Archive for April, 2013

i used to do a lot more of flower photography

I used to do a lot more flower photography than I do anymore, but I was in Butchart Gardens a couple of weeks ago, so of course I took a lot of photos. So here’s today’s flower picture. You may get more of these over time if people like them.


experiments with artificial mucus

You know how all those white plastic electronics – computers, game systems, lamps, just whatever – start to turn yellow after a few years? And no amount of cleaning will fix it, not even bleach, which tends to just hurt the plastic a bit?

A few years ago, some antique computer collectors – particularly of old Amiga, Commodore, and Atari white plastic computers – did a lot of experimenting around and came up with a solution. It’s known generically as Retr0brite, but you can make it yourself. Essentially it’s a kind of oxidation – a bromine solution is added to the plastic as a fire-retardant, and over time a hydrogen atom gets replaced by an oxygen, which rotates the molecule just a bit to expose the bromine, which looks like this:

UV light makes it worse more quickly

All this means that eventually the 1990s-era trackball that used to live in the sunroom looks like this:

Yep. That’s yellowed.

This is an old Microsoft Intellipoint trackball from the 1990s. I have four of them, one still new in box. It is, for my hands, the single best pointing device ever made. Needing to take it apart to scrub it out inside got this whole thing started.

As you can see, it’s got quite yellow over time, thanks to that UV-triggered bromine exposure. Retr0brite triggers the release of the aforementioned hydrogen, and re-replaces it with oxygen, reconfiguring the molecule just that little bit. You’re actually restoring the plastic with this process, rather than damaging it further.

Mixing up Retr0brite is actually quite simple. The only difficult part is getting the right mixture of artificial mucus, to use as a physical stabiliser. You need one, to keep the Retr0brite on the plastic, rather than running off into the tray.

Minion Paul had to leave the room

It’s just corn starch, relax. XD

I was able to get a reasonably-pure 12% hydrogen peroxide solution locally, but if I had the option, I’d go up to 15% or even 20% – just because by the time you get the artificial mucus into the mix, you’ve diluted the peroxide/TAED mixture further, and unless you have more UV than we have around here, that’ll slow down the reaction quite a bit. More is not always better – in California, this might’ve been too strong a mix.

But! After a day mostly in sunlight – result!

Not all the way back, but close

A stronger mix or a second day of sun probably would’ve finished the job. That’s against 92-brightness white paper, which actually means slightly blue; Against the brown workstation table, it’s almost shockingly white. But you can still see a difference between inside and outside of case, and I think they should be the same.

So: yay! It works! If you do this, USE EYE GUARDS, SERIOUSLY: once you add the TAED, it can get a bit fizzy, and you do not need this shit in your eyes. I can’t stress that enough. But otherwise, it’s pretty safe.

Here’s another before/after shot – sorry the second one is fuzzy, I didn’t realise until I’d put the trackball back together:

Oh, otherwise, the plastic feels unaffected. If anything, it feels a little smoother, but I think that’s just placebo effect. And if you can’t deal with the mucus, another solution is to throw out the gel entirely and make enough primary solution to submerge the plastic. The only problem there is that the plastic will float, so you’ll need to weigh it down.

So yeah, a fairly easy and effective DIY restoration project. Break out your Commodore 128s, kids, it’s time to make some old-school look brand new. 😀

after a brief hiatus

I didn’t really plan to go offline most of this week – it just kind of worked out that way. Nothing’s wrong, really – the biggest news is that we wrapped up recording on Leannan Sidhe’s Mine to Love a couple of days ago, and the mad scramble down at Alec’s to get the last few changes merged in to the mix is underway!

The funny part about doing a lot of this via Dropbox is seeing all these files change. Every time something big happens I get a flurry of file updates, and I’m all HI I SEE YOU WORKING. XD

Also, I’m doing some duplication work today. MAKIN’ MONEY MAKIN’ CDs, which actually means I did fix my robot and the fixes … appear to be stable! It ran okay overnight, anyway, and I have a nice stack of lightscribed CDs waiting for the master disc, with more printing.

