Sunday, October 8, 2017

WatUR: The World's Oldest Board Game, Modurnized



I've been working on a new project all summer. I saw a video in April of Tom Scott and Irving Finkel playing an ancient board game and I became obsessed with it. I loved the dice especially. It uses four dice that represent 0 or 1. You add them up. This appeals to me because I have trouble adding big numbers and I have some relatives with the same genetic deficiency. It's not an impediment to doing higher mathematics or anything, but if you're playing a game for fun it's nice to be able to relax and not have to face your shortcomings whenever the dice come up with too many spots showing.

I decided I could make this game myself. It's 4500 years old, surely it's in the public domain. I got some blank tetrahedral dice like they found in the Royal Tomb in Ur and I modified them for the game. The ones in the museum were carved from bone. I was ready to embrace modern materials though, so I used plastic.



I had some scrap 1x6 pine boards so I cut out the shape of the board. I bought Affinity Designer when  they came out with the upgrade recently so I set out to learn that software and design the decorations for the squares. I studied the original closely.


I don't actually like the original design. It's a lot of variations of the all-seeing eye and it sort of creeps me out. There are a lot of copies of this game and they all just look like this. Why? As long as the designs repeat in the same places it could be anything. Why not be original when you're copying the oldest board game in the world?

I thought the 5 spot squares looked like frog eggs. So I designed Frog Ur as my first version.


I took this one to the coast and played it with my nieces and their friends on vacation. They liked it a lot. We played it enough to establish an average time it takes to play (25 minutes) and we tested an alternative route for a more complicated game and timed that too (45 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes). We discussed changes I could make to lead you through that alternate route. They had ideas for other Ur puns, like a boat themed one called SailUR or one with domesticated animals called FarmUR. I wanted to do one of star fish and sand dollars called EchinodURms. There could be a Game of Thrones themes one called WintUR.

I tried several of these but I felt compelled to be true to the 8 pointed rosette theme that ran through all the artifacts I saw on the British Museum website. I finally came across Enki, the god of Water. He was often shown as a mountain goat with a fish body, or he had a river just shooting out of his head with fish jumping in it. That's how I settled on WatUR, with mountain goats, turtles, fish, and sun and stars instead of rosettes.

I made some more of the wood boards with decals and played it with a friend. He complained that the dice were hard to pick up. I didn't mind sliding them off the table, but I wasn't crazy about how hard it is to make them. I'd contacted all the dice makers to see if they could customize these dice to have contrast colored tips and they refused to even try. They were happy to customize dice on the flat faces. So I decided I could solve two problems at once by having 6 sided dice made to only have 2 outcomes. Put spots on 3 sides, leave 3 sides blank. Now the odds are the same as the tetrahedral dice. And it's this probability that makes the game work. The fact that your opponent is more likely to roll a 2 than a 1 or a 3 helps you decide where to put your pieces.

I found some ready-made binary dice that had 1 and 0 on them. 1 and 0 made me think of digital logic and that made me think of printed circuit boards. TransistUR was born.


I did some research and found there are prototype board houses in China with no set-up charges and quite a low fee per board. Cost less for fiberglass cut with a CNC router and shipped express from China than it costs me to cut out a piece of wood and sand it, let alone decorate it and hand paint it.

While I was working on my board layout I was also exploring the possibility of doing laser engraving on wood. In the process of getting the vector file to a laser engraver I figured out I could convert my Affinity Designer files to AutoCAD format, good old DXF. And the board layout program can import that. In just a day or so I had my WatUR design rendered as a printed circuit board too. But I can't have 1 and 0 with Sumerian artifacts. They used cuneiform, not Arabic numbers. So I had to find a source for custom dice. It turns out they're just as affordable as the circuit boards. But only if you buy 2000 of them.

But by now I really really wanted them. I kept working on the rest of the steps to product launch and decided I could do it if I could get 250 people to pay $35 ea for a set.


I'll come back and paste in a link to the KickstarUR when after I launch it some time this week.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hurricane Harvey is no Wilma. Now we have iPhones.

