The walls between art and engineering…

Ok, so Dr. Tran was a bust. Sigh… in spite of being an ad for BMW, the art/engineering this guy is doing is pretty neat:

Strandbeesten (aka “Beach Beast”)

Also, look at Theo Jansen’s website for more examples of wind powered art/machines. Makes me sorta wonder if there isn’t a non-art application for such things (like, could you use such a machine to ‘walk’ across a field of wheat and cut/bale it? Seems like you could make a scythe swing back and forth mechanically as part of the walker mechanism).

As an aside, in spite of the above clip hawking BWM, it appears that Theo actually drives a Volvo 🙂

Propane drama

So, with the rising cost of energy particulary here in CA, I opted to have Suburban Propane come out and drop off a larger propane tank for us. We had a 475gal (500?) and I had them bring a 1000 gal. The idea would be to buy propane under futures contract for a much cheaper price (under contract, its running like $2.60/gal right now vs. $3.30/gal last winter and probably along the order of $3.80 this coming winter). Great idea right? Well…

The dude is successful in draining the old tank into the new, installing the new tank and then as a safety test, he does a leak test on our line into the house. Leaks… not a lot, but enough. Damn. Start tracing it back. Not the furnace, water heater, stove or any stub pipes in the house. Good – maybe the house won’t be blowing up. Turns the valve off outside the house and its still leaking. I help him verify all his test rig and all the above ground connections. Still nothing. We notice that the stub pipe coming out of the ground is really loose. Really loose – as in, move a little dirt out of the way and the thing flops right over. Some junction underground is loose. And its 30+ yr old piping, which isn’t correct per code any way. So, since he can’t fix it right then and there, he disconnects the tank and sez “Sorry – no propane for you until either this pipe is fixed or you lay in a new line. Fortunately, they don’t use steel piping underground anymore for gas. Its some flex tubing that is one piece, no joints except at the above ground ends. So, until Friday – no hot water. Bleah…

Owl rescue

So, I was sitting around doing some work in the livingroom late tonite and I heard a thump against one of the front windows. Figuring it was one of the cats, I didn’t pay it much mind, except shortly afterwards, I heard the flapping of wings. Hmmm – maybe a bat hit the front window. I ducked outside to look and I saw the cats gathering around this little guy:

I gathered him up in some towels and brought him inside to get him away from the cats. He seemed pretty stunned and groggy. Head on collisions will do that.
Cute little guy. He held onto my shirt and then my fingers with his very pointy/sharp talons. Didn’t try to bite at all – was very gentle and docile.

Anyway, I found a box and some towels and tucked him away in the barn office to wait for Lisa to get home and have a look. By the time she got home, the little guy was feeling much better and we let him go – he flew away in a flash. Guess he’s feeling better.

SRL night in San Jose

Aka, Survival Research Laboratories. A bunch of us (Liz-Paul, Rob&M, Paul&Julie, Dan&Holly) went to go see their show in San Jose a couple weekends ago (yea, so much for a ‘timely’ post about this – sue me – I’ve been busy 🙂

Here’s the spiel on SRL:

Survival Research Laboratories was conceived of and founded by Mark Pauline in November 1978. Since its inception SRL has operated as an organization of creative technicians dedicated to re-directing the techniques, tools, and tenets of industry, science, and the military away from their typical manifestations in practicality, product or warfare. Since 1979, SRL has staged over 45 mechanized presentations in the United States and Europe. Each performance consists of a unique set of ritualized interactions between machines, robots, and special effects devices, employed in developing themes of socio-political satire. Humans are present only as audience or operators.

Summary: geeks building robots and arming them with flamethrowers and cannons and generally making mayhem of a parking lot full of props to blow up, burn, etc.

Anyway, check out the pictures/videos on their website from the San Jose show. I only had my camera phone with me that nite, and I’m sure its pics and video don’t nearly do justice to this presentation. I’ll upload my pics/video to the gallery shortly.

Weather station

Yea, I’m a geek. So, whilest Lisa has her dog competitions and horsie stuff going on, I have my geek stuff. Already got enough computers in the house (for now – will be moving to Macs over the coming year+), but I’m into weather stuff. So, after doing a bunch of research on weather station hardware/software, I settled on a Davis Instruments Vantage Pro2 – wireless, solar powered. I love eBay, since I found a decent deal on it there, as well as the optional software. There are other software packages to manage/query the station, but I got a decent deal on the Davis WeatherLink stuff, that I’ll start with that. I’ve been sorta busy lately, so the boxes were sitting in the home office for that past several weeks. Determined not to have “yet another unopened, undeployed toy” kicking around, I mustered the energy over the weekend to set it up and start playing with it. Its not installed in its optimal/final location (since my shoulder is still healing after surgery and I can’t dig the hole/mix concrete for the mounting post), but I did manage to rig it up on a pole that was being used to brace a now dead sapling tree.

