I know I said I wasn't going to move my Dominion set into a larger box until I needed the room but, well, it just kind of happened.
I made plans to go to Hobby Lobby to pick up a shadow box for another project and printed out the 40%-off coupon they almost always have on their website. When I got to the store, they were having a sale on picture frames and shadow boxes (another common occurrence) which nullified my coupon. I was in the store, coupon in hand, and even though I didn't have immediate need of it, it seemed even more foolish to not purchase the larger box. I didn't want to have to make another trip at some later date, right? And I had the coupon, just begging to be used.
The next day, I was at the hardware store for an entirely different home maintenance project when I stumbled across some 4" x 2' x 1/4" maple slats that would work great for the dividers in the new box. And they were being clearanced-out for $1 each. With maybe a little bit less internal conflict over how small pebbles were beginning to turn into avalanches and slippery slopes were being danced upon, I bought five.
In just two days, purely by happenstance, I had purchased all the pieces I needed for upgrading my Dominion box. These pieces were sitting in my house, un-touched and still wrapped, not causing anybody any harm. And I was doing OK with this; I had a lot on my plate with upcoming trips and trying to get some school work done. I was actually feeling pretty good with just letting them sit there for a while.
A few days later I had got some time to kill while Katie was making dinner so I go out to the garage and cut the dividers from the maple slats I purchased. A day later I find myself sanding the dividers and the box in preparation for staining, another day I end up beveling one corner of the dividers so that the lid will close once they are installed. And so it goes: a little gluing here, a little staining there...
... and suddenly I'm putting felt into the bottom of the case....
... and transferring the game into the new box.
Its nice to see it with plenty of room for the other expansions and I'm happy with the final results. Incidentally, the staining was done primarily because my Catan set is housed in the exact same box and I wanted an easy way to tell them apart. The felt was recommended to help keep the cards from sliding around. And they look nice, too.
Craftsmanship on this was probably a solid "B" and I am perfectly OK with this. The stain pooled some in the corners, there is glue acting as a significant structural members to keep the dividers in place and the felt was not cut very precisely. These imperfections were completely acceptable to me; I have taken the policy that the first time I build something it is effectively a prototype. Get it done and learn from the process rather than making sure the end result is flawless.
But seriously, this was all a conspiracy of coincidence. The box practically assembled itself. Its not my fault.
PSERC had there spring meeting this year at University of Wisconsin-Madison and I just got back from my trip up there. I'll spare you all the technical details of the conference and instead talk about the general aspects of my time in Madison.
First of all, the campus. This is a very large campus that is thoroughly integrated into the city.
(All photos you'll be seeing today were taken with my poor quality cell-phone camera. No justification is provided for such a choice on my part.)
All the buildings you see in this picture are a part of the university. Almost all of the buildings I saw on campus were at least five stories tall. I was told the campus had 40,000 students and it stretched literally for miles. Despite Madison being a relatively small city, walking through campus felt just like walking through downtown in a many times its size. You might guess that parking was not easily found and you would be right. This is true not only for cars but also for scooters (called "mopeds") and bicycles.
Many buildings had the moped lots and all had many bike racks. Madison took bicycles very seriously. Bike lanes everywhere (some with curbs in the middle of the street physically separating them from auto traffic), demarcation between bicycle and pedestrian lanes on paths, and automated bicycle rental racks strewn throughout campus.
After riding my bicycle as my primary form of transportation for a better part of a decade, I have to say that Madison fully understands and enables bicycle commuting. Autos, bicycles, and pedestrians; these three all move at distinctly different speeds and to facilite each, they each need their own lanes. Seeing these three lanes makes me want to move there.
There's always the weather, though. Humidity was high (> 90%) so even at 75'F I was sweating. I don't think it would be any more bearable than Wichita's summers even if the highs are ten or fifteen degrees cooler. Winters I would expect to be much colder and snowier than anything I've ever experienced; maybe I don't actually want to live there.
Anyway, back to the campus. At a big school there is a lot of money very modest percentages of the university budget can produce very impressive results. We got to tour the newest building on campus and it is was nicer and more impressive than the building where I have my office at Wichita State, also the newest on its campus.
