Quad stopper knot

This is a stopper knot that is somewhat bulkier than Ashley’s Stopper Knot and is derived from it.  Where Ashley’s shows a trefoil pattern when looking down the standing end, this knot has a four-fold pattern around the  standing end.

Topologically the knot is a double overhand noose with a tuck back.

It is easiest to tie without the tuck at first.  Tighten up the double overhand knot around the standing end by eliminating the A segment.  This will bring the B and C legs together with the standing end inside the loop.  Snug this up enough that the standing end is no longer free to slide and none of the sub-loops are loose.  The tighter this is made, the more secure the finished stopper.

Then, continuing in the same wrap direction around the B segment, tuck the working end through the noose as shown.  Pull the standing end and the working end tight to create the four-fold pattern.  In addition to being bulkier, if this knot comes loose there is a remaining overhand knot as a backup stopper.

If this knot already exists, please let me know so I can give proper credit.

Old-school combs

A long time ago, when consumer products were made in America, the original ACE combs were ubiquitous.  Men and boys carried them.  Every barber shop had an ACE comb sales display.  James Dean famously used one to comb his hair in Rebel Without a Cause.  President John F. Kennedy owned at least one.  ACE combs were successful because they were quality products, typical for that age.  They were made from a tough, strong, flexible hard rubber with thick end guard tines to protect the teeth.  The rough mold parting line around the back and edges was carefully ground off smooth to eliminate the sharp edge.  Even the tips of the teeth were smoothed off so as to not damage hair. They could be dropped without damage and tended to last for years.  As cheaper imitators appeared, ACE started stamping their products as “Genuine ACE Hard Rubber”.

During the adverse conditions of the 1980’s, one of their competitors bought ACE and that was the end of the original ACE comb.  Since the competitor now owned the ACE trademarks, they had legal right to stamp “Genuine ACE Hard Rubber” on their existing combs made out of a more brittle material with thinner guards and an exposed sharp mold line including along the tips of the teeth.  These combs broke if you dropped them on their ends but that just meant the customer would buy another.

Many people didn’t notice, but if you cared, it was annoying.   If you do care, here are a couple of sources for hand-made, high quality combs, with saw cut teeth to eliminate mold edges between teeth, and polished all over so they have no sharp edges anywhere.  They are tough and long lasting.

Speert imports a wide range of private label high quality hand-made Swiss combs for men and women, in pocket, purse, and styling versions.  The Speert site also offers a very wide selection of different styles, sizes, and diopters of inexpensive reading glasses.


For seriously old-school, Kent has been making the “world’s finest brushes” and combs for over 240 years … since 1777.  They produce a range of men’s and women’s hand-made, saw cut, polished combs.  You can hear the difference as their combs glide through your hair.  The given link is for Great Britain and while they have importers, the home web site is worth visiting.  It has a web store and PayPal does the pound/dollar conversion seamlessly.


These are elegant combs for a very reasonable price.

New M1 Garand Ammunition

Do not ever shoot regular 30-06 hunting ammunition in a standard M1 Garand.  Commercial  30-06 ammunition is loaded to a much higher pressure than the “Cal .30 Ball M2” that the Garand gas system was designed for and simply will not work.     At best, commercial ammo will cause a stuck case and at worst will bend the operating rod and/or break the extractor.

The last volume source for M2 Ball equivalent military surplus ammo was Greek HXP which was happily non-corrosive, unlike WW II and Korea vintage U.S. military surplus.

As surplus HXP started to dry up Federal came out with 30-06 ammunition loaded to Garand specifications.  The boxes were printed with a picture of a Garand and the part number had an M1 suffix.  Since then two other manufacturers have realized that with 6 million Garands floating around and Fulton Armory making new ones there is a significant market.  The three current sources are:

Federal /American Eagle AE3006M1

Sellier & Bellot SB3006M2

Prvi Partizan PP347

A web search will turn up multiple ecommerce sites for each.

If you’ve never shot an M1, don’t pass up an opportunity.  There are few firearms as much fun to shoot as the Garand.

Garden hose

Don’t buy garden hoses with aluminum fittings — generally silver colored instead of brass.  These fittings will corrode and seize to your hose nozzles, sprinklers, and faucets.  They then have to be cut off and generally ruin the mating part.  Existing hoses can be salvaged by cutting off the aluminum fittings and installing brass fittings available from any hardware store.

Also, try to avoid aluminum in electrical fittings and switches.  The aluminum eventually forms a surface oxide layer that causes open and/or intermittent circuits and, in some cases, fires.  Years ago there was a brief effort to use aluminum wire in residential wiring before the fire hazard was recognized.  It is hard to avoid aluminum in cheap lamp sockets but the effort will be worth it.  As a couple of personal examples: our son kept fighting an intermittent ceiling light — replacing bulbs, switch, and breaker — until I swapped out the old aluminum lamp socket.  At another time, my garage door manual button stopped working — the remotes worked fine.  This was eventually traced to the use by the manufacturer of an aluminum washer under a terminal riveted to a circuit board.  There was no visible corrosion, just an invisible oxide layer that formed under the rivet head.  A bit of solder bridging over the washer from the terminal to the board cured the problem.

Aluminum is great for cookware and airplanes.  Not so much for water fittings or electrical connections.

Fungus and mildew and mold, oh my!

