Archive for the ‘Other’ Category.

Finally, Finished

After months of paint frustration and poor design planning (I glued in the internal bracing before I installed the individual drivers, making what should have been a simple step a contortion act), my most recent speaker project is done.  This pair took longer than all the other speakers I have built, combined.  So they better sound good.  Here is one (from the back) just before I added the last bit of acoustic poly-fill stuffing and buttoned up the back.

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Yes, all those drivers on the left had to be installed reaching through those small holes in the bracing.  Ugh.  Anyway, after I took this picture, I had one more -- appropriate for this project -- negative surprise when the fit on the port on the back was not quite right and a lot of filing and trimming was needed for the usually simple task of installing the back cover.  Right now the speakers are breaking in and then I need to do testing and gain adjustments (I am using an electronic crossover with parametric equalization I built from a miniDSP kit).

The original article on the theory of the design is here.  I will post final pictures soon -- they do look simply awesome, though I will say again that life is too short to put a gloss piano black finish on mdf, but I am glad I did it now that all the work is done.   Not sure what I will be doing with my weekends going forward.

As an aside, I am not moving -- on his way to his first apartment, my son claimed a couple of my old bookshelves, leaving me with packing boxes of my books on the floor.  There is a bit of a story on his whole job search:  For months of his senior year he kept telling us he turned down such and such job in Boston or New York.  He didn't want to work in the northeast and didn't want to be an investment banker, eliminating about 95% of the companies that come to the small Amherst College campus.  However, with some persistence, he landed a job with craft brewer Ballast Point in San Diego.  So after all my parental angst about his future, when I tried to lecture him on how to do a job search, he ended up working for a beer company in Southern California.  Compare that to my first job, working in an oil refinery in Baytown, Texas.  So I suppose he wins job search.

Update on Applied Underwriters

Applied Underwriters (AU) followed through on their threats to file suit against me for my posts, claiming they were defamatory. I hired an attorney who filed a motion to dismiss the claims, asserting among other things, that my statements were opinion and were protected by the First Amendment.  However, the Court found that the manner in which my statements were made “could” be considered statements of fact and not mere opinions.  As a result, the Court ruled that the case could go forward and denied my motion.  I am happy to report, however, that AU and I have resolved our differences and the case is being dismissed.  In the meantime, I have worked and will continue to work with AU on trying to better understand the program.  While I continue to believe that the terms were not clearly explained to me during the sales process and that there is an unknown factor regarding my deposits that AU decides, I do have a better understanding of my program and my hope is that it will continue to work as they claimed.  I still do not know when I am going to get the return of my deposits, if at all, but I will wait and see as it depends on my claims during the life of the program.  But, more importantly, they provided me with workers’ compensation insurance when no other alternative was available, which allowed me to stay in business. My final word on this issue is that whenever you are procuring insurance, regardless of whether it is from AU or another company, take the time to understand the program and get a broker who will work with you to answer any questions you may have.

Attracting Monarch Butterflies: Try Parsley

I thought this was interesting on volunteer efforts to create habitat for migrating monarch butterflies.

Here is my advice.  I don't know much about feeding and attracting adult butterflies, but we sure found the recipe to getting caterpillars and cocoons.  When I lived in Texas (Houston to be exact), my dad planted all kinds of flowers and herbs around the yard in pots.  However, each year, the parsley would be absolutely mobbed by monarch butterfly caterpillars.  We soon gave up growing parsley for food and did it just for the butterflies.  Every year, cocoons would start showing up all over our parsley, and on one day a year, we would have a massive monarch butterfly hatch.

My New Speaker Project

Long-timer readers will know that one of my hobbies is building my own speakers.  I built three big ones to go behind my home theater projection screen, and various pairs for music around the house.  The first time I built speakers, I worked exactly from plans.  The second time I customized a design.   The third time I designed from scratch, but they were small simple bookshelf speakers.

This new project is something else.   I started almost completely from scratch, beginning only from this academic article on curved line arrays.  From space and wife-acceptance-factor reasons, I couldn't build a floor to ceiling traditional line array, so I thought I would try this approach.  The height of the speakers was capped by some geography issues in the room they are going in.

