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Month: October 2012

Muddy Trails Enhance OpenStreetMap Data

Part of my map making workflow that uses OpenStreetMap (OSM) data requires updating the existing data set to be as accurately as possible before exporting the data. The data that I originally loaded into OpenStreetMap for River Bends was based on GPS surveying that I did not long after some new trails were built. Thus, the (prone to error) GPS data was the most accurate data available.

When updating OSM data, one is explicitly permitted to trace Bing imagery to enhance maps. Earlier today while poking around in JOSM (which adds Bing data as a tile so it can be traced) I noticed that the latest imagery for River Bends was taken on March 11, 2012 and most of the recently built single track is now visible. Because of the particularly wet spring here in Southeast Michigan many of the trails were muddy while these photos were taken, resulting in the trails being visible dark marks on the traceable photos.

The image above demonstrates this, showing the imagery date, current OSM data (red dashed line), and the wide/dark lines are the trails themselves. By adjusting the routes to match the imagery I can radically clarify the OSM data, validating and refining routes. River Bends is due for a map update soon after some new trail construction is complete, so this means that the next map of there will be much, much more detailed and accurate. Thanks in large part to a wet, muddy March.

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New AeroPress!

Nearly seven years after purchasing my first Aerobee AeroPress (photo) and with daily (or more frequent) use by Danielle and I, it has been replaced. With a new one. After all these years the plunger seal was getting weak and it would frequently leak while brewing. This resulted in coffee spurting out the top unexpectedly, sometimes spraying around the kitchen.

The new one works much better, exactly as I remember the old one being after first receiving it. Hopefully this one will have an equally long life, as it get used every day for brewing coffee here at home; part of a very cost effective system for acquiring quality coffee.

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Mountain Bike Trespassing in Michigan

I’ve recently been involved in some conversations about riding bikes on trails which connect to designated park-owned mountain bike trails, but lead off of park property on to other lands. As a result I decided to research trespassing laws in Michigan, specifically the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (Act 451 of 1994), Part 731: Recreational Trespass. In particular, 324.73102 states:

(1) Except as provided in subsection (4), a person shall not enter or remain upon the property of another person, other than farm property or a wooded area connected to farm property, to engage in any recreational activity or trapping on that property without the consent of the owner or his or her lessee or agent, if either of the following circumstances exists:

(a) The property is fenced or enclosed and is maintained in such a manner as to exclude intruders.

(b) The property is posted in a conspicuous manner against entry. The minimum letter height on the posting signs shall be 1 inch. Each posting sign shall be not less than 50 square inches, and the signs shall be spaced to enable a person to observe not less than 1 sign at any point of entry upon the property.

Since we all live in a land where everything which is not prohibited is permitted, I read this as an assurance that entering property of unknown ownership, for any recreational purpose is permitted so long as one does not cross a fence designed to keep people out or pass a sign prohibiting entry. While on this property one is not permitted to modify the property, as per 324.73109 there are penalties for property damage.

Therefore, I take this all to mean that riding from trails on known park property to trails on unknown, unposted property is wholly permitted, so long as one does not modify the land (read: build new trails or other stuff) or cause damage.

UPDATE: As Cefai noted in the comments below, this is consistent with section 750.552 of the Michigan Penal Code which states:

(1) A person shall not do any of the following:

(a) Enter the lands or premises of another without lawful authority after having been forbidden so to do by the owner or occupant or the agent of the owner or occupant.

(b) Remain without lawful authority on the land or premises of another after being notified to depart by the owner or occupant or the agent of the owner or occupant.

(c) Enter or remain without lawful authority on fenced or posted farm property of another person without the consent of the owner or his or her lessee or agent. A request to leave the premises is not a necessary element for a violation of this subdivision. This subdivision does not apply to a person who is in the process of attempting, by the most direct route, to contact the owner or his or her lessee or agent to request consent.

Thus, unless you’ve been told not to enter the property or to leave, you may do so, unless it’s a posted farm. Then you may only enter to seek permission to remain.


Home-Made Cheez-Its

Yesterday afternoon I came across this post about making home-made Cheez-It-like crackers on LiveJournal. Since they sounded good and we had all the ingredients around the I went ahead and made some. It took about five minutes to make the dough then 10-15 to cut them out. After this they baked for 18-20 minutes until they were done.

