Taking Fencing Lessons

Mary Welch Steinhoff with new handrail 04-26-2014Curator Jessica sent me a text bragging about her time in a triathlon Saturday morning. We exchanged a couple of messages, then I texted her, “I’m busy taking fencing lessons, so I will probably be incommunicado.”

Mother has a porch on the east side of the house overlooking a woods that is the perfect place to sit and watch the birds and squirrels. Even on the hottest day, it’s usually shaded and comfortable. A few years back, Brother Mark cleared her a pathway to go from the front yard to the back and to get to her bird feeders and hanging plants.

The surface is a bit uneven and the hill is fairly steep, so we thought we’d put up a handrail to make her meanderings a little safer. Of course, we didn’t really know what we were doing, so don’t look to closely at our handiwork.

Since Mother’s age – 92-1/2 – and her weight are about the same, I don’t think there is much danger of her knocking it over.

 The Rule of Threes

Mark repairs fountain 04-26-2014I wrote about the Rule of Threes when Kid Matt was building me a new computer. This project was worse that than. In 24 hours, I think I have been at Menard’s four times; Lowes five times and Ace Hardware at least five times. And, of course, when you are in the Big Box hardware stores, fencing materials and gardening supplies are on one side of the world and lumber is on the other.

One of the tasks Mark wanted to tackle was getting Mother’s fountain working again. We confirmed that the pump was getting power, so we deduced we were peering at a kaput pump. That was a trip to Lowes. Then, he wanted to replace a section of plastic hose with copper pipe for aesthetic reasons. That was Lowes and Ace, where he told a young worker that he was Frankensteining it and would welcome inspiration.

We got back to the house, installed the copper pipe, Gooped it in place so it wouldn’t leak, then turned on the juice. The water barely trickled out of the copper pipe. The pump was supposed to be able to handle a six-foot height, but Mark cut off about two feet of pipe to make the distance even shorter. The result wasn’t much better. He started to fill the fountain with a hose to make sure there was plenty of water for it to work with.

Leaking like a nursery school

That’s where the fountain base started leaking like a nursery school short of diapers. Water left in it at the end of the summer must have frozen during the winter and cracked the plastic.

We hit Menards again. The entrance is here, and the garden shop is waaaaaaaay over there at the far end. They didn’t have anything we liked at a price that we liked.

Back to Lowes. The entrance is here, and the garden shop is halfwaaaaaay over there. They didn’t have anything, either. And, of course, we also had to hit lumber at the far end, hardware in the middle and customer service at the entrance.

That’s just a small part of the day. My feet are killing me.

Mark went to bed three hours ago, which is where I’m headed as soon as I hit the Publish button.

Sorry for the iffy quality. I shot these with my cell phone because I didn’t have the strength to pick up a real camera.


The Rule of Threes

Matt - Ken Steinhoff build computer 1-10-2014When I told Kid Matt I was running out of storage space on my computer because photos and videos are BIG files, he offered to help me upgrade my old computer. Of course, like any construction project. It is subject to the Rule of Threes: it is going to take three times as much money as was budgeted; it’s going to take three times as long as projected, and it’s going to take at least three trips to the store for every component involved.

The project meant I needed a larger computer case, a different motherboard, a bigger power supply, a new RAID card and some extra drives.

He ordered the case and power supply through Amazon prime and specified the free two-day shipping  so we’d get it Friday for a weekend installation.

TWO big boxes arrived

When we got the tracking info, we saw they were promising delivery next week, not Friday. Matt called Amazon to complain, and they said they’d place a new order and give us overnight shipping so we’d get it when we needed it. As it turned out TWO big computer boxes arrived on Friday. The tracking info must have been wrong. The power supply arrived on time from a different vendor.

Matt wanted to go for a bike ride on Saturday, so he asked if we could start playing Friday night instead of doing a Saturday build. Sooner is always better when it comes to new toys, so I assured him Friday night was good.

Looking down inside the new box before most of the stuff went in was looking down on a futuristic city out of a science fiction thriller.

This is only going to take 45 minutes

Matt - Ken Steinhoff build computer 1-10-2014Matt said building the hardware piece shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes – “45 minutes, tops.” Restoring the programs and data was going to be the long part.

After about an hour, we (meaning him) had enough pieces/parts together that we could fire it up to see if it was going to boot. The fans started spinning and a red LED next to the CPU lit up, then everything went quiet. Time after time after time.

Matt started frogging (swapping) components into different slots, trying different video cards, trying different RAM. No joy.

Three or four hours later into our 45-minute (“tops”) project, he swapped out the brand-new super-duper power supply with one out of an old computer. It worked. The power supply was defective.

The RAID controller won’t work

Matt - Ken Steinhoff build computer 1-10-2014The magic thing that was going to make more efficient and safer use of my data drives was a new-fangled RAID controller. That sounds like an electronic moat drawbridge to keep invaders out, but Matt assured me that I didn’t have to know what it was or how it worked. I just needed to know that I was going to see my internal storage space effectively double, from four drives and 3 terabytes to six drives and six terabytes of mirrored stuff. He did some kind of crazy math thing where he said that four times two terabytes equals six terabytes of usable storage, but my eyes glazed over like they did in Grace Williams’ math class, and I just nodded from time to time like I understood what he was saying.

Magic wands and ritual sacrifices

The only problem was the computer didn’t recognize the RAID card, no matter how may times he waved a magic wand at it. He was muttering something about ritual sacrifices when I headed him off before he saw the grilled chicken I was planning to snack on.

He actually pulled out the docs at one point, that’s how desperate he was. Finally, at 4:30 a.m., I jerked awake and realized that I had fallen asleep with my chin on my chest. It was time for a nap.

When I got up at 5:30 a.m., he was gone. He figured out that he wasn’t much more awake than I was, so he left for home at 4:45 a.m..

More fans than Elvis

Matt - Ken Steinhoff build computer 1-10-2014We (he) took another crack at it late this afternoon. He took an approach that was going to take longer than the quick fix we had tried last night, but it was going to be better in the long run. It will be doing some software gyrations tonight while we sleep, then we’ll finish it up in about 30 minutes (“45, tops”) Sunday.

Let me tell you, this new box has more fans that Elvis Presley and is twice as cool. To assure you that they are running, they are lit with purplish LEDs that are supposed to comfort the inner geek.

Thanks to Wife Lila for documenting the event. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Thanks to you readers for using the big Click Here button when you shop Amazon. That helped pay for some of the new equipment.