Entries Tagged 'Technology' ↓

Robots and RC and Chaos, Oh My!

Wow, I haven’t posted since July? Wow. Um. Ok. It was a summer, and a fall, and now it’s winter. Dogs are dogs, snakes are snakes, gecko and tortoise are gecko and tortoise. We have the annual plague of stinkbugs, not so many evil ladybugs this year. Bunnies have been hunted. Robin is still working at the Jewel deli, Ron is still driving for Schneider, and I’m still a mind-numbing bureaucratic ghoul. We got a new water heater, and turned in Mongo (the big pickup truck) when the lease was up, so now Robin or I are shuttling Ron to/from Gary, which is cheaper than a car payment.

I have pretty much abandoned G+ in favor of Twitter (@SDrekkar, screenname Cranky Prognathodon), because G+ just never got the traffic, many interesting people are on Twitter, and Google is shutting down G+. And I still hate Facebook, and only still have an account to see what a few of my friends are up to.

For Christmas Robin got cash which translated into miniatures – *what* a shock! I should have gotten Ron a 1/14th scale RC semi truck, but decided it was too expensive, so I spent almost as much on a 1/25th scale static model. And he ordered an RC VW Bug, because it is no longer in production, and it will be Herbie, yes it will.

I have long lusted after a hexapod robot. If money was no object, I’d get this bad boy:


PhantomX AX Metal Hexapod kit with 18 upgraded servos for $2200. Yeah, no. Kit with standard servos is $1300. Still no. So I poked around and poked around, and decided this one would be a more affordable place to start:


Lynxmotion AH2, with 12 servos, for $400-ish. This one is only two degrees of freedom/joints/servos per leg, and parts of it are polycarbonate. Also had to pick up a battery and charger.

Assembly was . . . challenging. Not so much the actual assembly, but because the directions were not updated when the two control circuit boards were updated, and the packaging of the screws, bolts, and other small parts was not sane. But I got through it, with some help from Ron and a post to a discussion board.

Here’s the current state of the hexapod:

Saturday I finished assembly, applied power, boards work, servos twitch, tried to install the control/programming software, and found out it’s Win7/8 only. We’re an Apple household. I have ordered a refurb Win7 box, Robin says we have a spare working monitor. Should arrive Friday. Once I have it working with pre-programmed movement, I plan to add a daughter board to allow remote control.

This weekend Ron revived his old Tamiya Toyota Bruiser RC truck, with a new battery, speed control, and servos. The beagles Do. Not. Trust. With much barking, and Tommy was trying to chomp one of the front tires. They bark at the neighbor boy’s RC car, so this was not a surprise. Pippin thinks they’re idiots. I figure they ought to *really* love my robot.

New Year’s Eve and Day

Ron’s investigations with the AT&T store near his office revealed that I could get a new 16 GB iPhone 5C for $100 and a two-year commitment to my contract. And the way the contracts run, which is by phone/number, not by whole bill, we can wait and upgrade Ron’s in a month or so.  The store near home was only open until 5:00 on New Year’s Eve, and the store in Vernon Hills was going to be open normal business hours New Year’s Day, so the plan was to go out in the morning and procure my new phone.

Tuesday night Ron printed up some calling cards for me, while I played around on the computer with laying out short poetry on smallish pieces of paper. I set the type for and Ron printed “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat” by Lewis Carroll:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.

Then we went to bed, well before midnight.

Yesterday morning I decided I wanted to procure some patterned paper for bookbinding experiments. The paper crafting store at Deer Park Towne Center was closed for the holiday, but Dick Blick in Schaumburg was open, and there is an AT&T store nearby. So off we went.

I should have called to confirm the hours for the AT&T store. Normal Wednesday opening time is 10:00, but they were opening an hour later yesterday.

It worked out, though, as Robin wanted to hit a fabric store or Hobby Lobby, Robin wanted to get another couple slinkies for print drying racks, and I was in quest of a Monster High doll, and the Hobby Lobby and Toys R Us were both open. Robin got a half-yard of green fleece (instead of felt) for making forest blobs for wargaming, and I found some decent fabric remnants for my costuming thing at MuseCon at Hobby Lobby.

Ron found Slinkies at We Be Toys & Shit, but I struck out on Monster High dolls – they didn’t have any single dolls, only more expensive playsets. Not many Barbies, either – no more Pink Aisle of All Things Barbie. Even Robin was aware that Monster High and other dolls were taking a bite out of Barbie.

