Monday, December 21, 2009

Wood and steel, revisited

Tam sparked my intrigue with her Flat Black People Poppers posting. I've got a few of those squirreled away in the gun safes, but it does the heart good to see something in walnut and steel every now and again.

So, for Tam and all the others who can apppreciate such things, here's my restored Remington Model 1903A4 sniper, looking like it did the day it was handed to a GI during WWII or Korea. While overshadowed by the M1C and M1D Garand sniper rifles, it still did yeoman duty for its day:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Blush!

The 2009 Baraboo Blush concord grape wine is now bottled. Here's the First Blush:

Behind it are the 2009 batches of Elderberry and Plum wines, bottled but awaiting labels.

Yes, they taste even better than they look!

Just a little snow...

Not a record, but we received upwards of 14" of the fluffy white stuff in less than 24 hours. I stayed home from work (They never opened, regardless) and hacked away at clearing the driveway and making a path through the back yard for the dogs. However, I ran out of steam when the county came through and plowed a huge berm right into my driveway's approach. I could swear the county snowplow driver had a big grin on his face as he buried us within mere minutes of us digging ourselves out earlier. So I refilled the tractor's gas tank, plopped #2 Son on the seat, gave him some rudimentary training, and let him take care of the problem. That's our mailbox I was in the process of digging out when my wife handed me the camera. The twin-cylinder Briggs, wheel weights, tire chains, and hydrostat on the Bolens all worked admirably in taming not only our driveway, but the two neighbors' properties, also.

I then went inside, drew a hot bath to take care of the frostbite I'd foolishly ignored during the day, and rehydrated with warm spiced cider. I'm still sore from shoveling and dealing with the frostbite on my legs, knees, nose, and ears. Vitamin M (Motrin) is the order of the day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tomato and Linksys WRT54G - 303 days and counting!

I've stayed with Tomato v1.19 on my older Linksys WRT54G v1.0 router, but so far, no problems. The router is on a 400VA UPS, so as long as the power doesn't drop for longer than the UPS can feed the little router, I have no doubt it can go another 300+ days or longer!

The colors of fall...

The maple trees in my neighborhood are absolutely vibrant this time of year:

Beauty is where you find it, IMHO.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Concord moved to secondary fermentation...

About a week ago, I took those 20 pounds of Concord grapes from my dad's farm and reduced them to approximately 2 gallons of juice and pulp. That then got put into a 6-gallon primary fermenter with pectic enzyme, tannin, yeast nutrients, sugar, water, and yeast.

Today, that young Concord wine got racked into the 6-gallon secondary carboy and topped up with a little water to prevent oxidation. It's sitting next to a 3-gallon batch of Wild Grape wine that's also a week old. Note the blush color of the Concord!

Now if I can just quit "sampling" the stuff this winter before bottling it...

Friday, October 16, 2009

I want a Chapman Stick!

But I also want to be able to play using both hemispheres of my brain at the same time, which one needs to do when both the melody guitar and bass guitar are situated on the same instrument. I've got about 30 year of regular guitar playing under my belt, but I am truly blown away by what folks do with this invention. The video below is Greg Howard and his band, playing "Still Water", with Greg on the 12-string Chapman Stick. More Chapman Stick videos later...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Staying busy!

Tonight, I started a couple more batches of autumn wine. On the left, those are two 1-gallon batches of plum wine, and on the right, that's one 2-gallon batch of elderberry wine. The little airlock thingies started burping CO2 within just a few minutes of me getting the batches into the primary fermenting jugs!

Almost done, but I still have 5 gallons of fresh Concord grape wine to make next...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall is in the air!

And happily bubbling away in the basement. No, really. Last Sunday we picked about 20lbs of wild grapes from the fenceline in my back yard:

Sorted and rinsed to remove bugs, green grapes, wrinkled grapes, and all other nasty bits:

The fun part - mashing the wild grapes for juice and pulp, leaving the seeds and skins behind. What a mess!

Throw the juice, 12lbs of sugar, one Campden sulfite tablet, and the balance of water into the primary fermenter, and give it a good stir. Note the gorgeous purple color of my wooden stirring spoon!

The next morning, the yeast got thrown in there, the lid was attached, and the airlock installed. It began burping almost immediately as the yeast chowed down on the sweet stuff and reproduced at a prodigious rate. Now when the must gets stirred twice a day, I cannot feel any undissolved sugar in the bottom of the fermenter - so they must be doing their job. The bouquet released into the air when I open the lid to stir the batch? Absolutely unbelievable!

Next up, 20lbs of fresh Concord grapes from my dad's farm. I've already mashed them, and the liquid looks like it'll make something closer to a blush than a red. That's fine, I'm willing to give it a try, too. I also have fresh elderberries and plums ready for their turn in the fermenters...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The coolant - it got cloudy!

