Thursday, August 27, 2015

Morning in Paradise...

Morning in Paradise...  Miki, Race, and I took our usual morning walk, getting back before sunrise again.  The air was back to its normal clarity, which sure was nice to see.  I posed the dogs a few times near the recently-harvested barley field; they weren't all that thrilled to have to stop hunting voles :)  We saw dozens of hawks this morning, including a half-dozen or so that were standing guard on recent kills.  We also saw a hawk take vengeance on a crow that was harassing him, right over our heads.  The crow made a tactical error in diving right after a close fly-by of the hawk – and the hawk instantly took advantage, diving on the crow and breaking his left wing.  The crow started squawking, and fell in a spiral to the ground about 25' off to my left.  The hawk was on him within seconds, and immediately started chowing down on the still-squawking crow.  The crow was dead within a minute or so, but the hawk still looked very satisfied a few minutes later when we walked toward home.

If you're gonna mess with a hawk, just be prepared for the consequences of an error...



Yesterday we received a shipment that Debbie has been especially anticipating: a bronze sculpture of a mountain lion.  It's now displayed in our cat room (aka “living room”), where it's one of a dozen or so pieces of feline-themed art.  It's positioned so that you see it as you walk through our front door, which is kind of cool...

Big acquisition in Cache County...

Big acquisition in Cache County...  The LeGrand Johnson company is a big employer in Cache County, and a major construction firm.  They work on everything from homes to roads.  They did the excavation work for our shed, and paved our driveway.  Our friend and neighbor, Tim D., worked there for many years before he retired as their paving supervisor.  It was a family-owned business, well-known and respected by locals.

Now comes the news that LeGrand Johnson has been acquired by Summit Materials, a much larger conglomerate that went public earlier this year.  The Summit management says that not much will change, but ... that's what the acquiring company's management always says in such a situation :)  Locals are watching with concern, as the LeGrand Johnson company is such a large and important part of the business community here...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Race misses his new friend...

Race misses his new friend...  A. J. is the six year old son of Michelle H., the (wonderful!) lady who comes to clean our house every two weeks, and takes care of our animals when we're away.  Recently A. J. has been coming with her to visit our animals, especially Race.  The two of them play until Race is panting.  Race misses his new buddy, as you can see at right :)

A cairn on Mars...

A cairn on Mars...  Spotted by Curiosity, of course...

Prosoeca ganglbaueri...

Prosoeca ganglbaueri...  My, what a long “tongue” you have!

Ceres, closer yet...

Ceres, closer yet...  The Dawn robotic explorer is circling closer to Ceres now, and sending back more amazing images and data.  The bright areas in the photo at right are the sides of a flat-topped mountain, some 4 miles tall.  How it formed with the visible characteristics is unknown.  Just below it is a large crater, a more expected feature...

The people who take advantage like this...

The people who take advantage like this ... don't deserve having air to breath.  I would support extreme punishments for such people, such as making them involuntary medical experiment subjects (without pain medication), using them for military target practice, or forcing them to listen to rap music.  Or we could use them to extinguish wildfires.  Or feed them to predators in the zoo.  Pain and suffering should be involved, don't you think?

Yet another Big Government fail...

Yet another Big Government fail...  Why on earth would anyone want Big Government involved in their health care, when you know things like this are going to happen?

Optical coherence tomography...

Optical coherence tomography...  Yesterday Debbie went in to our local optometrist for a routine eye exam.  One of the instruments the doctor used on her was an optical coherence tomography (OCT) “camera”.  This device looked through her eye to image her retina in three dimensions, viewable in “slices” very much like the one at right.

The OCT device uses computational tomography, a fancy way of saying that it makes heavy use of computing power to present the 3D images in a usable way.  I was amazed that the sophisticated laser and other optics, along with a powerful computer and fancy software, could all be purchased for under $50,000.  Even though I'm a technology guy myself, I still can't quite wrap my brain around the incredibly rapid advances.  I wouldn't have guessed you could buy this capability for under a half million dollars.  At the rate this seems to be going, you'll probably be able to do it on your iPhone 8, with a $10 laser/lens attachment, using voice control :)

Tea trees and toenails...

Tea trees and toenails... For 40 years – since I spent six months in the Philippines while in the U.S. Navy – I've been battling a persistent toenail fungus.  Twice over the past 20 years I've taken a course of Lamisil (generic: terbafine), which did a magnificent job of wiping out the fungus.  Unfortunately, within six months of finishing each course the fungus returned.  Lamisil accumulates in the liver, so it's not something you can just keep taking.  Medicine offers no better solution.

So for the past 10 years or so, every time I go in for a physical I ask the doctor if there are any post-Lamisil treatments for toenail fungus.  A little over a month ago, I asked my new GP that question, and got an answer I didn't expect.  She told me that a recent Mayo Clinic study had shown that Australian tea tree oil, applied directly to the toenails twice a day, was just as effective as Lamisil – without any of Lamisil's problems.  It was safe to use continuously.

I couldn't find a reference to the Mayo Clinic study that my doctor referred to in an online search, but I did find a little information.  It wasn't particularly optimistic.  Though I couldn't help being skeptical of it, I bought myself a little bottle of that tea tree oil the same day, and I've been applying it religiously ever since. 

I'm happy (and a little surprised) to report that it seems to be working.  It is certainly true that my toenails are in far better condition now than at any time other than during my two courses of Lamisil.  What appears to be the case is that my toenails are growing in totally free of any fungal infection, and the affected parts are no longer infected (though they are, of course, still damaged by previous infection).  It looks like within a few weeks my toenails will be completely clear.  The only side-effect I've noticed is that our Savannah cat steers well clear of my feet – he doesn't like the smell of the tea tree oil :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vole Paradise Lost...

Vole Paradise Lost...  Miki, Race, and I were back to our usual walk this morning, as the smoke from California (that place haunts us even here!) is greatly diminished.  I couldn't smell that wet campfire smell at all this morning, and the Wellsville Mountains looked almost normal in the pre-dawn light, as you can see in the background of the photo at right.  There's still a bit of haze, but not enough to keep us indoors.

The major change we saw on today's walk is that the fields of barley have all been harvested, and their stalks cut and baled for straw.  Aside from the obvious visual aspect (all those beautiful stalks of barley gone!), several hundred acres of prime vole habitat have just disappeared.  Voles are not our favorite pest, so we're quite ok with that :)  The dogs were reveling in the newly exposed voles – as the fat voles waddled from place to place wondering what the hell happened to them, the dogs practically pulled me across the fields trying to get to them.  Race actually did get one, by darting from the road into the edge of the field, snapping up a vole, crushing it and swallowing it before I could even say “No!”.  That dog is fast!  He looked quite satisfied with himself when he was finished swallowing.

On the way back down I spotted some motion off to our right, in a clump of sunflowers.  Neither dog saw a thing.  It was a big striped skunk, and he was not inclined to tolerate our presence.  As he stamped his little skunk feet and pouted, I skedaddled on down the road before he decided to make me a target!

Birds of various kinds have taken ownership of these barley fields.  Sparrows and goldfinches were scavenging uncollected barley grains.  Crows and magpies were doing the same, but they also appeared to be interested in the voles scampering around for cover.  Each big field had several hawks perched around them, and we saw two hawks guarding kills – one vole and one weasel.  We also saw a lone, confused seagull walking around as if to ask the other birds “What are you all so excited about?  I don’t see anything here...”

It sure felt good to be out walking again...

My friend and neighbor Tim D. called us last night, just as we were tucking ourselves into bed.  He's doing volunteer work at the Logan Temple early this morning (he has to be there at 4 am), and that meant he wouldn't be able to move his hand lines (irrigation) this morning.  You could tell he was embarrassed to ask, but he wanted to know if I'd be willing to shut off the water for him, so nothing got over-watered.  I told him I'd move the hand lines for him, and naturally he tried to talk me out of it.  This, from the guy who spent a good part of last fall helping me dig trenches!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Buddhist monks and poblano...

Buddhist monks and poblano ... but not at the same time, unfortunately.  Debbie and I drove down to Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon, as planned, to meet with my brother Scott's friend, Chook the Buddhist monk.  We drove down and found the temple where we were to meet him without any problem.  But ... Chook wasn't answering his phone, and we had no idea what he looked like!  So I went into the temple, found someone who could speak English, and then we together searched for Chook the monk from Virginia Beach.  Everyone there was amused by my search, but the temple's “abbot” actually managed to find him – in an ongoing ceremony that was running late.  Fifteen minutes or so later, the ceremony finished and Chook came out to meet us.

When I'd called him earlier in the day, we planned to take him out for a meal at the Red Iguana, our favorite Utah Mexican food restaurant that has a great vegetarian menu.  But Chook informed us that there were some celebrations planned for the evening that he had not known about – a surprise party, sort of, where he was the man of the hour.  He couldn't say “no” to that, so unfortunately we only had 20 or 30 minutes to talk with him.  Meeting him and his fellow monks (and their abbot) was interesting.  They were all very friendly, and even jolly – lots of good humor was on display, jokes were cracked, funny stories told.  The two monks there from Virginia Beach both know my brother Scott.  The first thing they said upon meeting me was “But you don’t look anything at all like Scott!”  I explained to them that my siblings and I all had grave doubts about the alleged shared genetic relationship, and they got a good laugh from that.  I had a chance to thank Chook for being a good friend to my brother, which I'd wanted to do.

But then we had to go on to our meal without Chook, something he should regret for the rest of his life.  The food at the Red Iguana is really something extraordinary.  Debbie and I heard about their special yesterday – a steak and shrimp in poblano sauce – and just put down our menus and said “That!”  After we got it, we were very glad we did, for it was food for the gods.  Debbie followed that up with arroz con leche (a milky, cinnamony rice pudding), and I had a chocolate flan (a firm, slightly sweet custard with caramel sauce, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream).  Both were excellent, but I think I like the traditional flan better.  We went home with very happy tummies.

The drive home wasn't so pleasant, though.  As we approached Ogden, the traffic on Interstate 15 came to a complete stop.  We were directed off the highway to a detour through downtown Ogden.  Our assumption was that there was an accident, though we didn't see anything.  Today that was confirmed: there was an accident that killed a man and his daughter, and gravely injured his wife and another child.  Very sad...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Holey rock...

Holey rock ... on Mars...

Cat purring simulator...

Cat purring simulator ... on a web site.  That's it, the Internet is done!

Geek: great debugging stories...

Geek: great debugging stories...  A nice collection of links to great debugging stories, hosted on GitHub.  A couple of my favorites are in here, like the 500 mile email and the JVM having multi-second GC pauses (which we actually had, years earlier, on an electronic stock trading platform).  I haven't read all of these yet, but those I've sampled are all interesting (but geekly!) reads...

Should be an interesting afternoon...

Should be an interesting afternoon...  We're headed down to Salt Lake City to meet up with a good friend of my brother Scott.  He's a Buddhist monk, and he's in Salt Lake City for a conference of Buddhist monks.  Their temple just happens to be a few blocks from the Red Iguana, our favorite Mexican food place in Utah – so we're going to have some great food, and I'm sure an interesting conversation, with this monkly fellow...