Saving Money

Today I was able to not spend about US$30.

In September 1986 I bought a work table for the new computer that I was using to complete the thesis for my master’s degree. Along with the table, I bought a nice lamp to go with everything else–an example of “one new thing requires several other new things.

The lamp recently started to intermittently go dark as well as not lighting up when the switch was turned on. A gentle tap of the lamp would return the lamp to normal so I ignored it for awhile.

Yesterday it annoyed me enough that I decided to see what I needed to do to fix the problem. Fortunately the lamp was old enough that it was fixable. Instead of glue, it was held together with screws, albeit screws that needed a strange 5 sided drive with a hole in the middle so that a regular “strange 5 sided drive” would not work. I dug deep, very deep, into my tool collection and found the correct tool, a tamper proof pentalobe Torx bit. For what it’s worth, I didn’t know the name of the tool until I read the box containing the tool bits.

Anyway, when I took the lamp apart, I found the problem. A wire going to the lamp socket had overheated and burned apart. The two ends of the wire were sometimes touching and sometimes not touching, which is why a gentle tap would make the light work.

I was both surprised and annoyed at my discovery.

The lamp uses a halogen bulbs which must operate above 250C degrees in order to work properly. I measured the temperature of my lamp’s socket and found it reached 290C degrees in about 2 minutes. The manufacturer used wire with an insulation with a maximum temperature rating of 60C degrees!

As the lamp was used, the plastic insulation overheated and eventually fell off the wire. It looks like the lamp designers knew this would be a problem because small channels were made in the lamp fixture to hold the wires physically apart so that even if the wire insulation was gone, the wires would not touch together and cause a short circuit. Eventually the wire itself was damaged by the heat and broke.

I replaced the burned wires with wires designed to directly connect to things as hot as 400C degrees. If the incorrect wire lasted 34 years, I guess the correct wire should last until my daughter needs to figure out what to do with the lamp.

The wire is normally very expensive but because I needed only two short pieces, I was able to buy some “scrap” wire too short for much else for US$5.

And that’s what I did to not spend US$30.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memories

Today I scanned an Ektachrome image of me that was made on the occasion of my 11th birthday.

Wow. I sure was a skinny kid.

What was more interesting to me than my physical stature was the kitchen in the background of the photograph.

Looking at the kitchen, the appliances, and their arrangement on the kitchen countertops brought back a huge number of memories.

Almost 50 years after that picture was made, I still remember where stuff was located in the kitchen cabinets, the quirks of the appliances, where stuff was located in the refrigerator, the knobs I had to turn to use the oven, and the buttons I had to push to make the stove work. I even remember the sound of the refrigerator–a hum with a slight buzz and the peculiar click that it made when it was cold enough for it to stop its motors. I remember that if only one piece of bread was put into the toaster, it had to go into the slot surrounded by the fancy scrollwork and that “10 o’clock” on the toast knob made perfect toast. I remember that the electric roasting skillet would get too hot for mom to use if the temperature control was set above “medium”. I remember the dishwasher was a top loading one with shelves that folded down from the side and if one used liquid detergent, the dishes didn’t get very clean.

I zoomed in to the spice racks to see if I could find the powdered cinnamon (I liked cinnamon-sugar toast) and found it exactly where my memory said it would be…right hand rack, 2nd shelf from the bottom, left side of the shelf..

If that kitchen still existed–it doesn’t–I could walk in and feel like I was coming back into it after a day of classes at elementary school.

I’m Back Home

I’ve been working on the railroad….No, that’s not quite right. While there is a railroad going to the Grand Canyon, it stops at the canyon’s rim. Instead, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working at the water pumps at Indian Gardens, which is about 1/2 way down from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. My specific part of the project involved the radio (wireless) portion of the system so the park staff can remotely monitor and control the the water pumps.

I have a bunch of pictures, but since they were taken while I was “on the job”, I don’t think it appropriate that I share them.

The work was hot, 107F/42C degrees in the shade. At one point the computer I was using shut itself off due to overheating and I was wishing that I could also shut off for awhile.

In Another Gem, 1994, I had posted about another job in the Grand Canyon where I got to ride in a helicopter. That didn’t happen this time. This time I was walking.

