Three Dinosaur Giraffe Butts, and a shovel

Phrase for 2017-2018 school year is “Three Dinosaur Giraffe Butts”.

The mantra is “Shovel” from grovel from gravel from gratitude.

The shovel head is the size of a spoon, and the handle is 35 feet long, and at a sharp angle. It is designed to move a piece of gravel weighing 18 tons, and about 2cm in diameter.

This is the result of lunch with Khai and Erica.

What is a friend?

One of my buddies just got riffed from his company. I know he’ll be fine. He’s one of those kind of people that just make things work. He’s good with people, and knows how all the parts fit together within a big company. More importantly, he’s good people. You can tell he’s got a big heart.

It got me to thinking about the layers and components of friendship. I might have passed 100k people, met 10k, have 1k as friendly acquaintances. How many people are your active friends, vs inactive friends? What level of friendship and trust do you have with them? Some people just shine, or we feel an attachment towards. Where do celebrities fit in here?

Then you get into the obligation factors. Some, you know want or need help all the time. There’s a distance there, because it’s a hassle. Others, you would help out any time because you know it’s just simple, convenient stuff, or the scales will always balance out. Others, you know would never ask for anything, so if they actually needed something, it would be major, and you’d step right up and help.

Then the time factor. This varies by people, both sides, but sometimes, you want to spend time with people, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, it’s to *do* something, and sometimes, it’s to do nothing. Maybe a movie, or video games, or sports, or drinks and cards. Or maybe it’s just being in proximity of someone who’s easy to hang around. One person reads, another person works, another person naps.

And then, Family comes into play. Blood relation is one type of family, but then there’s “non-people”, or chosen family, as well.

Anyway, I’m not going anywhere with this. Just, caffeine, plus recent events got me thinking. By will alone I set my mind in motion.

Orbital Mechanics and Friends

I had a dream that I was on a space station, and our old van was a shuttle. An escape pod failed as we were leaving the station, and my dream went into orbital mechanics ala Kerbal Space Program. On waking, I pondered orbital mechanics, and realized it’s just like people.
Community is like orbital space. Each person is a satellite. Your interests, drives, life and death all define your orbit. Your location is the barycenter of your orbit, the focus of your ellipse.
Along your path, you will pass near other satellites, people. If your orbits are not close, it may be a single encounter. Maybe your orbit lines up repeatedly. Maybe not. Communication tech is better mowadays, and you can talk to someone orbiting Jupiter with a little lag.
But, you only have so much fuel (drive) to change your orbit. And if you aim for someone not on on a very similar path, you almost certainly guarantee that your paths will diverge more widely.
Unless you grab on and become one peice in a new, combined orbit, a risky maneuver. Instead, it’s less disruptive to adjust your orbit on each pass. Move your center when you can, and look for other satellites near you.  
Which satellites seem familiar. Is there a shared mission or purpose. Can you benefit? Are they from a friendly nation, or do you need to be on guard? If they are new and suddenly there, are they a risk for knocking you out of your planned orbit, or dragging you down the gravity well? If you join up, they be too big of a mass or too tightly coupled for you to change your orbit later? Or are they a whole new anchor in space to orbit freely, yet still taking you for a ride?
The best are when you orbit the others who orbit you, or you share closely overlapping orbits. If inclination matches, you meet more often than every orbit.
I have lots of acquaintances in unmatched orbits. *waves*
I have several friends in harmonic matched orbits. Hi Hi Hi Hi Good to see you again.
I have a few people that I try to keep my orbit matched with. I definitely have my own mass and velocity that makes this difficult sometimes, but I appreciate those on similar missions burning their limited fuel to help us stay in sync.

Kids, Family, Life rambles

The question I ask myself pretty often, obviously not as much in the heat of the moment, but in post-reflection, is “What is best for my kids.” This does not mean “What is best for my wishes for my kids.”

There are all sorts of things I want for my kids, and things I want them to do, or want them to want to do. But that does not really matter.

What do my kids want? How will this affect them in 20 years? Does this have any effect on their future ability to be self sufficient and happy? Did I do anything like this as a kid that I can compare? If they are making a mistake, will it harm them? If I make a mistake in judgement, will it hinder them?

Sometimes, I have to be a little more on alert. Maybe some activity seems risky, yet I cannot properly justify preventing that action. Sometimes, the prevention is unenforceable, or enforcement would take huge resources. In those situations, there are frequent discussions of my concerns, their decision factors, and how they’re doing.

Sometimes, it’s just nothing. They were curious, but after discussion, they realize it’s not worth the effort or risk. Other times, they have to continue forward until they tire of the experience. As long as it’s not something that is unrecoverable (risk of death or incarceration), I feel it still needs to be their decision.

How can they learn to make good decisions if they are not allowed to make them? Seeing decisions taken apart and discussed, and making decisions, are how people learn. If I decide for them, and tell them how it will be, they learn no thinking skills – only memorization.