Brief recipe is as follows:

  1. Combine the following ingredients in a food processor and process until crumbly:
    • 8 oz. Shredded Cheddar
    • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
    • 4 tbsp. room-temp Salted Butter (Use 1/2 tsp. of salt if using unsalted butter.)
    • 1/2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
    • 1/4 tsp. Ground Mustard
  2. After completely integrated, drizzle in 2 tbsp. of tap water and process more so it forms a dough.
  3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Lay the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll thin; perhaps 5mm thick.
  5. Cut the dough into rough squares with a pizza cutter.
  6. Poke small holes in the center of each piece of dough with a round toothpick with the end cut flat.
  7. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Sprinkle with flaked salt. I used a flaked Spanish sea salt.
  9. Bake at ~375°F until golden brown. This took me almost 20 minutes. (If underdone the centers will be soft and they won’t be very good.)
  10. Cool, transfer to an air tight container for storage.

These are very, very good. They are similar to Cheez-Its in that they are snack crackers, but they taste much better and don’t have that odd vomit-like smell familiar to anyone who has opened a new box of the Nabisco product.

UPDATE / Lessons Learned: The second time I made these I did a couple things differently which made it much easier, and they came out quite a bit better (photo of the second batch):

  1. I split the dough into two halves, rolled the halves out separately, and baked each half in a separate pan. This gave me much more room to work and allowed me to roll the dough thinner making them more properly cracker-like.
  2. When rolling out the dough I put some thin bamboo skewers down next to the dough and used this as a spacer for the rolling pin. This allowed for all the crackers to be a consistent thickness.
  3. Dough was cut into 1″ squares for consistency in baking.
  4. After cutting the dough into squares I inverted the cookie sheet over it, then flipped the whole assembly over. Don’t bother separating the dough squares, this can be done later.
  5. Part-way through baking use a spatula to separate the partially-crunchy squares, shake to distribute them throughout the pan, and continue baking. This is much easier than trying to separate the squares when putting them on the pan.
  6. Be sure to bake any mis-shapen trimming pieces from the edges. They are just as good, but know that they’ll cook faster.
  7. Err on the side of over baking. Slightly browned crackers are better than chewy ones.
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Clean Your Butter Bell

The Butter Bell is a great device. Danielle and I received one for this last Christmas and we used it quite a bit up until the summer. After letting it go for a week without changing the water we knew it needed to be washed and refilled, but we instead just let it be. Danielle didn’t want to see what was in it, and I was a bit interested in letting it go as an experiment.

This is the result: a moldy butter bell.

Since this is stoneware it’s quite easy to clean, and a run through the dishwasher tomorrow should have it ready to use. With the weather getting cooler we’ll refill it and use it again, and this time we won’t let it go for a week without changing the water.

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Projected LED Die

Needing a new flashlight Danielle purchased this $5.29 BBQbuy@7w 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp via Amazon (photograph). It’s small, and the button seems a bit flimsy, but it otherwise seems nice and it meets her needs. One amusing feature is the laser-style warning decal (in gold, none the less) on the body, but the most amusing is that at the narrowest focus setting it projects an image of the LED die.

This was photographed by clamping the flashlight to the camera’s tripod, pointing the two at the same point on the basement wall, and taking a photo with the lights off. I’m almost tempted to modify the focus mechanism to allow a little more movement which would likely allow the image to wholly focus, but I’d probably damage it during disassembly.

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FOX F29 RLC Seal and Oil Replacement

Today I did my first seal and oil replacement on a FOX fork. I’d watched Erik do his before, but it was a few years back so I didn’t remember much about the process. While I took my time this was easier than I’d expected, and almost everything went smoothly.

To do this work I’d purchased a bottle of 10 weight (Green) Suspension Fluid, a SKF low friction seal kit, 5mL packet of Float Fluid, and a seal driver tool to help seat the seals. I’d also picked up some graduated cylinders for measuring the oil, and a friend made me a very nice tool for removing the top caps. These parts all worked out very well, and following FOX’s documentation for seal and oil replacement, oil volumes, and use of the seal driver I had no problems getting everything together.

The greatest difficulty was removing the old seals, but a little persistance on the first one paid off, and then using this as a model I was able to get the second out much more easily. There were a few small things learned that’ll make the work easier next time, including:

· The foam rings take very little time to soak up oil when pre-soaking them.
· Once the damper is in place, there’s not much room below the damper cap for adding oil unless air is let out of the spring side to collapse the fork. After this there’s a plenty large space to pour in the oil.
· Tilting the fork while adding oil to the damper side makes things slightly easier.
· The nuts on the bottom of each fork leg are identical.
· Crush washers stick solidly to the nuts on the fork legs and blend in. The replacement ones, before being crushed, fit much more easily.
· Suspension oil tends to get all over the place. Even with wiping the entire fork down there is still an oily residue which leaves a nice sheen, especially if the fork is a bit weathered and becoming matte.

