bitguru blog

a guru of bits, or just a bit player?

cases for full-Boehm clarinets

Posted by bitguru on May 7, 2013

a Bb full-Boehm clarinet in a (slightly modified) SKB320 clarinet case

full-Boehm clarinet in B♭ fits in modified case

About five years ago I purchased a pair of full-Boehm clarinets in B♭ and A. At the time I wrote, “the first thing I have to do is find a case for these guys,” but only now have I gotten around to doing something about it.

Actually, about a year ago I purchased a cheap WWBW-branded double clarinet case because I had read a forum post that it could be modified for full-Boehm instruments. But when it arrived the case itself was narrower than the lower joints of the A clarinet, so it obviously wasn’t going to work.

Later I read that an SKB model 320 single clarinet case could be modified with a hammer to hold a full-Boehm instrument. I ordered two of them. They arrived last week. Modification by hammer was relatively straightforward.

After modification, the Bb full-Boehm clarinet does fit in the case reasonably well. (See top image.) Unfortunately, the A full-Boehm clarinet is simply too long for the case. (See bottom image.) Fortunately, I only hammered one of the two cases. I can return the pristine one for a refund.

For the moment I’m storing the A clarinet in an old Conn case that is similar to the one linked here except it’s in much rougher shape. The lower joint doesn’t fit in any of the slots but it does fit in the large compartment at the bottom. I have encased the lower joint in bubble wrap so it won’t bounce around. The upper joint, barrel, and bell fit in the slots. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

an A full-Boehm clarinet not quite fitting into an SKB320 clarinet case

full-Boehm clarinet in A does not fit

The search for a better case (singe or double but preferably a double) continues.


  • Amati still makes full-Boehm clarinets in the Czech Republic. An Amati rep in Europe told me I could purchase two separate full-Boehm clarinet cases through their American distributor, though he couldn’t guarantee that my Selmers would fit. I might have been willing to take the risk but the American rep was unwilling to help me. That was in 2009. I could try again, or attempt to import one from Europe.
  • It looks like a Yamaha case like this one can be modified to work.
  • I could make my own case, starting from a briefcase or something. This option is growing on me.
  • I could go high-end. For instance Wiseman tells me that they can accommodate my full-Boehm instruments at no extra charge, but their regular prices are quite high.
  • Perhaps I could pay someone to modify a suitable existing case.

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Whence Biscos?

Posted by bitguru on June 17, 2011

Since childhood I have admired Biscos, Nabisco’s version of the sugar wafer. I have eaten them only rarely because (a) they are expensive at $4 or $5 for 8 oz. and (b) they never seem to go on sale.

It may have been more than a decade since I have last tried them. This is what they looked like then…

Biscos Sugar Wafers by Nabisco, old box

…not the box, which in this image looks older than I remember, but the wafers themselves. Notice that the oval-with-rabit-ears logo featured inside the red triangle also appears on the wafers. The logo didn’t make them taste any better, I presume, but nonetheless the cookie part of the wafers was thick, crisp, and delicious.

Here is the box I bought today:

Biscos Sugar Wafers by Nabisco, new box

When I purchased them I did notice that the gold foil around the edge of the box (which I always thought was classy) was missing, but not until later did I notice that the appearance of the wafers had changed also. The oval-with-rabit-ears logo is gone and they look pretty much like any other sugar wafer out there, such as the no-name brands you can find in the dollar store. And that’s what they taste like, too. They don’t taste bad, but I no longer find them compelling. Next time I’ll save some money and buy a no-name brand. (But I won’t buy one of those brands that dyes the wafers bright orange—what’s the deal with that?)

It may actually be impossible to buy the Biscos brand next time, because there are some reports that they are being removed from store shelves. I don’t put much stock in them—after all I was able to buy some today—but if so perhaps it has something to do with Kraft’s acquisition of Nabisco in 2000. I can’t find any mention of Biscos at or but they are still for sale at and other online retailers.

[edit: I did finally find a Bisco’s (sic) reference at Choose “cookies/crackers/cones/bars” from the upper pulldown. I’m not sure why they felt the need to interpose an apostrophe.]

By the way, the cookies aren’t quite as pictured on the box. For one, they are fairly small at 6cm by 2cm (2.5in by 0.75in) which means either they found a tiny red napkin and coffee cup for the photo shoot, or photoshop was involved. (The box does say “enlarged to show texture” in small blue lettering just above the plate’s rim.) But more than that, if you count how many diagonal stripes span a wafer, corner to corner, it’s 13 on the box image but 18 on the actual wafers in the box. The waffling is simply less substantial than pictured, in both diameter and in ridge height, which seems odd to me.

