Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It be Buildin'

See the picture?I was there when the arch was at the half-way point!
(And for you facebook person, you have to go to roozersworld.blogspot.com to see videos or pictures.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reno, NV

Ok, so it wasn't the gambling capitol of the U.S., but it was definitely a mini-Vegas. Oh, how I've missed the colorful lights, the noisy environment, and half-drunk people! Yes, my week-long stay in the nicest casino in Reno was a much anticipated party. And, yes, I'm being sarcastic. :-)

I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew was I was going to the O&M conference and giving a short presentation. The Operations and Management conference is held something like every 18 months and is hosted by either the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the Bureau of Reclamation. People from both sides give presentations, I believe, in an effort to share hydropower knowledge between agencies.

[Mark, my brother, just came in to show me what was in the "rancid tea." I take it he didn't approve of "Apple-Cinnamon" :-)]

I decided to take the 6:20pm non-stop flight to Reno last Monday. That was a mistake. "Travel days" are usually fun because you get paid to fly or drive somewhere, but getting into the office at 6:40am made for a very long day. :-)

I was curious as to how the hotel would work out. The "Silver Legacy," to me, almost sounded like the "Bugs Bunny Hotel" on Colfax. After talking to some people on the plane, though, I figured it must be pretty nice as they all pretty much said the Silver Legacy was the nicest casino in Reno. I arrived around 9pm, Denver time, and checked in. It was really quite a nice place. After lugging my over-sized suit case to the 24th floor, I decided I must find some dinner. I wasn't in the mood for feeling dork-like and eating at a sit-down restaurant all by myself, so I took a tour of the three major casinos. Even though they're on separate city blocks, they're all connected indoors. After being lost for about an hour and finding one of my co-workers almost to the "I WUV YOU MAN" stage, I finally found that the food court was closed and the only place to eat was a Deli/Bakery. Discovering they had pizza, I decided I must partake of the scrumptious circular perfection, so I ordered two slices... One of those "by the slice" places. Inwardly groaning about spending $9.50 for two measly pieces of pizza and a Pepsi, I paid the cashier and went to go get the... hehe... pizza. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the two slices amounted to much more than I could eat... and not only that, it was good stuff! Not the rip-off variety Elitches would give you, charging you $10 for an extraordinarily low-quality "personal pizza," fresh from the freezer.

About that time, I realized I was quite desirous of sleep, so I headed out of the restaurant and had the familiar sound of slot machines meet my ears in an effort to lure me to the comfy seats, colorful displays, and free drinks. With a zombie-like saunter, I resisted the temptation with little hesitation and headed back up to my room and soon found myself waking to the sound of the alarm clock.

I headed over to the "ballroom" where our breakfast resided, and thus began may days of sitting... and sitting... and sitting... and doodling... and writing a requisition on my cool laptop with a solid-state hard drive... and sitting... It was like sitting through a Gothard seminar, only it went for 8hrs/day for three solid days! My presentation to about 150 high-ranking officials eventually got over, so that made me happy :-) er... yeah... whatever...

Now for the night-life!

The conference got over at about 5:15pm every day which left enough time for a great meal and... then... GAMBLING! I went to my room the first night in hopes of some free Internet... Yeah, right. "Wireless Internet" doesn't mean "Free" in a casino. I was pleased to find that you don't have to put quarters in the shower to get hot water, though. I wasn't willing to pay $50/week for the "basic service," so I decided to take a hike around the city. Downtown Reno is kind of shady. Within walking distance, it was all Colfax. Later, I ran into a group from my office who'd just come back from looking for a movie theater to no avail. They commented, "Hey, you know that guy who sits out there begging in the wheelchair out there? Well, he was up walking around." I saw him at the slots later that night :-)

After that, I decided that I'd be hanging around with my co-workers. Why, even the TV... Well... Let's see... There was the channel showing all the features of the casino, there was the Keno channel so you could gamble from your bed, the "How to play Keno" channel, the "How to play Blackjack" channel, the "How to play..." Ok, I think you get the idea.

Did I ever tell you how much I much I want to own a casino? :-)

The next night, there was no way I was going to go to bed early after sitting through hours of presentations, so I decided to watch my co-workers loose money. It's amazing what gambling does to people. People who'd have a hard time putting up $100 for a show in Vegas don't mind putting a couple hundred down for the gambling tables. Oh, and did you know that blowing on dice makes them magically know and conform to your wishes? I was amazed how superstitious some people can get when it comes to putting their money on the line...

If only I'd been there when they were base-jumping off the top of the Silver Legacy...

Here's kind of what it looks like inside:(hard to see and everything, but there's lots of lights and I like lights... but I still didn't enjoy it much.)

I think it was a good experience for me... what little interest I had in gambling is now completely gone. Do you have any clue how long it takes to finally dispose of $5 in a penny slot machine? Do you know how many $20 bills get sent down the slot at the Craps table or how many decks of cards get shuffled to use up $20 at the Blackjack tables?

Of course, most everyone from my office were engineers and approached gambling using the tools of statistics and mathematics to predict the future. And, true, for the most part, they came out ahead, a lot of them doubling their money... but in order to really do that effectively, you need to really understand the game, calculate odds before playing, and be able to make lightning calculations in your head. (By the way, if you want to get really good at addition, become a Blackjack dealer :-)

Oh, by the way, if someone offers you a little glass of ice-water with a lime in it and two little straws, don't drink it unless you mean to... It's not ice-water :-) Do you know how incredibly boring it is sitting around watching semi-loopy people with slurred speech gamble for hour after hour? WAY more exciting than going to bed!I was ready for the end of the week after the first night... Though I did like the 24-hour ice cream parlor... YEAH! ICE CREAM!

The meals? THEY WERE AWESOME! Casinos have great food! Where else can you get a 1/2lb burger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Where else can you satisfy your ice cream cravings at any time of day? Oh, and, man... I had some GOOD root-beer at one of the restaurants.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A full day for Ben

It all started when I went Paragliding: (Picture comments tell the story.)

Paragliding


When I got back home and related my tales over and over, I called Steve up to see about a 4-wheeling trip.

He agreed we should go, so he came and picked me up to head into the hills. After grabbing lunch at Good Times (I got a #6), we drove to Idaho Springs to check out the trail off the end of Soda Creek Road. At first, Barbour Forks Trail looked just like any easy off-road trail, but I soon came to realize that I was glad I wasn't driving. We drove for quite some time through all sorts of scenic surroundings. We got fairly close to the top but decided we should probably head back considering the fact we were down to a 1/4 tank of gas. Just as we turned around, an "equipment failure" caused the engine to come to a halt. Ok, ok... turns out the gas gauge now reads 1/4 tank when it's empty :-) Bone dry, man. BONE DRY!

Just to make things more fun, memorable, and exciting, I pulled out my GPS to find we were about 12 miles from the nearest gas station, 10 of which were probably in national forest. About then, my GPS battery died as I'd left it on most of the day without charging it. No gas, not GPS, no cell phone reception, but I can almost guarantee you there was bound to be a Country radio station!

So, we started to walk... At the first high-point we came to, I checked my cell phone and found I had enough signal strength to make a few calls. After explaining our predicament, a friend of Steve's decided to bring us gas after work. It was about 3pm and he didn't get off till 5pm, so we started walking to the bottom.

Upon arriving at the first fork in the road, we exercised our sleuthing skills to determine which way was right to take. After studying tire tracks, bent blades of grass, and dropped wallets, we discovered a spider web stretched across the trail that led us to believe we needed to go the wrong way.

We walked... and walked... and walked... A lot of it was steeper downhill with loose rocks everywhere, so we got our exercise. Fortunately, all the trails merge at the trail head, so we didn't get lost.

As we approached the trail head, we came across a man and his wife who offered us a lift down the mountain. We said, "thanks but we have time to kill." After another ten minutes or so of walking, we began to think we'd taken them up on their generous offer. About that time, they came back and again offered us a ride, stating they hadn't come prepared for such a difficult trail. We piled in the back and headed off to town. The only payment they'd accept is, "do it for someone else sometime."

We walked to Safeway and bought one gallon of water, a two-liter bottle of Tonic water (must try to see if it's as nasty as club soda!), and a two-liter bottle of flavored sparkling water, containing no sugar of any kind.

We went out to pass the time and flopped over on the sidewalk in front of the store. I suspect we were quite the sight, sprawled out all over the sidewalk, drinking water out of gallon and 2-liter bottles. Steve decided his tonic water tasted like chewing on lemon peels, so he didn't like it too much. Me? My "flavored" sparking water without sugar tasted like it. I honestly don't know why people like sugarless drinks. If it's supposed to have flavor, make it taste and taste good! Tea was just an early failure at making pop!

About the time we were getting rehydrated, a bum came ambling over to us and asked, "Can I join you boys?" He settled down with us, offered us a puff on his cigarette, and then talked to us for quite a while. Interesting life story.

A little while later, a bum in training (BIT -- probably an 18-year-old bum) came by on a bicycle and asked if we'd seen Silas. The bum said, "Ah, leave the bike with me. I'll get it back to him." The bright, young bum then settled down next to us. Soon after, the "good time in my pocket" started getting passed around (Vodka), so with hardy "goodbye"s and "stay out of trouble"s, we left.

