When one second…isn’t

I made a run to the store so I could spend the day cooking and loading up the freezer. Mom and my aunts will be heading to the mountains at the end of August, and of course they will need good stuff to take with them. That means quiche for that journey, in addition to some of the riesling I made and bottled previously, to enjoy on the deck of the cabin, among other things. Since I was working in the kitchen anyway, I also made some chicken quesadillas for the freezer for me, to make an easy meal I can grab after working out in the heat – baked some lime chicken and used some homemade salsa inside each one along with the requisite mexican cheese mix. That should work out to be handy.

A controversy in one of the women’s epee semifinal matches at the Olympics today: a South Korean fencer lost to a German due to what looks really looks like a clock error. With one second left, the fencers were tied. On the restart, the German attacked (as she had to, since the South Korean had the priority). The clock, however, appears to never have started, resulting in additional time for the German fencer to finally make the touch. Buzzfeed had an excellent post about it, with graphics, and Deadspin has a post up about it as well. It was heartbreaking to see Shin waiting and waiting on the piste, something required since leaving the piste would have conceded the decision from the judges – and an interesting point was made during the entire episode, something I did not know: in order to formally appeal, there is a fee to be paid, and this applies to every Olympic sport, apparently. My guess is that it is designed to weed out the whiners and divas filing frivolous appeals. The appeal was denied and the German fencer went to the gold medal match, where she lost to a fencer from the Ukraine. Shin wound up fencing in the bronze medal match, where she lost – but received a standing ovation from the crowd, and rightly so.

This image, taken from after officials attempted to escort Shin from the piste, after she refused, and after she received a yellow card for that refusal, sums up the agony and the loneliness of the wait.

NBC, as usual since no US fencers were involved, showed none of the matches at all, despite the fact they were going on live and despite that one was the gold medal match (and the Google doodle today was for women’s fencing!). None of the talking heads on any of the channels made a single mention that I could find about this rather unusual turn of events. Their live feed of fencing also went dark during the bronze medal match (Shin versus Sun, of China), with “An error occurred. Please try again later.” message, which sums up nicely another abject failure for NBC during these Games. I did manage to catch the gold medal match once their feed recovered.

On the NBCSN, they gave us about five minutes of women’s judo action, as one of our athletes received a bronze medal. That’s all we get on tv. They also showed about the same amount of time for men’s shooting, and I swear they cut away from the last shot that decided the medals, but I may well have missed it, since some of NBC’s coverage is like driving through a one-light town: blink, and it’s gone.

After the fact

Kind of a productive day on the ranch. Seeded some flats plus some frames, fed the bees, did a little weedwhacking, played with the dogs, made a good lunch. And then, the time suck: Olympics.

I see the next fortnight (as the British would say) as a less-than-usual outside kind of work time period, although I’m not a huge fan of what most people would consider some of the marquee events (basketball, tennis, soccer). NBC graciously provided about three minutes of US men’s fencing – enough to see one of our guys lose and be out of it (another guy in the same event also lost, but alas, nothing of his matches). About 20 minutes of shooting (women’s skeet), not live, and only that much because it was a gold medal for the US. Some water polo, handball, table tennis, fencing, archery, rowing, and field hockey made it into the mix, but not a ton. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs. Since I have Directv, I could watch the live streams of events I’d like to see – except I also have a satellite for internet, and you only get a certain amount of transfer each day before they start ratelimiting you. I did watch the men’s sabre gold medal match, complete with total freezes of the stream (except, amazingly enough, for the ads). The #nbcfail hashtag on Twitter is there for a reason.

So I’m stuck with NBC’s less-than-stellar coverage of the Games, and it’s almost impossible not to know the outcomes of events they refuse to show except during the primetime taped segments – and sometimes it’s impossible because some talking head on NBC will announce the result. Sometimes they’ll announce the result right before they go to taped coverage of the event they’ve just told everyone about – but only after yet another ad break. It’s silly, stupid, and annoying. That’s not even including some commentary I could give about a few of their talking heads. Ryan Seacrest? Keep him on American Idol and New Year’s presentations, and that way he’ll be out of my face.

Oh, and by the way, NBC: it doesn’t have to be all Phelps, all the time. He’s a man, not a machine, and it was inevitable that he would lose at some point. It couldn’t have been that surprising that he lost to Lochte, since he also lost to Lochte during the Olympic Trials. We don’t need a constant rehash of all his races between 2000 and now, and it would probably make Lochte’s family and fans feel better if there was more talk of his win versus Phelps’ loss. It would also be nice to skip all the human interest stories. You could trim an hour and a half of that and replace it with actual other sports coverage – taped as it would be.


