If I’d known I was going to do that I’d have worn pads…

Question answered: You cannot ride the bike up Landlady’s hill – not in the lowest gear with the assist turned all the way up.

I rode the bike to afternoon chicken chores, racing the rain. Got down the hill easier than I thought, checked on the ladies, then made as much speed as I could at the turn at the base of the hill going home. Got about halfway up before I could feel that heavy bike trying to fall back down the hill.

A more skilled rider probably wouldn’t have actually dumped it, but I did. Got a little road rash…


…and so did the bike but not bad. That leather-like substance on one grip got scratched a little, and a little mud-caked. Won’t be the last, or I’m not living hard enough. Got home just in time for the rain.

Live and learn, question answered. From now on I’ll plan on walking beside the bike on that hill.

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All righty, then.

How’s this for a beauty shot?


I put the rear rack on first thing this morning (started to do it day before yesterday when I assembled the bike, but the allen-head bolts were none-too-high quality and I needed to come back with better tools than those provided or risk rounding out the bolt heads) and then put about four and a half miles on the bike, up and down hills, without breaking a sweat. I wanted to go further but got bored with going back and forth between the two recently-flowing and very muddy washes, and didn’t feel like wading to the ankle through mud to get to more road. If the rain holds off this afternoon I’ll take it out again later: the wash mud dries quickly.

It hardly seems to notice the more moderate hills. Climbing the steep hill coming away from the South wash the motor required quite a lot of help and I frankly doubt I will be able to pedal the hill away from Landlady’s house at all – though I haven’t tried it yet because going down that hill on a bicycle is not something I want to do without a helmet and I neglected to pull my skateboard helmet out of the Jeep kit*. That’s the steepest local hill I know. Before the bulldozer and grader made a road there it was basically a short cliff.

When I can go further I’ll get an idea of the bike’s actual range and whether it’s feasible to use it for (non-clandestine! In daylight!) trips to town. But I’m already impressed with its motive power. Except for the aforementioned hills, you really could just use it like an electric motorcycle between neighbors. In use you really don’t feel how amazingly heavy the thing is.

Hey, dig this. I didn’t even know about this until I came back to Ian’s place to make a few adjustments and, er, read the manual…

Brake light off…


Brake light on!


Ain’t that civilized?

I had to take the light off the bike to mount the rear rack and there was provision (and extra cable and zip ties) for putting it on the rack, so I did that without any thought of actually using the thing. Turns out it works with the brakes without your having to turn anything else on. I didn’t know about it until I, you know, went back and read the manual. Almost like it was designed in Seattle or something. It came with a headlight, too, but I haven’t bothered mounting it yet.


*Yes I do use that, any time I’m working on something overhead and worried about my noggin. It’s also handy for the cabin crawlspace.

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(Grumble) I hate mud.

Oh boy, did it ever rain last night. Both gullies near the Lair, and also the gully closer to the wash, let go for the first time this season.

Unfortunately, as often happens during heavy rain, there was a mudslide in the ash deposit in the gully behind the cabin.


That’s the drainage ditch behind what used to be the chicken yard and is now a disused just-in-case dog kennel. I have to laboriously dig that sucker out at least once a year, more often in case of mudslides. Fortunately in this case the water velocity was considerable so most of the ash silt stayed in suspension for the first part of its ride.

Until


…the small impromptu culverts under the sewer pipe and bridge to the woodshed partially plugged with debris. Those pipes worked fine till then, and then the water level quickly rose, overwhelmed the berm, and exposed my sewer pipe. Again. That’ll have to be reburied before winter but it’s no big problem now as long as it doesn’t tear out the pipe. Again. (I have no idea where that bottle came from. Must have washed into the gulley from above but how and when litter was deposited on what I consider my back yard will remain a mystery.)

Immediately downstream of the culverts the ash mud left suspension and filled the downstream part of the ditch…


…and then the remains washed down the driveway. Ash makes the worst, stickiest mud I know. It’s my misfortune that the land upwind of this place was volcanically active as hell up till about half a million years ago.


Naturally Torso Boy has taken it into his head that he can only shit on one spot in the whole world, which happens to be in a field of the stuff. Fine when dry, miserable when wet. I took him out into the wash where the wet sand is far less unpleasant but he was having none of it. No, no – Captain Fastidious knew his duty and refused to do his duty until I agreed to go into the ash field. Ah, well. Boots to be scraped after chicken chores, which is where I’m going right now.

