Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Foliage in front of my house

After the cold front that came at the end of October during the colony half marathon and green dragon 5 milers, the temperature swung back and forth several times from below average to 10+F above average. The large swings in temperature made the foliage this year not as good as before.

However last 10 days during our routine morning runs, we noticed some bright foliage here and there. Last Sunday afternoon, it was Sunny with a few white clouds in the sky. I walked out of the front door around noon time to capture the foliage on my street. 

One tree on my front yard lost almost all its leaves, the view of it let one feels like to be in winter, but the tree on side of the house just started to turn red; looking across the street, one  tree was in its full blown splendid autumn color spectrum – from light green to yellow to bright brown to red to dark brown.

Looking down the street to the east, two small trees by the curb were turning from red to bright brown, further down the road, two colorful trees, one bright yellow, the other dark red, stood in stark contrast to each other.

The most impressive of all on this street was this one big tree with full canopy of bright yellow leaves at a neighbor’s yard. I walked over to take a closer look.  As I got closer, the owners of the house happened to come out right then, apparently attracted by the bright yellow color of the tree, taking pictures of their own trees.   

What a beautiful "Autumn" day!!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Flushing Tankless Heater

The tankless water heater installed in my house on December 28, 2009 has been working perfectly. It however needs an annual flush to maintain its efficiency. The first flush was performed by the installer on January 3rd, 2010, cost $200.

I bought a descaler kit, which cost $150,  to flush the tankless heater myself. One time use paid off the cost of the kit. The only cost later on is only the vinegar solution used to flush the tankless heater.

The instruction for descaling is clear and easy to follow. The only thing I had to figure out was which was which on isolation valves and service valves. It is a two-step flush, first use vinegar solution to flush the tankless through re-circulation of the solution for 30-45 minutes and then use clear water to flush the tankless again for 3-5 minutes. The second step was troublesome when using a bucket to collect water - we had to empty it frequently, carrying the bucket from attic to second floor bathroom. 

Last year I finally decided to improve the second step flush by using a 75 ft long hose to connect the service valve outlet to the bathroom tub, eliminating the need to empty bucket frequently.

This morning I decided to flush the tankless for the 8th time, the 7th time by myself. I thought that it would take me 45 minutes to complete the job. But one misstep a the beginning got me into trouble.

Instead of following the instruction line by line, I quickly scanned the instruction, and  hooked up the system by memory. Instead of re-circulation first, my hookup led to the 2nd step flush. I quickly realized the mistake and corrected it.

But the re-circulation could not be established after correction! Was it that the pump malfunctioned or that it did not powerful enough? I did a few debugging. First I checked if the pump works or not, by disconnecting the other end of the hose connected to the pump from service valve - the water could be pumped correctly. I then shut off the service valve, turn on hot water isolation valve, turn on hot water service valve, water could come out no problem. All the components were working. But when I hooked up the system again step by step per instruction, the pump was running, but there was no water coming out of  the re-circulation outlet - hot water service valve. 

I asked Lily to come to the attic to check my installation step by step and I reinstalled the descaler kit with her reading the instruction line-by-line. I still could not make the re-circulation happen! My tentative conclusion was that the pump malfunctioned - not enough power.

Before I quit, I did a restart. I uninstalled the kit, returned the tankless heater to operating condition. I then followed the instruction step by step, when the pump was plugged to electricity, the descaler system was working!


What happened that made the kit not working before the retsart? Another observation was that despite the shut-off of the isolation valves for both hot water and cold water , the fluid level in the bucket crept up gradually. The increase in the fluid level in the bucket should not happen because the only source of fluid was from the bucket!! Why did it happen?

Looking at the internal structure of the tankless and because of the erroneous first installation, I believe that the re-circulation is established by Siphoning.  My erroneous first hookup essentially emptied the pipe in the tankless - see illustration above.  When I corrected my installation, there was no water in the pipe inside the tankless any more, the pump's power by itself could not overcome the  hydrostatic pressure from the height of the water in the pipe. That's why despite the pump working very hard, there was no water coming out of the re-circulation outlet.

When I restarted the process, I first refilled the pipe inside. With correct installation, the siphon could happen and the kit worked as designed. 

I still could not fully explain why the fluid in the bucket continuously increase during re-circulation. It seemed very likely to be related to water stored in accessory pipes connected to the main pipe where water is heated because the instruction stated that the bucket can only be half full ( to prevent the spill over from the excess water?)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Pandora's Lab

This is a book about how some science  that went wrong.

I read  an excerpt of this book on transfat  in National Geographic, and I wanted to read the full book.

The book presented 7 case histories in science that led to disastrous outcome: Heroine and Pain Killer, Trans fat, Nitrogen Fixation , Eugenics, Labotomy, DDT and Vitamin.

