Thursday, December 31, 2015
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
My brother Scott is getting along fabulously well with his neighbors. He's only been in the house a couple of weeks, and he's already had dinner with two (or more?) of his neighbors, met loads more, and has every expectation of more of the same. I expected him to find the neighbors a good bunch of folks, but I didn't expect it to happen so fast!
I'm puttering and taking care of Debbie today. I ran one of our cats (Koa, our oldest guy) up to the vet for a checkup, as he was exhibiting some strange symptoms. Turns out he's got another urinary tract infection (UTI), something male cats are prone to. She took blood for a workup, too. Also gave him some fluids, as he was a bit dehydrated. Now he's home, and on antibiotics to get rid of the UTI...
For the past two days we've had a roaring fire going in our living room fireplace. I brought in some wood that we cut when the Mormon horde helped me clean up along the irrigation canal last summer. It's a mix of wet and dry, and box elder and black willow. It's all burning very well, making the room (where Debbie is holed up) a much homier place...
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Contrary Wins the RaceLongtime readers may remember that many moons ago I helped build electronic trading software (for three different companies), trading in stocks, bonds, and stock options for hedge funds. I learned a lot about how those investments worked in the process; more, really, than I ever wanted to know :) What I learned that applied to an individual investor can be summarized as follows:
It wasn’t easy to make money in most markets in 2015. The investors who did the best are the ones who defied conventional wisdom. While many star traders had a rocky year as consensus predictions persistently came up short, those who did well employed strategies including betting against already downtrodden energy stocks and taking a contrarian stance on that most golden of stocks, Apple.
- Invest in equities (stocks) only through index funds or similarly diversified algorithmic strategies.
- Don't listen to anyone advising you to choose particular single stocks (not even Warren Buffet, and certainly not some idiot reported in the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, or USA Today).
- Don't touch bonds, most especially don't touch municipal bonds. Their credit ratings are faked.
- Find other investment vehicles, even if unconventional, so that you don't have all your investments in stocks. For us, that's currently real estate, though I'm still looking for other attractive alternatives.
The reason is a direct result of my work in the electronic trading industry. One of my bosses was very interested in what the industry calls “algorithmic trading”. Basically that's stock picking (choosing what to buy or sell) by a computer program, and often doing so at very high speeds that a human could not do. That boss asked me to undertake a study using publicly available (though expensive!) data. He wanted me to figure out which human traders had the best, consistent trading record. Then he wanted to build an algorithmic trading system that duplicated what that human trader did (assuming we could figure it out).
Well, that project never got past the first stage. You see, when I completed the data analysis part (using 25 years of trading data, and looking only at traders with at least a 10 year record), we found zero human traders who consistently beat the Standard and Poors index. Not one. Nada. Zip. Nobody. This was inconsistent with the widely believed lore in the business, but completely consistent with previous academic studies.
My boss didn't believe my results, so he had me do a second study: this time of “analysts”: those people who spend their entire working life trying to predict the future price of stocks. Generally these analysts work within a small segment of the market (say, mining stocks, or auto makers); sometimes they work with only a single (large) company, like Apple or GM. These results were even more interesting: the analysts did significantly worse than simple exponential growth models. For instance, if we took 5 years of Apple stock prices, figured out what the annual percentage growth was, on average, and then projected that forward for the next 10 years – we got a more accurate result than any analyst. The analysts had a significant bias to the upside – that is, their predictions were, on average, rosier by a good margin than the actual results. You can supply your own reasons for why that might be so. I don't actually care, myself, because the one piece of useful information in there for an individual investor is that none of these analysts were better than the simplest mathematical model one can make. That is also completely consistent with the academic studies showing that you're best off investing in an index (or equivalent) fund...
The highest priority: replacing the two exterior doors. Currently these are solid wood, single-pane glass models with no weather stripping. They've warped so badly that one of them can no longer be opened by people of normal human strength (Scott has no problem, though, of course). Lane recommended fiberglass-over-foam doors for their structural stability and high R-factor, in pre-hung frames. Lane can't start on this for a couple of weeks, though.
