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It’s Always the Engineers Fault

In 1938 the city of Tacoma Washington hired a man by the name of Clark Eldridge to build a suspension bridge across the Tacoma Narrows over Puget Sound to Gig Harbor.  The city, however, balked at Eldridge’s initial design.  Its estimated price of 11 million was too costly and its aesthetics paled in comparison to the Golden Gate Bridge, which this bridge would rival.  As a result, Eldridge’s design was handed off to Leon Moisseiff, an east coast engineer and a co-designer of the Golden Gate bridge.  Moisseiff had made quite a name for himself during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and was given a great deal of credit for its aesthetic appeal.  In a few months Moisseiff produced a revised design, based on Eldridge’s design, but 3 million dollars cheaper and just as importantly, much easier on the eyes.  The city went with Moisseiff’s model and on July 1st 1940 the bridge was completed and opened to the public.

Let’s take a step back before we continue.  During construction of the bridge, the workers noticed that the bridge had a propensity to hop and sway in the wind.  Eldridge’s original design included 25 foot trusses under the bridge to provide strength and to counter the wind.  Moisseiff replaced these trusses with 8 foot girders, which eliminated the ugly look of the trusses and reduced the price significantly.  Moisseiff argued that the “main cables would be sufficiently stiff to absorb enough static wind pressure to stabilize the structure”.  Despite these assurances, the bridge quickly garnered the nickname “Galloping Gerdy” in recognition of the way it moved in the wind.  Many pedestrians would pay the 10 cent pedestrian toll to walk across the bridge just to have the carnival ride experience the bridge offered.

All the fun and games came to an end just four months later on a windy November day when Galloping Gerdy caught a stiff breeze and bucked like an unbroke stallion and crashed into Puget Sound.  “The bridge and Moisseiff’s reputation as an engineer were both a total loss.”   Moisseiff died a broken man three years later.

In February 2020 President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban agreeing to withdraw U.S military forces from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban agreeing to prevent extremist activity in the country, prisoner swaps, and discussions with the Afghan government to develop a power sharing agreement.  In April 2021, just weeks before the agreed upon date, newly elected President Joe Biden announced that his administration was not going to adhere to the agreement indicating that “withdrawal of US forces should be absolute, rather than provisional on conditions inside Afghanistan”.  Reports from the intelligence community warned that the decision risked retaliation by the Taliban and they were likely to make gains on the battlefield as a result of the cancellation of the agreement.  At the time of the announcement President Biden said “It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline . . . just in terms of tactical reasons, it’s hard to get those troops out.  And if we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way.”

As concerns about the progress of the troop withdrawal began to leak, President Biden took to the podium to offer assurances.  “There will be no circumstance where you will see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States.”

On Friday, August 6th 2021 the Taliban began an offensive against the Afghan Government forces.  By Tuesday, more than half the country had been overrun.  By the following Sunday, American citizens were being evacuated by helicopter from the roof of the U.S embassy.

Two days later, President Biden finally made an appearance to address the situation in Afghanistan.  “The buck stops with me.”  He said, as he pointed out that no one told him that the Tacoma bridge was hopping and swaying before he squarely blamed the collapse on his predecessor Clark Eldridge.


Release the Kraken

Please forgive me, for I have sinned.  It has been three years and two days since my last post.

I suppose I could bore you with the details of how I started and nearly finished my doctorate, got promoted to Deputy Director, got completely disillusioned, retired from both and bought a business selling supplies at dog shows.  But that is boring stuff compared to what’s happened in 2020.

My cat died.  That started everything off.  Then there was a pandemic, causing a violent societal reaction that resulted in an economic collapse, which fostered protests, riots and looting.  It’s been a heck of year, and it’s only half over.

I miss the cat.

I heard stories of murder hornets and I wondered how we would deal with them.  If this were a Japanese B movie (starring hornets?), Godzilla would come traipsing out of the ocean, stumble upon the hornets and light them up with his breath weapon.  Yes, that is how we could handle the murder hornets.  However, you know if Godzilla made an appearance, the murder hornets couldn’t keep it interesting.  No, he would have to face a real foe.

Release the Kraken!

Actually, the Kraken wouldn’t be much of an issue.  After all, it’s just a giant squid like thing.  Stay off the beach and you’ll be fine.  I’m seeing how the Kraken isn’t worthy of making an appearance in 2020.  So, let’s make a call to  . . . Cthulhu!

