Timothy

Does the Petroleum Lobby Think America is Retarded?

My teevee just told me that climate reform will cause gas prices to raise above $4/gal (no evidence was provided, of course).  This commercial was paid for by some petroleum lobby, as indicated in the very fine print. 

That's odd.  I seem to remember huge gas price increases happening without any climate legislation pending not too long ago.  And if I remember correctly, the prices went down sharply as soon as people started getting smarter about wasteful gas spending, which was a necessity due to the declining economy.   All of that had nothing to do with reducing carbon emissions.

Why are lobbies not required to do an oral endorsement, like politicians?  They should.  "We're America's petroleum lobby and we paid for this message."  Not everybody reads the fine print, like I do.

You know, if you think about it, they are basically threatening America with extortion.  Force us to clean up, we raise your prices.  Well to that I say, I call your bluff, and here's a middle finger you can sit on.

Timothy

Let's Blow Up The Moon!

This morning, NASA crashed a probe into the moon in order to stir up debris to figure out what that part of the moon is made of.  The best (or worse, based on your perspective) case scenario of the impact was for the probe to be slightly less powerful than the usual meteors that crash into the moon dozens of times per year.  The result was not the giant plume of debris the scientists had expected or hoped for, but it still yielded a lot of useful information.

So, this afternoon, a coworker of mine absolutely went batshit crazy on this issue.  "What right do we have to crash a rocket into the moon?" he cried.  "What if there was some underground gas that was flammable and it caused some sort of explosion?!"

Wow.  Just, wow.  This is a perfect example of why the USA needs massive science education reform.  I argued with him for a little while, but he just kept throwing logical fallacies at me.  In particular, he seemed to favor arguments from personal incredulity.  When I confronted him with the fact that the moon gets battered worse than that regularly nearly every week, he actually exclaimed, "but that's nature!  This wasn't!"

If there was some sort of explosive gas trapped under the moon that could actually cause harm to the moon or the earth by an impact that small, our little planet would have been wiped out billions of years ago!  On second thought -- I didn't ask -- but maybe he doesn't believe the earth is that old.

I had no idea this was a controversial issue with anybody in the entire world.  I can't believe I have to say this, but the moon was in absolutely no danger and neither were we, as occupants of the moon's closest celestial neighborI really geek out at stuff like this.  I love science!  I love reading about new discoveries, particularly in astronomy and physics!  It really burns me up that there are people so ignorant about science that they just want to stop it whenever they don't understand something.  I probably shouldn't tell him about the overblown hype of potential microscopic black holes that might be created at CERN's LHC.

So anyway, I want to end this blog post on a light hearted note, so here's a visit back to the world's greatest skit show, where they dealt head on with the controversial issue of blowing up the moon!

Timothy

Avian Waves is Back Up!

Apparently the hardware that my web server's VPS lives on completely died.  I mean died so bad that VPSLand didn't have any way to restore it!  Luckily I take nightly backups of everything important, so the website is back with no loss of content.  Unfortunately, SQL Server 2008 Express's installer has a serious amount of bugs that took me about 6 hours of debugging to figure out.  The entire site is driven off SQL 2008, so I had no way to get the site back without it.  It seems something that was in VPSLand's standard deployment image made SQL 2008's installer unhappy.  It took a lot of registry deletions to get it to work.  More about that later (if I remember).

Anyway.  The site is finally back up!  Hooray!

Timothy

The Greatest Paragraph I Have Read This Year

And possibly a lot longer than that.  Glenn Greenwald does his usual thrashing of the Washington DC political media (aka The Villagers / Beltway Media), but provides possibly the greatest single paragraph summary of the way of thinking that is so dominant in the beltway

As HTML Mencken insightfully noted in what is one of the best blog posts ever written, our political mores demand vehement repudiation of petty acts of incivility (not all, but most) while tolerating and even approving of extremely consequential acts of indecency as long as they're advocated with superficial civility.  Those who use curse words to oppose torture, wars and lawbreaking are evil and unSerious (The Angry Left); those who politely and soberly advocate morally repugnant, indecent policies are respected and Serious.  As long as one adheres to Beltway decorum, one can advocate the most amoral and even murderous policies without any repercussions whatsoever; it is only disruptive and impolite behavior that generates intense upset.  Beltway culture hates "incivility" (public use of bad words) but embraces full-scale substantive indecency (torture, lawbreaking, unjustified wars, ownership of government by corporations, etc.).

