jbvb: (pic#49603177 railroad)
2017-08-24 10:10 pm

Post-eclipse August 2017 journaling

Thursday the 24th: Progress on selling the charity house, fixing up the boat and two mortgages. Started mowing the field, turned a wasp or hornet nest into pizza with the tractor tire w/o damage to me. The Liberty apple has lost a branch: insufficient thinning. Two sets of friends came to pick fruit, though one set was very challenged by the taste of ripe fruit from a diverse, non-poisoned ecosystem. Peaches to HPF. R. visited to talk MR in the evening.

Wednesday the 23rd: 6th anniversary of my mother's death; only our childhood home and the things we kept from it remain to be dealt with, but that's a tall order for both of us. My sons and S. came to dinner. I cooked a ham and corn on the cob, with tomato salad and vanilla ice cream with cut-up peach for dessert. We talked about many things, but most of the news related to their jobs and the houses they are working on.

Tuesday 8/22: Paperwork in the morning, till A. arrived for fruit mid-day. Cleaned up a lot of drops while she picked, then lunch, then off to do errands. Finished work on oak tree. Looked at PV collector mounting: I can probably dismount individual series strings working alone, just have to wait for a day when I won't bake.

Monday 8/21: To Gloucester with K. for Vic Maffei's funeral. Talked to F. and her children, left name cards so we can stay in touch other than via social media. Home in time to set up the 4" refractor and solar filter. Good seeing, including two groups of sunspots: 4 toward the 'entry' side of the sun, 2 near the 'exit' side. Watched till the last contact, then dinner and Planning Board.
jbvb: (pic#49603177 railroad)
2017-08-20 05:29 pm

Pre eclipse 2017 journaling

Sunday: Cut some branches off the red oak south of the combine shed, propped up the Reliance's limbs, took Beacon apples to the farm stand, went for a ride down to the mouth and up to the Hat Factory with M & A. A dozen peach drops for dessert before I started cooking dinner.

Saturday: Operated 838 & 434D at Seashore, conducted aboard 639. Drove to the Boat Club and relaxed with M & J for a while, then home to cook dinner.

Friday: Booked next set of flights - took pretty much all day on the phone due to complicated handling of extra costs associated with unaccompanied minors.

Thursday: Hope we settled the issues around a badly planned driveway in the morning. Dropped Beacon apples at farm stand, then brought B69872 home and with Andre helping, cleaned it out and stored it in the shed. Rye will need to be cleaned soon.

Wednesday: Chores, errands, then over to K.H. to finish combining the small field of Winter Rye. 2/3 of a bin, lost a cotter on the cradle so it pounded some more. Sheet metal side needs repair.

Tuesday: Rain, worked on the layout most of the day.

Monday: Finished getting B69872 ready mid-afternoon, drove it over to K.H. and managed one pass around the small field before I had to break off for the meeting. Shedded combine, J. gave me a ride home.

Sunday 8/13: Breakfast in the dining hall after the programs had started: limited assortment, not too appetizing. Met the guy growing the Schsandra Chinensis, talked for a long time. Return from Hampshire early afternoon, shot a few photos of the old Central Mass. bridges in South Amherst.

Saturday: Presentation on silviopasture not well organized, narrow focus on goats & black locust. Bill's was better, but wandered. Lunch downtown, then successfully found Chinese restaurant which Bill had heard offered schisandra berry juice. Keynote was a marginally scientific denunciation of glyphosate. Then listened to a band till they wound up, went with crew and sang along through rainstorms till after 3.

Friday 8/11: left late for the NOFA conference, didn't get there till after 5. Rain forecast, so got a dorm room rather than camp. Met Bill at the 1st keynote (mycorrhizal networks as carbon saviors), but he left soon after for the 40 minute drive to the place he was staying before it got too late. Contra danced a half dozen times, then to bed.

Wednesday 8/9: Consolidated Communications finally got a tech & truck to my house, he went off to power cycle something on Amesbury Rd. which fixed it. To Exeter for LPC meeting 4 PM.

Tuesday 8/8: Land trust meeting w/J, chimneys swept. Will go ahead with her deal, as cost is lower than expected. Installed new barn well pump, works.

Monday 8/7: Talas's guys cleaned the Tarm but no oil left to prime the burner. Hadn't realized I'd successfully used it all earlier this year, but will help when we swap tanks. They ID'ed the Rinnai problem as the flow sensor, but didn't know if they could get a replacement. DSL went down (DSL light green, Internet light red) about 0630.

Sunday 8/6: Left early for JJC's hike up Mt. Pemigewassett - beautiful views but rather windy on the summit. Pemigewassett River was high and with cool weather, nobody went swimming during the party. Bengt showed me Asian Delight in Franklin, NH and introduced me to the Thai proprietor (another Lek).

Saturday 8/5: Took Andre to Karen's cookout, then watched Y.H. fireworks from the roof of Bill & Barb's trawler.

Friday 8/4: Spent most of the morning thinning the Haralson apple and Reliance peach.

Thursday 8/3: To Y.H. concert late afternoon.

Wednesday 8/2: Back to Naples, boat ride to Songo locks, then drive home on 302, 35, 202, 224, 11A, 11, 125. Slow through malls in N. Windham and stop sign in Sebago Lake.

Tuesday 8/1: Order new Shurflo 9325 from AltE, $660. To Naples via 125, 11, 302 to join Mike, Ann and Jon 11 fairly hilly between Limerick and Steep Falls. To Jon's camp to sleep.

Monday 7/31: House cleaning. Tried to repair ShurFlo pump using purchased parts, but motor windings apparently dead as well as brushes.

