Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Eriogonum kennedyi...

Eriogonum kennedyi...  This is a variety of wild buckwheat, one of many that are common in southern California.  Via BPOD, of course...

Bomb-sniffing rats...

Bomb-sniffing rats...  Reader Simi L. sent this along.  When I first started reading, I thought it was some kind of joke – but it's for real!  More detail here...

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Debbie continues her steady improvement.  She no longer looks like I beat her :)  She still hasn't graduated to the walker yet, though.  I cut her a little bouquet this morning, from flowers around our yard – very cheerful blue, red, and orange!

I didn't have to move pipes this morning, so I spent the (relatively) cool part of the day doing some organizing and cleanup in the barn so that I could move the air compressor into place.  Then I actually moved it, making extensive use of the tractor to do it as the beast weighs 650 pounds.  At right is the beast in all its glory, sitting in the correct spot.  Now all I have to do is hook up 240V, 120V (yes, both!), an air intake, two drains, and the air output (which will be piped all over the shop).  By the time I finished with this, I was drenched in sweat.  The air conditioned house felt might good at that point!

I've got a toothache, I think under a crown that was installed a few years ago.  I called to make an appointment with the dentist I met a couple months ago at Hyrum Tire, Dr. Lance Gunnell.  I'm seeing him on Thursday, when he's in his Hyrum office, just four miles away.

Last year a crew from Questar Gas came out to re-route a gas line that the previous owner of this property had built an outbuilding over.  I mentioned to the crew that I intended to knock that building down, and one of them said he'd like to take it.  He'd saw it into pieces with a sawzall, and then put it back together on posts to make a boathouse for his wife.  Not only would he put it to good use, he'd do all the work of taking it down.  Of course I said “yes” to that!  Well, I lost track of this fellow's name and number, and I wanted to get that process started – as we want to put a backup generator on the slab.  What to do?  I called a different Questar Gas employee, another guy who had been out here.  I explained my dilemma to him, and he said he'd ask around the office for me while I held on the line.  About 30 seconds later, another guy got on the phone and said he knew exactly who I mean, a guy named Steve M., and he'd have Steve call me right away.  Another minute or so, and Steve called me – and now we have arranged for that building to be removed next week.  The people here are so helpful, and the community so small, that things like this happen routinely.  This would almost certainly not have been the case when we were living down in California...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Email I received today...

Email I received today...  From Apple:
Dear iMac owner,

Apple has determined that certain 3TB hard drives used in 27-inch iMac systems may fail. These systems were sold between December 2012 and September 2013.

Our records show that you have an iMac with an affected 3TB hard drive. Apple will replace your hard drive with a new one, free of charge.
 
Please visit the iMac (27-inch) 3TB Hard Drive Replacement Program page to learn more about the replacement process.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

iMac serial number: (redacted)

Sincerely,

Apple Inc.
This is not a response to any complaint we raised.  It is a program just announced by Apple.  According to some news sources, Apple noticed the trend in their service data, and took action unilaterally.

I located an authorized service location 10 miles from our home.  I called them, and they knew all about the program.  They said to just bring the computer in, and they would do the replacement.  No charge.  No hassle.  Twenty four hour turnaround.

I cannot recall the maker of any other computer, peripheral, or component that I've ever owned proactively reaching out to me to offer mitigation for a service trend showing a problem.

My service experience to date with Apple computers (8 years now) is quite limited, simply because very little has ever gone wrong.  I've had two problems that I resolved in just minutes with searches of Apple's knowledge base, one hardware problem (a keyboard with a drink spilled on it) that they fixed under warranty in an Apple store, and now this.  Every time, the problem is solved, quickly, and at no cost to me.  By contrast, I used Dell computers for quite a few years.  Initially their service was quite good, but it deteriorated over the years to the point where I would rather buy a new computer than call their service number.

I'm no Apple fan-boy, but I will happily pay a premium for excellent hardware and software backed by excellent service!

A morning in Paradise...

A morning in Paradise...  The dogs and I got out on our walk well before sunrise this morning.  We walked by a sprinkler on a recently mowed alfalfa field shooting water in front of the red sunrise.  It was cool and pleasant at that hour; as I write this (at 8:30 am) it's already in the high 80s and headed for 98° this afternoon.  The dogs flushed a weasel along the road, which as you might imagine got all three of them very excited – especially when the curious weasel came toward them.  It got to within three feet or so before it decided that fleeing was a better option :)

After sunrise, I went out and gathered up Tim D.'s hand line.  I had some help – as I was carrying the first pipe, two of another neighbor's kids (Nick and Abby S.) came out to help.  We made short work of it!  Then I moved the sprinklers in my yard, and got a picture at left of a flower (unknown to me) in our back yard...

What happens when...


What happens when ... a 7 year old kid is playing in a park, within sight of her mom?  Why, you call the cops, take the kid to the police station, and charge the mom with child endangerment, of course!

I have several reactions...
  • My parents were serial child endangerers.  Under these rules, they probably would have been executed.
  • This happened Westbrook, Maine (on the outskirts of Portland).  What the hell happened to Maine since the '50s and '60s, when I visited so many times?  
  • If the same rules were applied here in Northern Utah, every parent I know would be charged with child endangerment – free range kids are the rule here.
I wonder what country will take over the U.S.'s position as the leader of the free world? At the rate we're going, we're likely to be conquered by Mexico...

White-faced ibis update...

White-faced ibis update...  Yesterday afternoon I got a close, front-lit view of the birds that I had previously speculated were white-faced ibis.  With yesterday's better view, I'm going to call that confirmed: they were white-faced ibis.  The one I saw looked very much like the one at right (not my photo)...

“Not payable.”

“Not payable.”  So says the governor of Puerto Rico, about the island's $72B in debt.  The threat of a default looms.  The governor is actively looking for creditors to accede to restructuring, including deferrals and write-downs.  He's also looking for a (U.S.) taxpayer-funded bailout, which isn't likely.

Puerto Rico – as many have predicted it would – has run out of other people's money.  The socialists have ruined another economy.  There are quite a few parallels to the current Greek crisis, but this one is much closer to home.  Though many Americans don't know it, Puerto Rico is actually part of the United States.  It's a Commonwealth, not a state, though there is rising support in Puerto Rico to become a state.

It will be interesting, and instructive, to see what the Obama administration's reaction to this is...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Regal cat...

Regal cat...  This is Jahar, our Savannah Cat.  We're pretty sure that he believes himself to be a panther, notwithstanding the abundant evidence to the contrary.  He is Debbie's constant companion while she's bedridden.  From his point of view, that's the best thing that could possibly have happened.  He will be very disappointed when Debbie is mobile again!

Falcon 9 failed...


Falcon 9 failed...  Dang it!  Elon Musk is already tweeting about the cause – an “overpressure event” in the second stage liquid oxygen tank.  Commenters were speculating that almost in real time; apparently quite a few observers are familiar with the internal details of the Falcon 9.  Probably the biggest consequence to this is that they lost the payload, which included the docking adapter needed by SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule and other competing launch vehicles.  Hope they have a spare somewhere!

