Thursday, October 4, 2018

Ahh The Stupidity, And The Intrusion

I have no idea what idiot wrote the text that went along with this "presidential alert", (Frankly I'm not inclined to trust a president that is obviously more concerned about men being called out on their bad behavior than he is in giving credence to the women that have been impacted by that behavior, to be determining what is and isn't worthy of an emergency notification for me.)  but I do know, this being a governmental project, that several additional people, all government or at least government-adjacent, had to review and sign off on it weeks ago.

Then yesterday (Even though it was in my pocket at the time I don't allow my phone to make any noises and didn't check it until about an hour ago) the message was reviewed and confirmed one more time before being signed off on and sent. (Recent events have proven that sending the wrong message, however well intentioned, can be embarrassing!)

So, given all the checks and reviews, how the hell then did the clowns, who just confiscated our personal property, albeit temporarily, with no probable cause, manage to send a message telling us that we didn't need to take any further action when clearly we did?!

I tried rebooting but nope, that message popped right back up, the lie starring me in the face and preventing me from using my own property.

But I sure as hell didn't trust that "no action required" CONFIRM button. For all I know it could be like the UNSUBSCRIBE button at the end of a spam e-mail that when pressed doesn't actually unsubscribe you at all, but rather announces to the sender that they have managed to hit an active account worthy of more spam.

I really didn't want to participate in potentially adding my phone into some government database as having received their intrusive finger-poke, but it appeared that taking the "non-action" route of pressing CONFIRM was the only way for a non-hacker type to regain ownership of his phone.

I did eventually press their damn button, but only after switching to airplane mode, which  presumably prevented it from sending any data out. It worked, which probably means that there is no such database at all, but, in keeping with my motto of 'trust no one', it could also just be an indication of piss-poor coding.

Friday, September 28, 2018

I Can't Stop The Madness!

Surveys show that most of us believe we can multitask, but brain studies indicate that we really can't. What we can do is switch from one task to another and back again, quite rapidly if necessary, but it's still just one task at a time.

This is exactly how modern computers work. When one task is on hold waiting for something, like retrieving data from disk, (In computerese getting data back from a disk takes a looong time.) the whole shebang, memory stacks, registers, and app, are moved out to a temporary holding space while another shebang is moved into the processor for crunching, maximizing those CPU cycles. It's called context switching.

Call it what you want, I've been "multitasking" for as long as I can remember. (To be fair, my memory is apparently highly flawed so just how far back I can remember is up for debate.) It probably got into full swing about the time I hit puberty. Watching TV and thinking about girls, reading a textbook and thinking about girls, mowing the lawn and thinking about girls.

Thankfully that phase passed, and in more recent years I would work on a report while monitoring data center environmental conditions while listening to one of my people explain why they can't work with Ed anymore, or even more recently, just yesterday as a matter of fact, work on a puzzle and think about women. (Oh Crap. But in my defense, the puzzle is titled Gentleman's Club!)

It's been over six years since I retired from the frenetic pace of corporate management in the high tech world, but yet I still have to forcibly remind myself daily that I don't have to overheat my brain like that anymore, that it's OK to Zen, to just be, to sit on the bench for a few quiet moments and savor a mid-morning fruit-cup while watching the pond, without feeling guilty about it.

But I have to admit, all that time and I'm still crap at it.

Just now I sat on that bench, spooning little explosions of cool, tart grapefruit into my mouth, enjoying the reflective surface of the pond ringed by the wispy green-gold of a meadow full of the spindly-tall plants with tiny flowers that sprang up on the back of generous September rains - - - while thinking about which of next week's monthly chores to tackle first, while composing the text of this very post in my head, while thinking about women, while - - -

I sure do wish I could find that damn off switch!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sunburned And A Coverup

That small condenser on the right is part of the heat-pump mini-split we use to keep the living quarters comfortable in heat and cold. (though the wife's definition of comfortable differs from mine and i have to wear a jacket inside during the summer!)

