Not for the weak minded.

The Dance Floor

July 15th, 2013 Josh

As a companion to my new website,, and the first set of posts regarding a formalized design process that can be used to ensure success of any project, I am going to undertake a fairly complex project. I have a wedding coming up in October, and so I have a definite time constraint, which means that the success of this project is critical. Since I believe that following “The Formula” will ensure success in projects that have never been done, I am going to follow this process.

So here, I am going to log the first step in The Formula, defining the goal of my project:

Build a dance floor for an outside wedding, at least 16’x16′ square, and do it for less than renting one for $600.

This is the main goal of the project, and if I succeed at this, I will have a vary happy wife. Because I think that building a dance floor is going to be easy (and because I’m a sucker for awesome projects) I’m going to also add a stretch goal:

Integrate an 8×8 interactive illuminated display into the floor.

That’s it for the goal. It was tempting to start to define more constraints, but I’m sticking to The Formula!

The next post in this series will define the operational concept.

Birthday Statistics…

May 18th, 2010 Smerfj

So today is my birthday (well, by the time I finish this post, it will be yesterday).

First off, thank you to all who took the time to wish me a happy birthday!

Now, just for grins I thought I would collect the data for who wished me a happy birthday and do some analysis.  Why? Because I’m an engineer, and that’s what I do. To make things fun, and maybe spark a few different responses next year, I have a “prize” thrown in the mix. I’ll say what it was at the end of the post. So here are the fun statistics for the day:

Total numbers:

I received a total of 79 happy birthday wishes today.
71 unique people wished me Happy birthday.
16 of those people wished me happy birthday even though we haven’t had a legitimate conversation in more than a year, or really, ever.


8 people jumped the gun, and wished me a happy birthday before my birthday.
I received 11 wishes before 8am, 18 between 8am and noon, 13 between noon and 5pm, and 29 after 5pm.


I got 9 wishes in person.
10 People talked to me on the phone.
13 People texted me
1 person emailed me
45 people used facebook
1 person twittered
8 people wished me happy birthday using more than one method of communication. 1 of those people used three methods (the rest used 2).


I got 1 cake (homemade, and awesome)
12 people sang to me, 7 of them on the phone.
one person took a shot with me.


Take note, because you get bragging rights for the “grand prize”.
Grand prize, First person to wish me a happy birthday in a personal manner, on my actual birthday (methods that count are in person, phone call, or text to my phone): Brian McWhirter (which is awesome because we’ve been best friends for 12 or so years now, and he still got it).

Runner up, first birthday wish, jumping the gun a whole two days early is Matthew Klobucher.

Most birthday wishes goes to Matthew Wright, who texted, twittered, and wished me a happy birthday in person.

So, from these numbers, what can I gather? Well, I have many caring friends, and I am grateful for you all (even if Facebook had to remind you that it was my birthday). Now I’m going to switch my Facebook birthday to Friday and see how many people get tripped up. This should be fun.

I leave you with this, the ending to the game Portal (so if you have not played the game, and might, don’t click play…) which happens to be catchy, entertaining, involves science and guns, and of course, cake.


January 22nd, 2010 Smerfj

This past weekend I went to my first pistol competition. Jim (who teaches the NRA classes with me) has been itching to go to some kind of competition for a while now, found this one and we decided that we would just go and check it out. The match took place at the EMRL range.  We brought out gear, but had only planned to watch.

Of course we got there and everyone told us to break out the gear and shoot! So we took part in our first competition. I don’t think we did that bad either for our first try. Overall we placed 11th and 12th out of about 30 people. There are different divisions based on what pistol you carry. I am in the CDP (custom defense pistol) category with my .45 cal 7+1 Ithica Colt 1911. There were only 7 people in that category, but I placed 2nd! Jim ended up in the SSP (standard service pistol) category along with about 20 other people, so with nearly the same score, he placed 8th in his division.

We are both also classified as UN … unclassified (imagine that), but in February there will be 2 classification matches. I will be practicing quite a bit more at home between now and then since my downfall was my slow magazine changes.

The highlight of the trip had to be the 7 year old kid. He was very meticulous, but an impressive shot for his age. Give him 10 years and he’ll be unbeatable. He’ll also finally be able to drive!

Here are some videos:

Check out all my videos here:

“Computer Sex Corner” Never Ends Well

January 13th, 2010 Smerfj

If you know me well, you know that I have a myriad of projects that are never ending. The current project that is occupying my living room table is a combination project. I received an electric guitar from West, a talented young musician whom I met playing in the Shoreline band, about a year ago.