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Today is “paperwork” day – time for me to catch up on almost two weeks of accumulated paper.  The pile is getting too tall :)

On our dog walk last night, I spotted a flock of birds I don't know.  There were about a dozen of them, poking around in the sopping soil underneath a sprinkler in an alfalfa field.  When I got back, I searched through our Sibley, and the closest thing I can find is a white-faced ibis (at right, not my photo).  The birds were backlit, and in that lighting they appeared to be completely black.  But color quibbles aside, everything else matches – and nothing else in the book did.  There's another ibis (the glossy ibis) that it might possibly have been, but they're supposedly rare here (and the white-faced ibis is common).  It was interesting watching them poke those long curved beaks deeply into the soil.  Presumably they're looking for either worms or bugs.  Imagine how disconcerting that would be for the victim – one second they're “safely” ensconced in their dirt fortress, the next second they're on their way down a monster's gullet!

I moved sprinklers for my friend and neighbor Tim D. again this morning.  His grand-daughter Taylor came over to help when I was about halfway through.  I was sopping wet by the time I got done, as the pipes I had to move were in waist-high (and very wet!) alfalfa.  In some places the field was so muddy that it threatened to suck the boots right off my feet!  I also set up sprinklers around our house – sixteen sprinkler heads are currently going all around us.

On this morning's dog walk, we left well before sunrise and I caught the sprinklers backlit by the dawn (at right).  The dogs were thrilled by the cold (48°) wet air.  The humidity was high in general, but even more so downwind of the sprinklers.

When we're walking uphill, Miki and Racer are straining at the leash to go faster, and Mo'i (the old man) is straining at the leash to go slower.  I'm stuck in the middle, looking like the dogs had collaborated to try to pull me apart.  Going downhill it's a whole different story: Mo'i is now the one straining at the leash (he's got the green leash in the photo at left).  That photo was taken just before dawn, as we were headed back home this morning, marching down the steepest hill on our path.  From observation, it appears that Mo'i's walking speed can be computed by a constant added to the inverse of the tangent of the slope, adjusted linearly by the inverse of the temperature.  I can guess our pace pretty easily :)  The other two dogs, though, are almost constant speed walkers.  There is perhaps a little derating for temperature, but the slope doesn't seem to affect their pace at all!

It's paperwork time!

Slowly but surely...

Slowly but surely ... I'm weening my immediate family off of the festering sore of an operating system known as Windows.  My mom is the latest to make the leap: she's taken delivery of her new Apple iMac, and I'll be setting it up for her when I visit in August.

All three of my siblings, unfortunately, are still serial victims of the Microsoft empire.  The tech version of the Stockholm syndrome seems to have afflicted them – none of them are inclined to see the light.  I'm afraid that may not change until Chinese hackers hold their data for ransom...

New Horizons faces an unusual challenge...

New Horizons faces an unusual challenge...  The New Horizons spacecraft is on its final approach to the Pluto/Charon system, which it will fly by on July 14th.  The unusual challenge derives from a simple fact: NASA doesn't actually know exactly where Pluto and Charon are!  The margin of error from Earthbound measurements is greater than the accuracy needed to aim New Horizons – so they're depending on frantic last-minute measurements from New Horizons itself (such as the imagery at right) to pin down the exact location of Pluto and Charon.

This is the first interplanetary mission where the aiming wasn't done entirely with Earth-bound metrics.  Unmentioned in the article is another interesting fact: none of this would have been possible until about 7 or 8 years ago, when the computing power required to model complex gravitational systems became routinely available...

Solar spectrum...

Solar spectrum...  This is the best image I've ever seen of the solar spectrum in visible light.  Each of the black bands represents absorption lines for molecules that lie between the sun and the spectrometer.  There are so many of them!  If you expand this spectrum, you'll see that some of the absorption lines look “fuzzy” – these are the absorption lines of molecules at a wide range of temperatures.  I first ran into these absorption lines when reading about the discovery of helium, and I've read much more since then.  Still there was a big surprise for me in here: some of the absorption lines are still unidentified – they're being caused by a molecule (possibly an element) that we don't yet know about.  Via APOD, of course.  Full resolution version here.

Good luck, Falcon 9!

Good luck, Falcon 9!  Everything is looking good for a 10:21 EST launch.  Here's hoping for a successful soft landing on the recovery barge this morning!!

Heinlein would be loving this – a private company leading the way to space...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Progress in Paradise, Hyrum hijinks edition...

Progress in Paradise, Hyrum hijinks edition...  The dogs and I did our normal morning walk; photos at right. There are several barley fields that are nearing maturity, and are consequently being heavily irrigated right now. 

Debbie continues to improve every day.  The bruising and swelling are starting to disappear now.  There's just a small blotch remaining from her epic black eye, and her right arm is beginning to resemble a human arm now.  Yesterday we took delivery of a machine that replaces the old-fashioned ice bag for her knee.  It works by circulating chilled water through a pad that wraps around her knee.  It chills a much larger area than a bag could, and does it more evenly.  It's also got a controllable temperature.  Nice gadget!

This morning I ran up to Ridley's in Hyrum (a small town four miles north of us), and came across a cheerful scene.  In the city park there were dozens and dozens of kids in bathing suits, and several firemen were squirting them all with fire hoses.  There was much kicking and screaming from the delighted kids, and smiling faces of the parents and adult onlookers surrounding them.  I wanted to take some photos of it, but onlookers asked me not to, so I didn't.  I'm not sure why they care, but I'll respect their wishes.  Sure looked like a lot of fun for the kids!

My neighbor Tim D. is on a trip to Philadelphia with his son for the next few days.  I'm handling the irrigation for him.  This morning that means turning off one string of hand line, and moving three others.  I'll have one last move tomorrow, then I'll stack all the pipe for him as we'll be done with this cycle of irrigation.

I'm working on my tractor, getting the log splitter plumbed correctly.  I filled the hydraulic fluid on my tractor.  It was very low because when I attached the log splitter, its cylinder got filled from the tractor's reservoir, taking about 2 gallons of the 3 gallons in the reservoir.  This is what happens when you attach a big implement to a little tractor :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Things seemed mighty slow today.  I helped Tim D. (and his granddaughter Randi) move irrigation pipes again this morning.  That's a lot more fun than it likely sounds :)  I also moved the sprinklers I had going on the new grass seed I planted.  It will take one more move to finish the job.  We're going to have some green fuzz there the rest of the day.

The main things I wanted to get done today were to test-mount the log splitter after plumbing it to the backhoe hydraulic coupler, and to move my air compressor into it's intended location.  This didn't go so well, mainly because that hydraulic plumbing took three trips into town to get all the right parts.  By the time I finished all that running around, I was done for the day.  Dang it!

Diamond nights...

Diamond nights...  That's the title of Beth Moon's series of photos of baobab and quiver trees, taken by moonlight and starlight...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Evening in Paradise...

Evening in Paradise...  Just got back from an evening walk with da boyz (our three dogs).  It's just starting to cool off the tiniest bit, down to 92° from the high of 95°.  I must be getting used to this – I worked outside nearly all day, and didn't really get overheated (though I certainly took things slowly!). 

Walking back toward home on our walk, downhill, we were looking directly into the sun.  The irrigation systems were all nicely backlit, and stood out all the way across the valley.  You can't really see the distant ones in this photo, though I could see them clearly with my Mark I eyeballs. 

The sprinklers next to the road misted us in three separate places, and that felt good to all of us.  Miki (our smart little guy) figured it out after two sprinklers, and planted himself firmly in place on the third.  He stayed there, eyes closed, for four sprinkler rotations.  By that time he was nicely wetted, which would have cooled him nicely.  Meanwhile, Race and Mo'i got as far away from the water as the leash would let them, and looked at Miki as though he had lost his dogly mind :)

Narva...

Narva ... the Estonian city on the border with Russia.  Here's an interesting article about the place, with enough context to help non-Estonians understand just why they find the Russian threat so real.

I've visited Narva several times, and also driven from Narva through Russia to St. Petersburg (once with an Estonian friend, another time by myself).  I've also spent a number of days along the northern Estonian coastline (along the Baltic Sea), in every season.  It's quite a beautiful place, most especially in the spring.  There's a lot of good hiking in the area, which might surprise you if you casually inspected a map.  I can attest to the Narva area being nearly 100% Russian.  The character of the area is far more like Russia itself than the rest of Estonia is.  With apologies to my Russian friends, that's not a good thing.  What you notice immediately upon entering an all-Russian area is the trash along the roadside.  The Russians are the worst litterers I've ever run into.  One summer I hiked for about an hour along a river near Narva, as it approached the Baltic Sea.  When I walked out of the forest and onto the pebble beach, I was surrounded by an awesome display of Russian flesh – a large number of Russian adults were stretched out on the beach, some wore bathing attire; many did not.  The average weight of those people was pushing 300 pounds.  The rotundity was quite impressive.  Bottles of vodka were everywhere.  Snores filled the air.  This is one of my most lasting memories of Narva :)

I'm not too excited...

I'm not too excited one way or the other ... about the Supreme Court decision to uphold subsidies in ObamaCare even in states that use the federal exchange.  Even if the decision had gone the other way, I was confident that the Republican bozo parade would screw things up even worse.  So I was neither particularly surprised by the decision, nor dismayed by it.

But the dissenting opinion (written by Scalia, joined by Alito and Thomas) ... that's another story altogether!  I can't recall another case where any of the opinions were quite this scathing, or so bluntly written.  It's absolutely stuffed with delicious and spicy sections, a few of them laugh-out-loud funny.  It's also as good a summary as I've seen about what's wrong with the court.  If you stop and think hard while you're reading that dissent, and you're not a progressive, it will bring the doom upon you.  It tells the story of America's rot from the top...

The opinion itself is available online.  It's not that long; I read it carefully in just over an hour.  The majority opinion makes me long for a mechanism to impeach the Supreme Court.  If you want to skip directly to the fun stuff, Scalia's dissent starts on page 27 of the PDF.  The Federalist has a good collection of some of the best quotes out of Scalia's dissent.  I'll give you just one example:
“Today’s interpretation is not merely unnatural; it is unheard of. Who would ever have dreamt that ‘Exchange established by the State’ means ‘Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government’?”
I don't think Scalia is very happy about this decision :)


Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  During our walk this morning, the dogs and I got to watch the irrigation crews moving two “wheel lines” – the two that I took photos of yesterday.  To move them, they shut off the water, let it drain out of the pipes, then start up a small gas engine in a special unit located in the approximate center of the wheel line string.  There might be a half mile of pipe on each side of these units, whose purpose is to slowly rotate the line to advance it to a new location.  The entire string of pipe rotates simultaneously, so on a big wheel line you've got about 150 pieces of pipe with a wheel in the middle of each, stretching for over a mile – like a gigantic axle with 150 wheels on it.  The line follows the contours of the ground, and in the hilly area to our east one part of the line might be 100 feet or more above or below another part.  It's quite an amazing thing to see in operation.  It's also an incredibly effective and economically efficient way to irrigate quite large tracts of land.  It was fascinating to watch this crew at work.  In less than a half hour, they moved four of these big strings of wheel line and started them back up.  They zipped back and forth on ATVs to do what needed to be done, a total of six people.

When we finished our walk, my friend and neighbor Tim D. came over to start moving his hand lines.  He's got five of them running at the same time, irrigating the four different fields that he's growing alfalfa in, or using as pasture for his two horses.  He and I got all those lines moved in about 30 minutes, and then I drove my tractor over to his place to borrow his cultivator.

Our tractors both have a Category 1 (the size) 3-point hitch, so we can use the same implements.  By happy coincidence, he and I have a perfectly complimentary set of implements – couldn't have done that better if we'd tried!  I spent about an hour using the cultivator to break up all the ground we'd leveled and graded the day before, to prepare it for planting grass.  Some of that soil was so hard-packed that I had to make a dozen or so passes with the cultivator to get it broken up – but in the end, I was able to make a nice bed of soil for the grass seed.

Naturally, the next thing I did was to seed that area.  I ran down to Tractor Supply Company (just six miles up the road) and picked up a 25 pound bag of forage mix – full sun, low water requirement; perfect.  All I had to broadcast the seed with was a little hand-held and hand-cranked broadcast seeder.  It took a while to get the seed spread on a (roughly) half acre!  My right arm, which did the cranking, is now quite sore :)  And the sun was beating down on me the whole time, 90 degrees or so and 40% relative humidity.  It was hot!  After I got the seed down, I set up a couple of sprinklers.  I'll have to move them a few times to cover the whole area, but in a couple of days I should have that grass seed started.  In a few weeks, we'll have turned what was a complete mess into a nice grassy area that I can mow.  Woo hoo!

Scientists make astounding discovery in climate science!

Scientists make astounding discovery in climate science!  A most surprising one, too: the sun's output can affect our weather.  Who would ever have guessed this?

Other than anyone with even the slightest amount of common sense, that is...

Just when my despair was receding...

Just when my despair was receding ... I had to go and watch this video.

“Chelsea's mom, sexy and strong.”  Really?  Really?

Doom.  The doom is upon us, I tell you.  Run for your lives!

“I identify as competent.”

“I identify as competent.”  Remy does it again...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

No patch for incompetence...

No patch for incompetence...  Excellent piece on the reason we keep hearing about security lapses in government information technology.

