Category Archives: Technology

GunDel?

Photo credit: Fernhern A/S

I see in the news that they are building what will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel.  Linking Germany and Denmark under the waters of the Baltic, construction actually began in 2020 and is expected to be complete by 2029

I’m sure lots of folks are excited about this but not me.  I don’t even like driving through the I94 tunnel downtown and last month when folks got stuck in The Chunnel for several hours, I almost had a panic attack just reading the news story about it. 

Any phobias you’ll admit to?

Soak It In

I am a Neil deGrasse Tyson buff.  I’ve read several of his books, follow his current podcast (Star Talk) and own a t-shirt with a NdGT quote and a bracelet that I saw on his website of the planets in order.  (I actually made my own bracelet based on his design and I added Pluto – he may be smart, but Pluto will always be one of my planets!)

One of the things that I admire most is his ability to take difficult concepts and to distill them down so that most of us can understand them.  I was re-listening to his description of how the tides actually work/exist and wondered what it would be like to take a class from him (an entry-level class of course – I’ve encountered some of his work that is NOT distilled down and it is way over my head).

My favorite classes in college were always lectures.  I don’t need any small discussion groups or multi-student projects – just let me sit in the presence of great professors while I soak up their knowledge.  Between Carleton and Metro State I took five Shakespeare courses from two different professors – fabulous.  There was a spellbinding Chinese Middle Kingdom class and the professor who taught my King Arthur in English and American Literature (yes, a real class for which I got credit) held my attention like no other.

But based on YA’s master’s program experience, the current trend in education is all about self-teaching, small group projects and collaboration (I detest this word).  Her description of every single class she took for her MBA made my skin crawl, so I guess I probably won’t be going back to school in my retirement.  I’ll have to remain self-taught in the areas that appeal to me.  I’m still doing my online Italian class; I’m almost at 900 days straight.  I’m still working my way through biographies of the English monarchs as well as the American presidents.  Banned books are high on my list of interests as well as reading on Black Lives Matter.  Science is also a love of mine although I would say I have a broad science curiosity  as opposed to a deep curiosity. 

If I were to take any classes, my first choice would be anything taught by Tyson; it’s possible he could do wonders from my understanding of physics.  Add a course covering the history plays of Shakespeare.  I’d like an economics class that specializes in the real world and does not discuss guns or butter.  Literature courses of just about any kind.  No math (I got through trigonometry by the skin of my teeth) and no classes where anything has to be cut up!  

What were your favorite and least favorite classes in school?   

Dish Drainer Jenga

I saw a funny picture on Facebook last week – dish jenga.  I laughed because it’s true – at least in my life.

Usually it doesn’t come to this but on Monday, it was the perfect dish drainer jenga storm.  YA took the last brownie to work – an empty Tupperware.  Cooked down the last of the raspberries into a sauce. Made a bundt cake – mixing bowl and then bundt pan.  Three jars of pesto – that was a biggie as it uses the salad spinner and most of the food processor and accessories.  Then add in the dishes from breakfast as well as all the measuring cups, spoons and spatulas for all the morning endeavors and I was well and truly jenga’d. 

If the dishwasher were working I suppose I could have filled it up instead and if I’d been willing to get out a dishtowel to dry, I could have put things away as I was working.  But for some reason, while I am willing to stop between steps of projects to wash things, washing AND drying doesn’t seem like a good use of time when I know dishes will dry on their own.  I’m guessing this is the kind of thought process that results in most folks who end up with dish jenga.

I’ve never liked the actual Jenga game very much.  The groups I’ve played in haven’t managed to keep the game going very long and it’s not that much fun when you are constantly having to pick up all the pieces.  And life-size Jenga is terrifying; I only played it once on the beach in St. Thomas and it gave me nightmares.

What are your favorite board games?

Not Much Happening

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Really not much happening this week. I’ve been at ‘work’ work. Young Padawan started school so he hasn’t been out. We haven’t even got the grass cut in the last couple weeks, but it really needs it and one of us will have to get on that.

I haven’t even taken any pictures of anything farm related this week.

