What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

Economic Trash Bin

Filed under: Family,Personal Growth,Politics — dave @ 11:41 pm 2009/05/28

The big news today is that someone in Winner, SD, won the PowerBall Lottery, to the tune of $232.1 Million. Wow. That’s a pile o’money. When I heard about this on the radio this morning the announcer also mentioned something about the SD Lottery Commission having posted info about where the money they took in has been spent, so I decided to have a look.

According to the “Where The Money Goes” page on the SD Lottery website, since the Lottery was first instituted in 1987, the state has netted $1.7 billion (with a ‘B”) from lottery revenues. That’s $1.7 billion that has gone into worthy programs like Property Tax Reduction ($1.3 billion) and Capital Construction ($30 million), and another $389 million in the General Fund. But that $1.7 billion in revenue comprises only 26.2% of the total of all that has been spent on the lottery; since 1987, nearly $6.6 billion has been spent by people trying to earn a quick buck.

Of that $6.6 billion, 55.4% (about $3.6 billion) has gone back out in prizes, and 5.5% ($360 million) in commission payments to retailers, which is money that has stayed in the economy, doing the work that money should do in a thriving economy. So to net that $1.7 billion, a total of about $2.5 billion was siphoned away from the economy. That’s basically an additional tax of about $162 a year for every resident of the state of South Dakota. But it’s not an efficient method of taxing, because more than a third of the money that went to the state (around $850 million) went into running the SD Lottery system. I’d say that’s a lot of overhead for tax money. And that’s just the direct cost; assessing the full societal cost for the problems that state-sponsored gambling bring on and compound is difficult, but it’s surely much, much more than that.

The SD Lottery website boasts that, “The Lottery is a totally self-funded agency. No tax dollars are used for its operation.” which is more than a bit deceiving. Because the lottery is funded through it’s own sales, and people are not required to put money into the lottery, it’s technically not a tax. But I remain unconvinced that money spent on the lottery is not a tax, and I’m not alone. Back in 1732 Henry Fielding wrote the following:


A Lottery is a Taxation,
Upon all the Fools in Creation;
And Heav’n be prais’d,
It is easily rais’d,
Credulity’s always in Fashion;
For, Folly’s a Fund,
Will never lose Ground;
While Fools are so rife in the Nation.

Since the lottery is essentially an elective tax, some taxpayers (Fielding’s fools) are hit harder than others. Our family, for example, hasn’t put one red cent into the lottery, which means that since 1987 someone else has plugged more than $17,000 into the SD Lottery system on our behalf. There are a lot of other people who have avoided the lottery, which means others have ponied up a pile of money to make up the difference; much more than their $162 a year. And the problem is the people who tend to elect to pay this tax are those who can least afford it. Taxes that put a larger burden lower income folks are generally considered ‘regressive’, aren’t they?

While I have actually benefitted from having the lottery in South Dakota, I’ve always felt that the lottery is a poor way for any government to garner income. I don’t expect the lottery to go away any time soon; since being implemented, pulling the plug on the system has been on the ballot three times, and each time a majority voted to have it continue. And that’s too bad because all those millions of dollars could be better spent strengthening the real economy of the state, not filling up the economic trash bin.

Sleep In A Wigwam!

Filed under: Fun!,Old Things,Travel — dave @ 4:09 pm 2009/05/27

On our Kentucky visit last week, we intentionally drove some of the two-lane highways when traveling between the sites we visited, and the rural Kentucky scenery made the longer drive times very worthwhile. After our Mammoth Cave tour we had dinner in Cave City, KY, then drove Highway 31W back to Elizabethtown. Not too far down the road we happened across a very special sight, the Wigwam Village Inn.

