Saturday, December 26, 2009

saffron crocus

In normal household, bulbs are forced for the holidays. In Pecchia house, bulbs force you.

I had these in a paper bag in the basement and planned to plant them next Summer, but they decided to sprout anyway. If they bloom I will post.

Christmas Dinner

(Well, the part I care the most about...)

Friday, December 25, 2009

This brings new meaning to the idea, when you see something troubling, like this, that you can't "unsee" it. On a more serious plane, I imagine that even the act of imagining a scenario will cause synapse activation. To take it even further, if one were to fixate on an idea, then this could transform your brain into

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

A day of a million little things instead of one big thing.

We hatched a plan around a year ago that I was just setting into motion: I would fabricate a desk top and mate it to legs purchased at Ikea. The reason for this is that we didn't know what the final format would be for the new room and so saving the work surface for last would allow us to figure it all out later.

Later finally came and I made the desk top: As has become routine with Ikea, there were missing parts--one of the two T-legs was nowhere to be found. I kept all of the boxes in one spot so there is no chance it was misplaced. I checked the receipt and we did indeed pay for two legs. The only conclusion I can come to is that they didn't give us all of our boxes.

I was tempted to drive all the way down to Stoughton today and get the part, but it is an hour each way and another task awaited me right after noon and this would wipe out the first half of the day. Eh, we will order it after the new year and just say "no" to an hour (each way) to get the part.

Instead of the big drive I...

  • Roasted some coffee since we used the last bean this morning.
  • Realized that we were not out of yeast after all and made some bread dough.
  • Searching for the missing box, I came across some coat hooks I purchased about a year ago. So I made the coat rack for Surenna's bedroom (her sisters each already have one) and installed it.

    The lag-bolts are hidden under the flanges of the coat hooks and counter-sunk because the hooks are solid metal in the back.

  • Picked-up the kids at their various schools and took them to the doctor's for immunisations--the two younger ones were emotional about it but remained compliant.
  • Made pull-apart rolls (half-baked) for Christmas and two pizza crusts for dinner tonight.
  • Even though the desk will have to wait till after the new year for completion, I still spent around an hour sanding it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The single most unpleasant houshold task

My neighbor and I were having a chat on Thanksgiving day and somehow our wide-ranging conversation turned to the least desirable handy man-type task we have done. He, a liberal, me a conservative; we agree on little--but we were of one mind on this: Changing a kitchen faucet is the least pleasant task.

  • There is no room to work--all the manipulations are in the narrow space between the back of the sink and the wall behind the sink.
  • It is dark and the drain pipes are all in your way.
  • It is wet since you normally only change a faucet once it gets to be a problem.
  • It is messy since your head is below the work and so water and rust fall into your face.
  • It never goes smoothly since the bolts are all rusted into place, or the copper leads kink, or any of many other things go wrong.
  • It is always an emergency--no faucet gets more use, or is more critical to the smooth operation of a household, than the kitchen faucet.

Given all of this, it was with supreme dismay that this evening, at the height of making dinner while my wife was at karate, the faucet sprang a leak. Visions of my last weekend before Christmas spent in miserable frustration danced in my head. Or really, more like clogged on my head. What was especially galling was that I just put the thing in a couple of years ago and if you have ever purchased a faucet you know that they all come with 10, 15, 25 year or lifetime warranties--so it shouldn't be malfunctioning in 2 years! Plus, plus--I just threw away the box after having it sit in the basement all this time. That is where the documentation needed for free replacement would be, so I would pay for a new one and get the fun of putting it in.

Figuring I had little to loose, I set about taking the faucet apart. I got to the very bottom of the thing and found a plastic ring out of position. I adjusted it and then reassembled the thing: Voila, it works now! But I've got my eye on it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five Goldennn years

Five years ago today, I made my first blog-post. In all that time I still haven't hit the 1,000 mark for posts, but should do so early next year. Well, it is just a hobby--not a job.

I would like to thank each of my five readers too, but really five is a guess--it could be three. Either way, thanks! I hope to write something you will find interesting soon.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Darn Blurry picture

At the wedding, we thought we had the perfect opportunity to take a Christmas picture: The kids were all dressed-up and we had a good setting.

But no. All the shots came out blurry!

Killin' time.

I just couldn't get anything going today project-wise. I need to make a table for the new study and I have all the materials at hand but don't want to create dust in the basement while my wife is down there wrapping gifts.

After running a few miles (less than normal for a Sunday and slower) I did finally reinforce the stairs to the basement. One of the the angled 2x8's was badly cracked and would flex whenever weight was put on it--like whenever I went up or down the stairs. This has been a problem for all eight years we have lived here. Today, I rummaged-up a 2x4 and nailed it to the inside edge of the weak beam. It is noticeably more solid now and took all of 10 minutes. Why I waited 8 years? Can't say.

It was a day filled with little things: Cleaning dishes, cooking, taking the eldest daughter to CVS for her Christmas shopping etc.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Second Coming

The Poem by William Butler Yeats: The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming!

Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all around it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

American Dream 2: Default, Then Rent

I was reading this article in the Wall Street Journal this morning:

Not surprisingly, people will default on loans where they owe a lot more on their house than it's worth. A couple of thoughts come to mind: If you could afford a $500,000 loan when you purchased a house, assuming that you still have the same income, you should still be able to meet the payments If it drops in value to $250,000 this has no bearing on the affordability of the payments. But why would you do that when you could default and then rent or buy the house across the street, which now only costs $250,000 and is just as nice as the one you are in?

A few of the people in the piece were offered slightly better mortgage terms from their lender, but nothing close to as good as just walking away from their home. So the banks end up having to sell a house for $250,000 that they're owed $500,000 on.

Here is a proposal which would help everyone: The bank decreases the principal on the above home to $225,000. The owners now have every motive to stay and the bank is more-or-less in the same situation as if there was a default. Here is the added twist: The terms of the agreement are that if the house is ever sold, the bank gets the first $25,000 of profit plus 50% of any additional gain. The 25k is to recapture the 10% equity granted to the homeowners (the house was valued at 250k, but principle was reset to 225k). The remaining 50/50 split incents the owners to stay put for the long-term and yet allows the bank to recapture some of its losses if the house ever regains value.

It seems win-win to me: The owners save the trouble and expense of moving and a hit to their credit and still get the lower monthly bills they could get by defaulting and then renting. Banks initially loose about as much as they are loosing anyway, but they have a long-term chance of getting a bunch of it back instead of no chance of getting it back.

Crikey! I should patent this!

