Posts from July 2006
Honeywell Wanted My Soul Today
So I just had the weirdest salesman/door-to-door guy bother me. This wasn’t the usual hard sell thing, as I first expected. Instead, what they wanted to do was place a sign on our property to advertise Honeywell (specifically, their home security products), and in exchange they would pay us. How could I possibly say no?? Well, you see, the problem is I’m already pissed enough at the sheer ubiquity of advertising, and the last thing I wanted was my house to turn into a glorified billboard. Not to mention the fact that I think home security systems are largely overrated (it’s not like it would take more than ten minutes to break one of our windows and steal a bunch of valuables) and are nothing more than a way for companies to cash in on fear.
So, unsurprisingly, I said “fuck that”… though in somewhat more polite language. But the best part was the guy’s reaction. “But… we’re gonna pay you.” he replied, as if the price of my soul, not to mention my values and dignity, were so easily purchased. He seemed genuinely puzzled, not to mention a little put off, that I didn’t want to become a Honeywell marketing tool.
Well, to Mr. Marketing guy and to Honeywell, I say it again: fuck that. I already have to constantly put up with advertisements. Everytime I browse the web, turn on the TV (after I’ve already paid for cable), or go to the theatre (with a ticket I already paid for), I’m bathed in advertisements and product spots. Why would I want to pollute my nice little neighbourhood with even more?
Just a Little Note
I’ve finally fleshed out the page on my Rainwater Collection System. You can see a photo of the final product below:
Photos on the complete deck railing will be forthcoming shortly… :)
Holy Crap Weeds Suck
Okay, so we were dumb. We decided to lay down our topsoil and then wait months and months before getting our final grade approval, after which we could look toward planting a lawn. Well, it turns out that the local flora absolutely love fresh black dirt, and the result was a veritable forest, nay, jungle of weeds.
The problem is, tomorrow we are supposed to have some inspector come to verify our final grade. And I can only assume that the poor sucker will want to, you know, be able to see the ground. So, I decided it was time to weed. Two and a half hours later, give or take, I was done, and the result was this:
Notice the barbecue, which I placed beside the pile for reference (note, the pile is more oblong than round, so you’re seeing the broadside in that photo).
The weeds were so bad that the process basically involved blindly grabbing and pulling at whatever I could find. Which is, coincidentally, very similar to one of the basic forms in my highly refined street fighting technique (the other being the Homer Simpson form… you know, crying like a little baby until your opponent turns away in disgust, at which point you kick some back!).
How To Cut A Perfect 4x4 At Home
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an oversized miter saw with which to cut my 4x4 posts. Like most DIYers, I’m limited to a circular saw for larger scale cuts, but such a saw can only hit around 2 3/4” depth. Thus, the general approach I’ve used in the past is to mark my cut on both sides of the 4x4, then cut one side, flip, and cut the other. However, this can often produce ridges because the second cut isn’t perfectly aligned with the first. Fortunately, during my work on our deck railing, I came up with a procedure that produces virtually flawless 4x4 cuts with only a circular saw and a hand saw. The steps are as follows:
- Mark your cut and then use the circular saw to cut the one side to the saw’s maximum depth.
- Rotate the piece toward you one quarter turn.
- Insert the saw blade into the half-cut line and complete the cut.
- Using the hand saw, cut out the remaining material.
Voila! Faster and more accurate than hand cutting the whole thing, but without the nasty flaws of the standard cut-flip-cut procedure.
Yeah, I know, this is probably obvious stuff, but for me, this is brilliant! :)
Anyway, back to work…
The Gallery Cometh
I decided to take a tour through my collection of digital camera photos and was, frankly, surprised at how much stuff I had. Worse, none of it was terribly accessible nor shareable. And so I finally cracked and decided it was time to get some kind of photo gallery going on.
Now, I could have one with Gallery, which Brad has used to power his photo gallery, but I really wanted something that would integrate directly into my wiki, so that I could easily incorporate gallery photos into wiki pages, comment on them in the normal fashion, etc, etc. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort really exists for Oddmuse, meaning it was time to roll my own.
The result is my Gallery. It’s pretty bare bones, at this point… really, it’s just functional enough to be useful. It can:
- Add galleries and images through a standard web interface.
- Support infinite nesting of galleries.
- Handle zips and tarballs, as well as standard image formats.
- Does the usual pagination stuff, so you don’t get all gallery images at once.
