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sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets

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(no subject) [Sep. 28th, 2016|08:07 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
We have survived two and a half days in Kyoto so far. No major incidents of getting lost, choosing the wrong train, or getting in a martial arts fight. This place is making me recalibrate my ideas of beautiful architecture and landscaping.
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(no subject) [Sep. 18th, 2016|11:29 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
Tonight was closing day for Lakeside Amusement Park. Every year we wonder if this will be the year it doesn't reopen again. I got some pics I'll have to share later. But the reason we went was because A: there are a bunch of Ingress portals in there we haven't hacked, B: and if we capture them now they're ours for five months or until someone trespasses or fakes their gps location, C: and if we do the same thing when Elich's Amusement Park closes, and then link one portal in one location to one in the other, that will be a gigantic irritation for hundreds of other players, and D: there's a pokemon go gym in there, and now it has our pokemon on it, so with even a little bit of luck we have a pokemon in a gym every day for five months.
So, that's what we decided to do, and we went over there and captured all the portals and put a bunch of high-level defensive stuff on them, and congratulated ourselves for being oh so bright, and just as we were leaving, three of them turned the color of the other team, because somebody else had the same idea.
There are some technical details you can gloss over if you don't play ingress, namely: we'd put four axa shields on every portal, so they're as tough as they can get, and the other player flipped them, meaning that if we want to take them back we have to either attack our own expensive stuff, now owned by him, or we have to wait an hour, when they're available to flip again. That's what we did. In fact we waited almost two hours, then we flipped two of them back to our side, and messaged him: we left you one, you cool with that? He said he was, and now we each own one.
That's the kind of secret agent stuff I love.
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(no subject) [Sep. 16th, 2016|11:19 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
One of the things about being an instrumentation junkie is I have data over time.
One area on which I have data, now, is bike riding.
When I was working with cyclelicious he and my other friend A had a lunchtime ride route that rode southeast of our workplace, and then up a km-and-change long, gentle hill, before heading back to work.
Once he left and A had kids, I was on my own as regards lunchtime rides, for a while. Then a bunch of fast guys flooded in, and one gave me his old broken GPS, that I fixed enough to use and start recording data.
For a long time, when I was hauling along the south part of that ride, up the long gentle hill, I'd manage to stay with the fast guys about 2/3 of the way up the climb, then get dropped at a short steep rise where it crosses an irrigation canal, and watch them slowly pull away. I just could not manage to hang on.
I found a new route that was slightly longer, further to the south, and instead of having a long gentle hill it has a short steep hill. For various reasons, that's easier for me to survive: I have a much better chance of catching them if I get dropped, and it's harder for them to drop me. So we've been riding that for the last five years.
The other day we rode the old route, and cruised up the hill at what I considered a comfortable rate, chatting with each other, while holding back just a bit for a coworker who is still a bit slower.
When I got back to work I pulled the gps track off my computer, and found that I'd completely demolished my previous best-ever effort up that hill. I am significantly faster than I was seven years ago, which is a nice but surprising thing to learn.
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(no subject) [Sep. 9th, 2016|08:06 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
I took the day off to chauffeur manintheboat around town, which was a nice break.
While she was busy I went out and found four new Ingress portals, bringing me to a total of 207 new ones so far this month. There's a prize if I get to 300, and another if I'm in the top 25% of people going to new portals worldwide.

manintheboat came home and went straight to sleep, so I got oil/filters for the cars, cut down two more sneaky trees of heaven that had infiltrated the japanese paper lantern tree, and did a bunch of cleaning up in the house. When she woke up we attacked the backlog of LEGO.
I built the only airplane I'll ever own with retractable landing gear.
2016-09-09_07-55-53
She caught up on a batman/harley quinn set and a pirate set.

I walked the dog around the block and got to chat with our neighbor, who sold us the Spitfire. His current project is a Yamaha that burned. As the engine was damaged and the clutch warped by the fire, he welded up an engine mount for an engine he took off a broken ROTOTILLER.
Sure. Why not?
He also welded on a continuously variable transmission from a Chinese scooter that had gotten run over.
To attach them he used two different chains, running right beside his leg. (Oh, also the exhaust tube: exactly where his left knee would naturally sit.) After the front chain ate a pair of pants he replaced it with a belt.
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I particularly like the air cleaner, which he fashioned out of a cardboard container for a Jack Daniels bottle. You can see it right there above the pull-starter on the engine.
2016-09-09_07-53-39

His design aesthetic leaves my eyes wide open.
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(no subject) [Sep. 7th, 2016|11:12 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
We had an ice cream party over the weekend, for manintheboat's birthday. It was pretty good. The Triumph barely sufficed to transport the beer, and somehow we ended up with more than this by the end of the shindig.
2016-09-07_11-01-27

