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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A new tradition..

I have decided to start a new event on my blogspace, Wednesday Rants. I will bottle it up all week and rapidly remove the cork from the rant jar and see just what bubbles out, do check back Wednesday evenings to see what has gotten me all riled up in the past week.

I start my ranting with 'Green' people. No not vegetarians, ill people or the Jolly Green Giant, but people who have the short circuited mental capacity and myopic intelligence that is required to think that we all need to run around treating the environment with kid gloves. The earth is a renewable and a consumable resource at the same time. I am not saying we need to disregard the environment by any means, but it is not as fragile as an egg shell either. So much gets overlooked when these "let everything be green" people make their decisions and in reality they are actually increasing areas of pollution and waste.

Let me begin with the paper coffee cups are far more energy efficient than ceramic coffee mug crowd. 'They' claim that 1600 paper coffee cups can be made with the same amount of energy that it requires to make one ceramic coffee cup. Ok, I will give them the research that it takes considerable energy to bake a ceramic mug in a kiln. But lets do a little math, lets assume that I am a moderate coffee drinker and have exactly one cup of coffee every day of the week. 1600 divided by 365 days means I would have to use my ceramic coffee cup for 4 years 20 weeks. Now I look at my ceramic coffee mug with its rich coffee colored interior and ponder the three years we have spent together. Oh yes, and we have a question from the richly dressed CA person, "What about the cost of cleaning the mug?" Good question, since we are 'ignoring' the cost of disposal/recycling of the paper cups I thought I could ignore the cleaning of my coffee mug. I am almost embarrassed to admit that my coffee mug has not been washed in a dishwasher for two years. (Pause for a dramatic sip from the coffee mug) A real cowboy (since I am from Montana everyone assumes I am a cowboy anyways) knows coffee cups and pots are to never be cleaned as it ruins the flavor. Oh look another question from the city slicker in New York, "What about the breaking of the ceramic mug?" Hum, well they are still usable with a minor crack and make great pen and pencil cups. Now if they were completely shattered than maybe that should be added in. Ok, no more questions people, this is my rant; I love math so lets do a little more. My office mug gets five cups of coffee a day, five days a week, 51 weeks a year...25 times 51...carry the two...is only 1275 cups a year. I have had my coffee mug for two years nine months now, so that would be about 3506 cups of coffee. WOW, I think I should rush out an buy a new coffee mug, I have worn this one out even though it looks as good as new, except maybe a little dirty on the inside. Still think paper coffee cups are more environmentally friendly and energy efficient?

SIT BACK DOWN, I am not done. I only get to rant once a week so I am going to use my time today. I now move on to the 'Carbon footprint' people. I am sure you all have heard about the sites that allow you to calculate your carbon footprint, if you have not there are sites on the internet that allow a user to estimate how my CO2 emissions they are responsible for on a yearly basis. Now most sites assume that the highest CO2 emissions we are personally responsible for are the ones that we blow out our tail pipe. What about all that electricity that we use that is generated by carbon belching coal fired power plants? What about the CO2 that we expel during daily tasks (Both rigorous and sedentary)? What about the CO2 that we release every time we pop the top on a carbonated beverage? What about the CO2 that is released by our pets? What about the CO2 that is released by the coal fired power plant that provides the energy to manufacture the disposable goods that we consume on a daily basis? Have I made my point clear enough? Stop pointing your Carbon Footprinting finger at automobiles as the only evil CO2 pollution machine.

The real problem, as I see it, is we live in a disposable society, and I am not just talking about paper cups. It is cheaper to replace a product than it is to repair the old product. It is easier to walk away from a marriage than it is to fix the one we have. We crave instant gratification, we crave new products, we crave cheaper products, we crave our luxuries but we don't want to count the true costs behind our cravings. I don't think we can even comprehend the true significance and impact of our own individual actions let alone the actions of our society. Now if using that paper coffee cup helps you sleep better at night because you were more energy efficient today than by all means get a good night sleep. If you calculate a reduction in 'your' carbon footprint because you drive an electrical car, have electric heat, electric everything and it makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, more power to you. But ask yourself this when weighing the 'green' propaganda "Says who with what proof and authority?"

Now I must get back to drinking more coffee as I am well behind schedule today.

