Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life

June 9, 2013

How to, Miscellaneous Comment, Opinion

Comments Off on Training Dogs, Particularly Australian Cattle Dogs, aka Blue Heelers (Gray and White Coat) and Red Heelers (Red Coat)

First, I must make a confession. My wife is our chief dog trainer. My goal is to help her and not screw things up too much when I am with the dog. This is all very strange, because we both observe that the dog seems to have more affinity to me than her.

Our ACD is about 26 months old. He has taught me the following:

1. All dogs must learn the basics. These are sit, stay, down, come, heel, and no. They must, of course, be house-trained. Some training is needed for fun or to further their skills such as bird hunting for retrievers. A formal game of fetch comes to mind. Our ACD is not a natural at fetch, but he did learn it and does a good job. He can sit and wait while we throw. He retrieves the ball, returns it and drops it in our hand. Very good.

2. If you are training your dog and making no progress, do not assess what the dog is doing wrong. First look at what you, the trainer might be doing that is sub-optimum or, worse, simply wrong.

3. Be consistent and make your dog practice his training to make your lives (his and yours) easier. For example, our dog is always commanded to wait before entering the house and before jumping into my truck. We tell him to move off the trail when hiking and to sit and stay when we are about to encounter other hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. This usually works, despite never formally training him to move off the trail. The point here is to command the dog for behavior that is logical and prudent in the situation. He will begin to associate the needed behavior with your command.

4. Reward your dog a lot when he is learning a new trick. Our dog is big on food. Indeed, we already have to watch his weight. So, we do not always treat with food, and when he does get treats they are small and low calorie. Obviously, we want and seem to be getting a dog that likes praise and finds that to be adequately rewarding for doing the right thing as time progresses.

5. Never punish your dog after he obeys the “come here” command. Even if you use the command in a stern, punitive voice, always praise your dog for coming to you.

6. ACD’s really do try to herd their owners by biting our heels. This is how they herd cattle. These natural behaviors are hard to break, but a little firmness here that works is better than a problem that is punished less firmly over many months. Any dog with biting, barking, or other problems that tend to hurt others and get the owner sued must be dealt with in a planned and firm manner by the owner.

7. If you are desperately struggling with barking, biting, herding (yes, our neighbors have cows), you might consider a shock collar. We did. When our dog goes into the neighbors cow pasture, he gets one call. If his excitement at herding overwhelms his obedience training, he gets a shock and then another call. And he comes and is rewarded for doing so. This punishes the bad behavior, herding the cattle of neighbors, while rewarding good behavior, coming to us. We do not have to do this much anymore. He is a smart dog, and when I used to get him from the field, I always told him not to visit the neighbor. Now when he goes in that direction, I say the same thing and the dog turns to look at me and pauses. It all works together.

8. Most of us want a dog that has basic obedience skills. Use as much positive reinforcement as possible, and as little punishment as necessary. Punishment has negative consequences, such as breaking the spirit of the animal, and can contribute to other manifestations of bad behavior. Today our dog disobeyed me. Instead of dragging him to his kennel, as I did  before when he disobeyed, I simply told him to enter the kennel. He did. He knew he had been bad. But because he entered under his own will, I released him in only a few minutes. He got the message.

9. A good dog is a great companion. He is a dog that generally obeys, but has moments of fun and exuberance that define his unique character. This is his spirit and personality, and is absolutely fine for pet dogs, even if a little annoying at times. This combination of traits defines our dog. He is what people call a good dog, and that is right.



June 24, 2012

Miscellaneous Comment

Comments Off on My Five Least Favorite Presidents

My five least favorite presidents in reverse order are:

Barack Obama Our prestigious law professor president who taught at a prestigious law school and forgot that the federal government was supposed to enjoy only those powers enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. His interpretation of the commerce clause is not consistent with limited government. If the individual mandate of the health care act had been upheld by the Supreme Court based on the Commerce Clause as he supported, we would have had a government with unlimited power except where that power was not specifically granted by the Constitution. That is completely backwards, a departure from the principle of a limited federal government.

He has kept us in two wars for way too long, as well.

Jimmy Carter  A pacifist who let his strong personal beliefs impair the perceived strength of the United States by our antagonists. Sometimes there is less violence if your enemies believe there will be a strong response to their bad choices.

Richard Nixon  The Watergate cover-up was unconscionable. The man had no notion of being subject to the laws that all of us must follow as citizens.

