I’m not blocking your ad, it’s not your ad.

Web sites are starting to greet me with a message that they know that I’m refusing to be redirected to external sites that I did not surf to. Notice I did not use the word “ad”, that’s because adblockers don’t block ads they keep you on the site you’re viewing and ignore attempts to redirect you elsewhere, the ads happen to be hosted off the site you are on. Which means they aren’t their ads.

techradar2

Why is this an important distinction? For this part we’ll limit our discussion to ads only and not scripts and other bits of code that both advertisers and black hats employ. When you block an ad you are actually refusing to allow your browser to be hijacked by a third party you don’t know and didn’t ask for. Just by doing this you not only stop the ads but you stop most of the ad tracking and other and sometimes illegal uses of your personal information.

SOS

I like how SOS (above) says they only run ads from trusted sources, I looked and they don’t list any sources but they do have a page to calm us down in case we read about companies like Cambridge Analitica who used advertisements to steal our info.

Hey web sites if it’s your ad why don’t you serve it from the same server that serves your content? That’s because they sell out the ad creation and hosting to a third party and this is where most of the dishonesty of the anti ad block messages centers around. THOSE AREN’T YOUR ADS! You want me to open the door to people I don’t know and whose identities are hidden. Yes I said hidden, you’ll notice the ads that tricked you into downloading do not identify themselves as such they sneak in and then they collect your information and use it to contact and trade with other advertisers or some mysterious firm that will generate new ads based on things they shouldn’t be looking at or know about. That’s why I break the chain, if you want to show an ad you don’t have to sell me out to do it.

HTF

What is the solution? I don’t know as there’s too many problems but I do know that if the sites made and hosted their own ads my ad blocker wouldn’t work against those and thus wouldn’t be a problem to them.

global

I don’t accept that your faulty business model should be used as guilt when you can’t even be honest enough to admit that you are making this money by screwing your customers. And about this business model I have a little notice for you about that. You didn’t create the internet, the US Government and its high tech suppliers did and they all used the public money so right off the internet is not yours. The web was created by scientists working for the government and they gave it away hoping that we would do good with it. Now you want to change the rules because you have a business model? How about this take your new rules and create your own internet until then leave ours alone.

yahoo2

Here’s the worst offender for deceitful detection of an ad blocker, Yahoo. You see the ads are part of the overall experience at Yahoo and ignoring them is somehow interfering with “features”, yea sure.

ultimateclassicrock

Don’t get me wrong I don’t want everything for free, I subscribe to a number of content services including a couple of news sites and a number of music and video sites plus we download quite a bit of paid content. We want art and journalism to continue but if you look at my images of the ad block screens you’ll see a number of sites like the one above actually steal all the content on their site, wrap it in ads and try to sell it back. Now there’s a business model worthy of Wall St.

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The First Computer I Worked On…

…was also the second and then many more, this brand stayed with me for over twenty years. This is going to be a long one but there’s much ground to cover so I’ll start now with the logo. I thought it was a good logo as it always meant good things for me.

DEC AND ME

Just the other day, I was watching one of my favorite youtubers, a Swiss guy named Andreas Spiess. Like Andreas, I also operate out of my home and I like to keep an eye out for ideas on utilizing space and useful pieces of equipment. In his video, Andreas had an interesting mix of old and new gear, plus he showed off his book collection. Seeing that reminded me of some books I either used to have, or always wanted. One of the titles Andreas showed was The Story of Ken Olsen and Digital Equipment Corporation by Glenn Rifkin and George Harrar. Andreas commented that he used to work for DEC, (Digital Equipment Corporation of Maynard, MA) and remembered it fondly.

This brought back a lot of memories for me. While I never formally worked for DEC proper, I did have many associations with them and they greatly influenced me, and my experiences with them guided me on many choices throughout my varied career.

My DEC Beginnings

 

My first experience with computers was in 1977. I attended a rural high school that happened to have a DEC PDP 8/E minicomputer in a room attached to the math lab. The computer was a multicolored box with flashing lights and switches that looked more like audio equipment than a computer. In another box was a reel to reel tape machine. Next to that was a teletype machine and an optical computer card reader that was used for teaching data input and programming. The lessons taught were more like number sorting than what you think of as computer programming today.

There wasn’t much for a kid like me to do in a farm town but fortunately, the other kids had equally little interest in the computer room. It was always empty, so that’s where I spent much of my time, reading the manual and looking at electronics magazines. Once the teacher realized I had some skills, he put me to use cleaning out the card reader and the teletype paper tape puncher. I kept notes on the machine and its issues and, after a while, I started to get called out of class when the DEC tech arrived to service the equipment. We’d talk and I’d make sure he addressed all our issues.

