The firewood project continues apace.

After a bit of revision of ‘how to safely use a bandsaw without dying’ I spent a few hours today over at our friend’s house making the bits of wood I’d cut into large chunks of wood into smaller chunks of wood.

Smaller bits of wood. The nicely crafted boxes with neat joints are obviously nothing to do with me

I both cut things into roughly the right shapes and also spent some time making them roughly the right thickness*. Now I need to start making templates so I can do the magic of pattern-cutting using the router.

One thing that’s interesting is that the wood has the blue-streaking from having sat unharvested once cut.


Apparently that’s a common problem with maple. I’d heard of it before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in person in raw wood. I’d seen it once before in some furniture where they’d chosen to make a feature of it. I debated whether to hack it off, but I’m unlikely to manage to get even close to all of it, so instead have decided it’s a feature, not a bug.

So where I could I’ve left it in. However, the dirty great water stain I trimmed off.

Anyhow, so things are progressing and my ornamental firewood is at least an interesting shape:


* One piece ended up unintentionally excitingly close to the right thickness. I was aiming to be almost 1/4 inch thicker than final thickness, but mid cutting one chunk of wood I realized I could split in half (more or less) and get two out of the same bit of wood. I passed it through the bandsaw without doing the careful measuring I’d done with all the other bits – because I was already resawing to the right thickness. Only for whatever reason, the second one ended up being actually about one mm thicker the required thickness (curiously, the other bit is the thickness I was aiming for).

Tales of the Pinebook and Linux fun

So, I’ve continued to work on making the pinebook a comfortable usable device. It’s been a bit of battle – my mail server has some quirks to the way it’s set up which meant that it took me quite a while to get it working. I’m still having issues with another mail server I use, where I’m not sure if it’s me or the server. My lovely friend, who’s the Admin, has sent me some stuff, and I’ve sent her some stuff, so hopefully I can get it worked out.

I ended up doing my first build-from-source in quite a while today, so I could have Sylpheed, which is (apparently) a nice lightweight mail client. Certainly it seems pretty good. Can’t work out how to force it to allow certificate.

It’s fascinating (and at times a little frustrating) using the pinebook, because some stuff clearly taxes the hell out of the processor. I rarely log onto Facebook, but wanted to to grab something today and wow does that suck.

Still, it’s demonstrated some things for me – like the fact that my Linux server is set up right, it’s my Macbook that’s being a dick about connecting to it. I don’t know why – but the SMB share will only connect as a guest, not as a user. It fails to authenticate if you try and log in as an actual user. I’ve not yet had a good look as to why though – but since the Pinebook just happily connects (when I give it the username and password) then I”m going to point my finger at the Macbook.

And yeah, otherwise it’s a handy laptop that I can drag around and not worry too much about. And while Linux on ARM has proven to still be a bit of a pain in the arse (e.g. Telegram, which I’d like to run, is only available compiled for x86 Linux). It’s superlight and the battery life isn’t bad either.

It’s also finally nudged me into upgrading logitech media server on the media server, which, after the last upgrade had developed an irritating bug where when you added tracks to the playlist, or even just pressed play, it tended to make the squeezebox crash after a few seconds. Loading the web interface also seemed to take an age, too. I’d not got around to nosing at that problem, but it turns out that there was an update to the update which seems to have fixed it.

So yay.


So, I’ve spent today dinking. After getting myself onto the yoga mat this morning* I ran out to the shops for coffee and thence to our storage unit to retrieve the soldering iron. John pointed out that I was being an idiot. I’d assumed that just because the key tester arrived assembled with the keys in a particular orientation that the orientation they were in was correct.

And the irritating not-quite-rightness of it, and need to bend several of the other keys slightly to get them to fit (along with other people’s comments about the keys not fitting well) made me foolishly continue down this path of wrongitude. John pointed out that it might well fit if rotated through 90 degrees.

Which, with much less bending, it did.

So today with my iron in hand I did some of the neatest soldering I’ve done for years.


