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May 5th, 2019

I Know It’s In Here Somewhere…!

When your level of frustration trying to find something in the top drawer of your drafting table reaches a critical mass and you decide to repack it…

 

Every now and then I’d chance across some of these old drafting tools at a flea market or garage sale and snap them up. But the dividers at the far right I bought for myself back when I was a working architectural modelmaker. They’re precise, each tong hand ground so the distance between each one is exact. Props to whoever knows what the odd tool at the lower middle of the photo is for. The one above it is a ruling pen. It’s what they used in the days before the Rapidograph, and they still come in handy.

I must be on a repacking jag lately, or the household clutter has developed to a stage where my inner neatness geek is getting antsy. A few weeks ago I was looking for a screw of a particular kind and ended up digging through the entire bin of miscellaneous nuts and bolts and nails and screws I’ve accumulated since…well since I was a teenager. I never throw out things like that, and it gets progressively more and more difficult to dig through it all just to find that one perfect fastener you need. So I decided then and there to repack and sort everything, and of course I ended up with a bunch of miscellaneous odds and ends I could not categorize, like you do, and thereby find a container for. Little bags I’d collected over the decades of odd sized spare screws and fasteners and widgets of various sorts. It’s maddening sometimes because indecision can grind everything to a halt if I can’t work my way past it.

This is why I save coffee cans. But as always, the problem is how to label it so I’ll know which can to open when I’m looking for something…

I expect this can to be too full to put anything more into it in a couple years. Plus I’ll need to sort what’s in it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Know It’s In Here Somewhere…!

March 3rd, 2019

The Bidet…A Couple Weeks Later

So…the bidet… And if you think this is oversharing feel free to change the channel. But some people expressed interest in how well the thing actually works.

Just to recap, I bought one of those bidet toilet seat conversions when I saw a really nice one that Costco was selling for slightly better than half off. I’m assuming it’s an about to be discontinued model, because when I last checked they still have it listed on the manufacturer’s website.

It was a pretty simple and straightforward installation, but then I have a bunch of tools and a near lifetime of experience doing my own simple household repairs and improvements. Even growing up in a bunch of suburban garden apartments you found that fixing leaks yourself got the job done quicker than calling the landlord, plus it kept strangers out of your nest. The thing most people get wrong when replacing things like a toilet float, hoses and faucet washers is they over tighten the connections and then they leak. Hand tighten, and then just a tad more with the wrench will usually do it. (When changing an oil filter, Only hand tighten.) This time I had to go back and gently add some torque to a couple of the connections a day later when I noticed some minor drippage, but it was pretty simple otherwise. My bathroom had outlets nearby but I did have to run a power strip to the wall behind the toilet. The instructions said to use a surge protector.

Does it work? Well I can’t speak to how well it works on lady parts, but as to the part we all share…yes. Absolutely! Gets you spic and span. Much Much better and more hygienically than paper. But there are adjustments you need to tweak: water temperature, pressure, nozzle position and whether to turn on the aerator. The spray is timed for a minute and then automatically stops, or stops instantly if you get off the seat. Repeat as needed. My experience is adjusting the position of the nozzle back and forth while it’s working gives best results. I only use toilet paper now to dry myself and that’s cut down my use of it considerably, and counter intuitively it’s also cut down water consumption. That’s from flushing the paper down. Now I flush less often, so that’s less water down the drain. There’s an air dry function that’s timed for three minutes but I have no patience.

There’s a seat warmer which is nice, and is adjustable. There’s a fan that turns on and pulls air out of the bowl while you’re sitting on it, and out through a carbon filter to keep the bathroom stink free. It shines a soft blue light into the bowl which is nice for when your bladder insists in the middle of the night. I give it a thumbs up. Money well spent.

Except… Due to being needed at Goddard first thing Friday morning I rented a room in Greenbelt Thursday night. Shortly after I got there I realized that when I travel from now on I’m going to miss having that bidet whenever wherever I need to hit the john. All technology is a two edged sword.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Bidet…A Couple Weeks Later

February 19th, 2019

Adventures In Upgrading My TV…(continued)

As I said in our last episode…once I plugged in the new TV, almost the entire house of cards fell apart and I had to rebuild a lot of it, mostly how everything connects together. That isn’t just the TV and its specific peripherals, such as the BluRay player, it’s also the stereo. I have a very nice home stereo system I’ve been building and adding to since I was a teenage boy and it’s all old  (by today’s standards) components that all connect together with RCA cables. If all you’ve ever watched your TV with is the built-in TV speakers you are missing out on a lot of what’s there…not just in the background music but the sound effects.