So, yeah! HI, I’M BACK. MISS ME?

say no to #cispa


CISPA lets companies and the government do effectively anything they want with any of your data online – email, IMs, whatever. No limits, no responsibility; just the magic word “cybersecurity” and all rules and agreements are off, and what few legal protections there are get overridden – oh, and did I mention no disclosure? There are a few theoretical limits, but with no disclosure or right to access (including no Freedom of Information Act requests), there’s no way to enforce, which means the limits are meaningless. And even if they weren’t, you have to prove a lack of “good faith” on the part of corporations and government, and if you can’t do that? Immunity from the law for everyone, except you. So, yeah, good luck with that.

For more, see this FAQ from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. US Capitol Switchboard: +1 202.224.3121.

i have fixed so many things

Seriously, the last few weeks? Digital audio workstation. Webserver. External storage drive. Backup server. (Well, that’s replaced, not fixed; the old one worked, just really slowly.) CD-burning robot.

This week? I have the replacement transformer for my field-modded-by-somebody SM58 microphone. That should be easy to fix, and then it won’t buzz in the presence of phantom power anymore. Damn, that was annoying.

But mostly, I’m doing a lot of cello recording – final work on Leannan Sidhe’s Mine to Love. And Betsy’s cello, Godiva, gets pretty fierce? And lo, securements come off and my studio reference monitors say WELCOME TO BUZZTOWN!

Yes, Betsy’s cello broke my speakers and made me upgrade them. SONIC ATTACK GRAR!

But that’s fixed now. At least, as fixed as I can make it. These little x77s – if you can even call them that anymore, I’ve modded them so much they’re less than half original – can only take so much bass no matter how much fiddling you do. Right now the biggest source of buzz is at very high volume and from inside the sealed tweeter assembly. I can’t fix it, I’d have to replace it, and ribbon tweeters are kinda spendy.

To wit: maybe I shouldn’t turn them up quite that loud. But it’s tempting, because it’s kind of cool being able to shake the floor with 20cm high bookshelf speakers.

AND NOT BY DROPPING THEM jesus you toons. C’mon.

Anyway, back to music mines. But first! Anna’s new book, Valor of the Healer, is out! She’s got a post up on the official Carina Press site, talking about strong female characters that aren’t physical badasses, and wants to hear about your favorite strong female characters who are strong without the physicality part, because that’s kind of her lead character in this trilogy – strong, despite physical weakness.

Eleanor from The Lion in Winter comes to mind, for me, and if you haven’t seen The Lion in Winter yet, go watch it right the fuck now, seriously.

Anyway, clickie and read and comment. And tell your friends – Anna’s new book is out! 😀

eta: Did I mention there’s a book giveaway involved? No? Damn. Well, there is. Clickie!

so okay this is a doctor who song

So there’s a song by Vixy & Tony called “Thirteen.” It’s on their Bandcamp page here, and there’s cellphone video of a live performance here, at nwcMUSIC 2012.

And I realised a while ago that this is the same number as canonical Doctors – not now, but possible. 12 regenerations, 13 doctors Who. But nothing ever really came of that, until this popped out of my head. And I want to get it posted before we know anything about a 12th doctor, because parts of this kind of play off not having one, and rumours are floating about, so now is the goddamn time, apparently. XD

(Music Vixy & Tony 2008, Lyrics me, um, a couple of weeks ago. March 2013. Creative Commons 3.0/noncommercial use-derivative works allowed-attribute.)

Well I went for a walk on a rocky beach with a storm-tossed sea and a sky of grey
Saw a big blue box with a funny man, he called, “come with me, child, and fly away”
Said “count by the minutes and count by the hours, we’ll see the future that you never knew”
“But the path’s all covered with the blood of strangers, Raggedy Man there’s too many of you”

One and one and one and two and three
Timelord, won’t you take pity on me
Original show only counted to Seven, so
tell me what do you mean?
Thirteen / Thirteen / Thirteen / Thirteen

Timelord tell me all your stories, timelord tell me I can play
I never believed you could come up empty, I never knew nothing never went your way
Reborn twelve times ’round this console, set back up until they shut you down
Nemeses come in gold and silver, but someday the Valeyard’s gonna steal your crown