Second priority: fixing the crummy, leaking shower in the second floor bathroom. We're going to replace the existing plastic shower stall with a much nicer one made of cultured marble. The new one will also be about 60% larger than the current one, making more effective use of the space. At the same time, we're going to re-plumb the water supply and septic connections to the shower, which currently are visible on the ceiling of the laundry room. These will be moved to much closer to the ceiling, and covered with a simple pine box that we can then finish to blend in more nicely with the log cabin's interior look. Much better than a piece of 3" black ABS septic pipe on strap hangers :)
It was really nice just to see Lane and Pasquale again. They were a lot of fun to work with on our home projects, and they were fun yesterday, too.
It's interesting to see how different the Martian dunes look – (relatively) tiny ripples, steep angle of repose, and what's up with that flat “foot” toward the left of this photo?
Monday, December 28, 2015
Bringing Peace, Security to Syria.If you think that's The Onion I'm quoting there, just follow the link: it's not parody. These people really are tooting their own horns about success in Syria. One struggles for words in the face of such absolute poppycock. The good folks at Reason found some words, though.
Syria: The conflict in Syria has continued to unfold in tragic ways over the course of 2015. From the humanitarian crisis endured by refugees fleeing violence, to the reprehensible human rights violations and violence carried out by the Asad regime, the Syrian people have borne a heavy load. The United States and many members of the international community have stepped up to aid the Syrian people during their time of need – the United States has led the world in humanitarian aid contributions since the crisis began in 2011. Led by Secretary Kerry, the United States also continues to push for a political transition in Syria, and under his stewardship, in December, the UN Security Council passed a U.S.-sponsored resolution that puts forward a roadmap that will facilitate a transition within Syria to a credible, inclusive, nonsectarian government that is responsive to the needs of the Syrian people.
Doesn't it bring you great comfort to know that experts of this caliber are running the State Department?
State Department bureaucrats.
Some assembly required.
If that sounds terrible to you, don't worry – it doesn't make as much difference as you might think. California's high school programs were already dumbed down so much that eliminating the final exam is but a minor change. It's emblematic, though, of the educational lunacies perpetrated by the state's CTA-controlled government.
If I were a California employer who hired “high school graduates”, what would I think of this latest move? I can only think of one rational response: to completely ignore whether an applicant has a high school diploma. That certification now means utterly nothing. Other means of evaluation will have to be found. Since most kinds of testing are illegal now, that leaves some sort of provisional hiring (try-before-you-buy) is likely going to become the norm. I'm not sure that's actually bad, mind you – certifications never tell the whole story anyway. Even a worthwhile high school diploma tells you next to nothing about an individual's honesty, work ethic, etc. In California, it used to tell you something about academic achievement (though in the past couple of decades that's been severely compromised). Now it quite overtly tells you nothing at all about that, either!
I haven't actually installed this Chrome extension, but I love the idea. I wish it was more general, though – there are more people I'd love to delete from the Internet besides Donald Trump. Obama, for instance. Pelosi, Reid, Boehner, Jeb Bush, ... you get the idea...
The FAQ at the link is quite entertaining. Here's one entry, as an example:
Are you making money off this?That's a rationale that could be applied to just about any elected or appointed official in Washington...
No, nor was I put up to this by the Republican or Democratic Parties, the Obama Administration, my mother or any other possible sphere of influence. I am doing this out of a profound sense of annoyance and patriotic duty.
In the evening we watched the last (probably) of our Christmas movies this year: The Shop Around the Corner, with Jimmy Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, and about ten actors we just saw in It's a Wonderful Life :)
No deer bothered our bird feeders yesterday. We're not sure if that's just by chance, or because raising the one feeder actually helped.
The forecast now calls for a gradual warming over the next week, with one day having a high above freezing (January 5th). That would seem positively balmy at this point :)
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Well, then, what about the four possible triples? Two of them include both food and showers, and for those two I really can't conjure up any viable examples.
Maybe my imagination just isn't up to the task :)
We watched a couple of movies (The Bishop's Wife, in addition to The Miracle on 34th Street that I mentioned yesterday), and really didn't do much of anything else yesterday (other than continue gorging on good food!). Toward evening I started to feel a little off, and I went to bed quite early. This morning I feel fine, and rested after nearly 12 hours of sleep (that's a near-miracle for me all by itself!).
