Thursday, April 30, 2015

Happy dogs in Paradise...

Happy dogs in Paradise...  Race and Miki, captured by my lovely bride in their morning play-tussle.  They do this almost every morning...

Yes...

Yes...  That's me!

Where's our Nigel Farage?

Where's our Nigel Farage?  I don't agree with all of his views and policy goals, but I really like his attitude and approach.  I can't think of even one member of the U.S. Congress that is comparable on that score...

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  The fencing folks showed up yesterday, and started reconfiguring the post-and-rail fence in our back yard.  We're turning it from a yard-and-paddock into a single bigger yard.  They also started installing “goat wire” over the post-and-rail fence.  This is sturdy wire with 6" square holes – small enough holes to keep the dogs in, rugged enough to keep them from destroying it, and large enough holes to allow our neighbor Tim D. to feed his irrigation pipes through to the risers inside the yard.  I helped them for a bit, with our tractor –  we lifted out the posts being removed, and loaded them onto their truck.  Some of those posts were filled with concrete, and weighed close to 200 pounds.

In the early afternoon the fencing guys came to let me know that I had water erupting onto the field, from a point just south of our barn.  To my great surprise, the Paradise pressurized irrigation water had been turned on!  We weren't expecting it for at least another two weeks.  One of the risers on the east/west line about 20' south of our barn had broken, and water was leaking out at a prodigious rate: a 3" line completely open.  Just west of our barn, in a slight depression in the field, a small lake had formed.  Yikes!  I grabbed the valve “key” and took off on my ATV to the valve, which is a couple hundred yards west of our barn.  I got it shut off in a jiffy.  When that ground has dried out enough for me to dig, I've got a repair job.  Dang.

I spent most of my day building a wagon kit.  Not a child's wagon, but rather a pull-behind-the-ATV wagon with four-wheel steering.  The kit I bought (see photo at right) is for the chassis.  I managed to get the kit built, but it turned out to be practically an all-day affair.  There were some challenges.  First, it had been packaged quite poorly, and some of the tube ends were bent badly enough that parts wouldn't fit together.  Some banging with a small sledge fixed that.  Then one quite important bolt (the one that holds the hitch bar pivot) was too short by a half inch.  Jeez.  Off to the hardware store I went, and got a perfectly fitting replacement.  Then later I found I was missing two bolts and a large washer.  Back to the hardware store, where I found perfectly fitting substitutions.  The final challenge was alignment of the steering system.  There are six adjustable ends on the tie rods, and the must all be aligned correctly for the wagon to track correctly.  The instructions (which were quite poor overall) gave no method for doing this.  I came up with a way to use my laser level (which emits both a horizontal and vertical line) to do it: separately for the front and back, I lined up the axles and the pivot bar to the laser line, then adjusted the tie rod ends until they fit.  That worked, but my previous two attempts did not.  I burned a couple of hours on this.  Next step: to build a stake-sided platform on top of that chassis.  I'm planning to use this to collect brush and weeds, two things that we have her in large quantities :)

This reminds me...

This reminds me ... of the “we need government to fix this” thinking that led to the War on Drugs, prohibition, and other experiments in liberty-threatening social engineering

I can't for the life of me imagine how any adult believes that the same government that gave us the DMV, IRS, and innumerable other bloated and ineffective bureaucracies (not to mention Pelosi, Reid, McConnell, Holder, Cunningham, Rahm, De Blasio, etc.) is going to fix anything...

I have a different take...

I have a different take ... on the graphic at right.  Its creators intended to show how cheap NASA is, and they're looking to double its budget.

Here's my take.  Let's halve the NASA budget – but completely eliminate the manned space program (ISS and the alleged Mars mission).  The result would be a vastly increased unmanned space program, with the rough equivalent of 10 James Webb telescope missions a year.  The actual science done by NASA would explode, and the crazy expensive government-directed manned space program would be finished. 

I should note that I don't believe that's the same thing as saying there will be no manned space program.  Instead, I believe that means that if and when someone actually figures out a reason for humans in space, commercial interests (can you say SpaceX?) will get them there.  Until that day, let's get our incompetent government out of this business...

My dad would have been intrigued by this...

My dad would have been intrigued by this...  Retro-evolution in conifers...

40 years ago this week...

40 years ago this week ... I was a crew member on the USS Long Beach (CGN-9), and we were one of dozens of U.S. Navy ships positioned in the South China Sea, off the coast of South Vietnam.  Saigon was falling to the North Vietnamese, and all Americans were being evacuated from the country.  Many were flown by helicopter and small fixed-wing aircraft to carriers in our flotilla, as well as some ships with helicopter landing pads – including the ship I was on.

In addition to the Americans, thousands and thousands of South Vietnamese were also fleeing – in aircraft of every description, and boats of every size right down to inflatable dinghys.  The ships in the flotilla, including mine, picked up large numbers of these refugees from boats.  Some ships, especially the carriers, were also accepting the South Vietnamese aircraft.  There was no room to store those aircraft, so they were simply pushed over the side.  My ship accepted a few helicopters, and every one of them was pushed over the side.  I was a member of one of the working parties that dumped those aircraft, just as you see in the photo above (that photo was taken on the USS Okinawa, another ship in the flotilla). 

The ships involved, all told, rescued around 25,000 people in just a few days.  It was a crazy, chaotic time – frantic, desperate people were everywhere.  The ship was full of refugees, all terribly uncertain what their future held for them.  The sea was full of boats, some filled with people; others abandoned.  Flotsam was everywhere.  The skies were full of aircraft, and those aircraft were not being controlled – every pilot was acting independently, and many of them were running low on fuel.  There were accidents, and some people died or were injured – but the vast majority of those refugees were rescued successfully.  The amount of military gear that went to the bottom of the South China Sea in those few days was simply staggering.

There are many amazing stories from that incident.  Here's one that I first read today...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Some of the best (photo) shots you'll ever see...

