Nathan & Christopher go to SpaceCityCon in Galveston, TX

Space City Con is a Sci-fi, comic, fantasy, game conference that is currently being held in Galveston, TX.  My youngest son, Christopher and I went today and had a blast.

It was held at the Moody Garden Hotel and Convention center.

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We saw all sorts of things.  Here is a sampling:

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We met many creative people. 

Brian Parker who wrote a zoombie novel called Gnash and Self-Publishing the Hard Way, and some other books.

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There were all sorts of characters there including people from Dr. Whol 

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And all sorts of neat stuff for sell.

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Christopher of course was on the prowl for comic books.  That was his main motivation for going.  But there were only about 4 vendors selling comic books.20140104_123554 20140104_125822

Chris Chomiak from Bedrock City comics was very helpful.  He said to just email him what we were looking for and he would have it sent over to the location on FM 1960 near our house. 

Somebody pulled the fire alarm.  We all had to excite the building and the fire department came.  No reason for alarm.

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There was an interesting caution sign.  I think they mean for it to indicate that pedestrians might be hit by a car.  but I can’t help thinking that turning on your left blinker might make people dance around.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

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Saw a person with a minon backpak and one with an evil minon backpack.

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We also met Jason Poland who publishes Robbie and Bobby about a Robot and his boy.

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And we met Emily Rose who is an artist.  You can see some of her art on her website Death’s Pale Horse.

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There were characters from Mario which were going around playing Mario music.  They also took time out to play with light sabers.  (Anything can  happen at these conventions.)

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We also got a Super man minon drawing from Robert James Ludeke.

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There was a room dedicated to playing all sorts of games.  I do not know much about these, but the boards looked really interesting

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There were a lot of people dressed up.  Here is a person dressed as the Joker from Batman.20140104_160318

 

We did end up playing Zombicide .  It was really fun.  And it was a collaborative game instead of a competitive one.  All the players were against the zombies and we were helping each other and interacting in very mutually supportive ways.  I definitely recommend it.

I understand that it started out on Kickstarter and was a big success.

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We made one last trip to the exhibit hall and met up with two more creative people:  Matt Gordon & Jessie Jordan.

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We also met Bruce Small who wrote Transyltown.

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Here are just a few things we bought while we were at the convention:

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Some of the bumper stickers were really good:

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Christopher can’t wait to go to the next one.  And I am looking forward to it too.

 

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Successfully printing bigger pieces

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Reducing the bed temp to 45 degrees Celsius has kept the plastic parts from coming ip from the bed. I think it is becaise the heat bed’s temp sensor is poorly placed and that this compensates for it.

3D Printer finally together and extruding

 

On August 18, 2011, I ordered a Prusa Mendel 3D printer kit from MakerGear.  I had seen a 3D printer at TX/RX Labs, the Hackerspace/Makerspace in Houston, TX.  It was an amazing machine.  I had seen videos, but there is something about seeing one in person, holding items produced by them, and talking to people that actually have used them to produce things.

The day I got the kit, I went through the physical build.  Everything except for the platform.  It was at that point the words “STRONGLY RECOMMEND: Mark & drill the Y-carriage mounting holes on the wood base BEFORE building the Y-carriage” from the Maker Gear instructions really made sense.  Then I realized I would have to take apart a good part of it to put the table on.  Also, I was having some challenges learning how to put together the extruder and hot end.  Not to mention all the wiring, power supply and electronics.  

After working on it for a few more days, I ended up letting it sit for a while.  Then every few months I would pick it back up.  December of 2012 I remember telling my family that it would be finished before Christmas, then before my birthday (just after Christmas), then by New Years (just after my birthday).  But there were some challenges that I could not work through.

This past fall I went to a Microsoft store and saw the MakeBot 3D printer.  At just over $2,000, I really thought about buying it and walking out of the store with it.  My youngest son was very excited about the prospect.  But my wife pointed out how I did have a kit at home, and about how we really didn’t have the additional money to buy one.  All good, but disappointing, points.
I worked on the 3D printer again, and in the process I believed I burned out the power supply (big bolt of lightning and then dead).  And I believed I had burned out some of the stepper motor controllers.  And I was extremely busy with work so no time really to work on it.
And then came December 2013.  My work has a 2 week shutdown at the end of the year.  And this Christmas we planned to stay at home.  So, every morning my youngest son would wake me up and say “Is the 3D printer ready yet.”
We worked on it, and got it moving and melting plastic.  We figured out how the software works, and we made some very basic and crude items.  And we are learning the importance of calibration, eliminating friction, precise alignment, importance of temperature control, and the hundreds of other things you have to do for a good print.
Here is what it looks like:

 

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It works by melting a bit of PLA plastic and building up layer upon layer to get the shape that you want.

