books we’d buy that day and headed downstairs to the little coffee shop. The kids sat down and started in on their books while I ordered muffins, croissants, scones, juice, and coffee (black for me, decaf latte for Rose). I joined the kids with out food, and realized that even though I made a point of bringing the camera along on our adventure, I hadn’t taken a single picture. I snapped a few in the cafe, and we spent a hour or so just hanging in the coffee shop.

We got home just as it was getting dark, and Molly was working on dinner, her home work mostly complete. This was an awesome day. I sorta like these kids, and I really dig the fact that a day spent entirely focused on books and reading is a good day for everyone involved…

Molly (as we walk in the door): So, how was Book Day?

Rose: Great.

Dillon: Great. What’s for dinner?

How round IS your circle

Thank to Mike over at for sending this along:

Favorite: Solid of constant width at around 2:30, and Chebyshev’s Linkage around 3:40. Also, the slotted elipses made me wonder if there is a practical application for locomotion?

Lavender Gooms, G-Force, and Imhotep

The Internet is full of crap… sort of. I guess it’s not entirely full yet:

Longbranch Pennywhistle

full – adjective – completely filled; containing as much as is possible;

So, not full, but it’s got to be getting close. Having been online for a long time, and having contributed a fair few properties of real use, I figured it would be ok for me to add a little crap. It’s a pebble in the ocean, really.

Generally I’m not a fan of television programs, or television personalities, or television in general. There are shows, however, that I’ve found interesting for one reason or another. I usually pick up shows after they are released to DVD, and I’m a little embarrassed to say that once I pick up a series, I want to see it through to the end. Obsession is too strong a word, but not by as much as I’d like.

One program that I actually watch within a week of it’s airing (or whenever it gets to Hulu) is Psych. It’s nothing special, really… sort of a buddy/detective program. The thing is, it’s absolutely packed with one-liners, throw-aways, and clever little bits. One of these clever little bits revolves around constantly introducing the straight-man (Dulé Hill) with different name (see the title of this post).

So, the Psych Wikipedia entry, about an hour of messing around, and we have

The Burton Guster Name Game!



It’s just a doodle


A few weeks ago, following what I am sure was a long and tiring day, I came home from work, as is my habit. I greeted my wife, my children, and my dogs, put down my keys and generally just caught my breath. No sooner had my keys hit the table than my boy came up wanting to show me what he’d been working on. The first was a fairly impressive, and functioning, motorized lego sled, complete with skis. Nice.

As we sat on the floor of the room discussing the few issues with his design, I noticed a small stack of bricks and gears sitting on his unreasonably messy desk:

Me: Hey, man, what’s that?
D: What? Oh. that’s just my water wheel.
Me: Why do you call it a water wheel?
D: I dunno. It just reminded me of one.
Me (giving the gears a spin): That’s really cool!
D (dismissively):
Yeah. I was just doodling.

What impressed me was not just that he’d essentially built a lego gear box completely on his own, or that it has a perfect 2:1 ratio, but that he referred to its construction as “doodling.”

I dig this kid.

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iPad and bamboo are friends

I stole this picture from the internet

Now, I’m no Mac fanboy, but the iPad is a device that will change things. I’ve said this, but I’ll say it again: it’s not the iPad itself that is amazing, but rather the kind of device. It’s is the closest to “right” as any tablet style computing device has come, and to some extent that is due to the pompous nature of Apple. They seem to decide what people need, build it, and then tell people that they need to change their thinking. In this case, I think they are right.

I recognize and generally agree that limiting how people interact with a device they own, or any tool for that matter, is offensive… i AM an American, after all. That said, forcing people to use a device a certain way by strictly controlling the interaction on the device (i.e. limiting how many apps per page, no vertical scrolling, no folders) has the effect of making people who end up using the device rethink how they use the device… and this is a GoodThing™. Right at the release of a new technology, you have a small window in which people’s expectations for how they can interact with the new technology has been reset. That is when you have the best opportunity to change how people relate to the new technology.

Inevitably and eventually, competing devices will come out, returning options and choice to all of us. For now, though, the choice is take it or leave it. We constantly create new technology that is extremely powerful, and extremely impressive… to those of us who can access it and understand how to use it. Devices like the iPad have a very low intellectual cost of entry, which is to say that you don’t need to know much about technology to make really effective use of them.

All of that is just a preface for the somewhat multi admission that I bought an iPad… just a little one. Excepting PDAs and phones, this is my third tablet device (12th if you count phone and PDAs), and while it lacks the flexibility of the others, it more than makes up for it in actual usability. It’s awesome, and I’m sure I’ll be talking about it more later. For now though, I want to talk about the case I bought, and the stand I made.

