Friday, September 19, 2014

Amen, brother...

Amen, brother... 


Barn meets paving...

Barn meets paving...  During our home's remodeling, we've had quite a few projects that intersected.  For instance, we had to coordinate the granite installation with the vanity installation.  But this morning we had an intersection on an entirely different scale: where the paving project joins the barn project, at the big roll-up door.

Yesterday the barn builders and the paving foreman met and worked out exactly how they wanted to do it.  The paving guys, as always, were worried about how the water would run off of everything.  The builders just wanted to know what to do :)  The powwow resulted in a design for a concrete apron, sloped to the northeast, that would terminate at the correct level to meet up with the asphalt.

This morning the construction of that apron began – and just a few hours later, the concrete for it was being poured.  Meanwhile, the paving work continues apace...


The 10 Commandments...

The 10 Commandments...  Via my CCPOAA mom:
The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse is this -- you cannot post: 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.
It would be an even more hostile work environment if I was there with them.  I'd bestow some good old-fashioned pissed-off citizen hostility!

“It's about nine months past time to acknowledge that Mr. Koskinen is the problem, not the answer...”

“It's about nine months past time to acknowledge that Mr. Koskinen is the problem, not the answer...”  Kimberley Strassel, pungent as always, pointing out the now-obvious: that the new IRS commissioner (whom I have dubbed “Mr. Smugface”) appointed nine months ago to clean up the IRS scandal is in fact leading the coverup.

“His essential problem is that he has very poor judgment... ”

“His essential problem is that he has very poor judgment... ”  Peggy Noonan continues her atonement for once having supported Barack Obama...

Remodeling: fireplace...

Remodeling: fireplace...  Much of our new home's interior work is now finished; most of what remains is “just details” – things like heating registers, electrical switch and outlet covers, lighting, etc.  But one big, messy item remains: the fireplace in our living room.

We didn't take a photo of the original fireplace, darn it.  It was a mess.  The hearth and face were both made from square tiles of greenish-gray slate, a foot on each side.  These slate tiles were very thin (about 1/4"), flaking, and poorly installed.  The hearth in particular was falling apart around the edges.  The mantle was made from a pine log, sawn like a giant piece of quarter-round molding.  One flat face was toward the wall, and the other flat face up – so the round log's exterior was facing out and down.  That might have actually made a rather nice mantle if it weren't for the fact that someone installed this before the wood was dry.  It had twisted, lengthwise, so that part of it was over an inch from the wall, and some of the top was rather dramatically tilted.

So we decided to dismantle the old fireplace and replace it.  I did the demolition work.  The slate took me about 10 minutes to completely remove – all I did was slip a putty knife under the edge of each tile and pop it off.  Sometimes four or five tiles would come off at once.  When I popped off the hearth tiles, I discovered a gorgeous piece of granite underneath them – dark green with black and gray marbling – really quite beautiful after I scraped the glue off.  Unfortunately, this granite had been installed by someone who knew what they were doing; unlike the slate, it had been very thoroughly glued down.  It was only 2 cm (less than an inch) thick, and there was no way to get it up without breaking it.  Dang.  The mantle was even harder to get off: it was mounted on three pieces of pipe that were secured into the concrete blocks of the inner fireplace.  I had to saw the mantle into three pieces while it was still on the wall, then twist each of the pieces to loosen it from the pipe mounting.  Once the pipes were exposed, I could break their glue joints by twisting with a pipe wrench.

Now we've acquired a new mantle, made from a truly beautiful piece of reclaimed chestnut wood.  I'm mounting it on the living room wall over this weekend (I hope!).  Then a local mason is going to build us a new fireplace, using random-shaped slate for the hearth, and a thin veneer of river rock (a sample of which is in the photo at right) for the face.  This “thin veneer” is an interesting technique that I didn't know about until a few months ago.  The old way of building a fireplace would use entire rocks, mortared together, to form an exterior “wall” around the inner cinder block and fire-brick construction of the fireplace.  While these fireplaces are beautiful, they are also extremely heavy – so much so that we'd have to install steel columns in the basement underneath the fireplace to hold it up, and we might even have to dig through the basement floor and install footings.  Yikes!  The “thin veneer” approach uses pieces of rock instead of the whole rock – “slices” taken from attractive faces of the rock, from 3/4" to 2" thick.  These slices have perfectly flat backs and can be arranged two-dimensionally, like puzzle pieces.  From the mason's point of view, this is vastly easier than making a wall from whole stones.  It's also far, far lighter – so much so that no extra support is needed underneath it.  The fireplace will be completed with a door we're having made by a local metal worker.