I've said this many times before, but I'm going to do it again: I cannot fathom why anyone would actually believe that the federal government can do a good job at anything – anything at all.  There's not a single good example of a large government program that's well run.  There are a nearly infinite number of examples of government programs run poorly and/or corruptly.  Why would anyone expect, for instance, Obamacare to be any different?  Of course it's a disaster – that's what the federal government is actually good at!

Hypocritical Hillary...

Hypocritical Hillary...  Hillary Clinton, like most Democrats, supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and indexing it to inflation.  Sometimes she also seems to support the so-called “living wage” for all – meaning that everyone be guaranteed a (roughly) $30,000 per year income no matter what job they have, or don't have.

What do you suppose Hillary Clinton pays the interns who help in her campaign?  If you guessed zippity-doo-dah, you'd be right!

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Debbie keeps getting a little better every day.  Today we had a milestone: she was able to dress herself after washing up and shampooing her hair.  Also, she thinks she may be ready to try the walker in a few days.  That will be a big milestone, because then she'll be able to get around (the first floor, at least) on her own.  In a few minutes Bruce and June N. will be coming over to visit her.  They are the couple who helped us find this house, and they've become friends.  They live just a few miles south of us, in Avon.

This morning the dogs and I took our usual walk, and we ran into the crews moving and starting up the irrigation for the day.  We also passed one of the tractor/baler machines that have been baling up all these fields of alfalfa.  It appears to have just stopped in the middle of its work, probably when the driver knocked off for the day.  There are several common sizes of hay bales used around here, and this baler makes the biggest ones.  These are very highly compressed, much more so than the small bales I'm familiar with.  Each of these bales weighs around two tons.  No throwing them around!  You have to have a fairly large tractor with special hay forks to move these suckers around.  The farmers like them because they are so highly compressed; it makes the hay stacks more compact.

After our walk, I helped my neighbor Tim D. move his irrigation string, and then he volunteered to help me put the finishing touches on the ground leveled out yesterday with the giant loader.  Tim drove all kinds of machines that moved earth for almost 40 years, when he worked for LeGrand Johnson's paving division.  He's an expert.  All he had to work with was an old Massey-Ferguson tractor (he's named it “Betsy” and a simple blade.  With those tools, he turned yesterday's rough work into a piece of finished work.  That's him at right.  He's doing me a huge favor, but I could tell that he was having a lot of fun.  The big grin was a giveaway :)  Afterwards he and I had a big glass of limeade while he visited with Debbie.

I did a bit of the finishing work with the loader on my tractor.  I knocked down a couple of sharp corners, and flattened out a ridge.  To get ready for this work, I had to take my backhoe off.  That's always a tricky thing to do.  It requires futzing around with the hydraulics to get the backhoe positioned perfectly to take the load off the two pins that hold it in place.  It usually takes me about a half hour, but today I did it in just 20 minutes.  I'm thinking that maybe I should just spend a day practicing this until I actually get good at it :)

Now I'm hot and tired, and looking forward to a nice visit with Bruce and June!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Lots of happenings today!

Debbie is progressing incrementally, looking and feeling a bit better every day.  She's still essentially bedridden, though, and she's going a little stir crazy because of it.  It's been almost three weeks since her fall, and since she's been imprisoned in her (nice, comfortable, full-service included) bed.

Last night, one of her friends from southern California (Marsha Y.) stopped by for a great visit.  She stayed for several hours of conversations and reminiscences.  We stayed up way past our bedtime!

I took a walk with the dogs in the cool morning, up the farm road on the hill to the east of our house.  In the past few days these fields have dramatically changed in appearance – the three foot tall alfalfa has all been mowed, raked, dried, baled, and removed.  Now there's 4" stubble remaining, and the irrigation is going full blast (see at right).  When we got to the top of the hill, we could see 19 strings of wheel lines (like those in the photograph) going – and some of those strings were close to a mile long.

As we were walking back into our driveway, a gigantic loader drove by us, very slowly.  It was one that our neighbor Tim D. had arranged for us, to do some terraforming down on the southeast part of our property.  This is the same general area where the Mormon horde helped us clean up a few weeks ago.  There was a part there, roughly an acre in extent, that was so weirdly sloped that there was no way I could mow it.  The loader was there to sculpt that weirdness into something more attractive, and more maintainable.

The loader operator, a genial fellow named Alan L., talked with me for about a half hour about exactly what I wanted to accomplish.  Then he (very politely) told me to get the hell out of his way and let him get the job done.  Three hours later, he'd finished – and had created something considerably better than I'd hoped for.  I wish I'd been smart enough to take a “before” photo, but alas, I wasn't.  However, you can see clearly here that we how have an eminently usable piece of ground here!  I'm going to plant some grass here for now, but later in the bottom, flat part we're going to plant something that will make an attractive roadside display.  That's going to take some research on our part, to find something that will do well here without any irrigation (this is one of the few awkward spots on our place to irrigate).  I did have one bizarre thought later, though – it just might be feasible to put a solar powered drip system in that sourced its water in the canal just 20' away.  Another thing to research :)

That was plenty of excitement for one day, but it got even better.  Around 1 pm, I got a call from a trucker – he had a load for me.  I was expecting my air compressor (which I've been trying to buy since January!), so I got my tractor going and met him by the road, expecting to be unloading 650 pounds of air compressor.  Instead, he had a much smaller pallet.  I had to get the bill of lading out to see what it was – and it was the PTO powered pressure washer that I ordered back in March.  It finally came in!  Woo hoo!  I took it into the shed and started to unpack it, and my phone rang again – another trucker with a load – and this time it was the air compressor.  Double woo hoo!

So I spent the next two hours unpacking and inspecting the two shipments.  The pressure washer is a particularly impressive piece of machinery.  It's a pile of parts and a bag of bolts right now, though the pump is fully assembled.  The pump is Italian, and I'd have guessed that even if I didn't already know – there's a certain style to Italian machinery that one rarely sees in machinery made anywhere else.  This is a purely functional, industrial piece of kit – but some engineers spent time making it beautiful anyway.

The air compressor was remarkable for a completely different reason: it was not a kit!  I was shocked – for once, a piece of equipment I ordered came fully assembled.  Wow!  However, the air compressor more than makes up for that by the complexity of its installation.  I have to connect it to both 240 V and 120 V, plus an air intake (to clean outside air), the compressed air output, and two separate water drains (one for the tank, the other for the air dryer).  Another project :)

The word is starting to get out around town that Debbie is injured again.  This evening, one of the members of the Relief Society for the ward we live in stopped by to check on us.  As with all their visits, she just wanted to make sure we got any help we needed.  She looked disappointed that we really didn't need any :)  She chatted with Debbie for a while, very friendly and neighborly.  She's good friends with Michelle H., the woman who cleans our house.  Small towns are nice that way.  When she left, she left Debbie wearing a smile and feeling very good indeed about the area we retired to.

We love living here!

Climate alarmists converging on reality...

Climate alarmists converging on reality...  What a pleasant thought that is!  Jo Nova re-published the lovely graphic at right...

