Just Shelley

The story of the check valve

There’s a story behind this older post. Bit long, but might be fun if you have nothing else going on.

Municipal size check valve with engineer standing in front for perspective
Our place in O’Fallon was in the unincorporated county area, which means it’s a hit or miss what kind of service you get. Originally, the homes in the subdivision had septic tanks, but our plot couldn’t be developed until there was a sewer line, because of the steep hill in back.
When the O’Fallon gravity line was added, our house was barely in range, and they took the lateral sewer line to the manhole, and terminated it in the manhole.

Now, terminating a lateral sewer line in a manhole is a bit of a no-no, but since we were at the start of the line, they thought it would be OK.
The problem is, Lake St. Louis, next door, grew too fast and there were issues with its sewer. So they drilled a _force_ main from Lake St. Louis and terminated it at the manhole for our gravity main.

This is engineering insanity, and actually illegal in most of the country. But such is the quality of sewer management in St. Charles county, Missouri.

What would happen is every time it rained over a certain amount, typically about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches in a 24 hour period, the water seeping into the force main would overwhelm the man hole and would force the flow back to the next outlet.

Our house.

So when it rained, we couldn’t use our toilets, and if it rained enough, raw sewage would back up into our shower and bath.

I was polite about complaints at first, but then got tired. So, every time this would happen, I would call O’Fallon and tell them we had a sewage backup. They’re required by law to come out to check it out, and it also gets recorded as a sewage backup for the environmental powers that be.

I wasn’t a squeaky wheel…I was a full out bitch. There wasn’t anyone in the sanitation department of two different systems that I didn’t contact by email, or in person.

Water District 2 (force main) blew me off, but O’Fallon took it seriously. The assistant supervisor explored options everywhere for what they could use to protect our lateral sewer line.

In the end, they had the company that developed the check valves you see here, develop a custom made one just for the end of our lateral line in the manhole.

When they installed it, the force main was shut down temporarily and two crews came out: one for the manhole to install the device, and one further down to send fresh air into the manhole.

It installed in about 10 minutes. That was it. And it worked beautifully.

From then on, no matter how much rain, no backup. And we could continue using our toilets, since even when the valve closes, it could still expel liquids out.

When we sold the house, the day before closing, we stayed in a hotel because everything was packed up. That night was one hell of a storm—over 5 inches of rain fell. When we got to the house, the sanitation crew was out washing down our neighbor’s yard because the sewage had overflowed into their yard. It was a mess.

The neighbor across the street came over and said for the first time, they had backup into their house and into their washing machine in the basement. He knew about our previous problems, and he and a couple of other neighbors thought our place would be destroyed by the sewage, and right before closing.

Nope. Not a drop. Clean as a whistle.

These things look simple. No whirring lights, no gadgetry, just plain rubber. But they are brilliant.

And if your wheels don’t squeak nothing good will happen.


Just Shelley

Do it yourself eye prescription

I’ve not had the best of luck finding new healthcare in Savannah. My dentist is good, but my vision exam was not. When I had a bad fall on both knees earlier, I made an appointment with an orthopedist in Richmond Hill, only to find out the doctor doesn’t work in that office. This, even though his web site states this is where he works. I just let my knees heal on their own.

But back to that eye exam…

I’ve not had drops in my eyes for an exam for decades, as I don’t deal well with the drops or with people coming all that close to my eyes. But the place I went to didn’t even allow me to discuss this with the optometrist, as the medical assistant jammed the drops into my eyes, practically holding me down and prying my eyes open.

Sure enough, when it came time for the refraction exam, it didn’t go that well. Drops make my eyes blurry. How can you determine which is better, A or B, when all are equally blurry?

The new prescription ended up being a puzzle because the optometrist wrote it out with a positive cylinder value, leading to a vastly different result for my left eye, which hasn’t suffered any degradation in vision. A little Google sleuthing and I discovered you typically only see positive cylinder values when an old time ophthalmologist does an eye exam, because the cylinder has to be converted to a negative value for the prescription. Once I converted the prescription, the left eye’s vision was the same.

The problem really is the right eye. It’s been off for some time, and very blurry with my existing prescription. Yes, it is true that I have the beginnings of a cataract in both eyes, but not enough to really impact on vision. The new prescription showed that I have the same prescription for both right and left, and same cylinder, but the right eye is much weaker, more off, than the left.

I ordered a pair of glasses from an online shop and when I received them, I wasn’t surprised to find that the vision in the right hadn’t improved nearly enough. It’s still blurry, still feels off. I tried them for over a month, and my eyesight just didn’t improve.

I wasn’t going back to the original optometrist, and I had my ‘free’ eye exam for the year (2021). I’m not that concerned about cost, but I’m just not into struggling to find healthcare, yet again, in Savannah.

Instead, I did the geeky thing. I ordered an EyeQue vision test device. I did an eye test at home, just like in the 1895 Sears Catalog, with its complimentary eye exam to find the right eye glasses to order. However,  instead of paper, my device utilized my smartphone.

The device is not the easiest to figure out how to use. It took me some time to discover that you have to tilt the device until you see both a green and red bar, that looking straight into the device doesn’t work for everyone. And getting the phone app to change to the next test required the absolute right sequence and finger pressure. Once I had all this down, though, it was a piece of cake.

(Kind of stale cake at that point, but whatevs.)

