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:

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.