Are you still depending on major media for your news?

Are you still depending on major media for your news?  By that, I mean outlets like the New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, or Fox News.  Here's an excellent example illustrating why your trust is most seriously misplaced.  There are some slightly better outlets: the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, etc.  But the difference is more like that between Coke and Pepsi, not Yugo and Mercedes.  In my own experience, bloggers and independent journalists (like Michael Totten, or Michael Yon) are far more reliable and insightful sources.

Before you start condemning the major media, you should reflect upon why they are so bad.  The reason is simple.  The kind of “news” they're spewing is manifestly what consumers want.  It's what draws the viewers and readers.  It's not their fault that we're (collectively) a bunch of moronic thrill seekers.  It's ours...

Why are the Baltic states nervous about Russia?

Why are the Baltic states nervous about Russia?  Here's why...

Cheaper batteries...

Cheaper batteries ... through better manufacturing.  Fascinating story about the startup 24M...

Best Fourier series graphic evah!

Best Fourier series graphic evah!  I could watch this for hours...

This is the real promise of manufacturing by 3D printers...

This is the real promise of manufacturing by 3D printers ... making things that would be impossible with conventional manufacturing techniques.  Gotta work on the cost part, though :)

3D printing has a place with prototyping and very low volume manufacturing, but for anything needed in quantities above a few dozen, conventional manufacturing techniques are inherently less expensive.  That doesn't look likely to change anytime in the foreseeable future.  But ... 3D printing does let you make some things that you couldn't practicably make by any other means...

Solid-state drives to reach price parity with hard disks next year?

Solid-state drives to reach price parity with hard disks next year?  So says this fellow, and quite a few others.  My favorite sentence in the article:
“If you were told that a BMW and a golf-cart were the same price, which would you buy?”
I'm already buying the BMW (only), even though it still costs a bit more.  I haven't purchased a hard disk in about four years...

Making a Celtic stone axe...

Making a Celtic stone axe ...
using only primitive materials and tools.  This is impressive.  I'm in awe of this maker.  But ... I do like my power tools :)

It's box turtle time...

It's box turtle time...  My sister Holly found one laying eggs in her driveway!  More photos here...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Maybe the title today should be “pooped in Paradise” instead :)  Bright and early this morning, the Fellowship of the Mustard Pullers gathered again in our field.  Tim D., myself, and Maria S. and her kids Nicolas, Abby, and Sarah all attacked the remaining quarter acre or so of mustard.  And we emerged victorious!  About three hours after we started, there wasn't a mustard plant anywhere to be seen on the 7.5 acres of alfalfa that Tim D. is running (that's on a combination of 5 acres of his land, and 2.5 acres of ours).  The kids were being paid by Tim, by the hour, and they were eagerly pursuing their mustard-derived riches.  However, when we temporarily ran of mustardly things to do (because we were waiting for Tim to return from dumping a load of mustard so we could load him up with another), they spontaneously started moving some irrigation pipe from the field to its storage location.  Such initiative involving physical labor is not something I'd ever expect a kid in California to do, but here it's pretty much the norm.  When the kids know help is needed (and they know it with Tim), they're on the lookout for things they can do to help.  It's almost enough to give me hope for the future, except that I've met all too many of the California-style kids.

After all that work (the last half or so in the hot sun), I'm not feeling too energetic today :)

Flowers in Paradise...

Flowers in Paradise...  These are all currently in bloom in our yard...


I want to be like this guy when I grow up!

I want to be like this guy when I grow up!  Wooden combination locks.  This would never have occurred to me!

The death of homeopathy?

The death of homeopathy?  Jeez, let's hope so!

“It was a farce.”

“It was a farce.”  You just can't trust anything this administration says!

Utah street names...

Utah street names...  One of the things that took some getting used to here is the street names.  Well, really, the lack of street names!  Very few streets here actually have names at all.  Instead, they're numbered in a uniform system, and sometimes have an additional highway name. 

For instance, our property here is bordered by two roads, each running north/south.  On the east side of our property, the road is mainly known by it's highway name: State 165.  That road is also known as “200 West”, which means it's 2 blocks west of Main Street in Paradise.  Every town has a Main Street and a Center Street, laid out at 90° to each other (forming a cross).  Their intersection is the zero/zero point of a coordinate system that names all other roads in that town.  The road on the west side of our property is “400 West” – which is, of course, 4 blocks west of Main Street in Paradise. 

While all this was confusing at first, now that we've figured it out we're finding it to be very convenient.  If someone gives us an address, we immediately know where it is.  We don't need a map.  There are only a dozen or so towns in all of Cache Valley, and we've learned where all of them are.  If someone gives us an address like, say, “435 N 500 E, Providence” – then we know exactly where that is and how to get there without needing a map at all.  Good trick!

There's a more detailed explanation of the system here...

A peek into the horrors of the progressive mind...

A peek into the horrors of the progressive mind...  Bob Shrum is a well-known Democratic consultant, and politically a progressive.  Here's a quote from him reacting to the recent Charleston church shootings:
“I cannot imagine the horror that could’ve occurred if people were sitting around with concealed weapons, this thing started and you had a full-scale gunfight.  You might not even have three survivors.” 
So his take is that had the victims been able to defend themselves, more people would have died.  That's such an utterly stupid analysis that I am at a loss for words.  My pistol-packing mama wasn't, though: she thinks Mr. Shrum is “missing a few wires up there”.  Quite possibly!

It seems rather obvious to me that if even one person inside that church had had a gun, the results would have been different – and fewer people would have died, Mr. Shrum's moronic views notwithstanding.  In order for that to have happened, though, South Carolina would have to change it's laws.  It's currently illegal there for citizens with concealed carry permits to take a gun into a church.  Obviously that didn't stop Roof – but it would (and did!) stop ordinary citizens from defending themselves.  I won't be a bit surprised if the police discover that one of the reasons Roof targeted a church is that it's a gun-free zone – so he knew that nobody would be defending themselves there...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The zipper...

The zipper...  Via reader Simi L.:
In a crowded city at a busy bus stop, a woman who was waiting for a bus was wearing a tight leather skirt. As the bus stopped and it was her turn to get on, she became aware that her skirt was too tight to allow her leg to come up to the height of the first step of the bus.

Slightly embarrassed and with a quick smile to the bus driver, she reached behind her to unzip her skirt a little, thinking that this would give her enough slack to raise her leg.

Again, she tried to make the step only to discover she still couldn't. So, a little more embarrassed, she once again reached behind her to unzip her skirt a little more. For the second time, she attempted the step, and, once again, much to her chagrin, she could not raise her leg. With a little smile to the driver, she again reached behind to unzip a little more and again was unable to make the step.

About this time, a large Texan who was standing behind her picked her up easily by the waist and placed her gently on the step of the bus.

She went ballistic and turned to the would-be Samaritan and screeched, "How dare you touch my body! I don't even know who you are!'