Franklin D. Roosevelt  He did two things (at least) that caused irreparable damage to the United States. The Social Security Act was a good idea, but its funding, with the young paying for the old instead of transitioning to a vesting system set us up for the funding problems we now face. The second decision harmed the environment by diverting the waters of the Columbia River, and killing the largest of the salmon varieties on the face of the earth. He was instrumental in the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.

Number Five  I am open to your suggestions.



September 18, 2011

Miscellaneous Comment

Comments Off on My Australian Cattle Dog

He is named Q2 (for Quimby II)

The veterinarian said my ACD will be a good dog. I take this to mean she well understands that this four month old pup isn’t good yet; the old negative pregnant. Of course, her assessment is correct. The dog is remarkable in many ways, and many of the good behaviors are quite surprising in a young dog. He comes to us reliably; he walks with us with or without a leash; he sits and lets us connect or disconnect the leash; and he can  successfully play a formal game of fetch, abiding by the commands: sit, stay, fetch, and give (me the ball). He is untied all day and doesn’t leave our property. He helps us move water and air hoses, and releases them with the command “give.”

But his bad habits are frustrating and taking a toll. He is destroying our drip irrigation piece by piece. He still jumps on us to greet us. And he loves to chew our Adirondack chairs. He also likes to herd us, nipping the back of our legs, then running in circles and barking with great energy, even right after a four-mile walk.

Despite the problems, which my wife and I are working on diligently, he actually is a good buddy.

January 16, 2011

Miscellaneous Comment

Comments Off on The Delight of Roku, both Digital Audio with Pandora and 1080p Video

Roku Player with Remote Control. Nickel added for scale. Signal input is wireless. One cable is power and the other is HDMI output to television. Photo by author. Please give credit to lawyermusings.com if you use this image.

My nephew from Portland, Oregon (Andrew) was one of several visitors at Thanksgiving last year. We were all sitting in the living room, which at the time was equipped with an analog flat screen Sony television, when I inquired as to his recommendations for a new television. Then I asked him about Netflix streaming. I followed his recommendations, and have been ecstatic with the outcome.

Here is the advice he gave us:

  • Buy a LCD/LED television without any special streaming technology. Things are changing too fast to tie yourself to a particular streaming technology built into the television.
  • Buy a 30 to 45 inch television based on the size of the room we use for viewing. We bought a 37 inch set, which seems as near to perfect as I can imagine.
  • The set must be 1080p capable with HDMI inputs. We have three HDMI inputs.
  • Buy a Roku player with Wi-Fi capability, which is the mid-grade device.

The purchases Andrew recommended were our Christmas gifts to ourselves. The Roku gives us our only high definition video, and it is great. We stream a lot of Netflix content, but it is a bit addictive.  On the television end of things, I connected our cable directly to the television, and eliminated the cable converter box. The television decodes both analog and digital signals, so I receive just about everything I did before, however, we have lost the cool Comcast television guide and On Demand. We seldom used On Demand; the free stuff was generally awful and we are too cheap to pay Comcast even more for movies. Netflix and Red Box get our movie dollars.

Andrew recommended using the HDMI cable for the Roku connection. I ordered it from Amazon with the player. Unfortunately, we had to view the content from Roku using RCA cables for about two weeks while we waited for the HDMI cable. But the wait was worth it. The video is excellent. Also, the Roku set-up was reasonably easy, although a fair bit of typing is required using a televison displayed keyboard. You scroll to each letter and press enter. Programming should be done only if you have enough free time so that you are not glancing at the clock every few minutes. You should make sure you have your user identification and passwords for the content Roku offers: Netflix, Pandora, Amazon, Hulu, etc.

Several features are impressive. The Roku box is tiny and fits beneath your television screen. You will not need a separate shelf for this component, nor will you need a long HDMI cable. The audio quality, which is input into my television but is amplified by my sound system, is excellent. I think the sound quality exceeds that of my old compact discs; I have listened to some of the same music on each. The free version of Pandora is excellent and has a five star rating to prove it. Unlike Pandora on your computer, there is no advertising, nor does it demand a user input to continue playing music. We have had hours of fun with it, too.

I want two more items of content from Roku. The PBS Newshour and NPR’s CarTalk. Then we’re cooking.

At $79 for the Roku player, you will have a lot of fun at a modest expense.

