Saturday, March 24, 2012

My neighborhood

I like living in the country. It has it's disadvantages, the biggest one being that running to the corner market is a five mile drive. But it also has some big advantages. My nearest neighbor can't hear my 5.1 sound system booming while I'm watching a movie. The locked gate at the bottom of the hill keeps the proselytizers away.

One thing that is noticeably different is the signs posted on the telephone poles. Instead of the usual lost/found cat/dog we get similar reading signs for livestock. Goat and chickens are the norm but occasionally someone will misplace a larger animal such as a horse or cow. How do you misplace a cow?

Most people don't give bovines credit for how smart they are. Even ranchers make the mistake. They compare them to other mammals like dogs for instance. Dogs are pack animals and predators like man. So their normal behavior mimics ours and we recognize that as smart. Cows are grazers and herd animals. We put them in pastures where they hang out and eat and we protect them. So we see that as stupid. But is it?

If you go to a popular vacation resort you see people fenced in around a waterhole grazing on fattening foods. They can get out anytime they want and you know it. They don't. They choose to be there all fenced in taking an occasional dip in the water to cool off and drink iced drinks. Sound pretty stupid if you think about it.

So if you lead a herd animal to a pasture and let it hang out, isn't that paradise to it? Don't be surprised when it decides to hop the fence and wonder down the road. Of course the biggest argument by some livestock owners is that the cow has no idea of what is going to happen to it in the end. But neither do you.

photo: found_cow.jpg by Anson © 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wake up call

3:50 am, the phone rings jolting the entire household awake. Groggy I reach for the phone as it rings again. By the time I fumble it to my ear the caller has hung up. A quick check of caller ID reveals, I missed a call from Jesus.

He must have inadvertently called and hung up realizing he dialed the wrong number. I figured he was really trying to call his ride to work to say he was running late or was at a wedding feast yesterday and wasn't going to work. For some reason I thought he would have a job that started early like in the home trade, possibly a carpenter or framer.

The thing that intrigued me is, I knew it was Jesus because I had caller ID. Before its invention how would you be sure it wasn't a 3 am prank call?

photo: phone_call.jpg by Anson © 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Snow way!

Well it didn't snow last night though it could yet today. But this morning on my way back from the market we got a nasty hail storm. Remember, this is central coast California. We don't normally get snow or hail or sleet. We get sun then we get rain then fog. Nothing more. But today we got hail. Lots of it. For almost an hour. And it was cold too!  </state obvious>

Driving in was a fun experience. The joyful patter as it pounded on the car hood and roof. The intrigue of navigation on a wet and slippery road, The laughter as we skipped over puddles hydroplaning as we went along. I  had to get out of the car to open the gate at the end of the driveway. The hail was sticking to my sweatshirt and slowly melting. I had time to brush it off and was fascinated on how you could be in a storm and not get that wet!

I imagine if I lived somewhere where this was a regular occurrence I would probably be annoyed.

photo: Oh_hail.jpg by Anson © 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slippery Slope

Today I went for a walk in the rain. Not because I wanted to walk in the rain but because as I went for a walk it started to rain. It's fascinating how arranging the word order in a sentence can also arrange the thought order.

I planned to stop at the landlords on my walk to look at his lawn mower. It wasn't running properly and spring was fast approaching. My landlord lives on the property but on the other side of the creek. It's a good five minute walk door to door if you hurry, but I wasn't in a hurry.

The lawn mower is in the barn and it's along the way so I stopped there first. The mower, a 18 HP ride on style, wouldn't start, in fact it barely turned over. I connected the battery charger to it. I checked all the obvious things like gas, oil and nothing broken. I walked over to the landlords to let him know I was out there and had a chat for a while. Figuring enough time had passed I said so long and headed out to the barn again. By now the battery was back to fully charged and I tried again to start it. Still barely turned over. OK I thought, I learned small engine repair from my dad nearly forty years ago. I figured the first thing to look at was timing. I pulled the spark plug out and it looked fine. I tried cranking the engine over and to my surprised it cranked at the normal, for a plug out, speed. This is good. I was on the right path. But was it ignition or valve. My experience with small Briggs lead me to believe it might be a small drift key on the crank shaft to flywheel. These often use to shear and cause the ignition timing to go out. I pulled off the top cover and attempted to turn the crank bolt. This bolt is large so I calculated it at 100 ft lbs. But the question was, is it right handed or left? Crank shaft bolts are often threaded the opposite from normal so they don't loosen and come off during operation. About this time my landlord arrived to hang out and help if needed. He's eighty-one but still spry enough to help if we had any lifting to do. I grabbed my cell phone and started a search to find information on the bolt. Well to my surprise, or not, the greatest number of hits on google was regarding hard starting. Looking over a few sites I found they consistently referenced valve timing not ignition. Time to switch gears I told the landlord. The valve cover is easy to access and I has it off in less than a minute. The rocker arms were definitely looser than .006" they should be. You check valve clearance using a tool known as feeler gauges. They are a set of thin metal strips each a differing thickness with the size etched on them. The only set we had went as small as .008" but not smaller. It did go as high as .026 so I was able to measure the clearance and found it was about .014". Not tight enough for the valves to bump and lower compression when starting. I tightened them to a tight .008" figuring it was a place to begin. I put the valve cover on and cranked it over. It backfired then ran like a champ. Since the valve cover is right up front I put everything back together. In the next couple weeks the rain will stop, the sun will dry the grass, and I will find a better set of feeler gauges. For today I had a walk to finish. Once again I said goodbye to the landlord who thanked me for solving his problem and i headed off.

