Friday, March 23, 2018
Despite that, some nice things happened yesterday and this morning.
sedum my brother Scott gave me a couple of years ago, planted in a big piece of driftwood. Sometime overnight it turned from a dull brown into this red gloriousness. Gorgeous, it is! If you look carefully, you'll see that there is still a bit of snow stuck in it. I'm pretty sure that's old, unmelted snow, as this is sheltered under a willow that otherwise has no snow under it.
A few days ago I saw an old friend's posting in Facebook after I logged in for the first time in five or six years (I hate Facebook): Vera S., whom I met at work in FutureTrade in 2002. I messaged her, and yesterday she messaged back to invite me to call. Last evening we (she, Debbie, and I) had a wonderful conversation, just reconnecting after our last conversation back in 2011. Now we have her new email address and her phone number, so we can stay in touch. We also have her commitment for a visit up here (she and her husband Konstantin live in Huntington Beach, California). We're so looking forward to that!
This morning Debbie shocked me to my core. After I took my shower and wandered out into the kitchen, I discovered a bowl of creamy chicken noodle soup on the table for me, and shortly after I sat down she delivered two pieces of buttered toast and a cup of heavenly Darjeeling tea. This sort of thing is quite rare these days! :) To be fair, this is largely because for most of the past four years she's been limited in her ability to move around due to her multiple knee and back injuries. I cannot even remember the last time she made breakfast like this. Her explanation: I'm feeling yucky, so she wanted to take care of me. Maybe feeling yucky isn't so bad after all!
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
The first photo below shows a group of three deer who stopped about 100' away from us as we drove by. Deer seem to be quite unafraid of our Tesla Model X, we presume because it's so quiet. That was taken with my iPhone, on the 2X optical telephoto, handheld. The second photo we took right near Hardware Ranch. That's a flock of turkeys – enough meat to feed half of Cache Valley right there! :)
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Sunday, March 18, 2018
My mom was a remarkably bad photographer, which given her artistic sense was a bit of a surprise to me. It's the mechanics of the camera she never seemed to understand, from the zoom lens to the focus. I'd guess that of the 400 or so photos, less than a dozen of them are properly exposed and in focus. Probably 90% of the photos are of flowers; the remainder are split between people, bugs, and dead bats.
There was a surprise for me near the end of the photos, though. Unbeknownst to me, she had taken a dozen or so photos after she arrived here in Utah. Most of these were of people: some friends of ours who visited her to welcome her to Utah, the staff at the assisted care facility (she loved those folks), and so on. One, however, was the photo above. From it's placement in the camera's sequence, I'm pretty sure one of our friends took that photo, almost certainly at mom's request. What you see there is how she looked during her happiest time here, just after she arrived. It gave me a real start to see that. In a good way, though.
Miss you every day, mom...
The answer: hell, yes!
At this point I've been using this for over three years, and I've got just over 4,000 documents scanned. The process of scanning and transferring numbers to my bookkeeping (for which I use Moneydance) has long since been burned into my “muscle memory” – I no longer have to think about it at all. All those 4,000 documents are just electrons, and not occupying file cabinets and boxes like they used to. Since I got my iMac Pro in December, the OCR time has dropped to something insignificant – a second or two unless I scan something like a 20 page legal document in fine print.
Best of all, finding a document is now just a matter of a Google-style search, with effectively instantaneous results. This took a couple of years to become a reflexive habit, much like it took me a while to think of the camera on my smartphone as a way to remember or record things. Just recently I've started yet another use of DEVONthink: I create .pdf files containing notes (and optionally drawings or photos) and import them. DEVONthink is happy to accept .pdf files from anywhere, and indexes them just like it does scanned documents. Being able to do Google-style searches on these is very useful, and basically infinitely faster than the file search built into OSX.
At this point I consider all this part of my minimally-acceptable computing environment. If one of them dies, I will have to find a replacement...
The two videos below are of our dogs. The first one shows all five dogs enjoying their morning bananas. I'm going to try re-shooting this one with a wider field of view, as this attempt doesn't show them actually catching the banana slices, except for Ipo. The second video is showing off a skill that Ipo has acquired. All three of our young field spaniels have thoroughly learned that when they come in from outside, they're to run directly to their crates and wait for a treat. We trained this behavior in the possibly forlorn hope that when they come into the house during mud season (just started) we won't have pounds of mud to clean up in the kitchen – it will all be contained in their crates. This all works great unless the crate doors are pushed to the closed position. Even unlatched, this stops the dogs cold – except Ipo. All on her own she learned how to grab the wire of the door with a front claw and whip the door open, so she can run in and make preparations for Milk Bone consumption. In this video it happens so quickly you really can't see how she's doing it...
