Oct 082016
 

It should resolve nicely in most mobile browsers. All this stuff was built into the beautiful suffusion theme for WordPress I’m using! Chrome at least looks good, I’ll try the rest shortly! Anyway, I hope you will enjoy reading my nonsense on the device of your choice.

 Posted by at 1:25 pm
Oct 042016
 

How to make a Stone Firepit!

A firepit can be a great addition to your yard. It’s a great centerpiece for social gatherings, and they’re not too difficult to make. Here’s how I made mine:

firepit

First, select the site. It should be in a clearing, with no trees close by or branches hanging above. Choose a flat place, and mind that you don’t put your firepit in a low spot that could possibly flood.

firepit2

Next, get your materials. You’ll need gravel, sand, bricks, and a steel ring. The ring is the most difficult to find. I eventually found mine in part of a kit I bought at Lowes. I wanted my firepit to be a bit taller than what the kit provided, so I bought a few extra bricks to make up the extra layers.

You do NOT need any adhesive or caulk. The bricks will stand just fine on their own. And if there is some damage, you will be able to take the firepit apart easily and replace damaged stones without a problem. You should consider getting some black spray-on stovepipe paint. This will help protect the ring and the inside faces of the stones.

firepit3

Now that you have your materials, mark the center of the firepit, and then put down a ring of stones as a placeholder. My stones formed a nice ring with 12 bricks, but yours may be different. Mind the gap – at every third brick, I left a small gap in the ring. This is for ventilation, to admit air into your firepit. Air comes in through the gaps in the sides, and fuels the fire. The stones shelter the flame and hold the heat in.

firepit4

Take a garden hoe, and use it to make deep cuts into the ground, around the stones.
firepit5

Flip the stones outward, so they lie outside the cut you just made with the hoe.

firepit6

Use your hoe to rip up the grass and sod from the earth.

firepit7

You can move it to elsewhere in your garden, if you like.

firepit8

Start digging! You should dig about 8 or 9 inches down. As you can see, I went a little crazy and dug a little deeper than that.

firepit9

Lay down some gravel in the bottom. The purpose of the hole and the gravel is to allow for effective drainage of water, and to provide a substrate that will easily hold heat.

firepit10

On top of the gravel, put down some sand. This will prevent too much of the ash from settling down into the gravel layer. It will also hold heat well, and make it easier to remove ash from the firepit later.

firepit11

Flip the stones back over! They should be a tiny bit settled into the earth – maybe penetrating an inch or two below ground. This is all you need to provide a firm foundation for your creation. Use a level to make sure all the stones are exactly the same height. If you don’t do this, your firepit might end up looking like the great tower if Piza! And, don’t forget to mind the gap at every third brick.

firepit12

Add the second ring of bricks. No need for a gap this time, the ones at the bottom are enough. Make sure the bricks in this ring are tucked in nice and snug. Check to see that they are level.

firepit13

Add the third ring of bricks, and optionally the fourth. Then, place the steel ring at the top.

firepit14

Spray the inside of the ring and stones with heat-resistant stovepipe paint.

firepit15

Burn things!

firepit16

The first few burns might be tough to get started. You will have to burn a large amount of material before you accumulate a decent bed of ash. However once you do, you will find your fires to be be easier to light, and that they retain heat better.

firepit17

With this particular firepit, I spent about a week last year burning old debris from behind my garage. I would go to bed late at night after the flames died down. When I woke up late the next morning, the ashes would still still be hot! A little bit of tinder and coaxing was all that was needed to get my firepit back to blazing once again. My record for keeping my firepit hot last winter was four consecutive days.

 Posted by at 5:25 pm
Oct 042016
 

Hello friends, well I did some housecleaning here on the blog. Here’s some new features:

– Social Login. You can now log in with a social media account to post comments! Logins are accepted from Facebook, Linkedin, Google, and Twitter, so go ahead and comment away! Sadly Disqus and Reddit ran into problems and didn’t work, so I axed them.

– Updated landing page. Same brain, but with 30% more content than before!

– Cool new banner graphic

– Updated WordPress and Themes, and PHP to 5.5. Just some tuning up under the hood.

Enjoy!

 Posted by at 4:55 pm
Jul 082016
 

Well that mind map doodle I put in place of a spash page is clearly dated. For one thing, I’m not 35 any more! I’m 39. There’s whole parts of my brain now mapped out with a bunch of new stuff – Chinese, R, Ingress, Elite Dangerous. A whole bunch of spiritual junk! A serious amount of bicycling and swimming. Half a hundred books or so, mostly fiction but all kinds of things really. To say nothing of life and pets and plants at Brighton Manor. I’m going to have to find a marker and update that photo. But before I do, it would be prudent to tell you about the latest stuff I’ve decided to dump in there, which is:….

Development of VR Projects in Unity3D with C#. Sound cool? Well, believe me, it is!

After playing around with the Oculus DK2 for the better part of a year (but not really knowing what I was doing, mostly just playing space sims and watching the odd demo), I upgraded my HMD to the new consumer models that hit the market this year. The HTC Vive and the Oculus CV1. Just as 2008 was the year of the Car in China, 2016 will be remembered as the year of VR, for planet Earth. Well, *I’ll* remember it that way at least.