Sunday 7/30: Operate 966 in Lowell. Last day of Folk Festival, on duty from 0915 to 1815. Burmese food at one of the concert venues, but no time to really watch any acts. Everything was closing down when I went off duty; Roger and Tom put 966 away even later.

Saturday 7/29: To Seashore early to operate. Spent most of the morning in the shop helping Ed repair 434's controller, back to running at noon so others could get lunch.

Sunday 7/23: Mowed some with Gravely, PTO clutch not locking into engaged position. Dinner with J, I brought Yellow Transparent apples and we made a pie.

Saturday 7/22: Tankless hot water heater not working. Getting by on solar H/W, good thing I fixed the controller earlier.
jbvb: (pic#51664908 hiking)
2017-07-21 10:14 pm

Thailand in the rainy season.

Today: Weigh 206.5 lb., pretty good after all the Thai food I'd been fed. Black Raspberries almost gone, blueberries fading. Mulberry still producing. Yellow Transparent apple will be ripe before month's end, crop fairly heavy and not showing a lot of damage. Defrosted the kitchen freezer.

Thu: Flight home was better than outbound; I stayed warmer and the food was better. Aisle seat let me sleep a bit without making my legs too sore. Mieke brought my car to Logan, I drove it home. Went to bed about 11 PM EDT.

Wed: Nid's house re-roofed with corrugated aluminum, 75 mm of foil-faced fiberglass batts installed in 1100 mm wide bays between steel frame members, above old foil faced bubble insulation. Saved intact panels from failed corrugated cement board roof for her brother, whose roof is worse. P. Noy treated dinner at a place that served pizza. Their Hawaiian had the expected ham & pineapple, but also slices of (effectively) hot dogs, peas, carrots and corn. Crust soft, almost fluffy.

Tue: Nid drove part of the way home from Koh Chang, I drove the rest. Apple Maps did better, sending us down a long, straight, mostly rural road along Khlong 13 to bypass the motorways east of Bangkok. Excellent except for a couple of spectacular embankment failures amounting to maybe 300m of pothole dodging.

Mon: Rainy morning, see Ah Tep's group off, then explore the South side of Koh Chang. Cleared in the afternoon, tried out the Ramayana's private beach: Water too cold for Nid (at least 25C), very foamy from wave action, lots of plastic & debris on the beach. There was sand close to the shore, but out where the waves were breaking was all coral rock. Only a couple of body surfing rides.

Sun: Rainy morning, so no beach for the kids. P Noy and Bing headed home late morning. Nid and I hiked ~1 km. to the Klong Plu waterfall, which was nice but would be spectacular when the river is closer to flood stage. At full typhoon flow, the approach path would be meters deep.

Sat 7/15: Drive to Koh Chang. Apple maps suggested a rural route, but Bing, driving the other carload, stayed on the highway. He's a fast driver, but they lost their lead when they stopped for lunch. We didn't make the initial turn correctly and encountered some slow roads and a number of towns. I drove the 2nd half, my first driving on this trip. The policeman at the 'getting near Cambodia' checkpoint asked for my license, I showed him NH and Nid told him she'd washed my IDP. He said 'not legal, you're free to go' and off we went. Only 2 ferries working, so a noon-ish arrival didn't get us across till about 14:30. Bing & P. Noy got aboard a little behind us, but Ah Pa and Ah Tep had to wait at least another hour.

Thu: After breakfast with the 505 family, drove around looking for deer. Then Nid drove Ah Taow and Ah Pa back to the island, then us back to Saraburi.

Wed: Remembrance Day for deceased family members, ceremony and meal at Wat Tha Tako, 1/2 km away from the island. Then to the Mall, I got name cards and a pair of Birkenstock Milanos for $80.

Tue: Drive to 505 Pokhaphan noodle plant, cattle ranch etc. with Ah Wat, Ah Pa, Ah Rat and Ah Taow. Lots of discussion of old times, tour of the ranch, nice lunch at the canteen, visit the company store which sells noodles, beef and a good deal of hardware and tools. Then to see the land Wat just bought, which alas is on the far side of the giant traffic jam of everyone returning to Bangkok on Hwy. 2.

Mon: Namo, Ah Pa, Nid and I drive to Phanon Rung Historical Park to see the restored Khmer site from ~1000 AD, then to a theme resort with an interesting botanical garden.

Sun: To Ah Wat's store downtown to watch the Vassa Parade. The first two Buddha floats didn't have too many clearance problems, but we had to leave before the next got there - Ah Thai had come down from Nong Kai but couldn't stay long due to a medical appointment.

Sat 7/8: Start at 0600 for Korat, but Hwy. 2 already heavily congested with people going to the Northeast for the long weekend. What's normally 2 hours and a bit took us more than 7, Nid doing all the driving. Many family members were at the island, more arrived from the US just after we got there.

Fri: Road trip to Lop Buri, see the RR station and the palace, then home for Namo's football game. Nid got another quote for a metal roof and installation of insulation we buy.

Thu: Drive to Kaeng Khoi, look around the RR station - busy junction where a branch splits off the Northeastern main line to Korat and an arm of the Southern line joins. Then a 'make your own spring roll' Vietnamese lunch.

Wed: Out early to inspect the roof - found lots of cracks, some quite big enough to be the leak. Local builder told us the cement board had failed because it was screwed too tightly to the steel frame. Gave quote for a replacement cement board roof and insulation.

Tue: Very heavy rain in the afternoon caused a leak in Nid's house. Move the bed and a lot of other stuff, nothing seriously damaged.

