Apple Photos, iCloud Photos, and me

Sometime recently I started getting nag notices from my various devices telling me that I had maxed out my iCloud storage, which seemed odd to me, since I hadn’t ever activated iCloud Photos and strictly limited my use of iCloud services for pictures and so forth to My Photo Stream and to some shared albums which appeared to total less than 1gb of posted data.

I diligently went in and thinned out the shared albums anyway, grumbling about the intentional one-way door that Apple has designed into their obtuse and inflexible shared album system. One cannot simply turn sharing on and off for local albums; one must create a separate shared album instead and one cannot convert a shared album to a local album, one can only delete it. Which sucks.

After working on this for several days and still receiving these nag memos, I wondered if perhaps the deleted shared albums were stashed in an iCloud trash directory someplace. It’s an annoyance I have run into on the iPhone from time to time. When your storage on the device is nearly full, the fastest way to gain space back is to delete local copies of images. However, in Apple’s truly terrible iOS Photos product, the deleted images go to a hidden area of Photos for 30 days before being deleted on a timed basis. If you want to force delete a raft of pix, you have to find this hidden trash and then manually select each picture one at a time or by sweeping across as many as you can, which can be a real pain in the ass if you are trying to delete thousands of images.

This strategy is part of Apple’s use of dark patterns, the intentional deployment of user-interface elements that increase annoyance on the part of the user. By filling up your phone and not making it easy to delete, Apple is clearly encouraging you to move on from your puny old iPhone to the new shiny larger-capacity model. Likewise, in iCloud, making it hard to remove items from cloud storage forces the user into an upgrade cycle. The fuckers, I hate them so very very much.

So when I went to look at my Photos storage via the iCloud website I was really taken aback to a) not see My Photo Stream b) not see *any* of my Shared Albums, and c) most flabbergastingly, EVERYTHING from my master Photos library going back to 2001, but without ANY of the album-based organization that is present in the master.

I don’t know how, but sometime in the last six months of new phones and restored iPads and what all I seem to have missed the OFF switch on one device’s iCloud Photos settings and that appears to have overridden the settings for ALL the devices; so the next time I left the machine with the master Photos library turned on and connected to the internet for a couple of days, my entire Photos library was uploaded to iCloud without my realizing it. I’m still not sure which machine it was that I fumbled the setting on. It would be most logical that it was on the same machine that the library sits on but it would be equally logical that this is another dark pattern from Apple.

Anyway, at least I had found the source of the nagging. No problem, I thought. I’ll just delete all that shit from iCloud, I know the images are not on any other devices and I have a backup of the library and the settings on this computer already have been verified to be that strict subset of cloud services for Photos.

So in looking up how Apple permits people to delete photos from iCloud, I learned, unsurprisingly, that they make it very hard. I ended up performing the deletions via the iCloud Photos website. There were approximately 11,000 images and movies to nuke.

First, the iCloud Photos site restricts user-initiated deletion requests to a maximum of 1,000 items per deletion request. Second, ‘deletion’ actually, you guessed it, moves the images to a Trash album called “recently deleted”, where the files remain for thirty days unless one manually deletes them *again*. Third, rather than accepting and queuing the file management requests for final execution, the browser will not let you initiate a new deletion request until the server side file management actions have been completed. A 1,000 image deletion request can take several minutes to complete. Fourth, in order to select your mandated 1,000 images, one must manually select an image, page down as many screens as the user thinks will maximize the chance of extending the selection to 1,000 images or so, and shift-select at random until the magic number is achieved. At least they display the selection count.

So of course I opened ten browser windows and shift selected continuous chunks of 1,000 images, one batch per browser window, and initiated the deletion request. 30 minutes later I was still fighting browser freeze-ups and similar issues but I did finally get my target number of files into the recently deleted album.

Opening that album I noticed a helpful-looking button (well, really a link, but whatever) which said “Delete All”. OK!


Nothing, no progress bar, no warning that Photos limits deletions to 1,000 images at a time, nada. Cursing the names of Steve and Jony, I re-initiated the manual-selection-in-batches-of-about-1k process and eventually got it done.

Long story short, it took about 3 hours to finally diagnose the basis of the iCloud storage nag and to manually delete the wayward fileset. I still need to step though each device to ascertain that the iCloud settings are what I wish them to be. I suppose I should also examine the master Photos library to be sure the cold, bony hand of Steve hasn’t swept my last 20 years of pixels away completely.