No paper coffee cups were injured in the research and writing of this rant. Environmentalists are people too. Coal fired power plants provide jobs to the labor force. All products have embodied energy that is wasted when they reach the end of their useful life. Ceramic mugs need love too. The views expressed by the author are purely for argumentative mind opening purposes and have no scientific supported evidence to prove the hypothesis. The scientific method is not fool proof to the significantly talented fool.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dillon Parking Authority

Parking illegal in some cities will get you a nice hefty parking ticket, some cities your car will be supporting a boot and other cities will just hook your car fro a nice small impound fee. Dillon MT is a different story, the Dillon Parking authority has a slightly different program going. If you park legally in Dillon but don't stay long enough they will find a way to keep you parked. Found this parking spot right next to our usual lunch spot and thought I was lucky. But I guess the locals knew better to park there since produce gets unloaded right there...
Hum, at least I had some fresh coffee to enjoy while I waited.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Oh I love my job...

How many ways do I love my job I am unable to count, but here are a few slivers. Spent three days at the Univ of Montana - Western campus in Dillon Montana, sketching out the heating and ventilation systems in the oldest building on campus. Jobs like that always seem to start out slow, much like an avalanche. I liken those jobs to an iceberg, from the surface of the icy sea they don't look so big. Taking a trip back in time and going through the old buildings really makes one ponder how far technology has not gotten us.
The Main Hall was built around 1896 so the building has been hiding a lot of treasures for over a century now. These days we like to talk about 30 year systems, systems that may not even last that long. Here is a building that is using an old steam heating system and doing a comfortable job; Of course, the system has had some updates and maintenance, but still amazing to see a heating system that is old and still functioning.
Of course the visits to the attics to see some parts of the systems and getting to admire the large piles of bat guano helps to keep things interesting. We had some awesome tour guides to help us find these hidden treasures, treasures we probably would have not known about if it was left to our own snooping. Of course when one is in Dillon you are bound to hear stories of the 'great' quake a few years ago. There has been a fair amount of seismic bracing, both preventative and in the form of repairs, but this has to be a classical representation of seismic bracing. I guess the seismic movement of surround sound satellite speaks is a bad thing.
The site visit started off with an interesting surprise. I had not looked at the building plans, so I didn't have any idea what the use or occupancy of the building was; The first closet that I opened contained a male mannequin, facing away from the door and only wearing a cowboy hat and sporting an umbrella. What a startling discovery that was and I never expected to find such thinks hidden in a closet. Once I discovered the building housed art classes, not much of anything was as surprising as opening that first closet door.
Every day was a new surprise, a new adventure, a character building exercise. Of course there is nothing that builds character like standing in a ladies restroom taking pictures of the steam heating system and having some young lady walk in on you. I am sure she is still trying to figure out why there was a guy in the restroom with a digital camera, just as much as I am trying to figure out why the other engineer in the hallway just watched the whole thing going down without uttering a word. I often wonder what a person would think if they ever found my digital camera. Pictures of pipes, fixtures, plumbing chases, restrooms, fan walls and other inner workings of building systems.
Part of the building houses the Seidensticker Wildlife Collection which was a very interesting collection of wildlife trophies, complete with some of the stories behind them. If I wasn't there on a work detail I would have spent the entire day reading the collection of stories behind the beautiful mounts in the room. Once again, I was more focused on the steam fired unit heater and the steam piping that was hidden by the displays. Of course I couldn't resist getting a couple of pictures of some of the collection, the lighting wasn't the best since I wasn't able to use a flash in the room.
And that my friend is why I love my job so much, every new job or project has their own interesting bits of history, adventure and character.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Woke up this morning and Mr Thermometer claimed it was -15°F. I was like, no way can that be true and these covers are cozy. Sure enough, the morning radio personality said "-40°F". So even if I averaged them, I knew Hell had frozen over and the Giants must have made it to the Superbowl. The debate started on how soon I needed to go outside and start the car. Oh wait, my car has this remote thingy. Lets see here, no writing on any buttons but one of them must start my car, right? Nope, all I managed to do was set off the car alarm, unlock and lock all the doors and pop the trunk. The dash to the car required more than a bathrobe and slippers this morning; like such accessories as gloves and a hat.

