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.

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.

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.

30 June 2019

Half a Year

That’s half a year gone already. But, thankfully, it’s been a relatively quiet time for us. Not much upheaval in life, which is a good thing.

It was also a quiet week at work, and with a major holiday, I expect much the same for the next few days. Yesterday was catch-up-on-yardwork day for me, so I did. Tiring, but effective. Tonight we had first fruits of the garden – a zucchini and a jalapeño. Marcia sautéed the sliced zucchini in olive oil and herbs, and I topped a grilled burger with the sliced jalapeño and some sharp cheddar. Yum.

Lexi (our chipuggle mutt) has been relaxing... (shown reclining next to me)
Lexi has been relaxing…

Winding down

I’ve actually been doing that all day today, but…

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

  • Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, of Heilbronn, Germany, died on June 25, 2019, in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations.
  • Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, of Trumansburg, New York, died on June 25, 2019, in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations.

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.

5 May 2019

Window Week

We had all of the above grade windows in our house replaced on Friday. It’s been a really busy week.

I came home Thursday after a half work day, and spent the balance of my waking hours preparing the house for window replacement to start early Friday morning. All the window coverings (but for the master suite, which I held up until 7 AM Friday) were remove, cataloged and set aside (there’s a story there, hang on…) Everything not nailed down was mostly moved at least three feet away from all the window openings, to facilitate the work. A fragile cabinet in the dining room was left in place, but I removed the glass doors and covered it with cardboard. My home office cabinetry is in a fairly permanent state, so they just had to work around that. Still, a sweaty, sweaty few hours. Good workout. Lexi’s normal look-out chair was moved, but that didn’t stop her from following her watch dog routine…

Lexi on watch: right perch in the wrong place.

Friday, we were up at the normal work day alarm time of 0545. Brewed the coffee, walked the dog and got a bite of breakfast, then it was time to do the last of the window coverings, and patrol the house for things that needed to be secured and/or gotten out of the way. Cars out of the garage and out of the way, parked on the street. We were ready! Spot at 0900, the crew from Window Nation showed up. Those five guys started right in, tarping things and setting up – they worked their asses off for 10 hours with a short break for the pizza we had delivered for lunch. Nineteen windows replaced, insulated, wrapped in bent-on-site-to-fit aluminum, and caulked. Impressive amount of work. This would have taken me a year of Sundays to do on my own, and I might have started getting good at it by the end, then I’d have to go back and do most of them over, right. So, winner.

Saturday and Sunday have been full of me putting things back inside. Some notes about that: Turns out that getting things down and out of the way is easy compared to putting them back. First of all, when putting back, cleaning should be done. So, as I did each room, cleaning came first, middle, and last. Mostly vacuum and dust rag work, but occasional cleaning products were brought to bear on the issues at hand. Then there’s the minor flaws that really should have been dealt with years ago, but there’s no time like the present. For example, that filing cabinet in Marcia’s office always should have been affixed to the wall via a bracket. It is now. Last, but certainly not least – window coverings.

Turns out that the vinyl replacement windows, while better in every way than the builder grade aluminum ones from the late 1980’s, fit into the opening in such a way as to make the interior window well a lot shallower than before. Too shallow to use almost all of the blinds we had in place. Now, to be fair, some of the blinds we installed when we moved in 15+ years ago. And some of them were … older than that. So they were crufty, crusty, and a lot of them were malfunctioning a bit, just like the windows that we replaced. So Saturday morning we went off to a big box store and spent several hundred dollars on assorted window blind products for the twelve upstairs windows. The downstairs ones didn’t have inset blinds and for the most part we could reuse the prior curtains (for the time being). Almost all of those, and almost all of the rooms have been reassembled now. And I’m tired.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Pfc. Michael A. Thomason, 28, from Lincoln Park, Michigan, who died on April 29, 2019, in Kobani, Syria, of wounds sustained from a non-combat incident.

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 April 2019

Hi!

I just stopped in to say Hi! Not dead yet, although it is my birthday today. So I took half of yesterday off to toddle down to the theater and help strike the set for Pride and Prejudice (which we saw twice and loved it). Then I came home and did yardwork: mowing and edging, mostly. That meant working a full day today to recover from physical labor.

Other than that, all is good.

See ya soon!