Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Yesterday and today I've been working hard on the cedar shed, and much progress has been made. Yesterday Debbie helped me a lot – it was very nice to have the help, but even nicer to see that she could do it.
The first thing I did yesterday was to tap the four floor beams carefully into position, mark the concrete to match, then flip up the joist-and-floor assembly (first photo). Lifting that sucker by myself was hard – right at the limit of my lifting capacity. But I did it. Then I screwed on four connector end caps (second photo), on the side away from the flipped-up floor. Next step was to secure the four beams onto the concrete slab; I did that with 12 Tapcon 5/8" concrete screws into holes that I drilled into the concrete to match the holes in the four beams (third photo). They worked great! I torqued them all down to 25 ft/lbs and those four beams aren't going anywhere at all. Then I flipped the joist-and-floor assembly back down (amazing how much easier that was that lifting it!), and scooted it over the beams to mate up with the end cap connectors I'd previously installed (fourth photo). Next step was to lift the side of the floor away from the connectors, prop it up on a log (fifth photo), and install cap connectors on the other side of the four beams. That done, I lowered the floor and put approximately 3.7 billion screws into those eight cap connectors, along with into six straight connectors along the sides of the front and back beams (sixth photo). That was a bunch of work!
This morning I started assembling the side panels. There are ten panels all together. Debbie helped me with this part, keeping panels in alignment while I tacked them into place with a few screws. When we finished with that, we trial-fitted the door (it was perfect). Then I put about 2.4 billion more screws in, to tie all the panels firmly to the floor and to each other. Next step was to install top plates (2x3s) all the way around the top, which did wonders for the rigidity of the longer sides. Finally I put the two gables up (at right) and put the first two roof panels on. Those I could do by myself, but the next two roof panels I need help on – and that help is arriving in about 45 minutes, in the form of two of Michelle's strapping sons. Each of them is much stronger than I am, or was even at their age (late teens/early 20s). We'll put the next two panels up this evening and I'll tack them into place. Tomorrow morning I'll put the last two roof panels up on my own, and then all that's left on the shed are details. Important details, mind you (like the ridge cap), but details nonetheless.
I'm a tired puppy again tonight. :)
Monday, May 29, 2017
Debbie had shattered her left knee joint and right kneecap just a few days before. She'd just come out of surgery to reconstruct the knee's socket and had been admitted to the TCU (Transitional Care Unit) at Logan Regional Hospital. She was in considerable pain, and both legs were strapped into braces that locked them straight. We hadn't learned of her osteoporosis yet, but we knew that something must be wrong with her bones.
My mom had just arrived at the nursing home in Logan, and was giddy with happiness at having done so. We had no idea, at that moment, that she had just ten days or so to live. All we knew was that she was here, bubbling over with the joy of being here, seeing my brother Scott and I, and meeting some of the Utahans she'd been hearing about. Scott and I were very busy getting her room outfitted. The only concern we really had was that her mental state seemed out of character and almost unreasonably happy, and we didn't have any idea why.
I had just picked up our two new field spaniel puppies, Cabo and Mako. The two of them were quite a handful – bundles of non-house-trained energy and joy. They were a lot of work for both me and Michelle H. (who pitched in to help on many occasions for a few weeks starting late May last year). I have trouble imagining how I could possibly have coped with Debbie's injury, mom's arrival, and the puppies' arrival without Michelle's help. She was the good friend we could count on, going out of her way to check on me, calling every day to coordinate where I needed help with the chaos, and always, always cheering me on. Despite being a lot of work, the puppies were also a source of peace and happiness for me. Amid the chaos of my life, I could count on them to bring a smile and calm me down.
By comparison things seem downright placid today... :)
Within the Navy, the PBRs in Vietnam were notorious for their high casualty rate (casualty, to the military, is both deaths and injuries). Depending on what source you find, the casualty rate was between 5% and 8% of the crews per month. At a 6%/month rate, if you served on a PBR crew for a year, you had more than a 50% chance of being a casualty. By comparison the four years I served on the USS Long Beach were effectively risk-free.