The Texan smiled and drawled, "Well, ma'am, normally I would agree with you, but after you unzipped my fly three times, I kinda figured we was friends."

Evening in Paradise...

Evening in Paradise...  I took a ride on my ATV, to one of the higher hills in the valley.  It's only about two miles from home, over farm roads.  The photo right is looking to the south, across fields of barley that's nearly ready to harvest.

The dogs and I took a walk just before this.  The temperature was 89°, down from today's high of 93°.  The forecast for tomorrow is for a high of 88°, a tad cooler than today.  The dogs didn't seem to care about the heat, but ... when we walked under an irrigation sprinkler, they were practically dancing in the cool water, obviously reveling in it :)

Pater: a Father's Day memory...

Pater: a Father's Day memory...  Of course my thoughts today kept wandering to memories of my dad.  At one point I tried to remember any Father's Day with him, and I wasn't having much luck.  My dad wasn't the sort to celebrate a “holiday” like that, nor am I for that matter.  But one memory finally did pop up – something I hadn't recalled for many, many years now.

I can't place the year exactly, but it would have been when I was about 13 or 14 years old – so something like '65 or '66.  It was a weekday before Father's Day, I think a Friday (because Father's Day was imminent).  I was working with my dad at the home of a landscaping customer, somewhere in northern New Jersey.  The customer's name was Deer (or maybe Deere), a couple with at least one child, a young girl perhaps 17 or 18 years old.

My dad was working in the front of the house, and I was spreading mulch down in the back yard, near a pool house.  The girl (whose name I've long since forgotten) came down to go swimming.  Before she went in to change, she stopped to talk with me for a few minutes.  I remember that she asked me what we were going to do for Father's Day, and I said “Nothing special.  We’ll all be home on Sunday, as usual.”

“Does your father work on Sunday?”, she asked.

“Usually in his office, or maybe at the nursery.” I said.  “But we’ll probably play some croquet or something in the afternoon.”

We really did play croquet on occasion, and other sorts of games both indoors and outside.

“My father always works at his office in town every day.  We hardly ever see him.” she said.  “You’re really lucky to be with your father all the time!”

That last sentence was accompanied by an expression of the purest envy.

If I remember correctly, her dad was a lawyer.  It was evident from the quality of his home that he made a great deal more money than my dad did.  I'd imagined, in the naive way of a child, that having all that money would make for some very happy kids.  I certainly wouldn't have minded having my own swimming pool!

But there was his daughter, envying me because I had something she couldn't have: what we'd call today quality time with my dad.

I know now that she was right to be envious.  Between work and play, I was with my father for more time in a year than most kids have in their entire childhood.  My dad was extremely accessible to me, as his work was either on the farm I grew up on or at customers' sites, where I was quite likely dragooned to help.  I had many, many hours of time with him driving to and from customers' sites – time we filled with conversation about all sorts of things.  Whether we were on the road or at home on the farm, he'd frequently take a few minutes to show me something interesting, or to explain something I was curious about.  This was my “everyday dad”, and I only realized how unusual that was when I joined the U.S. Navy and met people with very different experiences of their father (or, all to often, no experience at all because they never knew him).

Yup, she was right to be envious.  I was a lucky kid indeed to have the father I did...

I've had the privilege of knowing quite a few children of immigrants...

I've had the privilege of knowing quite a few children of immigrants...  Any one of those people could have been in this video (though none were).  Many of the sentiments expressed by these people are ones I share about my own parents, but these children have an extra poignant element: their parents came to this country as strangers in a strange land, with next to nothing in the way of resources.  That makes everything more difficult – and their successes and sacrifices more admirable...

Must-read piece on the impact climate change is having on science...

Must-read piece on the impact climate change is having on science...  By Matt Ridley, writing at The Quadrant.  A sample from the beginning of the article:
Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudoscience—homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science.

Or so I used to think. Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas.

Someday I won't cry on Father's day...

Someday I won't cry on Father's day...  But today is not that day.  We miss you, dad...

This is what happens when a tech company has $200B in cash...

This is what happens when a tech company has $200B in cash...  They start doing really weird stuff that you'd never expect from a hardware company!

I, for one, welcome our new news overlords.  They couldn't possibly be any worse than the current batch!

Mama, don't let your kids grow up to be...

Mama, don't let your kids grow up to be ... weed-pullers, lest they turn out like the character at right.  That's my neighbor Tim D., recovering in the shade next to my shed after we got done pulling weeds yesterday morning.  All of us looked about like this :)

Took the dogs for a dawn walk...

Took the dogs for a dawn walk ... and that's what it looked like to our east.  We had just enough light to walk up the hill; by the time we walked back we had plenty of light and the sun was just touching the tops of the mountains to our west.  As I write this, the valley (where our home is) is still dark, but sunrise will probably happen in a half hour or so...

The seasons of Saturn...

The seasons of Saturn...  As imaged by the Cassini probe.  Via APOD, of course.  Full resolution version here.

Not long ago, I was talking with one of our local kids about the robotic probes that captured the wonderful images like these.  She had never known a time when high quality imagery of objects in space was unavailable.  Somewhere during the conversation, it dawned on her that the robotic probes were a relatively recent invention, and she asked me how we got images “before”.  When I told her that we simply didn't have them – that, for example, we knew Saturn as a fuzzy blob with fuzzy rings and very little detail – she thought I was pulling her leg.  Yet I can easily remember the wonder of those first probes – Ranger, Mariner, Venera – returning grainy images that were miraculously better than what could be obtained from earth.  I can also remember the amazing advances in adaptive optics making leaps and bounds in improving earth-bound astrophotography.  It wasn't so very long ago, really, that images like the one above could be found only in science fiction illustrations made by painters with vivid imaginations.  Now they're routine, and rather taken for granted...

Morning in Paradise...

Morning in Paradise...  I woke up at 3:30 this morning, and I could tell that I wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep.  So I got up, took a shower, and then walked outside with Mo'i.  The sky was moonless and slightly overcast, so it was dark but I couldn't really see the stars very well.  The night was
quiet except for a few birds peeping occasionally, and the sounds of hundreds upon hundreds of sprinkler heads irrigating the fields all around us.  These sprinkler heads come in all manner of shapes and sizes, from the bog-standard Rainbird impact sprinkler at right to the monster “guns” like the one at left, with nozzles as large as 1" in diameter.  Not only does each model of sprinkler have its own unique sound, but various accessories also do.  For instance, many sprinklers alongside a road have “shields” that stop the sprinkler from spraying the road; these have a very noticeable sibilant sound.  Then there are many sprinklers that have the ability to reverse direction, so they sweep back-and-forth over an area; these make different sounds depending on which direction they're rotating.