Friday, March 16, 2018
And I left the best for last. The iPhone X's camera is superb. My videos are notably less shaky, and I find myself using the 2X optical telephoto very frequently. The camera is enough better that I'd be happy with the iPhone X even if the camera was the only new feature. But it's not!
So what has to line up, and why does it happen only rarely? For starters, to our east are the Wasatch Mountains. Generally by the time the sun climbs over the mountains in the morning, the angle is already high enough that my wall won't be lit up. The point where the sun comes up varies over the course of the year, as the seasons change. Within the range of sunrise points there are two “notches” from the perspective of our property. This morning the sun rose in the bottom (lowest point) of one of those notches. The other notch (which the sun comes up through in the summer) is so far north that the patches lit up in my office on those mornings don't strike any walls. The sun rises through the other notch in late November and mid March. Then there's another bit that needs lining up: the patch of sun has to strike the wall where nothing is hanging. That's about half the possible time. Finally, it has to be a nicely clear day – even haze will diminish the brightness enough to ruin the effect.
A good start to my morning!
As for which ad blocker: at the moment I'm using Ublock. I'm happy with its performance, it eliminates virtually all ads, and it's available for both Chrome and Firefox (I still use both browsers about equally). It's also available for Safari, but I can't speak to its performance there as I almost never use Safari (because of compatibility issues on several sites I visit daily).
Thursday, March 15, 2018
What bothers me about my theory is that I haven't seen this before!
The groceries I was carrying in were a bit different than our normal fare. Our local Boy Scout troop is having a food drive this week, specifically asking for canned goods. When I took some cardboard up to Hyrum to be recycled this morning, I noticed that our local grocer was having a “case lot” sale on canned goods. I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the sale is during the same week as the food drive. It's easy to imagine here that the Boy Scouts were clever enough to hold their drive on the same week as the sale – but it's equally easy to imagine that the store manager decided to contribute to the food drive by holding the sale on the week of the drive. However the coincidence happened, as I picked the canned fruit, vegetables, and meat I noted that all of the items on sale were of the right type for the food drive – and that all three of the other shoppers choosing with me were buying for the food drive as well...
We love living here!
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Along the way on this trip we passed the 25,000 mile mark on my Tesla Model X. The last time I was in for a routine service the technicians there told me they don't see very many Teslas with that kind of mileage. That surprises me, as in our household the gas-powered car (a Lexus SUV) gets driving about 1% of the total miles we drive. Basically it only gets used if Debbie wants to go somewhere on her own. If I'm driving, we go in the Tesla. Now it may be true (I have no idea, actually) that we drive more miles than the average retired couple, and that might be contributing as well. It's still true that I have had no major problems with the Tesla; just a few almost trivial issues that were all quickly resolved by the Tesla service folks. At 25,000 miles that's also true of the last four or five Toyota products we owned, too...
Sunday, March 11, 2018
On the way in we saw just one small group of deer, about six animals. We parked in the visitor center parking lot and scanned the hills, and found a herd of several dozen elk, and a group of about 25 deer. Then on the way home we were seeing deer around darned every bend! We probably saw over a hundred deer in all. We didn't see any birds, unless you count turkeys and magpies (they're a constant here)...
Saturday, March 10, 2018
I have suffered from insomnia for my entire adult life – almost 50 years now. Over the years I've tried just about everything one could imagine to address it, including two overnight “sleep studies” at clinics, both over-the-counter and prescription medications, meditation, and probably 30 other things. Nothing worked. Nothing.
Something like 30 years ago I got into a rough pattern of having 3 or 4 nights of little-to-no sleep (probably averaging 4 hours) followed by one glorious night of 7 or 8 hours of wonderful sleep, repeated ad nauseum. A few things could predictably cause variations in this. If I drank some alcohol a few hours before going to bed, I'd go to sleep easily – and then wake up 3 or 4 hours later with no possibility of further sleep. A big meal too close to bedtime would keep me awake. Watching an exciting movie before I went to bed ensured a sleepless night. Working hard, physically, for a few hours would ensure a good night's sleep. Other than those things, though, that pattern was what I could expect.