The new TV wants HDMI inputs and only has one TosLink optical digital audio output jack to connect to a stereo with. So connecting everything back together was going to take not only a bunch of new cables but also some digital/analogue converter boxes. And not just to hook up the stereo either. The two VCRs and the Laserdisc player have analogue NTSC RCA outputs that I’m going to need converter boxes for so they can talk to the new TV. But one thing at a time…

Since I’m having to take apart nearly all the connections to the stereo and rearrange things, now is a good time to do something I’d been meaning to for a while. I’m not quite this fussy but I get frustrated easily while concentrating on a task and sudden roadblocks confuse me. So dealing with a potential source of frustration in advance can be rewarding later on. Everything is getting labelled so the wires all tell me which peripheral they came from.  And here’s why…

Lawd have mercy what have I got myself into. The power strip at the bottom is necessary because all this new stuff I need to add to make everything talk to everything else needs these dinky little power transformer things. The box above it is the new Ethernet switchbox I had to add because the TV and the Roku box both want to talk to the Internet tubes. The odd little box above it (I placed it further up on the wall to keep it from blocking the heat vents on the switch) is the TosLink to RCA converter that allows the TV to talk to the stereo. And boy howdy the sound coming out of the new TV is really nice!

First thing I did to test it out was fire up the Roku and tune to Radio Paradise and I spent the rest of the afternoon listening while working on putting everything back together and it was wonderful. Several years ago I bought a Roku 3 thinking it would be a simple upgrade over the Roku 1 I had. But unlike the Roku 1 the 3 only had the HDMI output. There were no RCA output jacks which everything else, including the Sony Trinitron needed. So I never bothered hooking it up, I just kept on using the Roku 1. With the new TV the Roku 3 finally made sense. And I don’t think I’m imagining it…it sounds better through the new TV connection than it did directly to the stereo through the old Roku box’s RCA outputs.

This is going to allow me to hook everything up to the TV via the HDMI cables and then back to the stereo through one set of cables, rather than having a bunch of things going directly to the preamp. Or trying to anyway. I had so much going back to the Dynaco I had to put in an RCA switch box to make it all work. I think I can get rid of that now.

Just to make it clear why I have to fuss with all this. Yes…that’s a cassette deck sitting on top of what is maybe a second generation CD player. I am not a Luddite obviously, but neither am I a buy the latest new think kinda guy. I need to see a need for the technology in my life. Once I can see it I will dig into it. But stuff that just keeps on working I’ll stick with. New CD and DVD and Blu-ray players are thin as the credit cards people buy them with these days. But these two components have never stopped working all the years I’ve had them, and I still have media for them, and so I reckon I’m keeping them.  I think now since I don’t need to connect any of the TV periperals to the stereo I have just enough inputs in the Dynaco to not need the RCA switchbox anymore.

But this raises a grip I’ve had more and more over the years. The CD player dates back to the DOS day’s. The cassette player to well before. Funny how, before Apple and Microsoft ruled our world hardware just kept on working and things just kept on working together regardless of who made what and what version of which operating system was part of the mix. This…

…is a proprietary Apple connector with a digital authentication chip in it to prevent third party equipment to connect to Apple products. They say the chip has now been cracked but I had to buy an adaptor from Apple to allow my iPhone 6s that connects with one of these, to connect to the stereo in my Mercedes because the Mercedes was built in 2011 and used the connector Apple was using back then which was the 30 pin docking connector. I had to buy the adaptor from Apple or otherwise the authentication chip would not allow the car stereo to access the iPod functionality in the iPhone. It was that, or buy a new car…preferably one that has Apple Carplay installed in it. 

Once upon a time all these things had standardized connectors and form factors and you could replace one thing from one company with something better from another and you didn’t break everything and have to buy all new stuff because it all still worked together because there was some sort of market standardization. Now that’s next to impossible. The new business model is lock your customers into your product line so they can’t escape. Kinda like how the old railroad tycoons would buy up land out west to keep competing railroads from laying track anywhere near the customers they wanted to monopolize.

