greatbear: (old graybeard)
So, frustration has been the key work in recent days. No real improvement in pain levels or mobility, so it looks like this week I push on to the next level. One thing for certain, between pain and pills, my body chemistry and rhythm are fucked up again, I can't sleep at night, and I try going through the day until I start dozing off in the middle of whatever I'm doing. The narcotic pain killers help me to get some sleep beyond what is comfortable or sensible. Not getting a lot of exercise day in and day out leaves me with lots of unusable energy. Rather than climb the walls, I find little things to pass the time and feel useful. Even this has a special little bothersome horror for my brain. You guessed it, it makes me want to do more stuff. lol

I've been taking some time to organize video and music I have stored on the servers here. Keeping with a method I've had for decades, a drive on the server acts as a repository for all my digital music. About 8 years ago when I built the current server, I loaded it with a half dozen 1 terabyte drives. Seemingly huge at the time, most of them are now at or near capacity. The drive containing the well-sorted music held on the longest, but last night while adding several dozen more albums and artists into the heap, I finally get a notice from the server saying the drive only has about 50GB left. I anticipated this about a year ago, I bought a 2TB drive as a replacement. The current drive is being backed up as I write this, then all the data from the current drive will be copied onto the new drive, I will then swap the drives and put the old one in a safe place as a backup. It will take me what will hopefully be a long time to fill the new drive, after all, it's only music. Granted, I am dropping bigger and bigger files on it, everything is high bitrate mp3 or better, with lots of lossless and high res 24 bit/192kHz these days, the latter being a few gigs just for one album at times. When the new drive gets to be too small, I repeat the process. There's no practical way to make offline backups for a terabyte or more of data other than stockpiling drives. I have a separate server that is tasked solely with automatic backups of data stored on most of the PCs here, and I have begun the rely on two NAS units with lots of capacity to hold online backups of the backups as well.

As I was sitting uncomfortably in the Mayhem Lab where all this IT infrastructure quietly hides, I've also realized that I am maxing out some of the electrical circuits I put into the space. This was inevitable too. When I built La Casa back in '88, I slightly raised eyebrows at the electric company when I specified a 400 amp service for the house and garage. This is split between the house and garage, with each having a 200 amp, 42-slot breaker panel. Before the house was completed, because of the all-electric nature of the house (no gas, water or sewer were available) the breaker panel in the house was not enough to hold all the circuits, so an additional subpanel was needed. As I added more goodies to the house and built the workshop in the basement as well as the lab, I tore out the little box that held ten circuits and put in a 20 space panel. The workshop, with the woodworking machines and lots of outlets and other goodies got its own dedicated 20 slot box as well. My plans are to add two more 20amp circuits to the lab, plus a new lighting circuit for the basement. Problem is, I have only two spaces left for three circuits in the main house panels. Soooo, my little lab wiring update will force me to pull out the 20 slot panel and install a second 42 slot in its place. There is a method to this madness as well, since I plan on installing a backup generator as well as solar electric panels in the not too distant future. By juggling the electrical loads between the panels, I can segregate the critical loads (lighting, water pumps, fridges and freezers, the lab and the like from the unnecessary heavy draw items like the heat pumps & A/C, electric heaters and other things that don't need to be run off the generator. This, along with other means of performing "load shedding" lets me have better control of what gets critical power in order to make the best use of it and lower costs. This sort of thing is actually fun for me, and despite having an electrical service more befitting small industry, our electric bills are not that outrageous as one would think. It also adds to my sense of security in cases of emergencies and really bad weather. Like all too many things, I take the electrical installations here very seriously. I use commercial/industrial rated components, and the seemingly excessive numbers of individual electric circuits is done in order to prevent any possible overloading of the individual branches, and to prevent a tripped circuit from causing an unexpected issue. For one example, the branch circuit the feeds the two freezers in the basement was also shared with a pair of infrared heaters in the bathrooms. The branch was sized accordingly, and was never going to be overloaded even if both freezers were running along with the heaters. One day the bulb burned out, and given the bulb's 250 watt rating, it went with a huge flash. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it also tripped the breaker. It took me a while until I found water on the floor in front of the freezers and the food in danger of soon thawing out. Luckily I saw this in time, reset the breaker, then eventually moved the heaters and freezers to their own dedicated branches. In the case of the lab, the computers, servers, etc are on one of two dedicated lab circuits I put in, along with a separate lighting circuit, a shared electric heating circuit and a 120/240 volt special purpose outlet. As my relatively tiny 10x12ft lab accumulated more and more test equipment and other goodies, the two branches have become maxed out. I have some specialized soldering equipment that takes a lot of power when in use, an infrared heating table takes 16 amps just by itself, the hot air reflow unit is 7 amps, a heat gun I use along with all that is 13 amps, and this isn't counting all the test equipment, extra lighting and the surround sound system with subwoofer that is often playing while I am working. The little room gets hot in a hurry, so fans are needed. I am trying to figure out how to install some sort of air conditioning to all of this as well. As you can see, when I get into something, I go all out. :)

Maybe I am just more than a little bit strange, but this is also my way of building a nice place for the two of us to enjoy our myriad pursuits as we close in on retirement age. I want a lot of this done so I can cruise along and not have to worry about anything done half-assed. I've done a lot of involved work over the years, with the eventual result being able to forget about the work and just use it in day to day life. For example, I did a large amount of plumbing upgrades a few years back. I "built in" many means for any future updates if needed. Adding solar water heat, for example, is all about installing the system and connecting two pipes to what currently exists. If a filter, water heater, softener or other major component needs to be replaced or worked on, flipping a few valve levers lets the water stay on and uninterrupted while the problem piece gets removed. The modular nature of a lot of the work I did over the years has been paying off later on. All the climbing around now will make life easier when I am older and unable to deal with it like in my younger days. Sadly, I've been getting a lot of previews as to what that sort of life is going to be like. I just wish my body would stay together to let me get the work done so I can have my enjoyment later. One big plan that vein is an extension of the deck by the sunroom and the installation of a hot tub/spa, something I was hoping to complete in the next couple years. The funny thing is, technology and materials are finally catching up to a lot of the ideas I had many years ago. I never finished the sunroom remodel due to health reasons. Part of that involved hidden lighting and automatic shades. Back then it was not easily done, but now it will be something that will integrate perfectly into bits and pieces I've been adding this year. It's also more efficient and connected than ever. The geek in me is having a lot of fun with it all.

