Monday, August 29, 2016

How To Gum Up An Airport

     ...Make a series of loud bangity sounds.  No, don't -- in a time when media coverage magnifies the per-capita incidence of terror attacks, among populations who can't tell a rifle shot from a popped paper bag, all it takes is the perception of danger and LAX grinds to a halt.

     Something similar happened earlier this month at JFK airport, too.  H'mm, both in regions where lawful possession of firearms is discouraged by law, who'd'a thunk?

     Imagine the harm a prankster with boombox could do in such areas.  Or even no boombox, just a burner celphone and the number for airport security: "I heard shots!"  You can be sure they're thinking of it -- for multiple definitions of "they."

     After WW II, SF writer Eric Frank Russell wrote a novel called Wasp.  The title is from a newspaper report of a multiple-fatality one-car accident caused by a wasp inside the vehicle.  The novel is based on WW II covert action using a similar "small cause -- huge harm" approach.  Sometimes I wonder who else read it -- and made notes.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Geeky TDR Tip

     I got out the TDR Friday -- an elderly Tektronix 1502 Time Domain Reflectometer, filled with unobtanium tunnel diodes, and it was dead.  D-E-A-D as in won't even turn on.

     They do that.  There's a big ol' NiCad battery pack in the middle of the thing and Tek was worried they would be burning up costly TDRs if they weren't very careful about charging the batteries and as a result, if the battery is way low, or getting puny, or even just having a bad day, the power supplies crowbar before they even turn all the way on.  Usually you can flip the thing on and off a few times and catch it looking the other way, at which point it will start to charge up the batteries but still won't quite work and before you can read War And Peace even halfway through, the thing will be happy enough to run.

     Not this time.  It was not waking up.  And it's not like the corner Tek store* is going to be selling replacement battery packs, custom fused, heat-sunk, waterproofed-sealing as they are.  The local battery-everything places can maybe rebuild it, but not quickly.

     Quick, to the Web!  And there I discover this is a known issue and what you want is about 200 - 270 Ohms at ten Watts with 2200 uF at 25V in parallel across the banana plugs where the battery pack should plug in.  A nice big handful of 2W carbon resistors later (seven of them, because if 10W is plenty, 14W should run cool) and an electrolytic capacitor later, I was in the TDR business -- inelegantly, with a little box marked "Fake Tek NiCad Pack" on rubber-covered test leads plugged into the thing, but it was working and it saw the coax cables. 

     They don't look too bad.  Or anyway, not too dissimilar to one another and there aren't any glaring discontinuities.  So I'm hoping that's a good sign.
* This actually used to be a thing.  There were Tek service centers in all the major cities, usually with a salesperson working out of 'em, and you could drive over there, drop off equipment for calibration, buy common parts and order uncommon ones, maybe get shown the latest new toys--  That was Then.  Now, not so much.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Storms, You Say? Antenna, You Say?

     Yesterday morning, I was ready to get in the shower after storms had come thunering through, when Tam asked, "What about your ham radio antenna in the back yard?"

     "My antenna?"  I had a look.  It wasn't good news:

     A branch had fallen, got tangled in the wires, and was pulling the feedpoint (not shown) into dangerous proximity the power wiring to the house.  There are multiple support points that keep the two far apart, but they are predicated on the wire breaking under a large branch or or being able to support a smaller one.  This one was Just Right--
     Or Just Wrong.

     I had to cut the branch with a brush saw -- a simple frame with an aggressive blade -- and them wrestle it around to free the wire.  It's still stretched, possibly broken inside the insulation.  I already needed to do some antenna work and this has made it more urgent.