(Odder still, the waffling on the bottom of the wafer is different from the waffling on the top. The bottom waffling has a larger diameter and thicker ridges, so it’s actually more like the box image, except it can’t be. The squares on the bottom of the wafer aren’t aligned diagonally, but are parallel to the sides of the wafer.)

Posted in Nostalgia | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Ford hybrid micro-van

Posted by bitguru on January 10, 2011

Ford C-MAX side viewFord has announced a hybrid micro-van to be available in North America in 2012. The C-MAX will have three rows of seats and sliding side doors. A non-hybrid C-MAX has been available in Europe since 2003 and is somewhat similar to the Mazda5.

There will be two hybrid models, plus ones with conventional drivetrains. The C-MAX Hybrid sounds like a traditional hybrid, while the C-MAX Energi will be a Volt-like plug-in hybrid which aims to deplete its large battery before burning much gas. I’m looking forward to seeing more details.

update: Automobile Magazine’s first look has some images. So does

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thoughts on the new Big Ten logo

Posted by bitguru on December 16, 2010

the BigTen stacked logo, announced 13 December 2010The Big Ten Conference announced its new logo on Monday. Fan response has been almost universally negative. Commissioner Delany says, “Any time you have something new … it takes some time to get used to.” That’s true enough, but so far the best that can be said about the logo’s reception is that people seem to dislike it less strongly than they do the new division names (“Leaders” and “Legends”) for football.

I don’t know how long the retiring logo, with its iconic “11” in the negative space, took to get used to after its introduction in 1990, but it qualifies as beloved now. It was designed by Al Grivetti, who also provided designs incorporating 12, 13 and 14 in case the league decided expand beyond Penn State. I’m curious about these designs and would love to see them.

The new logo was created by Michael Bierut and Michael Gericke of design firm Pentagram. Delany says that “pretty much everybody in the design world” advised against a 12 in the negative space of the new logo, and evidently Bierut and Gericke concurred. “Its contemporary collegiate lettering includes an embedded numeral ‘10’ in the word ‘Big,’ which allows fans to see ‘Big’ and ‘10’ in a single word.” They say the new logo is memorable and distinctive. Critics say it looks like a 2-year-old put it togetherwould be forgettable if it weren’t so ugly, is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and rivals Gap as worst logo change ever‎.

I seriously can’t find anybody on the net who claims to like it, though some are ambivalent. I guess I would have to put myself in the ambivalent camp. I was hoping for better. It’s not attractive or clever or even memorable, but it is serviceable.

specific thoughts:

  • The letters I and G are supposed to look like the digits 1 and 0. The I definitely looks like a 1, albeit in a somewhat jarringly, but I don’t think the G looks much like a 0. Some think the G looks more like a 6. “Not at all,” says Delany, “we were thinking 10, not 16.”

  • This shade of baby-blue is a color which none the twelve member schools claim. Perhaps that was a goal. I find it unpleasant, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

  • I do think the logo will work quite well as a “bug” on TV. Check out these (poorly) simulated screenshots for the league’s top two revenue sports and see what you think. Perhaps this was also a goal, but I doubt it because broadcasts will be branded by the Big Ten Network (or ESPN, etc.) and not by the conference itself.

simulated BigTen tv bug, football

simulated BigTen tv bug, basketbal

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hybrid Toyota minivan more than rumor?

Posted by bitguru on November 17, 2010

Prius MPV behind standard PriusAutomobile magazine reports that Toyota will be unveiling a Prius minivan early next year. Others expect an announcement as soon as the Los Angeles auto show, which begins this weekend.

If the blue silhouette image from last month is any indication it won’t be much bigger than a standard Prius, though Car News Break claims it should seat seven.

(Earlier in the month Toyota officially mentioned the newest member of the Toyota Prius family without identifying it as a van.)

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Nebraska officially to join the Big Ten

Posted by bitguru on June 14, 2010

Big Ten conference logo showing '12' in the negative space. I have terrible photoshop skills, but image may be used with attribution.

The Big Ten Conference just admitted the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, starting with the 2011-12 academic year. The Big Ten is not necessarily planning to stop at 12 teams, but that’s where it is for now. Here are my thoughts:

  • The Big Ten already has too many red teams, and Nebraska exacerbates this. I’m not even counting Minnesota here, with its yellow (ostensibly maroon and gold), but only the red-and-hueless teams:
    • Indiana – cream and crimson
    • Nebraska – scarlet and cream
    • Ohio State – scarlet and grey
    • Wisconsin – cardinal and white

    That’s fully a third of the conference. (Perhaps this is reason enough to disqualify Rutgers from any expansion talk?)

