Sunday, August 19, 2018

I'm experimenting...

I'm experimenting ... with moving the mix of my posts more towards Twitter and less on the blog.  If you'd like to follow me on Twitter, here's my account. 

Why am I doing this?  Several reasons:
  • It is far easier to post photos and videos on Twitter than on Blogger, and it's clear from my blog's statistics (and about the same on Twitter) that those are what draw the most interest.
  • The vast majority of my blog posts are shorter than the new, expanded character limits on Twitter.
  • Searches on Twitter are faster and more reliable than searches on Blogger.
  • Twitter works well on phones and tablets; Blogger not as well.
  • It's much easier for people to comment on Twitter than on the blog, and I don't have to moderate the comments.  On the blog, if I don't moderate comments I get many spam comments per day – very annoying.
Some bloggers have moved entirely to Twitter, not only for the reasons I gave above, but also because they can also do longer postings with “tweetstorms” (threads of related tweets), and I'll be experimenting with that as well.   It's possible that I'll move entirely off this blog and onto Twitter.  It's also possible that I'll discover Twitter isn't the vehicle I want, and I'll abandon it. :)  For now, at least, this is just an experiment.

The blog will continue to have my tweets on the right sidebar, so you can still visit the blog and get both.  Future posts to the blog will always have a tweet that links to them, so you can also just follow me on Twitter and be sure you don't miss anything here...

Friday, August 17, 2018

At last, the digiscoping adapter...

At last, the digiscoping adapter...  If you're crazy enough to be a long-term reader of this blog, you may remember that I bought a very nice spotting scope some time ago.  My intent was to use a digiscoping adapter with it to let me take (fairly extreme) telephoto shots of wildlife using my iPhone X.  Such a great plan!  Unfortunately, Swarovski (the maker of the spotting scope) failed to cooperate by making a digiscoping adapter for the iPhone X.  Had I selected any other model of iPhone, they had me covered.  I've been waiting ever since for them to catch up with my iPhone.

A few days ago, I did my tenth or eleventh search for the adapter – and still Swarovski isn't making one.  But then it occurred to me that there might be a third party maker – and I found one right away!  Interesting twist: they're located just south of Salt Lake City, practically in my backyard.

So I ordered an adapter for my scope and iPhone X, and also a Bluetooth shutter release for my iPhone (so I wouldn't have to tap the screen and vibrate the scope to take a photo).  The adapter works great!  I went out this afternoon and did a little test shooting on our feeders.  Some of the results below.  On all of these photos, I was between 15' and 20' away from the feeders.  The second photo, of the yellow jacket, was at a range of 17' – not bad detail for that distance!  I like the fifth photo where you can see the goldfinch's tongue, and the last one where you can see how far down the hummer's beak extends...

The drone saga continues...

The drone saga continues...  This morning I successfully attached the new propeller motor to my drone.  However, as I started reassembling the dozen or so parts I had to remove to get to the motor, I managed to put one back incorrectly.  The result was to smash and slice the teensy coaxial cable for the antenna that's mounted inside the landing leg (one segment at right).  Upon discovering that fact, I'm afraid my language for the next 30 minutes or so was most inappropriate for the Mormon community that I live in.  I'm fairly certain that many of the words and phrases I used are completely unknown to these folks.  Fortunately, I was alone at the time.

My first thought was that I'd buy the replacement part from DJI (the drone's manufacturer) and just replace the whole thing.  Turns out there are two problems with that idea.  First problem: I'd have to disassemble most of the drone to do it.  I figured this out by taking the top off the drone to expose the wiring (at left).  That antenna cable starts as one of the four gold connectors at the right-center of the photo.  Then it's threaded through a braided protective sleeve, which is in turn threaded through the carbon-fiber frame.  I'd have to disassemble the entire left side of the drone to thread the new one in – and then I'd have to successfully reassemble the whole mess without breaking anything.  I'll avoid that risk, if possible!  Second problem: DJI won't sell me that part.

So where does that leave me?  Well, I discovered that the coaxial cable is a standard type called RG-178.  So I ordered a 15' length of that, and then I'm going to attempt to splice a couple of inches into the antenna cable to replace the part that I smashed and sliced.  This is going to be a bit of a challenge, as that cable is just 0.072" thick (less than a tenth inch!).  It will be microscope and fixture time, 'cause my hands aren't going to be able to do it. 