The truth of the morning, -20°F DB, -27°F WB, -40°F Windchill.

Good thing this town does not have a No Plume Ordinance. All the houses had plumes! Businesses had plumes. The refinery had a big plume. The Malt Plant had a gianormous plume. Plumes, plumes everywhere...

Now we can say we have had winter here. Nothing quite like snow and cold to make a person think of such places as Tahiti.

Cold enough for ya?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Snow Day

So it has been snowing most of the afternoon here, sure is nice to have some real snow. I have been playing around with the settings on my digital camera and just thought I would post some of the pictures that I happened to get.

This is a picture of the snowplow that got stuck in front of my house. Not really stuck, but kind of missed the corner.

This picture would be great for the photo challenge, can you guess what it is?

I still haven't managed to get the digital camera hooked up to the night vision scope, but am hoping to have that figured out soon.

Just another Saturday

Today started like any other Saturday, with no alarm clock! Oh how I love to sleep in and get those couple extra hours of sleep. There is something extra special about walking up with the sunshine streaming through the windows and the shrill pitch of the alarm clock replaced with silence. Ahhhh...

Of course that was just about as much different today was over the rest of the week. I hit the ground running so to speak with plenty of jobs on the weekend agenda. At the top of the list was a little maintenance on the fire apparatus at the station. It is amazing how much work a BRT (Big Red Truck) takes to keep it running in top shape. Good thing the ground clearance on them is such that sliding underneath them is so easy.

If only finding the parts for the BRTs is as easy as accessing their undercarriage. Tear it down, clean components, measure tolerances, reassemble, call and order parts and repeat the tear down process again in a few days when the new parts come in. There is nothing quite like getting plenty of tool time.

After the stint at the station, it was most definitely shower time. Laundry was another chore, of course it wouldn't have been so bad if the coveralls could have been found. Another plus about doing your own laundry, no angry lectures about the stains!

Then there was lunch, Avacodos and fig newtons! Okay, so maybe that wasn't the complete lunch menu. Cooking leads to dishes, dishes lead to floor mopping, floor mopping leads to...yadda yadda yadda.

I thought Saturdays were the rest stop of the weeks. How come there is always so many chores on the 'lazy' Saturdays?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Have you seen my gloves...

One (1) pair of black deerskin gloves; Misplaced sometime between the last cold snap and yesterday. They go by the name of 'LT' Deerskin and were often seen in cohorts with a black leather jacket. Any information that results in their apprehension would be greatly appreciated.

I miss the snow that I got used to when I was going to college. I miss the weekends spent enjoying the snowscapes and outdoor activities. I miss the snowy frolics followed by hot chocolate enjoyed by the warmth of a fire. Most of all, I think the snowshoes miss the snow. I guess I will just have to take a short journey to enjoy the snow these days.

A recent bout of winter here has made life interesting. The amount of white stuff can barely be called a dusting, but one can spot Eskimo Bundles all over town. I guess the white frosting on the ground just makes it feel colder than Mr Thermometer knows it to be. With the temperature hovering at that magical spot, I can't help but think MORE ICE! My life has been made real interesting by my misplacement of my favorite gloves. Is there anything worse than losing that favorite pair of gloves???

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Three boxes of Kleenex, one bottle of cough syrup, two boxes of tea, several hand fulls of Tylenol and decongestants later, I am finally starting to feel more like my normal self. That of course only applies if you subscribe to the philosophy that I am a 'normal' person.

Dad and Mom had their 40th Wedding Anniversary yesterday, seems almost impossible to think two people could be married for 40 years. But maybe that is just my never getting married gene talking. I have always been amazed at the personal sacrifices that people make when they are in relationships. Sacrifices that don't seem to ever make sense from an outside perspective. There is right and wrong and we can differentiate between the two all the time, every time right?