The first sleep study I participated in (about 25 years ago) identified one thing unusual with me: I responded to opioids backwards from most people. Instead of making me drowsy, it's more like I drank 5 cups of coffee. If I took even a small dose of any opioid after about noon, there was zero chance of me sleeping that night. From what I've read more recently, this backwards reaction is true of 5% to 10% of adults (the proportion depends on what study you read).
The second sleep study I did just two years ago. This time they had me wired up with about a bazillion sensors, and I didn't sleep at all – not one wink. The technician who monitored me wrote of my sleeplessness in her report. The doctor who reviewed the results diagnosed me with sleep apnea – something that, by definition, you can't exhibit the symptoms of if you're not asleep! My GP tried her best to persuade me that I should try a CPAP machine, but I refused on the basis that the diagnosis couldn't possibly be right. I wonder, actually, if there's some incentive for the sleep center to make sleep apnea diagnoses...
About six months ago I was feeling achy, as I had been working hard that day (shoveling, as it happens). I did something rare for me: I took a couple pills of a “nighttime” pain medication that we had lying around for some reason. It was concoction of acetaminophen and diphenhydramine. To my knowledge I'd never had diphenhydramine before in my life. It's most commonly used as an anti-allergy medication; it's an antihistamine and the active ingredient in Benadryl. I slept like someone who had been knocked out, for ten hours. Further, I woke up groggy as hell – it took a couple hours, a hot shower, and two giant mugs of tea for me to be even barely functional. I don't know how unusual that sounds to you, but for me that was a stunning result – I hadn't slept for ten hours straight for at least a couple of decades.
That, as you might imagine, got my attention. I started experimenting to see how often I could take that drug and have it still work. I quickly figured out that if I used it three nights in a row, the third night it hardly worked at all. That was repeatable, too. More experimentation and I figured out that I could take it one or two nights in a row with good effect, and then I had to lay off it for a couple days. That means I could get 3 or 4 nights of good sleep in one week. This was the first miracle for me – the best sleep, overall, of my adult life. But it gets better!
About a month ago, I started worrying about the effects of regular use of diphenhydramine, so I started researching it on the Internet. If you've ever tried to research a common medication on the Internet, you can probably already guess what I ran into. I'm sure I could have found a paper whose conclusion was anything between “essential for life” to “potent poison”. However, in general the papers were very reassuring: there don't seem to be any generally recognized horrible outcomes of regular diphenhydramine. Great!
But in the course of that reading, I ran across one paper (and I can't find it now, dang it!) that noted something that resonated with me: a significant percentage of people with “backwards” opioid reactions (like me!) were unusually sensitive to the sleep-inducing effects of diphenhydramine. Furthermore, these people often could reduce the bedtime dose of diphenhydramine to as little as 5 mg (I was taking 60 mg). At the lower doses the quality of their sleep was actually better, and most of them could adjust the dose to eliminate the early-morning grogginess.
I suspect you would have to be a long-term insomnia sufferer to understand why that was so exciting to me. :) I immediately started experimenting with lower doses, and within a few nights I had positive results. I'm still experimenting, but I have a relatively narrow window to refine: my optimal dose is somewhere above 7.5 mg and at or below 15 mg. I've tried as many as four nights in a row at 15 mg, and it still works just fine. My morning grogginess is very mild at 15 mg. Next up are some tests at 10 mg.
But the bottom line is that for an entire month now, I've been able to sleep well most nights. Quite literally, I cannot remember another month like that in my life. I've completely stopped my old pattern of waking up at 2 or 3 am. This morning I slept like the proverbial log until 7:30 am – something that until this past month was something I only rarely experienced. It's probably to much to say that I'm sleeping “normally”, but this is by far the closest approximation I've ever made to that!
I can still scarcely believe that this common, cheap, over-the-counter drug could have such a profound effect on my life. It's undeniable, though. Now I have a new fear – that this miraculous change in my life will somehow disappear or become ineffective. I'm being stingy with its use because of that, and if I see that starting to happen I'll back off even more. But in the meantime ... not suffering from the effects of insomnia sure feels good!
One word of caution for any fellow insomniac reading this: from my research, it appears that my reaction to diphenhydramine isn't the most common one. It's also, apparently, not exceptionally weird. If you decide to try this, your results might be anywhere from the opposite of mine to merely wildly different. In other words, your mileage may vary. But for me (so far, at least) it is well into miraculous territory...
