Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Yesterday I ripped out our two older MikroTik routers and replaced them with newer, (much) faster models (RB/1100AHX2). I brought up the one in my barn office first. That was a tedious, but fairly straightforward affair, and by 1 pm I had that up and running. After returning from a very pleasant lunch with Debbie and our friend Michelle H., I started on the house side. I had it all installed by 6pm, and it was talking between the house and the barn just fine (over my new radio link). But it wouldn't connect to the Internet at all.
I troubleshot it for three hours, with (to me!) very puzzling symptoms. The new MikroTik router could talk to the cable modem just fine, but nothing connected to the router could do so. Sounds like a routing problem, right? I inspected and re-inspected all the address and routing configuration, and found no problems at all. No reason for it not to work! So then I did some packet sniffing, using a constantly-running ping session on Debbie's workstation as a source of known data. The outbound ping got routed to the cable modem just fine, but then the cable modem never responded. Tried the same thing with a ping from the router, and the cable modem responded just fine. My tired brain couldn't process that information, so I went to bed and hoped that with fresh, caffeinated neurons in the morning I could figure it out.
Round about 2 am I woke up, visions of router configurations dancing in my head. After thinking about it some more, it occurred to me that it might be a problem with ARP (the Address Resolution Protocol). Unless you're a networking geek, you probably have no idea what that is. In technical terms, it gives networked devices a way to translate an IP address into an Ethernet destination (a MAC address). This isn't a great analogy, but it's a bit like a service that translates ZIP+4 codes into a street address. In terms of my problem, if the router was trying to send a packet to an IP address (in this case, Debbie's terminal) that it didn't know the corresponding MAC address for, it would broadcast an ARP request to all the devices directly connected to the modem, and then my new router should reply (because it already knows how to send something to that IP address). If that ARP request was never sent, or if my new router never replied to it, the symptoms would match what I was seeing.
Amazing what a little sleep will do for your troubleshooting capability!
Monday, May 22, 2017
This afternoon we had to take Cabo back to the vet to get her seroma drained again. Once again, no charge. Poor little girl is filling up with fluid near her spay suture. This time the vet told us to just let it fill up and don't worry about it – in a week or two it will be reabsorbed. If Cabo could have understood that, she'd have been very happy to hear it – she doesn't like the vet's office one little bit.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
It was such a gorgeous day this morning that I decided to go for a walk, taking Cabo with me. The skies over our heads were perfectly clear, but there were puffy clouds over the mountains to both the east and west of us. With snow on the peaks and the valleys a beautiful green, flowers popping out, and all our summer animals and birds back, it was a real treat for me. I took Cabo along for the walk, and she had herself a grand adventure. On one of her forays into the tall alfalfa (like in the first photo), she caught the scent of a vole – and then flushed it. That triggered an instinctive reaction to pounce on it, which she did – and she caught it. She raised her head, with her jaws holding a struggling vole, and then calmly crunched it, killing it. Then she dropped it and looked at me as if to say “Now what do I do with this?” She showed no inclination to eat it, which is what Mo'i or Race would have done before I got a word out. But she definitely wanted to find more voles – for the entire remainder of our walk, searching for voles is all she wanted to do!
The second photo is of a stand of mustard, backlit by the morning sun, with some dew still on it. Even mustard can be pretty! :) The last photo is the distance view to my west as we were walking. Pretty as a postcard, isn't it?
We took Cabo to the vet yesterday so the vet could take a look at a seroma that we'd noticed at the site of her spaying incision. The vet (Dr. Watkins) was quite surprised – said he doesn't often see a seroma on a simple spay, and he was worried that it might mean the incision on the body wall (not the skin) had herniated. He palpated it and found nothing suspicious, then took multiple X-rays and also saw nothing. These seromas do occasionally happen for unknown reasons, they're not dangerous, and generally they go away on their own as the body reabsorbs the fluids. So he just drained the fluid that had already accumulated (about 20cc, or a tenth of a cup), gave her a shot of antibiotics, just as a precaution, and sent us home. We're to watch for further accumulation and bring her in for draining as required, but otherwise we're just waiting for it to go away on its own. The vet wouldn't accept any payment for any of the work he did yesterday, saying it's part and parcel of the spay. A nice gesture, that was. We'd have happily paid for it, because (so far as we know) it wasn't the vet's fault that Cabo got a seroma. But to have such great service, delivered as if we were close friends, and then say it's free – well, that can't help but put a smile on our faces...
Friday, May 19, 2017
Phantom drone, zoomed it up to 700' high, and then got nice aerial shots. The entire process took about 5 minutes. He flew it from an iPad strapped into a controller, and it sure looked easy to do. I don't have the results yet, but I'll post them when I do...
