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Saturday, August 02, 2003

Mars approaches

As Mars makes its closest pass to Earth until 2018 and there are special events being planned at various sites.

The Griffith Park Observatory, currently housed in a temporary location during the remodeling of their historic 1935 building, is offering a month-long look at Mars. Visit the Mars is Big and Bright in 2003 for a full list of activities and events.

An LA Times story, A Galactic Block Party for Mars appeared in today's (August 2, 2003) paper.

The Planetary Society has more information over the their Mars Watch 2003 web page.

Finally, all this Mars Madness will culminate with Planetfest '04, where you can have a front row seat to the Stardust Comet Flyby Mission and the landing of the next Mars Rover.

Latest Robot Project - Barebones Photohead

Click picture for 4 images

This is our latest robot project -- a Barebones Photohead. We are slowly progressing up the complexity scale. Soldering all the legs of this chip together for the first time certainly was a challenge.

This unit, when powered up, will seek the brightest source of light in the room and turn itself towards the source. As the lighting in a room changes the head will seek to the next brightest source. It is quite neat to watch and analyze what the phototransistor eyes are focusing on. You can also lead it around, using a small flashlight.

This unit is battery-powered, due to the power needs of the scavenged motor I am using, but you can also make a solar powered version. You can also use the same circuit to control 2 motors which would allow you to make a light-seeking vehicle.

I only had a source for the 74HCT240 chips from a local Radio Shack, but I think the 74AC240 chips would probably work a bit better, as this motor wants more power than the 2 AA batteries can deliver.

Stay tuned for more robot madness!

Protecting your laptop

I recently came across a couple of neat items to help you protect your laptop.

RoadWired Advanced Protection System (RAPS)

These totally customizable sleeves protect your laptop against everyday scratches and bumps. The velcro enclosures insure that it will fit your computer perfectly, regardless of manufacturer or style. Wrap your laptop in a RAPS and you can place it in your briefcase, bag or backpack knowing it is protected.

Kensington MicroSaver

It is a sad fact that laptops and notebook computer can easily "sprout legs" and disappear forever. Kensington's MIcroSaver product line can give you peace of mind when working in public areas.

These security cables, which come with key or combination locks, easily wrap around the leg of a table or the arm of a chair. Whether you are working in a coffeehouse or in the conference room at a client site, a MicroSaver could be the difference between having a computer or not.

Friday, August 01, 2003



August 2, 2003, through January 4, 2004

I recently read about this collection in the book, Patience and Fortitude. It sounded quote fascinating and I am interested in seeing it in person.

The Huntington is free on the first Thursday of the month (Thursday, August 7).

From the Huntington Web Site...

The ways in which art has been taught and valued in America from the 1800s through the 1940s will be explored in this exhibition of artifacts and ephemera from The Huntington's Diana Korzenik Art Education Collection.

Included in the collection are vintage paint boxes, coloring books, stencil kits, drawing manuals, and sketchbooks, as well as works on art theory read by teachers and educational policy makers. Korzenik is a Boston art educator who spent nearly 30 years acquiring these materials at flea markets and antique stores. She donated her outstanding collection to The Huntington in 1997. The collection not only demonstrates methods of art instruction in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but exemplifies the value society placed on art education.

Career Column

Career-Op: Your First Day
by Douglas E. Welch, ComputorEdge Magazine

There are times when I dismiss possible column ideas because I think they are too commonsensical. I figure that everyone has learned how to do the basics in their companies. Almost immediately after such a thought, I am proven wrong, sometimes in dramatic fashion. You would think that a company that hires thousands of people over its lifetime would know what is involved in the process. Unfortunately, whether the company is large or small, this doesn’t seem to be, Hence, this week’s column addresses an issue important to many of you — how to have a great first day at a new job. Feel free to pass this column on to friends in management. Perhaps it will then become as commonsense as I once thought it was.

Bug in Mac OS X 10.2.5

Apple released the following Tech Note on July 30, regarding a bug in Mac OS X 10.2.5. Most of you probably have already upgraded, using Software Update, to 10.2.6, but this is a good reason to confirm that, or process the upgrade.

Mac OS X 10.2.5: Files Unusable After Copy via AFP <http://www.info.apple.com/kbnum/n107541> Files written, cached, or explicitly saved by a Mac OS X 10.2.5 client to an Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) server may become unusable under certain circumstances. Update to Mac OS X 10.2.6 or later to prevent this issue.

Sizzling Summer Nights at the Autry

Last night, we hit the free evenings at the Autry Museum. These Thursday nights offer free admission to the museum after 4 pm and then entertainment, food and dancing in the museum courtyard until 9pm.

The Golden Spur Cafe is open for dining either inside or out on the patio. The museum requests that you don't bring outside, but many people set up chairs and picnics on the large lawn beyond the patio. From there, you can still clearly hear the music and the kids get a big place to run and play.

These events continue each Thursday night through August. Visit the Autry Museum Web SIte for further infomation.

Click on the photo above for a small picture gallery.

Here is the information for next Thursday night.

Sizzling Summer Nights Francisco Aguabella and His Latin Jazz Ensemble

August 7, 2003. 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Museum Plaza

Start your weekends early at the Autry Museum with our sixth annual Sizzling Summer Nights! Dance to salsa music in our open-air plaza, and enjoy delicious food and drink available for purchase. Don't know how to salsa? No problem - we'll provide free dance lessons! While you're at the museum, visit the galleries free from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Sizzling Summer Nights are the hottest Thursdays in town! Tonight, Francisco Aguabella and His Latin Jazz Ensemble features jazz along with Afro-Cuban, Yoruba, and son rhythms.

Free to the public.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Tours of LA

Learn something about LA's architectural history with the Los Angeles Conservancy.