I am working on a small project that involves scanning old zines. The zines are unbound and scanned on both sides to a set of image files, which produces scans of the print-oriented layout of the physical pages themselves. It’s not human readable and there is no quick and dirty tool to disassemble the imposed boards into human readable order for creation of a PDF.

I found a bash script that mostly accomplishes the task of splitting an image set into two halves but the script simply numbers the image output sequentially and occasionally also produces garbage output, images of one pixel wide and so forth.

I posted a request to Facebook asking for help and several people kindly replied. Josh Larios, with whom I have had occasional interaction since early blogging days, picked up the starter script and added the missing features.

Josh and Chris Pheifer, a pal from Bloomington, also each found some tools that are intended to do similar things with PDFs.

Here is Josh’s updated script:

# Script to split images in half using ImageMagick
# By Euan McKay
# Modified for reverse imposition (deimposition? exposition?) by RJL20
# Usage:
# ./ outbase 'inglob*'

# You can adjust these settings to suit your needs

FOLDER='pages' # set output folder name
mkdir -p $FOLDER   # create the folder to store split images

OUTPUT='jpg'    # set extension of image type to save

# You shouldn't need to adjust anything below here



echo "First: $FIRST; Last: $LAST"

for ITEM in $"${FILES[@]}"        # get items from globbed files
do                          # start loop
    data=`identify "$ITEM" | awk '{print $3}'`                # get image data
    W=`echo $data | sed 's/[^0-9]/ /g' | awk '{print $1}'`  # extract width
    NEWW=$((W/2))                                           # set new width

    if ((TOGGLE)); then
        LEFT=${FOLDER}'/'${OUTBASE}'-'`printf '%03i' $LAST`.${OUTPUT}
        RIGHT=${FOLDER}'/'${OUTBASE}'-'`printf '%03i' $FIRST`.${OUTPUT}
        RIGHT=${FOLDER}'/'${OUTBASE}'-'`printf '%03i' $LAST`.${OUTPUT}
        LEFT=${FOLDER}'/'${OUTBASE}'-'`printf '%03i' $FIRST`.${OUTPUT}

    convert -verbose -gravity East -chop ${NEWW}x0 "$ITEM" "$LEFT"         # make left half
    convert -verbose -gravity West -chop ${NEWW}x0 "$ITEM" "$RIGHT"        # make right half

done                        # end loop

Thanks everyone. Posted here to make it searchable outside of FB.


Today I wanted to write at length about our big old black lab mix Logan.

In September of 2013 we euthanized our longtime mixed herding dog Rocket after he had contracted bone cancer and undergone a hind-leg amputation. He had about a year after the amputation and continued in good spirits to the end. Putting him down was emotionally very difficult for me as he had been my primary social companion for about six years, and he was an extremely intelligent animal with a large and continually expanding vocabulary.

We put him down just before I met my birth mother in person for the first time when she came out to meet me and visit later that month.

Vivian and I began to discuss the possibility of another dog sometime the next spring, probably around my March birthday. Sometime in May or June 2014 we went to an animal adoption event on the Eastside, possibly in Bellevue. We had thought about looking for a German Shepherd or similar dog but the adoption expenses for the puppies available at the event were higher than we desired and so we kept looking. We did not really intend to pick a dog that day. Our thought was more that by attending we could familiarize ourselves with the way these events work.

We noticed an older dog, a large black dog that appeared to be a lab/shepherd mix. He was evidently depressed, non-interactive and lying flat in his cage showing little interest in the proceedings and attracting no notice. I was interested in his apparent calm and so we took him for a short walk, and he demonstrated good knowledge of basic commands.

Unexpectedly we decided to take him home that day. Later we found that black dogs, especially larger older black dogs, have very low rates of placement from shelters, apparently because of concern about shedding in indoor environments.

The shelter told us that he had been found feral in the woods in Snohomish County and that they estimated he had been in the woods for a couple of months. He had a chip when he was found but the number recorded in association with the chip did not produce any response when called. The shelter would not disclose the name of his former family to us.

The adoption fee was about $150 which was supposed to cover exams and meds needed when he came out of the woods. I am skeptical that he received this care because as soon as we got him home, we observed worms in his stool and took him in for treatment.