I sometimes feel as if I am in some sort of race, one to make life simple later on with some concerted effort now. These health/injury setbacks become extremely frustrating. I am getting a taste of the payoff, but the goal isn't reached yet. Life keeps teasing and testing me at the wrong time.
greatbear: (me and mom)
For someone who has problems getting around and has to work on anything that involves standing or exertion on a 15 minute on/15 minute off work cycle, I seem to have quite a few irons in the fire. The door project spawned several concurrent sub-projects, which was actually planned for the most part. What wasn't necessarily planned was how many sub-projects ended up being spawned from this main one. The good news is I am finally putting to use a lot of the supplies I had gotten in the past. The only thing I could say that is bad about it is slows down the individual pieces of the puzzle as a whole. I don't mind this in the least, because the concurrent bits are taking less time by far than if they were done piecemeal. I brainstorm along the way, and discover ways to make things work better and build-in paths for future upgrades and easier maintenance. For example, I've had an alarm system for the house I bought all the way back around 1995. I'm finally installing it. I hid the sensor for the door in the frame, and ran the cabling for it since I had the wall apart. Yesterday I hid a conduit in the closet so I had an easy way to run wiring from the basement (where all the brains are) into the attic. So today I was able to connect the little dome camera above the door into the switches in the basement in record time. I should've done this years ago. I gave it a test run tonight, and I am beyond pleased. I have full-HD, 3-megapixel, bulbous video:

The camera does not have "night vision" using infrared LEDs as an invisible floodlight. But the automation system will turn on the light above the door as someone approaches, and if things are set to do so, a pic can be taken and sent to wherever I am, and this also starts a video recording. If it's someone I know, and they need to get into the house, I can unlock the door from across the country (or planet, for that matter, wherever I can get interwebs) and lock it when they leave. It has been a lot of fun messing with this stuff. I do the noisy work during the day, and when Jeff hits the sack early in order to get up a 0dark30, I can quietly fiddle with the electronic end of it. While everything does tie together in one way or another, if the automation were to go on the fritz, everything can work manually, and life is the same as it usually is. Having had unfortunate delays for years that kept me from doing these things earlier meant that technology has improved immensely, and not only is this sort of stuff mure capable and reliable, it's much easier to install and integrate.

Things weren't all peaches and cream, though. I hopped into the MINI to run a couple errands and I noticed the passenger's seat was wet. I then noticed the window was slightly open. Okay, no biggie, it's been raining like crazy lately, close the window. All it did was squeak and move a a fraction of an inch. I tried to lower it, and it went maybe an inch at best. Then it wouldn't go back up. Even wrestling with the glass didn't help much. So, now I have an unexpected little project. Strange that it's the passenger's side, which doesn't get used nearly as much. This also makes i the first real problem I've had with that car in over 11 years. I did have some minor problems when I first got the car that were taken care of under warranty, and last year I replaced the speakers because the ones in front failed. So today I have been drying out the car and will look into it during the weekend. Most likely it's the window lift mechanism. I would have simply parked the car on the carport where it normally sits off season to keep the rain out until I can fix it later, but the trailer is parked in the way. I'd rather fix it and be done with it.

The one thing that really took the wind out of my sails happened the other day. Since I needed to get into the entryway closet to not only install the conduit, but also do some serious cleaning and prep for the new floor. Inside the closet was a few of Mom's coats, most of which ones that I had yet to find a good home for. One of them was one I was keeping, it was a mink-trimmed coat she had gotten around 1970. She was very proud of this coat, since we were not well-to-do in my earlier years, she had scrimped and saved to buy this one thing to make her feel a bit more elegant. When I pulled the coat out, I noticed a hole. My first thought was that moths had gotten in and chewed on it. Upon further inspection I found the right sleeve has been totally destroyed by a mouse, who nested in it and chewed away the better part of the sleeve and even some of the fur trim. I completely lost it. I wanted to just throw everything away at that point. After a while I regained a bit of composure, but my will was shot and my enthusiasm for the projects was dashed. There is absolutely no hope for the old coat now, so I will cut off the remaining fur trimmings and toss the rest. I've had a fair share of "physical memories" like this ruined over the years, mostly from outside forces. And it reopens old wounds, puts me mentally is a dark, cold place, and my willingness to be outgoing and to do things becomes impossible. I eventually recover, but momentum is slow to build once again.

I am hoping that progress and my limited mobility keep improving, or at least maintain their current state. We have a lot of plans and trips for the very near future, and Jeff needs a huge break too. My work is giving me pleasure for the most part, and we could use some downtime fun.

In the spirit of my 2.8mm wiiide-angle view, it seems ol' Homestarrunner and gang are back for the first time since 2008 with a new cartoon.

Happy weekend, everyone!
greatbear: (tools)
I've been scarce around these parts. I've been preoccupied with a lot of different things lately. When I last left LJ-land, I had posted how I had finally brought my new front door home after weeks of waiting for it to be built and shipped. I was anxious to start the installation, but rather than putting on my tool belt and kicking butt, instead we took some time off for much needed rest and headed out to the Eastern Shore of MD and did some camping at Elk Neck State Park, along with some friends we had made this year in PTown. We got two adjoining campsites so we could be neighbors. While they had camped at the site before (and recommended it to us), we hadn't, and were very pleasantly surprised at the calm beauty of the area, despite there being a lot of families camping that weekend. The sites had lots of space between, and the area was wonderfully wooded with tall trees, with the whole shebang nestled along the Chesapeake Bay. Camping in this sort of setting takes me back to my early childhood, and I feel a warm comfort in that environment. Couple that with our friends and some of the most perfect weather and you have the recipe for pure relaxation. The pooches loved it, and they too had their own four-legged friends to socialize with, as our camping buds brought along their two Italian Greyhounds. We went for a little excursion to the adjoining little town of North East on Saturday, where we found delightful little artsy shops, antique stores and quirky eateries (I know, how gay) among the friendly locals and visitors. Jeff and I decided to put our newly discovered campgrounds on the short list of ideal getaway places. At about 80 miles from home, it's far enough to feel like we had traveled a good bit, yet not so far that too much of the event is taken up by driving. We will be be doing a bit more "vacationing locally" as a means of getting to know the more immediate areas and what they had to offer, with the added bonus of being a cheap means to have fun.