Well, my break is over so back to working on my midterm exam that is due tomorrow. Maybe I will get a break on the last couple of questions and be able to hit the sack early.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


So I am still losing the battle with my cold bug. Grrrr, there is nothing worse than having sinus congestion at the same time as a runny nose. It has to be a medical marvel how it can be possible to be congested while the nose is running a marathon. The worse part of the matter is that I can't figure out who gave me the cold. The law of germ sharing clearly states that the one who shares the cold has to wait on the person they share with. The way I see it, I shouldn't be having to make my own soup during this whole ordeal. :)

Thanks for the thoughtful comments and get well wishes. I am off to go postal on a box of Kleenex...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sickly and Bored

I have been fighting off a cold for the past couple of days and my bouts of being awake are filled with feverish boredom! There are plenty of things I should and could be doing around my house, but just haven't been feeling up to cleaning and organizing. A job I detest when I am well, so definitely not something I am going to spend a sick day doing. So I decided I would write something here.

One of the projects that I have in the works right now is a planted community fish tank. I have been keeping aquariums for over twenty years and enjoy the challenges that they offer. Currently I have three fish tanks in operation and two hospital tanks. Two tanks house a variety of cichlids, which I won't focus on in this post. The third tank is the community tank, which was a departation from my norm. The smaller hospital tank houses a single silver tipped tetra that had a bout of fungus and is just about ready to rejoin the community tank.

A couple of years ago I got bored with the ugly rocky look of the cichlid tanks and tried to add some plants to the aqua scape to beautify the tanks. Yes, I did know that most people wouldn't even think of adding plants to cichlid tanks due to their destructive nature, but wanted to attempt the process so that I could better the water quality through the use of live plants. I was able to keep the plants alive for about a month and than would find during the morning feeding that the cichlids had decided enough was enough and had uprooted all the plants. I had a 29 gallon aquarium that became available, so I decided on a planted community tank.

The tank has a base layer of flourite substrate with 1/2" egg crate on top of this layer. The egg crate helps to stabilize the base layer so the fish and water movement doesn't mix or over turn the substrate. The plants are anchored with the egg crate which helps to stabilize them as well. The egg crate is covered with Tahitian moon sand, which provides a very nice tank floor.

The sides of the tanks are planted, with different plant species. On the left I have, um...yeah I really can't remember what I planted in the tank, but they are doing well. In the back of the tank I planted several of those bulbs that you can buy in the package to grow. Word of advice, don't waste your money buy plants that have already been started and cost a little more. Of all the bulbs I have planted, two have grown and quickly died. In the center of the tank I have a couple pieces of driftwood (one artificial and one real), a rock and two small clay pots on their sides. Side note, unglazed clay pots make excellent hiding places in aquariums, just make sure to sterilize and clean the pots before you add them to your tank.

Filtration in the tank is nothing special, just a standard hang on the back filter that I have had for years. The filter is located on the left side of the tank. On the right side of the tank I have a heater and a venturi power head. The power-head does a good job keeping the tank well mixed. In the venturi port I have the CO2 line from the fermenter. Since I wanted to tackle a planted aquarium and was on a budget I built a yeast fermenter to produce the needed CO2. Now that I can keep the plants alive I am looking at going to an automated CO2 system to help control the pH of the tank better. Yes, leave it to an engineer to fully automate all of his fish tanks. I have tried various ways to introduce the CO2 into the fish tank and have found the power head method to work the best. The bubble size is extremely small and most of the bubbles get absorbed. The only problem I have had is with the CO2 tube getting plugged with some nasty white gunk at the power head which typically can be cleaned out with a pipe cleaner.

Tank lighting is provided with a florescent hood that has an aquatic bulb and is on a 14 hour 'daylight' cycle. The use of a timer is really important when working with a CO2 enriched planted tank. The pH level will get lower when the light is off since the plants are not using as much CO2. This can be dealt with by either cutting back the duration of the dark cycle or by reducing the CO2 that enters the tank when the light is off. I have also wondered about using an air pump on the night cycle to increase the oxygen level of the water at night but haven't seen any noticeable problems with the pH level. Night lighting is provided by four blue LED aqua spotlights which help keep the tank from being completely dark.

