Irregular Verbiage
from the desk of Colin Nicholls

Tomato Grown-ups

July 31, 2012 13:40 by colin

Five varietals; the two interesting ones are heirloom that we call "dark red" and "tri-tip" respectively.

Taken with my birthday present: Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100


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Mmm... Upgrades

July 7, 2012 17:12 by colin

If you're reading this, the upgrade to BlogEngine.NET 2.5 was successful.


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Tomato Babies

April 2, 2012 22:36 by colin

Another season... last weekend i pricked out my 12 seedlings and potted them up ready for their next stage of growth. Just the right number for the garage window, where they will find some natural sunlight for most of the daylight hours.

These plants are a mixture of seedlings sprouted from seeds salvaged from tomatoes from 2009 and 2010. Last year, none of my "TriTip" seeds sprouted, but this year, all four of them activated. It is possible that the seeds from 2009 are fertile, but the 2010 "second generation" ones are not. Must experiment more.


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The Daily Grind, part 2

January 29, 2012 13:05 by colin

The big red coffee grinder failed again. This time, the motor just raced while the burr refused to rotate. Clearly the rotating burr had come loose from the shaft of the motor. 

Last time I disassembled the mechanism, I didn't take it far enough to see how the shear pin locks the burr to the shaft, but now I had no choice. 

Yup, the shear pin was snapped into three pieces, two of them knocking about in the base of the grinder, the third piece solidly jammed in the hole in the shaft.

Shear pins are supposed to fail before the motor does, when something jams the shaft (like, say, a stone in the beans makes its way into the grinder). If they don't fail, the motor can burn out.

After I'd repaired the grinder the first time, I went on ebay and purchased a black unit that was advertised as "non-functional parts only", which was fine with me. I verified that the motor had indeed burnt out, and then ended up using parts of it to replace bits in our grinder.

So I had high hopes that the shear pin in the ebay-sourced unit would be intact and that I would be able to use it to replace the broken one in ours. No such luck:

Here you can see the motor, shaft, and bottom burr holder from the black unit, along with the broken shear pin from our original red unit, and the replacement pins I obtained via another ebay purchase.

It's tricky to see in the image above, but the shaft of the black unit is damaged from the failed pin:

I suspect that the pin fragment jammed the motor and that's why it burned out.

After obtaining replacement pins from a seller on ebay, I knocked out the remaining fragment from the shaft with a nail, and then tried inserting the new pin. Man - those things are tight! I tried using a hammer, but with limited success. This thing really needs to be pressed into place in a vise or similar device.

The problem is, you need to apply symmetric pressure on both sides ofthe hole in the shaft, or you can very easily bend the shaft - at which point, you've got an unusable component.

What's really needed is a jig of some kind. Something like this would have been perfect:

Unfortunately, I was impatient and I bent the shaft slightly before I knew what was happening. Dang! I managed to straighten it up most of the way, and tests show that it does not seem to impare rotation - that was lucky.

I ended up using the vise to force the pin into place, using a socket from my wrench set to support the shaft on the opposite side. 

Re-assembling the unit was not difficult, and now it is back grinding coffee for us. Hooray!


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Dad: 1, Nephew: 0

December 10, 2011 02:08 by colin

(Dad passed away last week. Therefore, he will probably show up more than usual in my posts here. That's just how it goes.)

Dad apparently did not believe in jumper cables. When grandson/nephew #2 showed up at the door this evening with a flat battery in his van, I was sure I could find a set of cables in the garage. No such luck.

I do remember from years back in the past, that he had some kind of home-built gizmo that plugged into the wall and would charge up car batteries, whether the car was still attached or not.

Unfortunately, this gizmo no longer exists - and the van was down the road a ways anyhow, so this solution probably wouldn't have worked. 

Thanks to his decaying, home-built arc welder that I decommissioned last week, I actually had all the parts needed to construct a nice set of jumper cables on hand. It would only have taken 30 minutes or so - less if prevention of catching fire wasn't a concern - but before I could put this plan into action, he'd called the AA.

So, I'm scoring this one point to Dad; no points to his grandson.


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Dad's Laws

October 24, 2011 06:37 by colin


Dad's First Law
:
Anything can be disassembled, providing you have the right tools.

