Soundproofing for an air conditioner/heat pump (success story)

We had a Princess and the Pea situation in our house in which a moderately quiet A/C condenser next to a bedroom was deemed too loud, especially when clicking on. This is a high-end Carrier-built unit, so it is somewhat louder than a Japanese split-system, but quieter than almost anything else U.S.-built.

We were able to eliminate the annoyance with a blanket from Acoustical Solutions that we hung on the wall adjacent to the condensers (quilted part facing the A/C unit; smooth part against the wall). We also wrapped one that was roughly the same height as the condenser around the side so as to block transmission to a window. It would be a lot more attractive it we built a wooden hutch around it, but it is highly functional just hung on a metal fence U-post (less than $10 from any hardware store).

We bought the ABBC-13 two-inch thick “AudioSeal” blankets, one 96″x54″ (custom made to have the grommets on the long side) and one 54″x54″. Total cost, including shipping and Maskachusetts sales tax, was $890. We’ve had them outdoors through one New England winter and they still look good.

Leaving this here in case anyone is searching for a similar solution.

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What is a good 32-inch 4K monitor?

Five years ago I purchased two Samsung 32-inch 4K computer monitors for $1300 each. These UD970s boasted “99.5% Adobe RGB and 100% sRGB Color Compliance”, which I thought would make them good for editing photos. They’re also reasonably bright, at 350 nits. Unfortunately, one now has a vertical line permanently stuck to cyan, about 1/3rd of the way in from the left. The other one has a flaky power supply and turns itself on and off at random.

I can’t go with a fashionable curved monitor because I had a treadmill next to a chair and, in theory, want to be able to drive setup from either the left or right side of the desk. So it needs to be a primary and secondary monitor of roughly 32″ in size.

One thing that might be interesting is a monitor with built-in speakers so that I can clear the speakers and amp (optical digital in to speaker-level out) off my desk. It is rare that I listen to anything where high sound quality is required.

Here are some ideas, based on Amazon ranking:

  • LG 32UN500-W (includes built-in speakers), VA panel rather than IPS, $350 (“Amazon’s Choice” but maybe that is based on gaming performance and I am not planning to game). 350 nits. No USB ports! In a world where everyone needs a webcam for Zoom-during-lockdown, how does it make sense to exclude the USB hub function from the monitor?
  • Samsung LS32AM702UNXZA (built-in speakers), which has “Wireless DeX” that promises “a full PC experience, without any PC” (put phone applications on the big screen), $400; see “Mobile Phone As Home Computer” (2005) for why this is close to my personal dream. Possible deal-killer: only 250 nits (also a VA panel). Three USB-A ports and one USB-C for keeping the desktop clutter-free.
  • LG 32UN650-W (built-in speakers), IPS panel, no USB. $500.
  • LG 32UN880-B (built-in speakers), IPS panel. $650. Comes with an “ergo stand” that clamps to the back of the desk, thus freeing up desk space for additional clutter. Has a handful of USB-A and USB-C connectors on the back.

After I get at least one new one, I could maybe have some fun with the kids trying to assemble a single working Samsung out of the two broken ones (panel from one and power supply, etc., from the other?).

Here’s a question for genius readers? Why aren’t there OLED computer monitors? Problems with burn-in, you say? You’d have pixels burned to standard user interface elements? What if the monitor were 10 percent oversized horizontally and vertically? Have the 4K image slowly float among the corners, which would ensure that the pixels along the edges got some completely dark time. (LG already seems to do a weak version of this with its OLED TVs; they call it Screen Shift.) What about central pixels? Have the monitor and/or video card watch for extended periods of constant illumination (maybe it would be white since so many documents have white backgrounds) and do some selective dimming as necessary.

