Jen is getting on a plane tonight to visit her sister, who is due to deliver a baby any minute now. We originally scheduled the flight and our plans around the baby being induced on Saturday, but a serious lapse in communication between expectant mother and doctors revealed that nothing was actually scheduled and there was nobody available to deliver on the weekend, so now it’s on for Monday. Which means that everyone who went north to lend support will probably miss the birth. I have thoughts, Internet, but I won’t share them here.

So Finn and I are winging it this weekend. We’re scheduled to learn how to make maple syrup tomorrow morning, taking advantage of a break in the cold weather, which should be lots of fun, and my hope is to stay outside for as long as possible to soak in some fresh air. Sunday we have some morning obligations and then we’ll probably do a bit of shopping to stock up before Mama gets back.

A box arrived for me at work this week with some replacement goodies for my home built loudspeakers. I got two replacement tweeters, two ABS molded ports, and eight rubber feet for the bottoms. Wednesday night I started replacing the hack wiring job I did in my freshman dorm with a cheap soldering iron and speaker wire; this time it’s new 14 gauge copper, clean solder and heatshrink over everything. As it turns out, the ports I bought are way too wide for the top of the enclosures, so I’ll either have to return them or find a different place for the vents. I may switch it up and put them in the back depending on how much clearance I’ve got; I don’t think this will affect the sound quality at all. Hopefully I can get a little time over the weekend to finish the other side and start making some holes for the ports and tweeters, and finish buttoning these cases up.

Date posted: February 20, 2014 | Filed under music, projects | Leave a Comment »

Pique the cat, after a long dry spell, has been two for two vs. our household mice this week. On Monday he dropped a very dazed adult mouse on the floor in front of Jen as she lay in bed; I was able to trap it under a glass and release it (well, honestly I flung it) on the lawn of the church across the street. Tuesday evening he did the exact same thing at the same time of the evening, and I trapped and flung this one further away from the house. I don’t think they were the same mouse, but I’m hoping the extra distance and Frederick road dissuaded the two of them from coming back.

After suffering through spotty wireless connectivity at the house (and the attendant expensive cellular data bills), I used some money from my first paycheck to purchase a new Airport Express, which should be here today. At that point I’ll shut the wireless built in to our FIOS router off for good and hopefully we can save some money.

Last weekend I got the IPA kegged with Finn’s help and got it set up for gas; unfortunately I lost the better part of a Co2 bottle and about 4 pints to a faulty dip tube in the Dubbel keg, so I had to drag Finn to the homebrew store for some gasketry and supplies. I still seem to be having issues with the one-way valve I installed on the gas line, and I need a new shank for my second tap line, so I’ll have to go back out this weekend for another trip. But the IPA tastes very good!

Last night I started cutting sheets of MDF board down for new speaker cabs, based on new calculations and the hardware I’ve got. I have to replace the original the tweeters I bought in 1992, one of which has died mysteriously, so I found a new inexpensive set that should be easy replacements. I’m cutting the wood down on a table saw and making everything with 45˚ joins, which will help make these cabs much more aesthetically appealing than the last ones. I’m also going to be buying premade ports and tuning them specifically to the cabinets, as opposed to roughing in ports made from wood, rubber feet, and new binding posts for the wiring.

Date posted: November 21, 2013 | Filed under brewing, finn, projects | Leave a Comment »

I got this pretty present in the mail this week from Northern Brewer: it’s a propane-fired burner for brewing beer. I’m low on propane right now, otherwise I’d test it out with the Hefeweizen kit I just got in the door. I borrowed my neighbor’s beer gun as well, so I’m going to bottle up a bunch of the Belgian IPA and clear out my kegs for the oncoming batches (there’s been a Belgian Dubbel waiting in the wings since last fall, so that will probably be the burner test batch).

This morning Mama, Finn and I all got up unnaturally early independently of each other. I staggered out the door and down to Patapsco State Park to get a half an hour’s hike in before leaving for work. At 7AM the bike trails are cool, quiet, and empty of spandex-clad missiles, which means I can enjoy the sounds of the forest and get my blood pressure up to natural levels. It’s going to take some work, but I’m resolving to hike every morning next week, no matter how sore the weekend leaves me. Hopefully I can turn it into a good habit instead of a dreaded event.

Speaking of bikes, I dropped my ancient Cannondale off at our local bike shop last weekend for some much-needed and long deferred maintenance. The total bill took me by surprise but so did her condition when the mechanic looked her over. They replaced the rear cassette, chain, brake cables, brake pads, and did overall maintenance, and the bike I got back rides like it’s brand new.

