Monday, March 30, 2015

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  The band saw is now powered, and I've tested it (works great!) and done all the alignments and calibrations.  The wood shop is starting to look like a wood shop!

I've been ordering a major power tool roughly every ten days, trying to space out the arrivals a bit so I have time to unpack, assemble, clean, align, and test each one.  Generally they take a week to ten days to arrive.  However, my careful plans have been waylaid by shipper errors, missing parts, and so on – and now this coming Friday three of them are scheduled to arrive on the same day.  On three different trucks, naturally.  It's going to be a bit of a zoo around here on that day!

I had to make a Home Depot run yesterday, and while there I picked up the parts I need for a handrail for the stairs up to the second floor of the barn, and also the parts for a second floor electrical sub-panel.  I'm going to put a 50 amp sub-panel up there more for convenience than anything else.  I doubt I'll need even 15 amps, but wiring the office and second floor lights will be easier when the circuits are all pulled from a (closer) second floor panel rather than the main panel on the first floor.  This has an interesting consequence: the main panel on the first floor is a big one (20 positions/40 breakers), but I'm only going to be using about 7 or 8 of those positions.  The vast majority of the circuits in the barn will be pulled from either the sub-panel in the wood shop or the second floor sub-panel.  Looks like I over-bought that main panel :)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dancing to the music...

Dancing to the music...  Via my mom, who gave me a great belly laugh as I ate my lunch of tlapeno made by my lovely bride...
She walked up and tied her old mule to the hitching post. As she stood there, brushing some of the dust from her face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old woman and laughed, "Hey old woman, have you ever danced?"

The old woman looked up at the gunslinger and said, "No, I never did dance. Never really wanted to."

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said, "Well, you old bag, you're gonna dance now," and started shooting at the old woman's feet.

The old woman prospector – not wanting to get her toe blown off – started hopping around.  Everybody was laughing.  When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon.

The old woman turned to her pack mule, pulled out a double-barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers.  The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air.  The crowd stopped laughing immediately.

The young gunslinger heard the sounds, too, and he turned around very slowly. The silence was almost deafening.

The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the old woman and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.  The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old woman's hands, as she quietly said, "Son, have you ever kissed a mule's ass?"

The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, "No ma'am.  But ... I've always wanted to."
Now that's what I call a measured and well-considered answer!

An obituary for the ages...

An obituary for the ages...  A snippet:
He excelled at attempting home improvement projects, outsmarting rabbits, annoying the women in his life and reading every book he could get his hands on.

He thought everyone could, and should, live on a strict diet of salmon, canned peas and rice pilaf, and took extreme pride in the fact that he had a freezer stocked full of wild game and seafood.

His life goal was to beat his wife at Scrabble, and although he never succeeded, his dream lives on in the family he left behind.
Do go read the whole thing...

Comet 67P...

Comet 67P...  As seen by Rosetta on March 21st, from a distance of 83 km (about 50 miles).  The outgassing is much more visible than it was just a few weeks ago, because the comet is getting closer to the sun and is warming up...

Meanwhile, over on the other side of Mars...

Meanwhile, over on the other side of Mars ... the Curiosity rover is doing a tire self-examination.  You may recall that the mission planners were getting worried about the unexpectedly high rate of tire damage – and photos like this one show why, graphically.  Those aluminum tires look like the losers in a rough fight.  In the photo at right (click to embiggen) you can see several badly damaged parts on one of the rover's six tires.  The mission planners are driving carefully these days, most especially to avoid any particularly sharp or jagged rocks.  Let's hope this caution keeps Curiosity mobile long enough to explore Mt. Sharp!

The shadow knows...

The shadow knows...  The Mars rover Opportunity is sitting on the edge of Endurance Crater, and happened to be in the right position to snap a nice photo of its own shadow.  Opportunity is now almost finished with the 11th year of its planned 90 day mission – you just gotta love that little robot!  Via APOD, of course...

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I got my new band saw unpacked, cleaned up (the table was covered with grease for storage), and mostly aligned.  There were some challenges here, as that thing was very heavy.   The biggest challenge was getting it onto the mobile base I got for it.  Working by myself, how do I get almost 500 pounds of band saw off its shipping pallet and onto the mobile base?  The answer involves the tractor, of course – and also the very convenient eye bolt that comes on top of the band saw for lifting it.  I wrapped a chain around my forklift's tines, cranked the forklift high enough to clear the band saw, hooked up the chain to the eye bolt, and hoisted away.  Tractors sure are handy things to have around!

I haven't tested the band saw yet, or done the final alignment, as I haven't connected it to power yet.  I'll have to run to Home Depot today for a few components, and then I'll do those last things...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bob Hope...

Bob Hope...  Via my lovely bride...

21 ways that English is the worst language ever...

21 ways that English is the worst language ever...  Via friend and former colleague Aleck L. (for whom English is his second language).  My favorite is #17:

Read the whole thing...

