Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Office in Paradise...

Office in Paradise...  A long, hard day's work here – but with good results!  My main computer (the MacBook Pro) is up and running in its new environment.  In the second photo below you can see the current setup, just on folding tables.  Later I'll be building some work surfaces with cable runs, etc. to neaten all this up.  But for now, that's my (computer) work environment.

Even better, from my point of view, is that now my new office sounds good, too.  Previously there were major resonances and echo effects, basically because all four walls, the floor, and the ceiling are all nearly perfect acoustic reflectors.  I got some acoustic absorption panels (the wine-colored panels) and two quadratic-residue diffusers (the wooden panels with vertical slats), and the difference it makes in the sound quality of the room is dramatic.  As I write this, I'm listening to an Eagles album, and it sounds great!  Earlier today when I lit off my music, it was painful to listen – I had to shut it off, because I was reacting the same way one does to fingernails on a chalkboard.

Paradise ponders...

Paradise ponders...  Oh, we had such a good day yesterday!

For starters, the weather was just about perfect.  We had wall-to-wall blue sky, and the temperatures were in the high 50s or low 60s all day long.  I worked inside most of the day (on my new office), but every time I went outside I reveled in the beautiful weather.  A fine day in Paradise!

First job yesterday on the new office was cleanup time, and the result is at right.  You'd hardly recognize that as the same space that looked like a bomb went off yesterday :)  It was quite a bit of work to get all that mess cleaned up.  I must have bent over 1,000 times as I picked up trash and threw it in a big plastic bag.  Then I vacuumed with a Shop-Vac, using a narrow tool to maximize the suction.  That took a couple hours, including periodic unclogging of the nozzle as I tried to pick up something that was too big.  Finally I mopped the whole floor with a sponge mop, using two buckets and a Pine-Sol solution.  The result looks great, especially in relative terms :)

The next step was to move the networking kit from a shelf just outside my new office to a table inside.  That doesn't sound like much, perhaps, but it involves quite a bit of new network wiring and lots of unplugging and replugging.  Past experience with such moves suggested to me that success would come only after a bunch of debugging, but such pessimism was unwarranted yesterday: everything worked on the very first try.  This was not what I expected!  The photo at left shows the networking kit happily humming along in its new location.

The last thing I did on the office last night was to move our Mac Mini server from the house to the shed.  I set it up, reassigned its IP address (it's on a new range out in the shed), and fired it up – and it all just worked.  First try.  At that point it was late afternoon, and I was tired – so I figured I'd better quite while I was ahead :)  This was also the last thing I had been hoping to get done yesterday, so I was on my self-imposed schedule.

Today I am moving my MacBook Pro and its associated paraphernalia.   That will take a while, just because there are a lot of pieces – but it should go easily.  Just a lot of walking and carrying :)  Tomorrow my brother Scott will be here to help me with the heavy bits – most especially the monster of a printer I have (an HP CP4025).

I walked between the house and the shed many times yesterday, and each time I got to enjoy the yard in springtime.  Toward the front of our house, the air was full of bird song.  The birds feeding on our feeders are starting to get used to my presence.  They used to all fly away simultaneously if they spotted me 100 feet away.  Now they fly away only when individual birds get alarmed, and some of them will let me get quite close.  The boldest of all is a (yet unidentified) woodpecker, who will feed on the suet feeder until I'm within about 6 feet.  Second boldest are the American goldfinches, some of which will keep feeding until I get about 10 feet away.  The pines above our feeders are full of perching birds waiting for their turn on the feeders, and those birds are singing their hearts out all day long.  A lovely serenade on my transits between house and shed, it is.

Then there are the flowers.  I'm not sure what the tree in the first photo is, but we have a row of five of them along the south side of the shed.  The biggest of them is close to 30' tall.  Right at the moment they are in full bloom, and their perfume fills the air near them, as sweet as any lilac.  Just like the lilacs, their scent is so powerful that if you inhale through your mouth, you can taste the smell.  This and the lilacs are the only two flowers I've ever been able to do that with.  The second photo is a few of our red tulips, then there's a columbine (that won't bloom for a while yet), and finally the lilac that we inherited with the house.  It looks much happier this spring than it did last spring.  The seven lilacs that I planted last fall are out in leaf now, but I don't see any hint of flower buds on them.

