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The hailstorm cut the top off one of the tomato seedlings, literally just sliced right through the stem. I stuck it in a glass of water along with a similarly abused tomatillo, and am watching new roots form along the stem.

Kind of creepy.

I was following this person down the road after work and suddenly noticed the bumpersticker, which I love.
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A lot of stuff has happened.
I remain wired up to a heart monitor, and its sympathetic magic is working perfectly: I have not had a single dizzy episode and only one possible missed heartbeat since I started wearing it.

[personal profile] threemeninaboat's car was declared officially totaled and irreparable because of water getting into the electronics and hybrid batteries. She feels that most or all modern cars are enormous unwieldy beached whales and was angry at everything so we went out and found her a ten year old Subaru STI, basically a road-legal racecar, and that, she's happy with.

My company, specifically my department, won a contract to develop an extremely complex custom chip for another company, that'll keep us very busy and very profitable for at least six years, so I'm less worried about my job vanishing for quite a while.

I've fallen behind on most of my fun projects because there's so much stuff that Just Has To Be Done. I'm going to work on the life/fun balance thing. But the hailstorm and following mid-May freeze meant some issues keeping the garden viable.
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I think there should be a word for the skill of being really good at being really terrible at something. Like, extraordinarily talented at screwing up.
We were out playing Ingress tonight, and were sitting at the library, when we heard a sort of distant noise that sounded like someone dialing a phone and then answering a 911 emergency call.
Well, it wasn't MY phone. It wasn't [personal profile] threemeninaboat's phone.
I have a heart rate monitor. It talks to a dedicated cellphone. If I push the power button on the cellphone, it'll turn on and present me with a screen where I can ask it to log information, by pushing an active area in the bottom 1/10 of the screen. In the screen after that, if I push in the top 1/40 of the screen, it'll call 911.
It did that in my pocket. Three sequential button pushes in the right places within about 30 seconds of each other.

BUT! I did learn, through playing with it, that the only way to start the sequence is to push the power button on the top. Tomorrow I'm folding up a little metal cover to go over that button, that I will duct-tape securely onto the phone such that it is physically impossible to push the power button without removing the duct tape.
Until such time as I somehow manage to figure out how to defeat that through devious pocket karate.
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Since [personal profile] threemeninaboat's car is on indefinite hiatus, what with its bashed-in windows and smashed-up exterior, she drove the Spitfire to work today. Hooray! I texted her to find out how it was going, and she said it was great. I came home and was out walking the dog when she called: she couldn't get the seatbelt to come out. It was retracted and refused to extend.
I forced Monty into actual rapid walking, got home, and drove over, by which time she had half the seatbelt assembly out. (On this car, it's pretty exposed, since I replaced the original circa 1975 seatbelts, that were half rotted and only lap belts, with three-point shoulder belts that hook into the roll bar mounting points with massive bolts.) The point was to trade the seat belts side-to-side, since the passenger one worked. I helped her finish that up... and the passenger one, that has always worked perfectly, didn't work either. ARRRGH. I took it back out and played with it until it did work, we stretched it all the way out, installed it, she sat down, and we stuck the other end in the receptacle and she drove home.
While I was sitting at home playing with the one that failed, it started working again.
These are set up very carefully so that the latching mechanism that engages in a crash cancels out gravity: if it's tilted (like the car's in the process of turning over) it automatically engages fully to prevent the person falling out.
She was parked on a steep angle.
The seatbelts were just doing what they were designed to do. Turns out if you park on an angle that is the sort you regularly encounter, they decide you're crashing and lock up.
I think I'm getting non-retractable three-point seatbelts to replace them.
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I found a mystery pokemon player disguised as a pine tree.
And my next car.
I went for a mountain bike ride, with the usual results.
Today we had a hailstorm.
N's car did not fare well.
Windshield is a mass of cracks, rear window is completely gone, every body panel has major dents.

Our tomatoes didn't do well either.
But they are Russian Tomatoes and should be used to this. We'll see.
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Doc says my heart appears to be fine and he has no idea why I fainted, so I'm going to a cardiologist and in the meantime am under instructions to drink even more water.
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This was a super busy weekend. It snowed hard yesterday so mostly we stayed inside. Today I took Pirate the rabbit outside to jump around in the grass, as all the snow from yesterday had melted off by the time we got up, and he seemed a lot happier. He's like 190 years old in human years so it's no surprise he's acting like he feels lousy a lot of the time. I gently washed him because he's sort of become incontinent, and that may be part of why he's doing better at moving.