The week that followed I had gone out for the rest of the supplies needed to install the door, and I also ordered more of the pieces to build the home automation system. I began removing trim and other parts to take out the old door and frame, then with the help of our local friend, Wednesday when Jeff came home I tore out the old door and the three of us maneuvered the old one out and muscled the (much heavier) new assembly in. I temporarily affixed it in place to keep the weather out and the dogs in, we enjoyed some dinner later in the evening. The following days I positioned, shimmed and adjusted the door to close and seal properly, trimmed the door out on the exterior, sealed and caulked and installed the keyless lockset. That weekend we went to PA for our monthly visit to Jeff's parents. This week I began the electric work, installing a new inside lighting fixture in the style of the new door glass, and installing the devices for the automation and control. Part of this involved tearing apart a portion of a wall next to the door and reworking some of the electrical wiring inside. That wall hid something that had been bothering me for 25 years. When the electricians that initially wired the house before the drywallers closed everything up, they had forgotten a short run of cable between to electric boxes. This resulted in the forward part of the living room having no power to the outlets. To fix this, they had popped holes in the two adjoining boxes and fished a cable between them. I never knew how they had fixed the issue until several years later when I had taken out a light switch to install a dimmer and found a huge chunk of the plastic electric box missing and a cable spliced inside. While I had the wall open I replaced the boxes, the hacked-in wiring and added space for three controls. Two of them directly control the light outside the door and the inside light in the entryway. The third space in the box will have a "scene controller" that will operate several outside lights located all around the house from one location. Pressing a single button begins a programmed process that can, say, turn all the outside lights on at full brightness, useful if we have company or we are doing work outside at night. Other buttons can turn on and off various combinations of inside and outside lights before leaving the house or returning, or turning all the outside lights off and setting the one outside the front door to a very dim setting before going to bed. All of this is part of a Z-Wave remote control protocol that integrates with the home automation system. It's already programmed to turn on a few inside lights at a low setting early in the morning when Jeff is getting ready and leaves for work, whereupon it shuts them all off until the next weekday. Now the outside lights can come on as well, since he leaves when it's still dark. The system can control existing remotely operated lights and appliances here, along with the Nest thermostats, the home theater receivers, alarm system, and lots of future items I have planned. Best of all, I can control it all remotely via the internet either with a PC or smartphone from anywhere. I can make sure the door is locked, open it if a friend needs to be let in while we are away, turn lights on and off, you name it. The system can grow as I need it to. It's a very practical system, and all the devices and appliances can work manually as if there was no profound technology behind it all. It's also a fun way to seriously get my geek on.

In coming days I will close the wall back up, spackle and finish the drywall, then install the interior trim around the door. I also want to take out the 25+ year old vinyl floor and put in some nice ceramic or marble tile. After that is done, I will move onto the living room, finally creating the light shafts for the skylights I installed in the roof four years ago, then begin the somewhat major reworking of the living room and dining room areas. I want to split the living room into two separate areas rather than the oddly shaped, somewhat amorphous "great room" it is currently. New carpeting and flooring will go in at this point. Then onto the sunroom, where I can finally finish the relatively small amount of work left over from where I started on that room about ten years ago. All of this will be a good winter/indoor project as the seasons change.

Those that know me well are quite aware of the wildcard in all of this, and that's my overall health and my back and nerve issues I am constantly dealing with. While I have been busting all manner of ass lately, it has been far slower than I am usually able to do such work. I can get maybe a half hour of good working time before I have to stop, sit down, and take the load off my lower back and recover. If I go for longer than that amount of time, or I have to do much in the way of twisting, or standing in one spot, the pain begins to appear then fogs my concentration. I get angry, the quality begins to suffer, and I will go totally aggro if things are not coming together as I want them to. Tools get tossed about, cursing begins, dogs hide under beds, and progress becomes more halting and drawn out. So far I've managed to keep up pace, but I have to force myself to quit while I'm ahead, as it were, before things start to crumble. So far, I've been lucky that I haven't had any major setbacks (yet) and I've learned to stop work despite the urge to keep going when things are going well. That last part is a doozy for me.

This is what the entryway looks like currently. If I manage to get all the other work done I described above without (much) incident, and some other, more pressing things get done, I want to take out the aluminum vertical siding that is currently there and replace it with some form of brick, slate or stone. but for now, I am happy, hell, giddy that I got this far. It's taking more time and much more effort than I am used to, but it's still me doing all the work and doing what I love to do. Now, if my increasingly old body can keep from falling apart at the same increasing pace, I will be a rather happy dude.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today is Jeff's birthday. Together we are over 104 years old. I feel every bit of those years too. To celebrate, I took Jeff to Outback Steakhouse (g'day, crikey, fair dinkum, crocs, you call that a knife and all that stuff). On our way home he got a call out of the blue from a former coworker he was very good friends with. Hearing them catching up and recollecting old times and seeing the smile on his face was a treat. I seriously ate too much, and in the last few days, I've been eating more beef than in a long time.

I had gotten him a new bicycle as a birthday gift, his old one was never fun for him to ride, as the frame size was too small. I took him to a "real" bicycle shop where I had gotten mine and we looked at a few and tried a couple out. He came back from a test drive of the one I picked out after a very short ride and said he loved it. It's a GT "comfort" or "hybrid" bike, essentially the frame, gearing and components of a mountain bike, but with less knobby and overall softer tires. It also has 29" wheels, better able to deal with bumps and other hazards. I got a pannier rack delivered today for it as well, and put that on while Jeff was talking to his dad. Our bikes will be the primary mode of transportation when we head up to PTown in July. I can't walk for any distance at all in my condition, but as has been the case with this back ordeal, I can get around quite well on a bike. Jeff's old ride was not comfortable for him, this time I think we'll truly be set.

I've been offline as far as social media goes while I tend to personal issues as well as computer troubles. the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that powers my primary computer went bonkers a while back. The malfunction made everything plugged into it go on and off like a car's turn signal. Other than perhaps dropping a computer into sea water or hurling it from a cliff, cycling the power is one of the worst things that you can do to it. Consequently, the hard drives were scrambled, the BIOS corrupted, and a few other minor bits of hardware were hosed. While I had mostly current backups of files, all of my current work, saved web pages, and the like were all unavailable. So I had to stumble around on one of the other PCs for a while as I worked on the beast machine in the studio. It's back, but it has some corrupted registry entries and other annoying problems (Photoshop registration got borked, Windows update doesn't function, some other software is screwed up in odd ways, and the like). A while back I had taken the original main hard drive out and replaced it with a nice, big 1TB SSD. This SSD is what got beat up by the UPS, but it was not physically damaged. The original drive has been hiding safely in the Underground Lab of Mayhem, I can simply make a copy of it again, but only after I get through some stuff. The copy would put the PC back to December of last year, when I did the upgrade. There are more computer stories to tell, but I'll save that for some other time.

Jeff has been busting his ass doing work in the yard, and it shows. The flower beds, rose garden and other areas are looking better than they have in years. I wish I could be more help with that, but the required stopping and bending is just too painful. I managed to do some serious suspension work and other maintenance on Jeff's truck last weekend, a friend came over and basically gophered tools and parts while I did the work. This saved me from having to constantly get up and down. I have to do the same on my old Stratus, but I will wait until after the wedding. It does need rear brakes, so those will most likely get done this weekend, it's only about a 45 minute job. Safety first.

