Yesterday Jen and I finally succeeded in moving on what has been a fairly long drawn our process of bidding on a new home. After weeks of looking we found a home in Clinton, CT. We were trying to find a place in Guilford, but the prices were too high for the quality of house.
We pushed further east and ended up two towns away in Clinton. Clinton is a tiny shoreline community: Just 19sq miles with ~13,500 people. The town has an abundance of inland wetlands (17% of the town is water), and our future home is one that includes wetlands.
About 40% of our property will be pond. This comes with advantages and disadvantages. Privacy and wildlife are assured, but so too are mosquitoes and fewer land based wooded adventures. Still, excitement abounds.
At the moment we are expecting a closing the week of April 1st. More pictures to follow!
Christmas 2013 yielded many fun gifts, but one in particular was highly unexpected. On my yearly DiDonato Christmas list, I had included a stand upon which I could shine my shoes. To some this might seem a very odd request, but growing up I had always admired Dad D’s shoe shining kit. I remember the biting smell of shoe polish and the unexpectedly loud whir of his Ronson Two Speed Roto-Shine shoe polishing motor.
I wasn’t looking for anything as elaborate as his – just a stand upon which I could apply elbow grease and achieve new levels of luster on my work footware.
You can imagine my surprise when Dad D procured for me my very own Ronson Two Speed Roto-Shine Shoe Polisher!!!
DAAAAANG! HOW AWESOMELY RETRO!
There was, however, a problem. Only the high-speed was working. Dad D and I took the motor apart and found a fairly simple design.
The switching mechanism switches between two different circuits. One of the two circuits provides a direct connection of line voltage to the motor: Full Speed. The second does the same, except there’s a resistor in the path. This is unsurprising. The Resistor limits the voltage going to the motor. If that resistor fried, then the circuit wouldn’t work.
When we tested the resistor with an ohm meter we got nothing. This suggested deadness. Unfortunately, the resister was really weird looking. It didn’t have the traditional color scheme… but being that the unit was from the 50′s, we didn’t think much of it. Still, we had no way to determine what the value of that resistor was.
I decided to enlist an electrical engineer to aid in the process.
Sander and I took a look at the circuit. I told him about the weird resistor and he too agreed that it was weird. “Simple solution!” Sander declared as he pulled a potentiometer from his grab back of electrical goodies, “We’ll use a pot and gauge speed by the sound of the motor.”
And that’s what we did. But the results were somewhat surprising. Figuring out the resistance was easy – but when we tried the unit with various resistors they immediately burned up. Huh?
Sander figured it out in a stroke of obviousness. Despite my insistence that this was an ancient resistor – it was no such thing. The device was a Diode. How Clever!
The diode cut out half the waveform and reduced the speed of the motor by half. By doing so, the designers were able to get away with a much smaller device within the body of the polisher.
We replaced the diode and later that night I shined my shoes to glorious levels of sheen.
As I wait for the wedding pictures to come in from our esteemed photographers, I thought I’d take this time to share with you my recent adventure at -109°F.
For my birthday this past year my folks gave me a Soda Stream! As a passionate seltzer drinker, the soda stream is a soda dream. Custom carbonated water on demand is surprisingly convenient. Jen and I drink seltzer every night with dinner, so it really makes cents… or does it?
The machine operates using CO2 cartridges. Each cartridge claims to produce 60Liters of carbonated beverage. For Jen and me, this quantity is likely inflated because we are generous, some might even say profligate, with our bubbles. But for the sake of math, let’s presume the 60L thing works out.
At the local grocery store, we can get two liters of setlzer for $0.89. That’s a mere 44.5cents a liter. Frankly, the fizz fades furiously once one opens the orifice – but still, that’s cheap! Soda stream refills run about $15/canister. That’s $0.25 per liter. A savings of 19.5 cents per liter!
With a $100 price tag on the machine and the price of the refills, it would require ~360 liters to break even after initial investment. Better than the store brand? yes. Much better? no.
Now if only there was a way to refill one of these canisters myself.
ENTER: DRY ICE.
I did some research online. While many lauded the use of paintball gun refilling methods, I was hesitant because of the whole ‘food grade’ thing. While CO2 is CO2, I was worried about the oils used in lubrication of the paintball CO2 valves. There was, however, a video online that suggested the use of Dry ice to refill the canisters. Dry ice is the solid form of CO2. It is safe for food and except for the fact that it’s so cold it burns to the point of disfigurement. (Fun Fact: Dry ice is about -109°F)
The plan would be to partially fill the empty canisters with dry ice. As the temperature of the canister stabilized, the dry ice would melt under pressure into liquid CO2. When that liquid was released into water it would rapidly depressurize into gas. Ta-da! Seltzer!
I decided to give it a shot.
I have two canisters, making refills extra convenient. I picked up 5lbs of dry ice at a local ice store for $11.99 and the adventure began!
First, I used a release valve on the side of the canister to make sure that both canisters were completely empty. Next, I used a vise and a wrench to unscrew the valve atop the bottle.
Next, I put on my safety glasses and thermal gloves, covered the ice with a dish towel and smashed it to pieces.
Admittedly, I thought that the dry ice would be cold enough not to stick together. I imagined it pouring from a cup like dry sand. Such was not the case. It clumped up like snow.
This made my make-shift paper funnel completely improbable. Even with a plastic funnel I had to jam the dry ice into the hole using a skewer.
I filled each container up to about 50% full. Then capped ‘em.
For the most part, this was not a frightening endeavor. HOWEVER, it sketched me out a bit that after I finished filling them, both containers frosted over somethin’ fierce. This isn’t surprising because dry ice is COLD. Yet it freaked me out enough to isolate the canisters in the garage and wait inside while the canisters warmed up.
