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.

27 October 2019

Capclave

I missed y’all last weekend because I was at Capclave 2019. This year’s Guests of Honor were Robert Sawyer and Martha Wells. They’re both authors whose work I love a lot, and I enjoyed hearing from them both in multiple panels. The three day weekend was full of author interviews and readings, celebrations and analysis of much loved works, and much on the minutiae of the SFF writing, editing, and publishing biz. My two favorite things were these: the panel for 25 Years of Babylon 5, and seeing all the wonderful folks I get to spend a few days with each year.

Next year is going to be a big shindig – the 20th anniversary of Capclave, with lots of extra special guests, many of whom I’ve seen over the past few years. Should be a hoot. I also learned that the 2021 WorldCon, host to the Hugo Awards, etc. will be held locally (in DC)! Yay! The web site: https://discon3.org/.

Homework

The two weeks, and parts of this weekend have been filled with paying-the-bills work, but there’s more to come on the home front: We’re going to do some remodeling in the kitchen. I’m going to build a couple of new bits of cabinetry, and new doors and drawers for the whole of the kitchen. Then we’ll paint out the lowers in a royal blue, and the uppers in a light tone of some type. Pictures as they’re worth sharing (but the work hasn’t started yet, so there’s not much to see, yet.

Winding Down

DoD reported no new casualties in the last week. That’s the only good news I’ve got from downtown.

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.