Friday, January 5, 2018

Steampunk PC Build - The Webcam, pt. 1

As previously mentioned, I'm building a PC. I've been thinking about it for a long while, especially since I acquired cast iron school desk and sewing machine frames, along with a somewhat beat up oak sewing machine top. Then, I received a few boxes of miscellaneous old electronics parts from my grandfather, which seemed to clinch the decision.

Strangely enough, I started with the webcam. I had most of the parts laying around the garage and studio, so I started assembly one Saturday afternoon....

My inspirations were various antique cameras I've seen in museums and online, coupled with a far-fetched steampunk backstory (more on that some other time). Since I had a decent amount of leftover molding from my old kitchen (prior to our remodel), I thought I'd put it to use. I also had a brass candlestick and some miscellaneous parts, so I gathered them together to see if the "feel" was right. As it turned out, the look and feel was what I wanted.

It was time to start cutting and dry-fitting

and a little more dry-fitting

Things were coming together, so I started the glue-up

Looking good so far, so I picked up a webcam off of eBay. I also added a peephole from a door and some dryer venting in lieu of a rectangular-folded, black canvas-covered paper "bellows" between the lens and "photographic plate". I know how to fold one, but felt I'd go a slightly different direction for visual impact. That's also part of the yet-to-be-told backstory for this piece of retro-future gear.

The webcam arrived, so rough assembly needed to happen. That turned out to be trickier to incorporate than I initially thought, as the USB connector demanded some stubbornly large holes to be made throughout the candlestick pieces.

There's more to this branch of the build to be covered in part 2, but after some brainstorming, that will be a few more Amazon purchases away. Note the beginnings of the mouse build in the right-hand portion of this photo. I'll have to learn how to weld brass to keep that branch of the build going.

More to follow!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

What's up?

Sorry. Okay, not sorry.

As I said in my previous post, I'm busy and don't always want to jump on a computer for fun after a day spent at a computer for work. However, I've been on vacation and got an itch to post a couple things. What about, you might ask? Well, here's a narrative excerpt of current goings-on.

The family and I just got back from a couple days "away" in Pasadena:

To some people's dismay, perhaps, we did not visit the Huntington Library  (again) this trip, though the thought had crossed my mind a few times. Seriously, it was only a couple of miles away at any given moment. But, alas, not everyone enjoys a handful of hours spent wandering slack-jawed and glossy-eyed while staring at old books and incunabula. (Steven, the lodging offer still stands so we can do that!)

At home, I've got other things consuming my attention. Namely:

  • The day job at Stone Brewing.
  • The holidays, now nearly all packed back up and returned to the attic.
  • My new PC build. It's a beast, for computing power, size, and the custom case I've decided to build. I've promised myself I will spend the time to disguise this technical monstrosity behind a veil of 1850-1950 tech. We'll see if I pull it off. I'll post more here... probably later today or tomorrow, to start the "build log" properly. Even this blog entry was spent testing out an ergo keyboard that I may or may not use for the new PC.
  • Tuning tools in the woodshop. This was not expected, but as I cut a few pieces of wood for the PC cabinet (above) on the compound miter saw, I discovered that "45°" plus another "45°" did not equal 90°. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on miter position. Infuriating, as the wood was cut. The Shopsmith is only a few feet away, but I know it needs a general tune up as well. So, before I saw (or resaw) any more wood, I need to spend a few hours realigning blades, fences, and tables, waxing tables and fences, and checking dust collection and air filtration.
  • Miscellaneous household repairs. It seems every room in the house has developed--either during the holidays or the preceding months--some sort of issue needing attention. Even the studio needs a few things (well, the studio bathroom sink has been missing for over a year). Some fixes are due to wear and tear, others are changes after living with the remodel for a while, others were on our wish list.
  • The "bi-weekly" Rogue Dragons Adventuring Company D&D game set in the Forgotten Realms... using Pathfinder/D&D 3.x thank you very much. :) Ooo... tomorrow night is game night!
  • A new Forgotten Realms campaign gifted to my son and (soon to be step-) nephew for Christmas. Like some of my previous campaigns, it started with a couple of props, a crumbling map, and an interesting backstory. I'm actually getting excited about this, as the two (so far) kids don't know FR or this version of D&D. There's an air of amazement and mystery already, and we haven't even sat down for character creation. I'll have to post that separately, too.
  • A couple of minor health things. Hopefully. I'll know more over the next week.
  • Another construction project. ::sigh:: The exterior of the garage and studio has some significant damage from weather, dry rot, and termites. This, unfortunately, will also take a bunch of time and money that we didn't plan on spending at this time. :(
  • Landscaping the patch of dirt we call a backyard. It's a mess, though it used to be beautiful, green, and inviting only a handful of years ago.
  • ...and, if there's time and/or money, we have some bookcases and shelves needing to be designed and built for the family room, library, and studio. Since I'm busy, I need to finalize SketchUp drawings for them so a furniture maker up the street can turn them into reality. Otherwise they stay on my persistent and ever growing project list, awaiting their moment at the top.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Let me 'splain

"Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up." Ahh, the immortal words of Inigo Montoya ("Princess Bride" for those who don't know the reference). I find them extremely appropriate. Hell, my last post (that you saw) was on April 23, 2015... that's more than a year ago. Almost a year and a half! Sure, I've written a few things every now and then. Mostly, it seems, for my cathartic release and not for others. I don't necessarily post those entries. This time, however (comma), I will post this message.

Why haven't I posted in a while? Simply put, I'm busy and--in a predictable and yet convoluted way--somewhat lazy. The busier I get at work, the less I want to jump on a computer in my "down time" and crank out... well... anything. I'll turn on a music stream or watch something on YouTube, but that's about it.

"Mm-kay," I hear you saying, "so why am I wasting my time reading this post?"

Let me 'splain. No, there is too much (in the past 18-ish months). Let me sum up.

Work has kept me--to quote the father of a longtime friend of mine--busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest. Some days I think it feels like that. Some, less so. Other days... well, I found myself flying to Berlin, Germany and Richmond, Virginia a few times for a couple weeks each trip. Great experiences, but it separated me from important people and things in my life.

Outside of work, I've been taking care of things around the house and fighting a pinched nerve (since December) that has finally subsided enough to allow me to get <redacted> done. I laid white oak hardwood flooring in my office and finally got around to sanding and sealing it in the past several weeks. I also built a walk-in cooler for my ever-expanding beer cellar. Yeah, lots o' beer. Now, all kinds of stuff is getting moved in, including nearly countless boxes of gaming materials and related reference material into my currently limited bookcase space. I have plans for improving the gaming table with a projector and camera to make it facilitate game nights with remote gamers. I must finish that soon.

In the main house, I have done many small-ish things over the ensuing months, including a few items I'd call "jewelry for the house". Ya know... or at least I hope... nicer light switches or door knobs and plates. I replace the decora light switches and install reproduction push-button switches. They are very fitting for our 1895 Victorian four-square farmhouse. We've enhanced Andie's "Closet from Hell" (I can't help calling it that) with more shelving.

I have also spent some time researching my family tree, pleasantly discovering that a handful of branches of our family are nobles and one is "royal" (more digging into that is needed, but there's a possible Plantagenet back along the family lines). It's humorous that my family name is the last to arrive in this country, circa 1850. Everyone else, it seems, was here in this country before it was... well... this country. Definitely cool, in my not-so-humble opinion. :) As the oldest member of my immediate family with my wits about me, this is an important task to explore.

What's up now? I'm heading to Gamehole Con in Madison, WI in a couple weeks to feed my geek gaming muse (with thanks to my wife, son, and coworkers). I haven't been at a game con in a long time. I'm looking forward to catching up with Steven Schend, Ed Greenwood, and several other TSR and Wizards of the Coast expats. Wow...

More to come! Soon, hopefully.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Construction Projects

Life's gotten nothing but busier. Good thing the house is done... well, mostly. I suppose no house is truly done if you truly live in it. We're missing lots of little things and a few big things, like landscaping (as evidenced by the picture at the top of the page). I have a spreadsheet to track those odds and ends--things like "strip and repaint pantry doors", "hang artwork in gallery/loft", and "install cedar flooring in master closet"--so I know what to do next. Over 300 odds and ends when I first compiled the spreadshet. I've slowly been chipping away at that list, but I had a couple of other things to attend to prior to competing it. As if it will every be truly completed.

