Friday, June 23, 2017

Paradise ponders: potted plant, vanishing power cords, and oodles of hay edition...

Paradise ponders: potted plant, vanishing power cords, and oodles of hay edition...  At right is our south field as of yesterday evening.  Scott N., the fellow who leases the field from us, cut and baled the field earlier in the week.  That's more hay extracted than we've ever seen come off that field, and by a pretty good margin (close to double the previous best yield).  There are two reasons that I know of for that.  First, we had a lot of rain early in the season.  Second, because he was so busy with the other fields he leases, Scott was quite late getting to the mowing of our field.  The grass in our field was over 3 feet high when he finally mowed it down.  That translates into lots of bales of hay!  I saw Scott while he was baling and gave him a wave; he waved back with an ear-to-ear grin.  :)

Debbie and I spent yesterday and today mainly working on getting plants in place on our porches and our balcony.  We've got a total of nine big pots in three places.  Five of them are on our balcony (photos below).  We put drip irrigation onto these pots.  There's a hose bib almost immediately under the balcony, but we didn't want to have an ugly hose showing against the side of the house.  To solve that problem, we ran the hose up a gutter rain spout – that worked great!  The hose pops out of the gutter a mere 6" from where we needed it on the balcony, and the bottom side is hidden by shrubbery.  Perfect!  The drip irrigation is visible in the photos below, but it's hard to see...

Yesterday I tackled a project that's been in the queue for quite a while.  We've got a couple of “bug lights” in the house to combat the box elder bugs, house flies, and yellow jackets that wander into the house through various means.  These lights are what restaurants use to keep flies down.  They're ultraviolet lights (to attract bugs) with flypaper immediately below them.  It's kind of amazing how well such a simple thing works – we put them up last year, and after about a week we basically never see bugs any more.  The one drawback to them is that they require a power cord.  Our original installation had the power cords dangling straight down to an outlet, which means that we had a power cord stretched out against the wall – not exactly the most attractive thing.  Last week I had an idea of how to fix that, by installing a new outlet box right behind the triangular art deco bottom part of the light fixture.  That part happens to be just barely big enough to hide a one-gang outlet box, and it's also hollow so the cord could be tucked into there.  Below you can see the finished results: the power cords are gone, and the means by which I accomplished that are completely hidden from view.  Win!

Debbie's been decorating our sun room, even as the cats get more and more comfortable in there.  Some photos for you:

We eagerly anticipating the arrival of a friend we haven't seen for several years: Aleck L.  He should be here later this afternoon, and he's staying through mid-day on Sunday.  I met Aleck when we worked together at ServiceNow about eight years ago, and we've had a delightful friendship since then.  While we've been frequently in touch with him, we haven't actually seen Aleck for over three years now.  It will be great to have some time with him!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Paradise ponders: all kinds of stuff edition...

Paradise ponders: all kinds of stuff edition...  I hardly know where to start on this one!

I guess last night, when we had a beautiful scene on the Wasatch Mountains to our east just before the sun dropped down below the Wellsville Mountains to our west.  The photos below were shot from my office windows.  Gorgeous, it was...

Yesterday morning, bright and early, the fellows from Golden Spike Electric showed up to finish the job of wiring our filling station.  All that had remained was wiring the explosion-proof “whip” to connect the pumps to power.  The photo at right shows the completed unit.  It all works just great!  We filled the diesel tank of my tractor (7 gallons) in under 30 seconds.  And no clumsy 5 gallon cans to deal with!  Woo hoo!  There are some leaks that showed up after we pressurized the system with the pumps, but the plumbers who did the job will be here soon to fix those.  We have our own filling station, off-road diesel and ethanol-free gas!