Apr. 27th, 2017 07:48 pm
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I've been driving through a place called Lake Arbor Park to blow up my frenemies' Ingress portals, and ran across cormorants.
And herons.
But today I came home and walked Monty around the block and while I was down by the church to the south of our house I heard an utterly familiar (to me) "breet!" sound that is unlike any native bird. I managed a passable "breet!" response and got an extremely enthusiastic response, so we played Marco Polo until this old grey lady tried to fly towards me.
Her wings are clipped so it didn't work very well, but she's quite well-trained and civilized, so I got her to step up on my hand and walk up to my shoulder while monty had a complete emotional breakdown about not being allowed to eat the little bird, and brought her home. She's now sitting in the downstairs bathroom.
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This morning I got up, hopped in the shower, and fainted.
I faint a lot, but usually what that means is I stand up, get dizzy, grab the wall, and have to sit down for several seconds.
This was a complete blackout, fall through the shower curtain, and stay on the floor for quite a while until N had pulled the curtain off me and started checking for a pulse.
It may be the same low blood pressure problems I've had for years: standing in a really hot shower is the sort of thing that leads to fainting.
Nevertheless I'm going back to the doctor.

Anyway, I took the day off because I had an awful headache. Apparently I hit my head pretty hard.
So I did a bunch of housework, got the new DSL modem FINALLY hooked up and functioning, cut down a bunch of stupid elm trees that keep coming back every year, watered all the plants, walked the dog several kilometers. Not much involving power tools.

Greyhound legs look particularly alien.

I went over to the junkyard to get steel for the deck railing and found some drillbits that were more than two meters long. I kind of want one.

Some newspaper blew into the yard. It's had a long journey.

I set up the foundry and did some more casting, just scrap processing.

In doing so I found the last bits of the Subaru engine block I broke up and mostly melted down years ago.

Whilst organizing the workshop I got out the old glass annealing oven. I recently bought a fancy PID controller for it, that'll replace the kind of scary triac-based control system I built for it many years ago. That's the last step I need for the 3d-print-to-aluminum-casting toolchain.
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We went to the Ingress cross-faction awards ceremony for the Colorado area on Saturday. They hold it in a kind of divey artist gallery on Santa Fe, but there are usually at least a couple of good sculptures.
Both these were basically 2 meters tall.

Two of my coworkers have bought the same model of 3d printer that I have. One printed a tiny crossbow, that is almost entirely a single print: all the moving parts (and there are several) were printed in one go, assembled, relying on flex to enable it to work.

I think it's funny that so far he has printed a fidgeter (a weighted spinny thing) and the plastic equivalent of brass knuckles and a crossbow and a skull. I have printed a testbed for one of my circuit boards, an enclosure for another circuit board, an intake manifold, and motor hold-down brackets. The other guy has printed a klein bottle and another mathematical oddity, related to a moebius strip. We all seem to be quite consistent in our choices, although they are all quite different.

