Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DIY Piezoelectric musical instrument pickups

I have been fooling around with my new electric guitar recently and it was really fun. I have been playing the guitar since I was in Secondary 2 and that's probably too many decades than I would like to admit. All this while, I have been playing classical guitar but now electric guitars are very affordable as they are made in China. The guitar I own is made by a company linked to Gibson and the quality for the price cannot be matched. Since I am a novice, I settled for a small guitar amp with built in effects and I am hooked, spending my evenings trying to master the solo from Hotel California.

Well, long before I was hooked on bread, I was already hooked on the guitar. Since I could not find a teacher at that time, I had to learn it by myself through books. Thankfully, for the electric guitar, there is now Youtube.

Since the guitar amp is there and my daughter has been pestering me to get her an electric violin, I decided to improvise one for her. I have been doing some research on the internet about Piezoelectric transducers. These are usually found in cheap $2 buzzers found readily at Sim Lim Tower. The surprising thing is that these buzzers can be used as pickups because the piezoelectric element will produce a signal when subjected to vibrations. So all it takes is a soldering iron and you got yourself a high quality pickup for your acoustic instrument.

Since it was so easy to make, I made one for my classical guitar and one for my daughter's violin. It worked better than I expected with good gain and negligible noise. I covered the piezo element with sticky foam pads meant as scratch protection pads for chairs.

When I showed my daughter the modification which I did to her violin, she was not very pleased and I realized that she might have some problems explaining all those black pieces of foam. I improved the placement and concealed it under the tailpiece. Now the only thing showing is a little pig tail. I told my daughter that if she happens to be on a stage where there are amplifiers around, she'd be able to plug in her violin and play directly.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thriving again

Pots of dill waiting to be given away
My mini-terrarium method of growing from cuttings. 
Beautiful curry leaf berries.
Bushy Terragon grown from a sprig given by a neighbor.
Sage thriving from a sprig given to me by a dear friend.
Thyme and basil just released from its plastic protective dome.

Thriving again

My herb patch was hit by a swarm of red spider mites which were extremely difficult to eradicate. Fortunately they did not attack my precious European herbs but attacked the butterfly pea till they all perished. Even the passion fruit vines were not spared. I tried everything from soap water vegetable oil emulsions, neem oil and even sourdough starters to glue them. The only thing I did not use was chemical based pesticides as I did not want to poison myself ingesting pesticides. I had to re-grow all the butterfly pea again. This time round, I spread the seeds from two different plants to ensure cross-fertilization.  The plants are thriving again with many seed pods hanging on the vines.

Just as suddenly as they had appeared, they were greatly reduced in recent weeks and the plants seem to be thriving again. I wish I knew the reason and can only guess that it was because of the cooler weather. It is yet again another example of the maxim that difficulties do not last forever.  I am reminded again of Adi Shankara's Vivekachudami (Crest Jewel of Wisdom).

My herb patch has grown because I found an effective way of growing herbs from cuttings given to me by friends or bought from the supermarket. The cuttings are dipped in rooting hormone and planted in a sealed plastic container with a little water. The moisture is sealed in and the cutting does not dry out while the leaves are still able to make food. Over a week or two, the roots will sprout and the cutting can then be transplanted onto the soil. After transplanting, the plant is capped with the plastic container for another couple of weeks. It protects the vulnerable young plant from the rain, wind and insects.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rosemary Lemon Sourdough Bread

Rosemary Lemon Sourdough Bread

I have not been making bread for the past week and supplies in the freeezer was down to the last quarter portion of a whole-wheat boule which I had made a week earlier. My son has been bringing sandwiches to school for lunch recently. He came back one day saying that his classmate sampled the bread and wanted to buy some. I am happy to see the bread consumed quickly these days.

For the last 2 weeks, I have been feeding my rye starter diligently and since my Rosemary was looking very bushy, I decided to harvest it to make some Rosemary Lemon bread. I had wanted to try out with Thyme and Terragon but decided to stay with the Rosemary.

The bread was made in the time intervals when I was in the house. It was a busy day for me as I had to help my son with the logistics of organizing a BBQ for his uniformed group and coupled with sending my wife and daughter to their classes, I thought the bread was not going to make it. The bread was slightly under-proofed as I had to rush out to pick up my daughter. However, it turned out better than I had hoped. The bread had a pleasant Rosemary aroma with a hint of lemon.

I used 4 stalks and the zest of 1 lemon with 50oz of flour. The hydration was slightly over 70%. The slash pattern was that of a cluster of Rosemary leaves.