Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Into the Second Dimension

When you simply need things to be flatter than flat, only one tool will do the job.

It's high time I got me some power sanding equipment, and there's really no replacement for a belt sander. Finish sanding is easy enough to do by hand, so I still view orbital and detail sanders as the tools of the lazy, but when you need to move a lot of wood quickly, getting some electrons to sweat for you is the way to go.

While I usually err on the side of "buy cheap, then replace with fancy when it breaks", I've already melted a few belt sanders in my day (oh, the painful memories of that peach fence) so I figured I should just cut to the chase on this one.

Of course, buying a $150 belt sander is a lot easier when you get the $50 refurb version...

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Don't Fence Me In

So after a few windy days the fence gate in the side yard was not in the best shape. The hinge side on the fence post was doing fine but the latch side attached to the garage was in the process of not being attached anymore.

Some investigation revealed that the jamb on that side was nailed into the stucco. Now I'm sure you're thinking "don't you mean nailed through the stucco, into the wood framing behind it?" and I surely would have written that if that's what I meant. But no, it was nailed into just the stucco itself. Not remarkably ideal. Also the stop, which was nailed into the jamb, was getting a bit loose.

I pulled the jamb off the wall (not too hard since it was only nailed into the stucco) and brought it into the garage for some disassembly. I pulled the stop off, removed the old nails, and then added some wood glue and screwed the stop back into place.

Next up I drilled and countersunk some holes for some 4 inch long 3/8 inch lag screws, reusing the locations of the old nail holes to save me the trouble of swiss cheesing more holes through my stucco.

Well, sort of. Some of the nails were driven in at a pretty odd angle so to line things up with the stucco holes I had to deviate a bit in the placement. I also discovered that I shouldn't have trusted the nail holes at the bottom, as they were placed too low to hit the wood framing of the garage, and the lag screw just hit the concrete foundation instead. Lovely. Had to move that lag screw up a bit.

(The bottom of the vent on the left is at the bottom plate of the wall framing).

Turned out ok in the end though.

So that was Saturday's fun. I had some grand plans to do some more work here and there on Sunday but the rain in the forecast kept me from starting anything too involved. I drilled a hole in the bottom of a pot (why on earth do they sell them without drainage holes?) with some diamond hole saws I got off Amazon, and raked some leaves in the back yard. Unfortunately, due to all the rain, the leaves and stuff on the patio was a bit sticky so I'll need to wait until it dries out a bit and hit it with the leaf blower again to clean up the remaining gunk.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Closet Organizer

Not that kind of closet, the nerdy kind.

I've been using the furnace closet as a network/tech hub, and while I did manage to organize things a little by mounting them to the back of the door, the paper-thin door skin didn't really offer the best support. (The sprinkler controller, at the top, was existing when I moved in)

I also wanted to add some 19" rack rails to be able to mount my PoE ethernet switch for my security cam system, and the space above the sprinkler controller was just a bit too small to squeeze one in.

It took a bit of pondering to figure out exactly how I wanted to tackle this project before finally settling on using 3030 aluminum extrusion for making the rack rails, as well as for creating a frame that would screw into the solid wood at the edges of the door to support both the rack as well as the rest of the installed equipment.

I initially planned out the project with the intention of buying some plywood to make the equipment panels, but it just so happened that I had some 3/8 OSB laying about from the demolition of a very old and rotting shed in my back yard (the roof had been replaced more recently and the sheathing was thus still in good shape). I was hesitant initially but soon found that OSB is actually much nicer to work with than I had imagined.

I was able to cut some pieces down to size, route a profile into the edge, and lop the bottom corners to clear the brackets without any trouble at all. I expected it to fall apart into a messy pile of splinters and tear-out, but even just using the basic construction blades in my circ saw and chop saw the cuts came out impressively good.

