Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Paradise ponders: mysterious fuses, fishy conduit, and lobster roll edition...

Paradise ponders: mysterious fuses, fishy conduit, and lobster roll edition...  Yesterday I installed about 20' of 1/2" PVC conduit between the junction box where the irrigation wires come into my cedar shed and the power sub-panel on the other side.  In addition to the 20' of conduit, there were four 90° “sweeps” (elbows with a roughly 6" radius).  Once the conduit was installed, I needed to pull the cable through.  The first step in that operation was to push the “fish” through – and that meant using my new fish, purchased recently to replace my old and dying one.  My old one was of a type I've used for 30 years or so: a dozen 3' long fiberglass rods that can be screwed together to make a rod up to 36' long.  Those rods are reasonably flexible, and can be pushed through a conduit fairly easily.  My new fish is quite different.  It's 100' of plastic “wire” that's fairly stiff, bends easily over a small radius (as little as 2"), and is very slippery.  I was very interested to see how well this worked compared with my old fish.  Answer: it works very well indeed!  I had that fish pushed through 20' of conduit with four 90° bends in about 60 seconds.  In the first photo below, you can see the bright green fish poked into the conduit in the lower right of the electrical sub-panel.  The second photo shows the other end, in the junction box, and taped to the end of the wire I was ready to pull through the conduit.  Pulling the cable was a piece of cake – another 60 seconds or so.  The hardest part turned out to be fastening the wire to the fish!


In the second photo above you can also see the 13 red wires for the irrigation zone valves, and the two ground wires (7 zones one one, and 6 on the other, for reasons I don't really understand).  The zone valves draw 220 ma when they're turned on, and only one at a time is ever on.  Those wires are 14 gauge solid copper.  The furthest valve is at the end of 720 feet of wire, so the voltage drop is about 0.8 vac from the nominal 24 vac supply – well within the operating range of those valves (they're good down to 20 vac).  The photo at right shows those wires as they connect into the irrigation system controller.  When we've finished the back yard irrigation system, every last one of those 24 zones will be connected...

My last blog post told how I wired around the fuse that blew in my brother Scott's air conditioning system.  That post got a comment from someone who sounds authoritative, basically advising me to get that fuse wired back in and replaced.  Yesterday I did that, buying some fuses at Home Depot and undoing the bypass I had made the day before.  I still don't know why both a fuse and a circuit breaker are needed, though.  Maybe someone can explain that to me...

We went grocery shopping at Macey's yesterday, and they had laid out about 100 frozen Maine lobster tails.  The frozen tails aren't quite as good as the live lobsters, but they're relatively inexpensive ($5 for an 8 ounce tail) and still darned good.  So we bought four of them.  When we got home, I plopped them in some cold water for about 15 minutes to thaw them, then boiled them for 4 minutes (photo at left).  I chilled them in ice water for 10 minutes, then picked out the meat, chopped it up, added some mayonnaise, lemon juice, and finely chopped green onions, and voila “dash” we had the hard part of a lobster roll.  Real buns for lobster rolls are unobtainable out here, but they had something that substituted quite nicely: a flat loaf of potato ciabatta bread.  I cut that into roughly 1" wide pieces, then made a cut partway through the middle of each – the bread was very nice, and it made a perfectly serviceable lobster roll.  Then, of course, we shoved them into our faces just as fast as we could swallow! :)  We had some wonderful fresh sweet corn on the cob as our accompaniment.  Yummy, that was!

Later in the afternoon we re-watched one of our favorite movies: The Shawshank Redemption.  It's probably been five or six years since we last saw it, so many of the details we'd forgotten.  Also, as usual, we picked up on more little details this time through.  That movie has so many shocking emotional lows that I'm very glad it ends on a high and hopeful note.  That movie was (mostly) filmed in an old reformatory in Mansfield, in north central Ohio.  I only know this because in 2008 I went on a business trip to Mansfield, and my hosts there invited me to go tour it.  Tourism to the reformatory and the oak tree made famous in the film are quite a big business for Mansfield...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Paradise ponders: fuses, filling stations, and irrigation systems edition...

Paradise ponders: fuses, filling stations, and irrigation systems edition...  This morning my brother Scott (who lives about 20 miles from me) emailed me to say that his Nest thermostat had died.  This time of year that means no air conditioning.  Scott told me it was no problem at all, but then he'd say that unless his death from heat stroke was imminent.  So I gathered up my electrical meter and a spare Nest and headed up there.  It took about ten minutes to determine that the problem was caused by a blown fuse in the furnace (which is where the 24VAC power for the Nest comes from).  I'm not sure why there's a fuse in the first place, given that the furnace is on its own dedicated circuit breaker.  So I just bypassed the fuse, and everything started working again.  The funniest part of this for me is that the Nest would have been complaining about having no power for the last week or so, every time Scott walked by it.  He never noticed it!  :)

While I was up there, I got a closeup look at the gigantic driftwood horse he's building (photos below). It's really quite beautiful, and it's almost done – all that's left to do is the tail and the hooves.  Scott figures that the thing weighs 600 pounds or so, which means that there are some challenges moving it around.  Another challenge is that it's too tall to fit through the garage door!


I also got to see the Russian Olive tree that Scott trimmed up last fall.  His intention was to make it evocative of clouds.  I don't think I'd have ever figured that out, but it's nonetheless very attractive, and also very different than the natural shape of a Russian Olive.  He's got a sign up advertising that he did it, but unfortunately the tree is located on a relatively lightly traveled back road – most potential customers for something like this will never see it...

The past couple of days have seen substantial progress around our place.  Randy and his sidekick finished putting the rock veneer on our filling station, and it's just as pretty as can be (at right).  Not bad for a gas station, hey what?  I now have to install the lock and the closing mechanism, but the necessary bolts and holes for that are already in the door so this should be almost trivial.  I'm hoping to do that tomorrow morning.  That means the only thing left on the filling station is to get the leaks fixed.  That was supposed to have happened this past week, but did not – I'll hold out hope for next week...

