22 January, 2006

Space Robot in 3D

The Science Folktion music super-group, the secondhandpants, have been occasionally joined in their jams by that funky hunk o' junk, Space Robot. The only hitch was that Space Robot lacked corporeal form. During live performances of the secondhandpants, Space Robot was only able to provide his vocal stylings after being contacted via the communicatron.

To remedy this situation, Curt (aka Francis Leonard) & I set out to build a machine that Space Robot could download his morose self into. It had to be a good fit though if we ever wanted Space Robot to reside in this form, so we had to do some research.

Fortunately we discovered this ancient glyph (the one to the left) of Space Robot. We now had a blueprint for his preferred appearance. Then, drawing upon Curt's artistic vision, and my technical know-how, we amassed & assembled all the exotic metals, high-tech electronic gizmos, and musical doodads needed to create a terrestrial body for Space Robot.

After many hours of toiling in our lab; after the laser-like focusing of our combined creative genius; after much blood, sweat and mint/rooibos tea; Space Robot now has a physical presence in our dimension!

Space Robot could barely bear waiting to try out his shiny new body. As soon as he had downloaded himself into it, he burst forth into song! Luckily I had my camera handy so I shot a video clip of his first thirty seconds with the new body.

Check out this short video clip of the newly minted Space Robot singing the Space Robot Blues! The song features Space Robot on lead vocals, Francis Leonard on ukulele, and Wyll Maynard on warshtub bass & background vocals (and I mean waaaay background vocals).

After getting a shiny new coat of paint, Space Robot is looking better than ever! We sat down with him recently for a quick visit. He kindly shared with us, his broad emotional range:





Melancholia; and finally,


Watch for Space Robot to be performing with the secondhandpants at this year's Menno Folk at the WestEnd Cultural Centre this February!


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10 January, 2006

Ice Trikes

The time is once again drawing near when the Assiniboine River will frozen solid enough for the City of Winnipeg to clear a skating path. Now, I enjoy skating just fine, but I much prefer to hit the river with my ice trike! (I use the term "hit the river" in the figurative sense, although there have been occasions when it has been the literal sense.)

By the way, all these images are stills taken from a video of Colin & me riding around on the river back in March '05. You can watch the video below.

My trike is a front-wheel drive, rear-wheel steered, recumbent tricycle in a delta configuration. I designed it so that the rear part of the frame folds in towards the front for storage. It makes it nice & compact but quickly unfolds for use. Rather than paint the frame, I covered it in "poor man's chrome": aluminum duct tape. Even the rims & wheel discs are covered in the tape.

Currently the trike has a single-speed hub with a coaster brake. It works fine on the ice, but I tend to bog down in snow. It'd be good to have the option of shifting to a lower gear, of course then I'd have to add a rim brake which won't work as well in the wet conditions I usually ride this trike in. I suppose, an internally-geared bottom-bracket hub, such as a Schlumpf Mountain Drive, would be ideal for this. I could keep the coaster brake & the clean drive line, but still have the option to shift down to a power gear.

My fellow bike buildin' buddy, Colin, also has an ice trike that he built about four or five years before we built mine. His looks quite different from mine, but there are similarities: Like mine, his is a front-wheel drive, recumbent delta trike. Where it differs is that he opted for lean steering, and a much lower stance than mine. He set up his rear wheels with lot of negative camber (the wheels lean in) whereas mine have no camber, and he runs a studded tire on the front, which I don't have... yet.

Okay, so what does one do with an ice trike? What possible good could they be? Well, they are a blast to ride and the really catch people's attention.

It's a lot of fun to get up some speed and then crank the steering to put the trikes into a spin. 180° spinouts are easy to do & easy to control. We'd love to be able to do a full 380° spin, but the laws of physics continue to work against us.

Similarly, it is easy to do power turns; instead of letting the rear end spinout, we keep the power on & pull the front into the turn, letting the rear drift out.

We also race along the path, we crash into - & sometimes even through - the snowbanks, and we've even towed tired skaters behind us.

Last, but not least, we enjoy just riding our trikes up & down the river path!


This is a follow up to some comments folks have left me regarding the ice trikes.

Where did I get the plans? Actually I didn't use any plans, I just designed it on the fly as it was built. I did have a basic idea of how I wanted things from the start but most of the time construction continued on until a problem presented itself. Then Colin & I would brainstorm and come up with a solution. Often those solutions would inspire the design to take on new & improved directions.

One of the original design features was to have a combo of wheel & ice blades on the rear forks. A tandem set of 4" scooter wheels would have been used for riding on the road. Once I arrived at the river I would have flipped the assembly over to put the trike on skate blades. So far I haven't build these yet. I kinda like it the way it is with the 20" wheels all around.

As for practical aspects of this design, I'd have to say they are pretty limited. It handles like a forklift so at a "high speed" it tends to lurch from side to side. It works fine on the ice, but makes it a little dicey to use in traffic.

The cost was minimal. We built it out of recycled bikes. I think the only thing I had to pay for this project was the welding wire, a handful of nuts & bolts, and the aluminum tape. Oh, I suppose I should include the cost of the rear tires, which I nabbed from a recumbent project I haven't yet completed.

By the way, thank you all for taking the time to check out this project and leaving your comments. I really appreciate it!


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06 January, 2006

A New New Year Celebration

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had as splendid a time as I did ringing in the new year. I spent the weekend at Camp Moose Lake with a group of friends. Did some tobogganing, some snowmobiling, and a whole lotta lazin' around.

Just before midnight on December 31st, while out for a stroll down the wintry camp road, I pondered the validity of celebrating the new year at the midnight of one's local time. How much sense does it make to wait in anticipation for the beginning of something, that it has in fact begun many hours before? That's essentially what we were doing. When midnight rolled around here in the Central Time Zone, the year 2006 had actually been in existence for eighteen hours already.

Therefore, if someone in the Central Time Zone would want to celebrate the actual beginning of a year, one should do so at 6:00 a.m. on December 31st. Why? Because that's when midnight rolls around at the International Date Line way out in the Pacific Ocean, and when each new day - as well as each new year - begins. Conversely to bid farewell to the previous year, one would celebrate 24 hours later, at 6:00 a.m. on January 1st.

This opens up the possibility of three times to party over a 24 hours period:
  • 6:00 a.m. December 31st to celebrate the start of the new year;
  • 12 midnight December 31st to celebrate as we normally would; and,
  • 6:00 a.m. on January 1st to bid farewell to the end of the previous year.
Okay, so will I be found whooping it up in the early hours of December 31st & January 1st next year? Don't count on it.

All the best to you in 2006!


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