Dad's Second Law:
To obtain complete mastery over something, you need two of them: one to take completely apart and potentially fail to put back together; and a second one to maintain in good working condition for the rest of its life.

Colin's Corollary:
Spare parts are handy.


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The daily grind

October 20, 2011 06:27 by colin

Apparently a screw came loose in our 1930's retro-style  burr coffee grinder recently, and has been helping out the process of turning beans into dusty espresso. Yesterday it decided to jam itself in a place it wasn't supposed to be and, in turn, was chewed up like gum.

Since then, the grinder has been making these, well, grinding noises instead of the regular industrious hum. I dismantled it and actually found a replacement screw in my box of machine screws (various), carefully salvaged over the last 20 years.

However, I think the mechanism is irrepairably damaged, because I really don't like the noises it makes and it does not produce a consistent grind any more.

It's been very reliable up until now, and I would just buy another without question, except that it seems that Kitchenaid don't make it any more. Drat!

So we have a few days before we run out of ground coffee to make a decision and find a replacement. 


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Bee Season

October 15, 2011 15:55 by colin

So there I was, merily pedalling along the longer atherton loop, when a honey bee rear-ended my hand with an approximate impact velocity of 30 mph.

I say "rear-ended" because although the bee was most likely flying head-on in my direction, he left his rear-end behind in the flesh of my finger.

Heh. "Bee hind". Heh.

Anyway. I've always understood that you don't use tweezers to remove the stinger because you don't want to squeeze more poison into the wound. This may be true; but this doesn't mean you should leave the stinger in place either. I left my finger untouched and cycled all the way home before attempting to remove the stinger, and this turns out to be unwise. Apparently, the muscles in the aft-quarters will continue to pump. In my case, I couldn't stop cycling - I had no tools of any kind with me, or my glasses for that matter. If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is to try and brush off the stinger in a sideways motion, perpendicular to the sting. 

I didn't do that, and by the time I got home, my finger was quite swollen below the ring (it was my ring finger!) and rather sore.


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YES - Fly From Here

July 19, 2011 06:39 by colin

A new album from Yes? After 10 years, this highly unlikely event has actually happened.

Famous for changing the line-up every other album, this release is no exception: Touring keyboardist Oliver Wakeman is out of the picture, replaced by... Geoff Downes? My goodness:

Cover art by Roger Dean? Check.
Extended compositions?   Check.
Produced by Trevor Horn? Check. 
Same line-up as the outstanding, excellent one-off 80's album DRAMA ? Check.

The problem here is that this sets up inevitable disappointment. There's just no way the album can live up to that standard.

And, indeed, it does not. This album displays a band that is creatively stretched, even with uber-producer Trevor Horn at the controls. 2/5 of the album is recycled Buggles material, and most of the rest of the album sounds like left-overs and filler.

Musically, these guys can still play. Even in their 60's, Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass) and Alan White (drums) are a powerhouse, and the execution and production of the music is flawless.  But creatively, I'm not hearing the spark.

Even in the case of the stand-out track, the 20+ minute "We can Fly", the actual musical arrangement decisions are, in my opinion, wrong. This is not an extended composition, with development and recapitulation, but three songs stuck together with some instrumental filler, and a lot of repetition. Even the climactic reprise at the end of the track is so much less than it should have been. This could have been solved by taking the vocal harmonic development from the end of the first song, and moving it to the end of the suite. That would have cut down on the lyrical repetition in the first section, and given the final reprise the kick it needs.

This is not the 80's; and frankly, the band is not on top of their game. But why should they be? 30 years on, this is not the album it could have been. And yet, it is so much more than we could have dared to expect. Fans should (and will) rejoice in the first new Yes music in 10 years.

But clearly, the album title is a mistake. This should have been called "Pigs Can Fly". 


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Dispatch from the Electric Co

May 28, 2011 15:18 by colin

We generated 20 kiloWatt Hours yesterday. And for some of that time, it was cloudy! So there.

Apparently the power meter is running backwards during the day, but I honestly haven't managed to confirm this, because the little LCD panel cycles around the different display modes too fast for my slow brain to follow.


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