Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Project Updates

Betsy completed the difficult and worrisome trip across the border into Macedonia (FROY) yesterday (Thessaloniki to Ohrid). It was mainly scary because there was so little information available about how to make this trip. We couldn't even get maps for her GPS. When all was said and done she made the trip safely and even met a few fellow travellers who helped with translation and advice. You can read about the train adventure on her travel blog. I was particularly amused by the giant bath towel origami swan that was waiting on her hotel bed.

One of the really neat things she told me when we last spoke a few days ago is that she can now feel the baby moving--no doubt about it. In fact, she was at a hotel pool one day and looked down and could see the little mossling pushing against her belly and making its shape change. This was a big relief for her, and for me. Something about being able see and feel the baby moving is very reassuring!

I'm pretty well recovered from my trip and have been working very hard on two major projects--the HCM/OHC Websites and my tube amplifier. I've been blogging more about the website, but the Tube Amp has seen good progress as well. The only problem is that I keep finding myself missing small but critical parts. The sort of rare and specific stuff that you can't just pick up at Radio Shack. (Ever searched through bins looking for a 47uF 250V Capacitor?) Luckily there are lots of websites on line for buying these kinds of odd parts.

"Didn't your kit come with everything I needed to make a tube amp," you might ask? Sure, it came with everything I needed but not everything I wanted. The initial design is so simple and open to improvement and modification that it is very difficult not to tinker. So at the this point I'm doing all kinds of mods like upgraded transformers, capacitors, and the potentiometer, substantially modifying the AC/DC conversion part of the circuit, and making other changes, as well. For instance, in the original design the inrush current into the four vacuum tubes is uneven, they sort of start glowing in sequence rather than in parallel. This is because, effectively, the circuit trace on the PCB connecting these tubes and providing the electricity to the "heaters" is too thin. Solution--connect the last pair of these pins with the first pair of these pins, thus giving the juice a more even in-rush. Another tip, adding small capacitors between each pair of heater pins to even out juice. But making these mods I just mentioned required some very intricate soldering work. So far all my solders have checked out with an ohms meter--but I do wonder how much time I'm going to have to spend debugging this amp!

I spent a good part of today scanning old photographs from the Order's archives. More of that do. lots of downtime as the scans commence, so I'm reading David McCullough's book 1776 to fill the time.

The Monastery is very quiet. Silence reigns as everyone is on retreat. Quite nice, actually, though I am looking forward to things getting social again.


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