At my semi regular thrift / junk shopping trip I found a Compact Pyromillivoltmeter (or simply Pyrometer) made by Arthur F Smith Co in Rochester NY. I've found reference to it being a new product in Analytical Chemistry 1957 Volume 29 issue 4, 82A.

It's a really cool device, and for $3.99 it became mine. It needs a couple small repairs and looks to be about 10° F high in its measurements. The quick connect clamps on the sensing disk have sheered off and someone attempted a repair with solder, which of course will just melt at the temperatures the pyrometer measures.

Maybe the coolest part of this is that it is completely unpowered. There are no batteries or anything else! It relies on an iron constantan thermocouple to generate a small current. I didn't actually know about constantan before, it is a Copper-Nickel alloy.

After a quick scrub with a small amount of acetone to remove much of the stickiness and a little flux and solder removal and good care its back to perfect working order even after 63 years.



I have become enamored with chemistry. I decided about a month ago to take an online class, specifically I decided on Introduction to Solid State Chemistry available on MIT open courseware. I'm always looking to expand my knowledge and this is not really so much an expansion as a reminder. I very much enjoyed my chemistry and semiconductor physics / chemistry classes in college and I've mostly forgotten it all.

Thanks to wonderful channels on YouTube like Applied Science, Nile Red and Cody's Lab, there are practical versions of the largely theoretically topics available at my finger tips. It never ceases to amaze me how much good content YouTube contains. Applied Science is binge-worthy nerd heaven and I have intense workshop jealousy when I watch it. The DIY vapor deposition setup really takes it to another place though. When I was learning semiconductors in college, we talked about things like thin film vapor deposition and sputtering, but they were always these mystery machines. I hate to say it but during those entire years spent learning about semiconductors I never even SAW one of these setups. At best I saw a chalk sketch of how they worked, drawn by a tired professor, who would rather be doing their research than talking with English as a third language, to a bunch of similarly tired people.

The open courseware chemistry class is going ok so far, its a bit odd to be doing homework by myself just for the sake of it, but it suffers the same academic problems as my old classes. The professor will talk about historical context, and then show an equation and draw a rough picture of an experiment with different historical context. This is then followed by another equation, as though the revelation of the time can be handed down.

To contrast this style of teaching, I've been in physics classes where the double slit experiment is shown first, and then explained piece by piece. This form of showing, to create curiosity, for me at least creates a nice slot in my brain where the follow up math and science fit to be understood and remembered. This is far superior to the rather "backwards" feeling of historical theory -> experimental evidence -> historical theory -> experimental evidence -> Modern math -> drawing of a modern experiment to show results. I see this same great example first teaching style from these modern YouTube science and engineering channels that aren't steeped in academic tradition. Put a vacuum chamber at the front of the class room and pipe high voltage and argon into it! Now my mind says "why is this working, why argon, why is the magnet there". From that anchor the math slots in as answers to my questions, rather than answers to someone else's questions from some point in history.

So I've bought some very simple chemistry equipment, and have some very modest projects planned. It's exciting to be reminded of this knowledge I once had a firm grasp of, and think of experiments and balance equations in my notebook.

a mandolin


In recent months I have purchased both an acoustic bass and a mandolin. I had previously had a fairly substantial instrument collection while living in Vermont, but sold everything except for one small Ukulele to help pay for my move to the PNW. Among these items were very fancy guitars and keyboards that largely had collected dust. One small exception being my Korg SV-1 which I adored and played daily.

After arriving in Seattle, I moved in to a small house boat. It didn't have room for anything at all, just over 200 square feet to live in and as boats tend to be quite wet I purchased a Yamaha FG820 acoustic guitar. Quite a step down from a $2000 Taylor I had been playing before, or so I thought. I purchased the Yamaha to be able to be ruined by everyday boat life, and a wonderful thing happened instead. I play it all the time. I never worry about if its humidity conditions are right. I don't own a case for it, it can just be thrown into the car or dragged into the yard. It lives on a wall mount, not in a case. It is my guitar in a way that my nicer guitars never were.

The first week after moving to Bellingham, I picked up a free Acrosonic Spinet Piano from craigslist. I can't recommend enough buying a small form piano for the home. If I had a full studio, or played professionally I might feel differently, but its an excellent piano. There were plenty of nicer Pianos on craigslist for large sums of money but this one essentially just cost a session from a piano tuner and a bit for movers.

I decided to take the same approach with the Acoustic Bass, a gift for my fiancé and an expansion of an apartment filling to the brim with musical instruments. I bought a low end Ibanez Parlor Acoustic Bass and it sounds great and plays great. I came to the realization that now every instrument in the apartment combined costs less than just one acoustic guitar I owned before moving. I don't have anything against high end instruments and I fully understand the play feel and sound that comes with them. I understand the craft of instrument making and supporting those extremely talented folks that make them. My dad is an amateur luthier and has built incredible instruments from very raw chunks of wood. I get it. I think though that a low end Yamaha 'student' guitar sounds really really surprisingly good. It's not revelatory or life changing, but it sounds like a nice guitar. It holds its tuning, and fills the room. I don't need to change the world with my playing, I'm not setting out to make audiences weep at the beauty of the sound.