Saturday, December 26, 2015
After gorging ourselves, we took a drive into Logan where we left some nice canned food for the feral cats we've been taking care of (near Crumb Brothers bakery). Then we drove around on the back roads near our house, drinking in the winter scenery. Afterwards we came back home for some wine and a rousing card game. There was much merriment! After the card game the sun was about to disappear, so Scott headed back north to his cabin. Debbie and I cracked the bottle of nice champagne we'd bought for the occasion, and watched Home Alone 2. That's a silly little movie, full of physical humor and sappy bits, but between the movie and the champagne we laughed until we hurt. Debbie, for some reason, found it necessary to pound on me while she was laughing. I don't think there was any permanent injury, but I do have some black-and-blue as a result :)
This morning when we awoke, the temperature was 5.7°F and everything outside was crunchy. We watched Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 version), another of our traditional Christmas-time movies. I believe!
At daybreak we could see that the bird feeders were less than half full, so I went out to fill them. Cold, it was. Very cold! I tried out my electrically-warmed gloves for the first time – and they worked great until the batteries died, about 30 seconds after turning them on. That's my own fault, though – I haven't charged the batteries since last winter.
Today is just the two of us, a quiet day together is the only plan we have...
Friday, December 25, 2015
In the late afternoon we set off to visit with our closest neighbors (Alan and Nikki L, with their brood of six kids) carrying two bags full of Debbie's homemade chocolate chip cookies. One of the bags we marked “For Alan” and the other “For everyone else” – because the last time we gave them cookies Alan didn't get very many :) We had a happy, friendly visit with them, as they were madly preparing for Christmas. One of those preparations happened to be a plate of sugar cookies for us; Gracie (their oldest daughter) madly finished them as we were all talking. We left with cookies and a bag full of oranges (they had a surplus!).
Then we left for our second-closest neighbor's house: Nick and Maria S., with their six kids. They have three daughters and one son, plus two little ones that they recently fostered. A couple of weeks ago Maria invited us to spend Christmas Eve with them, for a light meal of soup and bread, Christmas music, and a nativity scene reenactment by their kids. Maria, in particular, is locally famous for her musical talents and most especially for her singing voice. She offered to have the family sing our favorite Christmas music! How could we turn that down?
Never having participated in such an event in this community, we really didn't know what to expect. Debbie was worried about how to dress, but since nobody said anything about dressing up, we went in our usual casual clothes (for me, that's darned near everything piece of clothing I own!). Luckily for Debbie's equanimity, that was the right choice :)
From the moment we walked in, we felt right at home with the family. While the kids (especially the two little ones) were whirling around dispensing chaos and noise in every direction, the rest of us talked and fussed about getting the meal put down. Maria had made Italian wedding soup, cream of potato soup, and some nice sourdough rolls. Debbie had made an orange cake for dessert. The meal was full of good conversation, along with the occasional minor disaster perpetrated by the little ones (fortunately none of them caused permanent damage, though a great deal of water was sopped up with towels).
After that most pleasant meal, we all repaired to their living room for the musical segment. Maria played piano and sang softly while various other family members alternately participated with the songs they new. Their son (Nick) often accompanied her on his cello – sometimes with some challenges for both of them to get in the same key :) Their four children all have lovely singing voices, and quite obviously know a lot about music, and they have a great deal of fun making it. The highlight for me, though, was a solo piano-and-singing performance by Maria: Ave Maria, in Latin. The link goes to a YouTube performance of the same version – not by Maria, of course, but very similar. It was most beautiful to hear such music performed live right next door to us. I snapped the first four photos below while the family was singing.
After Ave Maria, the family did their traditional reenactment of the Nativity (the last two photos below). Maria read the script from an iPhone, while their kids acted the various parts. The cradle was actually made by Nick, for their two oldest kids. I was struck by how much fun the kids had doing this – making some improvised costumes, fussing over who got to play which parts (their were more parts than kids :), and acting out the script. There were lots of laughs and even more good cheer, and all the while the kids were getting their religious beliefs reinforced.
