For the want of a blue shop towel and some isopropanol

It’s done. It’s working. It’s……. perplexing as hell……

And I think it was just merely DIRTY!!!

So I was working on the Space Station Toilet again today. Over the past few days I had been gradually baby stepping it back up to normal output power from zero, and today after several crowbar dumps I almost entirely gave up on it before deciding…. hey, maybe that isn’t the tube, but something else. Something externally… arcy sparky? Anyway..

You’ll get your wattage…. IN HELL!

The first thing I decided to look at was the grid voltage setting. This is described in very short in the manual – you want to hook up a spectrum analyzer and adjust the grid voltage first so that you have less than 800mA cathode current with no drive, but then so you have the best possible shoulder attenuation without excessive cathode current once you have applied drive. In theory, it sounds like you should basically have a sweet spot in between the two. In practice…. I found that varying the grid voltage one step at a time allowed me to find a narrow peak. On one side I had excessively tall shoulders like some kinda wild vintage dress from the 80s, on the other side, the shoulders would abruptly pop back up accompanied by the amp faulting out on high collector current on collector #3 or #4, but without the cathode current being all that high compared to that on the other amps. Weird but, uh, ok.

Here’s a mostly passable reading

So once I had the grid peaked up nicely, I decided to try running more power. I got to 100% of normal output and it was stable! Then I walked away and walked past the cabinet again and *BANG* *thump* *gronk* *screech* everything crapped out. It crowbarred and took down the whole UPS and caused the other two cabinets to stop and restart. A real fucko boingo, as they say UwU.

I tried bringing it back with the drive off. It thumped twice at the end of the quiescent verify stage and oopsie poopsied everything again dumping out its beamy weamy.

After about three cycles of not even being able to get into beam on with drive inhibited, I got very frustrated thinking the tube might have been damaged and kicked the cabinet. Now I was able to get into beam on again. Hmmmm…. Time to look around a bit. I shut off and grounded the rig for a look around. Now, this isn’t a picture of the same exact cabinet so you won’t see what I found but I’ll describe it…

The big silver suitcase looking thing is the “ISO Power Supply”. It is mounted on big insulating rails that look like they’re made of FR4 material or something similar. I was inspecting the high voltage leads above that go to the tube when my coworker and I noticed big oily sticky patches on both sides of the ISO supply case.

There was no apparent source for any oily substance to have dripped down onto the supply, so I pulled it out and opened it just in case I was missing something weird like a leaky oil filled cap that managed to get junk everywhere. The black plastic latch releases and it opens like a briefcase… Here’s what it looks like on a spare unit we have.

Left side — Top left: grid bias supply (up to about -300vdc, up to 50mA or so). Top right: filament supply (variable to at least 6.5v, uh– 20 amps?). Right side — left: ion pump power supply (-3.5kv, few microamps). Right: microcontroller with optical canbus I/O.

Well, on this one, something jumped out at me right away, and with that, the light came on.


The arc tracked layer of filth came off with a little careful cleaning. Where it was located, it would have been arcing right near the logic side of the grid voltage supply, perhaps glitching it out. Now, one of the things that varying the grid voltage does is to cause the cathode current to change.

The way the transmitter detects a damaging arc inside the eev ESCIOT inductive output tube is by looking for sudden noisy jumps in the cathode current. The supply wire runs through this big toroidal transformer on the “Spark Gap Interface” card.

I took this weird closeup because I was amused at “TOROID BOAT”

The white object that looks like a big bottle stopper is a triggered spark gap tube. There are no power or signal connections to this card. All it does is if the current on the wire looped through the transformer at left, it rectifies the resulting ac current to DC, and uses the transistor hidden partially under the wire here to pulse the primary winding of the black trigger coil. This causes the spark gap unit to arc over, abruptly forcing the beam supply to ground and causing an ugly high current fault…. but protecting the tube from damage.

And what else could have been making the beam current dance and fire the spark gap? Yeah— a glitchy grid supply which would make the transconductance of the tube do the fandango.

And now the ridiculous beast is tame, running full power, big wattage, no whammies.

73’s and good night

A sick, sad world.

Something really ridiculous just occurred to me after listening to a documentary on the Synanon cult and it’s one of those “glad that didn’t go anywhere” moments, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

For various reasons I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for a long time. I don’t know how much may be brain chemistry, how much may be environment (a LOT of it is definitely environment!) and how much may be dealing with past traumatic incidents. Back when I was attending Florida International University, they actually had a pretty good student health system that included mental health services that helped me out a lot for a while.

That is….. until the psychologist I was seeing was arrested due to involvement with Cuban espionage.