So here is what the boxes look like so far.  The rectangular openings are for PT2C-8 planar tweeters, and the round ones are for the ND90-8 mid/bass.  Despite the small size of the bass drivers, the ones chosen actually go pretty deep and the speaker box models (there are lots of free programs out there) with pretty good bass, though I will have it crossed over to a subwoofer as well.  The speaker actually curves upwards more than it looks like in the photo -- the angle of the photo distorts it some.  The curve is actually between 25 and 30 degrees.

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It turns out that things I thought would be really hard were actually easy.  For example, getting the nice curve on the face was easy once I changed my plan to layering several 1/4 inch sheets rather than trying to bend a 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch sheet of mdf.  The rectangular holes are not that straight but the drivers have wide flanges that will cover that up.  The round holes were made WAY easier with this type of hole saw (which rather than teeth has three or four little carbide router bits that do the cutting).

What was hard was the paint.  It was all done with rattle cans, I don't have any professional spray equipment.   I have no idea when I decided to try to get a piano black gloss finish on this, but I will tell you now that life is too short to try to get this finish on mdf.  If you look really closely you can see a few spots where I should have sanded yet again and re-coated, but I finally called it done.  The worse problem was that I accidentally started with a Rustoleum lacquer.  It covers beautifully but dries really, really slowly.  Any other paint type will make a mess if sprayed over lacquer, so I was stuck with it unless I wanted to strip it off and start over (which in retrospect would have been a good decision).   Painting this has been going on for months, with frequent long breaks to let things fully dry.  I am still not sure the finish is really as hard as it should be and am paranoid about bumping it into anything.  It looks good, though, almost startling when people see it for the first time.

Anyway, the next step is installing the drivers.  Part of the academic paper discussed tapering the volume on the various drivers.  This requires some simple resistor networks (L-pads) to attenuate each driver by a certain amount.  Here are the drivers once all the resistors are soldered (on the back, so largely invisible here), shown while I am testing the network.  The laptop is setting the parameters in the digital crossover, which uses a kit I built from miniDSP.  The MiniDSP board also has parametric equalizers so when the speakers are finished, I can fine-tune the frequency response.

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You can actually see the first driver installed on the lower right.

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Here is where we get to the world-class screw-up on my part.  The #1 thing I learned in speaker design is to brace the hell out of them.  You don't want anything flexing.  Unfortunately, I was stupid enough to put the braces in early.  This is fine for the rectangular ribbon tweeters, they install from the front.  But the round mid-basses install from the back, and  this is what that looks like -- the unpainted panels with the holes in it are the braces, and then you can see the actual driver hole in the front of the speaker behind it:

 

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I had this thing up on my bathroom counter so I could see the driver positioning in the mirror.  I then had to reach hands through these braces while using a screwdriver with a 12 inch extension.  A total contortion act, but I got the hardest one done so I am confident I can do the rest.

Ugh, Aging

My college roommates and I in college, at our 25th reunion, and just this January in Thailand.

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room 3

room 2

Does Anyone Actually Like Having a Washroom Attendant?

It's a serious question.  I hate walking into a bathroom and seeing an attendant.  Do I really want someone hovering over me when I am doing my business or washing my hands?  In a world where I am happy to pump my own gas, do I need someone squirting soap on my hands and handing me a towel?  All of which is transparently a bid to guilt me into tipping them for a service I never wanted -- in fact, a service that is a big negative for me.  I find myself actively avoiding restaurants I know to have attendants in the bathrooms.

Perhaps being an introvert I have stronger feelings on this, but if other people share these same feelings, even if less strongly, why the hell are there bathroom attendants in the first place?  Are they make-work jobs for some out-of-luck relative of the restaurant owner?  Or maybe for the local mafia protection racket?

Finally, Libertarians and Progressives Uniting to Take On a Critical Issue

The Oxford Comma.

To answer Drum's question, I think the problem may be the name.  "Oxford comma" sounds stuffy and pretentious and 19th century.  Maybe we can call it the Kardashian comma or something.

