Springy Lecturing

If you are someone who, knowing you could get a complete replacement Victorinox mini Swiss Army Knife at the Texas State Resale shop for $1, simply *bought another one* when the scissor spring broke, YOU ARE A BAD PERSON. The correct and *only* response is to order a surplus of these tiny springs and REPLACE THE BAD ONES, because if you don’t, THERE ARE KNIVES IN THE WORLD WITHOUT SPRINGS.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Return of the Photographic Cybernetic Connection with My New Lumix LX7!

Lumix LX7 HDR Demo

I used to be a fairly hopeless shutterbug. I got out of it because of the convenience of smart phones, and not being able to reproduce the cybernetic sub-conscious level of control I’d had with previous most-loved cameras. I went looking for the most serious camera I could fit into my pocket for under $200, and the Panasonic Lumix LX-7 quickly floated to the top of the list. I’ve had it for a few weeks, and even if I’m mostly happy with a new unit I still usually have a list yards long of things I hate about it. Not so with this one!

The lens is super fast at F1.4 – F2.3, making it great for the kind of low ambient light photography I tend to favor. It has a huge number of features and customized controls, but has them set up so that it’s possible to get to the ones I want intuitively without pulling me out of the moment. So far my only real complaint is that the telephoto only goes to 3.8x, but I accept the tradeoff for speed at closer distances. I also currently own a little Canon Elph 340 with a 12x optical zoom I can use for more distant subjects.

One of my favorite features is the built-in HDR shown in the Flickr album above. With a single press, the camera takes several exposures and combines them into one .jpg. The results in this super-high-contrast midway scene are vastly superior to my ham-fisted attempt at manual HDR using three exposures and Photoshop CS6.

It feels good to love a camera again, and I can’t wait to continue discovering new things as I put it through its paces.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I Finished Inktober 2018!

Inktober 2018 Montage

Not on time, and with a few bumps along the way, I’ve completed Inktober 2018! You can see the originals on Instagram.

What’s Inktober you say? It’s a challenge to make 31 illustrations in the month of October from a list of prompts provided by its creator, Mr. Jade Parker.

I started with the prompts from the wrong year before realizing my mistake at Day 8. Oops! I wasn’t going to go back and re-do them, so I’m giving myself a pass this time.

There are no set rules about how Inktober is to be done, but to challenge myself I decided no underdrawing or pencil sketches first, and no do-overs. The first ink to hit the page stays there, and I publish whatever I get done. I’m not sure I did this 100% of the time, but mostly I did, and it definitely changes the way I draw. It forces me to get better both at seeing the image in my head/on the page better *before* I draw, and getting past my tendency to over-analyze everything and just sketch.

Many of the images are pretty bad, and some are barely recognizable, but I don’t *feel* bad about any of them. And that, perhaps, is the biggest sign of progress!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back in the Saddle with Superautomatico


“Why”, you might ask, “are you putting unopened popsicles in that $1000 superautomatic espresso machine?”

Good question!

The answer begins with me finding this $1000 Saeco Intelia superautomatic espresso machine for $25 at a thrift store!

I couldn’t test it there, but I figured if there was ever a gamble with taking, this was it!

I got it home, and aside from a few easy-and-cheap-to-fix parts, it *worked*!

This fucker not ONLY grinds the beans, and primes itself, it will froth it’s own milk, put it in your glass, pull the shot(s) into it, and throw away the grounds, it will *also* automagically custom adjust the brew variables until it pulls the perfect shot with a given grind and type of bean. Wow!

On one hand, I’m super grateful, because Holy shit! What a find!

I’m also bathing in irony, because after developing some fairly decent barista chops, I decided that coffee was screwing up my life to much to keep drinking it until I get to some better place later. Throwing those shots away testing the machine was painful!

So I decided to clean it while I was waiting on the parts. There was a power failure half way through, and after that it wouldn’t move water through the main brew head anymore. So now it’s in pieces scattered all over the yurt. Luckily there’s a full shop manual online, and the machine has a lot of automatic diagnostic features, so it’s just a matter of time before I get it nailed down.

Oh, and the Popsicles? I used them to cool down the water between cycles. Of course!

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The Unlevel Bed

Looks like it’s finally time to re-level the yurt platform.

