Gas station without pumps

2019 December 28

Holiday activities

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:28
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We celebrated several holidays over the past week: Festivus, Christmas, and Chanukah. We neglected Solstice this year (most years we make solstice cookies).

For Festivus, we put up a Festivus pole and ate meatloaf on iceberg lettuce (well, vegetarian meatloaf, since my son is a vegetarian).  We skipped the airing of grievances, though.

On Christmas Eve, we went out to eat, but almost all the restaurants downtown were closed (even the Chinese restaurant that we had considered as a backup), so we ended up at the Korean restaurant Sesame.  My wife and I enjoy the food there, but there is not a lot for our vegetarian son—he was ok with the japchae, but I could tell he was a little sad that both Saturn and Monster Hotpot were closed.

For Christmas we had a live Christmas tree (the same one as last year, but it is now 22 inches tall—plus a 12 inch pot), which my wife decorated with a small fraction of our Christmas ornaments. This tree has many years before it is the size of the live trees we used to use, but we can carry it into the house with needing a hand truck. (The big one that we gave away a couple of years ago was getting to be too heavy to haul up the 3 steps to the porch.)

We also opened presents from each other Christmas morning.  Most of the presents were books or consumables—we’re all hard to shop for as we don’t want much, and when we do want something, we generally just buy it for ourselves.

For Chanukah we lit the candles on the menorah each night and had homemade applesauce and latkes one night.

Over the winter break, I’ve been getting several things done:

  • I got the syllabus rewritten for my electronics course, got the assignments all entered into Canvas (which always takes forever—filling out the same form over and over is incredibly tedious), and hired my group tutors and graders.  Creating the Canvas entries for the due dates for the 12 homeworks, 6 prelabs, and 5 labs took a couple of hours, and I still have to enter the quizzes (which I’ll do after I’ve created and graded each quiz, as each will have a different number of points).
  • The cat fountain I created failed, and I spent some time trying to diagnose the problem.  The controller board is fine, but the pump won’t run.  The resistance of the pump is now about 100kΩ, which indicates that something in it failed.  I’m not sure of the reason for the failure, but most likely the impeller was jammed by a build-up of algae.  The cats were less interested in the fountain than I hoped, and keeping the cat fountain clean was more trouble than I expected (algae growth was fast, and clearing the hose with a pipe cleaner was a pain), so I decided to scrap the fountain, rather than buying another pump.
  • The mesh seat that I sewed for my recumbent bicycle five years ago had the stitching fail on one strap. I tried resewing it with my wife’s sewing machine, but it just jammed, so I ended up resewing the strap by hand.  I expect that some of the other stitching will fail in the next year, and that I’ll be doing more resewing, but there is enough redundancy in the straps that I can ride home even with one of the straps broken.
  • My son visited Monday–Friday, so we spent a couple of days installing the new range hood that I had promised my wife six months ago.  I bought a 2-part range hood (https://www.amazon.com/Awoco-Stainless-Cabinet-Speeds-800CFM/dp/B076XBQSMK) with the blower unit to be installed in the attic, even though this is more expensive than one-piece units.  There were two reasons: to make the range hood itself lighter and so easier to install, and to reduce the noise of the blower in the kitchen.  Holding up even the motor-less range hood while we got the screws in place was tiring (for my son), but installing the blower in the attic was also somewhat difficult, so that was pretty much a wash.  The new range hood is much quieter than the old one, but I think it moves as much air.  At any rate, my wife is pleased with the new range hood, which is all that really matters.

Mostly, though I’ve been reading and sleeping—things I’ll have much less time for once the quarter starts. I do still have to write the quiz for the first week of class, but I still have a week to do that.

2019 January 1

8th day of Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:43
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Because today is already the 8th day of Christmas, I guess it is time to do a Christmas blog post. For the past several years we’ve used a live Christmas tree (see the 2015 decoration of it), but last year it was getting too big for its pot, and it was already as heavy as we could get up the steps (maybe 200–300 lbs), so we didn’t want to repot it into anything bigger.  So we put a free sign on it and left it by the sidewalk—it was gone within a week.

My wife found a new live tree in a tiny pot that someone else had left out for free, so we repotted it and kept it for a year—here are pictures of this year’s tiny tree:

Here is the tree, seen from a low angle to make it look bigger.

The Festivus pole is visible just behind the tree and to the left (with a bow at the top).


