Saturday, July 21, 2018
I sold some of our index-fund ETFs yesterday, in preparation for buying our neighbor's place. Those ETFs were purchased in early 2014, over four years ago. I was surprised by the capital gains on them – over a 100% gain on each of the three ETFs I sold. The stock market has been very good to us in our retirement. Well, so far, anyway...
Hoping to make some progress on those drawers this morning!
Friday, July 20, 2018
So I've been scrambling to do all the things one must do to buy a piece of real estate. We've agreed a price with Tim and Jeannie. We've engaged a realtor friend to represent us in the transaction, and to make sure the paperwork all gets done correctly. We've consulted with the county to make sure that we will be able to “detach” that field from its current parcel, and merge it with our own parcel that's adjacent to the field. The county treats this as a routine matter, so we're not expecting any trouble there, and the cost is quite modest (well under $1,000). We do have to hire a surveyor, though, to make new legal descriptions for the two lots being modified. We also arranged for a local hay farmer to lease the newly merged field from us, for a grass and alfalfa mix (horse hay). Once the field has been moved to our parcel, there will remain a 3.5 acre property with a nice house near the center of it, and that piece we'll put up for sale.
So many details, though!
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Why would this be so?
I've been trying various experiments over the past couple of weeks to try and narrow down the cause. First I kept track of the mugs we used, and switched which one was for tea. That made no discernible difference. Then I compared the tea and coffee with no additives (cream, sugar, etc.). This time the two mugs sounded very similar, though the coffee mug was still slightly lower pitched and not quite as crisp. Then I added sugar to the tea – and the pitch went up (not what I expected at all!). I added Equal to Debbie's coffee and heard no difference. I added milk to my tea and the sound pitch went down slightly and got slightly less crisp. Then I added collagen powder to Debbie's coffee, and the sound changed quite dramatically: lower pitch, much thuddier. Ah ha! Then when I added milk to her coffee and the pitch went down a bit more.
So ... collagen powder made the biggest difference. Why? What does it do to the liquid that affects the sound of tapping the mug's rim?
I have two theories. First theory is that the collagen powder increases the viscosity of the liquid, and thereby increases the damping effect it has on the “ringing” caused by the tapping. Second theory is that the collagen powder, when dissolved, changes the speed of sound in the liquid, which changes the resonating characteristics.
Do any of my readers have any knowledge of this phenomenon?
Monday, July 16, 2018
Most woodworkers already know the answer, either from a mentor early in their woodworking efforts, or through hard experience. I'm in the former camp, myself – my grandfather (father's side) taught me this simple technique.
Most non-woodworkers don't know this technique, and if asked to speculate, will usually come up with answer involving a known straight edge and squinting at how it sits across the joint that is supposed to be lined up. That technique is difficult and quite error-prone – and isn't all that accurate anyway. The best way actually involves no tools or instruments of any kind – just your finger! All you do is run your finger across the joint to feel if there's a difference in height between the two pieces of wood. Really!
A study five years ago determined that fingertips can detect surface details as small as 13 nanometers ( about 0.0000005 inches). No instrument within reach of an amateur woodworker or cabinet shop can measure anything that small.
Your fingers are a marvel of texture-detecting design – better than anything mankind has ever been able to make...
Sunday, July 15, 2018
The techs could not replicate this problem, of course (isn't it always like that?). However, the Model X apparently has quite a bit of logging internally, and they were able to see the evidence of the problem in that log (and, incidentally, convince themselves that I wasn't some kind of nut). So the techs kicked this up to engineering. The first group of engineers to examine issue, late last week, couldn't figure out what was going on. So they kicked it up to “zone”, which, I'm told, is internal Tesla-speak for “the real engineers, the ones who actually know what they’re doing”. I'm told that escalation to “zone” is quite unusual. It figures that such weirdness would be visited upon me! The plan as of Friday was to wait out the day on Monday (tomorrow) to see if “zone” comes back with some kind of answer. If they do, then they'll fix the problem and I can have my car back. If they don't, then the techs will finish servicing my car and give it back anyway – and whenever “zone” finally decides to grace us with some feedback we'll decide what to do next.