I'll be caulking all the wood I cut through to make it waterproof, then painting all that silver and gold colored stuff white. I also have to install a ground wire, which will have a rather convoluted route in order to keep from traversing the steel roof. Then comes likely the most difficult part of installation: getting the outdoor Ethernet cable through the house wall, without causing a leak, or a place for animals or insects to get in. Part of this will involve snaking the cable through the wall of Debbie's office, where I'm not allowed to do anything ugly. :)
One consequence of installing gigabit Internet access that I didn't anticipate is that my existing routers can't keep up with the Internet feed. It would be just plain silly to have gigabit Internet if I can't get that capacity to our devices, so I'm also going to have to upgrade our routers. I'm using MikroTik routers, which I just love (so much easier to manage than Cisco routers!). The one I chose has 13 gigabit ports, with 2 gbps overall throughput. That's enough performance to do the job nicely, and enough ports that I can have a dedicated port for all of our computers – which means we'll avoid bottlenecking our switches (and I can keep those!).
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Yup, that's right. A winter wonderland. The dogs were quite enthused about this! I was ... less so. At least the asphalt in our driveway stayed warm enough to melt the white stuff. If this global warming warms things up any more, we'll be frozen solid! Almost every day in these part we're breaking 100 year records for cold and wet – exactly the opposite of what those infallible climate models predicted we'd see in this decade. Sheesh...
taws (shooters), but actually they're just ducks. It's made very simply, and not particularly well-finished, though in my memory it was a finely crafted and polished wood. No matter, the memories are the important part. It is made of a fine-grained hardwood (maple at a guess).
I found out that it was my dad's toy on one of our many trips together. It was during a far-ranging conversation about his life before WWII, the same conversation in which I learned that his pre-war career plan was to become a chicken farmer. In another part of that conversation, he was telling me what it was like to have grown up in the Great Depression. At the time of the stock market crash, he was just five years old. This toy was one of the few that he had at that time, and there was no money for other toys until he was too old to want them any more. Most of the toys he remembered were things that his father clapped together, or that he made do with. Hoops from a broken basket and a nice stick, for instance, made one of his favorites. But this toy, the marble ramps, was one that he especially cherished because it was one of the few “real” toys he ever had – and it was a gift for him, from his parents, not a hand-me-down from his two older brothers.
I have very few artifacts that belonged to my father, other than documents and photos. This is the only one I have from his childhood. I shall cherish it...
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
That poor truck driver must have been sweating bullets, and I'll wager he was shouting some choice comments at the driver he nearly killed. It was scary enough just witnessing this...
Monday, May 15, 2017
First are the levels of two thyroid-related antibodies: they are (respectively) 200x and 1,500x normal. Yikes! Basically, as she explained it, that means my body is eating my thyroid – an autoimmune problem. My pituitary gland is reacting to that by increasing its stimulation (through a hormone) of what remains of my thyroid, and under that increased stimulation the remnants of my thyroid are producing hormones at levels that are borderline low. This is called Hashimoto's Disease, and about 5% of all people will get it at some point in their life. It's easily treatable with a daily oral dose of levothyroxine, which I'm starting immediately.
Second, my blood levels of vitamin D are significantly below normal. The doctor had no explanation for this, but typically it's caused by a dietary deficiency. So I'm taking massive supplements for a couple weeks, then daily normal dose supplements after that. We check again in six weeks to see if that was all it took to get my levels back to normal. When we discussed my diet, it seemed like I ate plenty of things with vitamin D in it – so we're going to look at the results in six weeks carefully, and if the vitamin D levels don't pop back up she's going to start looking at things that might prevent my body from absorbing the vitamin D. One thing that struck both of us: my pernicious anemia (diagnosed about 25 years ago) is a condition caused by my body's inability to absorb vitamin B12. We're both wondering if there's some related condition with vitamin D...
Both of the above problems have fatigue and sensitivity to cold amongst their symptoms. Hashimoto's Disease has as a risk factor the presence of other autoimmune diseases (which pernicious anemia and Raynaud's Disease, two conditions I've been diagnosed with, both are). Both are also easily treated. So basically that's all unsurprising (except to me!) and relatively good news. And if the treatments work as advertised, I'll certainly be happy to have the symptoms reversed!
Anyway, we'd noticed something quite odd with our new phones: we'd set the date and time, then sometime later the time would change to seven hours later. We'd fix it, and then sometime later once again, the time was seven hours later. What the heck?
Well, seven hours later than Mountain Standard Time, at the moment, happens to be Greenwich Mean Time. That got me to thinking that there might be a time zone setting in the phone, but no, there wasn't. Well, what then?
