Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Budget shortwave? No problem.

Several folks I know out there have Kaito 321 SW radios.  They're sweet little units, but they don't tune below 5.7 MHz, which is a real problem because depending on the season, Last Radio Playing (the electric blues show) may or may not be broadcast above that frequency.

Well things are improving with the lengthening days.  For the time being, you can dial in LRP at 6 pm on Tuesdays @ 9.350 MHz, and again at 7pm on Sundays @ 6.875 MHz.  It came in so well this evening that I didn't even need the external wire antenna.  Odds are that in a month or so all this will change, but by then you'll probably be able to receive the Friday evening show too.

Who said there's nothing good on the air?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bicycle Blue Book

Yeah, guess there just had to be such a thing.  Here's the page.
While we're on the subject...
Anybody interested in a well-maintained and highly upgraded Trek STP 200?  In great shape (well, it would be seeing as the only original parts are the frame and the cranks), and I'll even throw in a set of race tires (front, rear) to go with the Velociraptors.  Upgraded to SRAM 9.0 EIGHT SPEED (yes, upgraded, you read correctly; shifts better and lasts much longer) shifters and rear deraileur, so I may throw in some extra parts if you ask nicely.  Oh, price... I'll let it go for blue book.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ten Tech Shortcuts You Should Know

From David Pogue, over at TED.  Five minutes now will save you hours in the coming years, so go watch.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Heinlein Bio Part 2 Well Underway

Sure, we all knew it would be published in the next few years, but here's an update – from the author's blog back in December.  The five month old news is that (1) the text has been handed in to the editor at Tor, and that (2) there were inter-version technical problems with MS Word.  (Can I get a "Ah kin relate," my brothers and sisters?!?!?)  No updates since, presumably he's on vacation.  I'm just guessing, but the target publication date may be sometime next fall.  (Guessing?  More like hoping.)

Part 1 was good (my comments here and here).  I'm looking forward to this one.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cross Product

I've been watching The Outer Limits a lot lately.  Probably too much.  Whatever the case, whoever put this mash-up together has definitely been watching too much.  Like any cross product of two orthogonal vectors, it points in a third direction altogether.  Enjoy, Earthlings, while you still can.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tuning the Mustang

OK, first off, tuning with this programmer has been 100% worth it.  Now that you know it's all working out and I haven't killed my engine (yet), let's dig into the details.

Side note: 'Tuner' or 'Programmer'?  Different people use different terms, sometimes meaning the person developing the new engine program ('tune'), some meaning the device, and some meaning the end user.  Here, I'm talking about the device itself when I say 'programmer'.

Whatever the name, it's easy to use, and allegedly interfaces with a Macintosh.  That last point tipped me into buying this particular model.  But the Macintosh interface is a DIY affair, and takes a lot of placing this file here, that file there.  To get it right the first time go plug it into a buddy's Windows machine and hit the auto-update program.  That auto-update is pretty slick and it takes all the guesswork out of it.  And brother, when there's a chance that the thing could brick your engine, you do want the the guesswork taken out.

Anyway, as it comes from American Muscle (it's a Mustang parts shop, not some steroid site) it is pre-loaded with 3 basic tunes for a particular car's engine that'll cover nearly all bases.  And yes, you send them all your car's particulars, including mods and most especially including the powertrain control computer's serial number.  Here are brief descriptions of the three tunes sent from the AM web site:

  • Street (87-93 octane) - The street tune is designed as a daily driver program that focuses on increasing mid-range power. Automatic vehicles are further enhanced by making adjustments to the transmission's shift points and firmness.

  • Performance (87-93 octane) - The Performance program is designed to add power at 3000 RPMs and higher, focusing more on the top end horsepower and all out performance driving. Timing, fuel and throttle response settings are slightly more aggressive than the street tune. This is a great track tune but also works well for daily drivers that are looking for a little more "get up and go" than the street tune. The automatic transmission settings are the same as in the street tune.

  • Race (91 - 93 octane) - The race tune will ensure the largest increase in vehicle performance. Using the highest grade of fuel available in your area is mandatory. This file is designed for "Race Use Only", as the timing, fuel, and throttle response settings are very aggressive. It is so aggressive that we do not recommend it for daily driving as it may cause your vehicle to try to jump out from a stop and easily spin the tires. On automatics, we implement entirely new shift points and firmness settings to further enhance the all-out performance of the vehicle.
OK, what do I think after using all three for a month and what am I using to drive with now?  Performance is damn good, and easily let me blow past a Camaro on I-10 a couple of weeks ago (hey, he challenged...).  Race is just like Performance, just bigger and badder.  I've been driving it for a couple of days on my commute.  It is the madman option, and you will know the difference.  But both of these are designed to let things open up above 3k RPM, which is pretty spicy for driving around town.  So, how about the Street option?  That's what I'm setting things back to in just a minute, not for the all-out performance, but just because it's fun.  Loads of torque on launch, and every leisurely shift at low speed around town makes a lovely snarl*pop*gurglemmmmm sound.  Or do it fast and it's just a quick snarl. Like I said, fun.

Enough writing, out to the car.  Aaah, the equivalent of a double shot of espresso for the engine.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Tour Of Southern Rural Vistas, 2013.
Rode it over the weekend, from Cairo to Albany.  Just did the metric double-century option, but brother with that headwind, a metric was all I needed.  Here's a link to the info page.  If you weren't there, don't worry, it'll be back around next year.  The dirt road option looked really interesting, but watching those poor bastards come in from 75 miles of wet clay roads makes me think I picked all that I could handle.  "Like riding through peanut butter for ten miles!" one rider said.  Maybe next year.

