Thursday, August 31, 2017
Today I have a fun little project: building a set of stairs for our friend Michelle. Her son-in-law made a valiant attempt to build her a set, but the result was ... less than wonderful. She's had a couple of people fall while using the stairs, and this scares her. Hence my fun little project! I'm going to make use of a product that Home Depot sells: oak stair steps made by gluing up small pieces and veneering. I've used these for shelves on several occasions, and the result is quite nice!
Monday, August 28, 2017
So today I picked up the old machine, dusted it off (it was awful!), and brought it into the house to see if it might be convenient to have for use there. I've been “iPad-only” in the house these past few months, and that definitely puts some restrictions on what I can do. I plugged it in, let it charge for a bit, then booted it up. Everything still works fine, as expected. What I didn't expect, though, was that I'd perceive it as slow!
Now my 2017 MacBook Pro really is a faster machine by the specs, but not all that much. The speed improvement wasn't big enough to catch my attention as I started using the new machine. But ... in going back to the old machine, I'm noticing all sorts of places where there's just a tad more time being taken to do something. A couple operations are much slower – for instance, opening my morning reading list (with 46 tabs) takes roughly twice as long on the old box. Isn't it odd that I didn't particularly notice the speed-up, but did notice the (same) slowdown?
For the geekier types, here's what I did:
- I configured our Xfinity gigabit cable router to allow inbound connections to a specific port at our public IP address. These inbound connections are NATted (not PATted, as the cable router isn't capable of that) to an IP address (the target address) assigned to the Mikrotik router in my house.
- I configured the Mikrotik router to PAT from the target address and port to the address and port of the web server on the Raspberry Pi that hosts my irrigation supervisor.
- I set up an account on the free Dynamic DNS provider DuckDNS, and installed a simple script (provided by them) on my Mac Mini server. This script runs (via cron) every five minutes, and it updates the mapping between my domain name and my external IP address. Xfinity can change my public IP address anytime they feel like it, and it seems to actually change on the order of weekly (though I've never tried to actually track it).
- I configured a new URL redirect record at my domain name provider (Namecheap), who also hosts my public DNS records. This allows me to refer to a subdomain of a primary domain that I own, instead of DuckDNS's primary domain. It's also convenient, as the redirect takes care of the funny port number, and I don't have to type it in. I'm lazy, what can I say?
Anyhoo, it's all working now!
As I write this, a skid-steer is hard at work in our front yard, finishing the tear-out of the old landscaping along the front of the house and fixing the (relatively minor) grade problems there. That will be finished today, and then the skid-steer will go to work moving some gravel and (lots of) dirt to the remaining low spots in the rest of the yard. We're expecting 10 loads of dirt today and tomorrow, and that's the next work to be done. I'm told that on Saturday the sod will start going in the front yard portions close to the house, and the entire back yard. If that really happens, there will be some serious celebrations in our household!
Sunday, August 27, 2017
The photo above right shows about half the seating as we left – and there was still a long line to get served! Depending on who you talk with, last year they served between 900 and 1,100 meals. This year it looks to me like they easily doubled that, and maybe substantially more.
As in prior years, we each got a plate with a grilled trout, baked potato, fresh sweet corn, a salad, a bottle of water, and all the trimmings. We also got a ticket good for one berry dessert; mine was blackberries on custard, in a graham cracker shell, with whipped cream. Adding to the fun for me was the fact that about half the cooks and servers are people we know; we were often greeted by name and a big happy smile. All of the food – but most especially the trout – was delicious. We sat completely surrounded by our little circle of relatives and friends, with our conversations continuing as we stuffed all that culinary gloriosity into our faces. In addition, every few minutes someone who knew us would stop by to say hi, and sometimes to introduce us to a family member we didn't already know.
Usually large gatherings like this make me very uncomfortable, and would completely wear me out – that's my introversion showing. That didn't happen last night, which more than anything is evidence of much I feel myself as part of this community, and not an outsider (which is normally how I feel in any gathering).
