Friday, June 29, 2012

A Life Lesson Through Woodworking

I've been thinking a lot about my whittling/woodworking experience yesterday. Though I'm probably only about halfway through whittling out my archery bow, I've grown to love the process of whittling. There is something strangely cathartic about striking a piece of wood with a sharp knife, over and over again, taking off one tiny sliver of wood at a time. I'm learning a life lesson from this process. If you don't mind, I'd like a second of your time to explain my epiphany here.
My light bulb realization-
Mastery takes hard work, painstakingly slow, often painful, hard work. To be good at anything, to accomplish anything of value takes pain, time and dedication. This may sound simple enough, but truly think about it. I'll use myself as an example. All of my life, I've tried to avoid confrontations; but not just with people, with activities as well. This explains why I never reach my goals in my hobbies. As soon as the going gets too hard, I quit and switch over to something easier; choosing short term pleasure over long term gain. Explains why I've struggled at becoming a successful author. I'm always such in a rush to publish something, the quality and quantity of my published works suffer.

Poked and Prodded- A Humorous Medical Memoir
Sure, I've had moderate success with my only fully finished book- Poked and Prodded, but that is only after I took the time with it to do the necessary revisions, rewrites, and edits which brought the story to the standards it should have been at when I first published it. Now, after putting in the difficult work I should have put into it before publishing, Poked and Prodded is a book I am proud to promote and sell. But from start to its finished state took over three months, not including the time it took to write it! Mastery takes hard work. A type of hard work that takes slow precision and dedication to the craft. A type of hard work that has never come naturally to me.

Starting today, I'm going to switch my focus. Instead of driving for short term goals and rewards, I will be shooting for longer lasting, harder to achieve, long term goals and rewards. This is not to say I am going to stop my year long challenge. I will continue reaching my monthly goals. However, I will not take the easy, fast routes to achieve these goals. I will work through the pain and work through the seemingly impossible hard work to achieve my goals. This may mean that some of my goals I will not be able to reach, but I am okay with that, because I will have proven something much more valuable to living a successful life. Mastery is more important than short term rewards.

Mastery is painful. Mastery is hard. Mastery is not easy. Mastery causes problems. Mastery seems impossible, at times. But mastery is worth all of this. When you see your finished product exceed your wildest expectations in the marketplace, when you achieve the highest prize in your field, when you know your best work is shown, seen, and shared by others, the feeling of utter jubilation and pride you experience is unmatched by any short term reward.

So shoot for mastery. Endure the pain. Push on. And one day, you will look back and decide:

it was all worth it.
Life Through Our Eyes

-And so, in the spirit of pursuing the long term, I will be removing the first part of Life Through Our Eyes from Amazon on Monday. I know now that it will be better to wait to reveal Life Through Our Eyes until I am completely finished writing, editing, revising, and rewriting it to perfection. I don't know when this will be, but I know that when Life Through Our Eyes is published again, I will be proud of it.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Making My Bow and A Three Day Free Sale!

I had a few hours of free time today. What did I decide to do? First, I've published the first installment of Life Through Our Eyes
Life Through Our Eyes
Starting tomorrow, Friday, you can download the first 33 pages of Life Through Our Eyes for Free!
Please, try it out. There's nothing to lose. Well, except for the one hour you will spend reading the first few chapters. I won't be able to refund you that hour, unless someone invents time travel by then. Hey, it's possible.

Second, I started work creating my bow. Unfortunately, I haven't received the wood plater I ordered from Amazon yet, so I had to improvise. Today, I worked on whittling down the osage orange wood stave using a kitchen knife. Let me pause here to say I know whittling out an archery bow with a kitchen knife is unconventional. But I was excited to get started today, even if that meant being unconventional. But don't worry, I was safe.

Wood whittling rule #1: Always cut away from your body. Always. Always. Always. Whittling is a type of cutting that uses a substantial force, and slips are common. That's why you must always cut away from your body and your hands. A single slip could lead to a bad cut or worse. So unless you don't mind potentially cutting off your fingers, cut away from your body. 

