- I took one of my lawnmower's tires in to Hyrum Tire for repair. One of the owners (two brothers) dismounted the tire, noted that it had been previously repaired (by them), and took it upon himself to apply a double layer of patching – both to the new hole and to the older one. Then he searched for tougher tires that would fit the rims; unfortunately, none are available (naturally, I have a strange tire size). Then he charged me $12.79 and insisted on carrying the tire and wheel out to my car. Such a pleasant exchange, front-to-back!
- I took my old lawnmower back to Ipaco for repair. They had previously repaired it (in May), but when I got it home I discovered that it still had the same problem (blades stopped turning after about five minutes of mowing). After a short, pleasant conversation in which they got full details of the problem, they told me that their repairs were fully warranted and they took the mower back for repair. It should be done today or tomorrow. No hassle, just smiles!
- The Wild Birds Unlimited store in Salt Lake City called to confirm my address before they shipped an order I made online. Ten minutes later, the store manager called me back to suggest that I save myself some money by joining a “club” they have. That club costs $25 a year, but on just the order I placed it would save me over $30 – and it would save more on any future orders I placed. She went out of her way to note the possible savings, call me, and get permission to do so. Friendly and cheerful every step of the way, too.
- The Tesla service center in Salt Lake City called me to let me know that some parts on backorder for my Model X had come in. They wanted to arrange for their mobile tech to come out later this week, and needed to know what days and times would work for me. This sort of call would usually be just a direct question or two and you're done, but the fellow who called was friendly and engaged in some happy banter.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Sunday, July 29, 2018
A bit further on we spotted two more fawns, this time with two does (though from their behavior, we think the fawns were actually twins belonging to one of the does). Then on our way back out of Blacksmith Fork Canyon, we had a scare as a fawn crossed in front of an oncoming car, then in front of us – no more than 5' off our bumper. Debbie slammed on the brakes when she first spotted it, and if she had been even a fraction of a second later we'd have hit it for sure. The car beeped and booped, so we know it detected the fawn – but we're not sure if it braked before Debbie stomped the pedal.
We saw lots of birds!
On the way out toward Ant Flats, we spotted a bald eagle flying toward us at low altitude. It circled three times over a pasture just to the right of our car, so we had some rather nice naked-eye viewing. Later in the trip, as we drove up toward the generating station's holding pond, I spotted a flash of white above a rock maybe 40' higher than us and a couple hundred yards away. I thought it was a small white bird of some kind, but when I got my binoculars on it I discovered that it was the head of another bald eagle, perched behind the rock so that I couldn't see its body. We drove another quarter mile or so down the road and found a parking spot where we had a great view of its whole body. We could see why it was perched there: the thing was soaked! We hypothesize that it had dived into the holding pond to catch a fish (or perhaps steal one from another bird), got wet, and then flew up there to a nice perch for drying.
In addition to the eagles, we saw one cedar waxwing as it flew by on a journey, a mostly gray Great Blue heron, several belted kingfishers (including one with unusually bright and clean plumage), about a bazillion swallows, a lone northern harrier, lots of juvenile mallard ducks, and several Swainson's thrushes. We'd seen the latter before, but today was the first day we were able to identify them...
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The last week or so this has not been working. The logical conclusion, reinforced by some online reading, is that my body has developed a tolerance for the drug, and I'd have to increase the dose for it to continue being effective. Of course, that's the first step of the classic dependency cycle, and I refuse to get on that particular train to destruction. So ... last night's dose will be my last, at least for a while. I suspect my insomnia will return with a vengeance in the short term, then after a few days or weeks I'll be back to my pre-diphenhydramine norm.
This makes me very sad, as I've been greatly enjoying all the benefits of a full night's sleep ... and I don't know any other way to get that...
Thursday, July 26, 2018
For several years I've periodically looked into the notion of buying a drone, primarily for photography and videography of natural landscapes and possibly some wildlife (especially nesting birds). The main thing that's stopped me from buying one is really the fear of losing the entire investment when I crash the drone 30 seconds after unpacking it.
I've had some experience flying remote-controlled airplanes, and I know first-hand how confusing it can be to control something when you're standing some distance away. This is a big contributor to the fear-of-crashing. I'd be much more confident in controlling a drone if it had a camera pointing forward, giving me a view while flying as if I was a pilot in the aircraft. These have recently become available, even acquiring their own name in the process: a “first person view” camera. Such a live video view, as if I were a pilot in the aircraft, is a big confidence builder for me.
Another factor that looms large amongst the risks of owning a drone is the fear of losing the thing should there be a problem with the radio link, the battery running low, etc. This is another area where the better drones have made fantastic strides. Many drones now have a robust return-to-home feature wherein if something goes wrong, they fly themselves back to the point where they took off, land, and wait for you to come back. Integral to that capability is the ability to avoid obstacles – and again, the better drones have amazingly good systems for detecting things they need to fly around. Some of these detectors are acoustic (ultrasonic rangefinders), some are infrared rangefinders, some are short-wavelength radars, and some are full-on optical rangefinders that use the same stereoscopic vision system that humans use. Some drones have a combination of several of these.
Put all that together, and the result is that one can buy a drone today that is likely to survive a while. I'm certain I could still kill it, but I'd have to try a lot harder than I would have just a few years ago.
There are even some drones available that have a separate, steerable, gimballed, vibration-isolated camera for shooting high-quality photos and video – while at the same time having all the safety and reliability features I described above. Some of these cameras are very impressive in their own right, and a few of them use MFT (Micro Four Thirds) lenses – meaning there is a huge selection of high quality glass for them.
Yesterday Debbie caught me doing the check-out-the-drone thing again, and she told me to just go get one. So I finally did it – I ordered a DJI Inspire 2 with the Zenmuse X5S camera option. It should arrive within a couple weeks...
