Charity request

From the comments here:

Joe, I would not normally solicit help from strangers but this is an extraordinary and dire circumstance. I am a fellow blogger and would like to ask if you would pass a link on for me. If you poke around my site you will see that I am a real person with a real family. I don’t have facebook or anything and any posting of the link or her gofundme page would be greatly appreciated. Thank you,Jim

The direct links are:

Update: Here is a go fund me link if paypal doesn’t work:

I donated a minute ago.

Sharing the wealth

Being a software engineer for the last 30+ years means I have had opportunity to make a fair amount of money. I certainly didn’t do as well as I could have. I still regret declining the request for a job interview with Microsoft in 1985 but I’ve managed to do okay and with a little bit of income from Boomershoot I manage to adequately feed my gun, ammo, training, and explosives appetites. Currently I have a job I really like, I feel secure in (the last place I worked at just laid everyone off and is closing the Seattle office any day now), and am paid a comfortable amount. So for Christmas this year I decided I would share some of the wealth.

So it came to pass that it was with great pleasure I gave my three children, Barb, Barb’s two children, and Ry each fifty trillion dollars. Powerball winners have nothing to brag about when I get in a giving mood!

It was with great anticipation that I saw Barb select my present to her to open first:


But the first thing she said after looking at it was, “What am I going to do with this?”

Uh-oh! I didn’t have a good answer. I thought about, “Don’t spend it all in one place.” But decided that might not be wise in that context and told her there were other presents from me, maybe she would like one of them better.

Her children on the other hand thought they were awesome gifts and said they were going to take them to college and put them on their dorm room walls.

I was a little worried about my kids. What would they think? But they studied their gifts thoughtfully, considered their new status as multi-trillionaires and drew the appropriate conclusions about the hazards of hyperinflation, paper money, etc. Ry, of course, got it immediately and we drifted into a conversation about the worldwide economy, Europe, etc.

I don’t want you to think I gave away all my money last Christmas. I saved some for myself:


Yes. I kept 100 trillion back for myself and a “rainy day”.

Certificates of Achievement

I’ve moved so many times in the last 10 years that many of my boxes still are unpacked. But in the last few days I’ve been making some progress. Here are some of my Insights Training certificates of achievement which I put up on the wall:


I have several others but some are in boxes and the frame glass is broken in still others. Today Barb got prices on replacement glass so those will be going up soon.

The certificate in the upper left is for Intensive Handgun Skills. The certificate is dated nearly 20 years ago, October 25-27, 1996. I signed up to repeat it on February 20-22, 2016. I figured I need a tune up after so many years.

Lentil run

I had orders for a couple hundred pounds of lentils and I had essentially run out of lentils at home as well so Brother Doug cleaned and bagged them for me. Yesterday I picked up six 50 pound bags and brought them back to the Seattle area for delivery. The snow made it a little marginal to get my vehicle close to the cleaning shed but even though the car was dragging its bottom on the snow I made it in and out:

Here are the first 100 pounds to be delivered:


Sue knit twill beak wrist missed day

I heard a song playing the other day, I wrote down the words as best I could, and that’s what I came up with. I don’t know what it means either; something about bells ringing, signifying that, due to an injury inflicted upon a woman by a bird, the time for making textiles had passed, I guess. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but song lyrics are often like that.

Master class

I knew my son-in-law (Xenia’s husband) shot in USPSA Nationals this year. But I never bothered to ask how he did. It turns out he won A-Class. Wow!

I just looked his classification on He is now a Master Class shooter in Limited Division (85% to 95% is Master class):

LIMITED Class: M Pct: 86.56 High Pct: 86.56

And in a couple of stages, (Tables Stakes, and 15VAMD at Southern Maryland Practical Shooters) he had Grandmaster level results.

Nice going John. I’ve got a long way to go catch up. If ever.

OPM letter

Months after the public knew the United States Office of Personnel Management loss of the background investigation records of people who applied for security clearances OPM still hasn’t notified everyone affected. Everyone on my team at work has or at one time had a security clearance and hardly a week goes by without someone asking, “Have you got your OPM letter yet?” Yesterday was one of those days and I told them, “No”, as usual, and further elaborated that I wouldn’t be surprised if they never got a letter to me.

This is because since I had my clearance I have moved five times and no government issued ID has my current address. Nevertheless, yesterday I checked my mail and found my OPM letter (PIN number has been removed):


I suspect they used my address I used for the IRS.

A religio-political tangent

As much as there ever was a primary thread.

I’m working on another book. Well, three or four of them, nominally in parallel. Because one at a time would be to simple 8-0… Anyway, I’m not much of a biblical scholar, but there are a series of related topics that are not “easy look-up” sorts of subjects on Catholic church teachings, monastic order traditions, and canon that I need to know so I don’t make too many , er, “fundamental” errors on the faith and teachings. If you know something about the Bible, and perhaps are a regular church-goer who would like to see that a SF books gets the basic correct and would like to weigh in a few thoughts, head on over to Not A Biblical Scholar and add your two cents worth.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park is the location of abandoned Native American cliff dwellings.