Bob Ross Marathon

I am watching a Bob Ross painting marathon on Twitch.  I find his work totally addictive to watch.  He'll do something that looks like a hot mess from a 3-year-old's painting and then suddenly do one other thing and it looks like a detailed forest.  He uses a palette knife and a three inch brush and suddenly he has a landscape painting.  He's my hero.

PS - the chat window is amazing -- somehow people are posting like 20 comments a second on Bob Ross.  I love the Internet.  And where do you get the Bob Ross emoji's?

PPS -- here is the chat window - people posting "ruined" and then about 10 seconds later typing "fixed"

 

Blood on the Moon

We pretty much had a full lunar eclipse tonight with clear skies.  Of course my Nikon with the tripod and the 300mm lens had to have a dead batter, so I used the Canon Sx260 I had such good luck with at concerts.  The results are grainy but pretty good for a pocket camera.  This is about 5 minutes after the peak.  No tripod, just sitting on top of my trash can in the driveway.

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Here it was a bit before the peak

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Modern pocket cameras use some sort of multi-shot HDR process to take low light photos.  My Sony RX100-III does even better at night but does not have the zoom to do justice to the moon.  It s a better camera, and I still intend to share pictures from my trip to Europe but just have not gotten around to it, but here is what the Sony saw:

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Sort of apropos to this blog, the local coyotes went absolutely apesh*t right at the peak of the eclipse.  Howling from every direction.

 

 

 

Coyote Cocktails

My guess is that there are no new cocktails under the sun, but I have not found anything similar out there so here is my current favorite homegrown concoction.  Call it a Coyote Cocktail if it has not been named yet.   I suppose it is sort of kind of like a Sidecar but I actually started from an Old Fashioned to get here:

  • 2 parts Bourbon (I think a slightly sweeter one like Makers Mark works well)
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part fresh grapefruit juice (we have a tree so this is easy)
  • a couple dashes of orange bitters

stir over ice.

A lot of restaurants in my area are serving slightly spicy tequila drinks, making Palomas or Spicy Margaritas with pepper-infused tequlia.  We have home-infused a bottle of tequila with peppers and really like it.  Our first try was a disaster -- we put 2 or 3 small dry peppers in bottle of tequila and let it sit for 5 days.  Mistake!  That is way too long.  A day is all that is needed for a good infusion and a nice level of spice.  We held onto the five-day flamethrower tequila.  It is fun to serve as a shot to friends who think they are manly for pounding Jagermeister.  Really gets their attention.

As an awful aside, apparently my son and his friends at college drink some concoction made of Jagermeister and Red Bull.  I am told this is a standard at clubs nowadays.  gahk.  Possibly even worse than the Schmidt Beer I drank occasionally at college when we were short on cash.

July 4 Shooters

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I wanted to make an appropriate cocktail for our July 4 party, so I tried a red, white, and blue layered drink. The key to all layered drinks is to put the densest material on bottom, followed by the next lighter, and so on. The problem with this kind of flag drink is that most clear liquors tend to be the lightest and thus aren't appropriate for the middle band.

The bottom of this drink is grenadine syrup. The middle is peach schnapps. The top is blue curacao. Unfortunately, both the blue and the red on the first try were too close to the clear such that after about 5 minutes they started bleeding into the clear area. I solved this by adding some honey to the grenadine to make it heavier, and I diluted the blue curacao with water to make it lighter (even a 50:50 dilution did not seem to have much affect on its color). That did the trick.

Typically, one carefully pours each layer over an inverted spoon to keep them from mixing, but I wanted to use these tall thin glasses and a spoon would not fit. After trying several things, I used one of those large 4-6 ounce eyedroppers that are for feeding babies and pets. That worked great.

How do they taste?  Uh, don't they look great!  Actually, they tasted better than I had imagined for a drink concocted of ingredients chosen solely for their color and density.  Tasted sort of like grape juice.

Great Hand Vacuum

After a lot of unsatisfactory purchases of handheld vacuums, I can say this one is fabulous.  The only problem is that it sites in a charging cradle that does not attach well to a wall.  I am not sure why all these handheld vacuum makers have abandoned wall-mounting, but they seem to have.

