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Going to School

Music: 

I get that I have no dog in this fight at all, but I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I definitely get why even Democratic governors are eager to have some in-person school, and I really wish the issue hadn't been politicized by the asshole President, yet again, but I don't think it's inherently bad.

There are kids for whom school lunch and even breakfast are the best meals they get in a day. I had reduced cost or free lunch for the entire time I was in school, and I seem to remember breakfast at some point, maybe over a summer? I'm not certain. My mom certainly couldn't have stayed home with me in any case, so it likely would have been a question of me going to school or us having money for food and mortgage.

I also get that there is definitely institutional racism, but there is also definite institutional classism. There are poor kids and kids whose parents both /have/ to work a job for the family to get fed.

My perspective is that if parents can afford to keep their kids home and teach them remotely, DO IT. Do it even if it requires some lifestyle changes and added burden. Do it for the kids who have to go in-person. Do it so they can get a good meal, do it so their parents can work, and so the classes don't have to be crammed in as tight as usual. I see lots of parents complaining about how hard it is to deal with their kids and still work from home. Figure it out. There are people who aren't in that position and who /have/ to send their kids to school. Many of these people seem to see their kids as accessories rather than as their responsibility as humans, so I guess their shitty attitude makes sense.

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Music Video Sorting?

Music: 

Teddybears ft. Robyn - Cobra Style

Anyone have any Deep Thoughts about how videos should be categorized? If not, skip it, this is really that boring.

--

Let's say for arguments sake that I'm building a playlist of
videos from 120 minutes (Like say from this comprehensive list right
here.

I've already decided that any band that gets one of their songs on 120 Minutes one time gets all of their songs in this folder. Because I don't want to have 3 different places where I can find songs of one band. It gets unruly. The only exception to this is the "Arcade Pizza" folder. These are songs that ubiquitous on the radio when I was a kid, especially in arcades and pizzerias of the '80s and '90s. For that case I have /videos/Arcade Pizza, as well as /videos/120 Minutes/Arcade Pizza.

Question is, should I only put stuff that appeared on the actual show, or should I put bands that /should/ have been on 120 minutes, but weren't, because MTV could show neither the full name of the band nor the full name of the song involved?

Or what if they're too new, like this video philosophically belongs to 120 Minutes, but it's only a year and a half old:

I think they should go in, but I'm holding off. Teddybears would have been HEAVY ROTATION on 120 minutes if they'd existed then.

Should I kick Evan Dando out because he spoiled my Juliana? These are questions that require fucking answers.

I'm nearing 3000 music vids now, so these things are starting to become problems I have to think about. I need to nip this shit in the bud before I have 20,000 videos and no damn plan at all.

The Bonus Question is: Do I change the name of the Youtube video to fit a rational style, or leave it alone? For instance:

I Was A Teenage Zombie (2016) [heHh9EIlAbw].mp4

Should be renamed to:

The Fleshtones - I Was A Teenage Zombie (2016) [heHh9EIlAbw].mp4

The "[heHh9EIlAbw]" is the only actually important part of that filename anyway, since that's the video ID on Youtube, so it'll be youtube.com?v=heHh9EIlAbw. That is there for pattern matching, so I think that makes it OK to rename shit.

Right?

Fixed Tags:
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Setting up NoMachine NX over SSH

Music: 

As an Apple and Linux user, remote screen admin can be a colossal pain in the ass. On the Mac, we have a VNC server by default, but can't specify settings which will improve speed over slow connections, like lowering the color depth. I've tried alternate VNC servers in the past, but they all were painful to set up and still very slow over an SSH tunnel.

Several years ago I set up NoMachine's NX server, which is quite nearly as fast as MS RDP, and it's been working like a dream ever since.

This guide focuses on a Mac client connecting to a Mac server over an SSH tunnel.

Install NoMachine NX on both systems from the DMG. If everything is working, there should be a NoMachine menu in the menu bar on the server and some indicator that listening is enabled. Netstat should show the machine is listening on port 4000:

xrayspxs-iMac:~ xrayspx$ netstat -nat | grep 4000
tcp6 0 0 *.4000 *.* LISTEN
tcp4 0 0 *.4000 *.* LISTEN

With the server listening, on the client machine, set up a new connection. Most of this is totally default except that I un-checked "use UDP for multimedia" and set the target port to 4003:

To connect everything up over ssh, set up the tunnel by ssh'ing to your intermediate server. In my case I have the tunnel listen on port 4003, as shown in the new configuration setup, this is to prevent it overlapping with the NX server on the client machine:

ssh -N -L 4003:10.250.0.98:4000 xrayspx@raspberrypi

Verify the client-side machine is now listening on port 4003:

pro:~ xrayspx$ netstat -nat | grep 4003
tcp4 0 0 127.0.0.1.4003 *.* LISTEN
tcp6 0 0 ::1.4003 *.* LISTEN

Then launch the client connection to that local listening port. This can be done via the NX menu in the menu bar, but I automate all this so that I am just clicking on "NX to Home", and a script wakes up the home machine, builds the tunnel, and opens the connection:

On the Mac, you have to run nxplayer from the NoMachine.app package, on both Ubuntu and Mac, the session ".nxs" files are in ~/Documents/NoMachine:

/Applications/NoMachine.app/Contents/MacOS/nxplayer --session ~/Documents/NoMachine/Connection\ to\ iMac.nxs

The full script I run is more like this:

#! /bin/bash

#ssh into the ssh server and wake up the target system with WoL then hang out 10 seconds for the machine to absolutely be awake
ssh xrayspx@raspberrypi 'wakeimac'

sleep 10

#set up the ssh tunnel with listening port 4003
ssh -N -L 4003:10.250.0.98:4000 xrayspx@raspberrypi &

# I am tracking all the PIDs so I can kill them later, this tended to leave tunnels listening and crap after a session so they need to be killed
sshpid=`jobs -p`
shellpid="$$"

/Applications/NoMachine.app/Contents/MacOS/nxplayer --session ~/Documents/NoMachine/Connection\ to\ iMac.nxs

# On the Mac I can't actually kill the pids, since the nxplayer forks off and the script keeps running. On my Linux client, the nxplayer job holds the script from completing until I quit it. I'm sure there's a better easier way on the Mac.
#kill $sshpid; echo "killed pid $sshpid"
#kill $shellpid

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Running the Lattice of Convenience

Music: 

New Order - 5 8 6

Since posting about the week of 1983 TV Guide viewing, I've had questions from some people wondering about the storage and other hardware and software we use for our media library. It's really not very complicated to do, though I do have preferences and recommendations.

So here's what we've got.

Motivation:

Mainly I don't like the level of control streaming companies have. That they monitor everything we do, and that stuff comes and goes from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime on their timeline, not mine. I don't like the concept of paying for things like Spotify so that I can rent access to music I already own.

I realized like 15 years ago that while we often spent $200/$300 per week on CDs earlier in our marriage, Natalie and I were drifting away from actually listening to it much, because who wants to dig around for a CD to hear one song, then move to another CD. Ultimately, the same applies to movies, we have lots of DVDs, and I don't want to have to dig through booklets just to watch a couple of James Bond movies.

It's super easy to maintain, and we like being able to watch Saturday morning cartoons, "Nick-at-Nite" or throw on music videos while we play arcade games and eat pizza. Once up and running, it's all pretty much push-button access to all the media we like.

Media:

- 2000-2500 CDs (Maybe 200GB of music)

- Couple hundred movies, really probably not as many as most people.

- Lots of TV shows. Space-wise, this is where it adds up fast when you're ripping a box-set of 10 seasons of some show.

- Commercials, mainly from the '80s and '90s, but I'll grab anything fun that strikes us.