Thursday, March 8, 2018
“Basically, if everyone has a vested interest in believing that they understand everything, or even that people are capable in principle of understanding it (either because believing this dampens their insecurities about the unpredictable world, or makes them feel more intelligent than others, or both) then you have an environment in which dopey, reductionist, simple-minded, pat, glib thinking can circulate, like wheelbarrows filled with inflated currency in the marketplaces of Jakarta.”I'm re-reading Cryptonomicon for the third time, and (as usual with Stephenson's writings) discovering things I never noticed before...
Stephenson, Neal. Cryptonomicon (p. 629). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
There was one telling event, though. When she first came out to see us after the surgery was done, she was trembling and oh-so-incredibly affectionate. That continued for a couple of hours after we got her home. It was as if she was asking us “If I’m really, really, good will you NOT take me back to that place?” Hopefully we won't have to, at least not for anything related to her spaying.
This morning she was her usually bubbly, spinny (she likes to spin at the door at approximately 4,800 RPM before we let her out), spanielly (if you own a spaniel, you'll know what I mean) self...
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
And, interestingly, a vindication of Trump's approach to the NoKos...
She was all excited when I took her in this morning, though. First, she loves the staff there (all of whom came over to pet her). Second, another dog was waiting with us: Bailey, a six month old female German shepherd. The two of them got along famously. There was much puppy-bowing and gentle play, entertaining all of us waiting. She's a happy girl, especially as she has no idea what's about to happen...
Monday, March 5, 2018
Saturday, March 3, 2018
After living her for four years, I'm not sure why we're still surprised at this ... but we were. We walked into the ER, Debbie on crutches. We were checked in immediately by a very friendly (of course) clerk. We waited for three and a half minutes, and then an ER nurse called us in. In under five minutes, the ER doctor – cheerful and confident – carefully questioned us about what happened, checked Debbie over, verified that no pain meds were needed, and ordered a set of X-rays. A bubbly, friendly radiology intern came over to get Debbie less than five minutes later. The X-ray equipment is state-of-the-art, with all electronic imaging – we were out of there in three minutes. Back to the ER, where a couple of minutes later the ER doc was back and showing us Debbie's X-rays. There was no visible bone break; at the very worst she has a hairline crack invisible on the X-ray, and he thought that was unlikely. The main symptom he had to go on was some very localized pain, which was consistent with an injury to either one particular ligament or (less likely) the meniscus (the cartilage “washer” inside the knee joint). He asked again about pain meds, we declined, and then we were off with a “If it’s not better in a couple of weeks, see your GP.” Huge relief for both of us (but especially for Debbie) that there was no bone breakage.
The overall experience at that ER was so different than the (unfortunately many) visits we've made to California ERs. Friendly, competent, cheerful people. No long waits. No giant waiting rooms filled with people who should have gone to a clinic or their GP. No triage (with no queue, it's not needed!). Spotless, organized ER rooms. Top-notch, modern, working equipment in every room. No feeling that you're actually a resident of an impoverished third-world country.
I've been busy the past couple of days taking care of Debbie and the animals (with some help on the latter from our friend Michelle H.). She already looks better to me, getting around the house pretty easily on the crutches, and able to put some weight on her left leg without pain. Hopefully this incident will be behind us very soon...
Friday, March 2, 2018
I can't believe he really decided impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. It's probably the simplest way he could torpedo the economy unilaterally. Doing so just as his other policy initiatives were bearing positive economic fruit is so stupid I have trouble wrapping my brain around it. The stock market, I see, is interpreting this the same way I would – the Dow is down over 700 points since yesterday morning.
The unions are crowing about “their” victory. That's a sure sign that you've messed up, Donald.
I see that some (possibly unreasonably) hopeful pundits are noting that Trump still has a week or so to change his mind. Try as I might, I can't feel hopeful about that...
Thursday, March 1, 2018
If you know me, then you most likely know I'm not a “joiner” – meaning that I rarely even think about joining an organization. Part of that is a result of being an introvert, but a bigger part is that I just plain don't like most organizations – in the sense that I don't want my membership to represent an endorsement. Last year I joined AARP, but only with great reluctance, as there are many things about AARP that I don't like at all. But ... they have the best Medicare supplement plans, according to my trusted health insurance agent, so I set my qualms aside and did it. Their sticker is not on my car. :)
Yesterday, though, I joined another organization: the NRA. I'm now a life member. The NRA does some things, and has some stands, that I think are borderline crazy. But ... nobody does a better job at defending the second amendment, and that's something I care deeply about. They're also extremely good with their firearms safety training and range training; very commendable activities that should be supported if you're supporting free access to firearms.
