Monday, July 31, 2017
The sprinkler contractors were here all day connecting water to the inlet of my pump setup (the one I just finished building a few days ago). We were able to pressurize about half the setup inside my cedar shed this afternoon, and to my delight there were no major leaks. In fact, at first I thought it wasn't leaking a drop, not even from the three unions that I pressurized. But with some careful inspection, I found three joints that had minor drips: the three all-steel threaded connections in the entire setup! All of the PVC joints are perfectly watertight, as are the threaded PVC-to-brass connections, the clamped 1/4" tubing connections, and the PEX crimp connections. Only the steel-on-steel threaded joints are leaking at all, and they've got a very slow drip (about two drops per minute). After the system depressurizes, I'll take that joint apart, slather Teflon tape on it, and try again. It's fortunately perhaps the easiest set of joints in the entire system to work on. Yay!
Being able to pressurize part of the system also meant that I got two of my pressure gauges pressurized. At the time I turned it on, we had 30 psi in our supply line (a 6" diameter line provided by the Paradise Pressurized Irrigation Corporation that I'm a shareholder in). I was surprised by that – judging from how well the sprinklers are currently operating, I was expecting to see something more like 50 psi.
The past couple of days I've put about 10 hours into programming the supervisory computer. So far it's all in my laptop, in a test harness that I put together. Large parts of it are up and running right now. It almost feels dangerous for me to start programming again – it is such a satisfying and enjoyable activity for me that I'm afraid I'll be tempted to neglect other important things going on around here. I find myself resenting every little thing that drags me off of programming. In that respect, it's like an addiction. I'm also a bit surprised just how easily it's all coming back to me. Not just the programming itself, but also all the skills I'd acquired using my programming tool set, most especially the IDE (I use IntelliJ IDEA by JetBrains). My little supervisory computer makes extensive use of threading and concurrency, some of the more challenging aspects of programming, and I'm having no trouble at all slipping right back into my concurrent programming groove. One particular thing I got reasonably good at was holding a mental version of the threading model I was building, and that can get pretty complex – and I can still do that, just as well as ever so far as I can tell. I must still have at least some little gray cells still functioning!
Saturday, July 29, 2017
This past week we've made a couple trips back up toward Ant Flats (past Hardware Ranch), we rather spectacularly good wildlife viewing. On the first of those trips it was early evening on an overcast day, and we saw an amazing variety of birds near Miller's Ranch. The species I remember include Bullock's orioles, lazuli buntings, yellow warblers, Sandhill cranes, cedar waxwings, a lark (but not a meadowlark), a water bird we don't know walking around on duckweed, a beautiful tiny hawk (falcon-like), and meadowlarks (a pair with a juvenile). We also saw a doe with a fawn (still spotted). The next trip was also in the early evening but on a clear day. We saw very few birds – but we did see three banded kingfishers sitting together in a dead tree, completely ignoring us. Generally we see kingfishers as solitary examples, and they're very skittish of us. This was weird! The best part of that second day, though, was the deer. We saw about a dozen does with fawns, including six or seven sets of twins. All of these fawns were roughly the same size (and therefore age), all still spotted, but old enough to graze. We also spotted a chipmunk (they're rare here, as are all the members of the squirrel family) and a muskrat swimming.
As I write this, it's late morning, and I'm about to jump back into the irrigation system supervisory software...
Thursday, July 27, 2017
The contractors who are going to (I hope!) fix all the leaks in our “filling station” will be here today. This will be the third attempt to put it all together sans leaks. They're going to try a new thread sealant this time, one that has a reputation for being leak-proof. We shall see...
I spent a few hours yesterday actually writing some code. It's been so long since I've done this in earnest that it actually feels rather foreign. I have a project that's on a sort of deadline: the supervisory computer I mentioned yesterday for my irrigation system. Yesterday morning I realized that I could actually write large portions of this, and even test it, on my laptop. All I need is some code that simulates the specialized hardware (pressure sensors, relay output, etc.), and that's pretty darned easy. So I started working on it, beginning with some code to use the Hydrawise API for their cloud-based interface to my irrigation controller. Inside of a half hour, I had bits of it working. It's really kind of amazing how easy the Internet has made things like this!
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
I'm still waiting on some parts so that I can finish plumbing the irrigation shed. This morning I've started on the next step, though, and this one is rather directly up my alley: adding a computer control. There are already two computers out there: one in the irrigation controller (the fancy timer that controls the zone valves) and one in the variable frequency pump controller. I'm adding a third “supervisor” computer whose main purposes are to turn the pump on and off, and to monitor the filters so that it can let me know when they need cleaning. This supervisory computer will be a Raspberry Pi 3, with inputs from four pressure sensors in the same lines as the physical pressure gauges, an input sensing when the irrigation controller is running, and an output to turn the pump on and off. It will also have temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure sensors, and it will be connected to our WiFi network so that it can send me texts when the filters need cleaning, or if something goes wrong. We'll also be able to monitor the irrigation system through a tiny web site.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
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...
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
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!
Friday, July 21, 2017
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
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!
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?
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
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...
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
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
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.
Monday, July 10, 2017
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
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
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.
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.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Oh, they were so right!
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
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...
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...
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.
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.
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
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. :)
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:
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! :)
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!