Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Space X

This post is a bit different than the rest. Space X is a private rocket company founder by the founder of Pay Pal, Elon Musk.  Space X employs close to 2000 people in Hawthorn CA.  I wish to work for them one day. Space X has an up coming Test flight.  This is a very difficult Test flight.  Things can and probably will go wrong.  I will try not to be disappointed if it does.  However, if all goes well it will be an absolute amazing achievement.  NASA has been working on the Orion capsule for years and its still years away from flying.  Space X launched and more importantly retrieved their Dragon capsule last year.  Something only the US, Russia, and China have done.If Elon Musk is successful we may yet see man on Mars in our life time if not this decade. Two more weeks!  Go Space X!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The New Roof, Deck Cover Beginnings etc.

We bought a pressure washer and we spent a a bunch of hours on the roof cleaning it in preparation of sealing it. When we bought the house we knew it needed to be cleaned and sealed. We could see flaking paint on the balcony ceilings and some staining that looked like humidity - not active leaks- but still, we knew it needed to be done. So we cleaned it and have been waiting for dry weather in this not-so-dry dry season. Meanwhile Jeff started talking to people at work about their roofs and had a couple people come out to give estimates on the Danosa roof system. It is expensive but not really. With the sloped roof in San German I sealed it, I had to do it again in 2 years and each time it was about $1,200 and a lot of work on my part. The sun turns Crosscoat into shriveled up bits of elasomer or whatever the crap is. We figured this house would suck up a lot on the first round and need at least a coat a year being that it is flat. There were only 4 drain holes so Jeff did the best he could to add 4 or 5 more and they drained great - just right on our walkway or at the base of the stairs! The roofers gave us estimates to widen those holes and add pipes as well. The guarantee is 10 years so we costed it out and decided to do it! We went with Superior Roofing since they had a good presentation that showed us buildings they had done (Infotech and other commercial buildings) as well as the seguro, licenses etc. They also would move the solar hot water - something American Roofing wouldn't do. I dread having anyone work on the house because I know they won't be on time, may not even show up, will drop garbage, leave a mess, be rude and smoke or play loud music. They also won't do the job I would do. It is also a little more difficult when you don't speak fluent Spanish. I know enough but not specific words for "we want to tie that tube into this one," or "why can't the material wrap over this wall?" etc. Simple questions like "how do I secure the internet and TV wires to the new roof without voiding the warranty? Can I hammer the little nails into it?" become hard.  Anyway, the guys came out on Tuesday (rain chance 50%) and noticed how clean the roof was but blasted it some more. The guy didn't come prepared to make the drain holes, he didn't have the "order" for it and I thought "here we go again" more problems. Then they started priming with this nasty tar-like stuff, a huge rain burst came fast and black oil came down the drainpipes to kill patches of the lawn and splatter onto the side of the house. Great. How will paint ever stick to that when I repaint the house? Fortunately the rest of the job went smoothly. The guys stopped for the day. They used gas and WD-40 to clean the walls of spatters (and it worked) and planned on coming the next day. They came after the roof had a chance to dry and redid the rained on part of the primer and finished the entire roof and left. That afternoon it rained and water was sitting on the primer. In the morning I got up there and pushed the water around so it would dry faster. They arrived, on time, and started hoisting the material up!
They started cutting the material, then used a torch to melt the back and stick it to the primer. Essentially it was a lot like how they repave! The material goes up and over the false front of the house, up and over the rim and the water heater walls. Seams are staggered and not where walls join the flat roof. All the seams were painted with some kind of aluminum. The edges are cut and then torched so you don't even see any hint of it from down below and there is no way water is getting in there.
Here's how it looks! It is hard to tell, but it is shiny space-like silver. It should help keep things cool.
They even removed the solar water completely to do underneath it. It came out and went back in a couple hours but I did have a cold shower that night. They finished on Thursday after working from 8:30 am - 6:45 that night. This was really hard work and they didn't take the usual drive away lunch breaks or sit-around breaks. They staggered a quick 20 minute lunch. The solar water area looks like a solar oven where I can cook up hot dogs and eggs if I have to! (yeah, right)
This is the wall at the front of the house. The material wraps right over the top so there isn't anywhere water could get in. It is melted to the primer. They made big-ass drain holes and sealed all the edges of them. I have not seen anyone work this hard before. These 2 guys really worked, let me come up to look, did great detail stuff and were quiet and respectful. They cleaned up each day and paid attention to where they stepped, put ladders etc. The 3rd guy put in the drain holes and even re plastered the places cement chipped off (I figured I'd have to do that later). Seeing how they did it....the only way water is getting in there is if a whole seam comes unsealed (don't see how). I think it is awesome! I was skeptical and just wanted to do it myself but thanks to Jeff's investigation and pushing we have an excellent trouble-free roof and I can tackle painting the inside now! The next project is to put a deck cover over half the deck. The deck area gets a lot of wind and will be a great place to hang in July when it starts getting hot. A cover will make it a great storm watching/listening place and make a dry spot for the cats. Jeff is the handy-hubby who can do it all! This weekend he started the project after getting some design help from a friend.
This is going to make the deck usable all the time. I can see orchids and hanging baskets and a table and chairs already! And lighting. And pots of plants...
I'm still working on making the front a garden spot and it is coming along slowly. I have to figure out where to get rock. Taking out perfectly good lawn is time consuming and hard work!
It is all coming together. We've been in the house since xmas and it is almost ready for the wet season!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tiny Tunnel Mapped and Crawled - Long Day Continued

Our "Long Day" started at 8:30 am and ended around 8:30pm. The wander to the first cave wasn't that far and never is due to excitement. The mapping went much easier than usual since we had more people. Usually I am the scout/survey station-finder/station flagger-numberer/target holder. Finding the stations means a lot of back and forth running about since you have to think and find stations about 3 stations ahead for it to go smoothly. You have to find the direction the cave is going, make sure you have lines of sight, and make sure you place them properly at junctions to make further side-shoot or side-room surveys easier. Then you have to flag them, number them, hold the target so measurements can be taken. In water this is extremely difficult. This cave was water free and we had more help! I could find the stations while Julie flagged and numbered them and we could relay back and forth whether the line of sight would work. Very nice and much easier! Here's Julie at a nice formation at the beginning of the cave Tom has now named Cueva Rendija - peephole cave. At the end he popped up into a small passage, looked up and ended up peeping outside the cave. His fascination with this slit and the wind moving through it led to its name.