The mindset never changes, only the buzzwords. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Adventures In Upgrading My TV…(continued)

February 16th, 2019

Adventures In Upgrading My TV

 

So I finally got around to putting my home audio/visual system back together. Just this afternoon I got the Roku back up and running. But there is still a lot of work to do. Once I plugged in the new TV, almost the entire house of cards fell apart. I have to rebuild a lot of it. Mostly, how everything connects together.

I’d skipped a few generations of technology improvements. Well…okay…maybe more than a few. Because until now those improvements mattered not to me. TV isn’t really a big part of my life compared to my teen and pre-teen years, though with this one I can see the pendulum swinging back a tad. But in skipping all that technology I’ve left most of my home system a tad behind. Well…maybe more than a tad. Next to none of my existing…things…which I am not replacing, interface natively with the new stuff.

So to start with, I need a bunch more cables. HDMI 4k capable cables. Because…let’s face it…the old RCA connectors just can’t handle the new bandwidth requirements. Stuff I was happy to let talk to each other over RCA connectors now needs a high bandwidth connection. Some of it already has the output jack. Some of it does not.

I had to buy an HDMI switch box…again 4k capable…because the TV only has two HDMI inputs, and I have…let’s see…five peripherals that I need to talk to the TV. Of that, two of them, the Roku and the BluRay player have the requisite HDMI outputs. The two VCRs, one VHS one BetaMax (yes, yes…) and the LaserDisc player, do not. I bought an RCA to HDMI adapter to try as a proof of concept. If It works, I’ll need to buy two more.

I needed to buy another Ethernet switch box because now I have more than one item that wants to connect to the Internet tubes. That would be the TV and the Roku box. I was hesitant about chaining switch boxes but they say you can chain up to three. I have an Ethernet cable drop down to the basement from the front office/den/bedroom router. It feeds into a gigabit switch in the art room that feeds the two art room Macs, the printer and the Roku by way of another Ethernet cable going back up to the living room. That maxes out that switch box’s ports. I could have just bought a bigger switch box and run another Ethernet cable to the living room, but the easy option was to just put a switch behind the TV. I figured if I got any more peripherals that needed Internet I’d have to run more cable upstairs otherwise.

Just…don’t get me started as to why I don’t just WiFi everything. I grew up with wires connecting everything…okay?

The TV’s only audio output is an optical digital connector. My stereo preamp is a Dynaco PAS 2, which some call the most important pre-amplifier ever made, and which runs on vacuum tubes. I’ve been meaning to give it an up to date re-capping job, but it and the Crown amplifier it talks to, still give me lovely wonderful sound. Optical digital input wasn’t even a twinkle in some engineer’s eye when they were designed. So I need to get an optical digital audio to RCA adapter. Plus an optical digital cable. But this makes it a bit easier to channel sound to the stereo now. I’ve over subscribed the Dynaco’s inputs and had to add an RCA switchbox some years back, largely because I judged the Sony Trinitron’s stereo output sound inadequate. So I ran everything from the peripherals directly to the stereo. Now I probably don’t have to do that anymore, so I can just eliminate the RCA audio switchbox.

This is what happens when you lag behind. But I lagged behind because what I had suited me just fine. It was when I decided to add something new that the entire house of cards fell apart. Okay. But this new TV’s picture is…stunning. I’ve been binge watching the Smithsonian Channel’s travelogue stuff. I regret nothing.

But…good thing I’m a techno nerd and I can deal with all this and actually enjoy it. I can see why all this might scare some people in my age group.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Adventures In Upgrading My TV

February 15th, 2019

Not Quite Effete Enough

When you figure that you, a longhaired gay male city dweller Mercedes-Benz owner house crammed full of books painter photographer cartoonist computer nerd classical metal new age swing music lover couldn’t possibly be any more effete elitist and Costco offers to hold your brie…

 

This blog post may strike you as a bit of oversharing, and that’s fine…you can click away now. Otherwise bear with me, because…

…this is something that’s mystified me ever since I learned of the existence of bidets, and that they weren’t a women only thing. Yes, yes…girl parts are different from guy parts. But some parts are common across all makes and models and this is about hygiene, which you can’t have enough of when there are upwards of seven and a half billion souls walking this good earth. Yet here in rich and worldly America, where indoor plumbing, let alone indoor bathrooms, flush toilets and showers, are regarded as a birthright, we wash every part of our bodies with soap and water…except where the shit comes out.  No, no…that part we have to wipe holding onto a piece of paper flimsy enough to be flushed down the toilet and not back up the sewer pipes. What the hell.

