Welcome to Mike's World.
Hi, I'm Mike Davis. I like to build things. Here you will find links to,and in-depth
explanations of, all my interesting (I think) projects, hobbies, how-to's and pastimes.

Click on a photo to go to that section, or read blog entries below.

Gold Prospecting and Gold Panning
Gold Prospecting
Me and my 17.5 inch Dobsonian telescope
Astronomy and Telescope Building

Miscellaneous Projects
Miscellaneous Projects
Cooking and recipes

A home-built jet engine made from junkyard parts
Homebuilt Jet Engine
Travel and vacation photos
Travel & Vacations
Home-built electricity generating wind turbine
Wind Power
Linux advocacy
My home-built solar panels
My home-built solar panels

So what's new in my life?

Click here to read newer posts.

Here is a video of my home-built vacuum forming setup in operation. Here I am making plastic molds out of the mold pins I machined on our Kolabatron home-made CNC router. A video of machining the mold pins can be found lower down on this page. The vacuum forming rig was put together very inexpensively out of essentially scrap material in only a few hours, but it works great. Anyone needing to get into vacuum forming should be able to duplicate my setup pretty easily. Check it out.

My finished 12.5 inch diameter honeycomb-back telescope mirror. 03/23/13
I have finally finished the figuring of my first home-made honeycomb back mirror. It took me quite a while. The fast focal ratio of f/4.5 and dealing with plate glass, and trying to prevent print-through of the honeycomb pattern on the back necessitated re-learning everything I thought I knew about figuring mirrors. I got nowhere with a full-size lap and had to use a variety of sub-diameter, light-weight laps to finally get the figure better than 1/4 wave of green light without any print-through.

It is not the smoothest mirror I have ever made, but this blank had some issues. I am making much better blanks these days. This is really just a a proof of concept mirror, to make sure these honeycomb-back, light-weight mirror blanks I am making can actually be figured without print-through problems. As you can see from the focogram, there is no trace of print-through. The two strange artifacts in the focogram are air bubbles just under the surface of the glass that broke through during grinding and polishing. This blank has a lot of air bubbles in it. I ground into a lot of them while grinding and polishing the mirror, probably making the finished mirror unusable. I am making blanks with far fewer bubbles these days. I wanted to try to finish this mirror since it was a worst-case scenario.

Even though it isn't the prettiest mirror to come out of the SPAC Mirror Lab, I am very happy with it. It gives me confidence that the better quality mirror blanks I am making now, and the even better ones I will be making in the future, can be ground, polished and figured into excellent telescope mirrors. I also now know how to do it.

I get emails almost every day from people asking me if I will sell them one of my honeycomb mirror blanks. Unfortunately, I am not mass-producing these blanks at present. I still consider myself to be in the R&D phase of casting these mirror blanks. Once I feel that the process is perfected, and the quality of the blanks improves to my satisfaction, I may offer some for sale.

Rough grinding my 12.5 inch honeycomb-back telescope mirror. 03/23/13
Here is a photo of the above honeycomb mirror taken during the grinding process. More photos of the casting, grinding, polishing and figuring processes involved in creating this mirror can be found further down on this page or more detailed info is here.

Click the photo for a larger view.

A photo of comet PanSTARRS. 03/17/13
I got another photo of comet PanSTARRS last night. This time I caught it just outside the front door of the workshop I share with my brother. It didn't stay above the trees for long. The conditions were better than at the beach a few nights ago. There was a lot less haze and the comet was brighter, making for a better photo. Having trees in the foreground also improves the composition. There was nothing available for foreground at the beach. I used exactly the same setup as below, but the exposure was shorter, about 2 seconds, because it was brighter without all the haze.

Click the photo for a larger view.

A photo of comet PanSTARRS. 03/15/13
I got this shot of comet PanSTARRS last night on Madeira Beach at the old Snack Shack. There was quite a turn out of SPACers and the general public for the comet watch. I used my $3 yardsale find telescope, on my Bogen tripod, with my Nikon D5100 camera body at prime focus for a 3 second exposure. It was quite hazy on the western horizon and we never did manage to see the comet naked-eye. After finding it with binoculars, I trained my Cookie Jar telescope on it to give members of the public a view of it. Then I fired off a few shots with the camera.

Here is a video of The Kolabatron home-made CNC router my brother and I built cutting a hexagonal mold pin out of wood. The Kolabatron is really working well these days. I am really getting the hang of G-Code.

An edge grinding machine for telescope mirror blanks. 2/19/13
I've been casting my own telescope mirror blanks for several years now. I finally decided it was time to build a machine to help me grind the edges of the blanks true and round. This is my home-built edge grinding machine for grinding down my home-cast mirror blanks.

Click to see the whole project.

DOB Valley at the OBS Star Party. 2/12/13
Just got back from the 2013 Orange Blossom Special Star Party. The weather was fantastic this year. Only a little rain at the beginning, then lots of clear skies and mild temps. We had 2 1/2 nights of excellent observing, good times, good people and good food. Here is a photo of "DOB Valley" where some of the largest scopes at the event clustered together. My 17.5 on its equatorial platform is on the right. Allen Maroney's 18 is on the left, and Ralph Craig's 16 is in the middle. This photo was taken just before sunset on the last night of the star party, which also turned out to be the best night of all, with few mosquitoes, hardly any dew, and very clear skies all night.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Figuring with students at the SPAC Mirror Lab. 2/04/13
Here is a photo of myself demonstrating telescope mirror figuring to visiting students at the SPAC Mirror Lab. I am working on one of my home-cast honeycomb mirror blanks using sub-diameter laps. The mirror is in the final stages of figuring and nearly done.

Click the photo for a larger view.

3 coconut palm trees on the beach in Cozumel Mexico. 2/03/13
It took me a while, but here is a photo from our recent cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. Work has just been crazy since I got back, so there hasn't been any time to post photos from the cruise. We had a great time. It was a fantastic cruise. We sailed on the Royal Caribbean ship Jewel of the Seas out of Tampa to Cozumel Mexico. In Cozumel we hired a tour guide, who is an American living in Cozumel. She took us all over the island and showed us a lot of wonderful sights. She took us to lots of places that most tourists never see. This photo was taken on a beautiful beach on the East side of the island. We were the only tourists there. It was my first cruise. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't think it will be my last cruise.

Click the photo for a larger view.

A Raspberry Pi based all in one computer. 1/09/13
Here is my first completed project of the new year. It is a Raspberry Pie based all in one computer. It was easy and fun to build. It neatens up my Raspberry Pi computer, and makes experimenting with it a lot easier. It looks quite sleek and professional too, if I do say so myself. Check it out.

Click to go to the project.

The CNC router my brother and I have been building is essentially complete. We are now in the process of dialing in the settings on it, and learning how to use various CAD software packages. We have done some very successful test cuts with the machine. The machine has also acquired a name. My brother named it the Kolabatron, in honor of it being a collaboration between the two of us. I have big plans for this machine. It will be used for creating lots of things, and aid in completing lots of future projects, many of which will eventually be featured on this web site. Here is a short video of the machine in operation cutting some test patterns in hard foam. I give a little narration at the end.

The Maroon Bells near Aspen, colorado 11/09/12
I have finally uploaded photos and a writeup of my September vacation to Arizona, Utah and Colorado to the vacation photos section of my web site. I have been very busy since I got back, and this job kept getting pushed onto the back burner. I love my Nikon D5100 camera. I took a lot of photos with it on this trip, (literally thousands), but have only posted a select few with verbose descriptions. This Photo is of the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Pressing a sub-diameter lap. 10/8/12
Here is a strange sight seen at the SPAC Mirror Lab. Paul was pressing a sub-diameter lap under his big 16 inch mirror.

