Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sometimes I surprise myself

I just remembered this and want to write it down before I forget it - again.

I was at a meeting or conference one time a long time ago. Just as we were getting started, someone walked into the room and announced, "There's red car with license number ABC-123 outside with its headlights on." And, in a completely uncharacteristic bit of quick thinking and outspokenness, I piped up, "Don't worry, they'll go out after a while." I was pleasantly surprised at how many people thought that was funny.

I made that joke up on the spot. At least, I don't remember ever hearing it before. But maybe it's like The Dick Van Dyke Show episode when Laura writes what she thinks is a wonderful children's story only to realize later that it's a story her mother used to read to her when she was a child. But I don't think that was the case with this joke. I really believe I came up with it myself. But even more amazing was that I felt confident enough to say it out loud! That was very unlike me but it made me happy. I wonder if I'd have been as happy if no one laughed?

[Update: I like blogging. Writing this blog post not only let me get this story down so I'd remember it but as I thought about it, it brought more of the story to mind. I now remember where I was when this happened and it might make an interesting post of its own. I was taking a class in assembly language programming for the Hewlett-Packard 21MX series minicomputer. They were primitive compared to today's computers but they were quite advanced for their day.]

Saturday, April 07, 2012

I'm a lumberjack...

...and I'm OK. I'd sleep all night if our dog would let me. There are people who dispute that I work all day. And don't even think about the rest of the song!

This was a case of my not being able to find a pruning saw I often use to cut up branches that fall down. I looked and looked but I couldn't find it and figured it was finally time to figure out how to use the chain saw my father-in-law had left (Ralph died over ten years ago). It's an electric one (a Poulan EL-14) and I was less afraid of it than I am of the gasoline ones. But I still wasn't sure about it. I didn't know if I'd need to tighten the chain and I wasn't sure how to oil the chain. It turned out to be much easier than I thought. It has a manual oiler that can take regular 10W30 motor oil and you just push the top of the cap to get a little oil on the blade when you need it.

It took me a few tries to get the hang of it and I think the blade was a little dull after ten years or more of no use. But after about five minutes, I was sawing through branches about five or six inches in diameter. We're getting ready for another burning session in a week or two and I wanted to be better prepared this time.

So, in the end, I'm glad I wasn't able to find my pruning saw. But where did I put that thing?

Friday, April 06, 2012

On my ride into work today

It was a bit chilly this morning when I got ready to ride my scooter into work. I had already taken our dog Charlie for his walk and it didn't seem too bad to me. My wife, of course, worries about me and I'm glad she does but I assured her it wasn't too cold.

Then I got to the cranberry bogs along my route and saw this. The cranberry plants have already started to bud and frost can damage them. I don't know too much about how spraying water and having it freeze on the plants is better than regular frost but these farmers know what they are doing and wouldn't do this (and spend all the money for water for the sprinklers) if it didn't help.

Another interesting aspect to this is that at one point, one of our products was being considered by our local growers to help in this situation. We make a line of products that measure various properties like temperature, relative humidity, air pressure etc. Our instrument can be programmed to look at a number of properties and decide if frost is imminent and close a relay (or send an email) when the conditions are right. The relay could then turn on the sprinklers. It turns out that the farmers needed more control than we could offer. So, they still have to get up early on a cold morning and start the sprinklers. Just in case.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

An inadvertent April Fool's Day joke

From the NIST website about WWV controlled clocks
Happy April Fool's Day. I hope the jokes played on you today are gentle and truly funny and don't cause you harm. At least not too much harm. My wife got my daughter and me this morning with a story about the Easter Egg Hunt being this morning instead of on Easter Sunday. Then my daughter immediately, upon being reminded of the day, ran over to my mother-in-law's place to tell her a "story". Our son would be getting up later but we knew he'd be getting up in time to go to church. But, he surprised us by getting up early. When he looked up at the clock, though, he realized he'd gotten up an hour earlier than he wanted to.

It turns out, the April Fool's Day joke played on him wasn't planned. It was caused by the 2007 change made to the rules for when we lose or gain an hour for Daylight Saving Time. The clock we bought him before 2007 is one of those that receive the radio signal from the WWV station in Fort Collins, Colorado. That information is used to keep the time on the clock corrected to the atomic clocks at NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). You can read more about those types of clock here.

Unfortunately, this particular clock doesn't use all of the information that NIST includes in the WWV signal that indicates whether Daylight Saving Time is in effect or not. The clock has its own internal program to decide when to change the time. So, this morning was the old pre-2007 time for changing the clocks and the clock finally caught up to the official Daylight Saving Time and our son found out that 7 AM really was 7 AM. April Fool!

We've known about this since 2007, of course, and usually changed the clock ourselves - twice. Once on the official time and again (the opposite way) when the clock changed itself. But then my son just decided to "remember" that his clock was wrong for a few weeks each year. Well, I think we'll change that before the next time change. We'll either get him a new clock or see if we can keep this one from automatically changing the hour.

[Update - Boy, was this post written poorly. It's still not very well written but at least it's a bit better after this update.]