I first learned about bidets when I was very young and they were described to me as some weird female bathroom fixture in the ladies rooms of upscale restaurants and maybe train stations. This suggested to my young brain that they were some sort of lady parts only thing that boys and men did not need. It wasn’t until I got older I learned that in other parts of the world a bidet was something both sexes used to clean their ass too.

I would have been all for that had I had them available. At some point so far back in my childhood I forget when I even started doing this, I would wad up a bunch of TP and hold it under the sink faucet to get it wet before using it. I think this might have started during a period of sickness, when purging constantly made my ass sore from wiping so much, and in desperation I tried wetting the paper first. A bidet in the bathroom would have saved me a lot of trouble, let alone soreness. Were they commonplace here in America there might not be so many sewer systems backing up because of people flushing wet wipes. 

But no…anything to do with female parts was off limits to manly American men, even if it could be useful to us guys too. And I was taunted all through early grade school for being a thin weak and girlish kinda boy, so I kept my mouth shut about why aren’t bidets everywhere.

First time I could actually try a bidet was at South of The Border…that campy tacky bit of roadside Americana. As it turns out some of the deluxe rooms nestled around the indoor swimming pool have bidets. One trip back from Florida I stopped at South of The Border and discovered my bathroom had a bidet, so I gave it a try. And…yeah…it felt weird that first time using it. But when I was done my ass was spic and span and all I needed the toilet paper for was to dry myself off. 

So I determined that Casa del Garrett needed one of those. Problem was the bathroom in my little Baltimore rowhouse is kinda small. No room really for a dedicated one. I tried searching the local big box hardware stores for toilets with built-in bidets. But no…not even the upscale toilets had those built-in. In fact nobody selling for the average Harry Homeowner sells a toilet with a built in bidet. But I discovered they made toilet seats with built-in bidets and that looked like a promising alternative. I could just buy one of those and install it on my existing toilet. Except anything that looked like it had a reasonable chance of working as well as a dedicated one was Very expensive.

This month the Costco flyer had a really good one on sale half price and I snapped it up. I’m installing it now. I’ll spare you the details because you probably think I’ve overshared enough as it is. (have I mentioned this is a Life Blog?) But as I said earlier this is something that completely mystifies me. Why aren’t these things standard on toilets? Why aren’t they everywhere? No paper being flushed, let alone those damn wet wipes. Less flushing necessary just to get the paper flushed, so there’s water saved. Better hygiene. I don’t get it.  Yes, yes…they benefit the gals in a way guys don’t need. But what of it? The bidet/seat I bought has a setting for lady parts clean and a setting for ass clean. So I don’t need the one setting. Maybe a guest will use both. Fine. Whatever.

The only decadent part of all this I can see is it also has a seat warmer. That’ll come in handy too as it’s still winter here in Charm City.  

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not Quite Effete Enough

February 14th, 2019

In The Rocket World Of Tomorrow, People Will Still Need Alcohol

While I was down at Goddard getting my badge recertified I decided to stop at their gift shop and saw this thing and had to have it.

 

It’s a cocktail shaker. I need to find something appropriate to break it in with.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on In The Rocket World Of Tomorrow, People Will Still Need Alcohol

February 10th, 2019

A Marriage Saved

Took the Mercedes out for a long drive up into Pennsylvania and around and back, in anticipation of the coming snow and ice that might make it impossible to drive it for a while. Since I had the DEF tank heater fixed and several tire valves that wouldn’t hold air when the temperatures dipped replaced, the car is back to not caring how cold it gets, and it’s a pleasure to just hop in and drive. If I wander far enough there are always some roads I haven’t yet explored to detour off from all the roads I have. I was particularly pleased to see an ice cream stand where I was treated rudely some years ago gone now. I figured I wasn’t the only one. Treat your customers right and they’ll come back.

When I started out it was all warm-sh, bright and sunshiny. By the time I got home it was all grey and and a bone chilling cold was settling in. So good thing I took the opportunity when I did. The car is still a pure pleasure to drive and wander around in. You can stop showing me ads for new cars now Facebook. This marriage has been saved.

Which is good…because…

Prince Philip ‘voluntarily’ gives up driving following car crash

London (CNN)The Duke of Edinburgh has surrendered his driving license, Buckingham Palace announced Saturday, weeks after the 97-year-old was involved in a car crash that left a female driver injured.

