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Hello, my name is Sandy.

Making a box lamp

My bedside lamp is perfect for reading, but way brighter than what I need when I wake up for a midnight pee. This is not TMI. We've all been there.

Rather than buying a nursery night light, I thought I'd have a go at making my own. I got an old tea box from a friend who found it in a cupboard while moving house. It turned out to be the perfect size and shape for my first real-world electronics project.

a cute tea box

Turns out this type of project is perfect for a beginner. You can get almost all the parts at Jaycar, and don't even need screws, glues or solder to create something you can use right away. So here's how to make a super simple box lamp...

making a box lamp

Parts

1 x yellow, orange or red LED (I'll talk about why in a sec)
1 x 68ohm 0.5W metal film resistor
1 x microswitch
1 x mini breadboard
1 x AA battery holder
2 x AA batteries
3 x breadboard wires
Some masking tape or blu-tac.

Setup

box lamp setup diagram

Connect the microswitch's NC pin to ground, then attach the switch to the inside of the box, where the closed lid will keep the lever pressed down.

box lamp schematic

This is probably what the schematic would look like if I knew what I was doing. BE WARNED: I'm not good with schematic diagrams. The switch part might be wrong.

Choosing the LED bulb

Really, you can use whatever colour bulb you like. For a box lamp serving as party lighting or a stage prop, it doesn't matter. But my lamp was intended for the intermissions between sleep, so I had to pick a warm colour (ie. no blue light) to minimise any 'awakening' factors caused by light.

I've been using f.lux on my computer for a while now, so it's hard to recall the improvement it made to my bedtime experience. But I remember being impressed with it at the time. Light hacking is a thing in our house.

inside the box lamp

Why a tea box?

Before making this lamp, I sketched out my dream designs. Squares with slots. A copper panel touch sensor. Something Escher-esque, though that was just my shit drawing. But nothing sat right with me.

A lot of my making projects left me with that feeling. Guilt, I guess. I had grand plans of things to make and sell, but I'd get to the bit where it was just possible, then back down. I'm not sure what's up with that. I want to say I feel guilty making new things when there are so many of the same new things out there already.

With this project, I wanted to give new life to an old piece of junk. It's a lovely box, and a shame for it to end up in landfill without a second chance. I love the feeling of recycling. It's what got me into gardening. And I'm quite fired up about learning electronics right now, though it still feels like a strange thing to identify with.

Baby steps, I guess. First, this silly junk lamp. Next, calling myself an engineer until I actually become one.

What's been going on

I've spent the last month meandering through my weeks. I like how things are going lately. Even though my black dog still nips at my heels, he's been less a hound of Baskervilles and more, I dunno, a beagle or something.

So, wots been going on then?

Gaming

some friends need to put more clothes on

Ah... Miitomo. This is a weird, creepy, cute and awkward game built around over-sharing. Above is a picture of a friend who took his clothes off and came over to my virtual apartment. It's why you don't add just any old chum to your friends list.

my dark souls 3 character

Also, Dark Souls 3. What can I say that you haven't already heard? Nothing. But let's celebrate the sentiment. Just thinking about it makes my palms sweat and my heart beat faster. I also feel like shouting swear words at the wall.

Fooding

Herman apple cake

There's been a lot of food in my life. Cakes, breads, cookies. Above is a Herman the German friendship cake - the actual cake, not my bread alternative. It's so very moist and keeps well. We still have some in the freezer, a bit of which went into making the healthier-ish edible terrarium below.

healthier-ish edible terrarium

My terrarium isn't healthy healthy, but I'd take it over the sugary (but pretty) original recipe. For the 'drainage layer' (the rocks you put at the bottom of a normal terrarium), use nuts and seeds and add custard for moisture.

Fresh fruit and cream make great 'plants'. The plan was to extract a natural food colouring (fail) for the cream, then whip it stiff (also fail) and pipe it into little echeveria-style leaves (cbf). But yeah, I was just ready to eat, so... maybe next time. :)

homemade tortillas

Learned how to make tortillas using this Basic Homemade Tortillas recipe. It's easy, tasty, uses only 4 ingredients, but the house reeked of fried oil after, and I can't stand the smell. But I now know I want my dream home to have an outdoor wet kitchen for stuff like this. :3

Best food news: I found a restaurant that serves spicy offal noodle soup! It's a huge, filling serve for just $13 at the place that used to be Beer & Skewer in Northbridge. They've recently changed their name to something else; Mama's something-or-other.

Writing

After powering through weeks and weeks of 30-minute writing sessions on my novel manuscript, I'm getting ready to... start all over again. Dumb dumb dumb. How do you know when to press on with a project, when to reboot it, and when to give up entirely?

Giving up is not an option here, but I don't want to press on with a direction that doesn't feel right. But I also worry about the whole thing falling off if I play with it too much. This is the bane of life for everyone working in a creative field. The bane. I has it.

a pensive cat

In the past month, I've written a short story and started two new longer stories. Before the next month is over, I hope to have another two short stories under my belt. Heck, I'd be happy with a couple of 100-word stories. I just want those brainwheels turning smoothly again.

making a mess, making cocktails

A magazine I write for accepted my pitch for a piece on... cocktails! Which meant researching, testing, modifying and drinking. My favourite recipe of all was a Summer Mary, dubbed 'JanuMary' for us in the southern hemisphere. It's a lighter version of the Bloody Mary, using passata and soda water instead of straight-up tomato juice. Pound in a few basil leaves and it tastes like pizza. :) New household favourite.

Full article: 5 Easy-to-Grow Herbs for Fresh Spring Cocktails

Making

an arduino hooked up to a breadboard

I hoped to have something electronically interesting to show you by now, but you know how it is - you go to read up on how something works only to find you need to read up on a million other things before you begin to understand. The other day, I went looking for the right-hand rule. Remember that? I haven't had to use it in nineteen years.

It's amazing how we can use electricity every day and have no idea how it works. I know that's kind of the point - that you don't have to know - but I like knowing. Learning this stuff has been one mindblow after another. I had no idea how much ingenuity went into the tiny things I take for granted. Like transistors. I mean, wow.

Electrical engineers are pretty much amazing. You should shake the hand of the next one you meet. I don't think I could ever be a proper engineer, but pretending for a few hours a week is heaps of fun. I'm a fun-gineer.

What else?

I've been thinking about starting an email newsletter. When I started freelancing, one of my mentors said I needed one, but I was busy and scared and it sounded like marketing fodder so put it out of my mind. Lately, conversations have been coming up around newsletters. Friends have introduced me to some rad ones, and some I had been thinking of unsubscribing from suddenly got good. Is the universe sending me a sign? Or is this just the hot thing everyone's doing right now?

Would you sign up to a newsletter if I started one? I couldn't tell you what you'd see in it yet, but quite likely similar topics to what you see here, or what we'd talk about over tea or a beer, and other random interesting things like these:

And these:

And of course this:

If you're keen, let me know. Who knows, maybe it'll give us a chance to chat on email more, or give you something to chat about with someone you like better. :)

So, what's been going on with you?

We must catch up

a heron taking off from the water

It's been hard to sit and write lately, despite wanting to. I'm tired after work, and at other times preoccupied by little adventures. Tonight was set aside for Prison Architect, but instead I think I'll have tea and tell you what's been happening.

pumpkin soup with Gourdon

So, before we left for the farm, we turned baby Gourdon into food. Here he is as a pumpkin soup. Bland pumpkin soup. It turns out Jarrahdale pumpkins are nutty, almost squash- and zucchini-like in flavour. The pumpkin-ness is mild, so they are better suited to curries. Lesson learned. If you're making pumpkin soup, use Butternut or a fecking Kent (also known as Jap).

pumpkin curry with Gourdon

Gourdon also became a curry, the mild flavour working well with spices and chickpeas. I used too much cumin, which gives me a headache if I don't cook it for long enough, so whatever's left in the freezer will need a long, long re-heat time.

We meant to make pumpkin pie too, but what was left didn't last til we got back from holiday. I think we would have ended up with similar results to the soup. The next pumpkin adventure will need to be a sweeter breed.

electronics button panel

I finished my Arduino course, the projects book that came with the starter kit. This is what an electronics button panel looks like without the actual buttons on top. The little interlocked E shapes are non-touching ends of a circuit. When you press the button, it mashes a conductive material across the two E's, which closes the circuit and transmits the button-press.

That alone was mindblowing after a lifetime-thus-far of a) not knowing, and b) never even thinking to wonder. Imagine the exhilaration to then hack the buttons to make the device think someone pressed a button when really it was my computer sending a false signal. I felt briefly boss-like with a hint of cyberpunk.

Raspberry Pi 2, unboxed

So, now I am an expert n00b. I'm scared to fall into the trap of just reading a bunch of stuff and thinking it's as good as actually doing it, so my next project will be to set up an LED display board for some kind of computer machine. I'm excited to learn about power ampy volty chargey stuff, cos electricity never made sense to me til now. But bless my gentle, patient physics teacher for trying.

#listersgottalist fav. expressions

In April, I joined the #listersgottalist challenge, but stopped halfway because I wasn't enjoying it. There's nothing inherently wrong with the challenge, but some days - many days - I didn't find it interesting to answer questions.

I felt obliged at first to see it through, but then remembered it's important to be as good at quitting as you are at continuing. My newfound konmari habit kicked in, and I chose to focus all my art energy on #100daysofteacup, which I am really enjoying even though it's hard work.

It's awkward to convey what a difference the konmari approach has made in my life. Whenever anyone asks, I feel like that person you worry about for maybe having joined a cult. Everything making me happy nowadays can be attributed at least in part to this "life-changing magic of tidying up". The joy aspect is what hit home for me, but for a good summary of the practical tidy-up stuff, I quite liked Chisa's blog post on konmari. Go read it. :)

beans and rice at the markets

I've been batch cooking food in advance, and calculating the cost per meal given the total expense. The first batch turned out great. We got 14 meals at about $6.50 each. I'm on my second batch now, which has so far averaged at $7 a meal, with another week's worth of food left to go. This will be my part-time finance's saving grace.

The one downside is eating the same thing over and over. Even with takeaway and ad-hoc meals in between, it's... OK, it's not actually that bad except I made 3 bean-based dishes this time around, and things are not so elegant in the stomach area. Learn from my mistakes.

homemade meal

I was so very happy about this, though - this picture is of a totally homemade meal. Homemade baked beans, homemade (handmade) bread, and homemade ginger beer. And I ate it on a little wooden table Niaal made for me. :D

One day, I hope for this to be a totally homegrown meal too. I want to grow the beans and tomatoes, the flour and the avocado, the ginger and the honey. Maybe even make the plates and bowls they get served in. It's my dream to - not necessarily be totally self-sufficient and live off the grid like a mega-hippie - but to understand how stuff works and be able to provide when I choose to. Even tiny progress like this makes that feel attainable.

fantastically smooth bars of soap

And I did end up making some soap. I took a lot of photos, which I cbf editing now, so I will tell you about that another day. It was heaps fun, and not as scary as I thought, and I'm game to try making some from scratch once we're in a bigger kitchen.

All right, my teacup is empty. Time for a refill. Good night, friends. :)

100 Days of Teacup (Set 1)

The 100 Day Project, how to play

Earlier this month, I pledged to spend 100 days of teacup in #The100DayProject.

May I show you my first 20 teacups?

Day 1: A study of edges + shadows

Day 1: A study of edges + shadows. Pencil and watercolour crayon drawing of peppermint tea, enjoyed at Sydney Airport on our way home from the farm. The crayons still work nicely, even after 20+ years.

Day 2: Acrylic on canvas

Day 2: Acrylic on canvas. I wanted to try making textures with paint, as people have told me you can do with oils. Oils are nicer to work with, but I will stick with acrylic until I learn not to get paint on everything.

Day 3: Origami

Day 3: Origami. Original "teatime" design by Tomohiro Tachi. I followed the MrViolinPeter tutorial on youtube. It looks complicated, but if you can fold 45° angles, you can totally do this.

Day 4: Crochet teacup

Day 4: Crochet teacup. I was really pleased with this, even though I'm not in love with amigurumi. The free Lion Brand tutorial is easy-teasy. :) The base is weighted with beans, the rest is filled with wadding.

Day 5: Paper art teacup

Day 5: Paper art teacup. A friend gave me a stack of beautiful washi paper, which I left untouched in a box of precious things. I found it again while KMing and decided it was time to help those beautiful papers fulfil their life purpose.

Day 6: Doodle on a napkin

Day 6: Doodle on a napkin stolen from a whiskey workshop at Whipper Snapper Distillery. If you're in Perth, love whiskey, and enjoy learning interesting things, go sign up for the 2-hour workshop. You learn about distilling, get to do some tasting - and The Royal is close enough for some good food after.

Day 7: Off-hand

Day 7: Off-hand. Felt-tip on paper. I have a drinking game I like to play with people. The first part is to get nicely sozzled and draw a teacup with your non-dominant hand. I wasn't drunk for this, though. Usually it doesn't go as well.

Day 8: Off-hand, eyes shut

Day 8: Off-hand, eyes shut. Marker on paper. The second part of the game is to shut your eyes and draw with your non-dominant hand. Once in a while, things look how they were meant to.

Day 9: Jute and glue

Day 9: Jute and glue. Because the glue took so long to dry, this took 3 days to complete. It stinks of PVA. I'd like to explore this more if I could find a less smelly adhesive.

Day 10: Layered pop-up card

Day 10: Layered pop-up card. Definitely something to be said here about using good quality materials. I used glossy labels salvaged from bedsheet packaging - annoying to work with. It might be fun to try again with nicer paper.

Day 11: Chalk pastel on paper

Day 11: Chalk pastel on paper. Again, good paper will make a good experience.

Day 12: Tea from a passionfruit shell

Day 12: Tea from a passionfruit shell. Even though I'm used to seeing Chinese and Japanese teacups, I don't find them very teacuppy without the other parts of a tea set. So I got a pot of tea and our last biscuit. It was nice. There was a hint of passionfruit aroma. :)

Day 13: Body paint on skin

Day 13: Body paint on skin. Neshka from Little Magic - Art & Design let me try her face paint. This is a lovely type of art. And the very temporary nature makes it feel so delightful. I would probably feel differently if I was covered in it, but something tiny like this is OK.

Day 14: LED dot matrix display

Day 14: LED dot matrix display. I was working on a LED display for a project; a teacup emerged. The Freetronics DMD is great. It comes with the cable, you just plug it into the arduino - so easy. I expected to struggle, but it only took an hour-ish to get the software, play around, then make the picture appear. That includes the nervous procrastination preceding all my projects. A more experienced maker could do it in half the time.

Day 15: Charcoal on paper

Day 15: Charcoal on paper. Some study of light and shadow. I did the top wrong. I know. :(

Day 16: Watercolour

Day 16: Watercolour. This was fun. Watercolour, let's date each other.

Day 17: Ink fingerpainting

Day 17: Ink fingerpainting. Normally, I try to prevent ink from getting on my fingers. But the stamp pad was just there. Finger was still black the next day. B-, would fingerpaint again, but won't use ink.

Day 18: Puff pastry and mozarella

Day 18: Puff pastry and mozarella. The fails are in the background. Beauty only matters for the photo. They were all equally yummy.

Day 19: Mouth drawing

Day 19: Mouth drawing. This felt weird. I think you have to use your tongue for finer control, but I didn't want to get licky with my pen. It's hard with a fineliner, cos too much slanting lifts the tip off the page. This could be worth trying with a paintbrush.

Day 20: Foot drawing

Day 20: Foot drawing. Also feels weird, also want to try with a paintbrush.