A little speech commentary

Before the commentary about the content of the speech, here is an astute take on the whole event:

Roger J. said... I am curious about why one would even want to listen to an "acceptance" speech for an award that was not deserved and proffered only to make a political point about a previous administration. (From Althouse)

Now that is out of the way here is some selected commentary with the caveat that I am only looking at a couple chunks of it and am not up for a full Fisking. Indeed, there are many parts of it that I like. So, here goes:

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Clearly what he means is that we did not seek war in Afghanistan but did in Iraq. I think this is an artificial distinction: In both cases a country was offending us in some way, we made demands which were unmet and we responded by invading.

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. (1)That is why I prohibited torture. (2)That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. (3)And that is why I have reaffirmed Americas commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

(I added the numbers since I want to write about each of these things)

(1) The previous administration did not allow torture either. There are different definitions of torture, but for the record, nothing defined by the administration as torture was ever allowed.

(2) King Canute ordered the tide to stay out as well and with as much effect, though his point was the opposite of president Obama's. For the president it doesn't matter that the prison remains just as open now as it did when he ordered it closed. Words, actions, what's the difference? Incidentally, I was listening to NPR commentary on the speech and they actually misspoke that Obama had "closed Guantánamo," I guess words and actions have no distinction with NPR either.

(3) The United States has never renounced the Geneva Conventions. The view of the previous administration was that conferring the benefits of the convention to enemy combatants who do not abide by any of the rules of war corrodes the Conventions. That is, why should any group sign the treaty when they already can expect all of the benefits without having to follow any pesky rules themselves?

Logic and Gaia

I am well aware that finding logical inconsistencies in environmentalist positions is like shooting fish in a barrel, but this thought just occurred to me:

We know that there have been vast changes in climate in the past, most notably ice ages and periods of warmer climate in between. One would presume that in the absence of mankind, these shifts in climate would continue. Now, if one can encapsulate a general philosophy of environmentalists, it is that they think Man should have as little impact on nature as possible.

The current issue of man-made global warming (AGW) would seem to fit into their philosophy well: We are causing the planet to warm due to our use of fossil fuels and therefore should take efforts to counteract the changes we are causing. Here is the rub: The data are unclear about warming*, but let's offer a hypothetical--What if there was unequivocal data indicating that the Earth was cooling? By this I mean such clear-cut evidence that there was no doubt in the mind of anyone that the planet was cooling-off by a lot. Whatever the actual cause, does anyone doubt that conservationists would be utterly convinced that Mankind is to blame and that therefore we should take (economy-crushing) steps?

In other words; any detectable change will be opposed by the pro-nature crowd and yet this would seem to violate their basic philosophy. They would have the Earth locked in amber, as if this period in time just happens to be the perfect and ideal climate--when what is natural is for the climate to constantly shift over time.

*Warming or cooling seems to depend a lot on what the baseline is. If you start at the end of the little ice age 1850, then we have been warming. If you start in the warm year of 1998, then we have been cooling etc.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tales from the land of mixed blessings...

I signed up for the Boston Marathon a couple of days after running the NYC Marathon. I didn't want to sign up earlier because the tail-end of a marathon can be unpleasant and it only adds to the unpleasantness when you know that another run is scheduled.

I just found out that the Boston Marathon closed its registration in the middle of November, so it is awfully lucky that I signed up early!

On the other hand; my injuries are not healed and it is unclear that they will heal in time for me to train for an early Spring marathon. So, I may have spent a lot of money for nothing.

We shall see.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Wish I brought my camera cable...

Up in the Berkshires for a wedding, where it is beginning to gently snow. Two things: Glad I drove the Yukon. Wish I brought the cable that would allow me to post pictures of this pretty resort.

Update: Wish I remembered my bathing suit too. They have a great indoor pool--the cleanest I have ever seen at a hotel. They have trunks on sale in the gift shop but two things: They were expensive and I have maybe half dozen at home, so it is not as if I would get much use out of a new one other than today.

Monday, November 30, 2009

How much pressure can a fermentation achieve?

This ought to be known since, in principle at least, it is a pretty simple experiment to envision. However, I have done a bit of searching on Pubmed and found nothing on this subject. There could be a couple of good reasons for this: 1. It could be such a well known thing that a published paper would be pointless. 2. There is no practical need to find out an answer to this question. Makers of sparking wine already know how much sugar to add to get the desired level of carbonation and avoid exploding bottles, so what more is needed?

Well, I am interested out of pure curiosity. But how to do the experiment? One could fill a strong tank with juice and yeast, then close it up and keep track of how high the pressure gets. One possible complication is that the yeast may run out of sugar before the pressure stops them. Or the alcohol may get so high that this kills off the yeast. Or the Carbon dioxide in solution may cause the pH to drop to levels that kill the yeast. A couple of these things can easily be eliminated, depending on what happens: Let's say the fermentation slows to a halt at 200 psi. We relieve the pressure and then close-up the system and it again builds to 200 psi. This would show that the alcohol is not too high and the sugar is not limiting. What about the pH? When you vent the reactor the CO2 will leave and the pH should be able to climb. The only solution I see to this would be to have a neutralizing agent in the mix, perhaps a bit of Sodium bicarbonate for instance.

Part of what interests me about this is that I don't have a good feel for the relationship between delta G (or the energetics of a reaction) and pressure. Surely it takes energy to generate pressure, so at some point the reaction would stop at some pressure. There are also concentration effects in chemical reactions. We have Sugar going to Alcohol + CO2 and this reaction gives-off energy. If neither the Alcohol nor CO2 harmed the yeast then at some concentration, the mere excess of either of these would slow and then stop the reaction from moving forward. This is Le Chatelier's principle.

The technical term for it is wine

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I made a little bit of hard cider. This is very easy to do: You just put yeast into a bottle of apple juice--having first made sure it contains no preservatives. Preservatives do their thing by stopping the growth of yeast, among other things.

I like my hard cider to be bubbly, so I do the fermentation in the original bottle with the cap on tight. One must remember to relieve the pressure fairly often so that the bottle does not explode though!

The first batch was going well, so when it was close to being done I started a second batch by pouring a little of the first batch into the new one.

I was relating all of this to a few of our younger guests (high school and college aged) and suggested that when this last apple batch finished, I planned to inoculate a bottle of white grape juice. It was purchased for a party, it didn't get drunk and our kids don't like it--so it seemed like a good way of getting rid of it.

"Wait"! One of the young guests said, "You can ferment grape juice"? He may have regretted the words before they were fully out of his mouth: Not due to me though. I am gentle on youth. I said something like, "Yeah, sure you can". rather than the title of this post. And yes, I did think of the mean answer before I replied.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dahlia turned 10 on the 23rd but we had her party today

It was a bowling party in "mood lighting". Hence the psychedelic picture.

