Friday, July 29, 2011

The Old Zenith

A few years ago my wife came home from visiting her mother’s house and brought back a pile of faded wood and wires that was once a console radio.  It was currently a high-rise wasp apartment building.  I have some electronic experience and quite a bit of woodworking under my belt.  I thought that the innards were probably shot and I might end up using it as a retro-looking MP3 player.
A little research of the model number indicated that it was a 1937 Zenith Farm Radio.  It was originally sold with a wind charger and ran on a battery.  It made the large burn on the bottom shelf make sense.  The battery must have leaked.  The radio belonged to my wife’s great-grandparents and has remained in the family.  
One evening I started taking it apart.  The first thing that caught my attention was the workmanship.  It was built by hand.  There were no circuit boards.  The components were hand soldered.  The knobs are made of wood with set-screws holding them in place.  The tuning belt was leather.  I couldn’t imagine something built today looking that good after 70 years in a living room and four generations of kids.
I had no concerns about taking on the wood work myself.  All of the major parts were there.  As for the inside, I wasn’t too sure.  The old capacitors were shot and much of the cloth-insulated wiring needed to be replaced.  After more research, it appears that the radio didn’t originally run on regular house current.  It was battery only and the AC power feature was added later.  I decided it best to farm out the electrical work so I called Retro Audio Lab in Midland.  I can’t say enough about them.  They did amazing work on the radio and have a passion for restoring old gear.  They ran a build log here listed under “6B164.”  It was playing Craig Anderson’s radio show when I came in to pick it up.  The old grill cloth was a memory at this point.  I was able to find a small patch of the original cloth inside the frame.  I taped it to my computer monitor and surfed the catalog of some antique grille cloth manufacturers.  The rest was some basic stripping, cleaning, sanding and lacquer.  Car pin-striping did the trick in replacing the gold inlay.  I tossed a long-wire antenna out the back door and fired her up.  It works like it did in 1937.
We found a place in our living room for the old Zenith and fire it up from time to time.  It’s amazing to think of all the history that sounded from that speaker.  There is nothing like vacuum tube warmth and the glow of incandescent bulbs on an old dial face!  One of my next projects is an AM transmitter that will allow us to play anything over an unused frequency on the Zenith; mp3, satellite, etc.  We’ve already planned to listen to the original “War of the Worlds” when the transmitter is up and running.
This was one of my favorite shop projects.  It led to my interest in amateur radio and I understand what Rick Dale of American Restoration says about craftsmanship.  I’ve also come to appreciate the “boutique” electronics industry that is keeping this sort of thing alive.  There are guitar amps, amateur radio, stereo and do-it-yourself kits out there for the googling.    Sometimes it’s nice to turn all of the mass-produced Chinese digital stuff off and listen to the 70 year old analog tubes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Want to Lose Weight?

                I’m still being asked how I lost weight.  Some people have wondered if I had gotten sick or divorced.  Months after reading Tim Ferriss' The Four Hour Body and following the program, I’m maintaining my target weight.  Not only has it been successful for me but several friends have had excellent results.  I’ve made notes throughout the process that will hopefully be of benefit to others.
                The first thing to understand is that most “diets” are intended to make one drop excess weight and are not designed for long-term sustenance.  Tim Ferriss’ program is no different, but it does make after-care simpler by helping understand where your excess pounds came from.  Nothing in his program is new.  It is simply a combination of other systems that worked perfectly for me.  It involved cutting things from my diet rather than adding new foods.  It fit my life perfectly.  It may not be for everyone but it has worked for me and several people around me. 
                Next, make the decision to drop the weight now.  Don’t look for excuses, wait until after your trip or until your spouse is ready to go on the same program.  DO IT NOW!  It’s possible to maintain this program anytime, anywhere.  I’ve stuck to it while hiking in the back country, on motorcycle trips, vacation in foreign countries, a week in Vegas, etc.  I’ve stuck to it while my wife is on an entirely different regimen.  There is no reason to not get started NOW!
                BUY THE BOOK!  Yes, part with some actual U.S. currency and buy the book.  Trust me on this.  You’ll spend more on your next trip to the movies and this will pay off.  Don’t try to shortcut and find the highlights of the diet online.  You won’t have to read the entire book.  There are some minute details and explanations that you won’t find anywhere else.  I bought it on Kindle and would flip through it in my spare time in order to keep fresh on the details.  It will explain the expected results, tips and tricks you won’t find on blogs.  It’s an easy, common-sense system but you still need all the information.
                Understand that you are changing habits.  You may be breaking some addictions.  I had to give up sugar in my coffee.  I mainline the stuff every morning but the additives had to go.  I still get my morning caffeine shock but it’s black these days.  If you’re not willing to take these measures, you’ll have no success.  If you can’t live without pasta, you’re screwed.  The first thing I learned was that our lust for carbs in the form of pasta, bread, beer and tortillas is the biggest source of love handles.  Get ready to miss your starch fix.  The good news is that you can pound all you want on your cheat days.   I re-introduced reasonable carbs after I hit my target weight to boost energy before endurance training.  We take in an enormous amount of calories in liquids.  You’ll be down to water, unsweet tea or coffee, one Diet Coke per day and a couple of glasses of red wine for a nightcap. 
                While the diet claims do drop 30 pounds in 30 days with no exercise, I still worked out.  Others did no exercise and still dropped.  I have severe exercise ADD.  Fencing is the only exercise I do with regularity.  Everything else comes and goes.  I hate running or cycling year-round and I won’t keep a strength regimen for more than a couple of months.  I have to rotate training to keep interest.  I’d suggest some sort of light exercise along the way.  My main purpose was to get as light as possible for fencing.  It was exciting to see my athletic abilities climb as I dropped about 20 pounds.  Even with a reasonable diet and high exercise before, I was still able to lean out that much on this plan.   There are several strength programs mentioned in the book.  Try the abdominal and kettlebell workouts.   I also added some medicine ball drills that worked pretty well.  They’re quick and beneficial.  I’m prone to back problems and found these exercises to be perfect for keeping the back in line. 
                When I hit my target weight of 195#, I stayed close to the diet for about another month.   Afterward I managed to maintain as mentioned earlier.  I drift within a few pounds of my target weight but will lean out quickly before a tournament, long hike, SWAT PT test day, etc.  I still don’t eat out much and keep the program in mind when I do.  I learned that white carbs are my biggest enemy and I’m very mindful of my intake. 
                You will drop weight if you stick to this program.  Your greatest chance of success will be had if you read the book.  Don’t be cheap and don’t be half-assed.  Read and follow the program and you’ll get there.  Remember that your current diet and exercise regimen dictates your current weight.  Once your target weight is reached, you’ll have to create a program to maintain.  Good luck!