Please, if you go there, be careful. The idea that is phrased as, “I’ll hike until I’m tired and then turn around.” is a trap, and it’s not necessarily a live catch trap. That idea needs to be rephrased as, “I’ll hike down hill, in the cool temperatures, until I’m tired and then I’ll turn around. Oh Sh–! It’s all uphill and it’s hot as Hell. I am soooo screwed….”

Below Sea Level

I’m now scanning Kodachrome and Ektachrome slide images that were taken by my maternal grandfather.

They kept amazing notes on nearly all of the images that they recorded and so far, out of the 80 slides I’ve scanned (so far) from this box, I’ve only had one with no notes.

This one.

Kodak embossed the month and year of processing onto the slide mounts, which often helps as I can look for other slides with similar dates and see if there are notes on them. In this case, this is the only slide in this batch with this date, so that is (so far) no help.

This slide mount indicates March 63 and the image is a grain silo with a “sea level” line painted probably 40-50 feet (15 meters) above ground level.

My grandparents spent winters in the Southern California Deserts and I think I’ve seen this place myself, but I can’t identity it, nor can I place it with any more certainty than just a vague feeling that it is in Brawley, California or the nearby city of El Centro. There aren’t many other places where sea level is “that high”.

May 26

Technically it’s now May 27, but this post is about May 26.

Two times a year, May 26 and October 31, I stop and make an effort to remember my fiancée. May 26, when were going to be married, and October 31, when her doctor recommended hospice. May 26, 1984 was a Saturday, the start of the USA Memorial Day Holiday weekend. October 31, 1983, Halloween, a Monday.

It’s been 36 years, but I still do it. I still stop and commerate her on those two days.

Today, my wife and I were helping our “graduated from college 3 weeks ago” daughter into her new apartment. At sunset, I was on the apartment balcony, watching the sunset. In the distance, I could see the sun reflect off of a body of water and the sparkles on the water reminded me what my fiancée liked about the beach at sunset.

A minute or two later, I went back to moving the bed and night stand into position.

Not Sure How To Interpret This

I was at the grocery store today and there was “bath tissue” (toilet paper) on the shelf.  Lots of toilet paper–enough toilet paper to make the entire store happy.

It wasn’t a brand that I had seen before, but it was far better than some of the stuff that recently was gracing the store shelves….the 1 ply stuff that should come with the warning sign,
WARNING:  Cheap tissue.  Danger of breakthrough unless multiple folded.”


Here were the claims on the packaging (in bold) and my comments (in regular font).

  • Soft. OK.
  • 25% more.  I’m not sure what that means, but OK, if they say so.
  • 100% Recycled.   That can be interpreted many different ways.  I’m hoping that my first thought, which had me laughing….is wrong…




The trees look like they are coated in ice, but they are not.  It was 85F/30C when I took this picture.  I used film sensitive to infrared “light” and a filter to block visible light from reaching the film.

With regular black and white film, the bright areas in the image are reflecting a lot of light and the dark areas in the image are reflecting little light.  With the infrared film, just put “infrared” in front of “light” in the previous sentence and you can make sense of the image.

Tree leaves reflect a lot of infrared light so they are bright.  The sky, in the top middle part of the image, is infrared dark.

It makes an eerie image.



And a similar image of one of my favorite places.  The Grand Canyon.  This image was taken near the Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.



Then and Then


There are 37 years between the two pictures.  The black and white one was taken in 1966 by my grandfather and I took the color one in 2003.    Coming as no surprise to any Marines reading this, the dates of the pictures are November 10.

My dad enlisted as a private in 1934 and retired as a major in 1964.  He was on active duty for a bit over a month more than 30 years, so the time between these two pictures is longer than he was on active duty.

He looks a bit tired in the second picture, and so does mom, but that’s OK.  When the latter picture was taken, he was 90 years old and she was 85, so they’re entitled to look a bit tired.

Dad’s “PCS Heaven” orders arrived about 8 months after the latter picture was taken and mom’s followed 13 years later.  Since mom was in the navy, I’m sure she’s noticed that the streets of heaven are guarded by United States Marines.