While walking to McDonald's, Steve's friend and his wife pulled up in their pickup, and we piled in the back. Like usual, I needed a bathroom break having mostly finished a 2-liter bottle of water. So, we stopped at Micky D. Feeling much relieved, I clamored back into the bed of the pickup and we drove to the trail head.

MAN! 4-wheeling just got WAY better. There's NOTHING like sitting in the bed of a pickup going over a rough 4-wheeling trail. I soon discovered that sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed without holding on is INCREDIBLY fun. Besides the occasional branch whacking you in the back of the head, it was most enjoyable. I felt like I was on one of those robotic bull thingys people try not to get bucked off of. I had bought a bag of Chili-cheese Fritos at Safeway, and Steve and I were successful in consuming them and our water while getting tossed around in box that closely resembled a simulator.

For once, I wasn't the one having to go to the bathroom all the time. I think we took four pit-stops, total, and I didn't really have to go at any of them. SWEET! (Then again, I didn't drink the gallon of water :-)

Once we arrived at the truck, we filled 'er up, and drove back home.

A blast was had by one and all and I'd do it again without blinking... er... batting an eye? WHACK! WHATEVER! I'd love to do it again.

Needless to say, I had a hard time remembering the morning by the time I went to bed :-)

I think I need to go to Elitches now for the 15th time this season (Down to almost $3/visit!) to work the lactic acid crystals out of my mussel tissue :-) Man, I wish I had kept track of my trips last year -- I went there a whole lot more last year.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rain Shower

This has got to be one of the not dumber things I've seen recently:

video

Video Variety

Hey, all!

My brothers decided to make a short video an afternoon before Timberdoodle's "video advertisement contest" deadline... The videos are selected by number of votes, so whoever has the most friends/relatives wins

SO! If you wish, go to http://www.timberdoodlecompany.com/doodleblog/2009/07/15/video-entry-26-travers-family/ and leave a comment. That's all you have to do to vote.

Thanks, guys!

Benzo

P.S. I'm going paragliding tomorrow so this could be my last post.

Monday, July 13, 2009

SIP

We gather here today to mourn the sleep of http://boringblogobeth.blogspot.com/.
Although we are all shocked at its sudden unconsciousness, we will remember the happy times we had with it before it passed.And even while we wonder how many posts total it had and question why so few posts were added so soon before its abrupt slumber, we will be content knowing that it is now at peace with the pillow.

Sleep in peace, http://boringblogobeth.blogspot.com/. May you awake soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

p=360.778*T^(-1.003)

Basically, hot air balloons are impractical because F=g(p2-p1)V.

Just to verify, I almost melted a trash bag with hot air and it wouldn't float. That lazy air wouldn't even hold the silly bag up! That lazy air! BAD air! BAD air!

Yet another dumb may day plan RUINED!

Here's a hint: Next May Day, I probably won't be flying the cookies to your house with a remote-controlled hot air balloon.

Hey, at least I'm finally doing a little math before I build stuff that doesn't work!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Well... I finally did it!


No, I haven't gone paragliding yet, but I paid for a tandem flight... Looks like it will either be the 17th or the 31st.

Seen before

Bombastics Boredom

We have misters installed in our porch to make it more pleasant when we eat out there in the middle of the summer.

The problem is, in order to have an even coverage of mist, you need a lot of misters... which we have... but that means everything gets soaked in no time at all. After eating dinner a few nights ago in puddles of water, I decided we needed an automatic valve that turns the misters on for, say, 15 seconds and then turns them off for 30 seconds.

Since I didn't really have anything to do today, I decided to give it a go.

Here's a standard sprinkler valve that controls the misters:

...And here's the box that controls the valve:(I know, crooked labels... Man, Ben, you'd think you could get something right.)

Originally, I was going to make it smart enough to automatically vary the on/off time based on temperature, air movement, and humidity, but that was going to cost about $100, so I went with some dumb analog electronics. I haven't touched true analog for years, so it was... different. I love microcontrollers so much more. True I don't have a cool wireless remote with an LCD display, but it's functional and... well... it costs like $5 in parts :-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Q: Why did the transformer hum?

A: Because it didn't know the words.

Haha... Yeah, I know... Lame.

I went to Flatiron yesterday and today to observe a core test. Basically, here's the deal... You remember how a simple motor works? You have a doughnut-shaped magnet and an electromagnet on a shaft goes in the doughnut hole? Yeah...

Anyway, if you look at the picture above, they pulled the generator apart because they were going to replace the "stator" in the diagram above. (So, the turbine, generator shaft, and rotor are missing in this generator right now.)