  • Nebraska is a reasonably good academic and geographic fit. It has been an AAU member since 1909 and is 300 miles from the Iowa campus, 425 from the Minnesota campus.
  • Many have pointed out that Omaha and Lincoln are not big TV markets, but Nebraska has rabid alums sprinkled over the country. Believe that many of these will pressure their local cable systems to cary BTN, or will switch to DirecTV or FiOS for it.
  • It is widely presumed that the conference will create two six-team divisions, but I have yet to see a preposed alignment that makes sense to me. It will be difficult to do this and keep everyone happy.

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Poker near DC (2010 update)

Posted by bitguru on January 11, 2010

In my previous post I said that Charles Town, West Virginia, may become the obvious choice for residents of Washington and Baltimore that want to play poker or table games such as blackjack starting this summer. I may have spoken too soon.

Pennsylvania signed into law legislation permitting poker and table games at its racinos. Cards could by flying as soon as July, but it will probably take longer than that. I have added existing Pennsylvania casinos to the map in yellow (Charles Town in is red) but the 2004 Pennsylvania law that legalized slots allows five additional locations that haven’t yet been built. The new law could potentially hurry that process.

Click on the View Larger Map link to see not only a larger map but a list of city names. Click on the map pins (on either the larger map or the smaller one) to see venue details.

Not shown on the map are the Ohio cities of Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Those aren’t particularly close to Washington D.C. but casinos will likely open there in 2011.

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poker and blackjack to come to northeast West Virginia after all

Posted by bitguru on December 10, 2009

Two years ago, four West Virginia counties voted on referenda to allow poker and other casino table games in their local racinos. Three of them (shown in purple on the map) approved the referenda, but Jefferson County (shown in red) rejected it.

Jefferson County voted again last week, and this time the referendum passed 59% to 41%. Charles Town Races & Slots is already prepping 30,000 square feet of space for table games to start in June or so. If they do it right, they will be the obvious choice of Washington and Baltimore gamblers, who will have no convenient alternatives.

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hybrid minivan update

Posted by bitguru on November 9, 2009

Chrysler: The “EV” plug-in hybrid minivan is toast. It was one of three vehicles in Chrysler’s ENVI program which has been canceled. The hyperlinks in my 2008 ENVI post are now dead.

Honda: It has been reported that Honda plans to add a hybrid minivan in 2011.

Toyota: Rumors of a “Prius MPV” (small hybrid van) have been swirling for a couple years now. They persist despite no substantiation.


Chrysler update: The Detroit News says that Chrysler “plans to offer a two-mode hybrid version of the Dodge Ram pickup next year. It will be followed by a plug-in hybrid Ram and a plug-in hybrid minivan in 2011.” The article also predicts that Chrysler will sell a pure electric version of the Fiat Doblò in late 2011 or 2012.

The Michigan Messenger also mentions a hybrid Chrysler minivan, but other sources do not. They do point out that Chrysler received $70 million in DoE grants to support its ENVI effort.

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Chevy Volt getting lots of press

Posted by bitguru on August 12, 2009

Chevy Volt under 230 mpg bannerThe Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid sedan anticipated in late 2011. Periodically I search for news stories on the Volt, but today the news stories found me. I have heard four different news blurbs discussing the Volt today (over three different forms of media) without even trying. I would say GM’s public relations department gets a gold star today.

I’m taking away a gold star, however, for the design of the banner unfurled above the vehicle at today’s announcement. (See image.) To me, it screams “23 MPG.” GM wants us to read it “230 MPG” but I just don’t see the smiley outlet thing as a zero. Do you?

The story lead has been GM’s 230 MPG claim. That it’s turning heads is no surprise, but I’m hungry for more details. GM says the Volt’s city EPA rating will be 230 miles per gallon, which I don’t doubt (even though the EPA hasn’t tested it yet) because GM has been negotiating with the EPA over methodology for a while now. But it will be interesting to see what the accompanying highway and overall numbers will turn out to be, and what assumptions will be made to reach them.

GM has said that a fully-charged Volt should be able to travel 40 miles without burning any gas, after which it should get approximately 50 MPG until the battery can be plugged in and recharge. So for the city rating, it seems the EPA is presuming that 78% of the distance traveled will be on battery power alone.

0.78 mi@∞ mpg + 0.22 mi@50 mpg → 1 mi / 0.0044 gal = 227.3 mpg

I don’t think 78% sounds unreasonable, but I’m curious how it was chosen Of course, should you want to know how much gas you would burn were you to drive a Volt, you should ignore the EPA’s 78% figure and come up with a percentage that represents your particular driving habits.

Charging the Volt’s battery at off-peak times (night) should cost less than $1 in most U.S. regions, so those first 40 miles will be reasonably cheap. Do you have an outlet in your garage?

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