Where the office used to be

This spot is where our home office has been for the last 8 years. Now that we have a new office, posted about in the last week or two, the original is being pressed into family room service. Wasting no time, the Christmas tree is installed. This year a live one that we can plant outside after Christmas. My wife did all of the decorating with my one contribution being the addition of glass blocks to give a little more height.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A tale of two turkeys

We had 19 people over for Thanksgiving dinner, so I cooked two turkeys. One in the oven and one in the charcoal grill. They would have both fit into the oven side by side since I prefer birds that are in the 12-14 lb range, but variety is the very spice of life & all that.

The verdict: I pronounce you both guilty! Of being delicious, that is. They were different of course. The oven version, cooked mostly breast-side down @ 325 F. was very juicy and really as good as one could hope for. The grilled one I cooked breast-side up the whole way since the coolest part of the grill is the top and the breast requires the least heat. The meat was a little bit less moist than the oven one, but it was reasonably juicy and one can put extra gravy on it. The main difference was that it had a strong but pleasing smokey bouquet.

The verdict, based upon which one got eaten-up the most is that the oven one won. Deep down I know that really the grilled one is better, so like a climate "scientist", I'll just water-board the data a little and come with a new verdict: People are good and as such, they naturally wanted to eat up the less desirable turkey to leave the best for others. That's the ticket!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Joke from JAMES TARANTO's WSJ Best of the Web today

Q: How many climate scientists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. There's a consensus that it's going to change, so they've decided to keep us in the dark.


Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof: (via WSJ)

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I plotted an aborted landing but ended-up flying right

One week after the marathon I injured myself. I don't think it was the marathon that did it either since I had run a couple of times after the race and was just fine. Rather, I think it was from running the day after straining myself with yard work. Go figure; a non-stop 26 mile race and I'm fine, but re-starting a recalcitrant lawn mower and I'm wrecked.

The injury spun out of control for a bit: My calf hurt so I favored landing on my heel--which then got a deep, deep blister. This caused me to compensate by thrusting forward with my good leg which caused it to get sore too.

I still ran, but slower. My experience is that injuries can take months to heal and if you stop training all that time you will be back to square one. So I ran, but I couldn't run very fast--till today. I actually set a PR for the below run. Not by much and with lots of pain still, but this is much better than pain + slowness.

Update: I paid for yesterday's exuberance: Today I ran a mere 4 miles at greater than 10 minutes per mile. I swear, some little old ladies with walkers zoomed past me but I can't be sure since it all happened so fast.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finishing touches on the porch/study

There has been a self, and wife-imposed deadline on this multi-year project of turning a porch into a year-round office space.

All it really needs in order to become an office is for me to move the internet connection to the room and then put desk, chairs and computers in there. A while ago we thought it would be a good idea to have some built-in storage too and so we purchased a truck-load of Ikea stuff. The cabinets are not really required for office use but it would be a pain to do the work once all our work-things get put in. For almost a year all the Ikea boxes were stored here:

All of the boxes fit into the lower shelf on the left where there are two boxes remaining.

As one can see, they take up vastly less room in the boxes than when they are assembled.

If you can follow the cartoon instructions then the furniture looks good, functions well and is very solid. The problem I had was with missing parts. There were two missing parts in the first cabinet box, one of which was the instructions. I got fairly far before I realized that I was missing another part, so I opened up the 2nd box and eureka! It had directions and an obvious other part the first box lacked. I cannibalized from the 2nd to complete the first, and then from the 3rd to replace the missing part from the 2nd which had gone to the 1st & etc. In the end I think there were two sets of directions in 4 boxes and two missing hardware types. I checked with the Ikea site and in order to get replacement parts you need three things: The receipt (which we have thanks to a super-thorough wife), you have to go to an actual store (the closest one is an hour away) and it has to be 90 days from the time of purchase (it was about a year ago). I wouldn't have wanted to drive all that way when I could probably improvise something.

If you use your gray-matter, you can tell two things from the above picture: Which cabinet has the missing part and what the missing part is.

How could you know?

Obviously, the last wall unit will be the lower one since with this L shape, the logical place to start would be on the right side and then work your way left, with the lower left one in last. You can tell from the picture that there is more light coming from the low one. It would have been a darker one if I had used luan plywood instead of sheet-metal. The other missing part was the mounting brackets--I used hinges that I already had as a replacement.

All of this was 9 boxes: One for each wall unit and five boxes for the unit sitting on the floor (base, two sections, drawers, doors).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

He keeps saying stupid things and yet people still listen to him.

The center of the earth is millions of degrees? He is only off by about three orders of magnatude, but what do I--a mere non Nobel prize-winner--know?

It is just the Byam and it is because of Gilmore

Other schools in our town allow Christmas themed gifts, so it is not as if this is some kind of rule from "on high". It is just the whim of the Byam principal, nothing more and is entirely typical of her ways. One incident in our daughter's class illustrates the point exactly: There was some rule against PG movies, but the teacher got permission slips from every child in the class' parents and still Gilmore nixed the movie when she found out about it! We have put three kids through that school and have a million stories of her blind adherence to rules and control-freakishness.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Situation normal: Running on an injury

I really lucked-out last year in that most of the time I had no injuries. This has lead to a false sense of security since most of the last eight years I have had one pain or another; usually the left Achilles tendon. It has been a good string: I've run 3 marathons, a 10k, a ten miler and a two mile race in roughly one year's time. Now things are getting back to normal in that one week after NYC I pulled-up lame.

The most common advice I get when I talk of injuries is that I should just quit running until I am healed. The problem with this is that it takes from six months to a year to heal and if I stop running all that time I will be back to square-one when I resume. So, I will do what I have been doing the last few years: Run, but not as hard; use lots of ice-packs and eat a lot of aspirin. Oh yes; and learn to accept that my calf is going to hurt when I run and most of the rest of the time too.

I've got to keep things in perspective: I don't have a life-threatening disease--just a bit of pain when I engage in a hobby (a hobbly?) that I don't even much care for.

Veteran's day off

My normal day off happened to coincide with Veteran's day, so the kids were off from school and we all had an outing around lunch time.

Most of the trees have lost all leaves, but sometimes you come across one that is a little tardy.

This natural area is called "Lime Quarry" but the only rocks I notice are made of granite.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yeast Quest

Some years ago, back when we lived in Vermont, my next door neighbor brought home a truck-load of apples and owned a cider press. Since he had an essentially unlimited supply of apples, he made a deal with me: Press a gallon of juice for him and I could take a gallon for myself. That seemed overly generous, so what I would do is press two or three gallons for Joe and then fill a juice pitcher for myself.

