Archive for February, 2016

Save KPLU has a matching donation drive

I’ve posted about the effort to save KPLU as an independent Puget Sound radio station – with independent and good local journalism – a few times now. Pacific Lutheran University is selling the station, and right now, KUOW is the buyer, with intent to shut down their news and local programming and make it a full-time jazz outlet.

If KUOW’s direction of the last two years is any indication, the resulting station will basically be a syndicated-NPR-jazz feed with no local programming of note, and certainly no meaningful local news coverage. Since the new DC-based programme director took over, KUOW has become a wasteland of national syndication and corporatism. I’ve stopped my support.

So now is a very good time to pledge and keep that from happening, because they have a $200,000 matching grant, which means that all donations right now are doubled. It works like a Kickstarter, in that pledges are held pending meeting the goal. So go to their support page now and throw money – every dollar will be doubled for the next week. And thanks.

Just caught up on Elfquest

Okay so I’ve just caught up on Elfquest for the first time in a while and there was a time I was a massive Elfquest fan (as maybe you can tell from things like my art) and I’ve always kept following it but a lot of the time it felt kind of rote – I mean, it never really got bad, but it wasn’t what it had been, if you know what I mean, and this series had been better, but still not really HOLY FUCK WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK JUST FUCKING HAPPENED OVER THE LAST THREE ISSUES BECAUSE I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THIS BECAUSE WHAT I MEAN WHAT I MEAN UH WHAT?!

so yeah! I care again. Elfquest fandom, how’s everybody holding up? Anna is all “all I can see is the Two Moons MUSH crowd FLIPPING ITS COLLECTIVE SHIT.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the most interesting storytelling they’ve done in a long goddamn time but HEY LET’S TAKE SOME DYNAMITE TO EVERYTHING AND FUCK SHIT UP BUT GOOD was not something I really thought was in their oeuvre anymore you know? and I’m all in YOU DRAGGED ME BACK IN YOU BASTARDS I WAS OUT AND YOU DRAGGED ME BACK IN GODDAMMIT

the fannish downloads set

About once a year I do a song that is particularly fannish. I mean, it’s me, right, they’re all kind of fannish or nerdy on some level, but I’ll do some straight up Pacific Rim or Buckaroo Banzai or Doctor Who track about once a year. Often, they’re for a convention or some other, similar event.

Did you know I always make those free downloads afterwards? I don’t do these for money, I do them because I love the thing I’m writing about. Sure, the link usually still says “Name your price,” because if somebody wants to hit the tip jar, I’m not gonna stop them. But these songs are up for $0 because I want people to download them. I’ve had people tell me they feel bad about that, but – seriously, don’t, that’s what they’re for!

So pass this link around:

The Fannish Download Set

It goes to all the free ones, including the new one from this year, “Thirteen,” my Doctor Who song. We aren’t getting any new Who this year, so maybe that’ll help tide your Whovian friends over. And hey, we just got word Pacific Rim 2 is a go – I’ve got a song for that, too. 😀

G’wan, hit the link. Find something you like and take it home. It’s on me. ^_^

heh “just like tape”

jeff Bohnhoff found this AVID ProTools parody site that’s pretty funny if you’re into recording technologies. Yeah, that’s pretty obscure, but it’s a Thursday and I have the annual multi-hour tax appointment so that’s all I got.

The real point of these is, yes, fine, there’s a tape aesthetic, there’s a sound, there are Happy Accidents, but jfc tape was awful when you actually had to use it. Or was fantastic, depending upon how you feel about editing with cutting blocks, tape hiss, capstan rumble, track bleed, dropouts, head lubricant which is not in any way as fun as it sounds and unbelievable amounts of expense, and don’t get me wrong, it beat everything that came before, this is really just my way of saying nostalgia is stupid, but if you want to use magnetic tape and gear as an effects box, that makes sense.

Just, gods, don’t have to rely on it.