Eleven years ago we built a platform beside the barn 9 feet in the air, (because installing AC units on the ground is pure insanity!) and a friend with the requisite skills installed our airconditioner(s) up there.

Because it's up and away from the dust, debris, and condenser-choking plants down at ground level, it only takes a quick wash-down with the hose once a year to keep things in top shape.

But one thing you can say with certainty about the Texas summer sun is that it is brutal. Even a mid-morning sun is strong enough to burn holes right through the trees.

There's about 6 feet of copper supply and return lines between the condenser and the pipe that penetrates the barn roof and 11 years of Texas sun has not been kind to the insulation protecting those lines. Now the once smooth and supple foam is all alligatorey and brittle and not very insulatey.

You are looking at the top of the big airconditioner we installed to take care of the main part of the barn. That turned out to be one colossal waste of money since it has never actually been used. . .

After taking a few quick measurements I picked up 12 feet of pipe insulation, the stuff that looks like a skinny pool-noodle, for about $5 on our next shopping run. Then I grabbed my cutters and some scrap solid copper wire and climbed up on top of the platform. The platform that was already blazing hot despite the early hour.

To avoid stripping the existing insulation off the copper pipes and making one hell of a mess on the ground below which would eventually wash down into the pond if I didn't painstakingly pick up every last scrap, I decided to just leave it in place despite the bad shape it's in and bought pipe-insulation with a one inch inside diameter that would fit right over the existing stuff.

It grabs on pretty tightly all on its own, but to help keep the new insulation in place, you know, during the next hurricane, I cut a few lengths of the solid wire and wrapped them with a simple quarter-twist, taking care not to wrap them too tightly (Unlike me according to The Wife) so I didn't squeeze all the insulation value out of the - well - insulation.

The green plastic coating on the wire is going to get sunburned and eventually start to fail, but the wire itself will outlast more Texas summers than I have in me, so it will be fine.

The whole job, the part actually up on the platform anyway, only took 20 minutes or so, which was fortunate considering that I did this in mid-August, the hottest, sunniest month of the year around here.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

We Got Flocked!

This is only about a third of the birds that were in the pond this morning

Walked out of the barn this morning (Oct 30 in real time) and the pond was full of big white birds!

We get various cranes, ducks, and herons out there, but mostly in ones and twos. This is the first time I've seen so many in the pond at once, a good dozen or more. (I was too busy trying to ease up to a vantage point with my camera without scaring them off to take a proper count.)

This is the first time we've seen these big-ass Wood Storks around here, and there was a good half dozen of them, all adults with the nearly full blanket of white feathers covering the black wing-tips at rest.

This shot shows just a hint of the stark black flight feathers that cover about half the wing when in flight. (I missed getting any 'flight' shots because my camera ran out of battery at just the perfect moment. . .)

There were also several of these Roseate Spoonbills mixed into the flock (An equal opportunity flocking!)

Here, although trying to 'read' this double-headed shot is confusing, the roseate coloring is a little more pronounced, but these are all probably juveniles that haven't had a chance to fully develop the striking 'orange sorbet' coloring they will have later.

Mixed into this flock were a few Great Egrets.

It must have been tough for the egrets since they rely on stealth to stalk-and-strike while the spoonbills, with very little subtlety, just jam that bill down into the water and swing it side to side until they just happen to encounter food.

And the Wood Storks can't be helping things either since they also stick their open bills into the water then stamp their feet to flush fish into harm's way.

None of these birds are very chill and it doesn't take much, just something like me pulling the camera away from my face to verify that the red flashing light nagging me from the corner of the viewfinder is the battery-has-died alarm, to scare them off.

As soon as the first bird launched itself, with a squawk about as ungainly as his transition from wading to flight, the rest followed and within seconds the whole flock had disappeared over the trees.

