imageThis is really a column about how when stars align, nothing can go wrong.

But is also a tale of house-hunting, aging, recycling, screwdrivers…and that old Beechcraft that we fly around the country when the mood (and schedule, and weather, and finances, and interest) strikes us.

The best way to lay this out is chronologically, I suppose.

A few weeks back, for one of those (weird, just felt a sense I needed to) reasons, I hopped on Amazon and bought a new screwdriver set for the electronics bench here in the hallowed halls of Urban.

This is the strange part:  I had absolutely not clue one about why I felts compelled to order it. By the way, should the compunction strike you, what I ordered was $30-bucks worth of Performance Tool (W1726) 26-Piece Screwdriver Set with Rack.  It’s not like I spent a zillion dollars on it.

imageWhat was interesting about the set (and it’s not a high-end deal, as you should figure from the price) is that it came with an assortment of tiny Torx-like tips.  Here’s a picture of what the tip looks like… as viewed through my magnifying work light on the bench…

The set looks OK and truth is, I bought it because in our home, screwdriver sets wander off all the time.  We must have several of them around, all different makers and so on.

As I was sitting looking at the newly sorted out set, I found myself asking “Am I crazy?  Well, OK, still, what am I going to do with this tiny TORX head?  never seen them on anything electronic…”

Now let’s fast-forward to my biennial flight review:  The GPS on the passenger side decided to blip out.  It kept on rebooting….and rebooting….and so on.  So I simply pulled the plug killing power to it and kept on aviating.  No biggie.

But then I got deeply into “How am I going to fix this thing? “ 

It was acting like a stuck keyboard and is used those miserable little chicklet rubber keys that while they may work fine for a while, when you’ve got a 14-year old GPS do fail….

Side note:  When a piece of equipment on an aircraft panel fails – even if it is not required to fly the airplane, you’re supposed to put a sticky-note on it that says NON-OP.

Sometimes we may not get around to that, figuring instead that if the GPS screen is black and it won’t fire up, that most people would figure the unit is “non-op”… but that’s how government works.  No, this was not a primary flight instrument, this is like the third or fourth GPS back-up on the plane.  A Kindle Fire HD with the android software for navigation, and since my phone is android, the software runs on the phone, too.   And that is on top of the high-end I-Fly 740 GPS which is really how we get around…        

Now we’re up to a week ago.

Figuring the GPS in the plane might be saved with a  keyboard transplant, doctor Ure bought a suitable donor unit (a black and white version of the color version of the GPS in our plane that failed) and took it down to the plane this weekend.

Which gets us to Sunday morning.

Elaine and I found a house we both like and we decided to do something about it.  It is far more house than we need, but as 70 is coming down the road, at some point we do want to be closer to the kids (so they can drive down to visit) which isn’t practical when the “drive down to visit part” takes four days if you’re not killing yourself or getting white line fever.

Turns out the house is a dream…another story for another day…but since things were going well – and I mean super-well on the housing front, I decided to go tackle the GPS at the airplane.

Well, turns out that while the keyboard is bad on the plane, the majority of the problem seems to have come from the previous owners putting in 4-double A batteries which had given up the ghost.  So what was happening was that when the external plane power was applied, the power converter down to the equipment onboard 6-volts, was stalling under load (as it should, or it would fry) and THAT was causing the power cycling.

Well, hot damn. 

At this point there is nothing to do but bust open the donor unit, take out the keyboard, swap and we are back in business.

Here comes the fun part:  I mean remember now, everything has been going perfectly all day long…

I look at the backs of the units and what do I see?  Those damn TORX screws.

And therein lies the lesson for this morning:

The next time you get a hunch that you might need a tool, go ahead and buy the damn thing if it’s not too expensive. The odds are good that something will pop up shortly that will require the strange tool that you never thought would occur ever in your lifetime.

I’ve had this happen with other tools I’ve acquired over the years.  For example, I was one of the early adopters of the Rockwell Sonicrafter (F50 Kit with Hyper Lock and Universal Fit System, 34-Piece).