Some of the best (photo) shots you'll ever see...  Lots like the example at right.  Via my lovely bride...

Spring beauty...

Spring beauty...  Claytonia virginica.  Via BPOD, of course...

How to tell if your dog is involved in a sex scandal...

How to tell if your dog is involved in a sex scandal...  Via my lovely bride, whose (dog owning) friends worry about such things...

This is for everyone who sends me those heart-warming BS stories...

This is for everyone who sends me those heart-warming BS stories...  Via reader Simi L.:
In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Louisiana State University .

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee, inspected the elephants foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

The conquering of poverty...

The conquering of poverty...  My pistol-packing mama sent me a collection of “posters” (like the one at right) with factoids about how much the world has improved.  While they were all interesting, this one in particular got my attention.  The reduction in poverty is something I have personally witnessed over the course of my lifetime, thanks to two widely separated sets of travel around the world.  In the '70s, as an enlisted man in the U.S. Navy, I saw lots of places all around the world, especially Asia, Africa, and Australia.  Then in the '90s and '00s, as a business traveler, I saw a lot of those same places again, and Eastern Europe in particular.

The changes have been dramatic, almost incredibly so.  The Philippines, North Africa, Eastern Africa, South Korea, China, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and many more – all have been transformed from generally impoverished societies into vastly more developed societies.  Their citizens are indisputably enormously better off than they were just 20 years earlier.

What accounts for this?  Here's the part that drives the progressives and environmentalists crazy, because it's their enemy that has brought so much to these people.  It's capitalism.  Those countries have embraced different flavors of capitalism, aided by increased freedom of trade.  Nothing else can lay claim to the progress that capitalism's incentives brings to human society.  Nothing else even comes close.  Say that out loud in any gathering and watch the lefties cringe.  It's fun!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Crazy people being crazy...

Crazy people being crazy...  They seem to be having a lot of fun doing it, though...

F-22 Raptor...

F-22 Raptor...  Scary looking, no?  That's a photo, not a painting.

If one of these was coming after me, I'd be thoroughly intimidated, just from its appearance!

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  I forgot to mention yesterday that the barn painters showed up, to start work on the outside painting.  It's warm enough now!  They caulked and reset siding all around, and painted three coats of white on three sides – they ran out of time before getting to the west side.  The barn is so bright now that it hurts your eyes to look at it :)  The crew will be back next Monday and Tuesday to finish it all up, including the trim in my office.

I spent the day spraying, using the ATV to haul the sprayer around.  The sprayer pump's electrical power is supplied by the ATV, through the 12V outlet I installed last week.  It's a sweet setup compared with what I used last year, when I hauled the sprayer behind our riding mower.  My biggest challenge with this rig is to make the ATV go slow enough – the thumb throttle is very sensitive.  I just found a motorcycle-style twist throttle kit online, and ordered it – that should help a bit...

I used just under two gallons of 2,4-D concentrate today, spraying about five acres in total.  That's our entire yard, the canal sides, field edges, and highway median strip.  The whole job took about seven hours, three tank fillings (for 110 gallons of spray in total), and really very little physical labor.  Nice!  Most of the spraying I did with the three-nozzle bar sprayer on the back of my rig, which sprays an 8' wide swath.  The bits that were so full of trees and shrubs that I couldn't drive the ATV on them, I sprayed with the wand.  It's got a 12' hose that I'll probably replace with something longer.  Most of the wand spraying I did from the ATV's seat, which felt like the height of spraying laziness.  When I was a kid I helped my dad spray in customer's yards.  He had a hand-pushed sprayer, heavy as hell, with a gas-powered pump (also heavy!).  His sprayer was more powerful than mine, but oh man was it a lot of work.  That memory is why my current rig feels lazy :)

The first photo below shows the bottom of the black willow that I cleaned out yesterday.  I really need a before-and-after photo set here, but where you can see the trunks of the willow now was completely obscured by deadwood yesterday.  Now the only thing blocking view of them are the roses.  The middle photo was taken from the same spot, looking toward our house (just west of north).  It's a beautiful spring day!  The last photo is of a couple of bad dogs that followed me out on our morning walk.  I had Mo'i on a leash as well (have to, because he can't hear our commands to come back!), but he wouldn't sit still for the photo...


Scale model B-29 and XS-1...


Scale model B-29 and XS-1...  Via friend, reader, and former colleague Larry E.  This is some awesome footage of a beautiful scale model B-29 with a scale model Bell XS-1 (the same plane Chuck Yeager flew to break the speed of sound).  The B-29 takes off with the XS-1 under its right wing, then drops the XS-1 – which shortly ignites its rocket and zooms off toward the heavens.  Both model planes land safely.

Thank you, Larry!

NGC2841...

NGC2841...  A Hubble photo, via APOD, of course.  Full resolution version...

A hard day's work yesterday...

A hard day's work yesterday ... and I slept like the proverbial baby (my understanding is that the real babies don't actually sleep :).  The weather hear yesterday couldn't have been nicer for hard physical work: mostly sunny, temperatures in the low 60s, and a nice breeze.  I spent the day clearing out 30 years or so of dead wood from a clump of 60' high black willows.  About half the wood was on the ground; the other half was dead branches I cut down with a hand saw (the Felco F610 shown at right).  I also had some chainsaw work to do – once I got the bigger (4" to 10" diameter) branches on the ground, I used the chainsaw to saw them up into roughly 4' pieces to pile onto my tractor's fork for transport to my (now gigantic) brush pile).

