Posts 323 to 330:


Argh.  All this nonsense in the news about Mars being so close to the Earth has got me all excited about seeing it.  But what I haven’t seen in any of these news reports is a simple statement pointing out the fact that Mars looks just like a bright star.  It’s not like you look up in the sky and say, "Oh, look, Mars!"  No, you look up, and you say, "Um... where is it??"

I got a handy "all sky map" which shows, well, the whole sky... including Mars.  I went outside and found it.  And it looks just like a star.  To me, it doesn’t look "red" or "orangish" like the reports say.  It looks white, or maybe a little yellowish, sort of like......... what’s the word................ a star.

I’m not an astronomer or anything.  I don’t know a whole lot about stars and constellations.  Without this map, I wouldn’t have known that there isn’t supposed to be a big bright spot where Mars currently is.  I do have a 150x telescope, which makes the moon look really really big and close.  But even through that, Mars looks just like any old star.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Musicbox and UPS of Superpower

One week of work/summer left, then back to school.  I’m excited; I miss school.  OK that isn’t exactly accurate... what I miss is State College.  I miss J4 and beeffalo.  I miss hanging out with people.

But I’m going to miss Unisys during the school year.  I’ll miss working with Mark.  That’s one thing that made this summer way better than all the previous ones working there -- I had a kid my age working on the same stuff as me, in the next office as a matter of fact... and he’s into the same music I am, and we’re constantly messing around.  I’ve never IMed someone so much who was so close to me.

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I’ll definitely miss being able to get gigantic 35 amp diodes like this one, from the power guys.

My project this week was to finally get my musicbox to the point where I could turn the car off and re-ignite the engine without it rebooting.  It turned out there were 2 problems in one here.  The first is that during ignition, the car battery’s 12V becomes more like 9 or 10 volts, and the computer can’t run on that, so it reboots.  The second problem, which I only learned about after fixing the first one, is that the car’s accessory power line actually switches off for a second while the engine is turning over.  Since I use the accessory line to control a relay that turns the computer on, the computer turns off when the accessory line isn’t at 12V.

To fix the dropping-voltage problem, I took the small sealed lead-acid battery out of my UPS to put in the car.  (I also bought a car battery to replace it with; my UPS is now running on that.  It’s supposed to keep a single computer with 15" monitor running for 18 minutes when the power fails; with the car battery, it kept my 2 computers, 19" monitor, and stereo running for about 40 minutes the other night, before I got tired of waiting around and went to bed.  But it would almost certainly keep them running for a day or so.  If this had become its own post, it would have been titled "What the UPS companies don’t want you to know.")  I planned to hook that battery up in parallel with the car battery, so that when the engine is turning over, there’s extra voltage to keep the line up for the computer.  However, the cranking engine would steal that voltage too, unless I put a diode between the batteries.  So current can flow from the car battery to the smaller battery, but not vice versa.

To fix the second problem, I needed a way to keep the accessory line on even when it’s off.  Or at least, a way to make the computer *think* the accessory line is on.  So I built a simple RC circuit.  I googled and came up with this (the circuit on the right).  My version is slightly modified: I used a generic NPN transistor, not specifically a 2N3053, and I didn’t put a diode around the relay coil.  I used a 47F capacitor and a 100-kohm resistor, which gives me a time constant of about 5 seconds.  So the computer will run for up to 5 seconds without the accessory line actually being up... because it takes the capacitor 5 seconds to discharge through the resistor, and that current hits the gate of the transistor, which switches the transistor "on" thus completing the circuit from +12V to ground through the coil of the relay.

Exciting, no?

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Miss me?

Hey, how ya all doing?  Yeah, I’ve been gone for a while. Take a guess where I was.  Disneyland?  No.  California?  I wish.  Japan?  Oh, if only possible.  No, I was stuck in the God-forsaken wasteland that is Fort Sill, Oklahoma. 

I finally had to go back and finish my job training.  I now officially know how to shoot a 155mm howitzer cannon.  I actually already knew, but I never went though actual training to get a little slip that says "Congratulations, your now smart enough to be considered a true solider", though the term "smart solider" is a slightly broad term in it self.

Yeah, so I pretty much spent all summer getting yelled at by Drill Sergeants, showering with a bunch of other guys, learning something I already knew, and sweating in the Oklahoma heat.  (Also we had to wait for another platoon to finish there training, so we did three weeks of training in six)  All in all it was fun, but I’m more then happy to be back home.

P.S. Oh, and the part about it being fun; that was sarcasim.

Posted by Joseph on 3 replies

The Artist in the Ambulance

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Life is good when you open your freezer and see 3 containers of Breyers Reese’s ice cream.

In other news, I’ve had the new Thrice album (The Artist in the Ambulance) for about 3 weeks now.  There is only one way to describe this album: hard.  Really really hard.  It’s pure metal.  Their first 2 albums were hard, but not purely metal; there was a lot of less-heavy stuff, and a lot of non-yelling vocals.  There’s much less of that kind of variation on this album.

The first few times I listened to it, I was just like, "Wo.  It’s so metal.  Too metal."  It was boring.  But this third week of listening to it, my perception changed.  As I’m getting to know the songs better, the intricacies are becoming more noticeable, and I’m starting to love it.  It’s still pure metal, and really really hard, but it’s amazing metal.

