Thursday, November 2, 2023

Drip Cup for Cast Iron Juicers

Hamilton Beach manual citrus juicers have a handy drip cup that swings out when you put a cup under the juicer, and it swings back into place when you remove your juice. Without this, the dripping juice left in the metal funnel can get all over your bar top, counter, or cutting board. If you have a generic cast iron juicer that doesn't have an attached drip cup, what is an enterprising bartender to do?

Print this thing I added to Thingiverse, of course!

The mechanism uses a rubber band of the right tension to return the cup to its initial position. As you push the cup to the side, guides slide the cup out of the way. The strength of the rubber band should be tuned to be light enough to not push over your juice cup nestled between the loving cast-iron arms of the juicer. When you remove your freshly squeezed juice, the rubber band slides the drip cup back into place. Et voila!

You'll need a rubber band, a conical shot glass (the smaller the better), and an M3 set screw. You will also need a set of hex keys to disassemble the juicer base to get the Shaft sleeve on.

Enjoy your drip-free juicer! Here are some prototype and action shots:

Monday, October 30, 2023

Star Wars Kepi from

Ventured into hat making for a Star Wars costume made for my kid. I grabbed the Star Wars Imperial Officer Hat pattern from Janet's pattern was amazing! I loved the specific brand recommendations for interfacing, and I also liked that she used actual sewing terms with explanations where a noob like myself might fall down. All my questions were answered by googling when I got stuck.

We have abnormally large heads in this family, so I splashed out with enough material for two. Most of it was available from JoAnn's. My partner sews more than I do, and she helped me make sure I had all the seam allowances and backing correct before I started cutting.

The top and crown was where I struggled the most. It kept bunching up and puckering, and I couldn’t figure out a way to get it to stop. I just lived with it once I fixed the worst spots, and you can’t see it from 10 paces. Especially on black! After finishing the cap, I found that the instructions say to cut relief snips along the seam allowance of the top. Rookie mistake that I should have realized once the puckering started.  Better luck with round two!

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Food Dehydrator - Filament Dryer Mod

A half dozen full spools of PLA was discovered in the garage, and they were all out of sealed packaging. Here in the Pacific Northwest, that is no good for hygroscopic filament like PLA and PETG. When printed, it was an inconsistent stringy mess. It had a tell-tale popping like crispy bacon as it extruded, and it refused to adhere correctly.  The popping and adhesion problems I had with my tripod printer may have been caused by water-logged filament. Clearly this is a chronic problem. I'd read about filament dryers, but the cheapest were over $40. Rather than splurge, I went the DIY route with the jank turned up to 11.

OfferUp had a few used food dehydrators, and I picked a Nesco model with a few trays for $20. The simplest models are not much more than a hair dryer blowing into a big chamber made up of a bunch of trays. In my case, I wanted a single big changer into which I could put the filament spool(s). After seeing people make plexiglass versions online, I landed on an even simpler solution: $2 posterboard, doubled over and taped together into a cylinder. This gave me a big comfortable chamber in which to dry several spools if I wanted. Now to test it.

I reused the thermostat from my sous vide for clove tincture in a Huckleberry cocktail. Placing the probe into the bottom of the chamber, I tested that an empty dryer would hold the right temp (based on this fantastic article about from Prusa). And I ran it for about an hour while I tweaked the alignment and tape seals with one spool. The improvised chamber wall held, luckily, and the green tape I used does not lose stickiness at these lower temps of up to 45C/115F. I'll update this post if the PETG drying at 55C/131F has a different result.

If this system were to break in any place, it would be on the on/off duty cycle I added to maintain a constant temp. Dehydrators are meant to run for hours without stopping. Getting the fan and heating element up cranked up takes work and wears parts out, and the constant-on model I purchased second-hand was probably not designed for this. The fan was a lot noisier than the rice cooker as it cycled on and off every 30 seconds as well, so it was very annoying. By playing with the thermostat settings, I was able to change the temperature range in which it would trigger the relay while still keeping the chamber between 40-45C/104-115F. This meant it took longer breaks and cycled less often. A win for longevity.

With the preliminary tests done, the only thing left to do was run it all night. As this thing was noisy, we put it in the farthest reaches of the house, but the center of the garage would probably have been smarter.  An unknown appliance procured second-hand should be run supervised or in a fire-proof area in case it decides to melt down or short. Nothing happened, but it had me up all night checking it.  In the morning, it had run for 8 hours, and I caught it at a cooling cycle at 43C/109F. The filament itself was pliable and felt much lighter. It had a rough texture like a dry sponge.It printed nicely as well with less stringing and no popping. The $20 dryer has hopefully saved more than a hundred dollars in filament from the garbage dump. A resounding success!

I'll weigh the next spool before and after to see how much water we're really taking off. And I'll hopefully be able to test it with PETG as well.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Reading Lilith's Brood after Black Lives Matter

DEF CON Theme Screenshot Showing Lilith's Brood as a recommended book

DEF CON 31 had Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood/Xenogenesis series on it's reading list next to Snow Crash. This recommendation came after the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests which brought antiracist and critical Black history topics to the forefront of public life. Cold War and genetic engineering fears appear throughout without feeling dated, and the three novels remain provocative as they are firmly steeped in the author's American upbringing in Black culture. The old and new contexts brought out the enduring richness of this landmark Black sci-fi author's work. 