I missed the original Sadly, No post, as it was posted well before I discovered that blog, and I appreciate the way Glenn takes what was ostensibly just a satirical look at the beltway media of the time and finds the deeper truth, exposing in a way that, I hope, everybody can learn from. 

Thanks, Glenn.

Timothy

Rationing

I'm trying to understand the "rationing" argument for health care reform.  This is the argument that there simply is not enough doctors/nurses/hospitals/etc. such that if we let any more people get health care, that all care will have to be rationed.  There's absolutely no evidence for this, of course, but that's never stopped the tinfoil hat crowd before.

So here's my question.  Isn't not giving health care to the 40 some odd million uninsured in and of itself a form of rationing?  Basically, if you are against health care reform because of this fear, you are saying that you are good enough for health care, but the currently uninsured are not and care is being rationed in your favor

Why is America so damn selfish?

Timothy

Frobama

Am I the only one that thinks the Chia Obama is, at the very least, unclassy and, at the very worst, blatantly racist?

http://www.chiaobama.com/

Timothy

Palm Pre Commercial

Palm Pre Commercial: "A revolutionary OS that can run multiple live applications at once!"

Really?  That's the best WebOS/Palm Pre has to offer?  Of course not.  I think it's actually pretty nice and I'm a diehard Windows Mobile guy.  But apparently the iPhone has set the bar so low for multitasking (as in, it doesn't) that actual multitasking is considered "revolutionary" on a mobile device.  This despite the fact that Windows CE has done it forever, BlackBerry OS has done it forever, and even the old PalmOS did it in later versions.

Ahh, but well, that's because everybody is (mistakenly) competing against iPhone, even business phones.  I blogged about this before.  At first, I thought it was just the tech reporters, but now even Palm is gearing their advertising that way.  I don't get it.  RIM owns the business world, market against them, not Apple!

But what do I know?  I'm just a tech guy.  I'm sure the marketing pros know what they are doing.

Or maybe not.

Timothy

Get Well, MCA

In case you haven't heard, MCA of the Beastie Boys has cancer.  I'm wishing him well.

Timothy

Modding My Smart: Stereo System, Part 2

Yesterday I posted about swapping out the factory head unit in my Smart Car with an aftermarket unit.  Today I am going to cover changing out the door speakers.

The Smart Car is really unlike any other car on the road in its design.  To my surprise, to get to the door speaker you have to take off the outside of the door, not the inside.  Evilution has great documentation on how to do it.  The "premium" sound system also has tweeters in the dash, but I'm leaving those disconnected.  It's not worth the effort to replace them.  Interestingly, the Smart uses the standard head unit rear channel to power the dash tweeters and the front channel to power the door speakers.  If you leave all the wires connected, you can use the fader on your head unit to change the balance between the door and dashboard -- pretty neat.

The factory speakers are terribly cheap looking (no great surprise there).  When choosing a new speaker to put in my Smart, I had to make sure the mounting depth was very shallow since there isn't a lot of room.  I've always been a huge fan of Orion, so I went to their website first.  Orion's XTR 652 coaxial door speakers are surprisingly shallow.  In fact, the Orion speaker is actually a few millimeters shorter than the factory speaker! 

The inside of the Smart door is basically a single molded piece of plastic.  This makes mounting new speakers very difficult unless it has the same screw pattern as the original.  Since the original's screw pattern is unique to the Smart, this makes it incredibly unlikely.  Orion's door speakers have what they call a universal mount, but sadly there is no screw pattern to match the Smart.  Thankfully, the Smart's 6.5 inch speakers are actually 6.5 inches.  This isn't always the case on some factory systems!  The diameter of the Orion was exactly the same as the factory speaker.  This is great because the Smart's plastic speaker mount has an edge that protrudes and presses on the edge of the speaker, just past the surround,  but just before the metal case.  If the Orion speaker was any bigger, this edge would press on the surround and affect the sound quality and life of the speaker.