January 1, 2011

Miscellaneous Comment

Comments Off on Things I Learned in 2010…

This post is a list of some things I learned in 2010, with a few comments on what I will change as a result.

  • Some of my most popular posts give information on repairs. These posts have enduring value to the reader who is trying to decide whether he can do a job or is trying to escape a mess that is in progress. It will be tough for me to photograph my work in the middle of the job, because my focus is on success, not documentation. However, my New Year’s resolution is to add photographs to posts on repairs.
  • Rural Americans are always the last to get modern conveniences. For example, we were second to the cities to get plumbing and toilets, electricity, telephones, gaseous fuel, and broadband. One of the last vestiges of technological second-class status in rural America for my wife and me was that our cell phones did not work in our house. Verizon, ATT, and perhaps other vendors have network extenders that act like mini-cell sites, converting your cell signal to an Internet Protocol data stream. For those who have broadband but lousy cell phone service in your home or office, these devices work well. Remember to update the software of your phone before using the extender. With Verizon, you dial *228, then select option 2, “Update Roaming Capabilities.” My New Year’s resolution is to terminate my land line as soon as my Comcast introductory contract ends this summer.
  • Digital television and high definition television are cool. My initial streaming experience was with a laptop, but few of us are set-up for use of a laptop near our televisions and I wasn’t either. The solution was a Roku box for $79. It is an elegant solution to the streaming problem. I bought the mid-level device, which includes the wireless interface. The box is small and fits nicely on the same shelf as the TV and below the screen. My New Year’s resolution is to disconnect from cable TV again when my contract with Comcast expires. I will also drop the number of DVDs that I can borrow simultaneously from Netflix from three to one.
  • The exchange of Christmas cards among individuals is decreasing drastically. Preparing these has been a huge problem for years, because our time off from work clusters at and after the holidays, not sufficiently in advance. My resolution going forward is to write letters around the holidays instead of sending cards.

Happy New Year!

December 11, 2010

Miscellaneous Comment

Comments Off on Home Furnace Short-Cycling and Other Maladies.

Strange things occur when the air flow through a residential furnace or indoor air handler is too low. Here are some consequences when in heating mode:

  • The difference between the inlet temperature and discharge temperature increases proportionately with the decrease in airflow.
  • The rate of heat transfer decreases.
  • The appliance temperature rises enough to cause it to cycle on and off very quickly as the automatically resetting  high temperature limit switch opens and closes. This switching causes the furnace or exterior condensing unit for a heat pump to cycle on and off quickly. This “short-cycling” will damage the starter contacts and will shorten the life of the equipment. It will also be difficult to keep the house warm. Failure of the limit switch in the closed (on) position can cause a fire if it is controlling a furnace.

A few of the causes of short-cycling are:

  • plugged air filters.
  • coils caked with dirt.
  • closed balancing dampers or registers.
  • collapsed ducts.
  • dirt caking on turning vanes.

I hope this helps you.

Winter is approaching and cold weather is here already. I often build a wood fire in the evening or morning, heat the open area of the house, then turn on the furnace fan. The return air grille is high in the vaulted ceiling not far from the wood stove, allowing hot air generated from the wood stove to spread through all rooms of the house. About two weeks ago, I switched the fan on and nothing happened.

My diagnostic approach was elimination of potential failures, doing the easy steps first. I learned on line which thermostat wires controlled the fan, removed the thermostat from the back plane, and crossed the two terminals (red and green). The fan didn’t work. This proved (almost conclusively) that the thermostat was not the problem. I then shut off power and  checked the blower and motor. There was no evidence of a burned motor or shaft failure; the squirrel cage turned freely. I bypassed the fan controls and energized the blower leads. The fan worked, proving the starting capacitor and the motor were fine. I then turned the power back on and heard a relay operate on the fan control board. I concluded that the transformer was alright and that the fan control board had failed.

I searched the Internet, simply inserting the old part number into the Google search box. My first hit was a used board on e-Bay for $199. The second was a new one for $187. Information on that site revealed that the part had been replaced with a “universal” fan timer. (Universal is an industry term for a part that won’t fit like your old one.) My third search was a great site that was clear. They offered the new universal part (the part number is in the title) for $104 plus $10 shipping. My wife ordered it standard shipping; we have a wood stove so there was no rush.

