Thank You, An Open Letter from an Old Veteran’s Perspective

Dear healthcare worker,

If you haven’t already, hopefully you will soon notice an increase in the number of people who thank you for doing what you do every day. Some of you won’t know what to do with this newfound wave of gratitude from your neighbors, friends, and random strangers. As a veteran, I have an analogous perspective and I offer you my advice: Say “You’re welcome” and think of the following and try not to feel weird about it.

Veterans get this all the time. These days, when someone finds out they are talking to a veteran of military forces, it is almost universal that they’ll say “Thank you for your service.” It feels weird until the veteran finds the proper perspective. Here is some stranger that I never met, thanking me for something they don’t know what I did, in some cases before they were born. They don’t know if I put my “110%” into it, or if I was a dirtbag slacker. They don’t have a specific incident in mind for which they are grateful. They don’t even know when or where I served my country. But still they all express gratitude.

From the fresh veteran’s perspective: I did my duty, I did my time, maybe some bad things happened, maybe they didn’t, but I got out and I moved on with my life. Mostly moved on, anyway. It was ‘just this thing I did’ and now here is some stranger thanking me?

From the civilian’s perspective, I was sticking my neck out for them. The most horrible of things could have happened to me and mine, and this grateful stranger doesn’t know if they did – but they could have. They don’t know what hazards I endured, but they do know there was a term of years when I put myself at risk to defend them and everything they hold dear. It goes without saying that there were sacrifices involved, and these were on their behalf, so they are grateful.

I don’t know you. I never did something specifically for you. But I did something for a class of people that includes you. I did some things and you are grateful so “You’re welcome” is the polite response. Not many ask for details. It’s apparently enough that they know I did something for them.

Healthcare worker, in normal times your daily routine is fairly routine. You go to work, you do some stuff that is common for you. Patient (x) needs (x) amount of (x) therapy, sign the chart, swipe your badge and come back tomorrow. I’ve talked to some of you, and you are not inclined to think what you do is extraordinary. The people you treat every day, some of them are grateful on an individual basis for individual things you did for them. You can understand that. You saved Joe’s life, he’s grateful. You helped Mary’s arm feel better, she’s grateful. You gave somebody a scrip for medicine they think is going to help, hey they’re glad and grateful. You intubated someone and watched their sats like a hawk while it was touch-and-go, they’re grateful. That’s easy to understand.

But here is a stranger coming up to you and clapping, seriously? Yeah, seriously.

COVID-19 is a game changer for all of us. Usually you only help “other people”, a few patients; not all of us. This year, you are doing something for a class people that includes all of us. Maybe (hopefully) you never have to help me in particular, but you are helping some of us to deal with this new illness. Here I sit in the comfort of my “Stay at home/stay safe” couch, and you are not only going out to work your usual (sometimes long) shift. You are putting your health at risk. Not just like regular, where you always get a cold during the annual cold season. Not just like regular, where you might pull a muscle moving a patient. For the novel coronavirus, while you are doing your normal job someone can seriously injure or even kill you invisibly, in a moment, by accident.

We get that. You are putting yourself on the line in a way that could be harmful to you, to protect some of us, some of our parents, some of our grandparents. And you don’t quit. You keep going back day after day after day. Some of you are going to be losing record numbers of patients through no fault of your own, every day – and the next day you will go back. Because the patients need you, and it’s your thing you do. It’s who you are. You have a little packet of employee access cards on your lanyard and they all have your picture on them so you will go back again because that’s you.

You don’t have to. You could hang it up. You could zip up one more bag and say that’s enough forever and leave the rest of us wanting when our turn in hospital comes. But you’re going to be there tomorrow.

For us. We recognize your risk. We recognize your willingness to sacrifice for our sake.

For you, maybe it’s just ‘the thing you do’ but we see you fighting our invisible enemy for all of us. So thank you.

Sincerely,

John Q. Public

My Ugly New Desktop Headphone Amplifier (Current Buffer)

This (debatably) monstrous-looking thing is now doing duty as my new desktop headphone amplifier at work. And by amplifier, I mean current buffer with slightly negative voltage gain. My computer’s baby little USB audio dongle didn’t have the guts to push serious bass to my headphones. On an oscilloscope, I was getting a booming 3+ volts output, until I put a 32 ohms load on the output. Then it collapses to a level in the millivolts that I didn’t measure because it was ridiculous how badly it collapsed. This is a simple current buffering stage, to provide a low-impedance output for my ‘phones and high impedance for my computer’s output.

The important part: How does it sound? Like nothing. With the volume turned all the way down, there is no hiss/hum/whine or any noise from my headphones. With the volume up, I hear my music. I’m not the kind of person who swears a mains power cable makes his equipment sound better, I just wanted some more power. This gives me that. It doesn’t sound horrible. This was built entirely with parts I had laying around, so I am into it for $0 plus a few hours of time.

How does it look? Here we find the ugly buffer in its native habitat:

I forget it’s even there.  I colored it black and it lives in the shadows between a black monitor, a black drawign tablet and a black monitor.  The plant is pothos, Devil’s Ivy.

The schematic:

The basic design is the output section from Elliott Sound Products’ P113 http://sound.whsites.net/project113.htm, modified to suit what I had on hand. The R5/R6 bias resistors were lowered to (If I recall correctly) about 4.9k ohms, to increase bias current to just over 2mA as Elliott advises.

My first choice of output devices was a set of SK1388A/SK1389A PNP/NPN complementary transistors I had matched, but I broke one of them (in half!) when disassembling the amplifier to fix a humming problem. I had the main board from an old receiver fitted with 7 channels of 2SD2390/2SB1560 complementary darlington pairs. http://www.semicon.sanken-ele.co.jp/sk_content/2sd2390_ds_en.pdf http://www.semicon.sanken-ele.co.jp/sk_content/2sb1560_ds_en.pdf so I matched a couple of the pairs and ran with them. I had to install an additional bias diode (again, matched, natch) but these are inexpensive (free, I have a roll of them). The choice of transistors is almost unimportant, as long as they can slew fast enough for audio. You could use almost anything. For this design you want about 350mA maximum current capacity, so a TO-92 chip is going to be too small, but otherwise you’re gonna be good with almost anything.

The bias diodes are 1N4003, nothing special. The capacitors across them are random electrolytics I had laying about. The input and output capacitors are also electrolytics I had laying about, with very-large values because I’m not worried about a specific low-end rolloff frequency, I just wanted to block DC.

Power supply: I wanted about +/-12VDC but I didn’t want something too complicated. I went with a 7812/7912 three-terminal regulator pair. The maximum expected current from this at full-tilt-boogie is <0.5A per channel, so a single set of 1A regulators should be fine for the two channels. There is a 1000uF/0.01uF pair of capacitors on the input and output of each regulator. The giant 6800uF capacitor on one side was installed to troubleshoot a whine, and left because it doesn’t hurt anything.  The power supply for the power supply is a pair of 16V laptop power adapters that I had laying around.  These hide under my desk.

The design part of this project was pretty straightforward. The hardest part was figuring how to mount it all. Dead-bug style worked. In the end, I got a funky whine noise when one particular wire was too close to another, so I zip-tied them both out of the way (on the giant capacitor because why not). The heatsinks are hot-glued to a piece of very-heavy card stock. Good enough for desktop use, but don’t knock it around too much. It turns out that the way these are glued in place, I am able to stand the whole thing up on one end.  I did that and colored black the bottom of the mounting plate and the sides of a couple of heatsinks.

This was going to be prettier when I started, honestly. Aesthetic inspiration was provided by this “Crystal” CMoy Free Form Headphone Amplifier by koogar on instructables.com: https://www.instructables.com/id/Crystal-cMoy-Free-Form-Headphone-Amplifier/ That one looks better than mine by a lot(!) but the use of bare wire as bus stock in addition to dead-bug style mounting of everything was the thing. This wire was the individual strands from a 6AWG power cable, stripped out and straightened.

I learned a lot when making this, and definitely had fun.

Okay, This Is No Shit…

I’ve already mentioned previously that I’m really fast, mentally. Fast as in, I have often decided how to react before people around me have registered there is a thing to react to. Fast as in, I haven’t been satisfyingly startled by someone trying to prank me in … well, ever. Fast as in, I’m not even ticklish. Well okay … anyway

And I’m the security detail. I’m the one with a gun keeping an eye on things from the back. Except when I’m sleeping. I guess I’m “that guy” you don’t want to wake up because it’s scary. Yesterday, DW came to wake me up a minute before my Naptime’s Over alarm would have gone off. Then she regretted waking me up because I realized it was her as I was on the way up, with a fist at full-cock and she didn’t want a face full of it. She said something like “Geez, just don’t hit me” after I had already not.

I can come out of sleep already processing circumstances, is the point – fast enough to not knock out someone who comes to awaken me, halfway through the activity.

Also, I can see in the dark. At least, I can see way, way farther into violet hues than a lot of people I know, and I can navigate with confidence when other people are in pitch dark midnight blackness. To me, our house at night with various LED indicators and clocks etc. is never really pitch black. And last night was a bigass full moon, so I could see – not well, but I could see what was going on in the house without switching on a light.

Okay so. background storytime is over for now. This morning I woke up at 04:-something AM and heard a noise that could have been a child sneezing and/or wandering about doing potty business. No big deal. Back to sleep. A few minutes later, a noise probably from the house settling, in the vicinity of my bedroom door. No big deal. Back to sleep. Thus often interrupted, I was sleeping badly. I don’t know what woke me at 05:-something but I woke up on my side, face pointed horizontally across the bed and off toward the door. There was a person there.  About as tall as the shortest of our children.

And completely white.

And translucent.

At this point, my brain is half asleep, and half has just started going 100 miles an hour, and the whole self is about 86% of the way toward losing its shit completely. [expletive deleted] ghost, right here in my bedroom and I’m trapped under the covers.

Okay self, SITREP time. Here is a translucent, child-sized, white-including-the-clothes person, standing next to my bed. Odds were pretty small, but the sleeping part of my mind said it still could be a child. I put out an arm to grab its shoulder. Maybe it would have been a half-punch-speed grab, but I was about to start freaking out here.

My arm went straight through this thing,I kid you not. At this point, I was at a loss for an appropriate response. The wakeful part of my mind was thinking it might have been a bad idea to have reached out and grabbed at this thing, whether it had been grab-able or not.

My eyes drifted left, to where my hand had gone. The whatever-it-is followed my eyes’ motion, staying in the same place within my field of view. Floating now over the foot of my bed. Okay 100% now for-sure this is not one of my children.

I closed my eyes. It was still there with my eyes closed. This did not make me feel better.

When I wake up in a nightmare, I repeat the Lord’s name quietly to myself. It’s often as good a prayer as I can come up with, plus I figure it’s at least a nuisance to whatever spirit might have decided to come mess with me, if that’s why I’m having a nightmare. So here I am “JesusJesusJesus”ing and I realized:

I was rolling around on the bed. I had been on my side. My eye was smooshed on one side by a pillow and the eye was recovering. I told the apparition, (said silently, to myself, in my head) “now you are going to fade away. you are going to start strobing and shrinking, and shrinking” and it did.  I recognized this as mental noise, it went away, and I chilled out. No big deal. Back to sleep.

I think, if I were a little slower, I would have pitched a full-scale fit right then-and-there. But I swung an arm, then rolled over on my back. No screaming, no jumping out of bed and dragging the covers with me, no waking DW up to a freaking-out husband. Thank God it was -literally!- nothing.

You’re A Jerk, Microsoft.

Dear Microsoft,

Not everyone has unlimited data plans with their Internet Service Providers.  Your automatic update that causes the ENTIRE Windows 10 Operating System to be downloaded has sent lots of users of Windows 7 and 8 right over their data caps.

I hope this costs you millions of dollars in a class-action lawsuit.  This was a jerk move 100%

Hate,

-A user who has turned off automatic SECURITY updates because you lie about what’s important in your mad desire for us to GWX

P.S. if you’re on a metered internet/data plan, you might check the data use on your computer over the last few days.

Well, That’s New.

I’ve taken it upon myself to learn enough of AutoCAD to be able to make simple objects.  I thought the learning curve for Photoshop was steep.  Compared to AutoCAD, learning Photoshop is a cakewalk.  I was beating my head against the program for a few minutes just now trying to find out what are the fundaments I need to learn, and I realized something:

I haven’t been this ignorant of anything in a long, long time.  I usually have a decent idea what I’m doing, but there is much here I have never learned before.  VERY much.  Everywhere I look there are a few dozen more options.  As I told DW the other day:

It’s like taking someone who doesn’t know how to swim or drive a car, putting them behind the yoke in an airplane and telling them, “Good luck!”

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Thanks properly belong to God of course, who designed the human body to be a self-healing machine – and who also instills the germ of wisdom in the inventive mind.

But I know a woman who underwent hysterectomy on Friday afternoon and was able to walk herself from the car to the pew before and then back to the car after church.  Because laparoscope.  Instead of slicing the abdomen open and (literally) laying the guts out on the table, these days a normal hysterectomy has two inch-long incisions and a smaller one in the belly button.  Advances in medical technology are a blessing to be sure, and in some ways it’s a good time to be alive.

More Like This, Please!

Doctor/Scientists 3D print a replacement trachea for (eventual, probably) implantation into the human body.  That’s cool for some pretty important structural problems.  Coming later (also eventually, probably): 3D printed replacement noses and ears.  That plus some new burn healing skin production stuff currently in development will save some peoples’ ability to live normal lives.

I know it is a curse to live in “interesting times” but . . . it’s kinda neat also.