After a bit of research on the Internet, I found some references to others having the same problem – and there was a fix, too. It turns out there's a setting buried a couple of levels down in the menu system, one that I had missed: a “time adjustment” option that lets the phone pick up the time from Caller ID or manually. It was set to Caller ID by default. I switched it to Manual, and if our experience is like others that will fix the problem.
Our phone isn't POTS and Ma Bell, it's Xfinity (Comcast) over our cable connection (along with our Internet). While researching this I discovered that lots of people are having a similar issue, with multiple phone systems (Panasonic isn't the only phone vendor providing this feature) and multiple phone service providers (including some POTS lines!). That makes me wonder why the phone system vendors seem to all default that setting to Caller ID...
In the afternoon Debbie and I went on a quest for baby goats. Really! :) We'd noticed four newborns in a paddock a couple miles north of us, and we know several places where there are herds of goats – so we made the rounds. Not a goatlet to be found anywhere except the original four. Those little things sure are cute, bouncing around like crazy. Too bad they have to grow up into actual goats, obnoxious and smelly...
Today I'm visiting with our doctor, who called me back into the office for consultation after receiving the results of some blood testing I had done two weeks ago. It seems unlikely this would be entirely good news. :( All I know from the nurse who called me is that the blood tests showed (a) normal B12 levels (which means my every-two-weeks one milliliter injection of cyanocobalamin is the right dose), and (b) there are thyroid antibodies present in my blood. The latter might be indicative of hypothyroidism, which could explain my low energy levels the past few months. We'll find out more today, I hope...
Sunday, May 14, 2017
We cannot imagine what they're thinking.
I hope I don't live long enough to see this sort of crap in Utah...
It turns out that the ward he's in has a treat for all the moms on Mother's Day each year. He copped one for Debbie, knowing that she wouldn't be there: a nice slice of banana cream pie.
There are so many reasons why we love this place, but Tim is one of the bigger ones...
Well, I managed to finish the dovetail joints on the second window frame. I glued it up and put it in clamps. Today I'll be mostly consumed with paperwork stuff, but tomorrow I should be able to move on to start applying the finish to the frames...
Cabo and I took a nice little walk in the afternoon, up our usual back road route east of our house. The photos below are all from that walk. The first two show a dry field (i.e., not irrigated) that's been lying fallow since we moved here. This year someone has tilled and planted it in some sort of grass, which has just started sprouting. The next two photos were taken near the highest point of our walk, looking to the west at our beautiful valley. In the second of them, very near the center you can see the brightly reflecting roof of our barn. Then there's Cabo, trying to take back the red tail hawk feather I had just taken away from her. I'm not sure what she thought she'd do with it, but she definitely wanted it! Finally, the last photo shows something new for our neighborhood: a field of “Roundup-ready” alfalfa, and the weeds right next to it that were just sprayed with Roundup. The alfalfa looks ridiculously happy and verdant, even though it was just sprayed with Roundup (which normally kills alfalfa). Meanwhile, the weeds are all dying. These fields are going to be practically weed-free this year, except for those few weeds that can survive Roundup (dyer's woad, especially).
Saturday, May 13, 2017
But of course instead of taking 5 minutes to assemble the jig, I spent a couple of hours by the time I got done. Sigh.
Then I moved on to glue up the first window frame that I'd test-fitted the day before. Into the clamps it went, and I'll be taking it out of clamps this morning. After that I routed out the tail boards for the second window frame. Today I'll be doing the pin boards and gluing it up (I hope!).
Debbie made us a fine salmon lunch, but cooking it differently than her usual baked salmon with dill and mayonnaise. This time she used the same technique she uses for scallops, just as an experiment. It was a successful experiment! :) Delicious, that lunch was. I could hardly move when we finished, though.
As we were eating, our optometrist called us to let us know that Debbie's new glasses were done. We hopped in the car and ran into Logan to get them, and then of course we needed an ice cream cone (since we were up in Logan anyway, don't you know). By the time we got done with all this, it was almost 5 pm. Where the heck did the day go?
I mentioned a few days ago the problem I discovered with the filling station: the nozzles required some back pressure in order to operate, more than is supplied by the height of the tanks. The solution I chose was to install fuel pumps, which will provide not only the needed pressure, but a higher flow rate as well. I received the first pump yesterday afternoon, and it was quite a bit larger than I'd imagined it would be. So much so, in fact, that I was afraid two of them wouldn't even fit! So this morning I got out my tape measure to check that out – and I got lucky: they fit with just about an inch to spare. Phew! However, all the plumbing inside the enclosure will have to be re-done. It's my own fault for not researching those nozzles thoroughly enough. Dang it. The folks who did the plumbing for me are willing to re-do it, thankfully. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we'll have that done...