Although people had lived in the area for thousands of years the cliff buildings were used for less than 100 years. People left the area by 1285 due to a long lasting and severe drought.

In the upper left corner of the picture below you see a dwelling across the canyon from where Barb and I toured “Balcony House” as seen with the naked eye.


Below is with a 300 mm lens (~6X).


Below is a close up of the dwelling in the picture above.


Continue reading

Bryce Canyon

It was foggy when we started our hike through Bryce Canyon. This gave the area a surreal feel at first. But the fog burned off and we got some great long distance views as we finished. The hiking book Barb brought claims the Queen’s Garden and Navaho Loop trail is reputed to be the best hike in the U.S. if not the world. After hiking through almost unbelievable geological formations this is a believable claim.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.




Continue reading

Sea level to 9800 feet

Barb and I were on vacation for the last week. Friday (October 16th) we left home about noon and drove to West Port, Washington (on the coast) to visit friends for the weekend.

I saw a couple stickers on a car that indicated I was near “my kind of people”:


On Sunday morning we drove to the Seattle-Tacoma airport and flew to Las Vegas, arriving about 7:00 PM. We then drove to Brian Head, Utah arriving about 2:00 AM local time.

It was an interesting drive from Las Vegas to Brian Head. Just getting the rental car was an adventure. We “got a good deal” on a Jeep (I need lots of headroom) via Fox Rent A Car. When we checked in they told us it was an extra $10/day for a second driver. So much for the “good deal”.

We loaded all our stuff into the Jeep and started to leave when I noticed the low tire pressure light was on. I reported it and they said to take a different Jeep. We loaded our stuff into and started the car and the “Oil Change” light came on. We reported it and checked out the only small SUV remaining, a Rav 4. By adjusting the seat to the lowest position I could sit in by tipping my head to the side just a bit. And it smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. We were discussing going to a different rental agency when another Jeep, freshly washed showed up. We inspected it, found nothing wrong, and moved all our stuff into it and drove away. It wasn’t until two days later that we discovered the right rear door would not lock. We won’t be renting from Fox Rent A Car again.

The weather apps on our phones warned of heavy rains and flash floods all the way to Cedar City. The speed limit was 80 MPH on much of the interstate freeway in Utah but with the heavy rains I seldom drove over 55 MPH.

We needed to get some groceries and according to our research prior to leaving home there was a 24-hour Wal-Mart Super store in town. We arrived about 12:40 AM to find the store was closed. We drove around a bit and found a grocery store which was open. Barb went in and started shopping while I parked the car. When I walked in I was told they were closing in seven minutes. Barb and I coordinated our searches and dashed all over the store picking up various items. It was a bit of a hodgepodge of stuff and few things that weren’t quite what we thought we had grabbed off the shelves but it was good enough and we laughed at ourselves as we went through checkout.

We continued on to our condo at Brian Head, climbing up to 9800 feet above sea level, with the last mile or so pushing slush and snow ahead of the Jeep. We got into bed about 2:00 AM.

The next morning, Monday, we felt ill. I recognized the symptoms. It was altitude sickness. I would get dizzy every time I changed from a sitting or bending over position to standing. I was sometimes gasping for breath. We considered just staying there and getting better before we continued on to the National Parks. Barb looked up the symptoms and treatments on the Internet. Symptoms are similar to having drank too much alcohol and a hangover. Hmmm… so that’s what a hangover feels like. I’ve never had a hangover before. The treatment is to go to a lower altitude. You can avoid it by acclimating more slowly. Gain about 3000 feet per day they said. Great. We exceeded the recommended altitude gain per day by a factor of 3.27. No wonder we were feeling messed up.

All the National Parks we were visiting were at a lower altitudes so we decided to continue on schedule in the hopes of feeling better when we got to lower ground. We went to Bryce Canyon, at an elevation of over 8000 feet, and went on a three mile hike down and then up out of the steep canyon.


We felt much better…

Details on our adventures with lots of pictures to follow in more blog posts.

Stupid research

Sometimes people do stupid research. I don’t know how this came about but it might have been they realized the question they really wanted answered was too difficult and they settled for something that was easier and was similar. Or it could have been any number of other things including just total crap for brains. I used to be research scientist for the government and I understand how these things happen. But still, I’m annoyed with this:

When two researchers at Chapman University in California began to study whether tall heterosexual men have had more sex partners than other heterosexual men, they assumed the answer would be “yes.” There was already extensive academic literature showing that height signals dominance, physical (and hence heritable) fitness, and social status to women who are seeking sex partners.