"Show up, show up, show up," says one of the posters for #The100DayProject. After 20 days of showing up, I realise art is more about perspiration than inspiration. Ideas flow fast and free when you're in the right state of mind, but it takes discipline and perseverance to turn it into something you can behold.

There are days my discipline wavers, but I want to make it to 100. It's like exercising muscles. I want to come out the other end with the creative process feeling like the natural course of things. I am still nervous about art, but starting to feel more confident.

The bit I enjoy most is having an excuse to try new stuff, or try new ways of doing old stuff. I don't know what you call these things. Art forms? Mediums? Some of them I've wanted to try for ages, but never got around to it. This is wonderful incentive.

I'll post sets here every 20 days, but if you'd like to follow the days, check out my instagram or 100 Days of Teacup album on Facebook.

So, that's it for now. 80 days to go.

Waaaaaaah~ 80 is a such a big number. T___T

Playing with arduino

assembling the spaceship console

Three weeks since unpacking the arduino kit, and I'm halfway through the book of projects. Wanna see some bits?


This is the spaceship console. Comes with a cute cardboard chassis that sits awkwardly over the top of everything.

hotness meter using temperature sensor

This is the 'love-o-meter'. It uses a temperature sensor to pick up how hot you are; the LEDs light up accordingly. Turns out @niaalist is 3-lights hot. I'm only 2-lights hot. So obviously, this machine is faulty.

colour mixing lamp, arduino controlled

The colour mixing lamp was fiddly to build, and the lamp colour didn't turn out in the photo, but I'll blame my phone camera. The three light sensors are set up to read red, green and blue light levels, and feed it back to the arduino controller. The controller then sends a signal to the LED, which lights up to match the colour of light in the reading. Pretty neat, huh?

I like this one. ^___^ Uses a tiny servo motor, a tiny potentiometer, and a hand-drawn sign to tell the world how you feel.


And here is the most annoying theremin in the world. Uses a light sensor again, and makes noise based on how much light it picks up.


A music keyboard. I should have had the foresight to make the 4th note a G, but oh well. Junior flavour 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' will do.

I must say, this is a lot of fun. Suddenly, electrical devices feel seem less like magic and more like awesome, hackable toys. I can't help but wonder how I might recreate some of these things after the apocalypse.

Probably very badly.

My first circuit

Arduino starter kit contents

My Arduino starter kit arrived today. I have no business being this excited - I'm no engineer - but fuck it, I'm so ready to have my mind blown. This was kind of a blind purchase, as the explanations for what it actually is aren't great for total, utter noobs. But it makes sense now, after spending some time.

Basically, an arduino is a little hardware board thingy that acts like a brain for... stuff. Say you have a circuit with a bunch of lights, and you want the lights to flash in a certain order, you attach the circuit to the arduino, programmed with instructions for flashing, and then it happens.

And you can connect sensors to it and do tricky things - like say you only want the lights to flash when you clap your hands. You attach a sound sensor, and tell the arduino, "When the sensor picks up a clapping noise, make the lights flash," and it'll take care of it.

red LED light in a hacked circuit

Tonight, I made my first circuit. It used some wires, connectors, a resistor, a push-button switch and a red light. The arduino didn't do anything brainy here, just supplied the circuit with USB power from my computer.

This was the first of 15 projects in the starter kit. I'm going to do them all, and hopefully learn some of the basic "here's how shit works" things I failed to pick up in school. The next project is a spaceship control box that you can make a cardboard chassis for. The one after that is a love machine, so I can find out how hot I really am!!

description of Love-o-Meter project

I don't have a goal in mind, but I want to learn anyway, because I think the more you understand, the more you can imagine. One day, this could dovetail nicely into my dream of connecting things. Or maybe it won't - I don't think I would wear a crocheted hat with LEDs on it. :)

It's my bedtime now, so I'll leave you with photos - night night, everyone!

Arduino microcontroller

Arduino starter kit box and PCB ruler

inset for Arduino starter kit box

intro page of Arduino starter kit book

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