Seacoast Makers Viv How-to

About dang time I posted on this!  A couple weeks ago I did, as part of a Seacoast Makers outreach effort, a naturalistic vivarium how-to talk (otherwise known as a frog-and-pony show) at a favorite local plant place, Wentworth Greenhouses.

Yr humble correspondent, gesticulating.

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It went quite well – decent turnout and no one fell asleep. I went through a viv build from start to finish: enclosures, substrate, backgrounds, lids and lighting, plants and, finally, animals. As you can see above, I brought a 16″ cube and (on top of the cube) a small carrier with a Phyllobates vittatus inside. The Ranitomeya ventrimaculata Iquitos Red that inhabit the cube are shy at the best of times; no way were they going to show themselves after a car ride.

Good Tuftian that I am, the slide show was just that – a bunch of photographs loosely related to whatever I was talking about. Luckily -strike that- By design I have accumulated quite a few build documentation pics and they were put to good use. I thought about posting the presentation here for download, but I think for the moment I’ll make it available on request: if you’d like a copy of the presentation in .odp/Open Doc Presentation format, send along an email addy or share a Dropbox folder with me and I’ll get you a copy.  A few of the slide images after the jump.

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The Bathyscaphe Trieste and Captain Don Walsh, USN Ret.

With all the hubbub over James Cameron’s planned dive to Challenger Deep, a little attention should be paid to the  first and, at this point, only people to make it to the deepest point in the ocean: Auguste Piccard and then-Lieutenant Don Walsh. They did it in 1960 on the bathyscaphe Trieste.

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The Trieste was, essentially, a dirigible. It was mainly buoyancy cambers filled with gasoline (here water:gasoline::air:helium) supporting an untethered bathysphere; there’s a huge difference in compressibility between liquids and gases, so I’ll leave the blimp vs. zeppelin distinction alone. *saunters away, whistling*

The point of this post is an interview NPR did with Capt. Don Walsh. I was blown away. Check out his Wikipedia bio – adventure scientist extraordinaire – and yet in the interview (unsurprisingly), humble and thoughtful. I’d encourage folks to give him a listen either at the NPR link or here (right click and save the mp3 locally).

 

Tandem bicycle drivetrains

Tandems (bicycles-built-for-two-or-more for the uninitiated) are amazing bits of work. More than anything else, a good tandem is FAST. A tandem is not as heavy as 2 individual bikes, does not have twice the rolling resistance and, most importantly, has essentially the same frontal area as a single bike with two, three or even four times the power driving it. The increase in power without an increase in wind resistance explains the use of trips and quads for pacing (rolling windbreak) on the track before dernys came into the picture.

There are at least four different approaches to getting the power from 2 pairs of legs to the rear wheels.

The crossover front (seems to have been popular with French constructeurs):

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The crossover rear (most common):

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And then the 2 reasons for this post…

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The single side rear (a single side front would be crazy – which means it’s been done somewhere). I found the Paketa V2r by googling racing tandem bicycle; after seeing the bike that ends this post, I was curious about what the current road racing state of the art might look like. I’m not surprised that the timing chain (the link between the captain and the stoker) isn’t a chain at all – belts are popping up in applications where the chainline doesn’t vary – singlespeeds and hub-geared bikes, especially. The biggest advantage that single side rigs have over crossovers has to do with cranksets. On a normal crankset, the left pedal/crankarm is reverse threaded. If it were threaded normally, rotational forces would tend to loosen things up. Since 3 of the crankarms on a crossover drive are on the ‘wrong’ side (both in front and the left on the rear on a crossover rear, for example), you need to purchase special tandem cranksets to get the threading right. On a single-side, the cranks are set up just as they’d be on a solo bike; thus, one can use a super light state-of-the-racing-art set of cranks. You give up the ability to use a triple chainwheel setup, but if racing is the goal, one presumably doesn’t need a super low gear. The folks who make the bike shown below make some other claims about their single side setup regarding torque and bearing stress that I have some trouble getting my head around. It seems to me that the stresses would just switch sides, not somehow balance out. That aside – still a pretty dang cool bicycle.