The most complex sounds of all come from some of the big guns that have computers controlling the water pattern so that it makes even coverage over a rectangular field.  The computer moves several controls on the gun to make the water shoot exactly the right distance to hit the corners of a field without over-spraying the sides.  They even compensate for wind drift!  A few weeks ago, I stopped to talk with a farmer setting one of these up.  He looked like an IT guy, with a laptop plugged into his “gun”, a wind direction and speed sensor, and a GPS surveying system to plot out the fields geometry.  He told me that his “gun” cost a little over $3,000, but would pay for itself in the first year by evenly sprinkling his whole field without over-spraying.  He figures he'll save around $1,000 in fuel alone (the sprinkler is powered by a diesel pump). 

I could hear all these sprinklers as we walked.  Some of the sprinklers I heard were likely over a mile away.  It's quiet at 4 am in Paradise :)

Today is mowing day.  I haven't mowed for over a week, and I irrigated this week.  The fertilizer I put down a few weeks ago has kicked in, and the warm sunny days have done their thing.  My lawn will have to be reclassified as a forest if I don't mow it down soon.  I'm going to generate enough clippings that you'd think I could bale it and sell it as hay :)

Usually when I finish mowing, our driveway is covered with lots and lots of grass clippings.  Today I'm going to blow them all off with the wheeled blower I got last week.  Should look very nice when I get done!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Did you ever have one of those projects that you thought was going to be a trivial thing turn into the project from hell?  That happened to me today.  The project?  Installing drip irrigation for the five pots of color that we have on our second floor balcony.  What inspired me to do this was discovering a spigot immediately below the balcony.  No particular part of this project was hard – the only real problem was that I kept forgetting one part or another for the system.  Since this was the first drip irrigation I've installed at our home in Paradise, I didn't have the box of all the miscellaneous parts and tools you need for this job.  There's the filter, the faucet adapter, the pressure reducer, the back-flow preventer, the timer, the 1/2" tubing, the 1/4" tubing, the barbed flow emitters, the bug stoppers, the stakes, the emitter installation tool, and 25 or so other things.  I made a lot of trips to Ridley's.  Had to fill up on gas.  I'm thinking about new tires.  And I definitely am now overdue for maintenance on my truck.  My wallet is overstuffed with Ridley's receipts, most of them for under $5.  Sheesh.

Well, now I have that box of miscellaneous drip irrigation parts and tools!

And the drip irrigation is working fine.

I also finished installing three swinging bird feeder arms on our balcony.  I started the installation a couple days ago, with that effort ending with a couple coats of black paint.  Now that the paint was dry, I could install the actual arm and hang some feeders out: two hummingbird feeders and one oriole feeder.  We've seen quite a few of both around here, including a nesting pair of Bullock's Orioles near the southeast corner of our property, in a black willow along the irrigation canal.  I like these swinging arms, though I wish they were made of a bit heavier gauge steel.  Still, they're strong, mounted easily to the balcony rail columns, and the swinging action is perfect for getting the feeders out over the yard (instead of the nice, clean balcony floor).  The hardware that comes with them assumes you're mounting them to wooden beams, but all I had to do to make them work was to buy some good sheet metal screws and an “L” bracket to hold up the bottom.  This was both inexpensive and easy.  The black paint was a choice of mine, to make the swinging arms match (and blend in with) the balcony railing.  That worked great!

The dogs and I just got back from a roughly one mile walk, which we made very slowly because it's hot outside.  Our thermometer reads 90°, and I believe it.  The weather site says it's 23% relative humidity right now – not bad.  Except that I know that's wrong, because we have irrigation running upwind of us – it's probably more like 80% at our house.  When we had walked about a quarter mile away, the humidity dropped sharply; the difference was easily perceptible.  The dogs had one exciting moment along the walk today.  They all stayed on leash, but at one point they all three (even the ancient and venerable Mo'i!) zeroed in on a dead robin about 4 feet off the road.  Suddenly I had three dogs pulling me with about 500 pounds of force.  It was simply not possible for me to hold them back – until it occurred to me to grab onto my neighbor's fence post.  For a good minute or so, those damned dogs did their level best to separate my left arm (holding their leashes) from my body.  If they could have mustered just a few more pounds of force, they'd have succeeded.  When I hold my two arms straight out in front of me now, my left arm is now about a half inch longer than the right.  If it's still that way in the morning, I'm going to be a little worried about it!

His very own Harrier...

His very own Harrier...

Language distribution...

Language distribution...  Here's a simple graphic showing how many people speak each of the world's major languages.  There were definitely some big surprises here for me!  High resolution version here...


Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Debbie's still getting a little better each day.  Her appetite (which has been suppressed by the pain meds) is starting to kick back in.  We had pizza yesterday afternoon, which is by far the most substantial food she's had in two weeks.  Swelling and bruising is slowly getting better, but not fast enough for her :)

Yesterday morning a gaggle of neighbors (Tim D., Maria S., and a bunch of little S.'s) came out, and we all pulled mustard from our field.  Tim is running alfalfa and barley on our field, and one section – about a half acre – is more mustard than crop.  There's no way to get rid of that other than pulling it, all 10 bazillion plants.  We worked on that for a couple of hours yesterday, and about three hours this morning, and now its about 75% gone.  We've made giant piles of the pulled mustard, which we'll be hauling up to an old quarry a half mile away, to dry and be burned.  Monday morning we'll finish up the last of it.  Pulling mustard is pretty low on my list of fun things to do, but ... doing it in a group like this, in soil softened by irrigation, with lots of joshing and good conversation ... that makes it a lot more interesting.  I walked back in this morning with a stiff back, a serious thirst, and a big smile.  I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Yesterday morning, right after we finished pulling mustard, Ryan O. (our heating and air conditioning guy) showed up to reconnect our air conditioning compressor.  He had disconnected it last fall for us, so that I could dig a trench under it for water, network, and gas connections to the shed.  When he lit it off, there was the most lovely burst of cool, crisp air on our second floor.  It's been sweltering up there with our outdoor temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s.  Now it's just sitting there at 72°, and feeling ever so nice when I come in from outside.  Yay Ryan!

Not long after Ryan left, my new brush mower showed up.  This is a 20 HP beast that will chop through 6' tall brush and 2" diameter saplings.  I hook it to my ATV, which gives me a combo that I can get into just about anywhere.  The thing was a kit, naturally.  It took me about 3 hours to uncrate it, assemble it, fill it with oil and gas, and light it off.  The engine is electric start, and the thing lit off the very first time I cranked it.

There's a lot about a quarter mile north of our place that just sold early this year.  The new owners haven't built on it yet, so it's just two and a half acres of weeds.  Those weeds were taller than me – 6 or 7 feet tall in places – and some of them had 1" “trunks”.  I called the new owners and got permission to mow it down, and that's what I used to test out my new mower.  It worked like a champ!  I only managed to stall the mower once, in a particularly tall thicket of something that looks a bit like tumbleweeds.  The rest of it all went down effortlessly.  It was hot, dusty work, but otherwise not physically demanding.  Ninety minutes and the field was down.  Yay!