- Does on-demand scaling of images, so people can choose different resolutions.
And all of this is done in the context of the standard wiki subsystems, so you can comment, search, etc (though search is b0rked for image captions and descriptions right now… that’s on my todo list).
Anyway, there you have it. Take a look. Give me feedback if you like. And if I can make the code, you know, not horrible, I’ll release the source to it.
You may recall that back in Blog-2006-06-24, I wrote about ghostly blue clouds that I observed in the northern sky at the end of my observing session. Well, as it turns out, I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of a type of cloud known as a Noctilucent_cloud. These extremely high altitude clouds are typically too faint to be seen. However, when illuminated from below by a deeply set sun, they are visible as the beautiful blue colour I observed.
So, how did I figure this out? Well, I happen to read the Astronomy Picture of the Day, and Today’s Feature Image just happened to be of noctilucent clouds.
Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The SeaReview of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne (9780553212525)★★★(https://b-ark.ca/2YK_eI)
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: A World Tour Underwater is a classic science fiction adventure novel by French writer Jules Verne; it was first published in 1870. The novel was originally serialized from March 1869 through June 1870 in Pierre-Jules Hetzel's periodical, the Magasin d'éducation et de récréation.
Well, last night I finally finished reading 20000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne (author of The Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days, among many others). This book, depicted in the 1954 Disney film of the same name, details the adventures of Professor Pierre Arronax, an oceanographer, and his companions Ned Land, a Canadian whaler and Conseil, the professor’s manservant, as they travel aboard the Nautilus, an advanced submarine designed and built by the infamous Captain Nemo.
In terms of historical context, Jules Verne is considered, along with a number of his contemporaries, as early examples of science fiction authors. Often compared with H.G. Wells (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds), who used science fiction as a medium for making points about society, Verne focused on providing depictions of realistic technology that was logically extrapolated from that of the present day, and used that technology as a basis for more adventure-oriented works.
20000 Leagues most certainly fits this mold. The Nautilus and it’s attendant technology are carefully detailed by Verne, who attempts to very clearly describe the workings of the ship and it’s scientific underpinnings. This ship then becomes the vehicle (if you’ll pardon the pun) for an adventure story which carries the crew to nearly all points of the compass, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Antartica to the North Sea, and into the deepest parts of the ocean. Along the way, the reader is introduced to countless species, running the gamut from coral to fish to whales, as well as various birds and semi-aquatic mammals.Continue reading...
It never ends. First it’s the damn beam being off. Then it’s all these building code issues. Now, after discussions with Chris, who was told by a Rona employeee that the builder almost certainly didn’t bolt his ledger to the house, and instead only nailed it, I’ve quickly realized that my own ledger board is only nailed to the house! ARGH!
So now what? You guessed it… I have to remove the deck boards closest to the house, drill holes and install lag screws or bolts, all of which is going to be that much more difficult because the damn joists and decking are in place. And who knows if they installed flashing (or something equivalent to stave off water). I sure hope they did, ‘cuz it’s too late now…
Well, I’ve confirmed that there is top flashing on the ledger board, there’s just no back flashing. Hopefully that’s sufficient in these parts.
Incidentally, it looks like this is a job I can safely do now. From what I can tell, the goal is to drill holes through the ledger board and into the house band board (the outside-most board that makes up the flooring). Then, drive through carriage bolts and secure with washers and nuts.
Actually, scratch that, I’m just going to use Lag Screws… less work than bolts, and sufficiently strong for my purposes.
Fun With Building Codes
So, when we went ahead with building our deck, I chose to rely on Roy to make sure it matched the building codes of Alberta. Looking back, this was probably not the greatest idea, since, if I was at least semi-knowledgeable in these things, I could ask questions and verify things as we went along.
Well, my buddy Chris has begun working on his deck, and he decided to actually read up on a few things, and now I’m starting to wonder about a few things myself. The biggest concern I have is that our lower tier is set up on 2x6 joists with an 8’ span between the two beams, and has a total depth of 12’, which means a 24” cantilever on either end, give or take. The problem is that, according to the building code, with 2x6 joists you can only have a 16” cantilever (actually, 15”, or 2.5 times the width of the joists). Whoops. Additionally, according to a safety officer Chris talked to, as of July 2005, they’re telling people to use 3 ply beams. We used 2 ply. Hopefully it’s just a suggestion…
Consequently, I think we’re just not going to apply for a permit any time soon. :) You don’t need one until you sell your house, which we don’t plan to do for quite a while (if ever… getting our armoire out of our bedroom is, I suspect, nigh on impossible), and even then, the buyer can choose to purchase anyway and the previous owner may be subject to a fine. And, I gotta say, at this point… I’m tempted to just wait it out and pay the fine.