As I hope you can imagine, we parted with warm feelings and big smiles...
This morning we awoke late (for us): almost 5 am. The moon lit the snow-covered landscape quite brightly. Debbie spotted Jahar (our Savannah cat) watching something outside the window very intently – deer, six does wandering slowly across our yard. They investigated our bird feeders, even smelling the suet feeder, before heading for our little pine forest. That was a very nice way to wake up on Christmas morning!
We had our morning tea and coffee with a panettone that Debbie had found on Amazon. This was a variation we'd never had before: pear and chocolate. I don't know how the Italians make the fruit they put in a panettone, but however they do it, it's the best I've ever had in a bread: no sweeter than the real fruit, not dried out but still soft and full of flavor. The bread part of this one was hands-down the best I've ever had. We ate nearly half that panettone – somehow I'm not hungry any more :)
Later today we'll be making a new recipe Debbie wants to try out: a casserole of roast chicken and lots of veggie goodness, with biscuits on top a bit like dumplings. It looks good in the recipe! My brother Scott will be coming down to join us, so we're expecting there will be no leftovers, despite the recipe being for 8 servings. If Scott needs even more sustenance, we have plenty in the freezer :)
Thursday, December 24, 2015
After I finished there, I drove the tractor back home and plowed our driveway. It sounds very easy, said in one sentence like that, but it was anything but easy! My little tractor was seriously challenged by the combination of 18" of sopping wet snow (very heavy!) and a layer of wet ice over about 50% of our driveway's pavement. It's easy to see why the ice is there when you see the pattern: anywhere an evergreen's shadow shades the driveway, there's ice. We've got a dozen or so blue spruce, green spruce, and pines shading great big patches of the driveway. The only way I could successfully get the snow off the wet ice was to back up, get a running start, and use the tractor's momentum to “bonk” the snow a few feet further toward the edge of the pavement. About 90% of the plowing time was spent on the 50% or so of icy driveway :)
When I finally got the plowing done, it was time to get that same 18" of wet snow off our walkway to the front door. In addition, there was nearly 3' of snow on the porch itself, where it had fallen off our roof. That snow was heavy, and by the time I finished that short little walkway my arms were quite tired. Still, I find the job very satisfying, because just a couple years ago I'd have been unable to do it all in one go. I'm considerably stronger now, and especially I have more endurance, just from working around our place. It feels good to not be a complete physical wimp :)
Debbie baked about a bazillion cookies yesterday, for gifts and any other visitors we might have. She also baked an orange cake for us to take over to our neighbors today. We've been invited for dinner and singing, with Maria, Nick, and their seven (!!!) kids. It will be interesting for us to see what their Christmas Eve is like.
Today I shoveled our walkway again, and re-salted it. Wind-blown powdery snow had covered it in during the night. The wind has died down now, so I figured it might not be a waste to re-shovel it. Our suet feeder had (finally!) been completely eaten, so I ran down to our local store (Ridley's) and tried to get some more suet. Once again they were out, so I got some lard and peanut butter, mixed up a yucky looking batch of bird treat, stuffed it in feeder, and put it outside. As I write this, the suet-eaters haven't yet discovered that the feeder has been refilled. The dogs helped me clean the mixing bowl and spoons. They were beside themselves with dogly joy :)
When I was checking out at Ridley's, I had a fun little experience. The clerk is a woman I know from many visits there. She saw the items I was buying (lard, peanut butter, and buttermilk), looked at me, and asked (with a funny look on her face) what on earth I was going to do with those ingredients. Behind me in line was a young woman, perhaps 25, who appeared to be interested in the answer as well. When I said I was going to mix the lard and peanut butter, she made such a disgusted face that the clerk and I both broke out laughing. When I continued and said that it was for our birds, she was only slightly less disgusted. Then I explained that the buttermilk was for our old dog (Mo'i), who loves the stuff – and I'm pretty sure the young woman thought I had gone completely around the bend. The clerk, though, is another dog person, and she understood completely. Mo'i loved his buttermilk treat :)
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Debbie and I puttered around for the rest of the afternoon yesterday, not really doing much of anything. I finished up the last bits of my financial catch-up, Debbie did a little cooking and reading. A nice, slow, afternoon. We decided to watch the Alistair Sims version of “A Christmas Carol”, and headed upstairs with a glass of wine and a few snacks. Just as the introduction was playing, our doorbell rang – and the smiling faces of two of our neighbors (Linda D. and Tom S.) were there to greet us, with arms full of homemade goodies. We talked with them for an hour or so, about all sorts of local goings-on. It was most enjoyable.