Our family meme...

Our family meme ... as suggested by my brother Mark:


Do you ever gaze downward?

Do you ever gaze downward?  Don't do it in the airport security line, because the TSA is trained to think that's an indication that you might be a terrorist.

Reminder: the TSA's vast, expensive, intrusive, obnoxious security apparatus has caught exactly zero terrorists trying to get on planes.

Zero.

Does anyone other than me think there might be a cost/benefit problem here?

Speechless, I am...

Speechless, I am...  The person most likely to be the next President of the United States illegally erased all her emails sent or received while she was the Secretary of State, and was receiving sensitive intelligence information about Libya that contradicts her public statements about the Benghazi disaster.

Makes you proud to be an American, no?

This is big news for the space industry...

This is big news for the space industry ... the Air Force is acting to level the playing field for commercial launchers.  Two big events on the same day: the Air Force announced the end of subsidies to the United Launch Alliance (which made their launchers artificially cheap at the taxpayer's expense), and an internal Air Force review released a report saying that the Air Force's recent certification process for SpaceX was artificially difficult (again advantaging the United Launch Alliance).

I'm not sure what motivated the Air Force to act in a sensible manner, but it's surely a welcome development...

Beautiful cloud photo...

Beautiful cloud photo...  It's pouring under there!

Three lucky deer...

Three lucky deer...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Shareholder's meeting...

Shareholder's meeting...  When we bought our new home here in Paradise, we also bought some shares in the irrigation water company that provides our pressurized irrigation water.  A few weeks ago the fellow that runs alfalfa on our south field stopped by and let me know that he was running for a seat on the Board of the irrigation company, and that he'd really appreciate my attending the upcoming shareholder's meeting and voting for him.  I listened to why he wanted to get that Board seat, and I liked what I heard – so I agreed to show up and vote for him.

Last night (way past my bedtime!) was the shareholder's meeting.  It was a much more interesting experience than I expected it to be.  About 50 people showed up.  These are all people who live in or around Paradise, so that's actually a substantial fraction of the total population!  Most of them have known each other for many years, and of course most of them attend church together in one of the (four) local LDS wards.  This made for a lively and congenial meeting.

The meeting's process was recognizable to anyone familiar with formal shareholder or Board meetings – but really just barely recognizable.  The President struggled mightily to stay on track and make sure the right stuff got into the minutes, but it wasn't easy for him.  The audience of shareholders was, I think, largely ignorant of the formalities beyond making and seconding a motion.  Much of the business was approved by acclamation (a show of hands, absence of opposition) instead of by actual vote.  The only actual votes came toward the end of the meeting, when new Board members were being selected.  There were four openings, but only two of them had multiple nominees.  To vote, the Board handed out blank Post-It notes, and we scribbled our name, the number of shares we were voting, and the name of the candidate we were voting for.  Then they retired to another room to tote up the vote and check the share count.  It wasn't exactly the procedure you'd see in even a small public company :)  But it worked.  The four new Board members were duly elected and welcomed on board.  The fellow I came to vote for won his seat, much to his delight.

On my short drive home, I reflected on how this Board meeting illustrated the differences between the culture here in Paradise and where we used to live in Southern California.  I can't imagine this short, cheerful meeting with it's loose attention to formality ever working in California – not even in the relatively small community of Jamul that we were part of.  The closest experience I have to compare it with was a couple of meetings held in Jamul to discuss the (then proposed) Jamul Indian Casino.  That was a much larger room full of people who were mainly strangers to one another.  There was much mistrust and suspicion, and little shyness about openly voicing it.  Absolutely nothing was accomplished, other than a couple of local politicians being able to get their statements in the paper.  We left much unhappier than we arrived.  Here, by contrast, several contentious issues were discussed in a friendly manner, solutions proposed, courses of action agreed upon, and everyone left with smiles on their faces (and, most of them, with a donut in their hands).  It was part social event, part business, and 100% effective.

I love this place!

Barn and house progress...

Barn and house progress...  Painters arrived yesterday to start painting my new office on the second floor of the barn.  They're planning to finish today, and the tile installers will be here next Monday and Tuesday to put the floor down (wood-look tile).  With any luck at all, the construction guys will show up later next week to put in the baseboard and trim (windows and door).  After that, it's all up to me: I need to put up an electrical subpanel for the second floor, then wire power and lights in the office (and some lighting in the upstairs storage as well).  I also need to install some ducting and a fan so that I can use the heated air from the first floor to keep the office temperatures from dipping below freezing.  In two or three weeks, I may be able to start moving my computer, etc. into the new office.  Woo hoo!

Yesterday I took delivery of my band saw – a 17" monster from Grizzly.  It came in a wooden crate on a pallet, which I was able to drive right to it's location in the woodshop with the tractor.  Very convenient, that was.

