Saturday, July 2 2011
I did some work today on a spamming tool, the kind that goes through a database and sends out one email after another. One has to be careful when debugging a tool like that, because if you're not careful, it's easy to set the thing off on a spamming job, sending an entire database a message similar to "what up homie?" with a subject line of "dude timer." So, when testing such a tool, I usually comment out the line that actually sends the email and replace it with one that sends the email to me. If Godaddy hosting weren't so craptastic, I wouldn't have to devise clever mechanisms to automatically send a few (or, given the sheer level of craptasticness, one) email at a time. And because of granularity limits on the Linux cron mechanism, the method I've been using is an autorefreshing web page that sends the emails one at a time as it systematically chews through a database table. It's very 1997-by-way-of-19th-Century-steam technology, but it works.
The weather today was hot and sunny and Gretchen was gone all day, so I took the opportunity to fix the Subaru's exhaust system, which has been noisy now for over a year. The problem has been a bad seal between two pipes. I've tried to plug it several times using furnace cement and fibreglass mesh tape, but the problem was that the pipes weren't well seated against each other. So today I drove the car up onto ramps to give myself some head room, and then I disassembled the joint, cleaned it as best I could, lined the joint with fresh furnace cement, and bolted it all together using stainless steel screws. (I wish the whole exhaust system were made of stainless steel; it would be worth whatever extra it would cost, since it corrodes much faster than the rest of the car.) As I worked, Julius (aka Stripey) was only about a foot away, sharing with me the shade of the car overhead. Some of the time he was stretched out on his back, with his belly and legs in the air like a bloated roadkill. Stripey is so trusting of me that he wasn't disturbed by the occasional clanks and boings. And even when I started the car, he remained beneath it, and I had to shoo him away.
Furnace cement has to be fired in order to properly cure, so eventually I took the dogs with me on a drive down into the Esopus Valley. My first stop was Fording Place, where I collected three buckets containing a mix of coarse sand and gravel. (The only other person there at the time was a fisherman.) Then I drove to my ad hoc topsoil mine across Wynkoop from the Hurley Mountain Inn, though I only mined three buckets of topsoil. I filled the other two buckets with remarkably-clean sand that had been dumped in a pile (presumably by the Town of Hurley).
Back at the house, I used these materials to improve the behavior of our yard's water drainage. The problem with our yard is that it is downhill from a drainage basin whose size can be measured in acres. Most of that drainage ends up along or otherwise near the road, but a half acre or so of it goes directly towards our house. Since 2006, all of that water has been intercepted by a subsurface drainage network. But in an ideal world, that water would be diverted away from the house by a swale or other topographic feature. There is no swale, but over time I've been building a series of occasionally-connected humps. There's a "grassy knoll" where I buried a large stump, and then there's the new complex of walled garden plots (whose foundation is now tied into the subsurface drainage network). With my eight new buckets of fill, I decided to build a low ridge between the grassy knoll and the southmost tomato patch to keep surface water from flowing through that gap towards the house. But instead of just dumping the fill on the ground, I dug a long narrow trench in the clay-rich soil where the ridge would run and then filled it with gravel and sand. This would open up a subterranean drainage route, allowing it to also act like a ditch to divert subsurface water northward, away from the house. I then piled the excavated clay atop this foundation and crowned it all with clumps of sod. After I was done, the new ridge looked like a molehill made by a mole the size of a large housecat.
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