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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Who Says the Greeks Don’t Want no Freaks?

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

History says Otherwise

I’m thinking about technology today.

I read something interesting this morning. Edward Snowden, the fugitive hacker who lifted the rock off of our government’s slimy, Constitution-killing surveillance programs, accepted a visit from journalists. He told them to put their phones in the refrigerator. Why? Because that way, if Barack Obama turned the phones’ microphones and cameras on, he would see nothing but beer bottles and cold pizza.

It’s funny to me, because I’m one of those rare people who avoid showing their phones and tablets things they don’t want seen. I do not use the phone on the toilet. When I say things I really don’t want it to hear, I put it in a drawer. I don’t think anyone is interested in what I do–today–but it’s good practice. You never know who will develop an interest in the future. There are a lot of actresses out there who wish they had kept their phones in drawers or their drawers on.

Apparently, Snowden knows the government does, in fact, listen to us and watch us via our phones. Confirmation. If only we could turn the tables. I suppose we would spend a lot of time throwing up, though.

I worry about tech privacy in some regards, and in others, I’ve made a conscious decision to give up. Privacy was one reason I got rid of Facebook and Twitter; I thought it was a bad idea for everyone in the universe to know what I had had for lunch every day for the past three years. On the other hand, I accept the fact that the government tracks all of my driving, because I can’t do anything about it. I also blog, knowing that what I write will surely be used against me in the future. I use email and a cell phone, knowing my communications are stored away somewhere, by people I find disgusting.

In the law, we have a concept we call “ex post facto,” which means something or other in Latin. It looks like “from after the fact,” but then I got a D in Latin. It means you can’t punish someone retroactively, for breaking a law you make today. It doesn’t seem to work very well. Bill Clinton taxed people retroactively. But we do rely on it. We sort of assume the legal things we did in the past won’t be used against us in the future.

One glaring problem with the policy against ex post facto punishment is that it depends on laws that can be changed in the future. If you pass a law saying ex post facto punishment is okay, then it doesn’t really matter what the law said a day earlier. You’re on the hook. You can change the law, but the past is carved in stone.

Another problem is that it doesn’t bind private individuals. If the general public decides to persecute you for past deeds of which they approved when you performed them, there isn’t anything you can do.

In the future, people like me will be persecuted and probably prosecuted for legal self-expression. In 2025, it will probably be possible to take all sorts of legal action against me for things I said legally in 2014. It will definitely be possible to take social action; it already is.

That’s life. Maybe “smart” conservatives will take down their blogs and beg for forgiveness. Maybe they’ll make convenience conversions to liberalism and atheism. It worked for Arianna Huffington. Of course, assimilation didn’t work too well for Jews under Hitler, so maybe we can’t do anything now to save ourselves.

Everything is documented now. We swim in evidence.

File all this under, “That’s tough.”

I’m also thinking about programming. I wrote a little about this a few days ago. I got my CNC lathe to work, sort of, and then I found out the program that came with it, which tells the motors what to do, isn’t very good. I’m sure it’s great for mill users, but lathe users are the red-headed stepchildren of CNC, and hobbyists are also red-headed stepchildren. Maybe that makes me a red-headed step-grandchild.

Anyway, the program depends on a lot of files written in the computer language C. The manufacturer admits that you should know C in order to deal with his invention. That’s not a knock on the manufacturer. Surely getting the electronics and software to the point where they are was a Herculean task. I don’t want to abuse anyone for failing to take it further.

I do not know C. I had a small amount of interest in programming in the Nineties, but it withered and died. While I was getting my physics degree, they made me take a Pascal course, and that’s about all I’ve done, apart from hacking php, css, and html files in order to blog. I did that hacking very clumsily, by trial and error. I didn’t know what I was doing.

I don’t know why my advisor told me to take Pascal. It was a MONUMENTAL mistake. I looked Pascal up, and it’s not very useful. For the most part, it’s a teaching language. Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

Initially, Pascal was largely, but not exclusively, intended to teach students structured programming.A generation of students used Pascal as an introductory language in undergraduate courses.

Pascal was used in the development of some Apple products, but, hello, just about everything else in the world is based on C or a related language. Teaching future programmers Pascal is like teaching UN interpreters Esperanto. A complete waste of time. And my experience has proven that. I believe I wrote one or two programs in Pascal back in the deep past, for purposes I no longer recall, but today I am, essentially, a programming cripple. That’s where Pascal got me.

My undergrad advisor at the University of Miami was a great instructor, but he gave me some really bad advice. He told me grad schools didn’t care about the physics GRE, so I shouldn’t waste time studying for it. Yeah…okay. The Pascal suggestion came from him, too.

I love MOOC sites. “MOOC” stands for something I don’t remember, but it basically means online education. I decided to check Udemy, Edx, and Coursera for C courses. I didn’t see anything I liked. There were a lot of C++ and C# offerings, but I read that these languages were not really C or helpful to C users, so I blew that off.

I decided to check Youtube, and I found a couple of good offerings which I will not link to. The best one for barely sentient beginners was run by a user called Thecodingschool or something similar. I started watching and doing exercises, but I soon realized they were crawling. It would take me a year to get anywhere. I looked for a book.

Amazon had a number of offerings. I looked at them and decided the one I wanted was a beginner’s guide by a guy named Kochan. As luck would have it, it’s available at an online lending library, so I am using that. I may buy the book or a Kindle version, though, because the library thing is hard to read.

The thing that surprises me is that I’m doing very well. I am finding C very easy. Pascal was a different experience, even though it’s basically the same thing. When I wrote Pascal programs, my absent-mindedness drove me up the wall. I left characters out or put them in the wrong places, and I would spend ages reading the same code over and over, looking for the booboos. This time I’m making mistakes, but finding and fixing them isn’t nearly as bad. I can’t explain why.

The book has programming exercises in it. I can’t stand them. It’s just too boring; when an activity is too dull, it slides off the brain like a blunt instrument. I had to make it more interesting, so instead of doing the exercises, I do things that are different but related to the exercises.

I can’t resist making the code silly. I think that’s hardwired into me. Here’s a program I wrote yesterday:


main ()
//int dancer, prancer; This didn’t work. Apparently you can’t divide two integers and get a float.
float dancer, prancer, vixen;

printf(“Enter a number: “);
scanf(“%f”, &dancer);
printf(“Enter another number, if you can think of one: “);
scanf(“%f”, &prancer);
vixen = dancer / prancer;
printf(“Here is %0.2f divided by %0.2f (to six places after the decimal), and that’s exciting: %0.6f.”, dancer, prancer, vixen);
//If you leave fflush in, the program stays open and waits for you to enter a key before giving you the final
//”enter any key” message. You have to hit 2 keys in order to make the CMD window close.
//The values %d and %i mean “integer.” They are fungible.
/*Here is another way of adding comments.*/


As you can see, I’m using the programs to do little experiments to answer questions, and I take notes inside the programs, to help me remember. Here, I tried to divide one integer by another and produce a float, which is a number that extends past the decimal point. The computer didn’t like it.

It beats printing “Hello World” over and over. Now that I think about it, my “Hello World” program was actually, “Hello, Fat Jackass.”


You have to do something to keep yourself awake.

My feeling now is that if you have to watch videos in order to learn this, you might as well kill yourself, because it will really hurt.

I’ve learned something new. A lot of our modern machines can be penetrated with programming. C, supposedly, is the king of languages for operating machinery. That includes robots and so on. So if you want to do anything really interesting with motors and whatnot, C is for you. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the impression I get from what others say.

I also found out that you can buy little robots and write code for them so they do stuff. I guess this is how we ended up with self-driving cars invading our privacy. There is a language called Pbasic, which I refuse to capitalize, which works with certain popular microcontrollers. You can get yourself an inexpensive robot and Pbasic it all over the place. I don’t know how much C would help a person who needs Pbasic, but it probably can’t hurt.

I plan to look into that if I ever get the lathe functioning correctly. I feel like it would make me feel less intimidated by the machinery around me. Maybe the computerized toaster and portable phones would tense up and start to sweat when I came into the room. That would be nice.

In other news, I completed Thucydides and started in on Plato’s Symposium. My short take on Thucydides: the Athenians were evil, disgusting people. They whined and moaned about excellence and virtue all the time, but they kept slaves in their homes, they destroyed other cities, they slaughtered untold thousands of people just for getting on their nerves, and they were colossal thieves. They were right up there with the Nazis. I have zero respect for them, even though I acknowledge their mental achievements.

The small amount I’ve read recently tells me I probably did not read The Symposium when I was at Columbia University, because I think I would remember the revulsion it engenders.

When I was at Columbia, I thought gay sex was just fine. I was not much of a Christian. I would not have been offended by the Athenian predilection for sodomy. What would have bothered me is the predilection for boys. The Athenians didn’t prey on their equals. They sodomized small boys and teens who were weaker and less informed. Even in my younger days, I would have been bothered by that.

The Symposium starts out with a long discussion of “love,” and by “love,” it means the phony, self-deluding love between an erastes (older sexual predator) and an eromenos (younger victim). If erastes looks familiar, it’s because it’s related to the word “pederast.”

A man (presumably a real person) stands up and says there are two types of love; a high kind and a low or common kind. The heavenly kind is the love a predator shares with a victim who is old enough to have sprouted the beginnings of a beard, and supposedly, it is largely based on a desire to help the younger victim improve himself. The low kind is the love a predator shares with a younger boy, who is simply a sexual device intended to satisfy lust.

This reasoning reminds me of the bilge spewed by molesters in Internet chat rooms. They say we don’t understand their pure, altruistic love. They say it’s good for the kids. They say kids consent, which is surely true sometimes. We still put the molesters away, and in prison, criminals still rape and kill them.

Somehow we’re supposed to accept this from the ancient Greeks, while we imprison people for it today. That’s crazy. It’s the same. Man’s laws change; that which is evil remains evil.

It’s remarkable that we have studied this work in our universities for so long. I can understand how it would have been popular in my youth, because universities were already pretty gross at that time. But I don’t understand how it could have passed inspection in 1900 or earlier.

My skin crawls when I read the book, but I want to get it over with, so I will continue. I think this is the book that mentions the cave and the ideal forms and so on. I will take whatever profitable information it has to offer and try to forget the rest.

Incidentally, people who get their Greek history from the movie 300 may be surprised to learn that the Spartans weren’t the big military power in ancient Greece, and they weren’t the leading sexual predators. The Athenians topped them (poor choice of words) in both regards. In the movie, Leonidas calls the violent, imperialist Athenians “boy-lovers,” but Plato’s book tells us the Spartans had a reputation for “common” love, or sex with very young boys.

I look forward to getting past the Greeks. I ordered Ovid and Vergil, so I will be reading the Romans before long.

I Don’t Accept Cookies

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Buckets of Pure Cocaine Would be Safer

The weight-maintenance-cookie plan was a disaster of Hindenburgian completeness. I have firmly concluded that it is not possible to adjust my calorie intake using cookies made from my own recipe.

I was doing just fine using Oreos. I ate three or four a day, just to take the edge off and restore my mental functions. I figured there was no reason better cookies wouldn’t do the same thing, cheaper and more enjoyably.

The batch of cookies I made from scratch is completely gone. It vanished in two days. I could not stay away from them. They taunted me They jeered at me. And now they are no more.

Lesson learned. Night before last I picked up a new bag of Oreos, and yesterday I put them to use. I went through a grand total of three. Oreos just don’t have the temptation punch my own cookies have.

The oatmeal cookies I made were stupendous, but now I can’t have them. One more recipe I can’t use. Dang it.

I wonder if I could come up with a recipe for mediocre cookies. Probably not. It seems like anything that comes out of a home oven beats anything that comes from a plastic bag.

Oreos have gone nuts. Things got weird thirty or forty years ago when they came out with “Double Stuf” Oreos. Someone at Nabisco realized fat people were only buying the cookies for the filling. Now they have “Mega Stuf.” Next they’ll have “Pure Stuf” or “Gallon Can o’ Stuf.”

They have birthday-cake-flavored Oreos now. Wonder what that’s like. Do they come pre-sprayed with spit, to simulate the blowing out of candles?

American consumers are not hard to please. The buying habits of chubby ladies prove this.

When I was a kid, Nestle started selling raw cookie dough so incredibly lazy people could use it to make cookies. At some point we all accepted reality: fat girls were buying it to eat out of the tube. Now you can buy ice cream and protein bars made to taste like raw cookie dough.

Prefab cookie dough is very popular, but the thing is, it’s not good. I don’t know what Nestle puts in their dough to serve as shortening, but I’m confident it’s not butter. The dough tastes sort of like toothpaste with sugar in it. People love it anyway.