I am still going to spend a goodly portion of the day playing with my new bike even if I have to wear rain gear against the flying mud. I could wait till afternoon when some of it has dried, but the Monsoon rain generally waits till afternoon or evening. Right now there’s barely a cloud in the sky. Also I need to clean out those culverts.

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Well, dammit…

I’ve spent all day slaving over a hot keyboard working on Ian’s galley proof. (which needs some editorial changes, of course, but is generally excellent. This is the first time I’ve seen the page layout and photos, and they’re great.)

Finally finished about quarter to six. I’d hoped all day to spend an hour playing with the new bike but that’s not happening: It’s raining cats and dogs and the gullies are running hard for the first time all season.

I did take it out for half an hour or so after morning chicken chores, having seen the battery fully charged. It’s…going to take some getting used to. As long as I remember to downshift going up hills it’s almost startlingly powerful – locally at least I really can just use it like a motorcycle though I doubt the battery would get me all the way to town and back without pedaling. Peddling on high assist is really gratifyingly easy. But I only put a couple of miles on it and then it was time to get my ass back to work.

I’m hoping to spend a lot more time with it tomorrow, since my editorial work is done for the moment. But I’ve a feeling I’ll be doing it in my rain gear because no matter what the weather the word for tomorrow is going to be mud.

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New tool! Or possibly toy. Time will tell.

Big Brother decided I needed alternate wheels…


It’s an fat-tired electric bike! Some assembly required, and I’m anxious to get to it but obligated to work on editing proofs for the moment. No hurry, really, because…


…that battery needs to charge for several hours before it’s going anywhere. The geriatric one-legged hermit isn’t going anywhere on a 70-pound bike without some power assist.

So it’ll be tomorrow before I can play and even then I’ll be stealing the time because I’m tied to my keyboard until this edit pass is done and that looks to go on for several days.

Question 1: To what extent will it climb hills? Question 2, probably quite a ways down the line: Could I take it to town if I needed to? That’s a question I’m going to answer gingerly and in stages, because getting stranded with a dead battery miles from home is not a welcome prospect. Fortunately there’s no great urgency to try at present but it would be a good alternative to have in my pocket.

BB thoughtfully included a spare tire tube and rear cargo rack, and I’ve got some other accessories coming. At an absolute minimum it’ll be a pleasant way to move between neighbors on nice days, and electricity is free. Jeep fuel, not so much.

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Galley Proofs!

The galley proofs for Ian’s book have come down…


…and so we’re frantically giving it its very last edit pass. So far it looks great: I’m less than 100 pages in but only have 3 notes. Ian reports he’s been more critical, but he’s the SME. I’m only looking at spelling and grammar.

So that’s what I’ll be doing for the next couple of days, though the effort may be interrupted by the arrival of a promised new toy.

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Must have passed this sign 4-5 times before I got the joke.

Guess I’m just not a proper communist.

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The Jeep’s back!


Time will tell how fixed it is, but it’s back. The new water pump certainly sounds better, or at least less bad. But while I’m uploading pix I have my kitchen timer counting down 15 minutes and then we’ll see how readily it restarts.

Private to Terrapod…


The Jeep now has a pushbutton starter. 😀

Landlady sounded thrilled about that when I told her…

ADDENDUM: I gave it an honest 15-20 minutes of hot soak and it started right up. So maybe we got it!

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Power vs. Scale?

Daddy Long-Leg spiders keep getting themselves caught in my sink. The Lair is infested with’em this time of year.

Click for scary embiggenment.


I don’t know how true it is, but they say that pound for pound a Daddy Long-Leg is one of the most toxic creatures on the planet – if it could get enough of its poison into you you’d just flat die.

But they’re completely harmless, because their poison sacs are minuscule and anyway their fangs are so tiny they can’t pierce skin on any part of a human body.

Always seemed to me there ought to be a really good metaphor in there somewhere. But damned if I can think of it.