We also wandered around downtown Denver doing a bunch of Ingress missions. I found this sign in a beautiful orphan building, that clearly used to be in the middle of a block of stores but now is surrounded by car parks.
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In a terrible case of scope creep, I'm trying to build a datalogger for analyzing different input sources for their reliability, as the input to the solid state/distributorless ignition system for the Spitfire. I was casting about for the quickest way to add an sdcard to the arduino to do the datalogging, and realized the only board I had on hand with an sdcard socket was a tft oled with a touchscreen, basically a second-generation smartphone display. The sdcard worked perfectly, but since I have a touchscreen display... I ended up adding on-screen diagnostics and a bit of configuration stuff. Now it samples the manifold air pressure a thousand times a second, measures the throttle position about a hundred times a second, and writes all the data, plus the number of milliseconds since I pushed the 'start' button, to the sdcard in csv format so I can graph it using gnuplot and presumably derive tons of useful information from it.
2016-09-07_11-02-21
I've been learning a lot about safe programming: how to set up a microcontroller to run critical code that won't let interruptions damage data. It's a lot easier to do this when the microcontroller is capable of setting up and running much of the data acquisition as purely hardware operations, leaving the software to just deal with the results.
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(no subject) [Sep. 2nd, 2016|08:18 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
We went out riding, and rode the first section on a dirt path. As we're bombing along, we see an agitated-looking gentleman riding towards us. He starts waving one arm and when we get close enough, yells "snake! snake! there's a huge snake on the trail!"
It wasn't huge. It was maybe only slightly over a meter long.
Which, granted, is pretty big for Colorado, but not HUGE.
I always sling snakes off trails or roads if they're still functional.
Except when they look just like a prairie rattlesnake, which happens to have a fresh bloody stump where its tail should be.
I wasn't going to get close enough to its head to identify it that way.
Veeeery gently scootched it with the front wheel of my bike, until it cleared off the path.
It may not have been a rattler. Typically the moment I touch one it coils, lifts its head, and prepares to strike. This one seemed more interested in departing than in being hostile, once I got it moving.
I wish I'd had a camera along.
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(no subject) [Aug. 30th, 2016|07:21 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
manintheboat picked up a copy of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child for me. It was okay. I see what the writers (Rowling plus two other people who were apparently responsible for converting it into a play) were trying to do.
Arguably, since they're her characters, she has final authority over what they would or wouldn't do. However, I feel like she was misreading her own characters. She's great at writing a high action teen angst adventure novel. I think she struggles with writing a midlife parenting novel.

Lunchtime ride today. Three of the other people I ride with are fast enough that when we enter local races with kids half our age the four of us still usually take the top four spots. Then there are another four people who are reasonably fast, but definitely recreational riders. One guy is a bit tween. On flat ground and descents he can stay with the fast group, but on tight turns and climbs he gets dropped. He hasn't ever expressed his annoyance and hurt feelings about that to me, because I often hang back, but he has told other people that he feels abandoned when he gets dropped at the halfway point on a lunchtime ride and ends up riding the next 20km by himself.
This guy is now my manager.
I have taken to dropping off the main group and getting him on my wheel and then trying to ride just fast enough he can stay in my draft, while picking up time on the fast group. Trying a solo catch of a bunch of fast riders is a fool's errand, and man I'm exhausted today.
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(no subject) [Aug. 17th, 2016|03:36 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
Gastroenterologist says yeah I probably have a damaged lower esophagus from acid reflux. I am scheduled for having a scope rummaged around in there in late October. They said I'm not allowed to drive myself home. I asked if I could ride my bike home and then lady just gave me a look. Since it's within walking distance of manintheboat's workplace, what I'm thinking is she can drive me back to her workplace, where I can sit in the waiting room and read a book until I feel not blergh, walk back to the office, get in my car, and drive home. Snicker.
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(no subject) [Aug. 12th, 2016|08:03 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
We had our annual first aid/cpr training yesterday.
Today we went out for a lunchtime ride and one of my coworkers got stung in the face by a wasp.
Immediately:
"What year is it?"
"Can you breathe?"
"Are his lips turning blue?"
and so forth.

It actually seems like something along these lines happens right after our first aid course every year.

(all of us who go out and ride have been stung, so we all know that none of us are currently likely to have allergic reactions, hence the immediate puppy help.)
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(no subject) [Aug. 10th, 2016|10:18 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
My grandmother and mother both have houses in Leadville, which face Mount Elbert. It's the highest mountain in the state, about 4400 meters at the top. It looks like this:
20160806_181817

In the 1970's we used to drive our jeep up near the summit. Someone actually managed to get a jeep up there in the 1950's. The Department of Agriculture closed those roads and made them hiking trails in the 1980's and my dad and I used to talk about how hard it would be to ride to the top.