Monday, September 17, 2018

One Tough Dude! (Or Dudet)

 I come across some critter or another most mornings when doing my laps on the back of the property. Rabbits and deer mostly, but sometimes snakes, the errant possum, raccoon, even a fox and a bobcat once, but one day it was this box-turtle that was sitting right in the middle of the trail on the far back corner of the property.

It clearly took one hell of a whack at some point in the past but it was moving along pretty well just before I came along and scared it into it's shell. I was tempted to pick it up for a closer look at the wound, which looked to be anything but fresh, but, like my mama taught me, I resisted temptation, stepped over, and continued my laps, leaving the turtle unmolested. (Unless you subscribe to the belief that every photo steals a little bit of your soul.)

When I came back around on lap 2 it was gone so we both got on with our days.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Season of Love Approaches For Our Local Cervids

I looked out at the pond this morning and spotted the group of bucks that have been hanging around most the summer.

Big deal. I've got loads of photos of these half dozen antler-wearing Whitetails moldering away in my camera already.

Except that today a couple of them started sparing in earnest, heads lowered, antlers locked, while the bystanders either looked on with the interest of bookies figuring the odds or were furiously abusing the nearest bush as they laid down their own scrapes, the buck's version of Kilroy Was Here.

At one point I had a nice buck, the elder of the group that knows better than to get involved in this early-season sparing and instead save his energy for later when it counts, looking straight at me from the far edge of the pond showing off the thick neck and powerful fore-quarters of King Buck, all perfectly framed in the middle-ground by the overhanging branches of a Water-Oak on this side of the pond.

Unfortunately the zoom mechanism on the lens of my used-and-abused camera locked up when I turned it on and by the time a couple of serious whacks convinced the damn thing to work, albeit rather grumbly as the gears ground through what sounded like a whole beach full of sand, the moment was lost as the deer began to move on up the hill.

Leaving me with a rather mundane consolation prize of a photo.

In the meantime the ladies didn't need working cameras to start checking out this year's pickin's.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Shirted Pillow Solution

As delivered The Van’s gaucho came with a back-bolster. For normal people this served a couple of design purposes and for me, one un-design function.

It made for a semi-comfortable seating area if The Van ever boasted a crowd. And I do mean a crowd. (For cryin’-out-loud! There are 4, as in four, seatbelts under that gaucho!)

And the bolster also drops down behind the extended gaucho seat to form a snug double-berth.

And one function I’m not sure the designers thought about but worked for me, was protecting my rolled up bedding which tucked in behind it during the day.

As for how useful those first two functions were to me?  Well boat designer Phil Bolger wrote more than once that an ideal cruiser, which I'm sure applies to both land as well as water cruising, drinks 6, eats 4, and sleeps 2, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about me!  Although there have been a handful of people in The Van on a few occasions, they were always there to check out the accommodation and never hung around, not for a chat, not for a drink, not for a dinner, and certainly not for a sleepover. (Which is good because I’m pretty sure The Wife wouldn’t approve of that last one . . .)

But still, every night I had to lift that bolster, (and it is heavy!), maneuver it upright carefully in the limited space available, duck-walk it down the narrow aisle like a drunk dance partner, and prop it up against the rear doors so I could make up my bed. Then reverse the whole procedure the next morning

As seems to be an embarrassing theme in my life, it took many years of this foolishness before I finally came to my senses and now the bolster, tightly wrapped up in heavy plastic in case I ever sell The Van, lives a stationary life on a lumber-rack in the barn.

Upon removing the bolster from The Van I solved the exposed bedding issue by sewing up a simple cover of heavy fabric the same grey as the gaucho upholstery that rolls up with the bedding, keeping it fresh and clean during the day.

What I didn’t address for two more years was the pillow issue, or more specifically, the pillow case issue.

Without the bolster in the way the gaucho can be made into a really comfortable place to sit (for a persnickety, anti-social old grouch anyway) by leaning the pillow up against the back of the driver’s seat and stretching my legs out along the gaucho like I'm sitting on a recliner. I can sit up straight for reading a book, or I can slide down into an infinite number of progressively more reclined positions for – well, you know - napping.

