…but A Song of Fire & Ice has not. I’m actually several seasons behind on the show so I didn’t even watch the finale last night. While I’m somewhat avoiding spoilers, I’m not too concerned about it. Because it became very clear to fans of the books series from about season 2 or 3 that HBO would finish the show long before George R.R. Martin ever finished his novels. So however the show ended; if it is anything like the books ultimately end it will be more of a coincidence than anything. Frankly, I doubt they’ll be similar at all but time will (hopefully) tell.
My then girlfriend (now wife), Angela, bought me a paperback copy of A Game of Thrones from the university bookstore in Blacksburg, VA for a birthday present after I’d finished the original Dune novels. I was starting to read for fun again (five years of working towards an engineering degree means you don’t read for “fun” much). That book was recommended to her when she told the bookstore clerk I liked Dune. Basically, it was all about politics and family intrigue, but only in medieval times. And I really did enjoy it. The third book in the series, A Storm of Swords, had just been released and these books were starting to gain popularity. Also, that time, GRRM was cranking out these novels about every other year!
I didn’t read the subsequent novels for a while as I stopped reading much genre fiction for a few years (outside of Dune prequels). When I did get back to them, I had discovered the joy of audio books. Particularly, getting to listen to audiobooks to pass the time rocking our baby daughter to sleep. That’s when I also discovered Roy Dotrice. As much as I enjoyed the first book, hearing his narration brought the series to life in a way that’s still hard to describe. I’ve been a fan of Peter Dinklage since “The Station Agent” but I will always hear the phrase “A Lannister always pays his debts.” in a Welsh accent thanks to Dotrice. Don’t get me wrong, the HBO series is fantastic and the acting is wonderful. But there’s a reason that GRRM wanted no one by Dotrice to narrate the audiobooks and it’s clear why.
“Roy gave his all in the studio,” said Dan Musselman, a producer who worked with Dotrice on the series, by email. “George R.R. Martin wanted Roy to narrate his books, and he was absolutely right. Roy was the perfect narrator for the series and no one else could possibly have done what Roy did with the narrative, the story lines, and especially the characters. It was an enormous undertaking and worth every minute.”
And he was meticulous in his work and research. The night before recording, he would go over pages of notes on the next day’s characters. By the end of recording all five books, he had every character name listed in alphabetical order on more than a dozen pieces of paper.
And it’s not just that they’re the books and books are always better than the movie (nay, television series). When Dotrice wasn’t available to narrate the fourth book the producers got John Lee, one of the finest narrators alive today. I have listened to a dozen books he’s read (mostly Alistair Reynolds or Peter F. Hamilton), but it just wasn’t the same for A Feast for Crows.
Unfortunately, Dotrice passed away in 2017 and he won’t get to finish the series. No one knows when those books will be done and who’ll narrate the audiobooks. I’m sure to read and listen to them once they come out, regardless of who narrates them – or who the HBO show runners put on the iron throne. But I’ll still have Roy Dotrice’s voices in my head as I read the words.
We downsized from a Honda Odyssey minivan last year to a Honda Pilot. It’s been a great vehicle (despite the lack of a volume knob). However, one of the biggest disappointments last summer was that we could no longer toss four bicycles in the back of our vehicle and go to a park for a family bike ride. Our neighborhood is ok for very short rides, but we enjoy parking at one of the area greenways and going for a car-free ride, often on a shady path.
So I’ve been planning on getting a trailer hitch-mounted bike rack to solve the issue but of course, that meant having to get a trailer hitch first as our vehicle doesn’t come with one. I didn’t want a third-party hitch because 1) they hang below the bumper, which is an eyesore and 2) I had really bad luck with the wiring on a U-Haul tow hitch on our old Ford (the damage it caused to the system wiring cost me more than the hitch). My son has been really wanting to or more bike rides, so I figured the time had come to order some parts.