I've used quite a few different pruning saws over the years, mainly those purchased at Home Depot or the like.  I don't think I ever paid more than about $25 for one of them, and I thought they were fine – but they didn't last long.  They either lost their sharpness, or the blade got bent on a push stroke, making the saw unusable.  Last year I did a lot of pruning, cleaning up the pines and spruces in the yard of our new house.  I went through three Home Depot pruning saws in a week (can you say "Frustrating!"?), and decided to try my dad's favorite brand of all things pruning: Felco.  It cost over $50 for the saw above.  What did I get for that?  Well, first of all, I'm still using that saw, even after lots and lots of pruning last year.  It's still sharp.  No matter what I've done to it, I haven't managed to bend its blade.  Best of all: the sawing effort is noticeably lower with this saw than with any other pruning saw I've owned, though I've no idea why.  It's yet another demonstration of the value of a quality tool...

Monday, April 27, 2015

You may wonder...

You may wonder ... what the graphic at right might be.  An advertisement for hallucinogenic botanicals?  A poster for a weird movie involving nude slashers?  A recruiting poster for the Church of the Holy Lemon?

Nope.  It's a campaign poster for Teruki Goto, who's running for mayor of Chiyoda, Japan (part of Tokyo).  Seriously.  No word on how he's doing in the polls...

Radio controlled model SR-71...

Radio controlled model SR-71...  This bad boy uses two miniature turbojet engines.  I'm not sure if it's an actual scale model, but it sure looks close to it.  Those engines are about $3,000 each, so you certainly wouldn't want to crash this model!

The video was made in Switzerland, where the builder (Roger Knobel) lives.  Mr. Knobel is a well-known model turbojet builder, and a member of the Swiss Scale Jet team...

Random is hard, part 388...

Random is hard, part 388...  So you want to distribute points randomly on the surface of a sphere?  Good luck with that!

Magnified motion of buildings...

Magnified motion of buildings...  A technique I wrote about last year that was used to visualize blood flow under the skin.  Now it's being applied to the tiny vibrations of structures...

Beautiful display of the Milky Way this morning...

Beautiful display of the Milky Way this morning ... as I took Mo'i on his morning walk, at 4 am this morning.  There were a few clouds in the sky, and no moon, so I had a great view of the Milky Way and lots of twinkling stars.  I don't think I've mentioned before just how startlingly high in the sky the North Star (Polaris) appears to be.  This is, of course, due to the fact that we've moved 9° further north – so the North Star is 9° higher in the sky than it would be in the San Diego area.  I lived there for over 40 years, so I got very used to how the night sky appeared.  Now I'm learning all over again :)

Paradise, Utah is at latitude 41.57° north, so North Star appears to be about 42° above the horizon.  Back in San Diego, subjectively the North Star seemed to be just a bit above the horizon.  Partly that was an illusion, as our home there had mountains to the north, raising the apparent horizon above the actual horizon.  Here in Paradise there are no mountains to the north and the apparent horizon is the same as the actual horizon.  That probably adds 10° or so to the perceived difference in the North Star's height.  Here, subjectively, it feels like I need to tilt my head back and look upward to see the North Star.  It's a big difference from San Diego.

Of course it's not just the North Star that's shifted – all the constellations have shifted so that north is higher in the sky and south is lower.  Some constellations I knew well from San Diego will be hard to see here.  Others that are near the North Star are now far easier for me to see; they're high enough to be in dark sky.

Mo'i didn't care about any of these sparkles in the sky, of course.  He just reveled in the aromas coming off the moist earth, just starting to dry out after our rainstorm.  I could smell the wetted manure on our south field, and some subtler botanical scents.  Mo'i was nose down to the ground, wiggling all over the place to drink in deeply of the smells – other dogs, the neighborhood cats, and the rodents (especially voles) that are plaguing our yard right now.  All were endlessly fascinating for Mo'i.  He didn't want to go back in the house :)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Another handle...

Another handle...  I made a second one, much like the first one, this afternoon.  This time I did a better job of the turning, making a handle that's a bit more pleasing to the eye.  I also did the second one while wearing my “gas mask” – well, that's what it looks like, anyway :)  It's a 3M respirator (7800S) that has about 50 different filters you can buy for it.  I bought a supply of two kinds of filters: one for particulates (think sawdust, especially fine sawdust from sanding) and one for the kinds of solvents used in paints and finishes. Today was the first time I tried using it, and it was a very pleasant surprise, for these reasons:
  • It's comfortable.  I wore it for 2 and a half hours, and hardly noticed it.
  • It's easy to breath.  The filters have a large surface area, which means you don't notice any extra effort to take a breath (unlike every other effective particulate mask I've ever tried).
  • It's effective.  I felt like I was breathing clean mountain air :)
  • It works over my glasses.  I was worried about this aspect.  The customer reviews for it had mixed messages about whether it would work with glasses.  I have metal frames and the ear pieces are very small, so I had hope.  It works great!
  • It works over my beard.  Again the reviews had mixed messages.  I needn't have worried, as it worked just fine.
  • The face plate doesn't fog up.  That's because your breath is in a separate passage and doesn't circulate all the moist air in the section where your eyes are.  Good design, and effective.
Between this respirator and the dust collection system, I think I'm going to have zero problems with either breathing or seeing in my woodshop.  It's a far cry from every other shop I've ever worked in, and a big relief to me, as this was one of my main concerns when designing my wood shop...

Baltimore riots...

Baltimore riots...  This is not historical footage of the 1968 riot, which some of us are old enough and, ahem, informed enough to remember.  No, these riots happened yesterday.

We're in no danger of riots like this out in Paradise.  I can only watch and wonder what is happening to my country.  And worry a bit, as I have relatives not all that far from Baltimore...

The making of a handle...

The making of a handle...  I had a little fun in the workshop this morning – I made a handle for one of the ropes that lifts the hatch in my barn's loft.  The finished handle is shown at right, attached to the hatch-raising rope and secured with a figure-eight knot.

The wood is mahogany, salvaged from a 2 x 4 used to hold the headstock for my lathe, on the pallet it was shipped on.  Awfully nice wood to use for that purpose!  It's finished with Watco, uncolored.  It makes a darned nice handle!

If you're interested in the details of how I made it, with photos, click on the break below...

