Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
  A little test is better than no test
While we eventually want to get to test first design, we're not there right now. But that doesn't mean I can't do anything. Usually its just proving out an idea, like this, my @tests= ( "a=1,rework=2,z=3", "a=1,b=2", "z=1", "rework=10,a=4", "z=118,rework=50", "rework" ) ; foreach ( @tests ) { my ($rid)= $_ =~ /rework=(\d+)/ ; print "rid $rid\n" ; } So the pattern gets checked out, including the usual suspects of edge cases. Looks good so its into production it goes. Just hope nobody breaks it.

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  Burning my way towards a better tomorrow
Just managing to crawl out of the hole that is deep winter. No, I haven't got the plasma cutter working yet. I did get a CNC mill, but no, its not working yet either. Sigh.

But the good news is that winter is winding up, and so is my consumption of wood forest products for heating. As with everything around the house, its not a matter of point and click, but of experimentation and adapting to changes in the fuel stream. Yes, even the type of wood pellets matter, and the wrong ones can give you headaches of one kind or another. Take a couple samples from the last few months:

pellet samples

I started out the winter with 80 bags of pellets stockpiled up in the garage, and picked up another 60 or so through some effort at the hardware store, as they only got a delivery in every other Friday, and it didn't last too long. There was even some talk of rationing them (egads, is the planet really running out of vegetation?), but I managed to keep a fair number on hand.

pellet pine

These early pellets were from an Arizona company called forest energy, located only a few hours away from Flagstaff--more good news for the environment (some of the brands I burned last year came from places as far as Canada). These pellets were light in color, probably made from local pine. They handled well, didn't break up in the feeder, and burned nice and hot. But by the end of January I was running out, and needed to restock; so back to the hardware store to see what they had.

To give homedepot credit, they had really turned up the heat, and had a mountain of pellets stacked up, probably 10 pallets wide, 4 deep and 3 high. Tons. They had my usual brand, but the contents didn't look the same. The pellets looked a little green. Now green is a great color for "marketing" your product. Heatrs is even advertised as 100% organic, whatever that means. But when it comes to the fuel itself, green brings to mind wet leaves and anemic fires. So I wasn't that excited about this latest batch. Still I picked some up, as well as a new brand.

At first glance the pellets from Pennington Seed look really nice. The pellets themselves are very hard, look somewhat like red oak--a nice hardwood for burning. Now when picking out firewood, your hardwoods are greatly preferred over softer woods like pine. So initially, I was thinking the red oak pellets would be a better deal than the old pine ones. But unfortunately, the benefit in firewood is that hardwoods are denser, and firewood is sold by volume, usually a cord which is four by four by eight feet. Pellets are sold by weight (like breakfast cerial), so having a denser product wouldn't provide any more heat, just a slightly more compact product.

In the end, I went back to buying Heatrs, because the pennington has a real problem with dust. Its obviously made from very fine waste sawdust, and a significant amount of it ends up in the bag, stuck around the edges in the stove, and in the air around the room. Luckily the mess is mostly contained in the basement, but once its floating around, the next thing that happens is that the fan kicks in and sucks it through the filter (clogging that) and then blowing what got through up into the house.

Anyways, with all that going on, here's the totals for Jan & Feb.

MonthThis year  Last year  

  Still a big jump up from last year, but I was seriously expecting to break the 2 bags a day threshold and just skirted under it by a bag. So why is it not bothering me to be quickly approaching five tons of burnt wood (all of which were loaded into my truck and unloaded into the basement by yours truly)? Guess how many times we've turned on the propane heat in the house this winter? zero. While the forced air frequently came on last winter, and we had to refill over 700 gallons of propane this spring; so far this year the only uses of propane have been for the cooktop and hot water. So we really have gone green, or at least have switched to renewable sources for the bulk of our heat. A good winter in my book.

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Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / April 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / August 2008 / February 2009 / August 2009 / February 2010 / February 2011 / March 2011 / October 2011 / March 2012 / July 2013 / August 2013 / September 2013 / October 2013 / November 2013 / December 2013 / December 2014 / February 2015 / March 2015 / July 2016 / September 2016 / December 2016 / April 2017 / June 2017 / July 2018 / November 2018 / January 2019 / February 2019 / April 2019 / December 2019 / March 2020 / April 2020 / May 2020 /

Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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