Speaking of cutting things, I did most of the cuts on the 3030 using my portaband, and so long as I took the time to draw a straight line both across two faces to line up the cuts I could basically get a serviceably straight cut. I got a bit overconfident at one point though and skipped drawing one of the lines, and ended up cutting a bit off course, at which point I took a bit of a risk and tried using the chop saw to clean it up. It did a remarkably good job of cutting despite, again, only using the basic construction blade; I had been avoiding using it for cutting the aluminum as I had planned to get an aluminum/laminate blade to use before settling on using the portaband instead, but apparently I was being overly cautious. (I'm still going to get an aluminum/laminate blade later for future non-ferrous projects, and the portaband will be reserved for ferrous cutting tasks)

Other power tool takeaways: Making cuts with a circ saw is once again less exciting than I remember it being. The chop saw is a delightful tool but it can be tricky not to nudge the work piece when the motor spins up. The router wins the prize for the most uniform and annoying plume of sawdust ejected. And, finally, it doesn't matter what tool I use: aluminum chips get e v e r y w h e r e.

Back to the project, day one ended with half of the panels/equipment/rails installed because I didn't actually plan ahead to figure out how many corner brackets I'd need. Thank goodness for prime shipping!

Once the remaining bits arrived the project wrapped up without a ton of fuss on day 2.

I really like how this project turned out. It's very tidy and clean (though I didn't go overboard on the cable porn), and there's still a little room left for expansion (about 2u of rack space, and I could put some small item above the wifi router if I move the antennas aside), and I actually kind of like the look of the OSB framed by the 3030 extrusion.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Let There Be Growth!

I had a bit of a problem with my seedlings: it was getting too cold outside for them to sprout, and too dark inside for them to properly leaf out without getting leggy. Since warming up the outside seemed somewhat impractical, I opted to set up a grow light instead.

N.B.: If you peek at the plants while the grow light is on to inspect their growth, be prepared for the entire rest of the world to turn green for about 5 minutes while your eyes adjust back to normal.

Vermin Exclusion

So for a while it's sort of bothered me that the junction between the roof on my addition and the roof on my house wasn't technically ever properly closed up. It's one of those little odd corners that you don't really think about when you're putting a house together, and apparently the builders some dozens of years ago didn't think of it either.

I didn't take a "before" picture, but the short version is that the low sloped roof of the addition meets the original roof about 6 inches above where the original roof used to end. This isn't a problem on the west side as there's another section of roof it butts against, but on the east side it's just the side wall of the house that the roof overhangs. They built up the wall of the addition to meet the roof line, but failed to fill in the little triangular gap left where the new roof overlapped the old.

So first off I drove a few extra screws into the trim piece on the side, since it had warped a bit and pulled away at the bottom, then filled the screw holes with filler to keep it from collecting water. Then I measured and discovered that an old piece of plywood shelving happened to be the exact right width to fill the gap, and cut down a 6 inch piece to exactly fit the gap and screwed it into place.

Unfortunately it's nearly impossible to take a photograph of the underside of an eave on a house...

But luckily I was able to take a second shot that better showed the patch.

I still need to paint it and the spackle to match the original colors, and I'd also like to foam the remaining gaps with some not-so-Great Stuff, but I'm holding off on the latter because the cans are decidedly single-use, and I'm holding off on the former because it just started raining and will continue to rain until at least next week sometime.

A Centi-Everest

Strava or it didn't happen: https://www.strava.com/activities/2891642871

Zero hour, 9am: The weather was looking cold and dry with a bit of wind so I layered up. Plan was to roll out my front door and make a quick hop over Harwood to Kennedy to start the day's business, then drop down Dogmeat and either bear north on Overgrown and deal with the mess of getting from the dam to the overpass, or keep going on Priest Rock and take the long way around Alma Bridge. Then I'd meet up with Charlie and whoever else was joining the fun for a fun blast up Montevina before dropping down Aquinas and slabbing home via LG-Almaden.

Gear for the day: Kestrel MXZ 29'er XC. 5 or so yards of spandex and chamois because I'm still a roadie even in the dirt. Windbreaker, thermal beanie, shoe covers, insulated gloves, not-as-insulated gloves, full-face helmet with camera, and a hydration pack stuffed with clif bars.

Harwood: This road is steep and annoying but relatively short. It's unfortunately close enough to my house that I don't really get a chance to warm up before hitting it, and so I ended up feeling kinda nauseated when I tried to push the pace a little. This feeling of unwell stuck with me across Santa Rosa and up Kennedy Road to the trailhead.