He did not seem to know what furniture was for when indoors and he had clearly been subject to hose discipline, leaving him fearful of running water and bathing for the rest of his life. Over time he came to understand that couches were softer than the floor and would climb up on them. He was always resistant to certain expressions of physical affection and reluctant to maintain physical contact with us. However as soon as he walked in the door, our tiny longhaired tortie cat Lark nose-touched him and then headbutted him, expressing immediate affection and acceptance. He reciprocated kindly and patiently, and I never saw him express a dominant motion toward her. He was always extremely phobic of loud noises such as thunderstorms, firecrackers, and gunfire.

He would alert on pickup trucks and especially on trucks driven by women. Taken all together, we suspect that in his former life he had been an outside dog and probably one in a rural environment.

Sometime before late June Vivian and I sat on the porch trying to come up with a name for him. I wanted to name him “Kuma”, “Bear” in Japanese and the nickname of then-rookie Japanese Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. I suggested it for that reason and because the big black dog looked somewhat like a bear. Vivian then suggested “Wolverine”, thinking it was the same as a wolf and also due to the popularity of the Marvel comics superhero character Wolverine and portrayed by Hugh Jackman. I chuckled and pointed out that a wolverine really doesn’t look much like a dog. However, I noted, the character’s given name is “Logan”.

As soon as I said that word, the dog, who had been lying disinterestedly on the porch, thumped his tail and put his head up. He got up and came over to us and continued to respond very directly to the word “Logan”. He clearly understood it to be his name. We can’t ever know if that was the name he had previously, of course, or if it merely sounded similar enough to his original name, but in effect he named himself.

The first time we went through a thunderstorm with him he was completely inconsolable and it was a trying experience for all of us. Over time we learned to give him benadryl to settle him down during noise events and he did begin to ease up in his phobia about it after a few years.

He also had significant separation anxiety and would not accept caging, crating, or being consigned to a small room. He managed to claw his way out of both a portable cage kennel and an airline large-dog transport container, thankfully not while in cargo. Several doors in the house show significant clawing and chewing from early in his time with us.

The worst thunderstorm related event was on an afternoon when I had intended to go to an afternoon Mariners game that Kuma was starting. As I showered at about 11am during the storm, he whimpered and yipped and whined outside the closed bathroom door, eventually hurling himself against it and attacking the molding outside the door with such intensity that I had to refinish the molding to a height of about three feet. In the end with him experiencing such fear and anxiety I stayed home and watched the game from the couch with Logan by my side. That game, on August 12, 2015, would prove to be the best game that Hisashi Iwakuma ever threw, a no-hitter against Baltimore with no runs and three walks allowed, two in the fourth inning and one in the eighth.

After a few of these extreme reactions we began to wonder why he was experiencing such strong fears and anxieties. We easily related his separation anxiety to the loss of his prior family, but did not have a clear hypothesis for his extreme reaction to storms in particular. After thinking about it for a while we formed an untestable hypothesis that fits the information we were given by the shelter, as sketchy and questionable as it may be. It may have taken us some time to come up with it – I note it in a blog post from the following April, in 2015.

We adopted him in May or June. We were told that he had been in the woods in Snohomish County for an unknown length of time, possibly two months. His chip appeared to be associated with an active number but that number never produced a response.

On March 22, 2014, an enormous landslide took out a suburban neighborhood in unincorporated Snohomish County as well as other buildings within the mile-long slide. If we adopted Logan within a month or so of May 22, which seems likely – our first vet bill associated with Logan appears to be for deworming meds in late June, 2014 – then the timeline for his ferality, the lack of phone response, and as well a possible explanation for both his phobic response to storms and his frantic separation anxiety seems within reach. We will never really know, of course. But it’s certainly a possible explanation.

After he bonded with us some of that anxiety diminished over time. He appeared to be affected by the lower-spine and rear-leg issues that can affect shepherds and one of the types of dog he was always eager to interact with were shepherds. I formed the hypothesis that his mother may have been a shepherd or that he was raised in a dog population that included shepherds.

He was only ever interested in playing with balls, stuffed animals, rope tugs, and chew toys were not of much interest to him. He was very strongly treat motivated and once he’d begun to interact with us on a basis of verbality he quickly acquired a limited functional vocabulary of his own. A tail thump or vigorous wag meant “yes”, an eye roll or redirected gaze away meant “no.” A single quick lip smack meant either “yes I am hungry,” or “I want a treat”. He would sit just outside the kitchen and gaze meaningfully at the treats stored on top of the refrigerator until asked “Do you want a treat?” The query would produce a lipsmack and a more pointed look at the treat container, followed by a look back to his interlocutor to observe if the intended effect had been accomplished.

As he aged and his rear legs developed issues we stopped bringing balls for him to chase. About three times he developed a rear leg injury that produced a yip and persistent limping. Twice these were diagnosed by two separate vets as canine cruciate ligament tears requiring surgery and we were advised that left untreated the other leg’s CCL would fail and this eighty to ninety-pound dog would be left unable to climb or descend stairs. By the third time it happened we did not even seek a diagnosis, we just let him heal on his own as he had the other two times.

He was unfailingly cheerful and kind and developed many human friendships in the area, especially with our neighbors David and Dot. Dot adopted an energetic pup named Scout and I would occasionally walk her together with Logan. She adored him and he found her a bit rambunctious for his elderly self. He would take the time to try to calm her down when she was smaller. By the time she was larger she did not try to wrestle with him anymore but always became nearly uncontrollable with excitement when she would see him.

He did have a tendency to bark when on leash and seeing another dog. Sometimes this would lead to escalations in behavior in both dogs and I took to walking him in a harness so that I could haul him up and away. The only times I ever saw him act in aggression were when he interpreted another dog’s behavior as an attack, and he was impressively frightening in these moments. I assume that this likely represented adaptive behavior from his time in the woods, but it may well have been encouraged in his time as a rural outdoors animal as well.

I wanted to take the time to write as much of this down as I could today because yesterday at about 2 pm we euthanized him. He weighed a bit less than 84 pounds at the end; his preferred healthy weight was about 89 pounds. He fell ill just about a month ago with what we took for a flu or something along those lines and had taken to not eating and drinking. Vivian and I had ourselves fallen ill in mid-January, the week of the 19th, with several successive illnesses (flu, possible food poisoning, another flu) which actually may have delayed us getting him to the vet by a few days. It was a little weird that all three of us were coughing and sleeping all day in discomfort.

We were finally able to get him in for treatment on the 24th of January and he was held overnight for rehydration and to give him antibiotics to bring his fever down. On the 27th we took him in again for swelling in his forelegs and for some different medications. At this point everyone involved still thought we were looking at a conventional transmissive illness although we were uncertain how he might have been exposed to it as he typically did not have any social time with other dogs.

On the 2nd of February we started a second round of 10-day antibiotics as his cough had not lessened over the prior treatment, and again on the 12th. On that day I specifically asked for an x-ray and the x-ray clearly showed a large mass in Logan’s right lung which seemed likely to be a cancerous tumor. We waited two more days, until Friday the 15th and brought him in again to attempt to get the mass lab analyzed for cancer and to get non-x-ray imaging (ultrasound). We ten took him home to observe his resting over the next couple days to see if his breathing worsened or not. That afternoon I had a conversation with the primary vet on Logan’s case and he advised me that while they would not have the labs back until after the weekend he strongly suspected the growth as cancer and that it would rapidly worsen and that it was time for us to begin considering euthanasia.

This aligned well with what my own non-professional research seemed to indicate, and I let Viv know about it as soon as she returned from an errand.

By this time Logan was refusing medication and nearly all food and had noticeably lost weight. He was disoriented and anxious when medicated and as we were expecting that the medication would not relieve his symptoms in any case we stopped trying to give them to him.

His frequency of coughing was a fit every hour to forty-five minutes, usually a set of three or four coughs. This appeared to produce fluid or phlegm that he would then swallow.

The next day, Saturday the 16th, Viv offered him cool boiled and shredded chicken in a light chicken broth and he greedily ate a few bites and lapped at the broth. A moment later he began to vomit, producing a mix of blood, broth and phlegm. We brought him in again and were advised that the blood might not be from his lung or his stomach but to watch for more blood.

That afternoon he began producing more bloody vomit as well as significant amounts of just blood when he coughed. I advised the vet via phone and he seemed to think that was effectively definitive. I wanted to wait until the lab results returned to be certain. The doctor advised me that even if the tumor was not cancerous the recovery process would be challenging for the dog and we should still consider euthanasia as the best option.