As more aspects of our big wedding day begin to coalesce, the two of us are excited as well as still in a bit of a panic mode. It's less than a month away, and there's still a ton of stuff to get done. This is where I'm glad I'm stuck at home. I just wish I was able to do more. Having my back fail again was the worst thing to happen that I was worrying about, and loading up with narcotics to control the pain has the unfortunate side effect of scrambling my thoughts much like the hard drives in that PC. I lose track of time, forget what day it is, and forget things while I am having conversations. Even writing this entry is a chore, and this is one of the prime reasons for me hiding from the world. I just hope this is not a sign of something more serous. Given my luck of late, it's quite possible. But I refuse to let anything get in the way of our big day.
greatbear: (forearms)
(Caution: electronics geekery ahead, if that ain't yer bag, skip to your next post)

Planned obsolescence? It's alive and well, even if it wasn't intentional.

Once again, out of the blue, I notice that a speaker has gone bad, this time in a portable TV set. The little set has a pair of them, the right channel was dead.

This in the third speaker that has failed in the fashion, and I've had hard drives and a tiny DC motor fail in the same way rather recently. What do these all have in common? Magnets. Small permanent magnets. And in all these situations, the magnets were all "rare earth" neodymium magnets. I love me some neodymium magnets. Tiny, strong as shit, make so many things more efficient, lighter and more powerful, blah blah blah. In my latest repair job, I noticed my little 9" Panasonic combo TV/DVD player was missing the right channel (don't laugh, this tiny set, which I used to take camping, is the third most-watched set in the house, it sits atop my studio/AV workstation desk, along with a DTV converter box to make it usable). The right channel was a scratchy, low volume mess typical of a stuck voice coil. This time, I had a pretty good idea what was going on, as I had replaced two speakers in two completely unrelated radios with the same problem. It's not as if I was blaring these sets at full volume or otherwise misusing them, quite the opposite, in fact, these devices are taken good care of.

In all these units, the speakers resemble those old-school alnico magnet speakers you'd find in any one of a bazillion transistor radios from decades past. These have the advantage of having a small magnet structure that is self-shielding. But rather than the slug of alnico making up the magnet inside the cup, these speakers now use a neodymium disk magnet along with a similar-sized pole piece atop the magnet to concentrate the field in the gap. What look like cheap little speakers are instead rather efficient and make strong sound from rather small amplifiers. These speakers have decent power ratings for their size (the TV ones are rated 1W, the radios were 3W, all speakers from different makers were 3") and belt out reasonable sound for what they are. What seems to be the trouble with all this cheapass speaker goodness? Neodymium magnets have a coating, in most cases a shiny metallic silver nickel or ceramic coating. Typical strontium magnets, those dark grey disks sandwiched between two pole pieces, are almost never coated. The material is inert, after all. The neodymium material, which is actually an alloy of neodymium, boron and iron, pulverized into a fine powder and sintered (pressed together and heated with a bonding agent) corrodes easily when exposed to air. These magnets are sealed to prevent this from happening. Well, such is the case in a perfect world...

Apparently these magnets had little if no coating to seal out the air, and it didn't take long for these magnets to revert to their original pulverized metal components. The magnets literally turn to dust, filling the magnetic gap with magnetic powder and jamming the voice coils in place. Of course, the mushy remains of the magnet become unbonded from the structures and flop around in the gap as well, freezing the VC even tighter. Nothing looks wrong with the speaker from the outside. Cutting out the cone, spider and coil, and lifting out the remains of the magnets reveal all. The magnet resembles a half-dissolved metallic aspirin sitting in a puddle of water.

Another pic of the entire speaker taken apart )

I was able to root around in my stock of parts and find a decent pair of magnetically shielded 3" speakers to replace the ones in the television (though they just fit, being that the magnets were ten times the size of the originals) and everything worked out well and cheap (as in free), since I harvested the little speakers from a set of PC speakers I was discarding. I've also discovered it's damn near impossible to find these small commodity speakers that used to hand on the walls at the local Radio Shack for years until around 2000 or so. Even my usual parts suppliers don't bother with them anymore.

Think of all the stuff made with neodymium magnets these days. Anything with a hard drive. Many modern cordless power tools. Headphones, cell phones. anything with a motor, like DVD players. Motors like the starter in cars. You name it. This set is about ten years old, and the magnets died. In a couple cases where I had magnetic flashlights with these disk magnets, the coating became scratched and the magnet corroded in a matter of months.The dust is highly magnetic and can end up in places where it might not be wanted and difficult if not impossible to remove. Some older hard rives became unusable, and when I opened them up, the magnets were toast.

I have a feeling this is going to be a widespread problem. But, hey, since no one keeps anything beyond ten years anymore, it will just end up being tossed anyway. I'm not like that. In most cases, I keep stuff a long time, especially tools.

And you thought Juggalos had issues with magnets.
greatbear: (forearms)
Being a professional crastinator of epic proportions at times, I waited until the last minute to file my taxes, given that I have had to pay sizable amounts in the past since being off work and pulling funds from locked-away accounts. Because of some changes, plus the expensive surgeries and other medical bills from last year, I instead found I am getting a sizable refund. I would've so turned that shit in back in January had I known. That's a w00t.

I finished up more network cabling and installed the super-duper wi-fi access point tonight after climbing about in the attic, lifting the floor up there to run the remaining cabling (the AP needs two Cat6 runs just for it's own bandwidth) and it is now in place with the potential for gigabit-plus speeds wirelessly. That's a w00t.

Jeff and I had a nice steak dinner tonight. So far, my tummy troubles of late have eased enough for me to enjoy a meal with some substantial red meat for a change. That's a w00t.

The weather looks to be on track to be nice enough to finally get some work done outside. I got yard work to continue with, plus the usual springtime maintenance of the vehicle fleet and outdoor equipment, and a heavily laden trip to the landfill/recycling center that was put off since before last September. That's a w00t.

The aforementioned tax refund will be put toward the new front door and entryway renovation/upgrade, plus a business class color laser printer/copier/scanner/fax, as well as costs for the upcoming wedding. I hope my back and general health hold out. I guess that's a w00t too.
greatbear: (old graybeard)
Earlier in the week I pulled the plug on my LJ. I had mostly run out of uses for this, and, to be honest, no longer felt the need to have an outlet for what I would call "personal" matters and discussion with the internet in general. It has been about 20 years (!) since I had ventured out onto the internet in a personal capacity, rather than a technical/professional way for work reasons. It took a lot of courage on my part to make that change, and it wasn't long before I was pouring my heart into online interactions, making literally hundreds of friends along the way, even enjoying a bit of both figurative and literal rock star status along the way. I soon learned that much of this was fleeting, with the vast majority of people eventually moving on, leaving what I thought was some incredible friendships, relationships and great causes to founder and die. Perhaps it was the value I had placed in these relationships, or my investment in them, emotionally, mentally and physically, that left me not only disappointed but also feeling left behind once they had evaporated. It took a while, because for the 32 years prior I had been very much a loner until that time, but I learned to reconsider the experience as more of a crucible, or distillery that helped to separate out the fleeting and leaving the best behind. Maybe more like how maple syrup is made I suppose, where it takes a great deal of sap to be carefully boiled until the sweet syrup remains. What came out of these hundreds of fun (for the most part) interactions and countless good (with a bit of bad) memories is a sparkling core of truly great friends, that to this day still amaze me with some of their actions. I sought to leave my online world as I had formed to to simply concentrate on the product from it. After a couple days (I bet you didn't even notice) I switched this back on, not so much as a continuing place for me to pile my thoughts, but for the few remaining people I know and love who remain here. Without my LJ being active, I had no way to interact with y'all. My analogy is this is like a small town of bygone days where people would run into one another while out and about, or take the time to walk from house to house to say hello and talk over the fence. I guess I can't board up my place yet still remain neighborly, given how this system is set up.

