Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Day of the Year Breakfast Concoction

Wife ran out early this morning for groceries before the kids got up. She went wild with the baked goods, bringing doughnuts, bagels and croissants.

I didn't really feel like making a whole bagel and while wife and one daughter planned on fried eggs, I was not in the mood for that either: I had ordered steak and eggs on the way home from brother-in-law's on Long Island at the place we often go to--Shoreline Diner & Vegetarian Enclave. It is a great place for us to go to since we often travel with my parents in law, one of which is vegetarian. He is cool though, doesn't mind if I eat steak in his presence.

We had a bit of left-over grilled salmon and so I decided on a split and toasted croissant, with the salmon, egg-white omelette and Hollandaise sauce. I don't normally go for the egg white omelette but the Hollandaise takes three egg yolks and I didn't want to waste the whites. (Just watch, if I ever become a politician "waste the whites" will be quoted out of context and will be used to ruin my chances.)

Anyway, it was very good: Wife had some of the sauce on her fried egg and one daughter had some of the egg white omelette with sauce. Hollendaise sauce is great and can be whipped-up any time since any decent kitchen should always have eggs, butter and fresh lemons.*

*It can not be overemphasized how important it is to use fresh lemon juice. It really is better to just do without than to make Hollendaise sauce with lemon juice from the plastic lemon.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Three Levels

I am not an anthropologist but supposedly, the counting systems of primitive people often consists of only One, Two, Three and Many. This makes sense in a culture where figuring does not really come up.

Yesterday I had to get a generator out of the back of our truck. A worker at Costco had helped me get the thing in at the store. With a gravity assist, I got the machine out of the Yukon. This set me to thinking though about whether or not I could have gotten it into the truck without assistance. My wife, who is really very strong was with me at the store, so I would have had help, but still I was wondering. I am curious but not so much that I will put the generator back into the truck just to find out if I can. Anyway, it would not be a good test because at this point, it doesn't really matter if I can lift the box three feet into the back of an SUV. It is not like I have paid a bunch of money for this machine and I am in a parking lot with it and the car.

So I got to thinking that there are three categories of things, in terms of my ability to handle them:

1. I can easily pick it up and put it wherever it needs to go.

2. I could lift it, but I will almost certainly injure myself in the process.

3. It is beyond my strength to do.

The generator is probably somewhere between #2 and #3. Though in the past I have attempted a 2-3 task and been happily surprised at it actually being a #1.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pretty Cool!

There is a little bit of parallax in this view, but even if we grant that the temperature is 45 degrees, this is a lab thermometer and it reads in Celcius. That makes it 113F. Pretty warm considering that the air temperature is right around the freezing point. Also, by the time I took the second shot, the temperature had eased upwards to just below 50C.

All of the excess warmth is from decay of the leaves, but there are a couple of effects which explain why the leaves in my bin are hot while ones on the ground are not. First, insulation; the shredded leaves hold the heat in. Also, there wouldn't be a lot of decay happening at close to zero Celsius, but at elevated temperature the reactions go faster and thus produce more heat. It is a kind of synergistic effect.

I make these leaf storage bins by just cutting a bit of wire fencing and then making a cylinder out of it.

Added: The smell of the decomposing leaves is really nice: Somewhere between the Fall leaf smell and good tobacco and fresh pine. The source material is Oak, maple and pine leaves and branches.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chasing Eight

For those of you who associate with me on Facebook, you will have noticed that the majority of my posts there are running workouts. This is because I have been using a utility for keeping track of my running and it posts each run to FB.

The utility calculates the minutes per mile for each run as well as giving me an average pace for each week and for the year. The average has been in the low eights all year because while most workouts are done just under eight minutes per mile, there are a lot of really long runs early in the year when I am doing marathon training. Naturally, one cannot expect to put out the same level of intensity for a 21 miler as for five and a half miles, so the average is low early in the year, but then after the marathon is over I focus on speed.

So I have slowly seen the average for the year dwindle from around 8:10 or so down to 8:01 but then the utility I've been using went defunct! So, I went to the website of the utility and it allowed me to download all the data. It took some doing to get it all into a format Excel could digest, but then hey presto! The pace was like 7:40! Not really though. Some of the times were off because I had a bunch of entries that were one hour, no minutes and some seconds and it just truncated out the minutes, so an hour and 20 seconds would show as one minute and twenty seconds. So I fixed all of that and took out the two bike rides and (drum roll) it is still under eight! 7:58/mile for the year on a total of 1,103.17 miles.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chipper/Shredder Repair--3 Step...

1. First, see if the parts are available on-line but do not order them!

2. Make sure that I can disassemble the machine and get the broken parts out.

3. Order the parts.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Breaking And Fixing Things

My wife normally walks the youngest to the bus stop, but since I was home today, it fell to me. As usual when the weather is nice, the dog accompanied us. After the girl got on the bus, I noticed that the dog was limping along next to me. I felt under the paw she seemed to be favoring and there was a little broken acorn stuck in the pads. I cleared it and she immediately started walking normally. She is not the kind of animal who could live on her own in the wild. If she did run away from us, I am pretty sure she would befriend some human, that would take her in and feed her.

The day was perfect for gathering and disposing of leaves and so I set-about that, using a leaf grinder that we have. It works pretty well: You can run it at full power and blow the leaves into a pile and then lower the hopper and rake leaves directly into it. There is even a bag that can be placed over the outlet so that the ground-up leaves can be piled-up for composting. I ran it for only about half an hour before it started making a violent sound and shuddering. I shut it off and investigated the mechanism. It was FUBAR'ed--at least beyond repair until parts could be obtained. The grinding mechanism consists of a bunch of steel flails that can pivot on thick steel posts and the whole thing rotates on a large open drum. At least one post was knocked-out and at least two flails were sheared off. There were no rocks or other damaging materials inside the works, so I can only surmise that parts, weakened over time, finally broke.

There was plenty else to do, so I got cracking on those. A large branch that broke in the recent nor'easter was hanging over part of the driveway. Most cars have either a hard tie-down point or come equipped with a eye bolt that you can screw into your bumper via an access port. So I used that, along with some rope I had, to pull the branch of Damocles down. The chainsaw made the branch into manageable pieces and it all joined the rest of the pile from the snow storm a few weeks ago.

Next, the swing set. A large branch had caused one of the swivels to break-off and so now one of the swings was hanging by only one chain. Even though the swivel had broken off, there was still the top part of that piece of hardware--so a chain could be reattached. I didn't want to do that though because the swivels have a nylon bushing in them which allows for smooth swinging action. Luckily there are other attachments that don't really need to swing and I used the same swivels for everything. I just switched out the swivel from an adjacent trapeze with the one from the swing. It was tedious though--the bolts are threaded for their whole eight inches or so and had to be screwed all the way out and then all the way back in.

Next, wasn't really a repair, but still it was stuff I did: I hauled all of the bikes and a wagon as well as a unicycle from out of the front porch/alcove to a loft in the garage. Now it is nice and neat there. While I was crawling around in the loft, I came across a hand cart that has had a flat tire for years. Today was the day to do something about it. The hub of the wheel was in two parts and held together by four bolts. Once these were off, it was easy to pull out the old inner tube. I took it with me to the hardware store so that I would get the right one. The new one is installed and functioning perfectly.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Gate

This last week was an odd one in many ways due to the freak Nor'easter we had the Saturday before.  Our home lost power Sunday morning right after breakfast and as would become evident, some of my employer's facilities were also hit.

I got a call on my cellphone Monday letting me know that my office in Billerica was without power and corporate HQ, also in Billerica was in the dark too.  I went to the R & D campus in Bedford where they have "flex work" areas.  These are essentially just a desk with a nice big monitor, a keyboard and mouse that you can plug your laptop into.  Phone works through the PC, so it was really easy.   I kind of liked it.  It was quiet and I got a lot of work done.