- Music videos. We have an overall collection of around 2000, and a subgroup of about 700 which represent "'80s arcade or pizza place" music. That's music that was just ubiquitous when we were growing up in the '80s and early '90s, and you heard it all the time whether you liked it or not. I've since come to appreciate these songs and bands in a way I didn't when I was a dickhead punk kid.

So all told, there's about a 5TB library of stuff, mainly TV shows, but also a decent music library that needs to get maintained and served.

Hardware:

- Ripping machines - Mainly, all I need is the maximum number of DVD trays I can get my hands on. There's nothing special here. My tools work on Mac or Linux so I can work wherever. We have one main Mac Pro that has 2x 8TB drives mirrored which hold the master copy of the media collection.

- NAS - Seagate GoFlex Home from like 10 years ago. I think I originally bought this with a 1TB drive, and have since upgraded it twice, which is kind of a massive pain. Now it's got an 8TB drive which has a copy of the media library from our main machine. I'll get into the pros and cons of this thing below.

- Raspberry Pi - I have a multi-use RaspberryPi which does various tasks to make things convenient and optimizing TV viewing. There are a handful of scripts which create random playlists every night for various categories of music videos, TV shows (Sitcoms, 'BritBox', 'Nick-at-Nite'), etc. It also runs mt-daapd, which I'll get into below.

- Amazon Fire Sticks - We have a couple of them. I'm not super impressed with their 8GB storage limit, but I'm definitely happy enough for the money they cost. They're cheap, around $20 now, and they do what they say on the box. Play video. I have side-loaded Kodi 17.x, but they seem not to quite have the resources for 18.x, though I'm really not sure why not. It's just slower.

- The Shitphone Army - I've got obsolete phones (Samsung Galaxy S4-ish) around the house and decent speakers set up so we can have music playing while doing the dishes for example.

Software:

- Kodi - I mentioned Kodi, which is just an excellent Free Software media library manager. Kodi gets /such/ a bad rap because of all the malware infected pirate boxes for sale, but you never see much from people who actually use it to manage a locally stored library of media they own. Can't recommend it enough. Get familiar with customizing menus in Kodi and making home-screen buttons linking directly to playlists. It's worth it and makes it look nice and easy to use.

- mt-daapd - I'm running out of patience with music streaming, though everything does work right now. MT-Daapd just basically serves up a library of music using the DAAP protocol, which used to be used by iTunes

- DAAP (Android app) - This could be great, but it seems to be completely un-maintained, and somewhat recently moved from being open source to closed, so unless I have an off-line copy of the source, there go my dreams of updating it. But it works well on the Shitphone Army and on the road so we can basically stream from anywhere. Other DAAP players for Android are pretty much all paid applications, and none of them seem to work better particularly than DAAP.

- Scripts A handful of poorly written scripts for ripping DVDs and maintenance of the library (below)

Recommendations:

Players - While the Fire Sticks work great, they're really very dependent on having constant access to Amazon. Were I installing mainly a Kodi machine, it would be much better to use a Raspberry Pi either with a direct-connected drive or mounting a network share. It's super easy to set up with ready-to-go disk images which boot straight into Kodi.

Playlists - Create lots of playlists. Playlists and randomizing things are two things that Kodi is terrible at, so I don't try to make it do it. These scripts run nightly on the Raspberry Pi and make .M3Us for us.

Filenames - Have a good naming convention. All my playlists are M3Us of just lists of files. That means that you don't get Kodi's metadata database with the pretty titles and descriptions, and so the files must be named descriptively enough that you can tell what episode you're looking at from the list of filenames. My template is "Name of the Show - S02E25 - Title of the Episode". Kodi's scrapers work well with that format and it makes it easy enough to fire up the Nick-at-Nite playlist and decide where to jump in.

At various times, I've considered parsing a copy of the Kodi database to suck out the metadata and add it in before the file location. In an M3U, that looks like this:

#EXTINF:185,Ian Dury & The Blockheads - There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards
/mnt/eSata/filestore/CDs/Ian Dury & The Blockheads/Ian Dury And The Blockheads The Best Of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll/17 There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards.mp3

It seems like having all that sqlite stuff happening would add a lot of overhead to generating playlists, and having well-named files saves me from having to worry about it, so I haven't bothered.