I had a difficult time finding natural stone of the type we wanted (multi-colored river rock), but I finally located a vendor in Portland, Oregon.  The market for this sort of thing is totally dominated by “manufactured” stone.  These are really just molded pieces of concrete, sometimes with some texturing material added, and dyed various colors.  Some of the manufactured stones are quite attractive, but ... they all have two degrees of uniformity that the natural stone doesn't suffer from.  One is a uniformity of shape.  Depending on which manufacturer you use, the manufactured stones come in between 8 and 24 molded shapes – so the same exactly shaped stone will appear repeatedly in one use.  The other is a uniformity of color: the manufactured stones are dyed concrete, with multi-colored variants having between 4 and 8 colors, instead of the infinite variety of shades and mottlings that one finds in natural stone.  I'm happy to have found the natural stone we wanted, from a place that will saw the thin veneers for us!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Let the paving commence!

Let the paving commence!  Work started today on paving our driveway.  This is more complicated that it might appear at first blush.  On our existing gravel driveway, there's nothing to worry about with water runoff, as the gravel is porous and water can't flow over it at any significant rate.  With asphalt this is a completely different story – careful attention to putting a gentle slope into the surface is vital.  This afternoon the foreman worked out all the various slopes that will be needed.  To some degree, the flatness of our property makes this more challenging, as to create a slope where none previously existed requires moving significant amounts of dirt.

The first step is to dig out all the existing gravel and top soil where the driveway will go, down to 9" in depth below the eventual surface of the driveway.  This is where all the critical grading gets done, and there will be quite a few cubic yards of dirt moved to build up some areas and cut down others.  Once that's all perfect, then they will bring in “pit run” to a depth of 6", to provide a solid, stable base for the asphalt.  The last step will be to bring in 3" of asphalt to cover that – and then we'll have an asphalt driveway!

Barn: columns and beams!

Barn: columns and beams!  The builders are hard at work today, erecting the steel columns and glulam beams that will hold the weight of the second floor.  For each of the columns they drilled four holes into the concrete floor and set concrete anchors in.  Then they positioned the columns and finger-tightened the nuts on the anchors.  Now they're starting to install the glulam beam sections.  Each time they install one section, they align the column to be perfectly vertical.  For an end section of the beam, they also have to align it perfectly to the frame.  Then it's on to the next section.


Latest Rosetta photo of Comet 67P...

Latest Rosetta photo of Comet 67P...  Who would ever have thought that a comet would look like this?

CircuitMaker debuts...

CircuitMaker debuts...  I'll be trying this out over the winter, when I get some time to do something just for fun...

OS X is about to get JavaScripted...

OS X is about to get JavaScripted...  And it's about time, Apple!

Fairy circles...

Fairy circles...  These occur in the Namibian desert, and nobody knows what causes them...

I didn't know that Aretha Franklin was still alive!

I didn't know that Aretha Franklin was still alive!  Much less still singing.  I'm looking forward to hearing this album.  I first started listening to her music in 1966 or 1967 – usually on a terrible transistor radio, tuned to an AM station in Trenton or Philadelphia...

Cat-friend vs. dog-friend...

Cat-friend vs. dog-friend...  Put down your morning beverage and swallow before watching this video.  It's especially relevant to anyone who owns both dogs and cats.  Awesome!  Thank you, Simon M., for passing this along...

The Philbrooks of Matinicus Island...

The Philbrooks of Matinicus Island...  Now there's something I didn't expect to come across in my morning reading of the news: a reference to Clayton Philbrook, a lobsterman on Matinicus Island, Maine.  My family has a fondly remembered connection to that family, on that island.  Mrs. Philbrook, then the matriarch of the lobstering family, invited us to visit them in the '60s – and we had a grand adventure there that still resonates in my memory, even after all these years.  Matinicus Island has been greatly developed since then, and it's no longer the incredibly isolated piece of America that it used to be – but the lobstermen are still there, and some of them are still Philbrooks.

That got me to wondering what would happen if I googled "philbrook matinicus", and to my surprise I got thousands of results.  It would be fun to make contact with the family again, though I wonder if any of them would remember us...

“I expect to be killed by an angry crowd in Macy's within ten years...”

“I expect to be killed by an angry crowd in Macy's within ten years...”  That's Scott Adams.  Here's why he said that.  Note: if you're not familiar with Scott Adams, you should know that he's quite a wealthy man.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Remodel update: we has mirrors!