My Days as a Teenage DEC “Expert”

The next year, my parents moved us back to the city and I enrolled in a technical high school. The school had a computer room, complete with an upgraded and much newer DEC PDP 11, two tape drives, and — low and behold — a VT100 video display terminal! Unlike the rural school, there were already some other students in the computer room. I earned their respect by mentioning that I was trained by a DEC rep to clean and maintain the card reader and tape punch. I said I would be happy to train the other students. For extra incentive, I dropped the name of the rep. Upon hearing that, the teacher’s eyebrows rose. Turns out he knew and liked the guy. I was in!

The DEC VT100 Terminal

In addition to being a very modern school, the building was located next to Radio Valve Road, which had housed the local RCA vacuum tube plant. The plant had been shut down a year or two earlier, but before that they had supplied the school with TV tubes for the electronics course. So not only was I involved in the computer program, I was also in the last class to build a TV from tubes and parts. Also noteworthy, the local DEC head office where the service techs were dispatched from was located within a mile of the school.

As with my old school, it wasn’t long before the teacher was calling me out from class when the machine had to be serviced. Since we were an educational customer, we were entitled to run a copy of DEC Unix which I asked about. Tapes were delivered and a schedule was made so that we could run unix up to one day a week as long as it wasn’t during exams or finals. We also got a copy of the quintessential book on programming: The C Programming Language by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie.

This was my first introduction to unix and C. It was 1978 but many of the commands that I learned I still use today. Almost daily, I drop into the command line and type those same characters and words, just as I have done during every major part of my career. Clearly, as an old computer language, unix is a stable and mature language with the bugs stamped out long ago. It was here that I played my first computer game Star Trek on the PDP11.

Using DEC in the Working World

When it came time to graduate high school, I was pretty sure I wanted to continue my learning with computers. However, I didn’t choose computer science as the computer science departments of that time had time-share computers that nobody touched, you would write programs on cards and wait for the results. The school had a cart in the hall and students would pile their boxes of cards on them. A day or two later, the cart returned filled with listings. This was not “hands-on” enough for me, so I enrolled in a physics program that featured their own DEC VAX computer.

The DEC VMS Terminal

My first adult job was with a scientific/lab firm that supplied equipment for photonics and materials testing. They also happened to be a DEC value added reseller (VAR), so on my first day, I could not only sit down and get the company’s software running, but I also knew the hardware and already had my own connections at DEC. In this job I had to travel coast-to-coast, visiting customers and going into labs. I got to work with scientists, who not only were great people, but were involved in solving the problems they brought me in on. We supplemented DEC with the odd Apple ][ computer, mostly used as a terminal, but when the Macintosh came out, we bought tons of them.

The first Macs made great low-cost replacements for the expensive unix terminals. They also had that newfangled “mouse,” which was great on the shop floor, as the computer could be built in a steel safety cabinet and the mouse connector could be fitted to a bulkhead connector on the front. Those would last a lot longer in dirt or moisture. Macs also had built-in networking years before a PC even had a network card, so you weren’t stuck using only the serial terminal. Macs weren’t unix yet, but they were solid and had enough smarts for networking years before the internet.

DECnet: Before There Was an Internet

We’d been using DECnet since the early 80s, and as a VAR we were allowed to connect to DECnet mail via a special telephone line that we paid for by counting the number of telephones between our offices (which, luckily, wasn’t far from the local DEC office!) From there, I could join special boards where other VARs, users, and DEC offices around the world shared information. Mostly, it was helpful for getting DEC systems running, but there were other boards I used, like the one for science fiction fans and one for windsurfers (my supervisor was a windsurfer). I also remember getting a lot of help from the reps and VARs in Australia who, I guess due to time zones, were answering my questions while I slept.

DECnet running on a Mac

There was still no PC at this time. Well, there might have been, but not on our floors. And why would there be? VAXs were barely fast enough for our needs, even though they were magnitudes faster than a 486 which was a board with a few slots, no networking, and barely any memory. You couldn’t even get near to filling those tin boxes due to other limitations so I never worked on them. Why would I when I had access to computers that were worth over $40,000? At this point, the big VAX machines were running the VMS operating system, which was the most stable and elegant operating system I have ever used. These machines easily went years between rebooting. I have another story here of the time I went to Japan to train on a scientific system powered by a large VAX VMS machine

DEC Rainbow

The DEC Rainbow

By the time the PC had almost progressed into a workable machine, the company I was working with had engineering test a number of them against the new DEC version of a PC called the DEC Rainbow. The Rainbow was a professional machine that had been engineered to be serviceable. It had pull-out cards and innards that needed no tools to work on, and it came with many extras already built into the machine. These were extras that a professional would need but consumers could be hoodwinked into purchasing later. The Rainbow ran CP/M, which was not too different from unix, so a unix shop could port to it or design for it without too much trouble. At the time, CP/M was more popular than MSDOS. Engineering chose the Rainbow, but the world picked the PC, which, in my opinion, might have made a mistake. Fortunately, we were spared the switch to PCs, as our computer tasks and computing complexity increased so exponentially that we were back to unix computers for a few more years.  