When I bought the thing, I knew I didn’t want the standard iPad case that Apple sells. It’s a good, and serviceable case, but I knew I wanted something else… something that made me feel a little less like an apple fanboy. As I was looking for a case, I came across a tweet about the Dodocase. I checked it out, and I knew right away that it was the case for me:

  1. It looks like a moleskine
  2. It is made by hand using old tools and techniques
  3. It’s made with renewable bamboo
  4. They’re hard to get

This last one is purely ego. I want to be able to say I was a fan before they were popular (Hello, Flogging Molly). The funny thing is, the guys at Dodocase know their audience enough to know that the best way to play to this last trait is to number the cases. The 1st 1k cases they made came with a numbered, old school library card indicating just how much indyCred the owner is entitled to:

10,000 – Dodocase Number = indyCredz

After 10k case are sold, nobody gets any indyCredz. Anyway, after waiting for 5 weeks, I got may case, and it has all of the problems that The Internet said it has: Doesn’t protect agains big drops, Doesn’t hold the iPad in when held upside down, shallow typing angle, doesn’t stand up easily… It’s still the most awesome and perfect case I’ve seen for the iPad.

I wouldn’t trade it, but that last one can be a bit annoying. Take, for instance, this post. I am typing it on a bluetooth keyboard paired to my iPad. In order to do this comfortable, I need to be able to stand the iPad up at a reasonable angle to that I can see it, and in a way that lets me poke at the screen without it falling over. The Dodocase, as awesome as it is, fails at this. Frankly, I think it fails at this because it wasn’t really designed with this kind of use in mind. This weakness in the Dodocase design, though, left me with a need for some kind of stand. I came up with a couple of ways to make the Dodocase serve, and I think they would work, but I wanted something dedicated. Here are the things i thought would be important:

  • Portable
  • Easy to setup
  • Should not make me look like an ass
  • Sturdy enough that I won’t be afraid to touch it
  • Flexible enough that I won’t be afraid to touch it
  • Adjustable tilt angle

My first two passes as a stand basically amounted to an angled slots cut in blocks of acrylic. These worked, but missed on the last two items on the list. Of particular concern was the second to last. Every time I touched the display, I was sure I would see a crack spread across the bottom. I used these stands for a few days, and you can buy them for $6 on any number of websites, but eventually I found myself thinking about something better.

As soon as I started thinking of taking a real pass at this, I started talking to mike about sourcing acrylic. This lead to a discussion of other materials, and I spent my lunch hour with my actual moleskin sketching up some ideas. More IMs with Mike (“blah, blah, aluminum, blah, blah, hippies, blah, blah, bamboo”)… Some quality Google time to see what’s out there (discovered something similar to what I had in mind, but in aluminum, which was actually Mike’s idea)… Then some time messing around in the shop.

The result:

The result is something that works pretty well and meets all of my criteria. So, what would you pay for a sweet new “iPad Stick…” “EucaliPad…” “Nipa stand?”

First post… again

rm -rf license plate
yeah... it always seems like a good idea...

Ok, so here’s what happened…

My sweet, sweet WordPress blog got hacked, which is bad. I’m not sure that it was actually my blog that caused the issue, but it was certainly affected. To my dismay, every visitor to my blog was getting prompted to download the lastest and greatest in 7 year old viruses. Rather than just being pissed about it, I decided to take it as an opportunity to clean house. I’d needed to clean out some old, aborted projects anyway, so I did what anyone with a passable knowledge of *nix system administration does… I broke out my trusty sledgehammer:

rm -rf

…and I went to work. I deleted temp files, and download directories, and “_old” directories. I killed all of the crap that was left over from trying to get RoR working. It was exhilarating! As I approached the /blog directory in an rm induced haze, I did that thing which we all dream of getting some n00b to do:

Hands: cd ~/blog

Brain: La, la, la…

Hands: rm -r

Brain: La, la l… er?

Hands: f *

Brain: ummm… maybe we should stop with the f?

Hands: [evil laugh] [ENTER]

Brain: Shit.

And that was that. The blog was gone, and the worst part was I still had that whole “my website is handing out viruses like Typhoid Mary in 1915 New York” thing to deal with!

Solving that was actually kinda fun. It turns out a bunch of nasty had been added to the beginning of a bunch of PHP files in a bunch of directories. Removing this crap one at a time would have been a serious PITA, so I did some research and came up with this little bugger:

find . -iname '*.php' | xargs grep -l -R -E "<\?php \/\*\*\/ eval\(base64_decode\(\"aWYoZnVuY3Rpb25fZX(.*)\)\);\?>" | xargs sed -i  's/<?php \/\*\*\/ eval(base64_decode(.*);?>//'

Sweet, right? You figure it out… I’m citing the following from Real Programmers Don’t Write Specs:

Real Programmers don’t comment their code. If it was hard to write, it should be hard to understand.

Thanks, and good day.