Week Off – Objective Completed

Well, I got a fair bit done, and some reading, and learned a bit about Puppet, too! I also got the fence sealed:

Left Side

Left Side

Right side

Right side

They’re coated in Olympic Maximum stain/sealer, “Natural Cedar Tone.” From this vantage, it looks a bit like spray-on suntan, but I’m sure it’ll weather in well. I’ll probably recoat in the spring.

There’s more of course. I finished reading The Hydrogen Sonata. I wish Banks were with us still – there are plenty more tales in Culture Space. I also got through John Arundel’s Puppet 3 Beginner’s Guide. I’ve been wanting to get into Configuration Management for a long time, and haven’t had the cycles to address the issue. Very cool stuff. Overall, a good week. I’ll be doing another one, starting next Saturday, after a “3-on, 1-off, 1-on” work week. Then it’s the death-march to the end of the year, with a brand new project and short timeline deliverables attendant thereupon.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Alex A. Viola, 29, of Keller, Texas, who died Nov. 17, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device while on dismounted patrol.

 

 

Holiday Week

I’m burning off a couple of weeks of leave between now and the end of the year. As usual in such times, I start one of those weeks off with a stint of physical labor to kick off the front end.  Yup, it’s time to finish up the fence. Last month I did the left fence sections. Yesterday, I started by cutting the fence sections away from the posts, and setting them aside nearby:

Starting more fence work - fence sections set aside to left

Starting more fence work

The two free-standing posts are problematic. One of them has a 45° twist in it, the other has a serious lean. So they’re coming out. How difficult that’s going to be is a crap shoot. Doing fence sections at the bottom of the yard a few years ago, I had rotting posts set into concrete, and it was a long painful process clearing out the debris. These two? No concrete at all. A bit of waggling, then I screwed a crossbar to each and lifted them clear of the ground:

Post removed in a single lift

Post removed in a single lift

That was followed by stringing a mason’s line from the two end posts, measuring to the place on the line where each new post goes, and using a plumb bob to locate the center of the new holes in the ground. A long, slightly exhausting stint with the post hole digger (pictured above) netted me two 14″ diameter holes, each 42 inches deep. I poured a couple of inches of crusher rock in the bottom of each hole for drainage, and placed, measured, cut, and replaced the posts. After plumbing and securing the posts, more rock went in to secure the bottoms of the posts, then a sack of mixed concrete each for longer term stability:

Posts in place, with concrete.

Posts in place, with concrete.

By this time, the light was starting to fade, but I got all of the 2×4 rails (aka stringers) installed before the day was gone, and then moved the old fence sections back roughly into place and screwed them in to close off the yard for the night.

This morning, after shopping, I hauled the compressor out, and attached all of the pickets. I then marked and cut the arches in the three sections:

Right front fence section nearly done

Right front fence section nearly done

What’s left is to pressure wash the old front facing components, let everything dry for a couple of weeks, then apply a cedar natural tone stain/sealer. But the difficult parts of this job are now done.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Richard L. Vazquez, 28, of Seguin, Texas, who died Nov. 13, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device while on dismounted patrol in Panjwai, Afghanistan.

Pi tricks

But first, 0630 EDT on Saturday the 26th day of October, 2013, was brought to you by the word “Fahrenheit” and the number ’28’. Brrrrrr!

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I got home from work yesterday evening, and found Marcia watching something that probably first appeared on an obtangular Philco Predicta television in the late 1940’s. I threw an ENOTINTERESTED exception, then I came upstairs and started mucking about with the Raspberry Pi.  The little credit-card sized computer, named Dortmunder (for REASONS), has languished in a corner for quite a while. I first discovered that my phone life-extension battery (acquired at VMworld, thanks VMUG) also happily powers the Pi:

Pi, fully mobile with battery pack

Pi, fully mobile with battery pack

It’s worth pointing out that the 2200 mAh pack will probably only run the Pi for around 3 hours, since a 10 Ah battery’s been tested out to 15 hours. So, not a LOT of value there, but certainly a momentarily fun test. You can also see the size of the wireless adapter from Edimax, lit blue out of the USB housing at the top of the Pi.