And if I fail with that repair?  Fortunately for dummies like me, DJI has a mail-in repair service.  I can throw the drone in it's shipping container and send it back to them to be fixed.  If I have to do that, I'm guessing I will be the source of the day's entertainment for the techs...

The rewards of direct charity...

The rewards of direct charity...  I've mentioned before that we've switched our charitable giving to direct charity – no organization like United Way in between us and the people or animals we're helping.  Not long ago, we funded some surgery on Yoda (a cat) that her owner couldn't afford.  Yoda's owner has no idea who we are (our desire), but she knew that the vets who did the surgery did know.  It turns out the owner is a talented artist.  As a thank-you to us, she painted this delightful little watercolor of Yoda, and a note giving a bit of Yoda's background. 

This isn't the first feedback we've gotten, and each time we get some it reinforces our commitment to this style of direct charity.  We know our charitable giving is going exactly where we want it to, because we know exactly what it's being spent on.   That's a vast improvement over what we used to do all by itself.  But even better, once in a while something like this happens and just makes our ability to help all the sweeter...

Debbie had a hankering...

Debbie had a hankering ... for Mexican food today, so we had lunch at La Unica, our favorite Mexican food restaurant in Cache Valley.  Debbie had the rolled tacos (one of their specials), and I had a carnitas burrito smothered in enchilada sauce.  Both outstanding, as always.  And now we're in a Mexican food coma...

Cache Valley geology...

Cache Valley geology...  Here's a (very) basic introduction.  The Lake Bonneville part is the most relevant to anyone trying to understand the landforms visible from the valley floor...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

So this morning we set out for Hardware Ranch...

So this morning we set out for Hardware Ranch ... with every intent of getting some drone footage of the beautiful canyon on the way there.  But when I got the drone out and started to set it up, I noticed that the propeller mount wasn't quite right – it wobbled alarmingly.  So we gave up on the drone (again!) and just did some wildlife viewing.  Didn't see much, though.

Once back home, I got the drone on the workbench and started poking at it.  I quickly discovered the wobble problem: the screws I'd just installed the day before were already working their way loose.  Loctite is required.  Worse, though, I noticed some more of the grinding that I thought I'd gotten rid of.  The more I tried rotating the motor back and forth, the worse this grinding seemed to get.  I must have a piece of iron shaving (from drilling out the screw heads) stuck in there, attracted by the powerful permanent magnets in the motor's bell.

That led me to a bunch of googling.  I found one guy – just one! – who took the motor apart for precisely the same reason.  He needed some snap ring pliers and a homebrew shaft press to do it, but he managed to get his motor apart, got the shavings out, and then put it all back together.  The surgery required, though, is pretty daunting, and I wouldn't be surprised if I broke something in the process.  I'm expecting a spare motor in today's mail, so I'm going to replace that motor altogether, then try disassembling and fixing it. :) I'll have to pick up a couple tools to do it, but if I can really fix the motor it's probably worth it as the thing costs $80. 

Meanwhile, I've removed the motor with the shavings in it.  That is quite an involved process all by itself!  Tomorrow, assuming I really do get the spare motor today, I'll install the spare and then I hope I'll be back in the air with the drone...

37 years...

37 years...  That's how long ago Debbie and I were married, in a pretty venue in Bonita, California.  We had just Debbie's mom and a few friends there, seven or eight people in all.  Went to the world's worst lakeside resort (at Lake Cuyamaca, east of San Diego) for our two-day honeymoon.  Burgers for dinner.  We loved it anyway.  Hard to believe that she stuck around all those years, through good times and bad.  But I'm very glad she did...

Even if she can't remember when our anniversary is.  :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

DEXA scan...

DEXA scan...  I went in for a routine medical visit on Monday.  In going through my medications, my doctor mentioned that she had recently read something surprising about people with Vitamin B12 issues (I have pernicious anemia): they have a higher risk for osteoporosis.  She referred me to our local hospital to get that DEXA scan, which will measure the level of mineralization in my bones.  This really surprised me, as on those few occasions in the past when I've had skeletal X-rays, the radiologist typically made some comment about my “elephant bones”, referring to how thick and heavy they were.  The last thing I ever expected was to be thought of as “at risk” for osteoporosis.