I kind’ve wish they’d included some radio specific bits. There would’ve been commentary about randomised tape stretch in your carts, and there would be emulation of the magnetic track marker tape disappearing somewhere in the machine resulting in guaranteed loss of cueing functionality and 50%-likely loss of tape until you restored the track marker, plus a bonus .01% chance of Avid Virtual Cart Machine™ failure and .001% chance of Avid Virtual Cart Machine Electrical Fire™. Avid Virtual Tape Splicing Kit™ and Avid Virtual Cart Start Marker Kit™ subscription would both be required; Avid Virtual Staff Technician™ and Avid Virtual Little Fire Extinguisher Under The On-Air Desk™ recommended. Avid Virtual Cart Start Marker Kit™ and Avid Virtual Little Fire Extinguisher Under The On-Air Desk™ would be, of course, not yet available.

But you get the idea.

it has now occurred to me that I may be suffering from science-related memetic disorder

I realised this morning that I could totally add Bluetooth to this monster of a stage monitor I’ve been rebuilding and upgrading. I’ve made it self-powered and compliant to modern specs, why stop there? It’s portable! It even has a handle!

48 pounds! Two pounds less than a standard bag of concrete! PORTABLE!

I mean, okay, sure, I’d need a second one to deliver full stereo, but I could do that because I have two of them and could put on another jack to share channel two over to the second speaker and and and IT COULD WORK!

Someone please put a towel over my head.

This post is part of a series on restoring infamous vintage stage monitors. Spoiler: they made good, in the end.


So yesterday I mentioned that the first stage monitor had some physical issues, and what the big one turned out to be is that one of the XLR sockets on the new control panel extended too far into the cabinet, and rattled against the tweeter driver.

That’s really annoying and generally not good, but fortunately I have some shallower ones handy, and hey, the hole is about the same size, and hey, the screw mounts are about the same distance apart, this should be perfect!

Not as much.

Now, this has exactly zero functionality impact. It really doesn’t. But wow, it’s annoying. Not quite annoying enough to make an entirely new Delrin panel and unsolder and reconnect every wire, but still. Annoying.

Anyway, it’s totally working now. I have successfully upgraded this antique to modern specs. It’s not quite like taking an old grandfather clock and setting it up to run network time protocol, but… actually it’s a lot like that. Go Team Pointless! Except it’s not, it’s actually useful now.

The link is to video made on a phone of an iPod playing through the speaker by direct cable connection, no other parts. Yes, it’s also now the heaviest portable – luggable – iPod external speaker ever.

Tho’ even with the wonky socket, the panel still looks decent labelled.

Made and Designed in Cascadia with Chinese, Canadian, American, and Cascadian Parts.

I’ll open it back up to tie down some cables, but other than a little more testing, this one’s done. Speaker two is next. Probably won’t post many photos, it’d just be reruns. But if I learn something I’ll post about that.

This post is part of a series on restoring infamous vintage stage monitors. Spoiler: they made good, in the end.

a few quick pictures and a name

As per Twitter last night, installed, it’s looking a little less like Star Trek and a little more like K-9. So I’m calling it dB-90.

There are a few more physical issues to work out (something rattles when loud), but it’s getting there. Here’s a video not loud, recorded after everybody else was asleep.


This post is part of a series on restoring infamous vintage stage monitors. Spoiler: they made good, in the end.

fandom, get your shit together

What the hell, fandom? I mean, I know, everybody is terrible lately, but c’mon.

Mark Does Stuff went public with the abuse and harassment he faced as FanGoH(!) at ConQuesT. Jesi Pershing, who resigned from the concom over their refusal to act, adds her account here.

MidAmeriCon II, despite being a separate convention, is clearly feeling some blowback and trying to get ahead of this right now. I hope they mean it. Rachael Caine has made a statement about being fed up with this bullshit.

Meanwhile, Rainfurrest is down, perhaps for the long term, due to misbehaviour including significant hotel damage and actionable assault. That’s quite the writeup. They did not get ahead of things, and it’s taken them down. Which is why it’s probably good that Katsucon is taking immediate action in response to similar bullshit happening at their event this year.

In short, TAKE SOME GODDAMN NOTES, PEOPLE – get ahead of this or go down. I like our shiny conventions. Stop wrecking them.

eta: File 770 now has a post up about it too, with a big comment thread.

more and more like a star trek panel

So following up on materials suggestions made in response to the previous post on this stage monitor project, I’ve been playing with Delrin (acetal copolymer), a long-polymer-chain plastic.