I mean— this was Miami, so could anyone be surprised? That’s a hell of a gray area. As various federal agencies came in performing parts of the investigation they COMPLETELY TRASHED the counseling and psychological services department of the student health and wellness services. Student and employee files were all seized and never returned, employees AND PATIENTS were all placed under ridiculous amounts of surveillance (yes, to the point that patient confidentiality was compromised), and most of the staff quit over it. This all basically happened over a summer semester when I wasn’t taking any classes at the university, and I came back not too long afterwards to try to see someone.

Well, that didn’t go great.

I was invited instead to join an “experimental, unstructured group therapy” model they were working on.

So this is where Synanon comes in, sadly. One of the tools the Synanon cult used for mind control and “treatment” of their members was something they called “The Game”*. This was a system of attack therapy in which participants were encouraged to confront one another and target weaknesses in an attempt to ……. improve aspects of their personalities and thinking? I don’t even know. I’m sure someone must have some bullshit non-peer-reviewed academic preprints on how this is actually supposed to *work*, but all it turns out to be is a massively traumatic experience, at least how we came out from it.

I remember of the two sessions I attended, there was no attempt whatsoever to guide the direction away from this – it was pretty much me and four other people in the group eventually just wanting nothing more to do with it as three others got very confrontational and the rest of us wondering what they were even there for.

One of the unusually bizarre aspects of this was that we were required to have no contact outside of these sessions, and it was quickly proven that we were being observed outside of them by other members of staff and clients who had been put to the task… so those of us who actually did feel any sort of connection and tried to speak outside of that first session were torn down for it at the next.

And this shit happened in a public university, of all places, which was trying to branch out into being a school of various medical disciplines. Glorious….

Needless to say this was a COLOSSAL failure, but worse, it made me feel like I couldn’t turn to anyone for help in the next few years because I was seeing a lot of private practices around the South Florida area turning to group sessions…. primarily because they were, unsurprisingly, more profitable to run. I couldn’t really imagine this going much better.

I’ve had pretty much zero luck with trying to seek any assistance since then. Usually I’ll find someone whose private practice is covered by my insurance, wait a number of months, and find that either they decide to stop accepting new patients and cancel on me, or I’m able to go in for an initial consultation after 4-7 months only to have the practice cease to exist shortly after that initial consultation. The best to date was the practice in Jupiter, Florida, which blinked out of existence due to Donald Trump’s “Winter White House” claiming its office space for Secret Service detail and a failed office move to an abandoned tapas bar. You can’t beat that for being a classic South Florida Sucks tale, can you? Unfortunately I’ve had nothing but similar false starts since I moved to California, it just seems to be the normal state of healthcare services in America.

* Not to be confused with a particularly annoying and content-free meme from a few years back. Trust me, it’s dead and you’re all free from it now.

Capyposting Huppily

In a previous post I accidentally dropped in a link to a Tiktok live stream that had ended. Unfortunately, live videos on Tiktok work differently than they do on Facebook or Youtube – they’re ephemeral things that don’t play back from archive… and I say unfortunately because the video in question was a bunch of very happy capybaras hanging out in a bath.

So, to make up for the lack of capybara content, here are some adorable giant rodents.

First stop on the Hup! Train: Nagasaki Bio Park’s TikTok – this is where the live video was from. Follow them for more, they quite routinely put up lives of the capybaras as well as some very cute birbs and other creatures.

An adorable neighborhood landscaping crew in Argentina:

CapybaraCountry on Twitter. Hup!

The HUP! sound is quite clear here and it’s adorable.

Yellow-headed caracara taking a capybara ride, captured by Charles J. Sharp.

Oh, to be a capybara with an orange on your head—

¡Atencion! Esto es un post de mierda.

Yeah so now I know why nobody ever does the grid scrub / ESCIOT outgassing procedure on this thing– it makes it nigh fucking impossible

Yeah sure just leave it in standby while ramping up the grid voltage aaaaaand I’m just going to keep repeatedly kicking out into BG Heat and reducing the filament voltage to make your life interesting.


So yeah after I managed to get the dumb thing through the grid scrub and tried to put it back on air I experienced a very loud and through “oops I’m crowbarring and taking the whole plant down with me as I go” incident due to an arc in the tube at just 8 kilowatts output, it really isn’t ready to go back to work and is being a spicy little electron box.

I’m going home and hiding myself under this cat


Me: “how could the Space Station Toilet  need a new flow meter on the HPA 2 collector loop after less than a year?”

The Space Station Toilet: “hahaha MONCH, have fun with this!”

The ceramic shaft was completely cut through on one side and visibly contaminated by metal debris on the other, likely from the tube body cooler.

What am I going to use as the subject of angry hissing on this blog after the Space Station Toilet gets replaced with a boring new rig in April or so??


I dunno, let’s go dig in the packing peanuts

Sometimes you just find yourself soaking the business end of a weird 3d input device in isopropanol just because, ok

I’m just posting various strange things this time. Also, cats, as usual.

She could care less about anything else in this broadcast facility other than the feline rump warmer.
Read more “I dunno, let’s go dig in the packing peanuts”