Here’s a couple stock pics of the station (the real pics coming soon – Lisa took the camera to work today and its got the pics on it):

I did a first cut at the web page for the weather data (from the stock template that came with the WeatherLink software). Once I get more time, I’ll tweak it more.

Ultimately, I’ll get more sensors, so we can monitor the temp in the barn and the attic and automate ventilation fans, etc.

Weather – yea, its a geek thing…

Harvest time

Well, I guess its not as dramatic as a real farm, but our garden seems to have generally survived the onslaught of critters earlier this summer and we have a ton of fresh veggies. Since Lisa was super busy this weekend, I went out picked as much as I could mostly one handed (my left shoulder is still not quite up to snuff, so fully extending it to pick veggies is not on the menu right now). Got a large bowl of snap peas, assorted tomatoes, beans (funky purple string beans), zucchini, multi-coloured peppers. We still have a ton of tomatoes yet to ripen, as well as more lettuce and a whole lot of melons – Lisa planted several different varieties of melons, even tho she isn’t personally a fan of them, but she knows I like ’em. Mmmm… yea, I love her – she’s cool.
We had one good sized beefsteak tomato that is making for some tasty sandwiches the past two days.

Enough of hospitals for now

With luck, today finished off the summer of surgery. I went in this morning for repairs to my shoulder that got forcibly dislocated playing hockey almost 10 yrs ago (dang – time flies). After trying a bunch of alternatives to surgery over the years, I finally gave up and asked my ortho dude to do arthroscopic surgery to clean up the crunching. I have (or hopefully ‘had’) a form of impingment:

Doing the arthroscopic technique is a lot less invasive than traditional joint surgery, which used to take a long time for recovery. With this approach, it should be healed in 5-6 weeks, which means I might actually be able to play hockey this winter.

I went to the same place as I did for my septoplasty back in June, the El Camino surgery center. Nice folks, very efficient, good quality work. You’d think I was talking about an auto repair shop 😛

Unlike for my nose surgery, they did this one with me fully sedated. I don’t remember anything from the time the anethesiologist came in to say ‘hi’ to the point when I woke up in post-op. I guess the drugs did their work well. It hurt like hell when I first woke up, but now its not too bad. The doc gave me some percocet, so I’m flying high tonite …

Ok, time to rest. I’m not supposed to be up and on the computer right now anyway – but Lisa ain’t here to enforce that, so…

Silence of the Lambs

No, its not about Hannibal Lector and cannabalism.


Around 5:30 this morning, there was an enormous racket going on outside, neighbors dogs barking up a storm and the sound of … coyotes. Lots of ’em. They were on the hillside across the road from us, just partying it up and driving all the dogs around here nuts. I’m sure they are scheming to find a way into the pastures to have their way with the lambs, etc:

And the lambs? They were silent – all the sheep & goats were in one of the upper pastures, looking nervously toward the partying coyotes (not that they could see ’em – the hill was totally fogged in this morning). It was the one night we decided to leave Jack outside. He’s been a pretty spoiled horse so far, coming in every nite to a full feeder of hay and horse food. He wasn’t too happy about staying out last nite, but I did line the lambing shed that he likes to hang out in with fresh straw yesterday, so perhaps he bedded down there. Until the partying started and he was awake and hanging out near the sheep/goats, looking not to pleased about the yipping coyotes.

I’m sure the lambs will be less than thrilled with todays acitivities – its shearing time. Fortunately, they are smaller than the adults and easier to catch/restrain for the clipping. Oh yea, also need to ear tag everyone today – more fun.

Dr. Tran!

Dr. Tran rocks!

For the record, I do not agree. Dr. Tran does NOT rock, in fact, maybe it’s due to my recent eye surgery, maybe they screwed up, but I fail to see anything funny about Dr. Tran. Nothing at all. Used toilet paper is funnier. I’ll put more drops in my eyes, and look again, but I’m pretty sure the results are going to be the same.
Dr. Tran most definitely fails to rock.
xoxoxo, Lisa

Another surgery done

This is like the summer we’re using all that nice health care Cisco helps pay for. The Summer of Surgery. Anyway, just got Lisa back home from her Lasik surgery. I’m all oogy about eyes and figured something like this would happen:

But fortunately, she’s fine. Eyes are burning a bit (there must have been something in the Jeep that really irritated ’em), but she’s resting ok now.