Paracord Hot Knife

An upcoming project calls for cutting dozens of lengths from a spool of 550 (pound tensile strength) all-nylon paracord, which means I must also heat-seal the ends. Cold-cutting paracord always produces wildly fraying ends, so I got primal on an old soldering iron tip:

Paracord cutting - flattened soldering iron tip
Paracord cutting – flattened soldering iron tip

Bashed into a flattish blade, it does a Good Enough job of hot-cutting paracord and sealing the end in one operation:

Paracord cutting - results
Paracord cutting – results

Setting the iron to 425 °C = 800 °F quickly produces reasonably clean and thoroughly sealed cut ends.

Obviously, I need more practice.

Yes, I tried laser cutting the paracord. Yes, it works great, makes a perfectly flat cut, and heat-seals both ends, but it also makes no sense whatsoever without a fixture holding a dozen or so premeasured lengths in a straight line. No, I’m not doing that.

Please Close The Gate Signage

Making signs for the gates surrounding the Vassar Community Gardens provided an opportunity to test laser engraving power on MDF:

Please Close The Gate - 60 to 20 pct engraving - raw
Please Close The Gate – 60 to 20 pct engraving – raw

The alert reader will observe MDF is totally the wrong material for outdoor signage, which is correct. I’ll be producing different signs as these disintegrate, with an emphasis on engraving different materials and applying different finishes along the way; nobody pays attention to signs, anyway.

With that in mind, the engraving power ranged from 60% on the top sign to 20% at the bottom, perhaps 40 W to 10 W, with a scanning speed of 500 mm/s. The highest power punched the engraving about 0.5 mm below the surface:

Please Close The Gate - 60 pct depth
Please Close The Gate – 60 pct depth

They’re engraved on both sides, so those MDF locating pins came in handy:

Please Close The Gate - engraved
Please Close The Gate – engraved

Alignment was obviously not critical.

Slathering the signs with polyurethane finish rated for indoor use improved the contrast on the deeper engraving:

Please Close The Gate - 60 to 20 pct engraving - finished
Please Close The Gate – 60 to 20 pct engraving – finished

The bare sign (upper right) went on a distant / locked / rarely-used vehicle gate, where it will serve as an exposure control while turning into mush.

The small acrylic sign, a prototype for amusement value, clearly shows the need for offset correction at such high scan speeds:

Please Close The Gate - acrylic test piece
Please Close The Gate – acrylic test piece

The MDF signs fit inside one vertical space of the “four inch” wire mesh on the gates, where they rest on the lower wire, and span three wires horizontally, so I could attempt to control the inevitable warping:

VCCG perimeter gate wire mesh
VCCG perimeter gate wire mesh

The mesh wire spacing is not mmmm a closely controlled manufacturing parameter, so the next iteration must be a few millimeters shorter to fit the smallest openings.

Lyme Disease, Now With Bonus Babesiosis

Two weeks of doxycycline should kill off all the Borrelia bacteria responsible for Lyme disease, but a blood test shows the antibodies:

Lyme test - 2021-11-10
Lyme test – 2021-11-10

Those antibodies will gradually disappear during the next few months and, unfortunately, a past Lyme infection does not prevent future infections.

The tick also injected Babesia parasites which do not respond to antibiotic treatment:

Babesia test - 2021-11-10
Babesia test – 2021-11-10

The “titer” refers to the dilution required to produce a negative test result, with the 1:64 reference titer representing six successive 50% dilutions. My blood required ten 50% dilutions to produce a negative result for the IgG antibodies and (presumably) six 50% dilutions from a 20% base for the IgM antibodies.

As I understand the situation, IgM antibodies appear promptly upon infection and IgG antibodies follow along later, so my reaction to the Babesia infestation was ramping up after two weeks.

In the Bad Old Days™, quinine was the go-to treatment for parasitic infections, but it has a host of horrific side effects at the dosage required for traction against actual diseases; tonic water ain’t gonna get you where you need to go.

The new hotness is atovaquone, arriving as 100 ml of a yellow liquid with the consistency of latex paint, (allegedly) the taste of “tutti fruitti“, and a price (modulo your drug plan) making inkjet printer ink look downright affordable. You might expect to get a 5 ml measuring spoon along the the bottle, but suffice it to say it’s an exceedingly good thing I’m well stocked for printer cartridge refilling.

All of the diseases and drugs list “fatigue” / “drowsiness” / “malaise” as symptoms / side effects and I’m here to tell you knocking off a couple of hours in the recliner during the day does nothing at all to disturb another nine hours in the sack overnight.

A few weeks of low productivity in the Basement Shop™ will definitely count as a successful outcome.

Protip: We need permethrin spray. Lots permethrin spray.

Lyme Disease

For reasons that made sense at the time, two weeks ago I ventured outside the house. A few days later, this appeared:

Lyme Disease - arm rash
Lyme Disease – arm rash

The pallid skin over on the left comes from a bike glove. The central bump is one of those annoying sebaceous hyperplasias appearing after a Certain Age and not relevant here.

Having been around this particular block a few times, Mary recognized the diffuse red rash, sleeping 30 of 36 consecutive hours, and a day-long 103 °F fever as Lyme disease. I’m currently taking 100 mg of doxycycline twice a day and (after a week) feeling better, while sleeping a lot more than usual at random intervals during the day.

We’re both highly aware of Lyme disease: Mary routinely dresses in a complete overlayer of permethrin-sprayed clothing and I generally strip-and-shower immediately after any yard work in similarly sprayed, albeit less enclosing, attire. In this case, we think a tiny Deer Tick nymph affixed itself to the outboard side of my wrist, where I could neither see nor feel it, and (because I didn’t take a shower after being outside for only a few minutes) remained attached long enough to infect me.

Caught and treated early, Lyme disease generally does not progress into “post-treatment Lyme disease”, an ailment rife with what can charitably be described as serious woo, despite some evidence of actual disease.

Some of Mary’s Master Gardener cronies have endured co-infections of Babesia microti and we’ll be watching for those symptoms after doxycycline tamps down the obvious problem.

I’ll be puttering very carefully around heavy machinery and posting irregularly for a few weeks …

Memo to Self: the Basement Shop has a lot to recommend it!

Small Spider vs. Marmorated Stink Bug

Spiders know how to handle much larger prey:

Spider draining Marmorated Stinkbug
Spider draining Marmorated Stinkbug

Apparently the stink bug’s armor doesn’t count for much when the spider has the luxury of attacking through a weak spot in the underbelly after the critter stops struggling.

Stink bugs cause considerable damage to crops (notably apples) in the Hudson Valley, but they haven’t been the existential catastrophe we all expected when they first arrived.

Hooray for spiders!

Another Snapper

An approaching cyclist warned to watch out for the snapping turtle:

Snapping Turtle - DCRT near Page Park - front - 2021-09-24
Snapping Turtle – DCRT near Page Park – front – 2021-09-24

This one claims the pond near Page Industrial Park along the Dutchess Rail Trail:

Snapping Turtle - DCRT near Page Park - rear - 2021-09-24
Snapping Turtle – DCRT near Page Park – rear – 2021-09-24

We’ll not dispute any snapper’s territory!

I’m hauling PYO apples from Prospect Hill Orchards in the hills on the west side of the Hudson; it was a lovely fall day for a 25 mile ride!