I was up until 4:30 last night riveted by the KHOU YouTube channel out of Houston. The rain bands were hammering them after Hurricane Harvey, in a configuration their meteorologist aptly described as a layer cake tipped over. I read Tweets coming in all night long from people I follow in Houston going in and out of their tornado rooms.
I saw a lot of people on Twitter talking about praying.  This is not an interesting activity for me. Where are all the people wondering why there were cars completely submerged with their headlights on? There were interstate height lamp posts with water within a few feet of the canopy and they were still on, shining on the water. I have so many questions! How much electrical current is running through that water? What's the conductivity? Is everything getting electroplated? Or the reverse, corroded? Is there a system to disconnect power to electrical infrastructure when they go underwater? I'm thinking of telephone nodes, street light controllers, stuff like that. Why are people playing in this water today? Do they have no understanding of risk?! Electricity aside, think of the live fire ants floating around in rafts. People trying to help their neighbors, that's one thing. But just playing, that's not cool.

I can't stop thinking ahead to what the recovery from this will be like. I'm remembering back to 2005, 4 years before I started this blog, when Hurricane Wilma went for a wild ride all around the Gulf of Mexico. It forced my step-sister to move her wedding from Isla Mujeres, Mexico to Destin, Florida, in the panhandle, on five days notice. My brother and his daughters, who had flower girl dresses made, couldn't come from South Florida because of gasoline shortages.

I was working for a civil engineering firm in Tallahassee at the time. They had a disaster recovery division that got a contract with Broward County (Fort Lauderdale area) to manage the clean up effort. I was sent down there to work on it. I took my personal laptop, cell phone, GPS, camera, and car. They gave me a company hard hat and a company safety vest. I went to Walmart and bought some steel toed boots.

My job was to go out to neighborhoods with private contractors who had come from all over the country with loaders and dump trucks. All I had to do was stand there and watch them load trucks with debris. When the truck was full I filled out a form with many duplicates. It had the time and date and how full I thought the truck was. Then I gave the driver one copy and he went to dump the load at the landfill where they were grinding up all this organic debris.
The landfill where the trucks took debris to be ground into bits small enough to move efficiently
The idea was that I would turn in a copy to my people at the end of the day and they entered all this into a giant database. My cube mate from Tallahassee was in an office building back in Ft Lauderdale doing data entry all day. Broward County had to very carefully track all of this activity so they could be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As far as I could tell it was a lot of people using their own resources to repair a Federal Disaster Area with the expectation that the Feds would reimburse them afterwards. I had to pay for my own hotel and gas and everything. I was a salaried employee though, so I was confident my expense report would go through. But I had to be able to cover that expense up front.
Ficus trees down everywhere
On the first day in Broward County I was sent to a neighborhood with small houses on small lots close to the street. There was non-organic debris like bottles and cans in the right of way under the entire ficus trees they had to cut up and haul off. The contractors were told not to pick up the actual trash, only trees. It was like they were only cleaning it up to the level they expected it was when the storm struck. I am pretty sure it was literally Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd where they told us not to pick up trash. I was so mad. It seemed petty and discriminatory and despicable to not clean it ALL THE WAY UP. Give them some kind of boost and motivation to move forward and be better. Jeez. They probably are all struggling with lost wages and who knows what all else.

The kind of neighborhood that got cleaned up first in Broward County

Most people don't even have power back on, but by all means, run the pump on your fountain
The next day I was sent to a very high end neighborhood where every house was on about 4 acres. They all had generators humming in the backyard so they could sit inside in the air conditioning watching DirectTV. About 5 times a day they'd make us move the dump truck off the street so they could get by in their Humvee to go get a fucking frozen yogurt or get a pedicure or whatever the fuck they were doing. They had their own yarn man hauling debris out to the street as fast as we could pick it up. We were told to not leave until the streets and right of way were leaf-blower clean. We were on one block for a week. It irked me no end. Rich people demanding that they be served first. I think it was the damn peacocks stalking down the streets that made me feel so mean.
Even the peacock thinks he owns the public property


On MLK drive we couldn't pick up empty cans, but we were told to collect anything these people put out by the road. What is that, a trampoline? 