It looks even more old-Star-Trek than the diagrammes I made. Seriously, I’m wondering if they made the bridge consoles out of this stuff. Cut a bunch of holes for buttons into it and you’re off.

Which is exactly what we’re about to do. But first, lj:tereshkova2001 asked if I would report back about how this plastic works as a material. Since that’s pretty hard-core geekery, I’m including that down at the bottom of this post, and talking about the panel assembly first.

So after I cut off my new panel backing from the rest of the sheet I’d bought, I decided the easiest and best way to place all these holes would be to adhere the printed scale diagramme to the plastic itself, and just drill through the paper at appropriate points.

Since movable spray fixative doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore, I came up with an alternative plan of two layers of tape – one single-sided, one double-sided. The single-sided layer is packing tape (of which I have lots), applied to the panel:

One of the reasons I didn’t just use double-sided tape in a single layer is that stuff is really hard to remove, so if I tape it to tape that’s easier to remove, I don’t have to fight that battle. Also, the packing tape is wider, meaning the holes cut in the tape don’t break any single entire length of tape, which means I always have a section of “handle” when pulling the tape up once we’re done.

Anyway, then the double-sided tape goes on the back of the cutting diagramme:

And that gets us to the third reason for two layers of tape: I had to position the diagramme on the panel so the hole guides are in the right place. You can’t really draw on Delrin, or on double-sided tape, but you can certainly use your pink glitter gel pen on ordinary packing tape just fine:

And now you know exactly where to position your cutting guide/diagramme on the panel.



As I was warned, this material really likes climbing the drill bit. That’s true for any plastic, and this isn’t worse, but it isn’t better, either. Fortunately, that wasn’t doing any actual damage. This is what one of the holes looked like:

Along with an insert test, which showed that yep, this seems to be working fine. I drilled out the rest of the holes, and peeled off all the tape. Having tried this before with double-sided tape only, adding the packing tape layer made this much easier.

Eventually I got most of the sockets and switches and such in place. A few of them needed separate bolts to hold them onto the board. Drilling those holes also involved tape for position control, but in a slightly different way. Again, you can just drill through the tape:

As of writing this, I have all the components integrated into the panel. I’m really pretty happy with it. There are a couple of little scratches which aren’t my favourite things in the world, but it’s not like anybody will notice them, ever.

As you can see, I have started wiring the thing. Green light means “plugged in,” red light means “power switch is ON.” Those are neon and I’m a little worried about noise from that – it’s not supposed to be an issue, but No Trust I, so I’m probably going to wrap the backs of those in copper shielding. If I have to, I can cut them out entirely and have no harm done.

And besides, it looks pretty cool.

I still need to drill attachment screw holes around the outer edge of the panel – which I kind of forgot about until just now, oops – but that won’t break anything. Then it’s wiring harness time!

I hope this keeps working out. See, what I’d really like to do is be able to move up to a modern iPad-driven sound system, but all of those use and expect self-powered speakers. If I can make these passive monitors into self-powered and it actually works? That’d let me actually move my gear into this century. Which would be really nice.

Anyway, that’s where the project stands right now. Hopefully I’ll get to work on it more tonight and have another update soon.


For the record, I’m using the basic Delrin formulation (no glass particles added as a hardener, etc), at 3/16th” thickness.

absynthe77’s comment that it works kind of like a very soft aluminium kind of stands up. It’s not exactly like that – you can melt this with a cutting wheel in ways you can’t melt aluminium, for example – but I see what they mean.

The aforementioned melting is minimal and not bothersome. It doesn’t clump up into a paste like acrylic plastics do, which is much nicer, and it doesn’t foul your tools, which is critical. You can cut it with an edge-grinding Dremel bit and it doesn’t get goopy and weird; it flakes off in manageable pieces, instead. But it’s still soft enough to cut with a basic Dremel cutting wheel and I haven’t accumulated much wear yet.

