Tag Archives: car


Son of RatRacer: Mouse Car

After the ini­tial fail­ure described in yesterday’s blog post about the RatRacer, I thought I would scale down the prob­lem a bit. I fig­ured it would be eas­ier to iter­ate through design tweaks when big parts took 20 min­utes to print ver­sus 120 min­utes per part. If I ended up with a sound design for the mouse­trap car, then I could scale it up to the mul­ti­vari­able prob­lem of both design­ing for the rat trap car and work­ing through print issues.

While at the hard­ware store for some­thing unre­lated, I picked up a 4-pack of lit­tle mouse­traps for $2 on impulse.

Fortunately, the OpenSCAD mod­els I designed for the RatRacer were para­me­ter­ized. After tak­ing some ini­tial mea­sure­ments with my trusty calipers, the axle and wheel were triv­ial to scale down to mouse­trap size. They took about a minute each, includ­ing ren­der time. The end caps took a bit more work. Those needed a much larger redesign, as the axles in the RatRacer are small com­pared to the thick­ness of the rat trap, but the axles on the Mouse Car are thicker than the mouse trap. Although the design is a bit dif­fer­ent, the con­cept is exactly the same.


The fin­ished car itself looks pretty snazzy and only took one revi­sion (to increase the axle length slightly).



Like the RatRacer, you pull back the bar, wind the string around the axle, set it on the ground, and let go. Unfortunately, even the less-powerful mouse­trap spring is still too pow­er­ful. It pulls too hard, yanks the string too hard, the wheels spin out, and when they finally gain trac­tion, there’s only enough power to move a foot or two.

A friend had sug­gested adding an exten­sion to the snappy part. That would increase the lin­ear momen­tum for the same angu­lar momen­tum, which if it were rigid would make things worse, but if the exten­sion was a bit more flex­i­ble, that could bet­ter meter out the pull. That may be a future addi­tion.

For now, the Mouse Car in its cur­rent form is avail­able on Thingiverse. Its big brother, the RatRacer is also avail­able.


Posted in: MakerBot Projects

Thx. (1138)

Yesterday, I was doing some shop­ping that was large enough as to require the car. I parked, top down, in the Fred Mayer park­ing lot and pro­ceeded to shop. Upon return­ing, I found this note hand­writ­ten on the back of a busi­ness card, sit­ting on the driver’s seat:


I should add, at this point, that my license plate (RMRF) is a lit­tle geeky, more obscure that most geek­ery. I’m not sure if it’s more or less geeky than THX-1138.

Geek Cars

Of course, the other side of the card shows it is from a soft­ware con­sul­tant. I have obscured the con­tact details for pri­vacy.


Geekery all around! (In other geeky news, this will be my first attempt at sched­ul­ing some­thing within WordPress to be posted in the future. I won­der if Twitter Tools will under­stand?)

Posted in: Dear Diary Pictures Portland

Photo dump: mystery switch, window perch, bathroom, sun

When my main machine was the 17″ lap­top, I had a great sys­tem for pulling pic­tures directly from my cam­era, almost imme­di­ately after tak­ing them, then push­ing them to Flickr with FlickrExport for Aperture. The new (well, not ter­ri­bly new now) MacBook Air does not meet the sys­tem require­ments for Aperture (I got the low end one), so I offload pho­tos into iPhoto as a tem­po­rary buffer until I remem­ber to move them over to Aperture. It is a sys­tem that should work pretty well, except for that “until I remem­ber” bit, where it all falls apart. I end up with days like today, where I import into Aperture and Flickr the past month or two of pho­tos. I then dump the high­lights into one mega-photo-post.

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As I tweeted the other day[1][2], the cas­sette player in my car broke. That fact alone should tell you about how old the stereo is. If you want solid num­bers, it is almost 11 years old, and is the stock stereo that came with the car. Ordinarily, this would be no big deal, as I own no cas­sette tapes, but given that a good chunk of my pod­cast lis­ten­ing is in the car and all of my drive music lis­ten­ing is via iPhone/iPod, and the only accept­able way to get that audio into the car is via cas­sette adapter (I refuse to use those FM radio trans­mit­ters), this posed a national emer­gency in my eyes.

