Bee Butts

I like bee butts and I cannot lie.
You other bumbles can’t deny,
when a drone flies in with a itty-bitty waist,
and an abdomen in you face…
You get stung, pull that stinger out
‘Cause you noticed that butt was stuffed
Thick in the pollen its wearing,
I’m pricked and I can’t stop staring.
Oh bee, I wanna get wit’cha
And take your picture.
My honey bees tried to warn me,
that butt you got (its so thorny)

A New Vision

Here is a project I did this past winter that I have not yet shared, an upgrade to my ski goggles.

Skiing with glasses is a really mixed bag. Its very hard to control the humidity inside the goggles to stop the glasses from fogging over. I often ski without glasses as my prescription is very light. Its usually sunny enough that I can see fine without my glasses, or its foggy enough that there is nothing to see, glasses or not.

To improve this situation I tried adding some lenses into the goggles.

Using some round lenses pulled from a cheap pair of glasses I 3D printed an insert to fit inside the goggles. This was my first project print with flexible TPU plastic, allowing the insert to be printed flat and then bending to fit the contour of the goggles.

Fitting the lenses and test fitting the shape took a few iterations

Though the ski season was cut short these insets worked much better than wearing glasses under the goggles. And I will continue to use them next year with some tweaks.

The goggles do look a little silly, but I kinda like the look. Reminds me of Starlord’s Guardians of the Galaxy helmet.

Somehow managed to forget to get a picture with the goggles on my face

Five Weeks in Isolation

Nearly everyone in the world are now in different phases of isolation or quarantine. My experience is anything but unique, but as Seattle was one of the first hot spots on this continent I figure we are probably a week or two ahead of most of North America. As something to stay entertained and sane in my fifth week of isolation I put together a little timeline of how I experienced this pandemic and what I’ve been doing while cooped up.

My Fortunes

Firstly I must acknowledge that I am very lucky to be well suited for this quarantine. My work can be done at home and even before all offices were closed I was already working from home about one day a week. I live in a fairly large house and have an office set up for myself which allows me to have a separate physical space to work and take Zoom calls. I know many who live in small apartments who don’t have a desk, and are working off of kitchen tables. I live with a roommate so I have not been completely devoid of human interaction while isolated.

I am fortunate that a lot of my social life was already online. Before the quarantine I was already keeping up with friends in other states and around Seattle by playing games online. While the home isolation changed many of my social plans, for a few of my social circles very little changed.

Time Line

  • March 1st:
    Some items are noticeably missing while grocery shopping. Mostly just bulk things like flour, rice, potatoes.
  • Week of March 2nd:
    I started limiting the time I spent in the office. Working from home some full days or just going in for the after noon. Around March 5th most tech workers in Seattle were being told to work from home for the next few weeks. I still meet with friends at a bar for trivia and still have people over for Dungeons and Dragons in person.
  • March 7th:
    Last day skiing of the season though we didn’t know that at the time.
  • Week of March 9th:
    A fairly normal work week. Getting work done is a strong distraction from the new isolation. Though everyone is working from home, not too much is out of the ordinary. I still feel like this is a temporary arrangement and things will be normal soon. Pub trivia is now movie night at a friends house to avoid public spaces and large gatherings.
  • March 14th:
    Vail ski resorts closes all mountains nationally “for two weeks”, but the writing is on the wall that the season is over. We decide to cancel a planned ski trip to Utah at the end of the month. This is really where the scale of how disruptive this might be starts to set in as events through June start to cancel.
  • Week of March 16th:
    The weather in Seattle is warming up and it starts feeling very stifling to be inside. Working from home feels restrictive. On March 18th my company makes the decision to close all offices globally for at least the next three months. This is going to be more than a few weeks of WFH, better get comfortable. All socializing has moved online.
  • Week of March 23rd:
    Most of each day is spent at the computer, it is the portal to the outside. Days are spent working and nights are spent online with friends. This is our new existence. Days start to blend together.

