Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Singing Tesla Coil - the Zeusaphone

I have got to build me one of these:

The sound of the music is actually coming from the electrical arcs. Output from a MIDI device is used to modulate the envelope of the RF signal. This was built by a EE student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and he plans on selling them next year. (See his website here.)

I should note that the units he will be selling will also have inputs for electric guitar. Theoretically, it should also be possible to use the human voice to modulate the signal. Just imagine Ozzy incorporating one of these into his stage show and feeding the opening line of "Ironman" through it....

Technical details of how to modulate the RF signal to produce controlled sounds are available here, at a website maintained by a "coiler" (euphemism for one who tinkers with Tesla coils) in the UK.

UPDATE: Here is a page with links to videos of singing Tesla coils built by the Austin chapter of the Geek Group, plus a video detailing some of the technical details of the control circuit design. Their rendition of Oingo Boingo's theme from Weird Science is particularly nice....

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pyrats Animated Short

In a minute and 32 seconds, this animated short packs more piratical entertainment than all of PotC 3. Spyglass gives it a "Yar!"

Monday, July 2, 2007

VA Excursion: Days 9, 10, & 11

Yes, I know I'm way behind on getting this final installment of photos posted, but I've been recovering from my vacation. It doesn't help that the Internet access advertised at the last two motels at which I stayed didn't work.

Day 9:
Returning to Fayetteville (the motel where I stayed was to the west of town on the Interstate), I first sought out the Rhea family cemetery, located in Fayetteville itself, not far from the road leading out to Mimosa township. After talking to some locals, I finally found the actual cemetery, located beyond a shop in a pen containing geese. Sadly, most of the stones were unreadable. The owner of the property told me that the graves of the cemetery were documented in a book compiled in the seventies, so I'll need to do some digging to learn more about it.

After grabbing some breakfast, I came to the conclusion that there would be no time to dig through records at the courthouse. That would have to wait for another visit. Not that I mind. I've become quite enamored of this lovely little county.

Heading up to the Mimosa township, I lucked out and found someone at home at the location of the Isom cemetery, and the gentleman who answered the door was kind enough to show me where the stones were. I would have never found them on my own, despite even if I had a GPS device with me, since they were hidden away in the underbrush.

Afterwards, I decided to explore "Toddy Hollar," taking Toddy Hollow Road as far as it would let me into the old stomping grounds of the Keith family. It is a pretty little valley, with the tree-lined road running alongside lovely pastures. Several times I spotted cardinals and bluejays darting in an out of the folliage, but they were always gone by the time I managed to get my camera out.

Next, I hit the road for Nashville for a return visit to the Tennessee State Library & Archives. Sure enough, the photocopies of the journal of Rev. Joseph Rhea from his Atlantic crossing were completed and waiting for me. I continued to sift through the remaining portions of the Rhea family papers, but failed to find what I was seeking: memoirs discussing the Rhea family's descent from Matthew "the Rebel" Campbell.

With closing time approaching, I waited for a sudden rain to pass (as I didn't have my umbrella on me, and I didn't want the rain to damage the photocopies that I had come so far to acquire), then hit the road once again, passing through wave after wave of rain. I just barely managed to cross Old Man River early enough to have daylight for snapping a few shots.

Day 10:
After stopping for the night in Little Rock, AR (Executive Inn - genuine dump), I hit the road and made my way home to Texas.

My first stop was the Lamar County Genealogical Society in Paris, TX, followed by the Lamar County Clerk's office, where I had a decent amount of luck digging up some source records (including probate records and will for David K. Pace, a brother of Jesse K.H. Pace, as well as several deed records). Next, I hit the road for Gainsville, passing through quite a few storms on the way.

Day 11:
Waves of rain were still passing through northern Texas. Fortunately, my business was indoors at the Cooke County Courthouse. There I found the probate records and will for David Wright Pace (as well as several folks from the Petty family). Grabbed lunch at a place near the courthouse that specializes in fried pies (the apricot was yummy), then hit the road for McKinny to check through the Collin County records. Here, my search started to hit a snag. I visited the building which houses the probate court and asked the clerk there about searching old records, but I was told I would need to visit another facility located in a strip mall where the original records are kept. There I learned that I could see the records if I know the book and page number I wanted, but they had no indices on hand and referred me to the county clerk's office located in an annex next to the main courthouse building. (This is all so much simpler in less populated counties.) There I was able to find indices for deeds (and spent most of the afternoon writing them down two and a half pages worth of references to Pace land transactions, as well as being able to search for marriage licenses online. Unfortunately, when all was said and done, I had no time to pull the microfilms for the deed transactions, and the microfilmed marriage licenses that I printed out were of such poor quality that the clerks woudn't even charge me for them. In the end, I never found anyone with indices for Collin County probate records. I finally decided that I would have to request microfilms for the probate indices through an LDS family history center and then make a return visit to the records repository.