I come from a family of firefighters who all “work the off shift” doing this, that, and home construction.  In all those years growing up, I had never seen a situation where I need a tool that would do the flush-cut down on the floor, like this tool would.  Yet shortly after arriving, we had three occasions (fitting moldings) where it was the only tool that worked.

Somewhere in all this is a fine lesson about listening to our hunches, or how being a tool slut isn’t an all bad thing.

And since my luck was running hot (on real estate searching and GPS fixing) I was smart enough to head to the store and buy some lotto tickets.  You never know – when the luck is running – what else it might rub off on…

New Favorite Song

Does music keep us young?

As you may remember, another of our crackpot theories is that in order to work at peak efficiency, the human brain needs to be fertilized.

And no, that’s not as in the rising orgasm of all that ancient kundalini stuff.  No, I mean fertilized with new ideas AND new music.

This happens to be something I heard in the car this weekend.

Thing is:  It’s new music with elements of rap, traditional rock, and so on.

When I got home, I played it for Elaine…she thought it was terrible.  (Which is why we have his and her playlists on the media server, lol).

I don’t know how it goes in your life, but around here, one of the most interesting long-term discussions is whether music as an art form may have peaked in the 1970’s rock era, or possibly in the 1980’s when the disco scene was evolving, and the new artists like Phil Collins and such were coming along.

No, every age has its music, holds on theory – and to be with the day we need to surf the change as it comes lest we put down time anchors in the past.

Is there a point?  Well, hell yes, there is:

If you ever come across any research that goes into the music tastes of dying people, let me know.  My latest crackpot theory holds that people may age faster if they get stuck in a time (like the disco era) and they put down emotional roots, which in turn, act as time anchors that imply a kind of aging from that point because the rest of us are all moving on.

Now to me, this is a terribly interesting question to ask:  I worry about people who get hung up in things like music from their roots but maybe music is like math:  Once you learn it (as a kid) the basic operations aren’t going to change any…so it is not a time anchor.

Something to notice as you age:  It’s like oldsters who are stuck in the muscle car era…600-horsepower and a Hurst shifter.  Yeah, I would love a 1964 GTO with Tri-Power and red stripe Tiger Paws, too.  But the world has moved on…and it is in how we are moving on with this car addiction that we’ll get into in Peoplenomics on Wednesday.

Now to REAL Brain Food

Go read – if you haven’t already – the article on consciousness creep which is over on Aeon in their Essays here.

The central notion is that the machines we are making (machines as in coded ones, eh?_) could be slowly evolving a kind of consciousness which we may not recognize as conscious.

Way cool read and it gets us on to another favorite topic of discussion around here.  If there a speed of thought?

The reason for asking is pretty simple:  When one looks at the consciousness scale discussed in the article, one can be struck by the fact that it’s almost like the ramp up in (Moore’s Law here) processor speed.

Which is likely something the New Agers got seriously wrong.

When you look at the data, it becomes obvious that consciousness doesn’t go higher or lower.

Something much more obvious:  Fast and slow.

Which is why the dull of wit are so often referred to as slow.  And why the smart people are often quick-witted.

The whole “higher consciousness” thing was a very clever distractions, I will grand you that.  Because it almost  got things right.  Especially the parts about vibration which – if you understand how crystals resonate in electronics – is all about speed setting.

Which is why the smart people are quick and why many are focused on over-clocking themselves.  And yes, that explains our fascination with speed in all its many forms, everything from beating the clock to another triple-shot Americano tall and give me a bottle of Jolt if you have one…

Again, much to noodle on.

Anti-Gravity Project

imageRan out of #26 magnet wire.  Reinforcements will be here this week.  Coil winding will resume shortly thereafter.,

A couple of readers were wondering if the metal lathe was really the right tool for winding, but as you can see here, they look pretty good and according to the Fluke 115, they are 7.7 ohms each as we continue that crackpot exercise.

Even if it fails, by the way, there is a cool ham radio antenna in all this, so not all is wasted and remember our “dual-use / dual-function” approach to life.

Ure’s Monday Axiom:  When Life hands you a lemon, don’t stop at lemonade.  Make some citrus-based degreaser while you’re at it…

Write when you break-even,