What's New...

September 6 2021: My dad and stepmother live on their own in a senior mobile estate place. AKA, "trailer park", except their house is a manufactured house, not a mobile home. Since they live on their own, they bought into an emergency assistance service, MobileHelp, which includes some electronic gadgets that they can use to summon help if they get in a bad way. The service has recently sent them an upgrade kit, to replace the electronics that they got five or six years ago. Since they didn't need the old stuff anymore, Mom offered me the junk to use or recycle (since I know how to recycle electronic junk, now: Suburban Miners).

Of course, I had to take it apart to see if there was any potential for reuse. When I was a teen, I would scout the neighborhood, especially the alleys behind the television repair shops, and take all the discarded electronic junk I could find home and dismantle it. I've still got a fair bit of old TV stuff, some of it useful (like carbon composition resistors) and some of it not (like tuner dials and knobs). I still do this now, but the options are much thinner, with all the surface-mount stuff. So, let's see about this MobileHelp junk.

MobileHelp CBS2-01 Base UnitThe base unit is a largish counter-top set with two large buttons, a smaller button, an LCD display, and a speaker. There's a five-volt three-amp wall-wart (nice) permanently attached, and a USB Mini-B connector on the back.

Base Unit CCA Top ViewThe insides are very intriguing. There's a big wireless module upper left with a serious antenna, another antenna module upper right, and a big IC lower right-of-center (underneath the LCD display).

My first thought is, this is a beautiful bit of work, I wonder if it could be repurposed? I'll bet that USB port in the back will serve as a reprogramming interface. The unit part number is CBS2-01. An internet search turns up a useful FCC site with photos and a user manual and some other stuff, but of course not a schematic. In older times, you could go to services like SAMS Photofacts with at least some hope of finding some technical data. In today's world, everything is proprietary unless it is explicitly and intentionally made Open Source. Which of course MobileHelp is not. This pretty much puts the kabosh on repurposing it. With a considerable expenditure of time and money, I might be able to reverse-engineer this thing sufficiently to understand how the sections talk to each other... but my time and money is better spent elsewhere. I do not want to make this MobileHelp thing a new time-sucking hobby project. So we're back to stripping it down.

Base Unit CCA Back ViewBack view of the circuit card assembly. So far, I can definitely reuse the wall-wart, the 8-ohm speaker, and the LiPo battery pack.

Base Unit Main ProcessorBase Unit Bluetooth Processor

The big chip at the lower right-of-center is a Microchip PIC32MX470F512L-1/TL. That's serious processing power. Probably the USB port goes here, since a lot of 32MX parts have USB peripherals, and the MX470 is one of them. But there's no point in even trying to desolder even a 64-pin ball-grid or leadless-chip package; it probably wouldn't survive, and I probably could not reattach it to a board I designed - it would be cheaper/faster/more certain to buy a new 32MX470 if I were doing something like that. And more likely, to just play with a 32MX470, better yet to buy an eval board from Microchip. So there's just no point in trying. On the other hand, I might be able to remove and reuse that Winbond 25Q64FVIG Flash EEPROM below it...

The device connects locally via Bluetooth, and the wireless processor for this capability is a Texas Instruments CC2540F256 - which is apparently no longer supported by TI.

Base Unit GSM ModuleBase Unit SIM

The MobileHelp system is essentially an embedded cell-phone that calls their service if you summon them. This u-blox SARA-U290, and its companion soldered-on SIM, is the cellphone as well as likely the GPS receiver that locates itself and transmits that information to the service. Again, I would be unlikely to successfully remove the module and reuse it, versus the sure-thing of getting an eval board from u-blox. But not of the SARA-U290, which is already end-of-life. Another problem with trying to reuse scrap components or even repurposing hardware platforms when you can get the technical information - there are likely to be too many unsupported or obsolete parts.

Base Unit Temperature SensorOn the other hand, this TO-92 package of a standard Microchip MCP9700AE temperature-to-voltage converter is easily removed and reused.

Remote DeviceThe second tier of the service are these summoning remotes. My dad has a little belt pouch that looks like it's for a small flip-style cellphone, but it's actually his MobileHelp remote.

