custom audio switch
Monday, October 6 2003
I spent most of the day building a little switching system to allow me to control the various directions sound travels after it leaves my computer. I needed this device urgently, because my computer's new sound system had no provisions for the attachment of headphones, and I need to be able to rock out at all hours of the night.
The device I needed was not a complicated one, but I had to build it custom because what I needed is not sold in stores. Not only did I need to have a jack for a headphone, but I needed a robust volume control, a connection for the FM stereo transmitter, and switches that could turn off the sound to both the speakers and the transmitter. (Relying on a button in a window on a computer is inconvenient when you need to kill the sound immediately.)
I'd obtained most of the necessary parts yesterday at Radio Shack, and my chief problem today was tracking down a suitable box in which to mount them. I went through all my junk boxes and nothing was appropriate. The closest thing I found was an old external 1200 baud modem. So I decided to use a plastic electrical box, the kind one normally installs behind drywall to the allow for the installation of electrical switches or outlets. I found one that had a handy little tab allowing me to attach it to my computer desk near my keyboard, the perfect spot for this sort of device.
Believe it or not, even for a device this simple, I had to do several iterations of debugging and rewiring. As I drilled holes, stripped wires, and soldered connections, I listened to the Cowboy Junkies, though sometimes the sound would be disturbed by a loud 60 Hz hum. That's what happens when you place the hot tip of a soldering iron to an unattenuated live audio input. Hearing it over and over again during the course of my work, I decided I love the song "Crescent Moon," particularly the lines
If she sits in the palm of the left
That moon will be fuller tomorrow.
If she sits in the palm of the right
That moon is on the wane.
Of course, at that point the Junkies feel the need to put the worse possible interpretation on this monthly occurrence.
And the love of the one who shares your bed
Will be doing just the same.
In the evening, Yom Kippur came to an end and Gretchen and I broke the fast (to the extent that we'd actually been fasting) by eating dinner at La Pupuseria on Broadway in Kingston. It is one of our absolutely favorite restaurants. I've been to Mexico on several occasions, but this is the only restaurant I've ever eaten in where you have to know some Spanish to place an order. Happily, our orders are always simple. Today Gretchen requested, "Cuatro pupusas... con queso y frijoles," and I got the same, ordering "five," while also holding up a full hand of fingers. The waitress wanted to make sure I wanted cinco (that's a lot), and I nodded, saying "Cinco!" We both ate them using the method of pupusa eating I pioneered, deploying them as soft tacos around a big wad of the mildly-pickled cabbage they bring to the table in huge glass jar.
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