Pilbeam Engineering

A Little Bit of Everything

Chicken Coop Peril!

Wednesday morning, I went out before work to let the chickens out for the day. Since my wife was going out for the day as well, I just let them out of their coop into their run, not leaving their run open to the outside world as we often do when someone is home. I was surprised when, for the first time, I saw that someone had been trying to dig their way into the coop!

Not cool!

My plan of attack is to install chicken wire fencing, staples into the ground, around the coop. In the short term, however, wide and heavy pieces of slab firewood should provide a barrier to the varmint.

Fixing a sink sprayer

Over time, the sprayer for our sink has developed a rat-tat-tat water flow when squeezing the handle. The whole sink rattles and rumbles and water does not come out consistently. Finally frustrated with the situation, Sarah asked me to take a look at it. I posited a possibility of water pressure issues (we're on a well, and it's been dry), but after doing a little reading I decided minerals in the sprayer handle could be the problem.

We have severe issues with mineral build up that only a water softener could really resolve. Our whole-house filters do a good job on taste (carbon filter) and the rust (5 micron sediment) that we have, but can't touch the minerals.

The mineral buildup

If minerals were clogging the controls, as well as the obvious spray head clogs, I figured I could clean it out. I opted to remove the spray handle from the hose. I sprayed CLR, or something similar, into the handle and let it sit for several minutes, while also spraying some on the end of the hose itself. Another option would be to soak the whole handle for awhile, though I don't know what that would do to the finish. A small toothbrush worked over the spray nozzle itself cleaned that up pretty substantially. As can be seen in the video, the result was no more machine gun (water hammer?) and a much more robust spray.

At the cost of these spray heads, which I believe is about $8, it could be considered a toss up as to whether it's worth the time to fix the sprayer, but since I don't like waste, I took the time.

Book Review - Ice Station Zebra - Alistair MacLean - 1963

Anyone familiar with the popular 1961 film The Guns of Navarone has already been introduced to the imagination of Alistair MacLean. A Scottish novelist, MacLean was the author of over 30 books, generally involving a military adventure.

Ice Station Zebra
By Alistair MacLean

Ice Station Zebra leads us, through the eyes of Dr. Carpenter, a British doctor who, through dubious bona fides gains access to a United States submarine on a rescue mission in the Arctic North; to rescue survivors, if any, from drift ice station Zebra.

The story itself is an incredible one, and as it leads you through the plot of first getting Dr. Carpenter on board the submarine (the Americans are very security minded), to sailing through the ice, to the difficulties of rising above the ice to begin searching for the ice station, to the terrors of hiking in the Arctic with a blinding storm around you, you become so focused on each moment and struggle, you cease to even contemplate the mystery, at least for awhile.

The fact that Dr. Carpenter, the focus of the first person narrative, knows more than he is letting on is always evident, but not too distracting. It keeps you reading and keeps you anxious to see if anyone else is going to figure out what's going on.

Because much of the action takes places on a submarine, and specifically a nuclear submarine, MacLean takes pains to be descriptive. I personally appreciated it. The quality of the prose is good, and the dialogue clever. My only issue was that the Americans sound just as British as Dr. Carpenter. I just can't picture a 1950s/1960 member of the United States Navy saying things like 'The counsel for the prosecution will kindly pack it in', or 'Doctor, you ill-mannered lout." Nevertheless, these shortcomings are overlooked once the story gets going.

The general sense of urgency and danger picks up heavily once on the ice, and the climax and ending of the story is, to me, completely unexpected - yet reasonable too, though some elements get thrown in toward the end that are a bit out of left field.

A good read, and one which I probably read too much.