To be honest, I’ve never slept as well in my yurt as I did in my house, which was on a slab foundation. I had a really nice $900+ Serta queen-sized mattress in my palatial master suite with its built-in hot tub. Moving into the yurt coincided with getting a 5″ memory foam mattress. The cargo bed also has no boxspring, so the foam mattress sits directly on its hard OSB frame. The AC setup, while rapidly improving, is still more intrusive in the yurt. It’s right next to the bed and blows the cold air directly over my feet. Finally, the yurt wiggles just a little bit on its platform, so there’s a small feeling of wobbliness to sleeping that took some getting used to.

I went to bed after a pretty long and exhausting day, but didn’t feel very happy there. I remembered that my old sleeping setup was dangerous *because* of how amazingly comfortable it was. As soon as I would lie down, I would feel snuggly and sleepy and would have to fight to stay awake.The yurt bed didn’t feel that way, especially recently. I think there may be an element of a niggling back injury creeping back in, but something else was still a problem.

I tried sleeping the other way, which seemed to help. I had also been wanting to try the 11″ mattress again, so I rolled up my 5″ and raided the van to get it. But something still felt wrong. The extra portion of the bed that folds out to make the bed full-sized has adjustable legs for leveling. I still wasn’t able to fully level them with their current length, so I went and re-cut the ends to provide a larger range of motion. With a little twiddling, *that* portion of the bed was level.  But it still felt weird to sleep with my head toward the door.

Yurt platform frame complete and leveled.

When I made the yurt platform, I used 16 rock-and-block leveled feet and only 2×4 lumber to build it. I didn’t want to put any permanent pilings into my landlord’s ground, and even if I had, I don’t trust them not to settle a bit. I used RV levelers designed to hold 5000 lbs each, so I knew I was wildly over-engineering that part. But when most people build a deck platform, they use 2x6s or 2x8s on concrete pilings sunk into the ground. They would also use solid cross-members that span width of the yurt. Insteadt,my 2×4 frame was designed for maximum portability. It comes apart in about an hour and can be transported with an average mid-sized car. The yurt is also on an incline, with over a 12″ difference from back to front. One reason my rent is so cheap is that I’m using land that would otherwise be harder to build on. All this adds up to a certainty that, at some point, I would need to re-level the yurt. I put the RV levelers as close to vertical center as possible to allow for maximum wiggle room. As long as none of them bottoms out, it’s easy to simply screw them up or down using a level to get the platform itself level. To do this I knew I would need a laser level, which I’ve now purchased.


And when I pointed the laser level at the bed, I found this:

I took measurements of how far below level each corner was and made this diagram. The circled results underneath are how far below level each corner is:

It looks like I’ve got over 3/4″ rise from the head to the foot of the bed, and all corners are at least 1/4″ vertically out of whack. I didn’t have the laser level when I installed the bed, but using a bubble level I was able to verify it was pretty close to level. The main part of the bed isn’t levelable, which is something that needs to change, especially because I desperately need that feature in the van. But in the yurt, if the bed isn’t level…

…it means the floor isn’t level.


So the solution is to use the laser level to make a plane under the yurt, parts of which are too close to the ground to crawl under, and re-adjust the RV levelers so the platform is level again. It shouldn’t be too difficult, but it will probably be messy, time-consuming, and mosquito-infested. I knew when I chose this design this day would come, and if I only have to do it every year or two, it’s worth the price of the simple setup and ability to move on without violated the land underneath.

Time to find the mosquito spray…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

AC Upgrade Part 1 Results – 24 % Better!

Wow! It looks like adding a second hose to my AC unit reduced my power usage by 24%!

Here’s how I did the experiment:

First, I picked two days in a row that were going to be very close to each other weather-wise. In Texas summers, that’s pretty easy.

Monotonous Texas summer weather is great for AC A-B testing!In this case I chose Saturday, with a high of 97 o F and a low of 76 o F, and Sunday, with a high of 94 o F and a low of 77 o F. These two days aren’t identical, but I’m mainly looking for solid proof adding the second hose changed things. Naturally if I were being real stickler, I would want to run each configuration for at least three days, average the results, etc, etc. However, that would mean both having to *live* in the yurt at 83 o F for at least another week, having that many days in a row that were pretty close, delaying additional upgrades for the sake of data integrity, etc. If I can show a significant difference in testing each for one day, I’m willing to call it done.

Next I set up the AC with both hoses and set the thermostat to 83 o F. Why that temperature? Because I need something that the AC can actually *achieve* without running the compressor 24/7. I’m *not* recording the actual temperatures in the yurt while I’m doing this, so I need to pick a setting where I will *know* the temperature because the AC is able to reach it. I want the compressor to come on and off to maintain that temperature. Then the *only* thing I need to measure to do the comparison is how many electrons were eaten by the AC unit.

I started with the two-hose configuration because it was already set up, and because I would be home most of the day and two hoses is *way* more comfortable! I started the AC at 7 AM Saturday morning, reset my Kill-A-Watt power meter, and let it run. I ended up at a fabulous party that was hard to leave and didn’t get home until 2 AM. While I was at the party, I *knew* that every minute I stayed was another minute I was committing to be up on Sunday night. Actually, the Kill-A-Watt meter *does* have a timer, so if I just want to have the unit turn off automatically at a certain time, I think I could do that. But the risk of screwing up the measurement was too high, and I only needed one more day.

Here are the results for Saturday:

So I used a total of 9.34 KWHs keeping the yurt at 83 o F on a 97 o F day.

I was going to be gone most of the day Sunday, so that was a great day to go back to *one* hose, which makes the yurt feel depressurized and uncomfortable. I woke blearily at 7 AM after not going to bed until 3:30 AM, grabbed the second AC hose, which is right next to the bed, and started pulling and tugging until I got all 9 feet coiled on the floor. Luckily there were no wasps this time. At that level of hangover, I would *not* have been willing to get out of bed simply because it was full of angry wasps, and the resulting contest for territory would likely have gotten ugly. I mumbled a prayer to Past Angry Scott for taking the time to annihilate Inconvenient Nature the night before. The second hose I added was now inside, which is what I started with. I reset the Kill-A-Watt, then collapsed back into bed and tried to sleep as the pressure in the yurt dropped and the temperature rose. Sometimes you have to suffer for science!

After getting back from an exhausting day of eating beignets at The G’ral Majal and swimming with hot naked people at Hippie Hollow, I barely managed to keep myself awake long enough to get my second reading, seen here:


What a change! A total of 11.91 KWH on a day that the forecast said was 3 o F *cooler* than the day before! Plugging those numbers into the Percent Difference calculation, we see that adding the second hose provides at *least* a 24% improvement.

So adding the hose has drastically reduced my power usage in addition to equalizing the pressure in the yurt!

From a strict science perspective, there are a lot of things wrong with this methodology. I would be a lot more valid if I kept track of real-time temperatures and humidities inside and outside the yurt, etc. But, I’m happy with the improvement it demonstrates and am ready to move onto the next step.

The two remaining major upgrades are plugging the roof ring, which is currently still partially open, and adding the Relectix radiant barrier bubble wrap. At each phase I’ll try a similar test and see how much they help. What I’d eventually like to get is a measurement of how much power I’m using for climate control inside the yurt. From an absolute perspective, I want the bragging rights of knowing how much less power I’m using than an average American. From a relative perspective, I want to see how much it’s costing me on a cubic-foot basis for similar comparisons to, say, an average suburban home.

These kinds of discoveries are a big part of what makes this experimental lifestyle worthwhile!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yurt AC Upgrade – Part 1

It’s time to make the yurt more Brutal Texas Summer resistant!

The best solution to Texas summer heat is to leave. We should all GTFO, and arguments to the contrary are, basically, garbage. I leave proving that using mass transit to move the entire population of Texas to somewhere cooler actually uses less energy than air conditioning those same people for three months at around 100 o F as an exercise for the reader. Usually I go to Portland, which is better than Austin in every way but only in the summer, after which SAD reaches suicide-inducing levels.IMG_20180615_084940.jpg

That’s the point everyone there should leave Portland and come to Texas. Specifically, Abilene.

Despite this, I will be in Austin for most of this summer, so it’s time to upgrade the yurt’s hot weather abilities.

Because I haven’t been here, I haven’t worked as hard to make the yurt comfortable in the heat. Mainly I’ve used my Honeywell single-hose portable AC unit. I’ve worked for several days making diagrams, drawings, and cartoons to try to illustrate why it, literally, sucks. I’m not happy with any of them, so I’ll just try to explain in words, which will be even worse.

The air in the yurt gets sucked into the AC unit. Part of it goes into what I’ll call the Coolie Part that makes the air cooler and removes the water by using obscene amounts of my landlord’s free electricity. That air is then blown back out into the yurt, cooler and dryer than before. In the process, though, the AC unit generates a lot of its *own* heat. So if the air coming out the Coolie Part is cooler than before, where does the heat and water go?

The answer is what I’ll call the Hottie Part. The single hose you see in this picture carries the heated air and water out of the yurt. I wrap it up with something to insulate it so the heat doesn’t just radiate back out into the yurt.