  • Week of March 30th:
    I think this was the worse week yet. Most of the time I found it very hard to focus. Very little work accomplished, very little time spent on personal projects. At the end of the week I realized it had been 2 weeks since I last left the house. After a few hours out on a bicycle things are much better.
    A close friend is hospitalized for COVID-19, and is put on a ventilator.
  • Week of April 6th:
    Isolation and staying in start seeming like the new normal. Keeping a routine, including time spent outside and exercise is very important. Passover Seder is a 20 person Zoom call.
    My friend has recovered enough to be taken off the ventilator and sent home.

How I Stay Sane

“There no more Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays, …etc.
There is only Day”

Staying at home for a few weeks and spending pretty much every day in front of the computer, things start to blend together. It was difficult to put together a timeline for this post of what’s been going on the past four weeks; the day to day is slow and repetitive and the news is so fast and quick to change.

I’ve tried to keep the same schedule as I normally would. This means getting up around 7 every morning, showering, getting dressed into not-pajamas, and trying to work normal-ish hours. To try and keep some office chatter going, we have a daily drop in call just for socializing.

Even though we cannot congregate in groups, every recurring weekly social events have still been meeting. Pub Trivia is now online Jack-Box, Dungeons & Dragons is now online. I’ve also done some board game and movie nights online with some fancy software.

There is still a lot of unscheduled time at home, and you can only clean the house so many times a day. This is a good time to indulge in some hobbies or take up some new ones. The first week of isolation I was working on building a new computer. The second week of isolation I did a lot of cooking; and now that I have secured more flour, a lot of baking.

One large project was Adam Ragusia’s three day lasagna that had me rolling out meters of pasta. Last week I was practicing making some sourdough bread, and now that Passover has started I will try some homemade Matzoh.

Now that I’ve gotten this large post out of the way I’ll be posting more incremental updates on the day to day.

While everyone has discovered Zoom as a way to stay connected, there are a few other programs and services I want to call out.

Discord and Mumble; Zoom’s origins are as enterprise telecomunication software, and it shows. Zoom is lacking in a lot of powerful features that make calls with lots of members more pleasant, like a usable push-to-talk or individual volume controls for each member. Discord and Mumble are mostly voice-only clients (Discord does now support video) which were built for online gaming. With this different pedigree there are different set of features supported.

Watch2Gether and NetflixParty; These are browser extensions which will sync up the streams from Netflix/Amazon/ Hulu/YouTube/etc for multiple people, allowing you to still have a movie night with others while isolated.

JackBox Party Packs; Many have probably played a JackBox party game at a house party at some point. Most of the games can be played online with one person sharing their screen or streaming to Twitch/Mixer.

TabletopSimulator; Its very hard to play board games while staying at least 6 ft apart from one another. TabletopSimulator provides a framework to play a lot of your favorite board games on the computer with friends online.

Looking to the Future

While no one knows how long isolation will be recommended, this week is the first week where the numbers have started looking better. The newest IHME models now estimate that Washington may already be past the peak of infections, showing everyone that isolating at home does pay off. I am greatly looking forward to when I can go outside without feeling paranoid or guilty and when I can again meet up with friends for a coffee or a drink.

Out for a Walk

Christmas day here in Umbria was unseasonably warm and sunny, and after days of rain everything was as lush as green as December allows. Being so nice my dad and I have been walking the woods and fields. I have many beautiful pictures to edit and post, but these are two of my favorites.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year.

This is How Democracy Thrives

For most of the country today is voting day. (Take this as a reminder and go vote) There has been a lot more scrutiny around how voting systems can be manipulated to deter people from voting.

Though there isn’t a closely watched election this year in Washington I did want to call out how much I like the voting system here. Everyone is mailed a ballot weeks in advance along with booklets which explain all the propositions and have statements from each of the candidates. One can fill in the ballot at one’s leisure, using the the provided materials or the internet to do research while going down the ballot.

Materials assembled; ready to vote

The ballots can be mailed back without postage anytime on or before Nov 5th or can be dropped off at one of many ballot boxes around. Since I had just finished adding a new lights to my bike last night I took a test ride to the ballot drop box.

