Saturday, October 4, 2008


Went out with a couple of friends last night to a local microbrewery by the name of "Angry Hank's".

I'd never been in the place before, but after last night's experience, the only thing I can think of that might be making "Hank" angry is that so damn many people are drinking his most excellent beers.

I started the evening off with an obligatory trial of something they call "Dog Slobber" -- I mean, come on, doesn't that just BEG investigation? Well, it was pretty damn good beer: a brown (but not 'dark') ale, it had a nice flavor and a little more of a kick than I expected. When I looked at the big chalkboard that Hank's has on the wall, I saw that they were nice enough to indicate the alcohol content of their different brews (as part of the descriptions). The lowest alcohol level they serve is 4.5%; the highest is 6.5 -- that is, anywhere from half again to double the strength of regular 'commercial' brews such as Budweiser, Michelob, and the like.

After I finished my Dog Slobber, the next thing I sampled was their Griz Wizz (are you noting a 'theme' here?). Definitely a different flavor, it was more of a pilsner -- though still a trifle darker.

The last thing (by Montana law, brewpubs must limit customers to 3 beverages per evening; Hanks issues everyone a wristband that they put a mark on each time you make a purchase -- 3 strikes and you're 'out') was their seasonal beer "Oktoberfest": more of a red than brown, it was 6.5% and bloody fucking good. It kinda snuck up on me, though; it was good enough that I really didn't realize how fast I was drinking it until the alcohol started to kick in. I was feeling pretty good and mellow about that time...

Nice thing about Hank's is that they offer what are called 'growlers': a glass jug (with their logo on it) that can be filled for home consumption. Growlers appear to be half-gallon sized, and I'm told that they hold four pints. I don't know if there's any limit on how many growlers can be bought at a time, but I may well find out -- Hank's offers some damn fine brews!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Geek mode: ENGAGED

I've gone ahead and gotten one of the little $15 Tonka toys (that I previously mentioned) with the thought of using an Arduino-based controller as the 'smarts' for experimenting with robotics. What I ended up getting was the skid-steer 'Bobcat' front-end loader (that's a 6" steel ruler right in front of the tread, to give you some idea of size):

There were other variants I could have gotten (a dump truck, bulldozer, and a different design of front-end loader), the others all ran at what I considered to be a little fast for what I want to do. You can see that the thing is remotely-operated from the little handset on the right; the three buttons result in the thing making 3 different noises: (L-R) a spoken "Caterpillar!", generic rock music, and air horn. The left joystick is forward/reverse, while the right joystick raises/lowers the bucket.
I've already disassembled the thing, and gotten it into a form that I can build on -- removal of the hand controller and some of the extraneous (for my purposes) bits, and added some mounting posts for the circuitry I'll be building:

I've basically pulled the 'cab' and bucket (saving both with the idea of possibly using them later), leaving all the innards available. The yellow and white wires are to the drive motor, and the red and blue pair are for the bucket motor (yes, I've left it in, though I dont plan to use it right away -- later, maybe). There's plenty of space between the motors (underneath the top cover) that I'll likely end up filling with more Stuff :-)
I'm not expecting to do anything dramatic with this lashup; this is just the basis for a learn-by-doing period so I can get the basics down.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Goofy shit

Sometimes, some really goofy shit pops into my head. F'rinstance:

It's said that the measurement unit of a 'foot' came about because it was the length of an actual person's foot. So... if a mile is made up of 5280 feet, does that mean some poor bastard had to walk heel-to-toe for a mile, counting how many times he had to put a foot down? If so, I gotta wonder how many times he had to start over again when he lost count. Were there people around, deliberately trying to fuck up his counting ("873. 1,719. 88. 3,944.")?