We also hit a big milestone on our irrigation system: a big part of it is now up and running!  There are 13 zones (with about 120 sprinklers) in the part of our yard that's south of our paved driveway, and all but one of them are now completely functional (the one exception is a bad solenoid controlled valve, which will be fixed on Tuesday).  The past few days saw a lot of electrical work, to run the wires for all those valves under our bridge and over to the new cedar shed.  The fellow running the wires had cut them all too short (by about 15'), so on Friday I spliced 20' extensions onto all of them, using soldered hook connections, padded with electrical tape, then covered with heat shrink.  That was a bit tedious, but not really very hard (not counting the effort to recover the tools and parts that my dogs kept stealing).  Yesterday morning I routed the wires along the inside of the shed, and connected them to the irrigation controller.  Then I used the web interface to set up a schedule (see screenshot at left) and away we went!  I've run the entire set of 12 functional zones twice now, and we'll keep doing daily that for a week or so to help settle the ground.  I've been wondering whether I'd live long enough to see this irrigation system actually working, so it really feels good to see some of it actually going...

Friday, July 21, 2017

A shocking encounter...

A shocking encounter...  I had my cage well and truly rattled this morning.  As I was walking out of our local UPS storefront (where I had just dropped off a couple packages for shipment), a person came walking into the UPS store.  That person looked like exactly like my dad did back in the early '90s.  This wasn't just a passing resemblance: this fellow looked so much like my dad did that my gut reaction was that it was him.  Since my dad died a few years ago, a much older man, this made no rational sense at all – but recognition is not a rational process.

I stopped dead in my tracks.  I'm not sure what my face looked like, but the other fellow was concerned enough that he stopped to ask me if I was all right.  That produced the second shock: he even sounded like my dad.  Not exactly right, in this case, but quite close.  The biggest disjoint was that he had a slight northern New Jersey accent, which my dad certainly did not.

The short version of our ensuing conversation is this: he's distantly related to me, on my father's side of the family.  His last name is not the same as mine – but it's close, spelled as my ancestors did.  His first name (Henry) is the same as that of the oldest American ancestor I have, an ancestor we share and who he is named after.  He hails from East Orange, New Jersey, and is on his way back home after visiting family in Bend, Oregon.  I don't have his permission to use his last name, so I won't do that yet.  We exchanged contact information, and he's promised to correspond with me once he gets back home next week.

I'm still reeling from the few moments when I thought I saw my dad, returned somehow from the '90s...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Paradise ponders: rodeo and project progress edition...

Paradise ponders: rodeo and project progress edition...  Debbie and I are headed down to Ogden this evening, to go to the rodeo that's part of Ogden's Pioneer Day celebration.  If you're unfamiliar with Pioneer Day, it's an annual celebration of July 24, 1847 when Brigham Young and the first group of his Mormon followers finally made it to the Great Salt Lake Valley.  It's a state holiday in Utah, and is also celebrated in several surrounding states, mainly in predominantly Mormon communities.  This particular rodeo is part of the professional rodeo circuit, so some of the best rodeo competitors in the world will be there.

Randy B., his partner Jeffrey, and two of Randy's grandsons showed up bright and early this morning, as promised.  Some photos of their progress are below.  The first order of business was to mount our shiny red door, which they did with a level of competence far in excess of anything I could have mustered on my own.  It is a great pleasure for me simply to watch them work – Randy and Jeffrey have worked together for a good number of years, and they complement each other very well.  Jeffrey is the guy on the left in the first photo; Randy is in the dark blue T-shirt in the second.  In the third photo you can see the door shortly after they had it installed.  The last photo shows Carl (Randy's border collie) and the first foot or so of rock veneer installed.  It's going to be beautiful when they're finished!


Mark T. and the sprinkler guys also made great progress today.  They're still working as I write this, and will be for another 6 hours or so.  By the time they leave tonight, I'm expecting that they'll have all the valve wires plus the 110 VAC for my flagpole lights all run under our bridge.  That means tomorrow we should have the 13 zones on the south wired up to the sprinkler controller and we can start watering everything south of our driveway.  Woo hoo!

Paradise ponders: rock, ignorant Americans, leaky tires, and plumbing errors edition...

Paradise ponders: rock, ignorant Americans, leaky tires, and plumbing errors edition...  Yesterday evening I got a call from Randy B., the mason who built our fireplace two years ago.  He's got a couple of days available, starting tomorrow, and he wants to get our filling station done.  Yay!  He should be here this morning at 7 am, so he and his helper can work in the (relatively) cool morning air...

The great sprinkler project continues apace.  There are now 13 complete zones covering the entire area south of our paved driveway.  Complete, that is, except for the wires leading to the control valves for those 13 zones.  We're running those wires through a conduit installed under the bridge over the irrigation canal running down the eastern edge of our property.  That sounds easy, but it's not – the conduit has to traverse, underground, about 15 feet of abutment on both sides of the bridge.  The trench for that conduit has to be dug amidst a wild rose thicket.  The sprinkler guys lopped off all the rose canes above the chosen path – but the rose roots are incredibly thick in there.  Digging that will be a major challenge.  I'm glad I don't have to do it!  Once the conduit is in place, I'll be helping the sprinkler guys pulling the wires through it.  That's something they're not very familiar with, nor do they have the right tools...

My friend (and former colleague) Simon M. passed along this article, I'm sure just to tweak me.  :)  Among other things, it discloses that 1 in 4 Americans surveyed believe the sun revolves around the Earth, not the other way around.  I'm actually a little surprised at this – I'd have expected that to be more like 1 in 3.  It reminds me, though, of an article I read a few months ago on a tangentially related topic: technological ignorance.  The focus of this article was a single survey question made at widely separated points in time.  The first survey was in 1940, and it asked men (no women) in their 20s how many actually did a set of routine maintenance on their cars, and how many could do them if they didn't have the money to pay someone.  The answers were 81% and 96%, respectively.  The same survey, of (again) only young men, taken in early 2017 gave much different answers: 7% and 14%.  The 2017 survey also asked men who answered “no” to briefly describe why they couldn't do the routine maintenance – and the dominant answer was some variant of “Because I have no idea how cars work.”   I haven't seen any similar survey for computers, but it's trivial to observe that the vast majority of computer users have utterly no idea how their computer actually works.  My dad remarked in several of our conversations that he and my grandfather (his father) knew how everything on the farm worked, and could maintain and repair it.  These days it's common for people to own things whose workings are completely mysterious.  In the space of one man's life we've gone from a norm of understanding one's belongings to not understanding them.  I wonder how far that trend can go?

