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Last weekend we were in Oregon, IL, for Stronghold's Olde English Faire.

Getting there was an adventure in itself. We take the camper with us so that we have a place to sleep and an easy way to haul the tent poles (8' poles don't fit well in a 6' truck). Friday morning we loaded the truck with all the booth stuff and the camper with sleeping bags, garb, clothes, food, and the tent poles.

Then I went to switch trailer hitches (the vending trailer is an 1-7/8" ball, the camper is 2"). I haven't had to switch hitches since Stronghold last year, so it really wasn't surprising that the lock on the hitch pin was sticking. After about 10-15 minutes and some TriFlow, I got the key to rotate far enough to unlock the pin, but not only didn't the lock release, the key wouldn't rotate back. So I got out the sawzall and removed the lock.

Then the receiver post wouldn't pull out of the receiver body. Coercive attempts with a 12# sledge hammer were unsuccessful, so we drove over to U-Haul and bought a new hitch pint (just in case it ever loosens up) and a universal post kit (you permanently mount the post and then it has both sizes of interchangeable balls) and had them install it.

A quick stop at Badger Welding Supply for a new small oxy tank, and it was back home to hook up the camper. The camper hitch wouldn't open far enough for us to get it over the ball because the surge brake cylinder had finally failed and the actuator was jammed in the "full brakes" position. So I got out the sawzall and I cut that out of the system (actually, it took a 3/8" wrench to snap the four mounting bolts off and let the cylinder drop out of the hitch, but it really seemed like a good place for a sawzall). I'm not worried about not having the cylinder in place, since it's never been functional since we got the trailer, you just have to pay attention and stop early because it's an extra 3,000# pounds of rolling load).

Finally, we've got the camper hooked up and everything loaded, and we're on our way. Unlike the way this post is trending so far, we actually got to the faire site without any other problems, other than the fact that we're now a few hours later than I had hoped, and it's getting dark.

Fortunately, we've put up the tent often enough that we can do it by flashlight if necessary. We got the tent set up, set up all the tables, and piled everything into the tent, closed all the sidewalls, and went out to get dinner. We then hung out in the camper for a while and read, and went to bed around 10p. Friday night the temperature got down to 36F. Saturday morning, we both were awake before the alarm clock, hoping that the other one would get up and make heat happen (the heater in the camper was dead when we bought it, but we've got a Coleman lantern and a camp stove, both of which put out a fair amount of heat). I got up first and made fire and then headed off to the privy. By the time I got back the fog was thick enough that you couldn't see the next campsite.

After breakfast we drove back to the faire site and set up the tent. Every time we set up it's a little different as we've got an ever-changing set of stuff for sale. Saturday was about normal for sales (in the "very good show" range), and then we closed up, had dinner, and went back to the camper for the rest of the night.

Saturday night was warmer (~44F), but Sunday morning it rained on and off until ~12:30. Sundays normally are slow in any small outdoor fair in the midwest because you've got to wait for most of the people to get done with church. Of course, when it's still drizzling after church, they mostly stay home instead of going out to the fair, so Sunday's sales were only about 30% of Saturday's, but were also about what we expected out of a rainy day. Overall we took in enough that even with the roadshow expenses, we made more than a Farmer's Market day would (our normal guideline for whether or not to keep doing a road show), and we made enough to pay for getting the cats' teeth cleaned (our other goal for this weekend).

We got home around 10p on Sunday and left the camper and truck on the street. It's much easier to back the camper up the driveway on Monday morning after I've had a full night's sleep and it's light out. After I parked the camper I did some errands and then took Marley to the vet for blood tests they needed to go to make sure she'd probably survive the anesthesia during the dental work. Then it was off to work for the afternoon.
revchris: (Default)
We got money from the College this year to do some upgrades in the teaching labs.

one of the projects was a new computer for the xray powder diffraction system. I got all the software installed and then went to set up the machine, only to realize that the old machine has been around just long enough for me to forget that the interface card is a full-size PCI card. Every computer I've got that is newer than the current one doesn't fit the card either because Dell puts stuff in the way whenever they can, or there is a drive cage along the full height of the tower.

I can't replace the card, because I don't know if there's a smaller one, and this one cost $12k, so I don't really have budget for another one. I put the card back into the old computer (a 1.8GHz p4), upgraded the computer from 256MB of memory to 1GB, and then spent yesterday and today upgrading it to WinXP (from 98) and getting everything to work with the network login. Eventually, I may look into a big case and build a new computer.