Logan’s breathing and coughing continued to worsen Saturday night the 16th and through Sunday the 17th into Sunday night. I called Monday the 18th seeking the lab results but they would not be available until Tuesday the 19th. Overnight Monday into Tuesday was difficult for all three of us and at around midnight Vivian shifted to the floor to sleep next to the dog. His coughing and breathing had continued to worsen, and he was coughing for about five minutes every half-hour and often producing blood.

Monday afternoon we took him for his last, very short walk, to our neighbor David’s place. David and Logan were good friends and Logan would often pull to visit David on our walks. Logan’s other neighbor friend was Dot and she was able to come by and visit him at our home on Monday evening at about 6.

Early Tuesday morning we were advised that the lab results were positive for cancer and so we made arrangements with the vet to have an in-home euthanasia, which we did. They came at about 2pm and we put him to sleep on the floor of our media room. I helped them put his body into a heavy plastic bag and together with them we put him into their vehicle.

We opted for the private cremation and a container return and hope to have him back home with us shortly.

Test update 10/2020

Solar wear

in 2013 I bought this 60-LED solar-recharge security light on Amazon. This winter it failed and I took it down to see if it was the battery or not. It did appear to be the battery but I was unable to locate the exact replacement, a welded pack of five 1.5 volt AAs with an aggregate output listed at 6v on the battery wrap itself.

I thought I had found the correct replacement at Home Depot for about $15, a special-order item, but the unit that arrived appeared to be wired backward, either a manufacturing flaw or simply a battery with reversed polarity. I was kinda grumpy about a $15 battery anyway and just returned it.

Once I had determined that the battery was dead I pulled the wiring harness off and experimentally attached it to a 9v battery, and the light illuminated very brightly. What I don’t know is how many illumination cycles the battery might support, and of course finding a rechargeable battery would be even more preferable – the solar array is still producing juice without difficulty.

UPDATE: sells the part for $10, fee shipping. Ordered.

Taxes and COGs and online sales

I have started selling a few thrift picks on ebay. It’s going pretty good. I need to start keeping track of COGs and inventory of the picked goods, though, and probably need to enforce sales tax collection on the items, which is always a huge pain since online platforms don’t follow the destination-based sales tax rules that local municipalities and taxation districts have opted for.

At any rate. Some notes intended to guide me on this.

Personal used goods: treatable as a loss-sale, as in the instance of a garage sale where a used good is sold for a fraction of its’ new or replacement cost, and therefore not required to incur a COG line item. HOWEVER some sources say that a personal good can be converted to a sales good with a fair-market value assigned to the item at the time of the conversion, thereby changing the COG from zero to a positive number. This seems like it is most appropriate for items expected to be sold for a profit, that is, an appreciated good. Revenue from some appreciated goods can, it seems, also be treated as capital gains, which has a favorable tax structure and presumably exempts the converted goods from annualized inventory taxes.

Picked goods: items purchased for resale from a retailer, usually with sales tax associated and paid. There is a deduction for the sales tax that I forget how to account, but it’s there. The COG would be the full price including tax and then the sales tax paid would be treated as an offset somehow, possibly against federal taxes? I forget. Have to look that up again. At any rate the COG of the unit would be entered as the purchase price of the item (which is demonstrably a fair market value).

Deadstock: I have a bunch of deadstock that passed to me as personal property when I dissolved my S-Corp earlier this year in order to get out from under the annual grand-or-so in accountants and lawyers it cost to keep the licensing up. The dissolved corporation also incurred a personal loss to me of about 14k which I cannot offset personal income taxes against without keeping the corporation open. I think I can offset the losses via sale of deadstock, at least as far as I can, and therefore I don’t think I need to track COGs and inventory on these items (which already incurred their inventory taxes when owned by the corporation). I might be mistaken. At any rate the headstock will be selling for less than the cost of the items at wholesale and therefore represent a loss, so that would seem to place the goods in the least-accounted category.

A final puzzle is that while I have two eBay and PayPal IDs, one personal and one associated with my LLC, the personal eBay ID is a much more effective selling platform because it has such a large number of transactions. I think I need to convert it to the LLC ID and use the LLC ID as my personal ID from now on. I should have thought of and worked on this about a year ago, because ID changes take time to propagate and can cause record keeping confusion even at the programmatic level.

New Boots and Contracts

This past week or so of torrential rain preceded by snow let me to discover what I had already known, namely that my ten-year-old Docs are about as useful as a pair of sandals in keeping water away from my feet. It’s my own fault, I did not know where our show care kit was here in the house after we moved here for many years and by the time I got around to finding and restocking it the leather was thoroughly cracked and useless.