My cookie experience shows how things really are: the supermarket junk we think is good is actually pretty lame. We like it because we’re lazy. The British have a saying: “Hunger is the best sauce.” I would say laziness is second best. When you get off your rear end and make real cookies, or even cookie dough, you understand the depth of the compromises you’ve made in the past.

God has given me more strength to turn food down, but there are some things I still have to stay away from. I can’t keep bags of fun size Snickers in the freezer. I can’t keep miniature Reese’s cups on the coffee table. And I can’t keep homemade cookies anywhere near me.

I feel like he’s helping me get off caffeine again. A long time ago he showed me that caffeine destroys peace. I quit drinking it. But when I had to take over my dad’s business affairs, I jumped off the wagon. The boredom of using Quickbooks and straightening up chaotic files was more than my mortal frame could stand. Now things are more orderly, and I have to give up the crutch. I do not want to spend the rest of my life feeling peppy and cheerful until noon and then crabby and crotchety for the rest of the day. I don’t want to have to take Benadryl to get to sleep.

God changes peoples habits, and it seems like he really hits hard in the beverage department. You find yourself cutting way back on alcohol. Sugary sodas turn into occasional treats. Fruit juices are just sugary soda without the gas, so they’re not the answer. That leaves coffee and tea, right? Wrong. Caffeine.

Today I’m going to get a bag of decaffeinated coffee beans. I can’t drink room temperature bottled water at breakfast every day. I am not ready for that.

I’m still fooling with the CNC mini-lathe. I got it to function with Mach3, the most popular home CNC machine-running program. I haven’t been able to get it to work with KMotionCNC, the nerdier, learning-curve-heavy free program that came with my controller board.

I think the people who made the board don’t care about lathes. They’re not going to come out and say that, but it seems to be true. Their program comes with a little viewing window that shows you an animated movie of your cutting tool at work. It’s set up perfectly for a big milling machine, but if you try to scale it for a lathe, it looks ridiculous. The software doesn’t give you a way to fix that.

The documentation that came with the boards says you need to know the computer language C in order to really understand what the software does. For that reason, I looked around for C courses yesterday. I tried Udemy and Edx. I wasn’t too impressed. C is an old language, and if I understand things correctly, it has morphed into newer languages like C++ and C# (C sharp). The online course offerings for plain old C aren’t that great. I decided to settle for a Youtube course.

The instructor said I had to get a compiler called Dev-C++, which is free. Right away I had problems. He uses version 4-something in the videos, and the current version is 5-something. It looks and works a little differently. So far I’ve been able to figure it out.

A compiler is a program that takes the code you write and turns it into program files. For example, you might write 30 lines of C or Pascal or whatever code, describing a program that lets you enter two numbers and then adds them and prints the result. You feed this into the compiler, and an “exe” file comes out the other end. When you want to experience the thrill of adding two integers, you double-click on “add.exe” or whatever you named it, and the program appears in a little DOS window (assuming it runs in DOS).

The first (only) language I learned was Pascal. I had to learn it in college. I used a compiler made by Borland. It was called Turbo Pascal. Dev-C++ is surely capable of much bigger things than Turbo Pascal, but to the user it looks pretty similar.

I learned a few things that were almost, but not quite, interesting. For example, the nerd term “ported” is a corruption that comes from “portable.” When you move a program from one OS to another, it’s portable, so you are–nails on a blackboard sound–“porting.” I can’t actually remember the other things, so I guess they truly were not interesting.

Here is how much interest I have in programming: zero, or even a large negative number. But if it will help me not have to go to surly, condescending nerds for help with technical stuff, I am all for it.

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of screws I need to make the lathe work well. At first I thought any ball screw would work. Then I found out some ball screws are very crude, so buying such a screw would fail to help or even make things worse. Then I found out there are levels of accuracy, designated “C” this or that, and I learned that most affordable screws were C7, which didn’t seem good enough.

After that, I read that the rigidity of the machine and the skill of the user make more difference than the quality of the screws. Is this true? I don’t know. The truth is a jittery target that skitters away every time I try to draw a bead on it.

A guy who supposedly knows a whole lot claims a plain old Acme screw will do fantastic work if you set it up right, and he says rigidity is more important than worrying about the number that comes after “C.” So maybe I need to buy a C7 screw in a big diameter; 3/4″ or better. I can do that for around a hundred bucks, if I go Taiwanese.

I’ve wondered why Acme screws were not considered useful. If I machine manually, I can get accuracy within a thousandth of an inch, relying on Acme screws and hand dials. Somehow that is not possible with a machine tool. You would think the computer would get better accuracy out of a screw than I can, but it looks like it doesn’t.

The topic is insanely complicated. Good screws aren’t the end of the discussion. For really accurate machining, some people use “screw mapping.” As I understand it, this means examining the screw with precision instruments and recording all its imperfections, so the computer will know to apply the correct compensation at every point on the screw.

Obviously, I am not going to do that. If I can get parts to measure within 0.002″ of spec, I will be the happiest man on earth. I’m not making crucial parts that prevent hydrogen bombs from going off. I don’t have to have perfection.

Now that the machine functions, I have to figure out how to design parts. I have a workable CAD program. I have to decide how to turn the CAD files into Gcode Mach3 can digest. I’m using Fusion360, from Autodesk, for CAD. It’s free. Not sure if it goes past CAD. I should design a part and see where I have to go with it.

Some day when I have room, I’ll get a mill. It will be a real CNC mill. I won’t spend my life on Ebay looking for bearings and screws. I’ll just place an order and wait for the machine. That will be nice. It doesn’t have to be big. Just sort of mid-sized, and it has to be something I can operate without pulling my hair out.

The CNC lathe will be very useful, but if you want CNC, what you really want is a mill. In fact, if you want to machine, period, you want a mill. I do not understand people who claim lathes are better. Most of the time, when you need a part, it will be something a mill can make easily, yet which a lathe can only make with weird, denial-reinforcing attachments.

If you want to make pens all day, sure, get a lathe. You’ll wish you had a mill, though.

Whatever you do with CNC, buy lots of plastic. You do NOT want to practice on metal parts. You will crash, and the crashes will damage your machine and cutting tools. Plastic will give, and it will provide a nice buffer between your mistakes and your checking account. Also, remember you can run programs in an animation window with the motors turned off. If the program looks funny in the animation, you do not want to run it with the motors on.

You can practice with wood instead of plastic, but it makes a mess.

Is this information useful to you? My hopes are not high, but I don’t care, because writing it was a very effective means of procrastination. I got what I wanted.

Wasting Time

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Mine and Yours

I have something to do in 45 minutes, so I can’t really sit down and dig into my new responsibilities. So here I am.

I have been reading Thucydides. I thought I was going to start sooner, but I looked at the Columbia University Lit. Hum. syllabus and discovered I was supposed to read Euripides (The Bacchae) first.

I think I should have taken the midterm last week. I would have been ready for it, which is more than I can say about my last time through this stuff.

I don’t believe in stealing copyrighted stuff, so I always look for cheap paper copies of whatever I read, even if I read it first on Scrib’d or whatever. I read The Odyssey on Scrib’d, and I also ordered a real copy. It’s still in the plastic.

I ordered a copy of Euripides V from Amazon, and then I read an earlier version at the Open Library, which is a site that “lends” ebooks. It has some connection to the Internet Archive, but the Archive has its own borrowing site. You figure it out. I am too lazy to look. I have accounts at both sites. I hope they’re taking care of authors’ rights, but anyway, I do use them. I took a look at a couple of drink recipes from Trader Vic’s without buying paper copies of the book. I hope that’s morally acceptable.

“Bacchae” rhymes with “wacky,” and maybe that’s fitting. It means “bacchants.” “Bacchant” (also “bacchante”) is pronounced “buh-Can’t.” It means a lady who worships Bacchus, the Bieber-like Greek God of drunkenness and–I don’t know–being effeminate maybe.

Here is the idea. Bacchus comes down to–wow, I’ve forgotten already–is it Thebes? Yes. The Thebes in Greece. He claims he’s Zeus’s son. His family says he’s a random illegitimate sissy. His cousin, Pentheus, is given the throne of Thebes, and Bacchus is rejected, although he does go on to a successful run, playing millionaire Thurston Howell on Sixties TV.

People who worship Bacchus go crazy. They get really drunk and run around the woods, dancing and fornicating. Women are the main participants, and during their craziness, they provide sex for any man who asks. This is not considered sleazy or sinful; it’s considered pious. Go figure.

It’s a remarkable thing to read, because it’s like a perverse reflection of being led by the Holy Spirit.

When you’re led by the Holy Spirit, you’re out of sync with the rest of the world. Like the bacchants, you seem irrational to other people, but you’re under the influence of a spirit who knows what he’s doing. You will do things that seem ill-advised from people who don’t hear from him.

The bacchants were also out of step with other people. Unlike Spirit-led Christians, they lost their free will and good sense. They did strange things. The mother of Pentheus got together with a group of bacchants and tore him to pieces, removing his head and so on. She didn’t know he was her son. She wanted to find Pentheus and tell him how she had helped kill the unbeliever.

Bacchus was the son of the highest Greek God, by a mortal woman. Jesus was the son of the real high God, by a mortal woman. Bacchus was rejected. Jesus was rejected. Bacchus sent a spirit to control people who followed him, and they did strange things. Jesus sent a spirit to help people rise above Satan and the world, and under that spirit’s influence, we do things other people don’t understand.

Bacchus gave humanity wine, and the Greeks thought that was a great gift, because it got people drunk. Jesus gave people his blood, which was represented by wine. When the Holy Spirit fell on the Apostles, people thought they were drunk.

I have to wonder how much of this is coincidence. In the time of Euripides, Satan didn’t know about the crucifixion or the baptism with the Holy Spirit, but it seems like evil spirits pick up on things from time to time, getting little incomplete glimpses of the things God is up to.

Thucydides is interesting. His book is about the Peloponnesian Wars. The Peloponnese is the lower part of Greece, where Sparta is located. It’s actually a peninsula. Athens is on the mainland. The mainier mainland. Athens and Spart went at it, with other Greek city-states joining the fray.

The Athenians were led by a remarkable man named Pericles. He reminds me of Winston Churchill and George W. Bush. He was a solid wartime leader whose people turned on him once the consequences of their decision to follow him into battle became clear. People always want the omelette, and then they want the eggs back.

Pericles was a speaker, and he made some famous speeches before the Athenians. In the first, he urged them to go to war. He said something you would expect to come out of the mouth of an American Founding Father: “Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”

Well, I got called away before the 45 minutes were up. But I’m back now. I’m making diet cookies.

To get back to Pericles, he showed me something interesting about Sparta: the Spartans were crazy to put their kids through 18 years or whatever of cruel boot camp.

If you’ve seen 300, you know that the Spartans sent their male children off to suffer miserably until they were old enough to join the army. This was after killing off all the ones that looked imperfect; the Spartans were extremely pro-choice. They left weak-looking babies to die in the wilderness.

In the movie, the Spartans are incredibly macho and tough. They’re like the SAS of Greeks. No one can fight as well as they can. Three hundred of them hold the huge Persian army off for days.

In real life, the flabby, hard-drinking Athenian queens kicked the snot out of them. They defeated the Spartans, proving you don’t really need to throw your life away to be an effective soldier.

American conservatives got really sweaty and pumped after 300 came out. We put “Molon labe” all over our blogs (even though King Leonidas of Sparta didn’t say that in the movie). Maybe we should have been excited about the wedding planners, figure skaters, and airline stewards of Athens.

Want to hear something interesting about Pericles? He had the Athenians hide behind a wall during the war. He also wanted to fix it so you had to have two Athenian parents in order to be a citizen of Athens. Do you realize what this means? He wasn’t the Greek George Bush. He was the Greek Donald Trump.

Pericles, it seems, was brilliant, even though his plans didn’t always work. Thucydides was no moron, either. He understood how smart Pericles was, and he paid him this compliment: he said he led the people instead of being led by them. That’s true wisdom. Most of our politicans are followers, not leaders. Obama is the biggest sheep in the universe. Somehow a man who lived 2500 years ago knew how important it was for a leader to lead, and we don’t know it now. How can that be? How can you not know something you knew in 475 B.C.?

Leadership is a huge part of Christianity. You’re supposed to be the head, not the tail. The head doesn’t follow the tail. When your buddies are getting tattoos, using drugs, and doing yoga, you shouldn’t go along just so they’ll love you. You should set an example and do what’s right.

You’re wondering what diet cookies are.

In 2009, after a fast, I suddenly found that God had given me control over what I ate. I didn’t feel compelled to stuff myself. I lost weight. That blessing didn’t go away, but I damaged it. One night I decided to order all-you-can-eat ribs with a friend of mine, and since then, things haven’t been quite as good as they were in 2009. I guess I followed instead of leading.

