Thursday, January 18, 2018

Well, I blinked...

Well, I blinked ... and three days went by without a post.  I'm all astonishment!

I'm feeling much better than earlier this week, in fact, just about back to normal.  I have no idea what evil virus had me under its spell, but it wasn't much fun.  That got me to wondering how much of our body is actually other organisms (hopefully, just bacteria, fungi, and viruses).  A little googling got me an answer:
The human body contains trillions of microorganisms — outnumbering human cells by 10 to 1. Because of their small size, however, microorganisms make up only about 1 to 3 percent of the body's mass (in a 200-pound adult, that’s 2 to 6 pounds of bacteria), but play a vital role in human health.
I'm not sure I like that answer very much! 

We had my brother Scott down for a visit yesterday.  Debbie made us a spectacular fresh cod, brown rice, and asparagus dinner – with fresh-baked ricotta lemon cookies for dessert.  Afterwards we all played the Mexican Train game, and (as usual) Debbie trounced us.  That's her favorite game, I think because she can routinely beat me. :)

In between other things, I've been beavering away on my Sisyphus table software.  I've been working on a version that uses a much more understandable mental model for drawing.  I hope to have usable results from it in a day or two.

We just took delivery of two new cat trees.  After unpacking them, we installed them in our sun room – and the cats were all over them immediately.  Cat trees, unlimited food, and sun!  Doesn't get much better for a cat!  :)

Our forecast calls for snow tomorrow afternoon and evening, and below-freezing daytime temperatures for several days afterwards.  Looks like I'll be plowing on Saturday morning.  Later next week, there are warmer temperatures but significant chance for more snow.  Winter may have actually arrived...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Fixed Teslas and delicious cod...

Fixed Teslas and delicious cod...  Well, yesterday our Tesla repairman showed up, and within a few minutes of the promised noon appointment, too.  This fellow's name was Colin, and he had a companion: his dog, Anya (a Belgian Malinois, colored much like the one at right).  Both Colin and Anya were about as friendly and pleasant as one could imagine.  She's an 18 month old female, and at first she was sitting in Colin's truck.  Our three puppies spotted her from our back yard, and were whimpering to see her.  I told Colin that Anya was more than welcome to join our puppies, and seconds later the four of them were running around our backyard like mad, having a grand old time.  Anya was doing “puppy bows” to initiate play, which Colin said she rarely did.  That was a treat for both of them.

Colin had the replacement part for my Model X, and he did the work while I had it parked in front of our garage, in the sun.  Most of the work involved tugging and yanking various plastic bits and carpets out of the way; there were only two screws he needed to remove.  The part itself was much larger than I expected – the bit that broke off turned out to be just a small protuberance on a roughly foot-tall plastic bracket that was mostly hidden under the interior coverings.  It doesn't look strong enough to be supporting a floor; I won't be a bit surprised should it break off again, and I don't think Colin will be surprised, either.  Anyway, in under an hour from start-to-finish the car was fixed.  No charge; apparently this is covered under either my warranty or my service agreement.  That makes me happy, as I think this is pretty clearly a design deficiency.

Debbie purchased some fresh cod at Macey's on Saturday, and yesterday she baked it using a recipe she's made a couple times before.  It was delicious!  She also made brown rice and peas to go along with it, which all together made a simple, but really satisfying meal.  It still blows me away that we can so easily get fresh fish up here – so much better than the grocery stores in the San Diego area...

Yesterday I felt a bit worse from whatever bug it is that I have.  This morning I feel quite a bit better, thankfully.  We took a drive up Blacksmith Fork Canyon, hoping to spot some moose.  Didn't see any moose, but we saw lots of deer (very fat and healthy looking, they were) and a bazillion elk up at Hardware Ranch.  Unfortunately we also passed two dead cats, hit by cars, on the way in.  On the way home we stopped with our four-way flashers on, and Debbie carried the bodies off the road.  Both of them were clearly pets; one had a collar and the other was very well-fed (read: rotund).  That was sad.  We see that all too often around here, as very few people keep their cats indoors...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunsets and poblano casseroles...