Remote Model 1 GutsThere are two remotes in the junk bestowal, and they appear to be two different models. I think this one is older. This is the back side of the board, opposite the 8-ohm speaker.

Remote Model 1 Main ProcessorRemote Model 1 GSM Module

The main processor is a Microchip PIC24FJ128-GB106. On the front side of the board is the main GSP cellphone module, a u-blox LISA-U120. u-blox does not even acknowledge the U120 model any more.

Remote Model 1 GSM ProcessorRemote Model 1 RF Section

For some reason, in addition to the big GSM module on the front, there's a smaller u-blox MAX-7C-0-000 on the back. This device, which is still available, is specialized as a GPS/GLONASS location receiver. I can't imagine why the big module couldn't do that. Right next to it is a SIM chip. Also on the back is some short-range RF module, probably not Bluetooth since the receiver is a superheterodyne Micrel MICRF211AYQS... which is not recommended for new designs. I was startled to learn that Micrel, long a major RF devices player, was acquired by Microchip. Note the cute printed-circuit antenna.

Remote Model 2 GutsHere is the top of the board of the other model. Both have very reusable LiPo battery packs and 8-ohm speakers.

Remote Model 2 Main ProcessorRemote Model 2 GSM Module

The main processor and main GSM module are on the front of the board. A PIC32MX470F512L-1/TL and a u-blox SARA-U260 - same as the base unit. Common parts are a good way to reduce inventory, which can lower costs. Probably a PIC32 is overkill for this application.

Remote Model 2 GSM ProcessorRemote Model 2 RF Section

On the back, the locator GPS receiver is a u-blox MAX-M8C-0-02, and the RF receiver is a Micrel (Microchip) MICRF219AAY (fully supported).

Remote Charging StandBoth models of remote device have a common package, which plugs into this charging stand. The wall-wart has a USB B-Mini on the end.

Charging Stand GutsCharging Stand Processor

I was shocked to see how much circuitry there is inside a charging cradle. This is way more then what just regulates a voltage to apply to the remote device in the cradle. That's a PIC18LF4550-1/PT. The fact that this PIC18 part also has a USB peripheral makes me think that the USB does more than just supply 5V to the cradle. I also note the five-pin header right next to the PIC - looks just like a programming header. Now, this board may be amenable to hacking... except, what would you do with a charging cradle?

Wristband DevicesLanyard Devices

The third part of the MobileHelp ecology are the local summoning devices. There are two kinds: a wrist strap device, and a lanyard (around the neck) device. These devices must just communicate with either the base station or the remote device, since there are no GSM cellphone modules or GPS receivers inside.

Device AssemblyDevice Assembly Guts

Both wrist strap and lanyard devices have the same guts, this tiny module with a membrane switch (under the white tape) and a lithium battery. There's only one active device on the board; it has a Microchip logo and an indecipherable part number, "1840T39A". It's a fourteen-pin chip, so it can't be a PIC12F1840 eight-pin microcontroller. There are obviously antennae connected to it, the printed-trace on the back and the "flex" strip soldered to the board. Unless these are both parts of the same antenna. I'm guessing the "1840" is a custom part made for MobileHelp that includes wireless capabilities.

Device BatteryNot much recoverable from the module. However, the battery had to be removed to see the insides of the module. Its non-rechargeable, so the wrist-strap and lanyard devices are one-time products. It appears to be a CR2032 with solder tabs. There's still 3V on these guys. I might be able to use them.

After looking at all this electronic junk, I can strip off a few things like batteries and speakers and a temperature sensor, but the rest will get a one-way ride to Suburban Miners. And all the plastic goes into the trash.


August 30 2021: The last installment in my series of thoughts about "church culture": What Fellowship Really Looks Like.


August 29 2021: The third installment in my series of thoughts about "church culture": Sunday School Could Be Better.

SVRBC LogoWhile I was doing research for this Sunday School article, I happened to come across the website for Silicon Valley Reformed Baptist Church. After getting over the astonishment that there would be an orthodox church in the San Jose valley, let alone a Reformed one, I noticed that their logo is a cross formed of... printed circuit board traces! How appropriate for Silicon Valley! How Christian Geekly!


