Tomatoes, Again!

Yes, I like tomatoes.

And this year, I started them earlier.  I also reinforced the net, mulched, and am spraying neem oil.  Yes–I’m getting serious.

Why?

Because I discovered home-grown tomatoes make the best Bloody Marys.  Mmmmm.

–Simon

The River is Now a Canal

Two years ago I addressed the terrible sump drainage.  At the time we bought the house, an old vacuum hose had been stuck to the output and draped across the lawn and out into the yard.  It was and ugly and inefficient solution, so I dug a trench instead.

The trench worked and looked much nicer, but had a tendency to fill in with debris.  I concluded then that I would use the plethora of unearthed bricks (which we uncover every time a shovel is stuck into the ground) and pave the trench, my reasoning being that the reduced friction would channel the water faster and flush out anything in its way.  And it would look nicer, and hopefully hold up better.

Additionally, I planned to sink a small recess to hold some of the water to give it time to soak into the ground–a rain garden, more or less.  I installed something similar on a downspout, but it was gravel and I don’t want that look in the garden.

And so I dug until I had the desired pit.  Then, as I began placing bricks, the sump pump clicked on and flooded it.  Perhaps I should have unplugged that before starting this project.  Ah well, I’m not one to allow simple forces of the universe, in this case hydrodynamics, to interrupt me.  I continued.

I put a rush in the center

When full, it looks like a reflection pool.  It’s also accumulating mud because it hasn’t dried out yet with all the Spring rain, so I can’t clean it.  And it’s overflowing constantly.  What I should have done was dug out a deep dry well and filled it with rocks, then arranged my bricks on top of that.  Whatever redesign I decide upon, one thing is certain–it needs more capacity.  I will, no doubt, be revisiting this.

–Simon

Ring 2

Not the “Ring 2”–I mean part deux of the Ring products saga

A year ago we got the Ring doorbell.

Thankfully, it hasn’t been instrumental in solving any crime, but it definitely brings peace of mind.  And, it’s very convenient to see who’s walking up to the door while I’m in the basement working.

But paranoia has no terminus, and I found myself eyeing Ring’s line of cameras for the back door for the same reason: I want to see if anyone’s walking up to it.  Not that anyone has, but I often leave the dog in the back to run while I work, and with reports of dog-snatchers, I wanted to keep an eye on things.  I decided upon the Stickup cam wired.

My reasoning was thus:

  • I don’t want a floodlight back there, so no-go on that model
  • I wanted wired, as I always prefer to run dedicated lines to unreliable WiFi
  • It supports PoE, which would not only allow a single cable run, but the PoE injector could then be plugged into my UPS, thus keeping the camera online in the event of a power outage

The only thing left to do then, was actually run the cable.

But the drawback of cable is that it limits placement of jacks, due to the simple matter of me not being able to squeeze into tiny places (unlike my father, I don’t have a son to task with those jobs).  I had wanted to run the cable to the attic and down the eaves and into the middle of the deck, but as I attempted to do so it became very clear that if I actually managed to drop down through the attic and into the eave space, Liz would have had to call the fire department to chop me out.

So I would have to drill through the outer wall–which was brick, so no easy feat.  But there is a pointlessly-placed back window into the garage, with a wooden frame.

The wood posed little challenge, and in short order I had a 3/8 in hole from the garage to the back yard.

From there, I ran a patch cable connecting the camera to an electrical box I installed on the garage ceiling, which housed the cable termination and ethernet jack.

From there, the cable ran into the attic and followed the path of a prior cable install for the garage hotspot, ultimately terminating in the patch panel.  Then it was through the aforementioned PoE injector, then to the switch.

Voila: my longest cable run yet.

Now for some thoughts on PoE:

I noted that after all was up and running, the switch indicated that the connection was not gigabit.  All the equipment was rated for it, including the injector, but the amber light stubbornly refused to turn green.  Concerned that one of my punchdowns was bad (as was the case in a recent project–totally not my fault), I disconnected the injector and tested the line with a laptop.  All connections were confirmed gigabit, so I researched how PoE operates.

Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any bandwidth figures for the various specs, maybe because PoE isn’t in itself a form of data transfer, but rather a means of transmitting power over a data cable.  Still, the lack of discussion on the matter was not encouraging.  I concluded that what was happening is that I had one of the specs that sacrificed two of the 8 CAT6 wires for power, thus dropping the connection speed to Fast ethernet.  Apparently, therein lies the PoE tradeoff.

But the speed seems adequate, and while live view appears somewhat grainy, the recordings are perfectly clear.

I’m still pleased to say it hasn’t recorded any crime either.  And, apart from some rabbit-chasing videos, it’s dutifully served its primary function–notifying me when there’s backyard movement I should know about.

Recommended.

–Simon

Vacation 2019

First off, the car broke.  Again.

As it was still under warranty, we took it back to the dealership.  Through constant harassment, I eventually discovered that the dealership could only bill 2 hours of labor per day to the manufacturer, and as the job would require 6 hours, we wouldn’t receive the car back before vacation started.

The vacation miles would also put the car much closer to being out of warranty, and the vehicle’s track record made this prospect unsettling.  Liz debated (or I think she debated), then traded the car in and bought a brand new Subaru Ascent.  It’s dark reddish brown.  I christened it The Coffee Bean.

So it was that we broke in a new family car with a roadtrip to Orlando.

As it turns out, Orlando and Universal Studios is expensive and busy and not relaxing in the slightest.  But I hope it made some memories:

 

We listened to Harry Potter audiotapes down and back.  I’m glad to be home.

–Simon

When the Pendulum Swings Too Far Back…

…In a rather comic, yet irritating example.

I downloaded the Anthem beta (which was a demo, by the way–there’s a difference), and began the sequence with a very basic character creation.  If memory serves, the character creation boiled down to a single option, which was this:

“Pilot Voice [Female/Male]”.  The default was female, but who exactly was “The Pilot”.  I pondered a moment, considering two implications:

  1. Our society seems to prefer female voices as the deliverers of information (i.e. Siri, Alexa, et al.).
  2. We’ve hit a point where “Girl Power” has advanced beyond the point of reason.  And in fear that failure to adopt this trend will lead to both social and financial ruin, Corporate America has jumped on the band wagon and now everything marketed is pro-girl/woman.

My conclusion, then, was that “The Pilot” was either a voiceover AI (a la Cortana), or that it was the player’s voice (me).  But which was it?

I debated, and landed upon an analysis of what would bother me more:

  1. The in-game AI would have a male voice (no real problem there).
  2. My character–me–would be a woman.

Were the choice made without my input, I would say “whatever” and move on.  But the choice was mine, granted unto me by BioWare.  What bothered me was the assumption, that the game would even make a default.  Why–if the goal is equality, and the in-game choice could have been neutral through simple programming, would it choose to go to the other extreme–the polar opposite extreme of which was what caused this ongoing social battle in the first place?

The assumption for the male player-character was originally an acknowledgement of the target audience.  Then we learned through market research that gamers were split pretty 50-50 men to women, so to consciously change the default to something other than neutral comes off as a bit…disingenuously pandering.  You already had female gamers.  You had both.  Why show a preference now?

I encountered this same problem when I booted up The Division 2 demo (again-a demo).  Although not as cryptic, the default was definitively a female character.

I’ve had this post sitting in my Drafts for a month now.  I wish I had a conclusion with which to finally conclude this, but I don’t think it even needs one.  I’ll leave it as an observation.  Formulate your own opinion.

–Simon