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November 12th, 2021

What If…

Earlier today at the Fitness Center…working out on the arm bike machine…imagining a movie where the James Mason Captain Nemo joins forces with the Vincent Price Robur to wage war on slavers all over the world, sinking their ships at sea (before they can take on slaves) and pummeling their soldiers on land.

Things I imagine while working out…

Man I would love to watch that movie…

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 3rd, 2021

Must Be November

Ummmm…sixty-three degrees in the living room this morning. Must finally be time to turn on the furnace. 

Ah…the smell of the first gas fired furnace heat of the season…

by Bruce | Link | React!

February 11th, 2021

Bridge Freezes Before Roadway

I’m watching Weather Channel reporting on that awful chain reaction pileup in Texas, and noting that it happened on a long overpass.

Some years ago, driving back home from a visit to California family, I ducked as far south as I could because the forecasts were for snow and ice almost as far south as the Mexican border. No kidding, there was snow along I-8 just west of San Diego and I saw people pulling their cars off to the shoulder and kids getting out to scoop up handfuls of snow like they’d never seen it before. Probably they hadn’t. One night I stopped well before the sun went down in Odessa Texas. I stopped early because I was aware the temperatures would drop below freezing after sundown, and I didn’t want to be on the roads then. Even so, I noted in the motel parking lot, little puddles of ice trying, and failing, to melt. I asked the desk clerk about the weather and she told me they’d had an ice storm and only recently got their power back on.

Next morning I packed the car and continued driving east on I-20. And I am not exaggerating here: every bridge and overpass I went by, even if it was just over a small dry run, had an accident on it, or just past it. Fortunately none of them looked fatal. But there were tractor-trailers on their sides, there were banged up cars and pickups. I saw what looked like a brand new and expensive pickup that was all torn up on on the driver’s side where it had bounced off the bridge railings. And I could tell that the locals don’t really grok how snow and ice change driving conditions, because it did that to them so rarely.

Climate change is giving them a new reality on the roadways, and the high local interstate speed limits (85 in most places west of Dallas), combined with a less than intuitive understanding of how bridges and overpasses freeze up before the rest of the pavement does, was a perfect storm of accidents waiting to happen. They have no infrastructure down there for dealing with snow and ice, because that’s costly to maintain and why would you when it gets like that so rarely. But times are changing.

This horrific chain reaction pileup happened on a long overpass and I’m sitting here watching the reporting and I just know what happened. The locals, too many of them I reckon, just don’t get, from lived experience how even if the roads are good the bridges probably might not be, and you have to pay attention to falling temperatures, even, or especially, when there hasn’t been very much rain beforehand. The slightest little bit of wet on the bridge and the temperature goes down and Newtonian forces will do their thing when you transition to the pavement on that bridge. You probably won’t even see the danger. Thin enough ice and it’ll look dry and it isn’t.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Bridge Freezes Before Roadway

January 4th, 2021

Ahhh…First Morning Back To Work After The Holidays…

That morning cup of coffee really wakes a person up. Especially when the first mouthful tells you that you forgot to put the sugar in.

I like my coffee like I like my men. Sweet.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Ahhh…First Morning Back To Work After The Holidays…

December 16th, 2020

Liberal Leave…Did You Say…?

Heh…just got a text alert that Liberal Leave has been enabled at the Institute starting at 10:30. This of course, only applies to staff that had to be physically at the Institute today. For the rest of us, it’s still a work day regardless.

But I am not perturbed by any of this. Just curious as to whether businesses may finally get on board with work from home more broadly after the plague has passed by. Sure…no more snow days for many of us. But then no more rush hour traffic jams. Fewer accidents and traffic fatalities. Less wear and tear on the car (let alone the driver). Office space and all it’s overhead can be parsed down to only the essential staff. Not everyone can benefit from this, but lots of workers can, and if nothing else getting them off the highways and public transport is surely a good thing.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Liberal Leave…Did You Say…?

November 26th, 2020

A Poem For Black Friday.

