Sunday, May 20, 2018

Galton boards, lilacs, and cabinets...

Galton boards, lilacs, and cabinets...  I recently bought a Galton board (from Amazon).  You can read all about it, and see video of it in action, at the preceding link.  This is definitely a most geeky gadget: a mechanical device that demonstrates (beautifully!) a normal distribution.  As one whose nickname (“six sigmas”) is related to the normal distribution and standard deviation, this was irresistible to me. :)  I've yet to work through the math to understand why it works, but watching it work is positively mesmerizing...

Just north of our house, in a field on the east side of State Highway 165, there is a gorgeous group of lilacs.  We stopped yesterday to take these photos of it (below).  The scent was very intense just downwind, where I stood when taking all of these photos.  After standing there for a minute or so, then re-entering our car, the car smelled downright bad!  :)

I made more progress on the cabinets as well.  I've now unbolted the units so I can work on them separately, and I'm fabricating the bottoms.  These are made of 3/4" birch plywood (really pretty stuff) with a 3.5" high “pedestal” constructed of redwood 2x4s underneath it.  This pedestal provides a “toe kick” at the bottom of the cabinet, to make it more comfortable to work right at the cabinet edge.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Grill cabinet progress...

Grill cabinet progress...  At right is the current state of the cabinet: all frames completed, all 1.25" thick plywood tops installed, and the three units bolted together.  The fit of the three units together was practically perfect – I needed a little sanding on some overhanging plywood, but that was it.  The three units are held together with 8 bolts (3/8" x 2").  My plan is to finish all the woodworking part of them in the shop (including finishing them with marine spar varnish), then move them into place on our deck.  At that point I'll assemble them and call the granite folks to come install the countertop.  I think each unit is going to be around 120 pounds, maybe 150 for the longer center unit.  That's quite enough to have to move around – no way I'm moving them with the granite installed!

Yesterday morning I took the two units with cutouts over to our deck to test fit the grill components.  To my vast relief, they fit perfectly.

The first two photos below show how I cut the plywood tops (from ACX plywood).  You have to look close to see that I have two sheets of plywood clamped together there: one 3/4" piece and one 1/2" piece.  The two together get me the 1 1/4" thick plywood the granite countertop requires.  The saw is a battery-powered Makita circular saw.  It's not merely convenient – it makes a very nice cut with just a 1/16" kerf.

The third photo shows how I attached the bottom sheet to the frame (the same way for each frame).  I put screws every 3" where the frame touches the plywood.  Before I screwed it in, I put down a coat of wood glue on the frame top.  That piece of wood isn't going anywhere! :)

The fourth and fifth photos show the glue-up for the top piece on the two units with cutouts.  That used a lot of clamps!  For the third unit, with just a big flat countertop, I had to do some tricky clamping to make sure the center of the two pieces of plywood was under pressure.  Then of course I forgot to take a photo of it.

The last three photos show views of the three units aligned and clamped together, before I drilled the holes for the bolts that now hold the units together.  That was the first time I had tested the fit of the three units to each other – I was really happy to see that they fit so well!

My dad...

My dad ... would have been 94 years old today.  It's been over four years since he died, but I still miss him every day.  Happy birthday, dad...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Grill cabinet update...

Grill cabinet update...  Bottom line: progress!  As I write this, all three frames are complete and test-fitted to the grill components.  Everything fit, proving once again that measuring actually works! :)  I got delayed a bit yesterday by the need to mow down about 2.5 acres of weeds.  That was made worse by the fact that my mower died about 3/4 through the job – had to borrow my neighbor's mower to finish the job.  This morning I ran that broken mower up to the service facility and  bought the remaining lumber I need for the cabinets – along with about a zillion screws and two gallons of marine varnish.  This afternoon I'll be putting plywood tops on the cabinet units: first a 3/4" thick top, then a 1/2" thick piece over that.  The 3 cm thick granite we bought for the top requires this much plywood as underlayment.

The photos below show work from yesterday and the day before.  The first photo is at the request of a reader who wanted to see the pocket screw hole jig in action.  Once I clamp the board into the jig, I just drill down until the stop on the drill bit hits the jig, and voila! – the pocket screw hole is done.  In the second and third photos you can see what those holes look like.  The fourth photo shows my original clamping technique for installing the 45° braces – and the next photo shows my slightly more refined (and much better!) current technique.  Finally there's the last two frames after I finished them.

Now I'm headed down to cut plywood for the tops...

A mangy moose!

A mangy moose!  And a lot of other wildlife – that's what Debbie and I saw on our outing to Blacksmith Fork Canyon last night.  I took a couple less-than-superb photos with my iPhone:

We did not expect to see a moose on the canyon bottom in the springtime.  Our own experience, plus the wisdom of many locals, tell us that the moose decamp to higher altitudes when the winter is over.  Not this one!  She had big patches of fur missing, with her black skin showing through.  From reading, this is most likely the result of a “winter tick” infestation, although it actually could be mange.  Other than the skin condition, she looked healthy enough, and certainly well-fed.

In addition to the moose, we also saw about six bazillion deer – including one herd of eight who tried to commit suicide by running in front of our car.  We stopped in time, and in the process learned just how fast a Tesla Model X can stop: really fast!  We saw lots of birds: several separate viewings of American dippers, a northern harrier, a single female turkey (weird, that, as they're basically always in a flock), a male Bullock's oriole in full mating plumage, swarms of swallows (three different species), a male Lazuli bunting, and several banded kingfishers.  The most interesting sighting was a bird we think is one of several sandpiper species.  We didn't have our Sibley's with us, and by the time we got home our memories were fuzzy.

There were many of the shrub at right in bloom along the road.  I don't know what it is, but they grow up to about 15' in height.  The flowers have a mild, earthy, and very pleasant smell – not sweet at all.  There were hundred of bees on this small specimen I photographed – must be a good source of nectar...

The stream at left is a fork from Blacksmith Fork River, coming from the south.  It's running a little bit higher than usual, making all the rapids and waterfalls noisy and beautiful...

It was a great evening's outing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Well, that was a depressing read...

Well, that was a depressing read...  Depressing, that is, if (like me) you believe engineers and scientists need to be competent.  Consider:
The science diversity charade wastes extraordinary amounts of time and money that could be going into basic research and its real-world application. If that were its only consequence, the cost would be high enough. But identity politics is now altering the standards for scientific competence and the way future scientists are trained.
Read the whole thing here.

The article is primarily about American education, but the same sort of thing is playing out in other parts of the world as well. It seems clear there's only one possible end result of this craziness: America's work force will become increasingly less able to compete in the world.

That leads immediately to the next question: where in the world is this sort of thing not happening? What comes immediately to mind is India (where they have a host of other education problems), China (ditto), and little outcroppings of sanity like Estonia and Hungary.

So if I let this play out in my mind, the next century's best scientists and engineers will be dominated by citizens of those countries. How will that impact Americans? The last 30 or so years of Greek history provide a model, I suspect: bigger, more socialist government, out of control debt, emigration of the best of us, and so on.

Oh, I get so depressed thinking about this...

Monday, May 14, 2018

Beautiful spring day in Paradise...

Beautiful spring day in Paradise...  As planned, yesterday was a “bookkeeping day” here, and I got it all done by early afternoon.  After a steak-and-asparagus dinner (with crème brûlée for dessert!), Debbie and I relaxed the rest of the day.  It was rainy on-and-off, with a couple of lightning storms passing by us to add some excitement.  This morning dawned mostly clear, but cold (it's 41°F as I write this). 

Today I have a few calls to make, mainly to get some contractors going – and then I'm on to grill cabinet unit #2!