24 November 2019

Pizza Night

After shopping and cleaning house today, we had wonderful home-made pizza AND watched Chicken Run. Now, instead of being able to concentrate on the world-shaking revelations that were to appear in this space, all I can do is type sentences that run on and on without any appearance of termination in sight, if indeed such sentences as typed could be said to have visual acuity of any sort at all.

Disturbing

Nearly every damn political story I read. Disturbing. Politest word I can think of in the circumstances. I’ve got nothing else to say on the subject at this time.

2020 Race

Warren.

A Cute Dog

This is the cute Lexi dog we all need right now:

Lexi the chipuggle mutt, lap adjacent, getting belly scritches.
Lexi getting belly scritches

Winding Down

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

  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, from Tarrant, Texas.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., 25, from Keaau, Hawaii.

Both soldiers died on Nov. 20, 2019, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, when their helicopter crashed while providing security for troops on the ground.

11 November 2019

Honor to Our Veterans

The women and men who put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf get precious little of the respect and care that we should give them each day. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

Change Is

Some things change slowly, some so fast one hardly notices the thing itself as the blur as it goes by. A person I work with is moving on, after a lunatic number of years (by today’s standards), and I’m going to miss them a lot. No blur here, but a lot of individual moments that together are a big part of the most recent third of my working life.

Lexi Fix

Lexi the mutt managed to wind herself into Marcia's sweatshirt on the bed, and I'm getting a look when I catch her at it with the camera.
Lexi in a sweatshirt cave

In case you’d forgotten that we share our lives with this funny little rescue mutt, here’s another of her cold days tricks – climbing under a sweatshirt on the bed.

Winding Down

DoD reported no casualties in the last week, in a rare spot of good news these days.

3 November 2019

Take Two

I was four paragraphs into the first pass on this post when I managed to hit a stupid combination of keys on the Apple keyboard and moved backwards three links. Whoops, I thought, and went looking for the auto-saved draft. Um, not there? Sigh. Okay, take two – I wonder how much this iteration is going to vary from the last?

Fallen

Fall is finally, properly, here. Six weeks in, and we finally got two consecutive nights below freezing. We’re due for another frost tonight before it warms up just a shade. Also, for the first time, the snow icon made it into the long range forecast on my phone. Of course, “long range forecast” is just an effusive waste of characters when what you want to say is “lie.”

I got the outdoor water delivery systems winterized today. Yesterday, I repaired the motion detecting light outside the garage door. Wait, did I say “repair?” I mean replaced, with modifications. The old fixture wasn’t new when we bought this house in 2003. And it was hardwired. And it was positioned badly, in the far corner of the front of the garage, where it was partially blocked by the substantial crepe myrtle. Additionally, a moderate wind would use that tree to continuously fire the motion detection. So, due for work even before I learned that the plastics were going and one of the two light sockets was gone, on Hallowe’en evening.

In replacing the fixture, I moved it to front and center on the garage. I mounted a switch in the garage so that we could turn it off entirely without going to the breaker panel in the basement. And bonus – the LEDs draw 25 watts when active, as opposed to the dual 100 watt halogens that were continuously cycling in the elder unit.

Kitchen progress

Little progress, but: I’m going to be fabricating one new bank of cabinets whole, and I’ve got the measurements for those, so I can do some sketches and gin up a material’s list in prep for purchasing, then fabrication.

Bookish

I’ve been reading the Liaden Universe books from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I’d read some of them in the past, out of order. I now have ALL of the books (21 of them, I think), and I’m following one of the many suggested reading orders (this one’s from Baen, and probably originates with the authors, so there’s that. I like them a lot.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Nathaneil G. Irish, 23, of Billings, Montana, who died on Oct. 27, 2019, of a non-combat related incident at Camp Taji, Iraq.

22 September 2019

Last of Summer

According to the calendar, tomorrow is Fall. According to the forecast, Summer looks to be in an extended run. We did have two nights last week drop into the high 40’s overnight – but highs for the next 10 days are supposed to be in the mid- to high 80’s. So, summer, still. Unless, y’know, the forecasters are wrong. That would be so unusual!