I worked for several hours yesterday wiring up the pump controller in my cedar shed.  That also involved several hours of looking for parts, mostly 8 gauge wire in the appropriate assortment of colors.  That wasn't so easy to find!  The first photo below shows the controller mounted to the wall, cover off.  If you're not familiar with these controllers, they're interesting gadgets.  This model takes up to 40 amps single phase 60 Hz 240 VAC as its input, and provides up to 30 amps three phase variable frequency 240 VAC as its output.  The output frequency is controlled by a pressure sensor, and the output is intended to drive a centrifugal pump.  In my case that will be a 5HP pump, and we're going to keep the pressure at a constant 65 PSI.  The device is based on switching technology, making it both quite small and remarkably efficient (>95%).  It's controlled by a computer (of course!), and has several interesting programmable features.  Of interest to me are two inputs that can be used to enable/disable the pump, and an output that can tell some other device that the pump is running.  There's also a serial connection that can provide much more detailed information.  The second photo below shows the finished installation.  Input power comes in on the lower left, output through the flexible conduit that will connect to the pump when it's delivered.  The pump will sit on the pad you see below and right of the controller.  That pad is sitting on 1" thick anti-vibration pads, which hopefully will keep the vibration from the pump down to levels that won't shake my cedar shed apart!  :)

Debbie and I took our friend Michelle H. out to lunch at the Black Pearl, where we all had sushi (perfect for a blazing hot day like yesterday was!).  She'd never had sushi with raw fish before, but she had one bite of Debbie's roll that included a layer of hamachi.  She liked it. :)

The sprinkler guys worked hard all day long, and got a lot done.  I'd say they're well over half-way finished with the trenching and pipe installation.  Our yard looks like some mutant gopher is wreaking vengeance upon us – trenches are everywhere!  Toward the end of the day they went to test a new section but couldn't get any water.  With a little investigation, we discovered that the Paradise Irrigation Company had turned off the water while they de-mossed the canal (something they do several times each summer).  They neglected to warn us, though, so we were taken by surprise.  It's back on now...

In the afternoon, Debbie spotted some really dramatic looking clouds and rain to the north of us.  I looked at the weather radar and saw that it was pouring up there – so we decided to chase the storm.  We hopped in the Model X and zipped northward, never making it closer than the outer edge of any storm.  No matter, the dramatic lighting made for some beautiful views.  We went up to the Cherry Peak ski resort (first time either of us had ever been there), and the drive back was full of views to the west.  The valley was brightly lit, intermittently through broken cloud cover.  Where we were was in cloud shadow.  It was around 7 pm, so the sun was low and the slanted light made for some very dramatic lighting of the valley floor.  On the way home we stopped at Aggie's for an ice cream cone.  That was a nice way to end the day...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Paradise ponders: visitors, MacBook Pro OOB, sprinkler progress, and pump mount edition...

Paradise ponders: visitors, MacBook Pro OOB, sprinkler progress, and pump mount edition...  We had a nice surprise yesterday: Dave and Barb H., old friends of ours from Debbie's San Diego agility days, were in the area and decided to drop by our house for the afternoon.  They drove their enormous (40' long!) RV, towing a jeep, up to our place from Farmington.  We had such a nice visit with them!  Lots of talking, showing them the homestead, and then driving around south Cache Valley with them.  When they got ready to leave, they loaded up their five dogs (who had been carousing in our back yard), and they promptly took over the cockpit (at right). :)  We were said to see them go...

When I got my new MacBook Pro on Saturday, I took a few snaps as I unboxed it and set it up (below).  As you may already know, Apple is famous for their “out of box” (OOB) experience – opening a box containing one of their machines is exciting and almost sensuously pleasurable. Every last little detail, right down to easy ways to remove tape and even the smell are carefully engineered.  Each product has an entire team of people devoted to getting the OOB experience as good as it can be gotten.

In my case the MacBook Pro arrived via UPS in a plain brown box, rather like sex toys or pornography are delivered.  In the case of Apple, the ordinary appearance is to refrain from attracting thieves, not out of any concern that the recipient might be embarrassed.  As is typical with Apple products, a tiny little “zipper” broke the tape holding the box shut, and the inner classic white Apple box was revealed.  That box was shrink-wrapped in clear plastic, easily removed.  The exposed box then opened right up, revealing the MacBook Pro nestled in a molded cardboard holder.  Upon removing the laptop, I exposed the power cord, power brick, and manual.  I plugged the power brick into the wall, attached the power cord to the MacBook Pro, then powered it up.  In the last photo you see the first setup screen – I was all ready to go.  Apple did it again!  I'd have to give them an “awesome!” were I grading their OOB experience...