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Finally, the bike that started me thinking about drivetrains in the first place. This tweet led to this photograph:

P9140375

Which led to me learning about daVinci Design’s drivetrain. I’ll quote their website (I like the sound of jackshaft rather than intermediate shaft – feel free to substitute as you read):

The main component of da Vinci Designs’ ICS is an intermediate drive shaft six inches in front of the rear bottom bracket. The intermediate shaft has two single-speed freewheels on the left side that are independently driven by the cranks at twice the rotating speed and half the torque. On the right side of the shaft, four Hyperglide™ cogs drive the bike. The chain rings are half the size as those on a conventional tandem because of the double rotation of the intermediate shaft. The combination of 12-, 18-, 24-, 30-tooth driving gears equals 24-, 36-, 48-, 60-tooth chain rings. *

Wicked smart! Were I to spring for a tandem (good tandems are NOT cheap), this would be #1 on the list with a bullet. I wonder whether you could get away with eliminating the freewheel body on the rear wheel? After all, the captain and stoker are already decoupled by virtue of the freewheels on the jackshaft and keeping the ‘final drive’ rotating all the time would mean that the captain could shift even when no one’s pedalling. Da Vinci – call me. I’ll sign the idea over in return for just one of your gorgeous machines.

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To finish up, some supplementary material in the form of YouTube videos. First, you didn’t think I’d talk about tandems without embedding this, did you?

Some Paralympic Tandem Pursuit action (the stoker is blind or visually impaired). In pursuit races, opponents start of opposite sides of the velodrome and whichever team closes on the other, wins. In this race, there’s a full-fledged catch (5:35).

No tandems in this one, but it does serve to emphasize the importance of aerodynamics and, dang, team pursuit is just about the most graceful thing in sports.

Wheeeeee!

 

New Hampshire Media Makers Spoke Card 2

Rewards drive behavior.

It’s like deja vu all over again – I did it last summer with a picture of a porteur near the Moulin Rouge; this year the spoke cards are Prisoner-themed.

NHMM Spoke cards

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Folks who ride bikes to NHMM meet-ups will receive a spoke card (while supplies last, but I have 36 of ‘em). Be seeing you!

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A shoutout to the good folks at Infinite Imaging who did a bang-up job on printing and lamination.

Pouring iron to help a friend

Yesterday was the Sanctuary Arts Open House & Iron Pour Benefit. Ali Goodwin is fighting breast cancer and like so many in this nominally wealthy country is screwed when it comes to health care. Locals have been coming together to help on a regular basis – yesterday was one of those times. The pour was a ton of fun, the people were interesting, the weather was perfect – if only the reason for the event were different.

It's as hot as a friggin' furnace!

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Warming the ladles

warming the ladles

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Mr. Swirly is an air blower that makes sure there’s a DRAFT

Mr. Swirly

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Spectators

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art and ladle

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The macaroni art tile I made – I’ve been thinking about infrastructure quite a bit (credit goes to Adam Greenfield) so I produced a manhole cover.

My tile

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More photos here. And to finish up – a video:

 

Book review: It’s All About the Bike

I’ve remarked before (and probably will again) on some of the underlying similarities between bicycles and shotguns. And yet there’s a huge corpus around firearms (yr humble’s correspondent’s collection here), but nothing comparable in size and scope on the bicycle side. Perhaps the gun’s 500 year head start is responsible, but my gut tells me something else is going on. Be that as it may, It’s All about the Bike is a welcome addition to the not-large-enough-by-half bike as object genre. Robert Penn’s book is the story of his dream bike; he wanted a bike that was just so – not the absolute best of everything, rather the absolute best for his purposes. The book leads us through the choices he made, component by component. Along the way he detours into history – his past and the bicycle’s past – to flesh out the hows and whys of his decisions. Take frame material for example:

Crucially, steel can be repaired anywhere in the world by a man with a blowtorch and a welding rod. I know this, because I bent a steel bike in northern India, when I was riding around the world. I was slipstreaming a tractor on the Grand Trunk Road near Amritsar.We were going downhill a lick when I road into a pothole the size of a hot tub. There was no time to react. I had what American mountain bikers call a ‘yard sale’. The bike, panniers, sunglasses, water bottles, tent, pump, map and I were strewn across the tarmac. [...] It took me an afternoon to find the best mechanic, or ‘top foreman’ as the locals called him, in Amritsar. Expertly, he removed the handlebars, the stem, the forks and the stressed headset from the head tube, while attendants handed him tools as a nurse attends a surgeon. Then he shoved a metal spike through the head tube and literally bashed the tubes straight again. It was terrifying to watch.

