Closing Out 2018

One of the tools I added to my kit this year is this beautiful Council Tool axe. It will serve me well and will be the last axe of this size that I need in my kit.

It is nearly the end of 2018. In fact, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. The revelers will be out partying. Many of them only need an excuse to get out and party.

I will be home with The Girl. We are unlikely to party, although I might raise a glass towards central Missouri and toast Wife, who is missed. (In fact, any time I get a glass from the stock, I raise it to Wife, remembering her life, remembering that she was and is loved, remembering that she is missed, and celebrating her life.)

The Girl is improving. She still seems off, and her right side does not seem as strong or as coordinated as her left. Her right eye seems a little askew to me as well. That is, when she looks at me, in addition to the head tilt to the left her right eye seems to be looking a little to her right of me. I have also noticed that she can no longer catch tossed treats and has problems locating them on the floor, until she uses her doggie-sense to search them out.

But we are walking our normal routes again. We walked more than 3.5 miles this morning and will have walked another half-mile circuit by the time this posts. We also had a nice play this afternoon and a nap. We both like playtime and nap time and it makes life really, really good. I am so blessed to have this beautiful creature be part of my life and am deeply grateful for her companionship and unconditional love.

I continue to encourage her to do things. She is reluctant to jump to the bed now, but learned that she can jump up on the workout bench at the foot of the bed, then jump to the top. We play tug and chase and she is again teasing me with a toy. Her coordination seems to be improving when we play. I am hopeful that there is more recovery to come. At least I am encouraged and thankful that her attitude has not changed and that she is engaged and active.

Among a few other tools, I bought a very nice Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe for my kit. I have an old red-handle Ace Hardware hand axe that I bought about 40-years ago. But it needs a new handle and is nowhere near the quality of this Council Tool axe. This one will go to my kids and maybe their kids after I am gone.

It will be part of my bushcraft kit and will go into the rig when I am out as part of my get-home or emergency kit. I have a small pack shovel that stays in the rig along with some emergency supplies as well.

I put a coat of boiled linseed oil on the handle this afternoon. It will be absorbed by tomorrow and I will add another coat to the handle then. After that I will decide if another coat is needed or not. The handle should be in excellent condition for this dry climate after that.

I also treated the sheath and handle guard with neatsfoot oil this afternoon. The guard seemed a little dry to me. I suspect both of those pieces will need another coat of neatsfoot oil tomorrow.

As an interesting aside, the neatsfoot oil had solidified in the garage with the cold weather. I was a little surprised by that. But a short soak in a sink full of hot water liquified it and a good shake mixed everything back up.

It is time to put away the Christmas music for another year. I added a few new recordings to my collection and culled a few that no longer please me.

But now I need a quick shower and then to get The Girl out for our evening outing. She will then want to be fed (of course) and will then starting pestering for doggie crack until I give in and get her a treat. She no longer wants to wait until sometime between supper and bedtime for her treat; she wants it NOW! Heh…

Christmas Eve 2018

After almost three days, The Girl is improving. We walked in the rain, so she was snugs on her mat on the sofa with a little extra cover.

It is the Eve of Christmas, the evening when the events occurred so critical to Christendom. At least, it is the eve on which we celebrate them. As I have mentioned so many times before, the date is not really important; the remembrance and celebration is.

I have been Christian most of my life. At first it was familial — mom and dad were professed Christians, so I went to church and learned about the faith too. As I grew and learned to be independent, my faith became a decision. I chose to trust Christ for my reconciliation to God and to live my life accordingly, not that the living earned my salvation but that it was an honor to God’s gift to live in a manner worthy of the faith.

Many times here my words convey something of that faith. It is a part of me and so it is reflected in this space. It does not matter to me whether that is OK or not with the occasional reader who drops by via whatever search engine brought them. The people who know me understand that it is just part of who I am and they accept it. It is not my business to make them believe like I do anymore than it is there business to make me believe as they do. It is an individual choice. I can respect that and expect nothing less.

So tonight is important to me. I will take a few minutes and spend them reflecting on what transpired all those centuries ago. I will think on how that event was a working out of the prophecies from generations before that. And I will be thankful for that gift of grace.