Since the weather was changing, such that it is in southern California, I had to address the growing quantity of beer in the cellar again. Essentially, my goal is to get all my beer* into either a refrigerator or a temperature controlled space so the various brews can age gracefully. However, cool winter weather was giving way to spring a little early, with temperatures already picking up above 80F in my town. This meant to me that I needed to insulate my beer. As some of you know, the cellar was originally "just" a converted closet, which after insulation, measures 7'h x 3'd x 2.5'w. Not bad for a start. Then my membership to the Reserve Society at The Bruery, as well as beer from work, started adding bottles faster than I was drinking them, so I built a second insulated space. This second space occupied a good portion of the garage until recently, measuring roughly 6'h x 5'w x 4'd and getting jammed full of wonderful bottled beers. This leads us to present day. I built a walk-in beer cellar. Yep, those are the pictures of it to the right.

Speaking of other things, I was feeling increasingly cramped while working up here in the studio. The floor space allocated to the cellar had taken a noticeable amount of space away from the already lacking free space. You know the sliding tile puzzles where you try to put the picture back together by moving individual tiles around countless times? That is how our life has been since October of 2012, and the last vestige of that problem was piled across the studio and mocking me every time I tried to do anything. So, I started looking around for ways to remedy the situation. It didn't take long, as my eyes almost immediately landed on the stack of surplus oak flooring left over from the house remodel that I intended to use the studio. Behold, the next project was before me. I needed to install the flooring to gain back a 5' x 10' space in the room. As of this writing, I'm nearly done. I have about 4' x 24' left before sanding and sealing.

That's enough right? Oh, but there's more! My brother, who's a huge Star Wars fan, asked me to help him build a Pre Vizsla costume. "Sure," I said, "that sounds fun and interesting." While we didn't finish the build by Star Wars Celebration last week, it's still moving along and will be ready for the next major Star Wars event (note the newly installed hardwood he's standing on).

That's not even counting all the stuff going on at work!

* while I say "all my beer" in the link, the inventory reflected on CellarHQ is actually out of date and in need of updating by a couple hundred bottles.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hello, Old Friends

I walked into the library this evening to grab a book* and, after turning on the light, found myself saying "hello, dear old friends" to my books. I stood there a moment in disbelief that they were on shelves once again. They were unpacked a couple of weeks ago after spending from two to thirteen years packed in boxes. There are still many more than this packed away--begging me to dig back into them looking for a particular author or genre--but most of the relevant works line the shelves. When the "final" bookcases are built (a project for later, perhaps with the help of the cabinet maker a block over), we will have even more linear footage for books in the library and these bookcases will return to the studio to add much needed shelf space to that library of fiction and gaming materials.

Not too long after greeting the books, I arrived at the decision to post a quick entry on this blog and double the utility of my thought. "Hello, old friend." It has been a long time since I have shared something here. Now that the house remodel is winding down, I am longing for life to return to some sense of normalcy. Too much has happened over the past two or three years to ignore, yet I won't spend much space on those things here. Instead, I will revisit this site in the spirit of its creation. Besides, those musings have been bottled up for too long. Far too long.

* The book, to answer the question some might ask, was the 1946 Tower Books third printing of "Best Supernatural Stories of H. P. Lovecraft" edited by August Derleth. I think I purchased it while on a bookstore crawl with Steven and friends. Tonight, I needed to refer to a short story within its pages... for something... devious.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Remodel: The Media Room

So, yeah, I'm sitting here in what will be the family room/home theater of our remodeled vintage home listening to Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures (on aged vinyl no less!) and essentially chilling out after a hard day's work (consisting mostly of manual labor) when I realize that I hadn't posted in… oh, forever! I thought that I might consider posting again tonight given that I've had more than two days off in a row. Ya see, posting about the lagging progress of "things" gets a bit discouraging when work is frenetically busy and we're not home enough to round out and bolster the proverbial "life/work balance" (certain things come to mind). Couple that with interfacing with home loan bankers and their "hours", lagging energy after work, and my family's busy schedule, and we have the perfect recipe for… um… what is the term for it? Oh yeah, "delays". Mmm, tasty delays! Savor that bitter flavor! Besides, I'm damn tired tonight having shoveled a bunch of dirt and moved many bricks about to recreate the walkways we really liked. 

[The previous record is over (I started typing late, sue me), so I'll drop the needle on Closer (again, on vinyl, duh!) to keep the vibe going.]