In the meantime, here are some pictures to browse through:

At the start for the return trip from Albany.

On a bridge over the Flint River.  Surprisingly, we were still in town, very urban all around.

Another view of the Flint, looking north from the same bridge.  That structure in the middle of the river is the ruins of an old bridge.

Hats off to the Capital City Cyclists for putting on such a great two-day ride.  OK, that's all for now, off to work.

ps: edited to add "CX", because I used the CX bike on this trip.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dick Dale at Howlin' Wolf last night.

Damn right it was good.  If you couldn't make it, here are some action pics:

When seventy five years old you reach, look as good you will not.
Bet you won't play this well either.

Show ended with his classic Misirlou, perfectly timed to end at 12 midnight sharp.  What a showman, what a show.

Bonus: it's got nothin' to do with Dick Dale, but everything to do with electric guitars.  If you haven't watched the "100 Riffs" video, you owe yourself 12 minutes of oh yeah.  Just sort of popped up while I was searching for Misirlou.

New paper: Life could be older than Earth itself.

In a nutshell, if you log plot a given era's most advanced life form's genome size as it increases along Earth's history, you get a straight line.  If genome size is analogous to computing power, you get something akin to a Moore's Law relation.  Then if you extrapolate back to one gene (I suppose that's the minimum), it would have been the most complex, and hence the original life form... 9.5 billion years ago.
Hm.  Either Moore's Law really, really doesn't apply here or something extremely unexpected is going on.  Brief article at MIT Tech Review, abstract and full downloadable paper at arxive.

Side note: my father and I used to do a lot of printing for second author's organization, Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory.  Small world.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saturn-Vintage F-1 Rocket Engine Reborn

Possibly.  Probably.  We'll see.  Article on its (possible) rebirth over at Ars Technica.  More info on the beast itself at (where else) Wikipedia.

Unlike our previous topic this one is cool, very cool.

Not cool.

I don't care who you are or what your background is, this device is not cool.  Not in an ironic sense.  Not in an Archie McPhee goofy gadget sense.  Not even in any sort of retro-nerd kind of way.  (I speak with authority on that last point.)

Just... don't.  Seriously.

Further evidence that P.T. Barnum David Hannum was right.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

St. Tammany Trace

Rode it yesterday.  Read about the place here.  Watch out and don't get caught out late by the drawbridge.

Friday, April 12, 2013

In case you missed this week's "what if?"

Randall answers the question "What's the worst thing that could happen with a pressure cooker."  Turns out, it's pretty damn bad.

New Music: Kacey Musgraves

If your ears are functioning, you've probably heard about her already.  On the off chance you haven't, go have a listen of Merry Go 'Round over at Youtube.  While that's only the single – probably the first of several – off her album "Same Trailer, Different Park," the rest of the album keeps up with it.  If you like that one song, you won't be disappointed by the others.  Or you can dig around over at  Youtube for most of the rest, just to make sure before you buy.

Yes it's country.  I'm qualified to commentate: Exhibit 1.  Exhibit 2.  Get over it.  If that concept is still giving you fits, go listen to The Replacements.  They're still on my iPod too.

Cars: Don't try this at home kids.

Seriously, don't try this at home.  Er rather, do try this at home, just get it right.  The guy kind of rants but he's right on point with a handful of basic car service and maintenance items everyone should know.  Go watch, four and a half minutes spent now will save you untold hours and dollars later.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

New Truck

Well, at least for me it's new.  It is very well used in fact, perhaps to the point of being abused.  The picture looks a hell of a lot better than the reality.
But the price was right and the need for some kind of hauler was great after last year's demise of the Saturn wagon.

The particulars: F150, 1997, 4.6L V8, toodamnmanymiles, no visible leaks, fluids all looked clean, no obvious problems on the test drive, $ << BlueBook.  It was that last parameter that finally triggered the deal.  Other lesser items: nice bed liner, decent stereo, cloth interior, non-functional AC, and at least two bad tires.

It'll do.

Next up: trip to the tag office and inspection station this week, followed by a visit to the tire and mechanic shop.  Wire in a CB next (no I'm not kidding) and it'll be good to go.

Mustang mods done for now.

Installed the strut tower brace yesterday.  Carefully torqued it down to the specified 25 to 27 ft-lbs, took it for a short test ride, and torqued one more time just to be sure.  The bolts/nuts seemed to have some kind of built in torque limiters.  Try as I might to slightly over-torque them, the wrench stubbornly indicated something just over 25 ft-lbs.  Interesting.
So... was it worth it?  Yeah, the brace tightened up the steering noticeably, though "noticeably" is a very subjective term.  In hard cornering the car doesn't wallow like it used to.  It's still not as precise as the 325i, but then few things are.  Let me put it like this: pushing the Mustang through corners hard enough to break the rear end loose was formerly a front end control limited process, but now there's enough handling to slide through corners like a maniac.  About as good as it's likely to get in a muscle car.

SR (here re-branded as ACME) makes a fine product.  Sometimes the results are even survivable.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Randomosity

If history is any guide to how these things usually go...

Now in a completely unrelated note: It was hard fought, but in the end the Insufferables were again victorious at the Ugly Pirate's trivia night.

April edition of the Fourth Ward Cleaver is up.

OK, off to work momentarily.  Which brings to mind today's xkcd:

That's all for now folks.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Possible Dark Matter Signature Detected

Details over at Space-dot-com.  Now that would be something.  Time, and confirming experiments will tell.

Ah no thanks, just ate.

The Cicadas Are Coming  ...Hungry? over at Discovery News.
Tastes like asparagus?  Really?  Well more power to 'em.