I didn't know Dave all that well, but nevertheless well enough to know that he had no well-formed rationale to support risking his life in Vietnam. He'd have simply seen it as his duty, once he'd signed up to serve his country. I remember Dave as one of the few young men willing to say he saw signing up for the Navy as his patriotic duty. At the time ('71), the country was being rocked by antiwar protests, and many – perhaps most – young people perceived military people as despicable “baby killers”, and someone unabashedly patriotic, like Dave, really stood out.
I shed some tears for you today, Dave, and I'll be thinking of you all day...
Sunday, May 28, 2017
I also had to fabricate three holes in each of the four beams, where the hold-down bolts will go through to the concrete slab below. Each of these holes has a 1.75" high hole that's 9/16" diameter, just big enough for the tie-down bolt to extend through. Above that, through the remaining thickness of the beam, is a 1.25" diameter hole that will accommodate a nice thick washer to spread the load on the wood, and my socket wrench so I can torque that bolt down. The photos below show me doing the holes, with the last photo showing the debris under my drill press once I'd finished. What a mess!
Finally it was time for some actual work on the kit itself. Much of the first step (constructing the floor) would be easier with two sets of hands, and Debbie volunteered to help. It's wonderful that she's recovered enough to even consider doing this, and she not only did it, she did it well. I took the first photo as we were building the first (of six) “joist boxes” for the cedar 2x4 joists that would support the plywood floor. In the second photo you can see a finished joist box leaning up against a wall section. The third photo shows the lazy man's way to transport the joist boxes from where we assembled them to where we'd be using them. Love that tractor! The fourth photo shows two joist boxes being screwed together. The clamps are holding them in alignment while I'm screwing in the screws – they made it very easy to get everything perfectly lined up. The fifth photo shows the plywood floor sections (each the size of a joist box) laid in place. Finally, the last photo shows the floor completely assembled, glued and screwed to the joist box (and, most importantly, all aligned correctly).
Tomorrow I'll be leaning that floor up against the fuel tanks adjacent to it, and fastening the four big beams to the concrete. Then I'll be putting the floor back down onto the beams and installing the metal connectors that will tie the floor solidly into the beams. Some of the metal connectors (for the shortest two beams) will have to be modified slightly, as they're bigger than the beams at the moment. I'm expecting that to take all day, and perhaps a bit longer if all doesn't go well.
Tonight I am one tired puppy – more tired, really, than I ought to be. I sure hope my thyroid's sluggishness turns out to be the problem, and that once we get the dosage adjusted correctly I'll regain my former energy levels. Last year this amount of work wouldn't leave me in the quivering-muscle state I'm in right now. I don't like this at all, not one little bit. As Debbie likes to say, getting old is not for sissies...
Saturday, May 27, 2017
the safety system in my SawStop saw had triggered. That system stops the blade by driving an aluminum pawl into it, and that's what you see at right after I raised the blade back up. That experience showed me just how fast that blade really does stop – right freakin' now! After I regained a bit of my equanimity, I pulled the blade and brake cartridge out of my saw (they had become one); that's the first photo below. I hammered the brake cartridge off the blade (second photo) to see what the blade did to the pawl. The last photo shows what the brake did to my blade (now in the trash). It's interesting to see that the blade stopped within a very short distance – once that pawl engaged a tooth, it couldn't move very far. SawStop says that engagement time is 5 milliseconds. At 4,000 RPM (unloaded) and a 10" diameter blade, that works out to 10" of blade travel, about 1/3 of a rotation. I don't much like to think about my finger or hand enduring that much cutting action – but it beats the pants off the blade not stopping at all...
So why did the saw's safety system trigger? My finger never touched the blade. However, the pressure-treated lumber I was trying to saw was quite wet, as evidenced by its weight. Lumber that's sufficiently wet will conduct electricity, and the saw detects human contact with the blade electrically. Because the lumber was conductive, it fooled the saw into thinking that it was in contact with me, and it triggered. The saw has a “bypass” mode that will let me run it without the safety mechanism. That's what I'll have to do to saw this lumber – after I replace the brake cartridge and install my new saw blade. I could let the lumber dry out, but then I wouldn't be able to build my shed until about August!