The sign welcomes visitors to stop and “Sleep in a Wigwam”, and offers fifteen teepee-shaped rooms, complete with modern amenities, arranged in a semicircle around the main teepee in the center. The name of the place confused me a little, as the term ‘wigwam‘ is usually associated with a dome-shaped hut used by Native Americans, while the structures in the Wigwam Village were more like tipis… I won’t argue semantics with them though; wigwam or tipi, they are definitely cool!

The history of the Wigwam Village Inn is interesting; turns out that the one we saw is one of seven that were built some 70 years ago, and they even have a tie to South Dakota!

Wigwam Village Inn No. 2 began as a dream of Frank A. Redford in the early 1900s. Frank’s inspirations in this dream were a popular ice cream shop shaped like an upside down cone and authentic teepees he’d seen on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota. His dream became reality in 1935 when construction on Wigwam Village #1 was completed in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Realizing he’d hit upon a popular idea, Frank patented the design with the US patent office in 1936.

Wigwam Village Inn #2 was completed in 1937 in Cave City, and five more were built over time in Alabama, Florida, New Orleans, California, and Arizona… Of the seven original Wigwam Villages, only three remain: #2 in Cave City, Kentucky, #6 in Holbrook, Arizona. and #7 in Riallto, California. Wigwam Village #2 is an impressive sight and is truly a monument to one man’s American dream that came true.

When we saw it, my first thought was, “This is where they came up with the idea for the Cozy Cone Motel in Pixar’s Cars!” Sure enough, the website for the California Wigwam Village confirms that thought. And it fits right in with the Route 66 theme in Cars, because that Village is located right on the real Route 66.

When we drove by the Village in Cave City, I knew it was pretty cool, and I’m glad I at least stopped to take pictures. But had I known that the place was this old and unique, I definitely would’ve at least stopped in the gift shop. Next time I’m in Kentucky…

It was my sin that held him there…

Filed under: Faith & Worship,Favorite Things,Music — dave @ 9:39 pm 2009/05/24

We’re in Kentucky this weekend, and attended a great worship service earlier today. We drove down last Wednesday (16 hours!) to witness Bryce’s graduation from Army Basic Training on Friday, but decided to stick around for the weekend because this is such a neat place. To me Kentucky is kinda like the Black Hills, only stretched out over a larger area, and the hills flattened out a bit. Lots of touristey things to do and multiple-days worth of gorgeous scenery to take in. I could stay a lot longer, but I’d probably want to leave when the temps start climbing as the summer progresses.

Since it was Sunday, we went along with friend to the church he & his family attend, and it was an awesome time. The church itself — Southeast Christian Church in Louisville — is amazing in its scale, with weekend attendance topping 15,000, a 100 acre campus, and a 9,300 seat worship center. They also have a youth complex that’s bigger than most churches I’ve attended, and a youth outreach program that is to be envied, and I’m sure is imitated in a lot of places.

They do church well at Southeast. The worship leaders were top-notch singers, and it was evident that considerable time, thought & prayer was put into the music selection to tie in with the sermon. Communion was served at Southeast today, and the song that was sung while the elements were passed — How Deep The Father’s Love For Us — moved me deeply, as that song usually does.

The song’s lyrics talk about the great sacrifice God made on our behalf, while we were still sinners. “That he should give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure.” I did nothing to deserve God’s mercy and his love, but he extends them to me, and to all; His gifts are there for the taking, but take (or accept) we must or they can’t be ours, for He will not force those gifts on us.

Here is a recording of that song by Fernando Ortega, one of my favorite artists, and the lyrics below that.

How Deep the Fathers Love for Us – Fernando Ortega
(more…)

Another BMW Update

Filed under: Cars!,PCH — Tags: , — dave @ 12:53 pm 2009/05/16

It’s been over a month since I last posted about stuff I’ve done with the BMW, so it’s time for an update. Not that I’ve done a lot, but I have done some. A couple of Saturday’s ago I finally got around to installing a couple of the parts I’ve been gathering for the last while; a working instrument cluster and a turn signal switch that cancels on its own after turning a corner. My odometer is working(!), as is the service interval indicator. I even used a paper clip to cancel the service indication that’s apparently been on it since before the parts car at Ewe Pullet was junked, so now the only red light on my dash is the Brake Lining light, but that’s only there because of a broken wire on the rear wheel wear sensor. I’ll fix that when I next have the right-rear wheel off.