Handheld lab instruments

Rapid Changes and Re-careering

By now in my career the economy was changing. Labs were closing and manufacturing was slowing down, turning the huge factories I was going to into big box stores. The handheld instruments that were emerging were fast and cheap, almost disposable, and were starting to replace minicomputers. At the same time, the owner of my company had made me some promises and then reneged on them, which left me open to looking for new employment. Luckily, there was a huge boom in the graphic arts industry. I had ten years’ experience in color science and a pretty strong unix background. So even though I had enjoyed my job and the travel and all the good people I met and got to work with, I was also ready for a change.

It was pretty easy to find another job and the break from travel was a relief. I took a position at a high-end graphics house that served advertising agencies and public relations firms. Custom, special, and high-end jobs were the calling card of this shop, and they were on the verge of making the jump to digital from traditional photo and hand artwork. It was my job to assist this jump. By this time, people were using networked PCs, but only highly trained people had any connection to the internet. People also had drawing programs and could print out to an ink jet printer, but it was nowhere near the quality of commercial printing, let alone traditional high-end printing methods like the ones we were using.

High Quality Printing

Back when you thought your new laser printer was an amazing piece of technology, I was working with devices that had 324 times that resolution. And that was for just one color! Some systems printed up to eight or ten colors, on sheets over a meter wide at a rate of 10,000 per hour. Producing a high quality printed image at a traditional 150 line per inch halftone screen for something like a coffee table book or a year-end report requires the digital equivalent of 2,540 dots per inch squared, over the entire printable area of the press.

All this digital manipulation created large files — up to a few gigabytes — that had to be moved around in professional computer systems. This is one reason why unix systems were so popular at the time. Where I worked, we’d have something like a VAX server that ran our image programs, a Sun server to save and store the files, and SGI workstations to view and work on the files. There were other servers in the workflow that did specific jobs, like moving all the pages around on the big sheet to fit in a pattern for making books, or the server that optimized the images and compensated for the limitations of presses.

The NeXT Cube

These other servers may have been DEC, but just as often they had names like Data General or Tektronix or even HP. Regardless, they usually ran some version of unix. Other unix machines I used in graphics were NeXT Computers. They were the precursor to the present Mac OS and iOS systems. We used a NeXT computer with a huge grayscale CRT monitor for only one task: to preview the files that went to the very large film making machines. Another NeXT ran a trapping program and sat beside the Sun server. Some people complained that there were too many different versions of unix but in my experience there is much more in common between any two versions of unix than any two versions of MS Windows.

My Time with Barco Graphics

Another graphic system company from this era that I really enjoyed and think back on fondly was Barco Graphics, a Belgian company that had started out making their own proprietary graphic workstations. By the time I worked with them in the 90s, they were using DEC VAX servers running VMS and SGI graphic workstations. This was called “client/server,” and the CPU-intensive work was done on the VAX, while the input and visualization was done on the SGI. The third part of the system would have been the output. Barco excelled with the specialized hardware they made, such as the PrintStreamer — a large box of hard drives that split the image over all the drives and allowed it to be spooled rapidly — and the Megasetter, which was a photo film printer that had a high enough resolution for printed money and security documents. I’ll write about my working with producing bank notes in another article soon.

I was lucky enough to have not only have factory training on these Barco Graphic systems but I got to operate their equipment in a number of countries around the world. The full Barco graphic package running on a client/server system was an awesome tool that could do things nothing else at the time could. There are things I did then that could not be easily reproduced today. The Barco software, Lineworks, was similar to Adobe Illustrator, but could open files that would have brought Illustrator to its knees. The same could be said about the Brix image manipulation program.

Among the projects I worked on was a continuous printing project with data from General Motors that ran as one long page and took almost a week to print. It was cut up into tens of thousands of custom printed forms, each one different. We won an award from a large marketing magazine for that one. We also created highly sophisticated line work like you see in the background of a bank note and used personal data to create security badges that could not be duplicated. We took GIS data from cities and satellite data and merged them into huge, highly detailed, multilayer maps for city planners. All this and we’re still a few years before the 21st century.

