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Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor Enamel vs. Border Collie

IMG_0724Samantha the border collie was easily house trained, and remained so for five years in our previous house. The current house has a basement utility room with an unfinished cement floor, and Samantha apparently decided that relieving herself on the cement floor was acceptable. Of all of the floors in the house, I agree with her choice, but after two years of this, I wanted something easier to clean up than unfinished, porous cement.

Ceramic tile, vinyl tile, and laminate flooring were all reasonable choices for a basement utility room, but I really didn’t want to go to that extent if not necessary. I’ve seen basement floors that were painted, and seemed pretty resistant to spilled liquid, so I trundled down to the home improvement superstore and bought a can of Rustoleum concrete paint.

I painted a small test area, let it dry, and then went through the motions of cleaning it with a wet paper towel. The paint rubbed off the cement floor onto the paper towel; clearly this was not going to be a good solution to the problem!

[Did I etch the cement floor prior to painting? No. Had I etched it, would the paint have adhered better? Maybe, maybe not. It seemed pretty resistant to scraping, and to scrubbing with dry paper towels. Only with wet paper towels did any significant paint come up off the floor. I am guessing that etching would not have made a big difference here, as the paint was just too water-soluble for what I needed.]

So I went over to the local Sherwin Williams paint shop, hoping that their staff of paint specialists could offer a better solution. The employee I talked to also had a dog, and recommended their porch and floor enamel paint. He showed me an area of floor in their storage room where they themselves had applied this paint, and it appeared durable. I bought a gallon.

Back home, another spot test came back with good results: the paint seemed to stay adhered well when cleaned, so I cleared and cleaned the utility room floor and painted away. For two days, Samantha did not relieve herself at all in the house. Excellent! But I was still curious how the paint would hold up to a more intense scenario. The next day, a thunderstorm rolled through, and a certain anxious border collie relieved herself multiple times on the painted floor.

Clean up from the comparatively smooth, non-porous surface was trivial. Damp spots from the cleaning solution remained, but within a few minutes the floor looked as if nothing had happened. A tiny bit of paint appeared to come up on the paper towel, but may have been some tiny clumps of paint left from my not-completely-smooth painting job. In any event, this paint is much more durable than my first choice, and even if an occasional touch-up is needed, no big deal.

The floor looks nicer and is much easier to clean, offering daily time savings. Thank you Sherwin Williams!

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Photography Rules Around the National Mall

IMG_0626The last time I was at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., I took a mediocre photograph of the very dimly-lit Declaration of Independence on ISO 400 film. A couple of weeks ago I was back, armed with much higher ISO on a Canon 6D digital camera and lens with image stabilization.

To my dismay, the National Archives no longer permits photography of any of their exhibits. They used to allow photography without flash, as flash could promote deterioration of their rare artifacts, but too many people ignored the no-flash rule, either intentionally or unintentionally, and they have now banned photography altogether.

How strict are they about this? I witnessed a guard pounce on a tourist with a mobile phone camera sneaking a picture of the Archives’ copy of the Magna Carta:

“No photography!”

“I’m sorry.”

“You can delete that picture.”

Of course, deleting the picture after the fact doesn’t solve anything regarding artifact deterioration…

Meanwhile, in the third-floor observation deck overlooking the main reading room of the Library of Congress, where photography used to be banned, flash-free photography is now allowed. Sitting inside the reading room, waiting for books to be delivered, I couldn’t help but notice some flashes going off, and it was indeed kind of distracting, but the library didn’t seem as intense about enforcing their newly-loosened rules as the National Archives was about enforcing their increasingly strict rules.

Speaking of rules, I would not have thought that these words would have ever had to be spoken, by a National Archives guard, to a child next to me: “Excuse me, there’s no sitting on the Declaration!”

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Hanukkah in America

Over the recent holiday season, I read Dianne Ashton’s Hanukkah in America, which chronicles the history and development of Hanukkah (mainly in the United States) from its origins over 2000 years ago up through nearly present day.

For most of that time, Hanukkah was a fairly minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, perhaps not celebrated at all. Two catalysts worked together to encourage Jewish immigrants in the United States to make a bigger deal out of Hanukkah than their European ancestors had: their desire to retain and promote their own religious and cultural values; and Christmas.

Christmas also had not always been the major gift-giving, family-oriented holiday that we know today, but through the 1800s into the early 1900s it grew, for various reasons, including corporations turning it into a commercial event (as Charlie Brown might be all too familiar with!), and for the benefit of U.S. soldiers, either being sent Christmas care packages when abroad, or having more substantial family events when home.

As the appeal of Christmas events grew, and especially as the wonder of Christmastime grew in the eyes of children, Jewish children longed for something similar. They found what Christian families enjoyed in midst of winter to be enticing.

Many Jewish holidays have strict guidelines regarding what to do; if the holiday is traditionally observed, there is little or no room to modify how it is celebrated. Not so with Hanukkah, which was hardly celebrated at all. Thus there was room for Jews in the U.S. to adapt Hanukkah to meet their present-day needs, including more appeal to children.