This day done

Almost done. After starting off the day with the dispatching and burying of a chicken before morning coffee, I did some company work and watched Olympic coverage, managing to find quite a bit of fencing on, with some archery – including the men’s team event matches, way to go USA for the silver!) – and some handball and beach volleyball. I managed to find in the DVRd early morning hours the women’s 10m air rifle final, which mom judged to be quite boring. The primetime stuff on NBC tonight is tape delayed and already decided, so unless there is nothing else on, I won’t be watching much of it, as I’ve been following the #Olympics twitter feed and already know the results. I also managed to get out and refill all the gas cans around noon when all the soccer and basketball started, none of which interests me. The tricky part will be finding a time period in the coming days to do some mowing before we’re knee deep in grass again.

More jaw stretching shortly. Counting down to the point where it makes more sense to pull the rest of my teeth than to keep working on them, and there will be no dentures for me if I can’t open my mouth. I’ve given up enough foods over this crap, and I’d prefer not to have to be restricted to a completely liquid diet.

Beginnings and ends

I still cannot figure out why, with London only five hours ahead of us, NBC couldn’t show the opening ceremonies live. Tape delayed wasn’t terrible, but the talking heads talked way too much, and the ad-fest was annoying. Still, there were some rather amusing moments (the Queen and James Bond), some rather geeky moments (Sir Tim Berners-Lee), and some great visuals (young athletes lighting the cauldron, which itself formed from 200 individual petals, and the shot of the Olympic rings from the ISS). So begin the Games. In this day and age, almost every sport will get television time, even if those times are rather weird and on the oddball channels. How often do we get to see archery or fencing or competitive shooting here? The fact that these will be on at all will make hunting them down worthwhile.

Ends: one of the chickens needs to be dispatched, so mom tells me. She – the chicken, not mom – is laying about under the palmetto bushes, not going for treats, and it appears she’s on her way out. The last time one got this way, it was somewhat prolonged, since we didn’t know what the hell was going on with it. Now that we’ve seen it before, we know it’s unlikely she’ll recover from whatever it is – old age, perhaps – and it’s better to take care of her now instead of allowing her to slowly starve to death, or suffocate because she gets crop-bound. Later this morning, I’ll go dig a hole, then take up the ailing girl, talk to her a bit, and make it as quick as possible. Then I’ll return her to the soil to join the girls who preceded her. It’s a bit sad, but it is truly the cycle of life on the ranch.

Building a better frame

We’ve built lots of frames here at the ranch. We’ve filled lots of frames. The condition of the soil is so poor it will take many, many years before it is rehabilitated enough to be able to plant directly in the ground. Until then, it’s frames for us. This is quite handy when we get the occasional tropical storm through the area that may dump up to two feet of rain and flood out areas where we may have planted were the soil better.

The problem with wooden frames is the wear and tear of extreme seasons. The wood will eventually rot after a few years, or warp or crack to the point where a board has to be replaced, resulting in another trip to the big box store for replacements. Since we use one foot deep beds, requiring two six inch wide boards, we also have the issue of the horizontal seam not being exact, letting dirt escape or weeds to grow through the opening. What we needed was a better mousetrap.

We found one: using 8′, 26 gauge 5V crimp roofing panels. They’re about $19 apiece, and 26 inches wide. This means cutting down the middle seam yields two 8′ long pieces, slightly wider than one foot. By contrast, the 1x6x8 boards run about seven bucks apiece, resulting in a cost of about $28 for two sides at one foot tall each. Replacing boards when needed increases that cost over time. Replacing the roofing metal will likely never be necessary, so in the both the short and long run this will wind up being the better option for us here. In addition to the metal, we needed balusters to form the supports. A single baluster is currently 89 cents, and they come in a bundle of 16 2x2x36 sticks. For our purposes, once again we cut them in half, as we only need 18 inches, so one bundle of balusters yields 32 for bracing. On the left you can see some lengths already cut for the second frame run and some balusters at the end; on the right, an uncut sheet. All of it had to be moved again thanks to the rain that hung around after the first frame run had been completed and the second was in the early stages.

If the store offers it, I’d highly recommend getting them to do the first long cut on the metal sheets. If they don’t, then you’ll need a way to do the cutting yourself. In our case, we have a Dremel Sawmax as well as a sidegrinder, both of which have metal cutoff blades available. The Dremel will go through quite a number of blades if you’re doing a lot of cuts as we are. The sidegrinder blades are a little larger than that of the Dremel and so last a bit longer to get the cuts done, but still require quite a few. There are other cutting tools available and other blades; you’ll need to use what you have or can get and what you feel comfortable using.