This was not high end in 1988

The Early Days of Photoshop

Speaking of Adobe, the early version of Photoshop was unsuitable for professional work. It did not support printer colors and wouldn’t for a few years. Hell, the beta version wasn’t even in color. Another reason early Photoshop sucked was that it taxed the memory of the computers it ran on. Remember what I wrote earlier regarding memory usage? [insert internal hyperlink] A meager 300dpi image covering one sheet greyscale takes over 8MB. Most of the computers of the time had barely half that. For example, the Macintosh IIfx was sold as a professional machine for about $10,000 and came with only 4MB of RAM. Home computers came with much less. To be able to view an 8MB image on a 2- or 4-MB machine, the Knoll brothers (who sold what became Photoshop to Adobe) came up with a system to pull a few bits at a time off the hard drive, which enabled you to scroll around and edit your image. While this workaround might have been okay for the amateur user, it was not acceptable for professionals who needed to move hundreds — if not thousands — of large images around in a day. But, sadly, systems like the Barco have been forgotten.

QMDI 46-4

My Time with Heidelberg

1995 was a very big year for digital graphics and it was the year Heidelberg introduced the Quickmaster DI. The QMDI 46-4 was the first offset press to automatically image and process its own printing plates on the machine. I was lucky enough to be involved with the North American introduction, which I’ve covered in more depth in another article. This machine not only replaced a room full of support machines and staff, it fit into an area that was smaller than the previous machine itself. All you needed was the QMDI press and a Mac and you were in the offset printing business — it was that much of a game changer. It included one of the final DEC machines, the DEC AlphaStation. These DECs came in the box with the press but did not include any service from DEC. I did manage once to get a rep to deliver an ethernet card to replace a new failure, but that was it. A few years later, Compaq bought DEC. Then HP bought Compaq. Today, all that is left to show DEC existed is a few fan sites and a wikipedia page. I think I still have a DEC Alpha ethernet card in a box somewhere. Who knows, maybe it’ll be a good eBay find for someone.

Here’s a link to my blog about analog computing and the early HunterLab color measuring instruments.

Here’s a link to my blog about digital printing in 1995.

Here’s link to my blog about meeting two digital color pioneers.

Keywords: DEC, Digital Equipment Corporation, DEC Rainbow, DECnet, unix, professional printing, VAX, VAR, Sun server, Data General, Tektronix, HP, NeXT Computers, Mac OS, Mac iOS, Lineworks, Heidelberg, QMDI-46, DEC Alpha

When Analog Computers Ruled the World

Boy that reads like science fiction! This is actually a nonfiction story about my experience with a type of analog computer that was alluded to in a thesis by Mr. Richard S. Hunter and found by a scientist at Procter & Gamble who just had to have one. Actually he couldn’t have one as the crafty Mr. Hunter insisted that it would take an order of 25 to make it worth his while to set up a development project hence the machines were called the D25.

D25 (Analog Computer)

The machine was designed in 1956 and remained in production for many years, after that they were kept running with parts salvaged from retired machines. The D25 measured colors, it did this by producing a specific illumination and focusing it on the specimen then it then gathered the reflected light looking for what was missing. The missing light represents whatever the specimen absorbed. The model pictured above is from the original 25 and is said to be still working.

By analyzing the difference between the light you shine and the light you record can give you certain information that can be used to give numbers to what you can see. This is not an absolute method which is why the machine is called a color difference meter. Inside the heart of the machine was four photomultiplier tubes, each tube was behind a different filter. Those filters are referred to as X,Y and Z plus Xa, Xa was added later.

Analog computers need constant calibration, lamps fail, voltages fluctuate, tubes age, filters solarize, even the temperature causes the readings to change. This was one of my first jobs keeping these old kunkers going just long enough for the company to allocate enough money to buy a newer one. The newer one was also called the D25 but to differentiate it from the tube behemoth the suffix “-2 solid state” was added.

Hunterlab D25-2Δ
-PHOTO MISSING-
(I searched hard but could not find a photo of this machine, If I find one I’ll replace this)

Both models were essentially the same machine, they had to be as by then industries all around the world had written specifications that required that the new one read the same as the old one just smaller, lighter and without the vacuum tubes.

Q: BUT HOW DO YOU READ COLOR? Well I’m glad you asked. The machine does not read the whole color but looks at specific areas and that has been determined to give enough data to make certain assumptions about the color. The real purpose of the machine is to tell how far off the ideal color you are and not the absolute color, that’s a much easier job.

tristimulus color space

Above you can see the four filters of the tristimulus colorimeter. Calibrated plates plus a zeroing mechanism or standards are used to make the readings equil the standards. Once done you can read the percent reflectance of light from your sample. Percent reflectance X,Y,Z does let you write down the numbers but tells little about what color you are looking at.

Mr. Hunter’s brilliant idea

If you are familiar with tools like Photoshop you may have noticed next to the crayon color picker there’s a scale called L,a,b. This is one of Mr. Hunter’s greatest contributions to the world of color. He figured out a way to take the XYZ numbers and output Lab. Lab is great because for the first time you can look at the number and have an idea of what the color is. L is the value of light from very dark to very light, a is the shift from green to red going from negative to positive and b is the shift from blue to yellow. This is called the opponent color scale and works similarly to your eyes as you can see a reddish green or a yellowish blue.

LABXYZ

XYZ to Lab

Here’s where the analog computer of the two machines comes in, you take the voltages coming out of the photomultiplier/germanium photocell represented by the formula above and apply that math and your results will be in the appropriate voltages. In the early machine you had to turn a twenty-five turn dial until a meter went null and take your reading off the dial for each reading. On the more modern D25-2 you pushed a row of radio buttons and read the value off a volt meter one reading at a time.

Digital Color Measurement

If you’re interested you can reproduce this experiment if you have a color image editor like Photoshop. Open a photo you took, find the color picker and set the scales to XYZ and Lab. Hover the picker over the color in the image you want to see the tristimulus value for and look in the info panel to see your results. That’s it! If you want to calibrate your image make sure there is one know color standard is in your photograph and use the Image -> Color balance to adjust your standard then read your sample. Wasn’t that easy?

The computer had a special board with a very expensive operation amplifiers that would output a voltage that was the square root of the input voltage, others were multipliers and dividers. These machines lasted a very long time in the field and as they aged many of them could no longer be fully calibrated but this mattered little as their intended purpose was as a color difference meter so we could calibrate them to the customer’s standard and they only had to measure the small difference their production was varying from their standard.

My calibration helper

When I started to calibrate analog computers in 1983 I used this calculator to make sure my conversion results were correct for the range of colors I was working with. I still have this calculator and I had it a few years earlier when I took electronics at college. As you can see you can program in formulas, slide the switch and hit the COMP button and it would query you for XYZ and produce Lab so I didn’t have to carry around any tables. Of course I was holding in my hand what would eventually end the work I was doing.

HunterLab Standards

 

Above is a photo of my personal set of standards, given to me by my good friend and mentor Randy Bohman when I left after ten years of selling, servicing and installing HunterLab equipment and software. This was an amazing experience to not only travel all over Canada and parts of the world but to meet and work with so many leaders in the field from innovators like Mr. Hunter and Mr. Harold to all the color scientists working in the industry and sitting in on the development of technical standards to be invited into the labs, studios and testing areas of every industry imaginable.

By the late 1980s these machines were heading to the junk pile when the D25-9 was introduced. It could display all the readings at one time on its fluorescent display and used an analog to digital converter that eliminated the need to carry around tables to figure out what was going on. The source/sensor was changed little for the new model.

D25-9 M sensor

The D9 as we called it was a terrific machine and had options out the wazoo like the printer you can see in the photo above. It also had a row of hidden buttons that could contain options like extra memories or color scales. The tomato industry had a special button and so did a number of P&G products, there was also a hidden button that accessed the diagnostics.

This new wonder machine ran on a somewhat propetitery card bus. This was sort of an industrial standard for plug in cards, on one card was an 8088 processor and another card had the ROM and another the RAM, there was a card to run the printer and one to run the display plus a serial card for external communication. The A/D converter was on its own harness and connected directly to the CPU via a wide ribbon cable. Other than the photocell system this was an all digital machine, the end of analog computers at Hunter Associates Lab and the eventual move to spectral data.

Make sure you read my post of meeting and working for Mr. Hunter. Two Color Pioneers and a Kid from Toronto

Raw Power Turns 45 Today So I’ll Write

Some little news tid bit popped up today telling me that as of this day forty-five years ago CBS released Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power”. I don’t remember the day but I do remember that only a few months later I was to be exposed to this album. Thinking about this time brings back a flood of memories that I will try to capture here.

Another LA resident at the time

My family was living in the Los Angeles area and were friends with another family whose father worked for CBS Records, I don’t know what he did but his kids always had an amazing collection of records and it is at their house in the hills that I found Iggy in a pile of records the kids had. The family had two sons, one older was into the heavy metal so he would pick the albums first and pull the Black Sabbath and such out for himself. The younger brother was my age, we didn’t like to listen to the music his older brother so we picked whatever was opposite and that was just by looking at the album art because, who knew?

On the cover “Raw Power” featured a semi naked Iggy with makeup and a snarl, good start. The other album was the equally crazy looking  “New York Dolls” which was first released only two months later. We took the albums to the huge console record player and listened to both. They did not sound like the brother’s Black Sabbath and I knew both he and my parents hated them so we were good on the main points.

So both albums were only a few months old when I discovered them in a huge pile of promo discs and I immediately liked both of them as I do today. Good start if I do say so myself but sadly this was not my start as I already had a record collection and was allowed to use the family record player where my kid sister had to make due with her “close and play”.

The first record I bought with my own money and I think I bought it a J.C.Pennys was a 1960s live recording of the Beach Boys. I also had a copy of “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” by Paul Simon and quite coincidentally also released in 1973. This album is a classic and likely has sold many times the total of both previous one but not as raucous and revolutionary as either. I think this one was a gift from my grandmother who was living in California at the time.