I didn’t take one test. I actually took ten separate tests. The app summarizes all of the tests into your new prescription.

Again, very little change for my left eye. A slight change in the axis, but not enough to really matter that much. It’s the right eye that changed from the prescription the optometrist gave me. Not hugely, but a difference.

Where before both eyes had a spherical value of -3.00, now my right had a value of -3.25. And both cylinders were -.50 with the optometrist prescription, but my right eye was -.75 with the EyeQue test.

I ordered the exact same glasses (progressive) from the eye place, but with the new prescription. It’s an improvement. It’s not a perfect improvement, but will do until I can go to a different optometrist in a few months time.

The concept of a do-it-yourself eye test at home is a good one. We may only need to see an eye doctor every couple of years to check the health of our eyes, but our prescriptions can change in the meantime. The EyeQue people are on the right track. The device isn’t without bugs, but they’re already at work on version 2. And if the price isn’t too high, I’ll probably give that one a shot, too.



Just Shelley


The day before our home sale closed in Missouri we had 5 inches of rain in a very short time. The sewer overflowed through the manhole cover next door creating a terrible muck. The neighbor across the street had it back up into his house, even though the line would have run uphill to his home.

We had stayed the night before in a hotel since most of our furniture was already loaded. When we got to the house all the neighbors ran over to tell us to prepare for the worst when we went in the house.
They knew of the problems we’d had for years: every time we’d get a couple of inches of rain, the sewer would back flow into our home. No damage, but not particularly fun, either.

Four years of constant nagging and complaining and filing reports and the O’Fallon supervisor found a solution: these odd duck billed check valves. They had one designed for the end of our line. Two crews had to install it: one to support the guy going into the line and another to blow air into the line further down so that he could work.

Did it pay off?

That day we went into the house and not a drop had back flowed.
The new home owners will never have the problems we did. And now we live in a home on flat land that not only has a decent sewer system, but also a storm water system and sidewalks.


JavaScript Technology Writing

My Last O’Reilly Book

The editor for JavaScript Cookbook, 3rd edition, just sent me a draft to review and comment on. This is the last of the O’Reilly books that will feature my name on it. I wasn’t actively involved in it; my name is on it because they kept about 15% of my old content. New authors, Adam Scott and Matthew MacDonald, took on the majority of the work.

They did a good job, too. I particularly like the chapter devoted to error handling. The days of using an alert message to debug have been gone for decades, and JS developers now have sophisticated error-handling techniques and tools. It is no longer your Mom’s JS.

Good. I’m happy the language and its uses have evolved. But…

I sometimes miss the simpler days when an alert was your JavaScript best friend.

I’ve been working with JavaScript since it was first introduced over 25 years ago. Not just traditionally in the web page, either. I worked on a small project that used Netscape’s server-side JavaScript (LiveWire) in the 1990s. It was so very different from an application made with Node. as you can see for yourself from an old Dr. Dobb’s article on LiveWire.

Writing about JavaScript today requires a different mindset than writing about it years ago. Then, JavaScript was laughably simple. It’s simplicity, though, was also its strength. In its infancy JavaScript was so embraceable. You could literally toss a tiny blurb of JS into an HTML file, load it into a browser, and see an immediate implementation. You didn’t have to fiddle with compilation, installing special developer tools, or figure out a framework.

My first book on JavaScript, the JavaScript How-To for Waite Group Press was published in 1996. The hardest part of writing it was trying to find enough about JavaScript to actually fill a book.

JavaScript today, or ECMAScript if you want to be pure, is not so simple. And oddly enough, that’s its strength now: it is powerful enough to meet today’s very demanding web applications. And the hardest part of working on a book such as the JavaScript Cookbook is limiting yourself to the essentials, because you could easily write three or four books and still not envelop the world of JavaScript as it exists now.

When O’Reilly asked me to do a new edition of the Cookbook I knew I just didn’t want to take on that kind of burden again. It was hard to give up control of one of my favorite books, but after 25 years of working to deadlines and dealing with tech editors, I knew I just didn’t have the energy or patience to do the book justice. I knew it was time for me to hang up my drafts.

Thankfully, the new Cookbook team have done an exceptionally good job. I’m happy to have my name on the Cookbook, one last time.

If I write now, it’s solely for me: my ideas, my deadlines, my expectations. I may only write in this space. I may try my hand at self-publication.

Who knows? Maybe all I’ll do is write incendiary commentary in Facebook and Twitter and see how often I can get banned.

Just Shelley

Same Old Me

My previous weblog theme featured a very large photo as header, taking up the entire page before you would get to the writing. When I got a 4k monitor, the graphic didn’t upgrade that well, which made me realize how having a graphic play such a prominent role just wasn’t going to work.

(It hasn’t helped that Google constantly nagged me about problems with the design.)

Time for a new theme. And if I’m going for a new theme, I’m going as minimal as I can, and here we are. This WordPress 2020 theme is very basic, but the focus is where it should be: on the writing. It’s plain, just like me.

Since I made a break with the past in the theme, I decided it was also time to start using WordPress’s new block editor, Gutenberg. The editor is definitely a major change, but workable. I especially like its ability to incorporate images that work with the text regardless of how you view the page.

One of the little guys that has made a home around our place

New city. New state. New little neighbor. New weblog look. New weblog editor.

Same old me.