Sunday, September 26, 2021


One of the things thats perplexed me about living in this house is how often I've found loose change just rattling around in the strangest places.

For example, when I was planting the lantana yesterday, I came upon what initially looked like a curiously small penny; it was very copper coloured but slightly smaller than I'd normally expect it to be. After cleaning it off I discovered that it was in fact just a very dirty dime from 1965.

Being from 1965 would make it entirely likely that this dime was lost way back when the house was originally built. It also makes it somewhat likely that whoever dropped it is now dead, so I'm not gonna go out of my way to try to track them down to return it.

I checked with a coin database online, and apparently a 1965 Roosevelt dime is worth 10 cents! It's also apparently the first year when the US mint stopped using silver in the dimes, and instead switched to a copper-nickel over copper construction. I guess that might explain why its original owner saw fit to throw it away.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Lantana Time

So while I was at The Home Despot the other day picking up some hardware for mounting my Mac Mini mount, I decided to take a quick walk through the produce garden department and see if they had any purple and yellow mounding lantana.

That would be an affirmative, looks like they're finally in season again.

I've had my eye on picking up a few of these to replace the coyote brush in the front garden. I'm at least 99% sure that it's a weed, but either way it's kind of ugly and way out of place at the front corner like it is.

Having something that tall right at the front corner of the garden really makes no sense whatsoever, so even if it weren't ugly I'd still be a little put off by it.

So, first step is to give it a little haircut.

Just a little off the top will do.

Next is pulling up the roots. Since my yard is mostly a hard-packed clay, the roots mostly just ran along the surface underneath the mulch, so pulling them up actually wasn't terribly difficult to do.

It's looking better already!

Despite the sun getting low late in the afternoon, it was still pretty hot out, so I called it there and decided to finish things up the following morning. When I awoke, I was disappointed to find that the lantana had not planted itself overnight.

I guess I'll just have to do it the hard way.

Step one: lay them out roughly where they're going to go, just to make sure they're going to fit nicely.

It's a good thing these get bigger over time.

Next step, scrape the mulch back and dig a hole.

Did I mention that the "soil" in my yard is hard-packed clay? Thankfully the right tool for the job makes all the difference in the world.

With the hole dug, we add some organic matter to try to give the roots of the lantana something a bit more inviting to grow into.

This sure is a lot of work for just sticking a plant in the ground. Makes you wonder how these things ever manage to survive in nature.

Repeat 4 times.

And we finally get to the part where we stick the plants into the dirt.

I tried to mound up the dirt around the new plants a little to keep them from getting root rot, which is what I think killed off the lithodora I planted here a while back. The hard-packed clay doesn't drain well, so sticking a plant in the ground here is kind of like just shoving it into a bowl. Hopefully the extra elevation will help get a little bit of a wet/dry cycle going so the root rot doesn't take hold again.

I suppose we'll see. Worst case, the plants were only about $5 each so I'm not out much if they die.

That said, so far the lithodora is the only thing I've planted here that I've managed to completely kill, so I think luck should be on my side.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Hide and Seek

So I recently revived my old Mac Mini to serve as a secondary home server, so that I could keep essential services (like dhcp and dns for example) online when I wanted to do something to my main server that might take it offline for a while (more on that in a future post).

As part of this process I decided it would be appropriate to mount the Mini in my server closet of doom. I ordered a premade mac mini mount from the everything store (which got lost, so I had to refund it and order another), and while I was mulling things over, I realized that the design of this particular mount wouldn't necessarily be ideal for using in my server closet (again, more on this in a future post).

However, it would be ideal for hiding away my main Mini.

So I went to work drilling a few holes in the underside of my desk, making very sure to not drill through the top or use screws too long that would end up rupturing the top surface, and like magic the Mini disappeared, freeing up a small but meaningful bit of desk space.

And the Mini has a new home down below, tucked safely out of the way.

As a bonus, this will also make it slightly quieter in the rare occasions that the fan decides to spin up.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Just A Little Off The Top

The neighbour's tree was getting a little shaggy and overhanging my yard more than I like again, so after a fair bit of procrastination I finally got around to trimming it back.

As you can see it was a bit shaggy.

As is quite common for trees that have been previously butchered by pollarding.

It was also hanging over my yard.

Which I don't fancy as it lets rats onto my roof, shades out my solar panels, and generally makes that side of the yard a bit gloomy.

But after a bit of a haircut things are looking subtly nicer.

And there's much less leaning over the fence.

Although once again I was not able to reach the highest branch in the back, which has become my nemesis.

That's plenty enough trimming for one day.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Caloric Containment

Last week I decided to make myself some rice to go along with my usual Thursday lunch of instant ramen (I like it, it's a once-a-week thing). I cooked the rice as normal in my rice cooker, spooned it out onto a plate, spread it out a little and sprinkled it with soy sauce and a little fresh ground pepper.

By the time I ate it, it was pretty much cold. Rice doesn't have a lot of thermal mass, and spreading it out on a plate really increases its surface area. This is not ideal.

So, I took a hint from the masters of rice consumption: the Japanese. I got a set of bowls appropriately sized for rice, and not coincidentally also appropriately sized for instant ramen (regular cereal bowls are a bit too small, which is not a good situation when trying to contain a liquid such as soup).

I'm pretty happy with how things turned out.