Kennedy: The misery seemed to basically fade once I hit the dirt and started grinding up the hill. There wasn't much traffic being a Monday morning, though probably more than most Mondays given that plenty of people do like I do and take the whole thing off. My pace was solid but nothing to write home about, and I still found myself having to stop periodically to give my back a rest (my lower back tends to get muscle fatigue during long efforts. I've been hitting the weights to try to get it to stop being a bitch but it's a work in progress. Getting off the bike for 2-3 minutes clears up the fatigue and I can press on again for a while so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

Made it up to the helipad for a brief snack break and photo op, without any major incidents along the way (save for the occasional trail user asking if I was dying whenever I was letting my back rest up).

Next up was the steep bits of Kennedy, and while I made it up the first section, the second section found me suffering my usual fate of simultaneously wheelieing while spinning out my back tire. Had to push up that section, as I always do.

Priest Rock: I decided about there that I would go straight down Priest Rock and do the Alma Bridge option, so I dropped in and was greeted by some freshly graded fire road. Dogmeat has apparently become much less meat and much more dog (or maybe that's the other way around). The surface is smooth and dusty now, and they added in some water bars that will yeet you the fuck into orbit if you hit them at speed. I did not hit them at speed.

I did, however, take a minute to snap a picture of Charlie at work:

He's in there somewhere, just zoom and enhance a few times.

I always get weirded out towards the bottom of Priest Rock. The trail looks like it's wrapping up, but then you look to your right and you're 500 feet up a frighteningly steep slope with miles of trail left to go before you actually make it to the road.

Alma Bridge: I really hate riding around the southern part of Lexington reservoir. It's always way longer than I remember and the rolling elevation profile makes it a pain in the ass to actually get into a proper pedalling rhythm. I really should have opted for the bushwhacking route over the dam. Stopped for a snack along Old Santa Cruz and people asked me if I was dying again. I was tempted to say yes.

I finally crossed over 17 and met up with Charlie just as he was rolling in from a descent. Perfect timing. Luke and Josh followed maybe 30 seconds behind and we all hung out and snacked and chatted before heading up the hill.

Montevina: Charlie and the boys looped down the road a little bit to grab the start of the segment, and I opted to just go straight up as I wanted to have a decent chance of holding on to the group for a few minutes. It didn't take long for them to catch up, and after a few more minutes Luke and Josh pulled ahead a bit while Charlie hung back with me. 

I basically redlined for 15 solid minutes:

Don't ask me for the physiological explanation of how my heart is still beating after that, I couldn't tell you. I eventually had to stop and give my back a rest again, and I honestly have no idea how much further I could have gone at ~max HR if my back hadn't been the weakest link.

Charlie took off after I stopped, as was the sensible thing for him to do, and after my back felt suitably refreshed I resumed climbing at a more leisurely/sensible pace.

After a few more back-stops I finally got to the familiar point in any long ride: that point where I finally out-pedal my ability to shove clif bars down my throat. I started taking a few more breaks, including a good 5 minute stop off to have a conversation with an emu. That's not a euphemism for anything there's literally an emu that lives in one of the yards up there. Or maybe my blood sugar had dropped enough for me to hallucinate it. I also made a slightly daft decision to remove my shoe covers at this point, as they were a bit on the soggy side, right before entering a much shadier and windier section of Montevina. Lesson learned: don't do that.

I finally struggled my way to the gate at the top of Montevina and parked my butt on the log trap thing just two minutes before another cyclist came down from the top of El Sereno and needed to pass. Son of a... He turned out to be a 70yo fellow who had recently resumed cycling after taking a hiatus for a few years, and as per usual it was a good reminder of why I was out there: so I could still be out there when I'm 70 too instead of rotting away in an old folks home.

Aquinas trail was quite lovely and had some great views, and was interrupted only by a brief teleportation across private property:

Navigating my way from the end of Aquinas down into more familiar sections of Los Gatos was an interesting adventure, but thankfully the strategy of "point my bike in the most downhill direction and pray" seemed to work out ok. The descent gave me a little bit of a second wind and the last stretch home through LG-Almaden went easier than I expected.

All in all I managed to lose 3lb over the course of the day (185lb to 182lb) despite draining my 3l hydration pack. Strava claims I burned through over 3000 calories and I'm feeling every single one of them. I'm currently working on drinking my weight in gatorade over the next day or two to try to recover in time to hopefully take a stab at On Orbit on Friday. Here's hoping!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Experiment in Exhaustion

So this weekend I inadvertently set out to experiment to see just how exhausted I could get in one weekend.

Saturday morning: tear the rest of the roof off the hantavirus shed.

Saturday afternoon: do my weights and bump up my squats, rows, bench and deadlift by 5kg.

Sunday morning: mountain bike 14 miles with 3200 feet of climbing.

Sunday afternoon: Air up the tires on the motorcycles and tend to a bit of loose bodywork on Gregg for the 5th time (long story).

Also Sunday afternoon: fill up the trash can with the roofing I pulled off the shed the previous day.

Result: kinda tired.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Not Better, Just Smaller

Part of my security cam project involves setting up a video screen that'll display a live feed of my front door cam (whenever I get around to installing that). I don't want the screen to be running 24/7 so I've been tinkering with making a motion activated IR blaster to turn it on only when I'm around.

I've got the PIR working, the IR code for the power button decoded and reproduced, and the phototransistor hooked up and running so that I can have the screen time out quicker when it's dark vs when it's light. I'm at the point where I can basically put it all together, but I'm holding off a little before I solder things together on a board until I figure out how exactly I'm going to build a little cabinet to hold/disguise the screen.

I'm still muddling through trying to figure out how to get my chromebit to display a live feed from the camera. You'd think it's a simple task, but all the technologies available have been built around other use cases like broadcasting a tv show to the internet (with, like, 30 seconds of delay), or doing videoconferencing (structured around peer-to-peer connections) so there's quite a few square holes for me to try to drive this round peg into. Kinda frustrating. Add on top of that my dislike of javascript and html and, well, things could be going better.

Anyway, playing around on the hardware side is still lots of fun. The Arduino board is a lot like playing with my old Apple ][, just with less RAM and more disk/non-volatile space. Lots of I/O pins to wire up circuit bits to, and a refreshingly simple API to write code against. I like it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Batteries Not Included

So I've been enjoying my indoor/outdoor temp/humidity sensor for a while.

But a key problem has been keeping the batteries topped up so that the LCD display doesn't go all dim and washed out. It naturally takes two AAA batteries and those don't hold a lot of juice.

So eventually I got tired of recharging the batteries every 2-3 weeks and decided to take slightly more drastic measures.

That ain't gonna run out for a while.

Buying Time

A man with a watch always knows what time it is.

A man with two watches is never quite sure.

My old Seiko (blue face) was starting to go soft in the capacitor and wasn't holding a kinetic charge like it used to. I bought it used back in 2010 after destroying my previous watch falling off my longboard, so I figured it didn't owe me anything more. Into the drawer it goes, replaced by something newer and shinier.

My wrist has never felt so bling. It's also never felt so cozy, since I actually adjusted the strap on this one to fit correctly. No more loose, floppy watch!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Dirt Rockets

The seedlings have finally graduated. I decided enough was enough and it was time for them to either move out or start paying rent, so move out they did.

Some of them got stuck in pots, the bigger ones mostly. The rest got shoved in the ground up atop the retaining wall (no pictures). I also stuck some in the pot out front that has something else growing in it. No idea what that something else is but I guess I'll find out soon enough.

All told I got about 30 seedlings out of the tray of 50. The other ones? Some might say they were the lucky ones, free from the burden of living in a world hurtling inexorably towards catastrophic climate change.

To be fair I don't expect some of the ones I stuck in the ground to survive. Anything that basically looked alive-ish got planted, and some of them were a bit more unalive than the ones pictured in the pots above. I'm not out much if they don't make it though, I'll probably be seeding up a second tray to fill in the rest of the retaining wall soon enough.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Now With 33% Less Hantavirus

Took a stab at disassembling some of the hantavirus shed today.

It's coming along ok. I'm not sure if all the rot and termites are making things easier or harder. It's nice that the wood weighs so much less and falls apart in my hands, but on the other hand it'd be nice to have something solid to get some leverage against sometimes.

Got my garbage can stuffed with about half the debris so far. Gonna send out the other half next week then pull down the remains of the remaining plywood on the walls, then probably pull off the OSB from the roof (which is relatively new material and I'll probably save).

Sunday, October 20, 2019

There and Back and There and Back Again

This week hosted a bit of a personal achievement for me: for the first time in basically ever, I climbed a hill on my bike, rode back down, and climbed it again. Doing repeats like this is something that isn't unfamiliar for most cyclists, but throughout all my riding I'd been treating hills as enough of an achievement on their own to not tempt fate doing them twice in a row in the same ride. If I needed more challenge, I'd just find a bigger, steeper climb.

That said, on some level I knew I really should get into the habit of doing repeats, since they're a great way to get in a variable-length workout while still pushing yourself. Rather than committing beforehand to climb a certain route, I could just pick a short, tough climb and go out and ride it as many times as I needed to wear myself out, whether that be two, five, or 35 times, and I'd get the time spent on the descent to recover between repeats.

Here's what it looked like.

This weekend I also put some miles in on Blackbirb since it'd been a while since I got dusty. Nothing spectacular to report, though I'm happy to say that the downtube pouch I installed performed flawlessly. I did overestimate how cool it would be riding first thing in the morning, and I probably could have done to just wear my usual kit rather than adding the wind breaker, winter gloves and thermal cap. No harm done though, it was still fun.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


So for a while now I've had a mild annoyance with crows digging around in the mulch and pulling up my grass in search of grubs. There's not really much I can do about it except hope they eat their fill and decimate the grub population so for the most part it hasn't been all that concerning.

However, over the past week or so I've been putting my seedling tray outside during the day to get more sunlight on it, and, well...

Fucking feathery shitheads destroyed three of the cells. Luckily the rest of the tray is undamaged but I really didn't need this setback. I've been having a hard enough time as it is getting these seedlings to grow.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It Slices, It Dices

It probably even makes julienne fries, though I wouldn't recommend it.

Long story short: my free saw arrived today. Yay!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

There's more than one way to do it

I like to keep a minimal patch kit on every bike I ride, or at least the ones I ride any distance away from home (so the BMX gets a pass). At one point I'd been using an under-saddle bag to hold these goodies, but over time it got old and faded and it never really held things securely and rattle-free. So given that, I decided to explore different options and ended up with 3 different solutions for 3 different bikes.

First up: Purple Haze.

The tool roll under the saddle is perhaps the most classic solution for road bikes, and so I bought 3 different tool rolls to test out which one I liked the most. I'm glad I got more than one as they seem to be of highly variable design quality.

One was from SKS, which is a fairly highly regarded european cycling accessories brand. The tool roll was, somewhat curiously, designed to fit under the handlebars rather than the saddle, and despite its fairly large size it was incapable of holding even a bare essential set of tools before becoming too bulky to properly roll up. Total fail.

I had more success with the Lezyne tool roll, as you can see from its place securely strapped under the saddle. However, it too suffered from a mild lack of space, and I wasn't able to include a CO2 inflator without the roll getting too bulky. Luckily I run fairly low pressures on this bike so it's not too difficult to pump up by hand. (You can see the purple mini-pump just behind the bottle cage on the down tube)

So with that bike down, it's on to the next: Blackbirb.

For this bike, an under-saddle solution wasn't a good option as the motion of the dropper post would put the tool roll/pouch/bag/whatever too close to the rear tire when the saddle was in the low position. For a while I was running a small frame bag that I designed and sewed myself, but there were a few features I wasn't happy with (mostly that it didn't mount tightly enough to not rattle against the frame) that lead me to the thought of either taking another shot at designing a new one, or going for an off-the-shelf solution. The latter won out and I got this Dakine down tube pouch.

That's not to say that the pouch was without its own flaws. The designers had intended for it to hold a pair of CO2 canisters, a MTB-sized tube, and some tire levers stuffed in the elastic sides. I personally have no use for tire levers, and instead opted to put a multi-tool in the elastic sides, but since a multi-tool is bulkier and heavier than a set of tire levers it seemed likely that it would slip out the open bottom of the elastic strap. Thankfully the strap was close enough to the bottom edge of the pouch that I could just stitch the two together, and now my multi-tool is safe and sound and well restrained.

This all came together to make a nice solution for my mountain bike, but due to road bikes being a bit more slender it wouldn't work on my third bike: Dirty Dozen.

When I bought the tool rolls, I actually bought three of them all at once to decide which pleased me the most. The Lezyne was good enough to stick on Purple Haze, the SKS was a bit of a dud, and this final one, a Camelbak, did the best job of holding a full set of roadside repair tools (multi-tool, tube, patch kit, CO2 inflator). The downside of this one, however, was that it didn't have a proper strap to hold it to the underside of the saddle, so I decided to try out a standalone downtube strap (in this case a "Granite Rockstrap") for securing the tool roll.

At first I tried strapping it under the saddle and it worked ok-ish there, but the buckle that held the tool roll closed kept the strap a bit off center and it was difficult to position it in the perfect spot. So I did a little experimenting and found that just under the down tube was the perfect position for it (above the downtube between the pedals wasn't an option as the tool roll was slightly too wide and would interfere with the chainrings).

Barring some unforeseen mishaps with these solutions, I think I'm pretty sorted for on-bike storage at this point. Now I just need to find the time to actually go out riding...

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Pale Reflection of Former Glories

Or maybe it's just a lighted, magnifying mirror. One of the two. I'm at home sick with a mild cold today so I decided to install this mirror I got off Amazon to cover a little patch of chipped paint on the wall.

Can't see that chip anymore!

A battery powered version (and there are many available) might have had a slightly cleaner installation, but given I almost never plug anything in to the outlet here I figured having a cord draped across the wall a little ways was a fair tradeoff for never having to change batteries.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Two-gang Done Right

Wiring multiple outlets in a single box? Save yourself some time and headache with a little advance preparation.

A little bit more power

In my pursuit of juicing up my server to act as my security camera processing box, I decided to pop in an upgraded video card. In theory, if everything goes to plan, this should allow me to encode video and run image processing and ML algorithms much more efficiently than trying to do it on the CPU.

Of course, what I didn't count on when ordering the video card is that it would be too long to fit into the existing case, and that furthermore I would need a new power supply with the right connectors for the auxiliary power inputs on it. Cue another trip to Amazon and...

Now my server is much larger. It's quite nice having so much space inside to work on stuff, for the rare occasions that I'll be digging around in there to work on stuff. The important part is that the RTX2070 card fits inside with room to spare.

Amusingly I went for a 1kw power supply just for the sake of making damn sure I'd have enough dancing pixies to keep the magic smoke contained, and after powering the system on and checking the display on my UPS, I'm only using about 100w at idle. I think I've got a little headroom left over.

Now I just have to get all the software to actually talk with the video card. Also peel off the protective plastic once I shove it into its final location in my crafts room.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Letting the Sparks Fly

... Or trying not to, as the case may be. Today's project was repairing a loose outlet. Why was it loose? Well, when it was originally installed the workers put in a 4x4 bakelite junction box in the wall, used the space to join a bunch of wires together because why not, and then put a bakelite mud ring on top to mount an outlet to. Bakelite is, of course, quite brittle, so obviously it's the material of choice for something that people will regularly smack into.

Somehow they didn't see that coming. it's a good thing they don't make 'em like they used to. And here's the mess that was hidden inside:

Naturally all the wires were cut way too short, and many of them were spliced in questionable ways, so before I could install the old-work box I had to clean things up and extend them all. That was a fun time.

It's a good thing crimp butt splice connectors exist. If you're wondering why there's two different sizes, it's because this old style romex uses an undersized ground wire. And since they don't make a splice that fits both 12 and 14ga wire, I not only had to use two different sizes of splices, but also go out and buy some 14ga wire.

Anyway, after the usual amount of struggling and cussing I got the new box in, a pair of outlets wired up, and everything buttoned up nicely once more.

Job well done.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Hiding in the Walls

Today I decided to rewire the ethernet drops that go to the craft room and, since it shares the same wall, the guest bedroom (which is still entirely devoid of furniture, but never mind that). I wanted to rewire them for two reasons. Firstly, they were obviously installed by someone who had no idea what they were doing, as the wiring on the keystone jacks was hilariously sloppy and the RJ45 terminations on the other end had an inch of bare wires behind the plug.

So I remove the faceplate on one side of the wall and start disassembling the sloppy work. I'd had this plate off once before to inspect the state of things, and at the time noticed some odd items inside the wall: what looked like a piece of fabric, perhaps a glove, some folded up pieces of paper, etc, but I didn't pay much attention to them as it looked like a work glove and probably the instructions for how to wire an ethernet jack.

Oh how wrong I was.

I figured I might as well clean out the detritus, and the first thing I discovered was that what I assumed was a glove was, instead, a jacket off of a doll. Weird. Continuing to dig revealed other odd items: a piece of a toy golf club, a valentine's card from someone's grandmother, an empty packet of Certs, a painted piece of metal that looked like it was a part of a toy at one point, some handwritten notes about bending sheet metal. Then things got weirder.

A torn magazine page featuring pinups of Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson.

About 14 pages of inkjet printouts of scantily clad ladies.

A pair of women's panties with a wallet-sized photo stapled to them.

A sock.



Anyway, pulling the new wires turned out to be a bit of an adventure. I bought some pre-terminated ethernet cables to save a bit of fuss and as it turned out the hole drilled at the top of the wall wasn't quite big enough to fit the RJ45 plugs through, so I had to very carefully drill a second hole beside the first so I could squeeze them past. Then I decided I'd probably need even more space for the next pair of cables and, well, let's say I guess I got greedy. I managed not to nick the cables drilling the first hole, but the second one wasn't so lucky and I managed to completely sever one of the old cables (no big deal) and nick both of the new cables I'd already pulled (annoying, but luckily I have RJ45 ends and crimper, and the damage was maybe only 3 feet from the end of the cable, so it wasn't a total loss to have to re-terminate them).

Anyway, I had to resort to using a fish tape to pull the second pair of cables, which worked out ok. Would have been nice to use the old cable but it was no longer fit for even that purpose. Interestingly, when I pulled the remains of that one out of the wall I found that it suffered some sort of damage part way down and had been folded over and wrapped with electrical tape for some bizarre reason.

Needless to say I'm glad I got rid of all that mess. I just have a bit of electrical to fix in the guest room (one of the electrical boxes is broken, so I need to chip out its remains and replace it with an old work box) and then I can move my server into the craft room and not have it sitting in the middle of the main living area.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Big Brother is Watching

So I got a free TV and let me tell you it's worth every penny. It actually works fine I just didn't know that companies were still making 720p sets in this, the year of our lord Two Thousand and Nineteen.

I'm basically planning to use it for running a live display from my security camera once I get things a bit more set up, and finally put my ChromeBit back to use.

I was originally planning to buy a large touchscreen panel and get a little fancier with the UI so I could review previous events and so on, but it just so happens that I refinanced my house and got this TV as a "free mortgage gift" as part of the process. Story time:

When I originally bought my house and got the mortgage I was given a code to plug into a website to select one "free" gift from a variety of merchandise that you might expect to find on offer from such a program. Most of it was crap but there were a few half-decent tools to pick from, and eventually I narrowed it down to either a portable bandsaw or a 10 inch miter saw. A bit of contemplation later and I put the porta-band in my cart and went on living my life.

Fast forward to my refi and I get the email with a code again, and I get excited at the prospect of being able to pick up the 10 inch miter saw, only to find that this time the selection is much more limited, with maybe only 8 products in total being offered and most of them of lower value. So I'm like "oh, I guess they don't offer the fancier catalog when you refi, only when you purchase" and I figure I might as well grab the incredibly low-end TV set to use for my security cam display because why not.

Then a day or two later I get another email with a different code and a slightly different "congratulations" pitch mentioning that because of some corp perk with Google I'm entitled to a fancier gift, and punching in the code leads me to the full catalog I recognized from the first time around. So I dig in, find the 10 inch miter saw and hit the order button.

