Zombie Apocalypse

I’m a sucker for a good zombie or end of the world story. I’ve recently been picking up some of the cheap kindle books. They average $1-$2 so I’m not heartbroken if they suck. If you’re a fan of the zombie/end of the world genre check out The Purge of Babylon and The Gates of Byzantium by Sam Sisavath. And if you have Amazon Prime then you don’t have to even buy them since they’re free with Prime.

The characters are relatable and his writing style is descriptive enough that I can build the scenes in my head and kind of see what the characters are seeing. For me, it’s a fine line to walk between the author having just enough detail to do that and too much to overwhelm. There is a 3rd book in the works that should be released in the next few weeks. Check out his site for updates on that.

Home HiFi Stereo Dilemma, Solved!

I hardly ever do product reviews on my blog. Usually I’m just happy that whatever latest tech I bought works half as well as advertised. Well, I can honestly say that my new home stereo setup has not only met my expectations but completely exceeded them!

I’ve always wanted a multi room(zone) system. Something that I could listen to in the kitchen or my work room without blasting in the living room. Enter Sonos. I’ve been researching systems on and off for, literally, years. Nothing ever did exactly what I wanted it to do. There are a number of mult-zone home theater systems out there. But they all require running wires and then fiddling with the receiver to get the right rooms the right music.

Sonos simplifies that with their line of wireless speakers. I started out with one Play:1 and a bridge (you only need the speaker but it has to be connected to your home router. With the bridge I can move the speaker anywhere in my house and connect 31(!) other devices). The speaker itself is pretty hefty. It feels very solid and can be placed on a bookshelf or attached to the wall. All the Sonos devices use “SonosNet” which is an AES encrypted mesh network. Adding a device is really simple. You plug in the bridge, plug in the speaker and then open either the Android or Iphone app and click “Add Sonos Component” and then you push a button on the new device. That’s it.

Another great thing about the setup is the ability to put speakers in different rooms and control them independently or put them in “Party Mode” and play the same thing on every speaker. All the group control and volume controls are done from the Android App. You can also “pair” speakers to create a surround sound system through the app. There’s more info on that and how the Sonos software actually adjusts the sound to give surround sound. Here’s a screen shot of my two speakers and how I have them setup. In the kitchen I was listening to 12 Stones from my own mp3 collection while SiriusXM was playing in the living room.

I decided that I wanted to hear the Snoop Dog song that was playing on SiriusXM so I turned the Kitchen and Living Room into a single group aka “Party Mode”

 

And just like that I was doing my best Michael Bolton impression of Gin and Juice!

There are so many options you can pick from to stream music. I currently have SiriusXM Sat radio, iHeartRadio, Amazon Cloud Player, and my entire mp3 music collection which lives on a Synology NAS. The only downside is that in order to pick up my mp3′s I had to turn on the protocol that Windows uses for network shares but the NAS I have supports it so it was just checking a box to enable. I have ~50gb of music and it was indexed in a couple of minutes and available to play. Here’s a screenshot of what I see when I start the app. There are probably 40-50 other options to stream from.

 

I’m really, really happy with what I have so far. The plan is to add a Play:5 to the living room and move the Play:1 currently there into my bedroom (I didn’t mention that you can set alarms through the app and use the system as an alarm clock) and then get one more Play:1 for my work room and possibly an outdoor speaker if they come out with one. Now, if Sonos can integrate with ifttt like my home security system I will be in home automation heaven!

I Made This!

So it’s been a while since I posted anything here but in the last several months I’ve picked up a new hobby, Blacksmithing. I did a bit of metal work when I was in the SCA and I always really enjoyed it. I didn’t realize a the time how much I enjoyed to be honest. Since I own my home and have land I figured now was the perfect time to give it a whirl.

After purchasing all the necessary tools (and some non-necessary tools) the last couple of months have consisted of me failing to make anything remotely resembling useful. I would start out with a picture in my head and end up with something that was completely different and not useful at all. For those that don’t know me pretty well, I’m very hard on myself picking up new skills. I expect that when I see something in my head I should be able to make it exactly like that the first time. So needless to say it’s been quite frustrating but I know enough about myself now to push through those frustrations and just keep working to realize what I see in my mind.

Fast forward to this past weekend and I finally got off my ass and fired up the forge. I wanted to try and make a knife out of some bar stock I picked up at lowe’s a few months ago. I started out with what you see below:

bar stock

 

After heating it up and cutting out the rough design of what I wanted I ended up with this

rough cut

I then started forging the bevels of the blade. One thing I remember from the reading I’ve done is you want to hammer the point of the blade down which is kind of counter intuitive since I wanted the blade to be curved. But as you’re forging the bevels the blade will naturally curve. It was pretty cool to actually see that happen.

Once I had the rough blade shape I was going to just put it down and work on something else but I was so stoked at what I had that I found an old file and started refining the shape of the blade. Here is a shot of the blade after forging.

bevels foged

 

Now, I was actually pretty damn stoked by this point. I wasn’t completely happy with the shape but I knew I could clean it up a bit with some file/grinder work and since I don’t own a grinder yet, a file it is!

Here is a shot of it after a 30-45 min worth of hand filing.

filed

 

And one more after filing

another

 

I literally grabbed the closest piece of steel I had so I’m not even sure if it will hold an edge at all but I’m planning on cleaning up the profile a bit more and then putting a handle on it. More importantly this gave me a huge kick in the ass to get back out there and forge. I was keeping the frustration in check, for the most part, but it was starting to get to me.

I’ve got a couple more blades roughed out and I’m using what I learned with the first one to make them even better. Again, this isn’t “knife quality” steel but for my use and as a learning exercise I think it will work.