Hey, I Love Eating Alone in Public

There are few things I enjoy more when I am on the road alone or even at home with my family gone for some reason than going to a nice restaurant, sitting at the bar, and having a few drinks and dinner.  All by myself (OK, maybe with my Kindle too).

My favorite right now is the bar at Eddie V's steakhouse.

As a weird aside which I cannot explain, I am a pretty severe introvert who finds it almost impossible to make conversation with strangers at cocktail parties or at nearly any other venue.  This week my wife and I were walking up Canyon Road in Santa Fe looking at art galleries and I just plain stopped going in because I didn't want to deal with the way every gallery salesperson tends to immediately overwhelm one with small talk.  I worked long and hard to find a hair cutter and a dental hygenist that didn't insist on trying to have a conversation while they did their work on me.   But despite all this, I can comfortably meet and interact with people while sitting at bars.  Not sure why.

Why We Southerners Are Apparently the Least Misogynist Americans

Because we say y'all, not you guys.

Thank the stars that we don't have gendered nouns (and thus adjectives and articles) as do Spanish, Italian, and German, among others.  Beyond the extra memorization hassles (the frickin' Germans have 3 genders to remember), what would the modern American Left do with that mess?

 

Bring Back Concubinage!

Until they were purged by the Medieval Catholic Church, many western cultures had marriage alternatives -- legal, contractual, long-term relationships within which children could be reared but which were not until-death-do-us-part marriage.  Ironically, Church father Augustine had a child in just such a relationship.**  Reading articles like this one, it strikes me that it is time for some modern innovation here.

We are in a position where we have just two alternatives -- marriage, which is a full-blown legal merger of two people into one for what is theoretically life -- and nothing.  Given the rise of childbearing in these no-long-term-commitment-whatsoever relationships, the state has taken a few halting actions to bridge the gap, but most of these have been ham-fisted and fraught with problems (our efforts to impose financial responsibility on fathers is one example).

If this were a market, I would say that there is clearly a consumer demand for an alternative product that fits between marriage and nothing, and allows two people to make long-term commitments to child rearing without necessarily commingling assets or making lifetime sexual monogamy vows.

 

** At the time, such concubinage relationships were often to satisfy class issues -- people of certain classes simply were not allowed to marry each other.  In Augustine's case, it allowed him to pursue a 15-year relationship with a woman who was not wealthy but left him available to marry when a rich woman later came along.  In short, it was used for reasons that are mostly irrelevant today.  But that doesn't mean we can't invent marriage alternatives of our own for our own modern reasons.

Awesome Homemade Donuts, Gluten Free Too

After dissing the Food Babe in the last post, I guess I need to recover some karma.  The whole gluten-free thing has been justly skewered (e.g. here) because the vast majority of people who want to live gluten-free have no biological justification for doing so.    That being said, there are people who are legitimately gluten-intolerant, like my mother-in-law.

When she visited, I knew nothing about gluten-free stuff.  But I bought this home-made gluten-free donut mix and a donut baking pan from Amazon based on the reviews.  Well, screw the gluten-free part, these things were awesome.  And really easy to make.  No vats of oil, they are just baked.  Recommended even for us wheat-eaters.

This is Strangely Awesome

My Contributions to Social Science

It occurred to me that I have reached important insights into human behavior that it would be negligent of me to withhold from the world, so here they are:

The Cheerleader Effect:  The cheerleader effect describes a human perception issue where pictures of any woman in a group are often considered more attractive than a picture of that woman alone (this may apply to men as well, but I have always heard it referred to women).  Apparently women exploit this effect by posting pictures on dating sites that show them in groups of their friends rather than alone.  Anyway, I have developed two corollaries:

  • Polo Shirt Effect:  Polo shirts in a store appear more desirable when grouped with other similar shirts in an array of colors than when presented alone.  This effect is strong enough to trump the paradox of choice, where offering consumers more choices can tend to flummox them and cause them to buy less.  I believe arrays of multi-hued polo shirts presented together increase purchases of these shirts.
  • Christmas Tree Effect:  We almost never buy ornaments for our tree.  95% are individually ugly, but meaningful, constructions by our kids over the years.  The rest are what remain after breakage of some commercial ornaments we bought 20 years ago on deep discount in the after-Christmas sales.  But a tree constructed of these ornaments is beautiful.  So ornaments look far better when massed on a tree than they look individually.

Towards A Theory of Pedestrian Behavior:  One of the things I enjoy is urban running -- ie running through the streets of cities.  When we travel, this is one of my favorite ways to see cities, and it also helps me run further because I do not get bored.  But trying to run through sometimes crowded pedestrian areas can be frustrating, since one is trying to move faster than the crowd and the crowd typically does not expect a runner coming up behind them on the sidewalk.  As a result of many such runs, I have developed two laws of pedestrian behavior:

  1. Groups of pedestrians will expand to fill the width of the space allotted.  If the width changes, groups of pedestrians will respond very quickly and expand their group spacing to fill that width.  While this behavior is almost certainly natural, it is almost impossible to distinguish a group walking naturally from one purposefully trying to block passage by a faster pedestrian.  Corollary:  Groups too small to fill the width of a passage or sidewalk will weave.
  2. Groups of pedestrians, everything else being equal, will choose to pause and congregate at the bottleneck in any sidewalk, thus constricting an already narrow passage.  DisneyWorld is a great location for spotting this behavior.  Corollary:  A disproportionate number of people will choose to stop right at the exit door from an jetway when exiting an aircraft.

 

I Wonder...

I wonder if American tattoos with Asian characters look like this to the Asians.

When the Giant Alien Ship Arrives to Find Out What Happened to the Dolphins Who Were Marooned on this Planet Millennia Ago, This Guy May Have Saved the Human Race

Picking A Lock with a Hairpin

Now I know what I am going to be doing all weekend.

Lost Joy

When I was in high school, there was a dating ritual in which the guy (ie me) went to pick up the girl at the girl's house.  The girl was never ready, so the guy was forced into an awkward (particularly on the first date) conversation with the girl's dad.

Apparently, this sort of dating ritual is gone, at least at our school and in my family.  As my daughter gets closer and closer to leaving high school, it finally struck me last night that I may never get to enjoy the payback of being the "dad" in this ritual.  And I was all ready, too.  I never use my shotgun any more but I keep it around solely in the hope of having it out on the table for cleaning when my daughter's date comes over.  Now I fear I will be denied this small joy.

(Of course, the fact that I have communicated my fantasy of cleaning my shotgun on my kitchen table when my daughter's dates come over may have something to do with my daughter structuring her social life such that boys never come over.  Corollary to Heisenberg:  You cannot discuss a fantasy without disturbing it).

Greatest Thing Since Duct Tape

Don't let Amazon's placement of it in the "craft" section fool you.  E-6000 is the best all-purpose, stick-any-two-arbitrary-things-together adhesive I have ever found.

I made my daughter a Christmas present which was a reproduction of the painting in the Disney Haunted Mansion where the man in the picture slowly turns to a skeleton.  I will post a build report at some time, but I had to anchor a heavy computer monitor to a wood box and an Ikea plastic frame, and E-6000 welded the whole thing together.  I also have used it recently to glue studs to a concrete floor to support a cabinet and to put a rubber weir under my garage door.  It takes a day to cure, and will not go on thin and sometime can be messy, but it makes an awesome bond.   I almost never touch epoxy or  Liquid Nails any more.

Update:  I know Gorilla Glue has its adherents.  The problem is that it expands so much (it kind of foams), it is really hard to control and get good results, at least in my opinion.  Neither of these replace ACC when you need to bond something fast or when you want your fingers stuck together all day.

So Much For the Patrimony

Would a visiting alien look at these photos and assume men were in charge?

Sentence Planning

One of the transitions English speakers have to make in Romance languages, and I have found particularly in Italian, is that the object of the sentence that we so often put at the end ends up at the beginning of sentences.  For example, in Italian, when translating the phrase "I can show it to you", the "to you" and "it" end up as the first two syllables ahead of everything else.

I was working on this just yesterday in my Italian lesson so I got a laugh out of XKCD

You absolute-fucking-... shit.