Mon: Work around the house, buy a few tools, more wandering at the Thai Watsadu (big box building supply). P Noy's bike tires hold air, but the derailleur cable was rusted beyond repair and I can't get the handgrip shifter apart to detach the wire. New tube fixed Nid's folding bike just fine.

Sun: Visit building supply places looking for insulation, rigid foam does not seem to be available anywhere in Thailand. Look up bubble/foil, find it very over-marketed. Traffic ridiculous near big stores b/c everyone got paid at month's end. Fix Nid's screens, the kitchen sink drain, other stuff.

Sat 7/1: Hang around the house in Saraburi rebuilding my energy, doing minor chores.

Thu 6/29: Chores, packing, then J took me to the bus to Logan. Flight not comfortable, I should have put on the sweatshirt before trying to sleep. Was totally at the bottom of my blood sugar barrel when I got to Bangkok, should have been more explicit with Nid about needing fruit - she got 1 banana...

First Black Raspberries just ripe, blueberries getting near, mulberries well along. I think I've killed enough of the caterpillars that I'll have an apple crop, but I've also gotten a couple of their spines embedded in my fingertips. Gloves from now on.
jbvb: (pic#51664908 hiking)
2017-06-25 08:53 pm

(no subject)

Sun: Installed the replacement Pt1000 thermistor for the evacuated tube collector; it works! Visit from an old MR friend provided an excuse to clean the house. The Thai bathroom sprayer is convenient for cleaning the fixtures too.
Sat: Hot and humid, business & shopping in Nbpt., then mostly computer stuff and cleaning.
Fri: To Seashore for trackwork; Spiking the new ties till a truck arrived with ~18 tonnes of rail donated by the MBTA. Much more time spent working around a crane than I've done in two decades. Got a kepi and some cheap shorts & gloves at KTP on my way home.
Thu: Haymaking East & Southeast of the paddocks at KH. Drove the baler, rode wagon, unloaded.
Wed: Received my Seashore bag via USPS. Showing Mieke how gas engines work: oil change on Kat's splitter, then put a 30" mower on the Gravely and cut nettle. PTO clutch acting up. Dinner with old FTP friends in Portsmouth.
Tue: Had the barn well pump pulled. Took it apart, found a little water inside. Apparently had gotten high enough to wet the brushes and the thermal overload device. Found new brush assembly on fleabay.
Mon: Finding many tent caterpillars on my apple trees. First noticed on the potted tree, but they've done damage to most of the other apples. Baldwin seems most resistant. Odd that they aren't making tents? They cluster a little but are usually found on leaves and branches on the shady side.
Sun 6/18: William called for Father's Day
Sat 6/17: Operations training at Lowell. Ran #966 over all routes, got my L stamp. Then to BoS party, left by 10 PM
Fri 6/16: No trackwork, but went to Railfun. Left my Seashore bag there, took a while to find out Andy had it.
Tue 6/13: New Sumitomo Touring tires on the Civic. Not the right low-rolling-resistance tires, but all Drew's could get. I will experiment with tire pressures vs. MPG.
Sun 6/11: Tried buffing compound on the Civic's scrapes, cleaned all the marks right up!
Sat 6/10: Lowell training postponed due to wire issues. Hub BoD in Wellesley.
Fri 6/9: No trackwork due to questionable weather.
jbvb: (pic#10968021)
2017-06-08 10:14 pm

A cold, damp beginning to June 2017

Trackwork at Seashore: Friday morning I helped John and Charlie install gauge rods in the grade crossing on the way to Highwood barn. In the afternoon we assessed the subsidence of track 3 in South Boston barn, which had brought #38's roof into contact with the side walls. Saturday we dug out about a cubic meter of wet sand and three decayed ties by hand. Replacement ties went in on a few inches of rock. It got the track usable, but really solving the problem requires a lot more rock and raising the track farther above the water table.

Sunday and Monday I operated streetcars at Seashore. The Insight did very well, averaging 77.7 MPG on the two round trips. But its door and ignition locks are wearing out. I will see what Honda Barn says about replacing them: something I could probably do with the shop manuals open, but one can hope getting the right parts would be easier for them? We'll see.

Wednesday my barn well pump stopped as I was washing my cars. Tinkering hints that both the DC-DC converter and the pump may be dead, though I can't be sure about the pump till it's pulled out of the well. If bad weather prevents trackwork tomorrow I will get on the phone.

I re-lit the oil furnace for the cold days early this week, and the tank isn't yet exhausted. From what I saw in my watering can, the storm might have given us 5 cm or more. Unsettled weather is preventing hay-making, but I did do a little mowing of the tractor road. The beavers have raised their dam across Sawyer's Hill Brook, resulting in water a foot above the tractor road at the culvert below the seasonal cascade from the upper swamp. Fruit set looks good on everything except the three earliest pears.

Future: I've got everything in place to get rid of $FormerCompany$, but I have not addressed the sailboat, taking down the wind generator or getting bodywork done on the 1951 Chevy. After the barn well is fixed and this year's winter rye is harvested, perhaps. Meanwhile, if I have any anger to work out, it can go into the beaver dam.
jbvb: (pic#51664908 hiking)
2017-05-30 09:30 pm

End of May 2017 Journaling

Running the furnace since I got home; I may turn it off tomorrow or Thursday, but at this point an empty oil tank is my goal. Haven't touched the storm windows since May 18. Gathered a few facts regarding the solar temperature sensor, but nothing ordered yet.