Want to see how far I got on my bow today? Mind you, I whittled tirelessly for about five hours straight and this is what I have to show for it:

Ta-da! Yea, okay, it's not that impressive. Especially considering this picture makes my half-whittled bow look like a skinny toothpick. 

I can't wait for my wood planer to come in.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Brief Writing Digression

I've had fun in the last two days telling people about my upcoming experiment to build my own archery bow. Unfortunately, I can't start that process until everything I have ordered from Amazon and Ebay come in. To my best estimation, all of my supplies should come in by Wednesday of next week. What am I going to this week then?

I've finished my robotics project.
I'm waiting to start the archery project.
Time to write.

This week, I'll have three full days, starting tomorrow, to write to my heart's content. Woo!
Now, I do want to pause my passion for this upcoming writing project to confront some previous words I've posted on this blog. Earlier this month, I said I wasn't going to write anymore this summer for money. Well, I'm going to bend this rule slightly. I have a Y.A. novel bouncing around my mind that just needs to be written. If I can get it done in time, in these next three days, I will be posting it on the Amazon Kindle store.

I'll give you a sneak peak at the cover of my yet-to-be-written Y.A. novel:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Resources for Archery Bow Making

In my research, I've stumbled across many great resources. I'd like to share them here:
*Ordered from general information to specific instructions
http://www.vintageprojects.com/archery-plans.html- Cool vintage blueprints for bow making
http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Bow-and-Arrow- A simple description, but clear, nevertheless
http://www.ehow.com/how_4910235_make-archery-bows.html?ref=Track2&utm_source=ask- Another simple guide
http://www.3riversarchery.com/selfbows.asp-Much more in-depth and specific instructions
http://web.mac.com/paleotool/Paleotool/Bow_Making.html- building a bow with osage orange wood
http://www.buildyourownbow.com/splitting-an-osage-log-into-bow-staves/- explains how to cut and shape osage orange wood

Additional Resources:
http://www.vintageprojects.com/archery/Flatbow-plans.pdf- Vintage self-bow plans
http://www.easterrossfieldarchers.org/flatbow.htm
http://www.3riversarchery.com/Primitives+Primitive+Bows+%26+Kits++Hickory+Flatbow+Self+Bow+Kit_c13_s189_p0_i7051_product.html- A whole self-bow kit for purchase

I'd like to now add PaleoPlanet.net, thanks to Mr. Taylor! Additionally, he suggests the books: The Bent Stick and volumes I and IV of The Traditional Bowyers Bible.

Making My Own Archery Bow

In the last post, I discussed the various types of archery bows. In this summarization, I explained that I would probably either be buying a longbow or a junior bow. Well...
I didn't do either.

I'm not going to buy a longbow.
I'm not going to buy a junior bow.

What I am going to do is build my own archery bow. Yup, true story. Building my own bow offers two great advantages. First, my bow will be a one-of-a-kind work of art. And second, I will be saving hundreds of dollars.

My only experience with archery  was my one month interest during my 6th grade year. My only experience with woodworking is...never. This should be interesting. In order to create an archery bow, I will have to shape a long piece of wood, string a bow string, and notch the bow correctly to launch arrows accurately, consistently, and reliably. Easy...right?

First I have to buy a wood stave. Which is a precut, straight wood plank perfect for making an archery bow with. Search on Ebay...place bid...watch nervously...buy wood stave. With this process complete, I will be receiving two 35" osage orange wood staves.
Next, I must purchase all of the other required elements for a bow and arrow set. This includes a wood planer, hemp cord, Gorilla Glue, and a single arrow. Why such a weird assortment of products? Allow me to explain. The wood planer is crucial to shape my plank of osage orange wood. The hemp cord? Will act as my bow string. Hemp cord is an excellent choice for a bow string because it has a very high breaking point (48lbs.) and is comparatively cheap. The Gorilla Glue? Essential for keeping the bow string on the bow, especially when fully drawn. But, what's with the single arrow? Well, as it turns out, arrows are so expensive!

