Shallow Thoughts

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Wed, 15 May 2024

Antifreeze and Critters

[Lizard inspecting a rock for traces of that yummy antifreeze] My Miata blew a radiator hose and dumped out all its coolant, so I needed to do a radiator flush and fill.

Turns out that's kind of a nasty job on an NB (second-gen) Miata. The radiator drain plug is accessed through a hole in the tray under the engine. Once you get it loose enough that coolant has started to drip out, if the screwdriver slips, it's impossible to get it back on without getting coolant all over the screwdriver, flashlight, your arm, your face and hair, etc. And once you do manage to loosen it enough, it pops out, sending coolant gushing everywhere onto the engine undertray, from which it comes out the back and sides and it's impossible to catch it all in a drain pan.

So that left me with quite a mess to clean up afterward. I started by pouring the used coolant into a container with a secure cap: I've always heard warnings about how kids and pets will try to drink the poisonous stuff because it tastes and smells sweet. We don't have kids or pets, but there are plenty of wild critters and we want them to stay healthy too.

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[ 15:23 May 15, 2024    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 10 May 2024

New Hiking Route: Ancho Rapids to Lower Water Canyon

[Panorama of the Rio Grande from the River Trail just north of Ancho Rapids] Can you follow Lower Water Canyon (in the DOE open space lands south of White Rock, NM) all the way to the Rio Grande?

In the decade we've lived here, we've heard that question and asked it ourselves, and have heard a few anecdotal reports. You can follow it down most of the way, but there's a pour-off near the end that you won't want to do without a rope. Or there was a pour-off fifteen years ago that wasn't that big a deal, but it's changed since then and isn't passable now. Or ... well, anyway, the story kept changing depending on who we asked, and nobody seemed to have tried it in many years.

Now I've done it. It's a beautiful hike, and right now there's an abundance of wildflowers in bloom along the canyon.

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[ 12:42 May 10, 2024    More hikes | permalink to this entry | ]

Tue, 07 May 2024

Bighorn on the Trail

On a mountain bike ride on the White Rock Canyon Rim trail yesterday, we stopped at one of the overlooks to admire the view, and turned to see three bighorn sheep crossing the trail behind us.

[Two bighorn sheep crossing a trail]

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[ 13:04 May 07, 2024    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Sat, 04 May 2024

Creating an Image with Wrapped Text using the Python Imaging Library

I stumbled onto the page for this year's Asimov's Magazine Readers' Award Finalists. They offer all the stories right there -- but only as PDF. I prefer reading fiction on my ebook reader (a Kobo Clara with 6" screen), away from the computer. I spend too much time sitting at the computer as it is. But trying to read a PDF on a 6" screen is just painful.

The open-source ebook program Calibre has a command-line program called ebook-convert that can convert some PDF to epub. It did an okay job in this case — except that the PDFs had the wrong author name (they all have the same author, so I'm guessing it's the name of the person who prepared the PDFs for Asimov's), and the wrong title information (or maybe just no title), and ebook-convert compounded that error by generating cover images for each work that had the wrong title and author.

I went through the files and fixed each one's title and author metadata using my Python script. But what about the cover images? I wasn't eager to spend the time GIMPing up a cover image by hand for each of the stories.

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[ 13:52 May 04, 2024    More programming | permalink to this entry | ]

Mon, 22 Apr 2024

Tactical is the New Black

[a so-called 'Tactical Pen'] My new binocular came! And something curious came with them: a "tactical pen".

It seems to be quite a nice gel pen, with an aluminum body and a locking retractor. But the "tactical" part is less clear.

Me What makes it tactical?
Dave Maybe that it's black?
Me Tactical is the new black?

And of course, my mind couldn't help wandering off to explore what might make the difference between a tactical pen and a strategic pen. Maybe something about how long the ink reserve lasts? Or how long it takes to click the clicky retractor thing?

Oh, well, it was free when buying the binocular from B&H, and it really is a pretty nice pen.

On the binocular:

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[ 16:06 Apr 22, 2024    More humor | permalink to this entry | ]

Thu, 18 Apr 2024

Using Sox Play to Help Learn Guitar

I mentioned last month that I'm learning guitar. It's been going well and I'm having fun. But I've gotten to the point where I sometimes get chords confused: a song is listed as using E major and I play D major instead.

Also, it's important to practice transitions between chords, which is easy when you only know three chords; but with eight or so, I had stopped practicing transitions in general and was only practicing the ones that occur in songs I like to play.

I found myself wishing I had something like flash cards for guitar chords.

Someone must have already written that, right? But I couldn't find anything promising with a web search. And besides, it's more fun to write programs than to flail at unhelpful search engines, and you always end up learning something new.

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[ 20:02 Apr 18, 2024    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

Sat, 13 Apr 2024

Saw the Eclipse ... Sort Of

[Viewing the eclipse from 19 Mile Crossing, TX] I'm sorry, but I have no eclipse photos to share. I messed that up. But I did get to see totality.

For the April 8, 2024 eclipse, Dave and I committed early to Texas. Seemed like that was where the best long-range forecasts were. In the last week before the eclipse, the forecasts were no longer looking so good. But I've heard so many stories of people driving around trying to chase holes in the clouds, only to be skunked, while people who stayed put got a better view. We decided to stick with our plan, which was to stay in San Angelo (some 190 miles off the centerline) the night before, get up fairly early and drive to somewhere near the centerline.

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[ 12:36 Apr 13, 2024    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | ]

Wed, 03 Apr 2024

Making OsmAnd Overlays with QGIS (2024 Edition)

Several years ago I wrote about Making a Land Ownership Overlay with QGIS and Making Overlay Maps for OsmAnd. I've been using that land use overlay for years. But recently I needed to make several more overlays: land ownership for Utah for a hiking trip, one for the eclipse, and I wanted to refresh my New Mexico land ownership overlay since it was several years out of date. It turns out some things have changed, so here's an update, starting from the point where your intended overlay is loaded as a layer in QGIS.

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[ 18:15 Apr 03, 2024    More mapping | permalink to this entry | ]