Besides the appeal of Christmas, many Jewish people were feeling distant from their religious and social traditions, and their overall Jewish identity began to wane in the new homeland. This ended up being another opportunity for Hanukkah to grow, not only for children, but as a holiday for Jews of all ages to reflect on who they were as a people, and to strengthen family bonds.

A delightful read! Also available in electronic form.

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USB-C Connector on USB 2 Audio Interface

IMG_8107Upgrading to a new Apple computer (2017 27-inch iMac) involved facing the fact that FireWire is truly ancient technology. I had already been linking my FireWire 400 Focusrite Saffire interface into my 2010 Mac Book Pro using a FireWire 400 -> FireWire 800 cable. Now to plug into a Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C port on the iMac, I am routing from FireWire 400 to FireWire 800 to Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3… Amazingly, it works! But it does leave me contemplating an audio interface upgrade.

Thus I was interested in a recent product announcement from Focusrite, a new Clarett audio interface that was touted as working with USB-C. This would plug directly into the iMac with no adapters, and USB-C is markedly faster than either FireWire 400 or FireWire 800, with a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 10Gbps. However, further research on the Focusrite website shows that the new Clarett USB interface is USB-C in connector only; maintaining backwards compatibility with USB 2.0 through an adapter cable, it operates at a USB 2.0 bandwidth level.

The Clarett USB interface seems to have a useful market for people still using USB 2.0 connectors but wanting to future-proof themselves with USB-C connectors. USB 2.0 is slightly faster than FireWire 400 on the Saffire interface, but if buying a new interface today, for a brand new computer, it seems like a better option to go for a unit that supports faster bandwidth.

I’ll be watching for a true USB-C audio interface, but maybe Dante over Ethernet is the way to go…

[UPDATE: I could try to cover up my ignorance by claiming that I’m really more of a software person than hardware — which is true — but apparently bandwidth isn’t the main attribute to consider here. USB 2.0 bandwidth is plenty for over a dozen audio tracks simultaneously in and out of the computer system. If you need lots of tracks, extra bandwidth can help, but otherwise, it would make no difference. What can make a difference is the speed at which the data gets into the computer; in the computer audio world, the term is latency. USB 3.0 does not improve latency speed over USB 2.0. Thunderbolt, however, does; on the computer end, a Thunderbolt connection gets closer to being an internal bus connection, and thus can deliver that same bandwidth (or more) at a higher velocity. Since the difference occurs on the computer side, not on the interface side or along the cable, a USB-C connector that goes into a Thunderbolt 3 port might offer that latency improvement as well? A whole Thunderbolt chain definitely should!]

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Monopoly

IMG_9022I don’t play a lot of electronic games, but have recently been enjoying the Electronic Arts release of Monopoly on my iPhone. For some reason, Electronic Arts is pulling the game from the Apple iOS application store tomorrow, but if you already have it on your device it should continue to work until an operating system upgrade renders it unusable.

Playing a physical Monopoly game with other people tends to be a once-in-a-while event. Playing it on your phone, against software opponents, you can play it over and over and the lessons in the game can become obvious. What can we learn from Monopoly?

  • Owning income-generating assets is a very good thing. Some assets (like Boardwalk) generate more income than others (like Baltic Avenue), but even so, it is far better to have some sort of assets than none at all.
  • Likewise, owning many assets is better than owning few. The more you own, the more likely someone will make use of what you have and pay for it. But again, it is far better to have at least some assets than none.
  • Obtaining and developing assets (like buying a property and building houses on it) may be expensive, but that expense is well worth it once it starts generating income.
  • Wage income (like collecting a paycheck as you pass “Go”) is nothing compared to asset income. You may need some of your wage income to pay bills, but put as much as possible into obtaining and developing assets.
  • Others who own assets might be willing to sell them for cash. Or they might only want another asset in return. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and you can probably come up with a deal that adequately benefits both of you.
  • Taxes are really annoying if all you have is wage income. (You can pass “Go”, collect $200, and land on “Income Tax”, and pay $200!) If you have asset income, taxes feel like just part of doing business.
  • Paying rent to others is really annoying if all you have is wage income. (You can land on a property with a hotel and instantly be out $1500!) If you have asset income, it’s no big deal, because the other players are paying you rent too. (You will quickly recover the $1500 that you paid.)

In the real world, developing properties into houses and hotels is literally a great method of building assets. But there are lots of things that can be assets: books, music, training videos, computer software, and more. On the other hand, while all possible assets in Monopoly are at least somewhat desirable, in the real world it’s entirely possible to own or to create things that nobody actually wants!

Electronic Arts has a fine rendition of Monopoly for iOS here. They sell if for 99 cents, and, with the Apple family sharing plan, up to five people can play the game indefinitely for that initial 99-cent sale. I don’t know why they are pulling the game, but regardless of the reason, maybe Electronic Arts could have made the game into more of an asset for themselves! People often sell iOS applications for dirt cheap, but this one is easily worth several times what they were charging.