I bought a pipe nipple and cap, intending to weld them together to make a small heavy-duty crucible for melting and casting brass, insofar as my aluminum one is intended for much larger volumes and much lower temperatures. The nipple and cap both claimed to be galvanized steel. I sat them in hydrochloric acid for about 20 minutes and then went to weld them. The HCl did not sufficiently strip off the zinc in 20 minutes: I should have left it in there for an hour.
This is what it looks like when you try to weld something galvanized.
Zinc fumes are bad for you. Avoid doing this.
As it turns out, even though they both claimed to be galvanized steel, the cap was in fact cast iron. I should have tested it before trying to weld it.
This is what happens when you use standard welding rod to try to attach steel to cast iron.
See that big old crack horizontally right down the center of the weld? The cast iron has melted and run up to that point, but because it is brittle, when it cools it contracts and cracks. (Steel is ductile enough to stretch just a little as it cools.)
This is definitely not going to hold liquid brass without leaking everywhere.
I'll fabricate another one later.
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[personal profile] threemeninaboat says there's this song that includes the words "Hakuna matata" that everyone in the world knows except me.
Is she right?
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Apparently my style of decapsulating integrated circuits is so different we don't know how to take pictures of the results that show what we want to see. We have damaged chips. When we etch the top off with nitric acid there are spots that won't etch because they're a mixture of metals, epoxy, and silicon. The way I remove the top doesn't leave those spots, so we have to compare the pictures to pictures of a good chip and even then the evidence for damage is subtle: lines that aren't quite straight, for instance. I may have to come up with some way of producing contrast. But, generally, it's extremely successful save for our lack of ability to electrically connect to the die anymore, and we can even manage that with our probe station.
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Tonight I learned how to reliably, repeatably remove the top of an integrated circuit package and expose the silicon without damaging it much, and without using acid. I'll do a writeup on @smellsofbikes later in the week, when I have a chip for which posting pictures online is permissible. I made a tiny vise to hold the chip, then I cut off 98.5% of the packaging material, then I hold it up to the bottom-side of a sideways flame so it's as cool as possible and gently bake the remaining epoxy until it's brittle, then oh so carefully scrub it off with a fiber brush and careful compression to fracture larger pieces using the tip of a pair of tweezers. That last bit, the careful compression, is by far the hardest, most nitpicky part. I'm using a 20x microscope and wish I had a 50x.
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Two police officers showed up at our front door at 2200 tonight, and said they wanted to look in my back yard for a guy who might be wandering around through it. I think there was more to the story, because a plainclothes policeman showed up a minute later and two other cars a minute after that, and there were a fairly large number of people out looking through my back yard and my neighbor Ray's back yard (which are largely conterminous, though separated by a rather tall retaining wall.) That shot my interest in doing a bunch of work in the workshop.
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I need to remove the epoxy encapsulation, or at least most of it, from a whole bunch of chips, so I made a little de-encapsulation vise for my mill. This way the chip is supported across the bottom and at both ends. The vise height is the width of one human hair shorter than the chip, and the chip is the width of one human hair shorter than the vise length, so it fits in pretty solidly.
mechanical decap vise
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It's been windy lately.
On this particular day it was gusting to over 70mph: 110 kph. Vroom. I was not out riding in that.

I had today off because I work for a Texas company. Nobody else in Colorado had today off, apparently, including schools. We went to City Park to bum around and play Pokemon Go and walk the dog. This is Cormorant Island. It looks like the place you end up when your ship has sunk and your lifeboat is just about out of supplies and you see a distant lump on the horizon and as you get closer you realize you really are doomed.

The new 20 ton jack from Home Depot did what it was supposed to do.
I cut a weirdly shaped bit of wood.
That was not in fact the right shape, but was close enough.
Then I stuck it in the corner between the front left shock tower, frame rails, and swaybar brackets and put a floor jack beneath it to hold the hydraulic jack in place, then put the hydraulic jack in with a bit of wood to protect the edges of the bumper.
A few pumps later and the bumper-and-valence-spoiler-assembly made some truly horrible noises, followed by a pop as two bits of metal slid over each other and back into their correct alignment, and suddenly the car was symmetric.
I took it out for a spin and it now makes no grinding squealing crunchy noises.

Success is rarely so cheap, as the success dispensed by a 20 ton hydraulic press.
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Today I did commodities trading.
I traded about 25kg of lead, stuff I collected off the side of the road as a child, for about 15kg of brass.
I have several coworkers who shoot, a lot. They reload cartridges (and, I just found, buy bulk floor sweepings from local shooting ranges to reload those, too) and at some point the cartridges get metal fatigue and begin to bulge, at which point they go into buckets.
I now have one of those buckets.

Cutting brass on the lathe is really enjoyable, and I can make all sorts of neat things, so now I get to find out if the foundry is capable of melting brass hot enough to pour.

Work is kind of stressful. My part isn't: I took over technical writing to free up time for people directly in the line of the stress, and spend my day merrily typing. Man, can I type a lot of words. The project I'm working on was up until quite recently our showpiece, because we're forecasting selling half a million of them before August. We run all our chips through a slew of physical tests, in addition to electrical ones: we freeze them, bake them, shock them, shake them (I just made that up but I'm totally gonna start using it at work.) In one of our tests, they're having issues in a particularly inexplicable manner. That's the most detail I can go into. But everyone is going crazy trying to figure out why. One of the ways we do this is by looking right at the silicon, which is inconveniently (for this situation) all nicely covered up in baked epoxy packaging intended to keep the silicon sealed against everything for at least a hundred years.
The traditional way of doing this is by dripping hot concentrated nitric acid onto the chip over a period of a few hours. The nontraditional way of doing this is called the Bic Decap: you take a cigarette lighter, hold the chip over it, and burn off the epoxy that way, leaving you with a somewhat battered piece of silicon. I volunteered a somewhat middle way: to chuck it up on my mill and cut off 99% of the epoxy, so that we can remove the last little bit at a reasonable rate with acetone.