So I needed a new pair of boots! I had the idea of an appropriate price point for the boots, DM’s classic 1460, at $60-70 or so and was shocked and frustrated to find that the average best price for a standard-edition black version of this boot is about $120 and that the boots themselves appear to be in relatively short supply from independent sellers online, usually the best place to look for a MAP-controlled item such as these appear to have become in the last decade.

Even eBay has only a few merchants selling the boots new, although there are many individual and pro sellers offering a range of Doc Martens footwear both on eBay and Amazon. Buying direct, we see that the boots are offered at $135 + tax and shipping (with frequent free shipping offers).
eBay’s results are a mishmash of used and new goods. It was difficult to determine the correct pricing for new 1460s that met my specs. This is in part because DM has dramatically expanded the range of models of this boot. They range from high-end guaranteed for life and/or Made in England throwbacks to inexpensive non-leather canvas models made in China and Thailand. In the end, there are only a few new-in-box listings, with an offer point of about $115.

Amazon’s offerings are even more confusing. I think this is due to the platform’s stated policy of combining seller’s offers for a given SKU into one detail page. Sadly, they are not actually able to enforce the policy effectively. It’s nearly impossible to determine a set of prices for goods such as this, in which individually distinct products differentiated by style, model, materials, appearance, and size are randomly grouped together in detail pages aggregating seller’s offers both active and inactive.

It’s the functional equivalent of matrix pricing, which is the underlying economic mechanism driving spiraling healthcare costs and software licensing cost uncertainty. It unquestionably increases profitability on a unit-sales level for Amazon. Creating conditions of obfuscated pricing reduces consumer willingness to research and evaluate for cost, due to time constraints. The long-term effect is to increase the average price paid. However, in a consumer-goods environment, this may also cause lower overall volume as price-constrained consumers decline purchases, an option not available in medicine.

I was somewhat amazed to see this occurring because it inverted my consumer expectations for a shopping experience between eBay and Amazon. Amazon was once the most efficient place to locate a good, determine a fair price for it, and to purchase that good with a high degree of consumer confidence. Instead, although eBay has a smaller set of pro merchants selling the goods, I was able to find and compare those seller’s prices with DM’s full-retail price immediately. On Amazon, detail page selections changed apparently at random as individual seller’s stock levels fluctuated. Instead of a single price per detail page, each variation of an item was priced distinctly. It was the opposite of a smooth online shopping experience.

In the end, I made the inefficiencies of Amazon’s shopping model work for me by literally going through each 1460 listing’s detail page and selecting each instance of sizing that fit me and was in stock. I did not find any NIB black 1460 that fit me and met or were even close to my pricing expectations. I did, however, find two pairs in brown, one a new-fangled variation, each for about $75, each in low stock quantities and discounted by the merchants due to low demand.

Another possibility I did not pursue was locating and purchasing two pairs at a second-half-off price with the intent of selling the second pair NIB on eBay just under the $120 price point. I may actually experiment with that, as arbitrage is a pretty good online merchandising model.


To my bemusement (and living up to my site slogan, “holy cow, did I write that?“) I appear to have predicted this exact outcome specifically for Amazon and in part due to attempting to shop for boots online:

I strongly suspect that the partial progress in place in Amazon and eBay to increase transparency to the purchaser will be eroded over time as these organizations seek in turn to emulate Google in its’ disheartening turn toward user captivity. …The end result of this will be to diminish, to some extent, the long-term shift toward online shopping, while at the same time increasing margins only for the largest merchants. And it will keep the process of shopping for women’s boots online a fruitless nightmare.

I was actually referring to Google and Apple (and eventually therefore Amazon and eBay) seeking to emulate Facebook’s walled-garden approach as a means to diminish price transparency. As it happens, that is not the mechanism by which Amazon has achieved diminished price transparency. but hey, whatever works. Or makes life harder for the consumer, at any rate.


noted for future reference

I installed a 200-lumen battery-powered dark-and-motion sensor spotlight with a 20 second cycle under the carport on Viv’s driver side. It’s all plastic, so we’ll see how it fare amidst the elements. I note the install date here via this post so that I will have a sense of how long both it and the 3 D-cells it uses last.

