December 25, 2015

An iron rod...

An iron rod being placed on the outside of a building from the highest part continued down into the moist earth, in any direction strait or crooked, following the form of the roof or other parts of the building, will receive the lightning at its upper end, attracting it so as to prevent it's striking any other part; and, affording it a good conveyance into the earth, will prevent its damaging any part of the building. -- Benjamin Franklin

December 23, 2015

Project: Pico Paso Kit - Light Controlled Analog Noise Machine

We attended the 2015 Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo, California back in June 2015.  It was a day filled with amazement and wonderful creativity.  It was one big show and tell event.

As you would expect, there were plenty of great kits for sale and we picked up a few including the Pico Paso by Bleep Labs.  The Pico Paso kit is a light controlled analog noise machine and is based on the Atari Punk Synth concept.  It is powered by a 9V battery.

This photograph shows the loose components and PCB prior to assembly for the Pico Paso kit
NJ2X's Pico Paso kit opened and ready to be built
Kit assembly was straightforward with only a small number of components in the circuitry.  The Pico Paso kit is suitable for beginner builders.  The only trouble we had during soldering was when we inadvertently installed the audio jack on the wrong side of the board.  A quick desoldering followed by a reinstallation of the jack on the proper side of the board resolved the issue.  It does indeed help to follow the kit instructions as this was plainly explained.

This is a photograph of the fully assembled Pico Paso kit (top side) showing two knobs, two buttons, two photocells, and other assorted components installed on a PCB.
NJ2X's finished build of the Pico Paso kit

This is a fun little kit to build and play with after construction.  We fed the 1/4" mono audio out from the Pico Paso to our vintage Fender Champ amp using a standard guitar cable and it sounded amazing.  The kit is not designed to work with headphones.

By manipulating the knobs, buttons, and photocells, all manner of interesting sounds could be created from tweeting bleeps to house rumbling oscillations.  We highly recommend this kit for anyone interested in kit building and having fun with knob-twisted synthesized sonic mayhem.

Happy Holidays!

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2015.

December 21, 2015

So your dog has been skunked?

Northern California is home to one of the most beautifully groomed skunk populations anywhere.  The skunks here tend to be big, healthy, and beautiful with long shiny black coats.  They prance around the area with confidence and poise of runway models (yes, exactly like Pepi Le Pew).

 Northern Californian skunks go wherever they please which includes fenced in backyards occupied by big dogs.  Apparently their defense makes them fearless.  Perhaps they just enjoy spreading a little holiday joy to their canine friends.

Striped Skunk
There is nothing quite like discovering at midnight that your dog has had a close encounter of the 1st kind with a skunk.  Fresh noxious skunk fumes are breathtaking.  The odor is a cross between a hot sulfuric fumarole and burning rubber tires.  It is such a strong chemical odor that it doesn't immediately smell like a skunk.  9 out 10 Northern California pet owners prefer the delicate scent of a volcanic bubbling hot sulphuric acid fumarole to that of a freshly skunked dog.

Skunked Christmas by KD2ANR
Jingle bells
Skunks do smell
Scooter, he got sprayed,
Oh, what fun
T'is no fun!
What a smell he has made, oh
Jingle bells
Our house smells
This odor won't give in,
When Santa comes
His eyes will run,
He'll need to wear nose pins!

Our dog Scooter's fur is normally mostly white.  Scooter is skilled at shading his fur various shades of grey through the careful application of garden dirt.  We noticed his fur looked different after he was skunked.  In good light we could see he had acquired two new large bright yellow patches on one side.  It was helpful to have a visual of where the Skunk spray or (N-butyl mercaptan) was located since it allowed us to focus our treatment efforts more effectively.  How thoughtful of the skunk to highlight his impact areas.

Skunk Spray Treatment

Here is what we found works well for our dog in treating the skunk spray.  Results may vary.  This cure only works when mixed fresh.  Don't attempt to mix it in advance and store it since that will render it ineffective.  We do keep the ingredients on-hand (separate in their original containers) in case of an emergency.
  • Mix up a fresh batch of anti-skunk spray cure in a large plastic or metal bowl:
    • 1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution
    • 1/4 cup Baking Soda
    • 1 tsp. Liquid Soap (we used Dawn Dish Detergent)
    • Mix thoroughly
  • Move the dog to an enclosed shower area.
  • Lather the dog up with the cure.  Don't just pour it on him.  Use a brush and work the cure into the fur.  Treat the entire dog.  Give extra attention to the most heavily skunked patches.
  • Let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Rinse and repeat.
  • On the final rinse, be sure to get all the soap off the dog so he doesn't lick and ingest it.
  • Towel dry the dog and tell him you still love him.
  • Wash your clothes and towels etc. immediately after you have finished with the dog.  

Hope you have a warm and skunk-free holiday season.  All the best from skunk-land (also known as Northern California).

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2015.

December 18, 2015

December 11, 2015

Always been ahead of my time...

It seems that I have always been ahead of my time. I had to wait nineteen years before Niagara was harnessed by my system, fifteen years before the basic inventions for wireless which I gave to the world in 1893 were applied universally. -- Nikola Tesla

December 4, 2015

Funny Magnets

Q: What did the male magnet say to the female magnet?
A: From your backside, I thought you were repulsive. However, after seeing you from the front, I find you rather attractive.