Posted by mike d. Filed in RockStar

With my extended (~60min) work commute from West Hartford to East Haven, I have been listening to lessons on CD from the Great Courses program. The strength of the courses, not unlike at any institution, is entirely in the quality of the teacher.

Thankfully the instructor of much of the music series, Professor Robert Greenburg, is excellent. So far I’m on my third set of discs.

1. How to listen to and understand great music (Greenburg)
2. Elements of Jazz, from Cakewalks to Fusion (Bill Messenger)
3. Understanding the Fundamentals of Music (Greenburg)

The courses, specifically Greenburg’s, have been eye opening. Greenburg focuses on classical music genres. I have learned WAY more than I thought I would have. Before the course I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between Bach and Stravinsky. Now, I feel pretty confident in identifying music to specific Classical eras.

Further, despite casual music for most of my life, the Fundamentals of Music has taught me a ton on the workings of musical mechanics. It is admittedly academic with a fair amount of time being spent on definition and word origin, but it’s valuable information and I’m pleased with what I’ve learned.

In particular, two of my long-time questions of music have been answered

1. Question: C Major scale has no flats or sharps. Why the heck did they choose to label the EASIEST scale with the letter C. Why not start the easiest chord with the easiest letter, A?
Answer: A minor is the relative minor of C major. And apparently back in the day, the minor scales was more musically important than the major scales. So those that made the decision, chose to put the most important minor scale with the fewest accidentals as the A. That makes sense!

2. Question: Why is it that the 7th note of each scale, as you progress through the sharps of different keys, is always the last sharped? For example, key of G: F# (that’s the 7th.) Key of D, F# and C# (C# is the 7th). It works like this the whole way! But Flats? No 7ths there!
Answer: I was thinking about this entirely incorrectly. Instead if you look at the circle of fifths the signatures AND the accidentals follow in fifths and fourths as you progress around the circle. The 7th thing works out on the sharps. On the flat side the flats progress on the 3rd.

MIND-NUMBING.

I strongly recommend Greenburg’s courses.

Jan
16

Shiny.

Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...

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!!!

oh the glory!

oh the glory!

So... many... attachments...

So… many… attachments…

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.

Enter: Sander

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.

Shoes

Posted by mike d. Filed in Quickthoughts

You know what irritates me to no end?

The use of the word Appreciate without the preceding pronoun; The assumed “I”.

Person A: “Appreciate your coming in today!”
Person B: “I finished that report for you.”
Person A: “Appreciate it.”

This is not a phrase of thanks, it’s a command. YOU BETTER APPRECIATE THE RIGHT TO COME IN TODAY! YOU BETTER APPRECIATE THIS WORK!

Ugh!

Here’s the kicker: I do this all the time. And EVERY single time I do it, I hate myself.

Anyone else have self-loathing due to a poor grammatical habit?

Dec
17

Carpet!

Posted by mike d. Filed in House of Rock

The House of Rock has over 1200 sq feet of carpet within its walls. The Carpet is spread across 8 rooms:

1st floor: bedroom, dining room, living room
2nd floor: 4 bedrooms, hall+stairs

Carpet replacement comes in three steps
1. remove the old stuff
2. lay down packing
3. lay down the carpet

I contacted two companies to start: Empire Today (national) and Colonial Flooring (local). Both companies came in at roughly the same price. Empire at $4500 Colonial started at $5000. In typical salesperson fashion, both companies ‘started’ at pricing much higher ($8000 and $6000 respectively) and then found ways to reduce the price down to those above.

Affordable carpet (not the cheapest, but certainly not the most lush) runs at about $1.20/sq foot for material. With 1200 sq feet, I’m looking at ~$1,500 for the material – the rest is packing and labor.

Perhaps the easiest way to reduce cost is to do the demolition yourself. That took $500 off the Empire today quote, and $600 off the Colonial quote. Colonial, being a local provider, was more flexible in their negotiation and ultimately offered me $3500 to Empire’s $4000.

Let’s talk Demolition.

Things you need: 1 sharp box cutter, gloves, safety masks

Cutting the carpet in 3 foot sections makes it much easier to handle. While the Empire Today guy was visiting us, he showed us a quick and easy way to pull up, and manage used carpet. We took a video to share the tricks with you! Check it out:

(note: I am wearing a sweet DJ Lokash tshirt.)

Next comes the packing, or the carpet pad. Packing is rated by density and thickness. 6lb and 8lb are fairly standard on the weight side. That’s pounds per cubic foot packing. In the ideal world you’d like to have a thicker softer pad for living areas and a thinner denser pad for high traffic areas. In the case of our place, we chose to stick with the affordable. Since we won’t be living there, there is no guarantee that the carpet won’t be damaged by rough living. So I’ll likely find myself replacing the carpet again in 10 years no matter what.

I’m hoping to have all the old carpet up and out before Christmas then it’s on to the next project!