Note to self: WalMart distilled water ain't exactly the cleanest stuff in the world.

I had a bacterial or algae bloom in my computer's cooling circuit, and it got progressively worse over the course of a couple weeks. The reservoir looked like a kitchen sink full of dish soap suds as the coolant foamed and actually pressurized the tank.

Not good.

A quick Google of the topic, and it appears I've gotten a biological mess in the system. So it all got drained, and a diluted vinegar/Walgreen's distilled water flush was performed, followed by a pure distilled water rinse. I saw no sludge visible in either the reservoir, hoses, or CPU water blocks, so hopefully I got rid of most of the stuff.

Of course, that meant that my $14.00/700ml Koolance blue coolant was gone for good, and it would take a few days for another bottle or two to show up via the brown UPS truck. So I grabbed the big container of Prestone DexCool and another bottle of Walgreen's distilled water to make a 50/50 batch of automotive antifreeze. Into the reservoir it went, and I power-cycled the system until it was burped adequately.

To my relief, there's no more foaming, and opening the fill plug in the reservoir no longer results in an audible pressure relief. Temperatures are just fine, even with the thicker solution. It definitely looks different with the orange/red stuff running through the hoses and reservoir, especially with the blue LEDs back-lighting the tank. Call it a lesson learned, but I used my remaining jugs of WalMart distilled product to water my tomato plants.

Koolance says to change out coolant once a year. I made it all of a whopping three months, but I also bought a used system, so there's no telling how long it had been running without a change. I'll definitely pay closer attention now.

Cash for Clunkers - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

From the back lot of my local GM dealer, I give you examples of what people traded in under the tax-assisted fiasco known as Cash for Clunkers. There are some damned nice vehicles, with plenty of life left in them. I approached one dealer, and he said they're all allotted to the local scrapyard, they won't entertain cash purchases from people like me. I've read that the Federal Government spent 8 dollars for every dollar of "clunker" they got off the highways. Wouldn't it have been better just to give the automakers the money directly?

I was seriously interested in buying the pewter 2001 or newer Chevy S-10 Blazer. It was clean enough to eat off of, and the interior was pristine:

Note the two very nice full-size Dodge pickups. A closer inspection revealed that they were in great condition, too. As I walked the lot, looking at the "Clunker" verbage written in crayon on the windshields, I shook my head in disbelief. Really - look at this late model Ford Explorer:

How about some more nice Chevy S-10 Blazers, along with the two aforementioned Dodge pickups?

Anybody for a nice Jeep Cherokee or another S-10 Blazer?

Makes me just plain sick, it does.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 11th, 2001

I refrained from posting yesterday because I felt it more somber to reflect in silence.

On September 11th, 2001, yours truly was on leave, getting ready to take advantage of a 15-year retirement option offered by the Air Force for select career fields.

Within days of the events of 11 Sep 01, Stop Loss was implemented, and stayed into effect until fairly late in 2002. By the time Stop Loss was lifted, I was well into my 16th year of service, and it then made more sense to go for the full 20 years or more - the job offers at that time could just wait.

To say that 11 Sep 01 changed people's lives is an understatement. My career plans, as well as the remainder of my military career afterwards, took a drastic turn. We as a people, and as a nation, may never again live a pre-9/11 existence. That's either good or bad, depending on your point of view.

Regardless, we shall not forget.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm so jealous!

A gentleman at The Firing Line recently inherited a 1932-vintage Smith & Wesson .44 Hand Ejector Third Model Target (Model of 1926), caliber .44 S&W Special. Save for the omni-present cylinder drag line, it's in immaculate condition. More here:

Inherited S&W Link


Some guys get all the luck.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Oshkosh 2009!

12 hours is never enough when taking in all the sights at the annual EAA Airventure, but at least I can share a few favorites.

Beechcraft Staggerwing, always near and dear to my heart:

How about a WWII Westland Lysander, as seen from under the tail of a DeHavilland Caribou and behind an A-10 Warthog?

Spitfire, anybody?

Lest folks think I'm biased against rotary-wing aircraft, here's a shot of my favorite helicopter, the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, as used by Erickson in the water-bombing role:

More pics later...

Monday, July 27, 2009

No tornadoes or hail tonight...

Thank goodness! However, we were treated to an awesome display of mammatus clouds mixed with a gorgeous sunset. The last time I saw such cloud formations, we had been pelted with golfball-sized hail, so we were quite glad they dissipated soon after I took the photos.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Butt Paste!

Ok, I'm not one to usually make endorsements, but sometimes the human creature suffers from some awful afflictions. While I'm glad I'm not beset upon by the same malady this guy acquired, I've had a little problem that was just plain bugging me.

Since the weather's been so nice, I've been riding my new aluminum, full-suspension, disc-braked mountain bike hither and yon, plus pushing the mower around the estate, walking two dogs at regular intervals, and generally doing all I can do to forget that the winter doldrums are but a few months away again.