Once the canisters were room temp, I transported them gingerly to the condo where we installed the first of the two canisters into the soda stream. I depressed the switch… and FIZZ! Beautiful fizz at half the price!
Things I would do differently:
1. At the ice store where I purchased the dry ice, 5lbs was the minimum. I really only needed 4lbs for two canisters. For my next refill adventure, I will most certainly be seeking other dry ice vendors.
2. $12 for this is CRAZY EXPENSIVE. As a comparator, my quick online searches suggest that I should be able to get dry ice for about $1/lb. See #1.
3. I need to improve my crushing method. Dry ice went everywhere. It was hard to contain underneath the towel. Apparently you can order dry ice in 0.25″ pellets – this would be awesome. See #1.
4. I should have weighed the canister before I started so I’d know precisely how much dry ice to add. I wrote above that I filled each to about 50%. It was probably closer to 75%, but I had no precise gauge. As we all know Pv=nRT. If you add too many Moles (n) your pressure could be higher than the defined limit of the container – this could lead to trouble (i.e. exploded canisters). This is why I let my canisters warm up in the garage far away from my body. If I had weighed the containers when they were new I would have been able to closely approximate the moles of CO2 (~44grams per mole for dry ice). I was reassured however by the release valve on the canister. I figure if I added too much, that release valve would have failed and the results would not have been catastrophic.
5. I had/have mild concerns about the O-ring in the container. With the excessive cold of the dry ice I worried about the failure of the o-ring a la the Challenger. When we finish consuming the fizz, I will carefully inspect the o-ring and report back.
Every once in awhile, life kicks you when you’re down.
Shamus, currently residing in New Jersey, had the pleasure of experiencing this first hand recently. It started with the untimely death of his vehicle.
Shamus brought his Lancer into the shop as it was making a disconcerting rattle. The rattle turned out to be the frame which was rusted out to the point where the engine was at the brink of launching itself out of the vehicle and hurdling down the street. Add some other loose heat sheilds and inconveniences, and Shamus decided it was due time to buy new.
Hastened by the complete failure of the Lancer, Shamus moved quickly on a new car. That Friday, Shamus decided on a 2013 Corolla.
The clouds darkened in deep foreboding, foreshadowing Shamus’s pending torment.
Monday 10/7 14:30:00
The new 2013 Corolla was delivered.
Monday 10/7 15:16:00
FORTY SIX MINUTES LATER
New Jersey, which averages about 3 tornados per year, decided to specifically target Shamus. The funnel touched down in a park just to the North East of Shamus’s location. It then b-lined it directly to Shamus’s car where it crushed it under a tree.
Fun fact: the other marks on that map are where Shamus and his family were residing at the time of the incident.
Shamus, do keep us updated on whether you get reimbursement for this fiasco. This is really lousy. All that aside, I’m glad you and your loved ones are unharmed.
It’s worth noting that James is interviewing with Nobel Prize winner James Rothman later this month for a job.
No pressure or anything James.
On Friday, after a trip to the town hall for a marriage license, Jen and I were lucky enough to redeem an invitation to the Hartford NPR studios to sit in and watch the production of the Colin McEnroe show. Sean the Shark, one of my fellow Roller Derby announcers, linked us up with Chion Wolf – a producer/NPR personality. We reached out and got hooked up for Friday’s ‘The Nose’
We got to the studio at 12:30 where we relaxed in the lobby chatting with a few of the show’s participants until we were brought upstairs to the studio proper. The acoustics were AMAZING. The sound carried beautifully, but didn’t linger. Grapefruit sized microphone foam covers hung from jointed mic booms. The room was eclectically adorned with John Dankosky coffee mugs and posters for local shows.
(photo by Chion Wolf)
We met Chion who graciously offered us one of two awesome seating locations to observe the show: next to the guests, or in the production control room. We chose the production control room; this was the right decision.
The studio exists in a weird duality where urgency is married to a patient calm. “Come on in we have three minutes,” Chion invited, “that’s an eternity.” When things have to happen, they are executed with heightened focus and haste. Yet the spans between these moments of intensity are relaxed.
The production room was arrayed with computer screens, knobs, and buttons. All parties communicated via instant messenger for important show communiqués, while studio audio buzzed in the control room via big speakers. Chion walked us through each of her tasks from the show prep, to the careful timing of events, to the handling and managing of listener phone calls.
Our 90 minutes behind the NPR doors flew by. It was enlightening and educational. Jen and I got to see a unique side of the NPR world. An unforgettable experience!
A huge thanks to Sean the Shark, Chion Wolf, and the NPR staff for welcoming us into their studio.
On Friday, Jen and I visited the New Britain Museum of American Art for their September First Friday event. The first Friday of every month, the museum hosts a night of snacks and jazz. While the clientele is a bit older, the entertainment is wonderful and in my opinion it’s a perfect date night.
Shortly after our arrival, we were alerted that there was an artist’s talk beginning shortly on the second floor. Jen and I strolled upstairs and sat down to listen to artist Jason Huff talk about his recent work.
Jason Huff has a fresh approach to traditional works. The focus of his talk was his book ‘The Road Not Taken’ which uses Google’s recommended search results as supplements to the famous Robert Frost poem. Each word from each line was entered into Google, and a new poem was created from the now ornamented text.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” thusly becomes:
“Two moons roadside lyrics diverged definition inception amtrak yellow book woods hole ferry.”
It was an extremely fun method of modernizing a traditional work. Check it out here.