Work on my own mirror has been slow. I have been away from the lab for a while. There have also been several false starts to the figuring that have resulted in me either digging a hole in the middle of the mirror, or turning down the edge badly. I may need to resort to sub-diameter laps to finish my figuring too.

Click the photo for a larger view.

I spent some time in Colorado on this last Western vacation. It was cloudy and rainy most of the time I was there. So I decided to take some time-lapse movies of the clouds. This is one of the movies. It was shot at Cache Creek Park, and compresses 33 minutes of weather into 50 seconds (40x real time). It shows clouds and fog forming and boiling over green mountains veined with golden aspen.

I'm back from my latest vacation to Arizona, with stops in Utah and Colorado. Pictures and a description of the trip will be posted to the Vacation Photos section of the web site soon. Here is a short video of humming birds at my feeder on my Arizona Property. I had a lot of them on this trip.

My cabin on my Arizona property 09/10/12
I finally have a cabin on my remote Arizona property. I love it! No more living in a tent when I am out here. No more hauling camping equipment all the way across the country. I've spent my first few nights in it and I simply love it. The cabin is totally prefabricated. It is on skids. They slid it off the back of the delivery truck, attached wheels on one side of it, picked up the other side with a mini forklift with big fat tires that could roll through the sand, and moved it into place. They put it within inches of the flags I had used to mark out the position of the cabin on an earlier vacation. Once in place they leveled it up and blocked it in place. The whole process took less than two hours. Not counting the time it took me to make an 18 foot wide opening in the fence to allow the truck through and then fix the fence again after the truck left, and before any cows could wander onto my property. I am very happy. Next comes an observatory.

Click the photo for a larger view.

A fairy ring of mushrooms on my front lawn. 07/18/12
All the rain we have had lately has prompted the sprouting of a (somewhat ragged) fairy ring of mushrooms in my front yard. For those not familiar with fairy rings, check out the Wikipedia article on fairy rings at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy_ring. The ring seems to be centered roughly on the corner of the planter to the right of the sidewalk. That explains why the grass in this area of the yard has been so anemic and yellow looking compared to the rest of the yard. Grass inside fairy rings often doesn't grow well because the mass of underground fungus has depleted the soil of nutrients. It looks like another, smaller ring may be popping up in the background, to the right of my bird feeders. It's too swampy back there right now to walk back and get a closer look. I don't want to ruin my shoes.

Click the photo for a larger view.

My home-cast 12.5 inch diameter, light-weight, honeycomb-back telescope mirror on the Robotic Foucault testing stand. The door to the Foucault testing tunnel is opened allowing ambient light to back-light the mirror, causing the honeycomb structure of the mirror to appear and show through. When the door is closed, the honeycomb structure completely disappears. No print-through problems. The mirror is quite oblate at this stage of polishing. Air currents stirred up by opening and closing the door are quite visible. A very neat little video. It was taken by my friend Allen with a hand-held video camera aimed at the Foucault tester monitor.

Today I have completed 48 orbits around the Sun.

The Venus transit was a total washout here in West Central Florida. I'm glad I got to see the one eight years ago. Too bad I couldn't arrange my vacation to be in Arizona for both the eclipse and the transit. Here is a newspaper article about the rained out event. It features a photo that includes me, and some of my astronomy buddies on Madeira Beach.

I have made another modification to my home-built wind turbine generator. I have added a professional-looking nose cone to it. It was a quick and easy modification that not only makes the turbine look better, I think it even works better, and generates more electricity. There are photos and a complete description of the modification near the bottom of the wind turbine page. Here is a brief video of the new and improved wind turbine in operation.

A contact sheet of photos from the 2012 annular eclipse. 05/21/12
Here is a contact sheet of the photos I took of yesterday's annular eclipse. They were taken at Canyon De Chelly National Monument in Northeastern Arizona. I was right on the exact centerline of the eclipse and had about 4 minutes of the "Ring of Fire" effect at mid eclipse. I was set up in the Spider Rock overlook parking area. The camera was a Nikon D5100 with an 800mm lens and an Astrozap solar filter. The altitude was about 7000 feet and the sky was perfectly clear. The full size photos show sunspots. I'll post a few of those later. I have video too. I'll post it later also. I also have hundreds of great photos of Canyon De Chelly and the nearby Chuska mountains. The whole trip was an amazing experience. I have posted a few of the high resolution photos to the vacation photos section of the web site.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Spider Rock at Canyon De Chelly National Monument. 05/21/12
Here is a photo of Spider Rock at Canyon De Chelly National Monument. It is hard to grasp the scale of it from the photo. Spider Rock towers 750 feet above the canyon floor. If you look closely you can see the river bed and a jeep trail on the floor of the canyon. That helps add scale to the photo. The canyon is huge! This photo only covers a small section of it.

Believe it or not, I have never been to Canyon De Chelly before. I have always wanted to see it, but never managed to get there in all my trips to Arizona. With the centerline of the eclipse passing right over Canyon De Chelly, I made sure I got there this year. I have hundreds more photos of the area, and the nearby Chuska Mountains. I have posted some, with a write-up about this trip to the vacation photos section of the web site.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Me on my Arizona property with three of my creations. 05/21/12
Here is a photo of me on my Arizona property with three of my creations. My home-built solar panel, my Cookie Jar telescope, and my home-made wind turbine in the background. I had a great time staying on my remote property. I had plenty of power for writing this and uploading photos, thanks to the wind turbine and solar panel. I had 100% clear nights for star gazing with my "little" Cookie Jar telescope. I brought it this time, rather than the big 17.5 inch DOB, just to travel a little lighter on this trip. This 8in f/4.5 scope provides amazing, wide-field views under my pristine sky. I stayed up late observing nearly every night. What a great vacation.

Click the photo for a larger view.

My 12.5 inch honeycomb-back telescope mirror on the Foucault test stand. 04/17/12
I have begun polishing my home-made, 12.5 inch, honeycomb-back telescope mirror. Here is the mirror on the SPAC Mirror Lab Robo Foucault Test stand after only one hour of polishing. The mirror looks nice and polished to the untrained eye, but it still has a very long way to go to have a good polish and be a good sphere, then it has to be figured into a parabola. We decided to do a Foucault test on it just for giggles, and to see if the ribs on the back of the mirror print through.

The 1st focogram of my 12.5 inch honeycomb-back telescope mirror. Here is the 1st focogram after only one hour of polishing. Its ugly at this early stage, but the good news is that the ribs on the back of the mirror are not printing through. Yahoo! That was the thing I was most worried about. I think I can actually figure this mirror. There are two blemishes caused by large sub-surface bubbles that are distorting the surface of the glass. It will be interesting to see what happens with them as I continue polishing and figuring.

Rough grinding my 12.5 inch honeycomb-back telescope mirror. 04/08/12
The fine grinding is finally done on my 12.5 inch diameter prototype honeycomb mirror that I cast myself. Now I get to start polishing. Soon I will know what sort of figure this mirror design will take. Stay tuned for future updates.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Build your own small wind power system. 03/31/12
My home-built wind turbine system has received an extensive write-up in a new book on how to Build Your Own Small Wind Power System. The author contacted me months ago asking permission to include some of my photos and information from my wind turbine web site in an upcoming book. I get this sort of request a lot. Usually they will just publish a photo or two and write a short blurb about my system. I just received a complementary review copy of the finished book. This time the author devoted about four pages to describing what I am doing, and made several other mentions of me in the book, with nice links back to my web site. It is a great book too, and not just because I am in it. It is chock full of useful information for anyone who is thinking about getting into wind power.

Click the photo for more information.

My home-built ramp/soak kiln controller project. 03/27/12
I have finally uploaded a write-up on how I built my 8-segment ramp/soak kiln controller project to my Misc. Projects page. I completed the controller about eight months ago, but have been too busy to post any information about it until now. Check it out.

Click the photo to see more.