Along the way I got the idea of trying to make cider. The unwashed apples should have plenty of native yeast on them and the acid of the juice would tend to suppress bacterial growth, so I figured that all I had to do was put the juice into an air-tight container and wait. What I used was a plastic juice bottle with a screw-on lid and I just let it sit in the garage until I noticed some swelling from internal pressure. I would loosen he lid gently to relieve most--but not all--of the pressure every day or two. I kept doing this until the fermentation slowed down to a crawl and then gently poured the cider into a fresh clean juice bottle, leaving all the sediment out. A couple more rackings and I put the cider into wine bottles and was done.

In the intervening years, my wife and I have gotten hooked on hard cider, especially the Woodchuck Draft Cider -- Granny Smith. The stuff is good, but it is pricey and so I have been of a mind to try my hand again at making cider. The only problem is that the cider you purchase in the grocery store is pasteurized, so if you don't add yeast it will just sit there. I began looking into yeast and there are no brew shops very close to where we live. I could order some on-line but I hate the idea of buying something for a buck and then paying five dollars for shipping, so things remained so until last Saturday.

We were up in Nashua a-clothes-shopping for the oldest girl and on the way to Old Navy, we went past a place that looked like a brew-shop. Not wanting to loiter in a clothes store, I dropped-off the wife & daughter and went back the half-mile to the brew shop. The shop turned out to not be quite what I expected: They were a place where you do brewing. You pay something like $200 and they supply all the equipment and supplies as well as help for their customers to brew beer. Then you come back in two weeks to bottle your 6 cases of 22oz beers. So they didn't offer to sell me any champagne yeast, but did give directions to a place about five miles further up the road. The directions were long and complex. While listening to them, I was thinking to myself, "There is no way I'm going to even try to find that place, I'll just bag-it till another time...". But I hadn't heard from the girls and the thought of standing around in a clothes store was daunting, so I set-out in the direction given and figured I could turn around if I got lost, or a call from my wife. The directions were perfect. The shop and the shop-keeper were perfectly charming. I got my yeast for 75 cents and even picked up a fancy 24 ounce beer 9.5% EtOH by volume for about 5 bucks.

I'd rather pay $5 for a fancy beer than for shipping. You can't drink shipping.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A day of gasoline powered things

Sunday was as pretty a day as one can expect in early November for New England. It must have been close to 60F and sunny. It was the perfect time to run over leaves with the mulching mower. I was about half way through my 2nd tank of gas and the mower had been getting increasingly sluggish, so I figured it was time to clean the air filter. Indeed, it turned out to be fully packed with leaf dust--I really wondered how it could have run at all with such clogging. The machine had other ideas: I put the clean filter back on and the mower would not start, or would start for a second and then quit. I checked the gas. I checked the oil. I cleaned the spark plug. I adjusted the carburetor. I got blisters on my hand from the pull-cord. Finally it began to run and ran like a champ til I was done: A tank and a half later.

After that, my wife wanted to run the leaf grinder--to deal with leaves in places I cannot mow, like flower beds. Given my bad experience with gasoline-powered devices, I approached starting the leaf shredder with dread. It got going on the first pull, not bad considering that it hadn't been used since last Fall.

Since I had reached the back of the garden shed I figured I may as well pre-position the snow blower to the front of the house. It too started right up and it still had old gas from last Winter in it.

Just for the sake of completeness, I should have seen if I could get the chainsaw running. It is a good thing I didn't think of this: If I got the saw running I would want to cut down a tree (lots of them need to be cut down) and this would have just created a lot of work for myself. It was already Sunday afternoon and I had the rain gutters to clean still.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

At the weird exposure cafe

People who get it will know what I mean.

Marathon thoughts

This is the first bit of time I've had since the race to put-down some thoughts about the New York Marathon:

Getting to the start:

The marathon offers transportation to the start, but what they offered me was the Staten Island ferry at 5:30 AM. From where we stayed on Long Island, it would be easier to drive to the actual start than to the ferry terminal in lower Manhattan. The problem is that the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge closes at 7:00 AM on race-day and so you've got to be there early enough to get dropped-off and still have time for your ride to get back to the other side. In addition, we had never driven there before and were not sure how long it would take. As it was, we missed a turn and ended-up taking a longer way than we had originally mapped-out. The missed turn was due to the car needing gas and the first station we found just happened to be at the intersection we were supposed to turn at--we didn't notice the road sign because we were so intent on the lit-up Shell station instead. We crossed the bridge just after 6:00 AM and there was a drop-off lane right at the end of the bridge. We kissed good-bye and then I wandered into the athlete's village, wondering what I would do with 3 hours and 40 minutes till the race.

It was drizzling lightly and so I made for the first pavilion I could find. There were lots of people already there but I found a patch of grass to lay down on. Just about every body else had thought to bring an old sleeping bag or blanket but I was warmly dressed and so, while I would have loved to have a blanket, I was reasonably comfy. I tried to sleep and maybe did drowse for a bit, but also looked around and noticed the people around me. Next to me was a tiny Asian, or perhaps South American woman, sleeping in a thick warm sleeping bag. Later she woke-up and began munching on a rice-ball wrapped in sea weed--lending odds to the Asian hypothesis. Just on the other side of me were two young ladies spooning under a quilt--seemed as if everybody else did better pre-race planning than I did. In front of me was a group of Dutch guys who were full of pre-race bonhomie. One guy was putting his name label onto a black nylon bag. The race is very specific about requiring only the clear plastic bags they issue being dropped-off, so I wonder if the guy ended up with a big hassle later. Last, I struck-up a conversation with a French man who was very nice. He thought his English was lacking, but it was really very good--he had an accent but could be very easily understood. He was there with a group too and it came out that he is an engineer with four children.

Around 9:00 I decided to make a move: I wanted to find out where to drop off my warm-up clothes, find the starting pens and so forth. Almost as soon as I got to the center of the village, a female voice came on over the PA: "The starting corrals are open for the first wave, please report to your starting corral, now." I have italicised "now" but that does not come close to conveying the emphasis and command the announcer placed on the word. It was cold and once I turned-in my clothes, I would be wearing a tank top and skimpy shorts in that raw early morning weather and yet I felt compelled by that voice, to obey. I'm glad I did. I got to my starting area at around 9:10 and was going to stop outside to adjust my shoe but the guard at the gate said, "you'd better get in here, I'm going to close the gate in 5 minutes." He wasn't lying. The gates soon closed and they walked the whole first wave up to the starting line, a good quarter mile from where we assembled. They were probably assembling the 2nd wave in the pens behind us before the first wave began to race.