I ended up having to pull the cluster out a number of times since first replacing it because the junkyard cluster was a little flakey, but I’ve finally got that sorted out now, and everything now seems to be working as expected (knock on wood!) One of the circuit boards from the original cluster went into the junkyard cluster to get it to work right; the speedometer and temp/fuel gauges would quit working when the dash got hot (symptoms which were strikingly reminiscent of a certain white van we once owned.)

Replacing the turn signal required removing the steering wheel, which wasn’t too hard to do… once I got a couple of extra hands on the project. I had to buy a 22mm socket to fit the nut that holds the wheel in place, and had read that it’s a good idea (necessary, in fact) to disengage the steering wheel lock before attempting to loosen that nut. I tried cranking on the ratchet while holding the steering wheel, and just couldn’t get enough leverage. After about fifteen tries, I found an iron pipe to add a little leverage and enlisted the help of a strapping young teenager who happened to not be doing very much at the time; I held the steering wheel while Ian pushed on the extended wrench handle. One push was all it took. He wondered why I needed his help. (shakes head)

Another thing that cropped up recently was an issue with the left front brake; I noticed that the car didn’t come to a smooth stop the way it usually did, and wouldn’t roll easily if it was on a slight incline at a stoplight. After a short trip I got out and put my hand by each of the wheels to see if a brake was sticking, and sure enough the front left was hotter than a pistol. I drove around the following day trying to find a cylinder rebuild kit for it, and found that O’Reilly’s would sell me an entire rebuilt front caliper for $35, but they didn’t have them in stock and couldn’t get them for about a week. After a few more stops I found rebuild kits in stock at Sturdevants for $7.50. I grabbed two and tore into the project on a Friday afternoon.

Getting the caliper off was an easy process, but messy. Lots of gunk inside the cylinder, and a little bit of rust inside it. The seal boot was pretty well shot, which allowed moisture to get inside there, causing a little rust and pitting, which is what ultimately made it stick. That and the fact that the brake fluid was probably as old as the hills.

Putting the cylinder back together with the rebuild kit was not as easy as removing it. The piston with the rubber ring on it fit pretty snugly and I needed a clamp to get it back together. This was my first time messing with disk brakes, and I’ve got to say it wasn’t as bad as I expected. The toughest part was bleeding it, but it was only tough in that it took a lot of patience, and some help.

I also took another stab at rebuilding the shifter linkage, but again was turned back when I found I wasn’t able to get at all the parts, nor was I prepared to pull off the parts that would allow me to get at them.

The photo on the left shows the driveshaft in the bottom half (looking up) and the rear shifter console mount on the right. The console is the stamped metal bit that angles away from the mount; the console is held in place at the front by two brackets/bolts on the back of the transmission, and the little rubber stopper/thingy at the back. The two brackets & bolts are obscured by the flexible coupling (the guibo) and harmonic balancer shown in the photo on the right. You can barely see the shift linkage rod there, and I knew there was no way I could get at it without seeing it. So the driveshaft needs to get out of the way.

I also need to replace the guibo (notice the cracks in the rubber in the photo), so I took a Friday off a couple of weeks ago to take a run at it. Got the front end of the car up in the air on a set of ramps, and found that even with the bolts in the guibo removed, there is still a part of the driveshaft — the centering sleeve — that extends into the transmission output shaft, and the driveshaft doesn’t move back far enough to allow that to come out. So the center bearing needs to be unbolted from the bottom of the car so the shaft can bend enough to pull the centering sleeve out of the output shaft. But… The catalytic converter is in the way, making it next to impossible to get at the bolts holding the center bearing in place.

I was hoping I could do it without pulling the cat off, but it looked like the job wasn’t going to be possible without it. But getting the cat off is easier said than done; there are two pipes running from the exhaust manifolds to the cat, and six copper nuts holding them in place. Those nuts are difficult to reach, and having been in place for 25 years or so, they’re not coming off without a fight. I didn’t have the time, the tools, nor the patience to work at them any longer, so I buttoned it all up to try again another day. I later found out that the best way is to use plenty of PB Blaster to loosen the nuts, and a long socket extension to get at them from under the car. Now I’m waiting for a convenient time to go at it again, but getting under the thing is such an unpleasant task that I keep putting it off. If only I had an EZCarLift in the garage… Getting more than 15 inches under the thing would be so very nice.

One last thing to mention is with the heat… I’ve noticed that the heat is a little difficult to control. The controls in the e28 work differently than any car I’ve had before, and it seemed like there was always an abundance of cabin heat available. That wasn’t an issue in the winter, but now that it’s getting warmer, it’s an issue. The amount of coolant flowing to the heater core is controlled by a solenoid valve and temperature sensor, located under the dash near the clutch pedal. I started by checking the vacuum hose to the temp sensor, and found it to be disconnected, and when I checked the rest of the hose leading to the intake manifold it seemed that it was plugged, so I replaced the hose and made sure everything was connected. Still too much heat.

Next to check was the heater control valve; they are known to be a problem, and I was betting it was stuck open. But try as I might, I couldn’t find it. It’s supposed to be located on the firewall near the brake system master cylinder, but all I saw was hoses. Turns out that the valve had been a problem in the past, and the previous owner had just taken it out & replaced it with a couple of plastic elbows and four inches of hose. No wonder I couldn’t find it. So now I need to either track down a replacement OE valve, or rig something up in its place. I thought it’d be possible to just put a clamp on the hose, but that proved to be harder than I thought, so I’m back to plan ‘A’.

I cleaned things up a little in the trunk a while back. The trunk was clean to start with, but there was what appeared to be a sound dampening pad covering the floor of the trunk. That had turned hard & brittle, and was crumbling in many places, so I took a putty knife to it & removed it. Thankfully there was no rust anywhere in the trunk, so I put a little elbow grease into cleaning it out well, cleaning up the mats and trunk wall inserts, then took some black spray paint to the sheet metal. The paint was applied several weeks ago, and I still smell paint from the trunk every time I drive with the windows down. I can also smell gasoline from the trunk, which means I should replace the one last hose attached to the fuel evaporator tank; if that doesn’t take care of the smell, pulling the fuel tank is the next step to solving that issue. Here’s hoping!

I haven’t done much else with the car, other than buy a few things here & there for it; I still have the passenger & rear seats to replace. I also picked up a moonroof out of a Saab 9000, which is a direct replacement for the sunroof panel in the e28; that’s waiting to be installed. The main hurdle before doing that is figuring out what to use for a cover on the shade panel; it’d be best to have something similar to the headliner, but… where to source that is a mystery to me. I might just end up painting it a similar color, or maybe black.

I also ordered and received a Bentley 5-series Service Manual and a valve cover gasket, as the valves need to be adjusted on it. With the help of the Bentley I’ll take a run at that one of these first warm evenings. I’ve heard that it takes a good three hours or so; I’d better budget twice that for the job. And I still need to order a timing belt, idler, and water pump; I have no idea how long it’s been since that belt has been changed, so it could be a ticking time bomb waiting to destroy my valve head and/or pistons. Don’t want that to happen. I was hoping to buy the valve head off of the 528 that was in the Ewe Pullet yard, to put some work into porting/polishing it, then replace the belt & the whole works… But then Nordstroms decided the 528 had been there long enough and it’s gone. Crap. The thing that really ticked me off was checking on a Sunday to make sure it was still there then going out to pull a few things on Tuesday to find it was gone. Had a little shouting match with the guy behind the counter over that, and managed to make a fool of myself.

