Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In the Garden This Morning

Cauliflower. Tonight we'll check the flavor and texture.

Three varieties of red leaf lettuce. Salad is on tonight's menu.

A visitor dozing in the garden. Three-fourths of the time I find them in the northwest corner of the garden. What attracts them to that spot?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Warning Light

About a month ago I was in my utility shed when I noticed a flashing red light on the inverter. Solid read indicates a critical error whereas flashing red indicates a warning. I checked the control unit mounted in the kitchen and learned the internal fan had failed.

Internal fan? That was a surprise. It is a sealed unit for harsh environments. Seals prevent moisture, dust and air from entering the unit.. The inverter has an external fan that was working and the indicator was a warning so I assumed it wasn't time critical. This happened less than a week before we were scheduled to leave for two weeks of vacation.

I phoned the manufacturer and a person answer the phone. No "push 1 for sales, push 2 for tech support, etc". A person and not a recorded announcement. Nice!

I explained the failed internal fan to the young lady who answered the phone and she replied "I'll transfer you to Robin (or Kathy or some female name) and she'll take your name and address and send you a free replacement fan." Wow! Pleasant, knowledgeable, courteous, efficient. Robin answer the phone after only one or two rings. I explained my problem and she replied "Oh, I'm sorry. We'll get a replacement shipped to you. I need some information...". And it was free. I didn't expect that. I was ready and willing to pay.

When we got back from vacation I expected to find a box containing the replacement fan. No luck. I phoned the manufacturer a second time and a gentleman answered the phone. He apologized for the problem and said "let me walk back to shipping". I heard him ask a woman about the order and then he said "I'm sorry, we were out of fans and when they came in we failed to send one to you. We have printed a label and put it on a box. It will go out today."

Three days later I received the fan.

Outback inverters have a good reputation. I can affirm the customer service is excellent.

The replacement of the fan was simple. I connected the defective fan to a twelve volt battery and confirmed it had failed.

The instructions advised testing the unit by connecting three nine volt batteries in series to insure the twenty-four volt input inverter powered up safely. This drained the three batteries quickly but was safer then connecting it to the large battery array that has enough power to do serious harm and expensive damage. I was confident the inverter was reassembled correctly but decided to be cautious and perform the test. The unit powered up and I heard the fan running, The green light illuminated indicating the unit was working and the red warning light never flickered. Success.

Outback Invert.
I mounted a board under the inverter to hold the weight before removing the screws that mount it to the wall.

Outback Invert.
The external fan and polycarbonate cover have been removed. The next step is to turn off the breaker between the inverter and batteries and disconnect the wiring.

Outback Invert.
Inverter, tools, instructions and replacement fan.

Outback Invert.
The defective fan mounted inside the top cover.

Outback Invert.
The fan cools the copper colored component in the bottom of the photo.

Outback Invert.
Reassembled and ready to perform a simple test using three nine volt batteries connected in series.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fleeting Beauty

During the last week I watched a blossom form on a cactus. This morning the blossom opened. It's a fleeting beauty that will close this evening.

The last time this cactus blossomed was on February 14, 2010.

Cactus Blossom.
Cactus Blossom.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Book

I am nearing the end of a book -- Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. The subtitle is Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. It may sound dry but it has been one of the best books I've read in quite a while. By the end of chapter one I felt like I had a new friend, the kind of friend that makes life warm, comfortable, good. Each day I look forward to bedtime to pick up the story and return to the hardships, adventures and miraculous excitement of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

It's been a fascinating book full of history, politics, ethnology, archaic medical knowledge, greed, deceit, perseverance, ingenuity, adventure, suffering, wisdom, fraternity and good luck.

I have a good impression of Thomas Jefferson but the book has rattled my opinion of him. He saw Native Americans as savages who could be civilized and made citizens. He saw Blacks as incapable of being elevated to be worthy of citizenship and thought Blacks should be freed but not by his generation. He vocalized some noble thoughts but was an astute politician seeking power and empire. He was human and greatly flawed like all of us.

Somehow, in high school or through popular media, I learned Sacagawea was a guide to the expedition. Not true. She was a fifteen year old slave. She was captured by one Indian tribe and later sold or lost in a bet to a French Canadian trader who lived in a Native American settlement. Lewis employed the man with the agreement that he take Sacagawea, one of his two wives, as a translator. The man left his second Native American wife and took only Sacagawea who was six months pregnant.

I am amused at Lewis's plan. Sacagawea would translate Shoshone into Hidatsa, the language of the tribe that had captured her four years earlier. Her husband Charbonneau, who was 45 years old, could understand a little Hidatsa. He would translate the Hidatsa in French to a man named Jessaume who spoke a little English. Lewis was an optimist to expect an accurate commnication.

Lewis asked Sacagawea the Shoshone word for "white man" and she replied "tab-ba-bone". Lewis planned on approaching the Shoshones saying this word. The problem was the Shoshones had no word for "white man" having never seen anyone other then Native Americans. The scholarly guess is that tab-ba-bone meant "stranger" or "enemy". But, somehow Lewis spoke the word and lived to write about his initial encounter with the Shoshones.

Lewis and Clark journals are full of encounters with wildlife. They passed heard of bison over twelve miles in length. Lewis was bold when first encountering grizzly bears but quickly learned to respect their power. I find their wastefulness and slaughter of wildlife appalling. They would kill a bison and take only the tongue and the hump. On one occasion they killed twenty-seven deer or elk for nineteen men. The majority of the meat was left the next morning as they continued their journey.

Media fiction has portrayed Native Americans as savages quick to kill but the Lewis and Clark journals tell a different story. They would have perished had they not had the help of Native Americans.

I've been most intrigued by Sacagawea. I wonder what she felt? How did she cope? She was a teenage slave, gave birth to a son, the only female in a group of strange men, endured two years of cold, hunger, heat and other hardships during the journey while suffering from a venereal disease. Lewis, Clark and the men of the Corps of Discovery were amazing but, in my opinion, Sacagawea was far more amazing and intriguing. I've been researching a book about her life and have found one that I want to purchase.

It's a cliche but I would give my right arm to have been on that expedition.


I'm standing as I type this.

For quite a while I've been reading about the health consequences of sitting. Then I read an article that was surprising and a little disheartening. The latest research indicates that periodic exercise can NOT compensate for the detrimental effects of sitting too many hours each day.

My job is software development. I sit at a computer eight hours per day four days per week. Some days I want out early so I work eight hours straight without a break and eat lunch while working. Not smart I know but the free time in late afternoon after work is important to me. So, it appears stretching and walking before work and getting more exercise in the evening can't compensate for the damage done by sitting eight hours.

The solution is simple -- stand rather than sit. I requested a stand-up desk and one was purchased, delivered and installed.

I anticipated this change with a little trepidation. Would I be able to concentrate as well? Would my productivity drop? Would my feet begin to complain? I like to approach some change with abruptness so on the first day I committed to not sitting regardless of how tired I became. The first day wasn't too bad nor was the second so I knew I had made the right choice.

There's another change coming on September 12. I'm reducing from 32 hours per week to 24 hours. I'll work six hours per day for four days when Julie is working and eight hours per day three days per week when she's off between semesters and during the summer.

With a little luck I'll stay healthy enough to keep backpacking into my eighties.