This ramble came about because I have several sets of friends with kids who have divorced. Some of them have maintained a child-focused mentality. They have been polite, and respectful, even to the point of being friendly. Maybe they don’t hang out all the time like when they were together, but they discuss life beyond “here is the school schedule”, and are willing to help each-other be happy because that helps their kids see happiness as an example.

However, some of the couples are constantly at odds. There is distrust, lack of communication (I plan to do this because I am concerned about this), and lack of coordination and agreement in what needs to happen. Maybe kids are excluded from activity with one parent. Maybe discussions occur with the kids that push their judgement of the other parent onto the kids. Some parents have rights with their kids curtailed because of health or income disparity when it really does not matter. These too teach the kids how to behave. They learn to be manipulative, exclusive, and not how to have a partner in life.

It’s not sad to me the sheer number of divorced parents I know, but it is disappointing in how many are so self-important that they do not even see how their actions are affecting their kids.

It takes a village to rear a child, and that village, when at all possible, should include both biological parents as long as they both love the kid. All parts of the family should be on speaking terms, and step-parents or equivalents have to understand that while they have input, and duties, the bio-parents get to set the rules. Persuade them with logic, but not force/guilt/manipulation.

Everyone must be prepared to compromise their own goals as much as possible. If the gap is still just too great, then someone is not putting their child first, most likely all of the parents.

This is especially important as kids get into their mid-teens, because they will be smarter, more driven, and more manipulative to get what they want. It is very easy for a parent to fall into this trap, or even to use the child’s mindset to self-reinforce. “I want this, and the kid wants it, so it must be right.” is not a valid statement.

Anyway, super rambly. This is about an amalgamation of a whole bunch of people who are having both good and bad times with this whole family thing.

I have no solution. Emotions, both surface and deep-seated ones, are what control us. We rationalize, and explain it all, but our animal brains are what control us most of the time. Sometimes, fixing issues means having a discussion with the part of our minds which feels. Maybe we strike up an agreement. Maybe we don’t.

It’s really difficult, as evidenced by people who stay overweight for decades (MEEEE!), or people who struggle with substance abuse for years, or people who struggle with depression for years. Emotions, affect, feelings, etc rule. You cannot command them in words and rational thought. You can only speak to them in feelings. You can re-train them in what you want to feel.

Maybe if we lived for 200 years, we could sort out all of our internal demons. Until then, whether you are having a good time, or a bad time, I hope all things improve. Keep trying to be better. Review what seems important, and whether you’re on the right track. Be compassionate. When you mess up, and it will happen a whole bunch, do not punish yourself or others. Just try to be better. What can you do to trick yourself into being better. How can you set yourself up so that when you fail, you still succeed?

ramble ramble ramble.

If you got to this part, and read everything in the middle, I’m impressed. This was just stream of thought. Actually, I might be worried for your sanity. Take a break. You’ve earned it.

Sprinkler fuses keep blowing…

Lazy reference for sprinkler troubleshooting after my fuses kept blowing.

If your sprinkler system keeps blowing a fuse, look for the zone that gets no water. That’s where the short is. This document explains how to repair it.

If it’s not dead-grass yet, then make sure you are stocked up on fuses, and manually cycle through the zones. When you find the one that blows the fuse, replace the fuse, and set that zone to zero minutes. Test the rest of your zones.

Once you know which zone(s) are bad, you can run the system with the faulty zone disabled until you’re ready to replace the valve. At this point, you can call for help, or try to fix it yourself.

If it’s “all zones after zone X”, then you may have a cut in the control wire. You may need a metal detector to follow/find the wire unless you know where digging happened.

To locate your zones, you’ll need to know which color wire is for the failing zone. Look where the wires connect in your unit, and you’ll see numbers next to the wires. Black is common to all zones, and the colors are specific to the zones. The slot or screw for the zone should be numbered. In this example, we’ll say “Zone 3” and it’s the Yellow wire here. Yours may be different.

If it’s just one sprinkler, find your failing sprinkler can in the yard. It should be a green lid, or maybe a whole cluster of valves in a box, or just next to the house or in a flower bed. The valve is green or black, maybe faded, with a hexagon sticking out of the top (solenoid). There will be waterproof wire-nuts or splices in there. These may be wrapped in tape, but inside, it should be grease-filled clips or wire nuts. If it’s not grease filled, that may be your whole issue, with corroded wires, etc. All of the valves will splice the black wire, but only one will splice the wire you identified before (Yellow for me).

Once found, look for any damage, but likely, it will just look normal, or maybe leaking water. Make note of the type of valve. Either it has 6 screws around the top (normal), or it looks like the whole cap screws off (jar top). If it’s anything else, you may need help from a professional to replace the entire valve body, splice pipe, etc.