     And we have days of scattered storms and hot, humid weather predicted.  There's an old rule that ham antennas work better if you install them during a blizzard.  Perhaps it applies if you repair them during the most dogged of dog days, as well.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sausage Hash With All The Trimmings

     Any more, I skip about every other meal, or at least go very light.  This morning is not one of those.  I had a can of sausage hash, some left-over fresh mushrooms, a couple of huge green onions and an egg:
The red stuff is a little paprika.  I like it.  YMMV.
     It cooked up pretty well, I think.  Tam's not so much for egg on hash (I like the yolks cooked out and I don't think she trusts me to leave hers sunny-side-up and still liquid), so I did half with, half without. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Deluxe Eggs Pomodoro

     ...Spellcheck wants them to be "Eggs Pimlico," but I think that's a sponsored correction.  Anyway, I wanted something tasty for dinner last night, but I didn't want to spend forever on it.  Supercharged spaghetti sauce with eggs poached in it seemed like a good way to go--

     If you're using store-bought sauce, go for the good stuff.  I found a high-end brand that claimed it contained nothing more than tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil.  It looked good in the jar and it was good.  Avoid the cheap stuff, it's got extra sugar and added water and who knows what.  On the other hand, I did want some extra "stuff," and that was:

     1 hot Italian sausage
     1 sweet Italian sauasage
     2/3 of a container of small porcini mushrooms, or all of it if you prefer
     3 small spring onions or 4 large green onions  (I had some of each)

     Rinse the mushrooms and set them to one side; squeeze the sausages out of their casings into a large non-stick pan (I have one that can't decide if it is a high-sided skillet or a very wide saucepan, but a wok or large frying pan works, too) over medium heat.  Turn the meat over as soon as it browns and mash it out flat, then use a spatula or whatever to break it up.  (Worst case, lift it and use kitchen shears!).

     Slice the mushrooms and add them.

     Slice the onion and set to one side while the meat and mushroom cooks; drain the grease, add the onion, stir it all together and  give the onion a minute to so to get partially cooked, then add the sauce, stir well, and heat it up to an almost-boil.

     Make some divots in it (you're just pushing the meat, etc. out of the way) and crack an egg into each one (you can use however many eggs you like up to full coverage of the sauce, one per serving).  Cover, reduce heat slightly, and let it simmer until the eggs are done -- basically, once the whites are set, just let it be until the yolks are cooked to your preferred degree.

       Serve in bowls, lifting the poached egg out with a ladle and adding a proportionate amount of sauce.  It's warm and complex and filling, and looks pretty fancy for something so simple to prepare.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Remember The Puzzle With A Fox, A Chicken And A Sack Of Grain?

     You have a rowboat that'll carry you and any one of the three and you've got to get grain, chicken and fox all across a body of water without ever leaving a fox/chicken or chicken/grain pair alone on either side.  I think it was XKCD (Randall Munroe) who pointed out the real solution: Leave the fox.  Foxes aren't domestic animals.*

     Of course, he is brilliant.

     Me, what I have is perspiration.  I also had to get four 250 foot runs of not-very-flexible LMR-400 coax from the roof of an oversized two-story building through a conduit run that included not less than nine 90-degree bends, four of them in very close pairs, including one into a vertical. open-fronted wire duct above a suspended ceiling.  The conduit wasn't big enough to run them one at a time, so there was a fat bundle to fight.  --Oh, and two of the 90s are above the ceiling, between a wall and a lighting fixture, requiring vertical-limbo skills to reach.

     The usual way to do this, assuming you are insane or desperate enough to make the attempt, it to station a person at each end and every 90 or close pair of 90s, and everyone helps the thick, awkward mess along.  It works well.

     That would call for at least six and preferably seven people.  I had four, two of whom had better things to do -- oh, and about 25 feet of the run wasn't in conduit, but through a very "busy" raised floor under an in-use control center.

     We did it, mostly by me bouncing between three of the worst corners (yes, including the two above the ceiling) and the application of plenty of brute force and utter guile on everyone's part, but it wasn't quick and it certainly wasn't easy.

