Aside from the post the other day, it’s been more than 6 months since I posted anything here. What have I been doing?
Family– Family is good. I now have two kids who have graduated from High School, one more to go. House is generally good, but we still need to finish up the mess left from the rotten balcony. We are still heavily involved in homeschool speech & debate.
Work– Work has been crazy busy. At church, we lost a video staff person and the last remaining Communications person. For 6 months, I was doing 2.5 jobs as I covered for my team’s loss and helped out with some Communication tasks. They hired a new Communications Director, so that workload was lifted.
It is really hard to hire people since the Pandemic. Very few applications, and the ones we have moved on have not worked out. Character, chemistry and competence are what we are looking for.
Freelance– I’ve been doing a few projects for Church Media Squad. Just when they need help over holidays. I have done a few other small jobs.
The biggest project is the ballet documentary. I say documentary, it’s more of a documentary-style keepsake video. So that changes things. After more than 2.5 years of shooting generally, 1.5 years of focused work, I have a 50-minute piece that covers the last 50 years of the Longview Ballet Theater in East Texas. I was hired to shoot and edit this project. I’m not a huge ballet fan, but the story is compelling. Because this a keepsake, there are parts of the video that I would likely cut if it were up to me, but the clients will like them. I am close to wrapping this project. It’s been a long time working on it.
What’s next? I’m not sure. I have some creative ideas. I’m ready to hire the open position on my team. I’m ready to finish up the house, as soon as prices come down (ha!). I am thinking about a short doc project.
So, that’s it. Hopefully it won’t be another 6 months before you hear from me again.
I’ve been writing about upgrading the audio in my 2010 Honda Fit Sport. I did not want to rip out the dash, so I have been working on some alternative upgrades. But, one upgrade that could have huge benefit is to reduce the noise coming into the cabin.
One of the first things I noticed when I got the car was that the road noise was terrible. Most small cars are loud, but this one was especially loud, harsh. Add to that, some of the roads in ETX have this weird surface that is even louder.
But, I did not want to tear the entire interior out of the car, and deaden everything. I wanted to try to deaden what I can without too much tear out or expense. So I got 18 square feet of 80 mil Kilmat, a butyl and foil sound deadener. It is self adhesive.
After some research, I chose to apply it in the front floor, hatch and around the rear axle.
Here’s how it worked out:
18 Square feet doesn’t cover 100% of these spaces, but it covered a good bit of it.
The DB meter is a free app off the Apple Store. I doubt it is specifically accurate, but I hoped it was consistent from pre to post deadening.
As you watch, you will notice that the mount I was using for the pre- recording is different from the post- recording. The mount broke in between videos. An iPhone XR has mics on the front and bottom. The old mount had a hole in the bottom to let cables and audio through. So, the post- recording is still similar, though somewhat more open to the mics. If anything, this makes the DB meter more sensitive, and puts the post- deadened audio at a disadvantage. but I don’t think it had much impact, over all.
You can see the change wasn’t huge, but it was significant, in that the frequencies that were deadened were the higher ones. It makes the driving experience more pleasant by reducing the harsher noise.
The added benefit is that the frequencies reduced are also the one where music and melody play. While, low bass sounds won’t be helped, I’ve noticed that music sounds clearer at speed.
So, is it worth it? The deadener costs a little over $30 (at the time of writing). The install was done in a few hours. It did not require seat removal. The overall volume reduction was not huge, but what was reduced were the frequencies that interfere with music most and make the road noise harsh. Overall, not a bad investment.
I took it on a longish trip, about 7 hours one-way, over Thanksgiving. Before I left I swapped the 5W Qi charger for a thinner 10W charger, and that worked great. I actually moved this set up to a different car for this trip, but the operation was the exact same.
The only issue I had was having to reboot a few times at the beginning of the trip back. I’ve had that a couple of times around town, as well. Normally when the temperature is cold. (Not sure that’s a cause, but seems to be a correlation, anyway) After a couple of reboots, it starts working.
Once it’s running, the CarPlay software didn’t miss a beat. The 10W charger kept the Kindle charged up, and my phone charged up.
UPDATE: Have now used the system on a longer trip, 15+ hours of driving one way. No issues. It worked great. Charged fine, no glitches. I have had a few times around town where the Waze app doesn’t follow correctly. And a couple of times when it rebooted several times before thing worked right. But on that trip is was stellar.
Even with the glitches, it works well enough to be useful.
In my last post I went through the steps to get CarPlay to work on an Android tablet. Today, I am happy to report that wireless charging seems to work well.