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Here you can see some of the items that we have made.  All very crude and imprecise. 20140101_231212 20140101_231206 20140101_231203 20140101_231242 20140101_231159

 

As you can see these are more errors than success.  And in the process of finding answers to the problems, I ran across many other people that have found the skills needed to do the 3D printing are a lot more difficult to develop than one thinks.

“Just because you have a 3D printer doesn’t mean you’re going to make anything remarkable. It doesn’t even mean you’re going to wind up with what you set out to produce. Believe it or not, 3D printing requires some skill. And when you don’t have it, things go delightfully askew.” Leslie Horn  on Gizmodo (gizmodo.com/11-spectacular-3d-printer-failures-511092085)

Flickr group for 3d printing failures: www.flickr.com/groups/3d-print-failures/

“If you buy all the 3D printing marketing campaigns, it’s easy to start believing that 3D printing at home is not difficult at all. All you have to do is make your 3D model on your computer, dump some powder into your 3D printer, and press a button, right? Wrong. 3D printing is not easy and leaves plenty of room for mistakes and errors to be made by rookies.” –Inkpal.com www.inkpal.com/ink-news/3d-printing-at-home-not-easy-mistakes-errors-failures/

How to fix 3D printer issues: www.bilbycnc.com.au/3DPrintingProblems.asp

The good thing is that I have a very good understanding of  how the 3D printer works.  I think once I work through my issues I can print out the plastic components, but the hardware, electronics, and motors, and try making a new one from scratch.

 

Happy New Year!

“HAPPY NEW YEAR” was the text message I received.  “Thanks!! Happy new year!! Any new year’s resolutions?”  I texted back.

Setting New Years resolutions is a traditional as fireworks (and often just as short lived.)  Setting them is something that we do every year, and often forget by the mid part of January.  We usually think of them at the last moment on Dec. 31st, or when we are asked.  Or it is something that we have been struggling to do for a while and are looking for a way to make progress.

“Be happier — how about you?” is what I got back.

Seems like a good goal.  But how does one “become happier”?  My experience is that trying to be happy is sort of like trying to fall asleep.  The more you focus on it, the less likely it is to happen.  “Happiness is something that happens when you are making other plans” is what my Grandmother used to say.   So, what are the other plans that I plan to make?

“I was thinking of blogging something on gadgetnate.com everday.  I fiture if I have to write something everyday then it would force me to do something worth writing about.”

Or at least force me to look at part of my life, think about it, and put it in a form that would make sense on paper.  So that is my new year’s resolution.  And I hear by designate all you you readers out there my accountability partners to make sure I stay on track.

Business trip to san fran

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Around…Not Over

I was pretty excited yesterday.  Deep into John Grisham’s book “The Associate” (audio book version) and I thought I had found the solution to waking up in the morning and going running.  Check out “The Exercise Excuse Combo” post to learn more.   I would have loved to reported that I sprung from my bed at 6AM, donned the headsets, pressed play, and started my exercise routine.  Instead, the alarm went off, I was in the middle of some dreams, and felt I would be better off waiting until 7AM to get up.

This is may seem like failure, but I don’t think it is.  Some people are morning people, and some people are evening people.  Many people are forced to be on one schedule or the other.  But if you have a choice, then perhaps you should choose the path of least resistance.  Perhaps it would be better to follow your nature on somethings, rather than stick to some preconceived notions on what we should be doing.

Instead of trying to exercise at 6AM, how about exercise at 8AM.  The kids are dropped off.  I haven’t pushed myself to get up against my nature.  It is still early enough in the day that I can do it consistently, and at a time when it isn’t too hot in the summer.  Plus it allows for me to start off the day with that sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes the best way to the other side of the mountain is to go around instead of forcing ourselves to go over.

The Exercise Excuse Combo

The night before going to bed, I envision myself waking up and going on a 3 mile jog.  How great will that feel?  Finally getting in shape.  I set the alarm for 6AM.  That will give me an hour to get up, get going, and complete the 3 mile circuit that is in the heart of my subdivision.  With that empowering thought that the next morning will be the start of something great, I slip in to bed, and fall asleep.