Debbie and I love living near this small town full of people so compatible with us. We know (and like!) more people here than in the sum of all the places we've ever lived before. We know all of our neighbors, and are quite friendly we many of them. We all help each other on darned near a daily basis. If we ever needed some kind of substantial help (whether financial, skills, or labor) there's no doubt in our minds that we'd be swarmed with volunteers to provide it. We do our best to reciprocate, but if we were keeping a ledger we'd be deep in debt to the community at this point. In addition we know quite a few people from the town (a half mile or so south of us). I struggle to put it into words, but the bottom line is that our experience living here is profoundly different than our experiences living in California – and all of that difference is in favor of Paradise. We are daily thankful that we made the decision to leave California when we retired...
I miss you, mom...
The photos below show the three parts I've been working on for the past couple of days. At left is the Raspberry Pi computer board. From left to right, the major parts are the temperature-humidity-barometer, the pump motor control relay, the pressure sensor interface, the Raspberry Pi computer itself, and a level converter I built to interface a 24 VAC output from the irrigation clock to the Raspberry Pi. That entire assembly will soon have a wooden dust cover. The middle photo shows the pressure gauge assembly, and immediately below it the newly installed electronic pressure sensors. Finally, at right is the pump speed controller (with its cover off) showing the newly installed wires (the grey ones coming in from the bottom) for the control relay.
Have I mentioned that it's all working? :) Below is a screenshot of the web site the Raspberry Pi puts up, accessible only from our LAN (not over the Internet).
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Before we met Aleck yesterday, and after he left today, I've been working on a really big milestone for me: installing the irrigation supervisory computer in the pump house. I've so far completed 4 of the 7 wiring steps required, along with 2 of the 4 plumbing steps. I'm so close! Unless something goes horribly wrong, I should have the installation completed later this afternoon. Then I have some calibration and checkout to do, and then – I can turn it on. Woo hoo!
This evening we're headed to the Paradise Trout & Berry Days dinner. We're meeting our friends Bruce and June N. there, along with my brother Scott and a friend of his from Newton. We expect to see lots of local folks we already know, and most likely even more we'd never met before. Of course we're starving ourselves in anticipation of a delicious meal!
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Below are a couple of animations made from images taken by the GOES16 satellite during the eclipse (and more where these came from). In them you can very clearly see the moon's shadow as it scoots across the U.S. from west to east.
Watching these and pondering upon them leads to a couple obvious questions. Why is the moon's shadow so darned fuzzy? And why is the darkest part only (about) 80 miles wide, when the moon itself is over 2,100 miles wide? Some information that will help you understand: here, here, and here...
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Anyhow, it's just great to get that eyesore out of the ground. Even though it's a long way from our house, just knowing it was there was irritating. It was actually quite close (less than 50 ft) from one of our neighbors' homes, so hopefully they're happy to have it gone...
We frequently reflect on the generally higher quality of food here as compared with San Diego. Baked goods are one of the more extreme examples of this. In San Diego, we only knew a couple of places to get good bread (Dudley's Bakery in the mountains was the standout, even though it was 30 miles from San Diego). There were a few restaurants that had consistently good bread, too (such as the Fish Market with their sourdough). Here we have three outstanding dedicated bakeries in Logan – all three with excellent bread, one with sublime classic pastries, another with local pastry favorites, and all three with great cookies, cakes, and biscotti. On top of that bounty, we have two grocery stores with in-store bakeries that aren't bad at all – and with particular items (like the cheese-onion rolls from Macey's) that are high on our list of favorites. If we venture further afield, there are even more choices. At the time we chose Cache Valley as the place we'd spend our retirement, we had no idea at all that we'd find such great food here. In fact, we worried that the opposite would be true – that the great restaurants we loved in San Diego would be but memories. Oh, how wrong we were! And happily so!