As Lind and Tom said their goodbyes, another car pulled in behind them. We don't get a lot of visitors, so this was quite a noteworthy event all in itself. A young couple got out of the car, and it took me a moment to recognize them: Steve and Janae M., who were here for several afternoons back in July, taking down our old outbuilding so they could turn it into a boathouse. They were a delightful pair whose company we really enjoyed, but we hadn't seen them since then. We called them “the kids”, jokingly, the whole time they were working here. They live near by Scott's cabin, quite a distance from here. Last night they came by just to say hi, bringing with them a (delicious!) loaf of homemade banana bread, and some hunks of salmon they caught this fall in Alaska. We talked with them for a couple of hours, and when they left we had grins that we just couldn't wipe off our face. We love living here!
Steve told us about a pig farm that's not far from Scott, where one can buy freshly butchered pork of all kinds, including bacon and bacon ends. Janae is an accomplished painter (realistic animals and western scenes), and she gave me some good information that I've already passed on to Scott, about getting connected with the local arts culture. It seems there's quite a divide, locally, between the “modern” artists (not Janae's cup of tea) who are centered at the University, and the more traditional artists who are centered at a particular local gallery. Scott's already sent a message to that gallery. They are both familiar with Scott's cabin (it's a bit of a local landmark), and they're going to stop in to say “hi” one of these fine days. We've also got a standing invitation (including Scott) to visit them at their riverside home.
We've got quite the winter wonderland here at the moment. There is about 16" of snow on the ground now, and it's still falling intermittently. I'm going to take a chance and plow this morning, while everything is still frozen solid, in the hopes that we'll get some sunshine to melt it off the pavement. The temperature at the moment is 26°F, and the forecast has it falling some more – but the forecast's record the past few days hasn't been stellar :)
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I delivered a chocolate cake (Debbie's creation) to Bruce and Jun in the morning. I got to meet their daughter and a passel of grand-kids, and had a nice conversation. Their house is perched on a knoll near Avon, overlooking the southern end of the valley. In the winter, with snow, their view is simply spectacular.
After I returned from that, I set out on a several errands (picking up some odds and ends for Scott's cabin), then stopped at the Toyota dealer here in town to order my new Tundra. I reiterated what I was looking for (which I knew from previous conversations wasn't on the lot of any dealer in the U.S.), and then they made the standard attempt to get me to take something that was in inventory. I said no, and they disappeared into the back to order what I actually wanted from the factory. After I waited for almost an hour, they came back out and told me that they couldn't order exactly what I wanted – because the color “wasn’t authorized” with the other selections I'd made. Now this made no sense at all to me, and I strongly suspected my chain was being jerked – that they just wanted to coerce me into taking a color I didn't want. So I walked out.
If Tesla made a pickup truck, and it cost twice what the Toyota does, they'd have an instant customer – just to get the excellent, BS-free purchase experience. Now I'm stuck with an unpleasant set of choices: buy something other than what I actually want from the local dealer, search for another dealer who doesn't jerk me around, or give up on the whole idea of a new pickup. Elon Musk, are you listening?