Time lapse video of Iceland's aurora borealis...

Time lapse video of Iceland's aurora borealis...

Paradise doings...

Paradise doings...  The weather was intermittently wet yesterday, so I really couldn't work outside.  Last night it rained steadily, and it's still raining this morning.  We've had another 0.4" of rain since yesterday, bringing the storm total up to over an inch.  It's wonderful for the fields here, and if the local Wasatch Mountains are getting snow, it will also be great for our reservoirs (which is where our summer irrigation water comes from).  The greening up over the past couple of days has been amazing – sprinkle a little water around this place, and it turns into chlorophyll central!  The weather radar snap at right, captured just now, says it's snowing in Paradise.  It's not, so I presume it's snowing at higher elevations and then melting before it hits the ground here.  It also shows reasonably heavy snow in the Wasatch Mountains to our east, so there's some reason to hope for an enhanced snow pack.

I took great pleasure yesterday in putting my woodshop to work solving a small construction challenge.  The doorway to my upstairs office needs a sloped threshold, so I don't trip every time I enter the office.  The challenge comes from the height of the tiled floor above the OBS floor outside: it's just over 1" higher.  That's unusually thick for flooring, and commercially available thresholds aren't high enough.  The thickness comes from the layer of concrete board underlying the tile, which adds a half inch to the total.  On a trip to Home Depot I spotted a nicely milled oak threshold that was 3/4" thick, with two sloped edges, which I bought.  Yesterday I used the planer to trim that down to 17/32" thick, then ripped it on the table saw into two strips, one wider than the other.  I then glued the two strips together to make one nicely sloped threshold, 1 1/16" thick – perfect!

I also rough-turned a bowl from a spalted maple blank that I bought online.  This blank was supposed to be kiln-dried, and I think it actually was – but there was a vein of wood in it that was soaking wet.  When my turning tool bit into it, water sprayed everywhere.  I turned it very roughly and now I've set it out to dry.  I don't know how well that will turn out...

Later in the day my neighbor (Alan L.) came over to help me with some old umbrella patio tables and stacking chairs inherited from the previous owner of our home, but that we don't want.  They're kind of nasty from being left outside for some unknown number of years, and Debbie and I are not exactly the kind of party animal that needs 24 stacking lawn chairs :)  Alan and his wife are going to make a weekend project out of it, wire-brushing the steel frames, put some new spray paint on them, and then put them to use.  They're not party animals either – but they have five kids (and a sixth on the way), and a circle of nearby close relatives that numbers in the dozens.  These provincial Mormons tend to have big families – five to eight kids is not at all unusual.  It's common for them to have 15 or 20 people over for some sort of gathering – anything from homeschooling to a family lunch.  They can put those chairs and tables to good use.

After we got done with the patio furniture, Alan casually asked me what I was doing down on the south part of our property.  He'd seen me out there with my tractor and ATV, and was curious.  So I told him about my grand deadwood clearing project, and the subsequently planned weed removal, planting, and barbed-wire fence removal projects.  He looked at me, surprised, and asked how long I thought all that would take.  I said two or three years of intermittent work – and he said “That would make a great service project!”

What the heck is a service project?  It turns out that the young men's and young women's organizations within each Mormon church's ward actively seek out ways for them to help their ward members and neighbors (Mormon or not, and, apparently, crazy or not).  They have a shortage of these projects, and the ward members are all actively looking for opportunities.  Alan said this was the perfect sort of project: lots of hard physical work, no particular skills required, and no expense (other than some gas for chain saws) involved.  I'm not allowed to pay them, but I am allowed (though not required) to supply things like the chain saw gas, and perhaps some tools.  I suspect nobody would object if we fed the people doing the work, either :)  Alan called his bishop yesterday, and they're already working to organize it.  They're planning a two-phase approach: first phase is barbed-wired fence removal, sometime in the next few weeks.  Second phase is the really hard work of deadwood and brush removal, sometime in late May.  Hordes of young Mormons are going to descend on our property and put their muscles to work.  It feels a bit like an unstoppable force at this point.

I love this place!

As I was writing this post, I heard something quite unexpected: a drip of water onto the floor just a few feet behind my chair.  A leak!  Dang!  Our brandy-new steel roof has a leak.  I poked into the attic with a flashlight, saw nothing.  Went outside and looked over the spot where water is entering the room, and saw no penetrations through the roof.  Higher on the roof above that spot, though, is the chimney – so I suspect there's a small leak around that.  I texted the fellow (Steve M.) who did my roof.  I figured texting at 7 am on Sunday morning was more polite than phoning.  I told him about the leak.  He immediately responded, offering to come over today if the problem was bad enough.  It's not an emergency, and any permanent damage there might be would already have occurred, so I told him to wait until tomorrow, when the rain's stopped.  He'll be here first thing tomorrow morning.

I love this place!

Word of the day:

Word of the day: “thronesniffers”.  Seen in the wild, in an otherwise boring article discussing the behavior of the media lapdogs at last night's White House Correspondents Dinner.

I nearly lost my morning tea :)

The Urban Dictionary defines thronesniffer as:
one who is excessively servile in a self-degrading way to anyone perceived to have power
Perfect.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Oh, happy morning!

Oh, happy morning!  When it got light this morning, I took the dogs out for their morning walk.  The grass was soaked, and the dogs were happily inhaling all the moisture-enhanced scents.  The forecast when I went to bed last night had a 63% chance of rain, 0.13" predicted.  The actual: 0.72" – that's wonderful news for all the plants around here, and most especially for the field crops just planted.

Our south field changed quite dramatically overnight.  The little two-leaf alfalfa sprouts roughly doubled in density (plants per square foot), but the real change was the co-planted grass.  That wasn't even above ground as of yesterday afternoon, but this morning there are lots of 2" high grass stalks, and there are a few topping 3".  The entire field now has a tinge of green, and I'll bet by the end of the day that's changed visibly.  Our north field now has been thoroughly watered, with perfect timing for the newly planted seed.

