This month we all celebrated the first anniversary of "fifteen days to flatten the curve" and have all gained an opinion on the value of experts and models. Like many opinions it may be extremely firmly held irrespective of how much it differs from others' opinion on the same matter.
March was a quiet month in the ongoing year of Covid. We had family from Edmonton pass through on their way to south Saskatchewan. That was a nice break even with anti-social distancing.
Finally after all these years I started updating the monthly Update pages on our web site beginning with 2006 and making it to December 2011 - Fleshing out point form activity lists into narrative as accurately as possible (“directionally true”) and updating font size and format to match what it has evolved to in recent years.
On March 18th we were sitting outside on our deck trying to take advantage of the almost warm sunshine and we heard geese honking in the distance hidden from our view behind the trees.
The snow made an attempt at full retreat with grass showing through where there had been snowblown paths. The last Sunday of the month we had a pleasant day of listening to Stuart at the Early Birds Bible Study at Sagemont Church followed by the on-line service at NorthWest Community Church. In the afternoon we had a Zoom call with Becky and the kids. After bedtime there was a period of torrential rain and heavy wind. Snow followed in the night and it continued throughout Monday. Around four I went out with the trusty snow blower. Zeke parked it in the shed when they were visiting but I moved it back closer to the house on Sunday.
About the time the driveway was half cleared I tried to snow blow a branch that had been blown down in the wind that came before the snow. It didn’t go well. Broke the first shear pin of the winter. So close! Closer inspection revealed a second shear pin had done it’s job. I dug out a chunk of branch. This is the first winter with our first snow blower. I learned that one should look for more pieces of branch before starting up and burning the auger drive belt.
I had ordered belts and cables so they would be ready for fall maintenance, but the auger drive belt had not come yet. Off to Co-op. Got there at five thirtry. They close at six. Nope. Lots of OEM belts, but not that one. Here’s an A 37 belt for your ½" x 37" OEM belt. You might need an A 35, because different series of belts use OD and ID measurements.
Back home to inspect snowblower more closely. Found second piece of branch in the bowels of the machine. Pulled it out and started the blower, but it stalled when I tried test driving and I couldn’t get it started. Must have flooded it. Will break for supper and try again. Try again. Try electric start. Nope.
Juanita “is it out of gas?”.
I check. “Yep”.
It’s dark. The grid road is not plowed. We’ll be using the the truck to go the vaccine clinic tomorrow. Driveway doesn't need to be plowed anymore for the truck to get through. Maybe I can find an OEM belt after that. That’s enough for one day.
We got our shots. We had been booked half an hour apart, but when I got in I asked if Juanita could come right in. Sure. No Problem.
The whole process was well organized and professional. My only beef is a niggling one. They asked Juanita if she was pregnant and didn’t ask me. If the defence for asking her was they didn’t want to assume, then what is the defence for not asking me?
After our shots and the waiting time in well distanced chairs we headed out in search of an auger drive belt. First farm equipment dealer didn’t have any, but the parts lady said a replacement belt for a ½" x 37" belt would be an A 35 or an 4L-370. Ask the lady who knows!
The next farm equipment dealer sold me an A 35 for a third of the price of the belt I bought last night which was, itself, about half the price of an OEM. Hard to think there is that much value difference to go with the price difference.
Back home, the A-35 fit fine. A five foot test drive worked. Suit up after lunch and finish snow blowing. This time of the year it will be melted by the end of the week, but I want it off areas before it melts the moisture into the driving surfaces. The belt lasted longer than I did. It was still working fine when I had no more in me. Finished the non-driving surfaces the next day. Last day of the month.
Books of This Month
March was a mid month for reading. Starting to do more stuff, but very icy and very timid about walking when it is icy. I fell for the first time in my adult life a few years ago. It happened so quickly and opened up the back of my head. There were no symptoms of concussion according to the medical literature but it took months before things felt normal in my head if I took a quiet moment to check. Then once again while being what I thought was careful enough my feet flew out from under me and I landed on my side. Nothing broken but my arm was cut up a bit by the ice. So, call me skittish, but back to books.
During the past year if I saw a book that was interesting I would order from the library through the SILS app on the phone. As they came in I would read them in turn. This month I have started just adding them to a list on the app for future consideration. Summer is coming and there are things that are needing doing outdoors. One can’t be sitting inside reading! One could sit outside reading if one had enough bug spray.
But first things third. The first book this month was finished on February 28th and failed to get listed as a February book. So, maybe, first things last?