After stomping out of the Toyota dealer, I headed out to Scott's cabin. When I got there, he was outside washing his truck – with 6" of snow on the ground, and more falling. I may be the closest thing to normal in my family, and that should terrify the rest of the human race :) The first thing I did inside the cabin was to see if I could figure out why his heater was being unreliable. I had thought, from the symptoms, that his condensate pump was acting up and the safety interlock was keeping the furnace from working. I quickly figured out that was not the case when I cleverly noted that the safety interlock wasn't even connected. After poking around a bit I came to the conclusion that (a) the problem was beyond my skill set, and (b) I'd already planned to replace the ancient thing (it's 24 years old), so I dialed up Ryan Osborne (435-994-0666), the fellow who did such a nice job on the HVAC for our Paradise home. To my surprise, he was available to come out to the cabin within the hour! Right on time, he pulled into our driveway. Within 15 seconds of seeing the heater and hearing the symptoms, he diagnosed the actual problem. Then he told me it wasn't worth repairing the thing, and that I should replace it. Since that was my intention anyway, we segued right into a conversation about models, capacity, etc. Turns out he also does water heaters (something I hadn't known), and he's also going to replace the ancient, tiny electric water heater with a modern 50 gallon high efficiency propane water heater. Those two jobs will be done today. In the spring, he's going to come do the air conditioner compressor (also on its last legs) and put a split system in the upstairs room. The cabin is about to get a major infrastructure upgrade :)
Yesterday I contacted the folks at Golden Spike Electric to get a quote on a backup generator, and at Synergy to get a quote on solar panels. The water softener and conditioning guy will be at the cabin today to put in a good dual-tank water softener (with 18 GPM capacity) and an iron removal system. With any luck at all, within a couple of months the cabin will have reliable heat, great water, reliable hot water, backup power, a working garage door and opener, good air conditioning (including upstairs), and free solar power for the air conditioning on hot days. A lot of that list will be done today!
While I was doing all this stuff, Debbie was at home baking. One of her creations (a lemon cake) is a favorite of our friend and neighbor Tim D. She'd made one for him, and texted him to see if we could deliver it. He wrote back to give him 10 minutes to finish his chores, and then he'd be ready.
So we waited 10 minutes and headed over to his house. When we got there and rang the doorbell, Jeannie (his wife) answered with tears running down her face. She could hardly talk, but managed to get out that Louie, Tim's beloved little dog, had just been killed by a car – right in front of Tim. This is something right out of our nightmares, and its the entire reason we're so careful about keeping our dogs on-leash or in a fenced area. Tim's dogs wouldn't normally cross the highway in front of his house, but last night there were some kids across the road sledding on a hill, and that was a magnet for poor Louie. Tim was frantically trying to recall him when a car flying down the highway (55 MPH speed limit) ran over him, killing him instantly.
Tim was an emotional wreck when we walked in. Debbie and I visited with them for a half hour or so, doing our best to give some comfort, but of course there's nothing one can really do to help in a situation like that. We delivered our cake anyway, but I'm sure it will be some time before Tim can enjoy that sort of thing again. Our hearts go out to them, on this tragedy that is all too easy for us to empathize with.
There was one little high point while we were at Tim's house. We sat in the living room talking with them, and in there is a small table that normally has knick-knacks on it. Now it has just the little collection of “teasel people” that my mom made for them as a gift last Christmas. Both Tim and Jeannie lit up as the described all the nice comments people make about those teasel people. Everybody here knows teasel, thinks of it as an evil weed, and to see it made into such a cute, pretty little craft project is really startling to them :)
We're feeling very sad about Louie this morning, and for our friends who are grieving at the loss of their furry family member – most especially for Tim, who loves his two little dogs like they were his kids. Louie was just four years old; Tim's other dog (Lexie) is eleven (and still in great health, thankfully)...
Sunday, December 20, 2015
In Vero Beach, Florida the other day, there was a bumper sticker on a parked car that read: "I miss Chicago.”Ha ha ha ha!
Someone broke the window, stole the radio, shot out the tires, added an Obama bumper sticker and left a note that read: "Hope this helps!"
One company I used to work for (Stac Electronics) briefly had a branch located in an old bank building in Vero Beach, as a result of us acquiring their former company. I visited there far too many times for my own liking. My first visit was to let the employees there know, at our management's behest, that we intended to fully integrate them with the rest of the company, and keep our offices there. My last visit there was to shut down the office completely, laying off most of the employees. The two visits were just a few months apart. Not a pleasant memory, those.