Yesterday I took my Model X in to the good folks at Hyrum Tire to get a slow leak in my left rear tire fixed.  I'd made an appointment so I could wait while they fixed it.  However, when they actually saw my car, they realized they had a problem: their tools only work with rims up to 21" in diameter, and I've got 22" rims on the Model X.  Dang!  So they sent me up to Logan, to the Les Schwab location there.  I drove in, walked up to the counter, and in under two minutes one of their people went to work on my car.  They had me drive into one of their service bays, and in short order they had the wheel off the car.  That left the axle and disc brake visible, and several people there noticed something odd about the disc brake: there are two calipers on it!  The red one is the main brake; the gray one is only for the parking brake.  Ezra, the tech helping me, found my tire's problem in seconds: a 2" deck screw right through the exact center of the tread – the easiest possible repair.  When he got the tire off the rim, he discovered something he'd only seen once before: a foam ring around the inside of the tire, opposite the tread.  That foam is there to reduce the tire noise; he's seen it only in a relatively quiet car (a high-end Mercedes) where the tire noise becomes dominant.  In about ten minutes the repair was all done, and the wheel mounted back on the car.  We had to look up the wheel nut torque (129 ft/lbs) on the web, as his chart didn't have Tesla on it.  I went to pay up when he was finished, only to be told that the repair was free.  All they asked was that when it was time to buy tires, I'd give them a chance for my business.  Nice!

Yesterday morning I discovered that I'd made an error in my plumbing work for the irrigation pump.  Fixing it correctly requires some new parts – including two that aren't available locally.  I put both on order, but they won't get here for a week or so.  Dang it!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Disgusted, I am...

Disgusted, I am...  So the Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate, the President is a Republican.  During the 2016, both Trump and the majority of Republican candidates for both the House and the Senate loudly and proudly proclaimed their goal of “repealing and replacing” ObamaCare.  If there was anything the Republicans stood for, eliminating ObamaCare was it.  Naturally, they have completely failed.  The House passed some tweaks to ObamaCare, pitched (falsely) as repeal and replace – and then fell all over themselves distancing themselves from the monstrosity they passed, begging the Senate to “amend” it with something better.  The Senate tried, three times, with different bills that tweaked ObamaCare less and less.  Last night, the Senate gave up on that idea, and instead decided to to a straight repeal.  Already this morning that idea is also dead, as enough Republican Senators have come out against repeal to ensure its defeat.

Of all the issues at play in the last election, this is the one with the most direct impact on Debbie and I.  Last year we spent over $22,000 on ObamaCare premiums, and a further $14,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.  This year the totals will be even higher, unfortunately (mainly because of mainstream but expensive osteoporosis drugs that are not covered by ObamaCare policies).  Repeal of ObamaCare would have meant the return of old-fashioned major medical policies, which were they available would cut our healthcare costs by about 60% (this is based on information from Blue Cross, a major supporter of ObamaCare).

As of this September, I'll be enrolled in MediCare, and (theoretically, anyway) insulated from the ongoing disaster that is ObamaCare.  Debbie still has three years to go on ObamaCare, and already we're being warned to expect yet another 30% or 35% increase in premiums.  At this rate, by the time she can enroll in MediCare, her ObamaCare premiums will be even more than we pay for both of us now.  Worse, it seems all-too-likely that we'll be hit with income tax increases as the ObamaCare exchanges continue failing because of insurer withdrawal (because they're losing money).  The Democrats in Congress are already floating the idea, and I won't be a bit surprised if enough Republicans sign up to that idea to make it politically doable.  There's also talk of taking higher income people out of MediCare.  Either way, we'd be back in the super-high premium insurance boat again.

Anyway, I am utterly disgusted with our federal government's overwhelming incompetence.  The more I learn about how it actually works, and how self-interested the typical politician is, the more disgusted I get.  I can easily see how the most informed people would be the ones most likely to support revolution, as a clean slate seems vastly easier than reforming the bureaucratic state.  Hell, after reading up on the bureaucratic heaven that is the Veteran's Administration (where even murders can't be easily fired), even I feel the urge to revolt!  I still hold some hope that my “big three” reforms could be enacted (term limits, abolishing civil service job protections, enacting efficiency incentives) – but in twenty years of hoping I've seen exactly zero progress on that front.  Sheesh...

Paradise ponders: missing parts, hospice, and unexpected rain edition...

Paradise ponders: missing parts, hospice, and unexpected rain edition...  I spent most of yesterday working, again, on the plumbing for my new irrigation pump.  The biggest piece of progress was building a mount (of wood) for the four pressure gauges the system needs, and running some of the tubing for those gauges.  Further progress was blocked because of some missing parts.  These are things I ordered from Amazon, but which are taking longer to get here than expected.  Some are due in today, the rest tomorrow.  I hope.

John H. wrote, asking why on earth I needed four pressure gauges when everyone one else makes do with just one.  Fair question. :)  The four gauges, in order of the direction of water flow, are as follows:
  1. Supply pressure.  This measures the pressure of the water on the input side of the pump.  Ordinarily this should be at around 60psi, in which case the pump will be off and the water will flow around it.  When the supply pressure drops below 60psi (as it does with alarming regularity), then the pump will kick on and all the irrigation water will flow through the pump.
  2. After-pump pressure.  This measures the pressure of the water on the output side of the pump.  If the supply pressure is over 60psi, this will be the same (or nearly so) as the supply pressure.  However, when the supply pressure drops below 60psi, the pump will kick on and the pressure should be regulated at between 60 and 70psi.
  3. Between-filters pressure.  This measures the pressure of the water on the output of the coarse filter, which is also the input to the fine filter.  The difference between this and the after-pump pressure increases as the filter gets more clogged.  When this difference gets over about 8psi, then it's time to clean the filter.
  4. After-filters pressure.  This measures the pressure of the water in the line that goes directly to sprinklers, which is also the pressure of the water just after the fine filter.  The difference between this and the between-filters pressure increases as the filter gets more clogged.  When this difference gets over about 8psi, then it's time to clean the filter.
More than you ever wanted to know about pressure gauges!

I got a letter yesterday from the hospice that took care of my mom just before she died last year.  Like the six or seven other letters I've received from them, it was a particularly warm and friendly message from the nurse who took such great care of mom.  This is the last letter I'll be getting from them, I discovered as I read it – they stay in touch for a year, offering any help we might need.  I've talked with the nurse several times over the past year, just friendly conversations and catching up with each other.  I called her again this morning, to say thanks one last time for all her care.  I discovered that she's leaving the local hospice, to go to a much more remote part of Utah to open up a new hospice – where she will be the head of the nursing staff.  She's very excited about this – just 29 years old and taking on quite a responsibility.  Her husband is a diesel mechanic, and found a great job at a big-rig service facility.  It was a lot of fun to hear her so excited about this new adventure for the two of them...

