Category Archives: Administrative

Light Blogging, And Reusability

Things have been kind of quiet on the blog because a) I’m still busy renovating the house in Florida and more importantly, b) my bandwidth is limited here, as there’s no Internet service to the house, and I have to rely on tethering to my phone.

I didn’t post about it at the time, but my Twitter followers know that I drove up to the Cape on Saturday afternoon, with a press pass to the SpaceX launch early Sunday morning. It was the first Falcon launch I’ve seen on the east coast (I did see one pass through the clouds at the January Vandenberg launch).

It was impressive. I don’t know what the quantity distance is for that vehicle, but we were on a causeway in the middle of the Indian River at CCAFS, and I think the pad was only a couple miles away, judging from the time that I saw the ignition and started to hear (and feel) the roar. It was sufficiently bright that it temporarily shut down the center of my retinas, but I could see it all the way downrange past staging. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rocket naked eye that far downrange. It was very impressive, but I hope it becomes routine, including the landing, if it hasn’t already. The next step is to start reflying those stages that they continue to collect (six now). I told John Taylor that SpaceX now has a bigger fleet of reusable rockets than NASA ever had.

Speaking of which, Stephanie Osborn has a guest post from a fellow former NASA colleague with thoughts on the failure of reusability of the Shuttle.

I think that whether single pour or the selected segmented design, solid rockets on a reusable crewed vehicle were a mistake. And the fact that Jim Fletcher was head of NASA (and “Barfing Jake” Garn) is also part of the explanation for building them in Utah, Florida’s environmental regulations notwithstanding.

But as I’ve noted in the past, it’s a huge fallacy of hasty generalization to attempt to draw lessons about reusability of spacecraft from that program.

House Renovation Blues (Part 2)

Here’s a weird one. After the fridge thing, I decided to put in a shut-off valve for the fridge line only, so if it ever happened again, to either me (I hope not) or the new owner, I could shut just that off and still have cold faucet and filtered water in the kitchen sink. Shortly thereafter, the garbage disposal (which I’d installed about a decade ago, when we remodeled the kitchen, along with all the appliances) quit working. There is no action when the switch is flipped. I checked the breaker, and it’s not tripped. I can turn it freely with an allen wrench from below, so it’s not jammed, and there’s no hum. However, the armored cable to it from the switch is broken at the interface to the machine, and I can see a black wire-nutted wire sticking out the side, though it seems to be connected, at least from visual inspection.

OK, here’s the weird part. I went to Home Depot to pick up a non-contact voltage detector and a multi-meter to trouble shoot. When I bring the detector near the cable at the interface, I get a voltage signal. But only when the switch is off. When the switch is on, it disappears. When I kill the breaker, I get nothing either way. WTF?

Anyway, I was hoping to avoid pulling (and even worse purchasing a replacement). But it looks like I won’t figure it out without doing so. On the upside, if I do pull the device, it will make it easier to get at the new shutoff valve behind it, which is dripping…

[Tuesday-morning update]

On further inspection, the neutral wire is clearly broken going into the disposal, so off it comes to repair it. I must have done it when I was installing the shut-off valve. That’s why it was sensing voltage on the hot line.

House Renovation Blues

The bad news: We discovered a water leak behind the refrigerator in the last couple days.

The worse news: We pulled the fridge out, and it’s not leaking from there.

The even-worse news. It’s leaking from the copper supply line inside the wall.

The even-worse news than that. The supply line runs down the wall to the fridge, through the attic, from up another wall from the cold-water supply below the kitchen sink. So I get to go up into the attic to cut and pull copper and new attached PVC line through two walls. In south Florida. In August.

[Friday-morning update]

Huzzah! It’s not inside the wall. We just saw the water leaking from the back of the fridge when the icemaker valve opened. I just changed the inlet valves a couple months ago; the joint must have come loose. It just went from a major PITA to a minor repair.

[Update a while later]

OK, as noted in comments, I disconnected the leaking tube from the icemaker line, cut it off square, and reinserted. No joy. It appears to be leaking from the side of the fitting itself, which is integral to the valve, which costs fifty bucks (and I just replaced it less than three months ago). Sigh…


I’m taking a little break from house renovation to post a few things on a Sunday morning, but we have a lot to do still, and not sure when we’ll get back home to California. It’s kind of weird/depressing to be living (and kind of camping out) in the (unfurnished) old house again. It has a gourmet kitchen that we remodeled ourselves, but few utensils and tools (e.g., we have a fancy GE Advantium microwave, but don’t have a toaster). We did get a good inflatable queen bed, and it’s fairly comfortable. We bought a little gas camping grill which is a pretty good deal for $40 at Home Depot, and grilled steaks last night on the patio by the pool, and tossed Caesar salad in a bowl she bought at Walmart. We don’t necessarily mind buying things we can’t take back to California, because we can leave them with her son who lives in Lake Worth.

Patricia’s not generally a Walmart shopper, but she was amazed at how low cost useful items were. It’s why Sam Walton has brought more Americans out of poverty than any government program.

BTW, we’re trying to sell the house ourselves. If we give it to another realtor, they’d end up taking two thirds of our equity in commission, which just seems crazy for what they actually do. Easier to drop the price and take the difference ourselves. If you know anyone crazy enough to actually want to live in south Florida, it’s a great house in as good a neighborhood as they come, given that it’s in south Florida. Note that while a lot of people have been getting rid of their screened pool enclosures, I’ve steadfastly insisted on keeping ours, to protect ourselves from the deadliest animal on earth. It’s particularly worth noting now that zika has shown up in Miami.

[Update Monday morning]

Here’s the web site that’s listed in the Craiglist ad, with a lot more pictures.

On The Tarmac

Been in DC since Monday night, and we were supposed to fly to Fort Lauderdale tonight to return to work on the house to sell it. The flight was delayed an hour from DCA, and the place was a madhouse with weather-delayed and canceled flights all over the northeast. They finally switched us to a different gate, in a different concourse, involving a bus ride, and we finally got underway.

As we approached the beginning of the runway, the pilot announced that FAA had rescinded clearance for our route just as we were about to take off, and would update us in half an hour. We’re now sitting out here with engines shut down (presumably powered by APUs, so at least we have air and power.


[Update half an hour later]

The update half an hour later was that there would be another update in half an hour. #YayAmericanAir

[Late evening update]

In case anyone was worried, we did finally get clearance. Just landed in FLL, almost three hours later than scheduled.

Bloggus Interruptus

I’m flying to Florida this afternoon, where I’m going to be doing a lot of work on the house, attempting (once more into the breach) to prepare it to sell or, if we can’t, rent. I’ll have laptop with me, and phone as a hot spot, but I’ll probably not be on line all that much. Then going to DC next week for a few days, then back to FL. Not sure when life will be back to normal.