I did some research and found a couple of videos on how to install the oem Honda tow hitch for a 2017 Honda Pilot. It’s about as simple as it could possible be, with only six bolts to mount it. The part comes with the replacement bumper inserts and bolts. I ordered the part from Amazon, but you can get it cheaper (though not with free shipping) from https://www.hondapartsguys.com. It does not, however, come with any instructions per se; just a note on the box that you have to download them. The first thing the instructions state is that this is not a job for do-it-yourselfers. Other than the fact that you need a torque wrench, I honestly cannot image why not. Well, except that they want to funnel some business to dealership service depts. But no way am I paying someone hundreds of dollars to tighten down a half dozen bolts for me. I can’t deep-link to the PDF on Honda’s site, but it’s easy to search for the year and model and then find the trailer hitch instructions.
The first steps, and in my opinion, the most difficult (or at least time consuming) is to remove the old bumper insert. It’s just a bent piece of plastic but it’s held in by multiple screws, bolts, and clips. The only real trick is to understand how the pair of center-push clips work. This video does a great job of explaining how to easily pop the center down to slide them out. You save a couple of metal clip-on-nuts to reuse on your replacement insert that has the openings for the hitch. Getting the new insert back in placed required some persuasion, but once it was aligned onto all the clips and holes, it was very easy to reverse the process.
Mounting the hitch itself wasn’t hard to do by myself, either. I literally just sat it in my lap and the slid myself under the bumper. I was able to rest the hitch in the insert’s hitch opening and get two of the bolts started to then support the rest of the weight. I used my small power driver to get the bolts snug tight (I set it to 20, which I assume is Nm). The bolt heads are 19mm, but you can safely use a 3/4″ if you only have SAE sizes (19 mm = 0.748 inches; which is within the tolerance of most sockets anyway). I didn’t use an extender, but rather just a 1/2″ to 3/8″ adapter on the 3/4″ socket and was able to get all six bolts tightened to spec. The instructions mention a 22mm socket, which I didn’t have but purchased at Lowes for 99¢. However, I never needed it and honestly don’t even know what it was supposed to be used for!
I saw at least one video where the installer only lowered the spare tire but I’d recommend getting it entirely out of the way. The spare wench system on Pilot allowed me to just drop it onto a furniture dolly. I also saw where one person detached the muffler to get better access to one of the mount bolts. As I had gotten that one very tight using a small ratchet, I didn’t need a lot of room to get it to the full 70 ft-lbs of torque with the large torque wrench. I had never used a torque wrench before, but it’s pretty straight forward. The relatively cheap ($25) one I purchased from Amazon seemed to work fine and was easy to set to the desired torque (loosen a small nut, turn the handle to the measurement, tighten the nut back down). Just tighten until it “clicks” (which sounds a bit like a ratchet going backwards). This video demonstrates it nicely; though they apparently were using some after-market part and mention “140 pounds” (sic: foot-pounds) but the oem part was far lower torque.
Just for estimates, the difference between 30 ft-lbs and 60 ft-lbs was less than a full turn of the bolt, I think. The difference between 60 ft-lbs and 70 ft-lbs was maybe only 1/8th of a turn! But that last 1/8th of a turn required me to get into position for each bolt and brace my knees to the frame to pull. You’re not likely to accidentally over tighten these bolts to the full tension using a driver (unless it’s an air-powered hammer tool) or a smaller ratchet. I’d strongly suggest buying or borrowing a torque wrench and getting these tightened up right, though. They are so much more unwieldy than a driver or small ratchet, I would only recommend them for going from snug (or tighter) to full torque, though. Sure, $25 is a bit much for a tool you use so briefly but it’s good knowing the hitch is on to stay.
The nicest thing about the oem Honda kit is that it’s hardly noticeable once installed. It doesn’t stick out past the bumper (it’s actually recessed a bit), so no one is going to lose a knee cap or shin bone to this thing. It came with a little rubber Honda insert to stick in the receiver when it’s not in use, too.
I also ordered a Yakima Longhaul bike rack. It appears this model is intended for RVs or similar vehicles, where you would likely leave it in place. It doesn’t move out of the way or fold down. Further, it attaches with a large thru-nut. However, it was the cheapest Yakima-brand rack for four bikes supported on a trailer hitch. I’ve had very good experiences with their equipment so I decided to go with this one. It’s fairly massive but does the job. The bikes were easy to mount onto it using their zip-tie style straps and didn’t budge at all to-and-from the bike trail.
One downside we noted to the bikes mounted is that the backup sensors constantly think collision is imminent. So any time you’re in reverse (such as backing out of the garage), there is a constant beep that must be ignored.