Last Thursday, M and I loaded up the Insight and left for Prince Edward Island. Straight through it's claimed to be 8.5 hours for 550 miles, but practically it's 11 hours. We planned two days each way, but it spat rain all the first day, We stopped at the Penobscot and the Downeast Scenic in Ellsworth, but nothing was going on. We had dinner in Saint Stephen, then on to a motel in West Saint John. Friday we had driving rain all day. A brief late morning stop in Moncton to be delighted to see surfers riding the tidal bore, then a short detour for lunch in Amherst, NS. Visibility as we crossed the Confederation Bridge was about 500 m, so nothing at all to see for 8 miles and a CDN$ 23 toll.

The day of the convention & train show was gray, windy and showery. No driving, just attended clinics, browsed the train show and went to the banquet. It featured a slightly scant turkey dinner and a funny presentation on the why and how of PEI railways. Sunday the convention ended with a morning of layout tours, for which the weather was wonderful - scattered clouds, gentle breezes, etc. We drove North into 'Anne of Green Gables' territory, then as far East as Charlottetown visiting, then got some nice photos approaching and on the bridge. NB 955 was a nice shoreside alternative to the highways inland, then we detoured to Dorchester to shoot the westbound Ocean. Lunch in Sussex, dinner and motel in Saint Stephen.

PEI has a lot of lovely red, rock-free soil. Mostly potatoes, but I saw grain and hay fields. Some areas were mostly dairy, don't know if it's the soil, the hills or availability of necessary infrastructure. Alas, the more level parts are going to be under water in a hundred years.

Monday began with an understaffed border crossing to Calais, then the hills and getting fouled up in a Memorial Day parade in Bangor. Northern Maine Jct. is still sad, nothing moving. Then driving I-95 in off-and-on rain and heavy traffic till we bailed at Kennebunk and took back roads the rest of the way. Found an unmaintained dirt road in Berwick, but didn't quite get stuck. In Exeter M caught the Downeaster home.

Maine Rt. 9 has quite a few steep grades - one 12%, a number of others 7% and 8%. Canada's Autoroute 2 also has a lot of up and down, both North and South of Saint John. Note to self: see if ME 6 is enough better to justify the extra distance. Rt. 1 along the coast is much longer unless the Campobello ferries are running.

Insight insights: It was not happy for the latter half of the first day - MPG went down from 70s to low 60s as we arrived at Saint John the first evening. It got a lot worse going North in heavy rain the second day - down to about 54 MPG at Summerside, with me needing 2nd to climb some hills on 2. Saturday no driving, Sunday dawned sunny so I went out early planning to do some tinkering with the Shop Manual in hand. Looking around under the hood, I noticed the clips holding the bottom half of the air box lid were loose. Only a moment to fasten, guess the Honda Barn mechanic missed it in his hurry to close the car up. But it had a profound effect - I guess the computer has sensors upstream of it, which didn't work right if air was leaking in behind them. Mileage got better on the trip home, but not really till the Penobscot, after the worst of the up/down. It reached 71.4 MPG before we got tangled in Monday's awful backup from the Hampton tolls.

Most of the spring flowers are passe here - only the rhubarb, grapes and pawpaws are still open. Fruit set is OK on everything except the Summercrisp and Nova pears. They're very sparse, probably because their flowering was triggered by the two hot days in the 2nd week of April. The Reliance peach flowered at the same time, but held its petals longer and apparently got more effective attention from the bees.

Track work at Seashore on the 19th. John, Charlie and I on the hand tools, Chuck in the Pettibone: 11 ties replaced, but not yet halfway to Meserve's Crossing.
jbvb: (pic#49603177 railroad)
2017-05-19 01:37 am

Mid-May 2017 Journaling

Today: Feel a bit run down, possibly weather, or pollen, or planetary vibes. 70-ish early, then 90-ish afternoon, still above 80 as 10 PM approaches. And humid since the sun went down.

Nevertheless, a sunrise climb on the roof to address the non-working solar hot water. Turned out to be a sensor which should be showing about 1.2K ohms at this temperature, but is reading maybe 70 ohms. 23 years old, so nobody at the current owner of the domain name knows a part number to replace it. So it's off to troll the electronic supply community and read spec sheets till something turns up.

Another round of not-my-family's gotcha last. Attempt to buy some stuff, but punted because several items are out of stock; don't need it so badly I'd pay shipping twice. Took off 8 storm windows today, five yesterday, plus the battery box heat collector.

Then down to the cool, cool barn cellar to diagnose the Insight. I'd driven it more after the Honda Barn experience, but it was clear the starting battery wasn't charging. Put it on my solar panel charging bus. Read the Shop Manual, find that's because there's no 'alternator', just a DC-DC converter that runs off the IMA pack/charger. Code P1542 (heater weirdness?) appears to have been a side effect of the low battery. Code P1449 (cell voltage deviation) went away after resetting the MCU. The net offers a potential explanation: IMA failed as I was accelerating hard onto I-93 from 128. One or more cells may be weakening after 6 years (first battery lasted 11 years). So I'll try more RPM and less battery on future highway merges. There appears to be someone who rebuilds IMA battery packs: remember insightcentral.net

Yesterday I fired up Louise's last lawn mower and did the bits that the service missed. They returned today, probably a higher frequency than I want. The clover M and I seeded last week is up, hope it will get at least a little rain in the next few days. Asparagus has made a 2nd crop. The mature rhubarb plant is ready to harvest, all 6 of the seedlings made it through the winter. Apple petals starting to fall. Not much fruit set on the Nova or Summercrisp pears, which flowered earliest. Decent set on the Seckel & ???. Can't really tell about peach set yet. Pawpaw and beach plum in full flower.

Something is biting me - I had thought the spots of rash might be Poison Ivy, but they don't develop like that. No fleas revealed by combing Bailey. Onset not long after helping my ex-tenants. Time to dig deeper.

More rain than forecast last Sunday - guessing 2", time to put the rain gauge out.