So I joined, hoping my financial support will help the fight in some small way.
I'm now pondering a couple additional steps.
First: for both Debbie and I to get concealed carry permits, and to get a suitable carry weapon for both of us (most likely one of the Glocks).
Second: to acquire an AR-15 and learn how to use it.
I want us to be ready if someone comes for our guns. If that day arrives, it will likely be another “joining” moment for me.
So Debbie called our vet's office (more on those wonderful people below) while I kept pressure on the wound. There was blood everywhere – in her crate, on her bedding, and (especially) all over the kitchen floor. The paper towel I was using to apply pressure was soaked in it, and my hand looked like it was made of blood. Ipo looked totally unconcerned, other than being curious why her papa was holding her on her back and pressing on her stomach. She obviously wasn't in any pain The vet tech who answered the phone at the vet's office got just enough of a description from Debbie to ascertain that this really was something that needed urgent attention, and then gave us the go-ahead to bring her in immediately. Debbie had the brilliant idea of putting an old washcloth on her belly and holding it in place with an elastic male incontinence strap that we had for Mo'i a few years ago; this worked very well (and impressed the vet a little later :)...
One of the things we love about living here is that our wonderful vets are just 3 minutes (and I mean that literally) up the highway from us. Their clinic is on the same road we live on, less than three miles north of us. So about eight minutes after we first noticed the bleeding, we were in the vet's office. By this time we know most of the people there, both vets and vet techs, on a personal level. I take them flowers once in a while (just did last week, actually) when we think they need cheering up. So when we walked in with Ipo in my arms, it was a bit like walking into a friend's house. At this point the bleeding had slowed down to a seep. The vet techs got everyone notified right away. Dr. Clark happened to see us in the lobby, and came over to check Ipo out. He was obviously unworried (a relief to us) and said he'd see us as soon as he'd finished with the patient he was working on. A few minutes later, we were in with Dr. Clark and he gave her a quick check before telling us what was going on – and to assure us that there was nothing to worry about.
It seems that when they do the spay, they actually make two incisions. The first is through the outer skin layer, the second through the muscle layer that's just inside the skin. When they're done with the surgery, they make two sets of stitches: one to close the muscle incision the other to close the skin. Sometimes the dog will accumulate blood and plasma in the area between the muscle and the skin. That's what happened to Ipo: there was some fluid (probably on the order of a cup's worth) buildup there, and when the skin incision split open, that accumulated fluid started flowing out. None of this is harmful to the dog. He made sure she didn't have any sort of infection, then put one staple in the place where the incision had split and sent us home. That's it!
The competence and proximity of our vets is a great source of comfort to us. For many years, when we lived in Jamul, California, we were a 45 minute drive from our vet. We always worried about what would happen if we needed a vet urgently. Fortunately for us, that need was never tested, though we did have a few incidents that were rather too close for comfort. The fact that we like all the staff there is just some very nice icing on the cake...
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
I've just barely started, and already I've found some things that were surprising, and some other things that brought me a nice big smile.
The biggest surprises so far came from skimming through my mom's voluminous medical records – hundreds of X-rays and a couple thousand pages. Before I shredded these things I wanted to make sure no other papers I'd want to keep were embedded in them (as I have found things I've kept in some very odd places). This time I haven't yet found any other papers – but I did discover two medical issues my mom had that I had never known about. The first was from 1998: the detection of a tumor in her brain, 1.5 cm across (so roughly walnut-sized). I found the X-rays, radiology reports, and a written recommendation from her GP to have surgery, despite it being (as he put it) “quite risky with a relatively high expected mortality”. So far as I know she never had any such surgery, and I can't imagine how she could have had it in secret – so she must have declined (not all that surprising for her). The second issue was from 2007, the detection of a lump in her breast and the diagnosis of benign but with a recommendation to have it removed. Again, I don't know of any such surgery – but that kind of surgery could, I imagine, be done without my ever knowing about it. On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me to find out she'd declined that surgery as well! In any event, neither of these contributed in any way to her death, so if she did decline them, in hindsight it wasn't a bad decision.