I have a fantastic life out here in the promised land. I spend my days slogging through tutorials on development of VR experiences with the current state of the art development tools. Which are fantastic and actually kind of a pleasure to use. Everything I hated about macs and x-code, it’s all in the past. You know I give praise to the Apple cult, but honestly, it’s nice to remember why I loved Apple in the first place. Remember the II-E? Totally open. Could run whatever you wanted on it, if you could find or copy the floppy disk. No fighting with me over could keychain passwords. None of this walled garden bullshit. I love my iPhone, and I’ll be happy when I can jailbreak it again, but to be developing on a normal gaming PC makes me thankful that I can be here and do this.
I’m learning how to do some amazing things, and I look forward to the day where I can show them to you, in a context you may not have experienced before in your life!

Most of my time funnels directly into the Make School VR Track, at their space in SOMA. I’m working through the program with 16 other developers, and the school is home to a hundred plus more campers, doing more of the stuff that I messed around in in 2009, when I did a few intro courses on iOS development in xcode with objective C. Though the objective C isn’t terribly distant from the C# that drives most of our Unity projects. (In fact, the nice thing about Unity is that it’s friendly to a variety of languages and scripts to accomplish goals. Everything I’ve been done so far could probably be accomplished in Javascript) And, on the build end, Unity apps can be exported into DAMN NEAR ANYTHING. SteamVR, Oculus, GearVR, whatever, there’s probably a way. So I feel good about the engineering and stylistic choices made by my teachers, who are a very sharp bunch of developers associated with Upload VR. I think of Upload VR as the Jedi Council of the VR Revolution. I’m a big follower of their feeds and rely on their knowledge and expertise big time to get an understanding of this ridiculous new market that’s about to drop like a bomb on the technological state of the entire planet.

Those of you who know me and have been close to me over the past year know that I’ve been pushing through Data Science courses online through Coursera, and through that I’ve gotten some competence in programming in R – which is an incredibly flexible and elegant language for statistical analysis and data visualization – but absolutely useless for anything else. Free, Open Source, huge developer network supporting piles of plug ins and modules that probably already do whatever it is you want, just waiting for you to piece it together. Object oriented, but still a scripting language. R’s cousin, Python can be used for a thousand things!!! But guess what, topics like Statistical Inference and Exploratory Data Analysis, while interesting in their own way? Do not excite me the way VR does as a medium.

Oh, and while I was in China, I got briefly obsessed with Android (because of Ingress) and started an online course to develop for Android in Java. But my old clunky laptop could barely grind through it, and I had a lot of distractions in China, which I will happy tell you about one day soon over some beers. I wrote a lot of blog entries in my journal, so maybe I will polish a few off and see if they’re worth sharing. A lot of it’s crap though, sorry.

OK, there’s your basic State of the Union Update, thanks for listening, now you should: follow like share upgrade link star like comment, do it all!!!

 Posted by at 2:29 am
Jul 082016
 

What’st his? I made a lovely wordpress blog several years ago and promptly forgot about it. Oh well. But I’m back! Did you see that, how I went to China for a year, and didn’t even update my blog ONE TIME?! I was distracted, by China. I did write while I was there, but it’s mostly babble and garbage that doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. Mostly just a jornal, written in pencil that asks more questions than it answers. This post is is just clearing the channel, so I can preface the REAL update which I will post in 10… 9… 8… 7…

 Posted by at 1:52 am
Aug 232014
 

Oh Hi there, how’s it going?

What’s it been, a year? Longer? Well, what’s a blog for if not to have something to neglect for years on end.

I’m writing, almost every day, but nothing I can publish here. A lot of it are reflections on my job, and I think most of that can wait a bit before it sees the light of day. The fact is, all the blogs I’ve kept in the past suffered from two big problems – no editing and no filtering. Not so any more. Now the issue is simple neglect, which is actually pretty easy to fix.

So, what’s news Ken? Well, I went a little crazy and moved to China to teach English for a while. How long’s a while? Don’t ask me. All I know is that I’m here right now, and for the foreseeable future. I’ve been writing a ton, but I think posting these entries a year after the fact might be the best course of action for everyone.

Of course, this site is still half finished. I never even put on Universal Login, did I? I swear I’ll take care of it, maybe this weekend. Plus I have a really great post about building my firepit that I thought I lost, which I really just need to sit down and upload one day soon. You’re going to love it. And the mind-map graphic on the main page needs an update too. My brain now has larger partitions for “Chinese” “Bass” and I’ve just set aside a huge swath for “Mobile Device Programming” ! And I haven’t been 35 for some time now.

 Posted by at 10:27 pm
Apr 272013
 

I am having all kinds of fun at the Jersey Shore Comeback hack-a-thon!

I’ll post more about it later, but right now I’m busy trying to create something to help the community in a short 24 hour span!

Wish me luck!

#hashtag

 Posted by at 3:02 pm
Mar 052013
 

Well, now that I’ve done and made this blog, I have no idea what to blog about. So, how about, stuff I’ve made! Let’s start with Hobbes.

