Archive for the ‘Other’ Category.

My New Pet Peave: Uber Drivers Who Stop For Gas After Taking My Job

Third time in a row I have had an Uber drive stuck at 5 minutes away from me for 20 minutes, with their car sitting right on top of the nearest gas station.

Quest Complete, Achievement Unlocked

About a year and a half ago when I was in Asia, I saw a lot of folks has laundry racks that were essentially lifts, where one could put the laundry out to dry and then lift it up out of the way.  I thought this would be awesome for our laundry room, which unusually for a laundry room has a 12 foot ceiling.   Since we live in Arizona, I hand a lot of things like my cotton shirts to dry, it reduces the wrinkles and in our 4% humidity it tends to be bone dry after just a few hours.

But it was impossible to find one in the US.  I even had a contest on this web site to try to find one, with no real luck.  So after nearly a year of searching, multiple false starts, language issues, shipping issues, disappearing orders, and a general contractor who had absolutely no idea how to install the thing, we finally meet with success:

It is awesome for us -- lowers to about 5 feet above the ground to make it easy to hang things on it, and then raises high enough that the laundry clears me head.  Down & Up:

      

I'd buy the US distribution rights for this thing if I thought anyone else had similar applications for it over here.

Our New Favorite Gift - Spicy Tequila

It is possible to buy all sorts of infused liquors nowadays, but I have never seen my personal favorite sold in stores -- red pepper infused Tequila.  We first had margaritas made from pepper-infused spicy tequila in Pacific Beach at a restaurant called JRDN and since then it has been a favorite of ours.  Not finding any in stores, we make our own, cutting up 5-6 small red dried chili peppers and leaving them in the tequila for 1-5 days -- the length depends on how spicy you want it and how fresh the dried peppers are.  The first time you do it, you need to try it frequently as the spiciness is unpredictable.  Also, you may want it spicier for drinks where it gets diluted (e.g. margaritas) vs. just drinking straight.

My current favorite every day, reasonably-priced tequila is Cazadores (the one with the stag on the label).  IMO, it is way better than some more famous, and more expensive, brands like Patron.  The gift bottle show above was Cazadores Extra Anejo infused for about 4 days.

If I really want to blow it out, my favorite sipping tequila (do not make a margarita out of this stuff unless you light cigars with hundred dollar bills) is Clase Azul Reposado.  Pero, es muy caro!  If you do light cigars with hundred dollar bills, you can try the Clase Azul Ultra, but I have never had more than a taste given that it goes for thousands of dollars a bottle -- sort of neck and neck with a 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle.

PS-  as with most things that are harmless and enjoyable involving alcohol, this is probably illegal somehow.  Please do not turn me in to the FDA or BATF.

Darwin Award in 3, 2, 1....

Awesome Web Site - Radio Around the World

This is a pretty cool site - spin the globe, click on the dots around the world, and listen in on local radio.  There are other web sites with links but I find this interface way more fun to play with.

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Finally, Passing the Mantle of Responsibility to the Next Generation

Years ago I got tired of store-bought cards and cards with pictures of the family taken at Disneyland or skiing or whatever, so I created my own holiday card.  We got positive feedback, so I did another (past examples here, here, here).  I kept on with it, though over time it became a burden -- the weight of it would hit me about November 15:  What am I going to do next year for a card?

But this year my daughter, who is off to art college in Pasadena this January, picked up the mantle and drew our family portrait for our card.  Wow, what a relief.  I feel like a tired 16th century farmer whose son just grew old enough to do the plowing.

So Merry Christmas, or happy whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year.

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PS -- OK, I don't want to nitpick, but I guess the 16th century farmer probably criticized the straightness of his son's furrows.   She made the drawing square, which necessitated a square envelope, which in turn cost us 20 cents extra in postage for each since square letters take special handling at the post office.  But it was a small price to pay.

Update:  To the comment that the choice of 16th century for my farmer analogy was sort of random, I happened at the time to be listening to yet another in the Great Courses series (love them) and it was just discussing agrigulture in the 16th century.

Fashion Advice: This Sweater is A Total Chick Magnet

OK, normally I would tell you that the first rule of Coyote Blog is to never take fashion advice from Coyote.  But this is an exception.  Ignore it at your peril.

Being happily married, I have no use for random female adoration, but for those in search thereof, I can tell you from personal experience that this sweater is a total chick magnet.  The last couple years, I have never gone out in it without several women taking me aside and telling me what a great sweater this is.  Via amazon

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Costumed Run at @RunDisney

My daughter and I would feel weird at this point to run a 10K or half-marathon without costumes.  For the Marvel #DoctorStrange10K  today at Disneyland, she made a cute Thor costume and I made an Ironman outfit.  Actually I did not bother very much with the rest of the costume details because I spent all my time geeking out over making the lighted arc reactor.  Eventually, I ended up with a very light design using an electro-luminescent panel with an inkjet-printed overlay on transparency film.  I had to hump the battery pack over the whole course but it was not too bad.

Dr strange 10k

Update:  Per several suggestions, a pocket in the shirt for a smartphone with the image of the arc reactor on the screen does not work well.  The phone is too heavy and unless the shirt is really, really tight, it flops around when running.  The EL panel is super light, and the main weight of the battery can be on the belt.

Southern California Real Estate Question

A few months ago I helped my son shop for an apartment in San Diego, where he is working for Ballast Point Beer.  Currently I am helping my daughter look for apartments in Pasadena, where she may be attending art school.  In both cases we found that small studio apartments often have higher rents than one- and sometimes even two-bedroom apartments in the same complex (and with the same fit and finish, amenities, etc.)