Friday, May 12, 2017
It's always something... :)
Early in the morning I took our little girl field spaniel (Cabo) down to the vet for her appointment to get spayed. We've been worried about her and her brother Mako (who hasn't been neutered). Sometimes their play looks more like ... doggie foreplay. We wouldn't want her to get pregnant by her brother, and we wouldn't really want her to get pregnant by some neighborhood dog who jumped the fence when she went into heat – which could have happened at any moment (she's 14 months old). So off to the vet she went.
In the afternoon I went and picked her up. She was the very image of a totally miserable dog. She whimpered piteously all the way home, and I could do nothing to comfort her (I was alone in the car, driving). When I got her home, she was obviously frightened and we think still feeling the effects of the anesthesia. We did our best to comfort her before we went to bed, but then her miserable, piteous whimpering tore us up. I went out and got some pain meds into her, got her to drink a bit, then tried going back to bed again. More whimpering, and she sounded very frightened. Probably was, as this is the first time anything like sustained pain has happened to her, and she couldn't do anything about it. So I went out and got her, and we brought her up on the bed between us. She was trembling, panic breathing, and very upset. About 15 minutes later she was calm, nodding off, and breathing normally. A little while later she showed signs of engaging with Jahar, our Savanna cat (who was extremely unhappy about this canine in the bedroom, which so far as he is concerned is his territory). So I took Cabo back out to the kitchen and let her stay outside her crate all night. She was fine after that. I got up around 3:30 this morning, and when I went out to our kitchen she scampered over to see me, all cheerful, tail wagging, and looking like her normal happy self. She was excited when I got the leash to take her for a walk. I'll be doing that for the next week, as we don't want her to start roughhousing with Mako, which is her normal daily activity.
a tool cart I'd ordered that had been delivered yesterday afternoon. It went together easily, all the parts were there, and the end result looks quite nice. It's made in China, and the quality is very good. But ... while I was assembling it, I kept running into stickers saying things like “The wheel treads contain chemicals known by the State of California to cause cancer” or “Do not eat” printed on a bag of nuts and bolts. That got me to thinking ... the workers in China who put these notices on things ... if any of them can read English, they must be rolling around on the floor laughing at the stupid Americans (most especially the Californians). What kind of idiot has to be told not to eat a bolt? And really, if such idiots actually exist, could they read? Wouldn't it really be better in the long run to let such people eat bolts and let nature take its course?
As scheduled, a two-man tech team (Dustin and Justin) from Comcast showed up to install our gigabit Internet service. Turns out we're one of the very first people in Cache County to get this service installed, and we are the first on the particular distribution amplifier our home is fed by. They warned me they were likely to be here a while, because the signal had to be perfect for the gigabit Internet to work, and in their experience nobody's installation was perfect. So they did their testing for signal levels, and ... our installation was perfect. That's because, of course, we've had two recent visits from other Comcast techs to fix the intermittent problems we'd been having, and in the course of doing that they replaced (literally) every coaxial connector between the tap on the utility pole and our modem. They also bonded our cable ground to the power ground. Some combination of this fixed our intermittent problem – we haven't had a single outage (not even for a few seconds) since the last part of that effort.
So the gigabit Internet modem worked on the first go. We thought we had a kind of weird problem with the web management interface, but that turned out to be a browser compatibility issue: it worked fine on Chrome, but not on Firefox or Safari. With Dustin's test equipment we got 1020 mbps download and 44 mbps upload. On Debbie's iMac (the most modern piece of gear we own), she gets 818 mbps download and 43 mbps upload. Awesome! Our iPads are getting 200 mbps download over WiFi, which we've never seen before. Out in my office I'm still limited to 100 mbps down because of my underground backhaul being limited to that speed, but I am getting 40 mbps upload.
But my favorite part of getting the new gigabit Internet has nothing to do with the speed. It's a privilege derived from being one of the first. I now have in my position the cell phone numbers of Dustin and his supervisor – and an invitation to call for help directly should I need it. They'd also like feedback of any kind. They'll probably regret giving me these numbers. Or maybe they'll change their numbers after a while. But I'm cherishing the thought that I won't have to go through the automated voice messaging system to get to a tech the next time I have an issue...
Yesterday's UPS brought the components for my new 1,400 mbps radio backhaul link to my office. Another project! :) The antennae are larger than I'd imagined, over a foot in diameter. Once I get those puppies up, I'll have super-duper high speed Internet in my office, too. Woo hoo!
