• More crazy laser cutter action

    Crazy Crap We’ve Made Vaguely Recently Week continues, with our wedding invitations. I love showing them off (to a rather scary degree) since I think they turned out awesome.

    Like the glassware, we also made ‘em on the laser cutter. 

    You have no idea how long it took to learn to tie a flat knot correctly. Seriously.

    The edging is all laser-cut. We were trying for wood bark but it turned out more abstract. I like it: 

    Seeing the laser cut out all those tiny bits is very satisfying.

    Detail of one of the monograms: 

    I forget which font this is, but it's pretty.

    If you turn the invitation over, this is the only thing on the back. I think that’s all you need.

    Friggin LASERS

    The inside. It’s an oak tree (a coast live oak, ubiquitous in this area) and leaves, drawn by my husband.

    [missing image]

    Detail of the oak leaves. I really liked those oak leaves, we used them as motifs on everything. Note the scorching from the laser on the edges, which I think is a neat effect and makes it look more organic. 


    Once we got a design down, it didn’t take too long to power through them all. Especially since our wedding was fairly small.  It took a couple days to nail down a design, four hours to cut them all, one afternoon to spray glue them together and one afternoon to assemble and mail them.  They were a big hit.

    It was the only really insanely crafty thing we did for the wedding, I promise. 

    Wine glasses

    Speaking of crazy stuff we’ve made vaguely recently, here’s some etched wine glasses we did for Christmas using the laser cutter at Techshop. Each one is etched with a little icon so you can remember which one’s yours. They were a HUGE hit.

    We did a set for friends with hand grenades, ninja stars, tanks, shoes, a handbag, cherries, etc., but the ones in the picture are our set.  Since I’m an ex-astrophysicist, I requested the astronomical symbols for the planets.  Front to back you have Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon and Earth.

    Mechatronics Final Project

    I posted this on Facebook, but completely forgot about posting it here on the blog. This was our final project for ME 106 (Mechatronics): an autonomous blimp drone that was designed to be self-powered and avoid obstacles.

    This video is our first test flight, and after the demo we had a little fun running down the batteries.  (Please excuse the coughing, I’d caught a horrible cold right in time for the final project demo and was hopped up on tons of cough syrup.)  

    We got our inspiration from the Blimpduino project, an open-source autonomous blimp drone powered by an Arduino, but this is our own engine design and our own code.  If you’re bored, feel free to read our term project writeup.

    We had a number of last minute disasters with this project.  You’ll notice the um, creative use of balloons? Due to cost (helium is expensive, yo) we could only fill the blimp the day before the project was due. Naturally we discovered we’d vastly overestimated how much lift we’d have.  Instead of one RC blimp balloon….well, you see what we had to frantically tape together to get the thing to work.

    The other big disaster was we originally had two sensing systems on board: an IR sensor to detect the ceiling (to maintain level flight), and a ultrasonic sensor for range-finding. Except my partner accidentally broke the ultrasonic sensor three days before and we couldn’t get a replacement in time.  IR has a much shorter range than ultrasonic does (80 cm vs 12m!) so our blimp got really myopic. Also it meant we had to scrap all altitude control which made flight really unstable.

    However, we powered through and got the damn thing to fly, which I’m pretty proud of.  This was a really fun project, I loved it. 

    Secret Weapon: Balsamic Vinegar

    I’d like to introduce you to the patron saint of cooking science:

    Harold McGee

    This be-bearded man is Harold McGee, and he wrote a book called On Food and Cooking.  This book is awesome.  It reads like a really good textbook, and while that sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s not.  A good textbook is easy to follow, full of useful information, and readable.  He packs an amazing amount of information in this book.  Why is bread chewy? Page 290.  Why is beef red and fish white? Page 92.  Farting astronauts?  Page 257. *

    This book didn’t make me a cook, it made me a better one.  Knowing what I’m doing and more importantly, why I’m doing it lets me to replicate results exactly, and if I need to make changes, I know what effect the changes will have. 

    Knowing the physiology of taste and smell also helps me cook.   The traditional five tastes are: sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and umami (savory).  An interesting meal balances all of these flavors.

    Which brings me to the secret weapon.  Have you ever tasted a dish and thought, this needs something, but you don’t know what?  It probably needs more sour.  Or if you want a nicer word, “brightness”. 

    Anything acidic will add brightness - I’ll usually reach for dijon mustard or lemon juice, but today’s secret weapon is balsamic vinegar.

    This recipe really highlights acidity.  It goes from flat and boring to amazing with a tablespoon of vinegar.  For reals, yo. 

    Corn, Tomato, and Zucchini Soup with Basil

    This is pretty much the only recipe I make from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Half the reason for doing this post is to record the recipe, as the page it’s on is falling out and I’m afraid I’ll lose it.

    • 4 cups chicken stock
    • 4 ears fresh corn
    • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, minced
    • 2 cups cored, peeled, seeded and chopped tomatos (I’m too lazy for this and use Muir Glen diced, it’s fine)
    • 1 medium zucchini (about half a pound), diced
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • salt and pepper
    • 1/2 cup fresh basil, minced
    • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (I’m pretty sure I use a tablespoon)

    Heat the stock in a large, deep saucepan.  Strip the kernels from the corn and add the cobs to the stock (break them in half if necessary);  let them simmer while you prep the other veggies.

    Heat the butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatos, zucchini, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.  (Don’t let the zucchini turn to mush, you want it soft but with texture.)

    Remove the corn cobs from the stock and add the veggies to the stock.  Cook until the zucchini is fully done (tender but not mushy), about 5 minutes.  Add the corn kernels and basil. 

    ADD THE VINEGAR. BE AMAZED AT THE DIFFERENCE. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

    * It’s part of a discussion on why beans cause flatulence.  We know a lot about flatulence because of the space program, because it was feared that a really farty astronaut could asphyxiate himself.  Yes.  To win the Cold War, we had to study farts.

    Meeple gummies

    This time I wanted easy and lazy.  Making meeple truffles was fun, but it was, you know, work. This recipe promised it was just Koolaid + gelatin + water + pour + set.  Easy! No muss, no fuss.

    Yeeeeaaah…not so much.  They’re cute, but taste like slightly flavored rubber.  The silicone mold would be better eats.  Oh well, it serves me right for being lazy and not making real jelly candy.

    (At least they bounce nicely when you pitch them at the floor. )

Contents © 2013 Rachel Sanders