After the mapping was pretty much ending we looked into this tiny spot and it looked like it went further.
It was very decorated and none of us wanted to break things off but I figured I could take off the helmet and worm my way in without doing damage. I did have to do some bendy stuff to get in but then it opened up so I could squat, then went some more if I went on my belly, then opening etc etc. It was gorgeous!
Clearly no one had been in there - nothing was broken, there weren't muddy stalagmites, no footprints or anything on nice white deposits. There were helictites, sorbetos, cave pearls and other neat formations.
A lot of anti-gravity stuff. Julie was flexible enough to worm in so we could pseudo map it. There wasn't enough room to lift your head to use the disto or inclinometer or compass really so we used a measuring tape and top/bottom/left/right estimates. Since it was kind of tight we wouldn't be off much. It finally did end at this stalactite "jail." I could see flowing water through the bars that were a finger or two wide.
We spent a teeny bit of time admiring the formations on the way out as we carefully maneuvered our way back out to the others waiting outside. It was like a private gallery showing in there!
We exited, headed up and down to another cave, through it to another, Tom placed some equipment in a bat "hot" room and then it was out to the crazy "hand line" that I did not have the energy/strength to climb (40 feet or so of arm strength). It all went downhill from there for me. I was the weak link on this trip. I was overheated, didn't eat enough, dehydrated, tired, and I really don't know what was wrong with me. I was fine until that last cave. It was only around 4 miles total but the steep terrain made it suck. The lack of trail made it suck. The darkness and humidity made it suck. But that tiny tunnel made it worth it! Plus it got mapped so there isn't anything undone there except finding the peephole from the outside. I am NOT going on that trip!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Long Day Caving

Friday was another long caving adventure.  We (Katrina and I) set off with Tom, Julie, Tim, and Shirley.  The dry season really isn't so dry this year so we couldn't do a wet cave.  Wet caves are very exciting and tougher.  Even though these were dry caves it was a tough day.  Our goal was to map an unnamed cave and see some other caves in the area. We started with the usual drive past starving animals and garbage.  Once on the "trail" we were in the jungle.  The main trail was very overgrown to say the least and then we planned on going off trail for a while.  It wasn't that long of a hike and we were all joking that we needed to rest.
We got to the unnamed cave in good spirits and got started with the mapping.  Katrina and Julie found the survey stations and marked them while Tim and I took measurements and Tom recorded them.  It was slow going for the first few stations but we figured it out and got to the "end" in no time.

Katrina and Julie went into a small tunnel with survey gear and relayed the numbers back to us since we couldn't fit..  You can see Julie's feet sticking out.  It was a very small and very decorated passage.

We exited the cave and had lunch.  We had discussions about this secret room and our ambition got the better of us.  Through a 3 inch slot we could see another entrance to the cave on the other side of the secret room.  We wanted to find it. Easier said than done.  It was only 100 meters away.  100 meters on very steep heavily vegetated terrain is not easy and in our case not possible.  We were literately crawling through the jungle on our hands and knees.  Just to go 10 feet was an ordeal.  I went as far as I could given how steep and dense it was.  The entrance was probably only 100 feet away but we could not see it or get to it.  Searching for this elusive entrance took an hour and lots of energy.We gave up and headed for Cueva Dugon with thunder in the distance.  We were getting tired but made it to one "possible" exit for Dugon.  We put a rope in place.  None of us however was willing to go down this rope without vertical gear which we didn't have with us.  A tough 15 minute bushwhack over the ridge and we were at an entrance to Dugon. 
We then walked through a canyon to the other entrance of Dugon.  Lots and lots of bats, some flying into us.  Lots of dead ones on the floor rotting. Very very stinky, raining guano, over the boot deep guano.  Extremely hot. Get the picture?  Not a very fun environment. It's worse than my description.Then it was time to leave.  Everyone but Katrina and I climbed the rope we placed earlier to get out.  Katrina and I went out the way we came.  We were exhausted at this point and I couldn't find the way out!  I looked and looked.  Finally I had to go back to where the rope was and ask how to find the exit.  With some instructions from Tom we found our way out and started hiking back to them.  It was almost dark at this point and Katrina was having trouble.  We had to rest a lot just to go the short distance to the others. She didn't eat or drink enough and her heart was racing.  After a little rest and some shared food and drink we started our way out of the jungle in the dark.  The jungle comes alive at night!!!  So many sounds.  Its really cool but we still had an hour to go and we were all very tired and Katrina needed a few extra breaks. A LOT of breaks. Her energy reserves were depleted. We made it out ok.  We cleaned up and drove to the nearest place that served food, the Mofongo Gua Gua.  An old food van in a parking lot on the side of the road.  It wasn't very clean but it was a lot cleaner than I was after walking around in rotting bat stew. We mapped the cave and saw several other caves.  The only way to find that secret entrance would be to rappel down from the top of the hill through all the vegetation - something I don't think is really practical just to see one room (one room I assume).