The guitar is a very basic strat knock-off. It is a Tradition brand stratocaster replica (3 single coil pickups), though I cannot find the model online. It has been painted a few times, the trim is quite faded, and the knobs are scratchy when turned.

I have considered buying a new guitar for a while, but I just don’t have the drive to spend a few hundred bucks on a guitar when I don’t play enough to really know what style to get. Since everything I own inevitably gets modified, I decided to go ahead and overhaul the Tradition guitar and make it worth playing on a regular basis. I knew that at a minimum I would need to replace the pots (potentiometers – they are the electronic part of the knobs) so that I could use the tone and volume controls.

So last week I began disassembling it. It was probably the least-complex device I have ever taken apart. Since it is now in pieces, I began to do some research to see what other things I could do before putting it back together. In my research, I found 3 modifications that I want to perform before assembling it.

The first modification is easy: Strip the 3 coats of paint off and refinish the body. Many layers of paint only serve to deaden the guitar and kill the resonant properties of the body. This makes sense since when I played it the sustain was lacking compared to some of the nicer guitars that my friends play.

The second modification is to revamp the electrical setup. I am ditching the 5 way switch in favor of a 5-switch modification that allows individual selection of pickups, series/parallel configuration, and phase configuration. This appeals to me because it requires minimal work and gives me some more features on the guitar. I am also replacing the tone and volume pots with 250k pots, replacing the 500k pots that came standard. The switch mod also requires a second tone cap to properly implement. The final part of the electrical revamp is star ground. Star ground is simply attaching all grounds to a single point. This is important to eliminate electrical hum in low signal strength devices.

The final modification is removing the tremolo springs and replacing the tremolo block with a piece of wood, hard mounted to the body. This will increase sustain as well. When I got the guitar it did not have a tremolo lever on it, and I don’t think I’ll use it any time soon – might as well get rid of it.

Those modifications are quite simple, and aside from buying an orbital sander to speed up paint removal, I could easily finish it this weekend.  The other part of this project is slightly more complex: A stomp-box to plug the guitar into.

I have also done quite a bit of research on stomp boxes, and settled on the “Insanity box”. I have no idea what it sounds like, but it is a good balance between complex sound capability and low complexity built. (if the site didn’t include a printed circuit board schematic, it would be quite a bit more complex…). At the moment, I have all of the components. Since I have verified that the schematic matches the pcb download, I am very tempted to just build it without attempting to design it on a test board first. I know from experience that this is a bad idea, so only time will tell whether I will jump the gun and screw it up, or not. For now though, I have a pile of parts that has invaded my living room.

If you are a computer or electronics customizer, you are familiar with this. You probably have that pile of computer parts in a corner of your bedroom or closet, or (in my case) living room. Most of the time it is small enough to ignore, but then one day you turn around and the pile is invading the room. Maybe it’s because you’re stocking up for a project, or maybe it’s just because you have accumulated too many spare parts. Whatever the reason, the parts seem to be multiplying.

A college friend of mine, Jenn, coined this the “computer sex corner”, where computer parts go to fornicate and multiply. I had completely forgot about this until I made a status post on facebook the other day that parts were taking over my living room. Her response to my update should be remembered by all of you electronics buffs- “‘Computer sex corner’ – never ends well.”

No Resolutions For the New Year

January 12th, 2010 Smerfj

At the turn of the year I was thinking about a few things that I could resolve to change. One was to start working out and get into shape. Another one was to finish projects I have started before moving to the next. Another was to blog more. As I went through this mental list, I decided that these were all things that I have tried to do before, and making a New Year’s Resolution was pointless – actually I think it would even hurt the issues.

My reasoning is that all of my resolutions require some kind of lifestyle change to truly accomplish them. If I want to make a lifestyle change, it has to be a forward-looking, positive change. Some people count the days that have passed since they started their change. To me that only ties you to the past. I think if you’re counting those days, you don’t actually believe you’ve made a lifestyle change, you’re just challenging yourself to persevere until you reach a higher count than your previous attempts.

So for every change I make this year, I will not be marking the day on the calendar, or attempting to count the days that have passed. I won’t tell anyone I’ve made the change; I will simply make the change and live it as if I have always lived that way.

I suppose, though I have made no ‘official’ resolutions, my New Year’s Resolution is simply ‘change’.