Letter to Congress

Text of a message sent to both New York Senators and my Congressional representative:

I am writing to urge that the next Congress make as one of its top priorities a thorough and bipartisan investigation into allegations of irregularities in the American electoral process.

Donald Trump is making claims that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election.
Jill Stein is raising money to press for audits of the vote in three states, to determine whether voting tallies were tampered with.
Either these claims are true, in which case the American democratic process has been subverted; or they are not, in which case the claims themselves are undermining confidence in our voting system, and once again the American democratic process is being subverted. Whichever is the case, the consequences of inaction will be dire.
During the campaign, Trump threatened to reject the outcome of the election if he lost. Suppose he, or some other future sitting President, were to refuse to concede an electoral loss, citing unsubstantiated claims of fraud and tampering, and to turn over power to a democratically elected successor? This nightmare scenario is entirely possible and could occur only four short years from now, if our electoral process is not sound and known to be sound by then.
I recognize that voting is conducted and regulated by the various states, and that addressing irregularities is a matter for their legislatures. Nevertheless, the claims are being made at the national level, and the consequences are a national problem. I believe Congress must investigate them. Our democracy is imperiled if our voting process cannot be believed in.

Rey’s speeder (part 5)

Rey’s speeder (part 5)

So much for a few design tweaks.

Here’s what I have so far for a 1/19 (4 studs wide) speeder. 4-wide 4-wide-2 4-wide-3The top and front of the body, the bottom engine, and the controls are largely unchanged from the kit. The interior, bottom, and sides of the body, the top engine, and the saddle mounting are all completely different. The body’s one stud longer than the original, to get it closer to scale length. I did reuse the 4×4 wedge panel on the sides, which do not hinge. There are no provisions at all for opening up the body — there wasn’t really room inside for even the suggestion of engines to look at.

There’s a couple of holders where a net can be attached to the left side (but not in LDD), and they can be used to clip Rey’s staff to the speeder too — a staff which also got redesigned, since the minifig scale staff was too small for this model.

I did change the front grille to black (not that all the colors here are what I would use in a physical build). No oval rim though. The stud shooters have reverted to “directional steering exhaust nozzles”, executed similarly, I think, to Andrew Becraft’s model.

If I know me I’ll probably fiddle with this a bit more, but unless I find a serious fundamental flaw, which is entirely possible, I don’t think I’ll make any major changes. As for building it, well, not very soon, but maybe after Christmas I will.

Rey’s speeder (part 4)

Rey’s speeder (part 4)

I spent a ridiculous amount of time in LDD yesterday. Because I am an adult.

I worked out that a scale of about 1/25, basically the largest you can go with proper scaling and still claim minifig scale, corresponds to a body width for the speeder of 3 studs. No one in their right mind would design a 3 stud wide speeder, though.

And yet here we are.

3-wide 3-wide-2 3-wide-3I tried in several places to carry over stuff from the LEGO kit design only to find reasons why it wouldn’t work well, so this ended up being basically 100% new design. It came out looking better than I was expecting; I’m not sure how well the build would work mechanically, though. (I have a suspicion the whole nose would be likely to fall off if you looked at it funny.) I’m pleased with the brick built orange stripes, which add a lot to the otherwise slablike body. There’s no net, or provisions for anchoring a net, but that’d be easy.

But I don’t think I’ll be building this.

It was educational, trying to work within a 3 stud width. My feeling, though, is that a modified version of the LEGO kit would look considerably better, with nicer details, even though at 1/19 it’s really too big for minifig scale.

Then there’s 2 stud width, 1/37, firmly within and not at the edges of minifig scale range. That’d really look like a bare, square slab, though. Unless I… NO. I AM NOT GOING THERE. Today.


Rey’s speeder (part 3)

I hadn’t realized until I overlaid the LEGO model on a schematic of the “real” speeder how out of whack the scale is:speeder-compareAdjusting to make the heights the same, and disregarding the spurious stud shooter pods, the engines on the LEGO kit are too fat but not by a lot, and the bottom one’s too low but not by a lot, and there’s not much one can do about either. The body width side to side is too large, but mainly on the wedge shaped plates that form the front halves of the side panels; they form the widest part of the body, whereas they really should be recessed a little. Otherwise the body could stand to be a stud narrower, maybe, but that would really make for a design mess. Or of course the other dimensions could be increased a little, but it’s already near the limits of minifig scale.

The real problem is the body length. Much too short.

In the kit the stabilizing fins (which, trust a model rocketeer on this, would not do much of anything to stabilize this thing) are too far from the engines. Oh, by the way, you can’t see the fins on the LEGO drawing because I imported the LDD file into BrickSmith to get these straight-on side, front, and top views (LDD seems to allow only perspective views), and the LDraw database doesn’t include that part. But you can see the brackets they clip into, and they themselves are beyond where the fins in the schematic are.

