Sunday, November 1, 2020


 While traveling trough California this summer I discovered previously unknown for me way to install mail boxes. This one I found in Mt.Shasta.

And this one is in Morro Bay.

I would tell that it it a smart solution: instead of digging down deep hole and putting concrete there, one can  just fill out cage or planter with heavy material. If needed mail  box can be relocated with much less effort compare to digging post out of the hole. And it looks more artistic compare to plain post mount.

Our mail  box located inside the garage, having opening in the garage wall. I assumed I will never benefit from design shown above. But...

Recently I have to  move my TV Antenna in front of our house. (It got obstructed by grown up lemon tree). In my area antenna should not be put too high. In opposite: antenna set at five feet produces better signal compare to, say,  seven feet. I am not sure about the reason of that but that what telling me.  So antenna needs to be set below the roof level.  While  mounting antenna mast   I attached mast upper end  to the board where roof gutter is fixed. Mast bottom end I needed to put into the ground. But there are bricks in place and I did not want to drill through them. Here my recent observation came in handy. I just put bottom end into the flower planter filled beneath with sand and  at the surface with stones.

It does work!

Monday, October 19, 2020

It Is a Halloween Time

Recently I upgraded our windows Halloween decoration with two items. Both are LED installations. Each is controlled by Attiny85 chip.

This one is the pumpkin with multi-colored eyes:

You can find place with source code, circuit diagram and some details here:

This one is lighted ghost image.

Source code and circuit diagram is here:

Some additional description published on "Instructables".

Below is the video of three projects (two mentioned above plus my old project: "Moon with the Bat silhouette") installed in our home window.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement and Antique Car


The photo above I made last August during trip to Mt Shasta, California. First, when I saw this truck on the street I assumed it is a modification of famous Willys Jeep from WWII.  But when I came closer I have found "International" on its hood (not "Willys"). Lucky for me proud owner of the car was seating nearby. 

You can see him on the right  (in shorts). He explained that the car was made in 1944 by "International Harvester" company for US Marine. When I showed my admiration for owning such an old car, he told that actually there is older car on the other side of the street: Chevrolet from 1939. Owner of the Chevrolet (you can see him on the left, in jeans) told us that he bought the car in the fall of 1965 and restored it during 1965-1966 winter.  

It is clear that he was very young in 1965, so we can tell the man drives (and maintains!) this car his whole adult life! Look at this beauty!

When we arrived back home form the trip I decided to investigate these cars a little bit more. My initial plan was to supply picture to  so google artificial intellect will do all the job without my interventions. Alas, that not worked out of the box. For picture of first vehicle google provided me with link to "Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement". These cars were  designed for US marine  by Oshkosh Defense  but much later (in 1996). That was not what I was looking for. Chevrolet search returned "Antique Car". That was right but too generic. 

So I had to utilize google power but less rely on AI but more on  my judgement.  And here is my finding.

Truck model exact name is "1944 IHC M-2-4". And less than ten thousand of them was produced. Indeed it is a rarity. The rest of numbers regarding that car you may find through this link Estrella Warbirds Museum. The company "International Harvester"  mostly produced agriculture machines but obviously it switched part of  the production to the military during WWII. Here is  YouTube video  illustrating that fact. It is sad the company does not exist anymore.

Chevrolet model is "Master Deluxe", probably model "JA". Here is  r: Wikipedia entry  regarding this car. 

Among interesting facts Wikipedia mentions that Chevrolet Master Deluxe GA (car two years older then this one) was a personal auto of Janka Kupała. How Belorussian poet of the Soviet era obtained such a car is a mystery for me.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

...forty centuries look down on us

Phrase in the title  is the quotation  from Napoleon Bonaparte. That way he inspired french soldiers  before battle against Mameluke cavalry. (At that time Mameluke army considered to be invincible). It is hard to tell how important  that inspirational speech was  but result is well known: Napoleon army won. 
Sculpture on the image above maybe not so heroic: it is "Seated Scribe" from Paris Louvre museum. But he belongs to  the same place: Egypt and  his age is pretty close to  forty centuries (at least thirty five). I first saw him in the history text book while I was in the middle school . Picture of him stood out  because, unlike all other illustrations in that book, subject of it was neither warrior nor king. Not even hard working slave. He was (as we call such a people nowadays) office worker . And that why I remembered him. 
Many years later during visit to Paris I met the guy again  and I was glad to see him.  The same way I would be glad to meet old buddy after many years of separation.
Louvre rules allow making photos under conditions that no flash will be fired and there will be no commercial use. I had a DSLR camera with me: Pentax K200D with basic kit lens (18-55 mm). The camera (10 MB sensor) was modest  even at that time  (2010). But lighting in the museum was excellent so even hand held I could make a decent photo.