Testing my new lights while dropping off

For a healthy democracy I think two things are critically important: access to voting, so everyone can participate; and access to information, so everyone can vote with full knowledge of their choices. I really like the vote by mail system as it means that I don’t have to worry about finding my polling station, and I can research my choices thoroughly while filling out the ballot without pressure of holding up a line.

A Quick Fix

Down the street there is an amazing loose leaf tea shop where I source my favorite blends. To brew my tea I like to use a Bonavita Immersion Dripper. The dripper is very elegant being made mostly of porcelain, it seemed like a reliable and durable piece. Unfortunately the base and in mechanisms are plastic and one day a small, but critical, plastic arm snapped.

Normally this would be the end for the entire piece of hardware and the entire thing would need to be replaced. Luckily the bottom is easily removable and small pieces of plastic can be 3D printed.

First size test
Second test, working but could be better

With a little over 30 minutes of modeling and printing I had a design that fit and worked well. I decided to change the design and move more the the torque to be around the metal screw points instead of the plastic pins. I think this new piece should be much stronger than the original, but I might reprint it it more neutral color.

Fixed and sturdier than the original

A New Spin on Old Wheels

My mountain bike has been sitting in the garage for more than two years. It hasn’t been ridden and it was in dire need of maintenance and repair. Its a big heavy bike that is exhausting to pedal around a hilly city. It was just taking up space.

With my recent change of jobs I significantly extended the distance of my commute. The routing for the buses are not convenient and its a little too far and hilly to bike normally. To get across lake Washington and make it tolerable the mountain bike was going to need a little help.

So I decided to add an electric motor.

Electric hub motor and battery system

I ordered a hub motor kit and battery from Ebay with the goal of converting the bike into an e-bike that will make it easier to go long distances and to chew up all the hills in the way. But ordering a lot of electronics parts from china means they don’t come with very clear instructions.

The old regular bike
Tools for the job

The bike is still mostly in working condition. There was just one small broken plastic ring in the handlebar headset that had been keeping it off the streets. Bike shop wasn’t sure it would be able to source the part and wanted to replace the entire headset.

A small piece of plastic, why not just 3D print it?

The broken piece (left) and the 3D printed replacement (right)

I didn’t print this piece myself. I outsourced it to a friend who could print it in high performance PETG plastic so the ring would be flexible and durable. It took a couple of tries to get the fit exactly right.

The new spacer fitting in nicely.
Testing the electrics

Before mounting 20 lbs of electronics to the bike I needed to test to make sure everything was working. I temporarily mounted the new front wheel without tube or tire and hooked it up to the pile of cables on the ground.

Glad to say everything was working properly.

In attaching all the electrics to the bike I did encounter one expected problem. As a safety feature, the brake leavers needed to be replaced with leavers that have integrated electric switches which will serve as emergency power cut offs for the motor, so it can never accelerate while the brake is down. This Trek bike has integrated brake leaver and gear sifters on the handlebars, so I can’t replace the brakes without losing control of my gears. So instead of mounting the new brake leavers I went with magnetic switches attached to existing brake system.

Wired up and ready for a test ride

There was still a lot more that needed to be done, but with everything critical bake in place and the electrics working I had to have it out for a test ride.

Glamour shot

The test ride was a success though a little wobbly. I found that there were a lot of things to tighten down and that the front tire was not sitting completely evenly.

The electronic cut off brakes were working, but I wasn’t happy with the physical brakes. Unfortunately this bike cannot fit disk brakes, but I replaced the old brake pads with new larger ones and tuned up the whole system.

An old bike lock, keys long lost, which needed to be cut from the frame
Cables are a rats nest but it works

There are still a lot of improvements I would like to make, integrated front and rear lights, better cable management and housing for the speed controller, a speedometer and control display, and maybe even a more conformable seat. Its serviceable as it is and I have all winter keep making improvements.

Ready to explore

Bee your best

Delicious pollen

I’ve been very busy for a few months now, which has meant that I have not had many opportunities to go out and take photos. With autumn here things are settling down and I was happy to find that the bees are still out stockpiling polling for the winter.

This little guy looks stuck
Safely emerged