More about Dortmunder: I’d considered buying a case for it pretty much from the day it arrived. I was an early Pi adopter, and at the time of purchase there were only one-off prototype cases spun up on someone’s 3D printer. While that’s cool and all, I didn’t have THAT much of a need for a case. After all, for months Dortmunder hung on a hook in my wiring closet, wired to the switch there.

With the recent addition of that Edimax miniature wireless adapter (see last Sunday’s post), the Pi can now sit comfortably with just a power connection anywhere I want. But the camera, hanging out there at the end of a 14cm ribbon cable, is not trivially stable. Nor is it easy to handle the Pi without risking static damage. So instead of going to Element 14, or Adafruit, or one of the many other Raspberry Pi resources online, I headed down to the woodshop, and noodled for a couple of hours with hand tools and scraps. I came up with this:

Dortmunder's hobby horse

Dortmunder’s hobby horse

There’s a couple of tweaks to adjust the operation and positioning of the camera on the “head”. I’d like to be able to get a good angle up (or down) to aim the camera properly. I have to think about that. But the circuit board body is quite firmly stable in the hand-cut grooves in the three wooden uprights. Fun little project, and the inexpensive accessory camera takes really sharp pictures:

Brian snapped by Pi camera

Brian snapped by Pi camera

Let’s just assume that’s NOT a halo, mmm’kay? It’s almost certainly the light that sits on top of that cabinet over my right shoulder.

Fencing, continued.

Yesterday, I got all of the left side front fencing replaced. Today, I executed the decorative arches on those sections:

Arching the fence sections.

Arching the fence sections.

I set a horizontal string line across the sections, and measured down, sinking a screw at each bottom end of each arch. I then used a quarter-inch thick, 7′ long cutoff from a piece of cherry, braced against the screws and pressed upwards in the middle to describe each parabolic arch. A quick swipe with a pencil marked each arch. I cut them with the circular saw, first plunging in the middle, then working along the curve to each end. The final bits I completed with a jig saw. That side of the fence now awaits stain/sealer.

I’ll also pressure-wash the gate and posts on this side, and the posts on the other side, to get a better match with the stain/sealer when that’s applied.

*       *       *

Today’s Solaris patching went off without any hitches. The best answer for the task is Martin Paul’s Patch Check Advanced. I can audit my systems for needed patches, apply them to snapshots of the root filesystem (these are called Boot Environments, and I can patch the copy while the system is still running, yay), and then make the patched copy the next Boot target. This makes Solaris patching a much less impactful event, compared to the days when a patch set was downloaded and staged, then the system was brought down to single user mode (no services running) for the entirety of the patch cycle. Much better service uptime this way.

*       *       *

Also this week, I picked up an Edimax EW-7811Un USB wireless adapter from Amazon, for use with the Raspberry Pi. An excellent, miniscule little product, works like a champ for my purpose. It’s also worth noting that setting up wireless on Linux distros these days is shed-loads easier than it used to be. I added two lines configuring the WPA settings to the /etc/network/interfaces file, and on reboot the network came right up. It makes the Raspberry Pi a much easier thing to work with, since I don’t have to tether it to a wired LAN connection.

*       *       *

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

  • Staff Sgt. Patrick H. Quinn, 26, of Quarryville, Pennsylvania, died Oct. 13, in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when the enemy attacked his base with small arms fire.
  • Sgt. Lyle D. Turnbull, 31, of Norfolk, Virginia, died Oct. 18, in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, from a medical emergency.

Fencing

At 1100 this morning:

Front left fence, before work started

Front left fence, before work started

The gates are staying. The four fence sections, two to each side, they’re toast.