The LG “Ergo: design”:

Update: It wouldn’t have been simple to mount the Ergo on my particular desk, so I got the LG 32UN650-W (a $500 IPS monitor). The built-in speakers far exceeded my expectations… for tinniness. They are unusable for music, YouTube sound tracks, etc. I guess they’re a good emergency backup in case my external amp (Nuforce DIA, purchased in 2012 and now discontinued) or Audioengine P4 speakers fail and I need to be on a Zoom call. I never calibrated the Samsung monitor (the one that still works, but has a stuck line), but photos appear brighter and bluer on it. Comparing to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, on which the photos originated, the LG is a little closer.

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Mask that won’t fog eyeglasses

Genetically defective friends: just in time for attending all of the parties for the one-year anniversary of “14 days to flatten the curve”, I found a mask that doesn’t fog up my glasses. It is the Honeywell dual layer mask. It sits off your mouth, which makes it kind of like breathing into a paper bag for those who are hyperventilating due to excitement from anticipating the next round of science-informed executive orders from Uncle Joe and state governors.

For max virtue points, here are pictures of me using the mask on a deserted Hilton Head beach with the wind blowing at 12 knots.

Like other masks, it presents a near-field out-of-focus obstruction to visibility. So I can’t recommend it for drivers or pilots.

The new mask has been “authorized by FDA for emergency use.” Presumably the “emergency” referred to is coronapanic and not the climate change crisis or the systemic racism public health crisis. The package goes on to note that there is one pathogen that this new mask hasn’t been tested against… coronavirus (“Not Tested against COVID-19”).

Finally, can we figure out how rich/elite a person is simply by asking those who aren’t health care professionals “How many hours per day do you wear a mask?” For most of the folks I know who enjoy a comfortable income, the answer is just a few minutes per day (walking into a restaurant, zipping into CVS, etc.).

Also from Hilton Head, a “halfway house”:

On Facebook, I captioned the above with “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promised criminal justice reform. They’ve been our rulers for less than a week and look at the halfway house that is already set up and running. #MorningInAmerica”. It was not well-received.

Inside the halfway house:

Departing from Hilton Head to Gainesville:


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Best Super Bowl commercials?

What are folks’ favorite Super Bowl commercials so far? (with YouTube links if possible)

My favorite is this Jeep commercial in which Bruce Springsteen (arrested in November 2020 for “suspicion of driving while intoxicated”) says “As for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few, it belongs to us all, whoever you are, wherever you’re from.”

Residents of California and Maskachusetts certainly have the freedom to follow their respective governors’ orders to stay home, educate their children themselves (while paying taxes to fund still-closed schools), fill out mandatory travel forms telling friendly government officials where they’ve been, supply medical records to the government when asked (or pay a $7,000 per-person fine), etc. (See this ranking of states by coronapanic restrictions.)

Jeep also reminds us that these are the “ReUnited States” now that a single party controls Congress and the White House and can do whatever it wants to people who voted for the other party.

Could it be that Jeep is lobbying for a handout from the unifying Biden administration now that the Kia Telluride is on the Car and Driver 10Best list rather than a Jeep?

And what do football connoisseurs think of the game?

Some photos from Tampa… Bern’s Steakhouse (if you have a craving for an Impossible Burger within a week of eating at Bern’s, I will pay for your soy and coconut oil mishmash):

A billboard offering “wife insurance” next to an, um, gentleman’s club:

A Grumman Widgeon at Sun n Fun (April 2021, supposedly!) in nearby Lakeland (sacred to Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts):

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Social Justice Christmas Gifts

What Would Jesus Give this Christmas? Here are my ideas…

The GayBCs, a book for 4-8-year-olds.

A is for ALLY.
A friend who is there
to stand up for you
with strength, love, and care.

B is for BI.
You can shout it out loud:
“I like boys and girls,
and that makes me proud!”

C is for COMING OUT.
You’re ready to share
what you feel deep inside;
it’s okay to be scared.

Note to computer programmers: Nobody wants you to share what you feel deep inside.

The book gets 4.5 stars on Amazon.

(Should S be for Sashay if we are trying to teach away from stereotypes?)