Yesterday we also got a big furniture delivery, one we've been waiting for with bated breath.  The shipment included our dining room table and chairs, a dresser and chest for our bedroom, and a dresser and end table for the guest bedroom.  They're all beautiful pieces.  I'll post some photos after it gets light enough to take them...

We can all be angels now...

We can all be angels now...  Angel investors, that is.  If I'm reading this correctly (and you'd be totally fair to doubt that!), the SEC just decided that crowdfunding companies can peddle equity to the masses.  In other words, companies sites like Kickstarter can now offer stock (or, presumably, instruments like options or warrants) to anyone who signs up to help fund them.  Previously they've been limited to offering product, swag, or smiley faces.

It will be fascinating to see what happens with this.  It's sort of the next stage after the reforms starting in the '70s have made the stock market more accessible to ordinary people unsophisticated in the art of equity investing...

Your daily owl...

Your daily owl...  Because, mom...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A startling statistic...

A startling statistic...  While reading a largely unrelated article this morning, I came across this statistic:
Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by age 23...
 Do you find that as startling as I did?  I've only known a few people who have ever been arrested, and several of those are not even American.  Are the arrest rates much higher today than when I was in my early 20s?

I couldn't find any authoritative data on that question, but I did find several sources that dramatically cited increased arrest rates (250% to 600%, depending on who you want to believe) starting in the late '60s and early '70s – right when I reached that age.  That immediately led me to suspect the war on drugs, so I went looking for data on that, and I found it.

Of the over 11 million arrests last year, 13% were directly for drug abuse.  Note that this data is for arrests, not people.  Some people were arrested multiple times in the year.  What's not uncovered by this data is how many of the other crimes related to drugs in some way (generally by users desperate to come up with the money for another high-priced dose of illegal drugs).  The dramatic increases in other crimes coincident with the war on drugs suggests that the related crime rates are very high indeed.

That same report gives the overall arrest rate as 3.7% of inhabitants per year.  Even if you figure a very high average number of arrests – say, 2 per arrested person per year – that works out to more than 1% of the population being arrested every year.  That's really hard for me to wrap my brain around, given how few people I know with an arrest record.

Maybe half my friends are hiding something...

No obligation whatsoever...

No obligation whatsoever...  Much of what passes for politics these days reminds me of the vacuity of celebrity culture (i.e., the dominant culture in the U.S.).  A great example of this: the U.S. – Chinese “announcement” of CO2 reductions.  Delingpole summarizes nicely...

Obama's foreign policy triptych...

Obama's foreign policy triptych...  Excellent...

“Color is an amazing experience...”

“Color is an amazing experience...” 

The reason for our oil shortage...

The reason for our oil shortage...  Via my brother Scott...
A lot of folks can't understand how we came to have an oil shortage here in our country.

Well, there's a very simple answer. Nobody bothered to check the oil. We just didn't know we were getting low. The reason for that is purely geographical. Our oil is located in:

Alaska, California, Coastal Florida, Coastal Louisiana, Coastal Alabama, Coastal Mississippi, Coastal Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas

Our dipstick is located in the White House!

Any Questions?

No? Didn't think So.

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  Well, the planer is completely assembled, oiled, greased, cleaned up – and tested.  The operation is smooth and solid, and not as noisy as I was expecting.

The model I have uses a four-row spiral carbide cutter head, which is new to me.  All the planers I've ever used had tool steel cutter blades; this one uses lots of little square carbide “chips” like the one shown at right.  These chips are just over 1/2" square, and can be rotated (“indexed”) to used any one of the four sides as the cutting edge.  Wood run through this planer has a subtle pattern showing in the planed face, just barely visible but definitely “feelable”.  A couple of passes with 400 grit sandpaper and it's gone, though.  This seems a very small price to pay for all the advantages: no sharpening (yay!), easy (and inexpensive) “blade” replacement, and no subtle alignment or calibration issues.

The painters will be here today to paint my office and the baseboard for Debbie's agility court.  Hopefully the tile floor will go into my office early next week...

JavaScript has won the browser...

JavaScript has won the browser...  You may have thought it had already won, but there was still Google's Dart trying hard to supplant JavaScript as a native browser scripting, or at the very least to supplement it.  But now Google has announced that it's giving up.  As a language, Dart will live on – but only as a version that compiles to JavaScript.  That's the end.  There's no other credible effort to replace JavaScript.

There are probably not all that many old farts still around who remember the other half dozen or so scripting languages that have tried to take on JavaScript.  The one that made the most traction was Microsoft's Visual Basic, unless you count their JavaScript variant (JScript) as a separate language.

I think having a standard browser scripting language – even if it's only a de facto standard – is a very good thing indeed.  It feels a bit overdue, as if the railroads had just now agreed on a standard track gauge, or pipe manufacturers had just agreed on standard diameters and threads.  Browser scripting language was already almost at that point – but there was this behemoth out there (Google) declaring their intention to upset that particular apple cart.

No more.  JavaScript has won...