So far, so good. But, you might ask, why does it suddenly feel like I’m living inside a sock inside a 747 climbing to 35,000 feet? If you do the math, you’ll realize that air is being sent *out* of the yurt, but there is no hose to bring air *into* the yurt. All that hot air being pumped out is drawn from *inside* the yurt, meaning the air pressure drops, giving one that ear-poppy unhappy feeling we all hate so much when flying. At this point I haven’t sealed the roof ring, which normally allows hot air to flow up out of the yurt. But with the vacuum action of the single-hose AC unit, hot, potentially wet air is being sucked back *into* the yurt instead. The AC unit then has to also cool and dehumidify *that* air, which means it uses even *more* of my landlord’s free electricity!

What we really want is for the Coolie Part and the Hottie Part to use *different air*. Specifically, we want the Coolie Part to constantly make the air in the yurt cooler and drier, but not touch any outside air. We want the Hottie Part to pull the air it needs from *outside* the yurt, preferably underneath where it’s cooler, and then squirt hot, wet air outside onto my neighbors where it won’t, at least directly, bother me anymore.

Why not use a simple window AC unit, you ask? Good question. Because the Hottie Part end hangs outside and the Coolie Part lives inside the house, window units don’t need hoses. I already have one I could be using, but the bottom line is that cheaper window AC units tend to be louder and shittier than my fairly high-end Honeywell, which is better built and also designed to cool an area nearly *four* times as big as the yurt with *only* the one hose.

Also, I have no windows. Yet. 🙂


The Solution is to add a second hose, so, naturally, I got out the duct tape. 🙂

As you can see on the back of the unit, the intakes for the Coolie and Hottie parts are separate. Thank Fucking God. So all I really need to do is find a way to stick a hose on the Hottie Parts intake, and I should be golden. All of this is temporary to see whether it will work or not. The glue on this duct tape will make a huge mess if I leave it on too long.

I got 25 feet of AC conduit from Home Depot for my input hose. It looks like a 1984 Doctor Who special effect, but it’s not too expensive, is insulated, and will do the job. I taped a cardboard box over the Hottie Part input, vandalized a plastic to-go container to make a flange, and taped on first the inside and then the outside of the AC conduit. So far so good!

I fed the hose out through the yurt near the same spot where the Hottie Part output hose goes. I then went outside to figure out how far down I could get it without touching the ground. Touching the ground is bad, because Texas is basically a huge writhing carpet of fire ants and scorpions eating everything that moves, and cockroaches trying passionately to reproduce faster than they can be converted into more ants and scorpions. As I was adjusting the hose, I felt a sudden stinging pain in my left hand because of the yellow jacket nest I had inadvertently grabbed in the process.IMG_20180618_000010.jpg

After some Benadryl and hydrocortisone cream, and trying to figure out whether the bumps on my arms were fiberglass burn or anaphylaxis, I headed back outside with my Executioner zap racket. There were too many mosquitoes to fully savor my sweet vengeance as long as I’d like, but I did get some cool pictures of my beautiful violators in the resulting process of twitching electrical genocide. It was a small nest, so it didn’t take long. After zapping all the adults I knocked the nest onto the ground where the fire ants and scorpions could fight over who got to eat the babies, tucked the duct under a vertical rope so it would stay mostly in place, and then ran inside before I passed out from mosquito-induced anemia.

IMG_20180617_235615.jpgThe final result is *way* uglier than anything I’d tolerate inside my home for long, but *boy* does it work better! The depressurized feeling is *gone*, the unit doesn’t labor as much, and the yurt is *much* more comfortable. The insulation setup is also totally backwards here, because the white hose is the hot output hose. For now I’ve wrapped it in a blanket. I’m also seeing more mosquitos in the yurt because of the imperfect seal where the hoses exit. I’ve stuffed some towels in there for now, but this must be fixed airtight on the final version.

Monotonous Texas summer weather is great for AC A-B testing!

The next thing to do is some testing to see how much power the system uses on similar day. I have a Kill-A-Watt power meter that measures how much power an appliance uses over a period of time. My plan is to run it for a full day with both hoses while I’m here and see how much power the AC uses. On a day when I’ll be mostly gone, I’ll bring the input hose back inside and do it again. I’ll reset it first tomorrow, then maybe do the single-hose thing later in the week. One of the few good things about Texas summers is the brutal monotony, which is good for this kind of comparative A-B testing.

Next up, adding radiant barrier with Reflectix bubble wrap insulation!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment