October 2015 Archives

Before we get started, take a listen to this (length - 39 sec):

I've probably mentioned this before but I worked as a DJ at a small AM radio station in West Texas during my high school and early college years. That was back in the late 60s/early 70s, and the Viet Nam war was hot. And while the draft was still in effect, the various branches of the military were also stepping up their recruitment efforts.

Wolfman Jack USAF Program labelPart of those efforts entailed what we would today call infomercials, but which back then were referred to as public service announcements (PSA). They came in the form of prerecorded programs, usually musical, which were interspersed with promos for a specific branch of service. Radio stations were required to run a certain number of hours of PSAs each month, and the military recruiting programs were a good way to meet those requirements.

As you can imagine, stations didn't run these programs during prime time. Our station ran them on Sunday mornings. They came to us as 15-25 minute LP records (that's vinyl, kiddies), one PSA to a side. They were dated and once they were played, they were trashed.

I managed to "rescue" a half dozen or so of these PSA platters that came to us from the Air Force and from the Marine Corps. The Corps' programs were entitled Jazz on the Potomac, and were precisely 14 minutes and 30 seconds of, well, jazz. (Frankly, I never really grasped which demographic they were aiming at. Were there really that many 18-to-22 year old guys listening to jazz in the late Sixties?) They were narrated by Felix Grant, who had an almost fifty year career in radio, and whose voice was apparently created with jazz in mind. Grant's narration was educational, focusing on the music - the style and history. He made a single, low-keyed pitch for the Marine Corps during each program. Here's an example (length - 76 sec):

The USAF, on the other hand, took a different approach. Their programs were narrated by the (in)famous Wolfman Jack, and featured current rock and pop hits. The Wolfman's pitch was less polished but more lively, in keeping with the musical selections. Following is a good example, this one targeting young women (length - 1 min, 42 sec):

The music on the USAF's programs was a rather eclectic mix. I managed to save three LPs - six programs - and each had four-to-six songs. I'm not sure why I feel it's important to archive this information, but I guess it's partly for personal reference and partly to capture a bit of cultural history. In any event, here are the program listings for those three discs.

Series #11 - Program 1 - Disc 1 - Side A (July, 1972)
  • Layla - Derek & The Dominos
  • It's Too Late To Turn Back Now - Cornelius Bros. & Sister Rose
  • Sympathy For The Devil - Rolling Stones
  • Immigration Man - David Crosby & Graham Nash
Series #11 - Program 2 - Disc 1 - Side B (July, 1972)
  • Tumbling Dice - Rolling Stones
  • I Need You - America
  • Questions - Moody Blues
  • Hot Rod Lincoln - Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen
  • I Didn't Get To Sleep At All Last Night - 5th Dimension
  • Hold Your Head Up - Argent
Series #11 - Program 3 - Disc 2 - Side A (July, 1972)
  • I Saw The Light - Todd Rundgren
  • Wolfman Jack - Todd Rundgren
  • What Is Life - George Harrison
  • Troglodyte - Jimmy Castor Bunch
  • Old Man - Neil Young
  • Blue Sky - Allman Brothers
Series #11 - Program 4 - Disc 2 - Side B (July, 1972)
  • 30 Days In The Hole - Humble Pie
  • People Make The World Go 'Round - Stylistics
  • Sweet Hitch Hiker - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Someday Never Comes - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Sylvia's Mother - Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
Series #12 - Program 1 - Disc 1 - Side A (August, 1972)
  • Layla - Derek & The Dominos
  • Take It Easy - Eagles
  • Sunshine Superman - Donovan
  • Day By Day - Godspell
  • Brown Eyed Girl - El Chicano
Series #12 - Program 2 - Disc 1 - Side B (August, 1972)
  • Rip This Joint - Rolling Stones
  • School's Out - Alice Cooper
  • Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
  • Long Cool Woman - Hollies
  • Conquistador - Procol Harum
  • It's Too Late To Turn Back Now - Cornelius Bros. & Sister Rose
As an aside, none of those songs would likely have made the radio station's regular playlist (with the possible exception of Day By Day). The station format was "variety" or "middle of the road," and featured primarily country (or "country & western," as it was known back then) and easy listening music. So, the USAF platters were actually pretty cool collections from my perspective.

I'm in the process of digitizing these LPs, again for whatever historical value they might have). They're in pretty bad shape; I was not able to get the album covers and didn't have the foresight to at least put them in sleeves so they've been rattling around loose and uncovered for the past four decades. The flaws add a certain authenticity and character to them (sort of like my reflection in the mirror, or so I keep telling myself). Copyright law prevents me from ever posting the entire content online, but I've done what I could.
I've hired teenagers to mow our lawn for the past two summers, and one of the challenges in those arrangements was remembering to leave a gate unlocked so they could access the back yard. Because of travel plans and other scheduling uncertainties, that sometimes meant leaving the gate unlocked for days at a time. 

Our gate locks are keyed deadbolts and that means that we also have to grab a key to get into the back yard, and that's inconvenient. What we needed is a digital gate lock that would eliminate the need to loan out a key to third parties, or carry a key ourselves, or leave the gate unlocked.

I found a solution to these problems in the Lockey M-220 digital lock. This is a basic deadbolt lock that's designed to work in a variety of outdoor situations where you need some basic minimum security: pool gates, workshops, yard gates, etc. It's mechanical, not electronic, and thus there are no batteries to change. It's a rather inexpensive lock and is easy to install. At least, that's what the website led me to believe.