That is the tank setup, now for the fish. The main population is made up of silver tipped tetras, six of them. A hearty active fish that seem to do well in my setup. They originally had some tiger barbs for tank mates but the war between tetras and barbs resulted in the complete population of tiger barbs to be killed. There is a gang of three bronze Cory Cats to eat up the excess food and to scour the bottom of the tank. Recently I added two Fire Dwarf Gourami and they appear to be doing well. I had a clown loach in the tank to keep the snail population under control (yes you will always have snails when you have plants), but he failed to do well and eventually died when he got a major case of ich.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The sweet savor of failure

There is one sport that I enjoy watching more than anything. A game that is fast paced and full of action. Something that I look forward to watching and a real treat when I get to attend a game in person. Locally I used to have opportunities to watch and could be found high in the empty stands enjoying the game. There is nothing quite like the smell of ice and sweat. There is nothing like watching the players gliding across the ice and crashing into the boards. Do you watch the puck, watch where the puck is going or where the puck has been? Three totally different games just based on the viewers perspective. I always say, "If you think the game is boring stop watching the puck!"

Several years ago we lost the local ice, a move that was brought on by a chance to make more money for the facility. Two attempts later and we ended up with a CBA Basketball team. While I don't mind watching basketball I have boycotted the events because I don't support the decision that was made without public opinion and comment. Which happens to be norm for the politics of the town, those who make the decisions like to pretend that the local populous is not educated enough to know what is good for them.

Well, last night the game was canceled. Not because of poor attendance, not because the facility wasn't available, not because the locals were rioting, but because the team owner hasn't been paying his bills. Not only were the players not getting paid, but the company that runs the facility wasn't getting paid for the facility either. AWESOME, all this money is going where?

Now I just have to wonder, "How can the county be making more money with a basketball team when they are not getting paid?" At least they were making money when hockey was in the building. At least they could rent the ice out to other events to make additional cash. At least the ice provided the locals with youth programs (hockey, skating, etc).

Of course once basketball tanks AGAIN, they could always bring back the ice, right? Not really, the local ice freaks have worked hard and spent lots of time and money to get their own ice facility. A facility that is far from the professional ice garden, but one that provides them with indoor ice. A facility that is not controlled by the local government entities but by a committee of people made up of those that will use the facility. Now that the facility is just about ready to be making ice, why would they want to go back to the old ways?

Time will only tell if this Basketball adventure will be able to survive such events. Will the team rally under new coaching? Will the whole endeavor end up being a failure? Will the facility be sitting there empty of fans? Only time will sort out the truth of the whole canceled game.

Mean while I keep my fingers crossed that the ice will be ready for the Casey Cup. A chance for me to park in the stands and enjoy three days of high school hockey talent. An event that has not been held locally for quite sometime. An event that I will gladly support. A weekend that will mark the success of the few who have overcome the myopic decisions of political leaders.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A new project

Looking around the project room I noticed I have either discarded or finished all the projects that I have had in the works. It might just be time to start me a new project, but what should the next project be? There are so many options available.

I could tackle the spring cleaning early. There are plenty of boxes containing old memories that could be dusted off and discarded. Closets have collected clutter that is no longer needed. But it is barely winter, do I really want to start the spring cleaning this early?

I could tear apart the motorcycle and get things ready for the start of the riding season. Anyone who knows the bike knows there is plenty of work that can be done. Tires, brakes, engine...

I have always thought about making my own laptop coffee table, so now would be a good time to start that project. Besides the front room could always use a little more furniture.

A new project is definitely in order, but I am just not sure what direction I should go for this project. Cabin fever is right there, right around the corner just waiting to get me all worked up. I need to stave off the winter boredom and it is too early to start getting ready for varmint shooting. Or is it? Maybe I will find a good project that will make a great Do it yourself blog.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

How to know..

How do you know when you are working to much? Are you a dedicated employee or are you suffering from workaholic addictions? Today I turned down a company sponsered trip to New York because I have too much to do this month. What do you think? Stupidity or workaholic addiction?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Years

Happy New Years Everyone!

2008 is starting off very fast. Woke up this morning to the pager going beezurk. There was a reported working structure fire. When my engine company arrived on the scene the front room of the house was completely gone, burned right through the roof and was visible for miles. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, let me just say this, "Those who have Christmas Trees in their homes, be VERY careful."

Even though myth busters busted the myth of the Christmas lights catching the tree on fire, there are plenty of house fires each year that start because of the Christmas Tree. If you have ever seen one burn, you will realize that they burn like a road flare. So all I am saying is be careful, don't let the tree dry out and make sure to dispose of the tree soon after the holidays are over. And if you do have a tree, make sure that ALL your smoke and heat detectors are in working order in your home.

An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure...