Down, moved and back once again

I didn’t realize that the site was down, that’s not good.

I discovered this when I started to migrate to a new server on Digital Ocean. I like their service level, server configurations, and very reasonable costs. Plus the fact that they run everything on SSD makes it all nice and blazingly fast ūüėČ

With the site now fully migrated, hopefully things will be back to normal. And that I’ll be posting again. So many ideas and projects to share! And I need to get a Nagios monitor in place to let me know the next time the site goes sideways.

Flaming Info Booth

Here’s a quick photo of the new flaming info booth:

First use of the Crucible's new flaming info booth.
First use of the Crucible’s new flaming info booth.

More to come.


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Chasing a Rollover Crash

I was reminded recently that when writing code in C, you have to take care to understand how variable are going to be used when declaring them.¬†I was had just finished working on the code used to control the fire effects at The Crucible‘s Maker Faire 2013 booth when the system just seemed to come to a halt. That’s not quite what it was supposed to do.

The system was designed to have 3 24′ towers as the central part of the booth. On top of the towers would be accumulator based fire effects – a 24″ round sphere w/ a 2″ exhaust port, a 9″ x 24″ oblong tank w/ a massive 3″ pneumatic solenoid / exhaust and three smaller accumulators based on old fire¬†extinguishers. The solenoids on the fire effects would all be controlled with an Arduino.¬†The idea was that there would be no direct user interaction this year but the system would run automatically. Plug in the Arduino and away we go.

The code would run one of a number of possible sequences, pause between 30 and 90 seconds, randomly run the next sequence, pause . . . And it did that, most of the time. A couple of times after starting up the Arduino, several sequences would run and then nothing else would happen. Made me wonder if I had crashed the Arduino.

I added some Serial.print statements to the code to dump out details on what was happening internally and ran the code again. This time it ran without issue for almost 2 hours before coming to a halt. Looking at the output on the serial console showed that that pause value was -31438. Of course everything came to a halt, the system was attempting to pause negative 31,438 milliseconds! This didn’t make much sense until I reread the Arduino docs and saw that ints are 16 bit values. Of course it rolled over into a negative number.

Digging into the code I realized that I had used int’s in several places where an unsigned long was needed. Once fixed, all was right with the world and the system went on to work just fine for both days of the Maker Faire.

Perhaps I need to start writing these systems on a Raspberry Pi where I can use Python ūüėČ

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Fire Cauldron

For the Crucible’s 2013 Soir√©e, I created a medium sized fire cauldron that was part of the performance.

Fire CauldronThe cauldron was created from an old halon tank from a fire suppression system. A ring was welded around the outside as a handle to allow the dancers to manipulate it without coming in contact with the fire. And a ring over the top allows the cauldron to be hung from a 19′ cable.

Inside the center of the cauldron is a kevlar wick sitting in a small pill box. The kevlar is doused with a measured amount of white gas and lit.

After the first light, I was concerned about the cable and connections living inside the fire. The cable was shortened and a ¬†4′ chain added in its place. This moved the cable out of the fire and made the effect much safer.


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A Wedding Ceremony

I recently had the honor of being the officiant at the wedding for two dear friends and it was an amazing experience. Writing the ceremony was a bit more involved that I expected but I’m rather happy with how it turned out.¬†

The only change that I made here are the names of my friends and their parents to respect their privacy.

Regular text is the description of what’s going on. Indented, italics text are the parts spoken by the officiant. All music is played on a cello.

Song for people to take their seats – As time goes by

Bridesmaids and groomsmen materialize up front while guests are taking their seats.

When guests are all in place, song changes to Personal Jesus, officiant enters.

I would like to welcome everyone on this most beautiful day to the wedding of Wilma and Fred¬† They’ve asked to take this time to recognize the consistent, loving support that they’ve each received from their parents through the years. They feel very fortunate to have their parents as examples of love and life-long commitment in marriage. Wilma’s parents have been married for 42 years and Fred’s for 40. Wilma and Fred intend to follow in their parents footsteps. In escorting their children to the dais, Sue and Tom and William and Alice are again showing their love and continued support as Wilma and Fred come together in marriage.

Emily enters at start of processional song, walks up front, gives the rings to the officiant, trades a fist bump w/ sparkles and takes a seat w/ her mom.

Fred and parents enter on the left and Wilma and parents enter on the right, walking with their parents to the dais. Once their, the parents take seats in the front row.

Wilma and Fred, today you are surrounded by your friends and family, all of whom have gathered here to witness your marriage vows and to share in today’s joy. As you join yourselves in marriage, there is a vast and unknown future stretching out before you. The possibilities and potentials of your married life are great; and it now falls upon your shoulders the task of choosing your values and making real your dreams. Through your commitment to each other, may you grow and nurture a love that makes both of you better people, a love that continues to give you great joy, and a passion for living that provides you with energy and patience to face the future you create together.

This June, my wife and I will be married 18 years. She is the cornerstone of my life. I would be a mere shadow of myself without her.

From the very beginning of our relationship, I knew I wanted to spend my life with her. It took her a little longer but when I asked, she agreed to get married. It hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had disagreements, argued even, we’ve haven’t always seen eye to eye. We’ve also shared laughter, shared joy, gone on many adventures and have had many wonderful experiences together that I wouldn’t trade with anyone.

Through it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, we’ve always had each other. We made a commitment, a commitment whose foundation is love, that we will travel this life together, that we will meet whatever may happen side by side, together.

I share that story to say this – I see a commitment in Wilma and Fred that is built on that same foundation of love. It has grown from their first encounter 22 years ago on the big island to the love they have today. They are here to commit to themselves, to their families and to their friends that they will live the rest of their lives together.

It takes work to build a strong marriage. It takes care, patience and a willingness to love each other through each moment life presents you. Wilma and Fred, remember to treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Take responsibility for making the other feel safe, and to be the tenderness, compassion and kindness that your commitment deserves. When frustration, difficulty and fear seem to storm your relationship, as they do to all relationships from time to time, remember to focus on that which is right between you, not just the momentary troubles. In this way, you can survive the times when dark clouds drift across the face of the sun in your lives, remembering that, just because you may lose sight of it for a moment, does not mean the sun has gone away. If each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, the clouds will soon dissipate and the sun will shine again.

Ok, let’s proceed!

We are gathered here today in the presence of family and friends for the purpose of uniting Wilma Smith and Fred Jones in marriage, and to share in the joy of this memorable occasion.

Wilma and Fred have written vows that they would like share.

(please turn and face each other)

Fred, do you take this person, Wilma to be your lawful wedded spouse?

Fred responds.

Fred, repeat after me and state your wedding vows to Wilma:

Today, I Fred, commit to you, Wilma:
I will learn from you and with you.
I will listen to you and I will hear you.
I will grow with you.
I will strive to work with you.
I will trust you.
I will care for you and respect you.
I will challenge you and be challenged by you.
I will adventure with you
and love you as we travel our lives together.

Very short pause.

Wilma, do you take this person Fred, to be your lawful wedded spouse?

Wilma responds.

Wilma, repeat after me and state you wedding vows to Fred:

Today, I Wilma, commit to you, Fred:
I will learn from you and with you.
I will listen to you and I will hear you.
I will grow with you.
I will strive to work with you.
I will trust you.
I will care for you and respect you.
I will challenge you and be challenged by you.
I will adventure with you
and love you as we travel our lives together.

Officiant gives Wilma’s ring to Fred and Fred’s ring to Wilma.

Wilma and Fred, repeat after me and state your shared vows:

Today before witnesses, I commit to you:
My journey becomes our journey.
My goals become our goals.
My family becomes our family.
My life becomes our life.

Slide the ring each other’s finger.

Wilma and Fred would now like to ask for the support of their family and friends. They realize that these vows, this commitment, is their own to create and grow into a healthy, loving marriage. But they also know that family and friends are vital to help make it so. To that I ask you, will you stand with them and support them in their marriage and commitment to each other? If you agree, please say “we will.”

Guests respond.

By virtue of the authority vested in me as deputy commissioner of civil marriages for the county of Alameda, I now pronounce you married under the laws of the state of California!

Be excellent to each other!

You may now kiss your spouse!

Wilma and Fred leave the dias hand in hand.