The Start:

The national anthem was sung, there were a few words from mayor Bloomberg and then we started to the sound of Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York (of course). The conditions were perfect: Low 50s, overcast and only a light breeze. With 3 waves and three parallel starts, there was hardly any crowding. I think I did around 8:15 for the first mile and a lot of that was going up-hill on the bridge. The view was great too: Helicopters overhead, fire boats down below-spraying into the sky and off to the left, the skyline of lower Manhattan. Once over the bridge, we were in Brooklyn and the first block sign I noticed was in the high 80's like maybe 86th street. We stayed on this same road until the blocks ran out, so over eighty blocks on one road! The street was lined the whole way 1-2 deep in some places and in others more like 6-8 deep. It seemed as if every block had a band or rock group playing. It was all very festive. I tried to maintain a quick pace, but was careful not to push too hard--the last thing I wanted was to burn-out around mile 15 like I did in Boston. (I did a reasonable time there but it was miserable for the final ten miles) In the early part of the race I took liquid at every opportunity and drank all that I was given. Experience has taught me that by late in the race you can only stand a little sip without inducing a gag reflex, so it is a good idea to bank fluids early.

We hit the half-way point just before leaving Brooklyn and I was doing 1:39:31 which put me about 5 and 1/2 minutes ahead of my goal of staying under 3:30 for the whole race. I felt pretty good: I had not yet started to breathe hard, my legs were starting to get sore and yet they felt strong still. When we crossed into Queens, it seemed pretty much like Brooklyn, at least the parts we had been through. Most of mile 16 is on the Queensboro Bridge crossing over to Manhattan. It was a weird experience. There had been cheering crowds the whole way and now we were on the lower level of the bridge and no spectators were allowed in that part. Just the sound of breathing and footfalls on concrete. As you get to the end of the bridge a distant roar can be heard--huge crowds in Manhattan! This was the best part. All three parallel starts had converged in the middle of Brooklyn and the course was crowded--not to the point where it slowed you down, but one needed to constantly pay attention to the runners around you. Now in Manhattan, the road was about twice as wide--three lanes in each direction plus a bus lane on each side. I had a whole traffic lane to myself and so I punched-up the pace a bit and did my last sub-8 miles of the race.

The crowds slowly petered-out as we got further and further North and when we crossed into The Bronx they were the thinnest of the whole course. Upon crossing back into Manhattan, the crowds resumed and became thicker as we moved South. We stayed on 5th Ave right past the North West corner of Central Park and ran along the East side until the Guggenheim came into view, then we turned in to the park itself. The park had some of the only real hills I remember from the race but there were only two miles to go so I didn't let that or the increasing pain in my legs get to me. The crowds in the park and the rest of the way were massive and noisy. We emerged on Central Park South and 5th Ave and went along the southern edge of the park to Columbus Circle, the finish is in the park about 800 meters away at this point. This final distance flew-by and I crossed the last sensor gate.

The Finish

They keep you on your feet after the finish. You pass by where they hand out finisher medals, then mylar sheets are handed out and someone comes by to tape them shut to form a cape. Next, goody bags with water and food in them and finally a long walk to the UPS truck with your bag of clothes, phone & etc. Each truck covered 1000 numbers, so the first one was for 69,000 to 69,999. I was in the 13 thousands and so had to walk to the 56th one in line. This was about a mile. The finish is about even with 67th street and I exited the park at 82nd. I walked back to Columbus Circle to meet my family.

A picture my middle daughter took when I met them at Columbus Circle. Lots of runners brought cameras along on the run with them. They probably got some nice shots but I would really get tired of keeping my camera with me for 3 and 1/2 hours.

Added note: I met a guy at the start and we had around 20 minutes to chat. His name is Dave, from NJ and said he is 42. It turns out that was enough information to find his time from the marathon results page. That is totally cool! It is nice to know he did good!

November Dahlia

We had a cold, wet Summer and this dahlia seemed as if it would never bloom.

It just kept getting taller and taller. That red stick which is supporting the stem is a broom handle. The total height of the plant has got to be around 6 and 1/2 feet.

The Japanese Maple behind the Dahlia shows how late in the season it is: This is November 5th and we live in a suburb of Boston.

Monday, November 02, 2009

NYC Marathon 5k splits

nyc 1st 5k 3.1 23:10:00 7:28:23

Slowed down by the climb up the height of the bridge and the crowds.

nyc 2nd 5k 3.1 22:46:00 7:20:39

Not tired and trying to make up some time. This would end up being the fastest split.

nyc 3rd 5k 3.1 23:45:00 7:39:41

Getting a little tired.

nyc 4th 5k 3.1 24:17:00 7:50:00

Getting more tired.

nyc 5th 5k 3.1 25:38:00 8:16:08

God. Will Queens never end?

nyc 6th 5k 3.1 24:39:00 7:57:06


Crowds eight-deep, wide roads, yeah I had the energy to speed up a bit.

nyc 7th 5k 3.1 26:29:00 8:32:35

It gets old the further North you get, till the low point in the Bronx.

nyc 8th 5k 3.1 26:39:00 8:35:48

Can smell the finish. Too tired to actually speed-up but am able to not slow down as much as my body would prefer to.

3:28:41 is the final time. I should slack-off every time. I feel much better today than any other day after a marathon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A bad time to feel ill.

I came down with a cold this weekend. It wasn't bad though: I had a runny nose, watery eyes and some sneezing but I could take an OTC cold med and would be fine. Today it turned nasty--it set-up camp in my sinuses. Even with the cold medicine I couldn't break the log-jam and so had a splitting headache and was feeling nausea due to the inner-ear blockage. It was so bad that I had to leave work early. After a few hours of laying around at home I gradually felt better: The headache never went completely away but it got much, much better. I even logged back into work from home for about the last three hours of my shift.

This is a bad and disconcerting time to be ill. I have a marathon on Sunday and things are not looking up. It is in a distant city and so there are logistics to contend with, the weather is forecast to be rainy and now I'm feeling under the weather--plus there is the usual lack of proper training for such a distance, old age & etc.

Looking forward to Monday. Big time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A hard day after an easy one...

Yesterday, I did little more than make a pot of spaghetti sauce. My wife made some meatballs and these together will be the main course for dinner next Saturday (before the marathon).

Today I did more:

--I ran 11.8 miles for my last longish run before the race.

--The whole family decided it would be fun to all walk into the town center for some ice cream. It is two miles each way on the bike path.

--Once we got home, I ran the mower over fallen leaves for a little more than an hour.

I wanted to do some plastering today, but I'm done.

Yesterday's efforts...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Late Bloomers

The apples in the foreground were right on schedule and we picked them a couple of days ago. The roses appeared two days ago and are very late for New England.

