Dave Romm has died

Kind of a shock; nobody seems to have known of any reason to expect any such thing any time soon. A phone call had reached Sharon and Richard (who were hosting the Minn-StF meeting yesterday) just 5 minutes before Lydy and I walked in.

The information that’s reached me so far is that he probably died quickly of a heart attack in his home about September 4th, but wasn’t found until the 14th (hence the lack of certainty on date and cause of death).

So it was a bit of a subdued meeting with a lot of reminiscence.

Dave, who most of the years I knew him insisted on the capital “E” in DavE (but mostly dropped that after becoming a Baron of Ladonia), moved to Minneapolis quite shortly after I became a permanent resident here, I think in 1978. He was already a photographer and interested in the history of fandom, so we had that in common, and he was an accomplished bridge player and this was during Minn-StF’s bridge period. He moved into the apartment I vacated in the basement of the Bozo Bus Building when I bought Finagle’s Freehold.

I will say that, Facebook profile to the contrary, he did not live in Memphis Tennessee.

Oh, about that Barony—DavE described himself as being “a real baron of a fake country.” The people running Ladonia appear to have properly granted him that honor in line with their historic traditions (which go back to 1996, it looks like).

Here are a few of my photos of DavE over the decades:

Near-Total Eclipse of the Eclipse

We drove down into Iowa Sunday, to put us in striking range of a variety of viewing sites in the totality zone on Monday.

Even Sunday, we encountered traffic and crowding on Interstate 35; we had to wait for a table at a Culver’s down in Iowa.  We did seem to be a bit ahead of the crowd, since our hotel’s parking lot was nearly empty when we got there (or maybe the people on I35 had planned ahead further than us and had hotels down in the totality zone).

Weather forecasts looked fairly dismal. We poked at them a lot, and on Monday morning we chose Falls City Nebraska as our viewing site.

The route there was all back roads, and we encountered no particular traffic. However, the town was quite active, with clear eclipse events at various places, and many optimists hoping to sell $20 parking. We ended up in the parking lot of an empty fast food facility, with a good view of the clouds overhead. A number of other group showed up there shortly.

We can see the sun!

There were thinner spots in the clouds, and occasionally you could tell where the sun was; or even see the disk (filtered by the clouds; at this stage, with the eclipse protective glasses you could see nothing at all, you couldn’t even tell where the sun was behind the clouds).

This raised a technical point I hadn’t really planned for. With the eclipse glasses, or the solar filter over the lens on the camera, you could see nothing at all. Sometimes the clouds were heavy enough we couldn’t tell where the sun was, but when they thinned and you got hints of the sun, sometimes a view of the full disk, you still couldn’t see anything through the filters. This made it difficult to get the camera trained and ready to capture anything that might briefly show through the clouds.  It also left me bouncing back and forth between filters and no filters, trying not to expose my eyes or even the camera sensors to the bare sun, but needing to use bare eyes and sensors to find it much of the time. (There don’t appear to be any weird blind spots in my eyes today, I seem to have been careful enough or lucky enough.)

A bit after first contact, shot through a solar filter (and the clouds).

The clouds thinned out a few times, and we got views near first contact, and occasional views thereafter.

We got some very heavy-duty insectile assistance while waiting for the eclipse to start. Looks like a very big wasp, and we saw it entering and leaving a crack in the pavement, so I guess ground-dwelling. Carrying something even bigger than it was; food for itself or for the next generation I guess.


The light seemed to dim in definite steps as we neared totality, not continuously. It was a weird effect, and repeated a number of times. People watching seemed to agree on when a step had happened.

It did get very dark. We had something like a sunset (except that the sun wasn’t there) all around the horizon; it was dark overhead, but light on all sides, with the sun out there clearly lighting up the clouds. Not sure one would see this effect without the clouds; though just the diffusion of light passing through the air might be enough to give a similar effect.

Half a hair short of totality, through clouds but without solar filter (nothing at all was visible through a filter).

And we got a very brief view in early totality through the clouds, where you could see a bit of corona. I got one photo then, too.

We stop to check out the reappearance of the sun when the clouds suddenly clear after totality.

We hung around to watch the sun come back, and got to see a bit for a while, until the clouds got serious.  Then we headed out—and the clouds cleared and we got bright sun a few minutes later (clouds had been solid to the horizon before) and we got some good clear views of the late stages (I didn’t take photos of the sun then).

Again, nothing much in the way of traffic delays on the back roads, but Interstate 35 was jammed. We had lines for the bathrooms at every stop, and visibly heavy traffic (and much heavier than the southbound traffic) all the way back up to the Twin Cities.  The trip back was over 3 hours longer than it should have been, due to these traffic delays.

Very close to sunset, we did run into a very nice double rainbow.

And got home by 1:30.


Cleaning Epson V700 Flatbed Scanner Glass

Specifically, the inside (or bottom) of the main glass. Because, as anybody who has used a scanner critically knows, the inside of those things out-gases (from the plastic) and deposits thin layers of gunk on the bottom of the glass.

You do also have to clean the top of the glass, but that’s easy; normal glass or lens cleaning techniques (so, Windex, water and ammonia, alcohol-based lens cleaner, with suitable soft cloth or paper).