Wow; that was quite an update. I guess I should do this more often!

Another RINO* Defection

Filed under: Politics — dave @ 10:37 pm 2009/05/15

(* RINO = Republican In Name Only)

The last few week’s news has been abuzz with the Democrats victory in the “bidding war” over Senator Arlen Specter, and he is no longer a member of the Republican Party. The move handily increases the Democrat majority in the US Senate to a filibuster-proof 60%, further weakening any leverage the Republicans might have had in the Senate and, combined with the heavy majority enjoyed by the Democrats in the House, guarantees the most liberal President in the history of the country pretty much anything he wants. So much for Separation of Powers.

This business with Specter has far too familiar a ring to it; wasn’t it just a couple of years ago (2001, actually) that Jumpin’ Jim Jeffords pulled much the same trick by going independent? I remember that much too well because I got myself in some hot water over a Letter to the Editor I submitted to the Argus Leader, which got published and included some, um, unkind words about then-Senator Tom Daschle that our neighbor — a big fan of Daschle — didn’t appreciate. My letter pointed out Daschle’s inconsistency in the matter; he was instrumental in encouraging Jeffords’ defection, which was no surprise because he had much to gain from it. Jeffords’ move to the left side of the aisle also moved Daschle to the position of Senate Majority Leader. Contrast that to Daschle’s criticism of Ben Nighthorse Campbell when he made a similar move left the Democrat Party & became a Republican just a few years earlier.

To my neighbor, Daschle was a model of humanity, and my sin was pretty much unforgivable; things went pretty cold between our families after that, and it wasn’t long before her kids were not allowed to play with ours. She tried to explain it away with imagined issues between the kids, but I knew then that there was more to it than that. I still get dirty looks from those kids, even with eight years distance. I must be a terrible, terrible person.

The Republican Party didn’t miss Jeffords much, and probably won’t miss Specter at all either. His votes tended to align more with the Democrats than the Republicans, and I doubt his party affiliation will change that much at all. Specter’s move was purely political; he and his staffers have decided that there was no way he could win the upcoming primary as a Republican, so now he’s going to take his chances running as a Democrat. I’m sure they’ve calculated the odds of his winning as a Democrat, but now that the voters of Pennsylvania can truly see what kind of man they’re dealing with, his chances might be slightly deflated.

The bigger question that comes out of this defection is what he stands to gain in the Senate for switching sides. Jeffords gained the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; at first I was sure that Specter’s prize would be just as princely, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, as he hasn’t even been able to keep his seniority in the Senate, so isn’t eligible for any chairmanships. Serves him right.

I think in the long run this will be a good thing; Specter is a liberal and his voting record shows it. His membership in the Republican Party seems to have always been about political expediency and perpetuating his position in Washington rather than serving his state and its people. This move will be an excellent demonstration to his state’s voters not only that Specter is looking out for number one, but also exactly who number one is. He cannot be trusted, and needs to be voted out. I’m thinking that the next couple of years will wake up a lot of people to the fact that it’s a really, really bad idea to have nutjobs like Pelosi, Reed & Obama running the show in DC in the accountability vacuum that exists there now. We can only pray that in the next two years the long-term damage to the economic and social fabric of the country

Countdown to Canaries!

Filed under: Favorite Things,Fun!,Home Life — dave @ 3:59 pm

A while back (two years ago!) I wrote a blurb about our then-new pet, Pippin, a male canary. We’ve enjoyed Pippin and his singing ever since, but I somehow neglected to mention that we brought home a girlfriend for Pippin a year ago. Pippin was a birthday gift for Yvonne two years ago, then last year’s birthday brought Melody into the family.