I spotted a couple of strange things on our driveway that I cannot as yet explain (see the two photos below). Those two photos were taken a few feet and a few seconds apart. They're both on a stretch of driveway with identical exposure to sunshine. Last night it looks like some meteorological phenomenon sprinkled ice crystals all over the driveway, which then partially melted together to form a rough, thin sheet of ice over the entire thing. But in these two places (and only these two places), these two blobs appeared. The one on the left seems to have thicker ice there; my theory is that there was water (from the day's melt) on the driveway that froze solid before whatever it was dropped the ice crystals. The one on the right seems to have no ice crystals – it's as if they all melted. One might suspect salt, but I haven't used salt even 100' from there. I have no other theory at the moment.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
This is the earliest (in the year) I remember ever getting my taxes done. Just two days after I received the last bit of tax documentation. Woo hoo!
Except for the two rather large checks I have to write, I'd be a pretty happy guy right now.
But I sure wish I had the simple flat tax that my friends in Estonia have...
Monday, February 26, 2018
Sunday, February 25, 2018
The first photo below shows the shelf I installed, with the bottom of it being 10.5 feet above the garage floor. The hangers that the 2x6s are sitting on were that leftover garage storage kit that I had. In that first photo, between the two boards and a bit to the left you can see the 4" hole I sawed through the garage ceiling. There's a matching hole in the second floor's floor. The second photo shows the UPS all wired up and running. I'm writing this post on a computer powered by that UPS. It works!
The primary purpose of this project was to locate the UPS in a space that is temperature controlled – a sort of Goldilocks temperature, neither too hot nor too cold. The barn's garage suits that bill perfectly. In the winter it's heated, never getting colder than 65°F. In the summer the excellent insulation in my barn plus the thermal mass of the 8" thick concrete floor keeps the temperature below 80°F most of the time, and the highest it's ever been is 84°F. That's well within the UPS's operating temperature range. My freezing UPS problem should be gone, and hopefully I didn't introduce any new problems while doing that.
There's a secondary benefit though, one that I hadn't even considered. The UPS has rather loud fans, and now they're running down in the garage where a bit of extra noise will mean nothing (as there are many noisy things down there already). That means my second floor is now back to it's basically noiseless state: nice and quiet for working, no noise to mess with my music.
So now I have yet another project, this one with a bit of urgency as we have some cold weather in the forecast!
Saturday, February 24, 2018
The photo looks like broad daylight only because I've manipulated the exposure to make the deer more visible, and corrected the white balance to eliminate the blue twilight cast. This is actually a good demonstration of the iPhone X's low-light capabilities, stabilizer, and telephoto – this was very low light, long exposure (1/15th), no flash, hand-held, on 2x optical telephoto. Pretty amazing for something that weighs a few ounces and is the size of a thick postcard...
We got an email from an old friend last night, a woman I worked with through the '90s and up to '02. She's 70, her husband a little older, and they're just now retiring. They sold their small farm for cash, only to discover that the buyer was a gang-connected drug and gun dealer. They went through a series of physical and legal adventures, including flying bullets, when finally this bad actor was arrested, arraigned, agreed to a plea deal for 15 years in federal prison. Her (long) email reads like a précis of a script for a Hollywood production. Holy cow! And this sweet lady is someone who, if you were to meet her, you would think was primarily occupied with crafts and homemade shortbread. I'm going to reply to her shortly, but right at the moment about the only thing I can think to say is “Holy shit, woman!”
Thursday we dropped off our little Munchkin (the male kitten who fell into our casement window a few months ago) and Ipo (the sweet female field spaniel whose owner didn't want her, and we adopted) at the veterinarian's to be neutered. We picked them up in the afternoon. Munchkin was back to his normal self within an hour or so of getting home. One of the vet techs brought Ipo out to us, and while she was waiting for us to finish the paperwork she sat down in the lobby with Ipo – who was wiggling her butt to beat the band, and just loving all the attention from the vet tech. I'm not sure she really wanted to go back home with us. :)
Yesterday afternoon we were relaxing at our kitchen table after a very filling meal at La Unica. Debbie was reading about the animals up for adoption at the Cache Valley Humane Society (she does this almost daily). She spotted a cat named “Tigger” that reminded us both of our beloved Maine coon Halala Pala, who died of cancer a few years ago. Then we read the description and discovered that Tigger was 12 years old – and we knew that cats of that age are nearly impossible for organizations like the Humane Society to adopt out. So we talked it over for a minute and then decided to go get her. Which we did! The staff at the Humane Society was delighted that someone came in specifically to get Tigger. They tested her for FeLV (negative!) and in an amazingly short time we walked out with Tigger in a carrier. She's now ensconced in her own little queendom carved out of our cattery, where she'll get as much time as she needs to get used to us and the other cats. We found out that she was an indoor-only cat, the only pet of an elderly lady who has become unable to care for Tigger. I'll post some photos when she's willing to come out of hiding...
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Gary and I took note of the water level in the reservoir: it's only about 10' below full. I don't think we'll have any problem with a water shortage for irrigation this year, which is great news.
They took us to a new (to us) eatery: Sabores. It's tucked away off the main drag in Logan, behind the Beehive Grill. We were both astonished to find another great place to eat in this little town. Debbie and I have been missing good Thai food, and when we spotted Pad Thai on the menu we both ordered it. It was excellent! Debbie ordered dessert, and when they brought it out we were a bit shocked. It was tres leches (three milks) cake (a common South American dessert), and it was a huge chunk. Also delicious! Between the four of us we managed to put it all away. We'll be back to Sabores – that was a real treat, especially with friends for company...
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
My UPS isn't actually in my office – it's just outside my office, in the storage area part of the second floor of my barn. That part of my barn is unheated. Looking the the UPS logs, I discovered an event around 3:30 am this morning: temperature too low, at 9°F. The thing shut down because it got too cold! This is a new experience for me – all the temperature problems I remember seeing in electronics was because it was too hot, not too cold.
So now I have a new project: to move my UPS down into the heated part of my barn. That's just 2 feet below where it is right now. :) This will mostly involve drilling a couple of holes (for the input and output power) and building a shelf for the UPS, high on the wall of my workshop. Not a project I was expecting!!
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
After I get back from my visit to the dentist. :( Just a routine cleaning, but still ... not my favorite activity.
When I went out this morning to fill our bird feeders, several species went right on feeding despite my presence: chickadees, juncos, house finches, and goldfinches. I take that as a sign of hunger. Our nearby honey locust had a swarm of birds perching in it: magpies, pigeons, grackles, and about a dozen red-winged blackbirds. As soon as I left the area of the feeders, those red-winged blackbirds flew down in a group and started browsing on the cracked corn I'd scattered, as well as picking through the sunflower seeds smaller birds had pulled out of the feeders. I sure hope they're ok through this snow and cold – they look very much out of place.
Yesterday afternoon we took a drive up Blacksmith Fork Canyon to Hardware Ranch. For me, the scenes of snow-on-rock were quite beautiful (below). But darned near everything on that drive was beautiful: the stream, the contrast of red osier dogwood against the snow, the snow in the trees, and the broad vistas of snowy mountains. Up near Hardware Ranch we saw several groups of deer, including one with about 40 members. We also saw a few isolated deer, most likely bucks who have lost their antlers. At Hardware Ranch itself there were hundreds of elk, picking through the night's snowfall to get to the hay beneath...
Monday, February 19, 2018
We've been looking for stabilized binoculars with high magnification and big objectives, to give our ancient eyeballs the best wildlife viewing we possibly could. We already own a pair of stabilized Canon 18x50s – great magnification, fairly bright, so-so optics, so-so stabilization. We also have a pair of stabilized Fujinon 14x40s – so-so magnification, so-so brightness, very good optics, fantastic stabilization.
I finally located something that promised to be a combination of the features we prized the most: these stabilized Zeiss 20x60s. We've only had them out on one outing so far, but our impression so far is that we have a winner. The magnification beats the Canon by a little. The objectives collect 44% more light than the Canon; they are super-bright. The optics are simply magnificent; the best I've ever looked through. The stabilization is great, but very, very different than our other stabilized binoculars. For starters, the Zeiss stabilizer is totally mechanical – no electronics, no battery, and (we quickly noticed) totally silent. Unlike the electronic stabilizers, the Zeiss stabilizer doesn't seem to interact with panning or tilting the binoculars at all. In that sense, they act just like unstabilized binoculars. On the other hand, for the small tremors and vibrations that plague us when using unstabilized binoculars, the Zeiss stabilizer works perfectly. On the other other than, for large perturbations, the Fujinon's stabilizer works better – which makes perfectly good sense for their target market: mariners. On the whole I find the Zeiss stabilizer perfectly adequate for our needs – and I really like the absence of batteries and noise. Zeiss' target market (for these binoculars) seems to be hunters and military, and those with deep pockets – these are damned expensive binoculars. We had to think long and hard before plunking down our cash, and what tilted us toward it was that wildlife and bird watching is such a big part of our enjoyment of Utah.