I think we are going to try and hit at least one of these walks. The Union Station one seems the easiest, since we can take the Red Line directly there, although we could probably access others via public transit, too.

From their web site...

Downtown at Sunset: The Conservancy's Summer Evening Walking Tours Back by Popular Demand!!

Take advantage of the beautiful Southern California summer evenings and join the Los Angeles Conservancy for the Downtown at Sunset walking tour series. On Wednesday evenings in August and September, the Conservancy will once again be offering this popular series, which features slightly shortened versions of tours regularly scheduled on Saturday mornings. The tours meet at 5:30pm and last approximately 1 3/4 hours. Four tours will be offered: Art Deco, Downtown's Evolving Skyline, Little Tokyo, and Union Station.

The Art Deco tour, which will be offered on August 6th and September 3rd, focuses on the architecture and ornamentation of buildings from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. An important period of growth for Los Angeles, this era produced some of the city's finest landmarks, including the remarkable Oviatt Building.

Little Tokyo, the district just southeast of the Civic Center, has a 120-year history as a vibrant center for Japanese living and visiting in Los Angeles, This interesting area includes a National Register Historic Landmark District. The Little Tokyo tour will be offered August 20 and September 10.

The Downtown's Evolving Skyline tour will be given on August 27 and September 17. This tour explores the architecture and development of the Central Business District. The views from the top of Bunker Hill can be quite spectacular on a clear day.

The Union Station tour is an in-depth tour of the last great railway station built in America. Opened in 1939, this Los Angeles icon is a unique combination of Art Deco and Spanish. Tours will take place on August 13 and September 24.

The tours are free to Conservancy members and $8.00 for the general public; reservations are required. Space is limited to 30 people per each tour, so call (213) 430-CITY now to reserve.

August 6-- Art Deco
August 13-- Union Station
August 20-- Little Tokyo
August 27-- Downtown's Evolving Skyline

Sept 3-- Art Deco
Sept 10-- Little Tokyo
Sept 17-- Downtown's Evolving Skyline
Sept 24-- Union Station

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Go outside and play!

I am sure you can imagine how many times I heard my parents say this exact phrase during my childhood. Since their were 5 kids, you need to quintuple your estimates. That said, I think you would be wise to heed these words, especially during these warm summer days and cool summer rnights.

One of the most wonderful things about Los Angeles, is the amazing number of places to get away from it. The Santa Monica Mountains stretch from Griffith Park to the outlying tips of the Channel Islands and provide countless opportunities to get away from it all, even if only for an hour or two.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area encompasses large sections of the mountains and their management provides an excellent, cross-departmental, listing of events and activities throughout the mountains. You can get this quarterly guide mailed to you, or you can check it out online any time you wish.

I highlight my favorite activities from the guide in my WelchEvents mailing list, but there are dozens more to choose from every month.

Now that you are done reading this...go outside and play!

Join me at Tribe.net!

Last night, I set up an account at Tribe.net, an Internet community site that is currently in beta testing.

I am always looking for neat groups of people to talk with, so Tribe.net seemed an interesting place to visit. I encourage you to head on over and set up a free account. You can then add me to your list of "friends", and I can do the same with you. In this way we can create our own little online community of friends, friends of friends and so on. If you need assistance, drop me an email.

Besides joining a few of the existing tribes, I have also founded several of my own. You can click on the links below to visit them directly.

High Tech Careers

I am also a member of: Smug Hybrid Drivers
Gadget Freaks

...and several others.

We're cooking now!

Fry's Ad in today's LA Times.

I always knew that Macs were neat, but who would have thought they could now cook your meals, too! Maybe Apple should create a whole line of commercials around this feature.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003


Backyard Astronomer's Guide

If you have ever wanted to get more involved with amateur astronomy, this is the book for you. Clear and concise descriptions and recommendations abound. This book is a MUST BUY before you ever start looking for a telescope. It can help you to avoid buying the many "junk" scopes that are advertised everywhere and yet still not spend a fortune just to see the stars.

New Feature - Douglas Recommends...

I am constantly recommending books, hardware and software to friends and clients, so I thought it wise to set up a page to hold all my favorite things. The list is fairly small at the moment, as I don't recommend items I haven't personally used and approved. I will be adding a few items each week. Don't be surprised if older items roll off while new ones are added. I want to try and keep things as fresh as possible.

A direct link is now available at the top of the righthand column on this page.

Check it out!

Monday, July 28, 2003

Los Encinos Living History Day - August 17, 2003

Los Encinos State Historic Park

This lovely park, in the middle of Encino, has several historical buildings, a duck pond and some large expanses of lawn.

The park also has a dedicated group of docents who put on a Living History Day each month.

The next date is August 17, 2003 from 1-3pm.

We visited for this year's Easter Egg Hunt and had a wonderful time.

Pictures are at here.

Subscribe to the WelchEvents Mailing List

Some Robot Stuff I have been working on

Here are a few pictures of some robot stuff I have been working on. The circuits are solar engines that allow you to run small BEAM robots using whatever solar power you have available. There is also a photo of a "flag spinner" in a clear tube that uses a solar engine and a simple mechanical robot I built as a first try.

More Robot Books...

Here is yet another collection of robot books I have found at the LA Public Library. Our quest for robot information continues. -- Douglas


Amphibionics : Build Your Own Biologically Inspired Reptilian Robot


Build A Remote-Controlled Robot


Build Your Own Robot!


Building Robot Drive Trains


Mobile Robots: Inspiration to implementation/A>

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Gold Line Swamped on Opening Day

It looks like Opening Day for the Metro Gold Line was even more popular that expected. I was going to go today with the family, but with the heat and the large numbers of people, I think I will wait for a more normal day before trying it out.

2020 Hindsight has a photo essay of the day.