Car stereos these days are almost lit­tle com­put­ers. The replace­ment I picked up is a JVC. The Sony stereos looked nice, but I refuse to get Sony, for rea­sons beyond the scope of this blog post. It has USB ports, one in the back and one in the front. I guess there is enough of a USB stack in there that you can plug in a Bluetooth adapter. (I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out why I’d want to.) You can even plug in a USB thumb drive full of MP3s and it will play directly from the drive. Additionally, if you plug an iPhone or iPod into the USB, it treats it as a first-class cit­i­zen and lets you con­trol things from either the radio but­tons or the iPod (so you can have the iPod hid­den away in the glove box or, like I do, have it on a dash­board mount.) Although I have yet to use it for a com­mute — just a short trip out to an elec­tron­ics sur­plus sup­plier in Beavertron — I am quite happy with it.

One thing I did have to deal with is its size. The old stereo is a double-height one. The new one is single-height. I bought a dash kit that has a cov­er­plate for that pur­pose, but it was this cheap-ass thing that did not fit right and looked pretty bad. You would think they would have stan­dard inter­changable cov­er­plates, like on desk­top PCs. Or maybe not. The more I think back to the days of build­ing tower PCs, the more I start to remem­ber three or four dif­fer­ent styles of cov­er­plate that were cer­tainly not inter­change­able. I ended up fash­ion­ing my own and adding what I now call “the mys­tery switch.”

New stereo and mystery switch 4
New stereo and mystery switch 1 New stereo and mystery switch 3

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A while back, the Make Magazine blog posted about a cat win­dow perch [1] [2] you could make from PVC, wire, and suc­tion cups. I tried my hand at it and have the main body, but have yet to sew the ham­mock part. It has been in this state for a few weeks, and yet I’m mar­ried to a seam­stress. Go fig­ure.


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I do not yet have before and after pho­tos of the bath­room remodel, but I do have a pic­ture of Ebenezer ask­ing for water from the bath­room sink. In the mid­dle of kitchen. Not hooked up to any­thing.

Ebenezer wants water from the disconnected sink

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And, of course, the post would be incom­plete with­out adorable sunny cat pic­tures. I have no idea what hap­pened to the sun over the past few days, but a few weeks ago, it was swel­ter­ing.

IMG_0045 IMG_5346 Ebenezer in the sun

Posted in: Dear Diary Pictures

Two More Things

I for­got to men­tion in my last post that dur­ing part of the drive up, we were around and behind Ganesha The Car.


I also for­got to men­tion (or maybe had men­tally blocked out) That Fourteen Year Old. For a lit­tle while, as I worked alone, she was out­side the booth, look­ing in at me with a weird and unde­fin­able look in her eyes. Her and her mom came in and started look­ing around. “Hi, hand­some. What do you look like with­out those [sun]glasses?” Um, what? Did I just hear that cor­rectly? The girl said that, and she was talk­ing to me? After a few sec­onds of stunned, slack-jawed silence, I fig­ured I had to respond. “They don’t come off.” Hey, it was the best I could come up with while shocked. A few min­utes later, when Kim returned to the booth, I think she tried some other tac­tic, then out­right asked how long we’d been mar­ried. “It’s not really your busi­ness, but 2 years.” “THAT’S NOT VERY LONG AT ALL!” At which point she was told off by Kim, her mom was not ter­ri­bly apolo­getic or even com­mu­nica­tive, and she went off to pester the mas­sage booth. “Mom! If you give them $20, they’ll rub you for 15 min­utes! Where’s my money?!” There was def­i­nitely some­thing up with that kid. It was hard to tell if she was just socially stunted or had brain issues going on. At any rate, it was uncom­fort­able and dis­turb­ing. For the rest of the week­end, the kid got the nick­name Lolita any time the story came up or she was spot­ted around the event.

Posted in: Dear Diary

In which we learn the perils of a rimshot

vpis­teve: sadtrombone.com has now been banned from the office
BrianEnigma: @vpisteve I decom­piled the Flash and loaded the MP3 into my iPhone for instant sadtrom­bone action! also: rimshot
vpis­teve: @BrianEnigma you are my hero

Last week, I dis­cov­ered a flaw in this par­tic­u­lar plan. Let me paint you a pic­ture to illus­trate. It is near­ing the end of a bright and sunny, warm day. The long, yet pro­duc­tive, day of work has con­cluded and it is time to drive home. The sit­u­a­tion calls for–nay, screams for–the convertible’s top to be down with some nice, loud singable (or yellable) music. This leads to a very cathar­tic drive home. The Cure’s weird and ener­getic cover of Purple Haze plays, fol­lowed by Nine Inch Nail’s Echoplex. The song starts to spin down, but is still a lit­tle loud from when it was com­pen­sat­ing for the free­way wind, as the car exits the free­way and pulls up to a red light, along­side other cars and trucks. To the right is downtown’s pop­u­lar, large water­front park. Several peo­ple are wait­ing at the cross­walk. You’re bop­ping along to the trail­ing chords, with cool shades and windswept hair. And because the iPhone is on shuf­fle, you then get an extremely loud and embar­rass­ing rimshot that no one can ignore.