This is not the Livejournal I set up shop in over ten years ago. Like so many other online "spaces" in the past, what began for me as a thriving community has become rather barren. Those who remain, however, and still making great use of the medium, and maintaining fantastic connections. What skeeves me these days is the reduction in quality of the service, the politics of the Russian owners and general disregard for the stateside users that really made the community what it is. The latest technical hell here is the never completing page loads. Sure, the pages seem to render properly and mostly stuff works, but some connections never complete, with the page loading indicator spinning away. This is often a sign of bad server configurations, and sometimes of a more dangerous nature, with open connections lying in wait for malware or other bad mojo. This has been going on for a few weeks now on my end, regardless of what computer or connection I access the site with. Aargh. Oh well, the neighborhood falls apart even more, the landowners letting the place fall apart around the remaining denizens.

I will keep my door open for a little while longer, I guess, at least until the wedding and a bit after. Then, well, we'll see. These days I am busy with as much as my day can hold, trying to get the house and yard fixed up, putting the final touches on a huge network upgrade to accommodate new home security and automation now and be usable into the foreseeable future. La Casa Mayhem is my only true home, I built it with my hands as well as a lot of outside help, and I plan on living the rest of my years here. As my health has taken several downturns in recent years, I now have a sense of urgency to get lots of things done while I am still able to do them in order to be able to have some years later to relax and simply enjoy the spoils of all that labor and thought. I am lucky to be able to (sometimes barely) be able to get around, and I am measuring my time wisely. With the wedding coming up in less three months (!) now, I gotta kick it into high gear. I am overlapping projects to my best advantage. I will be redoing the entryway to the house, with a new front door, paint, floor, lighting, landscaping, and more. I am sitting here configuring and testing security cameras I will be installing while I crawl around doing these other upgrades. Several hundred more feet of network cabling has to be installed too, and I am pleased with how this all is shaping up. In the spirit of the days past, here's a photo of the goings-on as I test one of the cameras down in the Underground Concrete Bunker before I finally get it put where it belongs on the outside.

I just hope my creaky old body holds up as I do all this work, if not, I am truly screwed. Our little wedding is shaping up to be a big deal. Certainly it's the most important day of my life in decades. I can only hope all turns out as we are working and planning it out to be.

Seeyas 'round.
greatbear: (forearms)
Trying to make the best of my unwilling homebody-ness, I've taken the opportunity to do some upgrading of my implements of computing and music, and in this case, there's a lot of overlap. Last year I replaced the troublesome Onkyo receiver with, well, another Onkyo. I have to admit that the company treated me well, repairing the unit twice well outside of warranty at no cost to me. If I had to do it, it would've needed a board that costs about a grand. I got the latest model (TX-NR5010) because it fit a bit better into the overall use I wanted for the home theater, and the old 5007 will become the center of a second system downstairs. All I need to do is haul away a metric cubic shit-tonne of junk down there and reclaim the space. The studio setup got its final upgrade with the Mackie monitors and audio controller. That was years in the making, and I decided it was time to finish it off and begin making the best use of the equipment. A lot of time and a fair amount of money sent on the enjoyment of music. If it seems a bit sudden it's because I honestly feel I don't have many good years left to truly enjoy music as I know it. My hearing is slowly failing, and apparently as my body falls apart in other ways, the treatments for those ailments have a nasty side effect on my hearing. So, rather than suffer in silence, I will keep listening until I can no longer listen. I might go deaf next week, or it will be several years, but that part of my life will apparently have a soundtrack. In addition to satisfying my urges as a long-time audiophile and a (sadly, lapsed) musician by doing this at the homestead, Jeff and I will continue to head off to concerts, shows, performances of all sorts. It is so good for the soul, after all.

I've also taken on the needed upgrades for some of the computers and especially the rather involved network that ties it all together. A few years ago the LAN got upgraded to gigabit ethernet in order to handle the high-definition video and audio flying around the cables, and I eventually began running into problems as to where to keep all this digital goodness. I demoted my main server to file server duties, and today installed a Synology 8-bay NAS to handle both the backing up of the various PCs on the network as well as the main repository of the various media. I threw a pair of 4TB drives in it to start with, and it's running nicely. The NAS has a total of 4 gigabit LAN ports that can be aggregated for a fourfold increase in throughput. The main file server as well as my monster Xeon workstation have paired LAN ports, and I need to add another switch eventually to handle all the cables. I knew I should've gotten more than a 24-port switch. I will get another, similar switch and heap all the high-bandwidth stuff on it, and team two or three ports between switches as a trunk to handle the traffic. It should be able to handle 4K video without trouble. Beyond that, I doubt if I will need much more. Unless the thing becomes sentient and starts making demands, that is.

This weekend is special here in the Land o' Mayhem, and I'm gonna be a happy chappy with having a 4-day weekend with Jeff. It's Groundhog Day, after all, and we do some celebrating. I hope to make the best of it.
greatbear: (walken)
I'm currently sitting in the bowels of Ice Station Mayhem watching the temperature outside drop with every glance at the thermometer. It's currently 4 degrees F, and still steadily dropping. The house is toasty warm, with the woodstove working at near blast furnace levels thanks to the howling winds outside causing the flue to draw like crazy and fanning the fire. I have the electric heater on in the basement workshop where I was prior, and here in the infrastructure bunker the computers alone have the otherwise unheated room at a balmy 84. I don't envy Jeff having to head out in the crackling cold at 5am, the temperature being predicted into the negatives possibly by then, and a high of a steamy 17 for our Tuesday. Brrr! My Russian heritage normally has me tolerating even rather extreme cold, but ever since my first back surgery, it's taken a while for me to regain that tolerance while recovering. Add in creeping old age, and I prefer warmth more than ever. I have another round of PT tomorrow afternoon, so I can shake my cane at Old Man Winter if necessary.