Let me reiterate that, just in case you skipped over the last sentence. Arrows are so expensive! I thought the bow would blow my budget, but as it turns out, arrows are equally capable of breaking the bank. Crazy. So bear that in mind if you are looking to start getting into archery. Bows are expensive. Arrows are expensive. Archery, in general, is expensive. Simple as that.

*What other hobbies do you enjoy that are expensive? What is the most costly part of your hobby? How much money do you think you have spent on your passions so far?


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Finding the Right Bow


July goal- Shoot a bull's-eye consistently with an arrow from 15 yards away.

I know, I know, it's still June. Why am I already starting on my July goal? In order to begin working on this goal at the start of July, I have to get my hands on an archery bow before July starts. This is turning out to be more difficult than I had anticipated.

Turns out that like electronics, archery is an expensive hobby. Money, money, money. Why can I be interested in hobbies that doen't cost much? Maybe I should get into cleaning or mastering video games. Surely those hobbies would be less expensive in the long run. But, I'm not interested in those. I'm passionate about archery. Passionate about accomplishing my childhood goals in archery, to be specific  Allow me to explain the three main types of bows:

First, there is the longbow. This is the most traditional shape for a bow. The first records of these large bows dates back over 10,000 years, but the first record of the name "longbow" was first used to refer specifically to the English style of longbow. These bows range from four feet long to over six feet long! Longbows are still used to this day in competitions, fishing events, and historical reenactments.

This is probably the bow I will be purchasing. The longbow is generally a cheaper type of bow because of its basic design. Bows only get more complicated from here...




Next, there is the recurve bow. The recurve bow is a spin off the longbow design. The "recurve" element refers to the recurve of the bow limbs at its extremities. This recurve allows for the bow to be smaller, while still being allowed to deliver the same, or more, power than the traditional longbow.

Due to its compact size, the recurve bow is more popular in America than the long bow. Off course, there is one more type of bow that wins out in popularity.



This bow is the compound bow. A compound bow uses a system of pulleys and counterweights to achieve impressive strength and accuracy. With its impressive capabilities, the compound bow is the most widely used bow in America for hunting large game. Indeed, a whole industry is centered around bowhunting with compound bows. Naturally though, with this bow technology comes a steep price-tag.


I have researched for two days now, trying to find a bow in my price range. As I am on a one year quest, with my goals changing every 30 days, I can't afford to spend a chunk of change on a truly great bow. I'll leave that to the olympic archers and successful bowhunters. Instead, I am pursuing two purchase routes. First, I am asking my local community of North Platte if anyone is willing to sell me their cheap bow. So far, I have gotten one response. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will work out! Otherwise, I will be forced to go with my second route: purchasing a junior bow from Amazon.

Wait, what is a junior bow you say? A junior bow is a type of archery bow which can be effectively used using less power. Generally, junior bows are less accurate than professional bows, but they do come with a huge plus: junior bows are in my budget. So, this month, I may be going back to my 6th grade archery roots by buying a junior bow to achieve my goal with.  Stayed tuned..I should have a final decision made by tomorrow!

*What are your opinions? Should I buy a used bow or go with a junior bow? I'd love your advice!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Meet Frankenbot!

Let me tell you a story. Once, in a time not too long ago, a scientist by the name of Frankenstein decided to create life. He worked tirelessly on this creation, day and night, rain and shine. Throughout the process he pondered the ethics of his project, but he plowed on. Before too long, Frankenstein finished. His creation was complete. A hideous beast, with bits and pieces of flesh, organs, and bones from other deceased creatures. Before Frankenstein could see if his creation actually took on life, he ran, screaming "I created a monster!"