Cthulhu Vs. Godzilla.  Coming to a neighborhood near you.  Winter 2020.

The money pit

I first went to see Tom Hanks in the Money Pit while I was stationed overseas. My buddy and I had heard good things about it, so we decided to take it in at the post movie theater. To this day I can’t remember laughing that much for so long. My buddy Jeff actually memorized the banana fana song (the name game). “Two weeks! Two weeks! You sound like a parrot!” Good times!

At the time, as a young man who had never really owned anything of consequence, I didn’t understand what Walter Fielding was going through in that movie. Fast forward thirty years, and having owned a home for the past 20, I really thought that now, I could finally relate. That is until we bought the trailer.

To be clear, the comparison between the condition of Walter Fielding’s home and my trailer are slim, at best. My trailer was in a liveable condition when we got. It just had a few . . . issues.

For starters, the decals had baked in the sun for so long they were barely identifiable. They looked more like damage than decals. My brother Larry and I spent many days and quite a bit of time and money scrapping and rubbing off the decals. Of all of the repairs I’ve made to the trailer, this one was the most time consuming and labor intensive. It was also the least necessary. Which explains why it was the first thing I did.

For the sake of my sanity, I didn’t record the time or expense of the other repairs I made. For simplicity, let me list them here for you:

  • Removed decals
  • Repaired leaky sink
  • Repaired leaky shower
  • Repaired leaky hot water tank
  • Repaired bent window frame
  • Repaired broken arm on bedroom slide out
  • Replaced broken TV in bedroom
  • Installed TV arm mount
  • Replaced broken DVD player
  • Replaced broken awning arm
  • Cleaned and scrubbed awning
  • Replaced roof vent cover
  • Repaired broken locks on storage cabinets
  • Repaired numerous window shades
  • Replaced shower head and faucet
  • Removed broken stationary lamp
  • Replaced mattress for sofa bed
  • Replaced five tires
  • Repaired spare tire holder
  • Repaired broken jack motor
  • Repaired some trim around windows and the slideouts
  • Re-installed the sheet metal around the king pin
  • Replaced two deep cycle batteries
  • Installed power inverter
  • Installed 2 -100 watt solar panels
  • Installed battery/solar panel power meter
  • Replaced all lights with LED lights

In addition to the above, we also purchased a tripod king pin support, two 2,000 watt generators (because one wouldn’t run the AC), chock blocks, leveling blocks, propane tanks, a pop up canopy, and untold items to help with cleaning and storage. 

We have taken the truck and trailer out five times now, and the last excursion was the only one not to have any major incidents. 

The first time out our jack motor broke. 

The second time out the jack motor broke again and we also had a flat tire. 

The third time out we became infested with ticks and we forgot to bring just about everything we needed.  To add injury to insult, we got stuck in the mud trying to park the trailer and we nearly killed Larry when the tire caught a brick and flung it at him.  Thank goodness his leg jumped up and took the worst of it.  The doctors think he’ll learn how to walk normal again, and real soon. 

The fourth time out the trailer rolled over the chock blocks and nearly gave Bonnie a heart attack.  Although it only moved six inches, it was enough to prompt a visit to Amazon to buy some uncrushable chocks. 

The last trip out was . . . uneventful.  Finally.  We have one more shakedown trip to make before we take the rig up to the sequoias in August.  I can hardly wait.

So, in reality, I don’t think that Walter Fielding and I have that much in common.  I think I can more closely relate to Mr. Blanding when he built his dream house in the country.  I think I look more like Cary Grant, too. 


We’re (not) going to live in a trailer!

While at Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house, Bonnie and I noticed that they were selling their truck and trailer. These friends of ours had been light duty campers since they retired. However, they had not gone camping in over a year, and they had finally come to the conclusion that they just weren’t that much into it anymore.

One of the good things about Bonnie is that if you put a few glasses of wine in her, she really enjoys buying things. I refer you to our entertainment center, also known as the monstrosity. So, as the evening wore on and the wine flowed freely, I began to prod Bonnie with the thought of purchasing the truck and trailer. Although I had enough money to purchase the truck, I was a bit short on the trailer. Bonnie, on the other hand, has a mattress or two that are busting at the seams.