In case you're wondering, the stuff on top of the rice in the background is assorted pickled vegetables, aka giardiniera, which isn't very Japanese, but is very tasty. Also some kalamata olives, which also aren't terribly Japanese, and also are very tasty.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Looking at it from a different angle

So I've gone through a few iterations of mounting my Garmin to Crimson Ghost. The standard method of mounting that Garmin provides is a little plastic doohickey that straps to the bars or the stem with some rubber o-rings. This works well enough, but it's not an entirely positive retention method, and on other bikes I would often find myself messing with the unit to get/keep it OCD-aligned.

Crimson Ghost added another confounding element to the puzzle: the stem is too short to fit the doohickey onto, and I didn't fancy the idea of strapping it to the bars off-center.

Thus, I embarked on the adventure of finding a better mount. K-Edge manufactures a variety of mounts, and I had good luck with an out-front mount on The Red Devil / Phoenix Down / Dirty Dozen, my CAAD road bike, but I felt like using the out-front mount on a mountain bike wouldn't be the best idea: if I went over the bars, the computer sticking out the front would likely get fucking beefed when the bike hit the ground.

Granted, going over the bars has other negative consequences, but I'm not really keen on the idea of adding more potential damage to that equation.

So the first attempt was with a rigid over-the-stem adapter that basically functioned as an extra headset spacer. This worked ok, but due to the fact that it was flat, it interfered with the top of the stem and meant I had to run a bunch of spacers between the mount and the stem, thus lowering the bar height. This wasn't the end of the world, but neither was it elegant.

So, I swapped the rigid adapter over to BlackBirb, and got a mount with an adjustable angle.

This was a much more elegant solution from a purely mechanical point of view, but it also introduced a new issue: the Garmin screen was now pointing more towards my groin than my face.

Ok, maybe the angle wasn't all that extreme, but it still made the display much harder to read than it needed to be.

So, let's see if third time is lucky, this time with a top cap mount.

Still elegant, and a bit more compact, and most importantly the screen is at a more agreeable angle once more.

However, the unit now overhangs the back of the stem, which makes me slightly concerned that it might at some point come in violent contact with my knee.

I suppose I'll just have to see how things go.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Do Not Expose To Sunlight

Clearly nobody could have foreseen that someone would mistreat a SOLAR PANEL by leaving it out in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.

This use case is clearly well outside of its intended design parameters.

The interesting thing is that this has been getting most of its sunlight filtered through a car windshield, which should actually block most of the incoming UV (around 95%), which makes me wonder how fast the mounting brackets would have disintegrated if I had left it out in actual direct sunlight.

I also forgot that the frame used to be anodized black (or maybe dark brown, it's hard to tell). It had faded so gradually towards the bronze color that it completely didn't register in my mind.

The good news, however, is that these brackets aren't actually critical to my application, and in fact I wasn't even using them at all.

I will not miss them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Putting A Stop To It

So SRAM brakes have, in the past, had a little issue with the master cylinder pistons swelling over time, often when heated (such as when you leave your bike out in the sun). The only fix for this is to replace the pistons with the newer revisions that have more clearance between the piston and the master cylinder bore.

It turns out that this process is a bit tricky, as the piston is retained in the master cylinder by a snap ring, but it's too deep to reach with standard snap ring pliers, which I only discovered after buying the wrong ones. Luckily the right ones aren't too expensive, and the obstacle was soon surmounted.

I also decided to make a video of the adventure, which you can watch here.


Laboring in the Mines

Took a wee ride on Crimson Ghost on a fine Labor Day Monday.

The Guadalupe Reservoir isn't sucking mud just yet, but it's certainly low. Technically my house is in this picture, on the far side of a few of those hills.

I wanted to do a little exploring through Almaden Quicksilver, named for the old mercury mines that used to operate in the area (the remains of which are still rusting away).

Normally I'd use BlackBirb for this type of ride, but I just rebuilt the brakes on Crimson Ghost so I wanted to give it a shakedown ride to make sure everything was in good working order.

Mission accomplished.

Your Mother Was A Hamster

So I suppose this is what elderberry flowers look like. At least, this variety of elderberries.

As with the previous flower post, I used my fancy new reflector to improve the lighting here. I also tried the gold side for these flowers but I think it ended up making the wall behind them look a bit grimy and reduced the contrast a little.

A bit too sepia toned.

While I was out there I decided to get a glam shot of the butterfly bush, a plant I'm still not particularly fond of.

This is with the gold reflector providing fill light, and direct sunlight providing the main illumination. The elderberries, in contrast, are sort of in the shade.

The Future's So Bright

So it was about time I upgraded my shades.

My cycling sunglasses were doing well, but the rubberized pads on the arms had swelled a bit over time and were starting to split at the ends. Since they've lasted quite well I decided to go with the same brand for the new ones.

New ones in the front, old ones in the back. I don't recall the model of the old ones, but the new ones are the Tifosi Slice.

For my day-to-day sunglasses I had been wearing a pair of nearly identical Fila branded shades. They served me fairly well, but more recently they started getting sticky-plastic-syndrome and the paint started flaking off the frames. It was time to take them out behind the woodshed.

The new shades are Suncloud Airways, and with any luck they should last me as long as the previous ones.

As you can see, those old ones are done.

As to why I have different sunglasses for daily and cycling purposes, the reason is simple: I like a light shade photochromic lens for my cycling so that I can wear the same pair day or night, and I prefer a darker shade for the regular sunglasses.