With most music that I listen to, it takes a few listens for it to grow on me -- I often hate it the first couple times, and then end up loving it.  This album was just an extreme case of that; it took a few weeks instead of a few days for me to begin to really like it.  I was going to post last week and say, "I’m sad to have to report that the new Thrice album is just a crappy metal album."  I’m glad I gave it more time, because now I realize that it’s a superb metal album.

As an added bonus, the liner notes are individual sheets, one per song, and each one contains lyrics and commentary by each member of the band.  I read through them all the night I got the album, and I totally felt like I was there in the studio... it’s really neat and insightful, and I think all bands should definitely do this.  Here’s two of the blurbs from the notes on the song "All That’s Left:"

-i had some trouble with this song at first.  it’s pretty simple as far as structure and guitar parts and I’m so darn used to riffing my head off for the entirety of songs.  i couldn’t really get past the fact that the song is super strong without any crazy guitar parts or a screwed up structure cause i felt like i needed to do something more.  i got past that.  it’s probably one of the most memorable songs we’ve ever written and i’m very proud of it. T

- this was one of the first songs to be written for the record, but one of the last songs to be finished.  dustin came very close to killing me while working on this song, but i love where it ended up.  we added the megaphone to the second verse literally 10 minutes before we had to fed-ex the song to be mixed.  i’ll always remember dustin sitting next to me in the control screaming "treason" into a megaphone pressed up against his guitar pick-up. B

Also, there are really awesome photos on the front of each of the cards.  They’re random inner-city scenes and skylines and stuff, but with a really retro / grainy look to them, like they were developed a long time ago.

So all in all, I’m thoroughly impressed with this album.  The artwork/commentary/layout is super unique and interesting, and the music just rocks really really hard.  If you like metal, and/or earlier Thrice albums, I think you’ll like this album a lot.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

New Favorite Pastime

Twenty-four more to go,
and it will be tomorrow.
One more day older,
one more day closer
to some sort of end.
Ten a.m.,
and I’m already ready to say,
"let’s call it a day."

Get me out of this bed,
and tell me what you meant
when you said...
"Everything will be ok."

The parking lot sea and me
wait patiently...
to hear the still small voice
beneath the noise.
The traffic and sirens say,
"run away,"
but the trains say
"stay, we’ve been around,
and it’s all the same...
only the names change."

Just hold my head
and tell me what you meant
when you said,
"Take heart child.
Be still,
and quiet.
Know your burdens
are mine.
And dry your eyes;
there’s so much more
to all of this
than you can see.
So close your eyes tonight,
and trust in me."

Hold my head,
and tell me what you meant
when you said,
"Trust in me."

-Brandtson, New Favorite Pastime

With her there’s no pretending to feel the way I feel.
I’d never second guess myself if everything was real.
She could keep a secret. She could make the plans.
She would miss me when I’m gone, but she would understand.

I wonder when I’ll meet her. I wonder when I see her, will I know.
Another day without her. Another holiday I’ll spend alone.

If ever I might need to hear her voice a while.
I could call from far away, and she would make me smile.
Are you really out there, waiting around for me.
I know I’ll be here for you. If this is meant to be.

One day I know I’ll find her. I wonder when she sees me, will she know.
And on that day I find her. We’ll be the two that never let it go.

- Brandtson, Circa 1991

Yeah, those two songs are pretty much me nowadays.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Today I’ve gotten lots of hits from someone, or some people, on the network.  They’re all at the same IP address, but that’s likely a firewall IP; the hits are from multiple different user agents (different browsers and operating systems), so I tend to think it really is a few different people.  Most of them show up as direct hits, but some are from (which appears to be a private host) with a query string about Red Hat Linux and mouse wheels.  Anyone from amazon care to say hey and shed some light on my confusion?

Posted by Anthony on reply

Log Off

So New York City is without power.  One time, in how many years?  Boo-hiss, boo-hiss.  I have just one thing to say to you big babies: move to Kilbertsville, then talk to me about power outages.  Twice a month is the minimum -- the bare minimum -- that power goes out here.

But on the serious tip, this is actually a big deal because it’s not just NYC; it’s a half-dozen states plus some of Canada.  Word so far is that a single point of failure between upstate NY and Canada is to blame.  Exactly how one failure could take portions of so many states offline is hard to imagine.  It’ll be interesting to learn the details.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Four Weeks!

Last night on Marketplace, there was a commentator talking about a federal law mandating 4 weeks of paid vacation for all American workers.  He presented it as an idea that the 2004 presidential hopefuls should espouse.  His exact words were, if a candidate runs with this as a campaign promise, "you’ll be elected in a flash."

I’ll take it.

In another story on the program, the mob a union of Verizon workers threatened to encourage Verizon customers to switch to AT&T unless they get their way.  Now there’s a brilliant move... your company is hurting, and you’re unhappy with some aspect(s) of your employment situation.  The solution: drive business away from your company.  Yeah, that’s sure to improve your job situation.  It’s just one more example of how unions are one of the most backwards, corrupt, and mentally-challenged institutions in America.

Posted by Anthony on reply

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