3.25 Acres, Pool, 6 Horse Stall Barn
When they'd block the road like this they'd have to stop working to let cars go by. Over and over.
I was quite content to watch this machine all day. This guy got that thing on three wheels all the time. 

For my next assignment I was sent to document tree damage in the right of way of a small municipality. I started out with a partner who was a temp hire who came from up North somewhere excited by the high pay. On the first stop she told me I was using my GPS wrong. "You have to point it at the tree." I tried to explain that SHE was using it wrong, for maximum precision we should go all the way up to the tree and point it at the sky. But the error was so big it was fine to take the reading from where we took the photo and get it done as quickly as possible. Accurate final count more important than precision. The next day she told me she'd called her pastor from the hotel and he'd advised her to talk to me to be sure I'd accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. By lunchtime I'd gotten the city manager to let me do the whole job alone. I designed a database in my hotel overnight to use instead of the paper form and I personally documented all the trees down in the right of way for an entire Broward County town, uploading the GPS waypoints and photos into the database directly. They were so amazed by my grasp of technology.

That was in 2005. Remember 2005? This was 2 years before the invention of the iPhone. There were some modules you could use with DSLRs to put the GPS coordinates in the metadata of digital photos but they were out of my reach. But now everybody has a device in their pocket that can document storm damage with the GPS location embedded in the metadata of every photo. This job now would not require a salaried scientist to drive every mile of road in a town or county. You would just need to scrape the data off social media. Instead of writing a receipt for every truck of debris you just have the driver snap a photo and text it to a specific number where it could automatically be recorded in a database.

The key to efficient management is a robust cellular data network and a few good computer scientists. We still need people with chain saws, dump trucks, and loaders, but a lot of the expense for people like me to stand there and just watch them all day is sort of obsolete.

I'm curious if these systems are already in place. If they aren't then I am going to be extra bitter than I was wasting my time in 2005 trying to point people in the right direction with innovation. But when am I not extra bitter? Nothing really changes.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I can't think of a better name for a 4x4

Yesterday I saw a story on FHB about a Chicago law firm filing suit against Menards and Home Depot for selling 4x4s that are only 3 1/2" x 3 1/2". They included some tweets from people reacting to this news. I'm sort of glad I saw this hot take first because it pointed out to me how unnecessary it is to be mean about people who don't know that the name refers to the nominal rough cut size and that the dried planed 4x4 is a standard dimension of 3 1/2" square.

I see nothing wrong with not knowing that. The people that don't know standard lumber dimensions are not stupid. They probably know a ton of stuff I don't know, like how to keep score in tennis or what it's like to shovel snow.

To me this seems more of an opportunity to educate than a need to mock people who never had to build a deck before. I find the process of turning trees into studs and posts fascinating. It seems like an opportunity for watching a YouTube videos that shows how there are a lot of steps after sawing a board into a 4"x4" post before it turns up at Home Depot, mainly it gets dried, which shrinks it, and then it gets planed on all 4 sides, which gets it down to the final standard dimension.



I started an informal Twitter poll to see how many people think a 4x4 is really 4x4. More than I would've thought. 75% of respondents knew 4x4 was nominal and not the actual size. 25% really thought it was 4 inches square. (n=44, which is a lot more than the 18 questioned in the store for the original story, and they got 1/3 not knowing vs my 1/4)

I also got some comments from people saying it's not the same where they are, outside the US. I did some digging to see what people call dimensional lumber in other countries, particularly ones that use the metric system. They still call a stud a 2x4 or maybe a 4x2. Wikipedia says that they say timber instead of lumber for building materials, but I haven't been able to confirm this.