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Here’s the new powershed normal…


I really don’t need those extra two older batteries, which are now bypassing the inverter and running my 12v lighting and bedroom ceiling fan. The plan was to eliminate them and free up some powershed space. But I slept on that decision and decided I like the redundancy. I can lose major chunks of my system and still have a lot of capacity, and planning for disaster is smarter than – not doing so.

Wasn’t going to use all four of the older Trojans for that, though, because I don’t need them and that would be pushing my solar panels’ charging capacity closer to the edge than I want to go.

Somebody suggested that I should swap two of those cables and I agree that would be better. But that short thick cable isn’t flexible enough to fit in that spot. So Monday I’ll buy two more of the skinnier black cables at the auto parts store and that should eliminate that imbalance.

Other than that, I’m done! It still looks like a tangled mess, but that’s only because there’s two of everything. I like redundancy. A lot of it is still second-hand, but year by year my system becomes less improvised.

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Smile more!

🙂 Yeah, I got nothing today.

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New batteries!


Complete, with no untoward arky-sparky. This is a job Less-Confident Joel could find excuses to put off for a week. I did it with thunder overhead.

Also included some cable-routing improvements that have been sitting on the cabinet for a year or more, so maybe I shouldn’t dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back. But I did get it done. A couple of others require more cable.

Oh! And here comes the thunder again. Not so distant and right on time. If lightning blows up my system this evening of all times I’m going to be very put out.

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Feeling guilty about being…virtuous?

(Okay, it’s Monsoon season. The cell signal is finally letting me type this but while I normally lace the post with pictures, they’re not happening this afternoon so bear with me.)

Boy, I’ve sure spent a lot of time away from the Gulch this week. Today Neighbor D had a doctor’s appointment in the big town about 50 miles away, and I tagged along for the purpose of spending a lot of money.

I spent the better part of the month of June housesitting for friends. They’re friends so I never mentioned money but being friends, they paid me for my time anyway. Spent some of it before I ever left the city on a pair of boots that fit. The rest was budgeted for getting the Jeep back on its knees, making the eye doctor richer, and – while the money was there to do it – replacements for the Lair’s batteries.

Of course the Jeep went over budget. Of course it did. Fortunately I got away with it because Big Brother slipped me some green stamps with this month’s care package, and also a couple of people hit the tip jar. (thank you very much!)

The problem with living on the economic edge, as I may have mentioned in the past, is that consumables get consumed whether you’re ready to replace them or not. I’m running on really old batteries, one set of which is slowly failing. The other set is even older, abused before I got them, and actually working just fine at present – but you know my relationship with Uncle Murphy. He’s out there, waiting, evil grin ever at the ready.

So…dammit, that picture won’t load either. Whatever. I am now the proud and substantially poorer owner of four brand new Trojan T-105 golf cart batteries! Which, barring defects, means the Lair will have good batteries for another 5-7 years!

On Monday I will resume being completely poor, because the Jeep is (reported to be) repaired and ready for pick-up. Anything else it needs, I’m doing myself. Probably should have anyway because yadda yadda see previous post on my complaints about the local auto shop. But it’ll be nice to have the old yellow bastard back in the driveway, hopefully not waiting to strand me out in the nothin’ because the fuel pump finally completely dumped.

Thing is I’m second-guessing myself about replacing batteries that aren’t really showing signs of failure. But it sure felt like the right time to do it.

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Still makes me a little sad sometimes…

I’m getting old, maybe…

Big Brother’s monthly care package contained a couple of packages of something called tortelloni, which I never heard of but it seems a lot like ravioli which I like. So I cooked some up for lunch, which required expending a can of spaghetti sauce. And having dumped the can into the saucepan I almost looked behind me and called Little Bear…


…because cleaning a spaghetti sauce can was about the only thing he enjoyed more than cleaning a peanut butter jar.

Torso Boy is no trouble, he’s a cool little guy in his way and I’ll say in his favor that he takes up a lot less room. But he’s no Little Bear.

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“I’d tell you I hate to say I told you so, but…”

…the truth is I love to say I told you so. And I had told him so.

The morning I brought the Jeep to the dysfunctional little shop in the town nearest where I live, the owner practically rolled his eyes when I told him the fuel pressure was low and he’d probably end up replacing the fuel pump. He also insisted that vapor locking is absolutely not a thing with fuel injected engines and therefore … well, nothing.