I also got to go to a few concerts in those years in California, my friend and neighbor had his birthday party at a local amusement park with included a concert at the park. We got to see Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, yep that Kenny Rogers except all dressed in a pastel jumpsuit. Seeing “Just Dropped In” live must have done something to me, I know it did to the band as this was their last performance.

I also remember getting taken to other shows, we went to the Hollywood Bowl for a Classical performance but can’t place the piece or players. Then there were the Christmas performances of the opera and ballet at the Shrine Auditorium but it wasn’t until we returned to Canada that I started to go to concerts of my own choosing.

Five years later in 1978 my dad moved us to the country where I rode the school bus with pig farmers kids and went to a high school with more pregnant kids than I’d ever seen in my life. I had two friends and a girlfriend the whole year. One of the friends was a kid who reconized me from the school I went to the previous year, he knew it was a bad scene and he spent every moment trying to get back to Toronto so I didn’t see much of him. The girlfriend was crazy, and the other friend was totally into rock and roll.

I got myself a job at the local record store that had just opened, my job was to assemble the displays and hook up the stereos. The owner knew nothing about such things and paid me off in records and promo items. I also was in charge of the weekly hit lists, a large poster would arrive in the mail which I’d tape to the front window and a stack of smaller printer ones I’d put half on the counter and half take to school which the other kids liked and brought business to the shop.

It was this year that I got to go the first concert of my own choosing and boy what a choice. The school had an open arrangement where if enough students wanted to go to a concert they would set up a ride, on the list I saw that they were willing to take a group to see the Tubes. I signed up with only three other students and a teacher drove us down and dropped us off in front of the Maple Leaf Gardens with the instructions that we were to meet him parked on the street a block north of the building.

The Tubes were amazing, the band was in their super theatrical stage with many costume changes for this highly sexualized show. Warnings were issued about the show too but luckily none had filtered down to my rural school, the singer was said to appear naked and to have simulated sexual acts on the stage. The dancing girls would appear for one number in cheerleading costumes and the next in leather bras and panties, Fee splashed himself from a bucket and rub it all over one of the girls it was crazy and I loved it. I was bitten and had to see more live shows.

The next year we moved back to the city where I had access to the subway and a myriad of clubs and concert halls. Being a fan of CFNY from living in Brampton two years ago I knew what kind of music I liked but being on the fringe of the antenna could no longer hear them and had to make due with some late night shows on CHUM-FM until they got a stronger antenna.

It was listening to these late night shows that I won tickets to the two most important shows to hit Toronto. This is going to sound crazy but I called in both times and answered questions live on air for the tickets and I remember how it went in both cases. Announcer says they have tickets, in this case the Clash at O’keefe Center. First person who guesses the current album gets them. I shout out “Give ’em enough rope” and run for the phone, about twenty minutes later and dozens or wrong answers I win them. Totally crazy show, imagine the Clash at a fancy opera house? I’d call it a DIY mosh pit where the fans try to make a pit from rows of seats. There’s video online of the aftermath, my radio station seats were close and I could see it but it didn’t look like the damage afterward. All I have to say is the band was encouraging it to happen by being so damn good.

The other show was The Ramones at the New Yorker on Yonge St. Now the Ramones had been to Toronto a number of times by now and the New Yorker a few times plus they had released a few albums so you’d think the biggest rock and roll station would have some knowledge of what and who they were but no. Announcer, “First three callers with the right answer gets pairs of tickets to the Ramones, What do the Ramones and Paul McCartney have in common?” Same thing, a bunch of callers get it wrong for like half an hour. I get the second pair and the announcer gets tired and gives the third to a joke answer about the amount of grease in their hair. McCartney also used the last name Ramone.

I must have won a pair of tickets but I went alone, I don’t remember anyone at the time liking this music, I don’t even remember selling the extra ticket. I just remember the Ramones and hanging this poster on my locker door in high school.

There was one other kid in my high school who liked to talk about strange and unknown bands, he was two years older and we only met during his last year there but he had a great influence. I’m sorry I don’t remember his name but he was not a punker, he was more into progressive and art rock and spoke about other bands like Gong, Soft Machine and David Allen.

This high school was a tech school and had a lot of different shop and music and art classes which made it fun to go there but it drew kids from a wide area so there was not the closeness of a school where everyone lived in the neighbourhood. This student was also a real oddball, he was known as the smartest kid in the school and he openly spoke about LSD making you smarter so he was a real pain in the ass to the school who wanted the grades but not, well everything else about him including the way he dressed only in black and wore a long coat everywhere.