I found anecdotal evidence that Norwegians have their own lumber dimensions, 95 mm for a 4x4, which is about 3 3/4", 1/4" bigger than the American version. They dimension drawings and give the specs in mm. This used to be true for the US as well. When I did AutoCAD work for the Army Corps of Engineers in the '90s they required all architectural plans to be dimensioned in mm. According to David Luke at Merrick this is no longer the case. They dropped that requirement around 2005.

But even though the actual size may vary my research shows that all around they world they still say "two by four" to refer to a standard piece of framing lumber. (Here's an interesting pdf about Japan where they have their own standard stick frame construction but "2x4" is still part of the name. It's based on a 3'x6' panel convention vs our 4'x8' version. This sounds good to me. I might not have such an aversion to doing anything with sheet goods if they were that small. Apparently 3'x6' is the standard size of a traditional tatami mat.)

I haven't come up with any good ideas for better names for 4x4s, 2x4s, etc. It doesn't really make sense to rename them based on a round metric number since everything else is still in inches and feet. I would support a sudden change to metric though. I could learn to say 90x90 and 40x90 as easily as I converted myself from °F to °C. (I just flipped the switch on my thermostats and weather app and learned that 25°C is a good nominal summer air conditioner setting. I think of 15°C as a summer night in the UK and anything less than that I call cold.)

Anyway, back to the lawsuit. Home Depot clearly states the actual size of all their lumber on their website. And if you're in the store you can see what size it is with your actual eyeballs and get a tape measure out of your purse and measure it if you want to.

Here's the description of a Pressure Treated 4x4x8 (which they seem to have measured soaking wet). I don't think anything will come from this except that a lot of people may learn what nominal and actual mean.


Interestingly you can also learn lots of other information about lumber from the Home Depot website by reading the reviews. Yes, a 4x4 is going to twist like a bitch when it dries. Prepare yourself. I learned to install my deck railing posts long and brace them diagonally until they dried in place. Then I took off the braces and cut them to length and finished the railing.

Good luck to all the DIYers out there. It's hard enough with the names of the wood not matching the measurement without people in the trades mocking you for not knowing it. But getting mad in the Home Depot reviews because wood acts like wood is pretty mean too. Acting all butthurt when carpentry turns out to be a lot harder than it looks on HGTV is insulting to people who do this for a living so I sort of get why they turn so mean.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

An Ultimate Guide or Fair Warning

This morning I read an article about introverts that basically describes the arc of my life but it's written by a white dude and somehow his superiority over figuring it out kinda irks me. This is not advice anybody else needs, dude. To assume everybody else is deficient because they still regularly do things they don't like is obnoxious. I'm kind of jealous of them that they don't seem to mind other people telling them what to do. I wish I had that ability.