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
The source of our irrigation water is the Porcupine Reservoir, located about 5 miles southeast of our home and 500 feet higher. The Paradise Irrigation Company is just one of four irrigation companies that store and use water from Porcupine Reservoir. All four of these irrigation systems are fed from a common “pond” at the base of Porcupine Dam, and this pond is fed from a manually adjusted gate at the bottom of the dam. This gate is adjusted frequently, by hand, to keep the pond's water level roughly correct. The consumption of water by the four irrigation systems is highly variable, so keeping this gate adjusted correctly is quite a challenge. To an engineer like myself, this screams for automation – and yet such automation would add significant cost and complexity to the system, and would require ongoing maintenance, so it isn't done. You would likely be surprised at just how small the budgets of these irrigation companies are – adding $100k or so for automation of this gate would be a huge increase. So the gate is manual, and I suspect it will stay that way.
Adjusting that manual regulation gate is the job of our company's “water master”. People like to holler at this poor fellow when their pressure is too low, because most of them don't understand what an essentially impossible job he's got. If all he had to do was to keep the pressure correct for one particular point in the system, it wouldn't be so bad. But that's not what he does. Instead, he's got a single point of adjustment where he's trying to keep dozens and dozens of users happy – and every one of them is getting water through different pipes with different volumes of water flowing at any given moment. I'm amazed that this works at all! Just below the control gate, the Paradise Irrigation Company's system splits into three large pipes, each feeding large zones of a few square miles each. The water usage between these zones can be (and often is!) hugely unbalanced – so one of those three pipes has far more water flowing than another. All the people on the pipe being used more are going to have lower pressure from the friction losses. All the people on the pipes being used less are going to have higher pressure. There's nothing that the water master can do about that! It's much, much more complicated than what I just described, though, because each of those zones are further subdivided several times. The 6" pipe that feeds our place has four divisions (that I know of!) between it and the reservoir, and every one of them can be badly unbalanced.
The end result of this crazy system is that the water pressure in our irrigation pipes varies between 2 psi and 50 psi. The pressure varies as users turn irrigation on and off in the hundreds of fields irrigated by the system. The changes tend to happen in the mornings and afternoons (the common pipe-moving times), with large changes generally occurring over days rather than hours. Our pressure is at 18 psi at the moment, but yesterday afternoon it was 40 psi. Most fields are set up with sprinklers at 40' intervals, using nozzles that spray about 40' with 50 psi pressure. This provides considerable overlap, which means that the entire field will still get watered so long as the pressure is above about 25 psi. The lower 18 psi pressure we have right now means that there are portions of our alfalfa field that are not getting any water this time. This happens on every field, and the farmers just live with it.
When I had the pop-up sprinklers installed for our 3.5 acres of lawn, I knew I had a more challenging situation. I could only water this much lawn with the Paradise Irrigation Company water, as that's the only water I had the right to use in such quantity (water rights are real property in Utah, as in most of the western U.S.). Those pop-up sprinklers are adjustable, but only within a fairly narrow range of pressure (such as mine, which are 45 - 50 psi). Furthermore, the small pop-up sprinklers have quite small nozzles that cannot handle the up-to-half-inch junk in our irrigation water. So I had a bit of a challenge on my hands to water my lawn using Paradise Irrigation Company water!
To my surprise, the local vendors who install and maintain irrigation systems did not have experience with this problem! I ended up designing my own system, which has now been in place for a year and is working quite well. I've had two irrigation companies come by to check it out, so they can use the ideas themselves. I didn't really do anything all that innovative, it's really just that it's new to them here. Paradise Irrigation Company water is connected to the inlet of an ordinary 5HP centrifugal pump with a synchronous electric motor, the kind that can survive moderate amounts of trash in the water. This pump isn't directly connected to the power; instead, it's connected through a variable speed pump controller. These have been available for about 20 years. They work by converting the 60 cycle AC to DC, then back to AC but with a variable frequency. The one I selected varies from 30 cycles to 75 cycles, which means the pump's RPMs can vary from 50% to 125% of it's nominal RPM (what it would have if connected directly to 60 cycle power). Because the output of a centrifugal pump is not linear with respect to RPM, in the case of my particular pump the output can be varied from 30% to 120% of nominal – and that's plenty of range to let it regulate the pump's output pressure to 50 psi. Finally, I run the output of the pump through a pair of screen filters (coarse/fine) so that everything larger than 0.05" in diameter is screened out. These water filters are roughly 18" tall and 4" in diameter, and in normal use I need to clean them just a few times a year. However, when the canal is de-mossed, the dead moss flowing down the line instantly clogs the filter completely, so I also have to clean them each time there's a de-mossing – and somehow that never seems to correspond with a “normal” cleaning. :)
Now, isn't that at least a tad more complex than you thought an irrigation system would be?
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
My brother Scott has been working at our place for the past two days, and will be putting in roughly half-time for a while. He's tackling our landscaping (and that's a big job!) as well as some maintenance items like pruning. He's plenty crazy enough to do this work for free, so I didn't let him start until he agreed to be paid a reasonable amount. Yesterday he went to work on making measurements for the front of our house, which is his first project. Today he and I tackled several pruning jobs (and there are lots more remaining!).
The past few mornings I've been moving pipe again, and this time Tim is working right alongside me. His strength is back enough for him to pick up pipes and move them, but his arthritis is giving him fits. His hands are the worst affected, swollen so much that he has trouble making a fist, and even more so applying any force. To shake hands is agony for him; the slightest pressure triggers his arthritis pain. Our mutual neighbor Nick S. is helping every morning, too. He's 20 years younger than I am, and can move pipes twice as fast as Tim and I combined. All Tim and I can do is admire and envy his strength and stamina...
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...