The key is using a tablet with wireless charging capability. The Kindle Fire HD 8 Plus can do this, and that’s what I’m using. I bought a cheap ($10) charging pad. It’s only 5W. I may upgrade later. If so, I want to get a thinner one. The mount, with the charger and the Kindle, is still holding solid, but a thinner charger may allow for a thin case.
Here are the pieces, minus the iPhone, mini audio cable and car USB charger.
Total cost was under $135. That’s way less than a CarPlay capable Head Unit with professional installation. And the dash of my Honda Fit didn’t have to be ripped out. I’m interested to see how it handles over time. I can see the mount needing adjustment at times. I need to manage the cables. But I like this set up quite a bit.
In my last post I talked about trying to make my 11 year old car stereo a little more modern, without tearing out the center section of the dash. I used an Amazon Echo Auto for a while.
Then I fell into an interesting idea of using an Android tablet to run Apple CarPlay.
Companies make these little boxes. They allow you to hook up your iPhone (wired or wirelessly, depending on what you want to spend) and the box works with an app on the tablet, and shows the CarPlay content. Near as I can tell, it’s fully functional.
Obviously, there are some weird things. When I first loaded things up, the orientation of the table was portrait, so Car Play showed as portrait, even in landscape position. I had to power down the tablet completely to fix that. But it was fixed. Might be other stuff later.
So, here’ the list of what you need. I will link to a couple of things I bought, but similar ones may work as well. I’m not an Amazon affiliate, so these are not affiliate links. Just plain links.
CarPlay Adapter. I bought a wired version of the CarLinKit adapter. Be aware, there are clones of these, but the often brick when you update the firmware, or so the internet says. Download the free app onto your tablet. $40.
AndroidTablet. They say any Android table running 4.4.2 will run the app. I suggest one that can charge wirelessly, for reasons I will explain later. I happen to be shopping during the 6th birthday for Alexa or something, so I got Kindle Fire HD 8 Plus for $55. They are normally $110. I thought $55 for a wireless charging, Android capable device was a steal. Unless you plan to go find a Chinese tablet on eBay or hope to catch a used one on FB Marketplace, you will probably be spending at least that.
OTG cable. I didn’t know what an OTG cable was. I still don’t know what the acronym is. But these are bales that let you use peripherals with devices like tablets, game systems, multimedia players, etc… In it’s most basic form, it converts a USB A plug from the CarPlay adapter into whatever you need to plug into your tablet. The Kindle Fire 7 is Micro USB, The Kindle Fire 8 is USB C. There are tons of these. Just search for a USB A to whatever-connection-you-need OTG cable. I got a 3 pack for about $9.
Tablet Car Mount. This is actually pretty important. Depending on the size of your tablet, you may need a pretty heft one. There are lots of $10-15 ones available, but the reviews are not great for real world use. I wanted amount that used my CD slot. Choose the one that will work the best for your car. I settled on this one, spent about $20. It seems to work OK for now, on regular streets.
AUX Input on the Radio. You need a way to get audio into the factory stereo system. The Fit has a mini plug. I imagine you could use bluetooth as well. You will be taking the audio from the valet into the stereo.
That’s technically all you need to make things work. $124. Not bad to get Apple CarPlay into your car without replacing the factory radio.
So here’s my experience. I started out using a 2019 Kindle Fire HD 7. Mainly because I had it available. The problem is that I don’t use the battery well on this device. It drains little, sits in standby and the gets thrown onto charge. These are cheap Amazon tablets. They work well, but my battery does not last long.
Here’s how the car mount works. There are these paddle things that slip into the CD slot a bit, then you tighten a bolt to make them spread apart and hold in place. It seems pretty tight. I am more worried about the swivel tablet mount moving that the CD slot part.
Once I have things completely finalized, I plan to manage the cables, and velcro the CarLinKit box to the mount.
I started out with the Fire 7. It is a good size. I actual bought a different case for it. My only complaint was battery life. My 7 inch Fire was 3 years old and I have not been “training” the battery to last a long time. I was unsure what to expect with the battery life and use the adapter.
I used the tablet in the morning for about an hour. Then again, briefly at lunch. I left the tablet on stand by in between. By 5 pm it has drained the battery entirely. Not great for a long trip.
So that took me down the rabbit hole of how to charge through the same micro USB port that you are sending data through. You can plug in the adapter, use it while you want. And then plug in a charger. That defeats the whole purpose of the box.
I spent a lot of time search and looking for information about this. I looked at a lot of OTG cables that claimed they could do both, or at least not drain the battery when in use. People were talking about soldering wires and stuff. After a couple of hours, I gave up. The Kindle Fire HD 7 does not seem to be able to charge and use the data functions at the same time- through the Micro USB port.