One of the things I’ve got planned this weekend is a long tandem ride with Finn on her trail-behind, and if we can fit it in before the rain, I’d like to get her practicing on her bigger bike. We got it at a yard sale the same year we got her first one, and for $5 it was a good deal. Last weekend I scrubbed it down with some car detergent and sanded the rust off with steel wool, and it looks 100% better. The tires are dry-rotted so we have to find some replacements at Target. I’d really like to peel all the Barbie stickers off the metal too, but I think that would take too long…

Date posted: May 31, 2013 | Filed under brewing, finn, projects | Leave a Comment »

Dusting around my collection of tube radios on Saturday, I got to thinking about why I haven’t added an iPod connector to my large floor set (considering it’s not pulling in stations anymore and chances it’ll ever get fixed are slim). Instructables has a great Vintage Tube Radio & MP3 Upgrade article which has lots of good information beyond just the upgrade– links to parts, schematics, and other good resources.

Date posted: April 8, 2013 | Filed under projects, radios, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

This is a project right up my alley: a DIY Cost-Effective Immersion Wort Chiller, via HomeBrewTalk.

Date posted: January 30, 2013 | Filed under brewing, projects, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I did a little WordPress wrangling last night and added a class to syndicated Scout posts. Whenever I add a post on the Scout blog, Idiotking picks it up and syndicates it over here, including it inline. It’s been a little confusing because there hasn’t been any indication that the content is from somewhere else, so I wanted to add a visual cue. I’m still working out some of the issues, and eventually I’d like for there to be a larger indication of where the content is coming from, but right now I’m pleased with my wordpress-fu.

To follow up on some earlier posts, the speaker cones I refoamed sound excellent now that they’re dry and reinstalled. On a difficulty scale of 1-5 I’d say this project was about a 3, only because I was sawing with an X-Acto knife next to a fragile paper cone. But, then, I also think nothing of disassembling laptops as a paid professional. It’s a great way to have saved $150 over the long run, even if they’re destined to be backup speakers in the living room.


Our iPod interloper is back in the clink for reasons unknown; I got another subpoena to appear in January for another court date. He must have blown his program somehow, and sadly I think he’s destined for some serious time behind bars.

Finn busted out her new Legos over the break and I spent a couple of long afternoons building and playing with her. The set we got is geared specifically towards girls, so it features a girl minifig, a horse, and a car with plans to build houses and other structures. After we’d built a bunch of the structures, I got the feeling the minifig was lonely so I went into the basement and busted out a couple more from my stash. She seemed happy to see them, and for the rest of the afternoon we put wings on the horse, the car, and anything else that touched a red balloon on the couch (it was bestowing super powers, you see), then flew them from one end of the room to the other.

In the basement, I rearranged all of our shelving units and reorganized a bunch of stuff we had scattered in multiple places. Up in the ice room, I bought some 2×3″ studs and built shelves to hold rubbermaid bins, which effectively doubled the shelf space in there. That freed up a bunch of space in the main room to hold more important stuff and move dry goods closer to the foot of the stairs. I moved the bikes to the back so they’re out of the way, moved my brewing stand further away from the furnace to avoid temperature fluctuations, and consolidated large woodworking tools to the back wall. I also ditched a bunch of dried out paint, tossed unneeded junk, and made a pile of to-be-donated-or-tossed stuff for us to go through. Once that pile is gone, the room will be much bigger.

Date posted: January 8, 2013 | Filed under general, house, projects | Leave a Comment »

One of the many packages I got last week was a repair kit for my speakers, which I figured I’d need over the holidays. The process is pretty simple, and if you understand how speakers work and how fragile they are, it’s not that hard to do.

This is what I started with: you can see the speaker with foam is pretty beat up. It took a putty knife and some delicate work to pry the paper baffle off in one piece, and then a lot of scraping to remove excess glue.

Speakers - before and during foam removal

Then I had to cut off the dust cover in order to isolate and center the dome on the magnet. This was the diciest part of the whole thing, because I was cutting over the paper dome with an X-acto knife. I also had to be careful not to nick or cut the wires to the dome.

Carefully cutting the dust cover off

Those white things are thin plastic sheets which slide down in between the dome and the magnet center.

Glued and waiting for foam

After letting the glue tack, I pressed the foam around the edges of the dome and then glued the outside edge to the frame. They’re sitting on the bench in the basement overnight, and I’ll be ready to put them back in tomorrow.

Foam installed and drying

Date posted: December 23, 2012 | Filed under geek, photo, projects | Leave a Comment »

Long ago, when I was readying for college, I drove to an audio store in Connecticut and bought a pair of good compact speakers to take with me. For some reason, at that time, when we needed to shop for music or audio gear, we went across the border to Danbury or Bridgeport to these huge locally owned superstores and haggled with salesmen on the floor. I picked up a pair of Baby Advents for $150, which was big money at the time. They served me well through college, following me from apartment to apartment and house to house. Now the foam on the driver cones has disintegrated and the speakers sound like shit.