Which allowed me to produce my keytester/numpad:


At the moment I’m pretty settled on Gateron Brown. I’d like clicky, but I’m aware that beyond the fact it would probably drive Kathryn nuts, all the clickies are slightly stiffer. And I’m aware that my fingers are pretty knackered from years and years of computer abuse, and found the M eventually hurt to use for long periods. And while I know that’s 80g of pressure (or there abouts) vs 50g for the lightest of the clickys, the Gateron Brown is around 45g of pressure. This I know because having picked the key I liked I looked up my two favourites (Gateron Brown and Blue). And while the Gateron isn’t quite as highly rated as the Cherry Brown, it’s pretty close and the price is much better.

And honestly? I seemed to prefer it in my blind test.

So. I did that. I also fixed the surge protector that I picked up from goodwill last year, which when I finally got it apart (more brute force) turned out to be just a disconnected wire (it looked connected, but pulling on it revealed that it was just floating in the hole).

And then… my Pinebook arrived.


When they say it’s for tinkerers, they weren’t kidding. I ordered the larger 64G eMMC and did wonder whether it would come with it installed. It doesn’t. So my first act was to pull the back off (which requires a spudger, incidentally) to install the replacement eMMC.


It then booted into Android, which was confusing, because it said it would boot into Linux.

….so now I’m installing Linux.


It’s also playing music through its little tinny speakers. First thoughts – the screen is remarkably acceptable, the keyboard’s also remarkably good, the weight distribution is pretty terrible (everything’s at the back of the case, so it wants to tip over backwards), the touchpad is also pretty awful (whenever I try and click on something I end up clicking slightly below where I want to I realized that is true if I use the “clicky” on the touchpad, but if I just use the tap on the touchpad, that works fine). But I have to say, it’s pretty crazy – I mean, with shipping and everything it’s a usable laptop for $170.

It’s nice and light too. And while the screen’s no-where near as bright as my macbook, it’s perfectly usable.


I’m also thinking that I need to disassemble my macbook and see if renewing the heatsink good and cleaning out the processor heatsink will make it happier. It’s been running at 70-80+ degrees pretty much continuously recently, which is “not ideal”. I realized that while I’ve cleaned out the fans and ducts many times, I don’t think I’ve ever pulled the processor heatsink off (since it requires unscrewing and replacing heatsink gunk)… so I think that might be a job I need to do.

Incidentally, my Pinebook came with *the best* sticker


Of course, all of this – this is one of the weird dichotomies of living here. I have ‘more’ disposable income, despite the health insurance costs being way higher, despite food being more expensive. I suspect that because heathcare costs are so insane here**, nurses are paid way more here than in the UK. And because of that I can buy toys that I’d not really be able to buy in the UK. However, all of that falls apart if either of us gets sick. And the healthcare costs are so astronomical that while it’s worth having a good chunk saved up – if one of us gets really sick, then it’d pretty much be curtains, because neither of us earns that much.

At any rate, I’m enjoying the toys while I can. Hell, my dad died before he got to enjoy any of the toys or perks of retirement (he died before retiring), so it is always hard for me to think “I’ll save for a long retirement”. Working in the ED probably doesn’t help with that.

Anyhow, I’ve spent a chunk of today thinking about the weirdness of it all. About how I miss the UK, but wouldn’t want to be there at the moment. About friends and family. About how lucky I am to be dinking on a laptop I bought because, well, I thought it might be interesting.

And it is***.

I wish there was a port of RISC OS for it though.

Then I could truly live my childhood dream of having an Acorn A4. Kinda.

*I’m pretty pleased with myself for both keeping up with doing yoga and for practicing Norwegian – I’m generally very poor at committing to activities long term, even if I enjoy them, so… for me to haul myself onto and off the mat at least 3 days a week is an oddity – and I’m up to about 600 words of Norwegian, which I suppose puts me somewhere around the a three year old.

** So, I checked, and nurses in various European countries are also paid way more than in the UK. I have no idea why then. Probably because the UK doesn’t really value nursing. They saythey value nursing, but clearly they actually value financial people.

*** I wrote about half of this post on it, now I’ve got it running, the VPN working, all sorts of fun and games it’s been. But for all that, running this lightweight version of Linux? It’s remarkably usable.

Well, that’s some progress

Well, things are moving along in a more positive direction. No chicken counting yet, but we’ve had an offer on the land, so we may be able to shift that albatross from around our neck which’d be nice. We’re both rather sad to sell it, especially because we suspect from what we know of the buyers that the tree we loved will be coming down. But we can’t have a tree that’s holding that much of our limited funds.