Recently, God brought the self-control back. That’s great, but it comes with little challenges. One is that I tend to eat too little at breakfast. I can tell when I need more food, because I start to feel crabby, and I don’t concentrate well. Like Betty White in the Snickers commercial.

I bought a bag of Oreos the other day, and I found them very useful. When I needed food, I grabbed a couple of Oreos, and they fixed the problem. Without small, handy, calorie-filled items around, I would be likely to eat something that’s too big.

I ran out of Oreos, and I was going to get more, but then I remembered my own cookies. I make fantastic oatmeal raisin cookies. It’s not a big brag. All homemade cookies are phenomenal compared to bag cookies, as long as you don’t use vegetable oil or shortening.

Today I made a pile of oatmeal cookies, and I’ll keep them around so I don’t keel over at 3 p.m. every day. The big problem is that they may be too good. If they’re too good, it will be very hard to control my consumption, even with the help I have.

They really are good. I know they’re good, because I love them, and ordinarily I don’t like oatmeal cookies.

I guess I’m going to have to get back to work on accounting. Either that, or I’ll have no choice but to get into the differences between rolled and ground ball screws.

CNC Rider

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

C What I Have Done

More progress on the CNC front.

I’m sure I already said I ordered some acetal rod for CNC practice. If not, now you know. For less than ten bucks, Zoro Tools sent me six feet of it.

Acetal, also known as Delrin, is a very tough plastic. It feels and looks like polyethylene. It’s so tough, they make gears out of it. I used it this afternoon.

Today I had a couple of goals. One was to get my backlash correction working, so the lathe would not wander all over the place while it cut. The other was to get the initialization code fixed so the motors wouldn’t disable every time I looked away for ten seconds. I believe I accomplished both goals.

CNC is an interesting thing. I got very excited about it in 2014, because I saw that it should–SHOULD–change the world by giving ordinary citizens the power to make all sorts of things in their own homes. Guns, for example. But I may have expected too much from the technology.

There is no reason why a big outfit like Microsoft can’t come up with a program that allows relatively unskilled people to design fairly complex parts and turn them into code so computerized tools can make them from raw materials. There is no reason why a big outfit like Samsung can’t make a machine that reads the code and creates what you designed, without a lot of bugs and accidents. These things have not happened, though, because demand is not there yet.

Right now, real CNC is not plug and play. You can buy a 3D printer, which is one kind of CNC tool, and you can make stuff all day, but if you’re like 99.98% of the people who own printers, you won’t be able to make anything useful. You won’t be able to design new parts worth a damn, because CAD is hard, and even if you did, they would be printed in crude, flimsy plastic.

Recently, someone wrote an article saying 3D printing was “dying,” and he said something like, “Eventually you get tired of printing out little plastic skulls.” This is what people do; they buy printers, they download files other people wrote, and they print worthless knickknacks. You can do better, but you won’t do it on a $300 printer, and you won’t do it without acquiring some skills.

If you want a CNC machine tool, which is infinitely more useful than a printer, you will have to either lay out some serious cash or find an incredible Craigslist deal with a seller who has no idea what the tools are worth. If you can get a decent used mill for several thousand dollars, you’re doing very well. Then you have a giant mill that takes up half of your garage, and you have to learn manual machining, CAD, C, Gcode, CNC machining, and God knows what else.

You can get a CNC router, if you’re happy being unable to work in metal. I don’t see the point.

To make it work, you will have to get a ready-made CNC machine, or you will have to put a lot of stuff together. Then you have to learn how to make it run. I don’t mean making it make things. I mean you will have to learn things like how to make the motors run at the right speeds, moving in the right directions. It’s not easy. Believe me, there is no one-sheet “Quick Start” primer that will get you on your feet.

I didn’t buy a machine made for CNC. I did a conversion. I had to get two computer boards to make my lathe work, and then I had to make a cabinet for them, install a power supply, make the manufacturer’s software work with the boards, and make the software and boards work with the lathe. Then I had to make the software work with Mach3, which is probably the closest thing we have to Photoshop or Word for CNC. It helps people who aren’t programmers run CNC tools.

After all that, I had to make all of it work with Windows 10, which is a terrible operating system when it comes to connectivity and drivers.

I had to do all this, just to create a machine that functions. Making new parts with it that are more complicated than drumsticks…that’s still down the road.

The manuals for my computer boards are horrors straight from hell. The guy who wrote them is an engineer, which means he is not really a human being. They probably seem very straightforward to him. To me, they seem disorganized, vague, incomplete, and misleading. And I can’t say anything bad about him. He had a Herculean task to perform. It’s a wonder he did it as well as he did.

So anyway, home CNC has astounding potential to put manufacturing power in the hands of ordinary people, but it hasn’t come through yet. It’s at the stage where computers were when people made them from kits, using soldering irons. If you want to be a CNC hobbyist, giving up your other hobbies is a really good idea.

CNC is having a big impact on people like me, but people like me aren’t that common. It won’t really explode until an average guy can take a prefab, user-friendly, plug and play setup and start making parts in a couple of weeks. That’s probably five years off. It can be done. If the Mach3 people had as many software engineers working on it as Bill Gates has working on the next bad version of Word, it would have happened already.

It will be a while before printing your own household items will be as common as printing your own annoying family newsletters. But it will happen.

Here is the part I made today. You are probably wondering what it is. Me, too. But I made it, and I had very few problems. I wonder why I didn’t try machining acetal sooner. It’s very useful, and the finish is incredible. I used a pointy Chinese carbide tool with, essentially, no radius, and this thing is so smooth it looks like it came out of a mold.

07 09 16 CNC mini lathe Delrin doodad from successful axis test

I’m still wondering what’s up with the steps/inch settings. My x screw is supposed to do 1/25″ per turn, and the motor makes 3200 steps/revolution, so you would expect 80000 steps/inch. Measuring the lathe’s movements, I came up with 79760. Explain that. Maybe the screw is actually metric, and it only approximates an imperial pitch. Hmm…what if it’s 1mm per turn? That would give me 78740. Who knows?

The lead screw is not metric. Definitely. Probably. It’s American. It moves 1/2″ per turn, which comes out to 6400 steps/inch. But I have to use 6321. I haven’t figured that out.

I had a horrible time getting the screws right. I kept measuring the movement of the lathe, doing math, and adjusting the motors. I finally realized the lathe motors jumped every time I turned it on. This jump wasn’t recognized by the computer, so it threw everything off. The guy who makes the boards told me, “Oh, yeah, the boards do LEAP ON THEIR OWN every time they come on, and it happens all the time because I put code in the program that makes them time out and go dead.” I am paraphrasing. I had to look through the C initialization program and try to figure out which part of it meant “time out and stop,” and then I had to figure out how to rewrite it so the motors would always stay on. I succeeded at that, and things started to fall into place.

I also had issues with the backlash stuff. You can’t just tell a machine, “Add 0.005″ of backlash.” Backlash always has to be taken off the same side of the screw. You apply a correction when the lathe moves in one direction, but not the other. You have to be consistent. So I had to root through the manual and find out where to put the correction. It turns out that if you have a KFlop board, the backlash correction is only added when you move in the positive direction. Good to know.

Keeping the motors on all the time makes it impossible to locate the tool manually, turning the motor dials. I had to learn how to use the “jog” controls to move the tool into position. That was a nightmare. The z jog was like a rocket launch. I found it unusable. I wondered why anyone would ever try to use it.

I got my screws accurate to within 1 part in 500, and then I tried to run a simple program, and the lathe jammed. I had to turn it off. The tool just rammed the work, like it was mad at it. Finally, I found out the acceleration figures for the motors were too high. If you set your acceleration too high, the motors just ignore commands. Like, “Are you kidding? I’m not doing that.” So if five lines of code, which the motor likes, say, “Go left,” and five other lines it hates say, “Go right,” it just keeps going left.

It turned out I had the Mach3 acceleration figures so high, they were roughly comparable to the acceleration of a rifle bullet leaving the chamber. This is why I had jog problems. And guess what? You have to put acceleration figures in Mach3 and also in the software that comes with the board. So pitfalls abound.

Anyway, I made this white thing, and I’m really happy with it.

Now that I know the lathe will function, I can pay for a Mach3 license and get the full version of the software, and I can think about ordering a z axis ball screw. I also have to get to work on the spindle encoder thing. I’ll need to buy hook spanner wrenches. You can never have enough tools.

CNC is great, but if you want to get into it at your house, you will still have to play Robert Goddard, even though CNC is over 50 years old. If you decide to do it, go with a mill. Don’t even think about a lathe, because you will be ALONE. Even a router will be easier. A mill is the best CNC tool, though, so that’s what you should get.

I’ll bet no one read this far. I don’t care. I love my shiny new part.

Hello Again, Mr. Chips

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

I Will Beat This Thing if it Kills Me

I have been trying to rehabilitate my wayward CNC lathe. I built it in 2014, and for some reason, I quit working on it. I don’t recall the final straw, but I know that I was frustrated with the motor setup, and I was disturbed to learn that the screws that move the carriage (one of which cost a ton of money) were not adequate for good machining.

I started working on it last week, and I learned a few things.

First off, the screws aren’t that bad. The screw on the x axis (toward and away from the operator) is accurate to within a thousandth or so, which is about as good as I will ever need it to be. The other screw (z, or left and right) can be made accurate to within a couple of thousandths, which will do for 98% of hobby projects. I would be better of with ball screws, which have no significant backlash, but I don’t need them at this stage. Better to put my effort into making the motors and programs work.

Second thing: ball screws are getting cheaper and easier to find. I should be able to replace the z screw for under a hundred bucks, and the x screw, if it needs to be replaced at all, will be less.

Third thing: you don’t need a compound rest on a CNC lathe. A compound rest, for those of you who haven’t stopped reading already, is a second slide on top of the main carriage slide. The main slide, or cross slide, moves the tool toward you and away from you. The compound sits on it, and it can be swiveled, so it can move the tool in all sorts of directions in the horizontal plane.

A compound is very useful in manual machining, but with CNC, it’s a problem, unless it’s connected to a computer. The computer needs to control all movement and know where everything is, and that doesn’t happen with a compound that isn’t wired up. You have to leave it in one position all the time, so the computer knows where it is. That means it takes up space for no reason, and because compound rests are inherently wobbly, it adds error.

I took mine off and replaced it with a nice aluminum block. I was really happy with the block. It’s probably the first thing I’ve ever machined successfully, in one try, with no errors.

07 03 16 CNC mini lathe with new cross slide mount

Now if I can just get the lathe to work.

The little flat part that projects in front of the tool post is probably not necessary, but I left it there in case I found a need to mount additional stuff. You never know.

Fourth thing: if you use a KFlop controller, like mine, you will not be able to do threading without two spindle inputs. Mach3, the program just about everyone uses, will let you observe your spindle’s movements with a single sensor that, obviously, sends a signal once every rotation. The KFlop isn’t having that, so I have to rig up a two-sensor thing.

The mini-lathe came with variable speed and a tachometer, so it has a spindle sensor already. There is a disk around the spindle at one end, and there is a hole in the disk. The disk runs through a caliper-looking thing which contains an optical sensor. Every time the hole goes through, the sensor sends a signal to the tachometer, and the lathe tells me how fast it’s going.

The CNC plans I bought say to buy a new sensor and install it on the spindle. The sensor is inductive. That must mean it has a coil in it. Anyway, you mount a small flat piece of metal on the spindle, and every time it passes the new sensor, it makes current run through the sensor, telling the controller what the spindle is doing. When I realized the lathe already had a sensor, I decided to try to hack into it and connect it to the KFlop. That’s when I found out it won’t work. Now I have to put a second disk on the spindle with two cheap optical sensors at 90 degrees to each other.

I still can’t get the software to work right. That’s largely because I made a lathe and not a mill. You have to be stupid to make a lathe, because no one does it. Because there are so few hobby CNC lathes, there are very few people who can help you with problems. Also, the people who make the KFlop do not provide computer code for two-axis machines, so you may have to learn to alter C programs to work in two dimensions.


Nonetheless, things are moving right along.

I have one problem which is strictly physical, i.e., not in software. I crashed the lathe a long time ago, and now it tends to sputter. I changed the brushes on the motor, and it didn’t help. The old brushes were fine. I am now wondering if I damaged the contacts on the switch that changes the lathe from forward to reverse motion. Anyway, it’s one more thing to fix.

I bought a long piece of Delrin rod from Zoro Tools. I figured it would be more forgiving than aluminum when the lathe crashed. We’ll see. And Delrin is very useful stuff.

In other news, I am learning a lot about dementia. This week I realized that dementia is like dissection. It shows you what’s under people’s skin. It tells you what’s inside them.