On to the AT&T store, and only a few minutes wait for them to open. I got my new phone, without the salescritter wasting too much time trying to sell us UVerse or other things we didn’t want. I got a blue phone, and a blue and green Otter case for it, which was half as much as the phone. And a new cable for at work, since the new phone uses the new tiny connector. A cable I promptly forgot this morning, oops. In the Otter case, the new phone is about as thick and as wide as my old one in its cover, and a little taller.

Had lunch at Olive Garden, then hit Dick Blick. The designated “bookbinding paper” was stupidly expensive ($15 or more for an 18″x24″ sheet{, so I got a couple sheets of “gift wrap” instead (same size, $3.50/sheet). I may be willing to buy the more expensive paper later, but for the first attempts, cheap is just fine, thanks. I also got some pH neutral white glue, bookbinding cloth, and another exacto knife (since one has permanently moved to the printing bench). I did not buy an awl, needles, thread, or bone folder, as we have those at home. I may have to split the linen thread I have down by a ply or two, but that’s OK.

Got home, and while Ron went upstairs to come up with calling cards for Xap, I went hunting for shorter poetry by Kipling. I decided on two Seal Lullabies from “The White Seal” in “The Jungle Book”:

Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,
Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas!


You mustn’t swim till you’re six weeks old,
Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
And summer gales and Killer Whales
Are bad for baby seals.
Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
As bad as bad can be;
But splash and grow strong,
And you can’t be wrong.
Child of the Open Sea!

I decided to do the first lullabye. I ran into two problems. The first one was that the lines of metal type ended up shorter than the lines in the digital font I used for layout in InDesign. That was relatively minor, it just would have meant a little more fiddling about setting up the press.

The second problem was more serious.

Over the weekend Ron had written a perl script to count characters, but I didn’t run it. I counted the lowercase As in the poem I was doing, and compared it to the count of the font I’d planned to use (metal type for English has a fairly predictable distribution of letters, so they’re sold as x-A, y-a fonts, where x and y are however many of each type of A). I thought I’d be fine.

As you’ve probably guessed at this point, I wasn’t. After the first four lines I was looking at the number of lowercase Es I had left and getting worried. Ron counted Es left in the tray and I counted Es in the last four lines. Then I pouted while putting the type I’d set back away, because there weren’t enough Es left.

I’m not sure if that font has an add distribution of letters, if the poem does, or if I checked the a-count on the other size of that font.

I suppose this means that I should start the quite possibly long tedious process of counting all the letters in all our fonts and entering it into my type spreadsheet. Or at very least, count the upper and lower case As for every font – the fonts we got with the presses we’ll have to do that physically, the ones we’ve bought separately we should have at least the A-counts in the listings. Grumble.

And we probably need to pick one font and buy a bunch of it, so that we can set more than an 8-line verse at one time.  Like these from Kipling:


What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

She has no house to lay a guest in—
But one chill bed for all to rest in,
That the pale suns and the stray bergs nest in.

She has no strong white arms to fold you,
But the ten-times-fingering weed to hold you—
Out on the rocks where the tide has rolled you.

Yet, when the signs of summer thicken,
And the ice breaks, and the birch-buds quicken,
Yearly you turn from our side, and sicken—

Sicken again for the shouts and the slaughters.
You steal away to the lapping waters,
And look at your ship in her winter quarters.

You forget our mirth, and talk at the tables,
The kine in the shed and the horse in the stables—
To pitch her sides and go over her cables.

Then you drive out where the storm-clouds swallow,
And the sound of your oar-blades, falling hollow.
Is all we have left through the months to follow.

Ah, what is Woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?




I met my mates in the morning (and oh, but I am old!)
Where roaring on the ledges the summer ground-swell rolled.
I heard them lift the chorus that drowned the breakers’ song—
The Beaches of Lukannon—two million voices strong!


The song of pleasant stations beside the salt lagoons,
The song of blowing squadrons that shuffled down the dunes,
The song of midnight dances that churned the sea to flame—
The Beaches of Lukannon—before the sealers came!


I met my mates in the morning (I’ll never meet them more!);
They came and went in legions that darkened all the shore.
And through the foam-flecked offing as far as voice could reach
We hailed the landing-parties and we sang them up the beach.


The Beaches of Lukannon—the winter-wheat so tall—
The dripping, crinkled lichens, and the sea-fog drenching all!
The platforms of our playground, all shining smooth and worn!
The Beaches of Lukannon—the home where we were born


I meet my mates in the morning, a broken, scattered band.
Men shoot us in the water and club us on the land;
Men drive us to the Salt House like silly sheep and tame,
And still we sing Lukannon—before the sealers came.