Things are looking up from a botanical perspective :)

Mo'i update...

Mo'i update...  He's still hanging in there, and we're cherishing every day we're lucky enough to have with him.  You may remember that back in January he developed an odd excessive drinking (and subsequent urination) behavior that the vet could find no cause for.  We started using diapers with him as a defensive maneuver, and we also keep him on tiled floor when he's in the house.  Mostly this was not a problem, except that he would start barking around 2 am every morning to wake us up and take him for a walk.  That was a challenge, even for early risers like us :)

The past couple of weeks, he seems to be drinking (and urinating) less often.  We have no idea why, but we're not complaining – because now he isn't barking to wake us up before we would normally get up (around 4 am, most mornings).  That's quite ok by us :)

Otherwise, for a 16 year old dog with cancer he's doing really well.  He can still walk just fine (though the stairs present a more serious challenge these days).  He's walking around a half mile a day, on three separate walks.  With his hearing completely gone and his vision pretty much shot, you might think he'd not get much from the walk – but his nose seems to be working just fine, and he explores the world with that.  Yesterday during one walk he met up with our neighbor's dog (Annie), and that nose of his was working overtime – he smelled her carefully and deeply from head to toe, while Annie stood perfectly still to let him.  His tail was going a mile a minute the whole time...

The cancer in his muzzle was supposed to have overwhelmed him by about six months ago.  That was the assessment of a veterinary oncologist early last year.  Later in the year, the oncologist could see no particular growth.  We have no explanation, but his cancer doesn't seem to be expanding at all – we can see no change.  He has a couple of fatty tumors, non-malignant, that are growing – but those aren't life-threatening.

So Mo'i just keeps right on trucking, a little bit more slow-mo than before, but still hanging in there...

Bored little old ladies at the flower show...

Bored little old ladies at the flower show...  Via my brother Scott...
Two little old ladies, Connie & Evelyn, were sitting on a park bench outside the local town hall where a flower show was in progress.

The short one, Connie, leaned over and said, 'Life is so boring. We never have any fun anymore. For $10 I'd take my clothes off and streak through that stupid, boring flower show!'

'You're on!' said Evelyn, holding up a $10 bill.

So Connie slowly fumbled her way out of her clothes. She grabbed a dried flower from a nearby display and held it between her teeth. Then, completely naked, streaked (as fast as an old lady can) through the front door of the flower show.

Waiting outside, her friend soon heard a huge commotion inside the hall, followed by loud applause and shrill whistling.

Finally, the smiling Connie came through the exit door surrounded by a cheering, clapping crowd.

'What happened?' asked Evelyn.

'I won $1,000 as 1st prize for 'Best Dried Arrangement!'

Comet 67P on tax day...

Comet 67P on tax day...  As seen by Rosetta.  It's outgassing more every day.  No word from Philae yet, dang it...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Progress report...

Progress report...  Yesterday was consumed with a modification to my Rincon ATV, to add a 12V accessory socket to the rear.  I also modified my sprayer (which has a 12V electric pump) to fit that.  Result: I can now tow the sprayer behind the ATV, which is much better suited to that job than the riding mower I previously used.  The sprayer has big pneumatic tires, so now I can take it over rough ground to attack weeds.  That's going to come in mighty handy!

Today I worked for a while clearing brush again, down in the southeastern corner of our property.  We've got a couple of 50'+ black willows there that haven't been taken care of for at least 20 years.  Those things have branches that break easily, so the trees are full of broken branches – some of them 8" or so in diameter!  We had rain come in, though, and that put a stop to my work outside.

I also installed the oak handrail on the stairway between the first and second floors in the barn.  I've been putting coats of polyurethane on the railing for the past week, one coat a day (top and bottom separately).  The handrail looks great and it's strong as all get out.  I'm glad to have it there.

The past few days, as it started to get warm, I noticed that the second floor of the barn has been getting mighty warm.  If it's warm now, just think what it will be like in the summer!  There's no ventilation up there now, so I've ordered a gable-mounted attic fan that's solar powered.  It comes with a fairly large (50 watt) roof-mounted solar panel.  That will be an interesting job :)

The field south of our house was planted in alfalfa about 10 days ago, and it's just starting to sprout.  The field north of our house was planted with an alfalfa/grass mix just yesterday.  In both cases the farmers are praying for rain in the storm that's just started wetting us down.  We've gotten very little so far, but the forecast (over the next three days) is calling for close to an inch...

Bipartisanship is decreasing...

Bipartisanship is decreasing...  Is that to be lamented?  The author of this article seems to think so.  I'm not so sure, myself.  Decreasing bipartisanship means less compromise deals get done.  Less compromise deals means less overall legislation.  Is that bad?  I think not!

“A Strangely Funny Russian Genius”...

“A Strangely Funny Russian Genius”...  Essay by Ian Frazier in New York Books.  A passage that caught my eye:
Russia is the funniest country in the world. Some countries, like America and England, are funny mostly on purpose, while others, like Germany and France, can be funny only unintentionally. (But that counts! Being funny is tricky, so any way you do it counts.) Russia, however, is funny both intentionally (Gogol, Zoshchenko, Bulgakov) and unintentionally (Vladimir Putin singing, as he did at a televised event a few years ago, “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill”). Given the disaster Russian history has been more or less continuously for the last five centuries, its humor is of the darkest, most extreme kind. Russian humor is to ordinary humor what backwoods fundamentalist poisonous snake handling is to a petting zoo. Russian humor is slapstick, only you actually die.
Thanks to my work in Estonia and Russia, I've gotten to know a few hundred Russians (including ethnic Russians who happen to live in Estonia).   The paragraph above jibes with my own experiences with Russian humor.  I've been struck by the everyday fatalism of the ordinary Russian, and also the prevalence of dark humor.  Reagan retold some good examples, at right.

Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...  From the one, the only Cecil Adams, writing in The Straight Dope:
“Meanwhile, somewhere a civet is rubbing its scraped perineal glands and thinking: Ah, sweet revenge.”

Things I trust more than Hillary Clinton...

Things I trust more than Hillary Clinton...  Via my pistol-packing mama:
  • Mexican tap water
  • A rattlesnake with a "pet me" sign
  • OJ Simpson showing me his knife collection
  • A fart when I have diarrhea
  • An elevator ride with Ray Rice
  • Taking pills offered by Bill Cosby
  • Michael Jackson's Doctor
  • An Obama Nuclear deal with Iran
  • A Palestinian on a motorcycle
  • Gas station sushi
  • A Jimmy Carter economic plan
  • Brian Williams news reports
  • Loch Ness monster sightings
  • Prayers for peace from Al Sharpton
  • Bill Clinton interviewing for an intern
I'll add a few of my own:
  • Obama's economic policies
  • Eric Holder's prosecutorial judgment
  • Harry Reid's trustworthiness
  • Nancy Pelosi's bipartisanship
  • Greek bonds
  • New York Times' editorials
  • Iranian nuclear development
  • Putin's intentions

They made it!

They made it!  The “Wil can fly!” Kickstarter project hit its funding goal late yesterday.  They're on their way!  Now they've got 10 days more in their funding campaign to get a little extra...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On drug legalization: an interesting question...

On drug legalization: an interesting question...  Fred Cole, writing at Ricochet, asks this: What's your general rule on drug prohibition?  There's a fascinating (and civil!) conversation in the comments, with a nice illustration of many different viewpoints.  Fred's happens to be close to my own, but that's certainly not true of the Ricochet inhabitants in general.  A second thread was started this morning; it will likely be just as interesting...

Belated celebration of Earth Day...

Belated celebration of Earth Day...  That was yesterday, but I just found this – my favorite Earth Day commentary evah!  It's by George Carlin, so there are some naughty words in here...

“Will can fly!” update...

“Will can fly!” update...  At this writing, there are $11,738 in pledges – less than $1,000 to go to hit their funding mark.  I think it's likely they'll hit the mark today, and there are still 11 days to go in the campaign.  Woo hoo!  Wil's gonna fly!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

If you're of a certain age...

If you're of a certain age ... as I am, then this will bring a tear to your eye.  It's Paul Simon, Graham Nash, and David Crosby in December 2009, singing “Here comes the sun” as a tribute to George Harrison.

Do we need silver bullets and stakes in its heart?

Do we need silver bullets and stakes in its heart?  I speak of the Patriot Act, which Mitch McConnell (Republican, not that there's much difference between them and Democrats these days) has just put forward for reauthorization.  This is the legislation that authorizes the NSA surveillance that Snowden disclosed.

But to answer my own question: no, we don't need magical assistance.  All we need to do is to elect liberty-loving, honest politicians.  Which is apparently impossible in the U.S. of 2015.  So maybe we do need magical assistance...

Kindness on the 6 train...

Kindness on the 6 train... 

“Wil can fly!” update...

“Wil can fly!” update...  They're almost there!  At this writing, the pledges are at $10,463.  New backers are signing up very fast now.  Woo hoo!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cirsium discolor...

Cirsium discolor...  Complete with soldier beetles and a bumblebee.  I know from personal experience just how difficult it is to get a closeup like this.  Hats off to the photographer, Robert Klips!  Via BPOD, of course...

“Wil can fly!” update...

“Wil can fly!” update...  At this writing, the pledges total $7,942 – over the halfway mark and headed for two thirds.  They've got thirteen days to go.  If they keep getting pledges at the rate of the past few days, they're going to make it easily!

Road trip!

Road trip!  We made the trip down to Salt Lake City yesterday evening, to have dinner with our friends Doug & Dee W.  We ate at the Red Iguana, which is becoming a tradition for us much as the Fish Market used to be in San Diego.  Through a series of coincidences, we've actually been seeing Doug & Dee more often since we moved than we used to in San Diego :)

Great company, lots of entertaining stories (ask Dee about her dad, if you know her!), and delicious food.  As I told Doug last night, that's a hard combination to beat!

Weird sighting there (by Debbie): at a table near us, a young man was seated.  On his belt he wore a hanger that held a role of duct tape.  On his chair back was a sort of backpack, with lots of small spring clamps and clothes pins attached to it, along with a walkie-talkie, a pair of screwdrivers, a pair of pliers,  a ball of string, and a few other things we couldn't identify.  We couldn't figure out what that collection of stuff might be for, and I forgot to ask him on the way out, as I'd intended.  Any ideas?

Monday, April 20, 2015

“Wil can fly!” update...

“Wil can fly!” update...  Almost halfway there!

First-person P-51 video...

First-person P-51 video...  Awesome!  A flight is at right; pre-flight videos here...

What can you possibly do...

What can you possibly do ... to deter people like this?  The only plausible solutions are those that kill them.  The lefties like to call that war-mongering, and the libertarians like to call it interventionism.  Neither has any believable alternative, just variations on themes for delaying the inevitable confrontation. If history has taught us anything at all (a thoroughly debatable proposition, that), it has taught us that all such delays increase the cost in both blood and treasure – and immeasurably increase the risks...

Photo of the day...

Photo of the day...  That's Popocatepetl volcano in the background, and the Iglesia de Nuestra SeƱora de los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies) in the foreground.  Both are in central Mexico.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Yard progress...

Yard progress...  We spent the entire day working in the yard today.  It was such a lovely spring day that I just couldn't stand the idea of working in the barn.  So I got a good start on a project I couldn't tackle last summer: cleaning up years of deadfall from the willows, cottonwoods, and box elders growing along the canal.  Some of this is hand saw and lopper sort of work, but much of it was chainsaw – and I don't like using a chainsaw without someone there to call for help if needed.  I've never actually needed someone to call for help, but it's very comforting to know that someone could.