Which means that we've been stuck with the Audi A6 since Wednesday. I'm ready to find me a great big power hammer somewhere and squish the damned thing!
I started working on the remaining five drawers for the grill cabinet today. It's almost a week since Jim and Michelle left, and I last worked on them – my time has been consumed with all sorts of other things. I started two drawers today: the two that go under the wider middle sections. One of those drawers is the shallowest I've made yet, which means the vertical pieces that tie the horizontal rails together are the shortest I've made yet – under 2" long. That's so short that I can't have opposing pocket screws that line up with each other, as there simply isn't room for them. So I resorted to a “trick”: I offset the screws just enough to let them clear each other. At left below is the piece of wood with the pocket screw holes drilled, and at right is the installed piece. It worked great!
Midway through this construction process, I heard an ominous rattle from my trusty Makita drill. With a little investigation I figured out that it was the thrust bearing – quite an important piece of any electric drill (even when in screwdriver mode). It still worked, but it seemed clear that it wouldn't survive for long. So I decided to make a run to our local Home Depot (one of the few places open on Sunday here) and pick up a replacement. I am delighted with that drill, which I purchased about seven years ago, so my intent was to purchase exactly the same drill. This was not to be, as Makita has stopped making them. There's a newer version, however, with all the same functions (drill, screwdriver with torque limiting, and impact drill), but with more torque, a brushless motor, electronic speed control, and smaller. In the photos below, the all-black drill is the new one, the blue-and-black the old one. I've long been impressed with Makita's battery-powered tools, but I didn't think they had much room for improvement on their drill. I was wrong. The new one is a bit lighter, substantially smaller, and the added torque is impressive. The brushless motor with electronic speed control is really nice – the drill ramps up the torque as required to maintain the speed you've selected. The old drill's trigger didn't select the speed, but rather the power – and often that meant the drill would run much faster than you intended when the load was light. Not this one. Another nice touch: manually tightening the chuck is much more comfortable with the new, larger, rubber chuck grip. Nice one, Makita!
Saturday, July 14, 2018
But in the end, I managed to get both of them working. Mike was very happy to see this (I sent him proof-of-life photos of the GPS screen). It felt good to be able to help a friend, and it also felt go to have proof that I can still repair delicate electronics. Both GPSs are now at the post office, and he should get them next Tuesday or Wednesday...
Friday, July 13, 2018
At any point in our lives prior to buying the Model X, we'd have been astounded at getting an A6 as a loaner. By any conventional measure, it's a very nice car. Plenty of power, handles very nicely, lots of modern conveniences, etc., etc.
But we are Model X owners. We've driving 36,000 miles in our Model X. We're spoiled rotten by the experience. Now the A6 looks like a miserable POS to us. We hate it...
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Anyone who knows Debbie and I well will be unsurprised to learn that much of our giving back is aimed at animals. Not all of it, by any means, but quite a bit.
For many years we gave modest amounts to carefully selected animal-related charities. Over and over we learned to our chagrin that the beneficiaries of our largess were anything from outright frauds (ouch!) to high-overhead operations where too much (often most) of our contribution went to paying the officer's salaries. We got fed up with this, and searched for a better way.
Today we're making three regular animal-related contributions. Two of these are through small, local organizations that we know personally. Obviously we could still get surprised by these, but I think it's much less likely than with the contributions we've made to the larger organizations that actually market for contributions. The third is one that we started about six months ago. We met with the owners of a local veterinary clinic – people whom we know and trust – and arranged to create a fund that helps people with animals who need veterinary care that they cannot afford. This was our idea, though we discovered when we talked with the clinic's owners that they already had a poorly funded version of a similar idea going. The money involved is quite modest, but it has direct impact on local animals in need – and, of course, on their owners. We make these contributions anonymously, but we learn about the animals (and owners) that have been helped. It's been very satisfying to have direct knowledge of the impact of our contribution, and comforting to personally know those people who are (in effect) administering our contributions. We like this general pattern much better than sending a check to a large, opaque organization and never knowing what they did with money.
We've also found a few ways to follow the same general pattern to help some local people in need. I'm not going to get into the details on these, as in some cases these are done anonymously and we'd like to keep it that way. The important bit, for us, is the combination of direct knowledge of how the contributions get used, and a trusted intermediary to administer them.
After a bit of fumbling with ways to do achieve this pattern of contributing back to our community, we've learned to be a little creative and a lot careful – and we really like the results...
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Why on earth is it so difficult for people to understand how both of those statements can be true at the same time? Must we either love or hate any politician 100% of the time?
Two days before Jim and Michelle got here, we had our once-every-two-years driveway resealing done. We used Statewide Paving for the work, and this makes twice that I've been very pleased with the job they did. The owner's son (Andrew) both supervises and participates in the work, and everyone works their butt off to get the job done. Their attention to detail beats any paving contractor I've ever seen at work. This time, for example, they found a place in my driveway where there were a couple hundred square feet with embedded soil (from where we had piled dirt during construction). Rather than just coat over it, they took an extra two hours to power-wash that part off – and charged me nothing extra for that work. If you need a driveway resealed, you can get Andrew at 208-317-4418. Highly recommended. Here's a few shots of them working away...
Monday, July 2, 2018
Most important event: Tim is ever so much better! He was in the hospital for a few days this week, and it made an enormous difference to him. He's eating (though food still doesn't taste good to him), his important blood indicators are being monitored carefully, and he's under treatment for all the issues they found (worst problem: blood calcium levels spiked way up). His sense of humor is back, as is his color, and he's walking around without having to stop every five feet to rest. He came over to visit us for an hour or so this afternoon, and ... we had the old Tim back. It was so wonderful to see him looking so much better!
The granite folks were back on Friday to finish the granite installation on our grill cabinet, and we hooked everything up on Saturday. Debbie cooked some salmon on it – and it was great! The cabinet looks wonderful When we get the drawers done, we'll have a real showpiece there...
On Friday my new mower was delivered, and what a magnificent beast it is! It's by far the nicest mowing machine I've ever used – soft, sprung-and-shock-absorbed seat, smooth controls, flawless cutting. It's also built like the proverbial tank. Before I had two hours of use on it, I got a flat tire. Hyrum Tire fixed that for me today for $12.97.
Our lawn guys were here today with an infernal machine called a “core aerator”. Basically it drills holes in our yard about ever 6", and spits the dirt “cores” out on the top. It's supposed to improve the health of our grass, but it looks more like a grass torture machine to me...
On Saturday we had our driveway resealed, an all-day operation by a three man crew. In order for them to do that, I had to clear everything off our pavement on Friday – and that took me the entire day. I was exhausted by the time I was finished.
And momentarily our friends Jim and Michelle B. shall arrive for a week-long visit. We can hardly wait! Because of their visit, my posting will be intermittent again...
Thursday, June 28, 2018
My mother called Long Pond her favorite place on earth; her experiences there filled her memory and her stories. Most of all, I think, she loved her many friends in the area. I was there part of about a dozen summers in my youth, and I remember how happy she was there. The cabin that she first visited as a girl and every summer afterwards for close to fifty years is now gone. It was falling apart, and was demolished a few years ago. It was on a lot a hundred yards or so west of Mark and Gina's cabin, and they still own the lot. They plan to build there, hoping to provide a place their kids and grandkids can enjoy as they do.
Mark and Gina had told me I was welcome to wire into their camp's electrical panel to charge up our car. I was all over that offer, and before we'd left Utah I bought all the parts required to do that. I'm not sure Gina was thrilled with the redneck wiring job I did, but it all worked great in the end – our car was fully charged before we left, and I put their electrical panel back together again. It even worked when I got done!