Saturday to Lowell for the NHS Trolley Operator safety meeting. Then back to help the tenants take stuff away (anything they take we don't have to pay to throw away).

Friday the 12th I did track work at Seashore - Charlie and I did the hand work for 8 ties replaced.
jbvb: (pic#10968021)
2017-05-10 07:07 pm

Damaged people

I spent the morning helping a seriously dysfunctional family move out of the house where I've been more or less their landlord. The addict father had barricaded himself in his room yesterday till the police talked him out of it, then taken off in a very questionable automobile. The Parkinsons patient mother was calling every number she could think of trying to find someone to drive their pickup while she drove the U-Haul. He was broken down on the side of the road and too far away to help even if he'd been interested. One kid absent, one present & helping with a friend, their youngest trying intermixed with being a troubled middle schooler. Looked all around, couldn't find a broom or even an automobile windshield brush.

The mess was awful, way way too many years of walking over cruft rather than dealing with it. There were issues with the house, but we hadn't been able to get contractors to come back to the place after their first job there. Given the number of windows they'd broken, freezing in the winter and humming with mosquitoes in the summer. Rats around, which was made more complicated by their occasionally having pet rats. Cold reptiles whose heat had apparently been turned off yesterday while the TV was on till just before it went out the door.

Stuff went on the truck dirty, including a bunch of mattresses you could get better than off the street on trash day. Viewing the litter I could see considerable money spent to little benefit. I have no idea what they think will happen to the contents of the fridge, or the absent father's tools, clothes, skis etc. I've got to get the place boarded up, then emptied, then looked at for structural issues.

So what's to be done? Things appeared to be working when they moved in more than a decade ago, but then there was a back injury which led to disability and lots of pain pills, which made profits for pharma but ultimately became more expensive than illegal opiates. And I expect depression arrived, either before or after the Parkinsons. Towards the end, there was co-dependence - living together let them survive on the checks they were getting; living apart wouldn't work. Lots of time killed in that house, lots of ideas and hopes hatched and then starved or frozen to death. I hope the kids who've gotten out didn't take too much of it with them.

I need a shower, but it'll wait till after I go be a Selectman.
jbvb: (pic#51664908 hiking)
2017-05-08 12:51 am

First Asparagus Harvest 2017 journaling

With MiekeC's help, my lawn is cleared off, the flowering crab apple pruned and clover seeded in some bare spots. Feeling the soil in those spots told me it was short of organic material. First step is to get with the guys I've been paying to mow my lawn and see if I can clarify that the only time I want their grass catchers in use is when they're within 5 meters of open windows. No trees cut for firewood till the stored cars are out of the barns.

Pawpaw flowers are opening - maybe 1/4 have turned purple and a few leaves are pushing out. Apples in full flower, with pretty complete coverage on most of the trees. Lilacs open enough to draw bees.

One upcoming trip was booked today, another is firming up. Heard my Chief Dispatcher AP paperwork went to NMRA National more than a month ago, but they haven't processed it yet. Some progress on Structures, but still a week of evenings' work before I'd request an evaluation. My NER Director term is up in the Fall, and someone else wants the job so I'm not running again.

Oil tank down to 1/8; expecting it to be cheaper to run it empty and get a new filter than pay someone to pump out my old oil and take it away when the replacement tank is ready.

Working on new benchwork for the layout, in between volunteerism: Got the USGS and FEMA to agree that part of $hometown$ had never been flood-mapped, and that something should be done. Helped work on track at Seashore using really big wrenches, pry bars and hammers. Then re-fastened their anvil to its stump. Turns out they occasionally use a 19 kg sledge on it, and the anvil & stump together weigh maybe 150 kg.

Many birthdays this month. Made Middle (son) a birthday dinner mid-week - roast pork shoulder of a cut I'd never carved before. Lovely meat enjoyed by all. I've been dining on leftovers since (big roast). I heated one night's in a pan and liked it a lot. Then nuked it next night and not nearly so tasty. Plenty left, so I'll try the pan again tomorrow.

Insight to the Honda dealer to diagnose an IMA fault. The people-facing person said the assist battery should be replaced, but the diagnosis sheet says 'may need'. Took much longer than I was told to expect, little communication of progress, short-handed, apparent diversion of resources from reassembling the Insight to other work. Finally, I just stood in front of her desk till I was given my keys back, as I had to get to a scheduled meeting. I will ask elsewhere about fixing a minor fault, then drive it (still gets good gas mileage) a while and try my own hand at reading the codes in a week or two.
jbvb: (Default)
2017-04-29 11:26 am

Spring is Here (I hope) 2017 journaling

The early pears (Summercrisp, Nova) flowered after the first 80F day about the middle of April. But they didn't make even half the flowers they do in a good year. The north side of both trees is particularly sparse. The Reliance peach flowered at the same time, normal coverage of the tree. Seems like my sour cherry will also have full coverage. But another pear that came in this week is also partial - only the last one has normal coverage. We'll see about the apples - the crab has good coverage, none of the others are open enough to tell yet.

Six little seedling rhubarbs made it through the winter. First asparagus shoots just visible today. Blueberry flowers starting to open. The elm by the driveway flowered two weeks ago. Now it's dropped its flowers and is just starting to leaf out. Lilac buds are at the point where you can tell the color of the future flowers. Watching the pawpaw open its buds more closely than I have in previous years.