The monster rose off the table. It looked around. It examined its hands and feet, arms and legs, but it detested what it saw. With a surge of inherent rage, the monster leapt off the construction table, on  the hunt for one man: Frankenstein. He would continue this chase throughout every continent on the globe. Ultimately, the monster caught Frankenstein in the arctic. But, here is where the story ends differently than the cherished horror classic. Frankenstein got away from the monster...to this day, the monster continues to chase after Frankenstein, destroying everything in his path. Year after year of this eternal chase, the monster grew smarter and smarter. He learned to adapt and change to blend into his surroundings to better reach his human prey.
Meet Frankenbot

Today, the monster has completely transformed himself. The monster has taken on Frankenstein's name as his own. And now, Frankenstein searches the globe as...a robot...searching for his infamous creator. Even as a robot though, Frankenstein leaves destruction in his wake.

And so, robots in the 20lb class of the Critter Crunch competition, be terrified, be very terrified. Frankenstein will be there, destroying anything that gets in his way. The tale continues on...


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Remote Control Car Conversion

As per the Critter Crunch rules, my remote control robot has to operate on at least two frequencies. This means that I have to be able to control the robot on two different remote control channels. The reason for this is to prevent me from accidentally controlling some one else's robot and vice versa.
That would be bad.

HRC160240 Hitec Optic 5 2.4 Channel 2.4 GHz RadioSo, I had to figure out how I was going to create a robot that I could control on two separate channels. This was a problem. A remote control system that operates on more than one channel can cost upwards of $100. Not good. I'm not comfortable with spending that much for only one part of the car. With twelve different life pursuits to accomplish success in, I have to be as thrifty as possible. Therefore, I had to improvise. What can you do when you don't have money to buy a multi channel controller? Buy two separate remote controlled cars, who operate on two different frequencies, then blend them together into one battle robot.

On this train of thought, I entered Wal-Mart today. Fortunately, it was my lucky day. Wal-Mart was running a special on a large remote control ATV:
I picked up two of them, one operating on one frequency, and one on another. Once I got home, I took them out of their respective packaging. It would have been great to use them as is, but the Critter Crunch rules specifically state that the battle robot must fit into a 12" by 12" by 12" cube. I had to make these r/c ATVs smaller. So I did:
First, I removed the ATV driver. Then, after some measurements, I realized I'd have to remove some more. I took my cutters to the frame again. The end result is above on the right. At this size, one of the ATVs stood at a mere three inches tall. Perfect, because now I will be able to move onto phase 2:
Combining the two r/c crafts into one awesome battle robot.
To be continued...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Robot's Name is...

So, I have decided to create a name for the robot that is both fearsome and pays tribute to my dad. Without his help on this robot, I would still be looking at a pile of electronics and a metal strainer, not knowing how to start. My dad made this robot a reality. Thank you, Dad.

In honor of his help, I have decided to name the robot:
The Warden.
The Warden will destroy any opposition...
The Warden will clear the field of all rebellion...
The Warden will dominate.
A perfect name to drive fear into the competitors' hearts and honor my dad's help (with Warden being a play on my dad's name, Edward).

The Warden-
Be afraid...
Be very afraid...

With work now complete on The Warden, I've moved my attention to the next robot that needs to be built. This robot will be remote controlled (the opposite of The Warden) and will compete in the 20lb. class. More information to come!

*Hey, I want to know about your goals. What have you been working on lately? Have you been successful? Has it been difficult? Easy? 

Monday, June 18, 2012

It is Finished!

Behold! The Fleming's 2lb. Boe-bot battle robot is complete! Check it out:
video

The robot still needs a name though. What should we call it?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pushing through the Hard Stuff

So recently, I left the blog post below stating my urge to quit this robotics venture all together. I wrote this out of the frustration I felt with the tediousness of working with robotics. Sometimes, it can take you hours and hours just to get one sensor to work, or to debug your lines of computer code. It can be little fun at times. At times, you just want chuck the robot against the wall, scream "Forget it!", and pound your way back upstairs to enjoy a nice cool soda and watch your favorite sitcom in peace.

But then you won't build an amazing robot. Nor will you meet your goals. Nor will you start establishing the "can-do" attitude so vital to accomplishing anything great.