But over time they've learned earlier and earlier indications that banana slices are imminent. First they learned that I would peel the banana in the kitchen sink, so they'd all sit next to me and watch, rapturously. Then they learned that I removed one banana from the bunch first, and they'd start getting excited if I just moved in the general direction of the banana bunch (and trust me, they know exactly where that is!). This morning I noticed a new observation on their part: they've learned that when I pull a steak knife out of its block in the morning, the next step is the banana separation. I think they may have reached the limit here, because so far as I know there's no earlier indicator in my banana slicing pattern. This morning I had four sets of doggie eyeballs watching my every move starting the moment I slid that steak knife out of the block and ending when I started tossing banana slices at them.
They have a similar sensitivity to my pattern of feeding them. It starts every morning when I pick up Mako and Cabo's food bowls – plain stainless steel bowls that we store on top of Mako's crate. The instant I pick those up, all four dogs know that there is kibble in their immediate future. Judging from their reaction, that's the highlight of their entire day! :)
For about a bazillion years, I bought the de facto male standard: white cotton crew socks, generally some department store brand, or Hanes, or some such thing. Price was a big part of the buying decision, as these things wore out fast (I think I averaged about 3 or 4 months for a pair); most of the socks I purchased were a buck or two a pair. Then a few years ago I bought a package of Carhartt crew socks. At $5 a pair, these were considerably more expensive than what I had been buying. They were also more comfortable, and longer lasting. After a year of wearing them it was clear that the Carhartt socks were actually costing me less than the ones I had been buying, as they lasted about a year. So I switched my sock drawer to Carhartts.
Well, the short version of the result is that after a few months of occasionally wearing them, I bought 10 pairs. That was about a year ago. Why? First and foremost: they're extremely comfortable for me. They never bunch up inside my shoes like all my other socks did. They're warm in the winter, and not particularly hot in the summer. The elastic is powerful (which my dad would have hated!), and I like that because it keeps the upper part of the sock up on my leg, not rolling down into my ankle. Plus after a few months with that one pair I couldn't detect any wear at all!
Now it's been just a year since I bought the ten pairs. Some of those pairs have been worn much more often than others. My sock drawer is basically a last-in, first-out (LIFO) queue – so some of those pairs (at the front of the sock drawer) have been worn probably 50 times, while others (at the back) just a few. I cannot detect any wear on any of those socks. The elastic is as strong as the day I bought them. There are no tears, no holes, no visible wear of any kind. So far as I can tell, I've got another year of use from these socks ahead of me, and likely even more. I still find them as comfortable as I did before – and on the rare occasions when I run out of clean Wigwams and wear a pair of my Carhartt crew socks ... I'm aware of the relative discomfort all day.
I count these as a good investment, one that I certainly didn't expect!
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Paradise ponders: total solar eclipse, a new dog, a new (to us) eatery, and feeling punky edition...
While we were still waiting for our food at Kool Beanz, Clay M. (a friend and fellow engineer for over 25 years) texted me, wondering where we were. He and his daughters had left Ogden at 6 am, headed for a rendezvous with us near Rexburg. But he was in Idaho Falls, and decided to meet up with us in Kool Beanz. As Debbie would say, “Cool beans!” Within a few minutes he was there with us, and though we hadn't seen each other for about four years, our conversation picked right up as though it was just four minutes. His daughters were a bit for me to absorb, though, as I hadn't seen them for about 16 years. They were toddlers then, but most definitely not toddlers now. It's great that they wanted to take this trip with their dad. :)
Celestron 10x25 Solar Binoculars we picked up a few weeks ago. These worked great, giving us a particularly clear view of the progressively larger “bite” the moon was taking from the sun. We could also see several sunspots. Though the sun's light was slowly being extinguished, it wasn't really noticeable until about 10 or 12 minutes prior to totality. At that point so much of the sun was blocked that it was obviously darker, and the temperature started to go down. The photo at left was taken during this period. The silvery horizontal lines you see are aluminum high tension wires. As you can see, there's really not much difference between that and full daylight – we only noticed it, I think, because it was so much less light than just a few minutes prior. As we got very close (within three minutes or so) to totality, the atmosphere got a bit eerie. Debbie and I were both reminded of the same thing: the lighting as a storm approaches, or as you emerge into the eye of a hurricane.