Renewed my trolley operator's license, made a first visit to the Lowell NHS trolley operation. Did some research on the B&M records in Lowell too, and found enough to build the final piece of main line benchwork for my layout. Of course, it will only have temporary track till I have the rather complicated bridge researched and built. Operated the Valley Jct. RR last night, my first try at the traditional 'Dispatcher in the office' role. There were a few things I could have made go smoother, but better documentation and communication by the train crews would have helped there too.
jbvb: (Default)
2017-04-12 11:26 am

Different name, different channel 2017 Journaling

I won't be posting to LJ anymore.

16 days in the UK just now:
- 205 lb. on return, just as on departure. But I walked 75 miles, including an 11 mile day in London.
- I know that because I brought the traveling smartphone and bought a 15 pound SIM from O2. Plenty left over after a good deal of browsing and navigation.
- ate a lot of Indian and Chinese food because of my traveling companions, which included a lot of MSG
- met a lot of people, at preserved railways, museums, pubs and via family connections
- drove about 1,300 miles on the other side of the road. I only made 3 mistakes with potentially serious consequences, none of which materialized.
- saw a lot of pretty English countryside, but very few places to park and admire it.
- their letting people park on both sides of a barely 2-lane road with no shoulder is scary, even with a 20 MPH speed limit. Worse at 40 MPH.
- overall a plus given a full car and many suburban or rural destinations. Future trips may be car or public transit depending on circumstances.
- Aer Lingus via Dublin airport:
- efficient except for 15 minutes standing around waiting for a group of Immigration people to 'change staff' They were all at their places doing things, but I couldn't tell if they had InterPol mug shots or their social media up on their screens.
- pre-clearance didn't actually save time on the return trip, it was just on the check-in end rather than at arrival.
- airport beer was about 6 euros a liter so I didn't buy any.
- no free in-flight alcoholic drinks for the hoi polloi and not awfully generous with other liquid.
- The Midlands and the Peak District are definitely worth return visits.
- So are the British Museum and Kew Gardens.
- Art museums in Liverpool and Manchester were smaller so we saw most of the exhibits. Same with the Imperial War Museum North.
- less rain/damp than I expected, so clothing I packed worked out pretty well.

Tuesday 83F which has started all the trees budding and blooming. Heard peepers and a woodcock. My little blue flowers appear to have beaten the crocuses.

50 gal. of oil bought before I left pretty much matched use. Furnace is now off, but it won't stay that way if colder weather returns.

Paperwork for the NMRA 'Chief Dispatcher' AP certificate was filed in February, but I haven't heard if it's been accepted. I'm working on the 'Structures' paperwork now.
jbvb: (Default)
2017-01-15 11:26 pm

Post-birthday 2017 journaling

I read friends entries back to about 12/25, but the current LJ site won't show me anything earlier; I missed from my last post on Dec. 12 through Xmas. Guess I'd better see about the DW account I made years ago but never used.

After the last snowstorm, my batteries were low, the sun was out but none of my panels had self-cleared. Observed 24 amp charging current after clearing them.

Was thinking about road salt; I think that a culvert that's been blocked for a long time is forcing a lot of the salt runoff from the road to filter into the ground. It's contaminated one of my wells, and might also be why several of my pear trees are shedding their leaves in late summer when the water table drops. I may need to fund the work, but returning the trees to production and making the well usable would be worth considerable to me.

Built the last two interlockings on my layout; still have four mast signals to build but the project is nearing its end. An afternoon's work should complete the paperwork for the NMRA's 'Chief Dispatcher' certificate.

The Insight had been parked since the first snow/ice storm more than a month ago. Left rear had leaked all the way down, but it started OK once I'd pumped them all up.

3 massages today, two yesterday, one Thursday. No soreness. And I searched out a rarely-used muscle I'd hurt last summer. It hadn't healed properly because I never used it, but now that I know how to tweak it, I'm expecting it to be cleared up in a few weeks. I've made progress in training two of my toes to move separately and extending the amount of my back I can touch too.

Some fun showing Nid around Boston, but Arisia has been mixed for her; interesting costumes, art, etc. But a lot of those here are either sticking to very well-trodden social paths or aren't really up for a conversation with someone who can do pretty well when people speak clearly and unhurriedly.
jbvb: (pic#51664908 hiking)
2016-12-12 11:17 pm

It's been almost a month, almost mid-December 2016 Journaling

Company coming after Xmas, so I need to do some repairs, organization and cleanup around the place. A few parts to purchase to get started, one arrived yesterday which should get me solar-heated water again. But only after soldering and removal/re-installation of the circuit board.

Used a step-counter yesterday: 4,600, about 1.5 mi. and 8 flights of stairs. I think it undercounts because my floors are too close together? Only unusual activity was grocery shopping. I weigh about 204, better than this time last year. Which might be because my thermostats are at 60F instead of 58F. That doesn't make much difference in the attic...

Ran trolleys at Seashore Saturday, the next-to-last day of operation this year. I'd never run at dusk before, and it was nice in a fairly well-heated car. But as was appropriate for its era of origin, while I took off my gloves to run it, I didn't take off my cap with earlaps. Not much will happen outside from now till April, as the ground is likely to freeze this week.

Started up a signal project on the model RR a while back. The design took an afternoon/evening, the implementation several days & evenings. Now I'm waiting for parts, but there's lots of other things to do, on the RR and elsewhere.

Figured out the mechanics of donating stock instead of cash. But there are organizations out there who are so credit-card-automated they haven't gotten back to me even with yes/no. Oh, well, there are other charities.

Model RR open house after Thanksgiving was a success, 48 visitors and enough help that I got to eat lunch downstairs. My layout ran fine, but my focus on scenery & structures in preparation is why I've spent all my modeling time since on signals.

