My father, born 1912, scrounged some of his most interesting gadgets from post-WWII "army surplus stores" (back when they truly had military surplus inventories). Dad was a very serious gadgeteer. He always had some kind of Mr.-Wizard tinker project in the works. 

Around about 1979, when his grandson (my son) Paul was 4, Dad came to me with something he thought I may enjoy sharing with Paul. He said it was sold to him at an army surplus store, represented as part of the aiming system for a bomb sight from a WWII era B-29 bomber

It was a high quality optical prism

So this week I will send this to my son, Paul, in case he may enjoy sharing it with his son, Nolan.

7" High Prism

Roy G. Biv !



An acquaintance had a birthday coming up.  Her heart surgery, too.  What a fine time to bring the calming, healing deep tones of giant, deep-throated wind chime, perched high on a hilltop overlooking our home in the forest.  She said it sounds every bit like an old European cathedral's beckoning melody.  I agree.  Deeply ethereal, having the forest softly chiming a patient invitation to its top of the hill, to a place in the mind, a peace in the soul, to bring birthday happiness and medical mending.  

Resonance Theory:  The DNA of a chime

Top Plate: The brains of a chime...

...and it's backbone.

Cutting Tubes to Calculated Lengths: 
Loud noise, burning sparks, noxious gases.

Meet the Choir!

Click on
of Fine Tuning the Pipes with Frequency Analyzer.
The longest pipe, at about 8 feet, 
persists its fundamental for 6 minutes(!) at 1 foot away.
That way, long after the nylon strike-plate (made from kitchen cutting board) taps the metal tube to generate the metallic vibration, the inner atmospheric resonance persists long after, thereby generating many tonal qualities in concert with the other tubes.  

B-flat, Second Octave:  116.1+/- Hz

The Choir, Resting.  Ready for Hanging From a 
20-foot TeePee Frame of Chainlink Fence TopRails

140 pounds and 12 feet

Drum roll, please.

Well here we go again.  Microsoft and Google can't cooperate, even at the level of up-righting a single photo.

What the cat sees when looking up.

Checking Out the New Animal at the Farm

HA!  We can scream louder than that!

To serenade the busy bees.

Perched High On a Hilltop
Overlooking Our Home


Chicken Solarium / Lunarium Progress Report

I wanted the chickens out of my equipment shed.  The chickens clearly hated the landscaping, judging by their fervent demolition work.  So I killed 32 "birds" with one stone.  Well, with one Chicken Solarium, anyway.  

Still to come, a freeze-proof solar thermosiphon to water them even in winter.  Also a super bright switched interior flood light made from LED's salvaged from a damaged trailer tail light, and re-purposing an old solar photovoltaic panel scavenged from the ungrateful goats' barn.  

The interior night-lights in the photo's below are cannibalized from the innards of driveway clearance lights.  Pretty simple solution when you have a transparent roof!  The solar photo voltaic cell of each of the solar powered driveway lights points upward through the clear polycarbonate roof.  The high intensity LED's point down, thinking they are lighting a driveway.

Also, fresh-air circulation system for this chicken house is based on a book I read about open-front chicken houses published by a physician in 1924.  Makes sense...chickens already have a feathered comforter, they will NOT get cold.  But an enclosed chicken house will collect flies, bugs, lotsa nasties to get sick on.  So I put large 4-ft wide door in each end of the 16-foot long house.

So far, the chickens just love this place and they say they'll never go back.

Chicken Solarium

See hatch doors for exterior egg collecting (on right side)

Southern Exposure Oriented to Solar Track for Our Lat/Long

Work table height is optimized for sorting seed trays, also as scaffold for deploying trays on mezanine

Sorting Seed Trays

It was not easy, making the work table low enough for the work table down below, but high enough as a scaffold for working with seed trays at mezzanine level.  And the roof trusses are designed so the horizontal cross braces just clear the gardener's head when she is standing on the scaffold.  And the chickens drop their "drops" on hay strewn on the floor, just barely clearing the work table.  Contrary to conventional floor design, the plywood floor boards are all easily lifted out for washing or replacement.  And their is a gap in the floor perimeter so that we can spray the inner walls (to improve solar heating), and have the water just run down the wall and out the floor.  Sure hope this thing works as well as I worked on planning it.

Deploying trays to mezanine for solar greenhouse effect

Watering seed trays standing on work table

Garden in foreground, hay barn, goat barn in distance

For stealing eggs from outside

If you could see The Ladies all coming down single file in the mornings, you'd know why it's called a "gang" plank.  These girls are not to be reckoned with a feeding time.
This is the only image using 120v halogen photo flood.
Photo courtesy Eric Jacobs Photography.  A professional photographer/chicken fancier.

Roosting by the light of driveway solar clearance lites

Fox's-eye view of an all night chicken buffet....not

Hush little babies.  Just rest.

Sleeping chickies by the light of the moon.  Does this make it a chicken lunarium?



I just don't know, Grey Goose.
Never seen one of them before.
It looks human, but goose-sized.

Let's get out of here.  Those humans are releasing the BEES !

Wow!  How many bees you got, Lee?
One, two, three, four, ...

Which one?  This one?
No, I think I counted her.



Maggie Engler and John Halverson are members of our Black Hills honeybee club.  Turns out they are also experts and keepers of another winged creature.  They put on a very fine program for the members of the Minneluzahan Senior Center in Rapid City.  

Hmmm...owls prowl for critters at night.  Cats do too.  Must be pretty scary out there by moonlight.




Not my memory.  Heck, I forgot what I ate for breakfast.  

But I do recall, like it was yesterday, jumping with glee in 1963 when my college let me have their old IBM 1620 mainframe computer when it was replaced.  I couldn't wait to truck it home to my garage and start surgically autopsying my new cadaver.  I methodically removed every little screw, indicator light, contact switch, transformer. 