I had only ever been to the Bedford campus for meetings and so forth and so had never really explored the surroundings as I would any routine workplace.  The first day, I decided to go to McDonald's for lunch since I knew that there was one within, I thought, walking distance.  It turns out it was "within walking distance" if I ate while walking back.  This was fine:  Two McDoubles and a Dr. Pepper, all off of the Dollar menu.  It satisfied both hunger and the eternal desire to pinch pennies.

The next day I brought lunch and ate it at my "flex work" area and so had a full hour to explore.  I went out the back parking area and came onto a road which contained facilities much like the one I had left--pharmaceutical makers, biotech outfits and companies that make things that help out the first two.  Within about a mile, I came to a bike path.  It was a brilliant Fall day, crisp, with a bright if weak feeling sun.  The path itself was unnervingly straight and seemed to recede to a geometric point someplace off in infinity.  The path was littered with colorful leaves, though there were still an abundance on the trees which lined the path.

Even though the path cut through heavily wooded terrain, one could still see homes and industrial buildings through the foliage.  I was about 40 minutes into my walk and starting to become concerned that a hoped for break in the path would not come in time for me to be back within the hour.  Before panic set-in, I noticed that the buildings I was passing seemed familiar.  I was walking right by the campus I had left from!  Great! Except that there was a 10 foot high fence topped by barbed wire between the path and the campus.  I could climb such a fence if I thought it was really necessary but I was a long way from feeling the need for such extreme measures.  Just as I was musing about climbing and wondering how far the path would go before crossing a road again, I noticed a gate.

The gate clearly had a lock on it, but it was only 10 feet off of the path, so where is the harm in trying it?  It was truly locked, but what is this?  Next to the lock appeared a sensor pad that looked just like the ones at the entrances to all of our buildings.  I didn't want to get my hopes up though:  Your badge only gets you through doors you are authorized to open.  I tried it though and the gate swung easily open.  I was now about 20 minutes early but I had a fine walk.

I am not from New England and even though I have lived here for close to 20 years, it still seems alien in many ways.  This little thing--the gate opening for me, joins the ranks of lots of other little things; which together have made this place seem more like home.  If not quite actual home, yet.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Of Odds and Ends

The day started early--at least for my wife and eldest daughter--one took the other out to Great Brook Farm for >--CC--> practice at 8:00 AM.

While my wife was out, I got some coffee roasting done--I did about three pounds, which should last a couple of weeks.

My wife tried to do an exercise video in the interregnum, but her laptop ran out of juice mid-way, so she ran out to Great Brook Farm with the dog.  

When I drove out to get them all, I noticed a wet patch all the way across the road.  Sure enough, though I didn't think of it at the time, my wife carried the dog across the wet patch.  She was not spoiling the dog, though she does spoil the little beast, wife just didn't want the dog to get filthy and thus need a bath--which is a hassle.

After the running, we had waffles and coffee and sausage and then got ready to go out apple picking.  I grew up in Washington, of all places and never went apple picking with my family--raiding the WSU orchards is another matter, Our family did go to orchards in Green Bluff for cherry and peach picking though.   My wife and kids have been going apple picking most every Fall for better than a decade now, first in Vermont and now in Massachusetts.

On the way to picking, the eldest had a major gripe about where we planned to pick.  It only had apples and a hay ride.  The other place had all that, plus fresh cider doughnuts and animals.  The problem with the other place is that last time it was a madhouse AND they were all picked-out, so we had to still go to the usual place for apples.  In addition, given the driving, crowds and the time which would be spent in line waiting for the cider doughnuts, we are talking an hour and a half.  We could make our own (superior) doughnuts in that amount of time.  In any case, we had a good time; the dog was welcome there--even on the hayride and they still had plenty of nice apples.

Once home, I mowed the whole lawn--usually I only do one part or another at a time since it is so large.  It took a whole tank of gas and then part of another to complete the task.

Next:  I want to go in search for some nice steaks with bones in them, like T-bone or Porterhouse.  I got steak knives around a month ago and they have been used, but not really put to the test.  The test is carving small morsels of meat from little crevices around the bones.

Friday, October 21, 2011

10 Miler from a couple of weeks ago

There was such a huge delay in the race organizers posting of pictures and results that I forgot all about it.  Here is the finish picture from that race.

The race was October 2nd.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Income Inequality Thought Experiment

Megan McArdle over at The Atlantic has a post which (as always) is thought provoking, but presents data which, once one has thought about it, is pretty obvious.

In economic downturns, such as the one we are in now, income inequality actually becomes less severe.  You can look at the handy charts she provides here, but I will describe a couple of things that are easy to see from the charts:

1.  You can see that in each recession and in the great depression, income inequality falls sharply.  The chart shows the share of total income earned by the top 1% of earners.

Why is it obvious that this would be so?  The income of top earners is tied to capital.  In good times, capital is in high demand and so interest is high.  Businesses are working at higher capacity and so the owners make a lot more profit.  Their fixed costs are what they always were;  The value of the land, machinery, buildings and so forth haven't changed.  They are selling more widgets and so they are using more materials and labor, but these are only a small portion of total costs. 

Workers also improve their income because of two factors:  First, there is more work to be done and so they may go from part time to full, or may gain some overtime hours.  Second, all the added work will create demand for more workers and this should drive up wage rates.

2. The second notable item from the chart is that, in spite of reduction in income disparity during recessions, there are trends which are easy to spot.  From around 1929 until around 1980 the trend was of declining income inequality, after that the trend is in the opposite direction.  I do not have any good hypothesis for why this should be so.

Here is the thought experiment part of the post:

I do not know if the relationship between economic prosperity and income disparity is something that anyone can do anything about.  If someone has ideas on that, I would be open to hearing them.  The thing is that for over 30 years, there has been a clear association between inequality and economic prosperity.  Given two choices which would you choose?

1.  The bottom two quintiles gain a real 10% in income  AND the top quintile doubles their income.


2.  The bottom two quintiles loose 10% of their income  AND the top quintile looses half of their income.

I would choose # 1. because everybody is better off than they otherwise would be.   I didn't want to overcomplicate things, but if you are wondering about the middle two quintiles--they gain or loose in the same direction as the others in their scenario, but by an intermediate amount.  I suspect that people of a more leftward inclination than me would choose # 2.  or would at least be tempted to choose it.

Barefoot Running Update

I haven't run barefoot for a while, just due to various schedule conflicts.  I only do barefoot runs from home since the roads around work are rough, covered in glass shards and have traffic the makes me jump to the side of the road sometimes.  On Sunday I wanted to get in a longish run and so wore shoes since anything over 8 miles barefoot has given me blisters.

Tuesdays, I normally work from home and do a lunchtime run but this week we had a group lunch, so I came in to the office for that.  It would have been a really nice day to run compared with today, which is rainy.  But I didn't want to skip a day, so I ran today. Barefoot.

The early bit was just what one would expect on a rainy 50 F day.  It felt cold on my feet.  After maybe 1/3 mile, I lost feeling in my feet.  It felt fine but I was concerned that I would injure them and not know it. In the next couple of miles, they started to thaw out and it didn't hurt but was unpleasant.  Finally, they warmed up completely and the run became a sheer joy!  I was warmed up and the final two miles were smooth and fast.

4.28 miles @ 7:37 per mile pace.

This was probably very high sevens or low eights for the first mile or so and then low sevens for the rest.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blue Beer Cans

I had noticed them a few days ago but didn't really think about them until today. Along a section of road that I go jogging on, there were blue cans roughly every hundred feet or so.

I presume they are beer cans but cannot say for sure because I was running and didn't get the best view. Also, it was raining.  They seemed beerish in design and besides, what else besides Pepsi has a blue can?  I would notice the big round Pepsi logo on the side if it was there.

What I was thinking is that somebody probably threw them out of a car window. You never see some guy just walking along the road drinking a can of beer, so it must have been from a car. But how do they end up so close together? At the speed a car goes, I would think that if you were throwing out empties as they are created, then each can might be around a mile or so apart--less if there are multiple drinkers in one car, but still further apart than every couple of hundred feet.

What if the drinking was done somewhere and the driver didn't want to bring the empties home? Say it is a teenager and he doesn't want his parents to see the empties. So, some guys park somewhere and drink, then on the way home they throw all the cans out the window? That is plausible. Though if you are going to litter, why not just leave the cans in the area you parked in? Maybe they didn't think of the need to get rid of the cans until they were already under way--this would be typical teenage lack of planning. Also plausible.

Maybe I have the whole temporal scenario all wrong. Maybe it is someone who drinks one beer on the way home every day. He finishes around the same point every time and so the cans are all in roughly the same area.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Miscellaneous Stuff On A Day Off

I had a lot to do today but thankfully not much in the morning. I took advantage of this by cooking bacon and fried eggs for breakfast. I know; this is what weekends are for but the last few weekends have been filled with early morning errands--so no dice, or eggs or bacon.

I was recovered from my gluttony by the late tens and so went for a medium run. I wanted to get in a 13 miler but there wasn't time so I did a 7.85 and was happy with my 7:46 pace. It was a perfect Autumn day, mostly sunny but crisp, temperature wise.

After the run, the first of two contractors showed up. The first one thinks our design idea will work just fine, the other thinks that the space we want to use for a stairway is not big enough. The job is doable either way, but I plan to get out my own tape measure and figure it out myself.

While the first contractor was just finishing up, I had to run Dahlia to a new dentist for a check-up. This is the girl's third dentist. The first was a nice guy but just didn't have very good hands. The second was sweet, but she was a little creepy too. This latest one seems promising.

As soon as I got home, we got a call from the eldest munchkin, wondering if anybody planned on attending her Cross Country meet. I jumped into the car and zoomed on over there. It was against Billerica and was at a park across the street from the House of Correction. I wonder if I was the only one to see an element of irony in the setting.

Now home and gearing up for grilled lamb chops--which used to be wicked cheap but are becoming increasingly pricy.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Growing up in Washington, Rainier Beer commercials were a staple of TV viewing. They made you not mind commercials!

The beer wasn't so great, Olympia was better, but it was cheap and you felt like rewarding the company for making such great commercials.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Althouse commentary on Jeans...

It is pretty common that threads take an interesting turn due to the commenters playing off of each other. This happened in the Althouse post on The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, by Barry Schwartz

The author had used the plethora of choices in jeans and people got off onto tangents related to jean styles, such as "skinny jeans".

The ever talented Paddy O said...

Skinny jeans for men should, of course, be taxed heavily.

Being late to the thread, I made a reposte much later, but I couldn't help it, it was stuck in my mind...

In most cases they are heavily taxed, structurally at least.

Along the way, I came across this posting which was funny and perfect, by Coketown.

...The entire industry has moved to that skin-tight bullshit that our forefathers most feared. In fact, Levi's--the clothing standard of hypermasculine cowboys and lumberjacks--has a style out called "Ex-girlfiend." The idea being that your ex-girlfriend left her jeans in your hamper (did she walk home without pants? Or bring a spare pair?), so now you're going to wear them...instead of doing the right thing and returning them and saying, "I found your jeans while I was sorting laundry and listening to Dashboard Confessional. And I miss you baby," and scoring an afternoon of decent, if awkward, Sex for Old Time's Sake. Then she realizes her jeans are stretched, and that night, on Facebook, you read on her wall: "I think my ex-boyfriend has been wearing the jeans I left at his house like four months ago," followed my 6 lol's and 21 likes.

Brilliant on many levels! Redone here since Althouse posts at such a rate that gems are soon buried under more posts.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Three Boats

In one short trip to Maine last week with the wife and kids, I rode in three different boats.

All of us went for a whale watching cruise in a powered boat that was maybe 75 feet long. As we cruised along out in the Atlantic ocean, one thought kept percolating up in my mind: This has got to be the most pointless thing I have ever done. We are cruising along, nothing to look at, not close enough to land to see anything interesting etc. The guide did point out the house where the actress who played the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz lived. Though, this was on the way out of the harbor and once we were out to sea there was nothing much to look at.

Even after we saw whales, it still seemed pretty much a total waste of time. We saw a group of three Minke whales and later, one Finback whale. They would all do the same thing: They would surface 3-5 times in quick succession to breathe and then dive, not to be seen again for 3-8 minutes. All you see a little bit of their back. Wow! The youngest daughter, seems to think they have a lot of personality and are, "cute". But really all I can tell is that they are large creatures that spend a lot of time uneventfully converting fish into whale.

The resort has a few canoes and kayaks that guests can use, so we thought we would try that out. I went out in a canoe with the three kids and we paddled around in the water between South Port and the mainland of Maine. The children were full of doubts about: 1. The sea worthiness of the boat. 2. My ability to navigate. 3. My ability to return them to shore without dunking them. 4. Sharks, naturally. My main concern was for my wife, who saw us leave the dock area and then paddle around a point of land and go out of her sight. Further making this hard for her was that we had planned to go around a small island in the channel and so would have come out where she could see us. When we got to the back of the "island" it turned out to be a peninsula and so we explored further along the channel before returning. This part was kind of fun. We looked at various boats anchored and discussed which one was closest to what we would want,-if we were to get a boat of our own. Intermittent fog came and went and this added a bit of charm and frisson to the event.

After an uneventful return to the dock, I switched to a kayak paddle (this has a blade on both ends)and went out on my own to explore a bit more. I had been taking it easy in the canoe because it really would have been a buzz kill to topple the boat and dunk the kids in ice-cold water. They can swim and were wearing life vests in any case but it would have been unpleasant. I went a bit further in the kayak than when we had gone in the canoe and tried to paddle hard enough to get a burn going in my arms--this takes a lot less effort than one might guess.

I think I enjoyed the paddling around far more than the whale watching--if for no other reason than that all the paddling added up to around an hour while the whale watching sucked away four hours. Plus I got a little of much needed exercise out of the paddling.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Well, it is fixed...

It seemed to work just as well without being fixed, but somehow I feel better knowing that it is back in order.

I had come home Thursday from work to find: My wife at a "ladies night out", the kids watching TV and the dishwasher open with white powdered detergent everywhere. The lid to the soap container was jammed with caked detergent and it would not stay shut. After I fully cleaned the area, the lid still would not stay shut, so we just ran the machine that way, maybe four loads since then and the dishes looked fine.

Today I had some time, so I took apart the door and found a piece of the latch had fallen off. Part of it was a lever that fit into a spring loaded solenoid. Presumably, the spring keeps the latch closed until the solenoid actuates and allows the lid to pop open.

It looks like it can only fit in one way, but I have yet to run the machine. If nothing else, it looks like it will clean just fine without the lid.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A revealing dialogue

I've taken the names out, but I will describe the players:

JMB: A Professor I used to work for, a really smart and fair guy who is unsurprisingly pretty liberal politically.

BG: When I knew him, a grad student working on his PhD, which he got--really smart and really cool.

dbp: Me

It started with a Facebook post by JMB:

JMB ‎"Globally, June was the 316th month in a row that had a higher temperature than the 20th century average." Five myths about extreme weather Let’s start with this heat wave.

dbp: If we define the 20th century average as ideal, then this could be a problem.

My point here, unaddressed by the other commenters, is that the headline seems alarming until you unwrap the assumption contained in it. That assumption is that the climate in the 20th century was perfect. Any change is therefore bad. there could be other interpretations of why one should be alarmed by the headline. None of the commenters could be troubled to point out why one really should be alarmed. It is assumed that any sensible person would be troubled by the headline and doubts or reservations are not taken as signs of healthy skepticism but rather are: Knave! Heretic! Fool! See>>>>>.

BG: But of course, global warming is a myth

I didn't even remotely say that, but what the hell, let's just put words in the mouth of the unbeliever.

Okay, I'm just fanning the flames here.

dbp: They call it "climate change" now, just to make sure all bets are covered.

JMB: Sadly, modern medicine does not yet have a cure for craniorectal inversions.

Let's not bother defending the point made by your original post or casting doubt on the logic of the comments which followed it. dbp has outed himself as a fool and therefore does not deserve a formal rebuttal. Anyway shaming always works: When a full Professor of Science says that you have your head up your ass, he might as well have been wearing a black mask and said, "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

The only sane response here is to play the martyr: It is not as if I am equipped to convert a person smarter than I am, who is nonetheless mired in dogmatic thinking on this subject. Rather, I will hark back to what science is really about, in the hopes of touching some inner core of a guy who must at one point (like all good scientists) have had more doubts than certainties.


‎"We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize the ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."


There was further dialogue, though I could not help but notice that each one came with a dig.

JMB: Feynman is correct, but he is not advocating inaction in the face of objective reality. When my house is on fire, I'm gonna grab a hose and call the fire department, not have a long discussion with my neighbor about whether to call it a fire or a conflagration. Especially when my children will have no other place to live.

dbp: This is an excellent point John! The question is, do we have the same level of certainty here as in the house example? I would say, "not even remotely". This climate which we are in has been good to humanity, even as it has varied somewhat in human memory. Prudence would favor this over some different climate. Large and expensive projects should demand a high degree of certainty that they will provide more good than they cost.

JMB: The global-warming-is-good argument does have some limited validity, if you choose not to consider the lives of a few billion poor people in low-lying coastal areas, and can pretend that their fate has no bearing on yours.

(I should add here that I was making the opposite argument that warming is good. I was saying that change should be presumed to be bad, but any expensive project to preserve the status quo must meet a cost/benefit analysis. This kind of analysis demands a very high degree of certainty as to what will happen with and without the remediation effort. That we have anything approaching this level of knowledge is laughable.)

dbp: I am more-or-less in the Bjørn Lomborg camp on this: We could do far more good for more people by focusing on proximate concerns such as AIDS, malaria, nutrition, clean drinking water etc. Resources are finite and we should spend them where we get the biggest bang for our buck.

MK (I don't know him): Much of Lonborg's argument--which he's backed off on a bit himself--separates out short-term gain and overvalues it compared to long term gain, partially using the economists' notion of opportunity costs.

dbp: @Michael: I hadn't heard of Lomborg backing down from anything. The assignment of discount values is always somewhat arbitrary, though I think it is fairly non-controversial to value current costs and benefits more highly than future ones. As to how much? You kind of have to estimate what future interest rates will look like, so there is certainly room for disagreement.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lots Of Very Nice Russian Legs

Picture from here (number 19 in the slide show), but they didn't make it easy: I couldn't just copy the picture, but it would let me "print". So I printed to pdf, opened the pdf and selected the picture. Then I pasted it into Paint and then saved as JPEG.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If I Was A Numerologist

Which I am not! Today would have been significant somehow:

I ran during my lunch break, per normal and my time came out to exactly 32 minutes. A one in 60 chance of that happening. This was 4.15 miles in case anybody cares.

Later, I went out to get milks and got a few other things which caught my eye: The list, from memory: One gallon of 1%, half gallon of whole milk, a pineapple, some mushrooms, a wedge of brie, a half gallon of apple juice (not from concentrate) and a bag full of Hood's version of popcycles. The total was $32 exactly. A one in a hundred chance of this happening.

The combined probability is just 60 X 100 = 600, so it is pretty rare, but not like getting hit by lightning.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I have been running barefoot most mornings for the past couple of weeks, so what went wrong today?

The morning runs were with my 14 year old daughter and so we went slowly, it was cool out and we never went more than 2 & 1/2 miles at a time. Today I went on my own and so at a much faster pace, it was over 90F out though most of the road was in the shade. I had these blisters by the two mile mark, so the distance alone cannot account for it.

The two miles after the blisters set-in was--actually not so bad. Sure, my feet hurt, a lot. But the rest of me was enjoying the slower pace in the heat and barefoot running is really easy on the joints if you do it right.

I will be doing precious little of running or walking for a while though!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Don't Normally Wear Eye Protection

Yesterday when I was mowing the lawn and doing weed whacking I wore these sunglasses. I am glad I did!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The end of the race at the start of the 4th of July day

It was the start to a very full day:

After the race I checked my phone and the message on the phone indicated that out of town guests had arrived at our house. Dahlia was home alone and playing possum, so I called her and told her to let our guests in. I got home 15 minutes later, incidentally I realized on that trip that my car will travel at least 110 MPH.

After a quick shower, we all set-out on the bike path for town. I was hoping to see my wife and the other two daughters finish the 2-mile race from Drum Hill to the town center. Our guests, who live in Tokyo, marveled at how woodsy and natural the terrain surrounding the bike path is. They may have just been polite, but we really are lucky to live so close to it. We found all the girls at the finish area and then they drove home to take cool showers, it was really hot and humid that day, using our truck which was pre-positioned close by the finish. The rest of us found a good spot to watch the parade. It is not much by the standards of what big cities do, but it had a small-town charm of its own. After the parade, I called my wife and she swung around in the truck. All of this leaving cars at the end, walking and calling to be picked-up is due to the popularity of the parade: Tons of roads are closed and nearly every possible parking spot is taken.

After the parade, we got some lunch going: A pot of rice, grilled fish (salmon, sword and scallops) grilled shish kabobs, grilled corn and fresh fruits. Plus some really great sangria--which was my wife's first such attempt. Ah, yes and some fresh baked cookies.

After this, their daughter, who got along well with all three of ours, went to the pool club to swim. While they were swimming, we were invited to come in with our guests to Boston for the fireworks. Since they were staying there, their hotel would provide a place to park. The two ladies went before us to drop off their rental car, my wife was there to help navigate--stop laughing! Later, my friend and his kids plus our three ventured into town. The route I planned out turned out to be closed and so we had to improvise our way from roughly North Station to Kennmore Square. It all went fine and so I didn't feel so bad about not predicting that Storrow Drive would be closed, I mean--Duh!

Our friends took us to a place walking distance from their hotel and we had a family style meal of wildly diverse courses. Then we went to the Mass Ave bridge and waited for the fireworks. It was a long wait, but we all sat in a circle and played word games and told stories.

The show was amazing! and the walk back to their hotel was short. After recouping for a bit, we bade our goodbyes and set-out for home. The traffic was gridlocked in the direction of 93 so we took Commonwealth Ave along the marathon route until we got to 128. The green line trains travel on the surface between the on-coming lanes and two things were apparent: Those cars were packed! Even had there been parking at a T stop, riding those cars would've been hellish! The view of the trains as we traveled along in the same direction was quite picaresque, with all the passengers looking tired, crowded, hot and attired in Summer outfits and well-lit in the dark night by the fluorescent lights inside the train cars.

We stopped along the way home to pick-up the Saab at Drum Hill, the girls took it there to get to the start of the race. It seemed like the race was already many days in the past.

Finally, home! Doggy was happy to see her people again.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Swing Set

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Around 7 years ago, I put up a swing set. It was little more than a 16' beam strung between two trees and the swings, trapeze and rings bolted to the beam and hung by chain.

There were several things I did, which in retrospect I wished I had done differently but I figured that it was good enough. Certainly too good to justify tearing it down and re-doing it. One of the things I did was to use regular framing wood. I didn't like pressure treated wood and thought that if I coated the regular wood with preservatives then it would be fine. Not so. A week or so ago, serious rotting was detected via Surenna pulling a chain, associated hardware and some wood down from the structure when she tried to use the trapeze.

Last weekend I put up a new structure with the following changes:

--I used pressure treated wood.

--The beam is made from 6 2X6X8 boards. Last time, I bolted the boards together and I staggered them by having two intact pieces on the outside layers and one full length piece in the middle of the center section, a board cut in half made up the rest of the center section. This time I cut two of the boards in 1/3 and 2/3 lengths and staggered the pieces so that no place along the length had more than one junction. The boards were held together via industrial adhesive (liquid nails) and regular nails. The regular nails are essentially only clamps to hold the boards together until the adhesive set, though enough nails were used to hold the structure together all by themselves.

The old setup lasted 7 years with many design flaws. I expect to never have to change this one. This is a good thing since I seriously doubt I will be strong enough (in 10 years or so) to replicate the efforts of this past weekend. Each board of the pressure treated lumber weighs around 26 lbs and there was additional weight from the nails, glue and other hardware bolted on. The total was around 160 lbs, which is a bit more than the author of this blog weighs. I got the thing in place roughly 10' up, but I was at the limit of my strength and at the tail-end of my 40's, I'm not getting stronger.

Added: For one reason or another, even though this is a relatively uninteresting post, it accounts for about half my blog traffic. Rather than fight this, I have decided to adapt and post additional pictures and whatever other items I like into this one post. A sort of blog within a blog.

Some flowers that are growing around the house, arranged as "artfully" as I can manage.

A cherry coffee table, fabricated a couple of months ago.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Every once in a while, you might notice the dust and cobwebs in the top corners of every room. The problem is that you notice it when you are laying in bed just before turning off the bedside lamp and going to sleep. By morning the issue is long-forgotten with the demands of the new day.

This weekend, it being rainy and unsuited to any other pursuit, I finally got this job done. Not with an auspicious start, per usual. I looked in our broom closet for the fox tail and it was not there. So, I figured it might be down in the basement because I use it there to clean sawdust off of woodworking projects. I spent around half an hour in the basement poking around and eventually gave up and thought of looking again in the original closet, but more thoroughly this time.

It still wasn't there. I finally gave up and was in motion to shut the closet door...there it was, hanging from a hook on the inside of the broom closet door!

Progress was rapid until I came to a ceiling fan. The amount of dust and grime was shocking. Even worse was a bathroom ceiling vent grille. That had to be disassembled and cleaned in the kitchen sink. The three regular ceiling fans were so bad that the floors, which had already been vacuumed and mopped, had to be redone.

Most satisfying was the girl's bathroom. It had had specks on the ceiling ever since the day I repainted it (a while ago). These spots were, I believe, some small insects who had landed and somehow got stuck there. They wiped away easily and that bathroom looks more pristine than it ever has since we've been here.

You wouln't believe me if told the truth of why I thought of this song...

Friday, June 10, 2011


By, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Here is a more up-to-date version.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sunday, the whole day spent watching the French Open

Saturday I got burned: I intended to watch the woman's final, but between my wife having to leave early for a girl scout encampment and having to procure goods from the store for breakfast and having to make said breakfast for the other two girls. I turned the TV on at around 10:30 and the match was OVER!

Sunday, I got the match on in time and watched the first two sets. Incredible tennis! We planned to go to Mt. Monadnock and hike it since it was a rare weekend day when nobody needed to be anywhere. Surenna needed to get some homework done, so I got to view the first two sets and I had the DVR record the rest for later.

6 hours later: 1 hour each way to the mountain and four hours of hiking and we were home. The plan was for everybody to get cleaned up and then we would go out and grab some dinner. I showered last and managed to see Federer make a good run at the third set, though it was not over when I had to tear myself away again. Federer had been up early in the first set but then lost game after game to loose that set, then set number two came down to a tie breaker. Really, he could have won both of those sets and now he was up in the third. So what could I think? He could still blow the 3rd and the Open is done, or he is finally seeing his efforts pay off and he could take the whole match.

Dinner took a while, but the delay did not dampen my desire to see how it all came out. Federer did go on to win the third set, but he was really never in the fourth and Nadal wrapped the match up in good order.

It was a great match, but somehow it wasn't that aspect of it that made such an impact. On a very eventful Sunday, the match intervened between each part so I was sort of mulling it over or actually watching it all day long. It became the unifying theme for the day.

Great pix from the hike, but I will post them once I get the chance.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Metal, old and new, put to use.

Memorial Day: I was getting the grill ready by scooping out the ashes, when I noticed that the ash pan was rusted and ready to give out. This would not do. Without the bottom piece; ashes, grease and hot coals would exit onto the deck while air would rush in unimpeded. Luckily I had a piece of leftover galvanized sheet metal laying around. It turned out to be the perfect size once it was folded in half and the edges turned up to form a new catch pan.

Earlier that weekend I finally got new tires for my bike. I have had the thing for 30 years. It was a high school graduation present--which meant that I only had to kick-in half of the price. My brother had gotten a bike for his graduation too. His was a grey/silver Motobécane while mine was a beautiful light green Peugeot. I think mine was both prettier as well as more sporty looking, but his was a thing of mechanical beauty. When I would move the bikes to clean the garage, I could just set his bike in motion and it would roll along--perfectly balanced and fantastically light.

Slightly shocked at the cost of new tires and inner tubes, I decided to make a point of using my bike. I brought clothes up to work earlier in the week so that I could ride in without wearing a backpack full of gear (there are showers at the office). Today I made the commute, which took about 35 minutes each way. MapMyRun made the distance as about 9.5 miles, but my car odometer gives slightly more than 10 miles. Maybe next time I will use my GPS watch and let it be the deciding third vote.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin

The LORD has counted the number of your days and brought them to an end.
You have been weighed on the scales and found lacking.
Your kingdom is divided and given to your enemies.

The Old Testament explanation is here:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The TenThousand

This blog has been going since 2004 and I am on my second counter. The first one crapped out when I had several thousand hits, so this occasion is certainly dubious. Still, I hit 10,000 today. This counter has been going since July 3rd 2008, so it took almost three years and gives me an average of nine or ten hits per day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From the land of miscellaneous tasks...

--Emptied the dishwasher.

--Roasted Coffee

--Fixed the Mac Mini: It would not boot but the hard drive was fixable via the utilities disk.

--Took the wife to lunch. Not really a task, but still something done.

--Filled the pepper grinder which has been empty for a while because it is the one which holds a lot but is hard to fill.

--Put a new blade on the chainsaw, got it running and then chopped up two trees which were already on the ground Also felled and chopped-up, the bottom 30' of the tree whose top had blown-off and taken-out our power a couple of months ago.

--Took a girl to ballet lessons.

--Wrote this.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I feel like I must have taken a short cut.

I ran about 10 minutes per mile last Wednesday when I did a 16 miler, so I was not optimistic about Sunday's run. Plus it looked like rain when I left and indeed it did pour about 15 minutes after I started out.

This run has always been one that I have been able to do fairly quickly, so I figured that any PR would belong to the past rather than future. My best was 90 minutes and some seconds. Sunday I did it in 1:28:37 for 7:30 per mile.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It is not Eric Clapton

I so totally thought this was an Eric Clapton song. So much so that when I was in the mood to hear it, I went to my iPod and looked in the song list for Slowhand.

Well, it isn't him at all, though to be fair Romeo's Tune would not be out of place on that album.

Romeo's Tune - Steve Forbert 1979

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Five, five minute tasks; one of which took two hours.

I was feeling late-morning onset of lethargy setting in, so I decided to do a bunch of small tasks that needed doing:

--I took the tap out of our sugar maple tree, < 5 minutes

--I coiled up the siphon tube that we used to drain the basement when it floods in the Spring, 5 minutes.

--Added windshield washer fluid to two of our cars (the in-laws have one of the three for a road trip weekend). 5 minutes only because I wanted to explore the engine bay of my new car. It has a horizontally opposed four cylinder engine and so everything is oddly arranged.

--Adjusted the swing set. This is a home made setup which is essentially a 16' beam between two trees. Since trees are not always perfectly vertical, there was some odd shimming needed to make the beam level and true. I won't go into all the details, but due to the decay of some components, a new arrangement had to be made. All in all, it took a dozen tools and two hours to get the thing in shape. While I was up there I noticed some rot in the wood but I think the set will last another few years and the kids will be too old for it by then anyway.

--I took the lawnmower blade out and sharpened it using my electric grinding wheel, slightly more than 5 minutes.

For dessert; a bowl of spicy pork rinds, a beer and a brace of mini-candy bars.

Plus blogging.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mint Julep

I realized too late yesterday that I should have had a mint julep. We have fresh mint coming up in the garden and it was Kentucky Derby day.

Maybe I will have one today on the theory that it is better, when it comes to delicious drinks, to have one later than never.

Today is Mother's Day and most events were so themed:

I ran the The Medical Center 6K in Nashua NH. The event is held on Mother's day because it raises money for a breast cancer related charity. My wife went for a morning jog today too, she didn't do the 6K because she was taking her mom out for lunch and wasn't sure she would be back from the race in time to make her reservation at the restaurant. It turns out she would have made it since I was home well before she left on her lunch date.

The kids made their mom breakfast while I was out. I helped Surenna charge the coffee maker before I left and showed her where the bacon was, as well as how to open the package. I guess the second part stuck, but not the first: She found a different package in the freezer rather than the fridge and managed to get it open. She didn't cook it because it was frozen.

When I got home, I made a few pieces of bacon, from the package in the refrigerator and a pancake from left-over batter. Tres-good!

Just before my wife left, I gave her the box of Whitman's milk chocolate sampler that I had gotten on the way home from the race.

Now I am waiting for the race results to be posted on line. They had posted paper results at the race up to finish times of 25:36 and less--my time was 25:45. I could have probably waited for 10 minutes to see the official time and place, but I wanted to make sure to see Vaish before she left for her lunch date.

Maybe I should just make a mint julep and chill-out.

Update: 208 50/106 M4049 26:01 6:59 David Pecchia 48 M 442 Chelmsford MA GLRR

The timers did not deduct the 16 seconds it took for me to reach the starting line. As is fairly common in races like this, lots of kids and other slow runners cluster at the head of the starting pack and slow-down all the faster runners behind them. I probably lost an additional 10-15 seconds trying to get around all the slow-pokes in the first 1/4 mile.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

He's been dead to me for years

I'm certainly glad that OBL has been disposed-of, but from a leadership standpoint he might as well have been dead for years. He had been hounded so pervasively that he had to keep a very low profile in order to stay free. His profile was so low that many people, including me, thought he was most likely already dead. Now he really is dead for sure.

OBL is dead and buried at sea but could we have taken him alive? At one end of the spectrum, he might have been located such that it would not have been feasible for a commando team attack. In this case, a 2,000 lb bomb would do the job and the innocents killed would be collateral damage. In this case, we could bring in a SEAL team; so why not capture OBL alive rather than dead? He resisted capture: Couldn't the commando have just shot him in the leg like he did to the wife who rushed him? Some say OBL is reputed to wear an explosive vest in order to prevent capture. If that is the case, wouldn't it have been roughly as dangerous to take his body dead as alive? My view, and one that is becoming popular, is that the administration did not want Bin Laden taken alive. If this is the case, then I believe killing him was deeply immoral. Not for the reasons one might initially think though: Not because OBL deserved some kind of due-process, no. He was an enemy combatant. Rather because alive, he might have given us useful information when interrogated. That it would be difficult and expensive to imprison and try him should not be a deciding factor--you don't kill people because it makes your life easier.

A few minor questions:

Why did we use Black hawk helicopters when the Osprey is much more capable? It has twice the range and speed and can hover just like a chopper.

If this was a suspense movie instead of real life, the following would be what actually happened:

The whole killing was a fake whose purpose is to disrupt Al-Qaeda and flush-out Bin Laden.


We did capture him alive, but used Hollywood style makeup and effects to produce pictures showing his dead body. Now we can sweat information out of him and not have to worry about public relations regarding trial and imprisonment.

Of course this is real life and not a movie, but it is fun to spin-out scenarios.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Bib Name Age M/F City St Ctry Ctz 11060 Pecchia, David B 48 M Chelmsford MA USA

5k 10k 15k 20k Half 25k 30k 35k 40k

0:24:31 0:48:22 1:12:17 1:37:02 1:42:22 2:02:04 2:29:35 2:59:40 3:31:58

Finish: Pace Proj. Time Offl. Time Overall Gender Division

0:08:40 3:47:00 12548 8733 1704

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Key Quote from Dostoevsky's Demons

I had been looking for this for a while and finally found it:
“Your Excellency,” said a policeman, coming up to him, “what if you were to try the repose of home? . . . It's dangerous for your Excellency even to stand here.”

This policeman, as I heard afterwards, had been told off by the chief of police to watch over Andrey Antonovitch, to do his utmost to get him home, and in case of danger even to use force—a task evidently beyond the man's power.

“They will wipe away the tears of the people whose houses have been burnt, but they will burn down the town. It's all the work of four scoundrels, four and a half! Arrest the scoundrel! He worms himself into the honour of families. They made use of the governesses to burn down the houses. It's vile, vile! Aie, what's he about?” he shouted, suddenly noticing a fireman at the top of the burning lodge, under whom the roof had almost burnt away and round whom the flames were beginning to flare up. “Pull him down! Pull him down! He will fall, he will catch fire, put him out! . . . What is he doing there?”

“He is putting the fire out, your Excellency.”

“Not likely. The fire is in the minds of men and not in the roofs of houses. Pull him down and give it up! Better give it up, much better! Let it put itself out.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Groton Road Race

Came in 52nd out of 490 finishers

Net time of: 44:47 with a pace/mile of 7:13

44th out of 284 men. 22nd out of 104 men in my age bracket (40-49)

Photo courtesy of Cool Running.

Added: Interesting numerology...

49 369 Andy Richardt 44:20 7:09 44:30 40 41/284 M 19/104 M4049

50 475 Daniel Gill 44:27 7:10 44:33 44 42/284 M 20/104 M4049

51 259 Randal Parradee 44:43 7:12 44:45 40 43/284 M 21/104 M4049

52 388 David Pecchia 44:47 7:13 44:50 48 44/284 M 22/104 M4049

53 574 Kim Blair 44:48 7:13 44:51 52 45/284 M 3/52 M5059

54 495 Brandon Lund 44:51 7:14 44:57 25 46/284 M 7/32 M2029

55 498 Eric Niemoller 44:54 7:14 44:57 13 47/284 M 3/13 M-19

56 286 Jeff Druzba 44:53 7:14 44:58 35 48/284 M 12/67 M3039

4 in a row in their 40's followed by one in his 50's, then one in his 20's, then one under 20 and finally one in his 30's.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What makes art valuable?

Rarity has got to be a big part of it, or else how to account for the fact that this just sold for $2.3 Million.

This was produced in 1617.

To me, it has much the same look as medieval art in that artists did not know how to do perspective or draw the human form.

Italian artists were making art which would make the Mughal work seem laughably rudimentary more than 100 years earlier.

Michelangelo's rendering of the Libyan Sibyl (Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512)

Or compare with this painting by da Vinci from 1478

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Boring Plumbing That Suddenly Became Exciting

But not in a good way, though at a good time.

The little shutoff valve for one of the toilets started leaking a few weeks ago. I didn't know the leak rate, so I put a plastic container under it and checked it every once in a while. I needed to empty it once/week, then once/day and while I had decided to change it from when the leak was first noticed; the once/day schedule pushed this job to the top of the "to do" list.

I picked-up a ball valve that worked by a tight fitting rubber sleeve which would go over the copper pipe. I had reservations but figured if the hardware store is full of these devices then it is not like buying from a TV infomercial.

I couldn't tell how the original valve was attached until I tried to remove it--it was soldered on. Great! If I have to bring the torch into play, I might as well have gotten a valve which solders on. When I finished, I turned on the water to the house and maybe it was leaking, couldn't be sure. So the plastic container went under the valve to patiently tell me what was what. It leaked at about the same rate as the original valve. Fine! I'd get a solder version the next Saturday.

The plan for Saturday was first, a group run from Hopkinton to Boston College, then I would get some McD's in Drum Hill then off to the Sear's one block away. Well, after the 21 miler I was sick from fatigue and so blew-off the double cheeseburger for $1.29 deal and went home.

This morning at 8:00 AM the valve blew and this was noticed by water flooding in from the ceiling of the laundry room--directly below the bathroom with the bad valve. Like I said at the top--a good bit of timing. It could have blown when nobody was home or in the middle of the night. The hardware stores were not open for another hour, so I soldered a cap over the feed pipe and then turned back on the water to the house. Everything was fine except for one toilet out of commission and there are two others available.

Later, at the hardware store, I had picked-out a new valve and asked the guys at the counter if I should take the valve apart before soldering it in. "No, don't mess with the seals" they said. I planned to ignore them: It can't be good for rubber O-rings to get exposed to the heat from a torch. It can be ameliorated by opening the valve, since then the rings are not pushed-up tightly against the hot metal, but still, why not avoid the whole problem? Indeed, when I got home and read (via magnifying glass) the micro-print on the package, it said to remove the valve stem before soldering.

The little end-cap that had saved breakfast, showers, breakfast cleanup & so forth; took back as much as it had saved. These copper pieces fit rather snugly. Not a problem when assembling a piece, since everything is cold. But when it comes to taking things apart, you have to heat until the solder is liquid and then use tools to do all of the manipulations. The end cap bound-up and I was never able to get it off. In the end, I redid everything from the wall to the toilet tank.

Done now and no leaks. My experience with copper and solder is that if it doesn't leak right away it will never leak.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

We Visited Important Historical Sites

Mystery Woman in Old San Juan

It was a hot day. A hot day of trudging the tourist infested streets of old San Juan Puerto Rico. Things got interesting when a cool woman in a dark outfit walked into my life.

Actually, she was with me the whole time. Later we took the three kids to a place for some milk shakes.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


It is good for making caverns:

It also provides just the right setting for a radio telescope:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Modes of Transport

The trip to Bio Bay was so complex it made me feel like I was escaping from behind the iron curtain.

First, we took the rental car to a marina to catch a power catamaran for the crossing. Just to get out of the resort there was one guard and gate for the garage and another for the entrance to the resort. The boat was fast and rough; spray would wash over the front windows and across the top of the vessel. Some passengers felt a bit ill from the violence of the passage.

The crew, in keeping with wife and eldest daughter's observations about young Puerto Rican men, were were attractive and friendly. Also, they plied us with all the free rum drinks we wanted. As one of them said, "This is Puerto Rico, land of rum. If you want tequila, you are in the wrong country!"

After the crossing, we had a pleasant van ride to the restaurant. Along the way we enjoyed the scenery, including that of the feral horses that Vieques is famous for. The meal was served quickly since our orders had been called ahead.

The next mode of transport was by yellow school bus. I was really amazed by what a bus can do. Much of this leg was on narrow--tree branches brushing against both sides of the bus at the same time--and very steep, potholed and muddy.

Finally, there was an electric open top pontoon boat that took us out into the bay.

Returning, it was the same thing in reverse order: Yellow bus, van, high speed cat and then rental car and gate houses.

These nine changes in transport rivaled last year's whole trip to India: Car to airport, Plane ride to New Delhi, Van around Delhi, to Agra and on to Jaipur, Plane ride to Mangalore, Van around Mangalore then to Kapu and on to Udupi and finally Goa, Plane ride to Bombay, Van around Bombay, Plane to USA, Car ride home = 10! A three week trip had only one more transport change than this half-day outing.

Light, Very Distant and Very Close.

On Tuesday we went to Puerto Mosquito on Vieques to see the bio-luminescent display there. So far on the visit to Puerto Rico, it had been mostly cloudy and I was hoping for this to continue since the Moon was slightly more than half full. As it turned-out, the skies were totally clear, but the Moon didn't rise until sometime after we left.

Our guide was an expert on astronomy--at least that part of it involving the names of principle stars and constellations. He had a bright green laser-pointer with which he could point out features in the sky. My red laser pointer only creates a bright dot where the light hits something solid. The guide's would create a beam that seemed to go-off into infinity. I suspect that the higher frequency of his light (green v. red) caused it to have an higher incidence of scatter, also it was most likely more powerful than a usual pointer. In any case it allowed for a planetarium-like experience, which was helped by the very dark skies.

The only light seen from the water was from when a fish would dart about and from where the water was disturbed by the electric pontoon boat we were on. Even as the mechanism of this light is known--dinoflagellates, it was nonetheless quite magical. It got better though; we were able to get out of the boat and swim around in the bay. It was a chilly evening and the water too was cool, but the discomfort was well-worth it. Any movement however small, would cause a glow in the wake of the movement. The guides forced us to wear life-belts, which is totally understandable, but somewhat disappointing from an aesthetic stand-point. It turned-out to be beneficial in a couple of ways: The best bio-luminescent effects were from slow movements and this would be difficult given the need to remain floating. Rapid movements create a kind of milky cloud of blue-green light, slow movements create a much clearer light--sort of like champagne, where the tiny bubbles are illuminated from within and light-up the rest of the fluid. The best technique was to knife your fingers forward, just under the surface of the water. Light and bubbles would form at the tips of each finger and spread in a wake behind each one.

The best effect was from lying still, just floating. What would happen is that one would see small dots of light on your skin. If I recall correctly, these would occur both in and out of the water--so it might be droplets of water on the skin and air bubbles on the skin under water. Possibly, what I saw were individual Noctilucales, which can be 1-2 mm in diameter. Either way, they had the same brightness and apparent size as the stars above. It was odd, contemplating one dot of light coming from an incomprehensibly violent and large object which emitted the light I just saw many centuries before I was born and another dot, much the same in appearance but coming from a little single-celled organism on my arm.

All three of the girls were similarly entranced by the swim and were reluctant to get out when called.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Short Conversation At A Restaurant

Wife: Returning from the restroom; "I saw something interesting when I was in the bathroom"

Me: What was it?

Wife: Gestures for me to lean towards her so that the kids won't overhear what she has to say; I saw two women kissing in there!

Me: Did S (Daughter who accompanied wife on trip to restroom) see?

Wife: No.

Me: (Excitedly) So, what did they look like?

Wife: You wouldn't be interested. They were not television lesbians.

Me: (Disappointedly.) Harrumph.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Baked Stuffed Fish Recipe

This is a modification of a baked cod dish* my college room mate (and cousin) would make. Any white fish will do, but cod is really good. Haddock is really nice too--the key is good quality fresh fish.

*It has been a long time, but the main differences (that I can remember) are that he did not pre-cook the onion and used bread crumbs instead of cracker crumbs.

First: Make the stuffing by dicing and then cooking one medium sized onion till golden, Then add fresh parsley and/or celery--the leafy top parts are best. This is done in a fair amount of olive oil, butter, ghee (clarified butter) or some combination of these.

Next, cover the bottom of a well oiled metal baking pan or ceramic dish with crumpled (just crush in your hands) Ritz crackers. Choose a vessel just large enough for the fish to fill it in one layer. It is easiest to entirely fill the area available if the fish is cut into roughly 2 oz pieces.

Prepare a coating for the fish by mixing (this is for around one pound of fish) 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sour cream and a tablespoon or two each of mustard and mayonnaise. Coat the fish on both sides and lay gently onto the crumbs in the bottom of the pan.

Crush Ritz crackers into the cooked onion stuffing in the pan you cooked the onion in and gently mix with your fingers. It should take around twice as many crackers for the stuffing as it took to coat the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the fish evenly and then bake at 330 F for around 30 minutes.

You can test if the fish is done by looking to see if the flesh is opaque. The dish should be very moist but not soupy and the topping just starting to brown. Serve with fresh lemon. The mustard and sour cream give a bit of tartness, so you may find yourself using less lemon or skipping this condiment for this dish.

Luxury and Necessity

Everything I did at the start of today was stuff that really doesn't need to be done--at least not by me, but for various reasons I did them anyway.

First, I released the hound. Well, our Caviler King Charles Spaniel, from her crate and took her for a walk. Normally my wife does this as it is primarily her dog, but it is nice for her to sleep-in every once in a while.

While everybody was sleeping, I set about roasting coffee. Yes, I am aware that it can be purchased pre-roasted but it is far better, in terms of the cost of quality beans and freshness to do this yourself. It does smoke-up the house and is a pain and is still well-worth the extra effort.

After breakfast, my wife had plans to make a few ground beef intensive dishes and so I did my part by grinding the meat. Again, it is cost and quality; nice chuck roast is inexpensive and makes a far superior hamburger than what the store grinds for you, also it is fresher when you do it yourself.

There is some definition of luxury as having things done for you and I can see the logic in that. But for me, a more important kind of luxury is having a superior experience; a perfectly cooked meal or a great tasting cup of coffee. Work provides rewards. If you work hard at your job, you will generally make more money, with which you can get more or nicer things. By the same token, extra work in your home life pay off in the same way. The effort of being a skilled cook pays-off in inexpensive yet fancy eating.

Necessity intrudes though. The unremitting snow this Winter has resulted in ice dams and a bit of leakage into the house. Today was relatively warm and drizzly, a combination which will transform the two and a half feet of snow on the roof into an even larger problem. The situation demanded action! Up on the roof I went, snow shovel in hand.

Nothing could be closer to civilization than the roof of a suburban house. Yet, in the thigh-deep snow, I felt like a wilderness explorer. The work was very physical in that it took a lot of strength as well as aerobic effort. It is also a two story house, so mortality was on my mind. As it was, the troublesome ice dams provided a flat surface along the edge of the roof. The slope helps but the huge volume and mass of the snow to be removed has left my body in a jelly-like state almost 6 hours later.

Necessity is reactive and sucks. All the effort is just to avoid consequences which are greater than the effort it takes to prevent them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guacamole Recipe

First! This is important:

Juice one lime. Lemon is okay if that is all you have. Juice from the little plastic lemon or lime is NOT okay.

Open two small avocados or one large one. They need to be ripe! Your best bet is to buy them a few days ahead of time and then make guacamole once the fruit yield to a gentle squeeze.

Mash the avocados into the bowl containing lime juice. The reason you do it in this order is that the avocado flesh turns brown very quickly when exposed to the oxygen in air. The citrus juice prevents this.

Add around 1/4 cup of finely minced red or yellow onion and a similar amount of chopped fresh tomato.

Add a jalapeño or other hot pepper--finely chopped or a few shakes of Tabasco Sauce is good too.

Complete with garlic powder, cumin, salt and black pepper. You may also wish to add a couple table spoons of sour cream. Minced crispy bacon is also a nice touch.

The President's "Plan" For The Country (Picture)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dinner (A couple of nights ago)



Sauce, Three cheeses (Mozzarella, Gruyère and Asiago), Hot Italian sausage, Olives, Artichoke Hearts, Red Onions, Jalapeño Peppers, Fresh Mushrooms and Crushed Garlic.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength"

Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

3 Rolls

On a whim, yesterday I had my egg, cheese and bacon sandwich on a bulky roll rather than the usual English muffin. The rolls were really fresh, so I thought it would be good and it was.

I worked from home yesterday and went running on my lunch hour. I only had a couple of minutes therefore to put-together a lunch and all we had that was easy was some left-over pulled pork. Naturally, it would go on a roll. Roll number 2.

It was a broken night: Kids had dance lessons, wife had karate etc. The kids ate early and we ate late, like 9:00 PM. So we wanted quick and easy. We always keep frozen hamburger patties on hand, so that is what we had. The rolls were uncut and so this time I cut mine (#3 for the day) into thirds. The middle piece got toasted on both sides while the top and bottom got only their insides toasted. I went for the Big Mac effect with shredded lettuce, diced onions, dill pickle and thousand island dressing. It wasn't a Big Mac, but was Big Mac like enough that I was well pleased with it.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Baking Pasta

We just finished this box of pasta, having owned it for around 20 years. It is not that we don't eat lots of linguine, spaghetti & so forth--Italians will instantly recognize the name of this blog as being from their country after all.

Here is what happened. My wife & I were students living in Pullman Washington and we must have somehow used-up too much of this box to leave enough for another meal. If it had been spaghetti, there would have been no problem--it would have just been combined with the next box of spaghetti. But we didn't often use linguine and I don't like to combine different shapes because then some of it is either over or under done.

We baked a lot then and ever since, and so the box became our source for done-ness testing probes--you stick a toothpick or spaghetti noodle into a baking cake and see if it comes-out dry.

This box made a meal in Washington and provided probes for baking in two homes in Vermont and one here in Massachusetts. Now it is all gone. The end of an era and probably the only foodstuff we still (until about a week ago)owned from our first year of marriage.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Yesterday I noted on Facebook that a hawk swooped down and took a gray squirrel from our next-door neighbor's yard. I've seen hawks flying around from time to time and would have guessed that they dine primarily on squirrel flesh, but it is still shocking to see it actually happen.

The same thing happened today!

Or would have: A hawk had a squirrel pinned down in our yard and the dog got all excited by the four of us jabbering and pointing. Naturally, she wanted out. My wife was afraid for the dog's safety as the hawk was really big and our dog is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (A breed of small, weak and fairly unintelligent dogs). I let her out anyway and she dashed toward the raptor with either no fear, or more likely--no sense.

The hawk, which had its back to the onrushing dog, was startled and flew away without its lunch. The squirrel was still alive and had wit enough to run up a nearby tree. The dog kept its record of never killing a mammal (she is an insect mass-murderer) though not from lack of trying. As it was, she was very excited and ran around the yard for some time after the incident.

The bird did not go far. It alighted in a tree about 100 feet away and stared at the dog in a menacing way. I am not sure that carnivorous birds can stare in a non-menacing way, so perhaps I shouldn't take too much from this. I imagine though, that the hawk was sizing up our little dog as potential prey.