Late yesterday afternoon we took a drive up the road that leads to Liberty.  This is a dirt road, parts of it rough enough to warrant using a 4WD vehicle, so we took the FJ Cruiser.  Of course we also took Miki and Race with us.  When we let them out the front door to “load up” in the FJ, their excitement was fun to watch :)

It was a relaxing and beautiful drive.  It's hard to beat springtime in the mountains.  The second and third photos I took from the FJ's window – look closely and you'll see a nice, fat skunk waddling around.  Just prior to this spotting we had been talking about letting Race out to swim in the stream.  You would have heard no such talk after this sighting :)  The three photos of the little blue flowers were all taken in the same tiny patch.  For about a mile in the lower elevations, these flowers were scattered amongst other stuff on a north-facing road bank.  I have no idea what they are.  The last photo was my poor attempt to capture something that was very striking looking in person: a valley completely in shadow except for one solitary tree that was brightly lit up.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Poster of the day...

Poster of the day...

Paradise ponders...

Paradise ponders...  It was such a beautiful day here yesterday!  We had a few clouds, and lots of wind – but the temperatures were in the high 50s, and there was lots of blue sky.  Birds were chirping, flowers were flowering (like our 3/4 dead flowering plum at right), and spring was in the air.  Just lovely!

Most of my day was consumed by wiring and cutting holes for heating registers (second photo below) in my new office in the shed.  I finished both, and now the office is ready for cleanup.  It's in rather desperate need of cleanup, as you can tell by the first photo below.  The detritus of construction is everywhere, there are tools scattered hither and yon, and the entire room is blanketed by a layer of gray dust.  I'll be spending this morning (and maybe beyond!) just cleaning all that up.  Then I start moving in!

My moving has to follow a careful sequence in order to keep me from being cut off from the Internet.  The first step will be to install the router, switch, and WiFi access point that will “run” my office.  That equipment is already up and running, just outside my office door.  I've already installed (and tested!) the through-wall wiring.  So ... theoretically all I have to do is to move that equipment 3 feet or so into the office.  I've never had any sort of network reconfiguration work that easily, though :)  I'm fulling expecting some unanticipated glitch.

Once the networking gear is up and running, I'm going to move my little Mac Mini server from the house to the new office.  Theoretically that should only involve a change in its IP address, but once again, I'm expecting the unexpected on that front.  Finally, once all that is up and running, it will be time to move my personal computer (a MacBook Pro and associated monitors, keyboards, etc.) over.  That, at least, should go easily, as its IP address is obtained through DHCP.

I have quite a bit of “stuff” currently scattered all over the second floor of our house that needs to be moved into my new office (where I have plenty of room!).  Much of this is not computer-related at all: a microscope, electronics, etc.  For the moment, this will all go onto the same set of folding tables that we've been using for office furniture in the house.  Later I plan to start building out my own furniture, making good use of the cabinet shop I have downstairs.  I'm really looking forward to that – should be lots of fun for me!

The “infrastructure” of my office still has some ways to go besides furniture, too.  I have a little refrigerator coming in a week.  I'm planning on installing a small sink and counter-top, so I can have tea and snacks without having to come back into the house.  There's the heating system to finish, too.  And most likely (after I see what summer is like) I'll be installing a little split-system air conditioner as well.  Something tells me I won't be done this year :)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Alcohol in Utah...

Alcohol in Utah...  This is the last post in my series that's aimed at the attendees of the National Field Spaniel Association, which is in Logan, Utah (12 miles north of us) starting in late May.  People will be coming from all over the country to attend this, so many of them will not be familiar with Utah's ... somewhat odd ... laws and customs regarding the consumption of alcohol.