Rough grinding is complete for my 12.5 inch honeycomb-back telescope mirror. 03/03/12
Rough grinding is complete for my 12.5 inch honeycomb-back telescope mirror that I cast myself. The rough grinding went pretty quickly and painlessly this time. I only have maybe 12 hours of actual work in the mirror so far. It's hard to believe, but the rough grinding has removed over a pound of glass. The mirror now weighs in at only only 8 pounds 15 ounces. Incredible! The curve is still 3 thousandths of an inch too shallow, but I can make that up with the finer grits as I clean up the surface finish. I did hit a couple of bubbles in the blank, as I feared would happen. So the mirror will have a few minor pock-marks on the surface. Grinding deeper to get past the bubbles isn't really an option since there are others further down. Time to move on to finer grits. I'll post more updates as the fine grinding progresses.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Rough grinding my 12.5 inch honeycomb-back telescope mirror. 02/15/12
I have started the process of rough grinding my 12.5 inch honeycomb-back mirror blank. I am aiming for an f/4.5 mirror when it is finished. This is a mirror blank I cast myself in my kiln. It will be interesting to see how well it takes a figure and if or how much the back pattern prints through. It will probably be several months at least before I am finished with the grinding, polishing and figuring, depending on how much time I have to work on it. I will post updates as the mirror progresses.

Click the photo for a larger view.

The 10 inch mirror completed and aluminized. 02/04/12
Here is my finished 10 inch mirror just back from aluminizing. It is a thing of beauty, if I do say so myself. This mirror was made from one of the mirror blanks I cast myself in my kiln. I ground and polished it myself too. The next time someone asks me if I made my own mirror, boy do I have a story to tell them.

Click the photo for a larger view.

The 12.5 in hexagonal-back, honeycomb mirror blank next to a solid mirror blank. 01/30/12 - Here is the below 12.5 inch diameter honeycomb-back mirror blank after final edge trimming. It is side-by-side with a solid 12.5 inch blank of the same 1.5 inch thickness that I also cast in my kiln. The honeycomb blank weighs 10 lbs 3.6 oz. The solid blank weighs 17 lbs 10.4 oz. The honeycomb mirror is 42% lighter. I think I might be able to get close to a 50% reduction in weight with just some slight tweaking of the design. I have added a write-up on how I made this blank in the Scopeworks section of the web site.

Click the photo for a larger view.

The 12.5 in hexagonal-back, honeycomb mirror in the kiln. 01/10/12 - This is my third try at making a light-weight, hexagonal-back or honeycomb mirror blank, still cooking in the kiln. It is 12.5 inches in diameter. I think I got it right this time. The mold is intact. Everything looks good at this stage. Next came three days of annealing and slow cool-down.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Cleaning out the pockets of the 12.5 in hexagonal back mirror. After the blank had finally cooled down to ambient, I took it out of the kiln, and removed the outer mold. Then it was time to start cleaning the plaster out of the hexagons and partial hexagons. A very messy and delicate job.

Click the photo for a larger view.

The nearly finished 12.5 in honeycomb back mirror. Here is the honeycomb back of the cleaned out mirror blank. The blank is a little over 12.5 inches in diameter and slightly irregular. I need to turn it round and get the diameter down to size on my grinder. The blank is 1.5 inches thick. The pockets are 1 inch deep. There is .5 inch of glass left on the front face for grinding a curve. It weighs only 10lbs, 9.5oz at this point. It will loose a little more weight on the grinder. It's not perfect. There are a few tiny air bubbles that may be close enough to the front surface to be encountered while grinding. Otherwise, I am very pleased with it.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Finished mirror focogram. 12/23/11 - The 10 inch mirror project is finally complete. I cast this mirror myself in my kiln. This photo is a focogram of the finished mirror. The mirror is very smooth and well polished. The shape in the focogram shows the classic losenge or red blood cell shape of a parabolic mirror. It has been a long eight month odyssey from kiln to figuring. Now it is finally off for aluminizing.

Finished mirror surface error analysis. Here is an image of the finished mirror surface error analysis from the FigureXP program we use with our Robo-Foucault mirror tester. The wave front error is better than 1/6th wave (in green light), and the Strehl Ratio is 0.938. Not too shabby. I decided to call the mirror finished at this point, rather than try for an even more perfect figure and risk screwing it up. This is still better than many mass-produced mirrors. Besides, much of the remaining error in the mirror is in the center, and will be shaded by the secondary mirror anyway. So the mirror should perform even better than 1/6th wave.

Now all I have to do is build a telescope to mount it in. That is going to be the easy part though, compared to the 8 month odyssey of grinding, polishing and figuring the mirror. In fact, making this mirror was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Strangely though, I can't wait to do it again. I have bigger and better blanks coming out of my kiln these days. I think I will be doing another mirror very soon.

Click the photo for a larger view.

Sunset from Lido Beach. 11/23/11 - Here is a photo I took about a month ago, but just now got around to posting. This sunset photo over the Gulf was taken from the balcony of our suite on the 12th floor of the Lido Beach Resort. We spent a long weekend there and had a great time.

Click the photo for a larger image.

10/3/11 - I have finally gotten around to posting photos and a description of my recent business trip to Santa Barbara California on my Travel and Vacation Photos page. Check it out.

Figuring my 10 inch mirror. 10/2/11 - Work has been keeping me very busy lately. There has been little time for my side projects. However, I have managed to do some figuring on my 10 inch mirror I am making from one of my home-cast mirror blanks. Here I am, pushing glass on my pitch lap, with cerium oxide stained fingers.

I have worked the mirror to within 1.75 waves (in green light) of a perfect parabola. I still need to make an almost order of magnitude improvement to get to the magic 1/4 wave diffraction limit. The process now gets slower and more delicate. There will be fewer rounds of figuring with various strokes to work specific areas of the mirror, immediately followed by Foucault tests to check progress. I hope to eventually exceed 1/4 wave with this mirror. Unfortunately I will probably be too busy to do any more work on it for a couple of weeks.

Click the photo for a larger image.

Standing on the San Andreas Fault. 8/28/11 - Standing on the Faultline - I just got back from yet another business trip to California. This time though, I arrived on Saturday and the business didn't start until Monday. So I had the weekend to goof-off and explore. One place I went was the Carrizo Plain. One of the few places where the San Andreas Fault is very visible at the surface of the ground. This unassuming crease in the ground is the fault line. This will be ground zero for the "Big One" when it happens.

The North American Plate is on the left, and the Pacific Plate is on the right. Interestingly, I am roughly 60 miles inland here, but still standing on the Pacific Plate. All the material seaward of the fault line is material that had been riding on the Pacific Plate and has been accreted onto North America as the Pacific plate grinds past and subducts under the North American Plate. The material is mainly marine sediments that are folded and raised high above sea level by the collision. I'm a geology geek. Can you tell?

More photos and a description of this trip have been posted to my Travel and Vacation Photos page.

Click the photo for a larger image.

A 12.5 inch waffle-back telescope mirror blank. 7/22/11 - Here is my second attempt at casting a large, light-weight mirror blank. It is again a 12.5 inch diameter, 1.5 inch thick blank that has been lightened by casting it over a plaster mold with many peaks sticking up, which created pockets in the back of the blank. This time everything went well in the kiln. The blank looks amazing after edging. It weighs just under 12 lbs. My next experiment will be with hexagonal shaped pockets to further lighten the mirror. I call this the Waffle-Back process, because the resulting mirror blank looks like a big waffle.

Click the photo for a larger image.

A 12.5 inch waffle-back telescope mirror blank. 7/22/11 - Here is the back side of the 12.5 inch diameter light-weight mirror. The pockets are 1 inch in diameter and about 7/8 inch deep. There is a little over 1/2 inch of solid glass left on the front surface for grinding the curve. You can see more about how I cast light-weight mirror blanks on my Waffle-Back Mirror Blank page.