Like Pippin, Melody is a color-bred bird, but has a little more yellow than orange, which is Pippin’s primary coloration. Female canaries don’t sing like the males do, it’s more just peeps, chirps and squawks, but Melody has plenty of character all her own. The two of them get along pretty well, but we keep them in separate cages most of the time, mainly because (being a male) Pippin always thinks it’s mating time. If they’re in the same cage, he’ll start in on a song, strutting about with his throat feathers all puffed out and his wings slightly extended. Next thing you know he’s flying all around the cage in hot pursuit of Melody, who is doing her best to keep ahead of him. He usually catches her and pins her to the floor for a little, umm, roughhousing. Melody isn’t very appreciative of those little sessions, and when it’s done will chase him off, wings spread out, beak wide open; “Don’t you mess with me, buddy!” So, yeah; we keep them separated, for Melody’s sake. But nothing seems to faze Pippin; he’s totally twitterpated, and dotes over Melody terribly. He tears up paper from under the cage floor and carries it around, trying to give it to her as a present. He actually shows more interest in the nest and fitting it for eggs than she does.

This spring was a little different though. For the first time since we brought her home, Melody started to show some interest in the nest cup & started filling it with torn up newspaper, yarn, paper toweling, and whatever else she could get up there. It seemed mostly like a game to her as she’d carry something to the cup and goof around trying to put it in. After she’d get a bunch of it in there she’d pull it all out and start again. Either she’s frustrated that she can’t get it just right, or maybe she’s just not very serious after all.

Then on Monday, there was an egg in there! I was a little concerned because there was hardly any nesting material in the cup — the egg was sitting on bare plastic. Yvonne put some extra fluffy stuff in the cage, and Melody managed to pack the cup pretty well, but the egg was still underneath all the stuffing and she wasn’t spending much time on the nest. I pulled the nest out, rearranged some of the stuffing and got the egg on top, but she still wouldn’t spend much time on it. I didn’t have much hope for that egg that day.

But then Tuesday morning brought another egg, as did Wednesday. And Thursday. So now she has four eggs in the nest and is sitting on it pretty steadily. She’ll get up to have a bite to eat and drink, and to have an occasional splash in the water dish, but it’s right back to the nest without any playing. She’s turning out to be a great Mom!

Since all this started, Pippin hasn’t quite been himself; he still dotes over Melody like the lovesick thing he’s been since she came into his life, but he doesn’t sing much. He spends a lot of time flitting around chirping, and is pretty good about feeding Melody so she can stay in the nest longer, which makes me think he knows the score and that he needs to pitch in.

So now it’s a waiting game; keep them fed and see what happens. The incubation period for canaries is about two weeks, so that sets the ETH (Estimated Time of Hatching) at about May 25… Can’t. Wait.

Pause, Stop, Play

Filed under: BMW Of The Day,Cars!,Fun!,Geek — dave @ 11:49 am 2009/05/12

I think I want this on my car. No, scratch that; I need this on my car!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

Filed under: Faith & Worship,Family,The Kids — dave @ 9:03 am 2009/05/10

Today is Mother’s Day, but for the last several years I’ve felt a little left out. My mom, Celeste Agnes Green Thornton passed away almost five years ago, just one short week after Mother’s Day.

Grandma Sis

The last few years that Mom was with us were difficult; Alzheimer’s Disease stole them from us. I first realized that Mom’s condition was getting the best of her when she forgot my birthday one year, something that had never happened before. At first I was I was quite put out by that, but as I came to understand it was only part of a larger pattern of forgetting things, some important, some not so important.

For a time it seemed she’d just forget things that had happened fairly recently, but could remember vividly things that had happened decades before. She’d forget where she was going at times and get lost driving around the city in which she had lived all her life; before long she forgot the names of our kids, and finally even our names. She had moments of lucidity, but as time went on, they became increasingly rare. In the end she had forgotten everything.