Enter wireless charging. I used to have a couple of these laying around, the wireless charging pads seem to work even if the USB port is passing stats. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus allows for wireless charging. So, I snagged one, and am eager to test it out.
In the mean time, I have tested the general charging state of the new HD 8 Plus. So far it seems to have about twice as much battery life as my 7 inch version. Which means I can probably get a day and a quarter out of one charge.
I recently bought a 2010 Honda Fit Sport. It’s a fun car to drive. It’s a little loud at highway speeds, but I like it quite a bit.
The problem is the 2010 audio system. This is the higher end Fit, but does not have the navigation system. I looked for a used one of those, but could not find one. Just saw a picture of one. This version has both a USB and mini plug aux input for audio. It does not have Bluetooth or much of a screen to communicate much of anything.
It doesn’t sound bad for an 11 year old audio system. But I use bluetooth all the time. Going back to a wired audio connection isn’t ideal.
In previous cars, I would just rip out the stock stereo and replace it with an aftermarket one. This car is a little bit more complex than my older ones.
The dash and radio is more integrated. Instead of a separate radio, which can be easily removed, the center console has this weird oval shaped entertainment area. It has hazard lights, air vents and the climate controls are placed around the edges.
And, it looks like removing it requires more than just popping the bezel off and removing a few screws. Now, Amazon sells complete replacement units. but they are Chinese made radios, with terrible reviews and reliability.
Of course, you can buy an aftermarket stereo kit. In addition to being more complicated than other cars, it makes your dash look odd. You can see an image of the kit below. I’ve decided against it.
So, the first thing I tried was adding Bluetooth. The easiest way to do this, for me, was to use an Amazon Echo Auto device I had. The Echo Auto can connect to a radio through Bluetooth (which I don’t have) and a mini stereo cable. Then you connect your phone to the Echo Auto.
In essence the Echo Auto becomes a Bluetooth bridge between your phone and the stock stereo.
The Echo Auto comes with an air vent mount, but I wanted it a little lower profile, and didn’t want to block two of the only 4 AC vents in the car. I bought a CD slot mount from Amazon. I also placed a magnetic mount for my phone on the air vent.
Overall this works pretty well. Except the air vent blows right on the Echo microphone. And there are a lot of cables visible.
When I start the car, the Echo powers up, and my phone connects automatically. It can take a few seconds to fully connect. But it’s not bad.
As someone who uses Audible, it’s pretty cool to just start the car, and say, “Alexa, play my audio book” and have it pick right up where I left off. Or play my Amazon music playlists. Or, you can just play audio from your phone and the Bluetooth bridges right into the stock stereo.
So, I’m good? No, of course not.
After the wreck that totaled my Matrix, I had a rental car. For the first time I had access to Apple CarPlay, and I liked it. I liked it a lot. Plug in the phone and all the relevant functions are displayed. Hands free control. Maps navigation.
I want that. But, the only way to get it is through an aftermarket stereo, right? And not a cheap one. It would be a $300ish one.
I started looking at the CarPlay Dongles for Android stereos. I was trying to find out if I could get a cheaper Android aftermarket radio and still use CarPlay. Turns out, you can. You can download an app, hook up a dongle, plug in your iPhone and use CarPlay on an android stereo. Any Android stereo using software version 4.4.2 or later.
But that still means ripping up the dash. I’d rather not.
One morning, I woke up and had this crazy thought… can you use these dongles with any Android device? Could you use it with an Android tablet?
Yep. You can. I’m not the first to wonder about it, and won’t be the first to do it. There are several posts, blogs and videos talking about the process. It’s the same as loading it up on your radio. The challenge is charging the tablet wheel using the dongle.
Here’s what I will need:
Android Tablet- The Kindle Fire, which costs just $50, will work. You can use almost any tablet. But unless you’re going the eBay-from-China route, the Kindle Fire is probably one of the cheapest solutions. I happen to already own a Kindle Fire 7.
Apple CarPlay Dongle- These can be pricey, but I found a wired version from Carlinkit for about $40 on Amazon.
Tablet Car Mount- I’m not sure which of these I will buy. There are several that run between $20 and $30 on Amazon. These mount in the CD slot. I want one that will be solid, and hang lower than an air vent mount.
OTG Charging and USB Cable- The Kindle Fire will only last a few hours. I need to find a cable that allows me to plug the power cable into the tablet and attach the dongle via USB. This seems to be a challenge for most trying to do this sort of thing. One guy said he had a cable that would not add charge, but would hold charge while plugged in. Driving around town this won’t be an issue, but on long trips it will be come important. I’ve got one in my wish list that claims to be able to charge and pass USB signals at the same time.