Can one imagine now that there was a period in time in our recent history heroin was hailed as wonder medicine? U.S. has spent trillion dollars to fight the drug trafficking , rehab addiction to heroin and related drug.

Trans fat was at one time recommended by U.S. government to replace butter, but it tuned out to be worse than butter, caused more cardiovascular disease related death.

Then there are fake science in labotomy, Eugenics, high dosage consumption of Vitamin.

On the other hand, the elimination of DDT led to the epidemic of malaria and death of million people. Overuse of Nitrogen based fertilizer helps to feed the world but could lead to distinction of human species !

How could those happen? Did no one see the problems before they led to disasters? Of course there were.

A common thread in all these stories is the media biased hype and relentless push by activists. Before a full picture was formed, media/activists promoted only one side of the story. Dissent, negative observations, opposing views were drowned.

Sound familiar?

The Harvey Weinstein scandal led to an avalanche of allegations of sexual assaults/harassment. This is a good thing  - victims now have the courage to speak out. But allegation is not the fact, we can not throw "innocent until proven guilty" principle away. Apparently there are people using this wave of allegations of sexual harassment for revenge, political gain ...  Remember the Rolling Stone scandalous article " A rape on Campus"?  The "victim", who is the real villain,  made up the story to get back to her unobtainable love object.

Back to science and technology, now in technology world, passwordless internet is all the rage. Promotion to develop technology to use finger print, iris,  facial recognition to identify a person uniquely and unambiguously despite serious potential fatal consequences.  Finger print is the first to be shown not reliable ; here is the link to a funny but scary story about the risk of using finger print to protect your phone.  What about iris, the novel Angels & Demons y author Dan Brown provided a scenario that criminal could cut one's eye out for access.

The real lessons learned from the Pandora's lab are: look at the full pictures, don't rush to conclusion/judgement, and use critical/independent thinking!!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Colony Half Marathon and Green Dragon 5 milers

The big day for local running community was here, October 28th, 2017, The Colony Half Marathon and Green Dragon 5 milers. It would be a clear but cold day due to a strong cold front moving to North Texas the previous day.

We arrived at the Sparks Park at Colony by Lake Lewisville ~ 7:15am for the race; Lily for half Marathon, and I for the 5 milers.  It was still dark and freezing cold (36F). I wore long running pants and long under shirt with gloves. Lily decided to wear shorts with added underwear.

For the race, my target was to complete the 5 miles in 50 minutes ( my average pace), and stretch goal was to reach 48 minute completion (a personal best), Lily's goal was to complete the half Marathon within 2 hours.

picture together before the race started
Before the race, a high school student sang the national anthem, a volunteer carried the national flag by her side on the stage. People stood with a hand by the chest while she sang and cheered loudly as she completed the anthem.
national anthem
The half marathon started ahead of the 5 milers at 8:06 am after a 6 minute delay due to the power outage to the inflated starting gate. The 5 milers started 10 minutes later. There were a lot more runners for the half marathon than for the 5 milers.

The first 5 miles of the both races used exactly the same route, in the neighborhood by the park. The half marathon added 8 miles by lake Lewisville. 

The half marathon trail

Half Marathon started
I started the run at a relatively fast pace, 5:30m/km, but after 1 mile or so I started to feel discomfort in my right knee area, and slowed down substantially in my 2nd and 3 rd mile, many runners in the 5 miler group, young and old, slim and plump, passed me. During this tough section,  I was pleasantly surprised to hear the cheers from 3 cheerleader teams lined at different sections of the 5 mile route. They did cheer me up!! And  I stopped to take a picture of them.

As the discomfort eased, I picked up speed and started to pass runners, in fact many of the runners were walking then. I actually ran as fast for the last kilometer as my first,. I finished the 5 miles in 50 minutes!  55 minutes later Lily crossed the finish line in 1 hour 55 minutes. She achieved new personal records in 1 mile, 5km, 10km and half marathon

It was a beautiful day, and a great experience for our first long distance race. 

local middle school cheerleaders cheering for the runners
Lily crossing the finish line

picture together after the race
a corner of lake Lewisville


1. A colleague of mine lives by Lewisville lake along lake shore trail, he actually erected a sign to cheer me up!!

2. There were many Chinese-American participated the race - my estimated number  20 ~ 30, this compared with one in 2016 race (by reading online running record)

3. Lily found out that my official time was 1:06 minute - 16 minutes slower than my recorded time. It seems that when the inflated gate was down, I passed the chip reader (the black strip on the ground). Our guess was that my chip was read at that time, 6 minutes ahead of half marathon start time, 16 minutes ahead 5 miler start time!!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Visiting Dallas Cowboys HQ

Last Thursday I got a chance to visit Dallas Cowboys HQ at Frisco Texas in lieu of a UNT social event Stars at Star. Nicholas was my guest for this event. Star is the name of Cowboys's HQ, Stars are selected UNT faculty and the guests of the event.

The Star has a grand atrium which has  beautiful Italian marble floors with engraved names and quotes of Dallas Cowboys players and coaches, hangs artist Leo Villareal LED sculpture titled “Volume Frisco" (2016). This dancing LED display includes more than 19,200 white LED lights embedded in 160, 40-foot-long, stainless steel mirrored rods hanging from the ceiling.

LED Sculpture 
On the right hand side of the atrium is the Super Bowl station where Cowboys' past glories are on display on one side - 5 super bowl trophies - the most recent one dated 1995,  giant super bowl rings on the otherside . At the end of the station is the Helmet wall - with all 32 NFL teams' helmet hanging on the wall. Paying a bit more attention, I noticed that there were two helmets lit up - Cowboys' and Packers' - the lit helmets are indicative of Cowboys upcoming game - which is, for this Sunday, Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys.

The glass wall on north end of the atrium faces Cowboys' full size practice field.

Walking down a stairway, and passing the walk of stars, we arrived at the event venue.

Cowboys' Super Bowl Trophies
Helmet Wall - 1 - NFC team helmets

Helmet Wall - 2 - AFC team helmets
outdoor Practice Football field
Star Walk
Cowboys Helmets and Uniforms

The Stars at Star was a social event to entertain UNT's partners from local communities - companies, government officials and etc. It featured a progressive dinner (a.k.a Buffet type dinner) and a keynote speaker of Charlotte Jones Anderson, Cowboys EVP and chief branding officer, daughter of Dallas Cowboys' owner. It was a great speech about pillars for business success. Our self paced tour of the facility was curtailed at the Cowboys' Hall of Fame - the names pro-bowlers, stories of Super Bowls.

We stepped onto the lit-up practice field before leaving.

As we drove home, a huge yellowish Moon was just above horizon in the eastern sky at the end Warren Parkway, in front of us.

Stars at Star

the Featured Speaker

Dallas Cowboys' football field in the dusk
End Zone

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Newfoundland and labrador - Miscellaneous

We went to Canada a few times - first time to Vancouver on our way to Alaska, and 2nd time at  Banff, and Jasper National Park and Calgary, Alberta, and the 3rd time the eastern most province of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador visiting Gros Morne and Tera Nova National Parks.

Despite the fact that visiting Canada does not feel like going abroad, there are some interesting differences between Newfoundland and Texas:

1) Street signs are placed 100 yard before an intersection - no sign at the intersection! I missed turns a few time because of this.
2) Trash basket instead of trash can. We observed that there were big baskets (wooden boxes) in front of every house in a small town we passed by. We wonder what they were and eventually figured out that they were trash "can"
3) Newfoundland people has strong accent - most people's ancestors were from Southern Scotland  - per my boat tour guide.

Newfoundland was rainy and/or cloudy 3/4 of time. It rained so much - the main high way through the park collapsed at several locations due to rain during our visit there. 

Many gas stations are still on honor code - fill the tank first pay later - like what we were 20 years ago in USA. Our kayaking group mates - two Canadians  - were very proud of this and teased us on that we had to pay first before filling the tank.

Gros Morne Discover Center

Collapsed high way due to rain
pay attention to the base of power line post - basket of rocks is used to stabilize the post in strong wind

It is still fill tank first pay later
The newfoundland is so large - north point to south point is over 1000km! Travel by air is preferred. Due to low population density, one has to take tiny airplanes for air travel there.

Small regional airplane

Nicholas had to lower his head in order to walk on the airplane
Due to the frequent rainy/cloudy days, red seems to be favorite colors there. The ubiquitous red chairs are prominently placed in Gros Morne. We saw red-roof cabins there more frequently than any other place we visited.

Red chair at Gros Morne 

Red roof cabin by the baty

National park's van

a red roof cabin near a light house

The resort cabins are  prefabricated matchbox! But the inside was decent, especially the cabin we stayed at Tera Nova. It was cozy. It rained a lot when we were at Tera Nova. The cozy cabin was a good place to have "home-cooked" dinner, take a hot shower and read books!

Inside of a "resort" cabin at Gros Morne

Cabin at Tera Nova

Bed room felt rustic

interesting signs on the wall

reading a book in a cold rainy night

Restaurants at Newfoundland we visited were typically small with OK food. But we got what we paid for. We went to a expensive restaurant  - have to wait and the food was good but the serving portion was small. 

decoration in a restaurant 

A restaurant inside Tera Nova 

Fisherman showing off his lobster

Rocky harbor is the center for tourists visiting Gros Monre National Park, it looks pretty ordinary most of the time. But on this sunny evening, it looked gorgeous and poetic under the setting Sun. 

Sunset at Rocky Harbor
Street light at Rocky Harbor, Gros Morne