Well, apparently Chris went and asked the Rona folks about their deck packages and conformance with building codes. Turns out they knowingly sell deck packages which don’t conform to our local building codes! Specifically, they use 2x6 joists and 2-ply beams with a 24” cantilever. How nice of them…
Enough With The Trailer Already!!
Well, after using the trailer a couple times, I became a little concerned that the surge from the old spring-based hitch might become a problem as the weight climbed (eg, 20-40lbs of rabbit litter). So I decided to try and build a hinged universal joint that would do the job. You can see what I can up with below:
I settled on shelf brackets (which are nice and rigid) mounted to a piece of electrical box cover for the hinge on the bike, and a pair of straightened brackets for the trailer arm hinge. The result seems to work fairly well, demonstrating noticably less surge than the previous design. You can read a bit more about it on the Bicycle Trailer page.
More Trailer Fun
As I mentioned in my previous post, I still needed to build a box for my trailer. Well, how better to spend my holiday monday than to do just that? Below you can see the fruits of my labour:
And, of course, a close up:
As you can see, I built it from some exterior grade plywood and 2x2’s. And before you ask, yes, it’s heavy. Probably 20lbs, if I had to guess. But it seems pretty solid, and should do the job nicely. It’s also quite roomy (40x20x16 inches, give or take), which means I can haul around even more junk!
Interestingly, while the wood was fairly inexpensive ($13 for the sheet of plywood, plus about $6 for the 2x2s), it was the fasteners which ended up being surprisingly expensive. Heck, the wing nuts which are used to fasten the box to the trailer frame were a buck a piece! But, such is life, and at least my project is complete! Now, to find things to move…
Update: I’ve summarized the project in a separate page entitled Bicycle Trailer. Catchy, eh?
Man, it’s been a while since I’ve written, but I have a good excuse, I swear. You see, I’ve been busy. Very busy. With the weather being as fantastic as it has been, I’ve felt compelled to pull out my tools have some good DIY fun! So, what’s the latest? Well, see for yourself:
Oh yes, I built myself a bike trailer! Using the fantastic directions provided by the generous Mark Rehder, who got the design from “The Cart Book, with Plans and Projects” by William L. Sullivan, I combined some parts scavanged from my old bike with some EMT and other goodies from the local hardware store, and, over the span of three days, voila! a trailer was borne.
Now, the most difficult part of a bike trailer project is coming up with a hitch design. Many people use things like bungee cords, or even purchase one outright (there are some nice ball-and-socket hitches on the market). Me? I came up with my own, inspired by the hitch used in this design. It uses a spring I took from a storm door kit (that just happens to fit the 3/4” EMT precisely) to provide the necessary flexibility:
It seems to work fairly well. Of course, the attachment to the bike is a total hack, but it does the job. And while there’s a bit of surge, it’s not too bad. Though I still need to install a safety line (basically a cable running from the tow bar to the bike), just in case.
In the mean time, I also need a box. I’ll probably build something out of plywood with a base that sits below the main frame. This lowers the center of gravity and allows me to move heavy loads more safely. I also plan to make it easily removable (probably fastened with bolts and wing nuts), so I can easily convert it into a flatbed.
By now you’re probably be asking yourself, good lord why?! Well that seems obvious enough: I want to move stuff by bike! But what, you ask? Well, first and foremost, I had my telescope in mind. Being able to find a nice dark sky is difficult at the best of times. But for one such as myself who has stubbornly, some might say, cowardly… ly managed to avoid getting his driver’s license, this is especially true (unless you want to drag your unwilling, license-possessing wife along). A trailer makes it possible for me to transport my scope by bicycle. Combined with some camping gear, I may have finally found a way to burn some of those holidays I have stashed away.
Of course, I’m sure there are many other things I’ll find the need to move: groceries, construction materials, slave children. That sort of thing. In fact, I’ve already used it to recover some scrap 2x4’s and 2x6’s from local construction sites (it worked quite well, I’m happy to say). Heck, I’ll probably have fun just coming up with new reasons to tow stuff around.