Saturday, July 21, 2018

When I woke up this morning...

When I woke up this morning ... it was to the sound of a baler working in the field just to the north of us (the field we're in the process of buying).  The photo at right was taken a few days ago, right after the field was first mowed.  Tim had it mowed with very wide windrows, to speed up the drying.  Since then it's been raked twice to turn over the windrows, fluff them up, and let them dry thoroughly.  Then this morning was the baling.  It was just barely daylight, and that baler was making short work of the baling job.  Before the baler was even finished, there were two trucks with hay trailers out on the field, with 6 or 7 people working to load it all up.  By the time I finished with my tea (and homemade apricot/pistachio biscotti!), the field was clear and I knew Tim would want to get the water going.  So I walked out, met Tim on his way over to start putting down pipe, and the two of us got three strings of pipe up and running.  The arthritis in his hands is keeping him from gripping anything, but otherwise his strength is at least 50% of normal, maybe better.  Considering that two weeks ago he was down to about 5%, this seems almost miraculous.  He did about half the work of moving the pipe this morning, where when he's 100% he does about 2/3 (because he's stronger than I am, and can move two pipes at once).

I did manage to get a bit of work done on the grill cabinet drawers over the past few days.  I'm currently working on the two drawers for the center unit of the cabinet.  That's one of them at left, having it's bottom (1/2" birch plywood) glued on, with 25 lb. bags of lead shot as “clamps”.  In addition to the work on the drawers themselves, I also got the four cabinet half of the rails installed.  I'd made a jig for this on the first two shelves, and this greatly simplified the rail installation I did yesterday.  Hooray for jigs!

I sold some of our index-fund ETFs yesterday, in preparation for buying our neighbor's place.  Those ETFs were purchased in early 2014, over four years ago.  I was surprised by the capital gains on them – over a 100% gain on each of the three ETFs I sold.  The stock market has been very good to us in our retirement.  Well, so far, anyway...

Hoping to make some progress on those drawers this morning!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Had a busy couple of days...

Had a busy couple of days...  Our friend and neighbor, Tim D., (along with his wife Jeannie) came over to tell us that they have decided to move into a smaller house, nearby in Paradise.  We had a standing offer to them to buy their current place, should they move, because they have a 2.5 acre field adjacent to our property that a new buyer could build on.  We knew that Tim and Jeannie would never build there, as they valued that field as a buffer as much as we did.  But a new owner?  Who knows?

So I've been scrambling to do all the things one must do to buy a piece of real estate.  We've agreed a price with Tim and Jeannie.  We've engaged a realtor friend to represent us in the transaction, and to make sure the paperwork all gets done correctly.  We've consulted with the county to make sure that we will be able to “detach” that field from its current parcel, and merge it with our own parcel that's adjacent to the field.  The county treats this as a routine matter, so we're not expecting any trouble there, and the cost is quite modest (well under $1,000).  We do have to hire a surveyor, though, to make new legal descriptions for the two lots being modified.  We also arranged for a local hay farmer to lease the newly merged field from us, for a grass and alfalfa mix (horse hay).  Once the field has been moved to our parcel, there will remain a 3.5 acre property with a nice house near the center of it, and that piece we'll put up for sale. 

So many details, though! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A sonic mystery...

A sonic mystery...  Most mornings at home, I make a cup of tea for myself and a cup of coffee for Debbie.  We both use the same kind of mug: a 16 ounce double-walled stainless steel mug.  A long time ago I noticed something odd: tapping a spoon on the rim of the mug makes a distinctly different sound on the tea mug than it does on the coffee mug.  The tea mug sounds higher pitched and crisper; the coffee mug lower pitched and sort of a thud.

Why would this be so?

I've been trying various experiments over the past couple of weeks to try and narrow down the cause.  First I kept track of the mugs we used, and switched which one was for tea.  That made no discernible difference.  Then I compared the tea and coffee with no additives (cream, sugar, etc.).  This time the two mugs sounded very similar, though the coffee mug was still slightly lower pitched and not quite as crisp.  Then I added sugar to the tea – and the pitch went up (not what I expected at all!).  I added Equal to Debbie's coffee and heard no difference.  I added milk to my tea and the sound pitch went down slightly and got slightly less crisp.  Then I added collagen powder to Debbie's coffee, and the sound changed quite dramatically: lower pitch, much thuddier.  Ah ha!  Then when I added milk to her coffee and the pitch went down a bit more.

So ... collagen powder made the biggest difference.  Why?  What does it do to the liquid that affects the sound of tapping the mug's rim?

I have two theories.  First theory is that the collagen powder increases the viscosity of the liquid, and thereby increases the damping effect it has on the “ringing” caused by the tapping.  Second theory is that the collagen powder, when dissolved, changes the speed of sound in the liquid, which changes the resonating characteristics.

Do any of my readers have any knowledge of this phenomenon?

Monday, July 16, 2018

On precision...

On precision...  Do you know the best way to gauge the alignment between two pieces of wood?  This need comes up frequently in woodworking, and getting alignment wrong means (at best) a lot of sanding and (at worst) discarding a piece of work.  So what's the best way to determine whether two pieces of wood are lined up exactly?