Each time you take a shower or a hot bath, the air in your bathroom warms up several degrees and its humidity approaches 100% — excellent conditions for growing things.  You can see the effect of  humidity in the fogged mirrors and the damp feel in the room.   To help with this, run your bathroom vent fan for 30 to 45 minutes after bathing with the bathroom door pulled almost closed to keep the damp air in the bathroom until it is exhausted by the vent fan but not completely shut to provide a path for cool dry air drawn from the rest of the house.  This will help clear the mirror too.  You can get an inexpensive humidity gauge from the hardware store to track the change from high back to normal humidity to know how long to run your fan.  If you have screw base vanity lights, going back to incandescents in the bathroom will help too — leave them on with the fan.  If you’ve been fighting mold in the bathroom, this will improve the situation.

Integrating Sampler

The standard point or impulse sampler that converts a continuous signal to a discrete data sequence has been well understood since 1924 thanks to Harry Nyquist.   It is often assumed that the impulse sampler is the only way to create a discrete sequence.  There are other sampling strategies that may have advantages in some applications.  Here is an example of one.

Blind Spots

The blind spot mirrors on cars are becoming irrelevant tech.  Many people now believe the side mirrors are rear view mirrors and mistakenly adjust them to look at the car directly behind, giving three views of the same vehicle.  If you pull up behind such a car, you will see the driver’s face in the side mirrors.

Automobile side mirrors are not rear view mirrors.  The rear view mirror is the one in the center of the windshield.  The side mirrors are safety additions to cover “blind spots”.  These are the areas behind and to each side where a car in the next lane is invisible when it pulls forward out of the rear view mirror’s field and isn’t yet far enough forward to see with peripheral vision or a glance to the side.  Properly adjusted side mirrors allow you to see a car in the blind spots and avoid a potentially disastrous lane change or turn resulting in a collision that will be your fault.

The blind spot mirrors can be roughly adjusted while parked.  Put the driver’s seat in its normal position and adjust the mirrors up or down until the horizon is in the middle of the mirror.  Lean to the left until your head touches the window and adjust the left mirror until you can just see the side of your car at the right edge of the mirror.  Lean the same distance to the right and adjust the right mirror until you can just see the side of your car at the left edge of the mirror.  This procedure produces a good approximation and will cover most blind spots.  The adjustment can be fine tuned in traffic as you observe whether you pick up passing cars in the next lane in the side mirrors before they leave the rear view field and whether you can see them with peripheral vision before they leave the side mirror fields.  Even with properly adjusted mirrors there are still blind spots for cars two lanes away and also for cars on a highway when you are merging at an angle.  But properly adjusted side mirrors will allow you to scan for converging traffic in these cases by moving your head and avoid an accident.

The really bad effect of this is that some current car engineers either do not know what the side mirrors are for, or kowtow to their marketing wonks who decided that customers do not know and shouldn’t be informed.  As a result, the blind spot mirrors on some new cars cannot be adjusted to cover the blind spots and can only be used to give a duplicate rear view.  Check this when you shop for a new car by trying the above procedure.  If the mirrors can’t be correctly adjusted, register your dissatisfaction, go somewhere else, and save yourself from a potential accident.

Eclipse 2017

My first total eclipse.  The moon relentlessly sweeping across the  dazzling surface and eating sunspots, heading towards a destiny that you know will come but can’t quite believe.  A hot August day cooling as the sun turns into a thin bright crescent. Baily’s beads and the diamond ring just before totality.  Suddenly the world turns strange as if you are in a Gothic movie.  The comforting brightness in the sky you’ve lived with all your life has become a photographic negative. The sky at midday is dark enough to see stars and planets.  Prominences  (9 o’clock and 11 o’clock upper left) and the spectacular corona burst into view.  There is sunset color on the horizon for 360 degrees around you.  Cheers and tears, everyone seems to have an emotional response.  Words cannot do it justice.  Pictures cannot do it justice.  There is no way to convey what the experience is like, standing out under the open sky, with that incredible event happening overhead.  Don’t miss the next one.

Reever Knot

I first ran across this charming knot as a bit of decorative graphics on the Contents page of “What Knot?” by Budworth and Hopkins.


The working and standing ends ran off the page so it was not obvious which was which.  Unidentified on the page and appearing nowhere else in the book, it piqued my curiosity.  It was an interesting looking bend and I spent some time playing with it.  It appeared to be very secure, had no tendency to “tumble”, and unlike most secure bends, e.g. zeppelin, Hunter, Ashley, which bring the ends out the sides, this brought the working ends out in parallel alongside the standing ends.  With symmetric standing ends it snugs up to a nice slender compact knot.  This would be a good bend for passing through an eye.  Eventually I discovered that this topology was called a Vice Versa with the top B-A pair (or bottom A-B pair) as the standing ends.  I had already discovered that this caused the knot to cramp into a bow and lose its tidy cross-section.  Wikipedia came through with the information that this knot with A-A for the standing ends was a Reever Knot.  In either version it is reportedly excellent for slippery cordage.  The Reever version maintains the compact shape with a slight skew.  A nameless version with B-B for the standing ends that applied force close to the center axis and resulted in a neater square shape was my sentimental favorite.  I developed a good way to tie it.

Enter the heartless wind of science.  I used some 30 lb test monofilament line and tied a bunch (technical term) of these.  The Reever Knot locked up tightly and held all the way to the point where the line broke without any slipping.  The Vice Versa slipped some and then broke at a similar load.  The B-B version consistently slipped completely at a lower load.  I used monofilament to discriminate.  None of these are suitable for wet fishing line.  Abstract:

Reever                   Great     (Now I have to practice tying this.)

Vice Versa              OK, not as neat, nor as good for really slick line.

Anonymous B-B    Back to the irrelevant tech pile for you.