Mysterious Absence

So, yeah … no post last week. I’ve got no explanation but sheer laziness. This weekend was a bit more of the same. We did make it out fishing at Cash Lake yesterday morning for a few hours. No fish, of course. But relaxing right up until I cast while twisting my torso. That gave me a muscular tweak under the lower left scapula that continues to vex me.

Reading

My read of the last week is the biographical Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by some bloke named Neil Gaiman. At the moment, it’s free for $AMZN Prime members. And it’s a jolly good read, full of stuff I knew about Adams and H2G2, and MUCH other stuff that I didn’t. Fun.

On dead trees, I’m most of the way through a long-delayed re-reading of Cliff Stoll’s The Cuckoo’s Egg. Good stuff if you like 80’s computers and tracking down a cracker with a penchant for military computers that have crappy security policies applied to them.

Winding down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, from Greenbrier, Tennessee, who was killed in action on Sept. 16, 2019, by small arms fire when his unit was engaged in combat operations in Wardak Province, Afghanistan.

9 September 2019

Goodbye, Mikey

Our friend Michael Lindsay, husband to Linda Rose Payne, father to Dylan and Kiera, died on August 31, 2019. He was a talented voice actor, and a seriously funny and fun dude, even when in massive pain, which he was, a lot. I’m gonna miss him.

Mainly in Maine

Yes, again. With some lovely weather, visits with usually distant family members, and some moderately successful fishing.

Brian captured a small mouth bass on Cobbosseecontee Lake in Maine. Caught, weighed and released.
Brian captured a small mouth bass

We ended up with 6 or 7 bass between us, all weighed less than two pounds, all released back into the lake after getting weighed and measured. Eleven hours on the drive up (traffic problems), ten hours back home on Saturday. Lexi did really well this trip, and she went for a short swim in the lake, from and to shore. No jumping off of boats for that little dog anymore. Mostly, though, her job was to stand and watch, then run and bark, at the squirrels and chipmunks that frolicked tauntingly in front of her the whole time!

Lexi watching for squirrels and chipmunks out the windows and doors of the camp on Cobbosseecontee Lake in Maine.
Lexi watching for squirrels and chipmunks

Now back in the DC groove, and trying to get caught up. It’s amazing how much chaos an unmonitored week can generate.

Winding Down

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

  • Sgt. 1st Class Dustin B. Ard, 31, from Hyde Park, Utah, died on Aug. 29, 2019, as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, was killed in action on Sept. 5, 2019, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan.

25 August 2019

September-ish

After several miserably hot days, we’ve had a couple of days transplanted from mid- to late September – highs in the mid 70’s. Lovely weather. Earlier in the week, we made it down into DC to meet up with Pat and Nathan. They were in town from California, and found some time in their family-full schedule for us. A lovely late afternoon and early evening, we had. First, a couple hours at the Philips Collection, including their wonderful, moving, and occasionally horrifying exhibition: The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement. The exhibition uses art and narrative to bring the migrant crisis to our first world senses in a very powerful way. We also got through part of the permanent collection before it was time to head over to supper at Urbana. Superb Italian and Italian-adjacent cuisine. Food and good company – what a joy!

While some of the heat returns, starting on Tuesday, we shouldn’t get back up into the 90’s according to the forecast. But then, forecast is an eight letter word meaning lie.

I took advantage of the cooler weather to get caught up on the mowing, this weekend.

Lexi Rests

Lexi the mutt, resting on the couch, eyes freshly opened due to preparation for a picture being taken.
“Why u wake me 4 a pic?”

Lexi basically has two speeds: on and off. The on state is hard to capture without significant motion blur, although sometimes she’s standing still at high alert, watching some article of wildlife invading our yard. (Note – our “yard” comprises all that she can see, and expands significantly when she’s looking out from the upstairs windows!) Then there’s off, or in the parlance of particle physics, “resting state.”

I use the physics terminology because sometimes it seems she can transition from one state to the other without passing through any intermediate stages. Impressive for a dog of 10 years or so…

Winding Down

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

  • Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, of Chicopee, Massachusetts, died on August 21, 2019 in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations.
  • Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, of La Puente, California, died on August 21, 2019 in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations.

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.