My friend and neighbor Tim D. cut his alfalfa a few days ago, and yesterday morning he turned it all over with his tractor rake.  Not 15 minutes after he finished, we got rain – on a day forecast to be hot and clear!  We ended up getting two tenths of an inch over a couple hours, enough to thoroughly wet his hay.  But then just three hours later, it had been actually hot and clear, and you'd never know that hay had ever been wet.  This afternoon they'll be baling those fields, and hopefully today is hot and clear to get that hay thoroughly dried out...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Paradise ponders: wistful puppies and plumbing edition...

Paradise ponders: wistful puppies and plumbing edition...  Shortly after dawn this morning I caught our two field spaniel puppies (Mako and Cabo) relaxing on their (very comfortable) deck bed while gazing wistfully at the five sheep in our neighbor's pasture.  They're 16 months old now, so not really puppies any more, but we still think of them that way.  The sheep are grazing roughly 500' away, but those two would be there in a flash if only they could.  Our fence stops them (yay!), but the pasture fence is just four-strand barbed wire, which wouldn't even slow the puppies down...

Yesterday and today I mostly worked on the plumbing for the irrigation pump in the cedar shed.  That included quite a bit of running around for parts and a bit of carpentry.  The carpentry was for the rack that is holding up the two filters (the black objects in the first photo).  The water flows from right-to-left through these two filters.  The first one has a 500 micron screen; the second a 300 micron screen; these can be replaced with other sizes if we haven't guessed well at the junk content of our irrigation water.

I've had to make a few modifications to the original plan, all because my original linear design would have taken about 6 feet more than the 10 feet I actually have available.  The second photo below shows one such modification: three taps (for pressure gauge, pressure sensor, and pressure tank) are now oriented vertically rather than inline with the horizontal pipe as originally planned.  That change saved almost two feet of horizontal space.  At the far left of that same photo is another change, though it's not really visible: a union, valve, and 2"-to-3" adapter all all at 90° to that horizontal pipe, thus saving another 16".  One other change is coming with the next batch of work: a 3" full-port ball valve that I'd intended to have inside the shed will instead be outside – saving 16" all by itself. 

In the third photo you can see the vertical “stack” connecting (top to bottom) a pressure gauge (with 1/4" tubing), the pressure tank (with 1" PEX), and the pressure sensor that provides feedback for the variable-speed pump controller.  Aside from the challenges related to space, so far everything is coming together well.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Paradise ponders: new-mown hay, albacore poke, pump plumbing, and tiny battery edition...

Paradise ponders: new-mown hay, albacore poke, pump plumbing, and tiny battery edition...  I just finished eating an awesome meal of homemade albacore avocado poke over brown rice.  The recipe came from the seafood manager at Macey's, and Debbie took it from there.  We picked up 20 ounces of fresh albacore at Macey's this morning, and ate every last bit of it a few hours later.  That stuff is make-your-brains-fall-out good!

Tim D., my friend and neighbor, decided to mow his fields today.  The swather came through and did the whole job in about 20 minutes – just over four acres down in windrows, just like that.  The photo at right I took just a few minutes ago, kneeling in the field 100' or so north of our house, looking east.  The delicious aroma of new-mown hay was almost overwhelming.  I never get tired of that.  Wish it lasted longer than just a few hours...

Debbie's got a wooden clock that cut out in the silhouette of a field spaniel.  The clock is about the size of an old-fashioned pocket watch, set into a cutout in the wood.  That clock runs on a tiny little battery, and the battery finally ran out after ten years or so of operation.  I managed to get the battery out of the clock, but then I couldn't read the letters on the damned thing.  The photo at left shows it sitting on a piece of cloth – it's not much bigger than the threads that cloth is woven from!  I had no magnifying glass at hand, but ... by taking a photo of it and enlarging it, I could read the battery just fine.  Handy, these smartphones!  :)

My main objective for today was to get a start on doing the plumbing around my new irrigation pump.  All the parts haven't yet arrived (and won't for a few days), but there were some parts I actually could start on.  It's not much, but it's a beginning!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The morning spam...

The morning spam...  Oh, look what just showed up in my inbox!  An email from someone I never heard of, promising me a payment if only I will paste a decryption key into the attached document and open it.  Sure, that's plausible!

What's really going on, of course, is that opening that document will run some malicious code, in a document macro.  Most likely it's going to try to exploit some Windows bug (and they sent it to me not knowing I have a Mac), but you never know, there might be a Mac bug to exploit too.

Do people actually fall for things like this?  Unfortunately, yes – predominantly younger people (who believe themselves immortal or are just ignorant) and older people (who just don't understand the risk).  Not long ago I read a study that showed about 4% of recipients actually opened things like this – even examples like this one that aren't well-targeted or particularly convincingly worded.

Don't you be one of them!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Paradise ponders: paper wasps, slashing kitties, and beautiful sunrise edition...

Paradise ponders: paper wasps, broken weed whacker, slashing kitties, and beautiful sunrise edition...  Debbie spotted the paper wasp nest at right in the woodwork above our deck.  Amazing how those wasps can manufacture paper and shape it to their needs!  Some cool morning, it will be my job to get rid of it – it's right above where Debbie grills, and for some reason she's not enamored of it being there. :)

When I'm not moving pipe or weed whacking the past couple of days, I've been replacing screens in the sun room with heavy-duty “cat proof” screening.  As I remove the old screens, I can't help but notice all the holes the cats have made in them.  You can see exactly where their claws were as they hung from the screen – most likely after a bird.

Yesterday, right in the middle of my weed whacking, my beautiful Stihl whacker croaked.  The engine still runs, but it won't turn fast enough to make the steel blade spin.  The whacking works very poorly under such circumstances.  I ran it up to the repair shop yesterday, only to find out they've got a backlog over over 50 broken whackers!  They tell me this happens every July, as everyone gets busy.  Figures.

This morning I moved about 25 pieces of irrigation pipe myself.  Normally I'm out there helping my friend and neighbor Tim D., but today he's up at a camp with about 300 boys, so I was on my own.  My company was the gorgeous sunrise at right, which I watched develop the entire time I was moving pipe.  That photo was in its earliest stages; at the end there were bright yellow puffy clouds in the same area...

Monday, July 10, 2017

Paradise ponders: sick weed whacker edition...