Buying and drinking alcoholic beverages in Utah is a bit different than in most other U.S. states.  First thing to know: you must be 21 years old to legally imbibe (or purchase) any alcoholic beverage.  Though Debbie and I are so ancient we can't even remember being 21, we're told that this law is quite strictly enforced.  Retail sales of any drink containing more than 3.2% alcohol is restricted to the state liquor stores.  These stores are actually owned by the state, and the selection in them is decent, but limited (especially for nicer wines and liquors).  The only state liquor store in Cache County is located at 75 W 400 N in Logan, about 8 blocks away from the fairgrounds (see the green pin on this map).  It's open from 11 am to 10 pm, Monday through Saturday (and of course it's closed on Sunday).

A high proportion of Cache County's residents are members of the LDS (Mormon) Church, and the church's Health Laws prohibit the consumption of alcohol (along with tobacco, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs – but not caffeinated sodas or chocolate).  The proportion of LDS members in Logan is a bit lower (around 80%) than the rest of the county, but still very high.  Not all LDS members obey the Health Laws, as seems evident from the rather brisk business the state liquor store does.  Nevertheless, the general community attitude toward alcohol consumption is disapproving.  Probably because of this, it is extremely unusual to see any public consumption (outside of approved venues) or even the slightest indication of public inebriation.  We've lived here for over two years now, and we have yet to see a public drunk – or smelled stale urine in the alleyways.  This isn't all bad :)

You can also drink in many restaurants, because Utah's liquor laws (and more) allow alcohol only when served with food (with a few exceptions).  Some of these restaurants have licenses for just beer, just wine and beer, and some for full-service bars.  Debbie and I do most of our drinking at home :), so we have limited experience with the drinks at restaurants.  Cafe Sabor and Elements both have full-service bars (and Cafe Sabor is known locally for their margaritas).  Jack's Wood-Fired Oven, Callaway's, and Le Nonne all have beer and wine (and Le Nonne has a decent wine list compared with most local joints).

As far as the more, er, traditional sort of alcohol-fueled night life, the only place around here we've even heard of is Mulligan's (see the yellow pin on the map).  The two people who have mentioned it to me did so disparagingly, and their 2.5 star review on Yelp isn't encouraging.  Logan is most definitely not known for its nightlife :)

The complete list of liquor licenses in Cache County (Smithfield and Richmond are towns just north of Logan):

43 E 1400 N
600 W CTR ST
291 S 300 W
170 W 900 N
35 E 640 S
550 E 100 N
633 S MAIN
119 S MAIN
550 W 1000 S
129 N 100 EAST
710 N 1500 E
2427 N MAIN ST
1430 N MAIN ST
235 S MAIN
1220 N MAIN ST
615 S 80 E
1165 N MAIN
205 S MAIN
55 W 1000 N
720 E 1000 N
42 E 1400 N
255 S MAIN
1111 N 800 E

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Paradise ponders, cont'd...

Paradise ponders, cont'd...  I ended up not working all that much on my office today – lots of other things intervened.  But I do have a photo of the ceiling fan, installed :)

My tutoring session with Abby S. went exceptionally well.  She is picking up the concepts behind programming quickly, and with great enthusiasm.  Today she and I worked together to build a little web page using the Web Audio API to play a single musical note that could be either a pure tone or a chord with an arbitrary number of component tones.  Her homework is to turn that into a program that can play two notes.  We'll be expanding this into a program that can play a tune.

I thought we'd spend most of today working on her understanding of a two-dimensional lookup table, where one dimension was indexed by the musical note name and the other by an octave number.  The result would be the frequency of the note.  Instead of spending an hour or so on it, she had it nailed in less than five minutes – and passed all my tests of her understanding easily.  This is a reasonably complex data structure for such a novice programmer, but she picked it up very easily.  As an experiment, I showed her how (in the debugger) to drill down into the “document” variable (which is a very complex data structure that contains the entirety of the currently displayed web page).  She got the general idea of that sort of nested tree structure immediately.

It's fun teaching someone so bright and motivated!  And Debbie loves to feed her treats, so we got a lemon pie out of this, too :)

My brother Scott came to visit a little later, and we went to my neighbor Tim D.'s house to pick up a load of firewood that Tim gave me.  While there, Scott got to meet Tim's wife Jeannie – and her new puppy Gus.  That little guy had just been brought home from the breeder, at age 6 weeks.  He looked terrified when we first saw him – it was his first time out of the crate he was born in.  By the time we left, about a half hour later, little Gus was running around playing with their other two dogs (Lexy and Marley), along with any human who happened to be standing nearby.  This little fellow is going to be just fine, I think.  Debbie came over to see Gus, too, and I think she's going to end up helping Jeannie train him.  That is one cute little puppy!

Paradise ponders...

Paradise ponders...  What a busy day here yesterday!  It started around 4:30 am, when the milkman drove in and set off the dogs.  Sleepily we realized that we'd forgotten to set out the empty jugs.  Oops!  No matter, they left our two and a half gallons anyway :)

I filled the bird feeders after our morning caffeiniation.  We're using about 10 pounds of black oil sunflower seed per week right now, along with around 6 pounds of “high value” food (nuts, dried fruit, shelled sunflowers) and 4 pounds of Nijer thistle.  All the sunflower seed and thistle feeders have to be refilled daily.  Our feeders attract huge numbers of American goldfinches (often more than 50 at a time), Lesser's goldfinches, house finches, and red-winged blackbirds.  We also get chickadees and nuthatches in smaller numbers, and a couple of (so far unidentified) woodpeckers that love to hang on our suet feeder (which is loaded with a mixture of lard and peanut butter).  The occasional magpie comes in and tries to figure out how to get to the seeds, but all our feeders are magpie-proof.  We also get Asian pigeons that like to hunt on the ground for misplaced seeds.  The sound from all these birds is something I greatly enjoy: if you open our front door it can be quite overwhelming.  Our UPS deliveryman commented on the sound yesterday, amazed that it was always like this...

I started working on my office in the shed in the morning, finishing up the wiring of the outlet strips.  Then I decided to get ready for the ceiling fan that was scheduled for delivery in the afternoon.  On Thursday I had purchased an “old work” (retrofit) ceiling fan box that could be installed through a 4" diameter hole.  I marked the center of the room, offset a few inches to avoid a truss (detected by knocking on the ceiling), and then cut my hole with the oscillating saw (love that thing!).  Next step was initially a stumper: how do I get the wire from the hole in the ceiling to the wall where I had power available? 

The ceiling hole is 13' from the exposed wall with power, and the intervening space was filled with trusses and blown-in insulation.  There's no way that I could squeeze into that space – and even if I could, I'd wreck the 18" thick blanket of insulation.  My first thought was that I'd poke the 14 gauge Romex up through the hole while Debbie watched from outside and gave me some guidance.  That plan fell apart when I discovered that Debbie was not comfortable climbing the ladder (all these years and I never knew she had a fear of ladders!).  My second plan worked much better.  I have a “fish” – a fiberglass rod in screw-together sections – that's designed for fishing wires through walls.  That rod is quite flexible, about like a wire coat-hanger.  I screwed together enough sections to make a 15' “pole”, then wiggled it so that the far end was roughly over the hole in the ceiling (I had to guess about that, as the hole was covered by all that insulation and I couldn't actually see where it was).  Then I got on a ladder inside my office, stuck my arm up through that hole, and felt around until I felt the fish.  Success!  Then all I had to do was to tie the Romex onto the end of the fish, go outside and pull the fish out.  That worked great.

The fan ceiling box turned out to be trivially easy to install.  I'd expected that job to take a few hours, but instead it was under a half hour, beginning to end.  When the fan came in the afternoon, I had it installed onto the new box in under an hour – and it all worked on the first try (even the snazzy remote control that came with the fan).  Now my office has a fan to circulate the air warmed by the wood stove, and some lights.  Yay!

This morning my student Abby S. should be here for a lesson, and then my brother Scott is going to be here to help out a bit.  I'm hoping to be able to finish up that last bit of outlet strip wiring, and I also need to install the fan's remote control into a hole in the wall.  Once that's complete, it's cleanup time – and then I'll be moving my stuff over to the office...

Friday, April 29, 2016

One of my favorite bloggers...

One of my favorite bloggers ... writing about another of my favorite bloggers: Megan McArdle on Warren Meyer.  It's hard to get better than that :)