Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How-To: Nitro-to-Brushless Conversion: Part 6

Part 5 can be found here.

OK, this post isn't so much a how-to as an update on a previous how-to, but I feel that keeping the title consistent is important.

I've been quite happy with the performance of my brushless-powered Losi 8IGHT, but I couldn't resist tweaking it a bit. Below is a list of some of the changes I've made since my last post, several of which were predicted therein. Most of these changes are clearly visible in the photos that follow the list.
  • I successfully tamed the motor braking. The car still stops quickly, but it's more controllable, and now I don't feel like I'm going to damage the motor every time I slow down. I really would have liked to use the disk brakes that came with the kit, but there just wasn't room for the servo required to operate them.
  • I've replaced the batteries and speed-control's Dean's connectors with 5.5-mm bullet connectors. The bullets will have lower resistance at high currents. This higher conductance is important, since I expect to draw close to 200 amps for short periods.
  • I added a second temperature sensor, this one is thermal-epoxied directly to the motor. Now I can monitor the temps of both the motor controller and the motor. I've found that both temperatures mostly stay below 130 degrees F, which makes me feel confident that I'm damaging neither component.
  • I've replaced the single battery tray with 2 smaller ones, which allows me to hold 2 6300-mAh 2-series LiPo batteries. I've soldered the batts together in series, giving me a 4-series LiPo with 26% more capacity than my single 5000-mAh batt. This change should not only give me longer runtimes, but also higher currents and thus more power. Additionally, the new setup creates an almost perfect left-right weight balance. As a bonus, the new battery configuration also fills previously unused space on the left side of the car, making it look a little more efficiently laid out..
  • I've mounted some Pro-Line Moab tires on orange Kyosho 10-spoke wheels, which are visible in the first pic. The tread on these tires has a good multi-purpose pattern, useful for on- and off-road driving. Additionally, these tires have transverse ribs on the inside, which helps prevent them from ballooning at high wheel speeds. Not only will these ribs keep more tire in contact with the ground, but they will also keep the tires glued to the rims. The wheels, by the way, are probably my favorite 1/8th buggy wheels; they are both well made and attractive.
  • Speaking of tires, I also found some GRP Rally tires, which I mounted on orange Kyosho 5-slot dish wheels. These wheels and tires are visible in the second pic. In addition to being made of a surprisingly sticky compound, these tires have an extremely low profile, which not only keeps them from ballooning, but also reduces side-wall flex during corning. They don't absorb jump-landing impact as well as higher-profile tires, but that seems like a good trade-off, given that they are intended for on-road use. The major downfall of the tires is their outside diameter; they not only look too small on the vehicle, they also necessitate a significant gearing change. I'd really prefer tires with the same profile mounted on wheels about 10 mm larger in diameter. The wheels, meanwhile, aren't as attractive as the 10-spokers, in my opinion, but they do give the car a somewhat futuristic look, which I find pleasing. I think they certainly look better than the stock dish wheels. (These wheels actually look quite a lot like the wheels that come stock on the Honda Civic Hybrid, which, being a hybrid, is meant to look all future-y.)
  • Gearing is, of course, determined by terrain, but I've been running mostly 15/39 on the road and 14/39 or 13/39 off. It's much easier to change the pinion gear (mounted on the motor shaft) than the spur gear (mounted on the center differential and holding the viscous silicone fluid therein at bay).
  • Since my electrified car is heavier than the stock nitro version, especially with the larger batts, I've stiffened the suspension, cranking up the front and rear spring rate by 14% and 19%, respectively. I also increased the damping concomitantly. The suspension is now set to something much closer to the truggy version of my buggy.
  • I've replaced the stock plastic steering knuckles (axle carriers), servo-saver arm, and servo arm, with their hard-anodized aluminum counterparts. This change should rigidify the entire steering system, resulting in better steering in high-speed situations with only a slight weight penalty. Several other hard-ano aluminum parts are available for the 8IGHT, but I'm not convinced that they offer improved performance or that, if they do, said improvement justifies the additional weight and cost. Incidentally, only the servo arm is visible in the first photo.
  • I've also purchased a Pro-Line Crowd Pleazer 2.0 body, which I've painted almost identically to its stock counterpart. I don't think I like the CP2 as well as I do the stock body. I'll put up a pic later and let you be the judge.
  • I haven't had a chance to measure the top speed of the vehicle to see if the larger battery and taller gearing had an effect. Certainly the car seems fast enough, and the acceleration is more than sufficient for my purposes.