If you undertake this job yourself, do read the directions before you start. They include the advice of removing the mounting screws of the old board and installing the new board before disconnecting any wires from the old one. This is sound advice. I used a big cable tie to hold the old one out of the way. You should move the leads one at a time and have a high confidence that each is properly connected before moving to the next. Here are some other pointers:

  • Find the part number for your old board in the dip switch setting  table of the instructions in case your appliance is not listed in the directions.
  • The dip switches are covered with a brownish translucent protective cover. It is not obvious, especially if your eyes are older than an antique car. Remove it before attempting to operate the dip switches.
  • I used a utility knife to set the switches, using a lateral and slightly upper force on the switch.
  • The new board’s terminals are in different positions. You will think that all the leads are sufficiently lengthy to fit the new board, as I did. I was wrong. I mounted the new board in a different position, had to move the transformer, mounted the board upside down and moved the ground terminal on the furnace chassis to get it to fit.
  • The neutral terminals are all identical. Connect the white wires to them.
  • IND is the label for the combustion air fan. Honeywell calls it the induction fan. Connect the black lead from the induction fan here.
  • The common on the secondary side of the transformer is defined by its connection to ground with a dual lug. It goes to the common transformer terminal. The other secondary lead is X1. These are both 24 Volt leads and connect at the low Voltage side of the board.
  • The safety interlocks were on the six wire plug on my job. The wiring did not match the “typical” diagram. It had 4 terminals in use and mine had 5. However, the four they showed were connected similarly through normally closed interlocks and the fifth was shown connected identically to my furnace on another wiring diagram. Voila.
  • Connect the black power wire from your supply circuit to the L1 terminal.

The universal board has simple on-board diagnostics, with a green LED that shows normal operation and displays trouble codes. I didn’t see the trouble codes; mine worked perfectly when tested. This includes success with pre-purge (combustion air fan goes on before spark production to purge any explosive mixture prior to the generation of the spark), ignition, blower starting after ignition, flame going out when thermostat is satisfied, and the blower operation enduring for a short time to cool the heat exchanger after the flame goes out. Of course, my fan switch starts and stops the blower as it should.

My guess is that this do-it-yourself effort saved about $100 in parts and probably $200 in labor, yielding roughly a savings of  75% . This is enough for great dinner with fine wine for two, lots of gas, or some darn necessity. I also avoided the sales pitch with the mechanic arguing that my 16 year old furnace should be replaced because it isn’t that much more money. The truth is that I need new ductwork, so a new furnace and the needed duct improvements will cost about $10,000.  That’s the subject of a future post.

We have two cats. The older was given to my wife by some friends about fourteen years ago. He was a tiny male kitten who was playful and wild; he is still allowed to go outside and still kills a mouse on occasion despite a touch of arthritis that makes the rapid motions needed to catch and kill a challenge.

Then a visitor came by recently. He is a young guy. He moved in from a neighbors home, apparently not too pleased with quarters in the barn only; he was not allowed in the house. This was a very delicate problem between neighbors, but I think everyone understands that where a cat lives is more a matter of what the cat decides than anything else.

So here is the routine. Young cat spends the night outside by his own choice. Old cat sleeps with me until about 4:30 A.M. each morning. This is very convenient, because I like to get up at 5:00 A.M. I let the old guy out and try to sleep a bit more. It usually doesn’t work.

The old guy is ready to enter as soon as I awaken. I feed him a small portion of moist food laced with glucosamine for his arthritis, then he drinks water out of a toilet and goes to the garage for some dry food and a short nap on his blanket atop the old Corvette. Then the young guy comes in and eats his hard food and drinks a little water purified with reverse osmosis equipment. Of late, he gets a little tuna fish and some half and half.

When the old guy enters from the garage, they both get some special treats, which they swallow quickly to avoid competition. Then they chase each other around the house, feigning fierce battle. After about ten minutes of this, they each retire for the day to a bed with a blanket folded and strategically placed for their comfort.

Late in the day, they’ll hunt and lounge outside after having a few bites to eat, then the cycle repeats.

Now I ask you, who do you think lives better, a working American like me or our cats?

August 20, 2010

Miscellaneous Comment

Comments Off on A Forest 16 Years Post Logging

Our land was logged in the summer of 1994. It is a few acres in western Washington, and includes a spring fed stream that merges with a winter stream. The logger was able to use the original logging road to operate his track hoe. He took all commercially valuable trees, leaving old maples, some alders in a wetland area, and a few divided and young firs. He re-planted Alaska and Western Red cedars along the creek at the insistence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the county. These were approximately 6 ft. high specimens with roots bundled in burlap. The guy who planted them didn’t get the root balls as deep as he should have, at least that is how it appeared. The logger promised to plant seedlings in the higher areas, but never added to the few he had already planted.

Our contribution has been mostly to leave things alone. We have:

1. Used no pesticides (which includes herbicides).

2.  Manually removed some weeds, such as Tansy Ragwort, a couple of Scotch Broom plants, and some Canada Thistle.

3. Planted some small seedlings of cedar and  Douglas Fir on a hillside that did not self propagate.

4. Made a network of trails with hand work. These are big enough to run a wheel barrow up and down to retrieve bucked logs from some of the downed trees.

5. Collected and burned limbs and litter from an area where debris was collected by the loggers. The litter was three to four feet deep over several hundred square feet.

6. Kept all vehicles and heavy equipment off the area.

The result is a remarkable young forest with Sword Ferns, Salal, and other indigenous and naturally occurring ground cover. Most of the Alders left in the wetlands were toppled in storms or had to be cut because they leaned toward buildings. A new crop is growing in their place. Although there are some invasive weeds, they are few and none survive in large patches.

Those 6 foot trees are in some cases over 30 feet tall with trunks greater than 12 inches in diameter. There is Alder large enough for firewood. Some of the firs not harvested are approaching magnificence. The midday light has the beauty you would expect in a much older forest. The forest remains about ten degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the built portion of the property on a hot summer day.

Although it is sad that the old growth was taken in the forties and the property was again logged just prior to our purchase, the old growth stumps are still here. Those stumps, the grades that were substantially unaltered by the old and the modern loggers, the mixture of plantings and natural propagation of many species, and the naturally occurring stream flows have all created a diverse, thriving, and rapidly recovering forest. I am glad we stayed here to see this.

I worked at retrieving firewood  today and was so engrossed with the beauty of the property – we had clear skies, temperatures in the sixties this morning, and that perfect mottled morning light, that I pushed the wheel barrow about 100 feet too far with a load of wood in it! My mind was so totally occupied with the beauty of the path and the surrounding area, I forgot what I was doing.

August 10, 2010

Miscellaneous Comment, Money and Finance, Opinion

Comments Off on Rhino Linings

Rhino sells franchises for the application of linings for pickup trucks.  They promote their product with a “lifetime” warranty that turns out to be virtually useless.  This is a lifetime warranty for a product with a useful life of perhaps as few as five to ten years, depending on the severity of service. Pieces of mine are disappearing all over my truck bed. Some of the limitations to the Rhino warranty are:

  • Repair must be with the installing dealer. Mine went out of business years ago. Persons in my situation are instructed to make a claim at a warranty website and to include photographs of the failure. I could not find the website to which the dealer I called referred me.
  • If Rhino thinks your claim is valid, Rhino will have the dealer closest to where you live evaluate the failure. The closest dealer to me is 40 miles away. If they agree that the liner has failed in a manner that is subject to the warranty, I will get an approval and an appointment for another 80 mile round trip. So success means 160 miles of driving. That is roughly $80 in driving costs alone.
    • There are also different warranty limitations in my contract than noted on their website. Current coverage is limited to cracking, bubbling or peeling. My warranty excluded abuse and misuse.

    I specifically recall the dealership telling me at the time of purchase they would fix any failure, but of course that is not what the contract states.  Do you think there is a potential argument about what constitutes abuse of a bed-liner? This is a product we buy to protect the steel bed from abuse like sharp objects in trash or excessive wear from rocks and gravel. This is not a purchase based on style.

    My advice is simple. Be careful of companies offering lifetime warranties. View these warranties as an annoyance; why should they pay for repairs or replacement of a product that is beyond its useful life? You do not think that is smart and they do not either. Therefore, they will likely make the success of your claim difficult. Lifetime warranties are often the signal of a company willing to abuse consumers, like Rhino.

    You might want to consider a truck with a factory composite bed, such as the Toyota Tacoma, or a competitor to Rhino if you select a sprayed-on liner. Or simply save your money, sand the scratches that eventually accumulate in the painted factory finish, and roll and brush some top quality coating in the pick-up bed when it is needed. After all, it’s a truck.

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