Upgrading the “Nail Station”

In December 2017, Yoli painted Jadzia’s fingernails with a St. Patrick’s Day motif.

From the time she was little, Jadzia enjoyed having her nails done. She liked watching videos with Yoli to see different techniques and patterns. Then, one year, Nan gave the girls a “Salon Nail Station” made by “The Color Workshop.”

The Nail Station was a plastic storage compartment with a battery-powered fan for drying fingernails after they’ve been painted with polish. The kit included several bottles of nail polish.

The Nail Station includes a storage compartment for nail polish. And when you want to dry your nails, you put your fingers under the compartment, pushing down on the sticker that says “press here.”

The way the station was designed, Jadzia would place her fingers on a shelf under the storage compartment and press down. Pushing continuously on this shelf would cause the fan to blow on her fingers and dry the nail polish.

It seemed great in theory. But when Jadzia tried to use the Nail Station, she had great difficulty keeping the button pushed down. Her fingers were thin, hypermobile, and weak because of Marfan Syndrome. So after a few uses, the Nail Station was set aside for many years.

This year, Yoli began painting Josie’s nails regularly, and they got out the old Nail Station. Josie had stronger fingers and was better able to push the button. But she complained about it, too.

So Yoli came to me with a request: Could I hack the Nail Station and install an on-off switch, so the fan could blow without requiring the girls to push anything continuously.

The upgrade

This was a pretty simple upgrade: Disconnect the bottom button, cut a hole for a switch, then wire the switch.

The Nail Station is disassembled, and the location of the new switch has been marked.

I had an extra toggle switch left over from the time I fixed our Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, so I didn’t need to buy any additional supplies.

The main thing I had to figure out was where to mount the switch. My original thought was to put it under the compartment on the bottom shelf, but that was a dumb idea: not enough clearance, and it would be in the way of the girls’ fingers. I considered putting it on the back which would keep the connections closer to the motor. But ultimately I mounted it on the very top. The plastic was a bit stronger there, and it’s easy to access.

I used my Dremel to make a hole in the top. Then I removed some material from the top two internal supports, to make room for the nut that screws onto the switch and secures it.

The new switch is installed.

Finally, I wired the connections between the switch, batteries, and motor, and soldered them. My soldering leaves a lot to be desired, but it was good enough for this simple project.

A few hours later, Josie gave it a try. It got a thumbs-up from her and Yoli.

Josie dries her nails in the upgraded Nail Station.

Farewell, Nan

Josh opens presents with Nan, including a Tomy toy computer.

Growing up, it felt like I often had to start over — moving to new houses, switching schools, losing grandfathers.

One of the rocks I could cling to amid the sea of changes was Nan.

Her house at 5118 Village Lawn in San Antonio was like my lifelong second home. I can’t think back to a time without it, without her.

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Revisiting my dot-matrix EV3 Lego printer

This photo shows v3.0 of the Viper Printer.

This year I decided to revisit the dot-matrix Lego printer that I first built and programmed in 2017. The original design was the result of a lot of iterating, but it still had some significant problems. I wanted to try again, with a focus on eliminating errors and printing very consistent images.

You can download .LXF and .IO models of v3.0 of my LEGO printer, plus Python code for the printer, from the Viper Bots’ GitHub repo.

Keep reading to learn more.


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Morels and more

A few of the morel mushrooms I bought at the farmers market.

This morning I saw morel mushrooms at the Ferguson Farmers Market. I had to buy them.

It goes back to an experience I had last year.

It was March. For the kids’ spring break, we asked Aunt Marcy and Uncle Ken if we could stay a few days at the clubhouse near Clearwater Lake, and they said yes.

The weather was cool and the lake was high, but that was fine by us. We just wanted a safe escape from the pandemic with no worries of running into other people.

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A tree for Jadzia

We pose for a photo with Jossie, Rochelle, and Kai at Jadzia’s tree in January-Wabash Park.

We were surprised and pleased to learn that the Ferguson Swim Team had arranged to dedicate a tree in Jadzia’s memory at January-Wabash Park. Earlier this summer, they also made a team T-shirt to honor her.

This morning, the Parks and Recreation Department held a short dedication ceremony for three families’ trees at the Ferguson Community Center. Afterward we went with Jadzia’s friends Jossie and Kai to see the tree at January-Wabash. It’s positioned on the hill overlooking the water slide at the pool, not far from where Yoli and I liked to sit with Jadzia when we watched home swim meets. Keep reading to see a short video.

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Sunflower fields

Jadzia loved the “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” soundtrack. As we were preparing for her funeral, I learned that “Sunflower” was one of her favorite songs.

Like some of her siblings, she might have complained before going out to Columbia Bottoms to visit the sunflower fields. But once we got there, I’m sure she would have appreciated it.

I wish we had her in these photos.

Corona chronicles: Violet lemonade

Ludi tells the story:

One of my favorite creations I’ve made so far this year was Violet Lemonade. I first saw it when one of my friends posted about it on social media. It looked really cool and we had all the materials to make it.

To start, I picked enough violets to fill a mason jar. Later I made a violet syrup. Once I mixed the syrup into a pitcher of lemon water, the color changed and it was a pretty purple.

It tasted very good, just like normal lemonade with a hint of… I don’t quite know how to describe it. I almost want to say it had a hint of watery ground pepper.

It was very good, very pretty, and very time-consuming but overall it was very fun to make.

Corona chronicles: LEGO egg spinner for Easter

Our EV3 version of the LEGO Easter egg decorating machine.

Like so many others, the Renaud Empire has been staying put at Renaud Manor.

With Easter approaching, I came across a link to directions to build a LEGO egg decorating machine

As soon as I saw it, I knew our half of the Viper Bots (Ludi, Josie and Joseph) would be interested in giving it a try.

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