On our purchase, we’re waiting on an appraisal on the house we’re trying to buy – and we’ve arranged to have another chat with the contractor about our construction needs.

That’s because we spent yesterday having a very nice chat with some engineers who gave us a rough calculation of the extra footings we need under our current foundation (~3ft square/deep) which apparently we can dig out without supporting the existing foundation (and then just fill it the hole with concrete), then explained that we could probably draw the modifications we want to make to our house to a standard that is sufficient for the city to pass them. If not, please come back, but if we have any questions, they’re very much able to help.

This is good news, we think. They also pointed out a much cheaper way for us to do what we wanted to do. Cheaper and more cunning, and with less resource use. All things we like.

Today I spent making firewood.

Yesterday I created a rough template for the chair I’m trying to build (or firewood I’m making) – this allows me to run the bits I want to cut through a band-saw, then I can use my (not yet in existence) accurate template to mark up exactly what I want to cut and trim.


Today though, with Bill’s kind help, I took the circular saw to some of the larger board, and then I took the chop-saw to the smaller board. And that was it for the day. Much of the time was spent mulling and checking and doing recounts to make sure I really had drawn all the bits I needed (I hadn’t the first time, despite the note to myself on the board and in the book).

Still, it’s moving in the direction I’d like, and if it’s a disaster it’s firewood and the time I’ve spent has been very soothing. Also, I am learning, and that is definitely a good thing.

I then did a bunch of errandy things before looking at the key tester that I got from Massdrop. This is much more of an irritating thing.

Described as being made from cast aluminium (it’s not, it’s cut/bent aly); the circuit board that was extra to turn it into a number pad doesn’t actually fit. The holes in the board for two of the key switches are way out of line.


I hoped it would be “close enough” that I could just bend the pins, but much exploration of the situation leads me to believe that isn’t going to happen. I’m going to have to drill out the pin holes to make them large enough, then run some mod wire along. On the plus side I think I’m fairly settled on gateron brown switches. Also, slightly irritatingly, the supplied keycaps actually make it impossible to see which switch is which, so you have to pull the cap to work out which one you like. Mind, that does make it a better test, I suppose.

I shall probably play a bit more. On the one hand I’d like an actual clicky keyboard, I really rather miss having one, but for the sake of everyone else’s sanity, it might be better to have a non-clicky board :)

Wood that help?


Sorry, puntastic title today.

Still needed some cheering up.

Today has been, in my own little personal realm, positive and pleasant. I spent the morning with a friend marking up the timber for the improbably difficult chair I’ve chosen to build. This 4 or so hours of escapism made me feel faintly human again. Because politically, things are pretty bad. So, let’s tell you about the chair before I start gently weeping.

Mid-century modern, and based on apparently a Brazilian design, I’ve chosen to make it from some maple which is… well, it’s a little close to heart wood, and will probably bend and warp as I cut it. It also has, essentially, no 90 degree angles – and I note, they’ve not put the fricking angles on the diagram of the pieces. Similarly, they’ve not actually put some of the thicknesses on some of the diagrams.

My current plan is to enlarge the diagram, measure the angles (I roughly measured them today, so I could sketch out where I think I’m cutting most of the parts from). I marked up one of the pieces of wood with the chunks I need to crosscut and the chunks to rip. Because it’s a longish board and the bits I need are mostly 20″ or so, but all different widths, it’s going to be a fairly complex job. I’m hoping that because I’m doing that now, the bits that are going to bend and warp and do horrid things might get that over and done with before I start trying to make complex shapes from them.


This incidentally, is the model of simplicity.

The advantage is I’ve chosen Western Maple, which is a pretty common wood around here. I also volunteer at a place where they get wood donations, and have a supply of very reasonably priced timber.

So that’s the good bit, the bit makes me feel like this move hasn’t been a terrible idea. Being near Kathryn’s family and near friends who have always been very distant (at the expense of being far from friends who were nearby). That and a work/life balance which at the moment feels pretty much perfect. I work just over half time, and that (theoretically) should provide enough money for us to live on (with Kathryn’s income, not by myself, obviously). That in turn means that I can engage in hobbies, work on stuff for Transport Evolved, and volunteer. I realise this is incredibly lucky.