“After careful consideration The Duke of Edinburgh has taken the decision to voluntarily surrender his driving licence,” the palace said in a statement.

I know this day will come for me eventually if I live long enough. And when it does I’ll give it up without a fight. Hopefully I’ll still have the wherewithal to take the train to places I want to visit, or to fly or take a cruise ship if I want to go overseas. But it won’t be the same. I could not begin to tell you all the things I’ve discovered unexpectedly while on the road. Wagon wheel ruts from the old Santa Fe trail, the spot of the Sand Creek massacre…I could bore you for hours with all that I’ve seen that I never would have, thanks to the automobile. I began my love affair with the open road when I was a teenage boy the day I got my driver’s license. John Steinbeck put it into me when I was 14 and read Travels With Charley. I couldn’t thank him enough. Within a year of buying my first car, a 1973 FOrd Pinto, I’d explored almost all of Montgomery Country Maryland, and the following year I’d taken my first cross-country road trip in it with a couple of classmates in a Dodge Van we’d worked on converting into a camper. My little Pinto went up the highest paved asphalt road in the world in Rocky Mountain National Park, drove through Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon, and alone I went all the way to California to visit family and back. It’s a memory I still take intense pleasure in recalling. When the day comes that I can no longer safely drive it’ll feel like my life is over.

So until then, I’m going to keep wandering the road, to see what it might show me, and for the pure pleasure of driving. I’m 65 and I might not have it much longer. Already I’m finding myself taking the train more often, when driving to a destination isn’t going to be fun anymore, or the weather looks sketchy. If this country put more effort into its passenger rail infrastructure I might not feel such despair at the thought of giving up my driver’s license.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Marriage Saved


Submitting To The Modern World

I finally bought in to the new age of television. At Costco last week, while buying the new TurboTax, I saw a 43 inch Samsung 4k well enough under $300 I took one home. The setup I have it on is a temporary proof of concept until it gets warmer and I can bring the tablesaw upstairs and work out on the deck to build a nice permanent stand for it. In the meantime I’ve taken a sudden new interest in the Smithsonian channel’s travelog episodes. Wow…it’s really nice to see the scenery in Hi Def! Makes finally submitting to the Comcast Borg a little more acceptable. It’s also nice to be able to schedule saving installments of the Rachel Maddow show to watch later, because lately I tend to go to bed early. (Rachel has been on an absolute tear lately…)

I had to buy a HDMI switch and an RCA to HDMI adapter for the VCR. I’ll work on getting it all set up as time goes by. A friend gave me his old BluRay player but it probably needs an upgrade in order for me to get the most out of this TV. That can wait. TV isn’t nearly as important to me as it once was. But my gosh I can watch that Smithsonian channel for hours now.

 

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite a while now. The old TV, a 32 inch Sony Trinitron is so heavy I can’t move it myself. I had to ask a neighbor to help me stage it out on the deck for eventual transport to the city recycling place. They have a station for home electronics, old computers, TVs and such, that allegedly ends up somewhere they cannablize the electronics for whatever can be recycled or safely disposed of. 

The sad thing is there is nothing wrong with that TV, other than it won’t pick up broadcast signals anymore without an adaptor. And…I can’t friggin’ move it by myself. But…time marches on…and as long as it isn’t ending up in a landfill I’m okay with letting it go.

That artwork on the wall behind it is a piece I’m especially proud of. I need to take it down, make a digital archive image of it, and put it in a decent frame. It’s probably got years of dust on it I’ll have to carefully remove. Then I’ll have to find another spot for it…maybe further to the left on that wall.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Submitting To The Modern World

December 9th, 2018

Well…That Was A Very Nice Dream

…wish I could tell anyone about it. 

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

July 29th, 2018

Loosing Weight Is Less About Food And Mostly About Staying Active

When I initially get my weight down to under 150, and my body shape back to my liking, the effort shifts to not blowing it and blasting back into the 150s again. In the summer that’s usually not a problem because I can walk to work and back, and otherwise stay active. But this summer with all the rain that’s been difficult. The trick is I have to stay active, and not just break completely free of the bland food diet.