I ordered the lock via the above-linked website and when it arrived and I read the installation instructions, I got a familiar sinking feeling of being over my head, mechanically speaking.

First, there was a dizzying array of screws, bolts, spacers, rods, and tiny metal bits that looked like jigsaw puzzle pieces. There was also the troubling presence of a set of tweezers.

Then, there was the instructions. What can I say about those instructions? You know there have been clinical studies about the stress that IKEA's infamous DIY assemblies can cause. Well, if you're comfortable putting together an IKEA home nuclear reactor (aka Facinmelton) by looking at the instructions upside down in a broken mirror, you'll do just fine with the lock installation.

The installation instructions were complicated enough without later discovering that some of them were actually for a different model of lock, and it didn't help that those steps were flagged with "IMPORTANT: DO THIS OR RISK RUINING THE LOCK!" and the "THIS" referred to a part that didn't exist on my particular model.

And, as if the installation instructions weren't obtuse enough, the process for changing the lock combination was more complicated than a NASA moon mission launch sequence. Plus, it involved tweezers.

Lock combination instructions
Lock parts

By the way, in those instructions it is never explained exactly what the "clear position" is, although failure to maintain it will bring an end to life in the universe as we know it. As it turns out, the clear position is the natural state of the lock; if you don't fool with the deadbolt while changing the combo, you'll be fine. So now you know, and the universe is safe.

Despite these challenges, and my total cluelessness, I embarked on the installation. And the first thing I discovered was that, because my life is nasty, brutish, and short, the lock was designed for a door that opens in the exact opposite direction of mine. Fortunately, the manufacturer anticipated this situation and provided some not-entirely-cryptic instructions for swapping the opening direction mechanism (there's a more technical term for that but I'm so over it).

The actual installation went fairly smoothly, meaning that by the end of the process, I had only slightly less than half of my tool collection gathered around the gate, even though the instructions assured me that I could do it with only a screwdriver. And tweezers.

Because of the construction of our metal gate, I had to do some trimming of the spacers and shims (is that redundant?) so that the main body rested flush against the gate. I also couldn't put the lock quite as close to the edge of the gate as I would like, meaning that the deadbolt didn't engage the, uh, engagement slot quite as much as I would like. But, again, this is not a maximum security installation and in the end, I was quite satisfied with the outcome.

Installed lock - outside gate
Installed lock - inside gate
The lock is NOT in the clear position.

Despite all my complaints and grumblings, I actually do recommend this lock for certain outdoor applications that don't require maximum security. There are other variations that have keypads on both sides, and that also have the more standard indoor deadbolts, and the lock comes in a variety of finishes.

There are two downsides to note, however. Changing the combination requires completely uninstalling the lock in order to get to the innards. (It also requires tweezers. Have I mentioned the tweezers?) This is a major pain, and I don't plan on doing it anytime soon.

Second, because of the mechanical nature of the locking mechanism, the unlock code is very simplistic. Even though it can be multiple digits, the order of the digits isn't important. So, an unlock code of 2143 is also 4321 and 1234 and so on. Again, this might be a big deal if it was on the front door of your home, but it's not for my installation.

An extra minor consideration if you want to install the lock on a metal gate as I did: the kit comes only with wood screws. Plan accordingly.

If you end up buying and installing one of these locks, I'd be interested to know if you invent any new vocabulary to go along with it. Drop me a line and let me know.

Shooting an iPad: It's what we do.
October 9, 2015 12:29 PM | Posted in: ,

My mom's iPad recently cratered. It wasn't a huge deal, since it was a hand-me-down of my 1st generation model, and I replaced it with another hand-me-down of my 2nd gen tablet.

I was able to coax it to life just long enough to wipe it clean and destroy the SIM chip, and I planned to drop it off in the dead electronics box at Best Buy for recycling. But then I had a brilliant thought: "what do guys do when their stuff breaks beyond repair?" The answer is pretty obvious. They shoot it!

I can't explain it, and I won't even try to justify it. It's just one of the rules, and I'm nothing if not a rule observer (especially if the rules are fun). So, I propped the old and busted iPad against a back porch wall and hauled out my AR-15 12-gauge shotgun .40 S&W pistol pellet gun. (I may be crazy but I'm not insane.)

Standing at an angle to avoid ricochets (remember kiddies, always be safe when shooting electronics in your back yard), I took careful aim from a distance of about fifteen feet. The results were remarkably satisfying.

iPad with bullet holes in screen

Several observations:

  • The glass screen is quite durable, and evidently shatterproof. The glass pulverized where the pellets impacted, and the impact caused spiderweb cracking, but no glass shards broke off.

  • The electronics are also durable. As you can see from the photo, the display never shut off. (As to why it's displaying in the Dutch language, well...that's another story for another time.) However, the touchscreen no longer responded to, um, touch. The on/off button did work, but the home button did not.

  • The rainbow of colors caused by the trauma to the display is actually quite pretty. (Even guys who shoot defenseless electronics have a sensitive side.)
I now sorta hate to take it to Best Buy. Maybe I'll get it framed as a companion piece to the G4 mother board.

Deciding how to categorize this post was a challenge. I started to put it in the DIY category, contemplated the Art category, and ultimately landed on a combination of Technology and Firearms, even though a pellet gun hardly qualifies as either.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2015 is the previous archive.

November 2015 is the next archive.

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