I Call Her “Vera”
Posted in Hobbies
First watch, 2 bells (9:24 pm)

A few weeks ago I had some work done on my plumbing. I ended up with an extra hot water expansion tank, a 2.2 gallon tank with a hose connection on one side and a valve like a tire's valve stem has on the other.

Of course, as soon as I saw it I thought SQUIRT GUN and started stewing over some ideas of how to implement it. In the end, I decided to use a sprinkler valve with a momentary switch connected to it, and a handful of PVC pipes, adapters, and couplers. Home sprinkler valves run on 24v AC power, but I found that for whatever reason a 9v DC battery seems to trigger it just fine. I have yet to do a full pressure test though.

I'll write up more of this later, after my final tests. I've already got some ideas for Vera Mark II (a switch to use a 555 timer generating a square wave with a rheostat or potentiometer as a frequency modulator—think variable machine gun pulses—and a power LED.

If I dress her up she'll get taken out somewhere nice…

Addendum One: The 9v power wasn't enough to trigger the solenoid when it was under pressure. I thought this might happen. Working on a higher power source to see how it goes.

Addendum Two: Switching to a 12v or 18v supply works just fine. Two 9v batteries in series is more compact than 8 AA batteries in a holder.

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L(a)ying Press
Posted in Bookbinding
Last dog watch, 2 bells (7:04 pm)

I ordered an old lying press today. Depending on where you search, it's also called a laying press. It looks like this. The bit on top is a plough, the last piece of my bindery puzzle. I'm tempted to just buy a few more tools so I can make my own press and plough. I got a good deal, and having one will make it easier to reproduce if I decide to start making them in the future. There aren't a lot of places to buy them…

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House Work
Posted in Hobbies
First dog watch, 1 bell (4:31 pm)

I've been working on my downstairs project for most of the day. I figure I put in about seven hours today, mostly installing insulation between the upper and lower floors to keep noise from traveling between the rooms. My kitchen is over the downstairs bedroom, and the family room is above the library. I also finished some electrical wiring (a project I was putting off because it was so nasty difficult to get 12/3 around a 90° corner boxed in by 2x4s on every side. All that work just to have a light in the bedroom closet…

I also nailed in some 2x6s along the bottom plate in the bathroom around the shower so I have a place against which to put the concrete for the custom shower pan, one of the next projects on the list.

Finally, at this point, I can start installing drywall. Or plywood—in the library ceiling—because I'm putting brass tiles on the library ceiling. I have quite a few things to work around, but as I start putting drywall up I'll be clearing space out of my garage, so it works out perfectly. Right now, though, I'm sore, hungry, and thirsty.

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Starcraft 2
Posted in Hobbies, Reviews
First dog watch, 1 bell (4:46 pm)

I started downloading Starcraft 2 yesterday morning around 7am. Given that it was 6.99Gb, I figured it would take most of the day. I was wrong.

The ETA bounced around 30 to 120+ hours. After I got home, I started digging in to the download client settings, and found the peer-to-peer info page, which showed me that I was getting a whopping 6Kb/s from three different peers, each at 2.0Kb/s.

So I figure the Mac version wouldn't be as popular as the Windows version, but seriously—this was horrible! So I shut down the peer-to-peer functionality (not recommended by Blizzard), and immediately jumped to around 600Kb/s download rate. It finished in two hours.

Starcraft 2 is, however, gorgeous.

Posted in Hobbies
First watch, 7 bells (11:41 pm)

Today I had a lot of things going on, and I did some baking, too. I made two sourdough baguettes, mixed up a loaf of sourdough that's in the refrigerator, and also mixed 4 pounds of Boule, a round white bread we use for sandwiches throughout the week. The sourdough loaf will be cooked tomorrow, perhaps with one of the Boule loaves too (it makes 4 one-pound loaves).

I seem to do a lot of baking on Saturday now, so I think I'm going to rename it Breadurday.