The sprinkler contractor has been working hard, and now with a fully functional trenching machine he's making great progress.  Our yard south of our house is now a maze of trenches that look like they were laid out by madmen.  One guy is trenching, the other is laying pipe into the new trenches.  In the last photo below, you can see the newly graded piece next to my barn.  We decided today to irrigate that area as well, and to plant grass there.

This morning I stopped in at Glen's Electric to pick up the pump mounting pad and the constant pressure controller (a variable frequency drive for the pump motor tied to a pressure sensor).  Then I built a wooden frame (using most of two 8' 2x6s and two 8' 2x4s) to hold the pump mounting pad, and to provide for the anti-vibration pads to go between the wooden frame and the floor of my cedar shed (photos below; finished mount in the last photo).  This was easy and quite a bit of fun, as I got to use both the miter and bevel capabilities of my miter saw to their fullest.  The finished product is significantly over-built – that pump won't be wandering off on its own! :)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Epstein incident...

The Epstein incident...  This was passed along by long-time reader Simi L.:
The Epstein Incident

Epstein was a renowned physician who earned his undergraduate, graduate, and medical degrees in his home town and then left for Manhattan, where he quickly rose to the top of his field.

Soon he was invited to deliver a significant paper, at a conference, coincidentally held in his home town. He walked on stage and placed his papers on the lectern, but they slid off onto the floor.  As he bent over to retrieve them, at precisely the wrong instant, he inadvertently farted.

The microphone amplified his mistake resoundingly through the room and reverberated it down the hall.

He was quite embarrassed but somehow regained his composure just enough to deliver his paper. He ignored the resounding applause and raced out the stage door, never to be seen in his home town again.

Decades later, when his elderly mother was ill, he returned to visit her.  He reserved a hotel room under the name of Levy and arrived under cover of darkness.

The desk clerk asked him, "Is this your first visit to our city, Mr. Levy?"

Dr. Epstein replied, "Well, young man, no, it isn't. I grew up here and received my education here, but then I moved away."

"Why haven't you visited?" asked the desk clerk.

"Actually, I did visit once, many years ago, but an embarrassing thing happened and since then I've been too ashamed to return."

The clerk consoled him. "Sir, while I don't have your life experience, one thing I have learned is that often what seems embarrassing to me isn't even remembered by others. I bet that's true of your incident too."

Dr. Epstein replied, "Son, I doubt that's the case with my incident."

"Was it a long time ago?"

"Yes, many years."

The clerk then asked, "Was it before or after the Epstein Fart?"

Father's day...

Father's day...  I'm not a father myself, unless you count all the dogs and cats we've shared our life with over the years.  But each year on this day, especially for the past four years (since my own father died), when I see all the ads for “Father’s Day” pop up, I think of my dad.

It's been over three and a half years now since he died, and ten years since our last trip together.  Despite the passage of time, nearly every day something happens that makes me think of him.  Usually it's some little thing, and nearly always the memory catches me completely by surprise.  For instance, yesterday while I was fixing a gate to our enclosed back yard, I had a vivid memory of my dad showing me how to fix a much smaller gate in a customer's yard.  The customer was a sweet little old lady in Princeton, NJ, named Mrs. Dickinson (not sure I've spelled that correctly).  She had a walk-through gate about 3' wide in the fence on the south side of her back yard.  That gate had come off its pins, much like the gate I was fixing yesterday.  I was perhaps 12 or 13 years old, and it was a mystery to me how to fix it – but that's the job my dad gave me.  He watched me puzzling over it for a while, then gave me a tiny little hint – and then I was able to work the rest out for myself.  My dad was good at teaching that way – mostly he let me try to figure things out on my own, then when I made mistakes would gently let me know how I might have done things better.  On that gate, for instance, I remember that it hung slightly off-level when I thought I'd finished.  He demonstrated the tilt for me (by letting a screwdriver roll on it), then challenged me to fix it.  I was able to figure that out.  Most of the “teaching” really was letting me figure it out, as opposed to anything resembling a lecture.  By the time I was ready to learn about electronics (and later, programming), figuring things out on my own was the norm for me ... due in no small part to my dad's challenges to me.

