Bass on Bass

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mow the snow?

    Actually this shows you exactly how the  Austrian style  scythe blade moves across the ground in a super efficient manner, requiring no effort to hold it above the ground, unlike the American style scythe. In the grass the blade is too well hidden for it's action to be this obvious. Based on what I've read and seen on this website, I'm almost ready to get one, let my grass grow a little higher than usual and try it out in the back yard. Obviously, the Austrian scythe would be the one I'd buy. I have to read a bunch more and probably wait for a reply to my website message to this guy to decide exactly what type and size blade to get with any scythe I'd purchase. Success in any endeavor is all about just such details.
    Check out some of the rest of the pages on the website linked to in the highlighted text above. 

    This guy with his near perfect technique, shows just why I see this as probably the most efficient hand tool ever invented by man. That's why it fascinates me so much.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Joe Paterno's Nightmare

    Here's the best major publication report based entirely on the Grand JuryReport and setting the timeline of the matter of the acts of Jerry Sandusky which culminated in arraignment on 40 criminal counts 5 days ago! I read the Jury report as well. There are at least 3-4 others who are culpable in the perpetuation of these acts over several years. We'll see how they fare.

    Those "3-4 others" refers only to those Penn State administrators mentioned in the Grand Jury Report. 
    As to any others who may have "looked the other way" or worse in instances related to other victims of his from "The Second Mile" program Sandusky started not part of the Grand Jury investigation, it's all speculation but it wouldn't surprise me. 
    It appears clear from the record that to say Joe Paterno "looked the other way" in this matter is inappropriate. One of the Penn State administrators he called to his home the next day, Sunday after his Grad student reported the event in question (victim 2 of 8) to discuss the incident "of a sexual nature" had The Campus Police Department under his authority.
    As always, see the references linked to via highlighted text above for more detailed information on the subject.

Friday, November 4, 2011


    O.K. so this is clearly not as serious as my blog posts usually are but it's from the POPSCI (Popular Science Magazine) Archives. It's a real article about drug smuggling interdiction. 
    The article, titled:  Mexican Authorities Seize Homemade Marijuana-Hurling Catapult At The Border  is one posted to their website from this last January. I'm not sure when if ever it appeared in their printed magazine.

    I think it's a pretty good marriage of my priorities with this blog. Those as stated are gardening, cool technologies and, where possible, a touch of humor. 
    I ran across this while searching their archives for an article from their monthly magazines' segment called "What's New"  that contains little blurbs with pictures of all sorts of new gadgets etc. that are either new to them, new to the market or have been announced by their makers yet unreleased to the market. 
    I was looking for one I recall seeing years ago about a human powered rotary lawn mower. I recall it looked  a lot like any other rotary mower but for size and  the absence of any gas or electric motor. That was replaced by a wheel driven gear train to the blade shaft.
     Anyway... though there was no luck per my search target, there was this about a completely different type of GRASS!
    As always, click on the highlighted text to find the items they link to.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Zen & the Scythe

    Almost everything about the use and maintenance of a scythe is zen like. From the actual act of mowing with a scythe to the maintenance of the super keen edge a scythe needs to be as efficient as it can be, everything about them is a matter of highly controlled repetitive movement. 
    First there's the "dance" required to properly use a scythe to mow.
    Then there is the peening of the blade that along with use of a stone is required to maintain the ultra keen edge required to keep the act of mowing a useful, productive "dance". 
    There are 2 different sets of techniques for the peening. One is free hand using only a hammer and anvil. The other is using a peening jig. 
    You'll notice both methods of peening are very similar in most aspects but the jig requires less  highly practiced physical technique.  
     Be sure to follow the links to additional videos for "free hand" and "using a peening jig".
     The "art" of the scythe, in both the mowing and the maintenance, is a pursuit that is mentally satisfying in a way not entirely unlike cycling. It is a completely repetitive motion exercise, a highly concentrated, possibly zen - like experience. It is just the kind of meditative process that has the potential to soothe the troubled soul these trying times can so easily produce. Is it any wonder then that there are so many scythe related items on the internet right now?  
     My personal fascination with the scythe centers on it's obvious combination of efficiency and simplicity.    
      This post merely scratches the surface. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bye bye to keyboard, mouse and display

     The video above says it almost all on it's own. 
     I see a fixed unit mounted to the overhead shelf of my computer desk though. 
     Just imagine this coupled with a PC with Dragon or whatever speech recognition. The keyboard, even a projected one then becomes a minimally used part of the system. It's then a matter of 90% + voice and graphic user interface.
     Another application would be as a variation on the overhead projector as control of a regular PC display projector for large or small group presentations with group interaction including  immediate inclusion of group input in the presentation content. 
     For those interested in (or capable of understanding) more details of the design concepts see the video below. It's a bit over my head.