My dad keeps having problems with his prescriptions, which I dole out for him, putting everything in a pill organizer. His doctor is supposed to keep them flowing to him by mail, by keeping his refills up to date. The supplier is supposed to send new pills automatically. Over and over, they screw up. I call the supplier, and they say the doctor didn’t update the prescription. I call the doctor, and they tell me to talk to the supplier. No one ever says the obvious thing, which is, “We are incompetent. Sorry. We’ll fix it.”

He ran out of one of his medications, and there was turmoil for about half an hour.

He can’t keep the names of the companies that supply his drugs straight. He can’t remember who sends the prescriptions. He became very angry and agitated, and he kept asking me the same things over and over. I was very calm about it; this is a problem that literally takes 30 seconds to fix. You make a note to call the doctor and the prescription people, and you go on with life. He kept telling me he couldn’t have this chaos in his life, and he was clearly upset that I wasn’t upset.

I had a sudden realization: he enjoys being angry and upset. It brings him pleasure. He doesn’t like to see it end. In the instant I saw that, a lot of things from my childhood started to make sense.

Most people don’t like being upset. When they get upset, they look for solutions to put an end to it. My dad never did that. When he got angry, he looked for ways to prolong it and spread it to other people. He used to get mad at people he couldn’t rattle. He thought there was something wrong with them. He had an employee he criticized for being unflappable; he found the man extremely frustrating, just because he didn’t burst into tears or share in the hysteria. I didn’t understand that. Now I do.

My house was always full of stress and yelling. When we would ask him to calm down, he always said, “Don’t tell me to calm down!” Now I see why he did that. He was enjoying himself.

You couldn’t tell him you were sorry and have an end to the problem. Even if you fixed the problem on the spot, he kept going. He didn’t stop until he got tired, and that could take hours. Sometimes he would run down and stop, and then it would start up again later. Sometimes he resumed days afterward.

I can’t believe I never saw this before.

It shows how harmful bad habits are to older people. When you’re 50 and you still have it together, you can change. When you become demented, forget it. People can’t help you with good advice, because you can’t receive it. All they can do is try to limit your suffering. And theirs. By spending less time with you.

Whatever you’re hiding from your kids today will eventually be so obvious it might as well be on a billboard.

Awareness of the problems my parents and grandparents have or had is not useless. It can’t help them, but it can help me. These things are caused or exacerbated by spirits, and those spirits leave the dead and prey on their descendants. As is so often the case, I am presented with a situation in which I can be blessed through others, yet I can’t bless them in return.

My dad’s potential to change and enjoy life is limited, and my sister is a lost cause. I don’t even know if she’s alive. The strange thing is that I’m not agitated about it. Many Christians have the idea that you’re never supposed to stop weeping and worrying over people; that’s a huge lie. We are supposed to be blessed, and you can’t be blessed if your life consists of perpetual handwringing over people who choose, habitually and over a course of decades, to harm themselves.

The Holy Spirit killed Ananias and Sapphira; people forget that. Peter spoke curses to them, and they died on the spot. He didn’t weep. He didn’t beg them to change. I’m sure he wasn’t happy about what happened to them, but the Holy Spirit tells us which battles to fight and which to drop, and he apparently chose not to have Peter wear himself out on Ananias and Sapphira.

We don’t know what people did for them in the time leading up to their deaths. They may have fasted and prayed for them every day for months.

I pray for my dad every day. I do what I can in the supernatural, and I make his life easy. That’s plenty of effort; I’m doing what I’m supposed to. Results can’t be guaranteed; I am not responsible for them. I am content.

I have more peace now that I understand what’s going on. That’s good. It’s bad when other people can’t be blessed, but I’ll take my blessings just the same.

Pipe Dreams

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

My Joint Ventures are Faring Poorly

Unbelievably, I had to re-re-redo the PVC pipes on my pool pump. I’m starting to think PVC is cursed.

I fixed it last month, and then I waited for the pump shed to dry out. I figured I could continue cleaning and improving once the water was gone. I went out there a couple of days ago to check on things, and the floor was still wet.

Worse, the accumulation of dirt and leaves covering the floor was still wet.

Here in South Florida, all pool guys are English-deaf. You can’t tell them anything. And if you do, it doesn’t matter, because they won’t do it, or they will be replaced in three weeks by new people who didn’t get el memo. I figured the persistent water problem was caused by the pool guy’s continuing failure to tighten the pump lid down, and by my continuing failure to check it whenever he left the property.

Yesterday I took a closer look, and water was dripping from my new pipe system. Incredible.

The crud on the floor was there because all landscape guys in this area are English-deaf. They are also unable to use rakes. They use leaf blowers for everything. You can’t tell them not to use leaf blowers, and the blowers blow dirt and leaves into every opening available. Over the years, it adds up.

I got a shovel, a hoe, and a shop-vac, and I removed a tremendous amount of dirt and plant matter. I actually saw the concrete floor; it’s not just a myth. It’s really there.

Before I got into this mess, I hated slip joints. A slip joint is a place where a pipe slides into a fitting. It has no threads. You have to cement it together, and after that, you can’t take it apart. I hated them because I thought they were a copout, and because they turn repairable systems into replaceable systems. If you have one bad fitting in a big conglomeration of parts that are cemented together, there is a good chance you’ll have to throw everything out and start over. I liked threaded joints, which can be taken apart.

I now think slip joints rock, and I hate threaded joints.

When I examined my pipes, I found that the cemented joints were fine, and at least two threaded joints were leaking, giving me a threaded-joint failure rate of about 67%.

I had to get out the sawzall (which I don’t capitalize because it’s not a Milwaukee) and cut the pipes off the pump.

I got on the web and looked around, trying to find out what I should do. Are threaded joints just plain bad? Were my joints too tight? Were they too loose? Should I have used tape instead of dope?

Here is what I found out: dope is better than tape (yay), and doped joints have to be tightened as hard as humanly possible.

My leaking joints were very tight, but they leaked anyway. I didn’t tighten them as much as I could have, because I was afraid the fittings would split. Now my feeling is, tighten away, and if the fittings split, get new fittings. Buy extra fittings before you build your joints just in case.

This time, I took the offending structure out of the pump shed and put it in my bench vise. I tightened the joints way, way, way down, and I reinstalled everything. I had to replace one threaded joint, so I used a 24″ pipe wrench to tighten it. I used a ton of dope. I was not going to tolerate a too-dry fit that prevented the male end from bottoming, and I was not going to put up with water leaks caused by gaps in the dope.

Is this the correct way to do it? I do not know. I know that the common sense way didn’t work, so now I’m using the brute-force moron approach, and so far, I have no leaks.

I used a huge amount of cement on the new slip joints. Cement melts PVC, so presumably, if you use a lot, you end up with lots of fused plastic to prevent leaks. That is my hope.

I guarantee you, there is no one within 30 miles who would have come here and done this job correctly in exchange for money. This county is the doofus capital of the universe. Even though I’ve done it wrong twice, I still feel like I’m way ahead of the game. I only spent like a hundred bucks, and I didn’t have to yell at anyone or threaten to sue.

It’s a shame I can’t fix roofs. Don’t even get me started on that nightmare.

Here is my advice: if you have to do PVC plumbing, only use threaded fittings when you have a compelling reason. Tighten the crap out of everything, use dope instead of tape, and use lots of cement on slip joints. Buy a sawzall, too. It will cut any PVC joint ever made in under ten seconds.

Make sure you tighten your threaded joints as early as possible in the process to get them into their final form. See to it that you leave slip joints for last, because they can be wiggled and adjusted before you add the glue, helping you to get things aligned. If you move a threaded joint, you risk creating a leak.

Now watch the pipes start leaking, proving everything I just wrote is wrong.

I hate swimming pools. Biggest con since time shares.

Flop Gear

Monday, June 20th, 2016

More Bomb Than Bombshell

I have something important to write about today. The new Top Gear is really bad.

I got in the habit of recording TV shows because it gave me something to do when I took the birds out of their cages. Sometimes they interact with me a lot, but Maynard really likes standing on my ankle and staring into space, so his out time is not always exciting. Top Gear became a favorite. I don’t care all that much about cars, but I love good comedy, especially when it’s politically conservative.

Jeremy Clarkson was the soul of the show. He turned it into the biggest TV franchise on the planet, and on his watch, they brought in James May and Richard Hammond, two of the funniest TV hosts in existence.

If the BBC suits had had their way (I am guessing without proof), the show probably would have been about hideous practical cars actual people could afford, and it would have been full of boring information about mileage and reliability. Instead, it’s about ridiculous supercars that cost seven figures, and they spend a lot of time crushing stuff and blowing things up.

Clarkson had a lot of problems. Sometimes he offended hippies in ways no one cares about, but he had a few incidents that appeared to reveal racist tendencies. For example, he and Richard Hammond looked at a wobbly bridge in the Burma, just as an Asian man walked onto it, and Clarkson said there was “a slope on it.”

I don’t know why Hammond didn’t get in trouble, since he was part of the joke.

Clarkson kept offending, and he was put on double-secret probation. Then he flipped out and punched a Top Gear employee. Something about not being able to get a steak.

The Beeb finally had to give principle more weight than greed, and Clarkson was “sacked,” as the British like to say. It conjures images of limp bodies of former employees being carried out of their workplaces in burlap bags.

I agree with their decision. You can’t let employees hit each other. It was cute when he punched Piers Morgan, but that was on his own time, and it was a public service for which he should have received a knighthood. Punching a subordinate is not acceptable.

Fans lost their minds, as though a frivolous TV show were essential to the survival of the universe. They cluttered the show’s cringing, defensive, groveling Facebook posts with comments reading, “Bring back Clarkson, Hammond, and May!”

Hammond and May joined in, refusing to work on the show without Clarkson. Maybe they’re loyal, or maybe they understand what a huge talent he is, and they want the money to keep pouring in. The merry trio departed the BBC and signed up for a show on Amazon Prime, which is apparently a network. If you’ve never heard of it, join the club. To me, “Amazon Prime” means a sucker deal where Amazon charges you a hundred bucks a year to bring your packages on time. Maybe people in England watch Amazon TV, but I have never felt like tuning in.

In the meantime, the BBC has made a lot of horrible errors.

1. They started 2016 with a whole bunch of reruns featuring the old cast, reminding people how great they were and that they would be impossible to replace. They’re still doing this, even though the new hosts are in place.

2. They hired Chris Evans, a squeaky-voiced Celt (perhaps I repeat myself) who collects supercars, to replace the boys. I don’t even know what to say about this. Evans is the opposite of funny. He is incapable of ad-libbing, he has no delivery, he is lacking even the rudiments of car-aficionado masculinity, and he throws up during fast laps. The man THROWS UP.

He seems like a nice guy, but he’s so boring I fast-forward through his segments. That’s how bad it is. He makes me feel sorry for him. I never felt bad for the others. Not even when they were driving through India in the summer and Hammond and May fixed Clarkson’s car so the heat couldn’t be turned off.

3. After they hired Chris Evans and made him look like a big deal, they faltered and hired Matt LeBlanc, the American comic actor and holder of the fastest Top Gear celebrity lap time. There are a number of problems with this.

First, LeBlanc is a riot. He is highly, highly talented. He knows cars. He has magnificent comic timing, and he is likeable. He even looks good and appears to produce testosterone. You can picture him with a wrench in his hand. He is everything Chris Evans is not. The contrast makes things awkward.

Second, they didn’t hire the hosts at the same time. When the BBC brought LeBlanc in, it looked like they realized how bad Chris Evans was and decided to undermine him, and this is probably exactly what happened. It makes Evans look threatened, which he clearly is. More awkwardness.

Third, they never came up with a third host. England is packed with funny performers, and they couldn’t find one. So now instead of a versatile three-man dynamic, they have two guys who look like they’re trying to cut each other’s throats. More accurately, it looks like Chris Evans has already had his throat cut, and they’re just waiting for him to admit it.

4. They hired two lesser hosts who don’t appear during the main show. I forget their names. They have zero stage presence. They are not funny. They are not entertaining in any way. They have no chemistry with the audience or each other. And their presence makes it look like the BBC is waiting for Evans to get fed up and leave so one of them can move into his place. This is probably true.

5. They made the show an hour longer. LeBlanc and Evans host the first hour, and the two young guys drag us through the second. When you’re struggling for ideas and content, why would you increase production demand by a factor of two?

They need to can Evans (cans are sturdier than sacks) and find someone else. It’s a shame Jason Statham is too big for the job. He’d be perfect.

I would love to watch the new Clarkson show, which is called The Grand Tour, but how do you get it without sitting in front of the computer and paying for it? I get Top Gear with basic cable, so it feels like it’s free. I’m not going to shell out for a computer service and watch it on a 24″ monitor. Forget that.

If there’s one good thing about the 2016 season it is this: Maynard can’t tell the difference. He is happy to sit on my leg and watch anything I watch.