Baked bread for Thanksgiving and twice more since. The roasting pan I custom-fabricated for giant turkeys years ago was used one more time for a 39-pounder, but leaked and filled the house with smoke. Post-mortem investigation revealed someone had poked a fork through it. I need to ask my certified welder friend if he could put two tiny dots of weld in the holes, or if I should just make another. Looking at it in retrospect, it was fairly pretty sheet metal work but I miscalculated the bends on one corner. Could I do better 10 years later? Dunno, may find out.

M helped me pull bittersweet last week; there's not much left up where the birds like it, but I'll be years really undoing the mess along that fenceline. Got the PTO cordwood saw back together, but not much down awaiting cutting at this time.

Eldest visited over Thanksgiving. He went back south knowing more about driving a stick, and having seen the bounds of a piece of land he's responsible for. He found one tick, I found none. The dry summer was hard on them, but there had been a population explosion earlier in the fall.
jbvb: (pic#51664908 hiking)
2016-11-16 04:40 pm

Fall is running really late 2016 Journaling

Current on LJ. Weighed 201.5 on my return, up to about 205 now. Less exercise, restaurant meals, haven't baked any of my own bread since early spring. I can make up for that by spending more time hungry. No reflex issues vs. the side of the car the driver sits on. Surprised (unpleasantly) to see how late the foliage has been lasting, and how warm it's been.

Election Day: Working in Town Hall, I had a bad feeling. The walk-in registrations looked different than 4 years ago: almost all white and 40+. Tired from 36 hours awake Sun/Mon, so to bed and got the bad news in the morning.

Wed. - Fri: Got some wood cut & split, dealt with bills and backlog from town gov't and volunteer work. A bit of a smile over FL voting the suicide ticket. But as others have pointed out, no matter how seriously anyone in the US talks about it, we have not been doing much. Only the Germans and the Danes (AFAIK) are actually making much progress in shedding fossil fuels. Sleep somewhat disrupted, thinking politics and futures did not mix well with a 12 hour time change. Looking at soil types, pH and elevation in a variety of places.

Weekend: Got home from Saturday's BoD meeting at Midnight. Sunday downtown for Dim Sum, then out to the west suburbs for a party with old friends. The sort of party where I could get into a 20 min. discussion of Ack timing and window policy with another TCP implementer. Stayed till the end.

Monday was the 2nd stage of the current root canal. Borrowed a bike and rode downtown to the appointment, weather was almost too warm for my Category 2 reflective hoodie. Dr. was running late, my 3 roots took 90 min., slow annoying trip home in traffic.

Yesterday and today have been all work on the model RR: structures, scenery. The Tour de Chooch is the weekend after Thanksgiving, many layouts N and NW of Boston open both days: www.tourdechooch.org Rain yesterday evening, drizzle today instead of the promised clearing.
jbvb: (pic#51664908 hiking)
2016-10-31 11:41 am

Current. Terse trip notes

It was a long time on planes. $500 for Business Class on the 2nd flight was kinda worth it - lie flat seat allowed some sleep, but would have been more comfortable if 5-10 CM wider. But Emirates 'promotional upgrade' didn't allow me in Dubai's lounge. Speaking of Dubai, airport: Squat toilets. Dates appear to be the only locally-made product. But they had nuts and raisins from Iran. Somehow I was out of Bangkok's Immigration & Baggage Claim about 30 min. after the A-380s doors opened.

Hot (28-30C) everywhere I've been, except in a downpour and at 1400m the other day. Either the humidity isn't awful or I'm in for an unpleasant surprise when I get home. Urban air quality is mediocre at best, but out of the cities skies can be quite pretty. Only one episode of the squirts so far, only one dish so hot I got a capsacin buzz. Lots of driving, it's getting less scary as I gain understanding of right-of-way conventions. Up to about 75 usable words, my first try at a tonal language. Not trying to read the alphabet at this time.

Apple's default bloat includes a Health thing which gives step counts and delta elevation. Record so far is about 9 km. one day, 20 flights of stairs another. And I can still exercise at altitude, and swim a pool length or two. But I've wondered if I let the mani-pedi catfish take a little too much of my sandal callous off (just one little blister). 3rd country I've bicycled in this year.

Most of the toilets here are sit-down, but some are squat with a dipper flush. One was bring your own paper. But at that time I didn't understand the 'kitchen sink spray hose' beside each of them: it's a after-the-event butt washer. An idea I'm bringing home.

National mourning for the late king is novel to me: Lese majesty laws aside, almost everyone seems to have admired him greatly. People are lining streets with little pottery candles and lighting them during night markets and the like. We helped one night when the 'lighting' gang was shorthanded. And the entire multi-block night market shut down and sang along with the national anthem.

But TV gone pretty much entirely to B&W retrospectives of his life, his works (including his jazz compositions) and everyone of any note who ever interacted with him will be an interesting experiment. Elsewhere in S. Asia, TV is very noisy, colorful and commercial to the foundations, so I expect it was here too. In a month or two the sociologists and economists will have some interesting data on just how much value all of that was delivering. Meanwhile, the gov't appears to have bought up most of the local stock of 'speakers hidden in plastic rocks' to provide parks with a soundtrack of a few songs composed in his honor, repeating every 7-8 minutes.
jbvb: (Default)
2016-10-15 05:38 pm

Storm windows are on journaling 2016

Most of today went to a model RR event in Stratham, then I put the last four storms on this afternoon. Barn windows are closed too. A few cherry tomato plants are still alive, I will cover them again tonight. I've lit the cook stove a few times, and kept it burning for heat after dinner. But the forecast implies that won't be an issue next week, with highs near 20C again.

Friday I got a truckload of stuff from Newburyport, mostly the mower and snowblower. The latter required a mighty effort to push up the ramp after it refused to start.