Storage - Though I use a "Home NAS" product that overall I've been pretty happy with, it does irritate me. Consumer market stuff is /so/ proprietary that it's quite hard to just get to the Linux system beneath and customize it the way you see fit. Specifically in the case of the GoFlex, "rooting" it even involved replacing Seagate's customized version of SSH with a vanilla one. Screw that up and you brick the device. I also run into network bottleneck issues with that thing. While you can enable jumbo frames, for instance, when syncing new content the CPU gets pegged, I believe I'm running out of network or disk buffer, which is kind of unacceptable in a NAS device.

Building it today, I'd just use a Raspberry Pi 3 with a USB drive enclosure. For the time being, my growth curve is still (barely) pacing along with the largest "reasonably priced" drives on the market. My ceiling is about $200 per drive when I do upgrades, because I am a very cheap man.

I have no opinion on consumer RAID arrays. I can only imagine consumer RAID based NASs come with all the shit I hate about the GoFlex. Yes, I'm biased against consumer grade garbage tech and that's probably not going to change. I'll have to buy one someday I'm sure, but for now it's all being kept simple.

Backups Keep backups. While I have multiple copies of everything, it does make me somewhat nervous that the only part of the media library currently being backed up off-site is the MP3 collection. That's got to change, and rsync is your friend. Ultimately I'll probably end up upgrading my home Internet from 20Mb/2Mb to something which will allow me to sync over a VPN tunnel to somewhere off-site (friend's house, work...).

Sample Scripts:

Here are some samples of the shitty bash scripts that run this whole nonsense. I know the better ways to write these, but the fastest possible way to hammer these out worked well enough and there's no way I'm going to bother going back and fixing them to be honest.

Rip CDs

I use an application called MAX on the Mac to rip CDs. I think its usefulness might be coming to an end, and I'm not sure what to do about that. It uses (used?) MusicBrainz database to automatically fingerprint and tag discs, but the last CD I ripped it seemed to have problems. You can run iTunes side by side with Max and drag the metadata over from there, so maybe that works well enough?

Anyway, I use that because I rip to both 320k CBR MP3 and FLAC. I have a shitload of stuff that really should be re-ripped since they're 128k and no FLAC, but I've so far been unmotivated to do so.

I wrote a bunch of stuff to move all the output files around and update iTunes libraries. Honestly I don't rip a whole lot of new music, which is a shame and which I should really fix.

Rip DVDs

DVD ripping is a lot more fragile than it should be. Good software like Handbrake are bullied into removing the ability to rip protected DVDs, and things are being pushed toward the commercial. I use mencoder in the script below.

DVD titles are sketchy at best, and as far as I know, you can't really fingerprint a DVD and scrape titles in the way you can with CDs. So I do what I can. I take whatever title the DVD presents and make an output directory based on that name plus a timestamp. That way if you're doing a whole box set and all the DVD titles are the same they're at least writing out to separate directories and not overwriting each other.

As far as file-naming, unfortuantely we don't live in the future yet and that's all down to manually renaming each output file. I use the information from TVDB, not IMDB, since that's the default library used by Kodi's scrapers. Sometimes the order of things is different between that and IMDB (production order vs airing order vs DVD order issues plague this whole enterprise).