I hope Amazon finds some way to get the new show inserted into a cable channel real human beings will actually watch. Warts and all, Clarkson is giant surrounded by midgets.

Trapped Near the Inner Circle of Fault

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

People Who Live in the Real World Wouldn’t Understand

I had to clean bird cages today, so now I’m in the mood for anything other than bird cage cleaning. I will write again.

Yesterday I was reminded of one of the big paradoxes of the Internet: being able to shop for things from the convenience of your home results in giant delays instead of time savings.

That’s kind of a distortion, but here’s what I mean: when you try to buy anything on the Internet–even paper clips–you will learn so much about the choices you have that you will spend more time studying and searching than buying.

Yesterday I had to solder something, and I saw that I was out of good solder. I still had bad solder; the kind that never seems to work right. I needed the good kind.

Two years ago, I would have driven to Radio Shack and bought whatever I saw. I would have been finished in 20 minutes. This time, it took me something like three hours. I learned things about solder while I was shopping, and I fell through the Internet-shopping looking glass, where you find out that the thousand things you believed before breakfast are, sadly, impossible.

There are lots of different kinds of solder. I did not know this. I knew about two types: lead-free, which sounded unwholesome, deluded, and leftist, and leaded, which, I figured, had to be the best, because, hey…lead. Anything that contains ingredients hippies hate will always turn out to be the best kind available.

I am not even a little scared of lead. I used to chew lead split shots because I liked the taste, and while I may be strange, I never got stupid or incontinent or whatever. Based on what I’ve read, I think the government keeps adjusting lead standards to silly levels in order to keep EPA bureaucrats employed. If lead was that big a deal, I’d be in an institution. I’m sure it’s toxic, but lots of stuff is toxic, and most of us manage to survive.

I started rooting around on the web, and I learned that there are lots of solder types. When it comes to electronics, the three main types are plain old rosin-cored, RMA (rosin mildly activated), and RA (rosin activated). Also, there are different leaded alloys. Two of the popular ones are 63% lead/37% tin and 60% lead/40% tin. I think. Maybe the tin goes first. On top of this, cored solder can contain 1.1%, 2.2%, or 3.3% flux. The word “flux” refers to the rosin, which is a substance that eats oxidation when it gets hot. Again: I think. Basically it cleans the joint.

Let’s see. There’s more. Solder comes in lots of diameters. You can get 0.015″, 0.020″, 0.025″, 0.031″, and up. If solder is too big, it tends to go all over the place when you solder little things. If it’s too small, it takes forever to fill a joint.

It gets worse. Chinese solder is not reliable. Big shock there. So you have to look for quality brands.

You have to wonder how bad Chinese solder is, since most of our electronic devices are full of it.

I also found out you’re supposed to clean solder joints. I had never heard of that. When you solder, you may unintentionally (or in my case, intentionally) leave melted flux on your joints. It’s ugly, and if I understand things correctly (doubtful), some types of flux can cause corrosion.

I went nuts researching this stuff. I looked at all sorts of nerd forums. I wanted to spend $20-$30 on a pound roll of solder, and I did not want to get the wrong thing.

By the time my eyes had gone buggy from scrolling, I had determined that what I wanted, probably, was 63/37 0.025″ 2.2% RMA solder, from Kester, AIM, Alpha Metals, or Multicore. And it’s impossible to find.

I’m sitting here thinking about the guitar amps I’ve built. Are they going to explode because I used the wrong solder?

I learned that it’s really hard to find the solder I specified above without paying a ton. I had to compromise and get 3.3% flux, which some people say is better anyway.

Now I have to wonder: was I better off when I simply drove to Radio Shack and bought the wrong thing?

The bad solder I already had came from Home Depot. I took a look at it and saw that it was Bernzomatic brand solder. It’s for electrical connections, but it’s not the right thing for electronics. I threw it out. Then I thought maybe I would need it for something, so I took it out of the trash. Then I thought about throwing it out again. Then I put it on the desk and stared at it.

I should also admit that I solder incorrectly a lot of all the time. When you solder, you are not supposed to heat the new solder directly and melt it onto the tip. You’re supposed to heat the wire and apply the solder to it, so the wire melts the solder.

Yeah, right. Try that some time. Your insulation will drip off or go up in smoke, unless it’s Teflon. In real life, you do whatever you have to. I plan to try to solder better, but I’m not going to melt components and insulation.

As for cleaning the joints, I don’t even know how. I think you use a Q-Tip with alcohol on it. I have never had a joint go bad, but maybe I need to try to do things right.

I read that rosin fumes cause asthma. Geez. What am I supposed to do? Solder in the front yard when the wind is blowing? Wear a sweaty respirator? But then I think about the hundreds of guys I know who’ve developed serious asthma from soldering. The ones who didn’t die first from lead poisoning.

I jest.

As I researched, I learned more stuff. You have to try to set your soldering iron so the heat is right. Different solders melt at different temperatures, and some electronic parts can be damaged by excess heat. I sort of knew that. My iron goes to 5, and I have been known to operate it at 4 because it seemed to be hard on PCB’s. But there are irons that actually display the temperature with digital meters. I’m not going that far. That’s just crazy.

Arrgh. I’ll probably go that far. Some day.

It’s frustrating when you splurge for what you think is the best tool available, and then you find out it’s second-rate. I feel like a guy who bought a Bose stereo and showed it off for his friends before learning the awful, humiliating truth.

I’m not sure what my advice is. I’m tempted to tell people to pretend they never read this.

The solder I finally ended up with is Kester 24-6337-9718. If it’s horrible, I’ll tell you. I fully expect to be unable to tell the difference between this stuff and Radio Shack Random Idiot Solder.

If you’re still going to real stores and buying wrong stuff, you should probably keep it up. You will never know the difference, and you will save lots of time. I love the Internet, but sometimes you just want toothpicks; you don’t need the best OSHA-approved, fair trade, organic, North American hardwood toothpicks.

If you use rosin-cored solder and you get asthma, leave me alone. If I told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you do that, too?

Let me Shower You With Wisdom

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Soap Scum and Ancient History

I have all sorts of fascinating wisdom and knowledge to impart, so gather around.

I know all five of my readers are wondering how things went with my homemade daily shower spray. I am finally ready to pronounce it a success.

I probably should have told you to sit down before reading that.

The recipe is dishwasher rinse agent, dishwashing liquid, scrub-free bath and shower cleaner, and water. I already posted it, but anyway:


6 ounces no-scrub shower and tub cleaner
1 tbsp. dishwashing liquid
1 tbsp. dishwasher rinse agent, like Jet-Dry (exactly like Jet-Dry, since that’s what I use)

Put it in a 1-quart spray bottle, fill with water, and use. If you start with a Tilex Daily Shower spray bottle, you will be glad you did, because they suck from the bottom of the bottle, so you won’t have a spray that quits when you still have a pint of stuff left. Tilex molds a suction tube into the bottle itself, and it goes all the way down.

The shower is magnificent. Even the Florida-limestone scale is coming off of things over time. I use the spray on even-numbered days, and it lasts maybe ten days. Cheap and effective.

The bathroom is now a cinch to maintain. I never, ever scrub the shower now, so three-fourths of the work of cleaning the bathroom is gone. A couple of times a week I mop the floor and toilet with water, bleach, and dishwashing liquid, I use toilet cleaner inside the toilet, and I clean the counter with various things. I wipe everything down so I don’t get water spots and so on, and I’m done.

Except for the hairs. I seem to shed about a pound a day. I got a stick vacuum. It helps, but I never get ahead of the game.

Note to self: in future, buy flooring materials the same color as my hair.

Another major improvement: I finally got decent bathroom rugs.

I guess that will not impress female readers, but I am a man, so I don’t think in terms of luxury all that much. To me, it’s a big change. If the bathroom floor is clean, I’m happy. I had a crummy old cotton rug, and I thought it was swell, but it started to give out, so I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and got some fluffy synthetic rugs that look and feel like sheepskins. You can bleach them, because the fuzz is basically plastic.

Now whenever I go in the bathroom with bare feet, the pleasure of the sensation of the rug against my soles reminds me how stupid I was all my life. I should have gotten these rugs sooner.

Thank God for blogs. Without them, the world would be deprived of paradigm-changing posts like this one.

I finished The Odyssey. I’m very happy about that. It was a lot shorter than The Iliad, but it still took a long time. I read much faster than most people, and I still took days to get it done. It makes me wonder how college students survive, with their relatively tight deadlines.

More than ever, I feel certain I didn’t read it in college. Mr. Cliff, you are a foul temptress. You stole my education. Like glancing-eyed Circe, you drugged me and robbed me of my ambition, and I found myself dwelling among the lotus-eaters.

My verdict: The Odyssey is much, much better than The Iliad, and not just because it’s shorter, although that would suffice. The Odyssey has a plot. It has a limited number of characters. It has structure. It’s like a real book, whereas The Iliad is like a dull blogger live-blogging a dull war.

I still say every character in both books is a jerk. Odysseus is a murderer, pirate, thief, human trafficker, and Zeus knows what else. He deserves to suffer and die, and he deserves to lose his wife and his kingdom. But Homer is so full of utterly vile characters, you find yourself rooting for the merely despicable, so it works.

I don’t have a lot of boring deep insights about the book. Odysseus takes twenty years to come home from Troy, and on the way he kills all sorts of people, and then he gets home and kills even more people. That about sums it up.

It’s a lot like a Steven Seagal movie, now that I think about it. Steven Seagal is an enlightened semi-Buddhist pacifist cop who has also dedicated his life to learning how to murder and maim people. He has a partner/wife/dad/war buddy who gets killed, or someone puts him in a coma, or someone kidnaps his family or something. He spends roughly 80 minutes plotting against the people who wronged him, and then he exacts his unbelievably vicious, sadistic, gory Buddhist pacifist revenge.

I can see the trailer now. “Odysseus IS…MARKED for DEATH.”

I guess scholars will fume and fuss if they read this. Yes, okay, Homer is important. I read it, so leave me alone.

Today I started the next reading, which is the first 140 pages of Herodotus.

The book started out with a surprise. I probably knew this already, but I tend to forget boring things: Paris and Helen were real people, and so was Priam. The sacking of Troy actually happened. If Herodotus and his sources are right.

Reading Homer sets you up to read about the Persian Wars by telling the story of the woman-stealing that started them. Paris (AKA Alexander) was part of it. A bunch of Arabs stole a Greek princess, and the Greeks reciprocated, and eventually things got so bad, Alexander figured wife-stealing was acceptable behavior, so he stole Helen.

There is a certain amount of dispute as to whether “stealing” is the right term, since it is not unheard of for women to be sluts. It may be that some of the women actually ran off (one may have done so in order to cover her pregnancy) and then blamed their “abductors.”

No, that could never happen. A woman would never sleaze around and then claim she was forced. Women never blame men for their sexual indiscretions. Oh, no. Impossible!

Maybe Tawana Brawley or a Duke Lacrosse player will leave a comment here.

The funny thing about Herodotus is that he says the Persians, who were caught up in this mess, would not have started the wars themselves. It had to be the Greeks. The reason? The Persians didn’t think it was a big deal if a woman was stolen. Apparently they felt it was like having your dog kidnapped. Annoying, but you don’t go to war over it. You buy a new dog.

Don’t get mad at me. This is the Persians talking.

I guess the profs at Columbia University thought about all this when they put the Lit. Hum. syllabus together. They thought about the way Homer connected with Herodotus. In their off time from burning American flags, blaming Islamic aggression on Israel, and vilifying capitalism while occupying chairs endowed by capitalists.

For a few brief moments I thought about this stuff today, and I thought about the Hellenizing influence of reading all this Greek nonsense. I thought about the tension between Hellenism and the followers of Yahweh. It seemed to me that even today, the Western world is fundamentally Greek and Jewish.

If you walk down any street in any American city, what do you see? Roman architecture and Roman letters. Modern people use eagles as the symbols of their nation, just as the Romans did. Roman culture is all around us.

If we’re surrounded by Roman culture, why mention the Greeks? Because Roman culture is Greek culture (which may be Egyptian culture). The Romans stole Greek ideas. Roman temples look like Greek temples, and all over the US, we have buildings with ridiculous bits of Roman temple architecture tacked onto them. Ayn Rand made fun of it in The Fountainhead.

We have republics, just like the Romans. We have civil rights codified in law, just like the Romans. We have a moronic, idolatrous obsession with sports, just like the Romans. We even have their dangerous welfare system!

Opposing all this, we have Jewish religion. Jews don’t like to hear it, but Christianity is fundamentally Jewish. It’s not the same, and we have filled it with pagan ideas, but the God of our religion is Jewish. Our Messiah is Jewish. The underlying concepts are Jewish. We believe the Jewish Bible is true. Jews don’t like Christianity, but let’s face it. It entered the world as an entirely Jewish sect, founded by a Jew and spread by Jews, and centuries later, the connection can’t be erased.