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
All along the route we took today we spotted rhododendrons (both horticultural varieties and apparently wild ones) and lupines. I remember the rhododendrons from my childhood visits to Maine, but not the lupines! Here are a few of the hundreds of beautiful spots we passed:
We arrived at Brunswick (where our next lodging was) with lots of time still left in the day. After checking in, we headed up the coast toward Belfast (more on that place later) along what we remembered as a sort of “art district” from our last visit about 25 years ago. At that point in time, we had little money to spend on art, though we did purchase a few pieces that we cherish – especially a beautiful photograph that hangs in our living room. We saw a sculpture on that trip – a life size bronze of two deer being pursued by a mountain lion – that we told ourselves we'd try to get if we ever had enough money to consider it. Well, we do have the wherewithal to do that now, so we were searching for that sculpture or something like it. Sadly, we were in for a bit of a rude surprise. First, the raw number of art galleries was far lower than we'd remembered. Second, the art galleries were dominated by what I call “modern art” – stuff that looks like any idiot could have done it, and that looked to our eye more like junk than art. There were some exceptions, but few and far between. And nobody was showing traditional bronze sculpture.
I spoke with some of the galleries' staff about this, and was able to piece together what happened. Fundamentally, the dot-com recession killed them all off. Some of the galleries up and moved to more moneyed territory – primarily Boston and New York. Others simply folded. The galleries that remained were, for the most part, more marginal in their appeal – as one gallery owner put it to me, the ones who stayed were attracted by the low cost of running a business on the south Maine coast. She told me candidly that she showed the work of local artists whose work tourists were willing to buy, not the work of artists she enjoyed. One could almost feel her sorrow.
Our quest for the sculpture was a bust, but there's a happy ending on that story that I will tell another day. I did find a couple of quite nice turned wooden bowls, made of glued together segments (dozens of them in one case). The first photo below shows the two bowls, and the following two show details of the fancier one. Both bowls were made by a local woodturner named Frances Farley. All the local galleries knew him, liked him, and knew that he had recently died at a ripe old age. I feel lucky to have stumbled across these.
While we were walking around the town of Camden, we happened across a couple roughly ten years older than us who was gawking at the same window we were. We struck up a conversation, and during that I mentioned the two visits I'd made to Matinicus Island in my youth, one of them involving working on a lobster boat for two weeks. That's when our new friend let us know that he was a lobsterman, out for the day with his wife! He worked his lobster pots near the coast of Rockport, a few miles away. We shared some memories of the old mail boats that were based in Rockport, and which provided our transportation to Matinicus back in those days. I didn't really expect to see any locals in a town like Camden, but to run into a lobsterman was completely outside expectations. That was fun!
After we'd finished our shopping, we headed for Belfast – the home of Young's Lobster Pound, the best place on earth to get lobster rolls or live lobsters. My family knew about Young's Lobster Pound from my earliest memories of Maine, back in the late '50s. I'm not sure how we first found out about it. They started shipping lobsters on telephone orders back in the '90s, and ever since when we're in the mood for lobster, that's how we get it. There was no way I was going to miss the chance to actually eat there! The photos below were all taken at Young's, but the last one shows the important part: a lobster roll (never mind that it's not a traditional roll) and a bowl of seafood chowder. Debbie had the identical meal. Both were brains-fall-out-on-the-table good...
Bellies sated, after this we headed back to our lodging for a good nights sleep before the next day's adventures...
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
So this is a non-trivial amount of work. One adult, working alone, can move all the pipe in around two hours (including time for clearing clogged sprinklers, walking to the edges of the field to turn valves on and off, etc.). During that two hours, you might walk a couple of miles in addition to all the weight lifting. You'll also get soaked when fixing sprinklers, and your feet and jeans bottoms will be covered with mud.
Tim can't do this, so what happens to his fields? Nothing! That's because his neighbors (including me) are moving his pipes for him – cheerfully, happy to be of service to Tim. Three adults and a bevy of kids are doing it. If we needed more, there would be a small army volunteering to help. This is so heartening to see! And I get great satisfaction from being a part of it...
We went to bed tired of being in the car, and preparing ourselves for tomorrow's descent upon the south Maine coast...
Monday, June 25, 2018