It does not matter that I am alone with The Girl. The celebration of the Christ-child’s birth will happen anyway. We will spend some time together and I will pray in thanks for the gift. I will pray a little for my children, my family, and my friends (regardless of what they believe, the prayers are still good). It is a good thing.

After a ragged few days, The Girl is improving. Her depth perception is still off and she lists to port. Her coordination is improving and I no longer see the vibration in her eyes. And oh how I love those eyes, the honesty and life presented there sometimes astonishes me. Our shared time together is a gift and I am quite thankful for it.

I continue to pray that she will improve. We went out to walk today and it rained. She does not like being wet. Snow is OK, but rain is something she does not care for. As the rain fell and grew a little more insistent, she looked over her shoulder at me, shaking it off (and nearly falling over). She then trotted ahead (an improvement) urging me on.

Finally she had a mini-zoomie, running about being silly in her unique way, falling when she lost her balance and skidding on the wet grass. It was adorable and encouraging and I wept a little for the joy of it and in it. She is really a wonderful creature, full of life and unwilling to let her illness get the better of her.

Eventually, she led be back to rig, ready to return to her nice, warm home. I keep a couple of towels in the rig for the eventuality that a drying-off will be needed, so I toweled her down, rubbing her chest, back, and tummy to get the bulk of the water off. She enjoys the toweling and attention and so do I.

She reminds me of her mom in how that woman refused to let the lymphoma dominate her spirit and her attitude. The courage and perseverance of that woman will be with me forever. So will the spirit of this dog who lives with me and refuses to let her setback change her love of life.

Tonight I celebrate the birth and life of The Christ. I remember the life and love of Wife. I enjoy the companionship of The Girl. Merry Christmas, all, Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.

Idiopathic Vestibular Disease

The Girl is not feeling well. I hope this is not something serious.
The Christmas season is difficult for me. About this time six-years ago, Wife knew that she had residual disease and we were making a daily trek to-and-from Truckee, California for radiotherapy treatments. I could tell that she was winding down, as I put it. We would learn in short course that the cancer had crossed the blood-brain barrier.

One evening as we sat together watching television, she said to me “I’m afraid this will be my last Christmas.” This absolutely broke my heart because I feared it was true. It was an articulation of the thought that had been running around in my head for some time.

We celebrated Christmas nonetheless and did our best to enjoy the time together as a family. But is was a deeply poignant Christmas and one that remains indelibly imprinted within me.

Christmas passed, the treatments continued for awhile, but ultimately they sent Wife home to spend her remaining time and energy on her family. We spent the time together as she worsened and eventually succumbed to her illness.

I continue to struggle every Christmas to hold onto the hope that the birth of the Christ child represents. That hope and joy is tempered with the recollection of the last bit of time spent with Wife before she died and left us. It remains a struggle.

Friday I was working at my table and took a business call. About 1500h, The Girl stood and fell over. She was agitated and confused. I called her to me and reached out for her. She shuffled back and forth, unbalanced. Her eyes shifted rapidly left-right. I started checking her, wondering what-the-hell just happened, fearing a stroke.

My caller broke the connection, saying “you better deal with this.” I immediately called the vet, carried The Girl to the rig, and left.

Our regular vet shuffled us into his schedule. His wonderful assistant checked The Girl and took some information. Dr. Ross came in, examined my love, and told me that this is most likely something called ODV for “Old Dog Vestibular Disease.” (It is really Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, a neurological disorder of unknown cause.) He said it is an 80-percent probability. He also said “you do not want to know about the other 20-percent.”

I looked at him. This is not my first rodeo and I know what that means. If it is IVD, then it should resolve in a few days (he said four or five; the Internet says 72 hours). All sources say to give it time. If it is IDV, then a residual head-tilt might be permanent.

I would be lying if I said that I have not wept a great deal the last 24 hours. The rawness of Wife’s death does not go away. My friend Jim told me that it never will; that you just learn to live with it. Truth… I am not ready to say goodbye to The Girl. I am praying that it is IDV and that we have at least a couple more years together.