Christianity is more Jewish than Islam. Jews think otherwise, but it’s true. Islam is cruel and silly. It’s carnal and juvenile. It denies the truth of the Jewish Tanakh. The Jewish and Christian notions of the afterlife are much more alike than the Jewish and Islamic notions.

So many centuries after the deaths of Jesus and Homer, westerners still have tension between Jewish thought and Greek thought. We are like the Jews of Greek-occupied Israel, who renounced the dietary laws and tried to undo their circumcisions. The Greek-influenced world pulls at us all the time, and we give in. Every day we cede more territory. This is why America is lost. We ceded too much.

Interesting stuff. But Homer is still boring.

I feel another Steven Seagal trailer coming on. “Paul IS…ABOVE the LAW.”

That’s all I have time for today. I have to go to Toys R Us and buy a drone. I’m going to my godson’s birthday party later.

Okay, I am trying to con you. My godson is two, so he can’t use a drone. I want one for myself.

As part of my online scuffling about the worthlessness of cordless tools, I Googled around and learned about drone batteries, and somehow I found out that you can get drones for thirty bucks. I didn’t know they were that cheap. I would like to get one and see what all the fuss is about.

I don’t plan to use it to film my neighbors naked, however. This is where I part company with most drone users. I just want to fiddle around with it and learn a bit about RC technology. “RC” means “radio-controlled,” although it also means a fine brand of cola which Pepsi and Coke have destroyed through predatory marketing practices.

Here’s how I see it. I know I’m going to spend the rest of my life shaking my cane at young punks and criticizing them and their technology. That’s a given. So I might as well learn a little bit about their technology, if only to insult them in a more insightful and scathing way.

Enjoy your Saturday. Even if it is named after Saturn.

You’ll Get a Charge Out of This

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Tools Renewed

A few days back, on a hobby machining forum, I made an offhand remark about cordless tools. I said the more I used them, the less I liked them.

People adore their cordless tools, so my statement provoked a torrent of emotional argument, as though I had said people’s kids were ugly. I didn’t say cordless tools were bad, or that no one should use them. I just said my own infatuation with them was wearing thin, and I can back that up.

I believe the first two cordless tools I had experience with were screwdrivers. One, which was really primitive, was from Brookstone. The other, which came later, was a Black & Decker. They were nice to have, but the batteries didn’t last long, either short-term or long-term. They didn’t run very long on one charge, and they gave up the ghost completely after relatively short lives.

After that, I believe my next tool was a Panasonic impact driver. It came with a drill, which was silly, because once you have an impact driver, you don’t need a drill. You need a HAMMER drill, sure, but not a DRILL drill. The impact driver does everything the drill can do, better, while using less energy. Impact drivers run longer on a single charge, because of the way they generate torque.

I think I used the drill one time. I only bought it because the combination of the drill and impact driver was cheaper than the impact driver by itself.

The impact driver used NiMH batteries, which stands for, “Lame and Destined to Die Real Soon.” Okay, it doesn’t. Clearly. But it should. NiMH batteries don’t last long, and they have a memory effect, which means that if you top them off, you can end up with a situation in which the batteries will only hold a partial charge. Something like that. Look it up, because I’m on a roll right now.

I thought the impact driver was the greatest tool in existence. It magically turned fasteners without imparting the torque back to my wrist (drills can’t do that). It applied more torque than a drill. It gave much better control, so I didn’t have problems driving screws too far into things. It was much harder to strip screw heads with the impact driver. It ran longer than a drill. It had pretty LED’s.

I would have felt differently had I known the batteries were going to conk out while I was still getting to know the tool.

Before too long, the tool would only run a short time after a charge. I looked up the price of new batteries. I believe they are still sold, and they run about $85.

I also got a hammer drill. It was an 18-volt Bosch. I loved it. I used it to drive a 5/8″ bit through 12″ of aged concrete (concrete gets harder with time) without stopping. It was wonderful.

The drill had Nicad batteries. Like NiMH batteries, Nicads have serious issues. They die young, and they also discharge quickly when you’re not using them.

My love affair with the drill ended when the batteries stopped holding a useful charge. I can still use it for brief periods, but the batteries are not well at all.

Since then I have bought other cordless items. I got a top-rated hand vacuum for kitchen messes. It runs maybe four minutes, so you really need to have your sweeping planned out when you pick it up. I have a leaf blower. It runs long enough to blow crap off the porch, and then you’re done. It’s pretty weak, so when you use it, you have to choose your battles.

I got a screwdriver and a Jobmax as well. I also got a corded Jobmax. I don’t think I would have gotten the cordless one had I thought about the corded one sooner.

My newer tools have lithium-ion batteries, which are better than NiMH and Nicad, but they will still die and need replacement.

With this experience behind me, I will explain why I don’t love cordless tools.

1. They cost three times as much as real tools, and that doesn’t include replacement batteries.

The drill cost about $275. When I replaced it with a very good Bosch corded hammer drill, I paid about $90. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t really know what hammer drills cost when I got the cordless one. The Panasonic combo cost me about the same amount as the Bosch drill. I replaced it with an infinitely superior corded Makita for less than half the price.

2. Real tools are often better than cordless.

The Makita impact driver I bought is a lot stronger than the Panasonic it replaced. It doesn’t have as many toys on it, but then they’re not actually useful. You pull the trigger, and it turns. The corded hammer drill I bought has a real chuck, unlike the cordless one, with a real key. I paid less and got more.

3. In order to make cordless tools useful, you have to become a battery nursemaid.

You are things you can do to screw up tool batteries. You have to be careful. If you want to be safe, you have to make sure they never discharge too much. Also, you can’t tell how much time a charge has left on it by looking at the battery. You have to guess. A dead battery looks like a fresh one. So if you forget to charge a battery, it’s easy to get ambushed. You have to make sure you charge the batteries all the time, but not too much, because too much cycling wears them out.

If you screw up, you can find yourself holding a tool that insists on a 30-minute nap, right when you need it to finish a job.

The solution to this is to buy more batteries. That’s not cheap, and they’re heavy.

4. Tools use batteries that are incompatible with each other, so you have to have lots of batteries and chargers.

If you’re really confident that every one of a single company’s cordless tools are what you want, you can buy a huge combination kit that comes with two batteries. They won’t be the company’s best batteries, but let’s pretend that’s not true. You can get six tools, two batteries, and a charger for a grand or so. What if the kit comes with tools you don’t want? Tough. You take what they offer. What if you want the super-duper high-capacity batteries? You have to buy them separately, so instead of a grand, think about $1400.

If, like most people, you want a grinder from this company and a drill from that company, you will be stuck with incompatible batteries and multiple chargers. You won’t be able to prepare for a day of work by charging all four of your Milwaukee batteries. You’ll have to charge three Milwaukees, two Dewalts, a Ridgid, and four Bosches. You will have to keep all the chargers plugged in, and they will suck up room.

5. The need to buy new batteries will never, ever go away. Ever. Even if you break it down over time, it doesn’t feel good, paying $25 per year in perpetuity to use a tool worth $90.

Here is how corded tools work:

1. They are always, always, always ready to work, even if you just spent the last week in jail and could not get home to charge them.

2. They do not stop working because you forgot to feed them.

3. They almost never become obsolete.

4. You will never, ever have to worry about not being able to get new batteries or support from the manufacturers.

5. They generally work better.

6. They are lighter.

7. They cost a third as much. Not 75% as much. A third.

Does that mean I hate cordless tools? No. It just means I don’t need them badly enough to put up with the crap.

If I had to work far from electricity several times a week, I would get cordless tools. If I were a professional construction worker, I would get cordless tools. If I could deduct the prices of the tools and the never-ending cost of replacing batteries on my taxes, I might get cordless tools. None of those criteria apply to me. I do everything well within reach of electrical sockets, preferably with the air conditioning on and the stereo playing.

So anyway, I got the cordless guys going, and they seemed to feel like I was saying all cordless tools are evil and that no one should ever have one. Nuance. You know how that goes.

I will probably buy another cordless screwdriver if the one I have dies, and I do like the Jobmax, but I’m not in a hurry to get anything else.

With all that said, listening to the pro-cordless crowd got me thinking, and I decided to poke around on the web and look into cost-effective ways to save the drill and impact driver. I knew there were ways to get around the high cost of new batteries, so I Googled.

I saw some interesting options, so I got out the charger for the hammer drill and plugged it in. Nothing happened. So right away, I was off on a detour.

The charger is a Bosch BC130. I believe it’s the second one I’ve bought. They have a tendency to drop dead for no reason. There was no way in hell I was going to put down fifty or seventy bucks or whatever for a charger for a drill that doesn’t work, so I tried to find out what was wrong with it. I will relay that information here in case anyone else has the same problem in the future.

The BC130 has a resistor between the big main caps on the circuit board. It burns up. It’s said to be a 1/2-watt 180K resistor, and the solution is a 1-watt (minimum) resistor.

I’ll tell you what you need to know to get it fixed.

First, the case is held on by five Phillips screws. Take them out. Now you will find that the case sticks at one corner when you try to open it. Relax. There is a smaller circuit board that holds the charging prongs, and it’s attached to the upper part of the case. It is held in place by three black 20-gauge wires that are way too short.

You can pry the small board down out of its place. It’s held there by two plastic pins, and friction is the only thing that keeps it from coming off. Just pry carefully.

Don’t touch anything until you discharge the capacitors on the main circuit board. They hold lots of charge, and they can hang onto it for quite some time. The only sure way I saw to discharge them was to short their leads with a wire.

To get access to their leads, you need to get at the underside of the board. There are two plastic tabs you have to push back with a screwdriver, and they will release the board from the case bottom. The big problem here is that when you do this, you may short the caps with your fingers, so try not to do that, because you will die.

If your resistor is fried, you will probably see charring and so on when you examine it. To release it, you can attach a hemostat to one of the resistor’s leads and pull on it from above the board while you heat the soldered connection underneath the board. The lead will come out, and then you can do the other one. Don’t use too much heat, because the foil traces under the board are easy to melt loose.

Now all you have to do is stick a new resistor in there.

Unbelievably, I did not have a 2-watt 180K resistor, so I made an assembly using two 150K’s and a 470K. It comes out to almost exactly 180K, and because there are three resistors instead of one, the heat is spread out more. Hopefully it won’t fry like the resistor Bosch put in there. It was bigger than the old resistor, so I let it stand up on the leads in the space between the caps. I was thinking this might allow it to give off heat better, since it won’t be against the circuit board.

You might want to increase the lengths of the 3 black leads that go from the main board to the secondary board, to make reassembly easier. I didn’t have to.

That’s it. Hopefully your charger will work.

I did this today, and I charged up the old drill batteries. It may still be useful for short jobs.

I also looked around and found a Youtuber who has a video on replacing the guts of Nicad batteries with lithium. I may try that, just for fun. If I can have new batteries for $20 each instead of $100 each, I may want to keep the drill.

I don’t know much about lithium batteries, but supposedly they die permanently if you let them discharge too far. You can prevent this by monitoring the voltage while you use them. The Youtube guy found little meters that cost a few bucks each, and he stuck them in his modified batteries. Pretty cool. I suppose it would be bad if he dropped the tool and broke a meter; you probably lose some of the original battery’s toughness.

If you have the same batteries I have (Bosch BAT181), you may find them hard to open. The nice damen und herren at Bosch have decided that opening the case is VERBOTEN and NICHT for das konsumer. Because, hey, if you can open it, you can fix it, and then they can’t charge you a k├Ânig’s ransom for new batteries.

Bosch closes the battery case with five Torx screws (so intimidating, *yawn*). They try to make it look worse than it is by covering one screw with a piece of plastic that looks like metal. If you drill a small hole in the center of it, you can insert a sharp tool and yank it out. Then you can get at the Torx screw.

Good luck.

One more thing. I found out that Nicads often lose capacity due to whiskering. Because the green lunatics have gone way overboard in ridding the world of lead (one of the world’s most useful metals), electronic devices tend to grow metal whiskers on their soldered connections. These whiskers create shorts and do bad stuff.

Some brave people de-whisker their batteries using high currents. You find yourself a decent current supply at a fairly high voltage, and you apply it to your battery’s terminals. There may be stuff you have to bypass; I’m not sure. Anyway, if you have whiskers and you get rid of them by running jolts of current through them, you may find your batteries work again. You don’t want to leave the current on for a long time. You just want to whack the batteries briefly. Just pop them.

Speaking of “pop,” the down side is that sometimes the batteries explode. So you could die or be blinded or horribly disfigured. Things to think about.

I may try this on my batteries, after hiding behind a garage door.