Unfortunately, I forgot about the chafing that can occur down there, especially as the heat and humidity of the season sets in.

Ouch. There's really no delicate way to say it, other than "ouch".

So I'm digging through the medicine cabinet, looking for Desenex, Lotrimin, anything.

No luck, but by Gawd, there is a sample packet of something called Doc Boudreaux's Butt Paste sitting there, with a cartoon of a baby sporting a goofy look on his face. What the heck - I may as well give it a try.

Holy Cow! It cleared up within 24 hours! I mean cleared up, with nothing to show a prior problem.

The results spiked my curiosity, and I start Googling for other mentions of Butt Paste and non-baby applications. It turns out major league baseball and football teams are buying the stuff in one pound tubs, it's just that good.

Something tells me that if my buddy Eddie used Boudreaux's Butt Paste, he wouldn't look so anguished.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Best Budweiser commercial, ever!

Not safe for either broadcast television, or one's work computer, but I'm still laughing!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I saw Roberta's rotary phone...

It does my heart good to know they're still being used.

This is the one on my computer desk, and it's obnoxious as hell when it rings:

Back in my previous, pre-retirement life, it served a different purpose. When it rang, it meant that those of us lucky to be on alert duty had best boogie to the 8-engined jet - posthaste!

Now when it rings, it usually means I'm supposed to pick up something at the store for my wife, etc. That Western Electric ringer, btw, drives the dogs absolutely bonkers!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The traffic lights turn blue tomorrow...

Ok, maybe not the traffic lights, but my office is emitting a lot of blue light right about now.

That's actually a good thing, because the little offspring of Big Blue just got finished, and it's working rather well - considerably better than my expectations.

Lest we forget, I replaced these humongous copper/steel heatsinks and plastic wind tunnel shroud:

With these waterblocks, in an effort to reduce CPU temperatures and the noise associated with the fans trying to maintain temperatures below 140 degrees Fahrenheit:

Once everything was installed, and the system filled, burped, and leak-tested, it was time to go live with the show. I started 4 concurrent examples of "Toast" to get all 4 processors running at 100% utilization, making it as hot as I could possibly get it, and let it run in that configuration for another 12 hours:

The results? CPU temperatures never rose above 38 degrees Celsius the entire time. Considering I had been over 58 degrees Celsius prior to the water cooling upgrade, that's pretty darned spiffy!

Xeon #1's temperature, as displayed by the system's control panel:

In fact, the hottest component measured by the 3 temperature probes attached to the Exos system is the motherboard's air-cooled Northbridge chip, which reports around 41-42 degrees Celsius via Probe #3. Probes #1 and #2 are attached to each Xeon CPU, and they appear to be quite happy living in their new, cooler environment.

I'll call it a success, for now. There are some questions that remain to be answered over time, however, before I commit to calling it an unqualified success.

1. Does the special blue coolant (Which smells a lot like antifreeze) actually prevent galvanic corrosion between the aluminum radiator and copper waterblocks?

2. Do I change that pretty blue coolant at yearly intervals as the manual states, or sooner?

3. Do those tiny millimeter-size bubbles circulating at high speed in the tubing ever really go away?

4. Will the gurgling in the reservoir diminish over time?

5. How often do I blow the dust out of the radiator?

6. If an Exos 2.0 can dissipate 750 watts of heat, does that mean it would behoove me to eventually migrate to an Exos 2.5 with 1000 watt capability to drop Monolith's temps even lower?

7. Should I add Northbridge and video card water cooling? Adding more waterblocks to the current loop will only raise CPU temps...

I'm sure there are more concerns, but for now, the system's working pretty well. It doesn't look too shabby, either. Here it is all buttoned up, sitting on the rack with its CI Design SCSI hard drive tower, keeping my 1948 Tucker company. Note the 41 degree Northbridge temperature, and the Datum/Symmetricom programmable time system master clock for the entire home network:

Now I have 4 other identical workstations scattered about the house to modify accordingly. The fun never ends!

Friday, June 12, 2009

How to plumb an IBM...

Granted, this isn't a StarDrive with a water-cooled Klystron tube in the final output stage, but converting a multi-CPU IBM workstation to liquid cooling does require some planning and attention to details in assembly.

I had to remove the huge copper and stainless steel IBM heatsinks, then remove the metal heatsink mounting brackets from the motherboard. This allowed me to install the new metal waterblock mounting brackets for the conversion. Here's one mounting bracket and waterblock installed, with the remaining processor waiting for bracket replacement and waterblock installation:

Here are both waterblocks mounted sitting on an ultra-thin layer of Arctic Silver 5 with thermocouple probes attached via black wires, ready for plumbing:

The tubing attaches to the external cooling unit and waterblocks by means of well-designed compression fittings. That means no leaks, and no fiddling with hose clamps. I installed a drain valve in the radiator return line, and by cracking it in conjunction with the reservoir's fill plug, I was able to add the blue coolant with less air blocking the lines. Here it is, coolant running through the system for 12 hours as a leak test, using an external power supply to run the pumps:

My external power supply is a Gateway Core2Duo system running Windows Vista that I had sitting around. I knew it would come in useful for something eventually!

So far, so good. No leaks, although when I spilled a wee bit of the blue stuff while filling the reservoir, I could swear it was Prestone or Zerex thanks to the smell. So now I know that Koolance uses ethylene or propylene glycol in their coolant mix...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Water-cooled IBM workstation update...

All the water-cooling parts and pieces are in my hot little hands right now. Readers will remember that I had previously upgraded my IBM Intellistation M-Pro 6850 with these two hyper-threaded XEON MP 3.0Ghz processors, packing a 4Mb L3 cache, which IBM never intended to have running on their non-server machines. Intel, however, made them pin-compatible with their lesser Xeon DP siblings, so I had to give it a try.

These processors work very nicely, but you don't get extra performance for nothing. They generate a lot more heat than the original 2.2Ghz - 2.4Ghz Xeon DP processors, and force the thermostatically-controlled CPU fans and case fans to go into jet engine mode, just to keep things below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Even then, they bumped into that temperature way too often for my personal taste.

Here are the two CPU waterblocks and 3/8" ID braided PVC tubing:

These will replace the factory IBM heatsinks and wind tunnel shroud, as seen here:

I've also checked to make sure my power supply can handle the extra draw of the two pumps, radiator fans, and controller circuitry. I attached a loop of 3/8" ID tubing to the output and input of the Koolance Exos 2, filled the reservoir with the blue antifreeze/water mix, and let it run. The loudest thing in the system is the gurgling of the coolant in the reservoir, and if I burp it of air bubbles once or twice again, I'll bet that'll subside, too. It looks pretty good sitting on top of the machine, contrasting nicely with the 1948 Tucker model on the SCSI hard drive tower:

So far, so good. Stay tuned...

My printer is out of cheese!

No wonder it was working kind of slow...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Posting's a tad light these days...

I'm currently up to my eyebulbs in modifying my big IBM workstation to run with a newly-purchased Koolance Exos water-cooling system. 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) was just too much for both the computer's innards and the immediate space around it in my office, especially now that summer's arrived. Intel Xeons, even if they're good at crunching numbers, are also damned efficient at converting electricity to heat. They take some coolin', yes indeed. Fire up BioShock or even Half Life 2, and they sound like friggin' jet engines with all the internal fans ramping up the RPM to move extra air over the heatsinks. Something better was definitely in order.

Right now, there's stuff strewn all over the place, tubing, fittings, waterblocks, temperature sensors, controller cards, wiring harnesses, bottles of blue coolant that smell suspiciously like ethylene glycol, you name it. I'm relegated to using my trusty Dell Inspiron 6000 notebook for everything, and it's kind of a drag when you're used to having 4 Xeon 3.0 processors normally doing your grunt work. The end will justify the means, however. It will be a marriage of one of these:

To one of these:
Pics of the installation process to follow, I promise! If it works as well as I think it will, I have 4 more of these machines in Casa de' G-98 that will receive similar upgrades.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Saturn V takes to the skies again!

Well, a 1/10th scale model of the original Saturn V, but it's still a record, and pretty darned impressive, too. Watch the flight of Steve Eves' labor of love, and pay attention to the first stage's landing:

Nicely done, Steve! North Korea's jealous, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

80's flashback video, revisited.

Today, Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine took me to a certain time when I was driving by myself from Wisconsin to California, enroute to my second duty assignment of many. The journey was undertaken in my 1984 Audi 5000S Turbo, sucking down Jolt Cola and playing music non-stop. I did the trip in 3 days, not a record but less time than the Air Force alloted, giving me a couple days of extra time to get settled in at my new squadron near Sacramento. I distinctly remember some huge forest fires in the Utah/Nevada border region, and they turned the nighttime sky an eerie orange for many, many miles on both sides of the Interstate. I was thinking to myself that they could really use some rain out here, and of course the Cult tape in the deck starts into Rain.

The Cult - Rain

No DeLorean for me, but the 80s weren't so bad after all.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Have you ever been struck by whimsy? I noticed something peculiar the other day, and just couldn't leave well enough alone. Big Dawg has been leaving his bones standing upright after he's done gnawing on them. I don't know why, but I decided to help out his artistic talents a smidgen:

Oh, well. It doesn't appear that he was very impressed, and it's a fair bet that an archaeologist/anthropologist he'll never be. That's ok. It's obvious that he was somewhat tickled by the visual feast, so it was worth the effort, regardless: