Blog update

I have just updated my blog from Blogger.com to a WordPress blog hosted on my Synology DS1515 server. I have manually exported much of the text and images from my old site to the WordPress blog, therefore a lot of the formatting may not appear correct. I will gradually correct the formatting as I find time. I realize it’s been several years since I updated my blog site, however I intend to post more regularly going forward. I have a lot of content planned over the next several months, so stay tuned!

Belize Update

I realize I’ve been kind of quiet about it on my blog, but for the next few months, I will be in Belize learning electronics from my Uncle, who works quite a bit with electronics. Today is close to my third week in Belize, and it’s been pretty busy so far. I don’t have much opportunity to use the internet, so that’s why I’m just now writing for the first time.

Living out here in the jungle, there are no public utilities, so my Aunt and Uncle provide their own infrastructure. For electricity, the house is powered off of two large arrays of solar panels, which charge an array of 12 lead-acid batteries. The DC voltage is converted into 120 V AC supply using a converter and inverter. During cloudy days and days during heavy energy demand such as when the washer and dryer are being used, a gas generator is used to power the house up. I’ve found I have to be very careful to turn off lights behind me and unplug all unused electronics, because it is easy to overload the system and cause it to shut down. I simply need to plug in my laptop sometimes, and the entire house loses power.

Water is collected from rain water. The roof of the house is designed so all the water that hits the roof flows into gutters, and is collected in large tanks. The water is then heavily filtered and supplied to the house at 40 psi. There is no hot water, so all my showers have been cold lately; it’s not a big deal in this climate, anyway. Right now, I’m staying in the guest house, which is its own separate building apart from the main house, consisting of a bedroom and bathroom. The house has it’s own separate water collection system, and the electricity is supplied using an extension cord from the main house.

The first few days here, I worked through a few Electrical Engineering problems, refreshing myself on concepts that have been taught to me during my time at the University of Washington. After my crash refresher course, I was put on a project of getting a 6502 microprocessor emulator device my Uncle built before I was even born to work again, and to upgrade the memory on the board. Originally, the project entailed just getting the circuit working. I was a bit intimidated looking at the tangled mass of wires, some of which have become disconnected, so I need to figure out where they used to go. Also, I was relatively new to soldering when I came down, and the last couple weeks has been a crash course into how to solder together prototype circuits. Soon, the project evolved into modifying the circuit to include an updated SRAM, since they evolved since he designed the circuit. Later, I found there were major revisions to the circuitry I needed to make to cause the circuit to run properly, so I ended up taking a lot of the circuitry apart and rebuilding it, and improved on the design quite a bit. I’m in the process of testing the logic and rewiring the circuit, and I have a feeling this project might take a while longer before I’m even ready to start programming it with Forth (a stack-based microcontroller programming language which very few people use, because it was oversold in the 1970’s). After that, I might design a control circuit for a gas generator, which automatically starts and shuts down the generator to ensure adequate battery voltage. Also, one of the Mennonites at a hardware store is requesting a microprocessor-based grain dryer controller, which might become one of several entrepreneurial opportunities I’ll have while down here in Belize.

Being here with my Uncle is like having a personalized electronics tutor. I have been learning about electronics pretty much non-stop the last few days, and my brain has sometimes been in information overload mode. I have been learning all sorts of things about power electronics lately, which my uncle is currently writing a book on.

Anyway, I have a lot more to say, but I’ll save it for a future post. I will at least attempt to write once in a while, and I’ll try to upload images some time.

Looking for organs

Hello, everyone!