August 27 2021: The next installment in my series of thoughts about "church culture": An Analysis of the Sermon.


August 22 2021: Too many toys.

I visited my friends at Marcus Engineering, and the part-time super-tech/self-employed lighting developer/hobbyist was telling me about his new preferred embedded control platform - the Espressif ESP32. Dual-core, gobs of peripherals, and... best of all... WiFi and Bluetooth. I had to look into this.

The top three models are the ESP32-D0WD-V3, the ESP32-C3, and the ESP32-S3.

  • ESP32-D0WD-V3 is the go-to product in full-rate production. Dual Tensilica Xtensa LX6 processing cores running at 240MHz, 520K RAM, 18 channels 12-bit ADC, two channels 8-bit DAC, 32 bits GPIO, 10 touch inputs, 3 UARTs, 4 SPI peripherals, an SDIO Host and SDIO Slave peripheral, two I2C, two I2S, an Ethernet MAC, a Hall-Effect sensor, and some other stuff. Like I say, gobs of peripheral I/O. The Bluetooth radio conforms to version 4.2 of the spec.
  • ESP32-C3 is also in full-rate production. Instead of dual Tensilical processors, it has one RISC-V processing core. That is extremely interesting to me, considering as the next TOW computing systems are going to be RISC-V. Not as fast (160MHz) and not as much memory (400K SRAM), but this may not compare well across different processor types (albeit both RISC). Not as much I/O: six channels 12-bit ADC, no DAC, 22 bits of GPIO, no touch, two UARTs, three SPI peripherals, no SDIO host or slave, one channel of I2C, one channel of I2S, no Hall-Effect, no Ethernet, and less of the other stuff. The Bluetooth radio conforms to the more recent and capable version 5.0 of the spec (5.3 is the most recent at this time). So, more interesting for the RISC-V and the enhanced Bluetooth, less interesting for the reduced peripheral I/O.
  • ESP32-S3 is not in production yet, but is sampling. Dual Xtensa LX7 cores at 240MHz, 512K SRAM. Different/more I/O set: 20 channels of 12-bit ADC, 45 (!) bits of GPIO, 14 touch inputs, two SDIO host interfaces, no SDIO slave interface (not sure what the use-case is for a wireless module having a SDIO slave interface), no Hall-Effect sensor, and it swaps the Ethernet MAC for a (probably more useful USB port. Like the S3, it conforms to Bluetooth 5.0. So, more interesting for the advanced Bluetooth and I/O set, less interesting for not being RISC-V.

ESP32-WROOM-32EYou don't really want to deal with the chips themselves. Bluetooth devices, and 802.11 WiFi devices, come in modules that have already gone through FCC and hopefully a broad array of international certifications. The workhorse module for ESP32-DOWD-V3 is the ESP32-WROOM-32E. It's got an on-board 4MB flash memory for program storage and an on-board 40MHz crystal, so all it needs is 3.3V power. All the I/O pins come to the castellated contacts on the surfaces. The module is intended to be surface-mount soldered to the user's PCB. Less than $3 from Mouser. Pretty Darn Amazing.

The ESP32-C3 is incorporated into the ESP32-C3-WROOM-02. Looks the same as the ESP32-WROOM-32E, but of course the pinout is different. Less than $2 from Mouser. Even More Darn Amazing!

It's not very convenient to mess around with surface-mount modules, so Espressif incorporated the ESP32-WROOM-32E into the ESP32-DevKitC-32E, a teeny circuit board with a USB-to-serial port for loading programs, a 3.3V regulator, and pins on 0.1" centers to plug into a breadboard. $10 from Mouser. That's still pretty good. Similar to the $4 Raspberry Pi Pico, but with different I/O and WiFi and Bluetooth.

ESP32-DevKitC

Similarly, the ESP32-C3 is on a ESP32-C3-DevKitM-1. $8 from Mouser.

The ESP32-S3 will be placed on the ESP32-S3-WROOM-1 module and the module on a ESP32-S3-DevKitC-1, but they're not on the market yet.