I think what really got under my skin was his unrecognized privilege. Just delegate anything you don't want to do; profit! If my blog comes across like that then I'm mortified. I try to write stuff less as advice and more as a reminder to myself of how freaking hard it was. I hope I don't sound like I'm advising other people to be like me. I guess since I often put more than one sentence in a paragraph I'm probably not at risk of being another James Altucher, even though I am the exact same age and have similar introvert coping strategies.
From The Ultimate Guide to Being an Introvert by James Altucher: (highlights)
Notations by me
How I Deal With Being an Introvert
#1 — FIRST “Quiet” by Susan Cain is a good book. 
This is a book, not a coping strategy.
#2 — CREATE A LIFE WHERE YOU CAN HAVE MORE TIME BY YOURSELF
Done. Most days I wake up and can't wait to go to my lab to do whatever I feel like doing that day, all by myself.
#3 — ONE PERCENT RULE
Every day I want to make more choices for myself, instead of letting other people make choices for me.
I'm up to 99.9% on #3. I take commissions but they mostly tell me what to make, not how to make it. This is the most important part to me.
#4–15 YEARS, GIVE OR TAKE TEN
It took me a long time to realize I wasn’t shy. I thought the reason I had trouble talking to people in groups was because I was shy or insecure.
Nah, I just thought it was because they didn't like me.
That’s the ten years part. I was so deluded about my strengths that it took me ten years. Maybe it will take you fewer.
Or maybe I'm not deluded, I just lack the white male privilege to get away with treating people like they don't matter to me.
#5 — NO MONEY REQUIRED
It requires asking yourself throughout the day: is this activity giving me energy or draining me?
Energy is everything in life. At night we have little of it, so we need to sleep.
When an introvert is around a lot of people, it drains quickly.
When you are around people who put you down, it drains instantly.
When you aren’t creative, it drains.
When you aren’t happy with your current moment, it drains because anxiety and regret are leeches on our energy.
When you are with someone you don’t love, it drains.
When you are at a job you don’t like, it disappears.
Note that none of the above has anything to do with money.
Energy is more important than money. Energy is what makes you live a long and productive and happy life.
If I wanted a billion dollars I wouldn’t sit around writing and reading and podcasting a good chunk of the day.
I wouldn’t hire people to help me run the various businesses I’m involved in because it’s hard for me to meet with employees and do “business things”.
I’d run a hedge fund, or directly run my businesses, or buy a company and become a CEO. I’ve done these things before and failed miserably.
Not because I don’t have the knowledge. But because it doesn’t make me happy. And those activities drain me.
If I could hire people to run various businesses I'd be a white man and not a woman who has to do everything her damn self. If I was a white man people wouldn't ask me to do shit that hurts my hands and back because I have seemingly endless free time and lady skills like dusting, vacuuming, laundry, dishes, and a unique skill at restoring plumbing fixtures. If I was a white man could I get four figures for couture knitted items and sci-art instead of getting orders from relatives who want to pay the same thing they would pay for clothes at Target?

Also he forgot to mention the importance of arranging your life so you can live without a lot of money. None of this works if you have a mortgage and two kids to put through college. I guess if you're a white man it works out for you because people will still give you a lot of money for trivial effort instead of expecting you to do complex tasks or pennies per hour.
#6: HUMILITY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN SELF-ESTEEM
Be humble enough to realize what you are not good at.
I have never been afraid to try something I've never done before. It was sort of my professional speciality back in the day. I'd come along as a consultant and figure out the new thing and then when it didn't turn out to be as profitable as the management thought (because they assumed it would be easy) I'd leave and they'd blame the whole thing on me. Everybody goes on with their life.

I don't think I'm very good at anything. I'm a generalist. Sometimes I find myself thinking, "That was easier than I thought it was gonna be." But I NEVER say "That was harder than I thought it would be." I am happy to go into a new task with open ended expectations. It takes as long as it takes. I try to plan stopping places to accommodate my physical limitations. But it would be an insult to people with experience and skills to presume anything I don't know how to do is going to be easy.

An ex-boyfriend of mine called me recently and asked how to build and insulate walls and a ceiling inside an airplane hangar. I told him. I sent him YouTube links to Fine Homebuilding videos to watch to learn techniques. He called me a few weeks later and said it was a lot harder than he expected. So many layers! Yeah, I know. He lived with me while I was building an addition on a house in Atlanta and we still dated for a year after I had to move away and build a whole other house from scratch where I could live on less money. But I guess mainly he wasn't paying attention. Not sure why he assumed it was easy. I was a little insulted. It was only slightly gratifying that now he understands that carpentry is damn hard. His room doesn't even have to be weatherproof or survive live loads and he thought it was hard. You think that's complicated layers, do it again to stand up to wind and keep out rain. Good grief.

I made a video last week that is over 17 minutes of showing exactly how hard it is to ombré dye a heavy cotton sweater. When I finished the project I didn't really know how to show the end product. I decided to try the Facetime camera on my monitor to record straight into iMovie. It's great to have an articulating arm on my monitor. I did the rest handheld with my phone. I would normally never do anything with such low production value, but the bar is so low now for how-to videos on YouTube it would seem like topping it the knob to use a tripod and a real camera. I was surprised how good that dot on my monitor works as a camera. Free with $1000 monitor. Why didn't I try it before? Probably because I was horrified at the idea of actually appearing on camera. I think I have passed a Fuck It threshold. It must be this Nazi Youth haircut I got by accident at the walk-in barbershop a few weeks ago. (FYI, fashy is short for fascist, not fashionable.) I had the Facetime camera intentionally chop off the top of my head so the place where they shaved off my cowlick isn't so obvious. Thanks to being an always-alone introvert it's not a big deal if my hair looks stupid. I only go out in the daytime and it's perfectly acceptable that I always have on a hat. I started to do the video in a wig AND hat but I thought it would be draw the eye away from the flaws I was pointing out in the sweater.