The work we did today involved a large cottonwood branch (about 18" diameter) that had cracked and fallen across the canal, extending about 40' into the edge of our lawn.  It looks like this happened at least 10 years ago, as there were substantial new branches off the big branch that clearly grew out after the big branch fell.  However, the big branch was slowly but surely making its way toward the ground, as the now-dead branches propping it up died and rotted.  Another couple of years and I'd have this big log right on the lawn.

So I chopped it up into about 30" long logs, using the chainsaw I bought last year: a Stihl MS 461 R.  I'd only used it once before, almost a year ago, when Debbie was up here for a visit (she was my safety person).  Today I broke it out, topped off all the fluid levels, and tried to start it.  On the fourth pull, it fired up – very nice.  Then I took it out to the broken limb, climbed into all my safety gear (helmet, face shield, ear protectors, Kevlar gloves and chaps) and went to work.  In very short order I had that entire 40' long branch cut to bits, along with all the big branches from it.  Compared with chainsaws I've used in the past, this one is both light and powerful, and the controls are simple and obvious.  It's so light that working with my arms straight out or even elevated is not a problem.  The anti-kickback brake is completely unobtrusive, but still works great.  The rocker claws make cutting big logs very easy.  It's a sweet machine, even better than the Husqvarna chainsaw I had in Jamul.

Unfortunately for me, once I that monster branch all cut up, I had to load it on the tractor and haul it to my log pile.  That was a bunch of work, and now I'm feeling it in all my muscles :)

The world seems to have...

The world seems to have ... an unlimited supply of crazy people.  And they're in competition with each other!

Watching this video gave me an idea.  What if ... political candidates were required to fly a challenging course (like the one shown in this video) in a wingsuit?  Would that not simultaneously (a) reduce the number of empty suit candidates, and (b) reduce the number of candidates that survive until election?  Not a bad thing, right?

Over 58,000 replica dog tags...

Over 58,000 replica dog tags...  This is an art installation at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago.  It does not (yet) have a permanent home.  Each replica dog tag is stamped with the name of a soldier or civilian who was killed in Vietnam, or died as a result of service in Vietnam.

Seeing this brings to mind once again the amazing reduction in the lethality (for Americans) of war over the past couple hundred years.  The Vietnam war was ongoing in my youth, and I served (not in combat, thank goodness) in the Navy at the end of it.  I knew several people who died in Vietnam; mainly fellow high school students.  In WWII, the big war of my parents' generation, over 400,000 Americans died.  That's almost eight times the number of dead as in Vietnam, and remember that America's population grew by leaps and bounds between WWII and Vietnam, so proportionally it's an even bigger jump.  Now in the War on Terror (including the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War), total American deaths are around 6,700 – a fraction of those in the Vietnam War, and again, America's population has grown significantly between the Vietnam War and the War on Terror.  I didn't know anyone personally who died in the War on Terror, though I do know a few people who lost family members.

The cost in American blood of a war is falling fast.  I have mixed reactions to that.  On the one hand, I can't help but celebrate the fact that fewer Americans are killed in wars.  On the other hand, the lower cost makes it easier (politically) to start a war...

FBI snake oil...

FBI snake oil...  The FBI has admitted that over 95% of the testimony it has given on hair analysis is flawed and is without a scientific basis.  There have been a number of such admissions over the years, mainly involving techniques that include a high degree of subjectivity: lie detectors, bite analysis, phrenology, psychological profiling, blood spatter analysis, and much more.

I think the proclivity for this sort of thing is baked into our criminal justice system.  The law enforcement folks have a very large incentive to get a conviction.  They (quite naturally) often develop a belief about the guilt of a suspect.  But to get a conviction, they have to provide convincing evidence – and something like hair analysis, with its veneer of scientific underpinnings, sounds good to a jury...

Pendulum clock...

Pendulum clock ... that keeps time to within 5/8ths of a second in 100 days – based on a 250 year old design by John Harrison.  I read a biography of Harrison last year (fascinating!).  He never built a clock with this design, but he was ridiculed preemptively, toward the end of his life.  This is a complete vindication.

Earthflow...


Earthflow...  This is a phenomenon I'd not heard of before.  The video at right is spectacular, showing a recent (April 1st) earthflow in Penza Oblast, Russia (see map at left).

Whoever made the video was amazingly close to this, and far braver (or crazier) than I am!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fast weather changes...

Fast weather changes...  On Wednesday – just three days ago – we had 7 inches of snow on the ground.  This afternoon it's 65°F here, and I just mowed the lawn (first time this year).  It's a stunningly gorgeous day outside...

“Will can fly!” update...

“Will can fly!” update...  Nikki Lawrence (Wil's mom) writes:
...to see all the cool articles and news segments for "Wil Can Fly"!  We are so excited that his message is reaching so many people.  We have had people from China, India, and Israel comment on how this message has touched their hearts.  So amazing that this little 18-month old has touched so many people!

Love you all,  Nikki

http://www.liftbump.com/2015/04/53351-little-boy-takes-flight-show-world-possibilities-kids-syndrome-endless/

http://www.boredpanda.com/down-syndrome-wil-can-fly-photography-adam-lawrence/

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/18-month-syndrome-flies-life-photographs/story?id=30388814

http://www.good4utah.com/story/d/story/father-uses-photos-of-flying-son-to-raise-awarenes/24216/zVde5zHRaEqpFzi-adtv6A

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=1286&sid=34183618
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/braden-s-thompson/dad-takes-adorable-photos-of-son-flying-to-raise-awareness-for-down-syndrome_b_6899088.html

http://www.slrlounge.com/wil-can-fly-kickstarter-down-syndrome/

http://www.demilked.com/downs-syndrome-wil-can-fly-alam-lawrence/

Oh and the Today show and CNN contacted Alan today about doing something.....freaking awesome!
As of this morning, their Kickstarter project has reached $3,481 of their $12,500 goal – and they're halfway through the signup period...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Barn progress: the hatch and hoist...