It Hurts to Express Nonchalance...

This past weekend, Michael and I attended an Olympic weightlifting seminar. The Olympic lifts, for those who are as unfamiliar with the sport as I was a few months ago, are the snatch, the clean, and the jerk. Usually, people do the clean and the jerk together and jerk from the front, unlike the video I just posted, but you get the idea.

Crossfit, which you have all heard about from me and Michael on this blog, incorporates the Olympic lifts into the workouts. Now, I feel like you can read a few articles on the web, buy a pair of running shoes, and take up running on your own without significant risk of injury. However, if I am going to be expected to lift 100 lbs or more over my head, I think I want someone who knows what they're doing to give me some instruction. Heck, even bailing out of a lift (meaning stopping in the middle and putting the bar down if you realize you're not going to be able to complete the lift) takes some skill if you don't want to drop the bar on your head or your lower back in the process. By the way, for a nice demonstration of doing this poorly, watch the "jerk" video until close to the end. Not that I'm ripping on Nicole (the girl in the video). She is a very impressive athlete, but I learned this weekend that almost decapitating yourself with the bar is, surprisingly, NOT the correct way to bail out of a lift. Huh.

The seminar was a day and a half long...it was amazing to me the number of things there are to think about and the level of detailed instruction it takes to just pick something up off the floor and hold it over your head! It was definitely helpful for me and I learned a lot. Of course, I'm incredibly sore now. Although we were not using heavy weights, we did LOTS of reps and we practiced the receiving position (which is basically a reeeeally deep squat) many, many times. So, my legs are quite tired and so are my shoulders. So, if I feel blase about something in the next few days, do not expect me to shrug. It's just not gonna happen, people.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Jacks are Back

Alison and I had the Third Annual Team Grondul BYOP Pumpkin-Carving Party about a week ago. I believe everyone had a good time. I did, certainly. Here is a photo with most but not all of the jack-o-lanterns the affair produced.

Now if We Could Just Get Him to Howl Again

A neighbor, who owns two cuddly and snorty pugs, recently made Newton a snazzy seasonal bandanna. Observe how sharp he looks in it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Push Those Daisies!

ABC has ordered 9 more episodes of Pushing Daises, which is, in my opinion, the most entertaining new show this season. This move brings the total number of eps ordered to 22, a full season's worth. Yay!


I made this one up last night, and I must say it's perfectly cromulent:
otherwhere, adverb. In another place, elsewhere.

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Warm and Stinky

Here's another priceless nugget o' wisdom we never would have known without our pup:
Dogs are, apparently, both warm and stinky on the inside.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fire, Schmire

I'm no Potterian,* but I really enjoyed this John Scalzi post on the big news of the weekend.

* Or whatever fans of the Harry Potter books and movies call themselves. Potterites? Potters? Potties? Pots?

Book Review: Goblin Hero

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

After zooming through Goblin Quest, I picked up Jim C. Hines' sequel, Goblin Hero. The story follows Jig, the reluctant "hero" of the first novel as he finds himself on yet another adventure, just trying to keep himself (and his pet spider) alive. Like the first book, this one is a light-hearted, lopsided twist on the traditional fairy tale. Unlike the previous novel, however, this one is not told entirely from Jig's perspective; almost half is seen through the eyes of Veka, would-be goblin sorceress. I believe that change added a little depth to the story.

Overall, I give this book 7.0 out of 10, the same rating I gave its predecessor.

Incidentally, if you enjoy(ed) Goblin Quest and Goblin Hero, you may be interested to know that the next book in the series, Goblin War, is due out in March. You can see its cover here.