Most woodworkers already know the answer, either from a mentor early in their woodworking efforts, or through hard experience.  I'm in the former camp, myself – my grandfather (father's side) taught me this simple technique.

Most non-woodworkers don't know this technique, and if asked to speculate, will usually come up with answer involving a known straight edge and squinting at how it sits across the joint that is supposed to be lined up.  That technique is difficult and quite error-prone – and isn't all that accurate anyway.  The best way actually involves no tools or instruments of any kind – just your finger!  All you do is run your finger across the joint to feel if there's a difference in height between the two pieces of wood.  Really!

A study five years ago determined that fingertips can detect surface details as small as 13 nanometers ( about 0.0000005 inches).  No instrument within reach of an amateur woodworker or cabinet shop can measure anything that small.

Your fingers are a marvel of texture-detecting design – better than anything mankind has ever been able to make...

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tesla Model X...

Tesla Model X...  Our Model X is still in the shop, as the techs haven't yet figured out the source of one problem I reported.  That problem: sometimes as I start a trip, the cruise control won't work.  Also the center console isn't showing a picture of the road, with other cars detected.  I infer that the sensor system is therefore not working, as that's the source of the data for both observed issues.  A few miles after starting, both issues just go away, and everything works as usual.

The techs could not replicate this problem, of course (isn't it always like that?).  However, the Model X apparently has quite a bit of logging internally, and they were able to see the evidence of the problem in that log (and, incidentally, convince themselves that I wasn't some kind of nut).  So the techs kicked this up to engineering.  The first group of engineers to examine issue, late last week, couldn't figure out what was going on.  So they kicked it up to “zone”, which, I'm told, is internal Tesla-speak for “the real engineers, the ones who actually know what they’re doing”.  I'm told that escalation to “zone” is quite unusual.  It figures that such weirdness would be visited upon me!  The plan as of Friday was to wait out the day on Monday (tomorrow) to see if “zone” comes back with some kind of answer.  If they do, then they'll fix the problem and I can have my car back.  If they don't, then the techs will finish servicing my car and give it back anyway – and whenever “zone” finally decides to grace us with some feedback we'll decide what to do next.

Which means that we've been stuck with the Audi A6 since Wednesday.  I'm ready to find me a great big power hammer somewhere and squish the damned thing!

Last night...

Last night ... Debbie made Brussels sprouts and blue marlin (fresh from our local supermarket), photo at right is just before they went on the grill.   The marlin was very tasty, but Debbie and I agreed that it's one of those fish dishes that really needs a sauce.  The meat's texture, after cooking, is much like chicken – it's not an oily fish, like (say) salmon.  The Brussels sprouts were delicious, but I suspect not quite done in the middle, and my tummy rebelled.  Debbie's learning how to use our new grill, which is amazingly hot compared with anything we've ever had before.  Today she made chicken and roast corn, the former following some directions specific to our grill (she found them on the web).  The chicken pieces (thighs) were on the grill for just 8 minutes per side and they were completely done.  That grill is fast – but the high heat means that Debbie has to learn grilling techniques that are a bit different than what she's used to.  Tomorrow she tries a ribeye steak...

I started working on the remaining five drawers for the grill cabinet today.  It's almost a week since Jim and Michelle left, and I last worked on them – my time has been consumed with all sorts of other things.  I started two drawers today: the two that go under the wider middle sections.  One of those drawers is the shallowest I've made yet, which means the vertical pieces that tie the horizontal rails together are the shortest I've made yet – under 2" long.  That's so short that I can't have opposing pocket screws that line up with each other, as there simply isn't room for them.  So I resorted to a “trick”: I offset the screws just enough to let them clear each other.  At left below is the piece of wood with the pocket screw holes drilled, and at right is the installed piece.  It worked great!

Midway through this construction process, I heard an ominous rattle from my trusty Makita drill.  With a little investigation I figured out that it was the thrust bearing – quite an important piece of any electric drill (even when in screwdriver mode).  It still worked, but it seemed clear that it wouldn't survive for long.  So I decided to make a run to our local Home Depot (one of the few places open on Sunday here) and pick up a replacement.  I am delighted with that drill, which I purchased about seven years ago, so my intent was to purchase exactly the same drill.  This was not to be, as Makita has stopped making them.  There's a newer version, however, with all the same functions (drill, screwdriver with torque limiting, and impact drill), but with more torque, a brushless motor, electronic speed control, and smaller.  In the photos below, the all-black drill is the new one, the blue-and-black the old one.  I've long been impressed with Makita's battery-powered tools, but I didn't think they had much room for improvement on their drill.  I was wrong.  The new one is a bit lighter, substantially smaller, and the added torque is impressive.  The brushless motor with electronic speed control is really nice – the drill ramps up the torque as required to maintain the speed you've selected.  The old drill's trigger didn't select the speed, but rather the power – and often that meant the drill would run much faster than you intended when the load was light.  Not this one.  Another nice touch: manually tightening the chuck is much more comfortable with the new, larger, rubber chuck grip.  Nice one, Makita!