I made some scrambled eggs for myself for breakfast, late. I added an extra egg, think she might eat that after she turned up her nose at her normal fare. I was right — she ate the eggs when I hand-fed her. Doc said I might have to hand feed her for a couple of days.

I have to be careful she does not fall and break a bone. The bed is off-limits unless I am in it with her. She moved last night and I spooked and grabbed her. We went out once and then snuggled back in for the rest of the night.

After breakfast I decided to get her out for an outing. I had a couple of errands to run and wanted to offer her a walk. We drove over to one of our favorite parks. I got her out and leashed her (which I rarely do). If there is a neurological problem, then I figure that one of the best ways of restoring the circuitry is to get her exercising the pathways. There is no reason to keep her down if she is willing and able to move.

So, I followed her stumble-drunk gait around the park for a half an hour. She sniffed plenty, peed a couple of times, and acted more-or-less like herself sans her usual athleticism. She seemed pleased that we had been out.

Now she is snoozing on her mat on the sofa. I am not worried she will hurt herself getting up and down from that low piece of furniture. She does not seem to be in pain, but is uncomfortable that her vision and balance are not right. She retains that sweet personality and loving spirit.

I am so reminded of how I could tell that Wife was trapped in her failing body. The disease took her ability to move and her ability to talk. But I could see her in her eyes. I see the same thing in The Girl, her love showing through even when she is less able to demonstrate it through our physical playtimes together. I continue to pray that the vet is right and that it is just IVD.

In the end, I find myself back in that struggle to not be the bitter, cynical old man who lost his Wife around Christmastime and loses the greater significance of the celebration. I want to remember the celebration of the Christ-child’s birth and what that means to all of us.

But, to be honest, this is hard. It is difficult to remain positive. But then I am reminded no one ever promised it would be easy.

PAUL Orienteering

This is an example of a technique for orienteering.
A few days ago a video rotated onto my YouTube feed. It was a sample of field exercises taught by the Pathfinder School. One that caught my attention was the Positive Azimuth Uniform Layout method for orienteering. When I saw them working out the solution back to camp on the ground, I immediately recognized a graphical solution to the coordinate problem that surveyors used to solve all the time (before GPS surveying).

The approach is based on the conversion of bearing (or azimuth) and distance to northing and easting coordinates. When I learned to survey (with a 20-second transit, a 100-foot steel tape, a dumpy level, and a three-section level rod) this was how we did the calculations. Therefore, I wondered if I could use a slide rule to do the trigonometry, squares, and square roots required to obtain an arithmetic solution. The figure is the result of that with one error — I forgot to convert the angle (from the east-west axis) to a bearing (from the north-south axis). The error is corrected in the figure.

I also ran the solution with a hand calculator. (I used an HP-35s for the vector addition.) The calculations can be done with a pencil, piece of paper, and a slide rule. I used a Versalog 1461 (six-inch version of the Versalog slide rule). The solution is plenty good enough to return to camp.

That was fun.

Lady Antebellum Christmas Album

A Christmas album by Lady Antebellum.
I like Lady Antebellum. Their music is country-pop, but the vocals work, the material is decent, and the recordings are generally good. So, they are on my playlist every now and again.

While walking The Girl Saturday, I wanted some Christmas music. In browsing through my library, I noticed this recording. So, I queued it up to play and listened while walking and playing with The Girl.

I recall that the album was generally panned by the critics when it was released. For whatever reason, they didn’t like it. As I listened to the tracks, I thought “this is a fairly standard approach to the songs,” yet there was nothing bad about them. Some of the arrangements were the usual fare; a few were quite different. The recording was well done and I did not hear any obvious errors either in the material or in the capture.

I thought “there is nothing wrong with a group assembling some holiday songs, recording them, and then selling the work. It isn’t always just about the money, but about participating in the season through the work.”

I do not know if they were being mercenary in trying to produce and sell product for the season. I do not know if they just wanted to do a holiday album to be part of the season. Perhaps none of that matters. It seemed to me that the result was a reasonable celebration of the Christmas season. Everything was workmanlike and musical. Therefore, I do not understand why the critics did not like the work. It seems just fine to me and I enjoyed having them along on my walk.