I'm in the process of powering through. As my previous post hints at, I am starting to reach some milestones with my dad, when it comes to the robot. The robot now has beautiful forward and backward sensors that respond magnificently to their programming. At the current time though, we are reaching another hurdle. Another impasse. Another throw-the-robot-at-the-wall-and-go-get-dinner moment. Unfortunately, now that we have put everything together, the robot falls off the stage much more frequently than it should. Not good. The good news is that my dad is on it. He knows this PBASIC language much more than I. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.

30 minutes later-
Debugging still in process...
I'll keep you posted.

Success! I'm So Proud of Our Little Boe-Bot

It has been a lot of work. A lot of sweat, a drop of blood (after puncturing myself with a screwdriver), but finally there are tears of joy. Both of Boe-Bots forward and backward pressure sensors are working wonderfully! Take a look below:

video
Isn't it beautiful? Little Boe-Bot looks like he's going to fall off the table, but no! He saves himself by sensing the edge of the table and quickly reversing his servo driven wheels.

Quick! Go back and watch the movie again. Isn't it amazing? Now, if you have never had any ventures in robotics, my exhilarated glee may seem ill-placed.  After all, isn't the robot just going back and forth, and back and forth? How hard could that be?

Let me tell you. Very hard. At least for us. It's taken three broken sensors (don't put superglue in sensors), hours of finagling, and millions of neurons firing at once to to perfect this robot motion.

More to come!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Time Off= Introspection

I'm not going to lie. Taking seven days off from the computer was difficult. But, in my time away, I have learned more about myself.

I realized one of the main reasons why I was constantly checking on my book sales and ratings was because I was trying to make writing a profitable summer job. Recently, I've felt uncomfortable with the self-promotion needed to do well in the self-publishing business. But some perspective has changed some of that. If I am writing as a summer job, than self-marketing, sales numbers, and continued literary output is the goal. If I am just writing for the sake of writing, none of that matters. Indeed, if I am just writing for the sake of writing, not of my written work would be published. I've made a decision. I'm going to write for the sake of writing for the remander of the summer. This means writing won't be my summer job, but I've come to terms with that.

Besides, I need to start getting serious about my year-long quest. On this note, my dad and I have worked for hours today on the 2lb. competition robot. The robot will be a supped-up version of Parallax's Boe-bot. This robot is fantastic for this competition because my dad is a genius at writing code for this type of robot. So far, we have established that my 2lb. robot will run a "random" code. This means the robot will move forward, then backwards, and spin, then move again, all in a totally random pattern. The random pattern is important because my little bot will be facing remote controlled robots driven by smart humans.

I've got to be honest though, I feel myself already getting bored with robotics again. I feel the familiar strong pull away from one life passion toward another. Recently, I've been more interested reading and researching new teaching strategies than robotics. But I have to power through it. I've said I'm going to see this through and I will.

*Please leave me a comment about what you've been working on lately. How have you been feeling about your goals?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

7 Days Away- Some Time to Myself


I’ll be offline for the next seven days.
A 7 day hiatus.
A sabbatical from the computer, if you will.
Seven days to recalibrate, refocus, and recharge.


It’s time to take a break. Time to get away.
I need to take some time to live a private life for a while, away from blog posts, Amazon sales numbers, and e-mail checking. I need to discover if I am happier by living a private life.


Trying to become an established author has a brought an unforeseen problem. Becoming an author, especially a non-fiction author, forces a person to become a public figure. Authors need a platform and reader base, after all. If you led a private life before your venture into book publishing, you are in for an uphill battle. I am a private person by nature. Building a platform and growing a reader base has forced me into a role of salesperson, public relations representative, and self-promoter that I am not comfortable with.

So it is time to get away. If you leave a comment or send me an e-mail, just know I won’t get back to it for a week. I hope you understand. I need time to myself. I need to find out who Brian, the person is, before I try to retackle Brian, the author/blogger.

If this post strikes a chord in you, consider taking time off for yourself too. Turn off your Internet, your computer and just find yourself in the silence and peace of your private life.

Entering Both Divisions

Just a quick update here:

I've decided that for the Critter Crunch competition I will be entering robots in both the 20lb class and the 2lb class.

Schematics to come!

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