As I was installing this for the purpose of a bike rack, I didn’t spring for the additional $175 wiring harness. I think I’ll likely have to take the trailer hitch back off to place it in the mount, which is not going to be fun (though at least I’ll get some more value out of that torque wrench investment!). That’s something to consider if you’re looking at doing something like this yourself as well. I’m not sure a dealer will be willing to install only the trailer hitch without the wiring harness (they’d probably still charge you just as much even if they did).
One of my earliest “nice” tools was a compound miter saw. I bought a “new”1 Ridgid 10″ miter saw about 15 years ago. It’s been pretty handy over the years, but I noticed last year (on my finishing storage rack project) that the fence was bowed. As the blade would cut through he piece, the piece would then pinch into the blade. At best, that just ends up messing up an otherwise clean cut. But worse, it can be a bit dangerous any time a piece is pinched like that (at least with a miter saw, the blade is generally pulling it downward into the support). I searched for a replacement part, but those are no longer available for this model.
Thus it was time to just try to fix it. The fence is a very oddly shaped piece of aluminum. I had to unthread the four hex bolts holding it in place. They were pretty tight, to say the least.
It’s important to have a references for “straight” and for “square” and so any maker should know what the flattest and most square things in their shop are for a true reference. I don’t have any machinist’s squares or a heavy, cast-iron table saw, so I just make do with some aluminum tools that are pretty good. I grabbed the large dry-wall square to use a flat reference. Sure enough, there was about an 1/16″ bow in the fence.
I placed some scrap pieces on the garage floor and used a 4lb sledge to hammer the center of the fence. Aluminum is a brittle metal, so I had to go slow. This usually mean 1-2 firm whacks and then check to see if it was level. I actually went a bit too far, and the fence started rocking side-to-side on my straight edge. A couple of whacks on the other side got it right on. I did have to shore up one side as the points nearest the blade weren’t in line any more (or maybe they never were?).
This was the most tedious part, but I got it so I could just slide a piece of paper under it. That’s going to be about as accurate as I can get using this method I think.
The fence is attached with round (or fixed) holes on one side and slotted (or adjustment) holes on the other. I got the fence placed on one side and then used my aluminum speed square on the other. This is where a good machinist’s square would be used if I owned one, but again – this whole fix is a bit rough anyway, so the speed square is good enough.
I also noticed that in addition to the “fixed” fence having been warped, which would have just resulted in the same issues. So I quickly adjusted that one too (no sledge hammer required).
A quick test cut and I immediately could tell the piece didn’t move a bit as soon as the blade cut through. And, just as important, it was square! (well as sure of square as I can be with my tools!)
Though as it turns out, it had been used to cut some stuff and returned (probably by some 2nd rate contractor), only to be sold as “new” by Home Depot. But it worked fine and I needed it for something at the time, so I just lived with it. [↩]
Wyatt & I went to the Nashville SC match with Memphis 901 FC tonight. We attended with his Cub Scout Pack and got to sit in one of the field level suites. The game was rain delayed an hour and there was rain on-and-off during the game, but we stuck it out. Mostly because, as part of the suite package the group got, we got to go out on the field and shoot a few goals after the game. Most of the families & kids had left due to how late it had gotten, but we stuck it out. Wyatt got 2/3 shots and I missed my one shot (trying to shoot for the corner). Still, was a really fun experience and glad he & I got to do it.
This project has been “in the works” for a while. I’ve had the pedal working for sometime but finally got around making the modifications to make it a modern pedal.
Let’s start with a bit of backstory: Last summer, my wife and I were helping to clean out my late father-in-laws tool shed. He had a lot of stuff and a lot of that stuff was entirely random. One such item was a late 70’s Electo-Harmonix Small Stone phase shifter. It was in decent shape, but upon opening it, the 9v battery corroded and ruined the battery snap. So it was unusable as-is. There’s not a definitive way to date it, but the pot is labeled 1377825, which means it was manufactured the week of June 19th (25th week) of 1978 by CTS (manufacturer’s code 137). So the pedal was likely build and sold in late 1978 or 1979.