Paradise ponders: sick weed whacker edition...  Well, I was planning on finishing the current round of weed-whacking this morning, but ... my weed whacker up and died on me.  How rude of it!  I took it into the shop, where they told me it would be 7 to 10 days before they could fix it.  When I looked surprised, they showed me their backlog: dead weed whackers as far as the eye could see.  There had to be at least 50 of them there, and three technicians working hard on them.  Evidently I'm not the only one who had their weed whacker croak!

I may borrow my neighbor's weed whacker, just so I can finished the job up.

Everything else is going slowly.  The filling station is still leaking, and the sprinkler guys won't be here until later this afternoon.  I'll probably be replacing window screens this afternoon...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Paradise ponders: sweet peas, cruel puppies, and weed whacking edition...

Paradise ponders: sweet peas, cruel puppies, and weed whacking edition...  The scene at right is from this morning, in front of our garage, looking to the southwest.  Those flowers are sweet peas, which grow here like kudzu grows in Florida.  These will bloom for a few weeks in the summer, then die back to nothing at all by late fall.  In spring, they'll sprout and then grow at an astounding rate.  Every time a plant gets established by seed somewhere, they spread like crazy.  Pulling them up isn't enough to kill or contain them, as (apparently) the rootlets remaining in the ground just sprout immediately.  I fight a war with them every year, using modern weaponry (rototiller, spray), but they're slowly gaining ground on me.  Pretty, though... :)

I spent most of the day both yesterday and today doing battle with weeds, whacking away with my (wonderful!) Stihl gas powered, steel-bladed weed whacker.  I have several areas on the place where I can't get a mower, mainly because the ground is too steep.  The weed whacker is my weapon of choice there, though I probably could use herbicides more than I actually do.  It's brutally hard work in the heat, so I've been working for two or three hours each morning, before the temperatures get into the 90s.  I had been waiting for cooler weather, but the next ten days are forecast to be hotter, and if I waited much longer I'd be lumbering instead of weed whacking.  So off I went, starting yesterday.  Now I'm all full of aches and pains (muscular), and my face and arms are feeling pretty sunburned.  The heat is exacerbated because I wear a protective helmet (the one at left) that's designed for chain saw work, but is very nice for weed whacking.  I get a bit of flack from some of the locals, many of whom will weed whack (with a string trimmer) in flip-flops and shorts.  They can make fun of me all they want – every time a rock bangs into that face shield I'm thankful, and those ear protectors do a marvelous job of reducing the annoying drone of the engine...

Twice in the past two days I've rescued fledgling birds from our puppies.  The first one was a robin, and I suspect Cabo and Mako had been playing with it for hours.  It was exhausted and was missing a few feathers.  I put it in a safe place, but I don't think it had much of a chance for survival.  The second was a swallow, and I think I rescued that one very soon after they found it.  That poor thing was terrified and sopping wet (from dog saliva), but otherwise appeared unharmed.  I put it under a tree yesterday afternoon, and this morning it was dry and moving about, and had enough sense to flee from me as I approached.  It's got a chance.  From the puppies' perspective, those fledglings are wonderful toys.  I'm a little amazed that they didn't just immediately crunch the poor little things.  Somehow they must be aware that doing so would stop the attempts to escape, which was what they were having so much fun with.  They were quite indignant when I took their toys away!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Climate skeptics vindication?

Climate skeptics vindication?  A study (PDF) published in late June concludes with this:
The conclusive findings of this research are that the three GAST data sets are not a valid representation of reality. In fact, the magnitude of their historical data adjustments, that removed their cyclical temperature patterns, are totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data. Thus, it is impossible to conclude from the three published GAST data sets that recent years have been the warmest ever –despite current claims of record setting warming.

Finally, since GAST data set validity is a necessary condition for EPA’s GHG/CO2 Endangerment Finding, it too is invalidated by these research findings. 
If I were a climate scientist, I'd find that to be quite a damning conclusion.  Most of the study is information that I've seen before on various skeptics' web sites or writings – there aren't any new “smoking guns” that I detected.  At its most basic, this study says that the temperature data being used by the mainstream climate science community is invalid.  That's a claim that I first heard over ten years ago.  It's also a claim that I find quite persuasive, based on overwhelming evidence I've been reading ever since that first little inkling.  I've long since reached the conclusion that the official temperature record has been hacked, with the motivations being variously ideological, political, and (most straightforwardly) financially.  And that's really the meat of this study.

I'm certain this study will not change any minds, breathless news reports notwithstanding, as the three authors and most of their list of co-signatories are people well known in the climate skeptic community.  All three of them are openly mocked by many non-scientist believers in anthropogenic climate change/global warming.  So really this just boils down to a convenient summary of the evidence for the fraudulence of the “official” global temperature record...

Paradise ponders: heat, shams, and pumps edition...

Paradise ponders: heat, shams, and pumps edition...  We just got a call from a sweet little old lady named Marlene.  We bought a hand-made quilt from her a few weeks ago, and also ordered matching pillow shams.  She called to let us know they were done.  This afternoon we'll be headed down there (to Roy, near Ogden) to pick them up. 

The weather here is hot and sultry, and the forecast calls for more of the same for at least the next 10 days.  Our highs are in the high 90s, quite a bit warmer than we're used to (and certainly a lot different from the winter, which feels like it just ended!).  Our local mountains still have a bit of snow on them at higher elevations, which seems quite a contrast to the heat we're feeling.  The alfalfa, though, is loving it – it thrives on hot, humid weather so long as it has adequate water.  With our reservoirs still nearly full, the water is not a problem.

In the brief cool of the morning, I mounted my new irrigation pump on its pad this morning (at right).  The electrical work I finished yesterday.  That means it's all ready to be tested, except for the minor little details of (a) all the pipes being missing, and (b) no water is available for it.  Details, details. :)  I think that missing plumbing is likely to be my next project here.  Originally I was planning to have either the pump vendor do it, or the sprinkler contractor, but it's sufficiently complicated (and both of them find it unusual and uncomfortable for them) that I think I'll just do it myself...

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Paradise ponders: fireworks and Southern accents edition...

Paradise ponders: fireworks and Southern accents edition...  Last night Debbie and I drove 3 miles north to the town of Hyrum, to watch the fireworks.  Locals had told us that it was the best in the valley – not as big or as slickly produced as the Logan show, but still great and much, much more intimate.

Oh, they were so right!