The frame requires a bit more attention on the remaining 7,500 miles, but gets him home. And:

In the alchemy of designing aircraft tubing, Reynolds stumbled on a manganese-molybdenum alloy that made wonderful bikes. In 1935, the company introduced ’531′ tubing. It was considered revolutionary. Even now, British [and American] cyclists of a certain age go misty eyed and look towards the horizon just at the mention of ’531′.

Five Three One

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You get a taste in the quotes above both of the range of Mr. Penn’s inquiry and of his writing style. I found the book to be thoroughly enjoyable; style and subject both get an A. It’s a quick read – 198 pages of clear prose – and if you like bikes, highly recommended.

Two additional notes: 1) In spite of my pissing and moaning about the volume of bike lit, I recently bought a fantastic book of visual bike history (aka bike prØn). The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles is a survey of mostly-French mostly-randonneur bicycles from 1909 – 2003. Inspirational – especially as regards a: 2) Current project – I’m assembling a dream bike as well. I’ll post more in a month or so; I’ve built what I’m calling a voyageur bike on a touring frame – pictures/specifications/rationales to follow once the new ride is fully dialed in.

Partially cross-posted to LibraryThing.

Bog Garden II: planting

After a few days waiting for the peat moss to hydrate, I figured things had settled as much as they were going to. First, I trimmed the excess pond liner and then in went the plants! Super-easy transplanting – scoop an appropriate hole with your hands, and tip in the greenery.

Click through to see notes on what went where.

the bog

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Sarracenia purpurea

Sarracenia purpurea

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Sarracenia rubra

Sarracenia rubra

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Cypripedium reginae (1 year old plants, just getting started after dormancy)

Cypripedium reginae youngling

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Sarracenia flava (also year-old plants)

They’re either ornata or rubricorpora – I lost the tag on the pot.

Sarracenia flava

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And finally a tribute to Watkins Glen in the ’70s. I was there before the rowdiness got going, but read about it in car magazines. As I recall, burning the bus was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Bog wants the bus!!

“The Bog wants the bus! The Bog wants the bus!”

A new toy/to keep my head expanding

First, a request: someone (YouTube, listen up)  needs to develop a framework for displaying synchronous graphic data streams. I’m envisioning a thumbnail(s) embedded in main screen – clicking on a thumbnail embiggens it while returning whatever was on the main screen to thumbnail status. It would be nice for videos like those below and for something I’d like to mess with this summer – synchronous heads-up videos, GPS/map data and maybe even heart rate info from a bike ride.

I recently won a Parrot AR drone at a benefit auction. I’ve been wishing for one since discovering them on a gagdet blog last summer? fall? and the auction was too good a chance to miss. The drone is a quadcopter with 2 video cameras (forward-facing and down-facing) that feeds video to and is controlled by an iPod/iPhone/etc. There are good videos on the Parrot site showing how the control system works; I just wanted to mess around a bit with the 3rd party control app that allows one to record the video stream from the drone. Aside – why this is not part of the standard Parrot software is beyond me.

Here’s what an innocent bystander would see (the 1st minute is crap – I’m trying to set off a flash on the cell phone to act as a visual clap-board):

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And here’s the view from the drone:

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Finally, the theme song:

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It’s an amazing little device – I may not have a jetpack, but…

 

Charismatic megafauna – six legged variety

More often than seems reasonable/random, the internet zeitgeist throws a number of seemingly unrelated references to an interesting topic my way. Today’s theme was robots; a couple weeks ago it was butterflies. The title of the post comes from a tweet from @debcha, “I often describe dragonflies and butterflies as the ‘charismatic megafauna’ of the insect world…” This post will be light on Odonata; expect loads of Lepidoptera.

