Sidewall Adventures is for sale!

Late last night Chris and I sent the 20% discount code to our subscriber list and overnight folks have been taking advantage of it!  Here is the general link for more information about the e-book.  The buttons on this page will send you to the store if you want to purchase!  We are looking forward to your comments.  www.darfieldearthship.com/store/sidewall_adventures

Our e-book is almost ready to release!

I’ll admit to being something of a tease. Not intentionally, of course, but I’ve been working on and promising our e-book about our earthship project for most of a year now. I’m pretty sure in January 2014 I estimated a May 2014 launch…then a late summer launch.

It’s SO close. So close in fact that we are aiming for a January 15, 2015 launch. If you haven’t already, please join our subscriber/email list at the right top of this page.  We will be sending one email out on the day of the launch to our subscriber list with a discount code. Even if you’re not sure you want to buy the book right away, sign up anyway.  The code will last for a few weeks, but I won’t be sending out a second email.

The e-book is a PDF document. This keeps the cost low for us (no overhead), saves on paper and avoids the carbon footprint inherent in shipping. I emphasize this because inevitably somebody buys our books and then two weeks later emails us asking where the heck it is.  It is not a hard copy.  PDF e-book only.

In defense of our slowness I will repeat what I’m sure people are becoming quite familiar with, “things move slower than we’d like”.

Why does this happen? Well, our available time seems to get the best of our intentions. We homeschool three teens, have consulting work several days a week, have a myriad of chores that require our daily and weekly attention. We like a bit of downtime as well.  In addition, I’ve been dealing with progressive osteoarthritis in my right hip and the stress and uncertainty of the last year has affected both Chris and me. Thankfully, I am now on the wait list for hip replacement surgery so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Because the e-book is written by both Chris and me, I had to write “around” Chris’ technical parts. While I am capable of capturing much of the technical issues we encountered, I wanted Chris’ much keener focus and knowledge for these parts of the book. As many know, Chris is an engineer.  Many may not know this, as he finds it slightly pretentious to flaunt it.  You will almost never see him sign anything, formal or informal, with his P.Eng. designation. When he was stamping house plans he did, of course.  I like to think of him as one of those true engineers, with a real love of tinkering and thinking and finding solutions.  What it DOES mean is that his depth of understanding of the technical issues is far superior to mine. I wanted all our readers to benefit from that so I had to be patient.

Chris has been very busy this year with an informal maker group that our daughter Helen (14) is involved with. He’s also recently been granted a subject restricted BC teaching certificate. This means he can teach math, science, computer science, physics and robotics in the BC Independent Distributed Learning school system. This is just a fancy way of saying he is recognized by the BC Ministry of Education as having the credentials to teach in the distance education system.  He is very excited to be working on a Grade 10 (for credit) course in robotics prototyping.  He has done some informal math tutoring this past year as well.

He is also my go-to tech guy. I can write, format in Word and otherwise navigate very well in many computer programs without asking for help.  However, integrating a landing page into our web store, setting up new products on the store, implementing a product discount code in anticipation of the launch of the book…well, it is far faster to ask him to help me with that.

So what’s left to do on the ebook? I have worked on a landing page for the ebook using Instapage.  Rather than itemize what’s in the e-book, you will have to wait for the landing page to go live. I’ve worked pretty hard to encapsulate the contents. I’m rather pleased about the landing page and I have to say that technically it was fairly easy to create…user friendly.  I now have one more edit of the book (which I do backwards to catch typos…yup, when I edited professionally I did this as well!).  I then have to create a PDF file.  What’s different this time from when we launched our rocket mass heater book, is I’m including about 6 or 7 videos which will be embedded in the PDF document. Turns out I need Adobe Acrobat as embedding videos into PDF through the Word function is not possible.  I’ve downloaded it but it seems to have disappeared. As I type this Chris is working on fine-tuning the 3D printer so I’m loathe to ask him for help…but I will.  Then it’s all about landing page and store integration.  We are almost there!

Big thanks to my cousin Gerald, who is a graphic artist.  I had a photo picked out for the cover and laid out text over top in GIMP but was having issues making it look nice. He took the photo, imported it into Photoshop and about 3 seconds later (o.k. 40 minutes) he sent me a version that looks oh, so, professional!  In the midst of his work he messaged me, “don’t have Binner, it’s a bit 80s, can I substitute?” (Binner was the font I’d chosen.). I replied, “sure, sub all you want” (I was just so happy to have a pro working on it).  A few minutes later I messaged him, “a bit 80s?…you say that like it’s a bad thing.”  He never replied. ;)

Also a huge thanks to Nicole Bennett and Kris Plantz of Manitoba Earthship Project and Jim and Lynn Knell of tirehouse.ca who were my pre-launch reviewers.  They also shared their financial information with me so I was able to include a comparison of three very different earthships. I know anybody who buys the book will find this invaluable.

Please join our email list to get the discount code and Happy New Year!

SelfDesign Kids Showoff 3D Printing Skills at TedX


tedxgroup20141118_171420John Krotez and his band of SelfDesign makers have been playing with some pretty exciting tech-stuff over the last year and last week they got a chance to showoff their 3D printing skills at a TedX conference in Vancouver.

That first sentence was a mouthful so maybe I should start at the beginning ….

You are probably wondering what ‘making’ is or who a ‘maker’ is … quoting from Wikipedia

The maker culture is a[n] … extension of DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by ‘makers’ include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronicsrobotics3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworkingwoodworking, and traditional arts and crafts.  Making stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.

One of the interests that the SelfDesign Maker group has been exploring a lot is 3D printing … a way of building an object from a 3D model by laying down (or printing) lots and lots of layers of a given material … it is not really as complicated or scary as it sounds.

mc_shotWe also noticed that group menbers have been playing (literally) a lot with Minecraft (duh!).  So, in an effort to combine these two interests the group started printing things that they were creating in Minecraft with 3D printers.  This collision of virtual Minecraft objects and real world items has led to some interesting results … and caught the attention of one of the organizers of a local TedX for kids conference that was hosted in Burnaby this last weekend and is why our maker group was frantically setting up a booth on Sunday.

Ted Conferences are a series of talks given by different speakers on a range of topics (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) … the talks are fascinating and the speakers are very engaging.  Nobody in our group was asked to speak this year, instead we were asked to host a booth showcasing Minecraft and 3D printing so that conference attendees could see what we have been up to.  We setup a minecraft workstation and people were encouraged to build something in Minecraft that we then printed out on a 3D printer … totally like Star Trek … just not as fast.  Our booth was REALLY popular, we had a line of people (alright kids) waiting to build something in Minecraft and people were waiting after the conference ended to get their 3D-printed swag.  We were pretty tired by the end of the day, but pretty rewarding to see that much interest in things we have been doing.minecraft prints

This winter our Maker group is expanding its interests and will be offering an on-line SelfDesign robotics course for grade 10.