In the meantime, the Echo Auto will work until I can get it figured out.
TL;DR Summary: Sign up to judge a round at the Piney Woods Derby, a speech & debate tournament happening at Mobberly on Nov. 4-6. It’s fun and there will be prizes. Visit pineywoodsderby.com and click the link under Make an Impact.
I wanted to let you know about an event in Longview where you can have a direct impact on members of future generations. Let me explain.
On Nov. 4-6, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, there will be about 80 Junior High and High School students on competing in a speech & debate tournament. These are Christian homeschool students. You can have a direct impact of these students through your feedback as a judge for a round of speech or debate.
Before you say you’re not qualified, let me assure you that you are exactly who we want to come and judge these students. We use parents, alumni, and people from the community- just like you- to judge rounds. And- we train you in how to do it. Our students are learning to communicate with all audiences. And your feedback lets them know how they can improve, and what they are doing well. These kids are amazing, and they work really hard to compete in tournaments like this one. I don’t think it’s possible for me to oversell how awesome these students are. But don’t take my word for it, check out what others have said about these events:
You could judge a speech round, which might be something these students have written themselves, or may be a funny speech, or a serious speech. You could judge a debate round, where competitors are debating the merits of artificial intelligence policy or modern medical techniques. Or other interesting topics.
And, for every round you judge, you will be entered in a drawing for prizes.
So, you get to have a real impact on a Christian student, you get to hear some amazing speeches or debates, and you could win a gift card or other prize just for judging. Win/Win/Win.
How do you sign up? Visit pineywoodsderby.com. Click the link under Make and Impact, Register to Judge Today. There you will see all the relevant information. It’s a 2-3 hour commitment to get trained, and judge the round. You can judge one round, or as many as you want.
PS: There will also be free snacks.
PPS: Still don’t think you’re qualified? Watch this:
I am very excited that Sparklight is laying the infrastructure to provide an alternative to cable internet in our town. I was happy to see the work crews show up on our street. I noticed that our yard was getting bit of extra attention. And, was getting torn up quite a bit.
One afternoon I came home to mounds of dirt… they were installing these large vaults in the ground. There was a tall cabinet sitting off to the side. A significant portion of my front yard was pilled up in big mounds of dirt. Turns out the 8 foot tall by 3 or 4 foot wide “Node” was going in my front yard.
Not near the wooded area by my property line. This Node was going about 20 feet in. As you drove up to my house you would see a massive industrial storage box in front of my home. And, the placement would make backing out of my driveway on a busy street more dangerous.
It would be dangerous, and it would drastically lessen the curb appeal of my home. Literally making my home worth less money. Any attempts to dress the box up would make visibility even worse.
They had not bothered to talk to me about this. Had I not gone over to see what was happening, I would have just come home one day to find the thing in the yard. So, what to do? I can be angry, I have sufficient reason. There are several other locations the box could go. The engineers didn’t consider how this placement would affect us. The just drove their excavator onto my property and started digging. Their indifference would impact us long after they have moved in to another yard.
Have you ever heard that quip about how it’s easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar?
The thing about Utility Easements and right of way and stuff, the homeowner doesn’t have a lot of options. You can file injunctions and things, get lawyers involved, but that’s expensive and there’s no assurance of winning. And once you go down that road, there’s no going back. I decided to be friendly, understanding and ask for these guys to help me.
I asked a few questions about why the Node was placed there. Asked to talk to the site supervisor. He came over and we talked about the layout, and asked if it was set in stone or could be changed. He called his supervisor. The supervisor said they had to so what the engineers said. But he would talk to them, and see what could be done. The whole time we kept things light. It certainly wasn’t the fault of these men, they were doing their jobs.
A few minutes later the supervisor showed up and then the engineers. I greeted them, explained my concerns. I didn’t yell, or complain. Just asked if there was anything they could do. I told them I would be very grateful for their help. They assured me they would look at moving the Node, if it was possible. But needed to look at easements and see what could be done.
Saturday morning, the crew was back, and moving the Node to the other side of the road, by the brushy area near the trail by our home. I expected them to maybe move the Node back to the property line, still on my lawn but not in the middle of it. They had found a better solution than I hoped for.
The engineers and crew went far above my expectations. And beyond what they had to do. I doubt the outcome would have been the same if I had approached them with anger.
You may or may not know that I have been coaching a group of (mostly) new Lincoln Douglas debaters in our newly formed speech & debate club. Side Note– This activity is one of the best you can get your kids involved in. They learn how to research, communicate, recognize good arguments and bad ones, and how to disagree without hating the person they disagree with. Find a club, join it.
