Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spam Roundup, July, 2014

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

I'm sorry, what?
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"Lumbering along " lumbers along
 The Straco Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering along, a short post about small vintage Japanese tinplate toy continues to garner the most comments (from 'bots, that is).

The Nomura 3" Lumber Truck, ca. 1960. One of the hottest
topics online -- for spambots.
It's an remarkable paragraph for all the online users; they will take benefit from it I am sure. [There are eight paragraphs in the post. Which one is an remarkable one, I wonder.]

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A Flurry of Fastidiousness
The word "fastidious" continues to be a favorite with the bots. Among the many I received this month were these gems:

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[Yup, fastidious  -- that's me.] 

A Magnificent Introduction
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Timeless Classics from 18th Century Czech Masters

Music from 18th Century Prague
Zelenka: Sanctus et Agnus Dei
Tuma: Stabat mater
Collegium 1704
Vaclav Luks, conductor

The latest installment of Supraphon's long-running Music from 18th Century Prague series features mostly sacred music by two composers, and an instrumental work by a third. All three share a connection with J.J. Fux, whose highly influential teachings on composition and counterpoint left their mark on virtually all Czech composers of the period.

The album opens with a Stabat mater of Frnatisek Tuma, who spent most of his working life in Vienna, rather than Prague. Written in the stile antico, the Stabat mater follows the ideals of Fux (channeling Palestrina). Tuma's composition is a glorious work of church counterpoint.

Jan Dismas Zelenka was known as a daring and inventive composer. And while that's true of his instrumental music, his sacred works are more conservative, following the guidelines set out by Fux. Still, the counterpoint seems fresher and brighter than that of Tuma, with a strong sense of forward motion.

Johann Orschler's Sonata in F for two violins and basso continuo provide an instrumental interlude between the choral works of Tuma and Zelenka. His sonata sounds Italianate, although somewhat understated in the solo parts.

The Collegium 1704 directed by Vaclav Luks performs these works admirably. The choir's blend is a little sparse, and the voices sometimes have an edge to them. For these works, though, it works. The dense counterpoint of Tuma especially would be muddied with a more homogenous vocal blend.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kenner Sky Rail Project Part 6 - The Results

I've been tasked with getting my old Kenner Sky Rail set back into working order. It has to be ready for an event my dad's hosting, so time is short. Can a toy be brought back to life after a half century of neglect?

Read all the posts about this project here. 

Although I was able to get the Sky Rail cars to operate after a fashion, I wasn't satisfied. I needed to be sure they would work on demand -- like when we gave our presentation to the Capital Miniature Auto Collectors Club.

Additional cleaning of the track and contacts didn't seem to make much difference, so I began to look for other factors -- and found them. As I've noted in earlier posts, it's a very fragile circuit that runs through the track. Pins don't fit snugly into slots, so contact is hit or miss.

And in this case, it was mostly miss. The problem turned out the be the "sky hooks" -- the brackets that attached the rails to the girders. The hook snaps onto the girder, and is basically held in place by the tension.

As the sky car passed over the rails, the weight of it pulled slightly on the track as it traveled. After a few circuits around the loop, some of the sky hooks (especially those connected to the top of the girders as in fig.14, left ) had slipped downwards.

Of course, they didn't do it at a uniform rate, which caused small kinks at the rail joints, which sometimes broke the circuit. Even when it didn't, the slippage sometime widened the gap just enough between rails to prevent the sky car's pickup shoe to maintain contact with the metal part of the rails -- which stopped the car dead at the joint.

The solution turned out to be simple -- and temporary. I had to make sure all of the sky hooks were perfectly aligned to ensure a smooth ride for the sky car and to maintain a good current flow. And I had to remember that I could run the sky cars around their loops no more than three or four times before the rails would get out of alignment.

So for the presentation, I double-checked the sky hooks right before the talk, and only ran the sky cars for two circuits before powering them down.

It was a huge success.