We talked about music, I didn’t do LSD and I finagled meeting up with him for a few shows he was going to and these mark my first trips to The Edge in Toronto. I don’t remember which was the first show but we went to see Pere Ubu and on another night Mink DeVille. We didn’t drink, well he just didn’t drink and I was two years underage and without him ordering beers I wasn’t going to risk getting kicked out which I only later found out was pretty hard to do there. The one time I was with a group of guys who got kicked out we had to get caught pulling down and ceiling and breaking up the pieces and even then they were strangely reticent and only officially kicked out one guy and we mostly left to give him his jacket since it was snowing.

The next year I met my now very dear friend Jeff, at the time we’re still underage but bold enough to try to get in to the clubs. Places like The Edge were open all day and served food so we’d go early buy food, make sure there were beers on the table at shift change and we not only get served but we’d dodge the cover charge which went to buying more beer. Wayne County was one of my favorites. There weren’t a lot of people going to these shows so very quickly you’d recognize people and they’d recognize you so if there was a question of your age you could quickly shout out and people who didn’t know you would vouch for you, like community.

I’ve seen all the acts in the above poster. This particular Viletones show is the one were Jeff almost got beaten up by Leckie because Jeff was trying to talk to him while the guy was pissing. Leckie grabbed him and said “Why are you trying to look at my dick?” then the band rushed in and said he couldn’t beat up Jeff because they had to go on stage and off they ran with Lecking shouting that he wanted to meet him there after the show. We didn’t.

Here’s another show we were at, opened by the Demics who we liked as they were formed from another band we would go to see at Larry’s and that was Crash Kills Five. The thing about these early shows was that not only were the clubs run down and stank but you weren’t always sure you’d get a show at all. The Viletones would often cause fights and just not play but not this night, they were killer. “Oh there’s no hope for me!”

If I think of anything good I’ll write more, maybe something about this and the cops…

Me with Joey 1979

Reply to: [YouTube] Sports Cars are Not Selling – Look in the Mirror

I just found this video a few days ago and couldn’t stop thinking about its topic. The video was released six months ago so sorry about being late to the party, I hope I still have something constructive to add. It would be helpful to watch the video first but I tried to make this not too centric.

The video’s creators forgot something that I believe has become another big reason and that’s the social aspect of driving an expensive car on public roads. I live in the Mid-West and people I’m seeing don’t like to see new expensive cars on the road. Old muscle cars are fine but I’ve seen they really dislike new BMWs and exotics. If a car makes a lot of noise it really upsets people and I imagine they are quick to call the cops and report it. If something happens those same people are willing to shoot a little video and you’re ratted out with what I’m sure is pretty good evidence.

Recently I saw a Hellcat rumble down the road, these cars are loud to start with and it’s driver was intentionally operating this one in a rather loud fashion by constantly blipping the throttle and bringing the RPMs up into the loud range before changing gears. Now this car was in traffic and a Hellcat does not look exotic or expensive but the reaction from the people around me from the noise was rather telling. The grumbling started immediately and I could see people saying, “Idiot” and stretching their necks trying to see who was making the noise. It’s just not acceptable to make loud racer type noises on the street anymore.

Whether the reason is poor people are hurting, we’re running out of fossil fuel or global change is destroying the world the auto and especially the cars of the 1% are deemed more responsible for it and that just looks bad. If I could afford a very expensive car this would be the main reason for not getting it, you can do the same thing in a cheaper car and not piss anyone off. If I’m going to live in the USA I’m going to drive a Chevy just so nobody bothers me.

On the topic of public roads, public roads at least around here suck. The pavement is utter garbage and even repaired sections don’t seem to last and when you do find a quiet smooth patch the cops watch it like blood sucking hawks trying to replace lost tax dollars with speeding and excessive noise tickets. Even Jay Leno who lives in always sunny LA constantly complains about the road breaking his expensive wheels and suspension, I wonder what he’d say about around here?

Then there’s drivers, I was asked a few years ago to man a booth at a very large auto show. It was shocking how few people that came up to our booth even had drivers licenses and we were selling race car driving courses! More recently my wife and I stayed at a hotel that coincidentally was next to a stock car race track, I got up early and went to breakfast myself and ended up sitting with a bunch of the drivers who were laughing that they tried to provide an event where fans could take a few lessons and drive a lap or two in a stock car. They had to pull the event when nobody who showed up could drive a manual transmission! These are stock car fans who signed up and paid for a course and didn’t even know what kind of transmission the cars had. I’m not saying that you have to know how to shift gears to know how to drive but if you have had serious exposure to cars what are the chances you don’t know how to drive a stick?

You make some alludes to the finances that I don’t think really applies to except for young people and insurance which has become pretty crazy but the price of cars per performance is likely better than ever. In 1969 a top model Lotus Elan sold for barely $5,000 which is about $35,000 in today’s money. The top of the line 2018 Miata does everything better than the Elan and costs about $33,000. Even gas prices can’t be blamed as a thirty-three cent gallon of 1969 gasoline comes to about $2.33 in today’s dollars which is what it was when I went out yesterday.