It’s Cold and Gray

I so enjoy the fall colors. The air is turning brisk in the morning and the sun is dropping in the sky as we head toward the winter solstice. I love the fall season.

Only a few short weeks ago, I was walking in shirtsleeves along the Carson River in the midst of the fall season. Not long after this image was captured, the weather turned blustery and cool, a sure sign that winter was coming. And, not to disappoint, the windy days were followed by a distinct cooling and we moved into a late dry, cold fall. The temperatures fell into the ‘teens and the leaves quickly shed their remaining leaves, falling into their winter clothes.

It was not long before the first rains came. We do not have a lot of rain here on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. But, we have some. Soon, the rains were mixed with and then replaced by snow.

I do not mind the snow. Neither does The Girl. She is heavily muscled and the cold does not bother her so long as we are moving. I can layer up and the cold does not bother me (so long as we are moving).

Therefore, in the cold we move. I still love to walk along the Carson River. On some days the raptors are particularly active (gotta have food to generate heat) and they are beautiful in the colder light. They soar and call and sometimes I see them cup their wings on the hunt. I will always be amazed at those sights.

The Girl pulls me along, always searching the sage for something to chase. She also plays in the snow and sometimes will go into a zoomie, running like crazy with her legs splayed out and spinning about me. The snow often makes her playful and we play.

And then I will see an image like this one in my collection. There is a certain longing for the warmer days and the beautiful colors that have now gone as cold as the air. But it is alright — I know the season will turn yet again and bring warmer days and colors back to the land. I feel a certain rhythm to the change and it is something that resonates with the internal changes I experience with the seasons. It is good. Life is good.

I remain thankful.

Mars Insight Landing

I watched the final few minutes of the Insight landing. It was successful.

Decades ago I often rose early to watch launches of probes from Cape Canaveral. I recall watching video from the Apollo missions to the moon. I ate these events up, being fascinated by science and astronomy since I was very young.

I never imagined that I would watch the scientists and engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on the landing of a geophysical probe on Mars — on my computer over the Internet. Yet, today at noon, I did just that. I watched the control room at JPL as they monitored the probe's entry of the Mars atmosphere and touchdown on the surface.

I am still a little astounded by this. I never expected it.

The probe is important. If the science is successful, it will gather data about the interior of Mars. It will be our first look at the interior of another planet.

I have lived through an incredible series of events. I do not remember it, but Sputnik flew when I was young. I watched the Mercury missions, then the Gemini missions, then the Apollo missions, and the Shuttle missions. I have stepped out my back door and watched the International Space Station fly overhead, a bright, fast-moving star.

These are incredible things. I am so grateful to have been a witness to these events. I am fascinated by all of God's creation, but space is the most fascinating of it all. The vastness of it boggles and expands the mind. Sometimes I think I have just a little insight into infinity. Sometimes…

WP-34s Pocket Reference

A couple of months ago I ordered a Whiskey Papa 34 sierra from the HP Users’ Group. The calculator is a repurposed Hotel Papa 30 bravo (HP-30b) financial calculator into which is flashed an user-developed ROM that converts the financial calculator (yawn) into a significantly powerful scientific calculator (yay).

A friend introduced me to the unit last summer. I was immediately intrigued and decided I had to have one.

The 30b is one of the newer HP designs — light, inexpensive, and with marginal keys. It does not compare well at all with the classic HP designs. Even my HP-48GX has much better keys and a much better heft to it, although I do not particularly care for the larger form factor. The 48 is a big calculator, not a pocket calculator at all, and that is required because of that large screen for display of graphics.

But I digress. I can (and probably will) write about calculators at some length. I think that I mentioned that I purchased one of my long-past objects of lust, the Hotel Papa 41 Charlie Xray (HP-41CX), some time ago. Of all the calculators I have used over my long career, I still think that is one of the best, if not the best handheld.

The 34s is not nearly as expensive, it is small and light, and will likely serve as a carry calculator to go into my kit. The unit conversions built into the software are very useful. The 30b has a decent display that is legible even with old eyes. I think this will be a useful machine.

In my search for beginner’s reference material, I came across a pocket reference guide in PDF format (here). So I downloaded the files and set about creating a pocket reference for myself.