We found a string of solar-powered LED lights on the sidewalk. After replacing the NiMH rechargeable battery and fiddling with the battery contacts, we got it working—it was just the right size for our tiny tree.

2018 February 25

Weekend off!

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:43
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I had only 2 hours of grading to do this weekend (but next weekend will make up for that, with more than 30 hours of grading), so I got a chance to do some other things for a change:

  • Buy groceries at Trader Joe’s.  (“Groceries” is misleading here, as I generally view Trader Joe’s as a beverage store—I bought soy milk, mineral water, hard cider, beer, port, and whiskey, plus cereal, chocolate, and prunes.  I don’t drink whiskey or mineral water and my wife doesn’t drink port or soy milk, but the cider and beer are for both of us.)
  • Do a protein structure prediction for a microbiology colleague.  I no longer use my own tools for protein-structure prediction, as they have succumbed to the changes in C++ and operating systems, so that they can no longer be compiled or run.  I’ve also not maintained the template library for several years.  Because the only predictions I get asked to make these days are ones for which there are good templates, I just use HHpred and Modeller on-line.  For that sort of prediction, they are quick and do an adequate job.  The goal of this prediction was to get a good guess of binding-site residues for a chemosensor, to guide site-directed mutagenesis.  Unfortunately, the available structures did not have ligands bound, and for most of them no one knows what the real ligand is anyway, so I had to make guesses based on the structure without solid evidence for how ligands bind to them.
  • Check whether the nFET and pFET we’ll be using next quarter have small enough gate capacitances to be driven directly from a comparator, or whether we’ll still need to use 74AC04 inverters as digital amplifiers.  We could probably just barely get away with using the comparators, but the chips end up running rather warm, so I’m still going to recommend using the digital amplifier.   One inverter for both the nFET and pFET gate seems to be fine, though—the rise and fall time is short enough that we don’t need to use a separate inverter for each gate.
  • Review courses for the Committee on Courses of Instruction meeting tomorrow—I only had 13 courses to review this time, and I’d already looked at half of them.

I still have this evening—maybe I’ll repot the free live Christmas tree my wife picked up yesterday.  We gave our old one away in January, because it was getting pot bound and we did not want to transfer it to a larger pot—the current one was as heavy as we could haul up the steps.  The new one is tiny, but should last us several years before it gets to be too big.  Today might also be a good day to put the Christmas ornaments back in the attic—we’ll probably have to rebox some of them, as Marcus (our kitten) has shredded some of the boxes.)

2016 December 25

Banana slug Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:50
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When my wife was decorating our Christmas tree last night (a Christmas Eve tradition for us), she was regretting that we did not have a good tree topper.  She did not want to repeat last year’s Christmas tree topper.

Today, we received from her sister a banana slug mask, which immediately became this year’s topper:

The mask as tree topper.

The mask as tree topper.

The whole tree—I think this is the 4th year we've used this live tree, getting it up the front steps using the hand truck visible in the background.  Note also the tiny Festivus pole in front of the tree.

The whole tree—I think this is the 4th year we’ve used this live tree, getting it up the front steps using the hand truck visible in the background. Note also the tiny Festivus pole in front of the tree.

2015 December 25

Christmas tree topper

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 19:26
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We celebrate a number of different holidays in our house around this time of year: Channukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Festivus, … .

For Channukah, we light the menorah with the traditional blessings, give trinket presents, eat latkes, and play dreidel. For Christmas, we decorate a tree, light up the porch, and give slightly larger presents. For Solstice, we eat round solstice cookies (basically shortbread). For Festivus, we have a tiny Fesitvus pole.

Channukah this year was a bit lower key than usual, as our son was still at UCSB for most of Channukah.  We saved the latkes until he got home and didn’t give presents or play dreidel.  We did light the menorah (except for 2 nights, when we forgot):

menorah-2015

Christmas was also fairly low key—we didn’t get around to the porch lights this year, because of the rain early in the week and my son being a bit ill on Christmas Eve, when we would normally have put the lights up. We did bring in our usual live tree, and my wife decorated it. One novelty this year—we stuck on a different tree topper than usual. The clear plastic head was made a few years ago out of packing tape, using my head as a pattern. (Google “packing tape sculpture” for information about how to make such sculptures.) We had it out, because we hadn’t put it away after Halloween, so I stuck it on top of the tree. I liked the effect—particularly the way one of the branches ended up at the level of the eyes:
Tree-with-topper-2015

Tree-topper-2015

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