First up, a book I had high hopes for: The Dangerous World of Butterflies, The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists.  Short version – I was disappointed. I found the book to be superficial, not very well written and more than a little narcissistic. I don’t know appreciably more about butterflies or butterfly conservation issues than I did before I picked the book up – there didn’t seem to be a thread tying things together or even relating one vignette to another (I’m thinking of Sy Montgomery’s Birdology as a polar opposite). There were tangents that I would have liked to have seen pursued: Laufer touches on the internal mechanisms of metamorphosis and moves on quickly saying, in effect, “it’s an area scientists are still investigating.” Interview a few more scientists? Try to do some science writing? The writing itself is a bit of an issue. It’s published by Lyons Press – if this is the current incarnation of Nick Lyons’ operation, I’m saddened. “And in a box padded with wads of tissue paper for padding…” Ouch. “Item: ‘Take the Lunesta 7-Night Challenge,’ offers an advertisement for a sleeping pill. A floating butterfly illustrates the ad.” The Lunesta (hmm, what might the root word be?) mascot is a large green night-flying lepidopteran. I wouldn’t give Laufer (and the Lyons editors) so much grief but a couple pages earlier he dismisses the other fliers, “I was not seeking dragonflies or even moths. My target was butterflies.” The situation is made even worse by the “Item:” immediately preceding, which mentions -wait for it- a Luna Moth! Sorry. Thumbs down.

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Next on the bookshelf, Klea McKenna’s The Butterfly Hunter. Klea’s father, Terrence, collected butterflies in Southeast Asia and South America in the late 60′s and early 70′s.  The few words and many beautiful images in this book do much to illuminate the desire and the remorse of the hunter. Highly recommended – and Terrence deserves a series of posts as well.

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From the emotional, we move to the practical. Way back at the beginning of the Lepidopteran info storm, @debcha twote a link to Mechanisms of structural colour in the Morpho butterfly. I remember reading a bit about Morpho color a long time ago in The Splendor of Iridescence, but it was a long time ago and retention is an issue. The linked article is technical, but interesting nevertheless.  There’s a cool interplay between structure and underlying color going on in a Morpho‘s wing – makes me want to watch some flutter about.

A side note – I think this xkcd applies pretty well to me (and @debcha thinks it might accurately characterize her as well).

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And I’ll close out this already overlong post (tl;dr) with some amazing work. I’ve seen some of Paul Schmookler’s butterfly and full-dress Atlantic salmon fly pieces in person and they are stunning.

“An extraordinary display of butterfly and fly by Paul Schmookler, thought by many who have viewed this gifted American artist’s work to be the king of the ‘extreme’ full-dressed salmon fly. Measuring 17 1/2″ x 13″ overall, the gold painted wood frame houses two sunken mounts, the upper with an actual vibrant green/black Trogonoptera brookiana butterfly, a species native to Malaysia, and the lower, a striking 3 1/8″ salmon fly with corresponding colors. The remarkable fly is an original creation of Schmookler’s, tied for the consignor’s collection. In excellent condition throughout, signed on the bottom right. A rare opportunity to own an example of Schmookler’s genius with feather and thread, as this master tyer’s work seldom comes to auction.”

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And one more fly – not butterfly-linked, but I can’t resist.

Lampwork insects

Let’s combine  two recent themes: internet-as-connection-engine and internet-as-repository-of-just-about-anything-imaginable! Last night Wesley Fleming favorited some of my photographs of the Blaschka’s work; as I always do, I backtracked to see what sorts of things he’d posted to Flickr. Turns out he’s an amazing lampworker himself. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that folks were still making lampworked representations of nature – my ex (among many artistic talents) made beautiful lampwork beads. I’ll put it down to the impossibility  of successfully thinking from a fire hose; there’s so much cool stuff going on that keeping up with all of it just ain’t going to happen.

Some of Mr. Fleming’s work:

We’ll start with a favorite – a leafcutter ant (timely, too – there’s been a link to a leafcutter nest casting and excavation making the rounds).

Atta (leafcutter ant)

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Japanese Hornet.

Vespa mandarinia (Japanese hornet)

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And a variety of stag beetle that’s, as far as I know, new to science, Lucanus alces – the Moose Beetle.

Lucanus alces (moose beetle)

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It strikes me that thumbnail dart frogs might make good lampwork subjects. Quite a few of them have a very shiny, almost metallic, body color with dark spots or blotches seeming to float above in a separate layer.