On the way home, I stopped by Harbor Freight Tools on the theory that since I got one bum hydraulic jack there, why not get another? (To be fair, I bought the first one fifteen years ago and it did work for several years.) Our particular Harbor Freight seems to attract particularly dubious people. There was an extremely twitchy guy with face sores who spent the whole time cursing quietly at his wife, telling her that she was stupid and looked stupid and made him look stupid, while she doggedly picked out the things she needed. I feel very uncomfortable with situations where I feel like someone's being overtly abused but I also feel like if I even acknowledge the situation is happening I'm going to get stabbed.
There were two registers open. Both registers were occupied by customers who were, as far as I could tell, attempting fraudulent returns in hopes of getting cash: one had a return for which she had no receipt and said the credit card on which she'd purchased it had been cancelled, the other had some incredibly complex transaction involving buying multiple items in another state and trying to return one here after claiming he'd returned one at a third store and hadn't been properly credited for it, so had a wad of greasy receipts that he claimed showed the returns. I spent twenty minutes waiting for them to get their accounts settled, and after all that, I wouldn't be surprised if this hydraulic jack didn't work as advertised either. (But at least I can take it back, with a receipt, and the correct credit card.)
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Man, y'all, I went riding at lunch and felt just beat the whole time. I could not stay up with the fast people, and they were taking it easy because they had Crit Fight Club to go battle with in the evening. I have to up my game significantly.
Work is stressful. We're trying to get the project we've been doing for the last fourteen months wrapped up on time, and are desperately hoping the intended customer buys a million of them. (not even slightly an exaggeration, probably a significant underestimate.) That'll keep us afloat for two years, at least. But we are doing well enough we've hired two more of the people from the other department that was sharing our building, which has stopped new development and is now hemorrhaging good engineers.

I was talking to a friend last night about software security, and we got to talking specifically about trying to figure out if someone had screwed with binary blobs. I told her about setting up a prototype system years ago, where system 1 had hashes for all the main binary blobs on system 2's disc and would request that system 2 do hashes and send them over for comparison every now and then. My friend was on about how now the big challenge is handling software that patches running instances of interpreted code, rather than modifying binaries. That got me to thinking about how an operating system defines a memory space that contains executable code, so I spent some time reading about that today. Man, totally in over my head, but it was interesting reading.
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Follow-up on yesterday's post: I cut a piece of wood at a compound angle so it would snuggle into the angle between the frame rail and the left suspension tower of the Spitfire, allowing the hydraulic jack, which turns out to claim 12 tons on the side, to exert tremendous unstoppable force on the bent-back bumper and frame.
Unfortunately, I forgot that the words "Central Hydraulic", a Harbor Freight house brand, take priority over "12 ton hydraulic jack". I think this thing is maybe capable of a ton and a half, max. Definitely not enough to move bent frame rails.
Back to the drawing board.
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I sat down with the Spitfire last night, to try to figure out why it was making weird crunching and grinding noises almost every time I went over any sort of bump, lump, depression, or even when turning hard enough to move the suspension. (Even though it's a gocart it still has a bit of body lean when cornering hard.) The leading thesis going into this was that it was the exhaust pipe touching the ground. That is in fact happening. (This is a consequence of me installing the new engine about 5cm lower, and 5cm further back, than the previous one, to improve the handling. If given the chance, I'm gonna move it back another 10cm at some point.)
But I was pretty sure, from both the sound and from when it happened, that not all the noise was exhaust-on-pavement.
Turns out at some point someone else (presumably) hit the front left corner of the car hard enough to put a dent in the bumper, and also bend the bumper and underlying frame element back a little bit, just far enough that when the body drops slightly, or the tire rises slightly, the outside edge of the tire touches the fender. That's what I'm hearing.
It didn't used to do this because when we got the car it had the original 1975 tires on it, and they're smaller and narrower. When I got the new engine in it, and we were clearly going to drive it a lot more, we got new tires. (35 year old tires are just flat-out unsafe, anyway.) The closest replacements for the original tires have a slightly different shape, width, and height.
So now I have to figure out how to move everything back where it should be.
This is complicated because the bumper bolts into the frame in six places, one outboard of the impact point, so I can't just remove the bumper, straighten it, straighten the frame, and expect them to still fit together: they will bend about different arcs and the outermost bolted joint will no longer line up.
As a result, I get to figure out how to straighten them together.
This isn't specifically why I bought an eight ton jack many years ago, but that'll sure help.
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