Thursday was another trip to the dentist, to scrutinize and ultimately remove the loose piece of tooth missed by everyone who worked on last week's root canal. Then a saddening walk by Haymarket, seeing the upscale eateries and so forth gobbling up the row of 7-day-a-week food stores that used to line the street. Nobody seems to learn from what happened to Harvard Sq. The Globe had an obit for King Bhumibol of Thailand, plus two other half-page stories about his birth in Cambridge and other Boston area connections.

Wednesday's meeting produced evidence suggesting that nobody involved in our emergency services has done any billing paperwork since early this year. It may be possible to recover, it may have all been lost. I don't like how our world has become 'You gotta fill out the form first..." but it would take a major nationwide attitude adjustment to change it, and these people must get with the program.

Middle came to dinner Tuesday and we talked till late-ish. He continues to cast things in aluminum and do interesting LARP-related construction projects.
jbvb: (Default)
2016-10-08 08:57 pm

A week into October 2016, no frost, no tropical storm rains either.

Today was Transit Day at Seashore, when the subway & bus enthusiasts show up to trot out their favorite equipment. Subway cars are a part of many people's experience, but they need high platforms, heavy-duty track and lots of power. So we can't use them in regular daily service. I ran one trip and was conductor for two more, then helped put streetcars away (getting all the subway cars out had tangled up a couple of our carbarns).

Tonight I ate a Hodgies' banana split (nominally 3 of their scoops) for dinner. And a couple of bites of leftover pork chop after I got home & fed the various critters.

The high point of Thursday and Friday was the top of the wind generator - I'd noticed the furling mechanism had failed in late summer, so it was time to climb up and assess the damage: My 1st climb revealed failures of both the cable and the fairlead guiding it out of the top of the slip-ring box and around to where it could pull the tail over. Bergey discontinued this model quite a few years ago, so the 2nd climb had two purposes: First, take pictures so they could see which version I had, and if they had any replacement parts. Second, get the non-functioning windmill furled so it doesn't run wild in storm winds. Success.

My other big goal for those two days was getting my political donations out while they could still have some effect. We'll see.

Tuesday & Wednesday were slow days - the combination of staying up too late working in the attic Sunday and a chilly house gave me a cold. Sunday was the first time I'd spent more than an hour or two on the layout since April - I finished re-staging it, added lighting to three passenger cars and repaired the diode matrix for the west end of Draw staging.

Pawpaws continue to fall. Chestnuts are ripe. One of the cherry tomatoes continues to produce. I pulled the hoses I'd been using to water the garden - 1.5" of rain last week and the end of the growing season. About 1/3 of the storm windows on the house, oil tank filled. Got the PTO saw back from the sharpening guy: $66, haven't tried it yet. The rhubarbs from seed seem to be doing well.
jbvb: (pic#49603177 railroad)
2016-10-01 10:24 pm

The best laid plans sometimes go agley, but not always

Today I went to Seashore planning to operate trolleys. But a deep-seated and complicated problem with track at a grade crossing manifested itself, and the one able-bodied guy working on it really needed help. So I spent all afternoon swinging shovel, pickaxe, spike lifter, spike maul and tamper in intermittent rain.

Yesterday was business in the AM, then a rather intense two hours planning & executing the recycling of the old battery bank. Only a couple of ounces of H2SO4 got spilled and the people at the junkyard liked the factory-ish way we'd re-packed them. And they paid cash. Closing with a long loop of errands in afternoon traffic and dinner with J.

Thursday was a pleasant visit to Deerfield Fair, and a conversation with a long-time friend.

Growing up in a community where kids played outdoors and roamed miles from home in both the urban area and adjoining fields/riverbanks/wilderness, I was an athlete of no note, but my level of fitness never stood out. Forty years later, it's likely I'm the fittest person in any given room, even when most of those present are 20 years my junior. It gets me respect but doesn't seem to make me attractive. I don't get this in the gym, I get this by farming, heating my house with wood, moving my own snow, undertaking projects like replacing the battery bank and digging up ballast by hand. And I'll keep on doing it as long as I can, because being able to undertake projects like the recent round is very empowering to me.
jbvb: (Default)
2016-09-25 11:10 am

Technical Notes for new batteries

1. Almost 5 gal. distilled water to top off the new batteries.

2. No shipping info on the missing filler cap yet.

3. Reduce 'Absorb' voltage on Outback battery charger from 57.6 volts to 56.0 VDC.

4. Voltage down to 50.2 overnight. Charge from grid enabled but didn't activate.
jbvb: (Default)
2016-09-24 11:19 am

Well, that was a job of work. Fall Equinox 2016 journal

With help from M, J and Middle Thursday, I got the south half of the battery bank replaced, wired and connected. Then with M, J and D helping, we did the north half Friday. M & I used the crane to remove the old S bank, but the rest of the battery hoisting was done by hand using a carrying pole. The battery sling I rigged worked out well. Now all that's left to do is top off the electrolyte level, replace the one missing cap when they ship it to me, ship out 4 pallets of old batteries and close the lid on the box as it gets colder.

Pawpaws are ripe; looks like those will be most of the tree fruit of my own that I eat this year. Maybe 3 CM of rain last night - one gauge showed a bit more, the other less than 2 CM. Don't know if this is a problem with the gauges, or if somebody checked/dumped the lesser. Possibility of a frost Sunday night, I'll put a tarp over the tomatoes. Corn is about gone, with critters eating the ears before they really fill out. My firewood situation is decent, though I will probably have room for a 2nd truckload in the cellar once the 1st is stored.

Youngest is returning from Oslo today, I will catch up at breakfast tomorrow.