All of those thoughts were in my head yesterday as I fixed that gate.  That may be a funny way of remembering my dad, but it seems to work for me...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Paradise ponders: much ado about something or other edition...

Paradise ponders: much ado about something or other edition...  So many things all happening at once!  Last night, Debbie and I headed down to Salt Lake City to meet up with our friends Dave and Barb, who are up here for an agility competition.  We went to Red Iguana (of course!) and had a delicious meal with great company.  We really enjoyed that.  I'd forgotten to plug the car in to charge, so we headed down there with a marginal battery state, figuring we'd use the Salt Lake City supercharger if we needed to.  But when we got to the restaurant, we'd used just under half the charge I had before starting on the trip, so we should have enough to get home.  Right?  Well, we did, though there sure wasn't much juice left in the battery when we rolled into the garage.

Mark T. showed up at 7am and went to work trenching for sprinklers.  He spent the last couple of days fixing some problems on his trenching machine, but now it's working just dandy.  At around 8am, Ben (a roofer I engaged to fix our leaking balcony roof) showed up with his helper Vincente, and they got right to work.  As I write this they are installing the new flooring (after removing all the old stuff).  The floor is full of complicated shapes that must all be waterproofed, and that takes a lot of detail work, careful heat welding, and careful caulking.  The last fellow who did this work did an awful job.  Ben seems to be offended by such shoddy work, an attitude that I like a lot. :)   The work that he and Vincente are doing is beautifully done by comparison.  Ben was full of good ideas about how to make the result better, and I accepted all of them, even though that meant some minor modifications to our roof.

Debbie went back down to Farmington to be with Dave and Barb today as they compete.  She's texted me that she's having a wonderful time.  She saw a couple of new things down there that she's interested in.  One was a telephoto lens that fits on an iPhone.  Must have, she says.  The other is a woman competing on a Segway because her doctors said she can't run.  Debbie is thinking about that one, but it's a possibility.  I worry a bit about her falling from it.  Dave saw the woman on the Segway, too, and he called me and told me to order one for Debbie right now!  :)

I did a bunch of relatively small things this morning.  First I pressure-washed our deck.  It looks much better, but still has a film on it from the winter and spring mud.  Looks like sanding will be required to get rid of that.

Then I replaced the screen material on one (of twelve) screens in our sun room.  We're putting in heavy-duty "cat-proof" screening that's tough enough that we'd be comfortable leaving the sun room windows open for air when we're not there.  I'm also changing the mechanism that holds the screens in, from flimsy plastic pins to serious screws that would withstand a 20 pound cat hanging off it.  I did just one so that Debbie can see it, and if she's ok with it I'll be doing the rest of them.  I bought a new spline roller tool to do this, the highest rated one on Amazon.  There is a stunning difference in quality between it and the Home Depot $5 specials I've gotten before.  This one has roller bearings in the wheel, an ergonomic handle, and a well-designed wheel.  Instead of being a chore to put the spline in, it's a simple and straightforward operation.  I'm really glad I got that.

After that, I fixed one of our 8' wide gates to our fenced dog yard.  It had fallen off it's hinges after I hastily lowered a big load on the tractor (because I was tipping over!) and knocked it.  Fixing it was just a matter of adjusting the positions of the hinge pins and sockets.  All I needed was an adjustable wrench and a little patience.  Had it fixed in a half hour or so.

At that point I noticed that some of our bird feeders were depleted, so I filled them.  That gave me a chance to talk with Ben and Vincente, who were having a lunch on the lawn.  As we were talking, something most unlikely happened: a UPS truck pulled into our driveway.  We don't normally have Saturday delivery from UPS here, so I was a bit puzzled.  Turns out he was delivering my new laptop (which was supposed to have arrived yesterday)!  I'm making this post on that new machine, which I had up and running inside of 15 minutes after the UPS guy left.  :)