Then it was over, and all too quickly. Personally, I'd have liked a few hours of totality – but there would have to be significant changes in the Earth-Moon-Sun relationship for that to happen, and the side effects would be bad. :) We took off to go back home, planning to stop by the Idaho Falls supercharger one last time to top off. We had only driven a couple of miles from our observation point before we noticed the first odd thing: Google Maps was routing us along back roads instead of the U.S. highway. A quick look at the traffic data showed a solid red on the U.S. highway – and on I-15, which we had to take to get home. Uh oh. It took almost an hour for us to get into Idaho Falls, instead of the 30 minutes we expected. We topped off our car and headed for the I-15 – but just getting onto I-15 took over an hour (instead of the usual 10 minutes). And things pretty much went downhill from there. Our speed on the freeway ranged from zero (for as much as 20 minutes) to about 60 mph (for short bursts only). We were well south of Pocatello before we finally were at a steady speed, and we only hit the speed limit for the last few miles before we turned off for Logan on U.S. 91. After that we were at full speed, and oh-so-happy to be out of the traffic that we're so unfamiliar with these day. I have to note that the Model X made the traffic much easier to deal with, though. I turned on the automatic speed control, and it handled all the accelerating and decelerating on its own. All I had to do was hold onto the steering wheel, which was easy as I was so tired I needed the support!
Debbie and I stopped to eat at a place that opened a couple years ago, but which we'd never stopped in at: Jim's Grill, in Smithfield. We were greeted in a very friendly way, seated immediately, and we ordered our drinks (beer for Debbie, strawberry lemonade for me). With our drinks, our waiter brought rolls. My lemonade wasn't great, an in particular was way too sweet for my tastes. The rolls were good, but not a standout by any means. Debbie reports that her beer was excellent. My initial experience with the drink and roll lowered my expectations considerably – so I got a very pleasant surprise indeed when the entrees showed up (photos below). At left is Debbie's order of three shrimp tacos. Darned near as big as she is, and they looked scrumptious. I got one small bite of her third one; all the rest she shoveled into her face at breakneck speed, all the while a huge smile on her face and yummy noises emanating from somewhere inside her. My fish and chips (at right) was hands-down the best I've had in Cache Valley. The nearest I've had that's better is at Sea Bear's in Ogden. They served it with malt vinegar, lemon, and tartar sauce, covering all known bases. The cole slaw was notable for me, as it's sauce was just the way I like it: very slightly sweet, and not overpowering the cabbage. Even the “chips” were great, and (this being northern Utah), of course they came with fry sauce!
We finally staggered in the door at about 8 pm, and by that point I was just barely able to move. It wasn't just the exciting day that had me tired: I have caught whatever evil virus got Debbie last week. I'm about 5 days behind her, symptom-wise, so last night was the worst I'm expecting. I feel a bit better today, and Debbie is most of the way up the recovery curve. What a day that virus picked to attack me!
This morning Debbie got a message from a field spaniel breeder in Michigan, someone she knows through her dog agility network. It seems this breeder had a year-old female field spaniel returned by the person who bought her – and the breeder is having trouble finding a good home for her. She reached out to Debbie to see if we'd be willing to take her, and long-story-short, in mid-September there will be yet another dog living in our household. This one is tentatively named Ipo (Hawai'ian for “sweetheart”), and she'll be arriving by air with the breeder's husband, checked on as a service dog (this avoids most of the risks of checking pets as cargo). That will give us a total of five dogs (four of them field spaniels), with three of them being roughly the same age...
Saturday, August 19, 2017
I've been plugging away on the software for my irrigation supervisor, and making great progress. As of this morning I have temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and the four water pressure sensors all working. I'm almost ready to make a case for this thing, and install it in the shed!