Book Review: Goblin Quest

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

I recently completed Jim C. Hines' novel Goblin Quest, which was brought to my attention by John Scalzi. The story follows a goblin named Jig as he is sucked into quest with two humans, a dwarf and an elf. Jig is a runt among goblins and his vision is terrible. The only things that have kept him alive in the rather harsh goblin society are his inherent cowardice and the fact that he is smarter than the average bear...I mean goblin. The book is is a light-hearted, humorous "fractured" fairytale. I really enjoyed that the protagonist of the story is far from the traditional brave, competent hero. He's just this guy, you know?

Overall I give this book 7.0 out of 10. It's not great literature, but it is a fun, fast read.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Yay! Ugh!

Today's CrossFit WOD was haaarrd, right up there with redemption and puppies. It wasn't challenging so much because of the inherent difficulty of the workout---though there was plenty of that---but because I was so very unmotivated. I was tired, sore from yesterday's WOD, and oddly sleepy---I kept yawning during the workout.

In contrast, yesterday's workout, CrossFit Total, went pretty well. I was quite pleased with my results: a new CFT personal record of 690 pounds, including a squat PR of 255 and a deadlift PR of 300. A little arithmetic will reveal that my shoulder press was 135, which was actually down 2 pound from my PR. Still, I like to think the total isn't bad for a some one weighing 140.0 the morning of the workout. Lastly, I should point out that Alison had PRs on all 3 lifts yesterday. I'm quite proud of her.

Gusty Gibbon Drops

Ubuntu 7.10 (Gusty Gibbon) was released on Thursday. Wired has a review of it here. They find it to be very easy to install, configure, and run. I'm building a web server around 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) at home, and I've been quite pleased with it. If you are looking for an inexpensive and easy-to-use alternative to Windows or Mac OS, I encourage you to check out this latest version.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Claire Bear, Indeed

As you are probably aware, Claire Bennett on Heroes has the power of spontaneous regeneration, making her much like Wolverine, but without the claws or the adamantium-infused skeleton. I've often thought that, although other powers are more flashy or fun, hers is the best one to have, especially if you live the rather dangerous lifestyle of Heroes cast member or X-man. Not only would you be almost indestructible, but you would also reap other, less immediate benefits. First, your power would counter-act your aging, allowing you to live for over a century while maintaining a youthful appearance and fitness level, just like Wolverine. Second, you'd be immune to overtraining; you would recover from workouts very quickly, allowing you to exercise very intensely and frequently, thus reaching unparalleled levels of fitness. Cool, eh?

By the way, when I pointed out this second hidden benefit to my bride, she said, "You're a big nerd. You know that." Yes. In other news, the sky is blue, down is the direction in which gravity pulls, and pain is considered, by the majority of 18- to 34-year-old males, to hurt.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How is She Still Alive?

I've just learned that my lovely and intelligent bride is entirely incapable of flipping a coin. She had to do it repeatedly today as part of her TA gig, and it apparently went rather poorly. She gave me a demonstration of her "technique" this evening, and she nearly had to administer oxygen to me after the laughing fit that ensued. Please, the next time you see her, ask her to repeat the demonstration for you. Just be sure that you aren't eating at the time. I only hope the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration doesn't see her attempting this "feat," or they'll surely revoke her license to drive.

Apparently, in the same class, she needed to open a Venetian blind to let some light in. When she pulled the cord, the entire blind came right off the wall. Maybe she should lay off the CrossFit for a bit.

She told me, "I'm sure [my adviser] thought I was a spaz, but I really wasn't doing it on purpose." When I explained to her that a klutz wouldn't do it purposefully either, she replied, "So Elizabeth correctly thought I was a spaz." Yes, correctly.

I realize that I'm not the most athletic person in the world, but for crying out loud! I think this could be a deal-breaker.

How to Meat People and Be Loved

I think I've just found Nick's Halloween costume.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Touch Them with Your Own Noodly Appendage

Those members of the readership who both (a) are pastafarians---at least Brian---and (b) enjoy Halloween---probably all seven of you---may be interested in this article showing you how to make your own Flying Spaghetti Monster costume.

The Fun Police

Whedonites in the readership may be aware that sing-along screenings of the Buffy musical episode Once More, with Feeling are held in theaters across the country. Well, were held. F*x has ordered a termination of the events, stating that they exceeded the series' licensing agreements.