Sunsets and poblano casseroles...  I'm still a bit under the weather, dang it.  The generally cloudy days are making for some gorgeous sunsets, like Friday's at right.  That was taken as we drove out of the canyon that Porcupine Reservoir is in.  The snow had melted enough that I thought the Model X could make it up the steep dirt road to the reservoir itself, and in fact it did so with no fuss whatsoever.  Once we got to the top and could look over the reservoir, I was happily surprised to see how full it was.  It's got 10 or 12 feet to go until it tops the outlet, but for this time of year that's very full indeed – especially considering that our “wet season” is still a few months away.  There's little doubt that the reservoir will be filled to the brim by the time spring comes along, which will make the farmers (and me!) very happy.

Yesterday Debbie made a poblano pepper casserole (at left, just out of the oven).  The main ingredients are poblano peppers, roast chicken, mozzarella cheese, lime, and onions.  She's made this before from a recipe that calls for cutting the limes into thin slices and putting those right into the casserole.  This time she zested and juiced the limes, and put that in the casserole instead – and the result was much more to our taste.  I wasn't feeling well and so didn't expect to eat much – but I went back for seconds.  Three more meals worth of that got vacuum packed and frozen this morning. :)

In a few hours the repair technician from Tesla should be here to fix my broke-ass Model X.  Should be interesting to watch.  I'm really curious how well-equipped (or not) their mobile techs are...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

I broke my Model X!

I broke my Model X!  On Thursday afternoon we stopped to pick up some salt for our water softener.  That salt comes in 40 pound bags, and I bought eight of them.  When I loaded the third bag into the back of my Tesla Model X, there was a loud crack! and the bags on passenger side of the car suddenly dropped about 8".  With a little investigation I discovered what happened.  I was piling the bags on top of a false floor that covers a hidden cargo area.  That false floor is held up by two plastic brackets, like little shelf brackets – one on each side of the hidden cargo area.  The one on the passenger side had snapped clean off.

Oh, noes!  My Tesla is broken!  Sob!

By inspection, it appeared that the broken part was a plastic bit that just snaps into the Telsa's frame.  I took photos of it, and emailed it to our local (Salt Lake City) maintenance shop.  That was on Friday morning.  A few hours and a brief email conversation later, I had a Tesla technician scheduled to come by our house to replace the broken part.  That technician will be here on Sunday (tomorrow!) around noon.  I'm surprised they'd travel all the way out here to fix such a small problem, but I'm certainly happy about that.  I'm even happier about the fast response!

Now I just wish that bracket was stronger.  If a few bags of salt are enough to snap a bracket in the freakin' cargo area, that seems like a design issue to me...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A very nice day...

A very nice day ... except for the three and a half hours I spent on the phone with the pharmacy our health insurance dictates that we use...

The good parts first: I feel much better today than yesterday, and that improvement started about noon yesterday.  Whatever bug I have seems to be losing the battle to my immune system.  Yay, immune system!  I did get a couple of hours of good work in on my Sisyphus table software, which I'm finding peculiarly satisfying.  I've always enjoyed writing software that makes things move in the physical world, and the Sisyphus table is a great example of such a thing.  The best part of yesterday, though, was the evening: Debbie and I went out for dinner to Jack's (our favorite pizza place here).  I had a bowl of cream of fire-roasted tomato soup for an appetizer, and it was heavenly – their soup chef is superb.  We shared a “cordon bleu” pizza – one of Jack's patented weird-but-great pizzas.  This one had roast chicken, ham, bacon, lots of veggies, a creamy white sauce, and lots of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Wonderful!  Then for dessert we split a piece of Jack's delicious lemon cake.  The cake itself is mildly lemony, but the frosting is perfection: not too sweet, not too much, and as tartly lemony as you can get short of chomping the actual fruit.  It's drizzled with a raspberry sauce, and accompanied by luscious raspberries and blueberries.  A treat and a half!  When we got home, we settled in to watch Ice Age 4, which I'm sure many of you would agree nicely matches our mental ages.  We laughed 'till we hurt. :)