So a mandolin. How does a mandolin fit in? So after a good friend mentioned that he missed playing the mandolin, I went on a YouTube rampage of listening to mandolin players and started to fall in love with its sound. A morning walk with my son sealed the deal when I walked by a banjo player sitting in the back of his truck playing Whiskey Before Breakfast and the old-time hit me right in the heart. I ordered a slightly above entry level mandolin that I couldn't buy locally. An A-style Kentucky branded one made by Saga in China. I'm still under the budget of just that one guitar I used to own, for everything I have combined.

I play mandolin now daily, mostly learning fiddle tunes. I've learned Swallowtail Jig, Push that pigs foot a little further in the fire, Cider, Connaughtman's Ramble, Cherokee Shuffle and Behind the Haystack. I mostly feel interested in learning fiddle tunes but I'm curious where it will end up. Its a great instrument, and very familiar to anyone with a lifetime full of fretted instruments.

Anyway these days I'm thinking a lot about how much of what we buy is on some level for status or unrestrained gear lust? How much of our ego is embedded in our gear decisions? I try to resurrect my much younger self, excited just to hold any instrument unaware that they have price tags or that the word on the headstock has clout. Unaware of the musicians associated with the brand. Unaware of the craftsmanship and the hand versus factory made arguments. Unaware of the geopolitical temperature effecting cultural acceptance of things made in places we are supposed to not like. Unaware that the highs are slightly muddy, or that a different and more european wood might resonate in a more pleasing way. I just hold it, let the joy of an instrument wash over me and then play.

a pen


Near the end of may I decided to let go of social media, at least temporarily if not for good. I somehow didn't expect that I would have essentially withdrawal from it, first in kind of a needy must do something with my hands kind of way and then later in a sudden plummet into boredom. Since I don't ever feel bored, and my life is full of endless programming side projects, paintings, pottery, cooking and music this was pretty bizarre to experience. It felt like the withdrawal of cigarettes, the nicotine leaves quickly but the hands don't forget so easily.

I have a little routine I do for on the rare occasion I feel bored. I first recall this incredible quote:

"We have to stop CONSUMING our culture. We have to CREATE culture. DON'T watch TV, DON'T read magazines, don't even listen to NPR. Create your OWN roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are — NOW — is the most immediate sector of your universe. And if you're worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered. You're giving it all away to ICONS. Icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that, you want to dress like X or have lips like Y... This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion. What is real is you, and your friends, your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And, we are told No, you're unimportant, you're peripheral — get a degree, get a job, get a this, get that, and then you're a player. You don't even want to play that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world."
- Terrence McKenna

While its really a bit much overall, in a way that McKenna usually is a bit much, the intro to it is what I've built my life around and when I first heard it it connected with me because it was what I already believed deeply and how I already behaved.
"We have to stop CONSUMING our culture. We have to CREATE culture. DON'T watch TV, DON'T read magazines, don't even listen to NPR. Create your OWN roadshow."
After this I consider what in my life I've been attracted to, and in this case it was storytelling. Something I've always adored and never really attempted beyond some very short writings. I've never been one to shy away from something I am ill prepared to do and I decided to go for it. I will write a Novel.

When I endeavor to replace boredom with creation I usually try to mark it with some kind of token that points in the direction I'm hoping to go. In this case it was a pen. A modest pen as far as pens go but well above the Pilot G-2 I frequent for daily note taking and works. It is a TWSBI Eco and I adore it.

As you can see in the picture, I labeled a notebook with the title of a Novel I have been wanting to write for a long time "Mystic Seminary" a school for cursed and damned teenagers. I have been writing about 6 days a week since and have accumulated 9 chapters of what I think is a great story. I have a long way to go, but the kind of romantic ritual of writing with a fountain pen is filling my soul. I often forget about my phone now, as I have this new world I am creating that is much more interesting than what I am being sold.

I hope maybe by the end of the year I will have completed this story and maybe someday I won't even remember that "social" media was ever a thing. Then my publisher will demand I have a twitter account for fan interaction and I'll have to hire someone to pretend to be me.

we are live


I launched my website today! It follows the ideal of do the least and it is going to stay very simple.

However I didn't want to do the true least and create a hard to maintain static website. I have instead opted for a hard to maintain tool chain that generates a static website using a bunch of trickery, black magic and interestingly shaped input files.

I plan to write more here regularly! About fatherhood, cooking, programming, music and the stuff I would normally have put on instagram.

a blog huh?


Hey everyone. I'm still alive just taking a break from social media.

I am back to work, Winter is amazing, I'm throwing pots again, spending time at the archery range and I've been writing a YA novel about cursed teenagers. Its amazing how much more time I have when I stop disassociating into a feed.