I really never meant anybody to see this video but me and my niece Kara who is into crafty stuff. She said it was a good video. She wants me to dye a hat next. But I might as well put it on here since it's thematically valid. This is not a how-to, it's for me, and for people who were thinking about trying to dye a sweater and need to be talked out of it. Maybe that's the Ultimate Guide we all need. You have a fun creative idea and you look for tips on YouTube and wind up saying fuck, that's a lot of work and what would I even do with that? Never mind. (I'm looking at you, making a hollow concrete sphere with fiberglass and a yoga ball.)

Friday, March 10, 2017

How I made a minisplit line chase out of vinyl gutter

When I decided to recaulk and repaint my lap siding I thought it was finally time to do something about this eyesore on the north side of my house.

Refrigerant lines, condensation drip, and control power for my
minisplit air conditioner inside wall unit
Because of my rigid frame construction I didn't have any way to run these lines inside the wall. In a tiny house the only wall is the outside wall and it sits right on top of double 2x12s. I can't exactly hog out a place for a fistful of copper and vinyl tubing to go up in there. And there's a beam over the plate glass windows with the same issue. So I made the air conditioning installer run the lines on the outside of the house.
This is the penetration through the wall
If memory serves I had him install this before I put up the siding. It's got spray foam all around it. With the refrigerant lines, wire, and condensate tube already coming through the 1x8 sheathing and house wrap I fashioned a kind of flashing around it when I put on the shingle siding. And I used caulk liberally all behind and around the pieces involved. It's not just put on at the end. And after 11 years it looks pretty waterproof at the penetration point.

The rest of the situation is pretty abominable though. I screwed something to the wall like a giant hook for storing ladders for the technician to secure the lines to when he installed them. Then when I put up the siding I replaced it with a small Simpson Strong Tie bracket and wired the lines to it. The algae growing on the insulation is pretty embarrassing.

This L bracket fiasco is my own doing
Clearly that pipe insulation needs to be replaced. And as long as I'm painting I should remove the insulation and paint underneath with less junk in my way. And then I should put the whole business inside some kind of enclosure.

I tried to figure out a way to do it with round aluminum duct. I was thinking of that kind that has a crimped seam on the long edge that you push together to make a cylinder. It would look cool, but I couldn't figure out how to do the L bend at the top.

So I went to work figuring out how to do it with vinyl K-gutter. This stuff is stupid cheap. 10' sections are less than $4. I bought one piece and brought it home to play with it. I was thinking I could just put it over the lines with the flat side against the house. But it wasn't deep enough. So I decided to figure out how to make a clamshell out of it. I got a preformed inside corner and an outside corner and some joiners and started figuring out how to cut it. 

Cutting PVC gutter

To make the clamshell work I had to cut the folded over parts off the bottom half of the shell. This is a two step process and takes two different tools.

To cut off the lip on the flat side I used a 4x4 clamped to a table as a rest for a jigsaw. I pushed the saw through the vinyl, then slid the whole business back, repeating until the whole length was cut.
Use a jigsaw and a block to cut the lip off the straight side
To cut the lip off the curved side of the gutter I used my fiber cement siding shear, the tool that caused me to be working on the house in the first place. Where it makes a dusty, un-caulkable cut edge on siding it makes a perfect edge on PVC gutter. No dust at all, unlike the jigsaw.
The fiber cement siding shear is the perfect tool for cutting PVC gutter
I had a formed corner piece for the outside of the clamshell, but for the part against the house I decided to just cut a miter. I left the stuff in my car too long and it got hot and warped. I had to clamp the flat side to the fence of my chopsaw with a piece of scrap wood to get it to stay straight while I cut it. I cut through the wood and the plastic at once. Worked good.
Clamp the flat side of the gutter to the fence of the chopsaw if it's warped
Once I had my two back pieces modified with the rolled edges cut off I had to figure out how to get the top part around the lines coming through the wall and around the bracket and everything. I used the jig saw to cut a hole with a slit for the penetration. And I worked out a way to cut out for the bracket. Then I realized it would be a hell of a lot easier if I just took off the bracket and put the gutter piece under it.

