Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Chugging Along

Getting back into the swing of things.These last few weeks have been pretty horrendous for fencing and running.

Many things conspired to limit fencing, plans and cancellations, but finally got to fence last night. I fenced a bit and practiced some too. After being up the mountain yesterday, and getting up to do 1.5 miles in the morning I certainly wasn't at top performance, however it was definitely good to fence. I certainly need to improve, as we have a person that can soundly beat me. It is quite amazing how much of a motivator that is, in fact it will be an excellent learning opportunity.

I really need to work on my point control, and in that direction I have made a ball with a string through it. Really simple, but attaching a clamp to the beam and then dangling the ball from it should help my point control become better. Or rather I will improve my point control. Another thing is reactions, I need to definitely put in place stock actions as well as leave the door open for flexibility. I see things just fine, but as I get more tired I make bigger actions, which are most decidedly not restful. They also cause pieces of blades to break off and go flying across the gym. So some shopping needs to be done to find a few dry blades, and a glove as mine is finally wearing out, Leon Paul certainly makes great gloves.

I ran 1.5 miles yesterday and 2 miles this morning. I haven't run in 2 weeks mostly because of the rain. I dislike running in the rain, but I made a deal with myself Monday night, I would run at least once a week whether or not it was raining in the morning, Monday being the day. That would allow for my shoes to dry out. But it was actually nice Tuesday morning, so I didn't need to get wet. When I reach 300 miles in my shoes I think they will be relegated as I get a new pair, but I am still about 110 miles from that goal. An old pair of shoes, or just even a second pair that can get wet without worrying about tomorrow.

I also didn't do too well on the most recent self-driving car homework. It wasn't so much programming as putting together matrices for a Kalman Filter. The fact that I didn't have to take linear algebra in college probably doesn't help. Also waiting until the last moment doesn't help either. This week I started in on the lectures so I can hopefully get that done well before this weekend and start in on the homework. It is focused on Particle Filters, supposedly a much easier idea. I sure hope so, but I suspect that we will have to know all three including a histogram discrete filter. It should continue to be interesting, and I am learning python at least.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Snow Chains in Hawaii

Yes, you read the title correctly, we were required to use chains today. Of course there being snow made the poor rangers freak out. Some of it may have required chains, but especially after plowing the chains are just being ruined and ruining the tires. Having grown up in Wyoming I know that chains are useful, but seriously 3 inches of mostly fresh snow? It is when it starts getting packed and icy that chains really help.

But having fun replacing disks. Putting 2 160 GB SSDs in plus 2 2TB HDDs in eight different computers. Being at nearly 14,000 feet up here on Mauna Kea really can do damage to disks, the head needs an air cushion and it doesn't get it. Head slams into disk, disk is kaput. That is why SSDs are so much better, once you get beyond their sudden infant death syndrome, but those are pretty rare.

Anyway, back to work.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Rats in Paradise

Or: Raining for Weeks Straight Induce Rats to Take Shelter in Houses and Cause the People Inside Much Trouble.

Hawaii did not always have rats. Hawaii did not always have anything that is here, but rats are certainly more recent than many things we think of as Hawaiian. They came via ships just as mosquitoes did, but they climbed down ropes, or even swam from ships. Hard to keep track of, mosquitoes were just dumped into fresh water as larva as someone refilled their water barrels, which could have been prevented. The rats would have made it here one way or another. Of course they started wiping out endemic bird populations, so some smart person brought in mongeese to hunt and eat them, not realizing that mongeese are diurnal and rats are nocturnal. And the mongeese eat birds and bird-eggs too.

But the reason I am relating this is because we had the opportunity to meet one of these interlopers this weekend. I would love to say that I didn't have to kill it, but then I would be as bad as PETA in lying about their treatment of much more acceptable animals for pets. I also don't enjoy killing animals, I have gone hunting but have never been able to pull the trigger, make fun of me as you will. But dispatching a rat in protecting Jessie and our household definitely gives me satisfaction, though it is definitely on my mind, unlike all the cockroaches that I have dispatch with nary a second thought.