You never know what I’ll do when I get bored.

Maybe this will be useful to someone. It kept me amused for a couple of hours.

As for cordless tools, yes, they have their place. But I’m glad I’m not sitting here trusting my work to a cordless compu

I’ll Have the Sparkling Water

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Rum Wears Out its Welcome

I had a lot of fun fooling around with tiki drinks this week, but I think I’m done for a while. I’m starting to think there is something poisonous in rum.

When I was in college, I thought drunkenness was a good thing, and I worked at it. It was very unusual for me to get sick, but I managed it a few times. I also got sick once after I graduated from law school. The two worst hangovers I ever had were from dark rum. It won’t just make you sick the day you drink it; it will make you sick for half of the following day.

I had some Jamaican friends when I was in law school, and one of them told me they don’t drink dark rum. She said it was for the tourists. I guess the Jamaicans know something.

Anyway, I had maybe four rum drinks this week, which is not exactly binge drinking, and today I feel sort of off. I really think there is something in that stuff, apart from alcohol, which the body does not like.

I didn’t use dark rum; I used Flor de Cana golden rum, which is about the color of brandy.


I had a few days of nostalgia, and I really enjoyed cooling off after working on plumbing and so on, but I would not want to drink this stuff every week.

A lot of Christians are very worked up about alcohol. I don’t worry about it. Every once in a while, I have a drink. On rare occasions, I have two. I think I’ll be okay. I would not encourage anyone else to drink, if it’s a problem.

Some people rewrite history. They claim Jesus was a teetotaler who drank fresh grape juice and called it wine. Yeah, okay. And for five bucks I’ll sell you a keychain made from a fragment of the cross.

I used to brew my own beer, and it was wonderful, but I don’t do it any more. When you barely drink, what do you do with five-gallon kegs of beer? They sit and go to waste. The extra fridge takes up space.

The down side of giving up brewing is that it’s nearly impossible for me to get a really good beer. There are a few beers that are good; I like Flying Dog Snake Dog ale and Dogfish 60 Minute IPA. But it’s nothing like having four or five utterly magnificent beers on tap.

It’s not a big sacrifice. I don’t care much about it.

I did a lot more work on the house yesterday. I removed a lot of useless PVC from the pool pump, and I replumbed it. I broke down and bought a reciprocating saw, like a Sawzall. I got a DeWalt. They get good reviews. It did a wonderful job of hacking pipes out so they could be thrown on the trash heap.

I’m still bummed out that I can’t find anyone competent to take my money. I would be satisfied with work that is merely good. It doesn’t have to be fantastic. Good is too much to ask in Miami. Everything is done to the Latin American standard, which is very low. There is a reason why BMWs are made in Germany instead of Honduras.

Call me a racist if you want. Cultural differences are not imaginary. Defending your stupid culture is a sure path to loserhood. Admitting its faults is the beginning of improvement. If you want to hear some heavy criticism, ask me about the backward, defeat-oriented culture I came from.

Yesterday one of my Cuban friends used vile language in a text message to tell me how much he hates Miami. He has plans for bookshelves, and he can’t find anyone who can build them. Ridiculous.

I’m trying to figure out what to do about the pumphouse’s electrical ground. There is a bar hammered into the ground outside the pumphouse, and there’s a big wire next to it. It’s not connected. Is that because some idiot knocked the clamp off, or is it because it’s bad for the pumphouse to have its own ground? I’m trying to find out. I’m tempted to call an electrician, but then I think about all the potentially deadly electrician errors I’ve found and fixed.

As far as I know, there are only two wires connecting the house and the pumphouse, and neither is a ground.

I am Googling around, and it looks like the ground rod should be connected. I think I’ll hook it up and see if anything explodes. I would rather have grounding than no grounding, even if it causes some comparatively minor issue with the electrical service. When I say “comparatively minor,” I am using “instant death on the pumphouse floor” as a reference.

The plumbing is not right. The pipes are generally on the floor or close to it, inviting breakage. People step on things. Also, the pipes are not supported. I looked it up, and PVC at 100 degrees has to be supported every five feet. I’m going to figure out how to do that. Whatever I do may not be the recommended method, but it will work, and it will be better than nothing.

Things keep going well in my prayer life and personal development. God keeps moving me to higher levels.

I’ve started to get a better feel for the degree of brainwashing mankind has experienced. We feel self-conscious about God. Why is that? Why don’t we think God is cool? He creates galaxies. He confers invulnerability and power. He is in charge, and if you’re aligned with him, you’re in charge, too. Why do we think that’s something to be ashamed of?

Being right is cool. Being powerful is cool. Not wasting your life is cool.

Our perceptions are completely warped. But with time, prayer, and submission, it changes.

The longer I live, the more I realize the people around me are idiots. I suppose that doesn’t sound Christlike. Look at this place, though. We run around in circles, doing things that don’t matter. We devote our lives to things God is eventually going to burn. We love man’s temporary, cobbled-together solutions to problems. We hate God’s solutions, which are perfect and come without regret. This place is horrible. It’s like Sodom. We can’t do anything right. We hate the very notion of doing things right.

I can’t respect humanity. It’s too much to ask. I was a mistake to try. It was a rabbit trail. People have a lot of knowledge, and you shouldn’t ignore all of it, but it’s stupid to put human beings on pedestals. As far as we know, Buddha is in hell. Alexander the Great is in hell. Albert Einstein. Aristotle. All sorts of human beings we think of as superhuman. You can push respect way too far.

We ruin everything down here. The worst part about it is that we destroy human beings.

I thought about that this morning while I was watching a show about technology. They were talking about a special ship that upends itself and turns into a research platform. It reminded me of an experience I had when I was a kid. Don’t ask me why.

My dad represented the Alcoa aluminum company. They had a special aluminum ship which was built for research. It was docked in the Bahamas or somewhere–I forget–and they invited my dad to bring me to see it. They took us on board and gave us a tour.

Today I thought about how little I got out of that experience, which should have been very rich.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of everyone. I had no self-confidence. I could not talk to people. I had been raised in a house of abuse, and my response was to wilt and hide.

Some kids are not like that. They choose to be as aggressive as their abusers. I believe Freud called this “aggressor identification.” You could also call it a generational curse or a cycle of abuse. Kids decide it’s better to be the abuser than the abused, so that’s the path they take. My sister went that way.

I couldn’t cope with life. Mainly, I wanted to be left alone. I was so used to losing, I was highly motivated to avoid trying. A lot of my encounters with my dad consisted of him verbally abusing me until I gave up and left him alone, which was what he wanted, so you can imagine how I felt about approaching people. He actively, deliberately worked to make me back down, feel bad about myself, and leave in fear.

I think this is why I love tools so much. Tools represent power and success. They counter feelings of being unable to cope.

Parents are supposed to prevent kids from growing up to be as I was. When a kid falters, his parents are supposed to notice it and take him aside and teach him how to stand up and respond to life’s challenges. I was afraid of my dad, and my mother was not much better off than I was, so I just sat back and decayed. When I was in my twenties, I started trying to compensate, but change was extremely gradual. The chains we put inside ourselves are heavy, and it takes a lot of time to cut them and push them out.

My dad didn’t seem to realize he was supposed to do anything to help me or my sister in life. As long as food was on the table, he felt like his job was done and that everyone should be grateful and obedient. It’s strange, because his own father was not like that.

I wonder if the men on the ship noticed the destruction in me. I notice it when I meet kids who can’t engage. I wonder if they tried to interest me in the ship and the research and then pulled back, realizing I had been ruined.

I don’t think shyness is normal. I think it’s a flag that exposes abuse. No matter how much you pretend in public, if your kids are shy, there has to be a reason, and you’re probably it.

You can have sympathy for other people’s kids, but usually, your ability to help them is limited. If you want to help, you have to look for opportunities to do or say something effective. Vigilance is important.

We ruin our children. We don’t submit to God. We put our flesh in charge. Our flesh puts Satan in charge. The result is that we become poisonous to people we are supposed to help.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot today. I can’t undo my childhood. I have been able to help a few younger people, though. Maybe that’s an acceptable exchange. Satan screwed up my youth, so I am being used to screw up his plans and help several other people. His evil is being multiplied back to him.

Interesting stuff.

I should have done better, but here I am, as I am, so I work with what I have.

Today I plan to make some adjustments to the pool pipes and put a clamp out the pumphouse ground. After that, I think I’ll relax and knock off some more of The Odyssey.

I have to say, I’m disgusted with mythology and the characters of Greek literature. People like Odysseus and Achilles were the scum of the earth. They were pirates, and “pirate” is not a flattering term. They were murderers, rapists, thieves, and slave masters. They were sadistic. They were greedy. They thought nothing of pitching babies off of city walls. It’s strange that we see them in a positive light. If there is a significant difference between these characters and the drug gangs in Mexico, I am hard-pressed to see it. The more I read, the more I root for them to lose.

I hope you’re enjoying your Saturday. Go easy on demon rum.

You Can’t Beat That Salvadoran Craftsmanship

Friday, May 6th, 2016

No Wonder They Want to Get Away From It

The saga of the sprinkler pump continues, much like the decade-long siege of Troy.

It’s interesting to examine the gargantuan sprinkler/irrigation apparatus in the shed, and to note its many revolting flaws.

The whole thing is situated about two and a half feet below the water level of the pool. That means water is always trying to get into the shed, even when everything is turned off. Whenever a valve or a joint has a problem, water starts dribbling out.

The sprinkler pump is connnected to the pool system so the pool can be filled from a well instead of the tap, and so the irrigation pump can be used to drain the pool. The sad result of this is that if the valve going from the sprinkler pump to the pool-fill outlet leaks (it does), water leaks from the pool into the sprinkler pump. You never see it. The water level in the pool keeps dropping, for no apparent reason.

I doubt there is such a thing as a completely reliable valve. Maybe old-style metal gate valves are good enough to shut down the drips, but the valve that goes to the pool-fill outlet is in a section of the system that’s all PVC, so the valve is a crappy plastic ball valve.

The pool pump is also under constant pressure from the pool water, so water escapes from the plumbing and goes on the floor. The pool service people are absolutely inept. They can’t do anything about it. They can’t figure out how to fill the pool; they just leave notes for me. They can’t seat the skimmer basket lid correctly so it doesn’t leak. When the return pipe developed leaks, they couldn’t fix it.

I don’t know if they realize people pay them to do this stuff. People don’t want to be their own pool guys. If I wanted to be a pool guy, I’d get a crappy Japanese pickup and fill the back with hoses and go to work.

They’re fired, as of next week.

Today I went out and replaced several feet of PVC above the pool pump. Water was coming out through two joints. Instead of replacing those joints and the pipe between them, they put in two crummy repair joints (one of which leaked), and in the process, it looks like they loosened another joint. I spent 45 minutes working on it, and now it’s fine. And I’m just winging it. I’m not trained. Shouldn’t they be able to do this?

The sprinkler pump was connected to a wall box using flex conduit. The ground wire from the motor went into the box, where it led to…a cap. There was a second green ground wire in the box, screwed to the back of the box, leading to…another cap. Some genius disconnected the ground AND took the time to cap the disconnected ends. Explain that. In a sane world, that would be considered attempted murder.

I got some 12-gauge extension cord, a 30-amp plug, and a 30-amp receptacle, and I made a cord for the new pump. The cord goes into the motor housing through a strain relief fitting. The other end goes the new plug, which I wired. I replaced the ridiculous flex conduit with another length of cord and the 30-amp receptacle. Now if I ever have to move the pump again, I can just unplug it. And it’s grounded! What a novel concept.

I still have to fasten the pump to the floor and finish the pipe on the suction end. The floor under the pump is always wet, and that makes it hard to mark the floor and put holes in it. The floor is wet because the pool-fill valve leaks through the sprinkler pump.

The wet floor makes it hard to finish fixing the pump, and the fact that the pump isn’t fixed keeps the floor wet. It’s some catch, that catch 22.

I know this is boring. I don’t care. I have to release some pressure. If you don’t like it, go look at Gawker. Before Hulk Hogan eats it.

I’m about one hour away from finishing up the sprinkler mess. After that, I have to find a company that can come out and fix the pipes under the yard and the sprinkler heads. That, I refuse to do. Everyone has a limits. Nothing is worse than working on sprinklers.

Eventually I will have to confront the problem with the grade. The driveway is too high, so water runs into the pool and sprinkler areas. I’m going to have to chalk this up to the total incompetence of South Florida tradesmen, just like my other problems. It should be obvious that you can’t raise a driveway an inch every time you resurface it. Whoever fixed the driveway last time didn’t get the memo.