I received this fork when I purchased this bike in December of 2009. Since that time I’d put around 5000 miles on the bike, but never rebuilt the fork nor replaced the oil. While I’d been particular about keeping the stanchions clean I was not shy about riding it in poor conditions. FOX recommends changing the oil every 30 hours on forks. I definitely exceeded this, yet the oil in the fork was still quite clear, the foam rings mostly clean and oil-saturated, the stanchions unmarred, and there was still a fair amount of oil in the various chambers. The only way the stanchions look not-new is some fading on the portion which was exposed to sunlight. Here is a photo of the disassembled uppers and lowers showing nothing more than a slight bit of fading.

Hopefully after the work I’ve done the fork continues to work as reliably as it had for these past years.

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Graduated Cylinders for Oil Measurement

Beyond the fancy socket I also need a way to measure oil before I can rebuild my the fork on my Titus Racer X 29er. FOX shows graduated cylinders being used for oil measurement in their instructions so I’m going to try the same. At $14.99 from Amazon this Karter Scientific set seems like a fair price, and hopefully it’ll work out well. Being glass I also hope that I can sufficiently clean them of oil so they may be used for measuring other things.

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Series 30 American Lock: Cut Open

My friend Erik uses a heavy cable and a padlock to keep someone from walking away with the bikes on his car rack. He recently lost the keys to one of the racks but wanted to keep the cable, so he needed to cut the lock. Being an American Lock purchased from a locksmith we figured it’d be quite a task to get it apart, but since it ended up to be a Series A30 aluminum body lock it was much easier than we’d anticipated.

Using a heavy duty Hilti reciprocating saw he first tried to cut the hasp, but the hardened steel was only polished shiny by the saw blade. He then cut into the lock body and ended up severing the pin which holds the lock together. It was then easy to remove the core and use a screwdriver to actuate the lock mechanism, releasing the hasp. With a set of picks I was then able to disassemble the core and remove the pins and springs. A quick tug on a small brass ring with needle nose and the ball locks for the hasp were free and the lock was completely disassembled.

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Television in the Living Room

It’s been a bit over nine years since I fixed up the living room in my condo, and since then (and with Danielle now living here) the room’s needs have changed a bit. I’ve had a nice tube HDTV in the basement and it’s been well used for movie watching and playing games, but up until now there hasn’t been a TV in the living room. Danielle really has been wanting one there, but being oddly shaped I’ve been hesitant and somewhat resistant to trying. After last night’s fiddling with the HTPC and thinking a bunch about how much Danielle would probably use it, I decided to give it a serious look.

By pulling one of the love seats away from the wall and flipping it around I was able to create a nice space for a TV while still leaving the doorwall accessible. The recliner was moved to the basement, the coffee table moved into service as a TV stand, and the end tables kept doing their thing. This setup doesn’t clutter the room so walking through is still easy, and it doesn’t feel like one is sitting awkwardly in the middle of an open space.

This experimentation and talking it over with Danielle resulted in our purchase of a Sharp LC-52LE640 LED-lit flat panel LCD TV. Sears had them on sale for a quite reasonable price with a bonus $100 in-store gift card for a total of $953.99 after tax. This seems to be one of the nicer non-3D models available in this price range, and being in stock locally was a nice treat as it allows an easier return option if necessary.

Beyond the TV there was only a need to purchase one spool of speaker wire to get everything set up. Everything else came from either spares in the basement or things moved from the previous setup. I do need to pick up two replacement front channel speakers on eBay, but the model that I have is both good quality, relatively cheap, and fairly available so this likely won’t be a problem.

The end setup has the television with all devices connected to it via HDMI, except for the Wii which uses component + analog audio. The TV then re-ouputs the audio via TOSLINK to an AMB γ1 DAC that I built a few years ago which is the input for a NAD 705 stereo receiver that feeds a pair of Energy Take speakers and a Yamaha YST-SW160 subwoofer. I hooked the speakers up to the B channel of the amp, leaving the original Gekko GK-1824 flat speakers which I use for room-filling audio while working in the kitchen on the A channel. An original Airport Express also remains connected on one of the other inputs for times when I want to play synchronized audio throughout the house.

Here is a head-on view of the whole setup. I may do a better job of bundling the wires, perhaps replacing some of them with black versions, and I might stuff all of the visible bits inside of split tubing to make it nicer looking. It’s not bad as it is, though, especially for not having a large mass of wired network gear, power supplies, and all hookup cables bundled under the bottom of the table.

Thus far it seems to be working out well, and Danielle seems quite happy with it. I’m really glad.

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