#! /bin/bash

timestamp=`date +%m%d%Y%H%M`
pid="$$"
caffeinate -w $pid

id=$(drutil status |grep -m1 -o '/dev/disk[0-9]*')
if [ -z "$id" ]; then
echo "No Media Inserted"
else
name=`df | grep "$id" |grep -o /Volumes.* | awk -F "Volumes\/" '{print $2}' | sed 's/ /_/g'`

fi
name=`df | grep "$id" |grep -o /Volumes.* | awk -F "Volumes\/" '{print $2}' | sed 's/ /_/g'`
echo $name
dir="$name-$timestamp"
mkdir /Volumes/Filestore/dvdrip-output/$dir

echo $dir

for title in {1..100}
do
/Applications/mencoder dvd://$title -alang en -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vhq:vbitrate="1200" -vf scale -zoom -xy 640 -oac mp3lame -lameopts br=128 -o /Volumes/Filestore/dvdrip-output/$dir/$title.avi
done
chmod -R 775 /Volumes/Filestore/dvdrip-output/$dir

Playlist Script

The simplest Music Videos one below just looks at one directory of videos and one directory of TV commercials and randomizes all the content into an M3U. The more complicated ones have dozens of directories, and I'm sure I'm doing this array-building the wrong way. I'm sure I could have a text file with the un-escaped directory names I want and read that to build the array, either way, it really doesn't matter because if I want to add a TV series, I still have to edit a file, so this works fine. I've also thought about having a file in each directory like ".tags" that I search for terms in, like "comedy,nickatnite,british" and build the array from that, I dunno, sounds like work.

#! /bin/bash

array=`find ./ -type f;
find ../../Commercials -type f`

printf '%s\n' "${array[@]}" | sort -R | grep -v dvd_extras | grep -v "./$" | grep -v "\.m3u" | grep -v -i ds_store | grep -v ".nzb" | grep -v ".srt" > full-collection-random.m3u

- rsync the TV library. I have several of these, one for TV shows, one for movies, music videos, mp3s etc. It's just somewhat faster to only sync the thing I'm actually adding content to, rather than have to stat the entire library every time I rip a single DVD. The TV show sync tool also deals with the playlists, which are actually created on the NAS drive, so they have to be copied local before syncing or else they'll just get destroyed every day.

This checks to see if the NAS volume is mounted, if not it will mount it and re-run the script.

#! /bin/bash

mounted=`cat /Users/xrayspx/xrayspx-fs01/.touchfile`

if [ "$mounted" == "1" ]
then

cp ~/xrayspx-fs01/Common/TV\ Shows/1\ -\ Playlists/* /Volumes/Filestore/Common/TV\ Shows/1\ -\ Playlists/

rsync --progress -a --delete /Volumes/Filestore/Common/TV\ Shows/ ~/xrayspx-fs01/Common/TV\ Shows/

~/bin/umounter.sh
exit 1
else
mount -t smbfs //192.168.0.2/filestore ~/xrayspx-fs01/
~/bin/synctv
fi

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This week in Rad Helicopter News

Music: 

Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone

Witness the power of this fully operational Lattice of Convenience.

As some people know, I've become relatively intense when it comes to hoarding archiving media of all kinds, and recently that means '70s and '80s TV shows, cleaning out all the box sets I can find from Goodwill and antique stores and ripping them. For some time Natalie and I have been toying with the idea of taking a day from a random '80s TV Guide and watching that day in TV shows.

In the last few weeks, we've also started to listen to Ken Reid's excellent TV Guidance Councillor podcast, and have decided there's no time like the present. And in fact, driven by Reid's format, we decided to do a whole week. We pretty much pre-planned the whole week, though in some cases I wasn't able to get the exact episode of a show, so we had to make due with something else from the series. We also decided to stick to the 3 major networks, since that's all either of us knew, living in the sticks and all.

We started with Saturday, January 7, 1984, with TJ Hooker, The Love Boat with Charo, and Fantasy Island with Vic Tayback, Katherine Helmand and Richard Hatch. Natalie decided she likes TJ Hooker, and so we'll hunt down more of those even though I killed the show because I tend to immediately ID "The Guy". Whoops. We just chose a Charo episode of Love Boat because I couldn't get the one from the day, and Charo is delightful at all times. We need more Charo.