When you go to replace the solenoid, it’s better to just replace the entire top part. Likely, the valve gasket has aged, etc. It’s often lower cost than buying the valve kit plus the solenoid. Just buy a whole, new 3/4″ or 1″ valve. It does not matter which of the 2 sizes you get, since the top half is the same for both. The only thing that matters is if you use jar-top or normal top.

Also, buy waterproof splices or wire nuts, and more fuses. They are usually 1A fast blow, glass tube (GMA1), though some are 0.5A and some are 1.5A. Check your book to make sure you get the right ones, but Rainbird ESP is 1A.


When you’re ready to replace the valve, turn off the system so there is no chance of it turning on while you’re working. There should just be an “off” position, but you can unplug the power brick too if you want. It’s only 24 volts, but it’s AC, and the box will have water in it. This makes it a little bit of a hazard, at least from a comfort issue, if it were to turn on.

Next, turn off the water. The sprinkler system is under constant pressure, and the valve just lets the water into that loop or leg. It’s really tough to replace while it’s flowing. If you don’t know where the shutoff is for your sprinklers, just turn it off for your whole house at the street. This usually takes a wide-slot t-bar tool, but you can hammer a 1.5″ steel pipe partially flat on one end and use a pipe-wrench if you really need to, and have that handy.

If there is no shut-off for your sprinklers, then now might be a good time to install one. You’ll need pipe cutters, a shovel, a lawn box for it to go into, pipe cement, and a valve (ball valve is best). Go with something that has a hefty handle so it won’t need replacing later.

If you wanted to drain the pipe, you can open a valve by twisting the solenoid counterclockwise 1/8th of a turn. That will let the pressure out of the pipe and it will drizzle into whatever sprinklers are there. If the valve is at the low spot, you’ll still have water come out when you pull the valve. That’s fine, because it will help flush some of the debris out of the valve (if any).

Remove the clips/wire nuts, and push the wires aside. You don’t need to pay attention to polarity. It’s 26 volts AC, so it’ll work no matter which way it’s wired. If you’re geeky, you can check resistance, and it should be in the 25 Ohm range. Too low is a short, and too high is corrosion inside. Jus tmake sure that you don’t lose any of the black wires if there are several clipped in.

Next, remove the 6 screws from the top of the valve, or unscrew the cap if it’s a jar-top. If it’s too stuck, an oil filter wrench, or robo-grip, or channel locks can help. There is a spring that may want to leap out, so be careful removing the very top. Collect all of your parts. You should be left with just a plastic housing mounted in the pipe that has some concentric rings inside, but no loose parts.

If any dirt clods or crud has fallen in there, pull it out, rinse it out, or turn on the water part way to flush it out. it does not have to be spotless, but it should not be muddy.

Pull the top off of your new valve, and swap it in place of the old one. If you’re doing multiples, or decided to replace them all (they have a life-span of about 15 years, so it’s just a matter of time…), then do them.

Once it’s assembled water-tight, turn on the water supply and look for leaks. Solenoid should be snug clockwise, any bleed screw on the top should be snug, and etc. The sprinklers should not be leaking. You should not hear water flowing.

Next, test that it turns on manually by twisting the solenoid counter-cockwise about 1/8th turn. The sprinklers should come on. Twist it back to shut them off.

Once you are sure it’s water-tight and works properly, then connect up your wires with grease caps. It does not matter which solenoid wire goes to which control wire, but any common/black splices in the main cable need to be preserved. If your grease caps are the small, screw on kind, then you’ll want to wrap them in hurricane tape or gaffer’s tape to keep them clean. The snap-shut caps are ok to be left loose in the can.

If you need to replace the can, then now is a good time. You may have to cut out the bottom of the pipe-hole to fit it over. It’s a pain to dig out, but if it’s messed up, it will protect your new valve better to have the can replaced. Just don’t shovel into your control wire. The 7″ round cans are good for one valve, but if you have all of the valves together, a bigger, square/rectangle box may be needed. Even if it’s all above ground, keeping them boxed will keep animals from nibbling on wires.

Now, the moment of truth, test from the controller. Make sure you can manually enable the repaired zone(s). If not, check your wires, since you should have already verified the valve manually works. If anything fails, go back and re-do the steps. Maybe you dropped the spring, or forgot to put the valve gasket in?

If you’re stuck, and it’s bad, then this might have been a project to call a professional about. Maybe you can get someone quickly. Turn off the water if needed.


Max and Khai decided an XBox-360 was in order. Lots of cheap games. A new 360E was the best option, so Max went that route. He put in $155 (vs $94+SH + Accessories for used, or $156 for refurb). Khai put in $20. I put in $5, plus bought a 320GB drive ($45). No Kinect. Halo 3 was bought for $6 by Max. Our DVD player has gone stale since we set up a media PC, so the XB360 will take over that HDMI port.