Hobbes was the accumulation of about 40 consecutive hours of creative energy all expended into one single endeavor. After a few hours of doing research online, I drove to Jo Ann’s Fabrics and bought most of what I needed. Then I went to Mom’s house and started work.

For this project, I went with the recommendation of some people online, and went with elastic felt. It’s machine washable, nice and soft, not too expensive, and has some give to it. The thing you want to remember is to remain cognizant of which direction the elasticity follows. It’s on a single axis, so if you cut in the wrong direction, you’ll sever all the elastic threads. That in mind, the first step was measuring out the pieces of fabric, and cutting them to the right sizes, which I guessed at.

To start with, we need some big pieces of fabric featuring black and orange stripes. Easy! Just cut up some black and orange felt in large 2″ strips, like so:

hobbes

Then get to work sewing them back together into 2 big broad striped sheets, with black thread! Try to keep the elastic axis going down the stripe, and not perpendicular to it.

hobbes (1)

Great! The next step is to lay out all the fabric you you have for all the parts you need. Cut and lay out pieces for the face, head, arms, legs, bib and paws.

hobbes (2)

Now sew them all together. Remember, you want to turn the legs and paws inside out before sewing them, so the seams stay on the inside. Same with the head. Use as many pins as you have to in order to get a good seam.

hobbes (5)

Now lay out your parts again.

hobbes (7)

This is the only “Artistic” photo I took during the creation. I call it, “We have ways to make you talk, Mr. Hobbes.”

hobbes (9)

After that, it’s just a simple matter of sewing together the body and head, and then stuffing all the parts with polyfill. Once stuffed, start attaching the limbs and tail to the body, and close up the whole affair at the back of the neck. The last stitches you will have to do by hand, with the seam on the outside, so use orange string so it doesn’t show.

hobbes (10)

The finished product! I photographed him with some cans of tuna. That’s his favorite food!

hobbes_tie

Put a tie on him, you want him to look classy. Chicks dig classy guys.

hobbes (11)

OK, now, put him in a box and give him to your sister! There! You’re done! Now relax by the pool.

hobbes (12)

Then, wait a couple of years and then let the kid find it! Make sure you keep Hobbes well fed at all times, because tigers have been known to hunt man.

Good Luck!

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Jan 242013
 

Hello, friends out there in internet land!  Welcome to my latest attempt at a blog.

My first attempt was in 1995.  I was a freshman computer engineering student at Lehigh, and it was a blustery Saturday morning in November.  I had nothing else good to do, so I decided to make a website that day.  It took a lot of running around campus, setting up accounts, then finding a scanner and scanning in lots of pictures, but eventually I made something nice, which I updated twice and then forgot about forever.

After that I tried to keep a live journal.  I won’t link to it.  I did update on occasion, but looking back at it the whole thing I can see it was a pretty tedious affair.  Most of the posts I made were restricted to my friends, and way too personal or introspective to really belong out there on the internet.  It was unfocused and lame, and it was cumbersome going by an alias and being semi-anonymous.  Everything there belonged in a private diary that I kept under my bed.

Then MySpace came to the forefront.  “Oh boy!” I thought, “This social network is great, and I’m sure it’s here to stay!  I’ll just move my blog here, and all will be right in the world.”  Well, we all know this isn’t the case.  While MySpace did have one neat feature – everyone I knew was on it – it didn’t make for a better blog.  It was just more of the same, but to a wider audience of friends and acquaintances.  I vacillated between exposing too much of my life to the public, to locking down access only to a select handpicked few.  The veil of anonymity I enjoyed prior was gone, and without it I did more self-censoring than I should have liked.  I should go back and read it, but it’s so embarrassing to me now that it actually hurts my eyeballs to look at it.

Somewhere during this time I created a very complex and elegant drupal installation, and attempted to turn it into a comprehensive home page / blog.  I won’t lie to you, it was very cool tooling around with drupal; it’s a great CMS and I am a big fan of it.  But it wasn’t the right tool for the job, and after I reached the right balance of boredom and frustration, I forgot all about it and quietly let the domain expire.

Then the migration to Facebook happened, and I think I posted a few notes there, but these were just simple life-change announcements and business related press releases.

Which brings us to the here and now.  It’s 2013, gosh darn it, so I’ve decided to give it one more try.  Inspired by my fellow Lehigh alum and serial blogger Scott McNulty, and his bestselling Amazon book “Building a WordPress Blog People Want to Read”, I decided to give it another go.  After putting serious thought into trying drupal again, I said fuck it, let’s just use WordPress.  Sure, drupal is cool in the whole “sky’s the limit” view on configuration and customization, but let’s face it, I’m not going to use half the customizations I want to create, and the whole effort would have drawn my attention away from … away from what?   What was I just talking about again!?

My blog, right!  Yeah, so, here it is.  The Very Public Blog of Ken Richlin.  Right there in the name, you can see that this is no place for pseudo-introspective navel-gazing.  Nope, not this blog.  Here, you’re going to get something else entirely.  And that something else is….

I’ll figure that out in the next post.  In the meanwhile, let me say, Welcome!

 Posted by at 7:19 pm