This weekend was just gorgeous. Not too hot, bright and sun shiny all day. So I was able to get outside, take my morning and evening walks, and do a bunch of work in between. That allows me to go back to eating food I actually like once a day, and drinking those Godfather margaritas in the evenings again (alcohol calories, like sugar calories, are the worst; they generate fat in an indirect way allowing the body to store the energy in the food you eat instead of using it). Last night I went to Bar Louie’s and had their lovely chicken quesadilla and a godfather margarita. This morning when I got up and weighed myself I’d lost another pound and was down to just over 148. It was the work I’d done on the house.

My ideal set point is between 146 and 148. Any lower then 146 and it becomes the hellish struggle other people talk about when dieting. That’s probably not good for my health. But in my idea set point I have the hourglass and I can get into blue jeans and shirts that look nice on me, hit the water parks and feel good in square cut trunks. I will Not wear those baggy knee length Fred Mertz shorts the kids wear at the beach nowadays.

This morning was so lovely I wanted to take a short road trip somewhere. But the rain has kept me from doing yard maintenance and front and back were overgrown and badly needing attention, and the weather for next week looks like more rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. So today instead of going anywhere I did basically two days of yard work in one, mostly by not taking my usual breaks between stages. Now I’m Beat, but I still have enough energy to take a walk to The Avenue and have a nice end of weekend dinner and drinks and not worry about gaining all the weight I just lost back again.

I’d go out to Bar Louie’s again but the light rail here is broken between Woodberry and Falls Road…something all this rain we’ve been having apparently did to it…and it looks like it’ll be down for a while.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Loosing Weight Is Less About Food And Mostly About Staying Active

July 24th, 2018

Magic

I was having a conversation with a fellow guest at Walt Disney World a few years ago. He was a middle aged man there with his wife and kids and we were sitting at the Tune-In Lounge bar. I must have mentioned something about ticket prices, and how I keep renewing my annual pass simply because the cost of Disney without one is even more hugely expensive. He told me a joke that keeps coming to mind.

“They always talk about magic here,” he said. “You want to know how the magic works? It’s like this. You walk into the park with a hundred dollars in your pocket and maybe you walk back out with five. The magic is they make you want to do it again the next day.”

So it is. I just renewed my annual pass, yet again, because pricy as it is, because of the way they structure ticket prices it’s still way less than what only two three day weekends would cost if you bought the tickets alone. I know this because I keep doing the math. Renewing is less than starting fresh. Plus the discount I get for being a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member takes another 200 off. It’s still expensive, but I get another year to wander all around Walt Disney World and not stress over where and when and for how long.

I have a birthday week at Boardwalk coming in September I’m really looking forward to. I’ve enough DVC points I can go and stay in the nice top tier hotels whose rooms have built in kitchens and your own balcony twice a year. I can do Boardwalk in September which gives me walking access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and then I can do Saratoga Springs in March which gives me walking access to Disney Springs. I keep forgetting what a mouseketeer I was way back when, and then I get these little flyers and magazines from both my annual pass and DVC memberships and it all comes back for a little while as I flip through the pages and I start thinking about my next visit.

After I got off the phone with DVC with a confirmation number I felt a bit like a kid again without a care in the world. I’d just spent several hundred bucks. The magic is they’ll make me want to do it again next year.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Magic

July 18th, 2018

Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…
 
I resumed dieting again a couple weeks ago. It’s not the painful thing for me that it is for others. By sticking to a basically bland food intake and no sugary treats I can get back down to a weight and shape I feel good about, and which my body seems to naturally like anyway. Just today managed to get the hourglass is back. It feels nice. Now I need to stick to the plan for at least another couple weeks, but seeing this reappear is a big ego boost and encouragement because I can start feeling good about my appearance again. The age lines in my face notwithstanding. It’s important to me, solitary though I am. Maybe more so precisely because that. 
 
So…from the neck down anyway (people who look like that…) it’s…pretty good again. Gay otter body though it is. I need to stick to the plan for a while longer so it takes for the rest of the summer and autumn. You get to a point where your body is accustomed to a summer intake and then I’m always apologizing to the servers when I go out to eat for all the food I left on the plate, unless I remember to ask for small portions ahead of time. I can maintain a 148-150 weight and the hourglass pretty easily through the summer and fall. It’s when the holidays come around and everyone is waving cupcakes and cookies at me that it all comes unraveled. The past decade or so I’ve been in a cycle of gaining waistline during the winter holidays and shedding it in the spring. This year I just didn’t feel like it…for some reason. But somehow…somehow…I managed to roust myself out of it and decide liking how I look was worthwhile again, even if only to myself. 
 