The sprinkler guys were here yesterday and again today, also making steady progress. We now have 10 zones in the back yard installed and tested. One of the valves malfunctioned, so that will have to be replaced – but otherwise, it's all up and running! The sprinklers in the middle of the back yard are currently capped off, because we're going to be soaking the back yard to get it to settle. After that, they'll spread more topsoil to get the levels right, then install the remaining sprinklers. It feels like we're dangerously close to getting sod put down.
Meanwhile, a couple days ago Debbie came down with some kind of awful cold. It started with a sore throat and escalated into fever, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and scratchy eyes. She got a sinus infection, too; we made an amazingly fast visit to the local clinic and she got a prescription for Amoxicillin. The good news from that is that the infection is already knocked down by this afternoon, just 24 hours later. Good stuff! In the past couple hours, I've developed a sore throat. I'm not too happy about that...
Friday, August 18, 2017
The last couple of days haven't seen much progress on our great sprinkler project – but today we've got all sorts of action once again. The problem before today was a migraine (on the part of my main contractor), and his main employee got sick on top of that! But today they're back, and things are happening. One of the things that happened is a fellow showed up to cut both ends of a 20' long stretch of ugly concrete sidewalk, freeing it to be removed. We're going to put a flagstone walkway in its place. Another thing that's still happening: large quantities of topsoil are being moved from piles into all the low places in our yard. It already looks vastly better than it did, and they've only moved roughly half the dirt. Progress!
Yesterday Scott N. (the guy who leases our south field, 12 acres, for alfalfa) baled up the third cutting for the year. His yield was 362 bales, a record for that particular field (despite the fact that I took one acre out of production three years ago, to make a play area for our neighbor's kids). Scott's been leasing this field for 12 years, so he's got a bit of history on it. There's a couple views of that field below, when he was roughly 1/2 way through baling it.
Many moons ago, back in the late '70s and early '80s, I designed and built quite a few prototypes of small, single-board computers that could be used for embedded systems (my irrigation supervisor is an example of an embedded system). Only one of them actually made it into production. Those were nearly all based on Z80 CPUs, though I did one with a 6502, and another with a 68000. The smallest of those was a Z80 design the size of an ordinary shoe box, and I thought that was a miracle of miniaturization. Though it was small, it required a fan – a rather powerful fan – to cool it off. I don't remember the exact power consumption, but it must have been around 50 watts. This little Pi, running my program, consumes just 2.5 watts – and even without a fan those little heat sinks are just barely above room temperature. The processor on it is millions of times more powerful than that Z80, and it's got 15,000 times as much RAM. That Z80 had a few kilobytes of ROM (the Pi has 16 megabytes), and no disk (while the Pi has 32GB of solid state disk). The Z80 prototype probably had a couple hundred dollars worth of parts in it; the Pi was $39. I never seem to lose my sense of wonder at the pace of advancement in digital systems...
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
I could list lots of changes that I've noticed, but I can convey the flavor of it with a single example. I wanted to do a SHA-256 digest (of a password) in the browser. In the past, I'd do a web search for someone's library, download it, and incorporate it in my project. This time when I did the web search, I discovered the Web Cryptography API, which I'd never even heard of before. It's supported in every browser I can ever imagine being concerned with, it's open source, and it's been reviewed. As just one of its bazillion capabilities, it has a digest function that supports SHA-256. Awesome!
When I was learning to read, I often ran into words I didn't know. If I asked my mom about those words, most of the time she would give me an explanation, and only occasionally would she send me to the dictionary. My dad was just the opposite, often sending me to go look up the word and then come back and tell him what it meant as a way of testing my comprehension.
As I worked my way into more adult books, I'd start running into words that the dictionaries we owned at the time didn't list – or listed with definitions that didn't make any sense in the context I was reading them. This was happening because I had started reading older books that we had on our shelves, and those books were written in an older style, sometimes using words that had fallen out of common use. I remember particularly running into this with some of Mark Twain's books, and with translations of Jules Verne. My dad explained that to me, but without any more complete dictionaries the only source of information was my dad's memory – and often these would be words that he didn't know, either.