Remodel update: we has mirrors!  The mirrors for our bathroom are now mounted.  I can shave in our bathroom now :)

I went to some trouble to get these mirrors, as I wanted to avoid the “green tinge” problem of conventional float glass.  The best thing I could find is a product called Starphire, a glass with particularly good clarity.  Then I needed to find a vendor that could cut the glass to size, bevel the edges, and plate the back to make a mirror.  That turned out to be the hard part, but I finally found the vendor: Bear Glass of Brooklyn, New York.  They did a bang-up job for me, working with this know-nothing to come up with the right design, perfectly executing it, and then shipping it in a most impressive crate to Utah.  The young lady who took my address didn't even know that Utah was part of the U.S.; I'm pretty sure they had never shipped there before :)  Then Mel Olsen, of Baker Cabinets in Mendon (the same fellow who built our vanity) made us a fine pair f matching mirror frames. 

The mess in there is the stuff I'm using to mount all the various things in the bathroom.  As you can see in the photo, quite a bit of it is done!

Barn: let the second floor commence!

Barn: let the second floor commence!  A truck full of lumber showed up this afternoon, carrying all the components for building the second floor.  Earlier today the builder delivered the steel posts that will carry the load for the second floor.  Assembly starts this afternoon.

The video at right shows how they unload the lumber.  This is not what I expected :)  Amazingly all the lumber seemed to get down in one piece, though one joist did get dinged.

In the center photo below you can see all the kinds of wood products on the load.  At right bottom on that photo are the ends of the long “glulam” beams that the second floor joists will all be hung from.  These are essentially a number of 2 x 6s all glued together to form one enormous beam.  The glulam beams will be held up by the steel posts.  In that same photo, you can also see the ends of the joists (upper left) and the plywood tongue-and-groove flooring (below the joists).  Quite a pile of stuff!

Tomatoes...

Tomatoes...  One thing I always missed in California was tomatoes.  That is, tomatoes that actually tasted like tomatoes – more particularly, like the tomatoes grown in New Jersey when I was a kid.  You could not buy good tomatoes like that in California –  not for any amount of money, from any store.  They just didn't exist.  Once every few years my mom and dad would send me a box of New Jersey tomatoes, and for a few days we'd feast on them.  That was the only time I got decent tomatoes for the last 40 years or so.

Until today.

My friend and neighbor Tim D. bought a big box of local tomatoes today that he's going to use to make salsa (the cooked kind).  He gave me five nice-looking tomatoes out of that box, and I ate two of them for my lunch.  I just washed them off, cut them up, and ate them with a little mayonnaise.  They were every bit as good as the best tomatoes I remember when growing up – dead ripe, with the texture of the flesh perfect, and they were juicy and full of luscious ripe tomato flavor.  Oh, man, what a delightful discovery!  I live in a place that can grow real tomatoes!!  Wahoo!!!

Solving problems, the political way...

Solving problems, the political way...  A two year old email surfaces that details some improprieties by the Los Angeles County School Board.  These are elected officials – politicians – so you'd expect them to find a political answer.  They did.  They voted to change the email retention policy to one year.  Problem solved!  Seriously...

Comparing floating point numbers...

Comparing floating point numbers...  A great discussion that gets right down to the key concept: ULPs...

Don't fear the leaker...

Don't fear the leaker...  A new paper by Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit.  It's short, and it's excellent.  What he proposes would go a long way toward fixing some longstanding problems in our federal government's inexorably growing bureaucracies.  Naturally, it therefore has nearly zero chance of being implemented.  But I can dream, can't I?  They haven't outlawed that yet!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Remodeling update...

Remodeling update...  Yesterday the cabinet makers delivered the cattery cabinet.  This is a utilitarian piece, with a stainless steel top, formica sides, and (we hope!) cat-proof drawer and door closures.  The objective here was a good place to keep all the cat paraphernalia (food, drugs, toys, brushes, combs, etc.) in a single, easy-to-clean place.  Next steps here are to install the sink and faucet.  The rough plumbing is in, but the final hookup remains to be done.

Last week we took delivery of our new bed and dining room table, and I neglected to post a photo of either.  At left is the bed, which my neighbor Tim D. helped me move into place.  That was hard!

Barn: the skinning begins!

Barn: the skinning begins!  Yesterday the builders started covering the outside of the barn's walls with wafer board.  The siding (which will be Hardiboard) will be hung from this.  Next up: the steel columns and gluelam beams that will hold up the second floor...

The stench of a liberal...

The stench of a liberal...  Really?  I'm skeptical, but this study claims to show that humans can detect the odor associated with one's political beliefs.  I'm skeptical on several levels.  The idea that political beliefs cause us to excrete different chemicals seems rather far-fetched on the face of it – I'd want to see the chemical compounds identified before I accepted that.  Further, personal experience suggests (rather strongly) that most people's political beliefs are ill-formed in the first place – that is, most people don't actually think very much (or very hard) about politics at all.  If there was some association between stench and politics, you'd expect most people wouldn't smell at all...

KaTex ...

KaTex ... LaTex for the web.  I haven't actually tried this, but the examples on their home page look great...

Floating point...

Floating point...  I've written several times about my surprise upon discovering how little most of my fellow programmers know about floating point numbers.  Here's one fellow's attempt to address this widespread ignorance...

Picture of the day...

Picture of the day...  This gorgeous black-and-white study of a bedewed rose, by Marta Varela...

Wrong on so many levels...

Wrong on so many levels...  If you were this kid, what sort of message would you take away from all this?  This sad story is a terrible conjunction of nanny statism, failed drug policies, and utterly inappropriate punishment – and it's hard to imagine any way this is actually helping this child.

It's interesting to reflect upon how these things have changed during this country's history.  If you harken back to the time of the American Revolution, you'd find that being expelled from school was nearly unheard of (and certainly was never the result of so trivial an offense), there was no prohibition on (or stigma associated with) the use of marijuana, and by societal convention diaries were treated as  private documents.  I can't imagine our Founding Fathers being happy about what has become of their creation...

Blue Angels, from the cockpit...

Blue Angels, from the cockpit...  You'll most definitely want to full-screen this one!

Ice goes up, ice goes down...

Ice goes up, ice goes down...  Either way, it's proof of climate change!  If you're a warmy whacko, that is...

“It’s disturbing...”

“It’s disturbing...”  Indeed it is

I first started reading about this a couple years ago.  It seems to be some sort of a natural law: government bureaucracies are targeted for subversion by special interest groups – and they succeed more than they fail.  Just in our federal government, one can see this in the Department of Education, Homeland Security, Department of Energy, Labor Department, Department of Agriculture, and many more.  So I guess we shouldn't be too surprised to see it happening to the Environmental Protection Agency, too.

This problem won't get fixed with a ballot box revolution that replaces the Democrats with Republicans, as both parties are complicit in this.  Fixing this would require a more profound change, and I don't expect that to happen in my lifetime...

The odd couple...

The odd couple... Via my CCPOAA mom...

They know no shame...

They know no shame...  This time, Hillary Clinton.  Our permanent political class operates by their own rules, different than the ones they impose on us.  Time for a revolution, folks...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Curiosity at the foot of Mt. Sharp...

Curiosity at the foot of Mt. Sharp...  And heading up the slope, climbing a mountain on Mars!

Meanwhile, back on the ISS they're conducting observations on slime mold growth in microgravity.  How thrilling!  Not...

Breaking science news: men and women are different!

Breaking science news: men and women are different!  Probably the scientists involved in this study will be denounced by the feminazis, and websites carrying the news will be boycotted.  For now, though, you can read all about it: science shows that men and women actually have intrinsically different abilities.  Imagine that!  Men really are better at parallel parking, and women really are better at anything requiring fine motor skills (like sewing, knitting, or circuit board assembly).

You mean their really might be a biological reason why men are better at some things, and women better at others?  Really?  Whatever will these scientists discover next?!?

Comet 67P from just 30 km (18 miles)...

Comet 67P from just 30 km (18 miles)...  Via APOD, of course.  Yesterday the ESA chose primary and secondary landing sites for the Philae lander.  They're carefully setting expectations, as there is a good chance the landing attempt will fail.  The selection team emphasized safety over scientific interest (though every potential site is quite interesting!), and the primary site ended up being on the relatively smooth end of the comet's smaller lobe.  The landing attempt is scheduled for November 11th, by which time the Rosetta “mother ship” will be orbiting at an altitude of just 10 km (6 miles)...

As if we would expect honesty and transparency from this administration!

As if we would expect honesty and transparency from this administration!  More revelations about the seamy, casually corrupt Obama administration...

Estonia leads the way!

Estonia leads the way!  In tax competitiveness.  The U.S.?  We're at number 32, behind Slovakia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Slovenia.

Number 32.

This is why corporations are decamping to other countries.  It's not their lack of patriotism, nor their stupidity – it's that the U.S. is far from being the most attractive place for them to be located.  It's that simple.  To pick on an example from recent news, Burger King is relocating its headquarters to Canada mainly because it's going to save them a boatload of taxes.  That's not much different that what we just did: we moved from California to Utah, and a big part of that motivation was to escape the (absolutely absurdly high) tax rates in California...