I did a little looking online and found other folks have been having the same problems; there’s a repair kit on Ebay for my very speakers for $15. I also looked around to see if there are replacement drivers available. Apparently the OEM drivers are 6ohm, which is very unusual (most home speakers are 8ohm, while car speakers are generally 4ohm) but there are affordable 6.5″ 8ohm replacements available.

I think before I bite the bullet and buy new drivers, I’m going to give the foam replacement a shot and see how it works out. I’m also considering using a little of my vacation time to rebuild the boxes on my homemade speakers in the basement—but now that I’ve seen the Parts Express site, I’m thinking about designing a new set of smaller speakers for the living room. Hmmmm….

Date posted: December 13, 2012 | Filed under music, projects | 1 Comment »

File this under When I Get Some Play Money: CD Changer Interfaces and Conversion Kits for Jukeboxes and Wallboxes. The installation instructions look remarkably easy.

Date posted: August 23, 2012 | Filed under geek, music, projects, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

When I was in high school, I had several friends who were audiophiles. This was back in the days of two-wire connectors, when an amp still had a dedicated set of input jacks for a turntable. We’d spend hours discussing the merits of one brand over another, with German names competing with the latest in Japanese technology. I always favored Teutonic simplicity over bell-and-whistle laden Asian design, but my pocketbook was never able to afford anything better than third-rate Taiwanese gear. I did, however, build my own speakers, with the aid of a book from Radio Shack, several catalogs (this was pre-internet) and a trip to Canal Street in NYC to find a pair of 8-ohm woofers. I’d studied, I’d planned, I’d done the math. I had boxes of cabling, the right crimping tools, and the know-how to dive into the back of a component–featuring the complexity of a passenger jet’s flight controls–and make things work.

Somewhere in the summer of 1995, after years of crushing poverty, I’d saved up enough cash to buy myself a big-boy TV to replace the alley-sourced B/W Zenith I’d been dragging around since college. It was a 23″ color Sharp with a remote (a remote!), and it fit comfortably atop my bass amp at the foot of the bed. And it was great! It followed me from house to house and served faithfully, hooked up to all manner of AV equipment, even though it only had a coax jack for input. It saw its share of dents and cracks; a year ago or so, Finn pushed the Power button so hard that it fell backwards into the casing, prompting the creation of some plexiglas shielding. At some point in the last five years it started randomly making a high-frequency whine for no reason, but has remained the largest screen we have in the house and thus our main window to the outside world.

At my first Christmas party as a full-time employee, I was given a $100 gift card to Best Buy, and due to the limited purchasing options therein, I earmarked it for a future TV purchase. At that time the den was still a distant dream and we had a newborn to care for. Fast-forwarding two years, I had two more gift cards of equal value in hand and a big empty spot on the chimney in a finished room. Doing some research, and based on experience with computer monitors, I decided to spend on a Samsung, and looked at 32″ and 37″ offerings. I was afraid a 32″ would be too small for the space, and after measuring out a 37″ the width looked just right– about 16″ inches of clearance on either side of the chimney. I found a real nice 37″ LCD on sale and took the girls up to look it over on Monday evening. After getting one of the Best Buy floor guys to load it on a cart, I had to wade through five different upsell pitches (Blu-Ray player, extended warranty, Best Buy card, Best Buy rewards club, and Monster cable) before I could slap down all three cards and watch the balance decrease. (Points to Best Buy for not deprecating the value of two-year-old gift cards).

In the time between TV purchases, I’ve been eclipsed by several different types of technology. Component, Optical, HDMI, DVI… This new TV has an ethernet port, for christ’s sake. So now, the issue becomes: How do I get signal from the FIOS box through our amp and to the TV? Our amp is a 10-year-old Onkyo, which predates HDMI, and only passes signal through one source (meaning one must start the chain with Component and end with Component, for example). Currently, the pathway is
FIOS box -> Onkyo -> RF modulator -> TV
but I think it will have to shift to something like
FIOS box -> TV
where the TV becomes the hub for all of the components (assuming, of course, there is even a place to put the amp and speakers). I don’t have money for all new audio components, so I’m going to have to make what I have work–which means I’m going to need HDMI or Component cabling in 25″ lengths or more. My preference is to go completely digital to preserve signal quality, but we can go with component if need be (it will still support 1080p).

The first order of business is to get the stand I’ve crafted back from the welder (sometime next week, hopefully) and drill cutouts for the cabling. Then I have to cut a hole in the floor (groan) to add a plug and passthrough for cabling, and finally install the stand itself.

And, apparently I can use Serviio to connect the TV to my computer (in absence of a MacTV, which will be coming at some point in the future), so I’m going to give that a try in the meantime.

Serviio requires Java 1.6, which is not offered for OS 10.4. Because my server is running on an older G5 tower, I can’t install anything above 10.4, and thus, can’t use Serviio. Oh, well.

Date posted: January 17, 2012 | Filed under appliances, projects | Leave a Comment »