Hello Mrs Gorilla
Hello Mrs Not A Gorilla
Been Shopping?
No, been shopping.
What’d you buy?
A piston engine.
A What?!
A piston engine.
What’d you buy that for?
It was a bargain.


-William Shakespython

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Poem For Black Friday.

May 24th, 2020

Well Since I Can’t Go Anywhere This Holiday Weekend…

…I might as well do some lawn work. Especially since the rainy spring has made it hard to get it done previously. Gets the grass and weeds growing though…

So I took care of my tiny backyard in lieu of going to Ocean City NJ or somewhere…like Walt Disney World which is closed now except for maybe Disney Springs. But Florida is a hot spot I don’t want to get into for the foreseeable future. Still don’t think I’m putting any flowers or garden lights out this season because going to the lawn and garden stores just for that seems a frivolous reason to catch the virus So the best I can do for the outside of my house this year is just basic maintenance which I can do without going to the store. I sharpened the lawn mower blades a couple weeks ago, and did some repairs to the Ryobi weed whacker. At least I can keep things from looking like an abandoned house.

Standing on my deck, exhausted but pleased with the results, I had a sudden strong urge for a cigar. First really strong urge I’ve had since just before the heart attack. I’ve actually been surprised I haven’t been periodically getting those urges, but I reckon cigars just aren’t as addictive as cigarettes. No I didn’t.

Haven’t smoked one since the first week of October last year. I am well aware of the stress they put on my cardiovascular system…at least the smooth strong ones I’ve always enjoyed. It was a package deal with the pleasant nicotine buzz I got. I could feel my veins constricting. So I knew perfectly well what I was doing to myself. But I needed that nicotine buzz from time to time in my stressed out life. I’m actually surprised my psyche hasn’t demanded more of that since the heart attack. But just now it did and I didn’t. My psyche demands a lot of things of me that I either can’t or won’t give it, or infinitely defer it. Another trip to California for instance, right this minute for instance.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Well Since I Can’t Go Anywhere This Holiday Weekend…

April 27th, 2020

Cats And Their Little Ways Of Expressing Displeasure

I get just a little late putting food out for the calico and when I do go to put it out I step in my bare feet on dead bird remnants that are all over my doormat. I need to start looking down first. Yes madam, I was late. I need to put BEWARE OF THE CAT signs around my feeders.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Cats And Their Little Ways Of Expressing Displeasure

April 19th, 2020

What Pollen Should Have Already Taught Us About Touching Your Face

Wrote a very important letter today, and went to mail it off. Once outside I see that my car is covered in pollen. It’s that time of year here in the Mid Atlantic. I’m thinking as I get into the car that not touching your face and eyes with your fingers should be standard operating procedure during pollen season anyway…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What Pollen Should Have Already Taught Us About Touching Your Face

February 24th, 2020

Warm Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Nice weather over the weekend in Charm City. The Calico approves.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Warm Lazy Sunday Afternoon

September 29th, 2019

Who?

A comic book series I’m currently following, titled Second Coming is a comic take on both Christianity and Super Heroes. Jesus is sent back to earth to be mentored by a Superman clone, Sunstar, because God doesn’t think he’s manly enough. There’s a line of dialogue in issue 3 that really speaks to an issue I had with Christianity before I walked away from religion altogether. The scene is Jesus is confronted by a group of homophobes in front of an LGBTQ bar…

Phobe: I have to say I don’t think God is very happy with the choices you’re making.

Jesus: He never is.

Phobe: Were you to die now, you would go to Hell, where demons would stab your eyes out with forks, roast you over an open flame ns, I don’t know, feed you to goats or something. The scriptures are a little unclear…

As Paul says in First Corinthians…

Jesus: Who?

Phobe: The Apostle Paul.

Jesus: What?! I don’t know any Paul.

Phobe: Paul, the guy who wrote half the New Testament!

He spent his life spreading the word of Jesus Christ.

Jesus: I asked James to spread my word. I asked Peter to spread my word. I never even asked Paul to spread the jelly!

I laughed for hours after reading that. There’s an old joke about how Protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Peter, and Evangelical Protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Christ…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Who?

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

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