The adult ducks are still well and chickens are all fine. Our duckling number is down to 4. Not sure what’s happen to the others. Plus, mom abandoned them last week. She just flew the coop and joined the other older ducks. One of the four ducklings has a bad leg. Not sure what happen too it, but one leg is bent up over its back so it struggles around on one leg and it’s belly. Been doing that for at least the last two weeks and somehow still managing.

It seems to be a tough time for pets lately. I’ve got a friend whose cat is having health issues and another who just had to put their dog down. The dog people accepted what they had to do even while they cried about it. The cat person doesn’t want to let go and is just angry about everything. It’s hard that we love our pets so much that losing them hurts so much.

I got a call last week to be the ‘Certified Lift Operator’ for an install at the college sports center. The public school district had a ‘welcome back’ meeting last Monday (Public Schools in Rochester start Tuesday the 6th) So a local production company that I work with was hanging a video screen and needed someone to drive the college lift so they could hang the video screen. Back when I was working as a stagehand, there was one old guy that just ran the forklift. I felt like him; I can’t do the harder physical work at the moment, but I can drive the lift! Went back the next day to drive the lift as they took it back down. LED Video screens were just becoming a thing when I quit being a stagehand, so it was really interesting to see how it all assembled (24 – 18”x 18” LED panels that all clip together and then they daisy chain cables for power in and out of each one and another cable for data in and out to each one.) And these screens have become so bright they only run it at about 10% intensity. Full intensity could light up an entire stadium and burn out your eyeballs. 

On the farm I think about how thing have changed. My dad went from horses to tractors. In the winter he put a ‘heat houser’ on the tractor. There was a bit of a metal frame around the seat area, and then heavy canvas wrapped around the engine to sort of funnel the heat back to the seat area. Of course, the back was wide open, but still, it warmed you up as it blew by. There was a plastic windshield too. I remember using that and it was certainly better than nothing. 

We added a cab to one of our tractors when I was maybe 15 yrs old. It didn’t have heat or AC but at least you were out of the elements. In the summer we took the doors and back window off so that was the AC. And I guess technically it had a heater and somehow the hoses connected to the engine, but it never worked. It didn’t blow any air, hot or cold.

When I bought my first tractor in 1986 it had a cab with actual working heat and AC. But dad hated AC and he’d drive with the doors and windows open anyway. Which really made the inside of the cab dusty. He said AC gave him a cold. These days there is so much electronics in the cab, you wouldn’t dare drive with the doors open like that.

The header photo is a group of neighborhood men. I got this photo from a neighbor who knows a few of the men. We’re not really sure what year it was taken or who most of them are.

The drill we use for oats. As a kid I remember an old wooden drill that Dad used. It had big wood wheels and cranks on the back and I think he said it used to be a horse drawn implement and he had rebuilt the hitch to pull it with a tractor. Eventually he bought a different drill. Neither one of them held much seed and he would load the truck with seed and park it at the end of the field, walk back home for the tractor and drill, drive to the field and make about 3 rounds and fill up the drill again. Then move to a different field and go get the truck again.  I remember riding in the truck and moving it up the edge of the field as he needed seed. When I took over, I’d put a bicycle in the back of the truck so at least I could ride that back home for the tractor. (See, I didn’t like walking even then! Huh.) Later on, I traded that drill for a bigger one and it held maybe 15 bags of seed, so I could fill it at home and plant enough that I would just run home again to refill. And a few years later I traded that in for the drill I currently have, and it holds about 22 bags of seed. Again, easier to just run home. Plus, now I have the cameras on it so there’s that.

Our crop timeline here in SE MN is later than farmers to our South of course. Different timelines and different weather. Some farmers are already chopping corn silage or finishing up 3rd or 4th crop hay. Guys are prepping machinery as they could get started on soybeans by the end of the month. Soybeans respond to the length of daylight, so even though they were planted later this spring than last spring, they’ll still ripen about the same time. I’ve seen a few beans starting to turn yellow. Some varieties will ripen sooner than others, but it won’t take long now. Within a couple weeks the leaves will all fall off and the beans will start drying down.  