Barn progress: the hatch and hoist... The barn's second floor is almost 14 feet above the first floor, accessed via a long, narrow flight of stairs.  While it's possible to carry many heavy things up those stairs, it's certainly no fun.  If you have something large, long, or awkwardly shaped, it may not even be possible.  So when we were designing the barn, I had the builders put a 4' x 10' “hatch” in the ceiling of the first floor (which is also the floor of the second floor).

My builder made a couple of doors designed to open like a clam shell.  They sit in a frame, and weigh about 30 pounds apiece (they're made of steel-faced foam).  I installed big strap hinges on them, and an eye-bolt connected to a rope, pulley, and cleat system that lets me easily open and secure the hatch doors.  Then I installed a half-ton electric hoist above the center of the hatch, with a 4x6 spreader to share the hoist's load across six trusses.  The last step, just completed, was to wire the hoist into my second floor electrical subpanel.  I made a test run with a load of about 500 pounds – worked great!

Left-to-right below: the hatches opened wide, a close up of the hoist, and the hatches closed.


Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I forgot to mention this a few days ago: I got an 8" grinder, mainly for sharpening woodworking tools (it's much easier than hand sharpening!).  Like almost all the other gear I've been getting, it came as a kit, with bags of nuts and bolts, and odd-looking machined or formed metal parts.  Unlike most of these kits, it didn't come with directions!  I was able to figure it all out, though...

Snowy flowers...

Snowy flowers...  From our yard a couple of days ago, when we had snow.  It's all melted now...


If Hillary is your champion...

If Hillary is your champion ... you don't need an adversary.  Dave Carter must read...

Pluto and Charon...

Pluto and Charon...  The New Horizons mission is approaching; the fly-by is on July 14th.  Charon looks big and very close to Pluto in this photo.  I suspect that's because Charon is substantially closer to the spacecraft than Pluto is...

A lazy day yesterday...

A lazy day yesterday...  It felt as though I was goofing off, though I actually did get a few things done. 

Two fun things: first, in the morning I picked up our Honda Rincon ATV (just like the one at right).  This is a model intended for use by farmers and ranchers, part of Honda's utility series (as opposed to the sport series that are designed for trails).  There are basically two ways to use one of these (other than just personal transportation): you either tow things (like a trailer or sprayer), or you mount things on the front (like a snow blade).  I'm planning to tow a trailer (mainly for brush as I prune) and a sprayer (for the lawn).  Given that such uses are the design use for the vehicle, I was really surprised that a trailer hitch was an optional accessory.  Really, Honda?  Sheesh.  I have one on order, along with a 12V outlet so I can plug my sprayer pump in.  It's a very nice little vehicle, though.  Starts instantly, thanks to an electric starter and a fuel-injected engine.  I was a bit surprised how fast these things go.  I got a farmer's license, so I'm allowed on the county roads with it – that actually might come in handy on a really snowy day; I can get to the post office and the market even before the roads are plowed, or if there's ice.

The other fun thing was dinner – we met up with a couple of friends (Bruce & June N.) and went to Maddox Ranch House just south of Brigham City.  Several locals have told us that if we had a hankering for beef, that was the place to go.  They have a few other things as well, such as bison, some very conventional seafood, and chicken – but beef is definitely the main theme on the menu.  I had an excellent T-bone steak, cooked rare just as I like it (and very hard to get in California!).  Debbie had a rib eye, and she said is was perfectly cooked.  We both had a nice cream of chicken soup, and birch beer (real!) to drink.  They had an entire menu of luscious looking fruit pies, but we were so full that wasn't even a possibility.  An evening of good food and good company...

I also got Debbie's exercise bar finished and mounted.  This is just a 6' long piece of hemlock stair railing (2" round) mounted level on the wall.  I bought raw milled hemlock, sanded it, and finished it with just clear coat.  It's mounted to the wall with cast aluminum rail hangers, finished to look like wrought iron.  They trick your brain into thinking they're heavy (because they really do look like wrought iron!), but they're actually quite light...


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Human towers..

Human towers...

Morning smile...

Morning smile...

Long-standing mystery solved at last!

Long-standing mystery solved at last!  What makes the sound when you crack your knuckles?  It's a bubble of gas forming.

Fun knuckle-cracking facts...  It's not just your finger joints that can be cracked – some people can crack their toes, too.  And did you know that there are (at least) three different parts of your finger joints that can be cracked?  Some people can crack all three on the same fingers...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

“So Hillary asks me...”

“So Hillary asks me...” Put your morning beverage down before watching...

Best code ever!

Best code ever!  Remy with a Tax Day special...

It's a winter wonderland!

It's a winter wonderland!  A few photos from our yard, all taken just a few minutes ago...


The importance of accuracy on your Federal tax return...

The importance of accuracy on your Federal tax return...  Via my brother Scott, who made me smile even though it's (spit! hiss! creative cursing!) Tax Day:
The IRS has returned the Tax Return to a man in New York City
after he apparently answered one of the questions incorrectly.

In response to the question,... "Do you have anyone dependent on you ?" the man wrote: "2.1 million illegal immigrants, 1.1 million crackheads, 4.4 million unemployable scroungers, 80,000 criminals in over 85 prisons plus 450 idiots in Congress and a group that call themselves Politicians".

The IRS stated that the response he gave was unacceptable.

The man's response back to the IRS was, ... " Who did I leave out?"
Who indeed?

First turnings...

First turnings...  I've now finished sanding them, and have given them a good treatment with clear Watco.  The bowl has developed a few small cracks, but the goblet is still crack-free.  These cracks are to be expected, as I was turning wood that wasn't completely dried – about halfway between green and dry.  The bowl is more likely to crack because it's a larger diameter...