Here's a close-up of a stator:

Right now, there "Stator Coils" are removed so all that's left is the "Stator Core." Before they put the new stator coils in, they test the stator core to ensure the iron is "good," and that the stator core was assembled correctly. Here's a picture I found on the Internet from when they did a core test at Parker Dam:
Anyway, to test these things, they wrap some wire around it and run tons of juice through it, creating a HUGE electromagnet. The test we did today was powered by a semi-trailer-mounted generator... (The oil filters were about 1ft tall :-) During the test, we used our $30,000 camera to look at the stator to make sure it was ok.

It's really weird to stand in the middle of a coil like that... You're exposed to almost all the energy from a large diesel generator and yet it doesn't affect you. If you were to be exposed to it electrically, you'd be fried before you could say, "Agh!" Magnetic fields... weird. I heard you can't bring a mechanical watch in because it ruins them.

We ate lunch at the only local restaurant... I'm sick of eating lunch in old, beat-up bars. They're always run down, dirty-looking, dark, and weird, but they usually have good hamburgers... Whatever! I did pass up my chance to eat Rocky Mountain Oysters... The people I was with tried to get me to order them, but fortunately, someone else from our group told me what they were, so I didn't. I probably would have thrown up when I heard what they were :-)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Some of my Relatives

Music Mayhem

In case any of you are interested in what's going on right now... uh... I pretty much go to work, come home, and go to church.

Let's see here...
My computer is basically dead and probably will be for another six weeks. So if any of you wrote me email in the last few weeks, don't be offended if I didn't respond because I haven't had my computer much...

Uh, I had to do a safety lecture at work a couple weeks ago. Safety meetings are usually pretty dull, so I tried to add some humor. In one of my examples, I stated that a coffin was not a confined space because it is designed for continuous occupancy. (I know, sick. :-)

I found out that Abb played for the World Forum.

Last week, I decided work wasn't for me so I quit my job and am now living off of government subsidies... or that was how I felt after I was informed early Monday morning that I am flying out Reno to help give a presentation at a multi-agency convention on a topic I know very little about.

It was 68 degrees at our house last night on the 4th of July.

OH! My dreams have gotten very, very interesting in the past month or so. Guess my brain is trying to cope and has come up with some rather colour... oops. The circuit board making software at work is British... colorful dreams. For a few weeks, I was apparently chewing people out in my sleep. After that, I started chewing equipment out... Loud enough that I woke people up. One night, I had stuff messed up all over my room... Things from my desk were scattered on the floor, my sheets were all over the place, and all my lights were on :-) Things have settled down, though, and I'm just dreaming "normal" things like having to write a requisition at work to buy a flamingo because it wouldn't fit on my credit card limit, finding it's very easy to buy penguins, having computer games come alive, etc. I've basically been dreaming things every night, and they're rather amusing. I can't remember what I dreamed last night, but judging from the fact I was in a rather foul mood when I woke up, I'm guessing I was chewing something out :-) This is kinda cool, but I'm starting to get tired of my mood being a toy of my imagination, so I guess I'll go get it fixed... Plus, it would be nice to sleep soundly again :-)

Oh... I sorta cleaned out some of my drawers, but I guess I already said that...

We had a big family get-together yesterday. I'll have to post a picture of us all... MWAAAA, HAAAA, HAAA!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Electronics Humor

Dimension Engineering AnyVolt 3 Disclamer

What?
It's easy to tell what you're thinking. "I came to this page expecting to find a series of conditions about what the AnyVolt 3 can't or shouldn't do." Well, it's a fair expectation, but we found it to be too negative. You don't need to be told that AnyVolt3 can't stop a speeding train, leap buildings in a single bound or travel in time by quickly running backwards across the globe - you know that already!

So what is this?
Well, this page is dedicated to something the AnyVolt 3 can do, which is fend off the nefarious clam menace.

Clams?
Yes, clams! Everyone worries about zombies or robots or nuclear missiles or what-have-you causing the apocalypse, all the while disregarding the silent, subtle, unassuming menace that is clam society at large. I know, I know; "clams aren't very mobile," "they're not very smart," "they're tasty," etc etc. This is exactly what they want you to think! When the clams rise up and overthrow us, it will be so unexpected that no one will be able to organize a proper defense! Except you.

This is ridiculous. I'm leaving.
Wait! You don't want to hear about how the secret weakness of the rebellious clams is an electric current at a very specific voltage that depends on the type of clam, and that when their uprising happens the best portable defense will be a car battery and an AnyVolt3?

No, not even a little.
Well, you might want to know that during that clamtastrophe, a properly calibrated AnyVolt3 would be good for running your cell phone, your lights or your electric chainsaw from that same battery. As long as you have a way to set the voltage, enough juice in the battery and the reasonable confidence that you aren't exceeding the unit's current ratings, you can survive!

For more information on the applications of AnyVolt3, especially as pertaining to post-apocalyptic wastelands, please visit our product page for it!