I guess I'm getting two "free" gifts!

Roses are Red

Something something violets something.

Tossed some fertilizer in and pinched off some leaves with a bit of fungus and suddenly everything bloomed at once. Roses are hungry buggers.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

These Boots Aren't Made For Walking

But they are made for motorcycling, and currently they're my only pair so designated. This made it a bit awkward when one of the buckles ate its springs and became a bit limp.

There was still plenty of velcro to keep it on my foot and the buckle still technically worked, just not as well as it was designed to. Luckily the replacement part wasn't too difficult to find, and also came in an assortment of colors. Seeing as the boots are black with a few red accents, I decided to coordinate.

Looks good, works good, everything is as it should be!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Now with 10% less hantavirus

Finally got around to taking down a bit more of the rickety shelving in the garage.

It's not much but it's something. Also patched up the drywall a bit (though eventually I'm going to rip it down so I can stuff insulation in the walls). The drywall tape was actually peeling off of the joint between the panels, so I replaced it with the fiberglass mesh style which shouldn't have that problem. I'm not going to bother patching up the dog-eaten bits by the vent until I redo the walls.

I also took the opportunity to vacuum up some of the mouse turds from the shelf above the garage door, and clear away some of the old pop cans that had been tossed up there. One of the cans was a coke can from the 1996 olympics so that'll give you an idea of how long it was collecting dust. (No, it's not worth any money)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

It's Life, Jim But Not As We Know It

Looks like the seedling tray system is working well, I've already got a few sprouts popping up!

They're a few days early too, they're supposed to take 7-10 days to germinate but I saw the first signs of sprouting only 4 days after I started them. I guess that's a good sign that I'm doing something right!

As an aside, I wanted to check the exact phrasing for the quote in the title of the post, only to discover that it's not actually a quote from Star Trek itself, but instead from a parody song Star Trekkin'. Who knew?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Test Run

I decided to saddle up on Dirty Dozen and put a few miles on it to see what cycling to and from work would be like from my new house.

Northbound, southbound.

The answer: not bad, but it'll take a bit more time out of the day than I'd like. Most importantly, I wouldn't be able to make it to the office by 9am if I woke up at my usual time of 7am, and waking up earlier would likely fuck up my sleep schedule a bit too much.

Also the flat tire on the way back wasn't too awesome. Picked up a nail while coming into Saratoga. Real nice of the construction folks to actually secure cargo in the back of their ratty, broken-down pickup trucks.

Anyway, flat tires aside, it's a little over 1.5 hours wall time each way. The question now is whether I could trim that down significantly with an e-bike (class 3 so I can get boosted up to 28mph), enough so that I could roll into work at the usual time? Though for the moment the question is largely academic as e-road bikes (as opposed to the annoying flat-bar commuter bikes) are still in the early days and priced well above what I'd want to spend on a speculative buy.

I guess we'll see what the future brings in the next few years. Until then, I'll be enjoying my motorcycles.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Greenest Thumb

A little water, some warm sunlight, and a week and a half later thousands of seedlings are poking their first leaves up out of the ground.

Unfortunately I only planted hundreds of seeds, and if my math degree prepared me at all for this situation I'm pretty sure that means that most if not all of these are weeds.

So, take two, let's try a different approach.

Friday, September 6, 2019


My back yard was apparently visited by some birds today. No idea what kind, apparently the type that poops a lot.

Got out the hose and gave everything a quick scrub and...

... well, I guess that's going to save me some sanding on the table. Good thing it's on the list for refinishing. The refinished chairs (4/6 done) stood up to the scrubbing quite nicely.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Seeds Of Evil

Got myself some yarrow seeds on a lark to pretty up some of the blank dirt up behind my retaining wall.

These seeds are incredibly tiny. The photo doesn't really do it justice.

Anyway, planted them up this afternoon, and I'm hoping those popsicle sticks I used as markers don't end up being tiny seed tombstones. But if they do I've got plenty more seeds to try again I guess.

The irrigation isn't terribly functional. It's got some emitters but most of them seem to be some combination of clogged or broken, so I'll probably pull them out and install some lengths of drip line instead. In the mean time I'm watering manually with the hose.