Wheel down, wheel down to southward! Oh, Gooverooska go!
And tell the Deep-Sea Viceroys the story of our woe;
Ere, empty as the shark’s egg the tempest flings ashore,
The Beaches of Lukannon shall know their sons no more!



There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.


Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.


When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair,
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.


When the body that lived at your single will,
When the whimper of welcome is stilled (how still!),
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.


We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?



Neither the harps nor the crowns amused, nor the cherubs’ dove-winged races—
Holding hands forlornly the Children wandered beneath the Dome,
Plucking the splendid robes of the passers-by, and with pitiful faces
Begging what Princes and Powers refused:—’Ah, please will you let us go home?’


Over the jewelled floor, nigh weeping, ran to them Mary the Mother,
Kneeled and caressed and made promise with kisses, and drew them along to the gateway—
Yea, the all-iron unbribeable Door which Peter must guard and none other.
Straightway She took the Keys from his keeping, and opened and freed them straightway.


Then, to Her Son, Who had seen and smiled, She said: ‘On the night that I bore Thee,
What didst Thou care for a love beyond mine or a heaven that was not my arm?
Didst Thou push from the nipple, O Child, to hear the angels adore Thee?
When we two lay in the breath of the kine?’ And He said:—’Thou hast done no harm.’

So through the Void the Children ran homeward merrily hand in hand,
Looking neither to left nor right where the breathless Heavens stood still.
And the Guards of the Void resheathed their swords, for they heard the Command:
‘Shall I that have suffered the children to come to Me hold them against their will?’

Weekend Report

As so often happens, we spent Saturday morning running errands, arriving home just barely before Ron’s sister Alisa and her son Kevin arrived.

It was nice seeing Alisa and Kevin again. Kevin is a year or two younger than Robin, I haven’t seen him in several years.  Pippin and Elrond approved – Alisa didn’t object to Elrond snuggles on the couch, and Kevin was a new toy in Pippin’s opinion.

We had filet mingon for lunch – cut from the tenderloin we started working through on Christmas Eve (I roasted the last of it for dinner Saturday night), and I made a not-too-large batch of mashed potatoes.  After lunch Robin and Kevin packed the lampworking supplies and equipment into Alisa’s car, and they headed back to Iowa.

Sunday Xap and the kids came over, and I made a darling little dress tunic for Wash. The side gores would have been sufficient, I should have skipped the front and back gores. Oops. It should be fine tucked into his kilt, though. The tunic is blue with black trim, and as I was working on the neckline facing, I had a feeling of deja vu. Ron confirmed that I had made a tunic for Modelmaker in the same blue and black, particolored.

Yesterday Ron picked me up a bluetooth headset, since starting tomorrow hands-free cell-phone usage will be mandated by law in Illinois. I’ve got Ron and Robin pretty well trained not to call me when driving, but the occasional emergency-ish call from one of them happens. Paired it with my phone last night, confirmed that it worked, then turned it off and plugged it in to finish charging.

This morning it drove me nuts, announcing the battery charge level every 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and dropping (and recovering) the connection to the phone 3 times between turning it on just before I left the house and arriving at the office. When I tried a visor-clip bluetooth widget mumble months ago, it was even worse about staying connected.

When I got to work I tried re-setting to factory settings, and re-pairing to my phone. Still chanting battery status. I shut off bluetooth on my phone and paired it to my iPad. No battery status. Just quiet, unless I did something with my iPad that would make it go “bing” or “click” or turned on the music. Going to the restroom, I got most of the way there when it announced the battery level, and a few steps later disconnected. Coming back I had to get closer to my office before it re-connected, but still a decent distance away.

My diagnosis is bluetooth issues with my phone. Rummaging around, I registered it with Apple in February of 2010, and the warranty (1 year) has expired by now. This and the previous attempt at hands-free widgets were, IIRC, my only attempts to use bluetooth devices with the phone, so I wonder how long the bluetooth has been iffy. Not that it matters. My current phone is a 3GS, 16 GB of memory. For comparison’s sake, that’s the most basic iPhone 5C. I don’t really see a reason to get much more, as I still have 6.5 GB free on the phone. Checking our upgrade eligibility on-line (AT&T), the pricing makes no sense, so  Ron’s going to stop by an AT&T store and see if he can get rational answers.

The second try at ordering Robin kilts from UT Kilts arrived last night. He’s happy with them, but I’m not entirely – I’d asked for sizing help given his hip size, and been told that a 44 would have plenty of room. Well, no, they don’t. But Robin doesn’t want a large size (which would be way too big in the waist), and he’s the one who’ll be wearing them, so I’m not going to argue.

Our plan for tonight is to stay up until at least midnight, GMT (6:00 pm CST). Most likely even a couple hours later. Because we are party animals, rahr.

Headdesk, headdesk, with a side of AAARGH!

Last week Wednesday I had my sleep study. Blech. This week Wednesday I called the surgeon’s office to see if there were any (epletive) more tests that would be necessary. Person A followed up on a couple things, then called me back to say that everything appears to be in order, I should be getting a call Wednesday/Thursday to schedule the surgery.

Yesterday my new-to-the-position boss (internal promotion) came up to visit the office for the first time since becoming our boss, so in hopes of being able to give him an actual date, I called the office about lunchtime to see about that whole scheduling thing.  A told me that if I didn’t hear by B by 2:00 today (Friday) to call her.  Later in the afternoon the pulmonologist’s office called to arrange for pickup of my CPAP. Well, that was unexpected.

Today, 2:00 came and went, and I held out a little longer (almost 20 minutes), called, got put on hold, and hold, and hold, transferred, not transferred, transferred, transfer didn’t work again, tried to leave a message the old-fashioned way, and finally ended up with B. Who seems to have not been appraised of the fact she was supposed to be calling me to schedule. She said she’d get my paperwork together, move it up the pile, and call me back by the end of today.

Color me less than optimistic. Is my paperwork roaming their office like a bunch of feral cats?

I went to the restroom. I figured that would trigger the phone call. Nope.

I watered my plants, so she could call while I was away from my computer/calendar. No luck.

OTOH, I came back to find my computer re-booting. I was only gone long enough to get water and water one small plant! I assumed I’d juuuuust missed a 2-minute warning or something. Nope, one of the co-workers came by, and his computer rebooted with what amounts to no warning (if windows flicker by too fast to read/click, that’s not warning). So now we have Office 2010. Color me less than enthused.

And still not optimistic about getting a call back before 4:15 (normal quitting time). I really dislike taking calls while driving.


Pictures? of Stitches Loot, and Other Updates

Let’s see, since I last posted, I got the windshield on the Kia repaired, where it was whacked by a rock or something and got two chips. I can still see them, but they’re less obvious. The repair was completely covered by insurance, and if it fails it will only cost me the deductible for replacing the windshield.

Thursday I picked up my new glasses, which are both progressive lenses (my first pair), and “Transition” lenses (aka photo-grey). I think I’ve pretty much adapted to the progressive lenses, although the first couple/few days I had to tell myself to give it at least a week. As for the photo-grey, why did I never do this before?

At MuseCon, Ron did the large stained glass panel. Thursday night we were out buying stained glass tools and supplies. Also Saturday, and Monday. I may post more about that on Ron’s blog, since its his thing.  Or maybe here, we’ll see.

Saturday we did said stained glass shopping, and I was Ron’s assistant on working on glass. Saturday night we went to the Tempel Lipizzaner show, tickets for which Xap had given me for my birthday. It was very cool. Then we stayed up too late when we got home.

Sunday Ron played with stained glass and I went to the Stitches Marketplace. I made it about halfway through before the dye fumes got to me, and I started buying. I didn’t buy as much as I could have, but I was not exactly restrained. While I was there, I discovered that there is a yarn shop in downtown Arlington Heights, Fuzzy Wuzzy Yarns. Why did I not know of this before?!?

Monday I was still pooped from MuseCon and staying up way too late Saturday night, so I stayed home and took a nap in the morning with my fuzzy boys, then Ron came home early and we went to stained glass shops/studios.

Today I had the bright idea to look for a plugin to make WordPress and Picasa play nicely together. If the one I installed worked, this paragraph will be followed by pictures of my Stitches haul:


 Yay! It worked!  And you can click to embiggen.

This is Eidos, from Verdant Gryphon, the salepeople for which were wearing Elizabethan-ish garb. Yeah, it sucked me in, guilty guilty guilty. But the yarn is what got me to buy. The colors are, from left to right, Kilos, Hathor, Icarus, and the Madness of Nebuchadnezzar. I’m not sure if this is going to be four pairs of socks, or if some of them (Kilos and Hathor) are going to be used for colorwork.


 Next up was some Claudia Handpainted Fingering, from Fine Points, Inc. The colors are Last Night’s Wine and Crocus, and they’re pretty certain to become a pair of mittens, just have to find a pattern.


And I finished off with a Blue Moon Fiber Arts debauchery at The Fold‘s booth. We have here:

Silkie Socks that Rock, Mermaid, for meeeeee. Even though its not my usual colors. It’s very soft.
Marine Silk – Fingering, Vintage, for my aunt with foot issues. Its very very soft. And a lot like the Mermaid Silkie STR and the Crocus above. I guess I was on a pastel/lavendar thing.
Socks that Rock Lightweight, Flambeau
Socks that Rock mediumweight, rare Gem mill end, which means odds and ends and dye experiments, and the yarn may have a few flaws.

I’m kinda surprised no dark red followed me home (from anywhere), it kept catching my attention.

Oh, and on Monday I kinda had a pattern binge. I bought patterns (and one free one) for little knitted critters. My excuse is that I need to make something with leftovers

I was very restrained at Mochimochi Land, I only got the Boo pattern (bat).

I fell down a little harder on Ravelry buying patterns from Cheezombie (who also has an Etsy shop if you don’t do Ravelry, and crochet patterns both places for non-knitters). I got Chowder Clam, da Fungis, Knitilus Nautilus, Manta RaySplat Cat, and Flappy Flounder, who is available free on Knitty.

I think I’d previously said that I was planning on housecleaning over the weekend. Didn’t happen. But Ron and Robin did work on the living room last night. In a related vein, I’ve heard back from one of the three housecleaning services I contacted via their websites last week. I think that’s a sign which one to go with (that would be The Maid Brigade. Fails were The Maids and Upstairs Downstairs Cleaning).


Weekend Catchup


Saturday Robin was a lot of help cleaning up the dining room, more natter about that and pictures on the Otter Blog. Part of that project was going through the things I’d evicted from the kitchen a week and a half before, most of which did not return to cluttering up the counters. That in turn ended up extending to going through the stash of spices and seasonings. I threw out a bunch of McCormick bottles of great age and dubious remaining flavor.

I wasn’t able to bring myself to be quite so ruthless with the stuff from Penzey’s, but I did end up with  a big pile of empty Penzey’s jars to wash, which one of these days we need to refill from the stash of things still in zippy bags.

Sunday morning we picked up the living room. It still needs a date with the vacuum cleaner, but the mess has been beaten back a bit.

In the last week my side of the bedroom has been overwhelmed with clean laundry in need of folding. What fun.

Other Natter:

Had a MuseCon meeting Sunday. When it came time to discuss how MuseCon sponsorship of the Cafe went, I think a couple people were surprised to hear Ron, Xap, and I, wearing our Capricon hats, pronounce it not a perfect success. The food was great, and several people put in amazing amounts of time and effort running the fan table, demos, etc., but there were some bugs in terms of staffing for the regular Cafe operations.

Ron and I had yesterday off. Ron spent some time in the morning and bits of time in the afternoon working on getting the shopping cart system set up for this year’s MuseCon classes. I worked on a leather project.

Van Dyke socks (toe-up) are up to the heel turn. Being sport-weight and a pattern that was fairly easy to memorize they move pretty quickly, when I’m not distracted by leather projects.

This morning Pippin stole one of the sandwiches Robin had made for his lunch. I believe the sandwich had been left, unwrapped, on the kitchen counter while Robin went upstairs for something, so I wasn’t terribly sympathetic.

I have checked out and read an e-book from the library, and have several more on a wish list on my library account. The web interface they use (Overdrive “My Media Mall”) is not the greatest, and as of last night was driving Ron around several bends and up and down trees, but at the same time free is good. I also had to install Yet Still Another E-Reader on my iThingy, which is also somewhat annoying, and sign up for an Adobe account. Ron has an Adobe account, which is what I usually use, but I thought it might cause issues to try to tie the same Adobe account to two different library cards/accounts.

Food Recap:

Friday dinner: Aloo Gobi, which in the Indian cauliflower and potato dish I referred to Friday. Rendered shocking yellow by tumeric, it was mild, and tasty. Marmaduke was over for dinner, so it ended up being a side dish with bratwurst.

Saturday dinner: Finally did the stuffed shells. Filling was ricotta and spinach, with some nutmeg. Italian-ish food without garlic just seemed so wrong, so some garlic paste also snuck in. I used Prego mushroom red sauce, which was too sweet. I stuffed the shells with a spoon, which was a mess. I should have put the filling in a big zippy bag, cut one corner off, and used it as a piping bag. But I didn’t think of that until for too late. I could have cooked the shells a bit longer before stuffing them, but they finished off in the oven OK.