I cut them off the posts. The posts are in fine shape on this side of the house. So I measured and cut and clamped and screwed new horizontal 2×4 PT lumber onto the posts, then nailed PT fence boards up. Fortunately, I’m using a nail gun, instead of a hammer. Otherwise I might still be out there now. Instead, at 1530 EDT:

New fencing installed

New fencing installed

I might have kept working, but it was starting to rain, so I hauled all the tools inside the shed, instead. I’ve still got to get the top detail done, arching the tops to roughly match the gates. In a couple of weeks, if the lumber’s dried out a bit, I’ll coat them with an Olympic Maximum stain/sealer in a natural cedar tone tint. Also, there’s the entire left right front fence still to do, and I know I’m replacing at least one post on that side.

Tomorrow’s weather looks sane, so I may give it a go. Ciao!

Edit: Whoops, no I won’t be working on the fence tomorrow. Tomorrow is a Solaris patching day for me. And it’s the front fence on the RIGHT side of the house that still needs doing…

Launch weekend

Well, it was a launch for NASA’s LADEE mission, a lunar orbiter (full name Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer”), from Wallops Island in Virginia. I headed up by the tennis courts to get a better south east view, further from the trees. Using binoculars, I was able to clearly see the ascent from about 10 seconds post-launch, through first stage separation and second stage firing, and on into the distance for a long while. Very cool. Usually the Wallops launches aren’t so spectacular, and I’m usually clouded in and can’t see them anyway from this distance.

*      *      *

In other news, I stripped Scientific Linux (a Red Hat respin distro) off of Serenity, the home Linux box, and refettled the hardware with the latest Kubuntu. For a home box, I wanted a bit more versatility and package selection than SL had on offer. Start to finish about 24 hours. Lots of stuff to copy off the old box, then rebuild RAID and boot stuff, copy backups on again, and configure services so that all the assorted jobs and services that depend on this system work again. All good now, far as I can tell.

Also over the weekend, I started re-finishing the small table I had in my office – that’ll be an occasional table in the guest bedroom once I’ve got enough coats of poly on it.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the families, friends, and unit of this fallen warrior:

  • Staff Sgt. Todd J. Lobraico Jr., 22, of New Fairfield, Connecticut, died Sept. 5, 2013, from wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Home Office Done!

Here’s the picture I envisioned for the office, back in October, when I was in the home-stretch on the degree warpath:

Brian's proposed office furniture and layout

Brian’s proposed office furniture and layout

I started working on the project in mid-December, apparently moments after I was done with the final paper of the last course I took. In early February, I installed the first shelving unit. Today I installed the final piece – the back counter, which is fabricated from 3/4 cherry ply and banded with hard maple (thus complementing the desk in the center of the room).

I’ve built every piece of furniture in my office, discounting the Aeron chair … I’m pretty damn proud of it, too. No one piece is perfect – they all have flaws, but they’re mine. Huzzah.

Brian's Office - View 1

Brian’s Office – View 1

Brian's Office - View 2

Brian’s Office – View 2

Brian's Office - View 3

Brian’s Office – View 3

Sadly, this apparently means that I now have to start working on Marcia’s list of things to be done…

 

Last days

For the home office refurb project, that is. Today, I fabricated and attached the hard maple edge banding onto the back desktop. I also got two coats of poly applied. Depending on how it feels tomorrow, it’ll either get two more coats of poly, or get installed. I’m hoping for the latter. The garden has languished for attention, but I’m probably going to make salsa in the next couple of days for the first time this year. Yay!

Legacy technology

Legacy technology

I spotted some legacy tech today while shopping. I think you pick that thing up, put in some coins, and talk Ernestine into connecting you with your party.

*      *      *

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

  • Spc. Anthony R. Maddox, 22, of Port Arthur, Texas, died July 22, in Landstuhl, Germany, of a non-combat related incident that occurred in Andar, Afghanistan.
  • 1st Lt. Jonam Russell, 25, of Cornville, Arizona, died July 23, in Soltan Kheyl, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. Stefan M. Smith, 24 of Glennville, Georgia, died July 23, in Soltan Kheyl, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Rob L. Nichols, 24, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, died July 23, in Soltan Kheyl, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

It ain’t a Dry Heat.