I haven't done much on the MUD in the last few days, my Kindle showed up the other day, and I've been busy sucking up public domain content with which to fill its little static-RAM guts. I have to say, as much as I love books (and I love books!), a Kindle is a nice device to have! I won't be buying lots of books electronically anytime, but there is a lot of free content available that I want to read.

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New Bread
Posted in Baking
Afternoon watch, 2 bells (1:09 pm)

I am making a new bread this week: Italian Semolina. I made two loaves of white last night, and one big loaf of sourdough. And I'm enjoying a little bit of everything for lunch today! There are few better things than fresh homemade bread…

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Sourdough Starter Feeding
Posted in Baking, Recipes
Forenoon watch, 5 bells (10:44 am)

I've used this exact method to get a dormant starter going so well that it nearly triples when I refresh it. If this doesn't get your starter up and running like crazy, then there's no saving it!

Warm up 1 cup of water about 20 seconds in the microwave. It should be warm, but not hot. Too much heat will kill your starter. If it's too hot for you it's too hot for your starter.

Add 1 cup of your starter to the water and whisk until uniform. Discard the rest of the starter if it's dormant. If it's really active, use it!

Put 1 1/2 cups of flour in a bowl with the starter and whisk until combined. It's okay if there are some small chunks of flour, but you want it as well-combined as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap and keep it out on your counter. If you have a warm sunny spot, that's even better, but it'll work at room temperature.

Repeat this process in the morning and in the late afternoon/evening for 3 days.

Once it's really active, you should refresh it every 2 days or so if you keep it out. If you refrigerate it, it should keep indefinitely.

Baking Day
Posted in Baking
Last dog watch, 2 bells (7:18 pm)

Today started out pretty relaxing, Lorien fell asleep on the couch because she wasn't sleeping well last night, and I woke up early and continued reading my book (Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas). She finally got up and left, and I started refreshing my own sourdough starter I started last year (not the one I normally use). I'm bringing it up to full activity to test its flavor; it has one chance to be tasty or I throw it out in favor of another one I have lined up (still, aside from my normal go-to Giza starter).

So after I refreshed the starter, I made bread. Eight pounds of bread dough. I soon realized that my 8 quart container isn't big enough for that much bread to rise in, as it began a Napoleonesque expansion war. I had to tap it down several times before it blew the lid off my container. Even after I put it in the refrigerator. Eventually I decided to just bake a one-pound loaf.

Just as that came out of the oven, Lorien came home and asked me to start on another Strawberry Cream Cake like I made a couple of weeks ago. I just took that cake out of the pan and it is in the final cooling stages.

So I did a lot of baking today, and it was all from scratch. I even organized some of my dry goods into sealed containers. I moved both my cake flour and masa harina out of their rolled-up open bags into sealed containers. Also, it's time to get rid of my bread machine. I haven't used it in a very long time…

What a Great Day
Posted in Travel
First watch, 2 bells (9:08 pm)

We had a blast today, and I don't know when I'll be back to having a regular Internet connection so I'll fill you in on tomorrow's plans.

In the morning, we're going to go on a whale-watching cruise out of Depoe Bay. Then we're going to meander up the coast and check out some tidepools, then hit the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Oh yeah. Because we're all about the cheddar. Then we'll be on our way back to Portland.

I took some fantastic pictures of the animals this morning at the Safari Park. I don't have a good way to sort and edit them until I get home though, so you'll just have to wait.

I think we walked at least four miles on beaches today, too. My feet are killing me. Fortunately, we brought our Wellies and didn't get any sand in our shoes. They also let us go in to the water a ways, which is why we like them.

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Greetings from the Ocean
Posted in Travel
Morning watch, 7 bells (7:49 am)

Waking up and hearing the ocean is a wonderful thing. I'm sitting in our suite in a Best Western in Bandon Oregon (Inn at Face Rock). We left Eugene (okay, technically Creswell but I don't expect you to know where that is) yesterday at about 5pm. We drove the back roads to Florence and decided to turn south instead of north this time.I'm glad we did. Our first idea was to stop in Coos Bay, but it wasn't much of a destination, so we kept going. We ended up stopping here in Bandon. It's not much of a town, at least what I saw of it last night, but it's nice. I've been having spotty cell service all along the coast (no surprise there), but the Best Western has free Wifi (w00t!).

When we checked in we found out that the receptionist was from Idaho and when we mentioned today is our anniversary she upgraded us from the normal room to the honeymoon suite! And sweet it is. Not only does it have a fantastic view of the ocean, it also has a fireplace and a jacuzzi tub big enough for at least three people. The bathroom (the one with the shower, there are two bathrooms in this suite!) is tiled with Italian stone, it's gorgeous stuff.

We had dinner at Bandon Bill's Seafood Grill, and (as usual) I had the fish and chips. They were above my par for fish and chips, though not the best I've ever had—that honor still resides with England, and more specifically a chip shop in Bath. We sat and at and watched the sun set over the beach. Then we walked down to the beach, but it was windy and cold. The tide was coming in so we took that as a cue.

The bed is firm, as I like it, but has a pillow top that feels extra soft. I don't think I so much as rolled over all night. Now I'm kicking back and listening to the ocean, plus a few cars that pass by. It is lightly raining now, but I won't let that spoil my wonderful morning. After breakfast, we'll leave the "westernmost Best Western in the continental US" and head over to the West Coast Game Safari Park for a Walking Safari. We had no idea there was such a thing on the Oregon coast! It's also a "Petting Park" and they have the cutest leopard cubs on their front page, go see it!

Afterwards, the plan is to head back north until we want to stop again. This is the life. Once we hit Tillamook we'll turn towards Portland but I don't know if that'll be today.

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Vacation Time!
Posted in Travel
Morning watch, 6 bells (7:21 am)

This week Lorien and I are going on a mini-vacation. We're leaving home and driving to Portland, which is perhaps our most common "vacation" spot. But we won't stop there! We'll visit my grandparents near Eugene, and drive up the coast to try to have the most relaxing time possible. Sushi will be consumed, and places will be visited. Our plans include the Tillamook Cheese Factory and Bob's Red Mill. I think we might even get roped in to babysitting. Woot! Oops, I think I got a little too excited for that last bit.

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Super Mario Bros. Time Trials 1-2
Posted in Hobbies
First dog watch, 1 bell (4:44 pm)

Continuing the series, here's our World 1-2 speed run. I think we could do this one faster, but haven't yet been able to beat it on camera. We finish with 448 left on the clock (52 seconds).

Super Mario Bros Time Trials 1-1
Posted in Hobbies
Forenoon watch, 5 bells (10:45 am)

After running through the New Super Mario Bros Wii game (twice), my we decided to see how fast we could complete the levels. We probably won't do them all, but we did several last night.

This is the first level, World 1-1, completed in 45 seconds (455 left on the clock).

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More Bread
Posted in Hobbies
First watch, 1 bell (8:39 pm)

My mom gave me a nice bread recipe book for Christmas. I love baking bread, I love the smell of bread, and I love eating the bread. I'm trying the cheddar recipe tonight, it's pretty simple and quick. I'll let you know how it goes later.

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A Slow Starter
Posted in Hobbies
Afternoon watch, 3 bells (1:43 pm)

I recently got another starter from my uncle (I accidentally killed the last one—with insecticide believe it or not, but I digress…). I fed it, and took a bit out for a loaf of bread, but it came out really dense, and didn't rise much over the 12 or so hours I left it alone.

So I decided to experiment a little. I took out a cup or so and fed it some flour, water, and about a half teaspoon of sugar. Nothing happened for about the first day, but then it started picking up pretty good. Last night I put it in a bigger bowl and fed it some more. This morning it was still bubbling away happily. It is a bit slow, but has great flavor. I think I'll be ready to make up a batch later tonight.

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