The Design of Everyday Things Donald A. Norman Canada linkUSA link has guidelines on what to think about when designing something. Some of the examples are out-dated, but the principles remain true today. People have not changed. Norman mentioned that we use something and blame ourselves when we get it wrong often it is the fault of the designer. He uses computer and appliance examples and suggests the designer should design around natural tendencies of people such as the tendency to poke a knife into an energized toaster (he gives a statistic of toaster deaths a year!).
Norman’s ideas brought back some good memories for me from my days of designing things both successes and learning moments. We built symbols so that they had both physical differences and colour changes. A stopped pump was red and a running pump was green but the symbols displayed differed physically so the change in operating state would be known to the ten percent of males that are red green colour blind. A success.
A learning event? I asked my operations design partner. “Will they ever run this screw conveyor backwards?” “No.” “Okay.” We left the ability in the programming, thinking that nobody would use it. In the middle of the night, within months of start-up, somebody did. A few hours of down time to unplug things resulted.
For the next mill the question became “Do you want anybody to run this backward?” “No.” The ability to do that was removed unless the shift electrician was called to temporarily override the programming to deal with an operational hiccup. No downtime from that conveyor in the fifteen years I was around that mill.
Even if you’re not into design the book gives you a few things to think about so you don’t blame yourself when something doesn’t work like you think it should.
Zero CoolCanada linkUSA link Another Robert Lange book written by Michael Chrichton before he was famous as a writer. A few twists and turns and a very lurid cover on the library edition I borrowed.
Built to Fail: The Inside Story of Blockbuster’s Inevitable BustCanada linkUSA link by Alan Payne. Everybody thinks that Netflix took out Blockbuster. Alan Payne was the CEO of a chain of Blockbuster franchise video rental stores. His stores made money and stayed open for years after Blockbuster went down. This inside account of all the bad decisions and wrong priorities of Blockbuster’s upper management explains that Blockbuster’s wounds were mostly self-inflicted. A quick read that is interesting if you like marketing and business.
Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato FarmerCanada linkUSA link by Tim Stark. Tim’s story was mentioned in Tomatoland. He operates a farm in Pennsylvania and trucks his tomatoes to restaurants and a farmer’s market in New York. High drama. Will he survive the next year? Maybe. Maybe not. His web site doesn’t show any activities on the farm since 2013. So maybe he didn’t.
My Auto-Biography, Charles Chaplin.Canada linkCanada link The deep state has been around for a long time. It ran the loveable tramp out of the country. Charlie writes about his life from a childhood of poverty, his fame in films, to his life in Switzerland after he relocated from the United States.
NomadlandCanada linkUSA link by Jessica Bruder. Nomadland, the film, came out this spring. This is the book the movie is based on. Disturbing and interesting.
Rolling ThunderCanada linkUSA link by Mark Myheir A police procedural in Florida. Detectives on the track of a missing boy. Written by a former cop and still a good read.
Over the EdgeCanada linkUSA link An Alex Delaware novel by Jonathan Kellerman. A psychologist is called into help a former patient accused of murder.
Water Storage (Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers and Ponds)Canada linkUSA link by Art Ludwig. If you are looking to design a small water system for home or farm this book may have everything you need. I borrowed it to get some information on ferrocement which it had. Skimmed the rest of the book and found it interesting even if the water systems information had no immediate application in my life.
Discipline Equals FreedomCanada linkUSA link by Jocko Willink has a lot of fitness and workout information which puts it in the fantasy genre for me. The rest of the book has good pointers applicable to any age group.
Occasional MagicCanada linkUSA link is a collection of stories told by various storytellers at Moth sessions. Some gold. Some iron pyrite. Some stories made me cry. Others were annoying. Wouldn’t repeat the journey. Maybe if you had a servant to read it and point out the ones worth your time. Sort of like the rich used to have a servant wear their new shoes until they were broken in.
If you read certain genres you eventually run out of authors. Gerald Seymour was recommended in an on-line forum as a worthy writer of thrillers. I read VagabondCanada linkUSA link and had a hard time getting into it. Seymour weaves a tapestry but spends an inordinate part of the book getting his threads in order. In Honour BoundCanada linkUSA link started slow but got better. Stayed up ‘til two to finish reading the second half. Probably won’t borrow any more of this author’s work. Your mileage may vary. Vagabond had a typo where it said “tipping paint”. That struck me as maybe better than “tipping point” because things were about to get messy.