One and one and one and two and three
Timelord, don’t you take pity on me
Original show never counted on Seven
Tell me what could you mean?
Thirteen / Thirteen / Thirteen / Thirteen

Timelord tell me where you goin’ / Timelord tell me where you been?
Eight went and died on the stroke of midnight, Nine was the soldier who did him in
Ten went too far in a TARDIS, twelve’s still the man who can never sin
But thirteen’s a wrap and thirteen’s a final and thirteen’s the doctor who can never win

One and one and one and two and three
Timelord, won’t you get clever for me?
Original show only made it to Seven, so
what’ll be your last scene?
Thirteen / Thirteen / Thirteen / Thirteen

ddrescue to the rescue

ddrescue has completed! I’m about to let this image to a new drive to recover the non-system files which were unreadable. But I do want to compare-and-contrast something. Here’s ddrescue’s completion output. Note in this list:

  • 5.49 gigs of errors (recovered, tho’ it took four days of processing
  • 21261 read errors.

About to copy 320072 MBytes from /dev/sdb to /home/kahvi/Archives/clearbrook-image.img
    Starting positions: infile = 0 B,  outfile = 0 B
    Copy block size: 128 sectors
Sector size: 512  bytes
Max retries: 0
Direct: yes    Sparse: no    Split: yes    Truncate: no

Press Ctrl-C to interrupt
Initial status (read from logfile)
rescued:   314584 MB,  errsize:   5488 MB,  errors:   21261
Current status
rescued:   314584 MB,  errsize:   5488 MB,  current rate:        0 B/s
   ipos:         0 B,   errors:   21261,    average rate:        0 B/s
   opos:         0 B,     time from last successful read:       0 s

Yikes! Clearly the drive is on its last legs! What does Hitachi’s SMART firmware think?

smartctl 5.41 2011-06-09 r3365 [i686-linux-3.2.0-39-generic-pae] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-11 by Bruce Allen,

SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED



a new book

Anna’s new book is out! It’s called Valor of the Healer (yes, spellcheck, because Carina Press is an American publisher, leave it) and you can download it right! now! for an eminently reasonable new-release price. And you should! Because I said so. Also because it’s good. And I helped make certain, um, possibly-seen-as-nefarious mechanisations work better.

Yes, that does in fact mean I’m a consulting supervillain. SHOVE OVER, MORIARTY, YOU AREN’T THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN. Do you have a heat ray? No? Okay then. SHIFT IT.


I am telling you guys, it is so much more fun being on this side of the spoiler wall. It is. XD

a cheap microphone

A heads up: today’s Tech Woot looks to be a quality microphone for the price. I didn’t even know Blue – who are a quality maker – made a USB microphone, or, for that matter, much in this price range. (I think they had a cheap ribbon mic at some point? But mostly their ribbons are pretty high end. And this is a large-can condenser, anyway.)

I wouldn’t want to move it around a lot – it’ll be too fragile to take out – but anyone wanting to muck around with home recording for as little cost as possible, just wanting to learn the concepts? You could do a lot worse. Particularly given that it’s a USB mic, and you won’t need to buy an external interface.

Here’s the URL:

And, for the record, I have no connection or financial interest in either Woot or Blue, other than losing in a bidding war for a Blue Woodpecker ribbon mic once on eBay. XD

(h/t Stickmaker for the callout.)

go name the mammoth

Anna and I were in Victoria last week, and she picked up a mammoth at the provincial museum. (And, by the way, I had no idea how fucking big those animals were. Holy hell in a handbasket those things were big. I know, I know, they’re called mammoths, but ‘jumbo shrimp’ are called ‘jumbo’ and that’s not true now is it?)

I posted lots of pictures to Twitter about ADVENTURES! And now, mammoth needs a name. And she was debating whether mammoth was male or female and I said not to force mammoth into a false gender binary, and now we just need a name.

The post is over on her blog. Go vote to name our genderqueer mammoth! Also, respect genderqueer mammoth’s identity, or they will trample you into viscera. Just see if they don’t.

Name me!

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