Ammonia, in your own mix or in Windex, is corrosive to electronics, so be careful what you spray around where!

It’s easy to Google up posts all over about the process in general, like here.

The bottom of the glass is no harder—once you get to it.

The basic process is:

  1. Unplug everything
  2. Remove the scanning lid and set it carefully aside
  3. Remove the four plastic plugs over the screws that hold the top on
  4. Remove the screws that hold the top on (small Phillips)
  5. Lift off the top
  6. Clean the bottom of the glass, as above

The problem is those little plugs. Well, they’re not actually that big a problem, but it’s not obvious from the outside how to do this.

If your scanner is out of warranty, it doesn’t matter too much; the failure mode is gashing up the plugs and the top of the housing, which are purely cosmetic issues. If however your scanner is still in warranty, clear evidence that you’ve been inside could void your warranty.

So, here’s one of the plugs, in place:

One of 4 plugs covering the screws that hold the top on to an Epson V700 scanner

Those scratches were made by me, with a small (jeweler’s) flat-blade screwdriver, trying to find the point to pry the plug out. Ruined the screwdriver, too, by the way, but this was one of the vestigial ones from an old set and I was rather expecting that, using such a small thing as a pry-bar.

There is, it turns out, a better way! (This is my shocked face.)

Note the wide “V” on the plastic cap. With the scanner on the desk in front of you so that the top opens away from you (I think of this as the “normal” position to use a flatbed scanner in), that “V” is pointing down (meaning the wide side is away from me).

Here’s the cap off, and what a cap looks like from the bottom:

Cap off, both sides, and screw in well

Note the top cap is well and truly messed up; that’s the first one I got out, before I knew how to do it reasonably cleanly.

Now, look at the bottom cap (also oriented so the bottom of the “V” is towards us, wide end away).  See that big gap at the top?  Yeah, turns out if you pry there it’s much easier to get the pry-bar in and much easier to get the cap out, doing almost no damage.  Not none, if you’re in warranty you should still think about that. I tried the “duct tape” thing frequently cited on the web, but it did nothing at all with mine.

So: Put your narrow pry-bar in at the wide part of the “V”, and pry there.  Comes right off!

There’s something slightly weird about the front left corner, that was the hardest bit to get off and get on. I found the top went on much better if you put the left side down first.

But my glass is all much cleaner now.

Losing Until You Win

That’s what any troublesome project is, of course. And, as often as not, at least some of the losing steps make the problem worse, and you have to cope with that along the way.

In this case, replacing license plates. Nothing much wrong with the old ones, especially the back one, but in Minnesota they get replaced every 7 years anyway.  Now, I think I’ve had these 8 years, but never mind.

Plate not in bad shape, except near left hole where I had such a fight with the screw

Front one was easy; though it’s held on by big sheet-metal screws straight into the bumper (which is not sheet metal). But they still feel reasonably solid.

The right-hand screw on the rear one was easy.

The left hand screw, not so much. I was down to my next-to-last idea, before taking it in to a professional (and paying the “if you worked on it yourself first” rate I guess) on Monday, if nothing had worked.

All the tools invoked along the way (plus the corkscrew, which was already lying there)
  1. Big #2 Phillips screwdriver
    No effect.  Didn’t actually raise blisters on my palm.
  2. #2 Phillips bit in ratchet handle
    This gave me more leverage, plus separated pushing in hard (left hand) and twisting (right hand). Screwed up the head pretty good.
  3. Penetrating oil
    Not easy to get at where the screw entered the threads, screw head and plate frame and plate were all in the way. But squirted a bit in the general direction, and waited overnight. Then tried Phillips bits again. No go.
  4. Screw extractor
    Drill into the screw head, then thread the extractor in and twist like hell with a wrench on the end of the extractor. Broke the extractor clean off. Not aware of slipping and getting forces the wrong direction, but no doubt doing this with magic tools to keep things aligned perfectly instead of freehand would have been less likely to break anything.

    Damaged screw head with broken extractor
  5. Break off the plate frame
    It was between the head of the screw and the plate, so removing it gave me more play and better access to where the screw entered the threads. Tried twisting the screw head with slip-joint pliers, no dice.  More penetrating oil, now that I have better access (and wait overnight again).
  6. Try turning the screw head with channel-lock pliers
    This actually worked!  A bit slowly at first, but I got the screw out.

(The next step, not used, was to try to file down two edges of the screw head far enough to give the pliers a better grip.)

New screws are stainless (had to replace the left one anyway, since I’d pretty thoroughly ruined the head). The threads are metric (M5), though, so the heads aren’t a convenient size. The adjustable wrenches will fit them, but that’s much slower than nut-drivers or ratchet sets.

Definitely cheaper than taking it to the professionals (one $5 Irwin extractor, broken; trivial amount of penetrating oil out of existing container). Considerably more time and annoyance, though.

[Edited 7/24/2017 to remove two bad photos of damaged screw head and replace them with one decent one. And switched to consistently label this large machine-screw as a “screw” rather than a “bolt”.]