Since I have to work from home now (lucky me to keep the job these days) I wanted to decorate my place with some artifact to keep me focused. And this picture of seated scribe suites me the best. I printed that photo at local Costco and hanged it right in front of my desk. If this guy can keep his focus for > 3500 years I can keep mine for several month. 

If somebody wants to know photo EXIF details, here they are:
  • Camera Model: Pentax K200D
  • Lens: SMC Pentax-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL II
  • Focal length: 28.1mm (35mm equivalent: 42mm)
  • Exposure Time: 1/50s (0.020)
  • Aperture: F/4.0
  • ISO Equivalent: 200

(I still have the lens but do not have the camera anymore: I gave it as a gift and often miss it.)

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Pump it Up

My stand air pump got broken. Actually just one part of it got broken: handle. But how one can use  hand pump without the handle? Bike pump is not expensive to replace, but at time of corona-virus pandemic nothing is easy. A lot of stores are closed, hardware places (like Home Depot) are opened but you have to stay in the line to get in (and that face mask you need to wear). On-line orders takes weeks to be delivered unless you willing to pay premium price. These are strong reasons not to buy the new pump but  to fix the old one. Fix did not require anything to purchase: all components I found in my shed. And I was lucky that pump rod ends with thread, so nuts could be screwed on it.

On the photo above you see the pump without the handle and elements needed for the fix: two metal strips which I bought once on OHS closeout sale for pennies, piece of wooden stick, couple of screws, some nuts and  washers.

I drilled holes in the middle of strips and secured strips on the pump rod with two nuts and Grover washer :

Than, I prepared wooden handle and attached it to metal strips with screws:

And to make it look nice I painted handle in a grey color. How does it look?

And one last photo. Stand pump is OK for the bike but for car wheels it is too weak. I do have an electric 12V  car pump. It works OK but here is the problem, while working it may break fuse on the car electric system. (It is  not just the theory, it happened for me twice: both times I first attached pump end to the wheel and then turn the pump on).  The solution would be to power pump by home electricity. Indeed I do have 120V  power supply producing 12V/30A output and that can handle the electric pump load easy. So I attached to that supply cigarette lighter socket. Now pump can be powered up by the the regular AC source.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Willys Truck

I shot this picture last March at the shore of Lake Tahoe. My family and myself spent couple days there to get some skying at Heavenly. Normally in March there should be a lot of snow but not this year.  Once I took our cooker spaniel for walking. Next to the beach I found this nice truck  parked. It looked antique but well maintained.   A baby boomers couple  together with their dog (probably Irish Setter ) were sitting  in the car cabin. I could not recognize the car brand, so I  asked. The owner told me that it is 1955 Willys Truck. I am not very familiar with old American cars but Willys, of course, associated with famous army Jeep. The fact that Willys made trucks was unknown for me.   Was this truck really authentic? Alas, not. Owner explained that he actually built it out of three old trucks, one of them was Ford Bronco (car made at least 10 years later). And the small wheel on the side was not the part of original design:  just for fun.
I asked permission to picture  the trunk and owners kindly allowed. I did not have camera on me, but I did have a phone and made couple of shots. After that we started walking back to the motel. On our way back the truck passed alone. The engine worked loudly (as any motor of the car made more then sixty years ago), but  steady. While not authentic that restoration still was a really good job.
Next day we drove back to Bay Area. I checked my work e-mail box and read the  news: because of corona-virus outbreak  our office is closed and we ordered to work remotely. Several days later governor of California issued   shelter-in-place order across the whole state. This Tahoe trip  will be memorized as the last trip before the big change.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Here We Go

For a long time, I wanted to have an application to keep my personal data in place. My requirements were next:

  • It should be lightweight and minimalistic.
  • It must present protected (hidden) and open (visible) data in the single set.
  • It should make the process of data input/edition easy, but still protects this data from an accidental unintentional change.
And here let me show you the one which I eventually built.

This application is written in Go. It is not a real Windows GUI but rather TUI and it uses an excellent Go package "rivo/tview" as the foundation. It looks and feels less like modern Windows commercial programs, but more like old fashioned PC Dos application.  Still, it does whatever expected in an efficient and straightforward way.