Now the not-so-good part: this year we purchased a separate health insurance policy for Debbie, as I'm on Medicare and my child bride is not.  That means that this month we're going through all the pains of a policy transition.  One of those pains involves a $3,100 per month (for 24 months) prescription drug to treat Debbie's osteoporosis.  The hoops we have to jump through to get that prescription approved are formidable.  When we first got it approved, it took several weeks and several dozen phone calls, plus some obnoxiously persistent behavior on our part and by her doctor.  Then came the payment joys: her policy has an absurdly high deductible ($13,000 this year), so until we hit that it's all out of our pocket.  The pharmacy has to collect that deductible, and of course they don't have good information about when the deductible has been met (the information from the insurance company is always out of date).  Fortunately we have a great relationship with our local pharmacy, and they just trust us.  However, with the new policy this year, our local pharmacy is not “in network” – and for this particular drug, only one pharmacy is in network: a mail-order pharmacy run by Walgreens.  Those are the folks I was on the phone with yesterday, for three and a half hours in five separate calls.  There were two major hiccups.  The first involved (naturally) payment.  They had no information from the insurance company at all (and they're the mandated partner!).  That took three calls to straighten out.  The second problem was that they had the dosage wrong – someone had made a typo and had entered "60 mcg" instead of "20 mcg".  Now "mcg" is a microgram – one millionth of a gram, and a gram is one 454th of a pound.  A microgram is a tiny amount of that drug.  But that mistake (a) would have been three times what her doctor prescribed, and (b) would have cost $10,300 a month instead of $3,100.  The really scary part?  I'm the one who caught the error, when they were verifying the shipment contents to me.  Fixing that took two more phone calls, one of which was 90 minutes long and had me being transferred to pharmacists, doctors, managers, and clerks.  What a mess!  I'm so tired of dealing with this incredibly inefficient bureaucracy!  I want Amazon to get into the health care business (including pharmacies) and straighten this God-forsaken disaster out.  The government has had enough attempts at it.  Ask anyone who's dealt with the Veterans Administration how they like single-payer healthcare (assuming they survived, that is)...

There was another interesting event yesterday: our local power company came and fixed an impending problem.  Some six months ago, one of their employees noted that the insulators on the wooden crossbar at the top of the pole in the photo were coming loose.  If they broke off, one of the high-voltage lines might break and fall off – shutting off power to everyone downstream of that break.  That would also be dangerous for anyone who happened to come in contact with the fallen line.  That pole is alongside our driveway, and is also the point where the power feed for our house and barn are connected.  Yesterday this job hit their schedule, and a surprisingly large crew showed up: three trucks, a car, four workers, a supervisor, and two flagmen.  They shut down one lane of the highway we're on for the two and a half hours it took them to make the repair.  They had some interesting equipment to make all this work.  One of the trucks had a cherry-picker that held up the wires as a kind of temporary pole.  It was fitted with a crossbar that held the wires a few feet from the real pole.  Then they disconnected our feed and the high-voltage wires from the old crossbar.  That's what they're doing in that photo.  The way they did this was awesomely low-tech: they used insulated poles with a metal hook on the end to unwind the wires that had been twisted together.  That took a tedious hour to do.  After that, they simply unscrewed the old crossbar and replaced it with a shiny new steel crossbar.  When they reconnected the wires, they did it with high-tech insulated clamps that got put into place in about one minute (and would come apart just as easily).  The supervisor told me that they had just started using these clamps: for the entire preceding history of electrification in Utah, the twisted wire approach has been in use.  I'd have guessed that problem would have been solved a long, long time ago...

While they were making this repair, our power was disconnected – for two and a half hours.  This provided a great test of our backup systems, and I'm delighted to say that they all worked flawlessly.  The backup generator for the house took 22 seconds to light off, and our solar panels were providing about 70% of the house power despite being slightly cloudy and with the sun low in the winter sky.  The backup generator for the barn took 24 seconds to light off, and the continuous UPS that powers all the computer equipment in my office handled that outage without missing a single cycle.  Our Internet connectivity was down for 87 seconds, mainly because the cable modem, routers, and switches had to reboot when the house generator kicked in.  We've only discovered two issues caused by the outage: all the digital clocks (dang them!) reset, and the disk drives for our Plex server had to be manually powered back on.  That latter problem may be fixable by a configuration on those drives.  The former problem I'm afraid we're stuck with.  Still, that's a pretty painless two-and-a-half hour power outage!