Click the photo for a larger image.

7/05/11 - I am selling stuff on Ebay again after a several month hiatus. I figured I better list a few things soon to maintain my Power Seller status, and clear out some junk that has accumulated. Check out my auctions if you are interested.

A 12.5 inch waffle-back telescope mirror blank. 7/05/11 - Here is my first attempt at casting a large, light-weight mirror blank. It is a 12.5 inch diameter, 1.5 inch thick blank that has been lightened by casting it over a plaster mold with many peaks sticking up, which created pockets in the back of the blank. It isn't perfect. The dam around the edge of the mold broke and molten glass ran out ruining one side of the front surface. So the blank isn't usable. But it was a good learning experience. The next one will be better. You can see more about how I cast mirror blanks on my Laminated Glass Mirror Blank page. Information on this light-weight process will be added to the page soon.

The mirror blank looks like a big waffle. Click the photo for a larger image.

A 14.5 inch telescope mirror blank made in my new kiln. 6/20/11 - I have just completed my first 14.5 inch diameter telescope mirror blank in my new, larger kiln. It is 1.5 inches thick and weighs 20 lbs, 10 oz. Check out my Laminated Glass Mirror Blank page (near the bottom of the page) to see how I made it.

A pronghorn antelope in Valley of Fires State Park. 6/13/11 - I have posted a selection of photos from my recent vacation to Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado on my Travel and Vacation Photos page. Check them out.

Polishing my 10in f/5 telescope mirror. 6/12/11 - I have finally moved on to polishing my 10in f/5 mirror. You can see the pitch polishing lap behind the mirror. After only about 1 hour total polishing time, the surface is starting to take on a nice shine. Working on the mirror for only a few hours, one day a week at the SPAC Mirror Lab, I probably still have a month and a half or so to go before the polishing and figuring is finished and the mirror is ready for aluminizing. I made the blank for this mirror myself in my kiln.

6/07/11 - While I was on my recent vacation, I once again spent time camping on my remote Arizona property. I got to test out modifications I have made to my home-built wind turbine. I have installed new blades that I bought on the internet. These blades are sold as replacements for the Air-X series commercially made wind turbines. They are more efficient than my home-made blades, and start up in lower wind speeds. I have also increased the tail area of the turbine since these new blades are both heavier and have more surface area than than my home-made blades. Check out the video for more information on the modifications.

The new and improved wind turbine really works great. It is now producing much more power, and working in lighter winds than before.

The Black Hole in Los Alamos. 6/06/11 - I just got back from a great 2 week vacation in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. I went lots of neat places and did lots of great stuff. I'll post lots more photos soon. Here is one neat place I went. It is a true geek Mecca. It is The Black Hole in Los Alamos, NM. I've wanted to go there for years. They sell surplus material from the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the nuclear bomb was developed. They have acres of fascinating material from 60+ years of nuclear weapons development. I could spend days exploring this place. Unfortunately, I only had a few hours there. I bought some neat stuff and had a great time. I'll have to get back there again someday and explore it in depth.

My Extech MS420: 20MHz 2-Channel Digital Oscilloscope. 5/19/11 - The prize I won for my winning entry in the 555 Design Contest has finally arrived. Surprise! They upgraded me to the MS420: 20MHz 2-Channel Digital Oscilloscope from the monochrome 5 MHz model I actually won. Sweet! It is a Dual-channel Oscilloscope with 3.8" color LCD display. It also came in a really nice aluminum carrying/storage case and a ton of accessories. I love it.

My new recirculating sluice box. 5/17/11 - Check out my new and improved sluice or highbanker. I acquired a commercially made sluice, and with some quick and easy modifications made it into a recirculating sluice. I can't wait to try it out on my next trip to the gold fields out West.

My new skut model 181 kiln. 5/11/11 - I have acquired a larger kiln. It is a Skutt model 181 kiln. It is an older model, but it is in pretty good condition, and it works great. I found it on Craig's list. Some nice people only a couple of miles away were selling it, and lots of accessories too, at a very reasonable price. This kiln is built in three sections that stack on top of each other. I am only using two sections here, so the kiln isn't so deep and difficult to load and unload. I can't wait to try making larger mirror blanks in this kiln. I can do 12.5 and 14.5 diameter blanks in it easily, and should be able to make up to 16 inch blanks with some difficulty. Let the mirror madness begin.

4/29/11 - The 555 Design Contest has finally started handing out prizes. I won an Extech Multiscope. It was the one prize I really wanted and could put to good use. Sweet! I can't wait for it to arrive.

4/20/11 - I just found out my 555 based solar charge controller won first place in the Utility category of The 555 Design Contest!!!!! I'm amazed after seeing the other entries. I figured I would be lucky to get honorable mention. Yahooooo!

4/17/11 - I have now completed grinding with 60, 80 and 120 grits. The mirror is coming along nicely. I'd post another photo, but the mirror looks pretty much the same as at the end of the initial rough grinding below. It won't start looking like a nice shiny mirror until I get to the finer grits.

Rough grinding is finished. 4/09/11 - After a marathon grinding session today, the rough grinding on my 10in f/5 mirror is finally done! Yay! I will now be moving on to fine grinding.

Sunset at Carpinteria Beach. 3/29/11 - I have posted some photos and a write-up of my recent business trip to Santa Barbara and Carpinteria California on my Travel and Vacation Photos page. I managed to do a little sight-seeing this time. Check it out.

Starting the grinding on a 10 inch mirror blank. 3/26/11 - I have started grinding one of my home-made 10in glass blanks. Here is an action shot of me, pushin' glass. Click for a larger view.

Starting the grinding on a 10 inch mirror blank. I am aiming for an f/5 mirror. This is the result at the end of the first day's work at the SPAC Mirror Lab. The blank has been beveled and the rough grinding is not quite half done. It is 0.054 inch deep in the center. It needs to get to 0.125 inch. At least one more day of hard, rough grinding will be necessary to get it there. Boy am I sore. Pushing glass is hard. It works muscles I haven't used much lately. Click the photo for a larger view. See more about how I make my own mirror blanks on my laminated fused glass telescope mirror blanks page.

3/18/11 - I just found out that my 555 based charge controller design entry has moved on the the second round of judging in two categories of the 555 Timer Design Contest. Wish me luck.

3/18/11 - I just got back very late last night from another business trip to Santa Barbara, CA. Unlike the last trip out there, this trip was a little less rushed and grueling. We actually managed to do a little sight-seeing. The place is amazingly beautiful. It's early spring and everything is green and blooming. Naturally I took lots of photos. I'll post some of them in the Travel and Vacation Photos section of the web site soon.

My first laminated 10 inch mirror blank. 2/28/11 - I have Posted some updates to my laminated fused glass telescope mirror blanks page. I have greatly improved (dare I say perfected?) the process of making 10 inch blanks. I am now turning out good looking and full thickness 10 inch blanks.

2/23/11 - I have re-organized the web site a little bit, and added a Miscellaneous Projects section.

2/21/11 - I have just entered my new charge controller design into the 555 Timer Design Contest. Wish me luck.

My first laminated 10 inch mirror blank. 2/20/11 - I have just completed making my first 10 inch mirror blank. Here you can see it with one of my older 8 inch blanks sitting on top of it. It's not perfect. The 10 inch blank has a few rather serious chips. These are from the glass sticking to the mold. I had some other issues with the mold too. I am in the process of making a better mold before doing any more 10 inch blanks. Check out how I make these blanks on my laminated fused glass telescope mirror blanks page.

My new solar / wind charge controller design. 2/17/11 - I have just posted a re-design of my wind and solar charge controller. This is a project I have been working on for a while. I wanted to re-design it due to the huge volume of emails I get from people who are having problems trying to build a copy of the controller. I wanted to simplify the charge controller circuit, lower the part count, and use easier to find parts. I think I succeeded on all counts. Check it out.