Surprisingly, Bonnie was very much in favor of making the purchase. And this wasn’t the wine talking. No, we have talked about this for a while. It’s part of our retirement plan. What really pushed us into a buying frenzy was the fact that our friends offered to sell us the truck and trailer for about half of what it was worth. Half! After walking through it and noticing how well kept it was, we couldn’t pass it up.

So, without further ado, here she is:

Truck and Trailer

The truck is a 1996 Ford F250, with a 7.5 L 460cc engine. The previous owner had a banks power kit installed on it, which is supposed to add another 15 -20 hp. The truck is in good condition with only 69,200 original miles on it. Other than towing the trailer around three or four times a year, they never really used it. The only thing I don’t like about it is the tow mirrors. Or lack of tow mirrors. Otherwise, the truck is in excellent condition and runs great!

The trailer is a 2008 Jayco Eagle 299RLS. The interior is in excellent condition. It actually looks new. The outside is a little worse for wear. It has sat in the sun for most of it’s existence, so the stickers are baked off and the finish is fading. The only major problem is that one of the awning arms is bent (He backed it into a fence!). The awning still works, but it has to be manually guided in and out. It also needs a new battery. The current battery is 8 years old (it may be the original) and it won’t hold a charge anymore.

Here we are inside the trailer:

Arlene, Mark, Greg, and Larry standing in the trailer

Here is the floor plan:

Jayco Eagle 299RLS floor plan

Other than a clothes washer, the trailer has everything we need. It even has a satellite dish! Although I could easily take up full time residence in it, Bonnie constantly reminds me: “We’re not going to live in the trailer”. (Let me get you a glass of wine while we talk about it)

We are planning on taking our first camping trip to Lake Perris in January. We have another planned in February, and a third at Rancho Jurupa in March. We might squeeze in one or two more before we make a planned run for the Sequoias this summer.

Butter Beer is a real thing

This morning, as I drove around town looking for a recycling center that was open, I found myself reflecting on what turned out to be a reasonably successful vacation. I have been off work for 12 days on what the hipsters call a “staycation”. I call it saving on motel bills while not working. Although we didn’t “go” anywhere, we actually went to quite a few places.

Looking back on it, this didn’t start the way I had hoped. Our first trip was to the Disney Halloween event. Every year we talk about going and this year I finally broke down and paid the extra $50 for each ticket. Essentially, it’s Disneyland with a special parade and fireworks show. They also have trick or treating and some Halloween themed characters wandering around. We did see some interesting costumes, but we didn’t participate in the trick or treating. Instead, we waited in line for two hours (with delays) to see a parade that may have lasted all of five minutes. I remember thinking – I waited two hours for this? Immediately after the “parade” we shuffled into an area that reminded me of the cattle trucks the army packed my buddies and I into when we have to move from point A to point B quickly. If you’ve never seen or experienced transport by cattle truck, imagine those college fraternities that try to pack all of their members into a VW or a phone booth – except wearing full battle gear and staying that way for an hour or two while you get dragged over what passes for a bumpy road. Anyway, we – along with every other person in Anaheim, stood shoulder to should for about 30 minutes only to hear that the show was delayed. 15 minutes later it was canceled. Why? Inclement weather. I suppose the weather was inclement somewhere, but if you asked anyone who was packed with me, it wasn’t Anaheim. On the bright side, at least we had a chance to get to know (too well) a dozen or so people we never would have chose to stand so close to while enjoying beautiful weather.

Oh, right after the canceled show, a crazy old lady in an electric wheel chair ran me over. Yep, she ran me down without so much as a How do you do. I can now cross that off my bucket list.

After the Disney debacle, things got better. We took a trip to the Richard M. Nixon library. It’s not too far and it was surprisingly fun. I’ve only been to one other presidential library – Reagan’s – and I have to say Nixon’s library was a head and shoulder above it.

Next we went to Knott’s Scary Farm. I have lowered my expectations for Knott’s over the past few years because it has really declined. Although this year wasn’t comparable to the Scary farm in its heyday, I can say that it was a lot of fun AND we had the privilege to see Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. All in all it was a good time.

Our next trip was to the Huntington Library. It is always a good place to visit. This was our first trip in two years, and they have made some major improvements. If I lived closer I would try to visit it more often. There is so much to see there.