Posted by mike d. Filed in House of Rock

The House of Rock is currently empty of tenants. Purchased in December of 2004 and consolidated in July of 2007, over the nine years of ownership this House has seen 14 residents and one official significant other: Mike D, Jesse, Mark, Sander, Tom, Jon, Liz, Jason, Mike K, Mike P, Nick, Kevin, Brian, Shaun (& his wife Jessica)

Their tenure at the House have varied from 3mo at the shortest to 6.5years at the longest (I am not including myself in the data set) with five of the tenants holding their rooms for 4 years or more. I can hope that most persons used the House, with its good community and mostly affordable rent, as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Perhaps the most startling aspect of this transition is the suddenness of the House’s emptying. The House went from a population of 4 to 0 in one month.

The House has experienced quite a physical transition as well. Tons of work has been done on this thing in the time that we’ve lived there:

1. Kitchen ceiling and appliances replaced
2. Electric fuse box made new
3. Garage floor poured
4. Garage doors installed
5. Driveway replaced
6. 1/2 the Roof newified
7. Closet built
8. Both Bathrooms rejuvenated
9. Pizza oven constructed
10. Dining room made mature

And now that it’s empty it’s undergoing one more facelift before it will graduate from House of Rock to House for Rent.

1. Basement de-watered (done!)
2. Carpet recarpeted (in progress)
3. Kitchen recountered
4. Paint!
5. Fix the tiny annoying things

We’re hoping to have all items complete before the spring so we can start renting to a family once we buy a new home of our own. I’m not sure how well that will go; it’s a tough market. Still, the House is a pretty great place. It has a wealth of space and a lot of attributes that I hope will be used with appreciation by a family looking for this kind of home.

You’ll likely see some posts over the next month chronicling some of those changes.
Tomorrow? Carpet.

Posted by mike d. Filed in Humor

What do you call Sean Combs with a God Complex?

(Answer in the comments)

Dec
9

Descent

Posted by mike d. Filed in travel

On Thursday I zipped out to Ohio for the day to meet a customer with a colleague. We had the luxury of taking the company plane; a rare treat that saves us a wealth of time and the pains of airport patdowns and lines. The machine is a small Cessna Mustang from 2010 – with fairly up to date technology. The cockpit glows from the multitude of bright electronic maps and screens.

It’s mostly quiet inside the cabin. There’s a constant growl from the engines, but it’s comfortable enough to carry on a conversation. The plane itself is fairly steady – we weren’t deeply effected, outside of a schedule setback, by the 100knot headwind.

That headwind was just one piece of the wacky weather that marched into New England on Thursday. While we were out in Ohio the fog rolled through Connecticut like a tsunami of marshmallow fluff. On our landing approach the cabin carried an eerie light, illuminated via the thick white clouds that blanketed the windows. As the plane began its descent I looked to the cockpit and watched the altimeter.

Mike D: We’re at 1000 ft.
Colleague: Wow. Clouds are low.
Mike D: 800.
Colleague: Can you see anything? I can’t see anything.

Note, we were landing in Hartford which has an elevation of about 180ft. So at this point while our altitude was 800, we were only about 620ft off the deck.

Mike D: 700.
Mike D: 600.
Colleague: That can’t be right. I still can’t see ground.
Mike D: We’re at 500ft.

At this point one of the two pilots was looking out the window trying to see ground. The other pilot kept his hands tightly on the yoke.

Mike D: 400ft.
Still complete white.
Mike D: We’re at 300.
Colleague: this is crazy
Mike D: 250.

Suddenly, the pilot pulled back hard on the yoke and threw the throttle all the way forward and we climbed climbed climbed from 250 to 4000 in what felt like seconds.

The pilots kicked into action mode and immediately started pulling out charts, flipping switches and bantering back and forth. A decision was made. We took a hard turn looped around and 30 minutes later were on the ground in New Haven, where the winds of the sound held the carpet of clouds at bay.

It was more fascinating than frightening. It was interesting to be able to witness the decision and the action of a pilot in a less than ideal situation. Both of the guys in the cockpit are ex-airforce guys and it was quite clear given their reactions; The pilots acted with impressive authority.

When we first got in the plane, one of the pilots guided us through the emergency exits. “If we’re in an emergency and you need to escape the aircraft, pull this lever, turn it clockwise, pull the door in and it’ll come right off. If it comes to that feel free to pull the rest of us out of the plane too.”

And while I never felt at risk, I’m still glad to be home!

Posted by mike d. Filed in family

Great music:
Music

First dance:
First Dance

Some really weird/fun dance times:
Dancing!

Dessert!
Cupcakes

Night falls on an epic day:
Night

Married!
Married

Truly an epic day of celebration. A big thanks to all those who participated in person and supported us from afar. So far marriage has been wonderful. We’re looking forward to many years of adventure.

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