June 13th, 2021

#7684: Cherry???

Went to bed, a bit hungry, around 12; woke up around 4 needing food. PBJ and a cold diet Pepsi--it's the breakfast of this champion.

Sandwich went down about as quickly as they usually do. Cracked the bottle, took a drink--why do I taste cherry in this? Oh: cherry diet Pepsi.

*sigh*

I do not like cherry cola.

--which is to say, if it's all there is, I'll drink it, but it sure as hell isn't my preference. So, how did it get into my refrigerator? I would not, after all, have chosen to buy it, not deliberately.

The thing is, there is only one way to tell apart diet Pepsi from diet cherry Pepsi, and that is to scrutinize--very carefully--the label. I usually do; knowing how easy Pepsico made it to confuse the two, I normally check the label to make sure I'm not accidentally picking up cherry. Especially because the current "special edition" labels make the regular stuff look even more like the cherry kind. To be honest, I think they did that on purpose, because that way people will accidentally buy cherry Pepsi.

So, now I'm stuck with five bottles of something I'll only drink in an emergency. *sigh*

* * *

All of that is pretty ironic coming from the guy who used to drink Mr. Pibb. The difference is, Mr. Pibb started out as a cherry-flavored cola. It was meant to be a Dr Pepper clone.

The thing is, adding flavors to cola is a time-honored tradition. The reintroduction of cherry Pepsi (around 1985, 1986) was a throwback to the 1950s or so and the soft drink companies have tried all sorts of different flavorings, with mixed results.

But Dr Pepper and Mr. Pibb, and the other variants, are designed to have the cherry flavoring. Mr. Pibb in particular has a full-bodied flavor that envelops the cherry in a soft bed of other tastes. It's a mellow combination.

Cherry Pepsi, on the other hand? What I like about Pepsi is its acidity; it's got a tang to it. Coke has too much vanilla (among other things) for my taste. Conversely, that means you can add cherry to Coke and it tastes fine. But adding cherry to Pepsi--cherry is an acidic flavor and it does not complement the flavor of Pepsi at all.

The most interesting thing is, all the colas are variations on the same theme. I forget the exact spices used, but I seem to remember that they're all basically different proportions of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and vanilla. (And what the hell happened to the kola nut??) Far from being "secret", the formula for Koka-Kola could be determined by any halfway competent food chemist just by analyzing a sample of the stuff. From there he could easily make his own exact duplicate of it. Actually producing said clone in quantity would get him sued down to his skivvies, but he could do it.

* * *

Gah. I'm getting rid of the rest of this stuff (not even two ounces) and going to bed.

#7685: If I knew then what I know now...

There are so many things that I thought were more complicated than they actually are.

My favorite example is digital logic. When I was a teenager, looking through the Radio Shack catalog, I always would look at the digital logic chips and wonder what kind of electronics wizard would know what to do with them.

...a few years later, in school, I rapidly learned that digital logic is dead simple.

The simplest gate is a NAND (not and) gate. It has two inputs and one output. The table showing the gate's output, given the possible inputs, is called a "truth table" and the one for a NAND gate is as follows:

A B C
0 0 1
0 1 0
1 0 0
1 1 0

A and B are inputs, C is output. You can build an entire computer using nothing but NAND gates, if you know what you're doing. It will be a lot more involved than a computer built using other gates as needed, but you can do it. The benefit of the NAND gate is that it is the easiest logic gate to fabricate, requiring the fewest transistors; only the inverter ("NOT") requires less.

NAND is basically an AND gate with an inverted output. AND's truth table:

A B C
0 0 0
0 1 0
1 0 0
1 1 1

Then we have a few others which are useful. I'm going to show the OR gate; NOR is just the same with the outputs inverted.

A B C
0 0 0
0 1 1
1 0 1
1 1 1

And then there's XOR, exclusive OR:

A B C
0 0 0
0 1 1
1 0 1
1 1 0

So we have NOT, NAND, AND, NOR, OR, and XOR. With those six gates you can build anything.

...as long as you don't need an analog output, that is. Digital logic expects two voltages, either high (1) or low (0). Anything else and you have a problem.

* * *

See what I wrote up there? That is all the theory you need to start building digital circuits. Oh, you'll want a few practical points, such as the fact that a TTL output can run up to 10 inputs. You'll also need to understand, in some cases, the functions of pull-up and pull-down resistors. For more complicated circuits, you're going to want to learn how to simplify truth tables so that you don't spend a lot of gates implementing redundant functions. Some of the things you want to do are so common that they make chips to implement those functions: latches, decoders, counters, comparators, flip-flops, and so on. For the most part, pin 1 on the IC is +5V, and the last pin is ground.

Basically, digital logic is like LEGO or TinkerToys: you have a bunch of blocks you can stick together to make what you want. It's a hell of a lot less complicated than it looks from the outside.

Though, if I had known all that in 1982, I could not have afforded to buy the stuff to build my own circuits anyway.

* * *

When I was in my early teens, welding seemed like an arcane art. Fantastically expensive equipment and advanced training were needed to do the simplest tasks. Having something welded was expensive and the shops charged you $15 just to light the torch, before doing any actual work.

*sigh*

Of course, you can weld with coat hangar wire and a car battery. If all you want to do is to fix a minor crack in a bike frame or something, you could probably do worse. You need to know what you're doing but you can do it in an emergency.

Even at the time you could get a low-duty-cycle buzz box for about $100. To a 13-year-old in 1981, though, $100 was a lot of money--not the least because $100 was worth considerably more then than it is now. When I wanted to get a VIC-20 they were priced at something like $500. In 2020 dollars, that's $1,200. The $100 buzz box costs nearly $300 in 2021 dollars. (My Harbor Freight flux-core welder cost what, $100? In 2005?)

Welding dovetails with auto repair.

1983, my dad parked the Blue Bomb and did nothing with it. The engine had thrown a fuel pump and the crankcase filled with gasoline. After that was fixed it wouldn't stay running; when you could keep it going, it would run on seven (or six) cylinders.

I didn't know dick about cars. I could rebuild a small engine with my eyes closed but when I looked under the Bomb's hood, it seemed impossibly complex. The culprit, I was told, was the camshaft; replace that and the engine would run fine.

...much later I was told that cars of that vintage had a problem with their smog pumps failing, which would cause a miss exactly like it had. Remove the smog pump, put pipe plugs in the manifold, and turn the idle down a bit--probably an hour's work and $5 worth of parts, and it would have been usable.

If I knew then what I knew now, I could have fixed every single problem that car had, including the rust. Given, oh, the tools, and the parts, of course.

* * *

Don't even get me started on women.

* * *

These days, I tend to do the opposite: thinking that things are easier than they look. I'm not sure when the switch happened, but I went from "Oh crap that's too complicated" to "I can do this!" It was about the time that I started going to school, so maybe it was the revelation that electronics were not a black art but mere engineering that did it.

Also, being an adult, with adult resources, helps. If I need a tool to do a job correctly, and it's not egregiously expensive, I buy it.

* * *

There's no real payoff for all this. Just random musing.

#7686: No way is that dewpoint 57.

I went out to the garage to do a few little tasks, and by the time I came in I was sweating like a pig. Weather site claims 77 degrees and 57 degree dewpoint, and I call "shenanigans" on that horseshit.

You see, I bought a few things other than the belt for the washing machine this past Thursday.

I've been looking at the dirt bike; and ever since I cleaned the workbench and reorganized the cabinet over it--and found the new piston for the dirt bike--I have been thinking I ought to put that sucker back together and see how it runs.

A few problems, though.

First, because it's a two-cycle engine, it's inherently noisy. Not much I can do about that, but I do know that there is supposed to be fiberglas matting wrapped around the core of the muffler insert. There isn't. How to fix that?

Second, the transmission leaks. The engines in two-cycle bikes are lubed with the gas-oil mix, and use gear oil to lube their transmissions. As far as I know, the actual crankcase of this bike has never been split, but other covers and housings have been removed. Gaskets are available but a full set is kind of spendy. How to fix that?

Wandering around Ace with the belt for the washer under one arm, I found fiberglas matting (for repairing fiberglas items) and gasket material. Aha.

Anyway that stuff knocked around the kitchen until a little while ago, when I took it out to the garage and put it in the cabinet, so I won't be able to find it later.

(SIC: I meant to say "won't".)

Took care of some other maintenance things, like cleaning off the place I usually store the welder and restoring it to that place. Organized the oil bottles and got them stowed properly, then got out the RoundUp and hosed down the weeds in the driveway and back patio.

We did not set up the pool this weekend, though. Too rainy yesterday, too wiped today. Both Mrs. Fungus and I have been extra-tired for no really good reason. I'd like to do it during the week, if possible, but who knows how that will work out?

...weather is forecast to be upper 70s, low to mid 80s, for the next 10 days.

* * *

I still have my eye on getting a platform-style bike lift. I want the platform type because that way you can work on all kinds of heavy things on it. Roll it onto the platform, pump it up, presto.

But it is probably not going to happen this week.