First step after cutting the sheets and the balusters: determining how many 4′ lengths are needed to form the end pieces and/or fit pieces will be needed to meet the length requirements of the frame. Out front, I’m beginning the replacements with some 4′ by 20′ frames. For this frame run, that means three pieces of sheet metal cut down: four 8′ lengths and two 4′ lengths for the sides, and two 4′ lengths for the ends. The end result will not be 20′ in length, as there is some loss due to the overlap required to join the pieces together. That means cutting some of the 8′ lengths in half to get the shorter pieces.

Next step: attaching the balusters. After cutting them into 18″ lengths, these go on the outside of the sides, secured with metal to wood screws.

For the joints, because we’re replacing existing frames where there is already dirt in place, I put the bracess on the inside of the sheets, securing them with screws from the outside. If I were doing this in a run where there is nothing in the way, I’d put the joint posts on the outside, just as with the bracing.


The cut down balusters are lined up just under the top seam of the metal (the side opposite the lengthwise cut, as that cut edge will be sharp, sharp, sharp) and attached.

This leaves a six inch hang from the bottom of the frame. What to do with that? Bury it, to provide even more support.

To bury the ends of the braces, I augered out holes using an auger attachment for my drill. I had to order one online, as when I went to Home Depot, the workers who glommed around us trying to help either had never heard of an auger or couldn’t conceive of one that could be attached to a drill. Apparently they’ve never planted a lot of bulbs before. One genius suggested we go rent one from another store where they have rentals, and I didn’t bother to try to explain to him we didn’t need a huge honking, gas-fed, 1-2 foot diameter auger for this. We just needed one that would give us a 1 1/2 – 2 inch diameter that only had to go about six inches or so deep. Fortunately, a quick search at Amazon resulted in exactly what we needed.

The balusters are attached about every two feet or so on the sides, with the corners and joints being slightly closer together as they represent the weak parts of the structure. For the 4′ sheets, I used two, and on the 8′ lengths I used three. This does not include the corners or joints: on the whole, each 4′ x 20′ frame run used ¬†28 pieces, which is 14 full length balusters cut in half.

After lining up one end, augering the holes, and getting the end piece situated, I started on one side. Line up the side with the end brace, mark the places where the holes needed to be augered, auger them out, sit the side into place and ensure the bottom is seated firmly and that it is straight, backfill the holes where the braces are, and then site another baluster into place to mark the joint where the next piece will be attached.

At the end of the line, put in the end side joint, but do not seat that end yet: go back to the original end and repeat the process for the other side. Why do this? To make sure that both sides are about the same length (same loss ratio) and because it’s simpler to adjust one 4′ end than it is to adjust a 20′ side to make the last connection.

Replacing a frame that already has dirt wound up to be interesting. On the first frame, toward the end, I wound up with some bowing, due to the way the dirt line went. On the second frame, I shoveled the edges of the dirt into the center and measured the width when doing the second side, to make sure I was 4′ from the side that was done in order to preserve consistency. The second frame turned out to be much better than the first and took less time, even with the additional shoveling to move dirt out of the way. There are benefits to refining the process, even if the tropical storm blew in after I’d already dismantled the existing frame and I had to wait for the waters to recede before I could begin augering and seating the frame pieces. The left side shows the standing water where the side pieces would eventually go for that next frame run. The soil held its shape amazingly well without its framing, given the amount of rain we had.

Over time, I want to redo all the frames we have in place. Out back, we have eight rows, most of which are 4′ wide by 48′ long – a total of six individual frames butted up against one another. Each of those frames requires six 1x6x8 boards, resulting in 36 pieces of lumber. By contrast, replacing them with metal sheets will require 6.5 sheets: six sheets for the sides, and half a sheet for the ends.

In the end, some of the balusters will no doubt need to be replaced, as although they are designed to be outside, they are not really designed to be buried in the soil (or in mud, as the case may be). However, the cost of these versus replacing entire boards for a wooden frame – particularly if the board that requires replacement is on the bottom, rather than the top – will be less both in terms of dollars and aggravation. It is a bit of work to do the replacement of wood with metal, but in the end, well worth the effort. In addition, if for whatever reason they need to be removed, the steel is recyclable.

Total cost for one 4′ x 20′ frame run with metal: 69.07 for the sheets and balusters, plus screws, plus tax. Same frame run with wood: 84, plus exterior screws, plus tax.

What are you looking at?


The bees in both hives in the rear were bearding when I went out to change the feeders – the bee kind, not the closeted dude kind. The feeders are full of simple syrup, to answer a question I received: equal parts water and sugar, heated until the sugar dissolves and there are no crystals left, then cooled and jarred. The bees need to be fed right now because we’re in a dearth period (nothing in particular is blooming for them to gather the amount of nectar they need) and because they’re new (so no stores for them to live on until the next bloom). We will undoubtedly not have any honey to harvest this year and likely not in the spring, either. Our target is next fall, assuming all goes well.