How about this one…

H is for HATER

Who won’t buy the GayBCs

And don’t forget to “Queer Your Screen Time”. From a companion document:

What if you don’t have a 4-8-year-old who needs to learn about LGBTQIA+ terminology? From … dress like Goya Employee of the Month AOC in a $58 sweatshirt:

Miss your inexpensive and plentiful Ubers? Also from AOC, a $28 hat to demonstrate your advocacy of open borders for low-skill migrants:

You might also want this $30 T shirt from Ilhan Omar:

A $34 “Justice from Detroit to Gaza” T shirt from Rashida Tlaib:

Readers: What are your best ideas for social justice gifts?

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Geochron to liven up the dead wall space of a flat screen TV

Loyal readers (both of you?) may remember how upset I have been that the U.S. has filled up with flat-screen TVs and most of them sit dark and ugly most of the time. One dream that I’ve had for a long time is turning them into digital photo frames when not in use, but the crummy software on these TVs has so far made that impossible (I have yet to find a TV that can be programmed to turn itself on at 8:00 am every day, show slides, and turn itself off at 10 pm (functioning as a TV, of course, at some point in the middle if someone wants to watch something)).

Enter the Geochron Atlas 4K. For $450, it paints a flat-screen TV to look like the 1970s Masters of the Universe dream mechanical Geochron (still available for about $3,000). This is a great Christmas gift for the brother/sister/binary resister who has everything. The 4K Geochron (which I verified does work on our old Panasonic 1080p plasma TV). has a bunch of data overlays, e.g., weather and satellite tracks, that you would never be able to get on a mechanical Geochron.

The Atlas 4K is about the size of a stack of 5 iPhones (imagine the delight!). It has an RJ45 jack on one side for wired Internet and an HDMI male plug on the other for the image output. Power is via USB.

The remote control seems to be RF-based (at least I was able to control it through a closet door and around a corner). It would be a lot nicer if one could connect to this from a smartphone on the same WiFi network, but there is no app or provision for this. Configuration via the remote control is the most tedious part and the little remote can always be lost, run out of battery power, etc.

The company seems to be keeping up with current American obsessions. For example, the July 21, 2020 software (automatically downloaded via WiFi; see changelog) will optionally show a COVID-19 plague status overlay. (We should ask for a virtue layer, in which countries with maximum mask compliance and shutdown are highlighted in green while Sweden and South Dakota are bright red for heresy.)

Our kids went nuts for this and asked a lot of questions, so we’ve already gotten $400+ in value out of it. (It is actually $399 through December 17 with “HOL2020” according to a marketing email that I recently received.)

The world is a detailed place. If this is mounted somewhere that people can walk up to it, might we have found a great use case for an 8K tv (now only about $2,400 for 65″)?


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The ideal Christmas gift: 29 hours of Barack Obama

From a recent Costco excursion, a 29-hour 28-CD audiobook by Barack Obama:

It is impossible to imagine a better Christmas gift for your friends, who can wrap themselves in 29 hours of bliss and comfort every time something upsetting is said by Donald Trump or those Republicans who remain unkilled by COVID-19.

(What if you have neglected to defriend all Republicans? This is an even better gift for a Deplorable because Deplorables need to hear these healing messages more than the righteous.)

Separately, in terms of page count, this is the same length as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey combined. Homer’s epics were almost the sole basis for education for centuries. Perhaps we could design a public school curriculum where A Promised Land was the only book studied from K through 12?

An Amazon review:

Obama’s autobiography is very wordy, slow and much of it boring. And I like the guy and loved his first book. There is no real news in this autobiography which is mostly about politics and how moderate he was as president. Too long, too. Too much about his time in the Illinois legislature and the U.S Senate. The book should have been edited down. Volume One is 752 pages and ends with the killing of Osama bin Laden. Volume Two likely will be equally long.

Hallelujah! There will be four Iliads worth of content soon enough.


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What case for the iPhone 12 Pro Max and what is MagSafe useful for?

After an agonizing two-day post-order wait, an iPhone 12 Pro Max has arrived from Verizon. My main interest in this new phone is the purportedly improved camera (the super wide “0.5x” camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max was especially bad, with terrible corner and edge sharpness).