What’s feeling terrifying is the othering by #45 of trans people. While, thanks to the work of decent reporters, we can call bullshit on the costs excuse, nervousness is starting to ripple into daily life. This othering, it makes it easier for the bigots to bring hatred down upon those of us being othered, and reminds me in a very unnerving way of the precursors to the destruction of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft and its archives, and the treatment of both LGBTQ people and Jewish people in pre-war Germany. I note also that there’s action by the (in)justice department to strip LGBTQ employment protections. All of this makes me feel incredibly wary.

On the one hand I don’t want to equate what’s happening now with 1930’s Germany, but historians keep doing that. Which I think reduces the Godwin’s law possibility of me just assuming that.

Following the house inspection…

…and the debacle with the first contractor, a second contractor came out and gave us almost the same quote plus a ballpark figure for the shell of the addition we want built.

Both of which came in affordable.

Which means that yesterday we said “yeah, we’ll offer 2.5k less than we said originally, and we’ll fix it”. Yes. We said “we’ll buy that” to a house which currently has at least one support beam you can apparently crush with your hand.

So that’s exciting.

Now in 3D!

So, I finally got to do some playing with the 3D printer I bought last year. It’s a Monoprice Select Mini 3D – a printer with a reputation for being incredibly cheap. Which it was; which is why I have it.

Anyhow, I had a plan to make a replacement quick release plate for the tripod I bought from goodwill. It’s a cheap not-quite-fluid-but-mimics-fluid-motion tripod. Which is fine, I just needed something fairly solid to stick the camera on. However, it – like seemingly nearly all the tripods at our local goodwill – was missing its quick release head. So I thought I’d give a bit of design and print a go.

What I ended up with is this. Which was an interesting learning experience. I kept having the sloped section at the end printing separately, which is how it ended up with this version where it overlaps a bit. I’ve now got a bit better, I think, at making stuff join together, so I’d fix that if I ever reprint it. If I was to reprint it, I’d make it about 1mm wider too, and possibly reinstate the sloped section that I did have at the opposite end from the current slope (which I chopped off for simplicity, but which would improve fit a little). I’d also make the recess for the bolt that acts as a camera screw a bit deeper.

Anyhow. Having eventually achieved success (I both got it to print AND it actually fits!), I then stepped up my game to produce a doohick to hold my tablet underneath the camera so it can act as a teleprompter. Now really, if I end up doing more videos then I should probably step it up to a proper teleprompter. But, for the moment I have this:



Irritatingly, my local hardware shop doesn’t have any long enough screws in either metric or imperial; and for once my dad’s box of a billion screws failed me (although I think in the sub-box of a thousand screws which is somewhere in one of the many boxes around the place, there probably is the screw I’m after). There are several refinements I should make to this, too. But I’m not really likely to.

But it’s here:

It should work okay, so long as I’m some distance from the camera. That way you can’t so obviously see I’m looking just below it.

Anyhow. I’m very much enjoying the 3D printing. Although I am the least efficient designer in the history of time. It took 2 printed iterations of the tablet holder for me to realise that the design is lacking a few things. Really it would also benefit from a spring to pull the two clamps together. And the version of the design I first printed was over complicated and one-clamp based, for reasons that currently escape me. The new version just has two copies of the same clamp. Much easier. Thankfully the one-clamp bit will work with the two-clamp design. So I didn’t have to reprint it.

Funnily enough, after months of failure, it seems dumping the printer in the corner of the cupboard where I can’t tweak the adjustment easily has proven to be the key. It seems to happily print away (although adhesion remains a problem. Justin suggested a different hairspray-as-adhesive a while back, so I shall give that a go at some point).

Anyway, yay. Yay for making things. Sorta.

Now I just need to find the wood for my chair project.

Really? A-f*cking-gain?

So, I don’t know what it is. Something about our luck. And I’m trying not to ascribe it to the whole of the US, because I know that’s unfair, but the crappyness of the buildings we’ve seen, and the utterly appaulling quality of renovations we’re seeing does make me wonder if this is a cultural thing. That just throwing up a building, then doing shoddy work on it for a while, until it falls down, that might be a thing? I don’t know.