During this whole process, I decided to use the (planned) new computer to replace the other computer in the lab, which controlled the older xray system. It was a much easier move (so far) than I thought it would be, as the hard drive on the computer I was replacing is dead (no head noise, no platter spinning noises, and a blinky LED on it's circuit board).

The new computer is set up with the analysis software and the search database, and everything there also works with the network, so that's good to go until somebody decides that they need the old machine to work, at which point if I haven't found a backup of the software (completely homemade, no backups in any obvious locations, the old backups probably having been eaten by a drive crash years ago), we'll decide whether we want to have the drive recovered, just scrap the whole works, or see if we can talk the ECE department into making it a senior design project, which is how we got the software in the first place.

During this whole process, I'm also printing posters. One of the grads from E's group emailed me a poster on Tuesday, with a note that there would be a few more for next week's conference. Yesterday I got another one, and today they sent me two more, with a note that there were another two coming. I replied by saying that I only had two or three posters worth of good paper left, so they might have to wait. It turned out that I had three posters worth, plus eleven inches of paper, which is just enough to finish the third poster without tripping the "out of paper" sensor. The guy who was doing the last two posters is willing to have them printed on bright white bond, so they'll get printed in the morning.

This is one of the reasons why work pays DoIT annually to make my email box hold 1GB (instead of the normal 200MB), as each poster arrives as an 8-20MB powerpoint file.

All the poster printing goes into my new hardware fund, and this batch is going to put another flat panel monitor into one of the teaching labs. It takes a conference or two to get anything good, as we basically only charge costs, so a 3'x4' poster costs either $30 or $45 (full-color posters - i.e. backgrounds too - cost more). They don't want me to charge more, and I won't charge less, as this way people think about the costs before they decide whether they're printing every random thing they have or not.

I, of course, get anything I want printed free, but that's the advantage of being the guy with the printer, and of being the guy who sends out the printer bills. Most of what I print out, however, is line art on plain paper (think floor plans and equipment drawings), so nobody really worries about it.

Tomorrow I'm teaching the TA that's going to be running the xray lab next week how the new setup works and I've got a guy from one of the Civil Engineering research groups coming over to use one of the microscopes to take pictures of nanoparticles.

Now, off to think about what to make for dinner, not knowing when [ profile] teeka will be done teaching class.
revchris: (Default)
When I heard that classes had been canceled, I decided to take the early (3:52) bus home instead of the regular one(4:32). I got to the stop about 10 minutes early because I wasn't sure if it was the start of a route or a continuation of another one, and I figured I'd be safe if they were early.

The 3:52 bus evaporated, and the 4:32 bus got there about 4:50. When I got to the bus stop, the west-bound #37 bus was stuck at Breeze and Old University. I have pictures of a bunch of people (riders?) trying to push it out of the snowbank. While I was waiting for my bus, the next west-bound #37 also got stuck, right next to the first one, basically closing Breeze down to one east-bound lane.

We made it to State Street uneventfully (slowly because of traffic, but with no problems). At the bottom of State, a #6 bus was stuck. By the time it got unstuck, we'd lost traction and were stuck and eventually had to wait for Kurt (the night supervisor) to come and unstuck us.

Important Madison Metro factoid: Regular drivers aren't allowed to hit anything. Bikes, planters, etc. all count as accidents and drivers get into a lot of trouble. Kurt, however, is a supervisor. Not only does he have 20 years of driving experience, he's allowed to hit stuff if he thinks it's necessary to unstuck a bus. He's also (according to our driver) the only supervisor who'll get out of his car and help (from the sound of it, he's also the only one with a truck, and that's full of enough useful stuff that there's only room for him).

After getting unstuck, we plowed our way up State, trying hard not to stop for anyone. I'll have to check my phone (I called [ profile] teeka or texted her, so there's times in the logs in my phone), but I think it was about 5:45 at this point. We made it up to the outer loop before getting stuck blocking the intersection. That took a while to fix, and was sped up by a helpful young lady who offered a shovel, allowing the driver to dig the wheels clear. That got us across the outer loop, where we got stuck again, diagonally across State.Kurt eventually came back from unstucking buses up on the square, and unstuck us (again) and basically powered the bus through the mess that was State St. until we were on the square, where we got stuck again beyond Kurt's ability to fix it, putting us at about #30 on the Metro Bus tow-truck list.

