Death Star Lamp

DeathStarLamp smNot too many science fiction movie images last longer than that of the Death Star in the original Star Wars movie.  While walking through my local IKEA recently, I came across a lamp that reminded me of that very thing.  As I stood there admiring it, I realized it was not just me that made the association.  I heard at leat a half a dozen people exclaim, "Look, it's the Death Star!"  It gets better.  I noticed two small cards hanging down from the bottom, and at the end of each one was a small version of the larger lamp above etched into the plastic surface.  Pulling on one of the cords makes the lamp expand, or explode.  The other cord colapses it back into a sphere.  See a video of it in action here.

I had my family with me, and we were actually looking for some hanging lamps at the time, but not exactly this style.  We needed downlights for over our bar.  Did we go home with a Death Star?  Yes we did.  This lamp comes in two colors - a kind of a lime green, and an electric orange.  The color is on the inside, as you can see from the video.  The outside of both lamps is a kind of matte, eggshell white.  I installed this over our breakfast table, and no one has been able to keep their hands off of it yet.  We did get separate lights for the bar - another story for another day.

That is the fun part, but the geekiness does not end there.  IKEA has been on a push lately to convert all their lighting products over to LED lighting.  While this lamp will take a standard incandescent 40 watt bulb, it does far, far better with a 60 watt equivelant LED bulb installed.  Even though LED bulbs (especially the clear ones) are high on the glare factor, this lamp does a superior job in blocking the glare, and providing remarkably even diffused light outward, and a little bit brighter up and downward.  So, here is a stylish, if not iconic lamp, that puts out as much light as a standard pendant lamp, but it only uses 9 watts of power.  Thats barely more than the old C7 style incandescent Christmas bulbs (each).  The lamp comes with a standard sized mounting plate that wires into a standard sized hanging light electrical box.  This is a huge improvement for IKEA lamps, as most of their hanging lamps do not have standard mounting packages.  Many come with just a regular plug, as if we have all our recepticles mounted in the ceiling.  I have a digital dimmer on mine, which allows me to dial down the brightness if I so choose, but the lamp could just be opened and closed to increase/decrease the illumination from it.

I have to admit, there is a part of me that wants to paint the outside of it black, and stencil on a circle for the dish that destroys planets.  Who wouldn't love to have their own personal Death Star?  In their kitchen!

The lamp is about 14 inches in diameter, and has a ceiling mount with about a five foot cord.  Once I converted my existing can light to a standard electrical box, it took me about 20 minutes to hang it, and assembly of the globe itself only took about ten minutes.  It comes in only two interior colors, green and orange.  I paid $69.99 for it.  Part number is 602.511.23 and it is part of the IKEA PS 2014 collection.

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A Tale of Two Libraries

When was the last time you visited your local library?  For me, it had been a while, perhaps two years or more.  That is not to say that I have not used my libraries services in that time; I have done that frequently.  I download books for my ereader, and upon occasion, electronically look up, transfer, and hold a book at a nearby branch, which my wife picks up for me.  This is usually a book that is not available in electronic format yet.  My wife is frequent visitor to the library, and often checks out multiple books on a huge variety of topics, so she just picks up my materials while she is there.  

Recently, I was at a Maker Con event in Tampa, where among the showcases was a booth for the Tampa/Hillsborough County library.  The booth was staffed by two library employees, who were promoting a new development at the main library branch in downtown Tampa (John F. Germany Public Library).  What they were promoting was the conversion of one floor of the library into a maker area.  There are to be meeting spaces, tools (including a 3D printer), a robotics lab, and other small work areas for single or group projects.  There are also some smaller rooms with tools like sewing machines for use be library patrons.  I asked how one would reserve the use of these resources, and was told that it had not been worked out just yet.  It is being targeted for opening around June/July 2014.  For more information on the new facility, click here.  A proposed layout of the new space can be found below:

cictampa

So, last week I thought I would stop by to see if I could see what was going on.  I couldn't get access to the area, but a very friendly and helpful employee did confirm what I learned about the area being created.  She really didn't seem to know much more about it than I already did, stating that it was whole separate area of the library, and spoke of the the staff associated with it almost as if they were part a completely different organization or agency.  I recall thinking at the time that it was kind of odd, especially since it was just another floor in the same branch.  