And maybe it’s just that the all but one of the very oldest houses we’ve looked at here to buy are the same age as the newest houses I’ve worked on or looked at in the UK? I know new houses are f’kin shonky in the UK, so maybe it’s just that we’re looking at the equivalent of UK modern houses here? Whatever it is, it’s beginning to make me feel very fed up.

Maybe it’s just that we naturally attract shonky-ass crap houses.

So, the house inspection showed up that there had been water in the crawl space (void) under the house. He suggested that the slope of the ground around the house, and a failure to have a gap between the foundation and the grass was at fault. That run-off was pooling in the space. That had then encouraged wood-boring-animals into the wood, so some of the support pillars for the building would need replacing. He recommended getting a wood-boring knowledgable person in to identify what needed doing.

The pest guy identify a couple of pillars that he knew would need replacing, and the beetle treatment would not be terribly expensive. But he said we needed to sort out the water ingress problem. And he recommended getting a contractor in to check the pillars to identify which ones needed replacing.

Today we had possibly the worst matched contractor we’ve ever had quote on work come and quote for repair work because. He was also meant to be discussing ballpark figures for the addition (extension) that we want to do; but… that didn’t happen.

Anyhow, he says that the is of the opinion that there’s around 1′ of water sitting in the crawlspace through the winter, because of a “low water table”. I’m assuming he means “high water table”. Anyhow, that would require modifications to the foundations to enable the water to drain.

And that would not be cheap.

As this is the n’th house we’ve seen with some hideous problem that the owner really should have had fixed years ago. Like 39 years ago, when it was first f’kin built, I’m beginning to want to scream.

Also, being mansplained to for an hour, by someone completely unwilling to actually listen to what we wanted done, that didn’t really help my mood. But I’m going right off the idea of buying a house here*.

So yay.

* To be honest, the urge to flee has been around. But hey. It comes and goes.

A rest is as good as a rest.

This second week of my new work schedule – the low shift count week has been amazingly restorative. I’m feeling pretty much human and am trying to learn that I don’t need to do everything “today”. I have always felt this pressure that if I have a thing I want to do, that I need to get it done now. That if I’ve set aside some time to do something then that is when I need to do it. I’m trying to get into a different mindset and put that habit out of my life.

I’ve got some things I want to do, and very few of those things are that time-critical. I needed to make the pork pies I’ve decided to make, because I don’t want the meat to go off. But I don’t need to run around and try and get the wood for the chair I want to build – because there’s no rush on that.

I want to do a whole bunch of things, and hopefully I can get through doing some of them. People look at me weirdly when I say I’m happy working part time. But I don’t have this puritanical need to spend every waking second working for someone. I have plenty of things I want to do…

This week I’ve baked a cake, hopefully made two pork pies, actually designed and made things using the 3D printer (the missing mount from the top of the tripod, a clamp to go on the tripod and (theoretically) hold my tablet).


There’s something deeply enjoyable about sketching out a design in a 3D modeller, hitting print, and having a physical object that does what you want. Or, in this case, needs a small amount of modification to do what you want.. :)

But it’s really rather pleasant. An unexpected treat, let’s say. I thought I’d enjoy working with 3D modelling, but really had no idea how much I’d enjoy it. The answer is “quite a lot”, apparently.

I’ve also read Finding Pax which I picked up while we were on our weekend break up in Port Townsend. It was one of those noodling in bookshop pick-up a random book – oh, this is fascinating moments. I suppose it scratches the mystery/detective itch which I’m afflicted with in a curious way.

All in all, I’m starting to feel more like returning to society. Of course, society is trying to fuck itself up spectacularly, at least here in the US. So I’m not sure it’s ready for me.

Space to breathe

So, I’ve taken a few days off between old job and new(old) job. Sort of. I have done induction for the new(old) job but apart from 2 and a bit days of that I’ve relaxed, read, and taken some time to recuperate (mentally). I’m still struggling with the fact I’m not working 100% of the time.

I’m starting to feel better about it, and less often finding myself incredibly tense feeling like I should be working. I’ve actually read a book for pleasure (A Closed and Common Orbit – which I highly recommend. While I found A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet slightly in need of an editor, this book is way tighter).