Where was I? Oh yes, delays! Whoa! A lot has happened. (well, not alot acording to some people.) The exterior is paint ready. (Photos coming.) The interior is at the "rough-in stage" with bare studs and 2/3rds complete plumbing and electrical. I've jumped in by adding the low voltage wiring for networking, video, and audio, but those efforts don't equate to a finished home.

[A call for the alarm company has brought down the beer buzz I'm floating on. ::sigh::]

Thinking of the unfinished home, I realize I need to post several photos of the outside to get things up to date, but trust me, there has been a lot of progress. Then there's the photos of the interiors to give everyone perspective on the spaces that have come together. In some ways, it boggles our minds!

I'll have to get on those postings!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Remodel - February 7

Just a quick update to let everyone see the progress on the remodel. As of this morning, the remodel currently looks like this if you're standing at the base of the studio steps:

Obviously I haven't been keeping this blog up to date, but I hope to backfill the missing period either via photos or another quick video.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Remodel - Time Lapse v.1

After I'd been shooting photos of the construction for a while, I realized I could have been making a time lapse video. I went back and looked through the photos I took and found I had been relatively consistent in my camera angles. Thanks to some time spent in Photoshop, I was able to stitch the photos together and make them into something somewhat watchable with Windows Movie Maker. I hope you enjoy the quick video... and like it says, "More to come!"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Remodel - Front Porch

October 9th

The front porch demolition started a bit after the back of the house. A few minor items had been removed up to this date, but the west window (which serves as a weather-break) was removed for storage. Behind the framing was another post that matches the one on the east. This was a great find and will most likely be restored and returned to its original place on the porch. It will also probably serve as the basis of the pattern we will use for the other posts on the porch.

November 2nd

The roof of the porch was removed to reveal all of the original woodwork still intact! Also revealed was the "paint shadow" of the previous porch design. From my time spent researching our house and pouring through old photos, the brick design was probably porch #3 and the "paint shadow" suggests the design of porch #2. We're rolling the design further back to recreate something more like the original porch. This photo also captures the hexagonal asphalt shingles that were put on top of the bottom-most wooden shingles.

November 6th

The demolition team removed the brick pillars, cement wall and floor. Beneath the few inches of concrete of the floor was several cubic yards of decomposed granite. Not what we expected! The cement floor used to sit right against the wall (which isn't good) and we had presumed the cement was a thick slab that reached down to ground level. On one hand, thin concrete made disposal easy. On the other hand, dirt sitting in direct contact with wood is worse than cement is. Minor signs of rot and termite damage hinted at what might sit behind the siding.

November 13th

The DG was removed and stored for later use (perhaps a path to the backyard to the east). The remaining plants around the front of the house were scraped away to make working easier. With the big dumpster removed, we got our first view of the old "four square" Victorian without anything else attached to it. Wonderful! Lots of photos have been taken to document this state of the house.

November 14th

The beginnings of the new porch footings were excavated and dirt beside the existing wall was also lowered. The siding that was in contact with the cement and dirt was removed to reveal more damage than was expected. Good thing we opened this up! Several of the joists had rotted or been eaten away to nubs that would eventually fail. The original piers were also mostly gone, but had been filled in with cement block to reinforce the front wall. This area will be repaired and/or reinforced before we build the new porch.

November 17th

The footings were excavated to their final depth and... the tractor broke our sidewalk in several places. We were initially upset with this, but upon closer inspection, the sidewalk was probably put in around the same time as the porch. The pattern and trowel marks didn't match the surrounding sidewalk, so we will replace it with something closer to the old designs in front of our house.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Remodel - Month 1

The remodel. This is the granddaddy of all projects here at home. Those of you who know my wife and I have heard of this coming... for well over a year in the "it's coming" sense, but even longer if you have spent any significant time around us. Since this project will take around eight months, I thought it would be cool to document the process to give others an idea of what's going on. Sure, if you ask us, we will tell you it's a bit chaotic right now, but consider this: we live in a Victorian farmhouse that was originally built in 1895 and then modified for the course of eighty-something years. Some things were added, others removed, and in the end, we thought the resulting exterior looked like a great old house with a bizarre late 1970-era tumor of a room addition growing off the back of it. We have always wanted to fix that particular aspect of the house and we are now getting our chance to address it.

