19 August, 2019

Dog Days

So, mid-August, and we’re in the “dog days of summer”. It’s been humid, hot, and unstable. How unstable? A storm that blew through last night racked up over 70K electrical discharges over a single hour. Most of those were elsewhere, but enough were nearby to freak out the little disturbed dog. Also with the heat, and fitting in with the origins of the phrase, I spent much of the weekend entrapped by lethargy.

Yes, yes, I was up early doing patching work for production systems on Sunday. But outdoor chores? Not this last weekend. It was just … miserable. Theoretically, it should be much better starting on Friday (which is its own brand of unusual for mid-August, but oh, well, any port in a heatwave). I did roast coffee and make a batch of killer salsa (thanks, Kat, for the peppers to fill in the role that our garden failed this year)!

Hugo

So, every vote counts, right? For both the novel and novella categories, I voted for the well-deserved winner. Seriously, congrats to all the nominees, finalists, and winners in the Hugo Awards, celebrated last night at Worldcon 2019 in Dublin, Ireland. I did a LOT of reading in the last year, and before I nominated and before I voted. None of the wonderful writing disappointed me.

But I have a LOT of fondness for the superb wordsmithing skills of Mary Robinette Kowal (Best Novel, The Calculating Stars, in the Lady Astronauts series) and Martha Wells (Best Novella, Artificial Condition, in the Murderbot series). Just wow. Read ANYTHING by these talented people and enjoy. No. Let me amend that. Read everything they’ve written, and everything they will write in the future. I know, I know. You can thank me later. See this Hugo site link for all the winners.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors:

  • Gunnery Sergeant Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colorado, died on August 10, 2019, in Iraq, after suffering fatal wounds while supporting Iraqi Security Forces.
  • Specialist Clayton James Horne, 23, of Atlanta, Louisiana died on August 17, 2019 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a result of wounds sustained by a noncombat related incident.

7 August 2019

Busy days

I’m feeling a bit broken, with the shootings of recent days, and the inflammatory rhetoric of the GOP and their Beloved Leader. Sorry.

The garden is two thirds dead. No peppers. No zucchini. But the tomatoes, they are in full production. We had salsa this weekend, and I’m going to make more tomorrow night, since Marcia pulled out a bushel of red fruit today.

I did manage to find time to roast some coffee the other night. Here I’m pre-heating the roaster before doing the actual deed…

Pictured: In the background, my @behmor 1600+ coffee roaster, pre-heating (the elements are glowing red). In the foreground, a bag containing the remaining pound of Colombian green coffee beans from @sweetmarias, about to be roasted.
Pre-heating before roasting the coffee…

We’re drinking that coffee, and it is super tasty.

I’ve got a new home firewall I’m ready to install and test out, except that brilliantly, I no longer have any VGA cables here at home. I disposed of the last one a couple of years ago, because … why not, I’m not going to have any more gear that doesn’t have HDMI or DisplayPort or … this firewall appliance that only has a VGA output. Sigh.

To be honest, it also has a COM port, and with some little effort I could manage to get a system with a COM port running around here. But the main home server these days is an Intel NUC, with no COM ports. The Macs … no COM ports. I have gear with COM ports, but they’re running Windows, and I just can’t be bothered. I’ll snag a spare VGA cable from work, use it to do what’s needed, then store it with a BIG note saying KEEP ME, YOU REMEMBER WHY!

Winding Down

Our condolences to the friends and families of these fallen warriors:

  • Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Slayton Saldana, 24, had been listed Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN) following a July 17 non-combat, man overboard incident while underway onboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in the Arabian Sea.
  • Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, of Stryker, Ohio, died on July 29, 2019, in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained in a combat related incident.
  • Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago, Illinois, died on July 29, 2019, in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained in a combat related incident.

21 July 2019

Short Take

There really isn’t much to report since a couple of days ago when I got around to posting (late). I got a bit of cleanup done in the garage, and put up all the tools in the woodshop. After all the assorted work, I’m only missing my socket wrench and one socket! They’re here, somewhere…

It’s been properly hot around here, but this is supposed to be another summer where it doesn’t actually reach 100F on the thermometer. Is it supposed to be scary and sell more advertising that they’ve been reporting on “feels like” rather than “is” for a few years now? Sigh. Publish the algorithm and specify the source data used to generate the “feels like” number, and back generate that for a bunch of years, so that we have a proper historical view. I imagine the “feels like” was pretty damn bad on those days the actual thermometer hit, say, 105…

I don’t dispute that the climate is changing. It always is, and always will. But let’s try for some proper continuity in reporting change, rates of change, etc. If you’re saying that you can’t effect change in society without lying shading the truth and continuously moving targets, goals, and units of measure … I just don’t feel obliged to listen.

