Thursday, November 29, 2012

The trouble with integrating cars and user electronics.

In a nutshell, a good car will last 10+ years but a smartphone / gps / high-end stereo interface starts getting long in the tooth after 2.  Article at ITworld accompanied by assorted smartassery at Slashdot.

The solution in my latest car?  Basic AM/FM/CD stereo with an aux port, a la "earbud jack input."  An aux port is compatible with everything from the latest iPod down to an old cassette Walkman (yes, I have one, even use it occasionally), and it's a damn good bet that the aux port will continue to be compatible with just about everything for the next ten years.

Still need to get a smartphone though.  Maybe early next year.

BTW, kudos to Ford for putting out a damn fine radio in their '12 cars.  Even with that cute little 18" rubber ducky antenna, it pulls in FM like a champ and AM almost as well as my home shortwave set.  I'm betting there's a DSP chip in there somewhere, at least on the AM end.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy 70th, Jimi.

Today would've been Jimi Hendrix's 70th birthday.  What might have been, what might have been.

Good photo article over at CNN, go take a peek.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rochelle Harper Band at The Ugly Pirate

Everything it sounds like it should be: music, beer, company.  Out in the parking lot (it's a small place), with propane heaters keeping everyone warm.

Just three workin' it last night: Derrel (back row, 2nd from left) on keyboard, Boz (front left), and of course Rochelle.
The world needs more of this kind of show.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Two steps toward a more boring world.

In recent, related reports from the BBC:
Japan's Ninjas Heading for Extinction
Somali Pirate Attacks Show Sharp Fall

Don't sweat it though, there is plenty of other good mischief to be had out there.  Here's a good start, but beyond that you'll have to go make your own.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New Floors

Been offline for a few days, moving stuff out to have a flooring crew in. It was a raging pain in the rear, but the results are worth it.

Old carpet, grubby wear paths, beaten down pad, moldy smell, and dust-dust-dust.

Clean, new look.  With a little dust over on the right side, but the pic is from yesterday when the flooring crew hadn't quite finished all the rooms.

As I said, a raging pain in the rear but completely worth all of the time and effort.  Will have to get the Roomba acquainted with its new responsibilities in the very near future.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Can't hardly wait (to go country).

Driving into New Orleans last week, I was listening to WSM.  Another song started playing, and a few bars in I was thinking "I know that song... and it's.. not... country.  Mandolin... that should be an electric guitar."

Turns out it was a cover of The Replacement's "Can't Hardly Wait."  A punk/proto-alt song turned inside out and into country?  Sure, and it even worked pretty well.  Sorta freaked me out when I realized what the song was though.

Wish I knew who did that cover.  I'd buy it in a second.

ps 11/22: through the magic of iTunes search bar, the singer turns out to be Justing Townes Earle.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this.

But this is how a lot of public education – hell, most formal education – seems to work.

Or maybe it's just a funny cartoon.  From over at The Argyle Sweater.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Busy week, ordinary activities.

Busted a shifter on the road bike last week.  Folks, if at all possible when buying a new bike, don't go with a 105 group, go with the next model up in Ultegra.  My last set of Ultegra components was still going strong at 30,000 miles when I sold that bike, while this 105 shifter broke just shy of 10,000 miles.  The replacement will be Ultegra, naturally, but the cost of that one part is about half of what the next bike up the line would've been.

Anyway, that necessitated a drive to Biloxi last Saturday, which always turns into a half-day trip.  Another time sink.

The real news is that I'm getting the house re-floored in the next week, meaning I'm packing out everything this week.  Ugh, and my back hurts too.  Will post before and after pictures sometime next week.

Been riding the CX bike a lot, and getting some trails cleaned up over lunch out at work.  Think I'll just ride today though.

OK, busy weekend of packing coming up.  Will post pics later.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Waist says "NO!," mouth says "YES!"

Po-Boy Fest.  In New Orleans.  Next Sunday.  Gonna try to make it, but biking may get in the way.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kind of Roman that way.