These days my attention to politics is mainly limited to trying to anticipate what the government might do that I need to react to in some manner (change investment strategy, buy more guns and ammo, change insurance, move to Mars or Estonia, etc.). I can't help but learn about some “Trump stuff” along the way, and as always, it's a seriously mixed bag from my perspective. Some things I really, really like (such as his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court). Some things make me cringe (like inviting the evil Duterte to the White House). Others demonstrate an ignorance of policy or politics that make me think he really is the blithering idiot the progressives make him out to be (like the timing of the Comey firing, or his tweets on trade policy). What throws me the most, I think, is that he doesn't seem to have any of the motivations of the “normal” politicians I detest. You'd think that might be a good thing. But I can't figure out what his motivations are, either. I've pretty much given up on trying to predict how he might decide to come down on any particular issue. I've also pretty much concluded that he has no more power to get Congress to take action than Obama did (both came into office promising they'd change the way Washington worked, and neither were able to do so). I won't be very surprised if he resigns tomorrow, nor will I be surprised if he declares martial law and sequesters Congress without food or water until they pass a budget, tax reform, and health care (I might actually support that move!). Bottom line: planning in the age of Trump is even harder than in the age of Obama. At least with Obama I could be fairly certain that he'd come down on the wrong side of every issue I cared about, from my perspective. I have no idea at all what Trump is going to do!
I spent quite a bit of time yesterday with Mark T., who's starting the installation of a pop-up sprinkler system for our lawns and landscaping. The first step is for him to plan where all the sprinkler heads will go, and to figure out what kind of head is needed for each spot. I'd never really considered this before, but it's actually fairly complicated. First there's the question of flow rate: the water laid down per square foot needs to be the same for all the sprinkler heads in any given zone (because they'll all be turned on-and-off simultaneously, and therefore need to complete their job in the same amount of time). Then there's the “throw” needed for each sprinkler. Our yard is very oddly shaped, so the sprinklers can't be placed in a regular pattern. Another consideration for placement is to keep as much water off paved surfaces as possible – and that also means controlling how broad the pattern is (360°, 180°, etc.). Yesterday, after lots of questions for me, he finished laying out all the sprinklers for our front yard and the “golf course”. Those areas will take 141 sprinkler heads. I'd have guessed perhaps a third of that! He'll be laying out the back yard this morning, and there will likely be another 50 or so sprinkler heads back there.
The booster pump, filters, and controllers for the irrigation system are all going to be mounted near our fuel tanks, on a concrete pad behind our outbuilding. These need to be protected from the weather, so I've ordered an 8' x 10' cedar shed to contain them. Assembling that will be yet another project, once it arrives!
the signs the next day, and they arrived yesterday afternoon. I put them up as my last work of the day. They're painted cast iron, and should last longer than we do (though they may need painting every few years)...
Thursday, May 11, 2017
After our dinner last night we stopped at the Hyrum generating plant, six miles east of town up Blacksmith Fork Canyon. We've driven past the generating plant many times, but last night they had the generator down for maintenance and they held an open house for curious locals. Perfect for me!
When we arrived, we saw that there was a relatively small line outside – perhaps 20 people (mostly kids!). We could also see that the inside was crowded and appeared to be on multiple levels. All of this would be challenging for Debbie at the moment, so she decided to wait in the car while I took the little tour. I waited outside with a happy, friendly crowd of locals for about 20 minutes and then the group inside came pouring out. Among them were some people we know: Lizzie H., her husband, and her little brother A.J. Lizzie's the daughter of our friend Michelle H., and she's pregnant with Michelle's first grandchild. Lizzie told me, very excitedly, that they found out her baby is a girl. :)
The power plant was built in 1918, so it's 99 years old this year. Walking inside this plant was like going back in time. What's most amazing to me is that this generator is still in use after all this time! It's owned by Hyrum city, and operated as a co-op. When running, it produces 500kw, about 1/40th of the entire city's power consumption. Mostly it provides power for all the municipal buildings, thereby saving the city's citizens the expense of the electrical power bill. Yesterday was the first day it's been down for maintenance since we moved here three years ago, and I forced myself to stay up late (past 7:30 pm!) to go see it.
For the geeks, here's a brief explanation of what you're seeing in my photos below (in order):
- A view of the generator's rotor and stator (both painted with red electrical insulating compound). In normal operation it is uncovered like this. The gray cylinder in the foreground is part of the casing for the commutator/brush assembly.
- The commutator/brush assembly. Again, the red is electrical insulation compound, and in normal operation it's uncovered like this. I'm guessing that at night there's a nice sparky presentation here, and that the air in here is full of ozone.
- One side of the water turbine casing (the side toward the generator).
- The water turbine governor. This device, in particular, made me smile at it's construction. All the electrical parts are open; no safety casings around anything. Ditto with the rotating mechanical parts. The job of the governor is to keep the turbine rotating at just the right speed so that the generator produces AC at 60 Hertz. This means allowing more or less water into the turbine as the load on the generator changes. I'm guessing that the load is basically constant at max these days, since the generator's capacity is such a small fraction of the city's need. Nevertheless, this is a key component; the power produced really must be held steady at 60 Hertz, or all sorts of problems for customers will occur (not least of which is all their AC powered clocks will be wrong!).
