Yagi Decorated

You know, most New Yorkers don’t look up much. No matter how cool everything is around them, they don’t want to look like tourists. But I am secure enough in my New Yorkedness to walk around looking at skyscrapers and taking pictures with my touristy looking camera.

This hideous yagi antenna is on a top of one of the old art deco buildings on 46th street. By the way, it turns out that it named “after Hidetsugu Yagi (1886-1976), Japanese electrical engineer” and not baba Yaga as I thought. Actually it should be called “Yagi-Uda” because he invented it with the help of Dr. Shintaro Uta.

Looks like nobody cared much for Dr. Yagi’s work in Japan at the time. Of course, they regretted it after they discovered that it was used by the Allies as a radar antenna. This reminded me about how Pyotr Ufimtsev’s dense paper titled “Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction”, which was completely ignored by the Soviet military scientists, gave Denys Overholser, a Skunk Works radar specialist, all the theory needed to build F117 stealth fighter.

Indeed, yagis are very useful. You can extend the range of wi-fi networks with a yagi made out of Pringles can (gotta build one) and I’ve heard of a guy that made a yagi for his cell phone, so that he could access weak cell networks while biking across America. They may not look very good, but they have a kajillion uses in radio and tv.

Too bad there is no book about Dr. Yagi on Amazon, but here is a rather interesting site about Japanese inventors. Here’s Dr. Yagi’s statue and here’s an iteresting quote that I’ve found: “US War Crimes Commission witnessed that Professor Hidetsugu Yagi was the first Japanese “to speak proudly of his work instead of denying it all.”

Exoskeleton Troubles or Crown of Despair.

I’ve finally stopped biting my nails (and I’ll write a detailed howto article about that in a little while). But as soon as I fixed that, I broke my one an only fake tooth.

You see, one of my childhood friends was chasing me (with the intention of beating me up for something or other), and caused me to trip. I chipped my front tooth. When I was already in the US, my former half-assed dentist talked me into killing off that tooth and turning it into a crown. The result of his work was pretty sucky — the crown came out in a year or so. But by then I had a really, really good dentist replace it. And that lasted my a good while.

But a few days ago I carelessly bit into a piece of chicken. There was a loud crunch and…..

Luckily my other childhood friend is a second year dental resident (yes, dentists have an option to go into residence, although it’s not required). I could not get a dental appointment with my regular dentist until the 18th, but my friend took that x-ray the same day.

In any case, I’ll need an implant (or a bridge, which I don’t want to do). For a couple of months I’ll have to wear a temporary replacement called a “flipper”. I know, har-har, flipper.

But at least the implant is cool. An implant is basically a titanium screw that goes directly into the bone. It’s installed by either a dental surgeon or a specialist.

Woohoo! Titanium! I’ll see if I can get a laser cannon, cell phone or a supercomputer mounted in there. We have the technology, right?

Great Fight With The Wall Warts and Holy Insurgency Against Wire Mayhem

Want to learn how to lower your electric bill and organize your power cords? Then .

Here is something I wanted to write up for while, but never had the time. But today I finished my book on my train ride to work, and now on my way back I have nothing to do, s I’ll write this up on my blackberry.

Remember, I used to bitch about high electric bills. Well, I think I found a way to reduce them. I found a culprit. Its name is Wall Wart. It’s also known as a power adapter, 12 volt transformer and #$%^ thing that takes up two outlets at the same time.

The sad fact is that most electronic appliances operate on a voltage that’s close to 12V. Since in US electrical grid mostly operates at 120V (a 240V line split into two) an a 120V to 12V transformer is needed.

Why isn’t there a separate 12 V line? Well, 12V electricity doesn’t travel well, so there is no way to pipe it directly from the power plant. And in any case, all the devices use current at different amperage, different jacks are needed and some devices have built in transformers. In one word – legacy issues. Two words. Anyway, back to the story. So what do I hate wall warts?

They are expensive. Did you ever try to buy a new charger for your cell phone? They cost a fortune. Without them electronics would be much cheaper.

They consume from 1 to 20 Watts in standby mode. Here is an article about that. There are between 20 and 30 wall warts in my apartment. And they are hungry.

They use up outlets.

Their thin wires create a mess, the plugs that go into the device often pop out inconveniently.

They generate heat.

They are ugly.

I hate them. I looked in vain for a universal power supply that would be able to feed all the devices, but I could not find any (same story with the personal power meter btw.)

Well, my solution is pretty simple. I went out and bought a bunch of power strips (ones with fat slots for wall warts). Then the hard part – I rounded up all the wall warts. I found a few from devices that I no longer used. Those went to my junk box.

Then I separated the wall warts that should always be on (phone and answering machine) and plugged them into their own strip. My computer and all devices connected to it went onto a second power strip. My wife’s computer and it devices went onto the third. I’ve done the same thing with the entertainment center. Tivo and cable box went onto one strip, everything else – onto another.

Whew. Now I turn off all the unnecessary devices at once. And the bill for last month was $20 lower than the one for the same month a year ago. Of course it’s not a good way to compare, but I’ll keep checking.

And if you read this far, here is a bonus rant. Did you ever try to mount a power strip on a wall? Most power strips have these nasty little keyholes on the back. You are supposed to make a paper template, screw in 2 or four screws and hang the power strip on those. There is no margin for error there. The screws must have correctly sized heads, must line up precisely, and be at the right angle with the wall. Of course, when you hang the strip it will look skewed. And when you’ll hang it straight, the screws will pop out of the sheetrock wall when you pull on it. Aaaaaaaargh.

Now to the solution. At first I experimented with drilling holes. That way I could just mount it on the wall with a few screws through the body of the strip. Well, it doesn’t work on all strips. On most I would have to drill diagonal holes or risk destroying the wiring.

The final solution is simple: I epoxy two pieces of hard plastic to the back of the strip, leaving a few inches sticking out. Drill two holes through that – and voila – instant hanging brackets.

Another lunch break well spent

Our own Brooklyn bred half-assed Houdini, David Blaine, is doing a 36 hour stand in on a column in Bryant Park.

I’ve got the exposure wrong, but Canon’s stitch assist mode is working nicely.

He’s got a cathether for peeing, some water and a cell phone. He is going to jump onto some cardboard boxes in about an hour. Notice the camera array on the boottom — that’s for Matrix-style effect. All you need for that is just a bunch of 35mm cameras firing at the same moment, which gives you a 180 degree view of a frozen in time object.