On Sunday, we stuck largely with sitcoms, since we've seen things like the Knight Rider episode from that day. So it was Ripley's Believe it or Not, Alice, One Day at a time, and the Jeffersons. Ripley's and Alice were both harder to find than I would have thought. We had to settle for like the second episode of Alice, and just any Ripley's I could find.

Monday was a mix, starting with That's Incredible, then Newhart and Emerald Point N.A.S. Emerald Point /should/ have been an awesome show. Within the first 3 minutes you've got: MacGyver O'Neill. Crashing an F-14. Into a Cuban. How can that fail? By making it a soap opera, that's how.

Tuesday NBC took it all. A-Team, Riptide, Remington Steele. Natalie does like a good crime-fighting buddy-show, so there really wasn't any contest. I couldn't get excited about a late-season Three's Company or Happy Days.

Wednesday got us to hit ABC for The Fall Guy, then back to default NBC for a Very Special Facts of Life, Night Court and St. Elsewhere. As I remember, all Facts of Life were very special.

Thursday night was another NBC sweep. Gimme a Break!, Family Ties, Cheers, Buffalo Bill and Hill Street Blues.

Friday, ABC rounded it out with Benson and Blue Thunder, which we kind of loved. It was our second 'Copter-Based show after Riptide, and had me yelling at the TV most of the time.

We opted for Episode 1 of Blue Thunder, since the schedule had us watching Ep 2, and figured we'd start at the top. A maniac with a pre-Vietnam era light observation aircraft was flying over We-Can't-Call-This-LA shooting down police helicopters and even strafing the funeral of one of the pilots he killed. Obviously the answer to this isn't "send up two fighter jets immediately after the first incident to knock him out", it's "Regular LAPD cops need a stealth helicopter with a goddamn gatling gun mounted on it to fly silently around and light up bad guys". There was some confusion over organizational affiliation, since everything points to these guys being regular cops (right up to the annoyed Captain yelling "CHHHHEeeeneyyyyy!"), except Butkis or Bubba Smith were all "Freeze, Federal Agents". On the other hand, who cares, all I know is Darryl Gates would have given his right eye for one of these things in 1992.

So far, likes and dislikes:

As I mentioned, Natalie loves her some buddy-shows and dumb action and so she definitely wants more TJ Hooker, Hardcastle and McCormick and Remington Steele. Natalie also remembered how much she liked The Jeffersons and Newhart, though she was kind of "meh" on One Day at a Time. For that one, we watched both the "current" episode, and the first episode of the series, since this was the last season, and wasn't really "representative' in my mind. I think I'd get more Alice if we can. For as popular a show as it was, it seems pretty hard to find. Similarly, Benson and Webster, long running show, stupidly hard to get.

On the other hand though, Emerald Point Naval Air Station. Wow. Just. Jeez. I think Richard Dean Anderson had to do MacGyver and Stargate SG-1 just as penance for the existence of this show. I can't say for sure that the debt has been fully repaid.

Ripley's Believe it or Not and That's Incredible are kind of hard to find, and that's a shame, since we live in The Future and so it was fun to go look up the people on those shows for a "Where are they Now" running commentary between us.

This kid had a pretty decent career at one point.

This week of TV really does show how much we just wanted to be entertained in the '80s, versus everything having to be Real and Gritty as it is now. Sure there was Hill Street Blues, but there was also Magnum, Riptide and Hardcastle and McCormick. We weren't weighed down with SVU type bummers every week. I saw an analyst who chalks this up to Vietnam. In the same way that Magnum, coming back from Vietnam didn't want to process it, and chose instead to live as a large child for a little while, so the US chose to amuse ourselves with dumb escapism.

I can't say I disagree with that theory, since I'm basically doing just that right now. I'll take my Cylons toaster-headed and shelve the HD Edward James Olmos version until happier times.

Tags:
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Go Mighty Corolla

Music: 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Stay tuned and wait. for. it.

Ok, so I had just gotten off of 128, and I wasn't going a thousand miles an hour, and there was no Stop 'n Shop, but there was a Wegman's. I threw RoadRunner on, because it's the very best song to finally break the 300,000 mile barrier on this rustbucket. Aaaaand, it didn't do it. Why yes, I am a sysadmin, why do you ask?