2427 GDU’s to date. 127 over normal they say. I really have a hard time believing that as cool as it’s been the last month. I’m not sure the online meteorology class I’m taking will cover that. Haven’t read about it yet.

I got a call from the farm co-op saying the price of urea fertilizer is going up and did I want to prepay some now for 2023. Wow. I haven’t thought much about next year’s crop yet. I decided not to prepay yet. If I figure an extra few months of interest against the cost savings, how much would I really save? And it’s possible the price might come down by December. Not likely, but possible.

I learned a new word: “Defenestration” – The action of throwing someone out a window. Seems to be a problem in the USSR.

I did finally get some grass cut. The last few years I’ve been mowing more and more areas out behind the sheds and such. Easier to do that than let it all go to ragweed and wild parsnip. Way off in the boonies I found a garden hose all coiled up and mostly buried in the dirt. Luckily the mower didn’t cut it, just grazed it. Why is there a hose there?? All I can think is, 40 some years ago mom and Dad planted a bunch of trees up there and I remember them watering them the first year or two. Must have coiled the hose up and left it there. It’s a nice rubber hose. The ends still look good and I think it will still hold water! Boy, that’s a good hose!

WHAT DO YOU SEE OUT YOUR WINDOW? TALK ABOUT A RONCO PRODUCT.

Drilling

Based on my junk mail the last few months, I should now be the proud winner of at least 300 Makita Drills.  I don’t open these junk emails but I do see the subject lines and the first few words of the messages; there are at least 2 a day.  Occasionally it’s another kind of drill or a barbeque grill but for some reason the Makita just keeps showing up.  If other folks are getting all these emails, then Makita would be bankrupt from all the giveaways.

I was thinking that if I actually accepted all these drills, I could open a drill store of my own and make a small killing.  If my junk emails are any indication, I could probably get a cheap storefront for my new business at Camp LeJeune!

What would you like to win this week?

It’s Always Something

Today’s post comes from Ben.

It’s been a good busy week.

Last Friday we baled 337 small square bales of straw. Young Padawan stacked 150 in a wagon that will go to the neighboring strawberry farm.

The other 182 went to the pole barn. If you’re doing the math, that doesn’t quite add up. And that’s because we broke two bales and the first three bales out of the baler were hay from the previous baling.

Oh was Padawan in a mood that day. It was warm and there was a good breeze blowing, but he’s really not used to physical labor like this, and he was in a mood about it. I told him it builds character. He and my brother unloaded the bales into the barn.

The baler camera worked great! This photo does not really show much, but if you know how to see the strings, it’s helpful.

We go a nice rain on Saturday. And again yesterday.

Monday, I unhooked the baler and put the loader back on the tractor. As I unhooked the baler, I looked at the left wheel and wondered why it was sitting crooked. Discovered two of the four bolts that hold the axle on were missing. I put some jacks under the baler to take the pressure off the wheel and that became the number one item on the list for young Padawan‘s next visit.

I worked as an election judge on Tuesday. About 31% turn out in our township.

Wednesday, I started back at the college. ‘Work’ work. Classes don’t start until the 22nd and I use this time to check out all the equipment and get things going again. I picked up the choir risers that have been sitting on stage since April, and I still got to get back over to the sports center and get a couple of lights out of the rafters that have been hanging in there since commencement in May.

I feel like I’ve plateaued in my recovery at the moment. Although evidently, I still have a kidney stone. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s still showing up on tests. And if I don’t get that out on my own by the 24th, they’re going in after it. Every day is an adventure!

With me back at the college, and young Padawan starting school in September, I’m not sure how many more days I’ll have his help.

But he was out the other day, and since he worked so hard last week, we made it an easy day this time. The first thing we did was drive to Plainview to pick up some parts from the John Deere dealership. And we had lunch at Dairy Queen, then we went to check on a Township culvert replacement project and watched a skilled operator in an excavator. From there he got to experience some ditch cleanup by picking up a single size mattress and a very large flatscreen TV. Took those to the recycling center.

We fixed the tire assembly on the baler using impact wrenches and large Sockets with extension pipes for torque and he learned about working in uncomfortable positions.