My searching done for the day (and for the trip), I headed home, passing through still more waves of rain. On top of everything else, it didn't help that I found myself passing through downtown Dallas during rush hour. I finally arrived home around 9:00pm, and collapsed. So tired of driving....

Sunday, June 24, 2007

VA Excursion: Days 7 & 8

Day 7:
No photos for Saturday. Spent most of the day listening to presentations. At the day's board meeting, I was asked to assist in preparing publications for which we are running low on innventory for distribution via CDROM to save the cost of new print runs. I also posited the suggestion that we investigate print-on-demand publishing to avoid the need for stocking inventory. When all was said and done, I found myself on the publications committee.
The after-dinner presentation was given by an archeologist from the Jamestowne dig. I tried hitting her up for a copy of her PowerPoint presentation, but some of the images are apparently closely guarded.
After dinner, I hit the road at 9:45pm EDT. I wanted to make Fayetteville, TN as early as possible Sunday to maximize the time I could spend at the Lincoln County Geanealogical Society, and I toyed with the idea of driving all night. For this leg of the trip, I chose to drive south through North Carolina. By the time I was a little west of Winston-Salem, it was clear to me that I was far too tired to push on through the night. It was about 2:00am EDT when I got a motel room.

Day 8:
Up bright an early (after only 4 hours or so of sleep), I hit the road once again. My path took me out to the western-most tip of North Carolina, once again passing through the Smokey Mountains. As I passed through the Nantahla National Forest, the road went through a gorge alongside a river that seems to be a popular spot in the area for white water rafting.

On the western slope, in Tennessee, there was another river (this one running westward of course) that was also a draw for rafters.

I passed through Chattanooga (no time to stop for photos of the Choo Choo) and continued on. The path taken by the interstate briefly dipped into Georgia (I had been listening to an Atlanta radio station most of the way through the mountains), but I must have blinked and missed when I entered Georgia. Next thing I knew, I was heading back into Tennessee (and back into the Central Time Zone).

I pushed through the Cumberland mountains and finally arrived in Fayetteville. By the time I arrived at the LCGS library, it was 3:30pm, giving me only an hour and a half to dig through what they had (which is quite a bit). I had a little time to photocopy some family group sheets and book passages, as well as photographing some 19th century legal documents associated with a F.W. Keith who seems to have served as Lincoln County Sheriff at one point. Not sure if he is connected to us, but I photographed them just in case.

After the LCGS library closed, I headed towards Isom cemetery. (The road I was needing out to Mimosa township was on the way home for the LCGS volunteer, and he was kind enough to lead the way for me.) Once I got to the area, I found Toddy Hollow Road and knew I was on the right track. (According to my father, his Grandmother Isom always said that she was from "Toddy Hollar, Tennessee.") I even found the farm where the gravesite is supposed to be, but could not locate it, nor did anyone answer the door at the farmhouse. Not wanting to traipse about on a stranger's property without their permission, I found a place to eat and secured a room for the night. Now that I've gone back to study the Google satellite images more closely, I think I can narrow down the location a bit better now.

My plan for tomorrow is to go into town early, find the Rhea cemetery (which is in Fayetteville proper not far from the road leading out to Mimosa), go to the courthouse a bit to track down some records, then try again to find the Isom gravesite. After that, it is off to Nashville for a return visit to the archives.

Friday, June 22, 2007

VA Excursion: Day 6

(I had 271 photos in my camera when I returned to my room tonight. When you see the subject matter, you'll see why. Needless to say, I'll not be posting all of them tonight. Just showing the highlights.)

After my posting last night, I finally got to meet Nancy Webb Wood of Arkansas for the first time. We both decend from the John Pace/Ann Russell line and she has provided me with a great deal of info. Dinner was followed by a presentation about genealogical resources at the Virginia State Library, presented by Research Archivist Kelly Gilbert (whom, I hasten to point out, was not only knowledgable, but cute as all get out). After the presentation was over, Pace Society business was discussed and I learned that I had indeed been elected to the Board of Trustees along with several other individuals. Next year's annual meeting will be held in Oklahoma City (much more convenient for me), and the meeting the following year will be held in North Carolina.

After getting back to my room, I decided to snap the following photo of Richmond at night from my hotel room window. I learned later today that the top floor has a pool which should provide an even better vantage point for photos. I'll have to try it out tomorrow.