Since I wasn't able to use the factory screw holes, I needed to make new ones.  The problem is that there is nothing to screw into with the Smart.  If I used a long screw and went into the door plastic, it would punch through the other side and you'd see the screw inside the car.  That's no good.  :-)

My solution was to epoxy little wooden blocks at points where the Orion universal mount had screw points.  Where the arm rest is located just above the speaker, I lined the universal mount with the existing screw hole and rethreaded it with a wider screw.  So I ended up using one factory screw hole, and three new screw points into the wood blocks that are epoxied on the inside.  This worked great, but be careful about one thing: you really need to score the plastic really well before applying the epoxy to it.  At first I just used some low grit sandpaper, but that did not do the job.  The blocks fell off with only a little bit of force.  The second time I used the sharp end of a screw and went to town scoring some nice deep grooves.  The epoxy stuck really well after giving it something to grab onto.  After that, I just needed to drive some wood screws through the universal mount's screw hole and the job was done. 

Surprisingly, the Smart has some pretty good speaker wire connecting the door speakers.  Eyeballing, it looked to be around 14 AWG -- not bad!  Since I didn't want to fish new wire, I simply snipped the ends off the factory wire and soldered it to the Orion speakers.  When I install the amplifier, I'll snip and solder the speaker wire behind the radio and connect a longer cable to the amp.  It's not the ideal way to run speaker wire, but I've done this before as a shortcut and it works well.  Also, I don't care what anybody says, I cannot tell the difference between Monster Cable and cheap cable when it comes to speaker wire.  RCA cables, yes -- absolutely.  But speaker wire, no.

Anyway, I put the doors back on and fired up the stereo.  Still using the head unit's amp, it sounded amazing!  I can't wait to get the amp hooked up now.  These XTRs are really great speakers!

I love Orion!

Enjoy the pictures.  The next installment of this series will cover hooking up the sub and amplifier.

Smart door
This is what the door looks like when you take off the outside panel. 
You can also see that I have cut a "plus" pattern to gain access to the speaker behind the weather shield.  It's a shame there isn't a better way to gain access without taking the door apart, but duct tape will fix all!

Side of Smart 
This is a nice side view of the smart with the door panel removed.

Orion XTR 652 and factory Smart door speaker
The factory speaker is on the right, the XTR 652 on the left.  You can see that the XTR is not quite as deep as the factory, leaving plenty of room for the window to roll down.  Also take a note of the magnet size difference!

Door speaker mount
There are my new screw points!  The factory grill will conceal my secret weapons.  :-)

 Orion XTR 652 speakers
The Orion XTR 652s, side by side!  You can see the "universal mounting bracket" that lacks Smart screw holes (no great surprise).

New speaker mounted in door
The speaker, partially mounted (I forgot to take a picture after I tightened all the screws, so this is the last picture you get).

Timothy

Modding My Smart: Stereo System, Part 1

This will be the first in a series of posts about modifications I make to my Smart Car.  The first big mod I'm making is installing a new car stereo.  The Passion Cabriolet comes with what Smart calls the "premium sound system," but let's be honest: factory installed car stereo systems always suck.

If you are a Smart owner and want to work on your car, you should get to know the website Evilution really well.  This site has information on how to do basically anything in your Smart with regards to assembly/disassembly.  This is good because Smart/Mercedes is very protective of the official service manual.

I replaced the head unit yesterday which was incredibly easy.  I must say that the Smart is, by a long shot, the easiest car I have ever worked on.  Nearly all the screws are the same type (torx 20 or 25) and none of them so far are torqued so tight that you can't unscrew them with a manual screwdriver.  Nice!

My head unit of choice is the Sony Xplod MEX-BT2700.  I bought it mainly for the price as it is by a long-shot the cheapest bluetooth car stereo solution out there right now.  It does have some glaringly stupid limitations, like not automatically reconnecting A2DP to existing partnerships when the radio turns on (it does, however, automatically reconnect the bluetooth hands-free phone profile).  So each time you start the car, you have to press a button to reconnect your bluetooth audio device to the radio..  Despite that, it's a great unit for the price and the built-in microphone works really well for hands-free bluetooth goodness.  Here's a couple pictures.


Sony Head Unit
You can see RCA cables coming dangling in the passenger foot area.  Those will eventually find their way to the amp!


Sony Head Unit
The car kit for the Smart looks really nice and creates a very professional "factory" look even when replacing the double din factory radio with a single din aftermarket like above.

My next post will cover replacing the factory door speakers with Orion XTR652 coaxial speakers.

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