This was 6:30-ish. I also have a picture of the bus diagonally across State. At this point, there are only 4 passengers on the bus, all the others being close enough to their destinations that they decided to walk. I also know everyone on the bus at this point. We sat in the bus for a while until they found another bus to take us all home. Once we cleared the square, East Wash was ok (not good, but not horrible, either), as were First Street, Packers/Pennsylvania, and Northport. The roads got better when we turned up N. Sherman, a little worse on Wheeler, and back to ok on School. Fortunately no one was there from Cherokee, so we skipped the entire subdivision.

I finally got home about 7:20. Then I went out and blew snow. I got both plow berms and all of the sidewalk and the bottom half of the driveway done before Maggs had dinner ready. While I was outside, the graders came through and did Fulton (they'd done Elgar before I came home). If there's not a snow emergency, our neighborhood doesn't get plowed. If there is a snow emergency, two guys in graders (contractors, I assume) do a really good job of clearing the roads and piling everyting up at the end of the driveway.

After dinner, I cleaned the truck off and went down to PDQ for gas (no gas, no snowblower!). The roads in my neighborhood were all clean, with some snow in the roads from people doing their driveways. Northport, however, was a mess. I did several intersections by timing traffic and then making sure I didn't stop for anything. I slid into Troy Drive to get to PDQ, slid around their lot a bit, and gassed up the truck and the snowblower can. Then I came home and finished the driveway.

All in all, however, (snow included), except for my normal 45-minute commute lasting THREE AND A HALF HOURS, it wasn't too bad of a night.

Pictures will show up tomorrow, probably, once I've had time to offload them from the camera and clean them up.
revchris: (Default)
It's cold enough this morning that Madison Public Schools are closed. This is only the 3rd-4th time I remember them closing.

The University, however, is open and holding classes.

Oh, and the -30F windchill can stop at any time now. We've all experienced it, so it can go away now, kthx.
revchris: (Default)
that I really don't like roof trusses. I understand their usefulness, and that they make my garage roof stronger, but the extra diagonal brace (I have M-trusses, but without the outboard vertical) really gets in the way when trying to do anything in the garage attic.

Why am I saying this now? I spent the first part of the afternoon cleaning out the garage attic on [ profile] teeka's side and then spent the rest of the afternoon low-crawling my way around above her shop laying insulation.

Next part of the project is to see if I can heave a 3/4"x4'x8' sheet of plywood up there to provide structural storage space.

Eventually I have to bring down the rest of the scrap lumber that's up there. As far as I can tell, when one the previous owners put in the patio door on the driveway side of the house, all the wall framing they took out (nails and all) went into the top of the garage.


Sep. 28th, 2007 01:48 pm
revchris: (Default)
It's amazing how fast they can solve a problem, or escalate it out of hand.

Every so often, I get tired of telling some research group that they need to clean up, move, or fix something. Then, when I walk in with a sign or two listing what they have to do, and enough padlocks that none of the equipment they need to use is functional, everything gets fixed up really quickly. Usually in an afternoon or less, after months (usually) of trying to get them to do something.

Of course, every now and then, things get a little frantic when they find out I've locked up whatever thing they needed to use today, and their professor/granting agency/etc. is going to come in and chew me out or have me fired or whatever. Then I add lockout tags (which, among other things, basically make it illegal for anyone but me to remove my locks), and another lock on the disconnect that feeds that device, and a lock on the panel that feeds the disconnect, and another lock on the supply breaker that feeds that panel, shutting things off as I go.

So far, I've won every one of those battles.

There was one time, however, where they cut the first lock off. I don't remember if it was the grad student or the professor that did it, but they managed also to damage the switch enough that they had to replace it before they could turn the unit back on.

While they were discovering that there were more locks, and more switches, some of them in rooms that needed special keys, I was on the phone. After UWPD (remember the illegal part?), UW Safety, and the Fire Marshal left, and the warnings given were digested, everyone was happy to fix everything that was wrong, including the stuff that didn't really matter to anyone.
revchris: (Default)
I got an email from Tracfone on Friday. Basically, it said:
Dude, your phone, it's like, old, and, we're not going to support TDMA any more, so you really should upgrade if you want to keep calling people. We are, however, going to send you a new phone to replace it, while supplies last, so don't dawdle.
I have a support case open now (required for them to send me a new phone). Then, after I get the new phone and find out if they'll let me keep my old number (the last time Maggs switched phones they told her she couldn't keep her number because the change from TDMA to GSM wouldn't allow it), since the old phone is non-SIM, I get to transfer the address book one entry at a time.


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June 2010

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