Heather's First Day of Kindergarten

Heather was very excited for school to start again.  She has some friends in her Kindergarten class from TK last year.  Stress levels have been high all weekend due to a malfunctioning smoke alarm on Saturday morning (Heather has been freaking out about the idea of the house burning down).  But despite her amped up anxiety levels we made it to school on time and she had a good first day.

She got to watch the eclipse at school.  They had the kids watch pinhole cameras and then took them one-at-a-time to use eclipse glasses.  I'm glad the Livermore schools actually made an event out of it and found something that would work for young kids.  The Lab donated enough eclipse glasses to the school system for every student and faculty member.

She finished the day with a smile (and Oreo crumbs all over her mouth).

Solar Eclipse 2017

We had fun watching the eclipse today.  Livermore had ~75% occlusion at peak.  It was also Heather's first day of school (separate post coming).  They took the kids outside to watch pinhole cameras and then let them use eclipse glasses one-at-a-time so they could ensure they were being worn properly.

Heather helped me make eclipse cookies yesterday.

My sugar cookie skills could use some work...

Corinne got a kick out of the eclipse proclaiming, "Moon! I see the moon!" (by which she, of course, meant sun).

We used the colander to get pinhole-camera-style shadows.

And I had my camera set up with filters taking pictures.  I just kind of guessed at settings.  Some came out better than others.  Here's the picture from the peak eclipse:

And here's one I got as it was ending where you can see a line of spots.  I don't know if they're technically sunspots, but they weren't just dust on my lens--they stayed with the sun throughout the event.

My weather station noticed the eclipse too:

The variations in the readings are due to varying cloud cover that, thankfully, almost completely cleared out during the eclipse.

The temperature even dropped a hair:

Another Round of Summer Soccer

Heather is doing soccer again this year on Saturday mornings.  This week was her first week and it was hot.  Soccer starts at 10:50am and it was already over 90 degrees and climbing.  But she stayed hydrated and I used the time to work on my action photography skills.

It's interesting how a small change in camera settings can result in a dramatic change in image presentation.

I started with the shutter set to 1/100th of a second, which captured images like this:

The scene is representative, and fairly sharp.  You can see some motion in her hands and feet, but overall it is a static image.

Stretching the shutter to 1/25th of a second gives you a totally different result:

She's clearly moving, the background distractions are reduced via the motion blur and she becomes the uncontested focus of attention.  It's a much more interesting, dynamic image.

You can try using a wider aperture to reduce your depth of field to achieve similar separation between subject and background (which I've tried in the past), but that's tough in full sunlight.  You'll need filters to stop down the light and then capturing the subject in focus becomes difficult as your depth of field shrinks.

The trick here is to pan the camera with the subject throughout the shutter release.  It takes practice, but the results are worth it--which is why I've been practicing it.

Here's a couple more shots that came out decently.  In the first one, Heather is jumping over the pile of balls.  And in the second she is dribbling across the field.

10 Years with a 2007 Honda Civic LX

I got my 2007 Honda Civic LX in April 2007.  It's now just over ten years old and going strong.  I just passed 90,000 miles.  I fully expect it to keep going for another 10 years, though I may decide to swap it for an electric vehicle before it's totally worn out.

In 10 years I have had zero issues in terms of reliability or mechanical functionality.  It has received all services as scheduled by the built-in "Maintenance Minder" system.  It is on its third set of tires, its second set of brake pads, and its third battery (all counts include the factory-installed items).

Efficiency has been consistent though it appears to be slowly dropping, but that might be a false interpretation of the data as, since we bought the Odyssey, the Civic no longer goes on long trips and has none of the up-ticks in efficiency gained from long highway traveling.

The lifetime efficiency is 29.86 miles-per-gallon (total miles traveled divided by total gallons of gas consumed; not the average of the per-tank efficiencies).

The amount of driving I've done with the Civic has been quite consistent over the years.  You can see some areas of rapid increase which signify long car trips driven over just a few days or weeks.

Overall, it has been a great car, though not without some minor annoyances.

The minor annoyances

A few of the LED segments on the speedometer display flicker, especially in hot weather.  Probably a weak piece of solder or something that becomes inconsistent in the heat.  Slightly annoying, but not a big deal.

The driver-seat height adjustment seems to slowly sink back down.  The height adjustment is a pneumatic system (as far as I can tell) that I think slowly leaks out the air pressure and causes the seat to drop back down to the bottom.  I usually pump it back up once a month or so and I only move it up a centimeter or two so it's not a big deal.

The driver-side window auto-retract system is overeager.  That's the system that prevents you from closing the window on an object when you use the "auto close" feature by pulling the switch all the way up.  The window will reach about an inch from closing and then retract back down.  Holding the switch overrides the auto-retract system.  So, again, slightly annoying, but not a big deal.

Honestly, those three things are the only functionality issues with the entire vehicle.  No mechanical issues, just minor annoyances.

Here I'm excluding recall work which could have affected the vehicle's reliability/safety, but was corrected for free and a priori to any incident.  The only particularly notable ones have been the possibly faulty O-ring on a speed sensor which may cause wheel failure and the faulty airbag inflater (part of the Takata recalls).  Both of which were corrected without issue.

The paint problem

The biggest problem with the car has been paint failure.  Several years ago Honda issued a voluntary recall due to an identified issue with paint longevity, but I misread the notice and missed the window to have them pay for some repainting.  Which may be somewhat moot.  The recall was for paint failure on the hood, roof, and trunk--which I had in great quantity--but I also had paint failure on the door panels and fenders.  I'm sure part of the problem was my not regularly cleaning and waxing the car, but even so, the paint should have held up better (which Honda admits).

In anticipation of owning the Civic for another 10 years I decided to get it repainted to both protect the metal and so it doesn't look terrible.

The first picture does not do a good job of exposing the differences from before (top) to after (bottom):

But once we start looking at the details it becomes obvious.  Left is before, right is after.

Top is before (obviously), bottom is after:

Here's to another 10 years!

The Weather in our Kingdom

Jess got me a weather station for my birthday which is now installed up on the roof:

The unit is an Ambient Weather WS-1400-IP.  It reports temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall, solar radiation, etc.  It comes with an indoor unit that also reports inside temperature and humidity.

The data is sent to wunderground.com and you can find it here: https://www.wunderground.com/personal-weather-station/dashboard?ID=KCALIVER107

But, wunderground can be a little flaky, so I'm also capturing the data into my own database and serving it up.  On the sidebar of the blog you can find a widget that looks like this:

I'm using the "Weather Station" WordPress plugin to read a Cumulus-style file.  Now, the Ambient Weather ObserverIP unit does not produce the Cumulus "Realtime.txt" file that the WordPress plugin needs.  But, I have programming super powers.  So I wrote a shim that scrapes the data from the ObserverIP web interface and writes out a "Realtime.txt" file that I serve up for the WordPress plugin.

I also write out a human-readable page with the weather data on it you can see here: http://weather.serindu.com/

It's not very pretty right now, but it's up and running, updating every 5 minutes.  I'll get around to improve the aesthetics at some point.

Having the indoor and outdoor sensors I'm thinking I'll have to write up something that will notify me when the temperatures outside and inside cross so I'm alerted to open or close the windows as appropriate.  But I haven't got that far yet.

The shim I wrote to put all these pieces together is available on GitHub: https://github.com/kdickerson/weather

It's just a Python script set to run every 5 minutes via Cron.  It scrapes the data off the ObserverIP unit, formats it and inserts it into the SQLite database, computes daily high/low values from the stored data, and writes Realtime.txt and index.html into a folder being served by Apache.