We arrived at 7 pm, early in the hope of securing a good spot from which to watch.  That we did, and our timing could hardly have been better.  In the photo at right, you can see where we parked (the red circle) and where the fireworks were launched from (the blue rectangle).  We were perched roughly 500 feet from the fireworks' mortars. 

There weren't many people there at first, but within a half hour the soccer field we were parked next to started to fill up.  There were some entertainments along the western edge of the soccer fields: some inflatable slides, a collection of “bubbles” that you could climb inside and then bump into other people with, and (my favorite) a contraption like a giant slingshot.  Smaller children would be loaded into a harness on that slingshot, then pulled back just like you would on a stone in a rubber hand-held slingshot.  Then they'd like the child go, and up into the air they would go – 15 to 20 feet up, then bouncing around after that.  Some of the kids would do somersaults while they were high up.  All of them were clearly having a ball!  Vendors were selling popcorn and LED sticks that made colorful lights everywhere. 

Around 8 pm, we started to see fireworks launched by town residents.  Some of these fireworks were the little ones that we're accustomed to seeing in private hands.  Many of them, though, were much studlier.  There were “bombs” that sounded much bigger than the “cherry bombs” of my youth.  There were roman candles that got up to about 400' high and exploded into displays a couple hundred feet in diameter.  There were dazzling aerial fountains, screamers, whistlers, and so many more.  One of the citizens launching these things was doing so from a point in the street less than 50' from our car.  For the next two hours, until about 10 pm, we had a continuous fireworks show 360° around us!  Neither of us had ever experienced anything like this in our lives.  Some individual sites launched hundreds of fireworks, including the one nearest our car.  As it approached 10 pm, we were telling each other that even if the municipal show was canceled, we'd still be happy with the display.

But the show was not canceled.  It started at 10 pm and lasted for 20 minutes, during which time around 500 or 600 glorious fireworks were fired up.  Some of the fireworks were near Gandalf-level; most were merely spectacular.  Our position couldn't have been any better.  We just stood up and leaned against our car, and unless someone happened to walk by there was nobody within 30' or 40' of us.  When the largest fireworks went off, the center was a 45° elevation from us, and they spanned 110° to 120° of the sky.  It's the first fireworks display I've ever seen that I would call immersive – when the big ones went off, it felt like we were in the middle of them.  The grand finale was very grand indeed, with lots of the big booms.  We could feel the shock waves because of our proximity, and the cars and trees around us all shook.  Best fireworks display evah!  You can be certain we'll be back each year...

This morning I had to make a couple of calls to Virginia.  My mom's old house in Troy finally sold, and the closing was on Friday.  I called to get the electrical and propane services out of my name.  In both cases when I called a young woman answered the phone, and spoke to me with a very pronounced southern drawl.  Something about a young woman with that accent is just irresistible.  I stretched out those calls just as long as I plausibly could...  :)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Computer problems update...

Computer problems update...  TL;DR: My friend Tim's computer is now back up and running smoothly.  That took four hours of work this morning to accomplish. 

When I arrived at his house this morning, the first thing we did was to look at his computer to see if our attempt to do a clean installation of Windows 10 had succeeded.  Nope, it was a dismal failure.  So we tried a second time.  Failed again.  Then I tried carefully making sure all running applications were closed, disabled his anti-virus software, and tried a third time – and that time, it worked.

That gave us a brand-new copy of Windows 10 with no crapware installed, only the Windows anti-virus, and none of the apps that Tim depends on.  The next three hours were completely consumed with getting his applications, configurations, backups, and bookmarks back.  When we finished with that, his computer was running the cleanest and fastest it ever had.  I think that was mainly due to the absence of the large number of crapware apps that Dell shipped with the machine.

The final step we took was to create a “restore point” (using the Windows lingo).  This we named “clean and pure”.  If his computer ever gets hosed again, we're hoping we can restore to that point and salvage it.  Most of all, I hope Tim and Jeannie never call one of those scammers again!

Feels good to get the poor guy up and running again, though.  He was completely lost on repairing that, of course, as he's about as non-technical as you can get...

Thank you for your service...

Thank you for your service...  It's the custom here in northern Utah (and most likely, in rural areas across this country) to pay respects to veterans of military service on any patriotic occasion.  Independence Day is one of those occasions, and in the past few days I've had several instances when such respects were directed at me – something that very rarely happened in California.  In fact, just once that I can recall in my 40+ years of residence there.

Those of you who don't know me should know that there was nothing heroic about my military service, and I was never in anything even remotely resembling combat.  I was a computer technician, and I was good enough at that to be in demand for work both on my ship (the USS Long Beach, CGN-9) as well as on other ships in the Pacific and on a few land stations.  The closest brushes I ever had with combat were being helicoptered into Saigon for three days (to fix a computer for the Marines) and a rather scarier incident in the Indian Ocean wherein I was part of an operation that almost deployed by plane to rescue American teachers and Peace Corps workers that Idi Amin had taken hostage in Uganda.  That operation was canceled when Idi Amin backed down.  Everything else about my military service was routine and essentially risk-free if you don't count the thick cigarette smoke that I breathed every day.

The first recent instance of recognition was about 10 days ago, at the Hyrum “Star-Spangled Rodeo”.  That event is associated with Independence Day here, though it comes early.  As the rodeo started, there was the traditional parading of the colors and singing of our national anthem.  After that was finished, the announcer did something that caught me by surprise: he called for all the veterans in the audience to stand up – and then he asked those still seated to show their appreciation.  I stood when asked, a great deal of noise was made, and as I looked around a fair number of people were looking at me and clapping or otherwise making their appreciation known.  That is the first time in my life that anything like that happened, and though I knew it was something essentially directed by the announcer ... it was also clear that most of the people making noise were sincere in their appreciation.  This was all quite startling for this veteran who is far more used to derision than he is to appreciation.

Then this past Saturday I was in the local grocery store (Macey's) buying toasted sesame seed oil for the (wonderful!) poke that Debbie made.  As I went through the checkout counter, the clerk – a young woman of perhaps 25 years, who we've made the acquaintance of in the past – said “Weren’t you in the Navy?”  Apparently in some past conversation I'd mentioned that, and she remembered.  When I answered in the affirmative, she reached for my hand, shook it kind of strangely in both of her hands, then kissed my palm and said “Thank you so much for being there when your country needed you.”  Wow. That started a conversation in which I learned that her fiancee was a Marine deployed to Iraq.  She's afraid for his safety, but very proud of her man.  As I pushed my cart away and back toward my car, she ran out and gave me a hug, saying “Thanks again!”  Again, a singularly unusual experience for me.