I finally had the long overdue inspirational thought, "What you need is a skyhook." So I went in the shed and got one. In this circumstance the skyhook is my big ladder with a standoff and a length of rope I use for tying boats to my car.
Skyhooks are real

Safely remove the old bracket. I caulked the screw holes.
I have a surprisingly vast selection of flashing in my shed. One piece of very wide aluminum bent in an L shape was meant for the skirting of the Spartan but it got wet while sandwiched with a dissimilar metal. It develop an impossible to remove discoloration. I had my sheet metal shop make it again for the Spartan but I saved the ugly one. Nobody will see the discoloration way up there. All I did was cut it to length. I thought I would cut the front edge later if I needed to, but I don't mind it sticking out.

In progress. Aluminum drip ledge moveable to ether side for access.
I have an electric sheet metal shear that works similar to the siding shear. I tried it on the vinyl too. It also works. But the siding shear is better on vinyl. I used the metal shear just for the aluminum.

I slipped the aluminum drip edge under the shingles above the chase. I'm going to call it drip ledge because it's massive. I secured the back piece of vinyl gutter to the wall with some sheet metal screws. I taped the slit in the end of the gutter by the hole for the penetrations. I also reinforced it with a piece of gutter cut from the same curved portion. My PVC cement was all dried up so I used the glue for the foam insulation. That product is the messiest glue I have ever used. I was so glad I was wearing disposable gloves.

I put the new insulation on the refrigerant lines. I glued all the joints unlike the original installer. I'm thorough that way. I'm hoping this batch of insulation will last a lot longer covered up. It's expensive.

The bottom of the vertical section is held away from the lap siding slightly. I shimmed it out from the ribbon joist of the house with a piece of PVC molding scrap I had in the shed.


Found a piece of PVC molding that fit just right

Found a long sheet metal screw that looked good for going through
to the 2x12 under the fiber cement

Two screws at the bottom and one up top seem adequate for the vertical section
I screwed the vertical section on at the bottom and at the top where it was on the shingle siding. There are no holes in the lap siding.

I decided I needed some reinforcement at the top of this whole business so I went rummaging through the shed looking for something that would work. I found a bracket of unidentifiable provenance that looked promising. I modified it with a hacksaw and then hit it with some primer since it was probably some junk from IKEA and would rust if I put it in the shade and then breathed on it.
Primer just in case 
This end reinforced
For the long end I wanted even more reinforcement, plus I had room for something with a long leg in two directions. I got a 5" galvanized L bracket at Home Depot, the only size that even comes in galvanized. I screwed it in place with Deckmate screws so long I think they go through the siding, through the sheathing, and into the 4x4 post that runs all the way to the roof. I like to use all the threads.



Big honkin L bracket
OK, so now what about the open end by the penetration? I decided the best thing to do there was cut a piece of wood the shape of the clamshell and screw the vinyl all around. I found a scrap of 1x8, traced around some gutter scraps, cut it out with the jigsaw, and then primed it. It didn't fit that great in place because screwing the gutter to the wall made it a lot less bendy. I ended up using a lot of backer rod and caulk and more paint to make it look good when I was done.

End capped with wood didn't want to fit tight
The other end has the factory made inside corner. I put the fitting over the big L bracket and under the back of the clamshell. Then screwed them together with 1/2" long stainless steel #6 sheet metal screws. The bracket is just for defeating gravity. Nothing is attached to the top of it at all. 