I need to put some kind of barrier on the doorway thresholds, to keep the water from running into the pump areas. The thresholds are concrete, and I don’t know of anything that sticks to concrete well. I’m thinking I may go get some aluminum channel and attach it with screws, filling the underside with gunk to seal it. Wood will rot, even if it’s pressure-treated. Steel will rust. Masonry won’t seal against the concrete under it. At least I think it won’t.

Tomorrow I expect to be done with this crap. Then I guess I’ll have to fix something else another person failed to do correctly.

Spreadsheets are not Where I Excel

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Bring in the Dart-Throwing Chimp

What joy I’m having today. I wish everyone reading this could share it with me. I mean it. All four of you.

Maybe it’s more than four. I finally decided to find out what Feedly is, and it looks like I have 39 subscribers. Hey, it’s your time. If you really think this is a good way to spend it, I guess I don’t mind enabling you.

I’ve spent a good part of the day learning to use a spreadsheet program. I mainly use my garage computer these days, and because I’m too cheap to pay for Microsoft Office, I put Open Office on it, and it includes a spreadsheet. That’s what I used.

I was comparing homeowner’s insurance quotes. Yes, you may shoot me if you are in the area.

If insurance brokers actually wanted you to understand what you’re buying, they would use a standard quote form. I can state with confidence, but without research, that by 2016, this thought has occurred to someone in the industry. Instead, everyone makes up a form, and comparing them is nearly (and intentionally) impossible.

Here is my primitive understanding of spreadsheets. They allow you to make huge tables of things you want to compare or analyze, and you can do bulk math on the stuff in the boxes. I think that’s correct. I haven’t done any of the bulk math stuff.

I made three lists for three quotes, and I tried to line up corresponding costs so I could compare them. After I was done, I found out I actually had two quotes that looked like three. Or something. I still haven’t figured it out.

I’m only a lawyer. I shouldn’t be expected to understand insurance quotes directed at the ignorant masses.

The quote I like is the one that appears to try least hard to hide things from me.

The main thing I’ve learned is that hurricane windows are probably a good idea. I guess that was helpful. Hurricane windows cut insurance costs by almost two thirds.

I found some people to give me window quotes. I wonder if I’ll be able to understand them.

I also found tech specs for the sprinkler pump I ordered, so I should be able to get the crap I need to install it and turn it into a plug-and-play job by the time the pump arrives.


I’m a riot.

No, what will actually happen is that I will scout out the correct parts and prepare them as well as possible, and then a bunch of unforeseeable stuff will happen, and I’ll end up in the pump shed, covered with filth, using the wrong tools to do a bad job fixing problems I don’t really understand.

This is not my first rodeo.

I can predict in advance that I will do a much better job of installing the pump than anyone I could hire. That’s a certainty. I guess the pros keep getting their parole revoked before they can get really good.

I’ve never been in a penitentiary (let’s hope my luck holds), but they must have really wonderful roofs, sprinklers, and landscaping. Practically everyone in there who isn’t a lawyer is in one of those fields.

I don’t know how Feedly works, because I do not read blogs. My fear (not a big one) is that subscribers get the first version of anything I write. If so, I feel for them, because I never proofread until I’ve published the first version. I feel especially bad for anyone who comes and posts an angry comment based on a typo or something I deleted during proofreading. Like I’ll type something like, “I like women who have a lot of class” and forget to type the “cl.”

I have been somewhat productive today, and I have suffered tremendously, so I feel like I can allow myself to get back to The Iliad and knock off a few dozen pages. Yesterday I did something like 130 pages. This is like reading 3000 pages of a normal book while someone sprays soapy water in your eyes. I was determined to get it behind me, so I made the sacrifice.

Just a normal sacrifice. Not a hecatomb, complete with bulls and boars and bird entrails.

It looks like Hektor is not long for this world. When I exited Scrib’d, he was talking smack to Achilleus.

Greek heroes are a great deal like WWE stars. They can’t just kill you. They have to stand in front of a crowd and give a juvenile speech first. It’s sad, really. Both guys will talk about how bad they are and how they’re going to send the other guy to hell in several shipments blah blah blah, and then one sentence later Homer is telling you how the head of one’s spear is going in the other’s ear and out through his tongue, separating his teeth from his jaws and causing his eyeballs to pop out and roll in the dust.

I guess the Greeks never heard the expression, “I ain’t going out like that.” They DO go out like that. Over and over.

After a Greek hero kills you, he strips you naked and takes your armor (lot of good it did you), and then he either leaves you there for the dogs to eat, or he cuts up your dead body for fun. And then leaves you there for the dogs to eat.

So your Greek buddies are still running around having a gay old time, jabbing each other with lances, and there you are, naked, several yards from your eyeballs. And the guy who did it is probably giving another speech and laughing his butt off.

I fail to see the appeal.

Dogs, worms, and crows seem to do well in these stories.

I may actually finish this book today. I certainly hope so.

Not Pumped

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Mexican Electrics, Unbelievably, Fail the Endurance Test

The sprinkler pump adventure is not over yet.

My old pump is supposed to have 1.5″ plumbing, minimum, and the motor should be 1.5 HP. When I cut the old PVC off, I found that the pipe had narrowed to 1.25″ or less, and it was globbed up with plastic. The walls weren’t smooth and straight. It was like the inside of a cave. The pump (a Mexican replacement for the original) was 2 HP, so I was paying for electricity I didn’t need.

For some reason, I thought irrigation pumps were expensive. I just assumed. The one I had was heavy cast iron, and it was made in America, so I figured it cost a ton. When I saw a replacement motor for $165, I thought it was a deal, so I bought it.

Today I got the motor out of the shed, which was not fun at all, and I carried it to my bench. That’s about fifty yards, and it probably weighs 75 awkward pounds. I took the motor apart in pieces and then found I was going to have a hard time getting the shaft out of the impeller. The shaft should have been stainless, but it was very rusty, and there was no way to access the impeller without taking the pump apart. The pump was pretty much a unit, with the halves welded together by rust caused by the installer’s decision to leave the iron base sitting just off the ground surrounded by wet leaves.

I decided to derust the pump. I put it in a shop vac tub with water and soda, and I connected a battery charger.

After all this work, I went on the web and started researching pumps, and I found out a new one is only $300. That’s not chicken feed, but I was thinking $600 or something, based on what the sprinkler guys were saying. They are just as hopeless as the pump.

Now I have a new pump on the way, and I’m trying to cancel the new motor. I’m hoping they didn’t ship it yet. I ordered it late on a Friday. I don’t care. They are welcome to the return shipping fee.

After all this misery, I have learned some important things. I already mentioned the bad installation and the screwed-up pipes. I also learned that the motor I just trashed wasn’t grounded. Somebody could have been killed working on it. The person who installed it deliberately left it that way. I believe that would be the same company that just came out here and failed in almost every regard. Now I know not to call them again.

I’m going to install the new pump myself because NO ONE IN SOUTH FLORIDA CAN BE TRUSTED TO CONNECT THREE WIRES AND DO ONE FOOT OF PLUMBING. I would love to pay someone, but apparently that would be like going to the vet for a vasectomy.

Once it’s in, I’ll find a reputable sprinkler company on Angie’s List and kiss the old outfit goodbye forever.

I don’t know what to use for a pump base. Wood will rot. Even pressure-treated wood rots eventually. I should go get some aluminum channel. It will outlast the sun. It will get pretty crusty in the damp shed, but it won’t disappear like wood, and it won’t petrify with thick rust.

Tradesmen are getting really stupid. At least it seems that way. I know virtually nothing about irrigation or electrical work, but I am miles ahead of the professionals who have worked here.


Saturday, April 30th, 2016

ASUS Deserves a Kick in the Butt

In 2012, I got myself an ASUS Transformer Prime tablet. The reviews said it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to the world.

I wanted to be able to read ebooks. That was all I cared about. I could have gotten a Kindle or some other dedicated reader, but I figured I might as well get something versatile in case I wanted apps or whatever. The Transformer seemed like the right move.

After I did all my research and got the tablet home, I discovered that it had major wifi and GPS problems. The case on the tablet is aluminum, not the usual plastic, and it (DUH) interferes with radio waves. The antennas are inside the box, and they do not communicate very well with…anything.

On top of that, the little card holding the antennas connects to the tablet using pogo pins. These are little nipply pins that hold circuit boards in place. My understanding is that they’re not intended to be used as connectors, but they’re metallic, so ASUS figured what the hell.

When you close the ASUS case, two pogo pins on one side push against two copper strips on the antenna card, and you have contact. Or not. If something isn’t aligned right, or if the contacts are dirty (mine were), you get squat.

The pogo problem is so stupid it can sometimes be fixed by squeezing the tablet while you use it. This pushes the pins into the copper and improves conduction.

That’s not a great solution. You don’t want to sit in Starbucks squeezing your tablet with one hand and holding your $7 latte in the other while you try to look at Scrib’d.

By the way, some applications are useless when your Wifi is bad, even if they claim you can use them offline. Scrib’d is a prime (pun or whatever not intended) example. It won’t save your place in books. It takes forever to open books you have supposedly saved to your device. It’s horrible.

I’m not sure what to do about GPS, and I’m not sure I care, but I can tell you want to do about the Wifi. First, install a free app called Wifi Analyzer and check your reception. Don’t rely on those stupid bars.

The Transformer opens very easily. No, seriously. You can find sites online that show you how to do it. Basically, you pull two rubber stoppers out of the side where the USB hole is, and inside you find two latches. You push them to the left using the tip of a tiny Phillips screwdriver, and that releases the case from the screen.

The screen has a gaskety thing under it, against the aluminum case, and it’s sticky. You separate it by shoving a guitar pick (only the tip) in the gap and sliding it around the case perimeter. It will try to close up behind the pick, so as you go, put shims in there to hold it open.

Eventually, the case opens. You open the USB side first, and the other side acts sort of like a hinge. Don’t rely on my instructions. Find pictures online.

Don’t use metal tools. You’ll gouge everything.

Once you’re inside, you’ll see the antenna card stuck to the underside of the screen side of the tablet. On the outside edge of the case, you’ll see two copper tabs labeled GPS and WLAN (Wifi) or something like that. I don’t have it in front of me.

On the other half of the tablet, opposite the card, you’ll see two gold pogo pins that touch the card when the case is closed.

I took a burnishing tool and polished the pins and the copper foil contacts on the card. A burnishing tool is a little stick with a very fine abrasive on it. You can probably use 2000-grit sandpaper if you have a light touch. Maybe this is a mistake, though, because it’s possible that the crap I removed from my foil was actually some sort of grease intended to prevent oxidation. We’ll see. You can always grease it again.

To fix the Wifi problem, cut a piece of insulated stranded (not solid) wire 2.75″ long. You want very thin wire. Expose about 1/4″. Yank the exposed portion so the other end of the wire sinks slightly into the insulation. This will hide it so it doesn’t touch anything conductive.

Flatten the exposed part of the wire. Then rest it on the WLAN foil and close the case. You want the metal to be pinched between the case halves. This holds the wire in place. Don’t let the insulation come between the halves, because it’s thick, and it will obstruct them when you close the case. I suppose this could crack the glass. If you’re a real man, take a diamond burr or a file and make a little notch in the aluminum side of the case so the insulation will have a place to go, and then close it. I did not find this necessary, because the case holds the metal strands very tightly.

You want the wire to be slightly over 2.5″ long, because that’s a good length for wifi. The length affects the reception. The wavelength is 4.92″, so you want a nice even fraction, like ~2.5″ or ~1.25″. I am not an EE, so I may be wrong.

If you’re getting good contact, you should see a gigantic reception improvement when you turn on Wifi Analyzer. If not, maybe the pogo pin is too short, and you need to put a wad of foil or soldering braid between it and the antenna card.

I considered soldering a wire directly to the pogo pin, which would be the really manly move, but I decided to try the other way first, because it was easy to do and easy to reverse.

If you solder a wire to your pogo pin, you might lose the ability to remove the card (if you’re bad at removing solder), but come on. Do you plan to remove it?

Now you have a wire sticking out of your tablet. How will you live? It shouldn’t be a problem. Unless you’re crazy, you have a protective case on your tablet, and the wire will be easy to conceal.

Look, do you want wifi or not?

I used a 22-gauge black Teflon wire. It’s very thin and hard to see. I would guess that a thinner wire would work about as well.

The tablet works now. Very exciting.

I assume this will also work for GPS, but I haven’t tried it. I don’t know what the wavelength is or how long the wire should be. ASUS supplies a worthless attachment for improving the GPS performance. Everyone hates it, so I’m not trying it. They actually had a class-action suit and gave people a free attachment (“dongle”) and $17. I read that the dongle obstructs the USB port, so you can’t connect a charger. Yeah, that’s what you want. Power-sucking GPS and no DC supply.

I may to back in later and solder the wire to the pogo pin, but I probably won’t unless something blows up.

Enjoy your now-working tablet.