One other amusing discrepancy is the saddle, which is too far back. Presumably the reason for this is that the Rey minifig can’t sit on the smooth-surfaced saddle, so instead it goes on the (lengthened) studded surface in front of it. I am not sure what to do about that: having the minifig ride the speeder is problematic in all sorts of ways, but giving that up seems wrong.

The bottom engine can stay as it is, except to get rid of the spurious blue stud. The top one, well, there isn’t an engine really, just a nozzle at the back. Can that be improved? And in the process bring the fins in at least a little?

As for the body, it certainly needs lengthening, which means the side panels need re-designing and maybe correcting their height profile is possible.

… and if the body is lengthened then the argument that the size is within minifig scale limits gets a little less defensible. Sigh.

Wait, when did this little toy turn into such an involved project? I was just going to tweak the kit a little…



Rey’s speeder (part 2)

Rey’s speeder (part 2)


Prior experience with LEGO Digital Designer led me to expect significant trouble with trying to build the speeder digitally. In fact there were very few problems — some pieces (notably the fins) unavailable in the right colors, and some (notably the stud shooters) unavailable at all. So I made a few substitutions. I left off the tools hanging off the side and the stuff stowed inside, and the minifigs of course. I mounted the whole thing on a stand to elevate it. Ta daa. Now I can work on digital mods.speederspeeder2

#MarsWalk Day 323, 2013.4 km

I finally decided it’s OK not to post a weekly update if there’s nothing worth talking about. You can always check the spreadsheet if you want to know where I’ve gotten to.

A pretty miserable week for distance. Saturday I was busy all day at Walt’s Secret Santa. We got 2 feet of snow Sunday and Monday. I think I heard it was largest or second largest November snowstorm on record. We’ve now had something like 1/3 as much snow as all last winter. Walking during Monday to Wednesday was limited due to sidewalk conditions — I suppose if I’d thought of it I could’ve brought my snowshoes to work and tramped around in Oakwood Cemetery, but I didn’t — and continued unpleasant weather. Threat of rain kept me in on Thanksgiving though it didn’t actually rain much. Today the meetup group had a hike in Camillus Forest. It was billed as a snowshoe hike but enough had melted or been tramped down that the trail was mostly bare. (Mostly bare mud.) Some of us brought snowshoes but we left them in the cars. 6 km. Good to be out there again.

One notable thing: On Tuesday, I did cross the 2000 km point.

This HiRISE picture of a candidate impact site is just under 100 km off to my east, and is not all that exciting, but it’s the closest I’ve been to a HiRISE site in weeks.

MarsWalk spreadsheet

MarsWalk kmz file (for Google Earth — View >> Explore >> Mars)

Rey’s speeder

Rey’s speeder

The local hobby store had a sale last weekend and I couldn’t resist this:img_1891

(Yes, that piece toward the back wasn’t seated properly, and I didn’t notice until I saw this picture.)

I kind of like this set, but on the other hand, I kind of want to redo it a little more faithfully to the movie. For one thing Rey’s speeder doesn’t have tools clipped to the side, it has salvaged junk hanging in a net:[<oz>PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE STAND SUPPORTING THE SPEEDER</oz>]

The model’s sides open up to reveal storage space:2016-11-20-11-01-48But canonically… that’s not storage space.And somehow the “directional steering exhaust nozzles” have turned into stud shooters.

Okay, I get it — first of all, the LEGO model probably was based on very limited pre-release movie information, and second of all, it was designed and marketed as a play toy. Not saying they made bad design choices. Just that different choices would be nice.

Some other builders have complained the model is too large compared to the minifig Rey. Of course this gets into the whole question of what minifig scale really is… given the wide/squat proportions of a minifig, Tom Alphin comes up with either 1/25 or 1/42. Rey’s speeder is said to be 3.73 meters long so minifig scale probably should be between 9 and 15 cm. It’s actually about 14 cm, so somewhat defensible. But the 1/25 scale is based on minifig width, not length, and in this context length is arguably more important.

On the other hand, there’s no way a minifig looks like a scale-accurate Rey, so trying to have it reach the pedals is perhaps a misguided effort.

Other people have had similar thoughts. Here’s Andrew Becraft of the Brothers Brick with his take:

Which is not bad. Not a really big departure from the original design; it addresses most of the problems noted above. He’s also particularly pleased with the black oval rim around the grill, seen in the moviebut not present in the LEGO kit. I’m less easily pleased. I find it too prominent and distracting. Actually part of the problem is the light grey, instead of black, grill. Maybe the rim would look better if the grill were black. Maybe not.

Here’s one by Stuart Lucas:

This actually was built before the movie was released, based on the trailer. Looks to me about the same length as the LEGO set, but narrower side to side.

Obi-Jon built this one before the movie release, too, though it looks like he got the Rey minifig from the LEGO set. Definitely shorter and much narrower. Much too narrow, in fact.

