bookmark_borderPlaylist 2020

Each year, as I acquire new music (Still mostly purchased on CD then ripped to MP3, though an increasing amount of music is only available as digital downloads.), I add new tracks to a yearly playlist for occasional review and December retrospective use. This was 2020 (in order of acquisition):

  1. Bladerunner 2049 Original Soundtrack
    Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch
  2. Arrival Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Johann Johannsson
  3. The Blue Notebooks
    Max Richter
  4. Decksanddrumsandrockandroll
  5. Ad Astra Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Max Richter
  6. Asbury Park Live 8/8/13
    They Might Be Giants
  7. 2020
  8. Les Revenants
  9. Beethoven or Bust
    Don Dorsey
  10. Chemical Chords
  11. Cloud Atlas Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil
  12. Pieces in a Modern Style 2
    William Orbit
  13. Good
  14. Adrian Legg Live
    Adrian Legg
  15. Dead Bankers
    Adrian Legg
  16. The Ambient Collection
    Art of Noise
  17. Evans City
  18. Interstellar; Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Hans Zimmer

As usual, lots of soundtracks and old friends. Both Sharon and I adore the movie Arrival, which set off a big Max Richter kick for us this year. Some of the artists I like who have strong followings, but not large enough followings to interest major music outlets, have switched to online self-releasing, like They Might Be Giants and Adrian Legg. Zombi put out their first new album in years, followed by an EP of some work they did for a Night of the Living Dead (Filmed in Evans City, PA. Check out that “Sound Engineer” credit for Sharon’s dad.) tribute event. I also found an online site for a chain of stores in Maine that had a bunch of CDs that have been on my “Wanted” list for years, just to explain some of the older stuff (8 through 13) on here. The Art of Noise album was the only thing I saw that I wanted on the new Tower Records online store.

bookmark_borderUber ATG Magic 8-Ball

Back in December of 2017, I was working for the Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) here in Pittsburgh. This was the self-driving vehicle research arm of Uber. The group threw a holiday party at the Pittsburgh History Museum, and as a party favor they gave us all custom “Magic 8-Ball” toys that had answer dice filled with ATG catch-phrases and in-jokes. Now that the ATG is no longer a division of Uber but is now a part of Aurora Innovation, perhaps it is time to post the 20 “answers” here. I can’t find them anywhere else on the ‘net.

  • Ask The Julies
  • Catching Rain Water
  • Cheerful Transparency
  • Chicken Bucket
  • I Aaron Doubt It
  • I Do Not Concur
  • Keep on Truckin’
  • Krypton Says No
  • Let’s Have An All Hands
  • Letwin Will Fix It
  • No Swag For You
  • Reorg
  • Super Sprint
  • That’s a HW Problem
  • That’s a SW Problem
  • Winter’s Coming
  • Xenon Says Yes
  • Your Answer Is At CRU
  • You’re a Boron
  • #UberOn

Keep in mind that I was hired as part of the third or fourth wave of hiring at the ATG, so some of these jokes refer to things that were before my time. Some of them are just startup anxiety phrases, like “Reorg” and “Let’s Have An All Hands”. Some of them are somewhat specific to autonomous vehicles, like “Catching Rainwater” and “Winter’s Coming”.

“Boron”, “Krypton”, and “Xenon” were the code names of the three test platforms at the time. “Chicken Bucket” was the nickname for the large spinning LIDAR unit on the roof of each vehicle. Kryptons were the Silver vehicles that Uber bought from Volvo, and were the most numerous. A Krypton is what hit that lady in Arizona.

“CRU” was the name for the “Crucible Building” which the ATG moved into when they outgrew their original startup space. By the time I left the ATG, Uber had five or six buildings down in the Strip District. Very few people had been in all of them. I’d been in more of them than most people had, since I started in Operations and later moved to Engineering. Each was a few blocks away from the others, so if your answer was in another building that could be tiresome.

“[Nick] Letwin” and “Aaron Doubt” are the names of a couple of influential ATG engineers. “The Julies” were the two main HR people at the ATG. Troubles with HR were the main reason I left.

The ATG’s “SPA” building, with a “Boron” test vehicle

bookmark_borderSorry, it’s Politics

The first incarnation of this blog had a lot of politics on it, and I’ve tried to keep politics off the blog this time because politics is everywhere now and I really didn’t feel the need to bring it here, but now things have changed.

Republicans in Pennsylvania actually want to go to the Supreme Court to get my vote, cast legally and in good faith by mail in the recent election, thrown out because their favored candidate for President lost.

Not that I was ever likely to vote for a Republican candidate, but this makes it certain that I will never vote for a Republican candidate in any election at any level for the rest of my life.

Just forget it. You people take your Superspreader in Chief, Total Landscaping Lawyers, and Zodiac Killer Senators and just forget that.

bookmark_borderPoplar Solar Flicker Lantern

Progress on the wood frame lanterns to fit the solar flicker lighting units continues! I completed the fifth of six planned lanterns recently, this one made from some surplus poplar lumber I had in the garage.

Andon in Poplar

Here is the lantern hanging in the Shourou at night after a recent snowfall:

Snowrou with Poplar Andon

Here is the lantern storage box almost full of lanterns:

5/6 Complete

bookmark_borderPlaning Off Saw Marks

Kanna on Poplar 1by1

I started working on another lantern today, and I thought I’d show you how I use a Japanese kanna block plane to remove the marks left on the wood by the band saw that I use to mill the lumber into pieces. You can hear the vibration at first, that eventually gives way to smooth shaving noises.

I spin the piece around part way through so that the blade is cutting at an angle across the grain instead of into the grain. This yields a smoother cut. You can see that at the start, the grain lines are pointing up and to the right. Then, after the spin, they are pointing down and to the left.

You can also see that the piece I am planing is not clamped down at all. Since you’re pushing down on the plane, and so down on the piece, the only thing that’s necessary is the planing stop that you can see screwed down to the “planing beam”. My planing beam is simply a length of 2by4 held in my bench vise. My planing stop is 3 inches of 1/8″ welding iron that I drilled a couple of holes in so that I could screw it down. I did have to file the edge of the iron so that it wasn’t rounded over.

bookmark_borderShelf Table

Back at the old house, we had six shelves in the guest/sewing room. They were made from edge-glued pine panels, stained with a water-based “rosewood” stain, and finished with water-based polyurethane. Here at the new house, we only needed two of them, so the other four shelves were in storage waiting for a good project.

Two Shelves

A few months ago, the Sweetie asked if I could make a bedside table for the guest room here at the new house. The only real requirements were that it matched the room furniture, and had enough space underneath to fit this hamper that also lives in the room.

Shelf Table

I took three of the surplus shelves, cut them to length, joined them with dowels, and glued them together. Of course, that was pretty-rickety. so I added some diagonal braces that I cut from one of the offcut pieces of shelf.

Underside of Shelf Table, showing bracing

Not very fancy, but it saved us a trip to the furniture box, and we know it matches the shelves!

bookmark_borderMulberry Andon

I just completed another lantern for the “six lanterns” project. The frame of this one is made out of mulberry wood. I had a small plank of this that Mr. Arimoto gave to me probably about seven years ago, and it seemed like a good project to use it on.

Andon in Mulberry

Of course, with the paper on it like that, you can barely see any of the wood. The fibers in this plank were very rough and wavy, but in the places where my plane got a good shaving, the surface is super-nice.

Frame of Mulberry Andon

I rough-milled the sticks from the plank using my band saw, then hand planed them down to 3/4″ square rods. There really wasn’t enough wood in the plank to make it entirely from mulberry. To compensate, I made some of the stretchers a little shorter than normal, and used dowel joinery instead of my usual mortise and tenon joinery. This was a little easier, since it meant cutting short lengths of dowel instead of cutting 16 tenons, but it meant drilling twice as many mortises, half of them into the ends of stretchers. I could not have done it without my drill press.

Anyway, it joins the other three lanterns (oak, maple, and cherry) in the lantern box.


bookmark_borderRise and Fall of D.O.D.O., The

A Novel by Stephenson, Neal and Galland, Nicole

Anybody who knows me well enough to read this here blog knows that I enjoy reading books by Neal Stephenson. Some people, including people I otherwise respect, consider him to be long-winded and tiresome. “Long-winded” I cannot argue against, but I find him to be endlessly entertaining.

DODO is 742 pages of epistolary diachronical action. It is chock full of manuscripts, emails, journal entries, after action reports, radio transcripts, running around, helicopters, car chases through the streets of Boston, boat rides, sex scenes, battles, beer drinking, quantum physics, holiday parties, and team meetings.

It took me more than a month to grind through it all, but I enjoyed the whole thing.