Another 8 inch telescope mirror blank I made in my kiln. 1/12/11 - I have finally posted my procedure for making laminated fused glass telescope mirror blanks, like this one, in the telescope building section of my web site. Check it out.

1/12/11 - Here is a video I made that shows how I cut circles out of thick glass. I made a video a while back showing how to cut circles out of thin glass. When I tried to cut some thick glass though, my thin glass cutting technique didn't work. I had to learn how to cut circles all over again. So, for anyone who needs to cut circles out of thick glass, this is how it is done.

An 8 inch telescope mirror blank I made in my kiln. 12/16/10 - This is by far my best yet telescope mirror blank. It is a nearly full thickness 8 inch diameter blank made by fusing together 4 disks of 1 1/8 thickness glass in my kiln. I then trued up the edge on a grinder and put it back in the kiln for a fire polish. It turned out beautiful. It has a few chips in the edge, which I hope to eliminate in future blanks. It also has some bubbles, but they are deep enough inside that the sagittal depth of even a fast mirror should not get half way to them. I am really starting to get the hang of this glass fusing business. The only big problem I am still having is with the annealing process. My kiln, even on it's lowest setting just runs way too hot, and cools down way too quickly when shut down, to do a proper annealing cycle on thick slabs of glass like this piece. It has a lot of internal stress, way too much for a telescope mirror. I am in the process of building a new temperature controller for the kiln that will allow me to run it at much lower temperatures for an anneal soak, and then ramp the temperature down very slowly to properly anneal the blanks.

12/15/10 - I have finally posted my recipe for dill pickles in the cooking section of my web site. They are good! Give the recipe a try.

11/27/10 - Another test run of the gasifier. This was a test run to see if my recent modifications reduced the tar production. There does seem to be an improvement. I have posted a more complete explanation of the modifications on my biomass gasifier web page.

11/24/10 - I have finally gotten around to posting photos from our October vacation to Georgia on my vacation photos page. It was a great trip. We really needed a vacation, and this one was perfect.

11/20/10 - I got in some more work on my biomass gasifier today. For those of you following this project, no, I haven't abandoned it. I've just been busy with other things. I spent today working on trying to plug any potential leaks that would allow tar to escape from the reaction tube without first passing through the hot combustion and reduction zones. I'll do another run in a week or two to see if the tar situation has improved any. I have been thinking a lot about further modifications and improvements I want to make. I am trying to decide whether to continue modifying my current unit, or start working on a new one and incorporate everything I have learned so far into it at the start, then use it as a basis for further experimentation. Decisions, decisions.

11/18/10 - I have posted updates to my homemade soap recipe. The results of several experiments with the recipe are in. I love my homemade soap. I am so used to it now, that it is hard to use any other soap.

11/18/10 - My recipe for dill pickles is really shaping up. The last batch was really good. I made another batch tonight with minor tweaking of the recipe. If they turn out as good as I hope, I'll post the recipe in the cooking section of my web site soon.

11/9/10 - I've been working on a recipe for dill pickles. I realized a while back that I eat a lot of dill pickles, so why not try to make my own, rather than buying them? The first batch was only OK. So I modified the recipe and tried again. I just tried one from my second batch. Much better. These are pretty good pickles. I'll post the recipe in the cooking section of my web site once I have it perfected.

My best yet attempt at making a telescope mirror blank. 11/7/10 - This is my best yet attempt at making a telescope mirror blank. Just pulled it out of the kiln this morning after it had finally cooled down to only about 100 degrees (it was 1700 degrees last night). It is 6 inches in diameter and not quite 3/4 inches thick. I made it by fusing together a stack of glass disks in my kiln. It turned out very nice, with only a few tiny bubbles and almost no stress. This is starting to look promising.

11/7/10 - I have posted updates to my improvised generator web page page. I have also added a grilling tips section to my cooking web page.

11/7/10 - It's so great to finally get that hour back that the government stole from me back in the spring. I really needed that extra hour of sleep.

Trees changing colors in the Georgia mountains. 11/3/10 - Just got back from a vacation in Georgia. We rented a cabin on the river for a week in Dahlonega, GA. Had a great time. The weather was cool, the leaves were changing, the mountains were amazing. More pictures soon.

slumped and fused glass 10/7/10 - More kiln fun. On the right is a San Pellegrino bottle I slumped in the kiln just for fun. I'll use it as a trivet in my kitchen. On the left is a more significant piece. It is three 6 inch diameter disks of glass fused together into a single thick disk of glass. This is my best yet attempt at making a telescope mirror blank. It has very few air bubbles in it compared to my earlier attempts. I learned a few glass fusing tips from some art glass web sites. By simply adjusting the firing schedule, I was able to minimize the air trapped between the glass layers. The disk is too thin to make a telescope mirror, but it was a good learning experience. I am slowly working up to bigger and better things.

slumped and fused glass Here is a stack of six inch diameter glass disks I cut for experimenting with fusing. I am getting quite good at cutting circles out of glass. It was tricky learning at first, but now that I know the secret, I can cut perfect glass circles all day. I've now turned several large panes of glass into piles of circles. More glass fusing experiments are coming soon.

I got so good at cutting circles out of glass that I decided to film an instructional video on how to do it and put it up on YouTube. Check it out.

My new kiln 10/4/10 - Meet my new favorite toy. It is a Duncan kiln I picked up at a garage sale about a month ago really cheap. I got this kiln for only $95. It probably cost $2000 or more new, and I have seen used ones like this going for almost $1000. Sometimes I really luck out at garage sales. I am going to have a lot of fun experimenting with this kiln. I plan on doing some glass fusing, and metal melting experiments with it. The really great thing is that if I ever get tired of playing with the kiln, I can resell it at a huge profit.

My glass fusing experiments One of my first experiments with the kiln has been fusing glass. I had the idea of possibly making big telescope mirror blanks by fusing together multiple small pieces of glass. Here you see some of my first experiments. I fused a couple of glass disks together. I also fused a stack of microscope slides into a single slab of glass. I also fused a couple of thick rectangles of glass together into a solid slab.

My new kiln Here is a view through the vent hole of the kiln with it cranked up to 1450 F and fusing glass. Super cool! Well, super hot, really.

08/29/10 - I've been spending a lot of time in the workshop lately. I have updated both my improvised generator, and my biomass gasifier web pages with new information. photos and videos.

08/24/10 - My improvised generator now has its very own web site showing exactly how I built and tested the beast.

08/22/10 - Here is the latest creation to come out of my top secret, mad scientist, laboratory. It is an improvised generator built from an old lawn edger and a permanent magnet DC motor. The inspiration behind this generator was to have a way to charge up my battery banks on days when the weather is cloudy and calm, when my solar panels and wind turbine aren't providing much energy. It was a really quick, easy and cheap project. I got the lawn edger for only $5 at a yard sale. The permanent magnet motor came from an auction for another $5. The total cost of the project was only a little over $20! So far I have the output of the generator up to 10 Amps at 12 Volts. Further tinkering may improve that. My eventual goal is to convert the generator to running on wood gas from my biomass gasifier project. Stay tuned for that.

08/20/10 - I have made some changes to my home-made soap recipe and tutorial. I've been tinkering with the recipe, and have made some improvements.

07/21/10 - I have just uploaded my sausage hash recipe to the cooking section of the web site. Check it out if you need a quick and easy meal for dinner tonight.

07/13/10 - I have finally launched the web site dedicated to My Home-Built Biomass Gasifier. The web site tracks the project from initial plans, through several different versions, to present day. Future updates will be added as the project continues to progress.