But one thing genuinely funny happened there on my very first visit. I was in a meeting with about a dozen local employees, in a conference room with no windows. An hour or so into the meeting, another employee opened the door, came in, and said one word: “Rain!” Everyone – literally everyone – other than me leapt up and ran for the door of the conference room, and then out of the building. Slack-jawed, I wandered out and asked one of the few employees still there just what in the hell just happened. She educated me about Vero Beach rains: those people ran out to get to the marina so they could cover their boats – before they sank! They get so much rain in Vero Beach that they actually have to worry about that. Yikes!
Full of good cheer, are we...
Friday, December 18, 2015
My brother Scott drove down this morning to collect some goodies for his new home. These were things that we had shipped to us, instead of to his cabin, because we're not sure yet that UPS can get one of their trucks up to his place. I made a test order that should have been delivered today. If that works, any new shipments will go straight to him. Scott got slightly lost on the way down here. This was his first drive to our house, and he missed one left turn in Wellsville, and that put him out into a part of the county he'd never seen before :) Anyway, we had a nice, if short, visit with him before he took off to haul his booty back home.
This afternoon I hauled Debbie up to her nail appointment (I won't horrify you with a description of what she paid someone to do to her nails!). While she was in there, I ran around like crazy shopping for a crazy amount of groceries to support Debbie's cooking habit, to the liquor store to get some Christmas champagne, and to a corner of town where some feral cats hang out to give them some food.
The liquor store experience was more fun than usual. I was trying to find a particular champagne that we like (Veuve Clicquot), and it wasn't on their racks anywhere. I chose a nice alternative, but it was still disappointing. In my banter with the checkout clerk, I mentioned that I was hoping for the Veuve Clicquot, and she said “Wait a minute! I saw some of that in back!” It has a distinctive yellow box, so that was plausible. She ran off to the back of the store to fetch it for me, leaving the register wide open. That's now the third time something like that has happened to me here. People here are just a lot more trusting than I'm used to. When she brought back the Veuve Clicquot, she started to put it in a paper bag. I told her that wasn't necessary for just this one purchase, and without missing a beat she looked up at me and said “You aren’t LDS, are you?” She went on to say that their LDS customers always wanted the paper bag. Then she told me that I really should take the paper bag, so my neighbors wouldn't get the wrong idea about me. I took the paper bag, even though I'm pretty sure my neighbors would be completely unsurprised to see me carrying a champagne bottle :)
When we got home, there was a beautiful sunset in progress (the photo at upper right). Not a bad way to end the day!
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are sitting in a bar.
A guy walks in and asks the barman, 'Isn't that Trump and Cruz sitting over there?'
The bartender says, 'Yep, that's them.'
So the guy walks over and says, 'Wow, this is a real honor! What are you guys doing in here?'
Cruz says, 'We're planning WW III.'
The guy says, 'Really? What's going to happen?'
Trump says, 'Well, we're going to kill 140 million Muslims and one blonde with a big chest.'
The guy exclaimed, 'A blonde with a big chest? Why kill her?'
Trump turns to Cruz and says, 'See, I told you, no one gives a crap about the 140 million Muslims.'
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
A good but liberal friend down in the super-blue state of California asked me what I thought he might need in order to defend his home and family from home invasion and the like. I suggested a 9mm, a couple of clips, and a box of shells.I'm fairly certain that (a) this is completely plausible in, say, San Diego, and (b) this would never happen in Cache County, Utah.
A few days later he sent me this picture and asked me how to make it all work.
Scott's been staying at our home since we got back from our trip. This morning, upon daylight (as he doesn't know his way around here well enough to drive at night yet), he's going to take the truck up to his cabin and start his independent life there. We'll be in close contact with him for so long as it takes to get him safely and comfortably established there – but today is the beginning. It's a big moment for him...
I'm going to spend the day catching up on a few things that need being done around our house. For starters, I get to plow the driveway, shovel the porches and sidewalk, and then catch up on the paperwork I've let go for the past couple of weeks...
Monday, December 14, 2015
We knew that the weather forecast included significant snow for last night, so we decided to go first to Scott's cabin to disconnect the trailer and unload the back of the truck. This will save us from having to maneuver the trailer when the ground is snow and ice covered. In fact we got very little snow last night, but now they've changed the forecast to 5 - 8 inches of snow during the day today – so we're very glad we did that!
Today we'll be unloading his trailer and the inside of his truck, and starting to make the cabin livable. I'm hoping we can install him there by the end of the day tomorrow (Tuesday), but it's entirely possible it will take a day or two longer...
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Sunday, December 6, 2015
This morning I got up early and headed down to the farm where Scott has been living. We had a really nice breakfast at Eddy's Cafe, where Scott startled the waitress by ordering steak and eggs – but with six eggs! We'd been searching for some place that was open at 5:45 am, and were failing. Scott had been to Eddy's before, and liked it, but he didn't have the hours posted on the door. So we called them – and a friendly voice told us they'd be open at 6 am. Good enough! So we drove over, and went over to wait by the door for a few minutes – and the door was open. With big smiles, the owner invited us in, told us he'd made a mistake, as he'd forgotten that it was Sunday and they didn't open until 7! But, he said, he'd be happy to serve us anyway – so long as we didn't mind that he was the cook, waiter, cashier, busboy, and dishwasher all rolled into one! He made us a fresh pot of (very good) coffee, then went into the back. A short time later a waitress came in to work, and then the experience got a little more normal. Still, we two were the only ones there the entire time, and we had two people taking care of us. The food was great, there was much friendly banter and laughing, and the experience was memorable in a good way.
Then our day got started in earnest. We had much to do: we had to clean out two of Scott's vehicles, pack up all his possessions into my truck and his trailer (which I am towing with my truck). Then we had to sell his three vehicles, clean up a bunch of stuff, and drive from Virginia Beach to Charlottesville. It was a long, long day :) I was concerned about the trailer being in ragged condition, or not handling well behind my pickup – but I needn't have been. The trailer was in great shape, and with a little air in the tires it was ready to rock and roll. The truck handled it with ease. Really the only major difference between with and without the trailer is that with the trailer stopping is more difficult (more brake force required). That makes total sense given the weight that's on it.
Now we're in Charlottesville, at my mom's house, and I'm about to go get a very welcome night's sleep...
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
I left Paradise at just after 5 this morning, and I arrived at my motel in Albuquerque almost exactly 12 hours later. I'm a little tired of driving :) I did take some photos today, all from the truck as I was zooming along. In order: (1) coming off the east side of Soldier Summit, not far from Carbon, (2) the La Sal Mountains, taken from about 15 miles south of Moab, (3) and (4) scenes from northern New Mexico, (5) the San Juan Mountains as seen from southern Colorado. Tomorrow I head almost due east, and my trip will be almost entirely on I-40 – not nearly as interesting as today's drive...
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Or not :)
See y'all later!
This morning when I checked, I got a solid ping! The inverter was staying up just fine. So I thought I'd check to see if it was communicating with its monitoring server, which is up in the cloud somewhere. I tracerouted it as far as Frankfurt, but after that the routers stopped responding. So I logged into my MikroTik router in the shed, as I knew that it had some sort of a packet sniffing facility. I got that working, and discovered that every two minutes the inverter was indeed “talking” to a server. Naturally, that made me wonder what it was saying – but the packet sniffer in the router was fairly primitive, and basically just gave me an undecoded byte dump of the packet contents. I wanted more. I wanted the kind of powerful decoding, filtering, etc. that Wireshark provides.
So I started poking into the notion of setting up a mirror port, which is how I've monitored this sort of thing in the past. I figured that if I could set up a mirror port, then I could take my laptop out to the shed, connect it to the mirror port, and monitor to my heart's content. But ... my router doesn't support port mirroring. What to do?
On the MikroTik router's packet sniffing page, I noticed a feature I didn't understand – but it sure sounded intriguing: streaming. What on earth does that mean with respect to a packet sniffer? Well, with a little googling about I discovered that if you enable that, instead of logging the packets it will encapsulate them in a UDP protocol called TZSP and send them – stream them – to any IP address I want. Furthermore, Wireshark understands TZSP out of the box. So all I had to do was (on the MikroTik router) enable streaming to the IP address of my laptop (still in the house, connected as usual). Then I just ran Wireshark on my laptop, still in my bathrobe, and voila! My inverter's packets were magically appearing fully decoded in my laptop.
Jeez that was easy!