Alison summed up the situation quite succinctly: "F*x is evil. They're like the fun police!"

Melinda in the Shower

Here's another metaphor brought to you by Alison's former flatmate:
Melinda in the shower, metaphor. Any person who gets so caught up in thinking about other things while performing a mindless task, especially one related to hygiene, that she takes an extremely long time to complete said task.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I've certainly dropped the ball with respect to Halloween-hacking posts this year. Still, regular readers will know that Make's blog is the place to go to find inspiration for costumes, props, and even food. Food? That's right; check out these fleshworms. Mmmm...fleshworms.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mickey

Yesterday was my mother's birthday. So, happy birthday, Mom!

Effect an Effect

I've been trying to post a higher percentage of original content, rather than simple links-with-comments, but I can't pass up linking to the latest xkcd comic. As a budding grammar Nazi, I find that this comic effects great amusement.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Warners Exec is Sexist Moron

I just came across an article describing how Warner Bros president of production Jeff Robinov has stated that the studio will no longer produce films with women in leading roles. Apparently, he doesn't even want to see a script with a leading female character. This move seems to have been motivated by the poor performance of a few of WB's recent women-led pictures; the studio's underperforming male-led films are evidently not judged solely on the gender of the main character.

What brand of craziness is this?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint

Fans of heroes in the readership---that's pretty much all of you---might be interested in this mockumentary of the legend of Takezo Kensei, which is brought to you by the Yamagato Fellowship.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Mmm....pizza crust....gaaaahhhhgghh...... *drool*

Oh. My. God. I love you Alton! Love!

Ahem. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Michael and I often make homemade pizza, but we have always used store-bought crust that we just topped ourselves. Don't get me wrong, up until a few hours ago, I thought it was really, really tasty. A few days ago we were watching Good Eats on the Food network and Alton Brown, the chef who hosts the show, did a show on pizza crust. Hmm...intriguing. I have tried to make homemade crust from a recipe that my sister gave me a few times, but it has always turned out not so good. Toward the end of the episode, Alton said that he often eats the crust without any toppings...just brushed with olive oil with a little salt and pepper on top. Michael and I looked at each other and said, "Man that sounds good!" So, we decided to make this recipe. It's a bit involved as many of Alton Brown's recipes tend to be, but it is SO WORTH IT. Michael and I took his suggestion and just brushed the crusts with olive oil before baking and put some pepper on top. We also roasted a head of garlic and spread that on after it was done. The recipe makes two crusts and we polished it all off in about 10 minutes. It was AWESOME!! The recipe is available on the internet here. Just a few notes:

  1. I could not find instant yeast as his recipe calls for. In case you have the same issue, I used regular (not rapid rise) yeast that comes in the packet instead and it turned out, as mentioned before, REALLY WELL. I used one packet. On the back it gave instructions for using the yeast when the recipe calls for it to be added in with the flour and not dissolved in water first, so we followed those, actually measuring the temperature of the water we added, and it worked out fine.
  2. My crust was not pretty. At one point I was worried because it was only vaguely round and was not very evenly stretched. It totally didn't matter. I'll probably practice making it look nicer in the future, but don't get discouraged if it seems like kind of a mess. It will still taste amazing.
  3. This recipe is not difficult....it just requires a little planning ahead because of the 24 hour rise in the middle.
So, I heartily encourage you to try this out. I want more already!

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

If you've read Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials books or are excited about seeing the upcoming film adaptation of the first novel, then you may be interested in a couple of daemon-related links:
  • Yahoo Movies has a five-minute behind-the-scenes video that not only discusses how the daemons were brought to life for the new film, but also includes the best footage so far of the daemons themselves.
  • If you've wondered what form your daemon would take, then surf over to the official movie site, choose your language, click "DAEMONS," and press "MEET YOUR DAEMON" to take a daemon-diagnostic test. Apparently, my daemon would be a jackal, while Alison's would be a tiger. (Curses!) What about yours?
By the way, I'm a third of the way through The Amber Spyglass now, so I should soon be ready to discuss the trilogy with those of you in the readership who recommended the books to us.