A warning to those who are squeamish or who will want to argue with me: I will write in detail about what I did, and I may sound triumphant, because I won over a disgusting, disease-ridden, though weirdly cute, mammal. But it was also the first mammal that I have ever killed, and although there are less traumatic ways of dispatching those infernal, furry, rope-tailed beasts, it was efficient and done quickly. Also as a disclaimer: I do not support the torture of animals, though I support hunting, fishing, and pest control with decent means. So if you are going to stop, you should stop now.

Saturday night Jessie and I were up late playing Boggle and Uno with some of our friends. It was about midnight when we finished and I soon went to bed. Jessie was up reading when she saw the rat come out of our bathroom. She didn't scream but what followed was enough to rouse me. I came out and blearily watched her hunt for it.

She didn't find it but it scampered around the corner and into the bedroom. Of course this made Jessie very upset, and I was a bit more awake now. She saw it climb the bed and then dive into a hole by an outlet, about a foot away from where she usually sleeps. This made her even more upset, and my brain was just starting to get engaged.

We removed the nightstand from in front of the outlet and stared at the hole for a while. Jessie was all for getting a few blankets and sleeping out in the car as it is most certainly rat free and recently roach free. I removed the plugs from the outlet to give the rat less things to climb and taped a black trash-bag between the wall and the side of the bed. This was supposedly going to at least temporarily detain the rat and make the process much less messy. I also stuck a sticky roach trap in the bottom to delay the rat a bit so that I would have time to come up with a solution. It certainly wouldn't hold or kill the rat, but it might slow it down some.

We went to sleep out on the futon when Jessie decided it would be quite a bit better than the cold car. The next morning I awoke at 6:30, lying there trying to parse the noises. I noticed a definite scratching noise, so I got up and looked into the bedroom. The bag was stuffed into the hole, so I wondered when Jessie had gotten up and done such a thing, but she didn't. I approached cautiously and pulled on the bag, thinking that it would just fall out and we would have to keep vigilant for a long while. But then it pulled itself back into the hole.

I pulled it out and saw something that initially registered as a cord of some sort, but then I realized it was a tail. Somehow the rat had fallen in the trash bag, got the tail stuck and then chewed its way out. It climbed back in the hole but was still stuck to the bag. I woke Jessie up and then went back in. I put gloves on and took a pair of needle-nose pliers. I pulled on the bag and then caught its tail with the pliers. It poked its nose out, but much too quickly for me to do anything, but then the flight response of the rat kicked in.

When rats' tails are caught, they can shed the skin, leaving whatever predator with just a bit of skin rather than a full rat meal. I don't know how the tail recovers later but for some reason our rat did not run despite being free of the sticky and the pliers. So I quickly clamped some vice-grips on the exposed tail, just thinking about that makes me shudder, but I didn't want it to escape, because it would come back again. This time the fight response was there so it poked its nose out, but I was ready this time. I grabbed its nose with the pliers, and through much squeaking, drew it out of the hole far enough to dispatch it with a hammer.

The clean-up was simple with the black trash-bag and a few other bags. No mess other than wiping down the tools. I am glad it was over quickly.

Unfortunately there might be another. I would rather not poison it, as it may go outside and die within reach of the neighbor's dog and poison the dog. I might try to find the entry spot and just stuff gravel there until it fills up, or small rocks, basically something tough to dig through and pretty discouraging. And maybe a sticky-trap, one for rats. Not as quick and efficient but also less worrisome about having to be vigilant.

Or, we could move back to Wyoming and maybe have to deal with mice, if anything at all. Some people say Hawaii is paradise, some days that is pretty believable, but with the rain and the imported pests I think I will just say that it is Hawaii and it is nice sometimes.

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John studied himself in the mirror as best he could through tears. Red, puffy eyes stared back at him, a running nose already leaked just a ...