Over the course of an eventful life, new bits keep getting stuck onto my name: B.S., Ph.D., "The Insufferable" (as a prefix; it's a team name), and various nicknames, many of which aren't fit for this blog.  The Romans did a similar thing – if you headed up the legion that subdued Hoboken, you got "Hobokenus" formally tacked on.  Probably one hell of an honor when you get down to it, but after a while it got kind of cumbersome.  Wikipedia has an extensive article on their naming conventions, and how they changed over the thousand-plus years of the Republic and Empire.

Well, I seem to have acquired one more in the last week: KF5SQF.  Yes, I took and passed the ham exams up through General last Saturday.  Don't have any gear yet, but I'm carefully examining options there.  In the meantime, there are plenty of other projects around the house to work on.

But forget all that.  The weather's beautiful today, I'm going for a bike ride.

ps: and it was a really great ride!  Thirty miles on the CX bike along the seawall, over the bridge, around Pass Christian, and back.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Early Bike Trials

As seen here, filmed by Edison and now courtesy of the Darling Daughter.  If you look closely, the head tube badges might read "ACME."
Don't try this at home kids.  But if you must, remember: a top hat is not an adequate substitute for a real helmet.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

FYI: Fiscal Cliff Summary

Over at CNN.  I have to keep reminding myself of all this thing's implications, and the details are all at the link.  Mercifully devoid of partisan he-said she-said, it is as the saying goes just the fact ma'am.  Even though it was published back in August, unfortunately these grim facts have not changed one bit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sittin' around, watching the news roll in.

Listening to Last Radio Playing (that shortwave blues show, now down at 5070 kHz with the longer nights), occasionally checking election results on the web.  Johnny Lane's "Rack'em Up" playing, seems to fit the times.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

50th Anniversary Mustang Previews/Scoops

Ford's keeping a tight wrap on things, but naturally some stuff is going to leak.  Here are a couple of articles: mostly informed speculation & CGI, while the second one has are some actual photos of a testbed vehicle, which seems to be chopped 2013 version with some engineering mods.

We'll know for sure in a year and a half.

Left of the Dial

The Replacements put out the song Left of the Dial nearly thirty years ago (studio & live versions, lyrics here with some rumors as to their meaning).  More than anything else, this semi-love song seems to be about calling a girl in another band on pay phones and never quite being able to connect in the same town at the same time.  It has a great tone of "I'd be all wistful about this, but I'm too damn busy.  Will try again later." If you remember them, pay phones always had the handset hanging left of the dial.  Picked up with the left, did the coins and dial with the right.

With a title like this though, you can imagine that the phrase has taken on various liberal connotations, mostly around political radio shows and college radio.  OK, that's an obvious connection, and a catchy descriptive phrase.

But if you know this blog, you know this post can't stop here.  Listening to the song back in the day, when my stereo tuner had a slide rule scale marked off AM/FM, I always wondered "what the hell would I hear if I could just keep tuning this AM dial to the left?"  I mean, we know what's left of the FM dial (i.e., at lower frequencies): AM radio.  (Yes, that's correct, Rush Limbaugh (on AM radio) is to the left of NPR (on FM).)  But what is out there to the left of the AM dial?

The one word answer is Longwave.  What's it used for?  In Europe and north Africa, there's some broadcasting in part of the band, but there's not a lot of useable space there.  Here's a list of stations.  They're supposedly receivable in the U.S., but it takes a serious antenna, hundreds of feet long.  In North America, it's used for aircraft navigation beacons, some time signals, submarine coms, and LowFER experimental/hobby radio.

As some of you know, I recently spent some serious time on the sofa healing from my latest misadventures.  Out of sheer boredom and in possession of a compact radio that can pick up longwave, I dug around to hear what I could find.  Some awful racket around 300 kHz, probably a data transmission.  Lots of clear air.  Then suddenly at 221 kHz  '.... ...    .... ...   .... ...    .... ...'  ???  Translate... "HS    HS    HS    HS" in Morse code.  Huh.  So... type "HS 221 khz radio" into the search bar, and out pops a nav beacon listing page, complete with lat long coords.  Haul those coords back up to the search bar, and out comes.....

About 20 miles away and yeah, looks like a radio beacon station to me.  Didn't even have to drive up to there to check it out.

So back to the question, just what is left of the dial?  Apart from beacon stations in places like the outskirts of Kiln MS, not a hell of a lot.