Do any of the early adopters have a case recommendation? I’m interested in (a) protecting the camera lenses from being scratched while in my pocket, and (b) making it more secure to grip the camera (a slightly soft silicone case would therefore be good).

Finally, what is MagSafe useful for? It is supposedly a “wireless charging” system that requires connecting the phone to a wire? This could be considered an innovation in the English language, but how is it a useful innovation technologically? If I have to attach a wire with a magnetic connector to the back of the phone, can’t I just as easily attach a Lightning cable to what we would have called the “female” connector in the phone back in the pre-LGBTQIA+ days?

(I don’t have Apple DouchePods nor an Apple Watch, which I understand both interact somehow with MagSafe.)

From Union Square, last week, a toilet for the homeless with a billboard for the new $1,000+ phones in the background. Social Justice, California-style:

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KitchenAid tries to burn our house down a second time

From 2016: High-end KitchenAid range with burner stuck on.

It happened again! The burner controls fail such that the gas is stuck on. Fortunately the burner happened to be lit so the house didn’t fill up with unburned gas and explode. It is a challenge pulling the range away from the wall while the burner burns and then turning the shutoff valve. An elderly, frail, or small person would never be able to do this.

After three calls and more than 2 hours on hold, I was able to reach someone at KitchenAid customer service. They would be able to come out and begin the diagnosis process… in 17 days. Would they pay for a new gas valve? “Your range was made in 2013. It’s out of warranty.” Did they think it might be worth looking at the engineering design of the gas valve, e.g., so that it would fail in the “gas off” position rather than the “gas on” position? Wouldn’t that make it less likely to burn houses down? “Did your house actually burn down, sir?”

(If they can’t engineer gas valves that don’t fail after 3-7 years in the ON position, they could put a consumer-accessible gas shutoff valve on the front, just before all of the valves. That would be a huge safety enhancement.)

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Alexa and Google Home have proved that home automation is useless?

Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, a pioneer in minicomputers, disparaged microprocessors for controlling houses back in 1977:

In 1977, referring to computers used in home automation at the dawn of the home computer era, Olsen is quoted as saying “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Olsen admitted to making the remark, even though he says his words were taken out of context and he was referring to computers set up to control houses, not PCs. According to, “the out-of-context misinterpretation of Olsen’s comments is considered much more amusing and entertaining than what he really meant, so that is the version that has been promulgated for decades now”.

We’ve had 43 years of progress since then. The functions that he said were useless to accomplish by touching a switch are now useless to accomplish with our voices (are we truly so fat and lazy that we can’t get off the sofa to flick a light switch and need to ask Alexa to activate a light?).

I’m still kind of an enthusiast for a computer-controlled home, especially if we could have electrochromic windows and skylights everywhere around the house and/or motorized shades and brise soleil. But even in technologically advanced societies, such as Korea and Taiwan, the typical component of a house continues to be dumb, right?

Bonus… a picture of Ken Olsen’s former house, past peak foliage:

For folks who believe in the magic of American real estate as an investment: the Zillow link above says that the house was sold in 2007 for $1.9 million and is now worth $2 million, 13 years later. Up 5 percent, right? (actually 0 percent if it costs 5 percent in real estate commissions to sell) But let’s not forget that it is attracting $28,832 per year in property tax even before the ground has been broken on the nation’s most expensive (per student) school ever constructed.) The S&P 500, by contrast, was at 1,455 at the time of the sale. On October 26, 2020 it was 3,465 (up 138 percent). Instead of requiring the payment of property tax, the S&P 500 has been paying a dividend every year during this period.

What if we adjust for inflation? The house cost $2.4 million in today’s mini dollars. So it has actually lost more than 20 percent in value when you consider the broker fees that will need to be paid to unload it. (Adding insult to injury: U.S. capital gains tax does not adjust for inflation, so the unlucky owner might have to pay capital gains tax on the increase in nominal value despite the fact that there was a loss. in real (inflation-adjusted) terms.)

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