October 3rd

The demolition started on the back of the house. This proved to be a solid nudge to my wife and I, as we weren't exactly ready to move out. Honestly though, when is a person really ready to have their house razed? In our case, it was not the best of timing. Both of our jobs had kicked into overdrive rather than starting into the Fall at their usual and predictable pace.

October 5th

A couple more days into the demolition and things are looking a bit... um... ragged. Yeah, "ragged" will work. Coming home to this set us all on edge. The roof was gone! Then again, what should one expect when a home demolition has gotten underway? (I think the roof was removed on the 4th and then the rest of the siding and the porch were removed on the 5th.) We started prepping the "studio" for habitation that weekend.

October 13th

Having a brief rest from the demolition around us, we were getting somewhat prepped--both physically and mentally--to move out of the house that weekend. My father-in-law came down Saturday and helped me move the major appliances into the temporary setup in the garage. Thanks Larry! If it wasn't for this jumpstart, things would have been really rough.
We spent our first night in the studio that Saturday. We were downsized from a 1552 sq. ft. house down to 528 sq. ft. and it was already proving to be a challenge. What do you bring with you? What do you pack up and "leave behind"? How do you reduce nearly twelve years of living (and the associated accumulated and inherited "stuff") down to a one-room studio apartment? This is going to be an adventure... or so people are telling me!
Early rains also contributed to the slowdown, but everyone else seemed to have something to take care of. Andie and I got/had to straighten out more of the living space in the studio and moving additional things in.

October 22nd

Another weekend had come and gone. We had been living in the studio for ten days now and things were getting better... micron by micron. Cooking was proving to be a challenge, as we are both used to a gas range and oven, plus a full array of appliances and accessories. Now we have a two-burner electric rangetop, a toaster oven, and a microwave! Then there's the next question: what food and drinks do you keep in the mini-fridge and what are you going to run downstairs to grab from the fridge in the garage? Who needs a StairMaster when you live like this?

October 23rd

The crew is making short work of the demolition while still doing what they can to preserve any reusable materials. I really like that our team has a goal of reusing what they can, donating anything that we don't (or can't) use, recycling what we can, and responsibly desposing of what is left. Another back door was installed further into the house the day before to add some security.

October 24th

Okay, it may not look like much has happened in this photo (and parts of the previous photo are showing around the edges--I'm assembling them into one file for a timelapse .gif later), but trust me when I say there is a lot of progress on this one. The team has continued removing the drywall, but they are also salvaging whatever insulation they can so it can be reused elsewhere. Keep in mind that we are working within Title 24 energy consumption regulations.

October 25th

A lot of the debris from the demolition has been cleared to the large "rollaway" dumpster and now the amount of demolition is becoming more evident. I thought "I always thought my house had good bones, but they are showing now!"

October 26th

Again, it doesn't look like much has happened, but there is a lot of stuff that needs to be removed when a house is demoed. In this case, there was some wainscotting lining the bathroom and the breakfast nook that we wanted to reuse, so it needed to be carefully removed. Then, there was a lot of drywall that still was hanging around waiting to be stripped off.

October 29th

Now the bones are really showing! If Monday was any sign of the coming day or two, there wasn't going to be much left of the "new" part of the house. Over the weekend we got a chance to take a look at the strangely patched-up openings in the wall. There were doors in the dining area and nearby bedroom, along with a heretofore unknown window in the dining area as well! Interesting. I took several photos. It was also great to discover that the previous construction projects our house suffered through spared the boxed eaves. This was a great discovery, as we are trying elements of the original house intact.

October 30th

Here is most of the team discussing the plans for the rest of the day. I dropped by to check on progress and got a peek into what happens when we're away. There's a bit of a mess, but this is a testament to what they do during the latter course of the day. The team also goes to extra efforts to clean up the day's demolition detritus! Thanks goes out to them and especially Richard, our project manager. Thanks guys!
Notice how there isn't much of the 1970s portion of the house remaining?

October 31st

Happy Halloween! I came home a little early to take care of some discussions with Richard and get set to go "Trick or Treating" with my family when I was greeted with this sight--a circa 1895 house reduced to its original rear perimeter. Amazing! I know it's a simple concept, but it's another thing to experience it. This is a big deal to us! Next, the team is heading to the front porch to demo that problem into oblivion. I'll post those photos soon.