Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Mayville Wisconsin

Mayville is a nice little town in south east Wisconsin.  Remarkably it had at least three breweries.  On a trip there two years ago I had a chance to quickly take a look at two of them that are still standing.  Clearly more research is needed.

Here is a nice old stone brewery down by the river.  It has been converted into a garage and an apartment building.

The back side, built right into the hill.  Odds of a cave being under there are nearly 100%.  Ah, the Impossible Dream....a fabulous garage/work space with a brewery cave out the back.  

The other extant brewery building in town does not look like much.  But parts of it are quite old.  It is now a wholesale food company of some sort.  Likely the evolution was brewery-creamery-more diversified business.  Cold storage was the key link.

As is true with humans, so also with buildings.  You can try to hide your true age but for those who look closely.....

And off the back side another interesting little abutment to the hill.  Odds of a brewery cave?  Oh, count on it.

I've had these pictures sitting around for far too long hoping to get back and get some inside pix.  When that happens I'll of course update.

My preliminary look at the breweries of Mayville shows it to be a complicated story. This LINK to lists 7 different breweries in town, although of course some may have simply been changes in ownership and variant names.

An 1885 map of Mayville indicates that the first brewery shown above was John Steger and Company.  The second was M. Ziegler, Mayville Brewery.

Monday, January 15, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Report Two

As in our previous two seasons, we lost a bit of time due to weather.  The policy is that if school is cancelled or early released due to weather, then no robotics session that evening.  Of course other area teams have the same challenge.  I'd get up on my soap box and claim that this gives a slight edge to teams from southern climes but of course down there they would cancel not just school but all functions of society if they get a dusting of snow that we just wipe off the windshield with our mittens and carry on.

The team changes every year.  We are up about 20% in numbers and also seem to have a higher percentage of hard workers.  In a stage of the campaign where software has a smaller list of things to do it has been interesting to see the kids from that group wander up stairs to work with the builders.  It's good to get grease on their hands, hope they clean up before getting back to their keyboards.

A summary of current work.

1. Drive bases.  

Anticipating a somewhat top heavy design with a big heavy mast in the center we decided to build this on the sturdy side.  Our initial design has a cut out in the front for "cube" intake.  Our electronics team has gone through and made sure that each and every motor and speed controller in inventory has the proper connectors.

2. Intake device.

Most teams are going with claw grabbers.  That seemed a bit boring.  We are going to use spinning wheels made out of dense foam to grab and hold the box.  Our initial trials were difficult....wheels big enough to grab securely did not fit inside the robot frame at the beginning of the match, and the rules do require this.  Solution? Turn the grab mechanism 90 degrees upward.  At the beginning of the match fire a solenoid to drop it forward.  Or heck, just go forward a ways and tap the brakes!

Here's version 3.0 in the "down" position.  Little foam grabby wheels to pull the box in and hug it tight. It works reasonably well but there is a lot of tinkering needed before we finalize the design.  For instance....lets try some bigger grabby wheels.

As an aside the first foam we used was actually some stuff left over from my middle school class.  It was odd stuff, very tough and spongy.  I don't really know what it is, when you buy stuff at the surplus store it is usually unmarked.  But one of our other coaches knows a "foam guy".  Everyone should know a foam guy I suppose.

3. Lift
Way beyond my skill level.  But we have a sponsor with lots of useful parts, and some guide rails that are surplus from a CNC machine have been carefully polished up and will be a three stage lift device.  I am assured that this will work.....

Here at least we are going beyond our manic "junkbot" tendencies and CAD designing before the sparks fly.   

4. And everything else.  
We don't really have quite enough funding to pull off a two tournament, two robot program this year.  So our PR team continues to reach out to sponsors old, new and potential.  Also to just invite interested parties to stop in and watch high school students actually work hard in an entirely optional setting.  

Stay tuned, next week's update should have many more moving parts.

Friday, January 12, 2018

I'm sorry Dave, you must care about Oprah.....

The shortcomings of Facebook are not exactly breaking news.  It has basically become social media for the grand parent demographic (of which I am of course a proud member), but it has also become more intrusive, sneakier.  And at the same time it is showing me a lot fewer actual posts from people I know.

Lately, and without any changes made by yours truly, the news feed has switched from Most Recent to Top Stories.  There does not appear to be any obvious way to change it back.  You can toggle it over to the preferred option each time you go look at Facebook but even that action gives the New Wizards of Menlo Park information. They know for instance when I am on the internet and via all their other info tentacles also know where I am. has been putting up a peculiar notice.  After I look at the Most Popular items it decides to force feed me - all too often celeb fluff and/or political nonsense - it puts this up:

Do you want to see more posts?

Find Friends
The more friends you add, the more posts, photos and videos you'll see in News Feed.

The button takes you to "People you Might Know", encouraging me to add them to the web of data that Facebook is spinning around me.

It was easier when I posted as Badger Trowelsworthy, and with demographic information that read like the absurdist post modern fiction that it was intended to be.

We'll see what happens.  Facebook has a lot of hidden stuff going on "under the hood" and sometimes these glitches vanish with as little logic as they appear.  For some reason I got a whole bunch of "Friend Requests" a while back, all of which appeared to be from confused Spambots that thought they were lonely college aged ladies from Brazil.

But my patience has limits.  No, Facebook I am not going to go on a Friend Request binge to try and get my Facebook feed back to showing only recent posts, and keeping them around for more than 24 hours.  Don't make me bring back Lord Trowelsworthy. 

He's more than a bit of a rascal and he drags me into much mischief even though he is fictitious.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Report One

(Note: an extra robotics post.  Because there is a lot going on.  Also I felt like it.)