He dumped a bag of chicken feed in the wall feeder, and then we got two chainsaws and it was time to cut up an oak tree that has been blocking a path since it came down in the December storms. I thought I’d be able to help more. But, it’s still tough for me to walk on uneven ground and with the branches and sticks around I didn’t do so we’ll. But he did great!

He got a basic course on chainsaw operation a few weeks ago. We expanded on that. And this was good practice since it was all on the ground and none of the pieces were too large. He got the saw stuck a few times and learned how to ‘read’ the tree and get the saw out BEFORE he wedges it in there. Eventually.

These rains are sure making the crops look good. Oats ended up at 61 bushels / acre which is decent, but nothing to brag about. I’ll blame the deer.

No corn photo this week; it hasn’t grown anymore since the tassle came out the top. Beans are looking real good! They’re waist high. I’m not seeing very much bug damage. Something is eating some leaves, but not enough to be a problem. Yet.

EVER WATCH SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE? FAVORITE CHARACTER OR SKETCH?

WHAT BUILDS YOUR CHARACTER?

Experiencing TSA

Last week when we were coming back from St. Louis, we got shuffled into a TSA line where they are apparently testing new equipment.  No taking off our shoes, no pulling out our little baggies of liquid, no requests to dump water bottles. 

At first I thought this would be great but was very shortly disabused of that idea.  After your bags went through the scanner, anything that looked funny got shoved off to the side for additional scrutiny.  In the regular line this happens as well but since our line had been specifically told NOT to pull out anything including liquids or toss water bottles, it meant that more than half of the bags going through got held up.  Water bottles were opened and examined with some kind of test strips, bags were opened and rifled through; it was not a quick check. 

Neither YA nor I had anything unusual but we were behind a few people who did.  So we stood back and waited while watching everyone else’s problems pan out.  The family who went through right before we did were a hot mess.  Three kids, all under the age of five and already hot and tired after waiting in line.  Four adults – it was hard to tell who belong to whom but they were clearly all together.  Because they were told not to take things out of baggage, there was a plethora of sippy cups and water bottles.  Every bag was opened and pawed through (sorry, my bias is showing here).  Every sippy cup and bottle was opened and tested. 

As the kids started to melt down, one of the adults started to melt down as well.  She was angry – about everything.  When her anger did nothing to make the situation better, she got angrier.  Her voice got quite loud, she got in one TSA agent’s face.  The folks with her tried to calm her down, but she was having none of it.

I’ve never seen anything like this in person but it was amazing how fast other TSA agents were in coming to their co-worker’s defense.  And how MANY TSA agents came over.  I was extremely glad right then that TSA agents do not carry firearms or any other weapons but there were enough of them that could have taken this woman down with ease.  They did end up asking her and one of the other adults into a side hallway (six TSA agents for the two adults).  When they came back a few minutes later, the distraught woman seemed a little calmer and she didn’t say one more word.  I can only imagine what they said to her. 

I asked one of the agents who was standing behind us how long this new process/equipment had been in place.  He sighed and said “one week”.  I wished him luck.  Then our bags came through.  All they did was confirm our little baggies of liquid/cream which was easy because we both had them in side pockets of our bags; off we went, plenty of time to get to our gate despite the delay.

Have you ever been a test case for anything?

Nonny & the Library

The Nonny Reading Program has been going swimmingly.  Using the suggestions from you all, I’ve been sending her books and she’s been gobbling them up.

There are only two problems.  The first (and most important) is that she has a VERY small condo with almost no bookshelf space, so the books are starting to pile up.  Secondly, she’s starting to complain about how much money I’m spending and wants to pay for the books (this is SO not happening).

I solved the first problem when I suggested she donate the books to her church; they have quite a robust food shelf/donations program and I said they should start a little free library.  Her church-mates ate this up.

The second problem was a little stickier.  A lot of people who know both my parents think that I got my stubborn streak from my dad; this is absolutely not true.  When Nonny digs in her heels she is all but immovable.   We talked about the library (the closest branch is quite close to her place) but she said that whenever she goes, she can’t find the books she wants.