It’s been, finally, much like a DC summer for the last couple of weeks. The rain stopped coming, except for pop-up thunderstorms that miss us, north or south. Heat and humidity are the order of the day, every day. We were supposed to have a front through last night, and cooler temps behind, but there was no rain for us, and it was 90+ by nine in the morning.

However, finally, some significant amounts of tomatoes are coming out of the garden (though mostly still cherry, but you won’t hear me complain, they’re yummy):

Cherry tomato haul

Cherry tomato haul

A couple of other tomatoes, some cucumbers, and a few peppers round out the day.

Most of the last week, outside of work, has been a march to get the finishes on the two cabinets. I think I’m done with those … but I have a problem. I used up the last of an old batch of poly on the drawer/door fronts. A new can of poly (same brand and type, but new) is going on the carcasses. Sadly, the fronts are a LOT yellower. Frantically different. I’m either going to have to live with it, or strip the finishes and start over. Right now, my vote is “live with it.” If I change my mind later, I’ll take the drawer fronts and door off, and redo them. Later. Much later.

*      *      *

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

Lance Cpl. Benjamin W. Tuttle, 19, of Gentry, Arkansas, died July 14 at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center following a medical evacuation from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), during a scheduled port visit in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

Staff Sgt. Sonny C. Zimmerman, 25, of Waynesfield, Ohio, died July 16, in Mushaka, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was attacked by a rocket propelled grenade.

Summer Doldrums

The heat and humidity have properly settled in, here in the formerly malarial DC Metro area. I’m trying not to let it slow me down. I took a few hours off work on Friday, and spent most of them working in the wood shop. I final-sanded all of the carcasses, drawer boxes, and fronts. Then I hauled all of those out into the “junk” area just outside my woodshop, so that I could clean the shop up.

Carcasses and boxes

Carcasses and boxes

I always build for a while, then clean massively before starting to apply finishes. It’s a bit of a pain, but it keeps the shop cleaner than it might otherwise be. I draped the saw, and started painting the drawer/door fronts.

Saturday, I continued with the finishing at intervals, but spent most of the morning and early afternoon hours doing yardwork – weeding and lawns, front and back. The best news from that angle? Starting to be some proper joy in the back yard, Tomatoes!

Finally: 2013 Tomatoes

Finally: 2013 Tomatoes

With such a late start to the planting this year, I guess I’m not surprised that we’re only getting tomatoes out starting in mid-July … but only cherry tomatoes so far, not even a hint of red in anything big enough to start making salsa or red sauce with. Sad face. By evening, we had a big storm blow through, and when it was done, we didn’t have phone or Internet service. TV, yes. Same pipe for all three, but #WTF! A long phone call and a bunch of power-cycle events later, the VZ bloke determined a truck roll was necessary, but that wouldn’t be happening until Monday.

Hmmmm. I’m on call, AND I have weekend production system patching that needs doing! I sloughed off the on call status to my boss, and shed Saturday night’s patch and reboot onto the junior admin. I then set my alarm for 0615, and was at work by 0700 this morning, patching the rest of the systems that needed attention. Back home, a spot of breakfast, then off to the shopping. By the time I was home again, and down applying coats of poly in the shop, when I heard the house phone ring. Huh? I looked in my wiring closet, and the WAN link was back on my router. I called. VZ didn’t have an explanation for how they were able to remotely fix a problem that had needed a truck roll twelve hours before … but I’m just happy to have comms and connectivity back.

The balance of today was spent cooking a big pot of chili (serrano and habanero chilies from the garden for that), and alternately sanding then overcoating with poly for the drawer/door fronts.

Finishing up door/drawer fronts

Finishing up door/drawer fronts

I still have to distress those, and apply a bit of tactical staining, but they’re nearly done. By Tuesday I should be able to start applying finish to the boxes, and those don’t need a lot. It’s times like this that I wish I had enough room for a spray booth.

*      *      *

In yet more pleasant news, I have no new casualty reports to pass on from the DoD news release site. Still, it’s a good moment to stop and think about the dedication and resolve that our fighting men and women out at the pointy end of the stick display as they face the world on our behalf. You do us proud!