The advantage of this seating spot over the spun-around passenger seat, which is also really comfortable, is that it is right there adjacent to the window and I can get a nice breeze, especially with the Max-Air roof vent running at setting 5. (half speed and half an amp-hour draw on my batteries)

Of course I’m usually seeking out that breeze because it’s hot, which means I’m probably sweating. And if I’m not sweating my shirt is probably not as clean as one would hope something coming in close contact with the pillow-case where my head will be laying in a few hours might be.

My quick fix for this hygienic challenge, spurred by a bout of camping in record heat, was to grab the National Park Conservancy lap-blanket.

I’m not really a lap-blanket kind of guy, but I got this as a "free" gift for re-upping my membership and since it is small and light, I threw it into The Van, just in case And eventually just in case came along.

I wrapped the blanket around the pillow figuring I can grunge it up all I want and then throw it into the wash, preserving the cleanliness of my drool-stained pillow case for night-time head-resting.

Problem solved! – OK maybe not . . .

Being a lap-blanket this thing is a little on the small side and must be carefully positioned and wrapped to protect the pillow from – well – me, otherwise it falls away, scrinches off, or otherwise just plain bunches up in all the wrong places.

On top of that this blanket is wool, which is a great natural material to have around on cold days, especially damp, cold days, but sucks against my bare, sweaty neck on hot days.

To solve the first issue I toyed with the bright idea of introducing the lap-blanket to the sewing machine and turning it into a loose pillow case. That way it would stay in place and I wouldn’t be re-wrapping every time I wanted to sit down. But, while our sewing machine is a pretty fancy contraption, I can’t seem to find any settings on it that will change the blanket’s wool into something a little more skin-friendly.

Then, while poking halfheartedly around for a scrap of a more hot-and-sweaty-neck friendly fabric to turn into a pillow cover, I got another bright idea, and this time it really was a bright idea. (Hey, they don’t come along all that often, but I’m allowed one of those once in a while . . .)

First, let me be clear. I don’t wear T-shirts.

As apparel they have two strikes against them. They are snug, and I don’t do snug. And they pull on over your head, something else I don’t do, which eliminates me from most event-volunteer positions as well as working as wait-staff at an increasing number of establishments.

But despite those shortcomings, they do have several things going for them, and the following are the going-for-them points relevant to my predicament:

They, the better ones anyway, are made of nice soft fabric.

Many of them have interesting graphics.

They are just about pillowcase size.

And they are relatively cheap as long as you don’t buy them at a souvenir shop or festival stands.

And they are everywhere, and I mean everywhere! In fact right about now I remembered that even I own one!

It was given to me by a friend that does more talking than listening so has a good excuse for being oblivious to the fact that I don’t wear T-shirts, but in this case that could work out anyway.  Now if I can only remember where I tossed the damn thing . . .  (It was wadded up on a shelf  in the closet underneath the sport-coat I never wear.)

And it fits just right!

Now in the morning all I have to do to keep my pillowcase day-grunge free is ‘dress’ my pillow in its lizard-T.


OK, maybe not quite perfect after all.

That neck-hole, the one that chokes off the air of all that dare to wear it the way it was intended, has a habit of gaping when I lean back on the pillow. (OK, to be accurate, when I lean back then slowly scrunch down to napping position.) And it gapes right were the back of my sweaty neck is.


So I had to drag the sewing machine out anyway.

But no big deal, as it was quick work to run a line of stitching around the neck-hole, sealing it off forever. (Whew! Now I can rest easy knowing I can't accidentally get my head stuck in it one day!)

Especially no-big-deal since I didn’t even bother with trying to reload the machine with a matching thread but just used what was already in it. After all, it’s not like this is couture.

 So problem solved. My daytime neck-sweat will never again come into contact with my nighttime drool.

 Oh damn! Did one of those lizards just spill beer down my back?!