I won't have the result until next week sometime.

The tech who did the DEXA scan, a nice young lady named Lisa, first took my weight and height.  This was another shocking development.  Not my weight, as I keep pretty close tabs on that.  But my height!  I've been 5' 10.5" tall since somewhere in the '60s.  I've been measured a lot of times by a lot of people, most especially in the Navy (in the '60s).  I was always 5' 10.5".  This morning was the first time I've had my height measured in something like 20 years, though – and they measured it at 5' 8".  Holy shrinking bones!  I've lost 2.5" of height!  When the hell did that happen?

The most surprising part of that, to me, is that I had utterly no idea it was happening.

This article suggests that I'm losing height at a faster than average rate.  That doesn't sound good.  Now I'm a bit anxious to get the results of that DEXA scan!

So this happened yesterday...

So this happened yesterday...  We visited the Post Office to pick up our mail, and I climbed back into our car and handed the mail to Debbie.
Me: Look, Jim and Michelle sent us a card!
Debbie: Oh, what's it for?
Me: ...
Debbie: Oh, your birthday!
Me: Uh ... no.  My birthday is in September.
Debbie: Oh, our wedding anniversary!
Me: Yup.  Do you know what date it is?
Debbie: The 10th?
Debbie: The 21st?
Debbie: The 11th?
Debbie: The 12th?
Debbie: The 15th?
Debbie: The 17th?
Me: ...
My wife has no idea when our wedding anniversary is. :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Well, that didn't work out quite as planned!

Well, that didn't work out quite as planned!  As I was carrying our drone to the car last night, I snagged one of the propeller mounts on a stair rail – and just like that, I was out of (drone) action.  I had spare parts (came with the package I bought), so I thought it would be a quick repair.  However, in no time at all I'd managed to strip out the T8 Torx-head bolts that held the mount on.  Dang it!

I put that aside and we went for our wildlife drive anyway.  We saw a bald eagle (likely the same one we've been seeing, as it was in the same place near the Hyrum Power dam), lots and lots of fawns (just now starting to lose their spots), a great viewing of a pair of Sandhill Cranes, and the best viewing of a flock of cedar waxwings that we've ever had.  Great!

Once I'd stripped the screws on the propeller mount, things got much trickier.  First I had to cut away the already broken propeller mount, which is made of carbon-fiber reinforced resin.  That took but a moment.  Then I drilled out the two screw heads – tedious, but not difficult.  However, in the process some steel chips worked their way into the motor, attracted by the powerful permanent magnets in them.  After that happened, the motor no longer turned freely.  Gulp.

I kept going, though, figuring I'd deal with the steel chips later.  At this point I had roughly 3/16" of bolt shaft exposed.  I got a pair of Vise-grips on that, and turned – and nothing.  No movement at all!  WTF?  Some research on the web reveals that DJI (the drone manufacturer) routinely uses red Loctite on these bolts (possibly others, too).  That stuff is like epoxy glue – no way are you going to turn that bolt, unless you heat it.  Now that I had the plastic out of the way, heating was a possibility.  I broke out my big soldering iron and heated one of the shafts up until the motor started getting uncomfortably warm.  Applied Vise-grips again, and ... motion!  I had to repeat the heat/Vise-grips cycle a few times, and this was tedious as heck, as I could only turn the bolt about 60° at a time because of other parts in the way.  Eventually, though, success!  Both the mounting bolts were out of the way.

Then I tried turning the motor by hand again.  There was scraping and grinding as I did so, from those darned steel chips that made it into the motor.  I put the new propeller mount in place, then I decided to try lighting off the drone to see if I could work the chips out by just running it for a while.  A few minutes later, I had the motor spinning – and making a gosh-awful racket.  But after about 30 seconds of this, it suddenly stopped racketing.  After that, the motor spun freely and all appears to be well.  Phew!

I have some foam rubber “booties” designed to protect those parts, and they will be installed from now on.  I don't want to go through that again!