The Small Stone is the other phaser sound from the late 70’s, where as the MXR Phase 90 is the one that Eddie Van Halen made famous (I have some theories on why that might have been, too.). That being said, it’s a great sounding phaser. I’m not a fan of the color switch on, personally1. But with the switch off, the effect has got a rich, space-y sound. This particular pedal just needed a bit of love.
The first thing was to put in a new battery snap to power the pedal. This pedal had a 1/8″ audio jack-style power jack. There are adapters for using this with a modern, Boss-style (2.1 mm barrel) DC power plug. However, it was a pretty simple operation to just drill out the case a bit larger and install a modern power jack. That got the pedal working again and how it stayed for about a year. And it sounded great.
Well, except for one issue and it’s why I think this pedal was never nearly as popular as the MXR or, for that matter, many of EH’s other pedals such as the Big Muff π. That is there is a serious volume drop when the effect is on. Imagine Eddie Van Halen turning the effect on for the drop-C# chug in “Unchained” and then back off for the chord progression. The riff would be ruined! 2. So I really wanted to fix that. Fortunately, 40+ years of history with this design and folks have figured out ways to address the issue. There are two resistor values that can be changed that dramatically improve the volume drop. I swapped out R11 and R42 and a quick test (outside of the case) saw the issue improve dramatically.
The bypassing mechanism on this pedal was fairly transparent. I personally can’t tell much of a difference when it’s in my signal chain or not. However, I did decide to make it a true bypass pedal along with the other mod, mainly just to add an indicator LED. Though I’m not a serious guitar player and never actually play live (or record), I do like having indicator lights on effects. If nothing else, it just reminds me to turn them all off when I’m done playing for a bit as a break during work hours! The updated switch, even just a cheaper “Taiwan blue” is still a lot less of a “ka-chunk!” than the old switch, too.
The last step was to drill out the hole for the LED bezel. Drilling steel is a bit harder than aluminum. I used a step bit as usual, but cutting fluid is a must in this case. Unfortunately, a couple of steel shavings scratched rings around the opening as I was drilling. I can probably buff them out, but a simple piece of painters tape would have protected the surface when drilling (and I usually think of that when it’s a powder-coated enclosure!). I boxed up the effect, plugged it in, and SQUEAL-EEE-OOO-EEAAA! Turns out, the output jack can rotate just a bit and short out on the color switch connectors. A small piece of black electrical tape fixed that, though.
Reverb has these vintage v7 Small Stone pedals going from between about $150 to $200, depending on their condition (they retailed for around $80 back in the 70’s). Even non-functioning, this one could have sold for $75-$100 (which would have easily covered the cost of a modern “Nano” re-issue model). So did I reduce its value? Maybe. Maybe not. There are some modded Small Stones also sold on Reverb going for even more. Many of those have additional controls added or the ability to attach expression pedals or other more significant modifications.
However, none of that is really the point for me. I think it’s really cool that this particular one belonged to someone in Angela’s family (most likely her late uncle, John, who played guitar some). I think of all the effects in my collection, this would be one I’d never really want to part with anyway. It’s got some real history; used by people I knew. And it’s been fun to take it and make it hopefully even better than before. It sounds great and though it may not have been the phaser I would have bought otherwise, it’s even better to me.
Some notes on that demo: first of all, it’s just recorded from my iPhone X on a tripod (as if the leg wasn’t the giveaway). The iPhone attempts to level out sound, so trying to show that the volume doesn’t drop when the pedal is engaged in this recording isn’t too useful. Next, even though you can clearly hear the switch clicking, it’s truly just because the amp volume is relatively low. There’s no pop through the amp. Lastly, I’m barely passable at playing this riff and trying to coordinate the pedal on-and-off with it was a particularly challenge for me.
The color switch seems to add second layer of phasing at a slower rate than the first so there’s a weirder change amplitude. I think this was more popular with organ and electric piano players than guitarists. I certainly can’t think of any recordings where I may have heard that color switch effect. [↩]
I’m not saying EVH ever actually even used one of these… In fact, after about 5 min of research, EVH actually used a flanger rather than a phaser for that particular song; but he did and does famously use a phaser for other songs such as Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love), but for anyone who did they surely would have noticed the volume drop. [↩]
For the moment, CNN’s headline is about grad student Katie Bouman who helped accomplish something extraordinary because she’s really brilliant. The world’s pretty messed up, but for its great to see smart people get famous for awesome things.