Warning, extreme geekery ahead! Danger! Introspection! )
greatbear: (Default)
Today's Google Doodle in honor of Alan Turing has been keeping me from doing more important stuff around the house. Anyone with an interest in the earliest computational devices (or puzzle fans for that matter) needs to spend some time trying to figure it out. Highly addicting!
greatbear: (four cycle)
...for a good old-fashioned valve job. Actually it is also a head job but I didn't want some of you to get the wrong ideas. ;)

The weather here has been nothing short of amazing, and it has become time to start working in the yard, especially catching up from the last few years of disabilities. Last weekend Jeff and I cleaned up a corner of the yard, cutting down trees wrecked by winter weather as well as weeds, vines and brush. Trees became firewood, will become mulch soon, and the brush and trash became a large bonfire. The area looks good, but is only partially done. Hey, I'll take results like this any day.

With weather being warm so early, we will attempt that old farmer's ritual of getting the potatoes in the ground on St. Patrick's Day. To that end, I got the big rototiller out and fired it up the other day. Or tried to, unsuccessfully. Seems the carburetor got fouled up and it wouldn't stay running without the choke set. No big deal, I picked up a carb kit and tore into the thing for the first time, having had no prior trouble with it since buying it new in 1990. With gas being as shitty as it is these days, I honestly expected this problem to show up sooner. There was crud in the float bowl and clogged passages. Some time with cleaners, compressed air and some TLC, it was done and good as new. Later that day I got into the garden and scratched up the soil to mix in the leaves I dumped in there from last fall. The tiller was kinda down on power despite the rather easy task it had, so back to the garage for some more checks. As the engine heated up the exhaust would sputter like a Catholic priest being questioned about altar boys. I suspected a burned exhaust valve and put the tiller away until today, when I did a leakdown test to confirm the problem, then I tore into the engine to make things good again.


More of the set is here.

It seems the valves were not burned yet, but the clearances were far too tight and the engine would sputter out the muffler the hotter it got. I did a valve job the same way it has been done since the early days. The valves were in decent shape, they got bead blasted and checked, the seats in the cylinder were checked, and I lapped the valves. Lapping involves smearing an abrasive grease onto the seats and the valve faces, then spinning them together with a tool made for the task. It's not unlike cavemen starting fires by spinning a stick. Lapping matches the valve faces to the seats and creates a perfect seal. I used coarse and fine lapping compounds. Some grinding had to be done to get the clearances right, once everything was set up properly, the head and cylinder gets de-carboned and cleaned, the valvetrain reassembled and checked once more. I need to run out and pick up some gaskets to complete the job, and the old Troy-Bilt will be good for at least another 20 years.

This little project, while unexpected, was not unwelcome. Despite always working on things here at Mayhem Acres, a project sometimes becomes a zen-like exercise in quiet concentration. This was one of those times. The tiller was down on power the last few times I used it, and I knew I was going to need to pay it some attention. Rather than approach this as drudgery, I took the opportunity to dig my little-used specialty tools from the back of the toolboxes, take the time to go through motions that still work on even the most modern engines despite the techniques being a couple hundred years old. I find an odd comfort working on low-tech engines and machinery like this. It's completely hands-on work, problems are found by touch, sight, hearing and smelling. There are no downloading of patches or flashing computers and control modules. A handful of basic tools, some time and nice weather made an otherwise humdrum mechanical exercise into a meditation. I can't wait to get the remaining parts and bring it back to life. Few things for me are as enjoyable as starting up an engine after some major work. Silly as it seems, it's my way of bringing things to life, I guess. And this tiller will get used to start the garden that will provide us with food, as I have been doing for decades.
greatbear: (me and mom)
Lately I've been engaging in some computer building and other related nerdery. The PC that got wrecked by the malware got a different hard drive and was nicely reborn as a workshop PC, and I actually bought my first desktop machine, as in one I did not assemble from parts. had a sale on refurbed business desktops, I picked up a cheap HP with minimal flash and glitz to use in the garage. For 149 bucks complete with Win 7 Home Premium, and a cheapass new keyboard and mouse thrown in, I figured what the hell. These PCs seemed to be all over the place at work, they go through life functioning quite reliably, and they get replaced with the latest 'n' greatest in a couple years. It's a five year old machine, ruggedly built and small. Hell, for all I know it came from my lab.

I have the reborn PC on the side cabinet on my basement workshop toolbox. The HP is in an identical situation out in the garage. While the purchased machine came with a kb and mouse, I needed to come up with something for the one downstairs. I didn't want to use anything fancy, the sawdust and dirt would take their toll in time. I was rummaging through my collection of still-usable computer junk and found a nondescript Microsoft optical mouse. This would work fine. I notice the green sticky dot that was affixed to the left mouse button and it gave me a bit of pause. Then it hit me. This had been the mouse that was attached to a PC that I put together for Mom many years ago. I had stuck the green dot on the left button as a reminder to her which of the buttons was the "main" one. She had gotten used to using the PC, but the dot remained. The PC was repurposed later on after she had died. Sitting there and staring at the cheap little mouse with the green dot, knowing what it had been used for, left me in a hollow, silent place for a bit of time. I got choked up, I stopped futzing with the computers for the night, I took the mouse with me, cleaned the dust and smudges from the time in storage, making it look new again. I left the green dot attached, still hanging on with its now dried-out adhesive. It's a nice little reminder.


Feb. 17th, 2012 01:15 am
greatbear: (Default)
I know a few people like this, some right here on good ol' LJ.

I had to say, this made me laugh, mainly because I notice such things myself.
greatbear: (forearms)
Mother Nature's "heavy flow days" continue to be a thorn in our side. While we remain high and somewhat dry, the garden languishes in a sea of weeds and tomatoes rotting on the vines. We will mount an attack to dig around and harvest the surviving veggies, then once it (eventually) dries up, till the spent stuff under and possibly throw a little bit of fall crops in.

Nature in its infinite wisdom in the form of a black snake has once again run afoul of the Basement of Serpent Doom. For the third time now, I notice a nasty smell hinting about. True to form, yet another snake managed to wriggle its way under the front porch and into the floor joists under the entryway. That area of the basement is unfinished (thankfully) and the joists have fiberglass insulation between them. This insulation is held in place with a plastic mesh netting. Said hapless snake tired to slide through one of the holes in the mesh and became ensnared. You can figure out the rest. I now once again have the displeasure of cutting out sections of fiberglass, insulation and rotten snake. I've found the spot in which the snake gets in under the concrete (I missed the chance of hauling it back out by the tail), so I will seal that up. What I can't locate, because of how the front porch is built, is the entry point into the basement. I now have an inspection camera, which is a tiny camera on the end of a flexible, well, snake that can get into dark tiny areas and return video of the trip. I will use this to suss out the breach of security and seal the area.

I think this also explains Kodi's outbursts of barking a while back. Out of the blue, Kodi would run into the living room barking like a fool. Perhaps the snake was bumping around under the floor and neither Jeff nor I heard, but Kodi might have. No outbursts for a while since.