 But most prized of all was the deepest inner soul of the beast.  It's processing memory.  It was called "core memory," named for the donut-shaped cores, made of graphite, like in pencil lead.  During computations the cores would be magnetized North or South. (Or L/R, or U/D, or B/W, or yes, even the infamous 1's and 0's, all of which were untrue.  Magnets are either N or S.  All those other artificial dichotomies were just authors' imaginations and surrogate place-holders in our number system.)  They stopped making core memory like this decades ago.

For days I excavated slowly, carefully, making sure not to break any part.  Just in case one might someday want to reassemble this into a revived digital Frankenstein corpse.  Finally, I exposed the sarcophagus that contained the sacred core memory.  Those little bits that had kept me awake so many nights as a graduate student trying to master the special new realm of computer language that it took to talk to them.  They had been so perfectly obedient.  Which was the problem.  

They always did exactly what I asked.  And with only a beginner's grasp of their language I often asked things of them that neither they nor I wanted, or perhaps didn't even understand.

I had tried so many hundreds of times to talk in their symbols, asking them to spit back things I already knew, like the trigonometric cosine of a 60-degree angle, or the volume of a cube.  But the real bonding between me and these little cores had developed when we jointly shared the intractable goal of calculating a perfect square root of a prime number, or the exact area of a circle. That took special algorithms, a kind of game plan for me to coach this little team of fella's how they would have to work together among themselves to discover something I never had known (such as the square root of 173.69, to a precision of 7 decimal places).  

Sometime, later in graduate school, I mastered their language.  About seven of their languages, in fact.  They were so ready to go to work for a knowing master.  Not just an articulate master, but one who cared to reduce their work.  I spent a master's degree trying to develop methods to make computers work easier, run faster.  I developed some ideas for my computer algorithms to calculate ways to speed up other peoples' algorithms.  Techniques that would allow a computer to arrive a conclusion sooner, with less work.  Methods that would allow a computer to serve more people in less time.  Or help the nascent space shuttle recalculate its glide path in time to land safely.

It was all born of necessity.  For months I had been programming multivariate statistical models that solved near-singular eigenvalue problems.  And I know that you know, those rascals take a long, long time to compute.  I would hand the program to the computer one day, then go home for a bit of sleep.  Maybe even take children Christine and Paul to the park to fly kites.  Then come back to the computer lab the next night to see what sort of mathematical construct my team of memory cores had built for me (why were those early computer labs always in the...basement?)

So I branched out, developing new mathematical algorithms whose sole purpose was to improve the statistical likelihood that they could glance over the grinding calculations of another algorithm in progress, then recommend a short cut to just leap right toward the answer.  Like telling someone running around a maze to stick their head above the walls, see where the goal probably is, then just go there.  Why calculate the entire path, when you can just finesse an algorithmic Gretzky? 

And it worked.  These memory cores were great little soldiers.  We advanced some pretty crafty new strategies to accelerate iterative processes to turn near-singular eigenvector matrices upside down, (i.e., like guessing an entire song after hearing only the first few bars.  Or putting a "Hurry Up!" button on the front of an old three-ton, water-cooled clunker of a mainframe computer.)  They helped me get a master's thesis, and kept up the moneyflow to feed and clothe the kids.

Isn't it too bad, that today we hear people use the phrase "core dump" and they have no flinching what the heck they are referring to.  How much grunting, grinding, grimacing and genius grandeur they are discounting.  Or when someone says "core memory," how little do they get to appreciate that when one refers to a "core memory" it is referring to a phase of  human developoment, a period of history, an journey of scientific discovery, an environment for raising kids, a transition to a new realm of mankind's peer-to-peer partnership with machine.

This morning I took this IBM 1620 Core Plane out of a special box I've kept it in for a very long time.  Although delicate as teeny donuts of pencil lead, not a single fragile graphite core had been broken after decades of packing and unpacking in moves state to state.  I was going to photograph it and put it on sale.  But seeing it was more moving than photographs and portraits of the time.  One doesn't have a relationship with photographs, although we sometimes do with the people in them.  But with this core plane, I did have a relationship.  This core plane had been a major participant in my family.  It helped feed and clothe the kids, and it helped me develop beyond normal.

And it's still a member of our family.

Next year, in 2013, it will be 50 years old.  I can't just sell it.  I will send it to my grand children so that 50 years from now they can show it to their own grandchildren and say, this was a member of your great, great, great grandparents' family.  It helped buy our mom's (dad's) shoes when they were kids. It opened doors for scientific discovery by our grandfather, and it helped him confirm some mathematical algorithms he invented.

Maybe they'll frame it and put it on the wall next to my portrait.  Maybe they'll understand this framed core-plane offers a deeper biographical portrait of me than 1,000 pictures.


Sylvan, Custer, Sturgis and Harney were hungry.  Real hungry, after being confined to quarters for three days of rain.  Well, not exactly "confined," mind you.  Actually they're spoiled kids who just don't like to get their tootsies wet.  And when Sturgis' pure black coat gets wet it looks like an overworked 1950's super-perm wave job (which the others tease him about).

So when the sun cleared, they were all about heading out for a serious chowdown at the ultimate springtime all-you-can-eat Black Hills Forest Oak-Tree Buffet.  And since Harney the runt normally gets last-pickens at the trough in the barn, he especially appreciates the wide open every-where-you-look serving line.  



Christine's family sent a picture book to us in the Black Hills so we could read about family in Seattle.  Every evening at bed time the goats ask Lee to read to them.

Sometimes the goats read to each other.  Custer politely asked his very nice brother, Sturgis, "Hey Sturgis.  Would you please read it to us again?"