What the hell?  I understand that there may be more demand for studio apartments in these neighborhoods among young singles than for larger apartments, but once one sees the studio for $2200 and the one-bedroom for $1800, why would one still choose the studio, which might be half the size?   Ease of cleaning?  Is there some artificial demand from some government or financial aid program that will only pay for studio apartments?  Do Chinese students come to the US and suddenly get agoraphobia from an apartment that is too large?

Best Lego Kit Ever

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My daughter and I had a lot of fun putting this together.  The back side is a sort of playhouse, with lots of little references to various Disney animated movies.

We Need A Word For This. Maybe the Germans Have One

The estate process for my parents is finally coming to a close, and we must do a final cleanout of their residence in preparation for selling it.  I ended up with 6 boxes of stuff I shipped to my house that I would classify as "things I really don't want and will likely never look at or use but I can't bring myself to throw away."  My mom's faded wedding dress is in this category, for example.  I need a word for this kind of item.

Typically what happens with this stuff, at least in my case, is a sort of time-based triage process.  I will store it, let 5 years or so go by and at that point, having never accessed any of it, I will get rid of a portion.  My school textbooks steadily vanished in this manner.  Rinse and repeat until the problem with the hard core of assets we can't bring ourselves to shed is passed onto our kids.  Or until something is old enough to migrate from old junk to valuable antique.

I did find a pretty cool, large award certificate my grandfather won at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, which I think I will frame.

If You Want to Worry About Something Other Than This Election....

From the WSJ:

A Midwestern metropolis is under attack from an unseen enemy, with victims pouring into doctors’ offices and pharmacies with telltale wounds.

“Right now I don’t even want to go outside to get the paper,” said 82-year-old Chuck Heinz, a retired manufacturing manager whose upper torso is peppered with dozens of welts.

Megan Kinser, who has been attacked at least two dozen times, goes out only when she has to. “It makes me nervous,” said the 32-year-old pharmacy assistant.

The culprit: Pyemotes herfsi, otherwise known as the oak leaf itch mite.

The eight-legged pest causes intense itching in humans. Native to Central Europe, researchers believe it made its U.S. debut in the 1990s in Kansas City and has since spread to many parts of the Midwest, with outbreaks happening every three to eight years. Nearly invisible to the eye at 1/100th of an inch, the mites are back in full force.

“You can’t see them, they’re microscopic and before you know it they’re under your skin,” said Jared Mayberry, marketing director of Ryan Lawn & Tree in Overland Park, Kan.

People are being told to wear hats and cover most of their skin when they go out and to jump in the shower as soon as they go inside. And to avoid walking under red oaks, particularly pin oaks.

But with at least 3.5 million pin and other red oak trees in the Greater Kansas City area, according to a 2010 estimate by the Agriculture Department, that may be easier said than done.

The arachnid becomes of most concern to humans in the fall, after it spends all summer feasting on the larvae of a gall midge, a fly that nests in oak leaves.

The itch mites eventually tumble to Earth this time of year—as many as 300,000 a day per tree.

It Is All About Mix

After 20+ years of technical, economics, and business analysis, I will offer up my best piece of advice to young data analysis folks looking to make an name for themselves:  Focus on the mix.  Or more particularly, changes in the mix.

The mix of what?  It could be most anything.  Here is a recent example from economics, arguing that the slowdown in wages is in part due to a mix shift in the country's employment to lower-paying industries.  In the corporate world, it could be the mix of markets, or customers, or regions.   Typical metrics used in the business world almost always miss mix.   In a large aerospace company, we had the irritating situation that the profitability of every single product line was rising at the same time revenues were rising but overall profitability was falling.  The problem was the mix.  The most profitable product lines were all on older aircraft, ironically because they were the least reliable (aerospace parts companies have traditionally operated on a razor and blades model, so that more failures let one sell more really profitable aftermarket parts).  As airlines modernized, our mix shifted to new product lines which were less profitable.  This difference in profitability was also due to a mix shift -- since newer products were way more reliable, more newer aircraft in the fleets shifted the mix from aftermarket sales (which were astoundingly profitable) to OEM sales (which were often made at a loss).

The Lifestyle Charity Fraud

For decades I have observed an abuse of charities that I am not sure has a name.  I call it the "lifestyle" charity or non-profit.  These are charities more known for the glittering fundraisers than their actual charitable works, and are often typified by having only a tiny percentage of their total budget flowing to projects that actually help anyone except their administrators.  These charities seem to be run primarily for the financial maintenance and public image enhancement of their leaders and administrators.  Most of their funds flow to the salaries, first-class travel, and lifestyle maintenance of their principals.

I know people first hand who live quite nicely as leaders of such charities -- having gone to two different Ivy League schools, it is almost impossible not to encounter such folks among our alumni.  They live quite well, and appear from time to time in media puff pieces that help polish their egos and reinforce their self-righteous virtue-signaling.  I have frequently attended my university alumni events where these folks are held out as exemplars for folks working on a higher plane than grubby business people like myself.  They drive me crazy.  They are an insult to the millions of Americans who do volunteer work every day, and wealthy donors who work hard to make sure their money is really making a difference.  My dad, who used his substantial business success to do meaningful things in the world virtually anonymously (like helping save a historically black college from financial oblivion), had great disdain for these people running lifestyle charities.

So I suppose the one good thing about the Clinton Foundation is it is raising some awareness about this kind of fraud.   This article portrays the RFK Human Rights charity as yet another example of this lifestyle charity fraud.

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.