This is not the only time that snakes have met their demise around here at the hand of the same plastic netting. The aforementioned mesh is the same stuff sold in garden shops that Mom and I used to keep birds and critters out of the berries we had been growing. I've had to cut away the netting to free snakes that became messily ensnared and tangled in the stuff. The snake's scaly skin glides wonderfully in a forward direction, but like a barbed fish hook, gets stuck trying to back out. The poor creatures were lucky when one of us were there checking out things in the garden and could free them. Not so when we had been away for a couple days. I found that the thrashing snakes became quite docile when they discovered they were being freed. The dead ones were deposited in the trash along with the mesh. Jeff and I are currently using the same stuff in the garden to keep wabbits out of the raised bed boxes. Luckily there have been no serpent encounters.

Jeff had been eagerly awaiting the day that Penn State would be playing Alabama (along with over a hundred thousand other fans) and managed to snag tix for the game. Mother Nature also is making this tough on us at the last minute, as flooding along the Susquehanna River and other waterways have caused the closing of numerous roads and bridges along our usual route. So, rather than heading up to his parent's place the night before, we will take a more westerly route tomorrow and try hopefully to avoid the closures and such. Maybe the waters will have receded a bit by then as well. We missed too many shows/games/concerts/events in the past few years due to many reasons (mostly medical, it seems), and it has to stop somewhere. I told Jeff I'll get him to this game if it kills me. :) Wish us luck (and maybe a solid route to travel).

I'm tearing up the studio as I revamp the studio PC and install a gorgeous new 30" Dell display. It's more a nest than a studio, with so much accumulated cruft crammed into nooks and crannies everywhere. Time to clean house. The PC I used as a backup can finally be put back in the garage. What was supposed to be temporary ended up being more than four years! The backup PC with its integrated graphics does not like the new monster display. The new one can handle six of them at once. Ah, to have that much desk space (and money!). lol

Jeff just got home and informed me that the closures and such have been lifted, so we are going to try our usual routes up. Good news for a change!
greatbear: (Default)
Yay! Power was finally restored a little before noon Thursday. I can finally give the generator a rest. The thing performed admirably, not skipping a beat unless I let it run out of fuel. I would gas it up while running, a no-no as far as safety goes, but I would have to foolishly dump fuel all over the thing to even begin flirting with disaster. The Mayhem Electric Company kept Jeff and I living large 'n' in charge. Odd (and comforting, in my case) seeing our house lit up among a sea of mostly pitch-dark houses and McMansions. As it stands, I didn't even have to touch any of the last batch of fuel we bought, so it will be put in storage as it always has been, maintained and circulated through the various power equipment here with plenty on hand for the occasional emergency.

This little exercise has taught me a bit about how to better handle an extended outage as well as given me some ideas for energy management in the future if/when I decide to install a solar assist/backup system. I have a smaller generator, but it burned out years ago, the big one works well for running the entire household at once, but tends to be inefficient and overkill during minimal use periods. Since I plan to get a decent little portable to take camping with us, I want to segregate "critical" circuits like those for the fridge and freezers and some lighting that can be used with a small, load-adjusting generator as well as a solar backup system. Since refrigerators/freezers do not run continuously, and lights get switched off at bedtime, a generator that adjusts its engine speed according to load will be able to run these critical items for an extended period of time, quietly and far more efficiently than my brute force method. A gallon of fuel can last the entire night. A farm across the road from me put in a huge array of solar panels this summer, quite easily enough to offset much of the electricity used by their dairy and turkey operations during a sunny day. One day I will visit and ask them about their incredible setup. I need to take pictures. Jeff and I will be picking up a "solar powered turkey" for T-Day.

Anyway, I can now sleep in relative peace. In more ways than one.
greatbear: (fucking painting trees)
Thanks to Irene, the hurricane that so many poo-poo for not being intense enough, I am still without electricity. Well, at least that which I am not creating myself. This is by far the longest I have been without power since I built this place 23 years ago. Ice storms, hurricanes, etc, the longest I can remember being three days. When I contacted the electric company they could not give me a definite answer other than Friday before 11:30am. Despite there being minimum damage in my own yard, further down the road there is a large tree pulling the old, shabby lines down. Also, the main trouble spot of the area where the road (and the utility lines on short poles) wend their way through a little valley lined with old, tall trees. Almost every major storm drops at least one tree, either in the road, into the wires, or harmlessly into one another. That area is a mess at the moment, with at least five large trees supported over the road by the electric wires.

I hope this time the power company doesn't just take away the troublesome timber leaving the rest to take a future tumble. Some serious work needs to be done, and it has been neglected in this immediate area for years. Recently the power company did go on a trimming spree, clearing troublesome trees from the utility lines and poles. Some areas, like here, only got a lick and a promise at best. I hope they get their act together soon.

The generator has been totally awesome. While fired up, life here at the house is absolutely normal. This house is all electric. The stove/oven, the installed heat and hot water are all electric. I also have a private well, so having water at all the fixtures depends entirely on having electric power. The generator can power the house and garage, running everything except for the central air conditioner and the huge air compressor in the garage. This is all according to plans I laid out many years ago. I have connections available to attach the generator and in less than ten minutes, life is good while everything around me is dark. There is a downside, however, and it's a biggie. Said big generator has a 16 gallon gas tank. In typical use, it burns about a gallon of fuel each hour, a little less when loads are minimal. I've been pouring about 20 gallons into the thing each day. It's starting to hit our wallets hard, and I was getting rather peeved this afternoon. I told Jeff I was tired of hearing the thing and pouring fuel into it, so I shut it down saying I'd rather let all the food rot in the freezers. It did not help that a garage project turned out for the worse after being a breeze just prior. I fired the beast back up so we could make dinner, and started watching TV. The news was all about so many unfortunate souls with things going a lot worse than we have here at Chateau Mayhem. Perspective reestablished, after dinner we went once again to the gas station, with thirty gallons worth of empty jerry cans and counted our blessings.

I let the beast roar through the night last night. Since my neighbors are hundreds of feet away, noise is not a problem outside the yard. Tonight, now that all the freezers are deeply chilled I will shut off the thing and restart it tomorrow morning for a while, saving more fuel. I can quietly work on my car project with no power, and run some errands before needing to fire the thing back up for the afternoon and evening. I hope the electric company gets their act together over here soon though.

One little bonus is that the cable internet has returned, so I no longer have to use my cell phone's hotspot feature. The hotspot has been handy as all get out this summer during our travels, as well as being a nice backup. My phone can take a break now as well.
greatbear: (Default)
This morning I wanted on teh intarwebz, but my computer awoke to a black screen. There was audio when mashing keys, but I figure, being a PC and not the perfection that is Apple, it just needed a reboot after being on for weeks. A reboot did nothing, but I noticed a curious behavior with the display. Usually the power light blinks when in between video modes or the PC is rebooting, instead, it was solidly on. I cycled the power and expected the little on-screen menu to pop up. Instead, there was fire. Actual fire, with the acrid smell of burning solid state deices and smoke. I dropped the backup display in its place and now am looking for a replacement. I'm jonesing for something larger than the 24" Samsung that stunk up the room, and something that will play nice with the new replacement PC that I built about a year ago. A bit of unexpected research and shopping is in order, as well as an unneeded expense.