07/12/10 - Yesterday was my birthday. I had a great day. It was fantastic, from beginning to end. The finishing touch on the day was dinner at La Trattoria Da Gaetano in Dunedin. Oh my God! It was probably the best meal I have ever eaten. There is no menu. Gaetano wheels a cart out and shows you all the cuts of meat, fish and other seafood he has available. He asks you what you like and suggests various options and combinations. You tell him exactly what you want and how you want it done. The result was amazing. I had the Filet mignon (medium rare) with gnocchi in gorgonzola cream sauce. The filet was fork tender and amazingly tasty, but the star of the meal was the gorgonzola cream sauce. I could have lapped up a bowl of it with a spoon like it was soup. The appetizers, salad and desert were also exemplary. The ambiance was great, the service was fantastic, and the food was to die for. We'll definitely be back, and I don't think we'll wait for another birthday to come along before we go.

07/12/10 - Another week, another gasifier video. The gasifier is really working great. I did a timed run over the weekend to see how long it would take to use up a full load of wood pellets. It ran for about 50 minutes. Don't worry though, I won't make you sit through all of it. The video is only a little over 3 minutes long.

07/03/10 - Here is a video progress report on my prototype Biomass Gasifier. I've made a lot of changes, upgrades and improvements over the last couple of months. The gasifier is now working better than I ever hoped it would. Check out the really cool (hot?) video.

07/01/10 - I have finally finished and uploaded my soap making recipe and tutorial. Check it out.

06/15/10 - I have just uploaded a bunch of photos, videos, and a long write-up describing my recent vacation to my vacation photos page. Check it out.

06/08/10 - I just got back from another of my cross-country vacation adventures. I will post lots of photos and videos soon. Right now I am busy trying to get caught up with everything. In the mean time, here is a video of me panning and sluicing for gold in Arizona. I had a lot of fun on this trip!

FastRecipes.com 05/17/10 - The people at Fast Recipes just published an interview they did with me a while back. Check it out.

05/09/10 - Here is a video of my prototype Biomass Gasifier running at night. Now you can really see the flare flame. It was almost invisible in the daylight runs. I am now calling it a biomass gasifier, rather than a wood gasifier because I'm not burning wood in it. At the moment I am burning hay pellets. The gasifier is producing good amounts of flammable gas, and much less tar, especially near the end of the video. All I need now is an engine to pipe this gas into.

My third batch of home-made soap 05/06/10 - I made another batch of soap today. I wanted to see if I could duplicate the great soap I made last time. If this batch turns out to be as good after curing as the last, I'll post the recipe.

04/25/10 - Here is a video of the first major project built in my new workshop space. This is my mini wood gasifier. I finally got it working today. The video shows it producing flammable gas. Eventually I will use it to power a small engine. When I get a chance, I will create a page on this web site devoted to how I built it. Right now though, it is still a work in progress.
Here is another short video showing the burning gas against a black background. The flame is almost invisible. Even though it was very cloudy when this video was shot, the flame is still pretty much totally washed out by the ambient light. I'll need to do another run after dark sometime to get a good video of the flame.

04/07/10 - The second batch of my home-made soap is even better than the first. It has much more lather. The bars are also harder, and don't dissolve away as quickly in the shower. The soap seems to be just as mild and non-drying to my skin as the first batch. I am very happy with it. The next time I make soap I will document the process with photos and post the recipe.

My second batch of home-made soap 03/17/10 - I just finished my second batch of home-made soap. It went easier than the first batch, and looks to have turned out better as well. It isn't covered with white soda ash like the first batch. I made some changes to the recipe and process in an effort to get rid of the soda ash and increase the time I have to get the soap into the mold between "trace" and the time it seizes up. It looks good, but I still have to let it cure for a couple of weeks before I can use it. Then I'll know just how good it really is.

03/11/10 - Last Sunday my girlfriend and I spent a wonderful afternoon exploring the Florida Botanical Gardens. It was the one year anniversary of our first date. It was a rare (for this winter) warm and sunny day, so we decided to spend it outside and enjoy the weather. The gardens had really suffered some serious damage from the record-breaking cold temps this winter. The tropical fruits section was completely destroyed. Many other areas were damaged, but we still had a good time. I especially liked the herb garden. I'm thinking of starting a little (patio size) herb garden myself so I'll have fresh herbs and spices for my cooking. I may post a few pictures from the trip to the vacation photos page when I get a chance. We are planning on going back in the spring when everything is in bloom. The photos then should be spectacular.

03/11/10 - I have just uploaded a new variation on my white bread recipe to the cooking section of the web site. This is a better bread for making sandwiches. Check it out.

03/09/10 - I have just uploaded my chili recipe to the cooking section of the web site. Check it out. I think you'll like it.

03/09/10 - I have been using my homemade soap for a few days now. I have to say I am quite happy with it. As a novice soap maker, I was afraid I had messed it up and there would be either too much un-reacted fat in the soap, or that there would be too much un-reacted lye. I checked the pH of the soap with some pH test strips I bought just for this purpose, and it was at 9 after 2 weeks of curing, which is great. So un-reacted lye isn't a problem. After a couple of showers, the soap seems to work great. There isn't too much un-reacted fat in it. I don't come out of the shower feeling like a greased pig. I come out feeling nice and clean. The lather is less than what I am used to, but the soap seems to do the job. It gets me clean, it isn't overly drying, and I don't smell like a French wh*re like with the overly perfumed commercial soaps. Overall, I'm very happy with my home-made soap.

03/03/10 - I have just uploaded some photos and video from the February 2010 Orange Blossom Special Star Party to my travel and vacation photos page. Check it out.

Home-made soap out of the mold 02/24/10 - I just finished my first ever batch of home-made soap. It was easier to make than I thought. It is my first batch, and things didn't exactly go like clockwork during the process. I'm sure it will go smoother as I gain experience. Here is the large block of soap turned out of the silicone cake pan I used as a mold.

Home-made soap out of the mold Here I have cut the still soft soap block into six big, man-sized bath bars of nearly half a pound each. I didn't include any coloring or fragrances in this initial batch. I just wanted to nail down a good, workable, soap recipe and manufacturing technique before getting fancy with it. Even though all the ingredients used were odorless, the finished soap has a distinctive "soapy" aroma that I remember from the soap my grandparents used when I was a child. I'll take that as a good sign that I did it right.

Home-made soap out of the mold The soap needs to cure for a few weeks before I use it. Then I'll find out if I really did it right. I'll post the recipe and instructions once I have it perfected.

Me cooking at Foodies 02/15/10 - We had a great Valentine's Day. I took the traditional route and gave flowers, a card, candy, and other things. My girlfriend though, came up with a really great and unique gift. I am the first to admit that I am hard to shop for. What do you get the geek that has almost everything, and wants to build the stuff he doesn't have himself? Even I have no idea what I really want. So shopping for me is tough. I can tell she put a lot of thought into it. She knows that cooking is a passion with me, so she signed us up for a cooking class. She kept it a big secret and a real mystery what we were going to do up until the moment we pulled up to the building. It was great fun. We had a really good time, and made a fantastic meal that we got to eat in the end.

02/15/10 - I just got back from the 2010 Orange Blossom Star Party. Here is a video of the 17.5 inch DOB being set up at the Star Party. It takes less than 10 minutes to set up.

02/01/10 - Putting together a gold panning tutorial is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I get a lot of questions from people about how to pan for gold and which kind of gold pan to use. I finally got it done. Go to my gold panning and prospecting page to see more.

1/31/10 - I've been having a lot of fun making movies of all my toys in operation. Here is a video of my homemade recirculating sluice / highbanker in operation. Go to my sluice page to see more, including how I built it.

1/16/10 - Today I pulled out my old jet engine built from junkyard parts out of storage and gave it a run for the first time in years. It needed a few minor repairs and tweaks after sitting around in my garage for years gathering dust and spider webs. In the end though, it started up and ran. Playing with this old engine has given me lots of new ideas for modifications to it. Stay tuned for more. Go to junkyardjet.com to see more.

1/05/10 - Just got back from a long weekend in Miami and the Everglades. Had a great time. The most fun was tearing around the Everglades at insane speeds in an air boat (see video below). I will post details and photos to my travel and vacation photos page when I get the time.

My neat and clean workbench 12/20/09 - Here are some pictures from my new workshop space I have rented. I am finally all moved in. This first picture is my workbench. Note how neat, clean and orderly it is. We'll see how long that lasts. I will probably rapidly degrade once I am hard at work on two or three projects at the same time. I seem to do my best work in a state of near chaos.

There is lots of storage space There is lots of storage space for all my junk raw materials and tools. My garage at home is now so neat and orderly since I have moved all this stuff into the workshop.

my old jet engine There is even room for my old home-built jet engine. It may roar to life again soon. I could never have fired it up at the condo where I live now. The neighbors would have come after me with torches and pitchforks. My workshop is in an industrial area, so noise isn't an issue. I look forward to tinkering with it again.

11/03/09 - I have finally rented some workshop space. Now I will have my very own hacker space to work on projects I've been itching to tackle for a long time. First, I have to transfer all my equipment, tools and supplies from my horribly over-loaded and under-sized garage into the new space, and get it organized. I have a long list of projects I want to work on. Most of them have been on hold for a long time because they are too noisy, smelly, dangerous, or just plain too big to do out of my condo's little garage. The projects will of course be posted here in the future. Stay tuned.

10/21/09 - I have just uploaded my sourdough bread recipe. I have been experimenting with using my own starter from a culture of wild yeast I have created myself

10/21/09 - I have just uploaded my second honey wheat bread recipe. I have been experimenting with the recipe and have come up with something even better than the first recipe.

10/16/09 - I just uploaded the page for my new home-built folding solar panel. I built a second, smaller, 15 Watt panel for when I don't need or want to haul out my bigger 60 Watt home-made solar panel.

10/06/09 - I just uploaded modifications to my my recipe for quick & easy meatloaf. I made meatloaf tonight and compared what I did, to the posted recipe, and found a few typos on the quantities of various ingredients.

10/06/09 - I just got back from a long (over 2 weeks) vacation in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. I've been back for about a week. Now that I am pretty much caught up at work, I have found time to upload some photos and do a write up of the trip over on the vacation photos section of the web site. Check it out. It was a great trip.

09/05/09 - I have just uploaded my recipe for quick & easy meatloaf in the cooking section of the web site. Check it out.

Photo taken of jupiter with a web cam08/30/09 - Last night the St. Petersburg Astronomy Club held a public Jupiter watch at the Pinellas Science Center. I haven't been able to find my old modified astro-webcam since I moved a while back. So yesterday afternoon, before leaving to go to the Science Center, I tore apart an old IBM webcam I got at a yard sale for $1. I discarded the lens and mounted the imager in plastic tube that fits inside a telescope eyepiece holder. At the Observatory behind the Science Center I mounted the camera on the 16 inch telescope and had lots of fun imaging the moon and Jupiter. The atmospheric conditions (seeing) were pretty bad all night long. However, I managed to get a few half-way decent shots of Jupiter by recording video clips and stacking the images with Registax. I'll probably find my old webcam now that I have built a new one. See my astronomy pages for more webcam fun.

Update: Yep, I just found the old camera. Now I have 2.

08/17/09 - I have just uploaded the new main page for the cooking section of the web site, and added a couple of new recipes, including my recipe for quick & easy skillet cornbread. Check it out.

08/15/09 - I have just posted my guide to outfitting a kitchen on the cheap in the cooking section of the web site. Check it out. Soon there will be a landing page for all the cooking related stuff.

07/22/09 - I have just posted my recipe for Waffle House waffles in the rapidly growing cooking section of the web site. Check it out.

07/22/09 - I have been finding a little time lately to do some more work on my 3D printer project. It is a long way from finished. At present I only have two axes working. There will eventually be a third axes in the form of an elevator and a plastic extruder. Here is a video I shot a while back of testing the two axes by mounting a pen on on them and doing a little writing. Basically I have a pen plotter at this point. More will come in the future, including an entire web site devoted to this project. Check out the video.

07/15/09 - My car laptop tray build has been picked up by both hackaday and the make blog, and who knows who else. Visits to the site are through the roof. The hit counter is spinning like crazy. I wouldn't be surprised if this site goes down under the traffic load. Note to self: More car related hacks.

07/15/09 - Have just posted my recipe for tasty honey wheat bread, after getting positive feedback on the original white bread baking how-to. I think there will soon be an entire section of this site devoted to cooking.

07/13/09 - I've been doing a lot of cooking lately. I'm getting pretty good at it too, I've been told. Lately I've had a fascination with baking my own bread. I've finally gotten around to posting a how-to and recipe for baking your own bread, from a techie's perspective. check it out if you are cooking inclined. More recipes will follow in the future.

07/13/09 - Just got back from spending the weekend at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was amazing. Photos will be posted on the travel and vacation photos page soon. What recession? Disney was packed, and it isn't a cheap place to visit.

07/07/09 - I have just about completed a laptop / notebook computer tray for my beloved Toyota Tacoma pickup truck. It was a quick and easy project that really went together well. This design may be able to be adapted to other makes/models of vehicles. Check it out.

07/05/09 - I haven't updated the web site in a while. There have been big changes in my life. I have a new place. I am living on my own again. There is a new lady in my life, and I have been promoted to a management position at the company where I work. They are really keeping me busy at work. Lots of extra responsibility came with the promotion. As (if) time permits, I will try to update the web site a little bit with some of my new projects, and some photos of some of my travels in the last year. Though I am so far behind, that I may never get caught up.

05/14/08 - Our vacation is approaching rapidly. 3 weeks in Arizona and Colorado, camping, prospecting and sight-seeing. I can't wait. I have decided I won't be taking the big 17.5in Dobsonian telescope on this trip. That will save a lot of weight, which will hopefully improve my gas milage on this 5000+ mile trip. Not taking the big DOB and all its support equipment and accessories will also free up a lot of space in the truck for prospecting equipment. Instead I will be taking the 8 inch Cookie Jar telescope. Spent some time over the last couple of days reworking the base of the telescope to make it more rugged. Will update the Cookie Jar web page with the changes when I get a chance.

05/12/08 - The new recirculating sluice is complete. I have posted a write-up about its design and construction here.

04/19/08 - I plan on doing a lot of gold prospecting and mining on this upcoming vacation. The recent high price of gold has prompted me to step up my gold mining endeavors. So I have decided to build myself a recirculating sluice or highbanker to take along. That way I will be able to process more material than I could by panning alone.

03/20/08 - The new charge controller is finished. Pictures and a description will be added soon to the Wind Turbine page.

03/04/08 - I have been busy rebuilding the charge controller that will regulate power coming from my wind turbine and solar panel. I am also assembling battery banks from some 12V sealed lead acid batteries my brother gave me. All this is in preparation for our next vacation in May-June. I want to set up the wind/solar power system on my remote Arizona property while we are out there.

01/03/08 - I have completed my first home-built solar panel, and it works. YAHOO! It will add greatly to my power production capacity on my remote Arizona land. A complete write-up on it can be found in the solar panel section.

12/31/07 - Spent most of the day rearranging the garage. We bought some shelves at an auction a couple of weeks ago with the idea of taming the storage problems in the garage. Well, it's finally done. The garage is a thing of beauty. My back is wrecked though.

12/25/07 - The big family Christmas party was at our house this year. We cooked and cleaned for two days to get ready for it. Boy did we have a house full of people. Everyone seems to have had a good time. They didn't eat half the food we made though. After it was over, the house was a wreck. Time to start cleaning again. Sigh.