The next morning the “BEEP BEEP BEEP” of the alarm clock jolts me awake.  I look at the time.  SIX O’CLOCK!!!  What was I thinking?!!??!!  An hour of sleep will do me soooo much more good than getting up and exercising.   I turn off the alarm, reset it for 7, and then go back to sleep.

I would love to tell you that this has happened only once.  I would love to report that one of these two thoughts has won out… that there is no difference between my evening self and my morning self.  But the truth is that there has been a continual struggle between my evening  & morning selves for how to spend the hour at 6AM.  In reality I am not getting the rest nor the exercise that either self would like.  It would be far better to just decide to sleep in and be done with it.  OR to have the discipline to get out of bed and go for a jog like my evening self would like.  Buy in the evenings I am filled with hope and enthusiasm.  And in the morning, I am not inclined to get up early.

Today, I think I have figured a way out of this cycle.  It is by combing this problem with another problem I have.

Let me tell you about my other “problem”.  It started during Thanksgiving week when my family and I drove to Ft. Davis in west Texas.  To entertain ourselves on the way there we got John Grisham’s “The Litigators” on CD.  We were enthralled and the miles slipped by.  On the way back we purchased The Racketeer which we were not able to finish on the trip.  In an attempt to finish this audio book, I wasted a lot of time lounging around the house looking for ways to look busy and have the time to listen to the book.  I would listen in the car, and would find myself missing turns, and dragging out trips to get through one more chapter.  I finally finished this audiobook.   On a recent trip to the library my wife picked up “The Associate” on audio book.  And now I am in the same problem.  Looking for any excuse to be doing something while listening to the audio book.

I had the idea of combining running and listening to the audio book.  It is OK to listen as long as I am exercising.  This morning around 10 AM I went on that 3 mile jog.  I didn’t even think to much about me exercising.  And now I think I have the solution for the 6 AM problem tomorrow morning.  I’m going to call it the Exercise Excuse Combo.

This is the idea of combining my need for an excuse to listen to an audio book while also using that time to do exercise.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

End of China’s Demographic Advantage

In 1965, about 80% of China’s population would be considered dependent.  The vast majority of this is children.  China introduces the one child policy that reduces the number of children over the next few decades.  This frees up more people to work, frees up more resources, and allows for China to compete with the rest of the world on low labor costs.  In 2010, the decreasing “dependent” population changed direction.  That was the lowest year of the dependent population, and from here out China will see an increasing dependent population.

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However, the growth in this group comes from “elders”.  People who are retired.  People who no longer and will be unlikely to participate in the labor force again.  Here is the projection from WikiStrat.

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The “elder” population will slow China’s growth.  They will consume more resources than the previous dependents population that was made of children.  And unlike children which could be expected to start contributing to the labor pool as early as 10 years old.  The elder population are not expected to enter this pool.

The elder population while not likely to contribute to the labor pool, their experience and knowledge could drive the transition from a labor based economy to a wisdom based economy.

Cypress Coffee Club – stories from the trenchies

Each Tuesday morning a few of us in the Home Happiness Industry get together to swap stories, share ideas, and figure out how to help people have a happy home experience.

But sometimes the stories of home unhappiness are more interesting to share.  Blake the inspector talked about issues he has had with his home builder.  He also talked about home inspections in unsafe neighborhoods where agents suggested his CHL would come in useful.

This lead into a discussion about visiting vacant homes only to find squatters in them.  And even one story of a home under construction where a dead body was found.  A murder on a property is something that has to be disclosed (if known).  And it can negatively affect home value.  Not so many people are OK with the thought of a death taking place where they live.  The house in question was in the framing stage.  The builder figuring they would loose more by finishing construction and having to report the murder, decided it was better to tear down the house and start over.

This lead to another discussion about a foundation being backwards and it was discovered in the framing stage.  builder got a crane, picked up the framed house, moved it to an adjacent lot.  Re-poured the foundation. and then put the framing back on it.

Jim also bought an interesting relationship tidbit.  Apparently in relationships where chores are split 50/50, there is a higher divorce rate.  This lead into all sorts of discussions about why that might be, and a discussion on how the method of doing chores varied between each of us and our spouse.

We had a really good time, and it was worth while!