I’m really not a very big guy and I never needed a lot of calories. What happened was I started making a good income and suddenly I could escape the bland diet of my youth. And then the waistline grew, the hourglass vanished, and appallingly my chin started disappearing along with it. I’ve written before about how I was at 160 heading for 170 and 33 inch bluejeans heading for 34s. I just put it down to middle age…mom was a thin little thing herself until she hit her 40s and I figured that was my fate too. But then I reconnected with my high school crush and he asked for a photo of me, and I started looking at what I was eating and adding up the calories and it shocked me. 
 
Call it empty vanity if you like, but being single and at the end of any possibility of dating at my age, it matters that I can still look in a mirror and like what I see. 
by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…

July 17th, 2018

LP To Digital…Not As Hard As It Use To Be

I posted yesterday complaining that so many of my favorite classical music LPs still weren’t available in digital form that I could listen to on my iPod. Yes, I still use my iPod Classic, as well as my iPhone to listen to music. The iPod comes in very handy for when I’m just doing household chores, or I just want to disconnect from the internet tubes for a while and just listen to music, and work down in the art room. It’s been years since I last attempted to make a digital copy of one of my LPs, largely because the software I was using only ran on an older PowerPC Macbook, and had a limited number of exports to MP3  format you could make without buying the premium version, which by the time I’d decided to go ahead with that the software had been orphaned.

So the other day I finally began looking around for another program I could use, and pretty quickly found Audacity…

 

The appeal here is this software runs on Windows, Macs, and Linux, and I was really wanting something that would run on Linux because I had that running on a small laptop that would have been perfect for parking next to the living room stereo and connecting it up to the output jacks on the Dynaco PAS-2. I still have a source for new stylus for the Shure Type III I so I can theoretically get a good signal from any of my LPs that are still in good shape. What’s nice about Audacity is the editor is pretty easy to use and lets you mark each individual track on an LP and export them all at once with the track names as filenames.  So I can just set everything up, hit record and let the LP play, flip it over to side 2 without needing to stop the recording, then when it’s done I can disconnect the laptop, take it back upstairs to the office and edit out the dead spots and identify and tack on the track names, and then export it all to the directory I have on my central store, and later import everything into iTunes.

There are some nice bells and whistles…a level normalizer, noise filters and such. My Kenwood KD-600 turntable is pretty well isolated, and the LP I copied over last night was in good shape, so I didn’t any of the noise filters but the level normalizer worked well. The only hassle was finding the right settings to get Audacity to recognize my USB input device and the headphone jack on the laptop. Hassling with I/O devices is something you just expect with Linux. But at least I didn’t have to recompile anything to get it done.

I have a waiting list of LPs I need to do this with. But I’m happy. I had a surprising amount of music I could just not listen to any other way but on the stereo, or a bunch of old and very worn out cassettes and I don’t have a Walkman anymore, just the iPods for taking music with me. I grew up in a series of apartments mom and I shared, and time was if I wanted to listen to music and not disturb the neighbors I either had to wait for them to leave their apartments or play it on the headphones…I had a nice pair of Koss Pro 4aa headphones once upon a time…and that meant I was always tethered in some way to the stereo, literally at times. When the first Walkman came out I was immediately enchanted, but couldn’t afford one. But they eventually came down in price as other makers piled on and I remember how lovely it was to just be able to stroll around in a comfortable cocoon of music that would travel with me Everywhere. When the first iPods came out I was hooked immediately, and that quickly led to me buying digital copies of new music, where before it would have been an LP, plus all the copies of music I already had that I’d worn out from playing over and over.

In a way I’m kinda glad to see the LP coming back into vogue. LPs, when properly engineered and played back on good equipment sound wonderful. I’ve bought some new pressings and they’re, I’m here to tell you, generally Much better in quality than when I had to buy back in the day. But the LP tethers you to the stereo too, and once you have tasted freedom…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on LP To Digital…Not As Hard As It Use To Be

July 15th, 2018

Searching For Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor
Thing about classical music is there is so much of it out there on LPs that never seems to have been migrated to digital and I can’t find it on either Apple or Amazon music. This is particularly true of orchestral transcriptions of piano music. Since that’s a…let’s call it a “cover” like the rock kids do…of some original piece that the composer never intended to be orchestrated, there is no “standard” version of it and everyone does it a little differently.
 