I'm not in a hurry. I could get one (or two) of the ESP32-D0WD-V3 boards for the dual core and extensive I/O and one (or two) of the ESP32-C3 boards for the RISC-V and the Bluetooth 5.0, and play with them, get them to talk to each other, learn the tools. The price of the goodies is nothing compared to the time to learn how to use them and enjoy making them work.

Too many toys...


August 02 2021: The next installment: Is "Worship" Music Really Worship?.

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My dad had a few old Horatio Hornblower books by C.S. Forester. The story of fighting ships and the English civilization in that period was fascinating; I subsequently got the rest of the books in the series. I know there are people who fawn over the P. O'Brien series of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, but I doubt any similar story is going to top my first encounter with the genre.

I also read Richard Dana's classic Two Years Before the Mast, which was biography, an account of his experiences on a commercial ship to colonial California. Not fiction.

From whatever source, I've encountered Fitch Waterman Taylor, who was a commercial seaman and then a chaplain in the fledgling United States Navy. Taylor wrote out some of his experiences in books like Broad Pennant and A Voyage round the World. Biography, not fiction. After 200 years, the copyright on his works has long since expired and the books are long out of print, but fortunately they are considered Public Domain. I've discovered that scans of the books are available at Online Books Library. You just have to read the 664-page PDF of the image scans of the books on your computer!


July 31 2021: After a long hiatus, I've posted some long-simmering thoughts about Church Culture versus Christianity.


July 30 2021: Gearing up to put some more of my "Thoughts" about Christianity and the church on the long-neglected page. Prior to that, I've cleaned up and updated a number (well, all) of the Christian pages:


July 28 2021: This year, under the impression that the City had cancelled the firework show over "A" Mountain, Jerri and I took a weekend trip to Colorado.

  • Loveland and its sculpture gardens
  • Fort Collins' historic trolley
  • Fireworks over Lake Windsor

See the Family Page for the whole story!

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Once again, the concept of setting up a passenger train route between Tucson and Phoenix is back on the table.

I know I would ride it. Imagine packing an overnight bag (imagine Jerri being able to operate out of an overnight bag) and zipping up to the Big City for a day or two, catching the Metro at Sky Harbor and going to the usual haunts on Central. It would be better if the train were fixed to carry your automobile, but Amtrak doesn't do that.

I'm sure we couldn't do much more than an overnight bag. Looks like the Amtrak station at Sky Harbor doesn't deal with checked bags. Although interestingly enough, both Tucson and Flagstaff do, but I guess Tucson and Flagstaff are on big-name routes and the Capital City is not.

Also interesting, Phoenix is listed as a destination on the Sunset Limited line, but the train doesn't actually go through Phoenix, but rather the smallish town of Maricopa, 30 miles south of Phoenix and way off I-10. Obviously, Maricopa was more of a thing than "Pumpkinville" when the Southern Pacific built the line around 1880. Also, Phoenix is served by the Santa Fe line, same as Flagstaff, so you would think it would be easier to run a passenger route on BNSF tracks; however, the Amtrak page for Phoenix says the connection to the Flagstaff station is by van. I guess if Phoenix-Tucson is a hard sell, how much more Phoenix-Flagstaff?

I may be waiting a while, though. Amtrak being a federal government monopoly, it seems Congress has to allocate the funds. I suppose the way the current Congress is throwing money around with wild abandon, it isn't too much of a stretch to hope for this. And then it would be at least three years afer that to make it happen. Considering the pace of roadwork in Pima County, building a railroad would almost certainly be more than that.

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RasPadAs I was clearing out old stuff on this "What's New" page, I noticed a few Raspberry Pi-based notepad systems. It would seem one of them, the RasPad has made it out of the Kickstarter phase pretty well and has a product ready to ship. It's a kit, not a finished item, and the kit appears to lack the actual Pi board itself, but it looks like you can put whatever Pi model you want (so it's likely upgradeable as RasbPi produceds new models). I can't say I'm thrilled with the thickness, or the wedge shape, but I guess that would make it a convenient "digital picture frame" (although I'm still holding out hope for a successful passive color display technology rather than the ubiquitous "shine the blue light into your eyes" active display). Quite a few complaints about the noisy fan, too; I find it a bit disconcerting that a tablet or notepad even has a fan. The $219 price is okay.