[Addendum: Dr. Bouman gave a TedX Talk a couple of years ago on how a computer scientist such as herself ended up working on a globe-spanning astrophysics project and how the her imaging algorithm would eventually help make the image possible.]
This is a basic element of many electronics projects: how to wire up an LED with a current limiting resistor. Most effects have a 5 mm LED and many wiring diagrams show a 4k7Ω resistor. There’s a fairly wide range of values you can use, depending on how bright you want the LED (and what the LED’s specs are). You can calculate out the exact value to use if you have the specs for an LED, but using a 4k7Ω works well enough for most situations.
What’s a bit less obvious is how to solder a resistor’s legs to an LED leg and the connecting wires. Here’s my method:
Using a pair of craft tweezers, I roll up the positive leg of the LED.
Then take the resistor leg and bend it through this loop, then twist it around once. This forms a chain-like connection.
Solder this connection and then trim the resistor leg back.
Curl up the outstanding leg of the resistor in a similar fashion.
Bend the tinned tip of your hookup wire at a 90° and hook around this loop to solder just like you would a jack connection.
Curl up the negative leg and solder a 90° bend from another hookup wire to this end.
Apply heat-shrink tubing over both connections. I picked up using the barrel of soldering iron from Collin of CS Guitars.
You could do NASA-spec solder joints if you want, but this is typically more than strong enough for connections. As for the resistor, it doesn’t really matter which leg you attach it (that is, before or after the LED in the circuit) as it will have the same effect. However, by definition, current will only flow through a diode in one direct, so it does matter that you have the LED leads clearly identified. That’s why I try to be consistent with using red as the positive (and typically black for the negative, but I was out of black hook-up wire during this particular project).
My garage is sort of organized, but it’s covered in dust. I knew it was getting bad and so I ordered a relatively inexpensive air filter for shop spaces. I’d had my eye on the WEN 3410 3-speed air filter for a while. Home Depot has the best price for this item, but it’s routinely out-of-stock. It came back in stock in February so I ordered one then. It arrived, I plugged it up just to make sure it worked, and then it sat on my workbench for the past 6 weeks or so.
I had purchased the necessary hanging hardware a couple of weeks later, but still didn’t get around to hanging it up. You see, our garage has really high ceilings (12′-6″) and the dinky 12″ chains that are packed in the box weren’t going to cut it. The instructions state to hang it at least 7′ above the floor, but I’m pretty sure 11′ in the air isn’t going to capture a lot of dust. I purchased some pre-punched angle and about 20′ of 300lb chain. But still, this all sat on the workbench (ok, so maybe my garage is less organized than I’d like…).
So, today I finally decided it would the be the day to install this thing. And apparently none too soon. My son wanted to go over to his friend’s house but told me he didn’t want to ride his bike because it was covered in dust (he’s not wrong, but we got it down and aired the tires anyway).
So the angle I purchases was a 4′ section, and I needed to cut it in half. I also bought a cutting wheel for my angle grinder. This was actually the first time I’d ever cut steel with an angle grinder. I did wear a full face shield but didn’t cover my arms. The sparks were minimal, but I wouldn’t wanted to have cut several that way. I could have uses the same cutting wheel to cut the chains to length, but my bolt cutter was faster.
After that, it was just a matter of getting the angles lag screwed into the ceiling joists. I used some threaded quick links to attach the chains, just in case the unit started swinging around. That proved to not be a problem. Frankly, this was probably all overkill to hang a 31 lb unit, but it’s room to grow if I need something bigger.
I had to add an extension cord to get it plugged into the same outlet as my garage door opener and my retractable extension cordBy the way, the retractable extension cord is one of the single best items I’ve gotten for my shop. Between that and my rolling workbench, it feels like having a whole new shop area.. Then it was ready to test. Admittedly, this isn’t a very powerful air filter. At full speed, it’s 400 cfm. Fortunately, that’s not enough to get it moving hanging from hose 4′-6″ chains.
I don’t yet have much of a sense of how well it works, but it gets pretty good reviews. I’ll put it to the test soon enough by taking my air compressor to start blowing dust off of everything.