Do people screw up the planet? Sure. Look at an open pit mine. Look at Chernobyl. Can change come, can we do better? Sure – look at the skies of Los Angeles now vs thirty or forty years back. Will change come? Yup. Still waiting for the next big impactor.

Cheery, ain’t I?

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. William Edward Friese, 30, from Rockport, West Virginia, who died on July 18, 2019 in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, from a non-combat related incident.

18 July 2019

Winding Up

Well, I came to my senses, realizing that leaving y’all with the impression that I was going to be doing something seen as dangerous (fixing garage door springs), then going dark-ish. Thanks for the kind thoughts, y’all!

First the good news – I’m fine, the garage door is working fine, and I had few issues with the DIY repair. Therein lies a tale.

I previously wrote, “I’ve ordered a pair that individually match the spec for balancing out my door. I’ll install both, and wind them with about half the turns that the single spring had, then adjust to the correct balance.” I’m sure that some of you spotted the error of my ways and were tittering up your sleeves, awaiting the denouement of this little vignette.

Here goes. Turns out winding two springs half as many turns works great to get a garage door about halfway up. That’s fine, as far as it goes (hur, hur, hur), but when you raise the garage door past that point, with the springs half wound, the cables on each side of the doors leap out of their guides and create weird metallic representations of a bird’s nest… AND the door is halfway up (or halfway down, depending on your viewpoint), and is unlikely to go to the fully up or fully down position without dismantling those bird’s nests. Hmmm. Once the bird’s nests have been detached and untangled, the door is halfway up (or down), with no counter-balancing spring to provide artificial assistance. Sigh.

So, I pulled the ladder over to centerline, rested the door on the ladder and untangled the messes. Then I supported the door, pulled the ladder back in, and muscled the door back down to fully closed. I re-strung and re-tensioned the cables, and started over.

I thought a little more carefully than I did when exhausted and pre-heat-stroke on 4 July. If I wind BOTH springs enough for the door to raise fully, the amount of spring force in the fully down position will be approximately double what’s needed to raise the door. I think that’s called Launch Mode. That’s going to be a different, but also bad problem. So, just use one spring…

This time, I wound one of the springs fully, which is necessary to ensure that the spring provides lift for the whole of the door’s travel, and a bit left over to keep tension on the cables in the fully up position. Yes, I did this carefully, with two winding bars, and my whole body carefully positioned to the side, away from both spring and winding bars. I coated both springs liberally with white lithium grease, which should decrease the chances of corrosion and early failure.

Net result: One functioning garage door, with a mounted, spare, non-tensioned spring awaiting the day the primary goes out. Then I can wind up the spare, and we’re back in business with very little delay!

Not much else exciting to report. We’re in the depths of summer: hot, humid, and hoping the A/C doesn’t fail. Of course, there are hotels for that sort of problem.

Fun things

I’ve been enjoying (on Twitter) @KatinOxford – she has an interesting perspective on many things, but she drew me in with her C. S. Lewis work, including How do you Solve a Problem like Susan Pevensie? – Wonderful stuff, and she posted that on my birthday this year, which means … something. There are regular twitter meetings on Narnia stuff, and it all makes me want to read the series again, with more adult and hopefully more thoughtful eyes. Kat has far more dimension than just that though, so I’ll simply recommend her to y’all, and keep going.

I’ll try to keep an eye out for more fun things to point out in the future. We need fun things – there’s a lot that’s pretty damn dire going on these days.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Maj. James G. Sartor, 40, of Teague, Texas, who died on July 13, 2019, in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, as a result of injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire during combat operations.

7 July 2019

An Eventful Fourth

As holidays go, this one was less than stellar. We started by trying to get out fishing early. Sadly, our local favorite hole had a “Gate is not operating” sign up. Perhaps they just didn’t want to deal with holiday crowds while on holiday staffing (it’s a pond on a local preserve, requires special permits, etc).

Meantime, right after breakfast, we’d found out that the flush mechanism on the main floor toilet was busticated, so a new flush handle was on our list. So we left the failed fishing hole, and dropped by the poor second choice hole. Once there, we threw lines in and were utterly untroubled by fish for the hour or so it took the humidity to rise to intolerable levels. To be clear, those levels are variable. They’d have been fine if we’d been catching fish or even getting bit. But no such luck. So off we went.

A stop to tank up Marcia’s car, then Home Depot for the toilet part, then back home. The fix for the toilet was quick and painless. After a boring lunch, we were relaxing in front of the TV when we both heard a weird noise. Hmmm. After a bit of exploration (it’s difficult to locate the source of a non-repeating noise), I found the cause: The garage door torsion spring had expired. Fortunately, there was just one shear point – the spring had NOT exploded into shrapnel peppering our cars.

