Tesla Powerwalls Installed

My two Tesla Powerwall 2‘s were installed last week and now I’m running on my own self-generated solar power – after dark! Powerwalls not only don’t need any maintenance or fuel (unlike any fuel-burning generator), but they also let you time shift energy to avoid using power from the grid at peak demand times.  Of course this also means that now I will still have power (and, more importantly, running water!) the next time PG&E needs to shut down the power grid.  Yay!

I really like the Tesla app for configuring and monitoring your Powerwall and, if present, your solar PV system.  It continually displays the flow of power between your home, Powerwalls, solar panels and the power grid in real time.

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Bobcat Crossing Ahead

It would seem that my backyard has become quite the bobcat crossing – this collection of clips is just from the past few weeks:

Perhaps these are those same bobcat siblings I spied as youngsters playing in the yard a few years ago.

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Who Needs New Snow?

It’s been a pretty dry January and February for snow in Tahoe, but we got the gang together at the Tahoe house for an early February weekend all the same. Darlene and I joined Greg, Erin & Merritt for a sunny Saturday at Squaw Valley and then Resi, Troy & Aiden at Homewood for a very windy Sunday.  But it would seem the wind didn’t slow down Aiden at all…

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Unistellar eVscope

I recently received my eVscope from Unistellar and after just a few sessions with it, I thought I would share my thoughts and experiences with it so far – particularly since there wasn’t a lot of info available when I ordered it in back in July of 2019.

Overview

The Unistellar eVscope is quite different from a traditional optical telescope.  It’s a highly integrated and automated digital imaging telescope that enables you to easily find and view deep sky objects in color and detail that would not normally be perceptible to your eye looking through a normal optical telescope.  In addition, the eVscope is designed to let you easily participate in and contribute data to crowd-sourced “citizen science” projects.

The eVscope is a 4.5-inch Newtonian reflector that captures light on a highly sensitive, low noise Sony IMX224 color sensor while using a motorized alt-az tracking mount and autonomous field detection to automatically identify, align and continually track its view of the sky.  Integrated image-processing software takes and combines an on-going series of short exposures to generate an image in almost real time that brings out much of the very low light, color and detail that’s not visible to the human eye even when looking through a normal telescope. This view accumulates over just seconds and minutes and is displayed both in the telescope’s eyepiece (on an OLED display) as well as on a WiFi-connected smartphone.  The whole thing is self-powered via an integrated 9-10 hour rechargeable battery, fits into a large backpack and weighs just under 20 lbs. including the provided tripod.

In other words, it’s quite an impressive level of integration!

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Carrizo Plain National Monument

After getting the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle back from the repair shop (following my close encounter with a falling tree limb), Darlene and I decided to get in another little road trip.  I found Carrizo Plain National Monument initially as looking like a nice layover point on our planned way to Joshua Tree National Park, but we ended up deciding to spend our four days just there, exploring the hills and valley.

Carrizo Plain is probably most known for many illustrative pictures of the San Andrea fault cutting across many old creek beds and showing how quickly (geologically) the two plates are moving past each other.  It’s also home to some once elaborate Native American rock paintings, at “Painted Rock”.  Here’s some great side-by-side images showing the terrible damage these rock paintings have been subjected to over the last century.

In the spring, the valley and foothills are often covered in a brilliantly varied carpet of wildflowers.  (See this image search for examples.)

Besides these sights, we got in some hiking, drone-flying and general exploring.  I also brought along my newly acquired digital imaging telescope from Unistellar to see what it can do.

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New Years Day Gaming

We gathered fifteen gamers for a full day of gaming this New Years Day!

I joined Greg and Erin and GregToo! as we drank and caroused until just Erin was left standing at the Red Dragon Inn, and then Dan and Luno joined with us to just barely vanquish evil in a desperate game of Shadows Over Camelot.  Troy, Roland and Nacho fought over the solar system in The Expanse; Darlene, Lynette, Jacobi, Molly and John worked to defeat the monsters in Horrified and then later collected birds and bird eggs in Wingspan.  Nacho, Troy and Roland then competed to build up their cities in Machi Koro.  Nacho, John, and Dan joined me for more endeavors in the industrial eras of Brass: Birmingham while Darlene, Greg and Luno explored the worlds of Above and Below and Roland, Jacobi, Molly and Lynette weaved histories of civilizations in Tapestry.  After dark Roland, Greg, Luno, Lynette and Elizabeth gathered gems in Century: Golem Edition and then we all finished off the night in a six-way, cobblestone-filled bike race of Flamme Rouge.

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Christmas in Tahoe

Christmas in Tahoe… fresh snow, skiing, snowshoeing, hanging a ceiling fan, playing new board games (Covert and Pandemic Legacy: Season 2).

 

But then… uh oh, my cat broke:

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Troy’s “Hawaii Five-Oh” Birthday

Pics from Troy’s “Hawaii Five-Oh” birthday party this past weekend – click through for the gallery:

   

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Transit Van Arrives

  

With Glenn’s help, I picked up my new Ford Transit van in Portland on Monday, soon to become the *new* Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle.  First step was delivering it to QuadVan in Portland to have a four-wheel drive system installed plus upgraded shocks (Bilstein) and leaf springs (Vancompass), a full set of skid plates, larger all terrain tires (BFG KO2’s), new wheels, a locking differential (Detroit Trutrac) and have the rear shock mounts raised up.  Once this work is completed, the van is off to Van Haus for a complete campervan build out – somewhat similar in layout to this one but with different cabinetry designs, appliances and materials.

While meeting with the owner John of QuadVan, we got to meet his amusingly helpful German shepherd:

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X-Wing / Tie-Fighter Dogfight

Glenn and I took his x-wing and tie-fighter to the air at dusk this Sunday in Portland for a nice, old-fashioned dogfight.  There was much mayhem:

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More Wildlife Visits

More recent wildlife visits in the yard – deer, coyotes and bobcats:

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Fall Gaming

 

 

A busy season of fall gaming: we competed to infect our host without outright killing him in Viral, collect and steal the most treasure while evading the dragon in Drakon, try to score the most popular brews in Vivajava: The Coffee Game, battled each other under the sea in Captain Sonar, compete in the early industrial era in Brass: Birmingham, experiment on ourselves and our student “volunteers” to break down the magical ingredients in Alchemists, wheel, deal and swindle negotiate ourselves into the most profitable business locations in Chinatown, avoid causing too many time traveling paradoxes in Anachrony, interpret our vision dreams to solve a haunted murder mystery in Mysterium, be the quickest to work the marketplace in Istanbul, outmaneuver each other while working the Mayan calendar in Tzolk’in, make the most of our ingredients without exploding our potions in Quacks of Quedlinburg, vie for control over the meadow in Battle Sheep, escape the deadly maze in Room 25, race to the finish line in Flamme Rouge, fight the forces of evil in Shadow Over Camelot (only to be thwarted in the end by that unseen traitor, Richard!), build and shape the habitats and ecoystems in Ecos: First Continent, gather treasures in Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated, compete to power the most cities in Power Grid, survive the horrors in The Mansions of Madness, cultivate our grapes and make wine in Viticulture, dig tunnels while thwarting traitorous dwarves in Saboteur, and buy and resell goods to economic success in Container: 10th Anniversary Edition.

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Ghost Bear Visit

I noticed a curious thing on the Tahoe house front camera after a recent snowfall: first a pristine layer of snow across the driveway and then, a little later, a set of tracks across the driveway and *directly* under the camera….. but no recording of the creature that left them. This camera triggers a recording every time a passing car’s headlights even just illuminates the driveway and yet… no recording of the mysterious creature.  Spooky!

Now given the size and shape of the footprints, and how they lead under the front porch, there can be only one conclusion: it was a visit by the ghost bear!!

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Scary Haunted Box

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Gandalf and Galadriel for Halloween

Gandalf and GaladrielDarlene and I ventured out as Gandalf and Galadriel for Halloween this year. We spent the afternoon with Jon and Siobhan, who is recovering well from some complicated and unpleasant oral cancer removal surgery and associated tissue transplants.  As a hopefully amusing distraction, we took them on a little adventure playing Tales of the Arabian Nights. Let’s see, I think Siobhan’s character was crippled and driven insane, Darlene was imprisoned and repeatedly unable to arrange an escape, I was scorned for a while before under going a sex change and Jon stumbled into marrying a passing stranger and somehow into respectability and eventual success.

Later that evening, we joined Kathie, Dave, Kevin, Vanessa, Lisa and Rachel for more gaming while awaiting the very few trick-or-treaters who dared knock on the door.  We got in games of Welcome To… and Decrypto as well as a few rounds of Jackbox Games’ Fibbage XL via the AppleTV.

Alas, no other pictures for Halloween this year!

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Nom nom nom…

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