Category Archives: Uncategorized

Emergency Heat

With some inspiration from the potential snow storm last week, I endeavored to test my emergency preparedness for heating my apartment when the power is out.

In Vermont, the most reliable heat source for the winter is arguably a wood stove, mainly because it functions independently of electricity and will continue to operate the same whether the lights are on or not. My Rinnai heater is not as simple, but it does require very little energy and is entirely contained in one unit with one power cord. Additionally, its fuel source is natural gas and will continue to run independent of electricity.  So the only thing I had to do is provide it the 120 VAC power source and see what happens.

I have kicking around an old Marine Cell battery from a Camper I used to own, and an 800W inverter that I picked up when preparing for Tropical Storm Irene.  The inverter is a little small and only provides modified sine-wave power, but there is only one way to find out if it works!

I attached the inverter to the battery and it powered up.  I powered down the Rinnai, then unplugged the power cord to the Rinnai from the wall and plugged it into an extension cord and into the inverter. Immediately the Rinnai started to buzz and hum.  I knew this was due to the power supply in the Rinnai not being optimised for the modified sine-wave power, but the inverter wasn’t showing excessive power being drawn and nothing bad seemed to be happening, so I proceeded.  When I turned the Rinnai back on, the buzzing picked up and the inverter started displaying power use.  I then turned up the temperature control to ask the Rinnai to make heat, and it did!

I had heat!  Test successful!  I also added the box-fan we use to push the heat upstairs, and it buzzed but ran just fine.  With the fan and the heater both running on LOW the draw was 115W.  Some quick and super dirty math approximations tell me that the battery (if fully charged) will run this about 11 hours.  This would be longer if the box-fan isn’t running (less power would be used).

105 Amp hours (sticker value, full charge)
105 Amp hours x 12v = 1260 watt hours (approximate average voltage)
1260 watt hours / 115 watts = ~11 hours

Of course, the inverter can be run from any 12V source.  My Honda Civic has an alternator with a faceplate rating of 70Amps.

70 Amps x 12 Vdc = 840 Wattsdc

I believe the inverter is well within the ability for the alternator to run.  So the car could potentially run the inverter as a generator as long as there is gasoline in the tank.


Rinnai heater on extension cord w/ box-fan


Rinnai and fan running on LOW


Inverter attached to battery


Battery specifications

Lego Key Ring Upgrade

A long while ago while I was at TardHaus, where I earned the alias Minion, I worked with SamCo to put a USB thumb drive into a Lego block.  We used a CNC mill (because) and it worked really well, but I’ve since lost it.  I was thinking about making another one with an X-acto knife and while looking at my Lego Key ring holder, I thought how to fun it would be to combine the two.  So I assembled the parts and made it happen.

I actually had the Legos and the glue, etc.  So I just needed a USB thumb drive.  As I learned last time, it’s hard to tell what the size of the flash media inside the drive is, so I ordered a few.



For this project, I actually needed something with a reasonable size so that the glue will hold it in place. When the Amazon order came in, I took a look at what I got.  The Cruzer Fit is too small (as I should have seen from the photo) and it turns out the Cruzer Switch is all plastic (weird) so I decided to try the Kingston.  I made a workspace using a flyer from the mail as a cover (I would be using glue) and got the stuff together.  Full disclosure, I sized and did prototype work with MegaBlocks first.  I didn’t want to damage Legos until I knew it would work.



A screw driver and a little force got the thumb-drive opened real quick.







You can see that even though this drive is larger than the other two, it is still mostly empty space inside.  The USB connector is bigger than the memory.  I placed the flash unit over the intended 2×4 full-size block to see if it would fit.  The last time I made one of these, we had to mill the inside edges of the Lego because the flash was too wide.  I was nervous about this because I didn’t think I could do this as easily with a blade.



It looks like the little tabs on the edge of the drive would have to come off, but it seemed that this would be fine.  And look how much empty room is in there!  I wonder if it would fit in a 2×2 block?



It looks like it will!  So I got to work.  With Safety Glasses on and working carefully with the blade, I shaved off the small tabs on the side of the USB drive.  Working even more carefully, I marked where the drive would go and I began cutting the MegaBlock.  I took small amounts of plastic at a time and kept checking if it fit yet, in order not to make an opening too big.  But I did cut big enough to put a plate on the bottom, without cutting off the caps (we did this last time).  When working with an X-acto blade, it is important to not pry or twist with the blade.  This is how blades break and then fly into your eye or across the room to be later found by your feet.  Instead only push straight on the blade.  After I had an opening in the side, I could cut out the support in the center.  This would normally snap in between the caps on the next piece.



Looking good!  Let’s see if it fits.



It does!  And I can put a plate on the bottom to hold it in place.  Unfortunately, with one side missing and no support in the middle the plate won’t stay in place.  That’s why I will have to glue it later.  The plate is in the photo just to hold up the drive.  With this  Looking so good, I decided to try something I never did last time.  I wanted to cut a second block as a cover for the drive.  So, using the same method as before, I worked on a second 2×2 block.  This time I wanted to be extra careful not to make the opening too large, because I wanted the cover to hold by friction.  Eventually I though it was good and I gave it a try.



Will you look at that.  I love it.  Does the bottom snap on?



Looks great! So, with that prototype completed I began work on the real version using Legos this time.

I decided on a 2×3 Lego so that it was smaller than the 2×4, but still had room for the hook that attaches it to the key chain.  I also did make a cap with Legos.  Again, I was extra careful to make sure it fit snugly.  This is going to be in my pocket and I want to make sure the cap will stay on.  After making sure it fit, I filled the inside of the 2×3 where the flash was going to go with Hot Glue, then making sure it was in the correct orientation for when plugged into a computer, pressed the flash in place and held it while the glue cooled.  Then for the flat plate on the bottom, I used a thin line of super-glue around the edge and pushed the plate on.  After making sure it was straight, I held the plate until the glue set.  For the cap, I used super-glue only, no hot glue.







It looks pretty good.  There is a small bead of super-glue I don’t like around the connection that smushed out, but I can live with it.  I also don’t love the colors but they were what I was able to find in my limited 2-decade old collection.  I think in the future I will order new Legos just for this.

lego_usb_inserted AutoPlay lego_hanging



Procrastination Success

I should have been grading lab reports, but instead I made this key holder with some Legos.  I screwed some picture frame hooks into a few full-height blocks (2×4, 2×3, 1×4) and attached a large base to the wall.  Put some key rings on the Legos, attach the Legos to the base, key holder.  My favorite part is that I can add whatever creation I want to the base plate as long as it can sit vertical, which is always true because it’s friggin’ Legos.  This is a quick spaceship I put together in a few seconds.

front keys left right vertical

My trip to Upright Citizen’s Brigade

when I was in California in January I visited the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in LA. The event I saw was not a performance piece or a play or that type of theater, but a stand-up show they run each week called Put Your Hands Together. This was a really weird thing for me that feels years in the making:

When I lived and worked in Randolph about 5 years ago, one of the people I worked with brought in a burned DVD containing some rips of the British TV Series “QI.” My housemates and I were hooked right away and once that DVD was done, I torrented the rest and consumed the whole series. Today, I still watch the show pretty regularly but now on YouTube.  It has become something that I’ve seen all episodes of many times and still makes me laugh.

YouTube has suggestions on the side of the screen when watching things that are related to what you are watching.  I happened to randomly click one one day and watched part of a show with a comedian that I thought was really funny and wanted to watch more of, David O’Doherty.  For real, seriously funny man.

This clip of him performing his song Life stood out to me.  It’s pretty much my favorite style of humor and really smart.  So, turns out this is a clip of DO’D on a Podcast I hadn’t heard before called You Made It Weird.  But, I’ve been listening to Podcasts for a couple years now and I was interested.

Turns out You Made it Weird is part of an online collective called The Nerdist.  There are dozens of podcasts based in the LA area in this collection with an ever revolving cast comedian/actor/writer/musician guests that cycle through them.  I started listening right away.

This is where the story culminates.  At my visit to UCB I saw a great lineup consisting of
Kumail Nanjian
Moshe Kasher,
Jon Daly,
Adam Conover,
Ahmed Bharoocha,
Phoebe Robinson.

A few of these names I had been hearing for the past few months on a regular basis as the hosts of Nerdist podcasts talked about their lives in the LA area as well as about Comedy in general. What struck me as remarkable was how low-key, informal this all was. There were these people who were central figures of my entertainment recently that I enjoyed greatly. And, since it all happened in LA and I live in Vermont, I had come to accept that I would probably not ever get to see these people, at least not without them getting huge and charging large amounts and performing in large venues. But then I found myself in the area for some random purpose and here I was, just walking in like I belong there. This could be every Tuesday night for me, hanging out at junk like this.

I’m sure this is a common experience for people in centers with larger populations. I have never really understood this before. Cities have been a strange concept for me and only in the last couple years have I started to get the advantages. While I don’t like large groups of people or waiting places or traffic or many of the signs of a city, I’m realizing now how much the benefits can really overcome these negatives.

And lastly, if that man hadn’t taken the time to burn a data DVD with season 1 of QI on it 5 years ago, I can’t be sure I would have ever had this experience. It may be a foolish thing to think about but I feel like this is the start to this story.

CA Itinerary – Friday

Friday was my last day in Anaheim before going back to LAX Saturday morning.  After studying Thursday night, I was ready to finish this class and was allowed to take the test early:

Friday-Jan 24

7:00 Breakfast
8:00am – 12:00pm Light Brigade Class
12:00m Test
12:30pm Leftover Thai food for lunch in hotel
1:00pm Drive to Venice
2:00pm Beach
5:00pm Drive back to hotel
6:00pm Stop at Marri’s Pizza & Pasta for take-out
Amazing pizza, so happy with this choice.

Photo Jan 24, 17 45 18 Photo Jan 24, 18 00 48 (1) Photo Jan 24, 20 56 46