Now let me describe the next three hours, with relative brevity:

  • I moved the cars a couple of feet toward the back of the garage, to make room for me and a ladder.
  • I disconnected the door opener, and freed the door from it.
  • I dismantled enough bits to extract the broken single spring from the bar, and put it back together without a spring for the time being.
  • I went to lift the garage door so that I could get the cars out, since we both needed to be out and about on Friday.

It’s about here that the story goes sideways.

Turns out that a well-insulated two-car garage steel sectional door is pretty damn heavy. And I didn’t have a handle installed, inside or out. Being handy, I have handles and self-tapping metal screws laying about in the basement. Bad news: A handle didn’t help. Even threading a towel through it to get a better grip and leverage only enabled me to raise the door only a couple of inches. I was on the path to kicking a two-by-four underneath and slowly raising the door when I realized two things: I was putting my back at risk doing this, and lowering it again, safely and without damaging the door, might be unlikely.

So instead I dismantled the door from the top segment on down (drill-mounted socket set for the win), stacked the segments up against the bumpers until done, then walked them all outside onto the lawn. Hmmm. Did I mention the torrential downpours combined with thunder and lightning? I though I might have missed conveying that little detail. Anyway, the path was clear and I pulled both cars down the driveway, moved the segments back into the garage, and reassembled the door.

Using the bits of spring, I identified the type and rating of the single right-wound spring that had been installed with my door. I’ve ordered a matching pair of them (right- and left-wound) and winding bars – they’ll be in on Tuesday. Why a pair? More to the point, why install just one? I’ve ordered a pair that individually match the spec for balancing out my door. I’ll install both, and wind them with about half the turns that the single spring had, then adjust to the correct balance. That’ll buy me two capabilities (with luck): less loaded springs should be less prone to catastrophic failure, and if one of them DOES fail, then I still have a backup already mounted, and should be able to wind it a bit more, and get the garage door open and shut while I wait for the next set of replacement springs.

Whew. A shower, a light supper, and I was ready for my “holiday” to be over. But instead, we had alternating thunder storms and idiots with fireworks keeping me awake, mostly by freaking out the dog, until the wee hours of the following morning. Yay?

Work on Friday, yardwork on Saturday, and a “five dog house cleaning” today filled out the balance of the week. What is a “five dog house cleaning,” you ask? It’s a count of the number of times I have to empty a full container of dog hair from the vacuum cleaner’s collection bucket. Each one is sufficient to construct at least the outside bits of another complete dog. Getting caught up on the cleaning is good. Getting this far behind is a bit sad.

Gratuitous Lexi Photo

Lexi acting as a head rest - the dog is laid out across the top of the sofa cushion behind me.
Lexi acting as a head rest

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. 1st Class. Elliott J. Robbins, 31, from Ogden, Utah, who died on June 30, 2019, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident.

May 27, 2019

Memorial Day

While I didn’t lose any close family members in wars ongoing, recent, or past, many of my family and friends have served our Country and Constitution with honor, and are now beyond the veil. And so, so many have paid for their service with their lives. Today is a day to honor those women and men, to honor the sacrifices that our warriors make on our behalf. This they are due, and deserve, regardless of the politics of the day.

The Home Front

OTOH, some of us (me, for example) took care of a lot of chores over the weekend, from mowing and pruning and pressure washing, to setting up the garden watering system, to finishing up the installation of window treatments in three rooms here. So, there’s that done, and it’s paltry in comparison, but that’s all I’ve got. Oh, and roasting coffee, and cutting my hair. And a day of business travel in the week just past. So, busy, but nothing life threatening.

Entertaining

What I’m most looking forward to in the short term is Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prhopecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Yes, yes, but not the book – the Amazon Prime six episode series. Terry Pratchett is sadly moved on, but co-author Neil Gaiman carries the load well, according to all reports. I am on pins and needles!

Soon, from Annapolis Shakespeare, we have Tartuffe, and The Winter’s Tale. Looking forward to those, too!

Winding Down

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week. Lexi continues to be a spoilt little dog. Finally, Marcia and I will celebrate this week our 21st wedding anniversary. Yay, us!

13 May 2019

Friday the Thirteenth

Friday the Thirteenth falls on a Monday this month. Triskaidekaphobia is a terrible thing, fortunately something I don’t suffer from. So, Monday after a busy, busy weekend. Mowing the back yard for the first time since August took up much of Saturday, and all of my energy.

Big Fun Mowing Day!

We still made it out to Opening Night for Oliver! at Annapolis Shakespeare Company on Saturday night. What a wonderful fun show. The actors had fun, a group that we knew from prior shows along with many newcomers (mostly kids, for some reason…? Grin!). Much fun, Highly Recommended!