How does one go about designing and building what is in effect a high speed, precise robotic forklift for moving boxes around?

Scenes from Week One of FIRST Build Season.

Inventory parts.

Ponder and discuss.

Sketch.  Lots of white boards in use...

And maybe just because we have one handy, fire up the real forklift and use it to heft a 3 pound box!  Version 1.0 of our competition machine?  Some serious weight trimming needed to get down to 120 pounds!

Building a robot has so many little tasks associated with it.  The week to date has been mostly focused on hashing out a design, and by end of session Monday the Great Bear Claw versus Belts debate was finally settled.  But there are also the straightforward, slightly boring things that have to be done.

With new gearboxes you are supposed to assemble them, then run them for a half hour without load and also without lubrication.  It smooths off any minor irregularities in the gear teeth.  It is really noisy.  Somebody really should sit there and watch, just to make sure that nothing over heats and that the power connection does not vibrate loose.

Here we have one of our rookie members patiently watching the screaming gearboxes. He has his headphones on and is listening to music.  I'd like to think the band he has on is also called The Screaming Gearboxes and sounds about the same!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Forgotten Brewery Caves - The Robber's Cave, Lincoln Nebraska

I've mentioned that my policy on describing Forgotten Brewery Caves from a long distance perspective is that they must be safe, well documented, and worth the while of a visitor.  This narrows the field quite a lot.  But occasionally a site comes through famously, providing one with history, legend, and in the case of The Robber's Cave in Lincoln Nebraska, an excellent glass of beer at the end of your visit.

Like other Western states Nebraska's development was slowed by the Civil War.  In the case of Lincoln, the fact that it was not on the Missouri River - the major transportation artery - also hindered its growth.  In fact until it was declared the state capital in 1867 it was not much of a community.

After that of course things changed.  And among many other things a brewery was needed.  Legislating is a thirsty business after all.

The Pioneer Brewery was established in 1869.  The principals were Michael Ulmer and Andrew Lindner.  Both have made fleeting appearances in Forgotten Brewery Caves before.  Ulmer had a brewery in Pepin Wisconsin, then in Hastings Minnesota.  When the latter burned in 1867 - forcing him to leap from a second story window - Ullmer went west.  Lindner was said to be from Waukesha Wisconsin. Interestingly  there was also an Andrew Lindner who was a 20th century proprietor of the Cassville Brewery, although whether this was his a son or a man staying in the business for an unusually long time is unclear.

The Pioneer Brewery took advantage of a pre-existing cave.  One in fact that had some evidence of use by Native American tribes.  They hired a man to extend the cave system and built their brewery such that they could take kegs straight in from the basement.

The venture was not a success.  It went out of business in 1873.  The building was later used for shady a dance hall and house of at least dubious repute.  Eventually it burned down.

It was after the brewery went under the history of the cave has its most intriguing, if unconfirmed event.  Supposedly Jessie James hid out there on his retreat from the failed 1876 Northfield Raid.  As his mother Zerelda was living in Nebraska at the time this would seem to be a bit more plausible than many of the other places he was rumored to have been.

Caves like this tended to remain locally known. It was a tourist attraction for a while, then was abandoned. Graffiti and the stories of those who visited as teenagers are both abundant.  In 2000 the entrance was bulldozed shut, inconveniencing but not quite barring visitors.  It contains at least one alarmingly deep well so it is fortunate that no tragedies are recorded.

In 2011 the Robber's Cave story resumed, when three guys from the Lincoln Police Department founded The Blue Blood Brewing Company.  They built a new 12,000 square foot brewery near the site of the Pioneer Brewery and incorporating the cave. In fact, the historic entrance to it has been nicely preserved.

This worthy undertaking has not been without a few rough spots.  During construction vandals broke into the cave and stole equipment.  An endangered bat species was encountered.  Local ghost hunters felt the place was haunted, although a medium who spent Halloween there does not seem to have been overly stimulated.

The Blue Blood Brewery still ages some of their product at the opening of the cave, this being similar to what the folks at the Schell's Brewery in New Ulm have done.

A few pictures of Robber's Cave.  If you find yourself in the area I do suggest a pilgrimage. It should be easy to is on Robber's Cave Road!

Note that much of this information is courtesy of Joel Green who is tour guide and official historian of Robber's Cave.  He has a book in the works on the subject so those looking for more information will find it later this spring with the publication of:

"Robber's Cave: Truths, Legends, and Reflections"

Monday, January 8, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Power Up!

OK, we've had the Big Reveal.  This year the FIRST team will have to build something really tricky.  Well, that's true every year.  The YouTube video of the game animation:

As of this writing we are at the stage where the video is being watched again and again. The rules book is being studied. Questions, some silly and some profound are being asked.  Sometimes the silly ones lead to the most profound observations.

The overall sense is that we are pretty much building a highly automated Amazon warehouse!  Moving boxes all over the place.

FIRST tries to teach skills that relate to the real world and this should be a good dose of same.  One of my first emails after getting the details was to a company that had expressed interest in the team.  And they make multi axis fork lifts!  Help!

In our third year we are obviously way behind the curve of real veteran teams with respect to having an accumulated pool of designs, experience, spare parts.  But we have been a pretty active team to date, and a number of the things we have done in the past are relevant to this undertaking.  Sometimes it is the previous failed projects that have the most potential to be dusted off and revisited.

I expect that for the next couple of months it will be Robot Mondays, History Wednesdays and Pot Luck Fridays here at Detritus of Empire.  Subject of course to whatever unexpected turns up.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Truth in Surplus Advertising

After a frustrating trip to The Big City, where assorted things did not go off as planned, I treated myself to Axman Surplus.

The Axman never disappoints, found some good "stuff".