Lilith, the series' namesake, takes the reader through her personal salvation at the hands of an alien species. Salvation comes at a price for humanity as a whole, and it brings to mind historical and societal dilemmas of colonizers and colonized, enslavers and enslaved, and generational consequences to descendants of these groups. The aliens are the Oankali, a multi-system species of natural genetic engineers. They are collectors of genetic difference, and they use the genes they collect to improve themselves as they move from star to star. The action is driven by the aliens who claim that humanity has lost the right to earth due to their fierce intelligence combined with hierarchical nature leading to nuclear war. The humans that remain are sterilized and ushered into a breeding program where the Oankali will mix a new species that overcomes this core conflict in human nature.

Elements of Black history are recalled throughout the novels. The Oankali remove tumors from Lilith in an episode that recalls the plight of Henrietta Lacks who provided the initial cells for the first immortalized cell lines called HeLa, and consent is further challenged as it is revealed that children are produced from cell lines of dead or aging humans in the name of saving the species. Children produced from unions and admixture of alien DNA is a central point of later novels. The revulsion in humans that parent admixed children recalls discussions in the African American community of what life must have been like for enslaved people that had children by their enslavers, and it explores generational implications of such couplings for both parents and children. These are obviously informed by the author's personal experience as well as historical accounts of abuse and discrimination against those of African descent in the Americas. Those looking for similar examples that will shock and horrify you should seek out recent popular literature such as Ibram X Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning and the journalistic 1619 Project.

The speculative framework dispenses with some broader cultural discussions without feeling dismissive. The Earth has been colonized, for good or for ill, and the humans have deeply limited choices. Yet this is not a colonial narrative that lauds benevolent overseers for saving benighted natives. Humans never give up on Lilith's original plan to "Run, Hide, and Fight," and the human characters do not romanticize their plight as something fortunate. The concession the humans extract from the Oankali by creating a non-admixed human colony on Mars is explicitly called out for what it is: a glorified reservation. The damage is done to Earth, so it is incumbent for the humans to decide what to do next. The aliens, to their credit, recognize that they make mistakes and commit serial offenses even as they desperately try to integrate humans into their galactic lifecycle in a uniquely alien and much deeper way than historical colonizers have ever admitted or attempted.

After a summer of protests and lockdown reading lists, Butler's adventure on and above a remade Earth shows how deeply human power dynamics of oppressor and oppressed are. While alien pheromones strip consent and poison unions, the books never answer whether Lilith was right when she started the admixture of humans and Oankali. No one ever lets her forget her role as "the Judas goat." This is not a tale of liberation through force or thought.  It is an exploration of consequence and implication when the immovable alien force overtakes a wounded people and runs up against an immovable will to be human. Even as the third book comes to a close, the admixed inhabitants of Lo establish their humanity through perseverance rather than force. Withdrawal of consent, even temporarily, becomes radical when coercion is structural, biological. These have echoes in strikes, riots and protests that rocked the US and the world. We might not have total control of our selves, our emissions, and the external implications of our purchases and relationships. But even a temporary withdrawal of consent can give us power to change the deeper structure of our evolving society.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Catan’s Legacy: The Passing of Klaus Teuber

Some board game designers are mathematicians and churn out balanced experiences with finely tuned mechanics. Some are computer scientists whose games are too complicated to contemplate. Klaus Teuber was a dental technician who launched a revolution. He passed this week at 70 from a sudden and severe illness ( Allow me to add to the chorus of retrospectives to eulogize and celebrate him.

Klaus entered my life through college neighbors and date nights. Indirect competition was a welcome relief from Monopoly, though its roll-for-resources turns are eerily similar. My copy of Catan still bills itself as “The Settlers of Catan,” with a decidedly colonial illustration on the front. This perspective was all too common in the interregnum between Avalon Hill’s heyday and the very golden age it kicked off, and the switch was a bellwether of larger industry growth and acceptance. It introduced so many people to the hallmarks of the Golden Age to come: A deck of cards replaces the dice to even out the odds of each number showing up, gold salves player frustration over wasted turns, and endless spin-offs for every player-count, taste, and budget allow players to craft their favorite version. Catan was my first truly modern game.

My dad was an old-school war gamer. Hex and chit classics littered the top shelves of our closets. His old lead soldiers mixed in with my Lego (gulp). We played Risk and Hero Quest with him as a child, Warhammer for summers home from college, and Star Realms as his health declined. We played Catan together. We played everything together. Before I knew it, he was gone. He would be turning 70 this May.

Catan shaped my gaming life. I played it again for the first time with my kid in Klaus’ honor. No expansions or house rules. It took ten minutes before someone said, “I’ve got wood for sheep,” and the dice hated me all night, just like old times. Its clunky charm was amplified by memories of games past. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the evening.

Klaus won’t be the first titan to leave us.  Remember that his most famous creation didn’t become truly great without moving forward. And it never would have woven itself into the fabric of our lives without being worth countless sessions with those we love most. Let’s play one in his honor and keep moving forward.