Fold, Stack, Wipe, Wash

One observation I have about Europe is how common it is for residents to have cloth napkins at their dinner tables. I don’t mean the thick, rich satin, fine-dining cloth napkins; I mean basic, all-cotton square cloths. Bedsheet material. Most households have holders for them on their tables, like a flat dish or tray, usually with a rock or hinged weight on top, for easy dispensing.

And you use your cloth all day, multiple meals. That’s why it’s important, and clever, to make your cloths out of a multitude of different prints and styles and mix them up, so your household members remember which is theirs throughout the day.

Then, when the day’s done, or when the cloth is so soiled it’s no longer useful, you toss it in the laundry and clean it to use again. Wash, hang, dry, repeat.

We stayed with a handful of people who made their own, and it’s a source of pride for some. They picked a random selection of cut-off fabric leftovers, took them home, ran a serge seam around the edge, and boom, no more paper napkins.

Me, I’m just a bachelor living alone, but lately I’ve had a change of heart about using fabric napkins. I carry a handkerchief of some sort in my backpack, and I can’t tell you how often it has come in handy (it’s a lot). So why not have some at home?

I think Europeans’ love for fabric napkins comes from necessity; many cities and nations have strict laws about landfill trash. Some places require residents to buy barcoded stickers for their bags. Others just don’t have large dumpsters or frequent service, and your options for throwing away lots of waste are limited and certainly not cheap. So you have to cut back, improvise, and be smart.

Several times on our trip we carried our trash with us as we checked out of the B&B. Being a group of 4, we generated a fair share of it. So in order to not be a financial burden on our B&B hosts (who would certainly pass the fee to us), we trucked our stuff out, and part of our transit to the next train was finding the nearest recycling receptacle. If we couldn’t dump our landfill trash somewhere nearby, we’d carry it to the station.

It’s small things like this that matter. If I’m only using paper napkins to wipe my mouth and hands while eating, do I really need a paper towel when a cloth would do?

No Constrictor

Guys, I hate to say this, but I have a confession. After decades of being a staunch Perl and Ruby zealot, I confess that I… I… I love Python.

A year ago, I started my current job at a research lab where Python is the lingua franca next to C. It’s just what the actual nerds use to prototype everything. I had never written, let alone seen a line of Python before starting there.

Within my first month, I had written a utility to control web-enabled power switches, and wrote a web service to control a farm of device outlets. Woah.

I’ve also built a GUI to interact with this system. Buttons, menus, icons, events! Me, doing event-based programming! Yes!

And, recently, I’ve built a client-side daemon that runs in the background and does some important USB stuff for a virtualized automation farm. I wrote a daemon! It starts at boot and writes to syslog! And listens for Unix signals! What!

All those damned years wasted trying to shoehorn Perl into my present needs. Thanks to a fat ecosystem of modules, lots of capabilities are within reach.

I no longer feel constricted.

Cold Chopped Veggie Salad

Tonight’s chopped raw veggie salad experiment: SUCCESS.

It’s bright, crunchy, and has a touch of heat. Can’t wait until it chills overnight!

The dillweed really adds a special something, and the tomato seeds, vinegar, and lemon juice brighten up the day.
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried dillweed
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • several dashes white wine vinegar
  • several dashes lemon juice
  • course grind black pepper
  • salt

Adjust according to taste. Tumble and mix thoroughly, then chill. And drool while it’s chilling.

Produce, Express, Vegetate

No real news to post, but it’s a new month and the last night of a holiday weekend, so here’s me at the keyboard. Didn’t really do that much over the weekend, and that’s exactly what I needed.

Well, that’s kinda a fib, but whatever. Actually went out a few times and sat among the drunken public. Read a little. OK, fine, a lot, really. Churning through Jack Kerouac’s “Desolation Angels“; it’s a great rag.

Took some time this weekend to do things at the apartment. I hate being at home, but sometimes I have to be at home. Saturday, I did something unusual: I broke my schedule and didn’t actually go to Epoch after breakfast and shower. Madness! Horror! Really though, I made my own coffee during breakfast and stayed home Saturday afternoon, managed to do a ton of work on my To-Do list. Funny how that happens.

Funny still is how most of my To-Do list involves something on my home workstation PC. Finished my trip journal. Grabbed a bunch of billing statements. Balanced my checkbook. Waxed the tadpole. Cleaned the bathroom. Even dropped off the dry cleaning and went to the hardware store to get stuff for a radio project, and then assembled that project. Outstanding!

How did I ever find the time to do all this? Wait, I know, it’s because I didn’t sit at the cafe for an afternoon and waste the most productive hours of my day sweating on a patio. Shocking!

Even picked up the latest Tool album “Fear Inoculum“, and found it to be a next-level opening of the third eye so far.

I miss doing stuff and being productive. I used to look forward to sitting in front of my PC and churning through a project to produce a piece of pure gold, but now that I’m always online, that I’m always split between realtime, realspace, and the virtual world, I don’t want to commit to do anything. Half-assed actions.

Meh. To hell with all that. I need product.

So yeah, anyway, Labor Day weekend has been a busy, busy success. As proof of that, please enjoy this picture of a badass cold veggie salad I made. Cheers!

Dumber Faster

Y’know how a quarter-wave stub of coax feedline has interesting properties? Like, if you attach one end to an antenna analyzer and left the other end open at 1/4λ down, then the open circuit looks like a short on the analyzer; zero Ohms resistance. And if you short the end, it looks like an open; infinite Ohms resistance. This is a great way to help you figure out the true velocity factor of a piece of cable; find the lowest frequency where this effect happens, then measure the cable for its physical length, then compare that length with the length of 1/4λ in free air.

Velocity Factor = 1/4λ(air) / 1/4λ(cable)


Well, I wasn’t trying to calculate the VF of a piece of coax; I was trying to cut 1/4λ of coax at 20m (14.2 MHz) so I can use that stub to tune a new vertical dipole I’m going to raise. So I brought out my new MFJ-259C analyzer on its maiden run. This rev of the meter shows you the complex impedance in R and X values, which my old analyzer didn’t do. Really helps you dial in the impedance matching.

1/4λ effects! Physically open line, shorted electrically!

So I multiplied 14.2MHz by 4 to get my quarter wavelength, then tuned the meter to 56.8MHz and noticed the cable I’d cut a few nights ago was horribly long. So I started snipping. Snip, snip, snip, snip, snip. Chopped off about 2.7ft of coax before I could get it to look like a 1/4λ at 56.8MHz. Success!

Snip-snip-snip! Sometimes your workbench is your floor.

No. Not successful at all. Stupid. Absolutely stupid. I failed at logic.

I should’ve set it to 14.2MHz and adjusted from there. But no, I’m kinda dumb. Why the hell did I think to quadruple the frequency for a quarter wave? Failure in logic. Can’t un-cut the cable now. Maybe I can stretch it? (No, I can’t do that.) The cable’s now too short for even the 6m band at 50MHz. I’d have to use up another PL-259 connector to make another cable.

I guess for what I need, this will be, eh, sufficiently short for the analyzer to be electrically close to the antenna as I tweak it. I got 10-ish physical feet to raise/lower the antenna, so hopefully it’s short enough to eliminate/reduce any effects of feedline. My hope is anything below 1/4λ should be enough. Who knows?

So let me tell you this much: finding the right tool for the job will help you do stupid things more efficiently.

Radio is hard.