So I did what I always do in such circumstances: I went to Amazon and searched. In no time at all I found two made from wood, one 30" in diameter and one 18" in diameter. Could our shelves be that size? They were! I ordered them, and a couple days later they were in my hands. It took just a couple hours to install both of them, including removing the old ones. The biggest challenge I had was cleaning – because the back corners of those cabinets hadn't been cleaned in probably 15 years. Maybe even more. :) Much scrubbing was required!
You can see the result in the photo above right. They're great! The shelves rotate independently, they're perfectly level, they don't scrape the cabinet, and they're wood. That was a quick win of a project!
When I was a kid, such an artifact would not have been possible to make at any price, much less the $39 I paid for this pair. Pure titanium was available, but in a very limited number of shapes, in small quantities, and very expensive. Machining titanium was just barely possible, with the most expensive of tools, a very high running cost (because of the need to replace bits), and of course it would be done manually. Titanium parts were used only for the most exotic needs where no other material could possibly do the job. The intricate engraving on these dice would have challenged the very best machinists – and it would have taken many, many hours.
But today, for the price of a nice meal out, I can hold these in my hand.
These are silly, useless objects – but – I marvel, I do...
Now mind you, this is actually a good thing – we need the precipitation, especially for snow pack up in the mountains around us. We're fervently hoping they got a similarly unexpectedly great amount.
Yesterday morning when it started snowing, the temperature was in the high '40s, and the ground hadn't been frozen for a week. Consequently the first 3 or 4 inches that fell turned into a thick layer of slush, especially on our driveway where it was about 2 inches thick. The forecast called for a hard freeze last night, around 20°F (which it did) – so I decided to plow the driveway even though it was still snowing hard, in the hopes of getting that layer of slush off before it froze into solid ice. Checking this morning, it appears that I succeed in that: we've got about 4 inches of powdery snow sitting on the driveway. That should plow off very nicely. I'll be out plowing in an hour or so, and tonight the forecast calls for another 1 to 3 inches – so I expect to be out plowing tomorrow as well. If I'm to believe the forecast, we won't see above-freezing temperatures until next Sunday – a huge change from the warm spell of the past two weeks or so...
The two photos below are from yesterday afternoon, about halfway through the snowfall. We have quite a few branches so heavily loaded now that they're at risk of breaking...
If you're a regular reader (as about five of you are! :) then you already know this blog is mainly aimed at friends and family. But, you might say, that's what Facebook is for! And I say: a pox on Facebook! I can't stand the damned thing. I have an account there, but it is almost completely unused. These days all I use it for is to see posts that people ask me to look at (generally by sending me an email link).
Nevertheless, it's hard for me to accept that I've been doing this for thirteen years, and that I've written almost 14 thousand posts. Crazy!
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Friday, February 16, 2018
But then a few weeks ago, the problem suddenly stopped. WTF? Three separate clocks having a problem, and all of a sudden they all work? How could this be??
A few days ago I had the first thought of a possible explanation. The clocks all started working about the same time that the power company fixed the top part of our power pole (blogged here) – could that be what fixed my clocks? I didn't know exactly what they did beyond replacing the top crossbar. So I called the power company, hoping I might get some answers. And I did! Turns out they keep good records of what was found and what was done – and one of the notes they'd made on that day said “heavily corroded HV connection”. The “HV” means “high voltage”, the input into the transformers for my house and my barn – and those two transformers shared that same HV connection. Ah ha! Now there was a possibility! A heavily corroded connection might exhibit intermittent connections when, for example, the wind shook the power pole a bit.
So I rigged up a bit of an experiment with one of the clocks. I wired up an outlet whose power came through a wire that I cut, stripped, and then bound together with a rubber band. Then I tried wiggling that joint. Lo and behold, I was able to replicate the peculiar behavior. The clock didn't lose power, but it did pick up the intermittent connection as though it was additional cycles to be counted – and the result was the clock gained time, just as we used to observe.
I'm left with the mystery of why the problem still happened with a clock connected to my UPS. I think the most likely explanation is that the intermittent connection issue was transmitted through the UPS as coupled noise – which is certainly disappointing. The UPS works fine if I switch off its primary power, so I know the inverter it contains is working properly. I see no glitches on its output (using a 'scope) if I flip its primary power on and off. Nonetheless, the clocks malfunctioned when running on it prior to January 11.
I have to conclude that for our entire time in this house, up until the repairs on January 11, we've had flaky power and didn't even know it! The clocks have been rock-solid now for over a month. I'm very glad to have the problem fixed, but I'm still amazed that we didn't even know we had a problem!