     I won't know if we "killed" any of the cable runs until later today  An overlooked kink will destroy the stuff worse than a network cable.  Wish me luck -- I'll be connectorizing the bottom ends and applying a Time-Domain Reflectometer.  What's a TDR?  Think of it as "radar on a rope:" it bounces signals off the far end and looks to see how well they make the round trip, with a presentation similar to a radar A-scope.  I hope not to see any bogies.
* Leave the fox and grain, take the chicken across.  Leave the chicken, go back and get the grain.  Goodbye, fox!  Good luck!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cybernetic Intervention?

     So, is a robot that habitually attaches random used parts to itself "addicted to junk," and if so, do its peers attempt to install new firmware?  It seems only likely.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Of Gutters And Things

     For the amount of water that was arcing off the end of the gutter, the blockage wasn't all that much, several feet of leaves just along the very end of the gutter.  It had produced gallons of water, some of which I caught in a trash can and poured down the storm drain later.  The uncaught water gouged out a little pothole in the side yard. That corner -- perhaps that whole side of the house -- is ripe for rain barrels with hose-threaded boiler valves and short concrete-block stands

     I was a slug yesterday and only cleared the gutter and downspout, did some laundry, did a little necessary shopping and that was it.  --Or it other than dinner, a kind of mushroom ragout with slow-cooked beef:
By the paintbrush of Arcimboldo, does that resemble a face in profile?
     It was pretty good and I will do better next time -- the onion's a little too sharp and the shiitake mushrooms could stand to be replaced by straw mushrooms, I think.  But it's good nevertheless.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Yesterday: Carpentry And Contemplation

     ...Though not in that order.  I'll tellya what, the carpentry produces better results.  Also, it stormed like the very dickens and I learned I (well, the house, really) have a blocked downspout.  This merits attention.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I Mowed The Lawn Yesterday

     ...And darned near drowned in my T-shirt.  It was kinda hot and very humid.  Perspiration simply did not evaporate.  Yeech!  But the lawn's mowed, about a week overdue, so....

     The air finally wrung itself out as I was putting away lawn tools.  We had a good steady rain for a few hours.  Storms today, they say.

Friday, August 19, 2016

I Feel Like I'm 110 -- But I Only Look 70!

     Day off, on account of my having worked from well before "can" both Sunday and Monday, and not to forget the little early-hours jaunt last Saturday.  So I slept in, have made egg-on-a-tortilla, and am now contemplating what else to do for the day.  If it's interesting, I'll let you know later.

     Yesterday, I went from first floor to second-story roof-top, over and over, in a building with insanely tall floors (more than 15' each), trying to figure actual length of an actual wire (well, coaxial cable, really) in a conduit run only half of which I knew much about.  Early guesstimates had been on the order of 150 feet, and I'd thought that generous--

     Nope, I'm a miser.  Try 238 feetsies.  Two flippin' hundred and thirty-holy-heck-eight feet.  Try ordering another 500' roll of LMR-400 coax (we're paying $0.83 per foot, a pretty good price, and yet still it makes beancounters weep).  Try part of the path I was counting on had been occluded by a tangled mass of abandoned-in-place wires, which I had to stop what I was doing and clear away before I could proceed.  And back up to the roof (the last half is a ladder climb) and back down, with time spent raising and lowering tools and supplies on a rope for variety.  Small wonder I'm tired today!

     Whatever else, I am darned well going to make a solid try for donutary goodness today.  I deserve 'em.

     Hey! Tam's got video of a biggish hit'n'miss engine running a gristmill at the State Fair!  Have a look!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Here's My Plan....

     Having just enjoyed a tasty bacon, Muenster and horseradish omelette (the filling is one strip of bacon, crumbled; one slice of Muenster cheese, spread with horseradish sauce and cut into small bits, very nice), I intend to get into the shower early enough to get out of the house and buy a couple --or more! -- actual fresh donuts.  I don't have them very often and I do like them so.

     ETA: And I didn't have them today, either.  Turned out I had misplaced my car key and I had to make a frantic search for it.  --Hadn't got it quite snapped onto the lanyard last night and it had migrated to the very bottom of my purse.  Last place I looked.