I know that technology could help her but unfortunately Nonny and Technology are not friends.  And they are not likely to become friends.  Ever.  I suggested that I request the books she wants via the computer and when they came available, I would get the email and I would let her know and she could go get them.  She said this was fine but she never gave me her library card number so I could get everything set up, despite my asking her repeatedly.  I was starting to think this was her passive/aggressive way to telling me she didn’t want to do this.

I tackled the dragon in her den when we were there last weekend.  I asked her directly if she really wanted to do this.  Turns out that the library card issue was just Nonny forgetting about it as soon as we got off the phone.  We drove up to the library, I explained my plan to the librarian and within minutes it was all set up.  I can access her account from here and let her know when the books come in.  Easy peasy. 

I’m all set now and will be requesting the first couple of books this week.   No new suggestions needed right now but if this system works out, I may need some soon!

Have you ever lost or destroyed (accidentally of course) a library book?

It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

Mother Nature is just messing with me. 

With my front and back yards full of flowers, I do need to think about water during the summer months, especially if there are going to be so many 90+ degree days.  I watch the weather forecasts like a hawk to try to determine if Mother Nature is going to gift me with any free precipitation.  If it’s going to rain, I really don’t to pay the City of Minneapolis for extra water.

It seems that almost every forecast of rain the past month has been a chimera – it shows as 50% or 60% and the radar shows the dark green riding right over my location – then nothing!   Or else it does a very insulting sprinkle for 3 minutes.  Last night I had the sprinkler on in front and when I went to water my baskets in the back, YA gave me grief.  She said “it’s going to rain… it’s 80%”.  I continued along, watering all the baskets and the bales while she made fun of me.  As I finished up, it started to lightly sprinkle.  She smirked as I came in the back.  Then 5 minutes later I smirked when it hadn’t even rained long enough to wet a tissue. 

I know weather is capricious but I would have thought that by now, forecasters could get a better grasp on this.  I’ve said many times that if I were to look for another job, it would be as a weather forecaster.  Then I could get a big salary to be on tv and the fact that I was wrong half of the time wouldn’t count against me on my annual review!

I guess for the rest of the summer, I’ll just assume there will be no rain, unless I wake up to it in the morning!

How much do YOU believe in weather forecasting?

The Old Stuff

As I’m counting down my last days at work, I’ve tackled a few projects that have to be put to bed before I’m gone.

One of these projects is, as I refer to it, “the old stuff”.  At my company, we back up our systems every night but GETTING to that information, if you need it, is cumbersome at best and impossible at worst.  You’d be surprised how often you might want to access information from an old program so about 25 years ago, we (or more accurately, I) started downloading our programs onto floppy disk.  You remember those, right?

Then after a few years, as we were changing technology, as I did the annual download, I started downloading to diskette.

You know where this is going… we eventually moved to CDs.  This annual download was accompanied by an updated spreadsheet of what programs were on which CD as well as name of client, location, date, etc.   I was the keeper of the spreadsheet but we had paper copies sorted by either client or location, since those were the two most needed search criteria.

Fast forward through another technology change (which meant you had to use a portable CD reader to use the CDs), a fire in our building (which destroyed the paper files), pandemic (during which nobody was in the building to get to the CDs), data migration to a cloud based system during my furlough (which despite assurances to the contrary, caused the loss of about half my desktop files, including the spreadsheet).   

Bottom line is that for the past 18 months, I’ve had two boxes full of unusable CDs under my desk.  Nobody has asked about them since I got back from furlough.  Even if they did, without the spreadsheet, finding any data would be nie on impossible.  And nobody knows where the portable reader is anyway.   Rather than asking any more about it, I just informed my boss last week that I was dumping them.  Luckily we have CD/DVD recycling at my company AND I personally have a use for the plastic cases that many of them were stored in.  Took me about an hour to separate the CDs from the cases and/or sleeves (header photo).  Broke two fingernails.  And all the while I was thinking about how the technology changed to the point where the data was lost to us.   

And it’s changing fast; YA doesn’t even know what a floppy disk is!

What bit of technology would you not like to do without?