This dahlia is still not all the way open, though the plant is around 6 feet tall. I think it put all effort into height rather than waste its time on a bloom.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It was probably a mistake

The last long run should be three weeks before the race but I did one today. Why? The last time I did a 19 miler, it was the 4th of October and that is 4 weeks out from the race. That just seemed like too long an interval of no long distance training prior to a marathon. In addition, I've done a lot of 11-13 milers at really good paces, so it would have felt a bit pointless to do another one of those today, though to some extent that is what I did. I ran the first 10 in a sub-8 time of 78 minutes and it would have been great if that was the end of the workout, but I was still 9 long miles from home. Those 9 miles took me an additional 85 minutes.

I still have time to recover before the race and while this run was no confidence-booster, it probably did me some good. Anyway, it is done and there isn't anything I can do about it now.

Just by chance, I got my bib # for the NYC marathon yesterday: 13658--Orange Wave #1.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Warm and Cold

I insist on one candle for each year. As you can see, it is quite an inferno. I suppose it is fitting that as each year I get closer to an eternity in fire, the fire on my cake becomes a little larger too.

This is October 18th and the 2nd time it has snowed this Fall!

bagoh20 said... The funniest line is "I've been killing spiders since I was 30." The scene where Diane Weist insists on reading her script to the character Allen was playing. Heh. I noticed that Woody recycled almost the same line in Hanna and Her Sisters

A model and a skeleton

The photo collection at the link is really fascinating. Taken each on their own, the pictures are only of mild interest but all together they form a really humorous collection and artistic too--not that I claim any expertise in this area. I like it though. Warning: Some of the pictures are a little raunchy, so let's call this mildly NSFW. Anyhow, all the pictures are of a beautiful model and a skeleton. The skeleton is posed such that he conveys expression even though obviously, he can't use his face for that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Finding out that there is a name for something you had noticed.

In The Corner today I came across a posting by Jonah Goldberg which brought up the topic of the Uncanny Valley. The article he was referring to was that some other primates experience this the same as humans do.

So, what is it? Below are images and please bear in mind that the effect is stronger with moving pictures or especially in reality-space.

If you, like me, find these things a little creepy then that is Uncanny Valley at work. It seems that if things look sufficiently non-human, then we judge them as things. Beyond a certain thresh hold, when they start to look more human than not, we start to judge by human standards. The odd way they move, sound and look strikes us as repulsive. That is the valley.

Kind of cool that something noticed in passing turns out to be an actual field of study.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lazy Sunday fun--no run

Last Sunday I did a 19-miler and I entertained a thought of repeating that today. The plan for the day though, was to go someplace and pick apples with the family. My wife insisted that wherever it was, it "must offer apple cider doughnuts". This ruled-out the place we normally go.

We found a place with all the required amenities nestled along the Merrimack river in Tyngsborough MA--not far from where we live. We picked a half bushel of really great apples, ate some doughnuts and let the kids play on bales of hay. It was mid-afternoon by the time we got home.

I had hoped to get Surenna to come with me on the bike path for an 8 mile jaunt, her on a bike-me running, but she was tired and wouldn't agree. My wife wanted to take the dog for an outing, so I went with her on that and we jogged for about a mile at the end. Feeling, if not invigorated, at least warmed-up; I set about running over fallen leaves with the lawnmower. About 2 hours later, the yard looked fantastic and I was ready to bake.

While I was outside, wife and Jemma mixed together 7 pie crusts--I think they would have made more but ran out of butter. I turned on the TV and settled in for apple peeling and the other steps to make apple pie. By the time I had to knock-off to grill lamb chops for dinner, there was one medium-sized pie baked and four others assembled and put into the freezer.

Am tempted, even though bone tired, to make a few more pies tonight since the 1/2 bushel bag is more full than empty at this point. We shall see.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Conversation with a 2nd grader

Jemma: Daddy, did they have milk in 1492?

Me: Sure. Did you think they invented dairy cows just since then?

Jemma: I think that there were cows, but they just didn't know what would happen if they did...(makes motion like milking a cow)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

No, no. Please hold your applause...


Odds and ends on a day off

It was raining buckets this morning when I took the girls to the bus stop, so I was contemplating either nixing my run or at least making it shorter today. Normally I would do 11-13 miles on my day-off so I figured I was slacking by doing just 6.

Before I left, I made some bread dough. Part of the reason was that pizza would make a good dinner tonight and the other part was that I was killing time hoping for the rain to stop--which it did.

I got on my work-out clothes and banged off a 6-miler at a high 7:30's pace. Not particularly fast for that distance but not so slow as to feel bad about it either. It got sunny and warm early in the run but then the last 5 minutes were a downpour.

Had to shower and dress in a hurry since we were meeting wife's parents for lunch. We got to the place at the same time they did. While eating, the sky cleared and it became (temporarily) a cloudless bright Autumn day.

After lunch, I ordered a 3/4 violin for Surenna, then baked two crusts for pizza and one pan of rolls with the remainder of the dough. After that I worked on the new office till dinner time. I was nailing up corner pieces before plastering the beams. At first I thought I got far too few pieces to complete the job, but then just when I was ready to knock-off, I discovered another tranche of material and had just enough to finish--an hour later.

Pizza for dinner with the in-laws.

Special bacon day! I had eggs and bacon for breakfast, bacon wrapped scallops salad for lunch and then mostly for completeness, I sprinkled bacon onto one of the pizzas. It was good in all of its settings. There is nothing bacon can't do!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Four elements of fatigue, or what I think about at mile 15 of a 19 miler.

--Lactic Acid: It builds-up in muscles when they are exerted and gives the feeling of soreness.

--Glycogen: Stored mostly in the liver, it is a source of energy. It may not completely run out but it certainly does become scarce. The body has to switch over to fat metabolism. This is an essentially bottomless well of energy, the problem is that fat cannot be converted into a directly useful form quite fast enough.

--Dehydration: I do not bring water with me on runs of any distance and can easily loose four pounds of water weight on a long run. What happens is that as a person becomes dehydrated, it causes the blood pressure to drop. (One of the main classes of hypertension medications are diuretics) When the blood pressure drops, the heart must pump more rapidly to accomplish the same circulation. Respiration seems to go hand-in-hand with this. What I find is that toward the end of a long run, I cannot maintain my starting pace without becoming winded. The drop in blood pressure is not due entirely to dehydration, so even in marathons that have hydration stations, this is still an issue.

--Will power: As exertion continues, the will to maintain it becomes depleted too. It is too bad since all of the above things make the need for will-power more acute toward the end.

In a race, much but not all of the above issues are at least of smaller concern--at least (with a marathon approaching) this is what I tell myself.

My wife and I are very alike in some ways but there are little differences...

When I'm in a bluesy mood I like to listen to classic rock that is influenced by the blues. Like this:

My wife will go for the classics of mope-rock, like this:

The original human Space Invaders

Space Invaders

Space Invaders made by Neave Games

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cult of personality

On a few occasions lately, it has come to light that school children are being led in singing the praises of our President.

Lots of people find this deeply creepy. We always would consider it a hallmark of authoritarian places that they would have billboard sized posters of their leaders in public places. In the West the leaders were often in military uniform, in the East they would go for the more bland look. East is East and West is West & etc.

As if to answer the concerns, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, trotted-out footage of school kids singing some kind of pro-President Bush song. On a very superficial level this would seem to indicate that we live in a big country and you are bound to find pretty much every conceivable thing taking place. Hence, the songs for Obama mean precisely nothing. Not so fast!

I never got the impression President Bush wanted to be worshiped and I didn't see much evidence that many on the left thought that either. Plus, given that the education, entertainment and news media are almost monolithically to the left of center, it is not realistic to think any Republican could achieve cult of personality status, even if they wanted to.

Another question occurs to me: Why wasn't video of children singing the praises of GWB seen before now? That is, why is it only shown now and only as a counterpoint to the Obama videos? Obviously, because it didn't say anything "interesting" back when Bush was President. A huge number of things happen and they can't all be on the news. Nobody worried about a Bush cult of personality back then or it would have been in the news for the purpose of bolstering that meme. Why else put it on? It might seem odd that schools dominated by Democratic teachers would allow/lead students in a pro-Bush song, so there is a whole man-bites-dog angle but I suppose nobody thought of it till now...

Does consistency count for anything?

Taking on a major new constitutional dispute over gun rights, the Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to decide whether to apply the Second Amendment to state, county, and city government laws.

It never made sense to me that the 1st has long been incorporated while the 2nd hasn't. The first amendment is written in a more limiting way: "Congress shall make no law..." while the 2nd is more general: "...the right of the people..." The first would seem to be a limit on what Congress can do while the 2nd is indicating a right that all the people should have.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I can't help but work word puzzles

Last Thursday my wife and I went to the Byam elementary school's open house. In the first room I noted a white board with lists of homophones. It was easy to think of ones that were not already listed, so that seemed too easy: I needed to think of one that was not listed and had not just two, but three spellings. The obvious ones like (to, too and two) and (there, their and they're) were already there. I came up with pour, pore and poor. Just now I came up with meet, meat and mete. My wife just came up with pair, pare and pear.

In the younger daughter's class the teacher was talking about the pattern: a_e where a consonant goes into the blank spot and creates a long a sound. The kids would group words by whether they make the long a, a short a or something else. "Make" would be long a, "have" would be short a and so on. Mentally, I decided that it would be interesting to find words that were only three letters long and satisfied the rules: "Axe"--short a, "Ale"--long a, there are lots of three letter ones so coming up with these two on the spot is looking less and less impressive.

Things you learn as a kid and then re-learn when you have them

I was handed a Slinky which was doing a pretty good impression of a knotted-up ball of wire. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out methods that would resolve tangles in a helix and then another 10 to straighten-out the whole thing.

As soon as I was done, I realized how much a waste of time it was: The thing is so deformed now that I doubt any play can be had from this toy. Unless you count the puzzle game called, "tangle-up the slinky and then figure out how to untangle it".

A lazy sunday--or how meta is this?

A while back my wife and I saw, probably on PBS, a show called The Natural History of the Chicken. We found it very entertaining and affecting in a way too. Now this weekend I read a story in The New Yorker by Susan Orlean which was inspired by the same show and where she writes about getting chickens.

Now I am writing about that and sort of halfway considering getting some,- point of lay hens. It is probably a bad idea since we have coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks, owls and our own little dog--all of whom would love to eat or at least chase chickens.

On the plus side, it would give me a lot of material for blogging.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why Iran will get the bomb

Obama will find plenty of reasons to do nothing before Iran gets the bomb.

After they get the bomb, there will be new and more compelling reasons to do nothing.

QED. Iran will have the bomb.

Food for thought: However bad the options look now, don't they look infinitely better than the inevitable prospect of what our options will be soon?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Cowbell

Available here

Was this wrong of me?

Before setting-out on my long run today, I set-up S. with The Shadow over Insmouth by H. P. Lovecraft.

She was reading the blog and asked about the "Why vote for a lesser evil" post and one thing led to another...

She was by herself for a while since the wife was out with the other two girls. It is a pretty scary story, but it was a nice sunny day so I think she was fine.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Out with one of the girls but thinking about how boys are

S. and I took the dog for a long walk this afternoon. The day was perfect and we had plenty of time on our hands so we took a long detour. We went through a remote and hilly bit of woods. As we walked along, we came across evidence of improvements to the trails: At first, little embankments to curves and later some small jumps made out of boulders, logs and dirt made it evident that kids were using the trails for bike-riding. As we climbed up the hill and it became more steep, the jumps got to be extreme. One was made of lumber and was a ramp that started from the ground on the up hill side and was attached to two saplings on the downhill side. The drop-off on the downhill side was about 7 feet! I estimated from looking from the end of the ramp that jumpers would be landing around 30 feet down the hill.

S. was aghast. "Boys are crazy" she said, "Girls would never do this kind of thing". She was also kind of surprised that boys would go to such effort to build structures which must have taken much time and organization to complete. When the kids play capture the flag and it is boys against girls, the girls always win. She explained that the girls make plans while the boys just make their plans as they play.

A couple of thoughts began to percolate in my mind, but it took a while for them to fully form.

Boys are not fearless and they really do not like to plan everything out ahead of time, but they can ease their way into both things. The way I envision it is that they started with a small jump that could be made with a fallen log and some rocks and dirt. Now they were used to making things and the thrill of a small jump, so they progressively made bigger and more elaborate jumps and became inured to the risks gradually as jumps became more elaborate. We just saw the end of a long learning curve--they just didn't decide out the the blue to spend weeks building a suicidally high jump and then have the nerve to use it. They got there in a gradual and natural way.

Right up there in the annals of stupidity...

A President was killed the last time right-wing hatred ran wild like this September 18, 2009 9:10 am ET by Eric Boehlert That being John F. Kennedy, who was gunned down in Dallas, of course.

I was born around the time of President Kennedy's assassination so I am in no place to opine on "right-wing hatred" of that era, but I don't see how such hatred could motivate a Communist like Lee harvey Oswald to act against the target of the "right-wing hatred".