The weather stripping stacked up at the back of the chase in the photo below is to stop the drip ledge from settling down so much it can't drain. On a sunny side of the house I would expect lizards to go in between the chase and the drip ledge, but in full shade they probably won't.

Clamshell fastened together on top with screws
After I was done connecting the front and back of the clamshell together on top I ran two screws through the aluminum into the vinyl at the front edge. That secures the front section to the wall without depending on the back piece of vinyl. Also stops wind from lifting the aluminum ledge.

Drip edge secured to front of chase with sheet metal screws with rubber washers
The end of the vertical section ends in a molded outside corner. I drilled a hole for the condensate line to come through. The post in the photo below is a reused gate post, thus the hole. The sole purpose of that post is to hold the hose bib. The footings around the posts of the house make it inconvenient to run the pipe up them. This existing post conveniently allowed the perfect amount of clearance for the chase.

Condensate line comes out a hole in the last fitting
I needed the end of this outside corner open to be able to work the hose bib handle. I shoves some extra foam insulation up in the end of the chase to stop critters from going exploring up there.
The west side of the molded outside corner is open

Along the flat back side I didn't need many as screws. Painting partially done
I secured the clamshell halves together with plenty of the stainless steel screws along the overlapping edges. I used about twice as many on the K profile side.

I put a lot of the short stainless steel sheet metal screws on the curved side

Stand back and admire the work 
After I finished the chase I sent my brother photos. He told me I need a trap for my condensate line because wind washing makes biofilm grow. I rigged up something out of PVC parts I had on hand. It still drips into my reused toilet tank condensate catcher. If I decide I like keeping a little vessel constantly full of water right there I can paint it to match the post.

I was happy when I was done and I could clean up all the PVC dust in the shed once and for all. I was looking forward to painting the lap siding, a job I could do listening to podcasts. 

When I stood back and looked at that side of the house that big white thing on the wall just seemed unnecessarily prominent. I decided to paint more of the trim around the windows white, to draw the eye away from it. I guess it's better, I don't know. 

Finally I replaced the hose hanger on the side of the house and I call it done.

It should be straightforward to take the chase apart if the refrigerant lines ever need to be replaced or serviced. I shopped for little plastic rivets to use instead of stainless steel screws to connect the halves. I didn't use them for two reasons. 1. They are stupid expensive 2. All HVAC techs have a screwdriver, but rivets might stump them. It's entirely possible this piece of kit will outlive me. If nobody thinks to look at the web archive to see how I built this they need to be able to figure out how to take it apart just by looking at it.

In conclusion: DO NOT ATTEMPT. This project came out fine. I didn't hurt myself. I didn't spend a ton of money. But it took me a ridiculously long time to do this, like three entire days and multiple trips to Home Depot. I guess if I'd had instructions I could have gotten all the stuff in one trip, but the figuring it out with the junk I had on hand was slow. If I'd spent three days figuring out how to rough in these lines inside the wall by bumping out the inside corner by the door to the bathroom it would have been a superior solution. But building a time machine to go back to 2005 was totally beyond the scope. 

Bill of Materials:
$15.92 10' gutter sections $3.98 x 4 (it's so cheap I got a whole extra one just to practice on)
$13.05 K-Style joiners $4.35 x 3
$6.54 1 inside corner
$6.54 1 outside corner
$35.97 Pipe insulation
$7.98 Pipe insulation adhesive
$3.51 Stainless steel screws
$3.18 Galvanized 5" Angle bracket

Total chase cost $92.69

Add that to the cost of the house caulking/painting project from the last blog post

Painting Project
$6.28 Big Stretch Caulk
$27.98 1 Gallon of Satin House Paint
$5.97 Low grip painters tape
$3.98 Paper drop cloth to cut up and tape over the orange part of the house so I didn't splash it with paint.

Total repainting cost $44.21

Grand total of 2017 Spring Project
~$140

Tiny house = tiny maintenance costs 

I can paint my whole house with a gallon of paint. That's never not going to be funny to me.