Along similar lines, post-movie release, is one by Hannah Chen of KJ Lego Microbuilds:

It looks like DarthTwoShedsJackson built his from parts out of the LEGO kit, or at least using some of the same parts the LEGO kit did (and the minifig):

I get where these smaller scale speeders are coming from. In particular DTSJ’s, at least from that angle, makes it look like Rey is actually riding the thing rather than just sitting on top of it. (Though in a direct side view it appears the top engine is going right through Rey’s body — minifig legs are not made for straddling.) Still, I’m not sold. Reduced to such a small size the whole thing starts to turn into a featureless, squared-off oblong block; at the point when the speeder becomes less visually interesting than the minifig, I think you’ve lost too much.

Nick Chen’s version definitely takes the “small is beautiful” idea too far:(Seriously, though, that seems to be one of a large set of LEGO Star Wars figures wearing their ships as costumes, and you should click through and enjoy all of them.)

In the other direction, at least two larger scale models have been submitted to Lego Ideas. This one is by JiHyun Jyoo:It didn’t get a lot of support and frankly I can see why. Too bristly, lots of edges where the original had smooth surfaces. No net, instead tools clipped to the side. And why the generic minifigs for a non minifig scale object? Misguided. Aside from that, it’s a beautiful piece of work on its own, but it just doesn’t represent the original very well.

I like Robert Lundmark’s better.That one pretty much nails what a larger scale speeder ought to be, I think. No minifig of course. A minifig on this would look like a Jawa on a Wookiee ship.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been looking at, while I’m sort of kind of thinking of a version along similar lines to Becraft’s. But with a black grill, probably no oval rim but maybe; consider his post-build idea to “brick-build the orange striping in dark orange instead of bright orange”; some possible mods to the cockpit and engines. Probably a support system similar to Lundmark’s. And if (IF!!) the right side, or perhaps the top, could be detachable (rather than hinged) to reveal an interior suggesting the above cutaway diagram that’d be gravy.


If miserliness is a virtue then so is patience

Woot, yeah. Checked this morning and discovered Comixology had lowered the prices on a bunch of collections: Four on my wish list were down to $5 each and a fifth down to $11. Over on Amazon? (Which owns Comixology.) All five were down to $5. Huh. A bunch of other collections also are down to $5 including one that wasn’t on my wish list but should have been.

So they’re mine now.

All on my B-list. But I’ve been caught up for months on my A-list collections. There are some more B-listers out, too recently to be that cheap; give ’em a couple months or three. Then as for the ones I’m really looking forward to, well, they’ll be out in the next two months or so and as for when I buy, depends on how cheap I wait for them to get before succumbing.

So that’s me, months behind but pinching pennies.


The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

I’d heard of this book before, and probably of the webcomic it derives from, but for incomprehensible reasons I hadn’t read either until recently when a Twitterite posted news of a new Lovelace and Babbage story, the first in quite some time. I binge-read what comics are still online (some which are in this book have been removed), then decided I had to read the book. I tried first getting it from the library as a Kindle book but found it too hard to read — text too small and, unlike with a textual ebook, not really enlargeable. So I put in a request for the paper and ink book and waited for it.

Worth the wait.

One of the most delightful books I’ve read in recent memory. The comics themselves are funny (“This must be Twittered! Wait. This is a fan.”), engaging, and wonderfully drawn. And they, like Lovelace’s translation of Menabrea’s description of the Analytical Engine, are supplemented almost to a tail-wagging-dog level with entertaining footnotes and endnotes detailing information about the historical Lovelace, Babbage, Babbage’s Engines, and various people caught up in the story — I. K. Brunel, William Hamilton, Marian Evans (alias George Eliot), the Charleses Dickens and Dodgson, and others. The book concludes with extracts from various primary sources — including a couple of letters, hitherto little-known, that pretty much obliterate the notion that Lovelace was anything less than a highly skilled mathematician, a vital contributor to the development of computing, and someone genuinely admired and liked by Babbage — and an illustrated summary of the working principles of the Analytical Engine.

That in reality Lovelace died at 36 and Babbage never completed his computation engines is proof, if any still is needed, that the universe in which we live is woefully defective.

That Padua has produced this book is proof that it still has its great moments.

#MarsWalk Day 302, 1898.8 km

#MarsWalk Day 302, 1898.8 km

Remarkably, after months of not doing any Outdoor Adventures meetup events, I’ve just done two a week apart. Sunday’s hike was at Highland Forest, scene of many Boy Scout campouts in my youth and several rocket launches in my son’s youth which led me to my present rocketry activity… but this was the first time I’ve hiked the main trail in its 14 km entirety. 2016-10-30-12-27-25It was by a good margin the longest on-foot distance I’ve done any day this year, and probably for several years prior. In fact it was a good week considering none of it was on bicycle.

As forecast, there’s nothing of any interest near me on Mars, and nothing elsewhere on or near the planet that counts as compelling news. Can I go live there?

MarsWalk spreadsheet

MarsWalk kmz file (for Google Earth — View >> Explore >> Mars)