We'll see. Lots of stuff to do and toys to play with right now.

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Raspberry Pi PicoAlso, while looking at the Raspberry Pi site, I noticed that in addition to the Linux-based single-board computers for which they are famously successful, they have introduced a custom-designed integrated circuit, the RP2040, a dual-core ARM-based microcontroller, and a platform to showcase it, the Pico. It's similar to the Microchip Curiosity dev boards I've been playing with in that it can present itself to a host computer as a USB Mass Storage device, and you can just copy the executable file to it, and upon reset, the file gets burned into program flash and executed. Lots of I/O and integrated ARM-style peripherals. And... It's $4.00!!.

The U.S. vendors, Sparkfun and Adafruit are out of stock, so it's clearly a hit. Both companies have also released versions of their own microcontroller platforms using the RP2040. Looks like this one is a winner.


July 18 2021: I have recently finished a quick-turn project: a thermostat controller for the evaporative cooler I've now had installed on my backyard workshop. 95% junkbox parts.

Cooler Controller boardPart of doing this projecxt was to brush up on the current gEDA and PCB (geda-project.org) and try out DK Red, the budget printed circuit board service provided by Digi-Key.

Finished project, mounted on the wall above my bench (so I can see the temperature) and connected to the high-voltage wiring with 3/4" conduit:

Finished controller, interiorFinished controller, exterior

I've also made the project available on the Microcontrollers page and its own Cooler Controller page, which has more details.


January 4 2021: Since this stupid virus thing - or more precisely, the careless government overreaction to the stupid virus thing - has killed some of Tucson's prime restaurants, businesses, and attractions, I had to update the Arizona Page. A couple of promising additions. I left Old Tucson on the list in the hopes that Pima County will allow/help it to continue operating.


December 5 2020: Cool stuff!

RGB Nixie ClockFor the past several years, one of the more popular and interesting display technologies, at least for clocks, is the Nixie tube. I like Nixie tubes, but nobody makes them commercially anymore (they're vacuum tubes, after all) except for maybe one amateur fellow out there. We have also all seen those 3-D transparent cubes with the image etched inside that is illuminated by its LED stand. Someone has figured out how to put the two together - plastic sheets with a Nixie-style numeral etched into it with an RGB LED in the base to illuminate it. No high voltages. No vacuum. Very low cost. Even the 0-9 numeral display is unitized just like a Nixie tube. It just cries for use in some other application, but I can't think of anything but a clock (frequency counters and voltmeters used to be equipped with Nixies, but just seven-segment LED displays are so much more practical).

From PlaysDom Outlets Store, but you can bet I will now be on the lookout for the same sort of thing on the hobby circuit - like so many Nixie tube clock kits and projects!


FreeDOS Boot RecordI'm very familiar with loading programs into the TI from a cassette tape - converting audio signals to digital signals. Some enterprising characters have done the same thing with a peecee and a record player to boot FreeDOS.

Practical? Not at all. Amazing? Most certainly!


November 27 2020: Family Travels in Colorado

Family at Gold MineFamily vacation trip taken in September and October of this wretched year, a bright spot in an otherwise miserable time. See our travelogue of our visit to Colorado, the Mollie Kathleen gold mine, and Bishop's Castle!


February 13 2020: My boss is part of the local technology business development and promotion scene in Tucson. One of his friends is trying to start up a tech forum, whatnxt?, and with the partnership of the University of Arizona and a number of other Tucson-based tech business enablers, he arranged for a "summit" conference featuring Vint CerfDr. Vint Cerf. Because he is his friend, my boss was allowed to invite his employees to the conference with complementary tickets, so last Monday, I got to be in the new Health Sciences Innovation Building, in the large forum or lecture facility, listening to the last surviving "Father of the Internet". It was quite interesting; he recounted his experience of developing ARPANET and the Internet Protocol and the Transfer Control Protocol and managing the first big demonstration of the practicality of the Internet. He went on to describe his work on the Interplanetary Network which was used (in an unanticipated prototype fashion) to transmit data from Mars landers to Earth stations via the companion orbiters. He is the "chief evangelist" for Google and is working to extend Internet coverage to remote areas - such as the Indian tribal areas in Arizona.