When I ran up to Logan yesterday to pick up a new saw blade, I stopped by an irrigation company referred by my sprinkler contractor, to talk with them about constant pressure pumps. I'm not going to name the company, as I haven't actually done any business with them. They had me talk with their pump expert. It was kind of appalling, really. I am far from a pump expert, but I do know a little bit about them. I understand, for instance, the relationship between pressure and flow rate; I know what friction loss and head height is. I know how to read a pump curve. That dangerously small amount of knowledge made me a certifiable rocket scientist by comparison with their “pump expert”. He was also very fast with the (outrageously) expensive solutions. For instance, he proposed two $1,400 motor-operated valves when I told him I wanted an automatic bypass for the pump. When I showed him how to accomplish the same thing with a $50 check valve, he had trouble comprehending how it would work and was clearly put off by my interference with his $2,800 sale. I don't think I'll be buying my booster pump from those folks! :)
Friday, May 26, 2017
Yesterday morning Debbie and I went out to our new sun room to enjoy the morning as we drank our tea and coffee. I looked toward the south and saw something odd. On closer inspection, it was a geyser – roughly 30' tall, emanating from the south side of our field, about 600' from our house. I knew immediately what it was: a broken riser on the irrigation line that runs east/west there. That riser is on a 3" diameter pipe, so it squirts a lot of water. Most likely a snowmobile broke it off in the winter, and the irrigation company pressurized our pipes on Wednesday evening sometime. So Thursday morning we woke up to our very own (and quite impressive!) geyser.
That event dictated my morning. I went out immediately and shut off the valve that controls the water to that string of risers. Then I assessed the situation, and there was good news and bad news. The good news was that the riser broke off about 5" above ground, at the top of a piece of 3" PVC pipe, which means I wouldn't have to dig a pit in order to fix it. Yay! The bad news was that the valve wouldn't completely shut off the water – so there was still a trickle of water coming out of the riser. Ordinarily the pipe has to be bone dry in order to glue it, and that wasn't a possibility here. After consulting with my much more experienced friend and neighbor (Tim D.), I learned that there existed a kind of glue (solvent, actually) that would work on wet pipe. Off I went to get it, though the nearest source was 20 miles away in North Logan. Once I had all the parts I sawed the pipe off square, shoved a rag into the pipe to at least slow down the water, glued the new connector on, waited five minutes, and opened the valve to repressurize the pipe. The glue joint held, and didn't leak. Yay!
But I may have celebrated too soon. I discovered shortly afterward that while I was in town getting the magic glue, the irrigation company shut down the lines so that they could repair the numerous leaks. So I won't really know if my repair worked until the crank the pressure back up. As of this writing, it's still off. We may have a repeat geyser! :)
MikroTik RB1100AHx2, a very capable box for a mere $350 – less than I used to pay for Cisco's annual firmware license! After spending 15 hours or so working with this thing over the past few days, I'm ready to give it a grade. I'll give it a solid “A”. It's got far more capability than anything but the most loaded-up Cisco router, for a tiny fraction of Cisco's price. The hardware fully delivers on its promise of gigabit performance on 13 ports. It's far easier to manage and configure than Cisco's IOS devices. The built-in tools (packet sniffer, bandwidth testing, etc.) are simply superb. For any IT networking tech who isn't fully invested in his CCIE certification, MikroTik's “Routerboard” operating system for routers is a geek's dream come true: ridiculous power that's easy as hell to use. So far, I have just one complaint: the two fans in it are noisy. That wouldn't matter if this box were in a server room, but ours are located in our offices, and that noise now dominates the room. Thankfully, that's easily fixed: I've purchased new fans that make just 1/40th of the noise, and they'll be installed soon.
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).