I have a batch of photos to upload for LJ posts and such, but my Flickr Pro account lapsed and it's nothing but wonky now with the limited features and groups, so that will have to wait as well. My time has been taken up with outdoor projects and our rekindled efforts to put in a decent vegetable garden. My attitudes towards gardening have been guarded at best since losing Mom, being that it was her primary and ultimate passion. Just looking at the various beds makes me sad and uneasy, so for the past several years the gardens received minimal care is any. Jeff tried to take the mantle of suburban farmer, but his time is limited. This year, however, I am finally getting a bit over my apprehension (and outright breakdowns) when faced with Mom's favorite activity and the memories it brings flooding in. This year, if I can keep the critters out of it, we should have the most productive garden ever. I'll be installing the various electronic countermeasures to protect our crops.

You can probably guess already that it's gonna be called... The Garden of Mayhem. Hey, I have branding continuity to consider, after all. ;-)

Last week I had pulled all the wheels off the trailer, checked and adjusted the brakes and regreased the bearings as well as other mechanical checks, then hauled it up to Pennsylvania and Jeff's parents' driveway. I took along lots cleaning supplies and the bigass pressure washer which we used Saturday and Sunday to clean up our vacation home in preparation of our upcoming trips. I just hope my health issues don't ruin things like late last year.

Speaking of vacations and trips, who's gonna be in Provincetown for Bear Week (or in spite of, for all you post-whatevers)?
greatbear: (f.u.)
This shit is getting out of hand. First is was just smeared and wavy-gravy text. Then the silly made-up words that trip up my brain's internal autocorrect. Now the obscuration of the text has been getting so out of hand to the point where I have to refresh the captcha half dozen times or more to get something readable enough to enter, much less without errors. I'll get Greek or even Cyrillic characters, shit in sub-and superscript, equations, and shit like this:

I realize that these things have been getting tougher to decipher for us because automated solving of these things has gotten more sophisticated. But this is getting way out of hand, and this is far from the worst I have encountered. I propose that for every one of these stupid-assed messes of a captcha that shows up on someone's screen, some web programmer gets an automated, open-handed bitch slap. What say you?
greatbear: (speaker)
So I told y'all earlier that Jeff and I had dinner at Red Robin (yummmmm!). Those familiar with their TV/radio commercials know of their very brief "jingle" (the aforementioned a capella singing of "Red Robin" followed by "Yummmm") on the outro of the spots. Each time either one of us mentions Red Robin (or for that matter, sees a red robin in a tree, or Batman's sidekick) the other will almost inevitably hum the "yum" part. In my odd little brain of Mayhem, I would always associate the jingle with Paul Simon. Actually, one Paul Simon song in particular. The "yum" in the Red Robin is the same pitch chord as the intro to "Loves Me Like A Rock." Yeah, I know, seems odd, but with my pesky perfect pitch somehow crosslinked with an intermittent case of OCD, tonight I fired up the studio paraphernalia to prove the point to myself, not to mention get rid of a persistent earworm. Sure enough, I was right on. Here are two pitch-unaltered clips merged into my own version of "Loves Me Like Red Robin." Enjoy.

Loves Me Like Red Robin
greatbear: (forearms)
So my weekend was practically bi-polar. Saturday the weather was rainy and cold, I was in a bit of a mood, and I think I did more sleeping than anything productive. Sunday rolled around and the weather was nice once again, but I elected to spend most of the day up in the attic resuming the skylight project that I began last fall. It had gotten too cold and my broken-down body was not up to doing much more work up there post-surgery. I had practically knocked myself out with the work I had done, and winter was a break for me. Hurting my knee at this time sealed the deal.

As it stands, I have a limited window of opportunity for attic work since a sunny, 70 degree (F) day will heat the attic well into the 90s and make life miserable. And a cold, blustery winter day outside is not much better up there either. The other reason for the delay was I thought I had moved all of the electrical wiring from the area the skylights were to be installed. As I dug out more insulation I found four more electric cables in the way. My saving the additional tasks in the project for another day had finally come due, so I climbed up the attic stairs and started at it.

In addition to moving the cables, I needed to bring in a new branch circuit for the skylights themselves. I mounted all the electric boxes and ran the new wiring between them, well out of the way of the skylight shafts I needed to build. I then had to cut the wiring apart and move it to the boxes and new runs. To make life interesting and keep me on my toes, I did all the work with the wiring energized. Yes, the stuff all had full 120 volts as I was cutting, moving and installing the cabling. Being that my (real) work finds me needing to maintain uninterrupted power to certain systems while I work on them, I am very adept at live work. I have yet to get zapped or have my work blow up in my face. My little live wire exercise went off without a hitch. The only disturbance happened when I moved the low voltage wiring for the doorbell and decided to make the bell ring with no one at the door. Kodi was fooled, Jeff wasn't.

I managed to complete all the relocations last night, and was only missing a cover for one of the splice boxes, which I picked up today. I put back most of the insulation after cleaning up sawdust and mouse shit, then removed all the tools and supplies that had taken up residence in the attic for that phase of the job. Now all I have to do is frame up, insulate and drywall the light shafts, and there will be light. I tested the skylight remote operators last night and today, this is going to be pure awesomesauce. The remotes are bidirectional, not only do they control the skylights, but also read back status and other info. The units use an industry standard wireless protocol for home automation, and I will eventually integrate this into the Mayhem Mainframe. The skylights I installed in the sun room about ten year ago are also remote controlled, but use an infrared system much like a television set. The new stuff uses 2.4GHz RF, sorta like WiFi. I am contemplating an upgrade...

This evening Jeff cut some of the grass with the push mower while I get the tractor in shape for the season. This is the first lawn mowing of the season, one of many. Also, the weeds have sprung up in earnest, I hope I am able to rein in some of this before it gets out of hand. Last year I was completely unable to work in the gardens, I think this year I will be able to do some stuff. The yard is in terrible shape, there are busted branches everywhere, and I just began some of the tree pruning and cleanup. We wished there was more help available, but we'll make do just us two.

Other sundry stuff like more doctor visits and errands are on tap for this week. I need to pick up a few bits of lumber for the skylights, and I have a set of shocks/struts to put on the Stratus, and a lot of work on the old Cummins to get that back in usable condition. I hope my rickety old body does not leave me stranded like it has been. It's hell getting old.


greatbear: (Default)

December 2016



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