Then one day dad came home with a new dictionary, a gift for me. I call it “new” because it was new for our household, but it was actually a lovingly used volume. Lots of pages were dog-eared, there was marginalia, and a little stick-figure drawing on the inside back cover. Most likely my dad picked it up at a yard sale somewhere, or perhaps a used book store. Unfortunately I don't remember who the publisher was, or which edition. I do remember, though, what it looked like: it was a hardback, with a bright red cover and embossed gold letters on the cover. And it was huge – so thick and so heavy that at my then-age I could scarcely lift the thing. The best part, though, was that it was a descriptive dictionary, like the OED, showing how words were actually used rather than laying out a “correct” definition. I can't recall ever stumping that dictionary. It became my “word bible” as my reading took me into more and more challenging texts. It was also the start of a life-long relationship with dictionaries for me! :)
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
When our dogs are out in our back yard, a walk between our house and our barn guarantees that you will be accosted by canines – most especially our two youngest, Cabo and Mako. This morning as I approached the fence, these faces greeted me:
The trenches you see in the background are part of the great sprinkler project. That's Cabo in the first two photos, Mako in the second two.
Yesterday morning I tackled the hardest part of the remaining wiring on the sprinkler project: pulling 14 wires (each 14 gauge solid copper) through a 2" conduit that already had 15 such wires in it. After that, wove the same 14 wires through a dozen or so hangers inside the cedar shed until they all come out neatly at the irrigation controller. That's all done now. Whew! Once the sprinkler guys have all the back yard valves hooked up, I'll ring out those wires and install them into the irrigation controller. At that point, all the sprinkler system wiring will be complete.
The amount of heavy wire in the sprinkler system is kind of amazing. If I kept track of the spools of wire correctly, there are about 7,000' of 14 gauge solid copper wire in the system. The trenches containing big bunches of wires look like some kind of industrial installation. If you haven't purchased copper wire recently, you might also be surprised at how expensive that stuff is. I'm told that some larger construction projects have been put on hold until either the price of copper comes down or parts compatible with aluminum wire (very cheap by comparison with copper) become available. Electricians in general don't like working with aluminum wire, as it has to be substantially bigger (in diameter) than copper to handle the same current safely. The rule-of-thumb for this is to go up two gauges for aluminum wire. In other words, where you might have used 12 gauge copper wire, you'd need to use 10 gauge aluminum.
Shortly after I completed that wiring, I called the vendor who is supposed to get the tongue-and-groove cedar for our deck ceiling. My plan was to pester him every couple of days until he got it done. No need! It was done! Woo hoo! I called my brother Scott looking for some help (as he's got the pickup with a nice roof rack), and before noon we were at the vendor loading up 1,800 linear feet of 5" wide western red cedar (tight knots) tongue-and-groove. That works out to 750 square feet, and my deck is about 630 square feet, so I'll be able to pick and choose the best pieces – and still have a bunch of usable wood left over. This is awfully pretty wood, and a darned big pile of it on our deck! Smells great, too, though that won't last too long outdoors.
That's still a small error, and not really significant for my system's purposes – but I got to wondering if I could do better. There are two places in the system where I'm measuring the pressure difference between two gauges (to sense how dirty a filter is), and there I'm looking at pressure differences as small as a few psi. The 0.4 psi error looms more significantly there then you might think at first blush.
The obvious way to correct the sensor error would be to calibrate each sensor against a “gold standard”. One could imagine, then, simply making an equivalence table for each sensor, showing the actual pressure that corresponds to each reading. You could make a few calibrated readings and then linearly interpolate for intermediate pressures. Simple! Except, that is, for one slight little problem: the lowest-cost pressure calibrator I could find is nearly $500! That's way more than this problem is worth to me (and several times the cost of all four of my pressure sensors!). I can't think of anyone who might have one of these little beasties laying around, either.