The terminal screen consists of two areas:

  • Top menu
  • Table with User Records

The application starts with a single argument: the path to the file with data storage. Storage is encoded and password protected. If such storage does not exist, the application will ask you to enter the new password and will create new storage.
At the start, the application puts focus on the top menu. Hitting "Enter", while button "Select" is in focus, move the focus to the table. To put the focus back on the top menu use "Esc".To navigate through the menu or the table user must use arrow keys.
Numbers of table rows and columns are unlimited but it is unlikely somebody will use more than a hundred rows or more than 3..5 columns. Each rows contains one cell (Record Name), which is always visible, and several values. Values on each row may be either all visible or all hidden.
The application supports four modes:

  • Clipboard-on-Enter. If the user hits "Enter" on the selected cell its content is copied into the clipboard.
  • Clipboard-on-Select. During navigation content of the selected cell is copied into the clipboard.
  • Visible-on-Enter. If the user hits "Enter" on the selected cell with hidden content it becomes visible. When the cell becomes unselected its content becomes hidden again.
  • Visible-on-Select. If the user selects the cell with hidden content it becomes visible. When the cell becomes unselected its content becomes hidden again.
The user may add new records (button "Add") or edit existing (button "Edit"). To edit existing record select record on the table, then by "Esc" go to the top menu and hit button "Edit". The record may be extended with one extra value. If there is a need to add several extra values repeat the process several times. The short clip below illustrates how the program works.

Source code is available . The project "readme" contains some additional details regarding its dependencies, platform support, how to build it and run the demo. If you will find the approach useful feel free to take this application as is or use it as a starting point for your own project.

Update 4/29/20. Optional and limited support of Git added to the project.

It would be not wise to keep a file with data only locally. Keeping it somewhere on remote storage provides data reliability and the ability to access it from different computers. Git repository looks like the obvious choice. It is assumed that a user will create a private repository with some Git provider and clone it locally. If "tspur" sees that data storage is located on the directory with working git tree it adds button "Git" to the top menu. That button may trigger a chain of git operations, namely: stages file with data, commits it, and pushes it to the remote. 

June 2024 update.  I published post about  current application state

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Home Improvement at Time of Coronavirus Outbreak

It is time to look for help from a screwdriver. No, I do not have in mind a mix of orange juice and vodka. There is no evidence it can serve as coronavirus remedy or prevention, alas. I am speaking about regular #2 Philips screwdriver which anybody can find in his toolbox.

Here is the story. What is the first step in fighting the coronavirus spreading? If you can't answer it at once, look for  Google "DO the FIVE" reminder. The first item on the list is "1. HANDS wash them often".  It seems easy to implement. But don't jump into conclusion. To wash my hands I have to reach the faucet in our bathroom. And here is the problem: doorknob.

You see: to open the door I have to grip the doorknob with my hand. And what if my hands already contaminated? Do you know how long that coronavirus can live on a metal?  Nobody can tell for sure but time can vary from several hours to several days. The solution? Change the doorknob with a levered door handle. I did not even need to buy one. One of our closets doors has the handle, so I only needed to switch places between the knob and the handle. And the only tool needed was a screwdriver. Here is the result: 

I hope such a  solution will serve me well even when the pandemic is over. I still may enjoy this improvement when I'll come home from the garage or backyard with my hands dirty.

Be safe! Keep calm and carry on.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Less than Six Miles Apart

South San Francisco and Daly City are two neighboring cities in the San Francisco Peninsula. They are really close. Driving form one to another should take less than fifteen minutes.  

But that not how FedEx delivery service sees it. Here is my post about the small observational project which I would like to share with you, my friends.

I bought the book on Amazon. The book was used and I bought it from the SFGoodwill Amazon store. I work at Daly City and ordered delivery there. My assumption was that as far as SFGoodwill for sure means Goodwill of San Francisco even the cheapest delivery should not take long. Indeed pretty soon I got a delivery notification.  Item arrived at South San Francisco FedEx location. Based on that I expected delivery the next day. But,  alas, that not how it worked. The book was shipped to Sacramento, one hundred miles to the northeast either form South San Francisco or Daly City. After a couple of reroutes through the Sacramento FedEx locations, it was eventually moved to USPS and arrived at the destination. How that happened? The most probable explanation would be human error, right? One operator made a mistake and put the parcel into the wrong bin. It is good that eventually that was fixed.

Still, the human error idea needs to be verified. I looked into SFGoodwill Amazon store, found one more used book which had some value for me and ordered it, then tracked the package. Guess what?  The route was exactly the same: South San Francisco->Sacramento->Daly City.

Why it works that way?  Mystery. Sure SFGoodwill tries to find the cheapest service and probably FedEx Smartpost (which means the last leg of delivery is made by USPS) meets that expectation. But why FedEx ships it to Sacramento? Hard to tell. One thing I am sure Chuck Noland  (if you watched "Cast Away" you know what I am talking about) would make that delivery in a more efficient way.

Update 10/10/2020.
Recently I have bought used film SLR camera on e-Bay. Seller (on the East Coast) asked me is it OK to send it via FedEx. Of course I agreed and asked about tracking number. That gives me one more observation data point. The package traveled several days through the USA (looks like in the efficient way).  It arrived into Needles: small town in South California. From there it was moved to Stockton (almost San Francisco Bay Area). Guess what happened next? It moved to the north: Sacramento. And from there back to the south through the Fairfield straight to our house. Chuck Noland! Can you hear me!? You can do better!