Finally, this afternoon my phone made the noise indicating someone had texted me.  When I looked, I found it was from Mark T., the contractor installing our sprinklers.  He said “Happy Fourth of July Tom.  Thank you for your service to our country.”  He and I have talked rather a lot over the past year, and my Navy experiences have come up now and then.  Obviously he remembered. His expression of appreciation took me completely by surprise, though.  A pleasant surprise, to be sure, and once again has me reflecting on just how different the culture here is than it was in San Diego.  It's nearly inconceivable to me that any of the dozens of contractors I employed in San Diego would ever do such a thing.  Here it's still surprising to me, but perfectly conceivable. 

I'm still not used to being respected or appreciated for my military service, though.  It feels very strange, but certainly not unpleasant.  Just weird...

I wonder...

I wonder ... how many Americans under the age of about 40 have ever actually read the Declaration of Independence?  I suspect it's a small number, since in most schools it is no longer taught, and it's not the sort of thing people would read for entertainment.  If you're one of this presumed multitude, here's the whole thing.  Read it, and ponder the courage of the men who wrote and signed it.  Every one of them knew their signature made them marked men, subject to arrest and execution unless they could pull off the unlikely miracle of actually winning the war this document would start...
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Paradise ponders: mules and computer problems edition...

Paradise ponders: mules and computer problems edition...  I spent most of yesterday catching up on bills, bookkeeping, and other such chores.  Somehow there seems to be more of these things now that I've retired. :)  In the early afternoon, while chasing down one vendor to see if they'd received payment, my phone rang: my friend and neighbor Tim D. had a computer problem, and he wondered if I could give him a hand.

Well, of course I could!  Anything to get out of doing that damnable paperwork!  So I walked over to his place, a couple hundred yards north of my barn office.  On the way, I stopped by another neighbor's property to introduce myself to his mule.  That neighbor (Heath C.) had recently put up some barriers around the weeds along the periphery of his property, so that his mule could eat them down.  The mule was friendly enough, and seemed to like having company, even if it was for only a few minutes.

Then I continued on to Tim's house, where I asked a few questions and discovered that my friend had been the victim of a scam.  His wife (Jeannie) had been looking for a recipe, when up popped a window in bright colors, with the Microsoft logo, warning her about a virus and telling her to call a phone number on the screen immediately.  Unbeknownst to either her or Tim, that window was just a clever, dishonest, and deceptive advertisement served up by the recipe site.  That ad used JavaScript to provide a good simulation of a locked down computer – nothing worked.  She called Tim over, and then Tim did the wrong thing: he called that number in the ad.  The people who answered had a strong accent (Indian or Pakistani) and were members of a criminal group that makes their living scamming people who aren't very technical (like Tim and Jeannie).  They led him through installation of some tools – tools that gave them remote access to his computer.  Yikes!  Then he sat there and watched them doing things to his computer that he didn't understand, doing their level best to scare the crap out of him.  They were doing a fine job of that right up to the point where they asked him to pay $250 for their services to “fix” his computer.  At that point he hung up on them and called me.

I couldn't tell, after the fact, exactly what they did to his computer.  But one thing was absolutely clear: it had serious problems.  It was extremely slow, strange programs were running in the background, and it was completely sawed off from the Internet.  Years ago, when I was a Windows user, this would have instantly called for a re-installation of the operating system.  Windows 10 has a “fresh start” option built in to make that easy (allegedly), so we started that up.  Two hours later it was still running, with no sign of completion.  At 7 pm we gave up and decided to let it run all night.  This morning we'll see if it finished.  If so, perhaps his computer will be working again, albeit missing all his data (which he has backed up) and applications (which he has very few of).  If it hasn't finished, we're going to power cycle his computer and try again.  It may well not boot, in which case he's going to take it to a local computer shop and get Windows 10 reinstalled from DVD.  Sheesh!

Those damned ads are evil!  They looked so scary, and so genuine, to Tim and Jeannie – exactly as their creator intended.  The foreign criminals made themselves look legitimate by using a forwarding phone number that appeared to be American, but in reality was answered by someone in an untouchable foreign country.  Those criminals have basically no risk at all, and a significant chance of success once someone calls their number.  The ads cost very little, and only if someone clicks on them.  I can't think of any way to stop this sort of thing, other than educating every last computer user in the universe.  Tim and Jeannie are now educated.  I'm also trying to persuade them to get a Mac. :)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Mom would have loved our afternoon meal today...

Mom would have loved our afternoon meal today...  Yesterday when we went grocery shopping, we picked up two pounds of fresh mahi mahi – one big fillet and one medium-sized one.  We grilled mine with some dill and garlic, then I made two enormous sandwiches out of it.  Besides the (quite wonderful) cheese-and-onion bun that Macey's bakes in-store, the only other thing on the sandwich was a bit of homemade tartar sauce.  Those sandwiches darned near made my brains fall out!

Over 20 years ago, Debbie and I flew my mom and dad out to Hawai'i where we spent a really fun two weeks with them.  It was on that trip that we discovered Cafe 100 – the locally-owned fast food joint in Hilo.  They have many delicious items on their menu, but my mom and I instantly spotted the one for us: grilled mahi mahi sandwiches.  Those were made with perhaps 4 or 5 ounces of fish, on a slightly sweet bun that Cafe 100 has made just for their fish sandwiches.  There's a bit of tartar sauce and maybe (I've forgotten) a lettuce leaf or two.  But that's it; nothing to overpower the delicate flavor of that grilled mahi mahi.  We visited Cafe 100 multiple times, and once when I was very hungry after a big hike, I ate four of those sandwiches.  My mom never ate four of them at one sitting, but she did have two on several occasions.  She talked about those sandwiches for years afterwards.

Well, the mahi mahi sandwiches I had today were the first ones I ever had that beat the pants off the Cafe 100 sandwiches.  A new bar has been set!  Plus, these were monster sandwiches by comparison.  I can't believe I ate so much fish!  Sure was good, though...

Debbie fixed her mahi mahi as an add-on to a lovely salad: greens, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and that mahi mahi.  She looked quite happy as she ate it. :)

Paradise ponders: return to Paradise edition...

Paradise ponders: return to Paradise edition...  Well, we had quite the busy few days!

Early on Wednesday morning, as planned, we set off on our trip to Kalispell, Montana to pick up metal work completed for us by Lazy K Wrought Iron.  To get to our lodgings in Whitefish, Montana, we had to drive about 700 miles.  With a nominal range of 285 miles per battery charge, that's obviously going to require some recharging along the way.  What may not be quite so obvious is that we wouldn't actually get that much range from the battery, as we were moving along (most of the time) at 80 to 85 MPH, and we had lots of elevation change to contend with.  In actual practice, we got around 210 to 220 miles per full charge – but we rarely had a fully charged battery.  Why?  Because the supercharging stations (like the Pocatello, Idaho station at right) aren't located in precisely the right place to let us do that (they're closer together), so we don't actually have to fully charge the battery to get from one station to another.  On the way up, we stopped to recharge in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Lima, Butte, and Missoula.  On the way back, we managed to skip Pocatello.  Typically we were in the supercharger for 20 to 30 minutes.  As with our first trip to Kalispell, we actually found these stops to be pleasant breaks and not a hassle at all.

Our trip up was uneventful, but full of beautiful scenery.  Our favorite bit was the trip around the western side of Flathead Lake, in Montana.  Debbie snapped a few photos of that area as we zoomed by:


We pulled into our lodgings around 6:30 pm, tossed our luggage into the room, and immediately headed for the Tupelo Grille for dinner.  We'd discovered this place on our February trip, and enjoyed it so much that we didn't even peruse the other restaurants in town.  We had shrimp and crawfish cakes for our appetizer (first photo).  Debbie had the halibut special (center photo) and I had chicken and dumplings (last photo).  That was a very strange chicken and dumplings, but it sure was delicious!  Debbie's halibut was perfectly grilled, with a crust of herbs that we couldn't identify, but thoroughly approved of.


Our “room” at the lodge was a one-bedroom suite, with a full kitchen, a laundry, a dining room, a living room, a huge bathroom, and the bedroom.  It must have been 800 or so square feet all together; it felt like being in a large apartment.  The first photo shows the view from our balcony; second photo is roughly the same view at sunset.


In the morning we stopped at the Buffalo Cafe for breakfast.  That meal was, unfortunately, less than memorable.  Then we headed for the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  This is a place I've been to several times, though the most recent time was over 40 years ago.  Debbie had never been there.  I got a bit of a shock as we approached the park's entrance: there was a traffic jam waiting to get in – it took us 25 minutes just to get through the gate.  The amount of traffic in the park was difficult for me to absorb, and so vastly different than my memories of the place.  Several locals told me that my memories were completely correct – Glacier National Park was “discovered” in the late '80s and early '90s, and the number of people visiting has skyrocketed.  One consequence of this is a dearth of wildlife anywhere near the roads – we saw just two deer, one pika, and a couple of half-dead squirrels.  The scenery, though, was even better than in my memories – especially the waterfalls.  I didn't remember the dozens and dozens of huge waterfalls, nearly everywhere you look.  Some photos from our trip through the park:


On the way back into Kalispell (to pick up our metal work), we passed by a little retail nursery called Angie's Greenhouse.  The old jalopy decorated with flowers caught our eye, and we stopped to walk through it.  They have a huge selection of color plants, mostly annuals, along with hundreds of different lawn ornaments nearly all of which are made from rusty sheet metal (sometimes painted).  It's well worth a walk-through if you happen to be in the area...

Our last stop for the day was Lazy K Wrought Iron.  We expected to pick up our stuff at their workshop, but wanted to see the retail store that we'd missed on our last trip.  So we first went to downtown Kalispell to the retail store, which when we walked in was staffed by two of the Lipka kids with huge smiles.  A few minutes later, Abigail (their mom) walked in, and we discovered that all our stuff was right there, in the retail store – except for the filling station door, which they'd left at the power coating place to minimize the chance of damaging it.  So we hopped in the car and made a quick trip about four miles south, picked up the door (which fit nicely in the back of the Model X!), and then zipped back up to the retail store.  There, a parade of Lipkas helped us load the car with the 31 large pieces of metal they'd built for us, along with dozens of bolts and lag screws they'd had powder-coated to match what they'd built.  We even had a passer-by stop to help with one particularly awkward piece.  Abigail gave me some paracord and I lashed the whole pile down.  There was a lot of metal in the back, nearly filling the available space in the Model X.  We really couldn't have carried much more!

After departing the store, we headed back to the Tupelo Grille for another fine meal.  We had mussels for an appetizer, and I forgot to take a photo of them.  The menu had a mussel appetizer listed, but it included harissa, a sauce that's too danged hot for me.  We asked the waiter if the kitchen could leave that out, and he came back with a counter-proposal: the chef would whip up something easy for us, with a white wine sauce.  It was wonderful.  I'd give a lot to be able to “whip up” something like that! :)  Debbie's entree was trout stuffed with shrimp and crawfish, mine was elk meatloaf.  We ended up splitting the entrees half-and-half; both were superb.  The mashed potatoes that came with the elk meatloaf were the best I've had in years, just the way I like them (lumpy, buttery, herbed).


Friday morning we departed early, grabbed some coffee from Cowgirl Coffee (for a very necessary infusion of caffeine) just down the street from our lodging, and then we were on the way home.  Despite all the weight in the back of the Model X, there was only a slightly difference in its handling and no measurable difference in its mileage.  I guess most of the energy needed to drive at freeway speeds really is needed to overcome drag (which the extra weight doesn't affect) and not in elevation change or acceleration.  Of course the regenerative braking helps reduce the energy needed for the latter two reasons, too.  The drive home was uneventful except for a couple of crazy drivers that scared us.  The load in back never rattled or shifted at all.  We got home, quite tired, around 7:30 pm...

Saturday morning, after spending some time with the dogs, I went to work unloading the car.  The two lousy photos below will give you a flavor for how much stuff we had packed in there: a total of seven layers of metal parts, all packed carefully in blankets and foam sheets.  It took me almost two hours to get it all out and put away.  There was no damage to anything, which was very nice to see.  We did have one problem, though: the railing they'd built for our sun room stairs doesn't fit. :(  The Lipkas are already all over that, insisting on making a new one for us at their expense, even though it seems to me we share equal blame.  We'll have to find a way to get even with them for that! :)


Yesterday morning we went grocery shopping, and picked up a couple beautiful chunks of big-eye tuna.  Debbie made some avocado poke (using a recipe from the grocery store) with it, and it was just wonderful.  She served it over steamed brown rice.  Took both of us right back to Hawai'i.  We'll definitely be doing that again!