Kennedy may have been liberal for the time he lived in, but he was without a doubt an anti-Communist cold warrier. That is a much more obvious reason why a Communist like LHO wanted to kill Kennedy.

Fall In Brown

A pumpkin, a ghost and a pine tree.

Old dark chocolate on printer paper.

Black Hearts

This piece had all kinds of harsh things embedded in its surface like nails, hammers & so forth. One could only notice this on closer inspection.

Sculpture Fun

We Didn't

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some pictures from before

Manhattan from the head of the Statue of Liberty

A view from the ground

Our reflection in the stainless steel walls of the atrium. (The camera was at our feet and I used the timer)

Friday, September 11, 2009

A small token

The shock of 8 years ago was twofold: There really are people out there for whom no outrage is past them. We had forgotten about evil and allowed ourselves to become complacent.

As a nation, we snapped out of it for a bit and I did too. I was letting the onset of middle age act as an excuse to let myself go soft. I was too old to put back on the uniform--the Marines didn't need 40 year old avionics techs, plus the wife and kids have first claim on me now.

The least I could do, to show some solidarity with actual warriors, is to get back into the habit of PT. (Good for you, good for me.)

I was reminded of the below bit from Melville,

Some moments passed, during which the thick vapor came from his mouth in quick and constant puffs, which blew back again into his face. "How now," he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, "this smoking no longer soothes. Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be gone! Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring-aye, and ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and with such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets were the strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with this pipe? This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapors among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I'll smoke no more-" He tossed the still lighted pipe into the sea. The fire hissed in the waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble the sinking pipe made. With slouched hat, Ahab lurchingly paced the planks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mamma gets sweet revenge

Towards the end of dinner tonight, my wife glanced into the kitchen, seemed to do a double take, looked around the table and then said, "That was weird, I thought I saw someone in the kitchen".

Me: "Maybe this is the first sign of MS".

Various girls: "What is MS"?

"Multiple skull roaches", I replied. "No really it is multiple sclerosis", I said and then went on at length about wires and insulation and how nerves were like wires and they let you feel things and control your body. Their insulation is fatty material called meyelin and MS was where this insulation breaks-down. The result is loss of ability to control your body and think clearly. I am not sure if hallucinations are part of the mix, but I am not an MD so MS is all that came to mind at the time.

Dinner wound-down and my wife was the first to get up and bus her dish into the kitchen. Just when she was out of eye-shot she exclaimed, "Oh! Hello there"! Even I did a double-take. The kids went into hysterics, ran into the kitchen and even though they saw that nobody was there, stayed shaken for some minutes. I almost couldn't stop laughing.

She got us. Oh yes, she did!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Menu for guest week

Now it is a whole week gone by so my memory may be off but to the best of my recollection, here is what we had:

Wednesday: Arrival day. Slow roasted chuck roast (it has been really tender in the past but this time kind of tough--later in the week the leftovers seemed to get more tender.) Risotto with morels and regular mushrooms and roasted asparagus.

Thursday: Enchiladas that we had pre-made and froze last week and Spanish rice.

Friday: Pasta with red sauce and meatballs.

Saturday: Lamb curry, tandoori chicken, aloo ghobi, rice and raitha. (India night)

Sunday: Leftovers + 4 kinds of dessert from the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday: Boiled baby red potatoes, grilled corn on the cob, grilled salmon, swordfish and scallops, steamed lobster and fresh pineapple.

I think all the meals had salad and we had two meals in the bank: I did not plan on there being a leftover night and I somehow thought they were leaving on Wednesday rather than Tuesday. The missing meals would have been steak and baked potatoes for one and middle eastern for the other: Grilled marinated chicken, falafel babaganoush and Syrian bread.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Things to do with your Mom & Aunt in Boston

Friday: Wife took them and the kids to Rockport--Visited shops, ate seafood, went to the beach and visited shops.

Saturday: Walked around Walden Pond and then tour of the DeCordova museum.

Sunday: Tour of the Christian Science Mother Church,

tour of Faneuil Hall and Duck boat tour.

Dahlia sees our reflection.

Surenna drives the Duck.

Monday: Wife took the ladies to Sleepy Hollow cemetary and later we had a seafood extravaganza (Homemade).

Friday, September 04, 2009

I don't know why I love this bit of dialog so much, I just do.

Jack Burton: Feel pretty good. I'm not, uh, I'm not scared at all. I just feel kind of... feel kind of invincible.

Wang Chi: Me, too. I got a very positive attitude about this.

Jack Burton: Good, me too.

Wang Chi: Yeah!


Jack Burton: Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Her Burden to carry

I got all of this story second-hand, so take it for what its worth...

The oldest daughter was taking the dog for a walk and on this walk, the dog produced a bowel movement. We equip ourselves with plastic bags for just this kind of event and so the girl used one to pick-up after the dog. Then, she tied the bag onto the dog's collar and made the poor pooch carry it home.

Naturally, my wife gave the girl some grief when she found out about this. The girl was her usual self-righteous self: "It was her burden to carry momma"! The dog walked home with her head held low, looking dispirited.

I felt bad for the dog but amused by the girl. A guy I run with thought my daughter was reasonable in this business.

We will only punish her if she does it again.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Getting back into it...

Between one thing and another, I haven't done but two 19 milers since Boston. NYC is approaching fast, so I ran distance today. The pace was slow--about 8:45/mile, but it had been a while and I was more interested in whether or not I could even run that far anymore.

It was quite cool and cloudy this morning and I thought it would stay that way so I decided to run after breakfast rather than before. Right after eating, the sky cleared and it became a beautiful day. A little on the warm side for distance running but not excessively so.

Update: Ran a 5.2 miler today at a pace of 7:37. I had felt achy ever since yesterday's run, so it is nice to see that my body can bounce-back quickly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thought provoking

I had seen somewhere on the web about the book: Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham, but not thought much about it one way or another. On the way home today from a company picnic WBUR had the author on (I think) Science Friday and it was quite interesting.

The idea is that cooking food makes it easier to digest and allows our body to extract more useful energy out of a given amount of food. This leads humans to having a smaller digestive system and thus more body mass available for a larger brain & so forth.

All of this got me thinking about eggs. In popular culture we have tough guys showing how committed--to whatever quest they are on--by drinking a glass full of raw eggs. Setting aside the risk of salmonella poisoning, raw eggs actually remove an essential nutrient from your body. Egg is, or I should say would be a really great place for bacteria to grow but birds have found a way to prevent this. There is a protein called Avidin in egg whites which binds very strongly to Biotin (which is one of the B vitamins. The complete absence of Biotin makes eggs a lot less attractive to bacteria. When you cook eggs, the proteins become denatured and loose their ability to bind Biotin.