Just a bit further toward home though, I found a real Plymouth RoadRunner Superbird in a parking lot:

Natalie and I think it's this one right here.

So yeah apparently the odometer thing's A Thing with Toyotas from the mid-2000s. And they don't see it as a "design flaw" that every inspected car becomes illegal at 299,999 miles. It's like $500 to fix, apparently, which means it's still worth it to keep it on the road, but it is the second-costliest and absolutely the most pervasive and 100% predictable non-recall inspection-failing repair in this car's 14 year history.

xrayspx's picture

Lindstrom, Minnesota

Music: 

We're currently on a week-long road trip between Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Before we left, we mentioned our trip to Kari Lindstrom, proprietor of our favorite vintage and antique shop The Melamine Cup in Jaffrey, NH, and she mentioned there was a Lindstrom, Minnesota, so we decided we'd head up and see what's what.

So it was that at the end of a long day of Paisley Park, then the World's Largest Ball of Twine (as built by one man), we made our way for Little Sweden and made up there by around 4:00. Even still, we found a great antique store and got some fantastic handmade raised sugar and raspberry jelly donuts that took me straight back to when I was 4-5 years old getting donuts with my parents from a local bakery.

I did try really hard to get to The Sweet Swede to get something sweet for the sweetest Swede we know, but apparently it's not really a thing anymore. Fudge.

Natalie got some great pictures of this adorable vacation town:











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Stereo Slide Viewer Hack Proof of Concept

Music: 

Peaches - The Inch

Wherein there's some history, and a major pet project.

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Today In Donuts Annoying Me News

Music: 

Blur - Coffee and TV

For a couple years now, I've been telling Natalie that if I had a couple bucks and an inclination to build a thing or interact with people, I'd Do It Right. I'd make fresh donuts daily. If I worked at Red Arrow, I'd make the case that the absurd Milford, NH third shift should dedicate themselves to making bread for the rest of the day. Instead, they recently discontinued that shift.

So in that vein... I have a lot of music videos. To go with them, I've downloaded a bunch of '80s commercials for Nostalgia's Sake. Things like cereal, BMX bikes, Underoos, Schoolhouse Rock, and since you can guess I'm from the Boston market, Spags and Dunkin' Donuts.

At Spags, they'll save you money:

These old commercials, pre and post Fred, all tout the freshness of their product. It's the "Freshest you can buy". Then they stopped making donuts on site. There is no longer a fryer in the building at this point. I guess they nuke or salamander their croissant, bagel or muffin sandwich and formed eggs, I dunno they do something to make them hot, but none of this stuff could be mistaken for "fresh".

Sadly, I imagine that by and large, they were right. They /are/ the freshest donuts most people can get. Their 1980, Pre-Fred accusations that "most super markets donuts are made by machine" actually came about in my store in around 1994 or 1995. The day the woman* who fried and filled and decorated the donuts every day moved to Heath and Beauty Aids, which was coincidentally the day before /I/ learned to "make" donuts and muffins.

Muffins were from mix, + any other stuff like frozen blueberries, cinnamon apple chunks or cranberries or whatever else we'd mix in. Muffins were easy, but donuts were even easier. They came in frozen now, so all we did was heat 'em up, glaze them and put them out. We still glazed, filled, sugared, dipped them by hand, and the "baking" process wasn't that bad, they tasted fine, i guess. I never really ate them much. You tend not to want to eat muffins if you're covered in muffin mix for 5 hours every day. Now that I think of it, even though we were frying donuts daily, there's no way that wasn't just frozen dough that we bought in. Don't get the impression these were scratch-made, just rolled and fried on site. When I stopped making donuts and muffins, we had transitioned away form even making the muffins from mix, they now came in as frozen batter in muffin cups and plastic trays. We'd just move them to metal trays, bake 'em and serve 'em up. That was probably '95 or so at the latest.