Sunday I decided to try it.
I started from mom's house and rode my mountain bike about 12 km to an initial viewpoint where I could decide how I felt about the cloud cover.
20160807_111022

There's an abandoned settlement in the guts of this valley. The church, in the center, still has a bell in the steeple.
20160807_111020

This part of the road is dirt, but still passable by passenger car. A couple km further I got onto an old jeep road (the one we used to drive up it many years ago) that is a lot hairier. That turns into a fairly nice hiking trail, and then the Mount Elbert trail takes a hard left and starts climbing. From that point to the top is 10km and the average grade is 20%: one meter of climbing for every five meters forwards. It's also mostly big rocks with some tree roots, lower down. Higher up it's all rocks.
Here's a shot from partway up.
20160807_154814

My theory was that I could ride up maybe 20% of it, but that I could ride down about 70% of it, and that would make the whole trip really easy. That also allowed me to rationalize burning through about 80% of my water on the climb, since the descent was going to be so easy.

There were mountain goats near the top. I didn't get any pictures.
There were also marmots (Hey marm0t!)
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and ptarmigan. (Super good camouflage on these: it's in the middle slightly above and left of center.)
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There were also a ton of people, all heading down, insofar as I started about the same time most people wanted to be just approaching the top. Again, I figured I'd be descending really fast so I didn't have to worry about exposure on the top as much.
It was still basically a hike whilst carrying a bike.
Everyone coming down had something to say. Mostly they said I was a total badass. I wasn't feeling like it right then. I was feeling exhausted.
But I did get to the top.
20160807_154748
The point I started the ride from is below the left (from the rider's perspective) handgrip of the bike.

Some other pics from the top.
20160807_154817

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This dog had a 12 week old puppy who looked just like her tagging along, but the puppy was busy digging around in someone's backpack when I was trying to take this.
20160807_154827

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The last shows a bit darker a chunk of cloud, and roughly two minutes after we got to the top, it spit out a lightning bolt down on top of Missouri or Belford, two 4300 meter mountains just to the south, with a loud crack.
That got the few of us on top all highly motivated, as we were standing on the highest point for 1500 km in any direction. We tore down from the peak, which is maybe 200 meters of pure unrelenting rock, to the mix of rock and soil below, and that's where I hopped on my bike and started riding down the hill.
and that's where everything went to pieces.

Descending down a huge pile of rocks at 20% is hard on a bike. My front rim started overheating so much from braking I would ride for three minutes and then walk for three minutes to let it cool down to the point where I could touch it. About the third or fourth iteration of that, the tire blew out. I pulled the tube out and found that the stem for inflating it had been torn out of the tube. I am guessing I was braking so hard that the tire was being dragged around the rim -- rotating more than the wheel as a whole was rotating -- and that trashed the tube.
Well, I have a spare tube. I put that in and pumped it up with quite a bit more pressure so the tire wouldn't slip on the rim.
And it blew out before I could even start riding.
I pulled the tire back apart, and found a split in the tube: it had parted along a molding line.
This was a big problem with cheap tubes from the 2010 era, and I must have missed this one when I was trying to cull my collection.

Well, I have a patch kit. I pulled it out. Brand new kit. I don't carry used ones along because they may have aged poorly: the adhesive for the patches dries out eventually. So, brand new adhesive container, never opened. I tore off the seal on the top.
It's completely dry. Like, there is _dust_ coming out of it.

Hoo boy.

Well, that's why I carry a SPARE patch kit. So I got that out and opened it up and the glue was okay and I patched the hole in the spare tube and put everything back together and pumped it up and rode about another 200 meters and it blew out again.
This time it was a huge long tear along a mold line that just couldn't be patched at all.

As a result I rode down the side of a mountain and 25km home on a completely flat tire, which was miserable. The bike rode like a jackhammer, if I turned even slightly the tire would fold under and the front wheel would slide sideways and fall over, any side-grade at all and it would similarly fold over and stop, and if I went more than about 20 km/h the tire would start oscillating on the rim and threatening to come off entirely.
Man that was a long ride.

This is what a tire looks like after being ridden flat down the side of a mountain and then on paved roads for 25km.
20160807_192953

But I did get home, albeit by hitching a ride for the latter half of the 3 km dirt climb to the house.
20160807_192944

And I even had the energy to take another picture of the top, post-ride.
20160807_193021
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