The instructions recommend hand stapling the booklet once printed and the first cut is completed. That means drilling holes for the staples and manually folding them. (This can be avoided if one has access to a saddle-stapler.)

I thought this was less than elegant, so I drilled my first instance of the manual and stitched the binding. The end result is not perfect. I expected this because such projects usually require an iteration or two to iron out any wrinkles. Therefore, I think I will make another sometime over the next few weeks and do a little better job on the stitching. I will also take the cover to the print shop and have it printed on card stock in color. I think a little more attention to the fold (probably need to score the pages at the fold before assembly) and a bit of bookbinder’s tape on the spine will produce a nicer finished product.

The end result fits into the calculator slipcase behind the calculator nicely.

Gratitude 2018

I have just a short post for today, Thanksgiving Day 2018.

My friend and housekeeper, Hilda, came by this morning early to clean my house. She’s been cleaning my house for nearly two years. Over that time we have become good friends. I usually leave the house while she's working so I don't bother her. Sometimes I stay here, in part because the fellowship is good and in part because it is pleasant to hear someone moving about the house.

Most days my house is very quiet. Only my dog and I are active. I spent the better part of 60 years with someone else in the house — before I left home there was my nuclear family; after there was Wife (and then kids) in the house. My normal experience is to have at least one other person moving about in the house.

Now it is very quiet. Most of the time I do not mind that because I am a quiet person. But there are times when I miss the hubbub of family. Holidays tend to be those times.

So, it was pleasant to hear Hilda working in the background as I first finished my breakfast and then puttered on the computer.

In the end, I am thankful for my friend Hilda. I am thankful that I had a houseful of people all those years. I am thankful for my little house here in Carson City. I am thankful that I hear from my children now and again. I am thankful for the constant persistence of The Girl to be engaged and active.

Most of all, I am thankful for the grace of God, who gave all these gifts.

Soul’s Core Revival

Cover art from Soul’s Core Revival.
I have been tracking the crowd-funded revisitation of Shawn Mullins' first widely-received recording, Soul’s Core. I do not recall when or how I came across the announcement, but I immediately put up my funds so that the project would be funded.

It took a few weeks for the required funds to be raised, but they were. Then came the waiting game. I followed the project updates, but only peripherally. Once I put up my funds, I knew that the project would either be completed or not. Regardless of the outcome, the funds were a sunk cost and there was no reason to fret about them. I hoped that the project would be completed and looked forward to the work.

Updates were not frequent. The interim Christmas EP released to sponsors was a perk and I enjoyed it. However, little seemed to be happening to the project. I know, of course, that there are other things to do (such as making a living).

Yesterday I received an email that the digital release would be available for download at midnight this morning, Eastern Time. However, I was so tired last night that I could not stay awake to download the files.

I woke early this morning, made some coffee, and then downloaded the files (as FLACs). It was easy to convert them to ALAC format (Apple's lossless file format — for some reason, Apple refuses to support FLAC… go figure) and import them into iTunes.

The acoustic versions of the files are sweet and intimate. They will be nice for those times when I want lighter musical fare.

The electric (full band) versions are similar to the originals but differ at least subtly. Of course, Mullins is a lot more experienced now and has had decades to interpret his work. This experience is reflected in the results and I think the arrangements, instrumentation, choice of tempo (some are slightly different than the originals), and Mullins’ vocals are wonderful.

I will spend time on these recordings over the next few days. Mullins' other works have been my friends for many years. I have most of his catalog in my library. Some of the early recordings are not as good, either technically or aesthetically (of course). But there are some real gems in the early, independent works. The later recordings show more polish (of course) and his development as a songwriter. It is a considerable body of work for a popular musician and one that I think is worth exploring.

In the end, the results of this project — to revisit the earlier instance of Soul’s Core — are worth the wait. My first listen to them is quite positive and I am not disappointed at all. The original is one of my favorite singer-songwriter records. This one benefits from a couple-three decades of experience and development as an artist. I like it. I will transfer it to my iPhone this morning and will spend some of my time listening to it.

If you like singer-songwriters, you probably know of Shawn Mullins. If you do not know Mullins' work, then you should.