I'm not sure what I'm going to do today.  For now, I'm just going to sit and enjoy my apple juice and chair :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Debbie update...

Debbie update...  Well, we're back – and with unexpected news.  Good news, mainly.

When we checked in for her appointment, we were surprised by a request to take more X-rays.  This request came before we'd even finished the check-in paperwork.  Though we'd brought our iPads so we could read while waiting, we never even got a chance to crack them open.  The MRI from last week was full of artifacts from the metal in Debbie's knee (we knew this already), so the surgeon wanted X-rays to get a good picture of her knee's current status.  These X-rays went quickly and easily, in no small part because of the kind and attentive work of the X-ray tech, a young lady named Brook.

As soon as we were done with the X-rays, we were scooted into the exam room, where we waited for about 10 seconds for the surgeon (Dr. Tom Higginbotham) to come in.  We'd not met him before, so we didn't know what to expect, though he was highly recommended to us by two friends in Paradise.  Within a few minutes, we knew we had a good 'un – he was cheerful, considerate of Debbie, full of information, and happily answered all our questions.

But what he had to say quite surprised us!  While he acknowledged that the MRI shows a “slightly ratty” meniscus, he's not at all sure that's a problem.  And, more importantly, it's not the worst problem in her knee.  He said that the MRI also shows a fracture of her medial condyle (the knobby “knuckle” of the knee, one of two attached to each femur, or upper leg bone).  The fracture was just a hairline crack, and the X-rays confirmed that there was no displacement (bones shifting) at all.  The treatment for this is very simple: wait.  Wait for about six weeks post-injury, or about four weeks from now, before putting any weight on that leg.  No surgery required.

The way this fracture was diagnosed was interesting.  The MRI clearly shows the edema in her knee.  “Edema” is just a fancy word for swelling, in this case in her knee.  It was very evident indeed at the time the MRI was taken, and indeed it still is.  The MRI also shows that there were two kinds of liquid causing the edema.  One was liquid that was mostly water, but the other was a liquid that was mostly fat or oil, and it floated on top of the water (much like separated salad dressing).  The water-based liquid is mainly from blood or plasma, but what's the fatty liquid from?  Well, it turns out that the presence of such a fatty liquid is a signature of a fracture.  It's caused by bone marrow leaking out of the broken bone.  It was the presence of that fatty liquid that lead Dr. Higginbotham to search for the fracture, which was quite a subtle feature on the MRI (and didn't show up at all on the X-ray).

So now we have a follow-up appointment in mid-July, and between now and then she's going to be basically bedridden and helplessly dependent on me.  Which she hates, of course.  After she's all healed from this fracture, then we'll have another discussion with Dr. Higginbotham about whether to clean up that meniscus (and remove all the hardware)...

There are many ways...

There are many ways ... that people can demonstrate their craziness.  These two decided to do it by flying tandem through a hangar at 185 MPH.  I'll call that an effective demonstration!  Full screen it...

A big step in browser-as-a-platform...

A big step in browser-as-a-platform...  It's extraordinary to see such broad cooperation amongst browser makers.  It's almost like they understand the value of standards :)  Even Microsoft is participating, which makes me wonder if the end days are nigh.  In any case, if this standard is actually widely deployed, it means that soon the browser environment will not be strictly a JavaScript world – any programming language could be supported in a cross-browser way.  Watch out, operating systems!  Browsers will be the new applications platform...

Biological compass located...

Biological compass located...  It will be interesting to see if this same sensor can be found in higher animals...

An online plant identification service...

An online plant identification service...  This is an amazing concept, a mix of automation and botanists identifying any plant from photographs, at a cost of about a dollar per identification.  I haven't tried it yet, but I am most definitely going to – I must have 50 plant species around here that I'd like to ID...

M64: the black eye nebula...

M64: the black eye nebula...  Via APOD, of course.  Full resolution version here.

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Today's the big day for Debbie.  We're off to see the surgeon today; it's the evaluation for her torn meniscus repair surgery.

I went walking with the dogs early this morning.  Our routine walk (past the barley field at right) turned into something very non-routine, though, when Race decided to take off chasing voles through a just-mowed alfalfa field.  He ran about a mile north of me; I could hardly even make him out.  I tied Mo'i and Miki to a fence post and took off after Race.  Only by jogging about 3/4 of a mile could I get close enough for him to hear me, and even then he was reluctant to come to me.  I finally wrassled him into a leash – which is where he's going to stay.  Forever.

Our neighbor's 11 year old boy (Nicolas S.) and I helped our mutual neighbor Tim D. move his irrigation pipes this morning.  The pressure has been low for a couple days, but this morning it's back up, so Tim was eager to get his four strings of pipe up and running on his alfalfa.  He's also wetting down some mustard so that Nicolas and his siblings can pull it out later today.

Yesterday afternoon we took delivery of some carpet stair treads.  They're quite nicely made, and Debbie is very happy with the color and design.  I'll be installing them today and tomorrow...

Sandra and Lizzy...

Sandra and Lizzy...  Via reader Simi L.  Awesome!

I can't even imagine our dogs doing this!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  Debbie's still on the mend.  Tomorrow's the big day: surgical evaluation.

I started my day with a walk, at about 5 am, with all three dogs (some photos below).  The weather was lovely, and we all watched the rising sun playing on the hills across the valley, to the west.  Race was bounding through the tall alfalfa like a mad dog – in the space of five minutes, I'm sure he traveled at least two miles.  At one point he was a half mile or so away from me.  All I could see was the madly waving white tip of his tail, except for when he made a great leap onto a (possibly imaginary) vole.  He did this about every ten seconds.  He's going to be very disappointed on our next walk, though – the alfalfa field was mowed today.  They'll probably bale it on Friday, then start watering to start the next cutting off growing quickly...


I had a good day today; got a lot done. I started by making a long-overdue cleanup of the shed's first floor.  I loaded the tractor's forklift up three times: once with plastic and other packing trash, again with cardboard and pallets, and finally with two giant trash containers.  You can actually see the floor in the garage section now :)  Then I installed three swinging hummingbird feeder holders on our balcony rail.  This, of course, involved several trips to the hardware store for screws, paint, etc.  But it's done now! 

Toward the end of the day my Billy Goat blower arrived (mine is similar to the one pictured at right).  I had to meet the truck in Providence (about 8 miles away) and we transferred the 165 pound box to my pickup.  Naturally it was a kit, and it took me about an hour to assemble it.  The Honda motor started on the third pull (after being shipped without either gas or oil) and roared to life with no hassles at all.  My test run down the driveway was a spectacular success – one pass each way and every last foreign object is blown off the pavement.  Awesome!  I never knew such a device existed until the crew came to seal my driveway two weeks ago.  They used one of these to clean my driveway before spraying the sealant.  After watching them work with theirs, I said “I gotta get me one of those!”  So I did :)

Now I've got some laundry going, and I'm about to go wash the dishes, tend the cats, walk the dogs, and then crash.  Hard!