What I suspect they really wanted to measure was whether tall men had a larger selection of sexually interested women. Or that the women interested in them were of higher “quality”. But measuring those items would be much more difficult than asking people how many sex partners they have had. In essence, I suspect, they ended up using quantity as a proxy for quality.

As a result they ended up with rather uninteresting results:

To their surprise, that’s not what they found. Tall men don’t have a history of more sex partners than men of average height or most short men, according to their study in the latest online issue of Evolutionary Psychology. After dividing respondents into different height groups, the researchers found that every group of men taller than 5 feet 4 inches had the same median number of sex partners: seven. Only men classified as “very short,” or between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 4 inches, had a significantly different sexual history. They reported a median of five sex partners.

Because they are using quantity instead of quantity there are numerous other factors that enter into the result. They hint at this some:

There’s another important thing to keep in mind when interpreting this data: The number of sex partners people have had might not be the best indicator of how desirable they are. It’s possible that someone might be highly sexually desirable but choose a monogamous or celibate lifestyle for an extended period of time. Also, “sex” was not defined in the survey, so participants might have differed in their interpretation of “sex partner” when providing their responses.

And there are other things as well.

What about men who find their mate “settle down” quickly? If tall guys have a better selection of quality women to choose from then might not they have fewer sex partners in their lifetime? Or at least the higher quality available early in life counteracts the increased availability of potential sex partners to the point the substitution of quantity for quality renders the results meaningless?

And what about men who pay for play? If short men have trouble finding willing sex partners might they not pay for someone that was more interested in the money than in the height of their customer? That could counteract the expected results as well.

If they really wanted to explore the height issue I would suggest they do some sort of “speed dating” testing. Or a test where two or more groups of women were given the same “online” profiles of men but the groups were told different heights for the men. Then see how many women were interested the men of the various heights.

I do know this, several women have agreed with Barb that it is important their man is as tall or taller than them. Barb is 6’ 1” and that severely curtailed her selection of men. This explains how I, being 6’ 3”, lucked out and she settled for me.

Smaller is better, maybe

In the “learn something new every day” category.

The furnace doesn’t kick on much during the summer here in the PNW, and for 4-5 months of the year we just heat with the waste heat from appliances and electronics, controlling the temperature mostly by opening windows. Locals know the drill. Well, with fall rolling around, eventually it was time for the furnace to kick on and move a little warm air around. But the spousal unit pointed out that it was still a tad chilly in the house, even after turning the thermostat up. Continue reading

Alpaca farm

Daughter Xenia and I went to an alpaca farm today. Here are some of the pictures:



The two pictures below were taken at the same time. The one on the left by Xenia and the one on the right by me:

They have a variety of colors and some enjoy having their neck scratched (neck scratch photo by Xenia):

They have some very odd (to me) toes:

They are raised primarily for their fiber. It has some interesting characteristics (from Wikipedia):

Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, similar to wool. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America, and sweaters, socks, coats and bedding in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States.

Alpaca fleece is a lustrous and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and bears no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Without lanolin, it does not repel water. It is also soft and luxurious. In physical structure, alpaca fiber is somewhat akin to hair, being very glossy. The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool. Alpaca fiber is also flame-resistant, and meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards.

Flame-resistant? Wow.

We saw people carding, spinning, and weaving the fiber:

Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years and I found them to be far more interesting than I expected.

Core sand

In restoring a couple of late nineteenth century cider mills, I’ve had to reproduce a number of iron castings. To produce a hollow space, or a flange, as part of a casting, a hardened sand “core” is placed inside the mold cavity.

A mold that uses one or more cores is a “core mold” and the form used to produce the core is a “core box”. There are different types of cores, but the sodium silicate or “water glass” core sands were very common at one time, and are still used. You just need a source of CO2 to harden the sand, and you see my make-shift CO2 generator in the background. It uses soda and vinegar. It’s what I had on-hand.

Core boxes, cores and a makeshift CO2 generator.

Core boxes, cores and a makeshift CO2 generator.

The sand is mixed with about six percent by weight of sodium silicate, which acts as a binder. That makes a slightly “wet” sand that can be packed into the core box. Carbon dioxide is then pushed through the sand under pressure, it reacts with the sodium silicate and hardens it in seconds, resulting in what you might call a form of concrete. The now rigid core is placed in the sand mold, the mold is closed and the hot iron poured in. Once it cools the new part is shaken out of the sand, and the cores are readily broken out from inside the part.

In this case I’m making new bearings to support one of the rollers in the mill’s grinder box. I had a new restoration up and running last season, only to break that bearing because I’m an idiot and used an oak stick as a stomper to push some apples down into the machine. Oak; bad. It jammed the roller and the running, 40 pound flywheel popped the bearing in two. POW! We’ll see in a few days whether this new bearing works out.

Foundry is awesome.