Here’s an edge cut made that way:

Note the circular-saw-like cut pattern; it didn’t melt the plastic away, it cut.

Unlike acrylic, Delrin does not score-and-snap. I gave it quite the depth of cut and got absolutely nowhere trying it. I even gave it another go after getting out a cutting wheel, just to see if I hadn’t scored enough, but no, it just wasn’t having any of it – not until I was almost entirely through the sheet. So while it has some flex, it’s very strong against snapping and cracking.

In some ways, working with it kind of reminds me of linoleum block print cutting, only a much harder material. With a Dremel cutting ball, for example, you can scoop bits of it out, almost exactly like linoleum block cutting. That’s pretty nice, and is how I made the square holes I needed – well, that and an xacto knife and file for finish work. Most of it was just scooping out plastic with the Dremel.

I haven’t worked with many plastics, and when I have, I generally haven’t enjoyed it, but this… this is fine. Fouling isn’t an issue, it doesn’t send sparks like metal so you don’t have to worry about shop-vac fires and can run the vacuum the entire time, I didn’t really seem to be able to overheat it in a meaningful way.

If there’s a downside, it’s that it does scratch like plastic, and more easily than aluminium. So you’ll need to take some care with that. It’s not look-at-it-funny-and-it-scratches soft, but a stray screwdriver would definitely leave a mark.

So, yeah. Definitely something I’m glad to be able to add to the toolkit. At least, so far.

eta: I’ve discovered the old speaker-level inputs used by both speaker and amp are an obsolete cable connection standard. I’m upgrading the speakers to self-powered, but I want to maintain the speaker-level-input functionality too. Do I re-implement the old standard? I mean I guess so, but. Ugh.

eta2: It was, for the record, a stupid standard.

This post is part of a series on restoring infamous vintage stage monitors. Spoiler: they made good, in the end.

this new panel is looking kind of old-school star trek

Now that I’ve had good test results from the Class-T amp I’m using to make those old stage monitors into self-powered stage monitors, it’s time to whip up a new plug panel for the new connectors needed – power, line-level input, and so on. This process is raising more questions than I expected, so this post is partly me thinking out loud, and partly taking suggestions.

When I got these speakers, they had unbalanced XLR in, and unbalanced XLR daisy-chain, and that’s all. That’s kind of weird these days, so I added a 1/4″ unbalanced (“phono”) connector. That looked like this:

But unbalanced 1/4″ phono plug is not really optimal for powered speakers, because the signal going to the speakers is line level, which is a lot lower, and therefore a lot more subject to interference. So I need some sort of balanced input, I think. Also, I still want to be able to use the speakers in their original intended mode – as passive devices driven by external amps, so I kind of need two connectors. Plus the soon-to-be-built-in amplifier needs a power lead, and it’d be nice to have a couple of status indicators, and so on and so forth.

So that all fits together in the existing amount of space like this:

Without and with labels

So does the drill pattern for all the holes I need in this new panel. I had been thinking of adding a second panel or something, but since I was able to make it fit, I think I’m better off not bodging more exceptions into the cases.

My initial thought was 1/4″ plywood – I have that, it’s easy to work with. But now I’m looking at the number of connectors which are involved here, and the number of resulting holes, and I’m thinking, should this be metal? Or would a particularly sturdy plastic work?

The original was metal, and I’m pretty sure I mean steel. It’s sure as hell not aluminium – adding one jack to it was a huge pain in the ass, and aluminium isn’t that hard to drill out.

So, yeah. Plastic would be a lot easier, but would it be sturdy enough? Serious question, I don’t know. Aluminium would be easier to drill and file than steel, and is still pretty strong. But that’s still a lot of work.

Maybe I could/should get someone with a cutting system to cut it out for me. I know that’s a thing you can hire out, but I don’t know anything about it. I have a scale drawing and that’s all.

I guess I can ask Fishy that when he gets back from Tokyo. But I hate waiting once I have all the parts for something. Anybody got experience with hiring out metal cutting in Seattle, and know things like how much that cost? ‘Cause I have no idea.

This post is part of a series on restoring infamous vintage stage monitors. Spoiler: they made good, in the end.

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