A deep draught

John Seabrook, Behind the Cellar Door, The New Yorker, January 23, 2017

I enjoyed this very much, as it refracted some aspects of my father’s relationship with wine, and my own, back to me.

In particular, parts of this passage:

The heavy door swung open, drawing the cool air of the cellar behind it. The viny scent of wine, cut with the stringent reek of strong alcohol, enveloped us. It was pitch black within, and, in the moment it took my father to find the light switch, I imagined a demon rat rushing past us and disappearing into some other part of the house.

Then the lights blazed up on a square room, about fifteen feet per side, filled from floor to ceiling with wine and liquor, resting in sturdy wooden bins stacked four high, stained dark brown and built around three sides of the room, along with a two-sided row of bins in the middle, forming two bays. It was like stepping into King Tut’s tomb.

My father began making wine before I was born and, I presume, collecting it as well. Seabrook’s family experiences with his father’s cellar are on a grander scale than that I share with my father, but that line about the scent chimes with early childhood for me, and by the time I was 16 or so my father built a special room in our basement dedcated to his wine collection, walls lined with bins, a table and notebooks there for recordkeeping, smells and all.

New friends

A few months ago I met our backside neighbors, the tenants of our other backside neighbor. He’s from Paris via Beijing, and she’s from Russia and the Ukraine via Moldova, Romania and Beijing. We like them very much and first fed them here in early autumn, spontaneously one Sunday evening when he’d dropped by to introduce himself.

They had us over last weekend for dinner and it was loads of fun, staying up talking and drinking wine until 2 am, getting to know each other better. He’s an aerospace guy at Boeing, ex-Airbus,  but frustrated by the salaryman aspect of the work. She won a scholarship to a university of Chinese traditional medicine in Beijing at 19 and spent 12 years there, completing her studies.

Our buddy Joe, who spent 8 years in Taiwan and China and married a Taiwanese lady there, invited us over for dinner on Saturday night. Joe and Lilian have a large extended social circle of Chinese and Taiwanese people that live in Seattle, many of whom are in international marriages, and it seemed obvious to me I should try to get our neighbors included in the invitation. In the end, he went, she didn’t, and a good time was had by all. Joe and Jason and I played some music together for the first time in more than a year and it wasn’t terrible and it was fun. Our neighbor kept shooting video with his phone, probably gawking at the Americanness of it all, in the midst of all the baiju and Chinese food.

So far so good

After some instensive digging around various Subaru fora and borrowing an OBDC II code reader from a friend, I still don’t have a good read on the car. The code reader did not show any codes recorded, which seems odd, but whatever.

Fora posts describe my car’s symptoms in similar cars but not the ’99 Forester. The consensus appears to be that transient loss of power accompanied by a front end shimmy is a cylinder misfire, likely due to a bad plug, a bad wire to the plug, or imminent failure of other associated parts. Which, great. Except I have actually experienced this and had all that both replaced and serviced within the last 3k. Furthermore, the shimmy I was experiencing was much less intense than that I had when the cap was failing. 

So possibly that indicates incomplete chamber combustion rather than total non-combustion?

Another possibility, which seems somewhat more likely as it has a possible causal tie to the recent oil change, is that Carter overfilled the oil reservoir. A few posts here and there (interestingly, the most informative one was from a Seattle-area owner who had taken his Outback to “the dealer,” presumably Carter, for an oil change) indicated that oil overflow into parts of the engine that did not need it could lead to power loss, and that this overflow could occur if the oil reservoir was overfilled. The dip stick is said to have fill marks for hot and for cold weather, the cold weather mark indicating a greater acceptable quantity of oil. 

Persons discussing this issue and possibility indicated that burning oil, blue smoke, would be expected to accompany the issue. No smoke has been noted. However, when I checked the oil level this morning it clearly exceeded the highest fill dot level. So presumably they did overfill the car. However others also note that moderate overfills are used in some situations to provide a safety buffer for a car in extreme situations, and this past three weeks might kinda qualify from a temperature perspective, so who knows.

The car had two runs today, each about three miles, and no shimmy or loss of power was resultant.

UPDATE: After subsequent power loss and a diagnostic visit to Scanwest on Greenwood, it was suggested that the ignition coil might be failing. The replacement was within warranty horizon, so I toot it to the initial shop that replaced it, Maddy’s on Aurora, and they verified the issue and replaced the coil without incident.