Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thirty Inches of Snow

The buzz in the Boston office for the last couple days was that there will be snow. It's certainly cold enough, but every morning I woke up, there was no snow.

Until today:

A whopping thirty linear inches of snow, right next to the side walk.

Update (03/24/2011):
Tonight there was a very light snow shower. It was nice walking back to the hotel with some white fluffy stuff twirling around, though it was over after a few minutes, and no snow on the ground. Everyone here is longing for spring and was amused by my excitement about a few flakes of snow.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rain and sun at the airport

My flight is delayed. There's some heavy rain around SFO. Though, it looks nice through the airport windows.

Boston will be a lot colder than San Francisco...

Boston _is_ colder.

Za Restaurant has an execellent Mac'N'Cheese pizza, that I improved further with bacon per recommendation from the waitress. Very good. Very rich. Nice crust.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Second Operating Session on the Welztalbahn

Well, this was a disaster.

I wasn't prepared. Emsingen wasn't ready. JMRI Logix played tricks on me. And there were power problems.

When I installed the yard in Emsingen, I apparently forgot to connect one of the tracks to power. That was easily fixed, once noticed (thanks, Balasz), but it was a bit annoying nethertheless. What was worse, though, was that my spiffy new JMRI panel for Emsingen is over-engineered, has bugs in the routing logix, and only works on the control computer. The over-engineering makes the panel harder to use than necessary. The logix bug causes an endless series of switch commands to be sent to one switch, renders JMRI unresponsive, and apparently managed to burn out the affected output on one of my DS64 stationary decoders.
Finally, the whole reason I created that panel was so that I can drive it via the Web interface from an Android G1 smart phone.  The catch? Sensor button pushes, which were meant as the primary means to drive the panel are not recognized via the Web interface.

We spent quite a bit of time debugging car routing in the Operations part of JMRI. Waaaay too much time for routing 30 cars around. "How did that car get here, and why is it not moving?", was a fairly common sigh.

There were also issues with power pickup in some underground sections, especially in the curves leading to and from the ramp. Staging needs some thorough clean-up and track polishing. At least once the PSX circuit breakers were too sensitive and cut power for what should have been a momentary blip.

I have a lot of work to do...

Thursday, March 17, 2011


It took me only 3 evenings in elapsed time, but the dryer belt is replaced thanks to Appliance Parts on Blossom Hill, judicious study of Internet how-to articles (which appear to be more or less just copies of each other), and good old observation.

Our dryer flat out stopped spinning the drum. After a few Google searches it was likely that the dryer belt was bad, and that was confirmed when I found the old belt under the dryer. I didn't realize at first, but dryers are really just boxes of sheet metal held together with little plastic clips and a few screws. When you know where to pull a dryer quickly comes apart. The mechanics are super simple, too: A motor, a pulley, a belt around the drum. Once you figure out in what sequence to install the parts, and where to thread the belt (belt around drum, put pulley in place, loop belt through pulley, then around motor axle), with help holding the drum in place, this was really just a 15 minute job start to finish.

I guess most of the $100 I saved by doing this myself pay for the knowledge of doing this efficiently.

Laughing Baby

What the hell is so funny about this video? I don't really know. I don't know the poster, nor the baby.
At the surface it's like any of the other million laughing baby videos on Youtube.

Yet, I still can't stop laughing any time I watch this video. The faces this baby makes, ... His reaction to the blowing-nose noises, ... It just cracks me up.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

That didn't work

I had this idea to use a spare Android G1 as a portable panel for Emsingen (at least until I'd built a physical panel near the station). I made a panel for Emsingen in JMRI and decked it all out with logix and routes. On the screen I could emulate the prototype practice of pressing a source and a target button and switches would be lined for the route between the two buttons.

Well, it didn't work out that way, mainly because the panel as presented by JMRI's mini-Webserver doesn't harmonize with Android's Web browser, so any clicks on Android result in a refresh of the panel image, but no actual button press being recorded on my JMRI IS buttons.

Next I experimented with the sand cover of the platform in Emsingen. Neither deco-sand, nor regular sand I had available worked out. The deco sand is way too shiny, and glittery. The platform looked like a Danish butter cookie. Regular sand is not sufficiently homogeneous and fine. I think I need some very fine powdery sand for this to come out right. Maybe Arizona Rock and Minerals Co. has a color and grain size that works in their product catalog ...

Finally a useful explanation of what's happening at Fukushima

This blog entry explains very clearly and precisely how reactors like Fukushima-1 function and what can and can not happen during events that lead to possible meltdowns. I very much like the comparison in the comments of nuclear meltdowns to heart-attacks. They are all bad, but not every heart attack will kill you.

Friday, March 04, 2011

"Gar kein Problem"

My flight back to the US is this coming Monday. I have a Lufthansa ticket, and will arrive by train at Frankfurt airport at 12:38 (Lufthansa 353). My connecting flight is Lufthansa 9052 (i.e. United 901), leaving at 14:00. The departure time is really convenient since I don't need to hurry Monday morning, or get up at some awful early-morning hour.

I just called Lufthansa reservations to confirm whether 72 minutes is enough time to get off the train, check luggage, pass through security, and get to the departure gate.  "Ja das geht, ist gar kein Problem", said the nice lady at the other end.

ok, then, if this is no problem, I won't worry about it.