Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pop, Poof!

Last weekend, I went driving around the Puget Sound. I paid cash for a lot of things, which left me with a lot of pocket change. While I was getting ready for work on Monday, I decided to put all of this change in my bank.

I have a really nice “piggy bank,” which is an actual pig dressed like Superman. It was a birthday gift from my wife. I think she was tired of me using old peanut butter jars for a coin stash. The pig has a slot in the top of his head, for inserting the coins, like a normal bank.

I have this bad habit of inserting many coins at once. It saves me time. I never thought that it could go wrong. But it did. As I was adding many coins at once, a penny missed the slot. It rolled off the pig, landed on its edge and rolled off the back of the dresser. Behind the dresser was a 6-gang electrical plug adapter. The penny fell perfectly behind it on the two prongs that settled in the plug behind the adaptor.

I remember my grandmother telling me once that, back in the days before circuit breakers,  people used to replace fuses with pennies when they didn’t want to spend money on fuses. A penny is a perfect size for the fuse socket, was made of copper (a great conductor), and was thick enough to carry more current than the fuse. My grandmother ended the story with the fact that, since pennies don’t blow like fuses, people often had fires that a fuse would have prevented.

This penny, despite being newer and no longer made of solid copper, was still a decent conductor. It provided a loud POP! The sound was so loud (especially with the expletive that I yelled) that I didn’t even hear the breakers trip in the box next to the plug. It pulled so many amps that if flipped the main breaker for the entire house, along with the bedroom breaker.

After I had retrieved the penny, I turned the power back on and took some pictures.

There are soot marks on the wall.  I replaced the outlet and the cover. IMG_7582

The Penny. You can see where it made contact with the plugs. The short had so much force that it was actually thrown on top of the 6-gang plug.IMG_7584

The 6-gang plug. There’s some melted penny on each of the prongs. This is probably still usable, but I didn’t want to chance it. I replaced it with one that screws into the wall socket so that there’s no space for a penny to slide in. IMG_7585

Advertisements

On Watching Chess…

I recently found myself with a case of the flu which kept me home from work for a week. Most of the week was wasted, with episodes of round-the-clock napping. When I was starting to feel recovered I checked in on my chess.com games. I had several games going when I became ill, and needed to make a move soon (or else, lose on time). 

When I navigated to chess.com, I saw an alert on the video tab. I never see these. So, curiousity prevailed and I clicked on it. The alert said that round 9 of the US Chess championships was being broadcast online. With the exception of the 2015 World Championship (that I watched on a Russian web site while I was in India), I haven’t watched a chess tournament since the last time I lived in Seattle. When I did watch them, I enjoyed the commentary a lot. 

Back then, you had your browser tuned to Chess.fm, while you watched the board on Internet Chess Club. Now, its different. This was like watching Sportcenter for chess. There were two GMs, Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan, sitting at a studio desk, discussing the games and positions, while a third GM, Maurice Ashley, was standing in front of a large board like a chess meteorologist. This led to some robust discussion and positional debates between the three GMs.

What really made it interesting, was that Maurice Ashley would often refer to “the engines” during the conversations. Back when I used to play and watch chess, there were alway articles about how chess computers were going to ruin chess. This was a case where the engines enhanced chess. With several engines and three GMs, the broadcast team usually saw things that the players didn’t. They’d discuss a line and then wait to see if the players would see the optimal line. This amped up the drama of the broadcast. All of the sudden, as a viewer of a game between 2 players that see the board differently than most of humanity, you were able to see the dynamics of the game as they played out. 

On rare occasions, there were surprises. But, when they happened, they were something special, as several engines and 3 GMs didn’t see them coming. Wesley So’s win in round 9 was a good example of this.

At the end of the weekend, I was excited about chess again. I really want to play again, like enough to start working on my game again. 

New Radio (UV-5X3)

I bought a BTECH UV-5X3 radio this week. As the name might suggest, it is a five-watt radio that works three bands: 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm.  It is Chirp compatible, allowing me to condense the programming from my two radios that cover these three bands into one radio.

While programming the radio, I decided to add more repeaters. I have become entertained with the proximity search on the RepeaterBook.com mobile app. With this, I can pick the repeaters to add to the radio in order of their distance from the house. I’m eager to try this program out when I’m away from the house, as well. It would be nice not to need to program the radio each time that I go to another place.

There were some things that I wish were better in the experience. For example, If you buy a 5X3, get the tri-band antenna accessory. Having to switch antennas, only because you’ve changed the channel, isn’t a great customer experience. Likewise, the proximity search works on the RepeaterBook.com website. BUT… if you export the list to a Chirp file, the site doesn’t respect the “sort by distance” parameter, leaving you with the right repeaters, in the wrong order.

Still, I’m looking forward to making this radio my primary handheld radio for events and regular use.