Finally, we made the lengthy trip out to Universal Studios. This was my first visit so I didn’t know what to expect. First, I can tell you that butter beer is a real thing. You can buy it there at the Harry Potter exhibit. You can also buy just about anything you have read about or seen in a Harry Potter movie. The little village – Hogsmeade I think it’s called – is phenomenal. It is exactly like what you see in the movies. Oh, and the best part about it is the 3D ride in the castle. By far the best ride I’ve ever been on. This alone, was worth the trip.

Universal also has other stuff, Jurassic Park, tours, Simpsons, etc. All good stuff, but it all pales compared to what you’ll find in Harry Potter land. I’ll know I’ll be going back.

By the way, if you want to buy a magic wand, they cost $52. The butter beer is only $6, but plan on sharing it with your friends. It’s a mix of butterscotch and cream soda. It’s so sweet, you’re only going to want to take two or three drinks. Potent stuff.

So, as I sit here enjoying a bottle of butter beer on my last day of vacation I have to say, I had a good time and I’m looking forward to the next.

By the way, all recycling centers are closed on Sundays. That’s inconvenient.

Water Cooler

Today was the day I was supposed to install three water coolers in my computer.  I bought one for the CPU and the GPU, and I also bought a used GPU and water cooler from Ebay.  I was going to be styling with dual R9 290s and an I7 6700 – all water cooled.

Well, things never turn out the way you plan.  Although I bought the smallest water coolers I could find – Corsair H55 – I can only fit two of them in my case.  Just barely.  I actually had to take power tools to it to make the second radiator and fan fit.  I connected both of them to my GPUs (which bake with the heat of the sun) and I’m in the process of installing new drivers right now.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to monitor the temperatures anymore, because I had to plug multiple fans into the same motherboard plug.  I won’t need any tools to figure out if it works.  Honestly, the noise and the heat blowing off the fan of that R9 290 was amazing.  I should easily be able to tell if it is working.  I hope.

So, if anyone needs a water cooler, let me know.



First Doom Play-through

I was messing around with some video recording software, and I stumbled across something called OBS studio.  It can record your screen and video from a web cam. I decided to try it out while I played Doom.  This is the first attempt at recording audio and video from both the PC and the webcam, so it’s not the best mix.  Also, the webcam picture is a little oversized.  I figured out why it keeps doing that after this video was recorded.

Background on the video.  I really didn’t expect to keep this video.  I thought I was just testing the software, but I miraculously defeated the boss monster that has been kicking my butt!!!

If you listen closely, you will be able to hear Michalina whispering in the background.



Nifty new features

I’ve been using WordPress for my school blog since February 2011.  It’s always been a simple, reliable piece of software that has never given me much trouble.  So, when my website crashed again, I decided to toss up a WordPress site as a place holder until I found a better CMS (Content Management System) to replace the defunct system I was using.

However, I noticed that WordPress has a host of extremely useful and easy to install mods (they call them plugins).  For example, there is a simple plugin that allows you to add a YouTube channel to any page.  Another one lets you add a gallery, and another allows you to add a page for downloads.  It even has an event calendar.

I was also able to add a simple forum.

Another plugin lets you add random pictures:

Another lets you add a single YouTube Video:

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7u8_69KBpY[/embedyt]

Another feature it has, one that I will most likely never use, allows you to add a table to a post.  In fact, there are so many different features, I’m finding it hard to finish my homework with all of the distractions.

I should have done this a long time ago.

P.S – I’m still backing up the site to the root directory, but I’m looking at ways to automatically backup to Onedrive.  Hopefully, I won’t ever have to redo the website again!

Poof! It was gone!

If you haven’t noticed, my website crashed again.  I’m not exactly sure what happened, but it seems that the root directory somehow became corrupted.  That’s unfortunate, because I saved my backups to the root directory.  When I restored the backups, they didn’t work either.

The website has been acting weird lately.  When I tried to publish something the other day it kept crashing.  I tried posting something again yesterday morning and it crashed again.  When I checked back yesterday afternoon, the site was spewing errors all over the place.  I kept getting memory errors when I tried to restore the backups, and I even got a few when I installed this WordPress site, so I think my host’s server may have taken a dump.

So, here I am debating what to do next.  Unfortunately I don’t have the time to keep trying to fix this.  I may just leave a WordPress site up with a simple forum.  More to come!