Monday, October 17, 2011


          What's the ultimate superlative that can be used to describe any experience? Usually it's something like "breathtaking" or "it takes your breath away". Why is that? The answer boils down to the question, "lack of what can kill you the fastest?" Everyone knows the answer is breath. 

                                              Breath  is life!
    That pretty much explains the terror asthma inflicts on it's victims. With each victim, in every attack, death from loss of breath is felt to be on their doorstep. 
     I'm relatively lucky. My asthma is not as severe nor the attacks nearly as frequent as with most victims. Still, it gives me some basis for sympathy towards Tina, my wife Jeanne's mom. From before we were married in 1977 to her death in 2001 she suffered from COPD involving periodic asthma and emphysema. 

     Anyone seeking more information on this growing worldwide health problem can begin with The American Lung Association

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and all of us

        There are very few truly universal “facts of Life” for Humanity. Three of them are Change, Death. and the uniqueness of each and every human being. Steve Jobs in his life and passing brings that into focus for many of us. We all make choices every day that relate to all 3. None of us know exactly when death will take us. We either accept that and behave as if it is today, as it certainly may be, or we live in denial of that fact of human life. Choosing the former dictates that we be true to the role of our own uniqueness in change in our world. That daily choice is possibly best described by Steve in this video of his commencement address in 2005.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Eee + AMD = laptop or mere Netbook?

    With all it's AMD E-350 APU power, 12" screen and Win 7 Home premium 64 bit, this stretches the definition of netbook. Connectivity is superior too with HDMI and USB 3.0 connections. With the latter ultra high speed load to and from the latest peripherals is possible. This is my pick for best buy of the month.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chromebook = little linux + The "Cloud"

    This is my second post on this subject in a few days. Yeah, it's safe to say I'm very intrigued. The part of this that scares me and, I think, most older "techies" like me is the absence of control over your own computing "stuff", the product of all of your computer "work" or play. With these machines it's all out there in "the cloud".  They claim it's more secure than it could ever be on any local PC or Mac though.
    I suppose I'm a bit better prepared to accept this though having experienced "virtual machine" use fairly extensively in my last few years of work as a Biomedical Engineering Technician for Hines VA Medical Center. For a number of years leading up to my retirement in late Nov. 2009, a growing amount of my computer use at work was with "virtual machines" or at least virtual hard drive storage of my work product from software on the local PC I was working with at the time.
    So what is a "Chromebook"? The little research I've done all points to a moderately powerful machine running a TINY version of Linux entirely designed for pure "Cloud computing" booting directly to Google Chrome web browser.  So what is "cloud computing"? As I understand it, it means total "Virtual machine computing" with your web browser as the interface to the "cloud", the host of virtual machines accessible on the web via your login site or "Portal", Google in this case. Since the basic principle of the Chromebook is this total virtualization, with these machines there is no need for loading all of that "stuff" all Windows or Mac machines have to load to operate as fully independent computers. If all of the tasks you need to perform via computer can be done on those virtual machines in "the cloud" all you REALLY need to load on the perfect machine for same is a web browser. Everything else you need can be accessed via whichever web portal site you have access to. With Chromebooks in their right out of the box state, that is Google. If you have a Google login, you're ready to start using any Chrome book. You are supposed to be able to do the same from Chrome browser on any PC or MAC as well. I have a G mail account which I use only for Blog spot but haven't tried using Chrome to access any Google Apps yet. 
    Be sure to click on each of the highlighted text links in this post to see the YouTube videos on the subjects that relate to each one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


And the Republicans in Congress and those of that party elsewhere in the country who are running to be President are trying to make political gain out of Democratic Presidents' handling of the National Debt? Just how stupid do they think we are? Actually, though I haven't watched him for quite a while, Jay Leno supposedly keeps coming up with "Jay Walking" participants that seem to dis-prove my respect for the minds of Americans. I probably need say no more except that the PERFECTLY applicable cliches just keep flowing in my mind. Like "people in glass houses...." or "the fattened fox shouldn't complain about the empty hen-house". I'm not sure the latter isn't an original.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chromebook...what's that?

(Click on above image to view the demo video)
It's finally here, the long awaited Google Chrome Operating System. It appears not to pre-load anything other than the Chrome Web Browser. These machines appear to be basically enhanced netbook hardware running Google Chrome OS instead of Windows OS. The argument for them is that many users do nothing but web interface with their computers anyway. Given that market, the < 10 second boot to web time should be a HUGE draw. I wonder if it will include an Icon to get users to a desktop with apps, maybe even Android apps same as the Android tablets? Time will tell.