Three things of especial interest about this experience. Aside from me getting to see Vint Cerf (and actually sit right behind him, looking down at his bald head, as he waited for his turn to stand and take the mic):

  • I was apparently the only one in our office who knew who Vint Cerf was. The boss didn't. The smart young fellows didn't. Only one other employee (the oldest of the 5 young employees) took advantage of the opportunity. They are technically smart, but not really aware of the technical heritage they take for granted.
  • Dr. Cerf is 77 years old, but he is still sharp and active and engaged in technology work. He is a model and source of encouragement for us older geeks as well as the younger generations.
  • These technology business promotion organizations are finding it hard to attract the attention of the University and Raytheon, the big tech powerhouses in the Tucson area. The boss talked with me about the difficulty of engaging with Raytheon in the office before the lecture. And then, while I was sitting in the stands before the second lecture (there were two; the first on "technology, where we've been and where we're going" and the second on "social aspects of technology" (which should have been better than how it turned out, oh, well)), the boss was sitting in the row ahead of me, about 15 feet away, talking with another buddy of his about how difficult it was to engage with Raytheon, and I heard him say, "Yeah, Raytheon is a different world; in fact, I've got a fellow working for me who is a Raytheon retiree, and he's really smart and capable and all that, but he's so slow..."

Well. I guess I know where I stand, then. Like I said, this was a great opportunity to hear and see an Internet legend and learn new things. Some things I might have not wanted to learn.


October 19 2019: Union Pacific is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad by driving its Heritage Train all around their network. It stopped in Tucson briefly at the Depot on Friday and for most of the day at the UP switchyard on Saturday. The defining feature of the train is the giant historical steam engine operated by UP, the "Big Boy.

To park on a weekday, I figured I would drop my car on one of the vacant lots on 5th Street and 6th Avenue. I was somewhat surprised to find a massive crowd there already, but was lucky in finding a slot. The crowd was waiting for the train to approach from the west. I stood there with the crowd north of the tracks for a long while with the growing concern that the train was going to approach from the east (I didn't have better information at the time). It was late, of course; it's the railroad. Then a l_o_n_g freight train started passing by on the north track westbound. Sure enough, when it was 3/4 past, I see a column of smoke on the other side of the train, and the moaning of a steam whistle! Darn, if only I had been on the south side of the tracks! Laughing at the dumb luck of an unfortunate circumstance, I walk with the crowd down Toole to the Depot to see the train there.

It is an impressive locomotive!

Big Boy at Tucson Depot

Big Boy and Depot CrowdI am surprised that there are this many train buffs in Tucson. The crowd is so big that the UP cops have to chase people off the roof of the old passenger subway. But I haven't seen anything yet!

Saturday, Jerri can go with me to where the train is on display at the switchyard. I figured we could ditch the car on Silverlake by the Goodwill place and walk in (again, not having better information). There was an amazing line of cars! We went on down the road and got onto Fairlane to come in from the south. Another long line of cars! So we just stayed in line and eventually were admitted to the yard and parked among an unbelievable crowd.

Whistlestop PlatformThe last car has a platform where three presidents have given speeches at the "whistlestops".

Big Boy Business EndHere's the front end of the Big Boy locomotive. Built in 1941, the engine was designed to pull freights over the western mountains. It's 4-8-8-4, with two articulated trucks for managing bends. More stats and a great video at UP's 4014 site.


August 11 2019: Found a pretty good Southern Arizona activities and attractions site: AZ Weekend. Also, last year at Modernism Week, we visited the very cool Ignite Sign Art Museum. Don't know why it didn't occur to me that this would be a great addition to my list of Tucson attractions.

Also in the category of "things that would be a great addition to the list but didn't occur to me yet but has now been added": The Gaslight Theatre.

Both added to the AZ Page.