As I started my trek back to the house. I chose the back route. This way goes down to the creek and across a small clearing. The side of the creek I was on is steep and the rain made the path slick. I started to slide. Instead of instinctively standing up and grabbing for a branch of a tree or shrub I crouched forward leaning down the hill with my hands out for balance. The slide was exhilarating and I made it safely to the bottom where I gave a good leap and jumped over the creek itself landing upright on the sand bank on the other side. It was sprinkling lightly as I started up the hill towards home. The rest of my walk was peaceful as I enjoyed the joys of my accomplishments.

Slippery_Slope.jpg by Anson © 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012


Everyone needs a small distraction. It's a form of meditation. Something that superficially occupies your mind letting it clear of all stress inducing thoughts.

Or so that's what I thought until I tried stacking m&m's. I'm not sure what lead me to believe this would be fun. I'm not even sure what made me think this was even possible. I just sat down at the table with a hand full of candies thinking I was going to eat them. As they sat there scattered in front of me I looked at the smooth round curves and thought it would be difficult to get one to stay on another. I carefully balanced one and sat back. It wasn't that hard. I wondered if I could get the stack to three. Three was a bit more of a challenge. Four was even more so. In fact it took a while to get four and every time I went to five they tumbled. I had five for a brief second but it was unstable and immediately scattered across the table. I considered licking them to make them a bit sticky. After all it was my game so I could change the rules. That was not a good idea because they stick to your fingers. So I continued on. It became apparent that the futility was creating a new stress of its own. One that could only be cured by the obvious. Eat them.

If you try this and get higher than 4 send me a picture!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Snow seriously‽

This morning I woke up and read the weather report as I do every morning. I have a cool app on my phone that has a bare minimum interface. You launch it and it's blue if it's going to be colder today than yesterday. It's red/orange if warmer and green if the same. For the most part that's all I need first thing in the morning before my brain kicks in. The color code is a great idea, it gives you a reference point, yesterday, and a new point, today. Great concept and it's a free app called WxQuickie. The app has more advanced functions but I need my glasses to read them.

This morning I happened to have my glasses next to the bed so I got a laugh out of the 5 day forecast. They are calling for snow Saturday night. Seriously! Snow in March on the central coast? Wait and see if that happens.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rogue Wave

I had a bunch of ideas to blog about this week, but I kept getting distracted by the next idea. In fact tonight I was going to make a comment about peoples dependancy on a certain social site that was currently off line. Almost completely off. My first thought was lulzsec or anonymous took it down. More than likely it was routine service exacerbated by the time change. Then I was hit by a rogue wave.

In January 1978 a large wave almost capsized George C. Scott's boat, The Mojo, as it was exiting Morro Bay. There was a picture of it in most seafood restaurants for years. I've heard it called a rogue wave but anyone who lives around this area can tell you, that was just a large set wave from a winter storm. If the Mojo had waited a short while or not gone at all, everything would have been fine.

A true rogue wave is less predictable, it sweeps into the harbor without much warning and it capsizes many boats. It makes you wonder, could it have been avoided? The wave is just doing what waves do. Moving through the ocean gathering more energy until it final collides with the shallow shore, where that energy forces it to rise up and topple expending itself in a brief instance and often doing damage. What's important to understand is what created the wave in the first place. Winter storm? Tsunami? Just a freak juxtaposition of multiple waves colliding together to form one super wave? Can we as a society learn to recognize those signs before the backwash forms other more deadly waves? Why do "our" oceans create waves in the first place? Why didn't the breakwaters and jetties work to capture that energy before it could escape to safe harbors?  A rogue wave is a terrible thing and needs to  be dealt with. But more importantly the higher ups who are suppose to design the safeguards such as seawalls should be held accountable for their failures as well. While we may not see one individual rogue wave, we know the ocean is full of waves and another could occur at anytime.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

More blood loss

I guess shaving is like riding a bike. Once you've learned you always remember how to do it. I make this statement with a good dose of sarcasm. The last time I really rode a bike I certainly remembered how to ride, so well in fact that I started to show off and while doing a front wheel stand I fell off severely shattering my fifth metatarsal in my left hand. I still have the titanium plate to prove it. Which brings me to my point. I clearly remember how to shave as I first learned nearly forty years ago. The problem is for the last ten or twelve I have had a beard. Shaving was just a quick swipe down my neck not the challenges of under the nose, across the clef on my chin, or the sudden edge of my jawline. All these places added to the innate muscle memory of years of learning lead to the disaster of high speed collision of razor sharp steel against freshly exposed flesh. Fortunately I have a good platelet count so despite the loss of yesterday's donation the bleeding quickly stopped. Now if the cold breeze would stop I'd be happy.

photo: steel_in_nature.jpg  by anson 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Feeding Vampires!

Right now I'm busy feeding vampires. For the next couple hours I'll be connected to a machine that takes my blood, separates the components and returns part. I've included a picture showing the machine. The red tubing is really clear and you can see my blood flowing through it. The purpose of this apparatus is to extract platelets. Those are the little buggers that let your Blood clot. Mine are plentiful enough that the local blood bank, United Blood, has asked me to be a platelet donor. In exchange they give me chocolate chip cookies. In all actuality I do it for the satisfaction of knowing that it may save someone's life. Platelets are only good for about 5 days so the supply needs to be refreshed often. You can donate after 10 days which is much more frequent than regular whole blood. It's also a 3 hour process unlike whole blood, which takes about 30 minutes. So it's a bit tougher to find the time and energy to do this.
Fortunately I have new blogging software that lets me write from my chair. United Blood Services has wifi so I have a good connection. One arm has a needle in it, so I'm one thumb tapping. But I'm not that fast on the touchpad anyway.
So if you are in good health and feel like you want to save someone's life today, consider donating blood. It's a lot easier than running into burning buildings.

photo: the_vampire.jpg