It's About Time Mr Obama

    I'm shocked it took Mr Obama so long to come to terms with an unequivocal fact of Presidency at least for the last few decades. Almost no proposal of a sitting President after mid term elections with the opposite party in majority in The House can offer ANY hope of compromise. Job #1 of any mid-term Congress is removal of the President of the opposition no matter what theirs or their constituents' opinion might be on almost any issue. Absent overwhelming public opinion otherwise and absolute National urgency, there is no exception! Since nobody really knows how to solve the current situation to even 50% of the people's satisfaction, his only option is to fight for what he sees as right or do nothing and leave office in January 2013.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Grubs...we don' need no stinking grubs

    Grubs and their associated damage WILL be appearing in lawns all across Chicagoland in the next month or 2. It's no worry for me though. Over-seeding this and it's sister grass seed products for ~18 yrs + milky spore treatment back then have made sure of it. These "endophytic" grasses bare a fungus on roots that injects plant-eater toxin into the grass. DON"T GRAZE ANYTHING on this stuff. 
   These grass plants' roots go up to 4' to 6' deep so I have to water maybe once a year.
    The picture is Gardens Alive's main promo photo for the product. A picture of our lawn though nice wouldn't be any revealing thing since we've just received the most rain for any July on record, just in the last week or so. That'd leave ANY lawn green.    
    I'm not sure it's a down side, certainly not for my veggie plants, but all the neighborhood rabbits have learned to stay away from my yard. I guess once or twice getting sick from eating the grass taught them all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Evolving Ornamental Pepper Variety?

    Evidence of plant evolution? I grew these before, ~ 2 and 3 years ago from seed from the same vendor just like this year. Back then the Tricolor Variegata Pepper plants were much more compact and more variegated in leaf than these. The same changed in nature plant form is present in all of the 6 or so places they've been planted this year.
    The photo doesn't do these plants justice. They have lovely little ~1/4" pinkish purple blossoms which produce very small fruits that emerge a deep purple and, over time, mature to either red or orange. The leaves, only some of them this year, have a random, first white and sometimes also purple variegations. I still love them though the new growth habit doesn't fit this location perfectly.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Latops = Desktop price and power?

    New Laptop technologies have just about totally brought them equal to desktops in price and power in the budget and mid range machine categories.
    Here's a laptop that at $399, seems like the perfect one to send your college freshman to school with.  It is so new that it isn't yet included on the HP website. It uses the new AMD A4-3300M processor. 

    Like all the new PC processors, A series AMD Fusion and 2nd generation Intel I series it uses what AMD calls an APU instead of a mere CPU.  An APU is a main processor chip that eliminates the main support chip by including the CPU and GPU (graphics processor) as well as memory management etc. on a single chip. 

    This makes the 2-3 functions work together radically faster by being tiny fractions of a millimeter apart vs up to inches apart when they are on separate chips. Distance apart = sloth in interaction of chips in an electronic device. This also radically reduces their total power consumption and heat production.

    The result is a 15.6" screen fairly powerful laptop that can run up to 7+ hours on battery. There are other design advances that assist in reaching that efficiency but the APU is the main contributor. Here's a laptop that's a near equivalent machine with an I 3-2310M processor. 

    Of course there is the usual small price difference favoring AMD based computers over rough equivalent Intel based computers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

KidKarraige by Nashbar-A BEST BUY

    I received my canopy last Friday that was missing from the Kid Karriage box. I got to try it out yesterday going to the grocery store. It pulls well. Almost the best feature is that it folds up for storage in about 5 min. It fits nicely in the trunk of my Corolla. With the hitch rack, it'll be no problem to take it and the bike(s) out to Aurora and go riding with Liam in it on any of the many trails out there in the Fox River valley. Oh, when I ordered this on line, I also ordered a toddler helmet for my little guy, The one with bunny rabbits on it. Gotta keep his little cranium  safe. It's really cute too.
                                                              Here is the trailer all folded up
    The hitch clamps onto the bike frame just forward of the wheel dropout on the side opposite the chain. The strap gets run around it all and clipped back to the hitch for safety. The hitch pin gets removed and re-attached in the extra hole with the hitch arm folded back under and secured there by the pin for storage / transport. 
    You can see where the "Safe Use Instructions" sticker is visable. It's very clear and concise.
    Safe use instructions for the seat are printed on the seat's fabric in 2-3 places as well, equally clear and concise.
 This is one of the tethered hitch pins, the one for the hitch arm.
   This is how the wheels attach, held in place with another hitch pin.
      Not bad for $100 new, huh? It compares favorably with the trailers I've seen in stores. None of them beat it on price or simplicity. All of the comparable ones go for ~$250, nearly $100 more than this one's $159.99 regular price. These are on sale now.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Defibrillators: now kinder and gentler?