So we need another approach. One thing occurred to me that might lead to a solution: the sensors' intrinsic absolute accuracy is more than sufficient – what I need to improve is the relative accuracy. What if ... I took one of these sensors and called it my gold standard? Then I could calibrate the other three sensors against that one, and then my differential pressure measurements should be more accurate. I have an easy way to have all four sensors simultaneously measure the exact same pressure (whatever the Paradise Irrigation system happens to be providing at that moment, which varies from 0 psi to about 45 psi over time): I just close the outlet valve from my pump shed, which guarantees there's no flow through the system (and therefore all the pressures are identical). I can also easily get absolute zero pressure to all four gauges by closing the inlet and the outlet valves, then draining the pump.
I know a bit about these sensors from past experience. If P is the absolute pressure, then the sensor's measured pressure S can be approximated by
AP + B,
where A is the scale coefficient (generally very close to one), and B is the offset (generally very close to zero). If you take a series of measurements at different pressures for a sensor you're calibrating, while your gold standard is measuring the same pressure, you can get a series of pairs of measurements. That series can then be used as the input to a linear regression, the output of which is A and B for the sensor you're calibrating. Then you've got that sensor's equation relative to your gold standard sensor.
At that point it's just some simple math to “correct” the sensor you're calibrating. It's equation is
S = AP + B.
The gold standard's equation is
S = P
(by definition). The difference between them (the error, or E) is
E = (A-1)P + B.
Therefore the corrected pressure
C = S - ((A-1)P + B).
That's not so bad! I'm implementing a class that does this right now. The most challenging bit of that is the user interface: a way to let the user (me!) click a button to capture a new set of data. The irrigation supervisor can't do that on its own, because it doesn't know when all the sensors should be showing the same pressure – it needs a human assist for that...
Sunday, August 13, 2017
And we've got another one lined up for tomorrow: prime ribeye steak, local (Idaho) baked potatoes, and asparagus from Washington state...
Saturday, August 12, 2017
We just finished a spectacular meal: poke made with big-eye tuna and avocado on brown rice, Galia melon for dessert, washed down with Pelligrino sparkling water. I'm so full I can scarcely move, and I'm afraid my brain may shut down from the food coma I can feel coming over me – and I've got some programming to do, dang it!
So I lit off the zone that contains our struggling lilacs, and then lit off the pump. It took about six seconds for the pump to start up and then ramp up its speed until we had the targeted pressure (50 psi). Once there, it bobbled about for about five seconds more, and then it was rock-solid at 50 psi. This is while around 30 gallons per minute are flowing, and the inlet pressure to the pump was at 32 psi. So we're getting a nice, steady 18 psi boost, exactly as designed. Woo hoo!
At that 18 psi boost, the pump is consuming 5.6 amps on the single-phase 220 volt input line. That works out to about 1,200 watts, which is about the same as Debbie's hair dryer. Not bad! Right now that power is being supplied entirely by my solar panel array, so it's costing me exactly nothing. Even better! :)
This morning we heard that she had a relatively peaceful night, considering that it was her first night away from the litter, and first night in a crate. There was one bout of whining, which turned out to be related to a fecal explosion. After some cleanup and drying, she was down for the rest of the night. I expect her to be even more tired tonight, as Michelle and her kids will have the entire day with her. :)
Yesterday I had an actual physical book delivered – a fairly rare event for me these days, as nearly all my books are electronic. This one is a text that I've been looking at for years, and when I got the notice that the second edition was out, I decided to go for it. My exposure to the math underlying much of computer science has been very spotty, and almost entirely self-taught: the consequence of never going to college, and an education driven by need in my work. If my enfeebled ancient brain can handle the strain, I'm going to try to work my way through this entire book, then tackle Knuth's classic The Art of Computer Science while armed with this math. I've used The Art of Computer Science for decades, dipping into it whenever I've needed to learn something I'd never run into before (most recently red-black trees). I've never tried to work through the entire thing, so consequently there are stretches of hundreds of pages that I've never even glanced at. I read through the first 25 pages or so last night, and so far as I can tell, no brain injuries occurred – so I shall keep on going. :)
I haven't mentioned our great sprinkler project for a while. It's been oh-so-slowly advancing, working our way through one challenge after another. The most recent challenge was the startling unavailability of good topsoil, the consequence of a building boom here in Cache County. We finally managed to scrounge up the loads that we needed, with about 300 cubic yards delivered so far, and another 200 or so coming in the next week. All this dirt is needed to smooth out the low spots in various places in our yard. There were minor low spots over nearly the entire three acres, but the worst bit is in our back yard (just a half acre or so). In that area there are big stretches that were almost 18" lower than they should have been, and it takes a lot of dirt to fix a problem like that! We're also, finally, addressing the edges of our driveway. When we put it in three years ago, to get the levels right the crew had to raise parts of it 6" to 8" above the yard. We've now put in dirt to slope the yard nicely up to the edges of the driveway, so you don't have to step off a cliff when walking from the driveway into the yard. The back yard right now looks a bit like a WWI trench warfare photograph – there are trenches everywhere, and in just about every direction. Many of them, as I write, have pipes and wires in them. This morning the contractor is scheduled to arrive and finish them up to the point where we can pressurize the entire sprinkler system – a major milestone indeed! At that point we can enable the irrigation schedule for the south part of our yard, and perhaps keep our lilacs and white birches alive. Within a few days we should be able to do the same for the north part of the yard – and the contractors will be ready to lay sod (in the north) and sow seed (in the south). Assuming this all happens by September first, that means the project will have taken 13 months with this contractor, and 29 months from the first contact I made with the first contractor (who never actually started the job, though he came out, surveyed, and made an elaborate plan). Somehow I never expected the #@(#)*)$@#^^@#!)#(*^% sprinkler project to be the most difficult one to accomplish of all the things we've done to our new house!
Friday, August 11, 2017
Yesterday evening we headed to the Cache County Fair for a couple hours of walking around before the rodeo. One of the first things we ran into was the display (photos below) that my brother Scott helped build for the town of Newton (where he lives). This display included the wooden stirrups that I helped make last week. Their display took first place out of the six total entries. This will be the last year for the town displays at the Cache County Fair – apparently there wasn't enough interest for them to continue. Only six entries for the 30 or so towns in the county...
The rodeo itself was by far the best one we've been to in Utah, from several perspectives. First, the competitors were really, really good. Most of the competitors in every event actually completed their event (i.e., the bull riders made it for 8 seconds, the steer wrestlers wrestled their steers, etc.). Some of the competitors put on dazzling displays of talent. Second, the event was very well-run: competitors followed each other out with very little delay, and transitions between events was smooth and fast. Third, the audio and visual systems were very good: the audio was of excellent quality (though way too loud for my taste), and the big screen (visible at the left of the photo above) was, well, big and bright. Our seats were outstanding. The crowd around us was polite, engaged, and happy. All of these things contributed to it being a most enjoyable event. Still tough for an introvert, though! :)
There was one event during the rodeo that I didn't expect at all, and it was quite emotional for me. If you're not from the area, you may not have heard the story of Deserae Turner – but if you read the article at the link, you'll know why it's well known here. Like many locals, we were shocked, followed her story avidly, and contributed toward her recovery. Her story is the kind of thing you'd expect in a big city, not here. Well, in a break between two rodeo events, Deserae Turner was driven around the arena while she rode in the back of a pickup. The outpouring of emotion from the crowd – almost all locals very familiar with her story – was really something to see. As she passed our seats, we could see that Deserae was overcome with emotion herself; her companion was holding her in a tight hug. Just thinking about the moment has me in tears again...
This morning (soon, actually!) we have something really fun planned. There's a lady a few miles away who has nine border collie puppies who need a new home. Our friend Michelle H. has a young boy (A. J.) who wants a puppy more than anything else in the world – specifically, a border collie puppy that he can train for agility competition. A. J. loves our border collie Race, and wants one just like him. Well, we're heading up with Michelle and A. J. to see those puppies this morning. A. J. thinks we're looking for a new puppy, and has no idea that if things work out well it's him that will be going home with one. Hopefully he doesn't read my blog! :) This should be lots of fun for all of us...