Travels and Images

WEEK 37 2004

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Saturday 11 September 2004

Saturday - the hydraulics guy came by my friends house and took away the flexible hydraulic lines for fixing. That's good. They also found two shop vacuums at yard sales in the morning. Mine came in useful last night - we filled a five gallon bucket with oily dirt; and now they've found better units, that blow as well as suck. That sounds like a set up for a bad joke, but honestly, it is nice to have a vac that doubles as a leaf blower.

They were having problems with internet access as well. I tried to help, but it looks like maybe it's on their ISP's end, and those guys at Antelecom weren't returning calls. Antelecom uses that moronic PPOE, rather than straight up DHCP, just to make their user's lives a little harder.

 We watched a couple of videos - The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, and Powder. I thought I remembered something about Powder, and I'm right. The director and writer is from my own home town, Martinez, and is a convicted child molester. (I don't know the guy.)

Note the stuff in bold in Friday's post below. That's what happens when you type and post without proofing.

In other news there were reports of a huge explosion in North Korea, possibly an atomic bomb. The US has the Vela DSP early warning satellites, so I'd guess they know for sure. They seem to be saying "no", but I imagine it's going to make everyone think twice about what to do when it really happens. And if they want to let Iran do it as well.

Dan Rather and CBS seem to have fallen for some pretty obvious forgeries, found within hours by the blogosphere. I stopped watching '60 Minutes' years ago - they just bothered me with their holier-than-thou attitude, and several times made obvious errors in things I personally knew about. So I'm glad to see their feet of clay exposed to the public at large. Again.

We may be seeing the downfall of the MSM ( Main Stream Media ) here, where the three networks could act as 'gatekeepers' and decide what - and what not - to publish, and to slant and bias things (the 'narrative') as they wished. No monopoly lasts forever. The end result will probably be a future mishmash with network tv, cable tv, radio, 'F911 mockumentaries', newspapers, news magazines and internet blogs all competing and fact checking each other: more 'truths' with a small 't' and less Truth with a capital 'T'.

Friday 10 September 2004

Friday - tired, but trying to get a bit of work done. Fielded some questions about work stuff.

A friend of mine has a hydraulically actuated pool cover, and I went over to help fix it. It's sort of spiffy, making a nice set of sun shades when raised, and a decent cover when down done. The 1970's era hydraulics are giving problems, however, and work was needed.

The original manufacture has long been long  being out of business, but after a lot of searching a hydraulics expert was found to come and look one was found - with an appointment for November. Yes, that's how busy these guys are - the home building and construction business is so busy in California (and the Antelope Valley in particular) that maintenance people are booked months in advance.

And then, by chance, at a garage sale, they found someone. Noting a broken forklift by a house, my friend reasoned that only someone capable of fixing a broken forklift would own one. True enough, and that person was willing to come out a few days later and look at the pool cover. He found several leaks, and is fixing them.

My part? Oh, well, there was about a foot of hydraulic fluid soaked earth in the concrete actuator housings - somebody was needed to use an and idiot stick and a wet vac to clean it out for access. Naturally I was elected to that position...

Thursday 9 September  2004

Thursday - on the road and headed south. It was a good day, lots of trucks but only a few cars. As usual I was among the slowest of cars - but I wasn't in much of a hurry. I listened to more of 'The Two Towers' although it turns out that I have two copies of  tape #6, and do not have tape #7 at all - a foul up at the factory I guess. Still, it's a fun listen. Tolkein has a rather unique (if wordy) style, suitable I suppose to a professional linguist.

I got in at 8pm, and the cats were fat and happy...

Wednesday 8 September 2004

Wednesday - another 100F+ day. It's unpleasant to go out in the day, and the detection of West Nile in Contra Costa makes the tempting of mosquito's at night unwise.

We worked with the webcam a bit. The install went smoothly - it's a USB camera, and I'd bought a nice 15' active extension cable, so there was length to reach the feeder. Both the still and the video can operate at 640x480, so the pics are decent enough. But the video uses an enormous amount of space, 500MB for a minute or so of video! We also constructed a little base for the camera, so that it could be hung at arbitrary angles - trial #1 is a direct overhead shot of the hummingbirds. But they are very very shy, and seem to be avoiding the feeder.

The evening movie was 'Open Range'. It was a bit odd. In fact it was almost plotless - evil rancher and sheriff kill a cattle herder's hand, so he and his buddy kill dozen's of bad guys, good guy get neglected girl. Odd.

Tuesday 7 September 2004
Tuesday - working a bit. We got a webcam, so that we could try to record some video of the hummingbirds feeding - the digital camera's take so long to boot and focus that it's hard to get a shot with them. And the hummingbirds are a bit paranoid, they fly off at the slightest hint of movement. I got the Creative Labs Webcam NX pro, because it has software for both video and still shots, and links for uploading to the internet - more as it all develops.

We watched 'Hildalgo' in the evening, it's a fun energetic movie, sort of an old fashioned adventure movie.

Monday 6 September 2004

Monday - my father surprised me Saturday. I'd been working in my office at his house, using an old 15" monitor that I'd found used somewhere. I guess he noticed the way I had to lean forward to read text on the screen, even when the monitor was set to a low resolution 800x650. So, in a complete surprise he presented me with a beautiful 19" LCD monitor!! Wow, what a difference!

Sunday 5 September 2004

Sunday - I went sailing, with my brother. It was a beautiful warm day down in Richmond.

For a while we weren't sure if we were going to make it out onto San Francisco Bay or not. The main halyard ( the 'rope' that you use to hoist the sail ) was badly worn and disintegrating. I'd bought a new piece of line a while back but had put off trying the replacement because it's too much trouble to take a bosun's chair to the top of the mast, 35 feet up, and the line runs through a small opening making replacement with a splice problematic. But the dilapidated state of the old halyard and a strong desire to sail meant that it was finally worth a try.

First we sewed the ends of the old line and new together with some thread and square knots, and then tightly wrapped some electrical tape about the join so as to smooth things. No go - when the join reached the sheaves at the mast head it was like pulling on a hitch - no give or pass through. So we pulled the line back and fiddled with it for a while. When we completely removed the tape the splice went through cleanly and easily (see, I told you it was a close fit!). The old halyard had been a wire/rope combo from the days (in the 1960's) when such things were popular, and had a shackle fitting nicopressed onto the wire end. The new halyard is pure line, so, for the nonce, we just used a bowline to attach it to the sail headboard and we were out and sailing!

It was glorious weather out on the bay. Good wind and not much wave action. The good bottom paint and the new sails meant that the boat moved, even in light winds, and moved along smartly in anything but a zephyr. What a day!! We were tacking up Raccoon Strait, but ran out of daylight before completely circling Angel Island or getting out to the Golden Gate bridge.

Photographs were taken, with my brother digital camera, and will be available soon...

Picture of the Week

Harry Potter battles killer Mosquito's

Photo Notes: "Harry Potter and the the Battle of the Killer Mosquitos", courtesy of the 2004 County Fair and Alfalfa Fair. I don't make this stuff up...

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