Spoke to him on the phone today and he again insisted there couldn’t be any fuel pressure-related problem contributing to whatever was causing the Jeep to refuse to restart after a hot soak. No, he hadn’t checked the fuel pressure. He also hadn’t read the codes: I’m not sure he noticed the Check Engine light was even on. I told him, well, at least pull the codes. Maybe that would tell him something.

Later this afternoon he called back, and guess what! The fuel pressure is really low. Geepers.

He’s not very good, but he sure is slow: I visited on Monday and he hadn’t even looked at the Jeep yet, so at least I’m saved the price of a new ignition switch. I brought that button switch Terrapod sent and he agreed to install it. Kills me to pay the freaking moron to do something I’m perfectly capable of doing, but what the hell.

So: New water pump, new fuel pump, new front axle track bar that hopefully will fix the Death Wobble on pavement (which doesn’t bother me because I never take it above 30 mph but Landlady refuses to use it for dump runs), button switch for the starter. Maybe he’ll remember to check the thermostat housing and leaking fuel injectors and replace the positive battery cable like I asked him to but the truth is I’m already up against the money wall so it won’t break my heart if he forgets.

With luck I’ll have it back at the Lair by Friday, when Neighbor D and I are going to town on an unrelated errand.

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If you’re trying to sell stuff based on links in my posts, …

…First ensure that the post is not mocking those links.

Seems like lately I’m getting a lot of spam emails trying to get me to help people sell things I don’t believe have any value. Latest example…

Reading it I wondered, as I often do, how she could have gone to the trouble of scanning for possibly relevant posts to mention in her unwanted spam, opened the post and noted the link upon which she based her pitch, but completely failed to notice that I was mocking the linked product. Seems odd, that’s all.

And then! Then, just to definitely ensure that my attitude toward her would be not merely dismissive but actively hostile, she added this postscript…

They do that all the time. And I absolutely will not “unsubscribe” to something I never subscribed to in the first place. What I will do is take the time to figure out once again how to block a sender so I don’t have to deal with her follow-ups.

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An honest-to-goodness steampunk death machine!

I enjoy shooting. I guess you could say I like guns. But I’ve always found there to be something kind of cold-blooded about the development of the first machine guns.

And this is arguably the very first one…

This “Prototype” has a feature you’ve never seen before: A hydraulic buffer that can take the cyclic rate as low as 1 RPM. Apparently Maxim theorized that armies would want a set-and-forget machine for harassing fire. As big as a small cannon and not really practical until the introduction of smokeless powder, this mechanical monstrosity was the great-granddaddy of them all.

I’m sure 30 years later many men in many trenches lay awake night after night, just blessing Hiram Maxim’s name.

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Look at all the babies!

I checked the game camera after dumping a bunch of dog food at the watering station yesterday (untouched) and found over 1100 frames recorded, plus a whole bunch of fresh elk sign. So I swapped out the mem cards, pretty sure what I was going to see. No surprises, except apparently this herd had a very pleasant winter because I never saw so many calves in one place.

They hung around for quite a while and I can’t show it all in anything like a reasonable time. So here’s a random block of 50ish frames…


😀 One of them decided to try the waterer out as a wading pool at one point. That’s how float valves get broken, I’d expect…

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Come for the water, stay for the situational awareness drill.

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Things I did not know: Why do we call it a jackknife?

I’ll honestly go ahead and admit I don’t recall ever asking myself this. It’s just always been a jackknife. From my earliest memory my father and uncles and brother-in-law all carried them and I wanted one. But that is kind of a funny name, now that you mention it.

On the ADS list, Grant Barrett then helpfully pointed to the OED entry for “jockteleg,” a Scots word (with related forms “jacklag,” “jack-o-legs,” “jockeylegs” and others) that means “folding knife” (and thus is almost certainly the same word as “jackleg”). A note in the OED quotes a glossary of Scots compiled by Lord Hailes around 1776: “The etymology of this word remained unknown till not many years ago an old knife was found having this inscription Jacques de Liege, the name of the cutler [knife-maker].”

It gets more complex than that: At one point the article links the word with a description for sleazy lawyers. Fun.

So the Scots, you see, gave us more than just golf, haggis jokes, and Ian McCollum.

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