- A view of the turbine blades, through a maintenance port that was temporarily removed. They're only a few inches wide, which surprised me – I was expecting something much larger. Also, I was expecting the shaft to be vertical, as all the other water turbines I've seen were built that way (with the generator on top).
- The giant gate valve that controls the water entering the turbine. The valve itself is the assembly below the large vertical cylinder. That cylinder is a double-action piston that uses water to raise and lower the gate valve. There's a hoist up there now because the valve “needs a little help” to be opened. I believe this valve is used only for turning the turbine on and off, and not for speed control. I'm not certain, though, because I couldn't get the attention of the busy (and all talked out!) host. I suspect there are control louvers of some sort inside the turbine housing that can quickly change the turbine's speed and are more amenable to governor control than this very slow-acting gate valve would be.
In a little while I'm taking poor little Cabo to our vet. Today is the day she gets spayed. We can't give her any food or water this morning, so she's crated and whining piteously for her normal morning routine of deep drinking, bananas, and her morning kibble. She's very confused, as this is the first day of her entire life when all three elements are missing...
Later this morning we're scheduled to have a new Internet connection installed. While Clinton (the second tech to come visit us, to repair our intermittent connection) was here, he very casually mentioned that he believed gigabit Internet was now available in our area and being quietly rolled out. I was skeptical, as we're pretty far out in the country, but on Monday I called Comcast to find out. Lo and behold, it is available here! Amazing! The advertised speeds are 1000 mbps download and 35 mbps upload, both rather large improvements over our already good 230 mbps download and 12 mbps upload. I ordered it, and it will be installed today. That got me moving on another networking improvement I've been noodling about. Two and a half years ago, when we built our barn, I put Ethernet in the ground between the house and the barn so I'd have Internet access in my barn loft office. Because the barn and the house are on separate electrical systems, I had to install an isolater in that connection – and those are only available at speeds up to 100 mbps (at a reasonable price). So I've been limited to that speed in my office. With gigabit Internet to the house, that now looks crippling. :) So I ordered a pair of Mimosa Networks radio backhaul links. They'll give me an over-the-air link that can move 1,400 mbps, so I should be able to take full advantage of our gigabit Internet even in my office. That pair of radio links is about half the cost of a gigabit isolater, which gets me to pondering about what a crazy world we live in these days. Radio links cheaper than wired links – who knew?
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
First, I'm finding myself swamped with paperwork and phone calls of various kinds. All just routine stuff, but I've been neglecting it and now there are starting to be consequences. :) So I started catching up with all that, both yesterday and today.
Right in the middle of that paperwork, I got an unexpected text message from our mason, Randy Bingham. He asked if I was home. I replied that I was. He said “We have your cap!”, meaning the rock slab that would form the roof of our little filling station. I asked if he wanted to deliver it, and he said “We’re here right now!” So I ran out to greet him and his partner Jeffrey. The big chunk of rock weighs about 1,100 pounds, so they used their handy-dandy loader to put it in place. Jeffrey's running the loader, and that's Randy with his back to me. It's going to be a few weeks before they have time to put the rock veneer on the sides, but now we've got a roof!
The filling station presented me with a new challenge. I've discovered that the height of the tanks doesn't provide enough pressure to operate the nice auto-closing nozzles I bought. So now I've ordered a couple of fuel pumps that we'll mount in the block structure – which means the plumbers will have to re-do part of the plumbing. It's always something...
While I was out with Randy and Jeffrey, I noticed some workers alongside the irrigation canal that runs along the east side of our property. They were cleaning up the big piles of brush that had been left there by the canal cleaners a month or so ago. I've been after them for three years now to clean up the mess they made, and finally they did it. The workers did an especially nice job, too – right down to cleaning up the twigs with a leaf rake. I've been planning to get a burn permit to burn those piles myself, as I'd given up on them cleaning it up. Good thing I procrastinated: they did even better, picking it all up instead of burning it. Nice!
Then we went to lunch at Los Primos with our friend Michelle H. A most pleasant (and delicious!) lunch that was. We tend to go on Tuesdays because that's the day they have our favorite menu item: vegetable beef soup. Yesterday they had just one bowl left, which Michelle and I decided Debbie should have. Our waiter saw our disappointment, and he told us the soup often runs out early in the day. But ... he also said that if we called in the morning and told him we were coming in the afternoon (normally our big meal for the day), he'd reserve as many portions as we'd like. Woo hoo!