    Wow, first bi-phasic defibrillation (see the subsection of the Wikipedia article on this per link) to reduce required delivered energy and now this to go way further in reducing same. "Rather than one big shock to the heart, a series of 5 small pulses can also restore our heart beats, scientists show. And it uses 84% less energy".  
    The thing about defibrillation is that, yeah, it saves the patient's life but with myocardial tissue damage from the defibrillator's energy injection. Less energy required to normalize the heartbeat = less tissue damage.  The tissue damage reduction may even be exponential!

    For AEDs, the ones in public places, the risks to "amateur" users giving care on the spot is greatly reduced by lower energy delivery. Newer Defibrillators are of designs that may allow conversion to this new lower energy technique via mere software upgrade!

   The greatest effect may be in the area of implantable defibrillators.

  The new lower energy method may allow smaller implantables that run longer on battery charge and whose actions may go undetected by their patients. They may be able to react and defibrillate without the patient sensing any symptoms of the event.

Friday, July 8, 2011



    Just got back from my Doctor's office for my 2nd day later examination of my 12 stitch wound. Per him my assignment for the weekend is to sit around with my hand up like a student who is trying to get the teacher's attention. Fool that I am I mowed and raked debris off the front lawn and vacuumed up the debris from the yew trimming yesterday. When I got inside and sat down in my recliner my body just crashed. I wasn't ready to move for a couple of hours. Later I had a serious coughing episode such that I couldn't go with Jeanne to see Geoff's new condo. Based on what Dr Nelson said, it's all my body's normal reaction to the wounding. Such events kick all of the body's defense mechanisms into overdrive to protect the body and heal the wound. Luckily these wounding episodes are rare enough to forget that. Rarity + remembrance? One can always hope.
    The wounding occurred when I was about 98% done trimming the yews that grow in front of the house. I started the job on Tuesday using the chute/tube/bag setup shown in the last Garden Groom photo above. I "finished" (it finshed me?) on Wednesday when I was using the on-board receptacle for the trimmings instead. As I said at the point of ~98% completion the receptacle was full so I stopped cutting, I lifted it to empty it whereupon I somehow managed to get my left hand longest finger into the business end of it before the blade stopped. My left hand had been gripping the large looping handle which has a whole front surface grip switch. Releasing same stops power to the motor but does not brake the blade. My finger did that. 
    The Garden Groom does the tidiest, cleanest cutting job on my yews of anything I've used for the job in the 28 years we've lived in this house. It's a great tool, as long as you keep your fingers away from the blade, something I hope I can now manage to do.
    I have sent a web message to the Garden Groom folks about the accident, suggesting they look into incorporating a blade braking function per safety switch release.

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Garden Trellises, D.I.Y.

       This is a re-post from last year with some added material.
        Follow the instructions on the picture I made and mount the netting loaded top with #10 or #12 sheet metal screws. Then pull the netting down the sides to complete the trellis. Once installed one can either plant climbers under it or tie up the netting to the top of the frame per whatever the plan for the year is. They have lasted ~ a decade so far. at least 2 of the original trellises just got their first re-netting.
     Once you drive the 3/4" conduit into the ground with the fence post driver, you'll want to cut the top to your desired height with a tubing cutter(for metal tubing see the pics above, which you spin and tighten to make the wheel cut deeper each revolution). The fencepost driver can sometimes make the top of the pipe "mushroom" a bit. In any case you'll need to use a ladder to work with the top of the "posts". Otherwise you'll have a terrible time trying to drill the pilot hole for mounting 1/2" X 5' top. 
  These become part of your garden's "permanent bones" so install these only where you want them present for many years. I have a line of 3 of them along the east edge of both 16' long veggie beds and a pair of them on the south side of our brick home to grow self seeding morning glories to shade the wall. I think it saves a bit on the air conditioning bills. The latter are full 8' height trellises.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Universal Corporate Paradigm: Customer Dis-service

   This is a classic example of where customer assistance has gone in the last decade and a half, not just at AT&T but all of corporate America. It would surprise me if half of the AT&T individuals this customer talked with via phone on this matter were located in the USA and not some Asian telephone answering sweatshop. 
   There is always a maze of automated messages one cannot bypass in pursuit of a conversation with a knowledgeable live person. Then one is confronted by the fact that knowledgeable isn't an option on the other end of the phone line for at least the first 2 levels of live human responders. They are all totally ignorant of anything but the SCRIPT they all MUST follow! At the point of their contact with the customer, the customer is by far the more knowledgeable of the 2 of them on the phone.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Parkway Elm's Future

  O.K. I know 2 independent arborists brought in by the village said it should come down, but being the stubborn cuss that I am, I came up with this plan to save it and eliminate up to ~90% + of the risk (0% risk being impossible for even the most ideal old trees)to passing motorists and pedestrians via storm winds. Note that the upper limb shown to be cut sort of twists around a more vertical one ~ same size at that crotch. The second picture is of the 3 generations of the von Rentzell boys around the tree on Mothers Day.
   I spent 2-3 hours studying (not to mention previous hours doing same) this morning, trying to figure the various loading factors and probable effects of actions of various limbs of the "problem" trunk branch of the tree in severe winds. I assumed torque to be the most important factor promoting failure per the "fault" involved and more horizontal limbs the likeliest to exert the torque.
  I just found out that the story about this tree loss is appearing in this week's issue of "The Doings", one of 2 prominent local papers.

Friday, May 13, 2011


   We have a national choice to make. Either we allow ourselves to be the victims of change by taking no measures to wean ourselves from carbon fuel burning for our energy needs or we incentivize change away from carbon fuel use. There is a double whammy vs double benefit between these options. As a nation we depend on petroleum, coal and natural gas for the bulk of our energy use. These are GLOBALLY PRICED fuels. The US is becoming less and less influential on that global price! Biofuels are largely dependent on what we now use as food crops. If we use crop plant "waste" for the carbon fuels we deprive the soil we grow the crops on of much needed restorative organic matter, jeopardizing it's ability to sustain production of the crops. 
   Leaving carbon fuel use behind us will allow us to determine our own economic future instead of having it dictated to us by carbon fuel producing or consuming foreign economic powers.
   Then there's the environmental damage of contributing to "Global Warming". There are serious arguments about the human influence on global temperatures rising and falling, but the science is pretty definitive of the currently rising temperatures world-wide. It seems ridiculousness to me that humanity would have no influence on at least the speed of that process by release into the atmosphere of trillions of tons of carbon that was stored for eons in subterranean deposits!

    Here's a take on the consequences for our State of Illinois and opportunities for avoiding them, the "pay now or pay later" list.

Monday, March 7, 2011

E-readers onThe Stormy Sea of USB

       Our son Jon and I discussed getting his mom a reader/tablet for her birthday (St Patrick's Day no less). I had asked Jeanne if she'd like a reader/ tablet for her birthday. I'd seen a "Cruz",  7" Reader at Tigerdirect  for $120. She said she wanted to wait since the product type was too young and likely much more expensive than it would become. Jon called a couple of days later and said he had a Kindle someone just gave him that had no charger. He said he'd give it to me to give Jeanne. We figured "how difficult can it be to get a charger?". Yesterday he just sent it home with his mom who was at their place to see the light of all of our lives, our only grandson Liam. So I started investigating a charger for it. It is a thoroughly intact 2nd generation 6" Kindle. The current one is 3rd generation I believe. It works except it's battery is too far discharged to do any reading. It turns out it uses a USB charger/ interface port to charge. That means any 1 amp USB adapter should work, right? I mean USB is USB right? WRONG PILGRIM, here's where it gets interesting. There are a plethora of USB connections and standards. See the Wikipedia page which covers it in depth. Here's the standard connector end views.
      I bought Jeanne a Blue Microphone "EyeBall" web-cam for her PC for Christmas which had only a 3' cable for use with laptops. I ended up having to order a 6' USB A male -Mini-B male cable + a spare to make it work . I had forgotten which non ordinary type it was. I also have a D,C,AAA,AA battery charger with a USB charging port. I figured I was set for the Kindle charging. Yeah , sure, guess again. Wonder of wonders, the spare cable i had didn't fit the Kindle on the small end. It needs a Micro-B not a Mini-B like I already had. 

Then I remembered the Universal Samsung Cell Phone Car Chargers both Jeanne and I have. There is a micro USB connector adapter in the kit I was able to use to charge my Bluetooth headset with. It is a Micro-B male which fits the Kindle just fine.

I still have to get a USB A male to Micro-B male cable to use to charge the Kindle indoors but at least I've navigated the Stormy Sea of USB successfully.