The couple of times I've gone into Dunkin's (as it's now trying to rebrand itself officially) in the last 2 decades, I've come away with the impression that they don't even do that much anymore. I don't see that there's even room for a table to glaze and decorate anymore. Do donuts just come in all pre-filled and room temperature ready to put out? Like the Krispy Kremes at the convenience store?

There is still a good donut place in our town, but I imagine even they aren't actually scratch-making anything. It's just fresher than Dunkin's. Meanwhile I'm pretty sure the baker my parents went to in the '70s and '80s hand-made everything in his shop from scratch from donuts to birthday cakes.

* - Hey Millennials, here's some trivia: I remember the woman who made the donuts was about 23 or 24, and that she and her husband, who drove forklift as I recall, and with whom she owned a house, had managed to save enough in their water jug full of change to go on vacation in the Caribbean. Just sayin'.

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Antique Desk And Its Dazor Task Lamp

Music: 

This just made me unreasonably happy today, so I am gonna have to share it.

A couple of years ago we found an antique drafting table for pretty cheap money at a local shop, I think we maybe paid $200 or so for it. It had been used and taken very good care of for...80 years? Maybe more? It had a Kilroy on it. So we snatched it and replaced Natalie's less beautiful portable drafting table with it. It's a real monster, like 48" x 36", and great shape, well built, though it does have quite a twist to it. It'll last Natalie forever.

Since then, one problem she's had was getting an adequate task light. She had a plastic fluorescent arm-light, but it was nowhere near long enough to cover the new desk. And, you know face it, it looked like junk.

So the other day we were in another local consignment shop and I spotted a monster arm-light for $25. Natalie didn't like the look of the fact that it was fluorescent (will we be able to get bulbs...) and wasn't sure about the mount, since it didn't clamp, it looked like it screws to the desk. As is my way, I needled her for a couple days and let it work on her that she needed to check it out. No one's gonna stop making fluorescent bulbs, and even if they do, so we get an LED adapter, or just rewire it all the way to the plug for LED. Today she went back and grabbed it, and score, it was on sale, now $18.

We hadn't really looked at it, but turns out it's a Dazor from 1950. As we were trying to figure out how this was supposed to attach (none of the hardware was there), I figured we could get a couple of set screws with wingnuts and big ass washers, drill the desk (Natalie was not a fan), and just bolt it in.

So she started measuring up the distance between the screws, and found that they exactly matched the existing holes someone had already drilled in the desk. We were just re-uniting the drafting table with it's long-lost lamp!

The table top had to be turned around so the holes were at the back, so that was an hour well spent, but it all lined up and she dropped right in. Now it's at that point that I thought it was too cool and started writing this post. However, interesting bit of trivia, Dazor was founded by Harry Dazey, of the Dazey Churn and Manufacturing company in St. Louis. We happen to have a good-size collection of Dazey ice crushers, a can opener, and one of what's probably a small handful of portable stands that are left in existence. This makes Natalie super happy, because we've completed the Dazey set finally.

So here we are, desk, lamp, and ice crusher:

The thing that impresses me the most about this is that in the spare parts section on Dazor's site they list all the various switches and ballasts so you can repair your lamps. Not only are ours still fully in stock, but they've only got 7 listed switches and 5 ballasts, which I'm sure cover virtually every product they've ever made. Simplicity and rugged construction = happy customers forever.

Not only were these lamps built to outlive your granddad, and they did, obviously, but you can still get parts for 'em if they ever do let the magic smoke out! Right from the manufacturer. Try that with literally any other product, especially now. Man. I mean, I get that if you make a lamp, and that lamp lasts forever, then you never sell another one to that customer, and your company dies. But the other side of that coin is that you end up the standard in task lighting, forever, with multi-generational product loyalty.

We'll probably end up buying brand new Dazor lamps for spaces like our office workbench once it's built, and I fully expect them to last just as well as this one clearly has.

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