I have friend’s who’s kids that call themselves gamers own personal computers that cost between $5-$10,000, they have home theatre systems in the same range and collections of games and portables in the same range. Add all these together and I think you’ll find where the youth auto dollar want. Why buy a car when you can borrow dad’s SUV and save your money for fun stuff?

Personally I don’t like to drive fast in modern road cars on the street. Maybe I’ve outgrown my antisocial traits or don’t want to have my fun fund the local police force or have to suffer the deprecation of a vehicle that never gets to do what it was made to do but whatever it is it could be that I have had the experience of going to the track and putting it all out there with slick tires on a road course with a stick shift engine solid mounted to the frame and no driver aids, no computer controlled street car with 10 air bags and a cushy seat can match that. They used to call that man and machine, today it’s more man and robot and kind of a dim robot that does not even know to turn off traction control when it’s not needed (I’m so tired of seeing that).

I’m not even surprised that the latest car craze is a parking lot ballet that makes a lot of noise and goes nowhere with no clear winner. I gave up being a spectator at races when my favorites all moved to temporary city circuits from race parks because I quickly got tired of trying to watch a race through ten layers of chain length fence only to have one open spot where they flash by in milliseconds. Marketing said the city circuits brought more money and that’s what won. It might be exciting as an event but you don’t encourage people to take up racing if all they see is that crap.

My father and grand father took me to races and we walked up to the cars and could see most if not all of the track from our seats. We talked to drivers and the crew and were close enough to see, hear, feel and smell what was going on, you don’t get that from the jumbo-tron. As a ten year old child I had a race license and raced motocross and quarter midgets which was accessible to normal people then and there were plenty of tracks and organized races near where we lived. Only the children of the super rich can do that today so few are exposed to driving at a young age and that directly cuts into the number of sports car drivers there will be in the future.

Maybe you can learn from a video game, I hear that the current Formula 1 champion started on video games but I suspect he’s the exception that proves the rule and most people will never venture past video games even though you can buy a real race car for what a good computer game setup costs.

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I feel very fortunate that as long as I can bolt an engine to a frame and find a track I can have my fun but I worry about people who don’t know how to turn a wrench or find the line that are out on my streets with 600hp cars and brag about how the car will do everything for them.

I’m very proud of my anti-backlash five start acme nut

I know it’s beautiful isn’t it? I’ve been using and researching acme screws for about ten years and at one point had access to a fancy acme tap which has since gone missing and that’s a shame as it cost a few hundred dollars. This tap would have allowed me to create the same style anti-backlash nut as shown above but in a more solid material like brass or steel.

Thanks to some kind thingiverse user I found a cad model for this exact thread and I used it to 3D print a few hex nuts just to see if it worked. When I printed and then threaded the nut it was a bit more than surprising that I could actually print a thread, mind you a 1/2″ acme thread is about as course as you’ll ever see this side of ship or bridge parts. 

In the cad image above you can see clearly how the threads on a five start acme nut work. The springs apply tension to keep the nut from wobbling on the threads so the small nut is located from turning by the 10-24 bolts. Better hardware would be some kind of shoulder bolts and I will keep my eyes open for them but for now the tiny threads pose no problem for the amount of travel required here.

The test fixture pictured above allows some torque to be applied and the deviation measured by a dial gauge (not pictured, sorry) Meccano is handy for quick fixtures.

Here’s the nut mounted to the side of my Y axis gantry.

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Another shot of the gantry.

Video of Acme screw in action.

If you’d like to see the CAD files check out my Thingiverse page.

When cancer comes home

I haven’t mentioned this here because I don’t like to talk about it but now that the worst of it is over I’m feeling a bit more able to not only put my words down but to be able to read them. My wife was diagnosed with cancer one year ago today. I’ve been with her every step of the way supporting her and holding her hand and doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. Scary things too but not only did I manage to do them I somehow excelled at it as all the compliments from doctors, nurses and generalists attested to.

Okay I kind of made up that last part but at the start of this I did almost pass out a couple of times when they were drawing blood. I didn’t know it was going to happen as the room slowly turned grey and the nurse said I should go for a walk and get some air, I didn’t even know she was watching me!

I quickly got used to seeing them poke needles into her but it brought up some thoughts about myself and how I have never taken care of anyone before. I hadn’t even done a very good job of taking care of myself up until now. As a full grown adult I was not proud of this but now I’ve come to terms with it and have moved on.

Theresa is feeling much better now and has returned to what we believe is normal or is going to be the new normal. You know she’s a writer and has kept a pretty through blog about the events of the last year but a warning to those who are easily disturbed as she pulls no punches, you get the real deal here. Well you have been warned. Happy-Cancerversary!