Saturday, September 13, 2014

Everything is bigger in Texas!

Everything is bigger in Texas!

It's amazing that the Internet ever works!

It's amazing that the Internet ever works!  Practically every network engineer who has worked with BGP (the routing protocol used by the Internet “backbone” has the same reaction I did when it first dawned on me just how vulnerable it was.  BGP is utterly dependent on being correctly configured – by humans! – by every participating router.  This is a recipe for problems, and so it has proved.  I've been involved in BGP administration at three different jobs, and each time some of our worst outages were traced back to BGP configuration errors – usually by our ISP, sometimes by us.

This is a situation that is ripe for improvement.  Several teams are working on such improvements, and quite a few have tried in the past.  Switching to some other routing method will be tough, though – BGP is as embedded in the Internet as driving on the right is on American roads.  But that vulnerability to human error is less acceptable every day...

Puppies swimming underwater...

Puppies swimming underwater...  This is industrial-strength cuteness.  More puppies here.

Oh, I wants one.  Or five!

Bathroom fixtures...

Bathroom fixtures...  Most of this past week I've been working on installing various fixtures in our new bathroom – things like towel rods, shelves, soap dishes, etc.  The bathroom is completely tiled, so this means drilling holes in the tiles for the mounting screws.  Lots of holes.

I've drilled holes in tiles before, using special carbide drill bits.  I bought some of those bits for this job – they worked before, so why wouldn't they work now?  But they didn't.  In fact, they were a rather complete failure.  Fifteen minutes of attempting got me a just barely noticeable nick on one tile.  This led to some research on the web, a phone call to the guy who did the tile work, a bit of education, and finally to a solution.

It turns out that the tile Debbie picked was a particularly high quality Italian-made porcelain tile.  The tile guy told me that these tiles are fired for so long, at such a high temperature, that they're fused nearly all the way through.  He wore out several saw blades doing our bathroom!  Ceramic tiles that we've had in our past bathrooms have only a thin layer of fused material, and even that layer wasn't as hard was these porcelain tiles.  Bottom line: our tiles are too hard for a carbide bit to work.  To drill a hole in these tiles, you have to use a freaking diamond drill bit.

For the most part, I'm drilling 1/4" holes, with a few 5/16" holes as well.  The diamond drill bits, even at such small diameters, are actually tiny little hole saws.  When you look at the working end of the bit, you see a circle with a hole in the middle, just like you would on a larger hole saw.  The diamond chips are embedded in that circle.  Getting that bit started on a new hole is tricky, but not bad once you get the hang of it.  The essential “trick” is to start the hole by holding the drill at 45° to the surface, making a little nick where one edge of the hole should be.  Once you get that little nick, then you (slowly!) rotate the drill until it's perpendicular to the surface.  After about five or six holes, that part started to get easy.

But this is not like drilling a hole in wood, or even metal.  Each of these holes is taking me from 10 to 15 minutes of drilling, with steady hard pressure on the drill with one hand, while I squirt cooling and lubricating water onto the bit with the other hand, often while in an awkward stance.  This is darned hard work compared with any other drilling I've ever done!

Most of our bathroom fixtures are in now.  I've drilled 38 holes at this point, and I have just 24 to go.  I will be one very happy camper when that last hole is done :)

The first fall color...

The first fall color...  Not down in the valley yet – but on the mountains around us it's starting to spread across the slopes.  The photo at right (click to embiggen) is of the unnamed mountain to our east, in the Wasatch range.  The patches of red there are at about 6,000' altitude; the scrub oaks are turning.  In other places we see patches of yellow, from the quaking aspen turning.  The locals tell me that Sardine Canyon (which State Route 91 takes through the Wellsville mountains) is spectacular just about every year.  Gotta go see that!

Tractor arrived!

Tractor arrived!  Late yesterday afternoon, Lawrence W. of the local Kubota dealership drove up with my new tractor and some of it's attachments.  I've got a couple more attachments on the way (a snow blade and a cart), but he delivered the tractor (a Kubota B26 with loader and backhoe), a Wallenstein chipper/shredder, and a set of pallet forks.

The B26 is an updated and more powerful version of my old B24, so much about this tractor is very familiar to me.  Kubota has made a lot of improvements in the 15 years since I bought my B24, though.  The controls are much improved, and much easier to use.  The key controls are all easily reached with the seat swiveled around backwards for backhoe work; I especially appreciate that.  The hydraulics are now very easy to make slow motions with – that took special skill with my old B24; now it's easy as pie. 

I put the new tractor and chipper/shredder to work today.  I started chipping up the huge pile of brush that I've been accumulating since last April.  I made it through about a third of the pile today (with only a half day's work).  I think I'll be able to knock out the rest tomorrow.  The Wallenstein chipper shredder is a very nice piece of machinery.  I bought it after reading dozens of reviews online, and I bought it from a place in Pennsylvania – no local dealers had it.  I have to say that it was quite a relief to see that the machine was every bit as good as those reviews said it was :)

Barn: we really has walls!

Barn: we really has walls!  All four of them, now – last night the builders finished the framing for all four first story walls.  On Monday, they'll start “skinning” the outside, then put up insulation, then skin the inside.  It's starting to look like a real building, now!