Five or six stories, glass and metal, very fancy looking labs with many millions of dollars of equipment. It is hard not to feel inferior when surrounded by such impressive equipment. The advantages of doing research at such a large and well-funded school were clear and made me jealous; I've always had a problem with gadget envy. It is in times like these that it is good to remind myself that I'm actually very happy with the education and research opportunities I have been granted, both undergrad and graduate. Expensive toys are nice and they enable some incredible work but there is a lot that can be learned and studies with much more modest means. I am thankful for the opportunities I've been given.
Lastly, a bit of a rant on the controls in my shower at the hotel.
Two levers one controls the amount of water and the other controls the temperature. The large one rotates about 540 degrees (1.5 revolutions), the other, smaller lever only 45 degrees. To turn the shower on you must rotate the larger one until water begins to flow. To adjust temperature you then turn the smaller one appropriately. No wait, that's completely wrong. To adjust the temperature, you continue to turn the larger handle an arbitrary amount in an arbitrary direction.
After using this fixture for three days I had memorized where the handle should go; the location never made any sense. And the smaller handle? It did adjust the amount of water AFTER you had turned on the water with the larger handle. This is the worst design I have every personally encountered. (If design decisions like this equally ruffle your feathers, do I have the book for you: The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman. Amazing, fantastic book.)
I've been working on a technology art project (not as cool as this one) for over a decade now and by "working" I mean "mostly not working".
The project got a started during the jolting transition from no-free-time college days to evenings-and-weekends-free life as a working engineer. In the meager discretionary time during my college years I had read "Chaos: Making a New Science" by James Gleick and was captivated by chaotic systems. The seed had been planted in middle school by the book and movie "Jurassic Park" and was nurtured by my physics professor into something that I could begin to understand.
And the quintessential chaos-exhibiting system was the Lorenz system, boring when expressed as a system of seemingly simple differential equations...
but compelling when plotted in space...
Each one of those green dots is a unique value of x, y, and z that satisfies those three equations. And given any set of x, y, and z coordinates, those equations will determine where the next dot will be in a second or minute or year. All these dots, this collection that defines the solution that appears over time, the math people decided to call the shape of these types of solutions "attractors". The solutions to these equations swirl and combine yet never settle down into regular, predictable patterns. Looking at the attractor from another angle makes this clearer..
There are two foci to the attractor, two black holes that the solutions swirl around but this view of the attractor shows the solutions move back and forth between the two lobes. Sometimes the solutions loop repeatedly on one side and sometimes they will switch and start swirling around the other. We never know when a switch is going to happen and the paths never cross or intersect. Looking at an animation of the solutions over time shows this best...
I found this all very intriguing in many ways. Here was a simple system that acted infinitely, a set of equations that produced values that never repeated themselves yet clearly had structure and was much more than just random noise. The regular-but-not-repeatable pulled me in and I began to think of ways that I could try to express this, to show others just how interesting I found it.
x, y, z.
red, green, blue.
Each point in space on the Lorenz attractor could be represented by a unique color, a combination of varying amounts of red, green, and blue.
This was the kernel of the idea that started the project all those years ago.
Sights from the recent trip my brother and his family made to Wichita to (ostensibly) see my wife and I.
My brother demonstrates an important technique when his kids take the picture: get in front of the camera.
Favorite activities for the boys:
- Playing on the motorcycle, helmet and keys included.
- Shredding paper
- Playing with the dogs.
The youngest of the three kids, the only girl, doing her little-girl-cute thing.
We made multiple trips to the premier kid's museum in Wichita, Exploration Place. Much fun was had.
One of the halls of the museum focussed on flight and had numerous full-motion flight simulators. At least they used to be full motion; none of them moved or even had full yoke and throttle control. Makes me want to volunteer to try to get them all working again.
There was an agriculture/livestock display that both boys enjoyed.
The highlight for both boys was a multi-level castle that provided numerous "educational" activities such as dressing up as knights, harvest stuffed vegetables, and firing a catapult.
The most intriguing hall was the simplest: bins of building blocks (Keva Planks, to be specific) with tables to build on and demonstration pieces on display. For such a simple item, the Planks were inspiring and I suspect will be a part of our toy collection soon.
Two story pendulum that swings its way around a circle as the day progresses, knocking over pegs as it precesses.
The other big museum we visited is the famous Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS. Shortly after taking this picture, there was a trip and fall down a flight short of stairs, twenty seconds of crying, followed by the question, "Was that funny?"