12/14/07 - The company I work for sent me out to Santa Barbara, CA on business on fairly short notice. It was a big scramble to get ready with very little notice. It was a long and not very fun trip. There were long plane flights, long hours of work, bad food and lots of jet lag. It was definitely a work trip and not a vacation. One of the few bright spots on the trip was walking down to the seal rookery on the beach in Carpinteria before dawn. I got lots of photos of the seals on the beach and the sunrise illuminating the Channel Islands and the mountains above town. The Santa Barbara/Carpinteria area is very pretty. Too bad I didn't have the time to really explore and enjoy it. I will post all the photos on the travel and vacation photos page when I get a chance.
The seal rookery at Carpinteria, California

11/22/07 - Once again, we attended two different Thanksgiving feasts. One for my family and one for hers. This is getting to be a high-calorie habit. There's no way around it I guess. We don't want to offend anyone by not showing, and unless we rent a banquet hall somewhere, nobody has room for all of us. Oh well, at least we have a long weekend to digest it all.

10/13/07 - Just got back from our vacation to Tennessee and Georgia. There is a big write-up about it and lots of pictures (of course) on the vacation photo page.

10/04/07 - Getting ready for vacation. This year we are heading up to Tennessee and Georgia for a while instead of going out West. I'll post more when we get back.

09/20/07 - Haven't posted much lately. I've been really busy at work and with our Ebay side business. Next month we are taking a vacation, and boy do we both need one.

06/07/07 - The place is starting to look and feel like home. We have most of the house set up nicely. The garage/workshop and office are still works in progress, but they are coming along. They are a little more organized and functional every day. My only real complaint about the house is the lack of storage space. I really miss the 3 walk-in closets I had in my old place. We only have 1 walk-in closet in this house, and is has to be shared. The garage, even though twice as big as in my old place, has to hold all my workshop tools and equipment, plus all the overflow of two other people, and our business. We are going to need some efficient storage solutions to get the garage whipped into shape. On the whole though, I am liking the new place. The house is new with all the modern conveniences anyone could want, the neighborhood is quiet and peaceful and close to everything. Here is a picture of the house. Click on it for a larger version.
Our new house

05/28/07 - We are pretty much moved in. All the stuff from Patti's place, and most of the stuff from my place is here. We moved most of it in only 24 hours. Four full loads in a big moving truck. Two from her place and two from mine. Boy are we sore. We haven't worked that hard in years. It's going to take a while to unpack all the boxes and get everything set up the way we want it.

05/24/07 - Got the keys to the new house today. Tomorrow we start moving.

05/19/07 - Had a huge yard sale to try to pare down the amount of stuff I will have to move to the new house. It's amazing how much junk you can accumulate when you live in the same place for 13 years. I sold a ton of stuff, but it hardly made a dent in the pile.

05/11/07 - Patti and I have found a house we like. She started looking as soon as she flew home from Vegas. I joined the hunt as soon as I got back from driving home. It took us a surprisingly short time to find a house we both liked. We will be moving in at the end of the month.

05/07/07 - Just got back from vacation. We drove to my property in Arizona. We camped out there for a while in my new popup trailer. Then we took the scenic rout to Las Vegas via Sedona. Spent half a week in Vegas. Patti flew home from Vegas, since she only had a little over a week of vacation time. I took my time driving back, stopping and staying in several old mining towns in Arizona and New Mexico to indulge in my hobby of prospecting and gold panning. Didn't find much gold this time though. I still had a lot of fun. Had no problems towing the popup, other than really lousy gas milage while towing it. The popup is very comfortable.

04/15/07 - All the maintenance issues with the popup have been taken care of. It's ready for the road. I just finished replacing all the wheel bearings. I was just going to repack them, but once I got the hubs off and had a good look at them, they were pretty much shot. New bearings are cheap, and now I don't have to worry about them on the long trip.

03/26/07 - Patti and I have decided to move in together. Neither of our places is really big enough, and we both want to move into better diggs in better neighborhoods anyway. So we will begin house hunting when we get back from our trip to Arizona and Las Vegas.

03/25/07 - Found a set of very rare blue depression glass plates at a yard sale for $5. They had no idea what they had. I grabbed them and bought them. Then I resold them on Ebay for $238. I love the antique business! Antique glass seems to be becoming my specialty. I can spot it a mile away.

03/18/07 - The new popup has a few issues. It is in generally good shape, but I am going to need to rewire it and redo the wheel bearings before taking it out on the road. I also want to put new tires on it, since it's first outing with me will be a cross-country trek to Arizona and back. So I've got some work to do the next few weekends before we take off for Arizona in late April. I also need to practice backing up with the trailer. I've never towed anything before. Backing is tricky.

03/11/07 - I bought a popup camper. Ironically, it is a Starcraft Meteorite. Is that appropriate for an astronomer or what? I didn't even notice the name until I was ready to buy it. It was just another in a long line if used campers I'd looked at. It is used but in pretty good shape. This should make camping a little easier for us. I think I may still occasionally nip off into the wilderness with only a tent though.

Popup trailer collapsed Popup trailer expanded

02/18/07 - Just got back from the 13th annual Orange Blossom Special Star Party. Whew, it was rough this year. The weather was murder. Rain, cold, ice, more rain, wind that destroyed my tent. It was a challenging camping trip. After putting up with all the hardship from the weather, we only got in about 1 1/2 decent nights of observing. Still, the OBS has always been more of a social event than a hard-core observing event. So we had fun anyway.

02/02/07 - Got a wicked case of the flu. It was bad. I see why so many people die of the flu every year.

01/16/07 - I've made my first $1000 selling stuff on Ebay. I've pretty much sold off most of my old junk. Patti and I are now going to a lot of yard sales, estate sales and auctions, buying things to resell. I am rapidly becoming an expert on some kinds of antiques. It's a lot of fun. I could see this becoming a second career.

01/02/07 - Well, we made it through the holidays and into the new year. Maybe things will return to something resembling normality now.

12/26/06 - We've been to three Christmas parties, two Christmas dinners and several gift exchanges. I'm exhausted, and way over-fed. We've still got New Year's to look forward to. I can't wait until life gets back to normal in January.

12/22/06 - Got the topper installed on my truck. It didn't take as long as they thought for it to arrive. It's great. Also got a bug deflector installed at the same time.
My new topper on my Toyota Tacoma 4X4 Pickup Truck
My new topper

12/09/06 - Ordered the topper for my truck. They said it might take as long as three weeks because of the proximity to the holidays. I can't wait.

12/06/06 - My Christmas shopping is officially done. This has got to be the earliest I have ever finished it.

12/03/06 - I finally started selling off my excess junk on Ebay. My girlfriend, who has been selling on Ebay for years, is amazed at how quick my stuff is selling. I have high hopes of making large sums of money and reclaiming lots of space in my closets and garage. You can visit my auctions (if any are running) here: My Auctions.

12/02/06 - Built a long ramp to allow me to get my big 17.5 inch Dobsonian telescope up into the bed of my new truck. That bed is really up there. It takes a long ramp and a lot of muscle to get the scope up there. I didn't know how good I had it with the van.

11/25/06 - I Bought a new truck. I got a brand new 2006 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 pickup truck. I love it. I've been wanting one for a long time. While everyone else was in the malls shopping on Black Friday, I hit the car lot and bought myself an early Christmas present. I got a really great deal on it since it was one of the last new 2006's. Click the photo for more information.
My new Toyota Tacoma 4X4 Pickup Truck
My new ride

11/24/06 - Attended two different Thanksgiving dinners (one at my family and one at her's). Groan, is it possible to be poisoned by too much turkey?

11/18/06 - Patti and I went with a group of fellow astronomers out to the Alafia River State Park to watch the Leonid Meteor Shower. The meteors were scarce and it was bloody cold, but we still had a good time anyway.



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