Case in point: There’s a really evocative Chopin piece…his Prelude in E Minor, that I first heard on an album of “covers” of classical film music. This one was a cover of music played in Five Easy Pieces. So…a cover of a cover. I fell in love with it instantly, but then I went to get a copy of the original version and discovered it’s a solo piano piece, and the version I heard was so breathtaking, with the piano and string orchestra basically doing a call and response to each other, I just could not get into the original solo piano version. I still can’t.
 
But the version I heard on that LP, is the only version like it. I just looked around online for it and I can’t find it in any other form but the LP. And the other orchestral versions of it I just reviewed are, IMO horribly over melodramatic. That piece is a very emotionally strong piece, it dives deep into a solitary place inside of you, but it needs its original simplicity to be that. Transcribing it for orchestra is a delicate maneuver. Too many heavy hands have taken it on and ruined it. Though I’ll allow that Stokowski’s full orchestra transcription is very good for a dramatic interpretation. He’s like…the exception to everything in classical music.
 
So…just now I played the version I have on LP, it is still in very good shape, and I’ve been meaning to get updated LP to digital software because I have a Shostakovich symphony I’ve also been meaning to transfer over…so…
by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Searching For Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor


Back On The Diet
It’s late in the year for it, but I’ve been dieting to get my shape back into a form where I can get back into all my summer shirts, and look reasonably well in my swim trunks when I get to Walt Disney World this September, and hit the water parks. For some reason I’ve been disinterested in my appearance lately. But now I want to get the hourglass back, and shed some body mass. It’s not the painful thing for me it is for many, at least not in the being hungry all the time sense. It’s painful in the Very Boring Food sense. Basically three rules:
 
Firstly, no extra sugar. That means no cookies, candy bars, cupcakes. Also cut back on the alcohol. None of this is a problem when I’m also trying to save money for a big vacation anyway. This is probably the single biggest thing that makes a difference, and initially the hardest to get started on. Sugar is intensely addictive, and you don’t notice that until you try to cut back on it. But after about two weeks your body adjusts and isn’t demanding it anymore. So get through those first two weeks and it gets Much easier for the rest of it. I’ve found when the sugar withdrawal gets bad in that first two weeks, just taking a short walk kills it right away.
 
Secondly, and this takes some diligence, just simply don’t eat until I’m actually hungry. A friend once remarked that a lot of eating is out of boredom. It’s also habit. Home from work, time to eat. 12 noon, time to eat. Bedtime, time for a snack. Just don’t eat until you get hungry. The surprising thing, to me at least, is that most of the time I’m used to eating, when I stop to think am I hungry now, I’m not.
 
When I do get hungry, another bit of diligence is to stop eating when I’m not hungry anymore. That takes some paying attention to it, and a lot of unlearning all the scolding I got when I was a kid to eat everything on my plate. Sure, when I’m a growing boy that was probably for the best. But now I’m a 60-something who doesn’t need all those calories.
 
So stop eating when not hungry anymore. But that not only takes thinking about it while I’m eating, but also not eating the kinds of food that make you want more because it’s so delicious. Which brings me to Three..
 
…going back on the bland foods I grew up with. Here’s where pain lives. It’s so damn boring.
 
But it works. Just a week and a half into it now and I’ve lost 4 and a half pound already, and I’m not killing myself over it. Just following the rules above. Another week of it and I’ll be back in my 31s, and getting into the summer shirts that fit nicely. By September I should be able to hit the water parks with my hourglass back and only be squeamish about showing my corpse pale whiteness and gay otter body hair. One year I tried a spray on tan (seriously) to see if that helped me feel better about it. It did somewhat, but it also felt like I was faking it. When it started fading it made me look like I had some sort of skin disease. Now given the hilarious spray tan from the bargain tanning salon in the strip mall behind the county landfill now occupying the White House (I keep waiting for some reporter to shout back at him when he calls them fake news, “Fake? Like your tan?”), I will probably never do that again.

This isn’t just about vanity. There’s a health issue here I need to watch. My body tends not to accumulate fat around the hips and waist, so much as around the upper body. So I’m told, that’s a risk sign for heart disease and stroke. This is why my nicest summer shirts don’t fit now, because of just that slight bit of extra body mass around the upper chest and armpits. I loose that and they fit nicely. But it takes about four to six weeks of this diet to get there, because the body loses it randomly. A little off the top…a little around the waist…it’s like it flips a coin to decide where it comes from.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Back On The Diet

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