One of the things we are working on is refutations. To refute an argument you have to look at its parts and point out the weaknesses. I think this process can be massively helpful in the world.
An argument, if well constructed, will have 3 parts: Claim, warrant and impact.
Claim- It’s a declaration. It frames the rest of the argument, and helps shape the overall discussion. There’s normally an assertion tied to a subject.
Warrant- This is the reason we should accept the claim. It’s evidence, logic, inference.
Impact- This is why it’s important.
An argument should have all 3 of these present, though some could be implied. To refute an argument you must find weaknesses in the parts.
You can attack a claim. Maybe the claim doesn’t apply to the overall discussion. Maybe it’s just a statement by itself, without a warrant. Does the assertion relate to the subject of the claim?
You often find the most meat for refutation when examining the warrant. What is the reasoning, is it sound? If there is evidence- is it solid, is the interpretation sound, is there contradicting evidence? Does the reasoning apply to the claim?
You can attack the impact. Does the argument outweigh others? How much of a difference does this argument make to the issue? An argument may be true, but outweighed by other factors, which are also true.
As you are reading things on the internet, listening to media, talking with your friends and neighbors, the more you practice thinking about arguments critically, the more quickly you can discern what’s true and what’s less than true.
Today the Supreme Court of The United Stated (SCOTUS) issued a splintered opinion on a case that pits California’s government against a church in CA. Here’s the basics of what the case was about:
CA is pretty much in lockdown. Like many places across the country, they shutdown when COVID-19 hit and we didn’t know what was going on with it. We did not know how deadly it was, how easily transmissible it was, etc… So, the country pretty much shut down for a while. These stay at home, close your businesses that are not essential rules were applied across the board.
Fast forward to now. CA is lifting some restriction. They are allowing places of business to open back up, with limited capacity. They have made some glaring exceptions to some rules for entertainment industry activities. But churches were included in the must remain closed, no indoor activity group.
So, South Bay United Pentecostal Church sued Gavin Newsom, the Governor of CA. The church argued that to restrict them when other businesses are open is wrong, and they should not be treated differently. The state said they are treated differently because they do different things- gather inside in groups from multiple families, stay there for a long time, and sing or chant.
SCOTUS released their splintered opinion on this case. The gist is this, churches can open up to the capacity limits of other businesses, but cannot sing or chant- at all. There’s quite a bit of discussion on which justice said what in these opinions. I want to focus on the fundamental ruling, and where I think SCOTUS approached it all wrong.
Justice Kagan wrote the dissent, and her first two sentences sets this up: “Justices of this Court are not scientists. Nor do we know much about public health policy.”
But the court made its decision based on science, not the Constitution.
No one is denying that governments can issue stay at home orders. The issue is whether churches can be treated differently than other secular groups. To me, this is clear: if you single out a church for restriction, but allow other, similar activity to occur, you are in violation of the 1st amendment, which stops government from making rules that prohibit the free exercise of religion.
It’s one thing to say there is a public health hazard and everyone must do the same thing. It’s another to say that movie studios and recording venues can sing with precautions, but churches cannot follow the same precautions and sing in worship.
Now, a couple of the Justices (Barret and Kavanaugh) hinted that they would have allowed (might still allow) singing if they can show, in court, there is a different standard applied. But the applicant for relief did not prove this. If this were proven, they may be open to change, but that’s only 4 justices, with Alito as probably 5th after a 30 day period he favored. The failure to show this disparity falls on the lawyers for the church.
Of course, these opinions are based on what they think science has said. They are not looking at the Constitution first. Instead, they look to see if science can justify the difference in behavior. Keep in mind, CA’s position is that church’s should be closed, indoors. These justices are allowing them to open up some, but not all, because of their understanding of science and virus transmission.
Is it smart for churches to gather and sit close, and sing without masks? No.
Is it the government’s job to protect my health or protect my rights more? CA says health, and 6 or 7 SCOTUS Justices agree, though they may disagree with how CA interprets the science.
Churches and people who attend should be as free to worship, gather, sing, etc… as any other business in the governed area. A church may choose to follow stricter guidelines, as many do across the nation- but it’s their choice. If any business can be opened, the church should be as free as they are. To do otherwise, as the government, is to prohibit the free exercise of religion. That is a violation of the First Amendment.
As Justice Kagan said, they are inserting themselves into places where experts should advise. SCOTUS should simply rule that churches must be afforded the same rules as any other secular place of business. Instead, we have unqualified scientists disagreeing about how to prevent transmission of COVID.