Posted in: Dear Diary Twitter

iPhone Car Mount-In progress 2

iPhone car mount, status update 1

As you prob­a­bly don’t know, I’m work­ing on a car mount for my iPhone. I saw an instructable on how to make one that seemed nice, but I’m not keen on the vel­cro and I’m not sure I kept the plas­tic pack­ing piece it requires. I also spied a mount­ing solu­tion from ProClip that seemed really nice. They sell mounts as two inter­lock­ing pieces, one to hold your phone or MP3 player (almost any phone or player) and one to hook into your car (all sorts of cars.) Because they’re two pieces, you can match any car to any player, but they’re pricey. Their Eclipse Spyder solu­tion is pretty much a shim that slips in just under the A/C duct, which I made a men­tal note of.

I fig­ured that for a much lower price, I can make a sim­i­lar shim-based solu­tion.

This is, effec­tively, a sin­gle sheet of solid plex­i­glass and three sheets with an iPhone-shaped hole. As you can see, the shim isn’t mounted yet. You can prob­a­bly also see the cou­ple of cracks that say “yes, sir, this is my first time work­ing with plex­i­glass.” You may addi­tion­ally notice that some of the cuts are not exactly straight. I’m still learn­ing. Total cost of plex­i­glass and (unpic­tured) shim: about $6. Fortunately, I already had the tools and other hard­ware.

Posted in: Dear Diary iPhone

These are the people in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hood...

The car has a new clutch! Well, not tech­ni­cally the clutch, but the mas­ter and slave clutch cylin­ders. The clutch is now very firm with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent fric­tion point than before. The change is so dras­tic that I feel like I’m 16 and have never dri­ven a stick shift before. I haven’t stalled it yet, but I’ve over-revved it quite a num­ber of times.

I did my civic duty today and went to my Neighborhood Association meet­ing, now that I’m a fancy-schmancy home­owner and such. Is it civic duty? I think “civic” implies gov­ern­ment, and the asso­ci­a­tion is sup­pos­edly a con­duit between the neigh­bor­hood and the gov­ern­ment, or so I was told tonight. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was sort of expect­ing an offi­cial bureau­cratic Rules Of Order type of event with motions and move­ments and sec­onds and min­utes and action items. It was sort of that, but not in the way I was think­ing, in more of a gen­eral guide­line way. The meet­ing was mainly about cul­tural diver­sity in the neigh­bor­hood and how to get every­one involved in the com­mu­nity (both in an infor­mal “say Hi to your neigh­bor” sort of way and in for­mal events like block par­ties, the street fair, and such.)

The meet­ing was inter­est­ing. I can’t say it was par­tic­u­larly good, but it was not par­tic­u­larly bad, either. I’ll give it another shot next month. Given the hours I work, the start time is a lit­tle awk­ward for me, so I will likely miss the first 15–20 min­utes each meet­ing: the meet and greet, wel­come, review of min­utes, and part of the first speaker. I get the impres­sion that the end time is a strongly fixed value. People were clock-watching toward the end and very eager to adjourn at 8pm on the dot, not 30 sec­onds after, no mat­ter what.

Posted in: Dear Diary Portland

Car Un-meme

This isn’t a meme or any­thing, but three things you didn’t know about my car (or maybe you did):

  • In the fall and win­ter, it always smells like wet dog inside.
  • Virtually all year ’round (except for a month or two in the sum­mer), moss grows on the out­side. Mainly this is on the rub­ber gas­ket where the win­dow glass meets the door.
  • Leather seats are unbear­ably cold in the worst win­ter weather and unbear­ably hot in the worst sum­mer weather.

Chains, people, chains.

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/01/

As this video shows, peo­ple in Portland don’t know how to drive in the snow. And as Josh says, it’s even fun­nier if you make pin­ball noises while you watch. And don’t think of the insur­ance pre­mi­ums.

Posted in: Portland


Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2006/12/

When it is below freez­ing, lux­u­ries like leather seats (from before the era of elec­tric seat warm­ers) are called into ques­tion.

[Posted with hblog­ger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/]

Posted in: Dear Diary