Sunday was rained out, so indoor chores and setting up some new electronic entertainment options.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, 22, from Hinesville, Georgia, who died on May 6, 2019, in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained from a non-combat incident.

This is going to be a busy couple of weeks, with a day of business travel somewhere along the line.

29 April 2019

Monday

Saturday was a full, wonderful day at BsidesCharm 2019. I saw a number of interesting talks on security topics that taught me a lot. Sunday I planned to attend a second full day there, but the crashing near-migrane I woke with put paid to that plan. I just relaxed, and that’s made today ever so much better.

Looking forward

The thing I’m looking most forward to soon is Good Omens. If you aren’t, you should be. The book is wonderful, too, and read it first if you can. My preparatory work for this is to watch some Neil Gaiman interviews. Note – I still miss Terry.

Wrapping up

Our condolences to the family and friends of Spc. Michael T. Osorio, 20, from Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, who died on April 23, 2019, in Taji, Iraq, in a non-combat related incident.

24 March 2019

Sad News

My friend Mark Camack died this last week, after a battle with throat cancer. We’ve been in the exchange holiday cards / biannual phone call place for the last couple of decades, but I’d still have jumped up and headed out if he needed help. I didn’t hear about this until his wife Bonnie got in touch, the other day. My heart goes out to Bonnie and their extended families. Rest in peace, my friend.

New Beginnings, Old Endings

The big news is that I migrated all of the personal sites I manage from an old server to a new server. Not super-exciting from an external perspective, but I did manage to separate the WordPress instances from being embedded in the old sites far too deeply. We *should* have had them be something like blog.orbdesigns.com, but then the site was already a blog, just pre-dating WordPress. So, anyway, www.mumble is the wordpress site for this place, and for Marcia’s two sites. The older, more static sites are more easily accessible via legacy URLs, for example legacy.orbdesigns.com.

One of the links on the legacy site that I clicked in testing was from December 28, 2009. And that was the day we said goodbye to Lucy, our cocker spaniel. So, “Old Endings.” There’s plenty of stuff there in legacy land, from . I’m probably going to fix just a couple of top-level internal links that will make the site work better.

I’m also changing horses on the two-factor authentication tools I’m using, both on the device and on the sites. So, lots of behind-the-scenes technology updates. Drop me an email, or comment here if you find something that’s so deeply broken that I absolutely must fix it. Of course, I may choose to leave something broken, but that’s another story.

Winding down

I’ve got a busy week in front of me, so pardon if I’m even less loquacious than usual.

Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors:

  • Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, died on March 22, 2019, in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colorado, died on March 22, 2019, in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations.

10 March 2019

And Back

It was an interesting week. I skipped last Sunday for a variety of reasons. The most important is that we were up early that day, to get Marcia onto a plane for Salt Lake City, Utah. She was there for a few days doing Handi Quilter factory training on her software and machine. She learned a lot, and is now taking advantage of some superior features in the new motor control software.

I worked short days for most of the week, to burn a few hours of vacation time and reduce stress on a little Lexi that was missing her mum.

Lexi  the mutt wanted lots of attention while Marcia was travelling.
Lexi wanted lots of attention…

Marcia flew back late Thursday, and we’ve been trying to settle into normal, only to have AN HOUR STOLEN FROM US. WHERE DID OUR HOUR GO?

Entertainment

(Sadly for Marcia) I had a wonderful time last Sunday evening at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, attending a Cabaret Evening featuring 60’s popular music performed by Sally Boyett, Christine Asero, and Joe Rossi. My favorite bit was at the beginning of the second act, when Joe and Christine did “I Got You, Babe”, and Christine nailed the Cher hair flip. All music I knew, all fun

Pride and Prejudice is opening this next weekend at ASC, too. We know a lot of the actors in this one, which always makes the show more fun for me. You should see it, too. Are you anywhere nearby? Go to the site linked above, and get thee some tickets. I promise you’ll enjoy yourself

I’ve been reading the Frontlines series from Marko Kloos. So good so far. Grunt in interstellar conflict unexpectedly lived through sequential should-have-died events, while traveling between stars in the appropriately unexplained (the math is too hard) method. But I’m enjoying the books (currently in Angles of Attack, book 3).

Winding Down

Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors:

  • Sgt. Holli R. Bolinski, 37, of Pinckneyville, Illinois, died on March 5, 2019, as a result of a non-combat related incident.
  • Spc. Jackson D. Johnson, 20, of Hillsboro, Missouri, died on March 5, 2019, as a result of a non-combat related incident.

Oh, hey. It got up to nearly 60ºF today. Fishing is JUST AROUND THE CORNER, FOLKS!