Visiting Mom was difficult and unpleasant those last couple of years. The kids didn’t enjoy it any more than I did, and I finally just stopped going. That last month of her life I had plenty of warnings from my siblings that Mom was sick, but I didn’t quite grasp how serious things were, and I failed to even pay her a visit that last Mother’s Day. She wouldn’t likely have been aware of it, but that’s not the point:

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12

I missed a good teaching opportunity for my kids by neglecting that command, and set a bad example by not visiting Mom in spite of the difficulty her health condition presented. But even before that I don’t remember a time when I really showed Mom the respect she deserved, even after I became a Believer. The two of us had our difficulties & misunderstandings, and I was less than forgiving. And now it’s too late. I know that I’ve been forgiven for all that — even though I was most undeserving of forgiveness — and my sin washed away by the Blood of Christ but the impact of that will live on in my kids, and in my regrets.

So, if your mom and dad are still around, do yourself a favor; don’t neglect giving them the respect you ought. Even if it’s difficult, you owe it to them, to yourself, to your kids, and to God.

Digital Music Pads

Filed under: Computers,Cool Technology,Fun!,Gadgets — dave @ 12:01 am 2009/05/09

Here’s something quite cool; the Freehand Systems MusicPad Pro Plus. It’s essentially a Linux-powered keyboardless tablet PC that specializes in displaying music files. It uses a back-lit color LCD touch screen to display the music files that you load onto it by connecting it up to a Mac or PC. It can use music that you scan from sheet music, music files you buy & download from Freehand’s website, or transfer from an app like Sibelius.

The MusicPad Pro essentially replaces the sheet music a musician would use during a rehearsal or performance. It can hold an entire library’s worth of music, and if the user is playing outdoors there is no worry about having sheet music flying around in the wind. The user can also write notes on the music displayed on the MusicPad Pro and save those notes with the music. It’s a great concept, but at the price of $899, probably a little out of reach of most musicians and performing groups.

While I can’t take credit for this concept, it does remind me of something I thought up and sketched out while sitting through one of the kids’ band concerts years ago. I was bored out of my gourd (is it right to say that?) and my mind started wandering, thinking about all the work that goes into organizing sheet music for a band or orchestra; the conductor has the full score and most every player has a different set, and that’s duplicated for every piece the group plays. Just trying to wrap my head around the system needed to track all that paper makes me dizzy.

So I thought, what if the conductor had the music stored on a central computer — the server — with its display at the podium? And what if each musician had a wireless display — the client — that linked into that central computer & received the music from it? The musicians could tap a button on the screen or click a foot pedal to advance to the next page, or have the music scroll up as the piece progresses. For a stage performance, a tablet-sized screen would be great for the musicians, but when the cost of a display is usually keyed to the size of the screen, how about shrinking the screen down to the size of a recipe card — 3 x 5 inches — and attached directly to the instrument? I remember my older sisters using something like that for marching band back in the ’70′s, and the coronet that I used in junior high has an attachment that allows for that. With the display closer to the user’s eyes it doesn’t need to be very big (just look at the popularity of watching movies on iPods and other handheld devices.)

The difficulty I guess would be keeping the server & client pads coordinated through a performance… There are lots of things that could go wrong, and with a system like this, and going wrong in the middle of a performance… it would be ugly. Actually the real difficulty is in getting the concept to actually work in the real world, and to be able to sell it at an affordable price. The $900 MusicPad Pro is a great device, but it’s overkill for most bands and orchestras, and at that price just isn’t accessible to most primary & secondary schools and private organizations. An exhaustive three minute Google search shows that other than a few software solutions (like Music Reader) that can be run on a Windows or Mac computer, the Freehand device is pretty much the only game in town for digital music pads right now, so I think there’s potential for a system like this to really do well.

But the practicalities of the system won’t be my worry because I don’t know where to even start bringing an idea like this into reality, so I’ll leave the gritty details to someone more capable. I doubt I’m the first person to think of something like this.