August 10 2019: Last month we returned from a 5-week vacation tour of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah, looking at lighthouses, national parks, and state capitols. Working on the travelogue, hope to have it up soon. We expected it to be rainy while we were there, but it never really did. However, we returned to Tucson on a Saturday in a blinding Monsoon downpour - Second Saturday, and as we rolled slowly through downtown, we noticed that the Second Saturday Downtown activities had got rained out.

Today is Second Saturday, and it is raining again. Hopefully, they didn't get rained out today. While I was looking at the website to see if there was anything interesting, I found a list of downtown dining places, and bumped it agains mine. As a result, the AZ Page got updated a bit.

I also discovered a few other useful things recently:

  • Sweeties in Mesa is an amazing off-brand and nostalgia candy company. Locally, Fuzziwig's at Park Mall is a very small place with the same objective. It seems there is a new-ish place on 22nd Street - Purple Penguin Candy Emporium, with an unusual (and growing) candy selection and working antiques.
  • Near where we live is the El Sur restaurant. Also on 22nd. They have a companion place just a few blocks away on 29th that has now morphed from "El Sur #2" into El Taquito King, with street tacos and Sonoran Dogs.
  • The El Charro empire is now expanding into the Casas Adobes Center - Charrovida. "Mediterranean, European, and Sonoran". Looks like fancy stuff with a vegetarian leaning. I just keep hoping Flores Junior doesn't over-extend and jeopardize the original El Charro Cafe.

June 1 2019: Robert A. Heinlein was probably the Rocket Ship Galileo science fiction author who influenced me into that direction. I read a few of his "adult" novels, but it was the spectacular "juvenile" novels like Rocket Ship Galileo and Space Cadet and Red Planet that I really appreciated (and devoured).

I've found a site dedicated to Heinlein's works. Including a (pricey) graphic novel adaptation of Have Spacesuit Will Travel.


May 19 2019: Way back in March, we did a quick family vacation to Denver, as our final attempt to see the U.S. Mint, but also to stay in the fancy and historic Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver. Faith and Charity both took off Friday so they could participate in the hotel experience, at least. I finally wrote up the official record at our experience for the family page.


March 8 2019: Last weekend was the annual home tour of the Tucson Garden Railway Society. Most of the sites we had seen on previous tours. They still do not fail to amaze.

The Eagle Mountain Railroad is about the largest. Occupies the entirety of the lot outside the home. Elaborate concrete butte models, many automated vignettes with pushbuttons for visitors, a lengthy river springing from the fake mountains. Wow.

Eagle Mountain Railroad

An elaborate setup at a home near Agua Caliente Park on the far east side. The owners also operate a Bed and Breakfast with the "bed" part inside an old Southern Pacific caboose. They are getting pretty old, and I can't help thinking how much of their lives have been poured into their train set, and what will become of it when they're gone.

B&B near Agua Caliente

Also learned on the home tour:

  • Next weekend, March 16, is the celebration of the 139th anniversary of the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Tucson sponsored by the Historic Depot (apparently a division of the Old Pueblo Trolley organization).
  • I'd forgotten about the Tucson model railroad club - the Gadsden Pacific Division.

I also was reminded through Tucsontopia that Tucson has an old car museum, the Franklin Auto Museum, dedicated to the Franklin company that went belly-up in the Great Depression. Funny that this sort of thing would be in Tucson. There's a Franklin Car Club, and another, apparently more elaborate museum, the Gilmore Car Museum at Hickory Corners, Michigan, with a sizeable collection of Franklin autos.

Links for the Tucson attractions have been added to the Arizona Page.


February 10 2019: PC GEOS is one of a few honest-to-goodness GUI environments for DOS. According to this site, PC GEOS has been released as Open Source, apparently as Apache 2.0.

However, it seems that there is a problem with building it, and while it would be a great addition to the upcoming FreeDOS 1.3 release, it cannot be included until built as an Open Source binary.

This "Virtually Fun" site seems fairly interesting. Here's another cool entry with a C versus OO parody video. Pretty silly.

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Tarzan Tee Shirt GraphicGalaxion is (was) a pretty good webcomic that looked promising, but it appears to have been abandoned. So it's off my list. Replaced with the Official Edgar Rice Burroughs site, which even though it's by paid subscription is well worth it.