While I was there, I looked for a book on a technical topic I was researching, and was happy to find a recently published copy on the topic.  I flipped through it to make sure it covered what I was looking for, and was satisfied it would fulfill my need.  I walked over to the checkout counter to check it out, and found that I could not check it out unless I had my physical library card with me.  No card, no checkout.  I had my card number with me (in my smartphone), but that wouldn't do, not even with a photo ID.  How archaic - the same facility that will soon let me build and test robots, will only accept an old fashioned physical library card.  Perhaps some of that innovation on the new floor could be put to use bringing the checkout up to the times.

I'm ecstatic the library is embracing the new user of libraries, and that soon there will be a whole new level of education available there.  What a fantastic way to maintain relevance, and the potential to bridge old learning methods with new.  Just don't make me bring my library card...

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The Engineer's View on Ecology

One of the primary reasons I chose to start this site, and to promote the idea of engineering for the sake of efficiency just because it was a smart thing to do, was because of the ideas expressed in this piece recently published by the Wall Street Journal:  The Scarcity Fallacy, WSJ, 26APR2014

I believe most critical thinkers, when observing the dialogue presented by most in the mainstream press, have to question some of the absolutes presented, that we as readers are to take for granted.  Among these are the obvious low hanging fruit of celebrities who espouse ecology friendly viewpoints of reducing our carbon footprint, while travelling in their private jets to "green" events to relay those opinions to their public.  I would like to take it a step higher than those well meaning, but perhaps not critically thinking celebs, to those that dwell in the area of research or scientific analysis.  For years we have heard that one day we will run out of fossil fuels, water, or the ability to feed the human population of this planet.  Based on the technology and utilization of the most inexpensive process of the day, that may have been true at the time.  If one were to take that snapshot in time, and extend those processes and assumptions based upon them to 20, 30, or 50 years ahead, it would yield a dismal future indeed.  My question is, why do we have to fix these predictions in our collective mindset as the way things will really be?

Politics aside, we are above that as educated, rational thinkers.  If we look back to the mid to late seventies, the popular press published plenty of articles on the concerns of the global cooling, and how we may not have the temperate zones necessary to support the growing of the needed food supply of a burgeoning human population.  Now one hears the same concerns about global warming, which is now morphing into the much more vague "climate change".  Regardless of a warming or cooling climate, we are much more capable of adapting to whatever may come.  This article spells out exactly how that adaptation has taken place, and how it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.  Portending doom sells the news, be it pulp, talking heads, or tweets.  Rational minds tend to think beyond that.  A highly recommended, and thought provoking read.

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Gulf Coast MakerCon

Recently, I attended the Third Annual Gulf Coast Maker Con at the Florida State Fairgrounds.  I've always enjoyed reading about the various Maker events around the country, and have lamented that they never seem to make it to a place near me.  It is either that, or I'm never near a Maker event in my travels.  I'm glad I finally made it to one of these events.  There was a little bit of everything there; form a really nice couple that made well engineered bait buckets www.baitdipper.net, to tiny inexpensive test instruments www.gabotronics.com. There was nearly everything in between including movie props, battling robots, 3-D printers, and much much more.  What I really loved more than anything was the excitement of the exhibitors sharing whatever they were into.  Many of the booths were just for informational purposes, promoting other workshops, events, and gatherings for others that share their DIY passion.

I keep hearing about how community leaders want to promote and cultivate a high tech corridor along I-4 between Tampa and Orlando.  In my humble opinion, it would pay huge dividends forward to support and promote events like this one.  It is necessary to have great colleges and universities within reach, but you just can't beat the passion that these folks have for their crafts.  The web site for the promoters of this event is gulfcoastmakers.com/ 

 

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Green4Geeks

It was about time for a retooling...

What is Green4Geeks?

Green4Geeks was concept site I started putting together several years ago, where I thought I might do a little blogging, publish some technology articles I had written, and in general be a holding place for whatever items I found interesting.  Now, I've decided to dust it off, and give it another run.  What I've found is, that I write a lot of commentary on various sites, and have felt a little confined in the formats or even the purpose of the sites I post on.  Posting here instead allows me to say everything that I want to, without limits, and then if it is appropriate, link to it from elsewhere.

Why Green4Geeks?

Green4Geeks is the concept that there are a lot of engineers, makers, tinkerers and the like, who love efficiency and "being green".  Sure, there are always the outlandish displays of pure power and excess; I fondly recall the muscle cars I've owned and raced in the past.  This is something a little different.  Now, I want to find out how low I can get my electric bill while maintaining my current lifestyle.  It has to be green, but that doesn't mean you have to give up everything.  How can I still drive a high performance vehicle without spending a fortune on energy to get that performance?  You get the idea.

Join the Discussion!

Email me or log on and leave comments.  Either way, I would love to hear from you.

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