I had a nice long (literally at the fence) conversation with my friend and neighbor Tim D. He's recovering from back surgery, and doing very well, but his physical activity is strictly limited and he really hates that. It's hard for him to stick to the guidelines his doctor gave him.
yellow-headed blackbird. We struck gold, and got several nice, long viewings of males – including one doing the full-on mating call and display behavior. Nice! We also saw large numbers of Canadian geese and white-faced ibis with their beautiful iridescent breeding plumage. The photo at right (you'll have to click to embiggen it) shows one scene full of geese and ibis. My finger is there to shield the lens from direct sunlight, as I was shooting straight into the evening sun. We also saw a couple of other interesting things: a herd of buffalo, apparently being raised for the meat, and a young lady practicing steer roping. Just driving through the bottoms of the Little Bear River is beautiful right now, with green everywhere and lots of flowers (especially around houses).
This morning we got an especially good piece of news for Debbie's recovery. She just finished the third trial run (month-long) using a drug called Forteo that helps build back new bone for people with osteoporosis. Her endocrinologist recommended it as the best drug for her situation. After the two previous trial runs, she had to stop using it because her blood calcium levels got too high, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Not good! But after this trial (which we'd all agreed would be her last), her blood calcium levels were normal! Yay! This is mostly because she stopped taking calcium supplements and also stopped getting too much calcium in her diet. She's now carefully monitoring her calcium intake to keep it within normal range, neither too high nor too low. And apparently that was all it took to let her respond normally to Forteo. So now she's going on it for the next two years, to get her bones built back up faster and stronger. We were all primed for another round of bad news on this, so it was one of those very pleasant surprises for us to hear the good news. Debbie is over-the-moon, and demanded a celebratory dinner tonight. So we're headed to Le Nonne's at 5:30. :)
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Paradise ponders: giant redwood boxes, ancient eyeballs, errant puppies, and bloody confusion edition...
The first step yesterday was to route a large groove on the inside of each of the pin boards and tail boards. This groove would accept the “bottom” I made earlier from tongue-and-groove redwood 2x8s. The groove needed to be 1.5" across and 0.55" deep. In the first photo below, you can see my jig on the router table to make the groove in the tail boards (the short sides). I fixed the fence so that the edge of the router bit toward me was 2.5" from the fence. Then I clamped a long board very carefully so that there was exactly the width of the tail board plus 3/4" between it and the fence. I'm using a 3/4" straight bit, so being able to move the tail board in-and-out 3/4" means I could cut a 1.5" wide groove. Then I clamped a couple of “stopper boards” to the long board, in the right place so that the groove would be cut in all but the last 3/4" of each side of the tail board (so the groove would be “blind” - not visible from outside the box). Finally, I raised the bit to exactly 0.55" high. I'd never done anything like this before, so I spent considerable time triple-checking everything I did before I started removing wood. Once I was happy with it, I lit off the router and carefully lowered a tailboard onto the bit. After that I just moved the board around to route out everything within range of the stops I'd set up with the boards. It was harder than I expected to move that board around, as the vacuum created by the dust collection system tried very hard to keep the board in one place. :) When I stopped the router and pulled the tail board out, I miked the groove – and it was exactly right. Amazing how well measuring works!
After cutting the grooves in all four sides (I had to move the stopper boards to do the pin boards), I was ready for a trial fit (right hand photo above). This went very well. The only real problem was that the two pin boards (the longer sides) and bowed slightly along their long axis, but I figured I could take that out in clamps. And that's what you see in the first photo below – after slopping glue on as fast as I could, I assembled it all just as in the trial fit, and then clamped the crap out of it. Twelve clamps later, all the bowing had been taken out, and I had a good fit all the way around. This morning I took it out of the clamps, spent a couple of minutes with my belt sander smoothing out the finger joints, and voila! – my jig “elevator” is complete. The last photo shows it all set up and ready to use, clamped to my bench and with the dovetail jig clamped on top. Now I can easily handle the long boards I need for my next project, which I'll be starting today: cedar frames for the basement windows that are opened to the sun room.
When I was a much younger man, I was a co-founder of a business that made and marketed practice management software to optometrists and ophthalmologists. As you can likely imagine, I met some interesting people during those eight years, people who knew an awful lot about human vision. Some of them had instruments to measure all sorts of things about vision, and I had the opportunity to have my eyeballs measured in ways that most people never do. I discovered several things about my eyes that I'd not previously known:
- My retinas had about 25% more photoreceptors in the macula of my eyes than the average person. That meant my visual resolution, assuming my focus was optically corrected, was a bit better than average.
- My sensitivity to blue colors is about 55% better than average, mainly because the reason I have more photoreceptors in my macula is because I have many more blue receptors than most people do. Not only is my sensitivity to blue higher, but I can see blue objects more sharply (for the same reason). One interesting result of this, to me at least, is that I see certain colors – particularly those that most people call pink – as containing more blue. That leads me to see shades of lavender and purple where others see pink. It also lets me distinguish between more shades of green than most people can.
- My pupils can shrink to about 50% of the area that most people's pupils can. I don't think anyone has ever noticed this when looking at me, but it has a pleasant consequence for me: I only feel the need for sunglasses when I'm in white-out conditions. Bright sunny days I can easily handle.
So I finally caved in and bought myself a pair of single vision (that is, no bifocal) glasses with the prescription set for vision at about 30". To get that prescription, I took the near “add” my eye doctor measured and halved it, which is approximately right. I ordered the glasses from Zinni Optical (a Chinese company) on the advice of a friend who'd tried them and was happy with the results. For $50 I got a pair of titanium frames with wide rectangular lenses, perfect for my application. Yesterday I received them, and today I'm using them – and they are great. They weigh next-to-nothing, the lenses work wonderfully, and I have relaxed, clear vision at my computer for the first time in a couple of years. I wish I'd done this a long time ago...
The thing that stressed us the most yesterday was that both of our puppies (Cabo and Mako) escaped our back yard and disappeared from view. This is our nightmare scenario: two incredibly athletic little puppies with absolutely no experience of the big bad world, out there somewhere on their own. What happened is a construction worker left one of our gates open, and when I let the puppies out they discovered that very quickly. We figured out that they were gone about 60 seconds after I let them out, but still in a walk around the house we could see nothing – nor did they respond to our agonized and frantic calls. I got on my ATV and started driving around to places where I knew they had shown prior interest, but they weren't anywhere in sight. Debbie called from our doorways. Nothing. Despondent, we were.
Then, a small miracle. I spotted one of the puppies about a quarter mile away, running down a back road. I hopped back on the ATV and intercepted him – it was Mako. He came right to me; I leashed him and brought him home. I called for Cabo, too, hoping she'd be nearby, but nothing. After dropping off Mako I headed back out on a broader circuit of the general area where Mako was. After a couple minutes of fruitless searching, Debbie called with wonderful news: Cabo had come to her as she called from our garage.
Bullet dodged. Nightmare ended. But our equanimity wasn't restored for quite some time... This morning Debbie had a great idea: to get signs for all five of our gates, asking people to keep them shut. That worker had no idea we had dogs in the back yard, so one can hardly blame him for not knowing that he should close it. Furthermore, keeping dogs in a fenced yard is ... slightly unusual in these parts. Most dogs run free, despite the risk to them from cars on roads – nearly incomprehensible to us, but nevertheless true.
Debbie was due to get blood drawn yesterday for some routine tests. We drove the 12 miles up to the hospital lab around noon, only to find that the lab had no “orders” for blood work on her. Argh! We tried calling her doctor's office to get those orders re-transmitted (for we were certain that had already been done), but nobody was answering and we didn't get a call back after waiting a bit. So back home we went. Later, the doctor's office called us back, verified that the orders had already been sent, but they went ahead and re-transmitted them anyway. Shortly later, the lab called us to let us know that they'd found the order – but it was the wrong one (an older “standing” order for quarterly checks). Sheesh. So we drove up to the hospital again, just after finding Mako and Cabo, and now we'd found that they had both orders. Finally, they drew blood and got the tests underway...
So of course we had an ice cream cone at Aggie's Creamery. :) Yummy, they were!
Monday, May 8, 2017
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Dovetails or fingers are really the “right” way to build this thing – they're by far the strongest kind of joint I could make. The fallback would be to buy corner braces and install them on the inside corners of the box – doable, but much less interesting than a real joint. So I decided to make a fool of myself and make finger joints by hand. I chose 7/8" wide fingers (only because the math worked out nicely) and started with my tail boards (the two short sides of the box). The first step was to use my bandsaw to cut the sides of the fingers (first photo below). That was easy enough for these boards, but it will be considerably trickier when I go to saw the pin boards – those pins will have to fit tightly between the tail board fingers.
The next step was to chisel out the holes where the pins will go, between the fingers of the tail boards. In the second photo you can see the beginnings of the first one I chiseled out, and the third photo shows it finished. That was a lot of work! After putting my thinking cap on, I came up with the idea of drilling 3/4" holes right at the ends of the notches I was chiseling out (fourth photo). I theorized that I'd have much less material to remove via chisel, and it would be easier. It was (see fifth photo for the results of five hammer blows on the chisel). Much easier – so easy that I finished the remaining three notches in less time than it took me to chisel just the first one (in the sixth photo)!
The last photo shows my working setup for the chiseling. I'm using a 3/4" chisel and a dead fall hammer (love those things!). Just below the chisel in the photo is a diamond sharpening stone; I hone that chisel frequently as sharp is very much better than dull when you're cutting directly across grain as I am here. The tail board I'm working on is clamped to my workbench, but there's a spoil board under it so I don't gouge my bench when chiseling.