Anyway, on to today. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Virginia. After a yummy breakfast, I headed east for a day of sight-seeing. I had planned on visiting Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Pace's Paines, but I had been warned that just seeing all of Colonial Williamsburg would take the better part of two or three days, so I resigned myself to postponing a visit there to another trip. I wanted to start of with Pace's Paines, Richard Pace's plantation on the south bank of the James River, in Surry county. The most expedient way to get there involved taking a ferry from Jamestown. The ferry was much like those used between Galveston Island and Bolivar, but the ferry operators here don't seem to be quite as skilled at gently entering the slip. There was quite a bit of jostling and bouncing when we docked.

The southern (Surry County) shore of the James River. Pace's Paines is somewhere in the stretch of shoreline shown in this photo, and it was across this stretch of water that Richard Pace had to paddle (in the dead of night - I need to find out what phase the moon was in) to warn Jamestown of the impending attack.

What is that I spy over at the Jamestown Settlement? Could it be ships? Yarr!

Jamestown Island, where the actual Jamestowne archealogical dig is located.

Once across the river, I made my way to the intersection of highways 10 and 618, were an historical marker stands regarding Pace's Paines and the role Richard Pace played in warning Jamestown of the impending Powhatan Indian attack in 1621/22 (1621 Julian calendar, 1622 Gregorian: at the time, New Years Day was May 25 instead of January 1). Next, I headed north along 618 to dive into the woods of what was once the the plantation of my ancestor.

A quiet drive through the woods of Pace's Paines.

Is it sad that I drove over 1500 miles primary to see a plaque (one that I had already seen photos of at that)? Perhaps, but as I've explained, place holds a great deal of significance for me. It wasn't the plaque I was there to see. It was the woods and fields to the north of it. I kept seeing areas cleared of forest for farmland and couldn't help but wonder which of them might have originally been cleared by Richard's own hands. This is a place where one of my ancestors helped England establish a tenuous foothold on a vast, wild, and unknown continent, where the very first seeds of our nation were planted. This was a homecoming of sorts.

I found a Boy Scout camp which might be within the old boundaries of Pace's Paines, as well as a retreat named for Chanco, the name apocryphally linked to the Powhatan youth who warned Richard Pace of the impending attack. Sadly, I don't know the specific bounds for Pace's Paines. At some point, I'll have to use the metes and bounds in the land patent descriptions to try to map them out, just as I did for John Miller Martin's property in Black Fork. Unfortunately, the property descriptions used in Colonial Virginia were not based upon nice, neat, orderly rectangular grid systems, but rather references to landmarks, so it will not be a simple task.

I would have also liked to see the actual Pace's Paines archealogical dig site; but, alas, I don't know where it is, nor am I currently equipped with the information on how to secure permission to visit the site from its caretaker. (I spoke to someone this evening who has done so, so I know that it is possible.) Oh well, another excuse to return here some day....

After driving around a bit, I realized that the morning was passing quickly, and I still had a lot to see, so the next step was to take the ferry back to the north bank and visit Jamestown Settlement, a museum and recreation of the James Fort, not to be confused with Historic Jamestowne, which is the archealogical dig of the actual fort located on the neighboring Jamestown Island. (Until fairly recently, it was that that the remains of the fort had long since been claimed by the James River. Fortunately, digs in recent years have demonstrated that this is not the case.) The museum hold an impressive collection of artifacts in the indoor exhibits, including old books and maps, armor and weapons. Alas, photography of the indoor displays was not permitted.

Next it was time to head outside. I blew past the recreated Powhatan village, not because I wasn't interested, but because something a bit more impressive had caught my eye: ships! On the waterfront were functional replicas of the three ships which brought the original settlers to Jamestowne, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery. An older replica of the Discovery was also on hand, since re-christened the "Old Elizabeth" (or so was told by the interpretive historian aboard her, a very knowledgable and likable gentleman.)

A beer mug breech-loader!

A traverse board.

Needless to say, I spent quite a bit of time aboard the ships (and would have happily spent more), which only left a little time for a whirlwind tour of the reproduction of James Towne Fort, a triangular structure with cannon mounted at the bulwarks at each corner.

It was getting late in the afternoon (not enough time to visit Historic Jamestowne - another excuse to come back), and it was time for me to rush back to Richmond for my first meeting as a member of the Board of Trustees. Alas, I was late anyway. Not only had I not accounted for arriving during rush hour, but I had failed to realize that there was no exit for the street I was looking for when coming in from the east. I finally got there, and wound up volunteering to help Val Tice with monitoring the website's guestbook for spam.

After the meeting, we held our dinner for the evening, which featured a presentation by Roger and Gloria Crone of the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation on the topic "Cultures of Jamestown." They brought along a trunk of replicas of period items to illustrate the discussion. The helm, breastplate, and bandoliere of powder 'postles certainly brought back memories.

Alas, about three-quarters of the way through the presentation was when my camera ran out of juice. Oh well. I certainly had an ample number of shots for the day....