Yesterday, my Dad, sister Diane, and I went down to Oregon to visit Rodgers Instruments LLC. Rodgers of course is the company that produced the organs for Faith Presbyterian Church. I have been having in my mind to pick up a good home practice organ, since I was losing valuable sleep on Saturday nights practicing for church service on Sundays, usually hindering my ability to stay alert in the service the next day.
I had a couple major criteria looking for an organ. Firstly, it would have to be compact and easy to move around, since there isn’t much space in the apartment to fit it. Also, I wanted something that didn’t sound like an electronic instrument, and had a good variety of instruments. After wasting time on Craigslist and being terribly disappointed by the terrible selection at Prossers Piano and Organ, began looking into the major Classic Organ companies (Johannus, Allen, and Rodgers), and actually got to go preview the Johannus 37 SE at somebody’s apartment in downtown Seattle. Johannus has been having a half-off sale for sometime, so some of their organs were attractively priced, including the Opus 7 I was looking at. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with the Johannus organ tones, which still sounded very electronic to me, especially the reeds. To me, there really is no comparison with the Rodgers organ sounds.
I discovered the Roland/Rodgers C-330 organ while surfing online, which just started selling a week ago and there has been a wild internet buzz for a while. Roland is coming out with a Classic series, where they are trying to make authentic-sounding harpsichords, pianos, and organs for homes. After looking into this organ a little bit, I discovered that it is a very special piece of equipment. For starters, it had packed in it over 100 different Rodgers pipe sounds. The organ had excellent acoustics for what I wanted. And the tone quality was phenomenal (hear samples here).
Here is a photo of me trying out the Roland/Rodgers C-330 at the Rodgers plant in Hillsboro, Oregon:

Summer Break

I’m out of school until the 24th of September, which means I have time to spare until then… I figured I have time to make another contribution to the blogosphere. During the break, I have yard projects I am doing for my parents, I’m working on several organ and piano pieces, read, blog, and try to get my window fixed on my car (finally!!!) I’ve been waiting so long because I had a ton of large expenses due by the end of August, including annual health insurance, car insurance, rent, and vehicle registration renewal, so I wanted to make sure those were paid off first. The temporary window I fabricated out of clear packing tape (which I consider to be a milestone in my fledgling engineering capabilities) continues to serve it’s purpose extraordinarily well.

I did a bike ride up to Sunrise on Mt. Rainier the other day with my Dad and a friend from Church. I haven’t been much of a bike rider, especially since my bicycle was vandalized at the University of Washington. I was using my Dad’s ‘rain bike’ for this ride, but I am thinking about getting another one some day when I don’t have a lot of expenses due and it’s relatively good weather. Ever since my dad had stents placed in two constricted arteries, he has taken up bicycling, and even completed the Seattle-to-Portland this year.

My very first blog post

Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I found a little bit of free time since I was given a five-day weekend, so I decided I’d finally cave in and submerge myself in the blogosphere. I had a web page a while back, but I haven’t had very much time or effort to keep it updated regularly; a web page is a lot more maintenance. I guess the growing trend for keeping a personal diary or journal is to submit your entries to the entire world so that anybody can read what you have to say and then leave comments on your blog, leaving the poster with some sense of social satisfaction. Being a social networking participant myself (YouTube, MySpace, and now I guess Blogger.com), I am quite aware of how cruel people can be, especially on the internet (having submitted degenerative comments myself, in the spirit of love of course), so I don’t see how many people have the audacity to upload their soul onto the internet when they could get a little diary equipped with a lock and key and then hide it under your pillow, considering how sensitive most people are to criticism. I find it interesting that nowadays people are willing to share things that 10 years ago they would have kept under lock and key. I guess this trend is a facet of what Neil Postman described as the surrender of culture to technology…

Well, anyway, today I sawed down the tree my sister Sarah and Andrew proposed under. My dad declared the death sentence and I was the executioner. They don’t even know I did it yet, but I can imagine how they will feel when the figure out that one of the things that brought joy to their lives has been destroyed without a second thought, and now some of their best memories can never be revisited. To the left is the photograph of the same tree taken by my sister the day she was engaged. Now what’s left of it is a pile of small debris. How sad.

This weekend, Sarah, Andrew, my parents and I are heading down to Portland, OR for the weekend to visit my Grandma, and introduce her to Samuel, my new nephew and her new great grandchild. Looking forward to some good times with relatives. Then on Monday, I’m going to be visiting a cemetery for my Archaeology class, taking photos of various grave stones, then apply seriation to determine if there is any correlation between head stone styles and time. Then I got finals to these next couple weeks, so I got a fair deal of cramming and information overload to look forward to in the near future.