On Thursday (2 days ago) I ordered an electronics prototyping kit based around an Atmel ATmega8U2 microcontroller. The kit is called an Arduino, and I ordered it from Adafruit Industries (funny name, I know), and paid for UPS ground shipping. I’m glad I didn’t pay for 2-day or 3-day “Priority” shipping, because it arrived Friday, the very next day.

The hardware is “open source” and there are many freely available open source tools for programming it. Tyler and I played around a little with it last night, and made it blink an LED. I played a little more after he went to bed and made it light up a series of LEDs in various patterns. Cute. The programming environment is C-based, so it is pretty familiar to an old programmer like me. Today (Saturday), I spend a couple of hours (chopped up into 5, 15 or 30 minute increments) and was able to make something, well, useful. It also uses a separate LCD display that I also purchased (seemed like it could be a fun add-on), and a temperature sensor that came with the kit. Using the display meant also using my nice new soldering station to solder 21 connections! Here it is:

It is a thermometer that displays the temperature when you press a button. It displays for 5 seconds, then the display turns off to conserve the battery.

I was partly inspired by a friend who also bought a kit and has been enjoying it. I had heard of Arduino starting a few years ago from the Make: blog and magazine. It is very popular among hobbyists and artists of a certain bent. It has lots of useful means of interacting with the real world, and a bevy of enthusiasts who have contributed lots of code and made add-on hardware for the platform. We have plans for a much more involved project, but for now, these little steps are still exciting.

We’re An American Brand!

Growing up, my mom always bought me Toughskins. They may have had their own ads, but boy did I lust after Levis. I couldn’t even bother to ask — I knew there wasn’t enough money to buy me “expensive” pants. There did come a point however, maybe it was junior high, when there was perhaps a little more money, and when my desire to fit in outweighed my need to resist asking for non-essentials. There was a store, I don’t think it was actually a Levis store, but that’s about all they sold, at the local strip mall (the Hamden Plaza). At that age, I was given some money and allowed to walk there and buy my own pants. It was honestly something of a relief to be wearing the same pants that most everyone else was. At least the boys. For the girls, as always, there was more freedom. Chic, Jordache, etc. For boys there was Levis, and the occasional Lee or Wrangler, but by and large, it was Levis.

Thus began my relationship with the brand. They had done their marketing well. They presented themselves as American as apple pie, as the saying goes. So aside from dress pants, I wore Levi’s exclusively for decades.

But back in the 1990’s, Levi Strauss and Co. began using offshore manufacturing, while still using the Made in the USA label. Thus began my disillusionment, though I didn’t act on it for a long time. A few years ago, though, I did a little research and came across a web site that listed companies that still made jeans here in the U.S.A. Check out the list if you want to help keep your fellow Americans employed.
I’ve bought jeans from both All American Clothing (including their select Carhartt jeans that are Made in the U.S.A.) and Pointer Brand, and have been happy with all of them. The All American jeans are pretty close in character to the Levis I used to know and love so well (though no rivets). The Carhartts are also Levis-like, and the only black jeans I could find in the crowd. I don’t see them listed on the site any longer. I have 2 pairs of the Pointers, one is the funky Hickory Stripe (think railroad engineer…), and the other are the regular jeans. My only complaint about them is that the pockets aren’t as deep as I am accustomed to, though the smaller (watch?) pocket is quite roomy.