Sunday dinner: Thai Brisket. The sauce had some Thai flavor, but the meat alone was just . . . brisket. Not bad, just not memorable. We also did salad, mostly ignoring the instructions of “Salad of the Day” and making our own dressings. I re-discovered that mustard oil has kick, by putting too much on my salad.  Oops. Mayonnaise helped, but I didn’t quite finish my salad.

Monday dinner: Coconut Curry with Winter Vegetables. A vegetarian curry, with winter squash, sweet potato, and I substituted potatoes for celery root, as Ron and Robin weren’t any more enthused about trying celery root than I was. We added onion, as it seemed Just Wrong not to have onion in curry. Squash was butternut instead of delicata (which is an acorn variant, I think?). Just before serving lime zest and juice were added. We used an entire 4-ounce jar of red curry paste, instead of just two teaspoons, because the red curry paste was anything but spicy. Interesting, a little sweeter than I expected, definitely more Thai flavor than the brisket. We ate it over rice, Ron and I took leftovers today.

Dinner tonight is probably chickpea curry. Stopping at the grocery store for chicken, because I don’t think I can do vegetarian two dinners plus plus the breakfast and lunch between all vegetarian. Or maybe we’ll do Thai grilled lamb salad (which I need to get lettuce for, so I’m stopping at the store either way). Yeah, we seem to have hit a south-Asian-ish streak in the recipe books, considering we’re skipping things like Tentacles ala Somebody or Other and Fancy-Schmancy Scrambled Eggs (aka Cheese Souffle – I made a cheese souffle once. Tasty scrambled eggs, but a hell of a lot of work).

Bonus Food Things:

Friday night I threw together a breakfast casserole, mostly of Capricon baking binge or Cafe leftovers: eggs (only not-leftovers), buttermilk, bacon, cheese, and bread cut into cubes, which we had Saturday morning. Usually I include onions, but that was more work than I wanted to bother with.

Sunday afternoon I made scones, with some some fairly dried out currants we’d found on the cleaning binge. Just a single batch! My right shoulder complained at me. Well, one giant scone, that we broke pieces off of and nommed. Apparently I was not scarred, other than shoulder grumpiness, by the pre-Capricon scone binge. The currants re-hydrated and the giant scone was yummy. We ate it as snack before the MuseCon meeting and as dessert in the evening.

Pluming, Music, and Beef Daube


For a while now our water pressure has been slowly dropping. Prime suspect is that the pressure vessel has vibrated itself to a lower pressure setting. Other possibilities WILL NOT be mentioned, because naming a demon gives it power.

One problem with the drop in water pressure is that the valve built into the tub faucet to switch to shower has been getting more and more finicky.  Ron finally got sick of it and declared he was just going to cap the faucet pipe.

I asked if we could instead just install a proper ball valve. He went with that. So, for under $20 and a little time we have a better shower again. OK, the faucet is now a brass ball valve and L, but “functional” describes a lot of the house. I don’t care how it looks, it works.

One nice side effect is that the ball valve completely shuts off water, vs. the leaky valve on the old faucet, so we’ve now got better water pressure out of the shower head. And less noise.


I’ve finally bit the bullet and am switching to synching my iPod on the desktop. I started with my first iPod using my laptop, which I rarely use any more – my iPad has pretty much replaced it. So today I re-created several of my playlists, and have started the long, slow process of re-loading my iPod.

One of these days I do need to boot up my laptop, check the playlists I’ve done so far, and see which ones I want to re-create.

Beef Daube

Friday Ron had a craving for pizza, so we ordered from TreAmici, and haven’t done the risotto.

Yesterday we had Beef Daube, a stew that comes out amazingly like beef stroganoff without mushrooms.

The short version is that you cook 2 pounds of stew beef with onions, herbs, a can of whole peeled tomatoes, and a 750 ml bottle of dry white wine. Then reduce the liquid, and add creme fraishe or sour cream to make the sauce.

Wait, what liquid? Ours was pretty dry, so we added a little more wine and sour cream. We were supposed to take out all the chunky bits before reducing and adding the dairy to the sauce. I was using our 5-quart sauteuse pan, so I just pushed things to the sides to make a space in the center and made the sauce there. We served it with wide egg noodles, as suggested.

Oh my Ghu, did it have twang. Not unbearably, but it certainly had character.

Next time I won’t bother with the canned whole ‘maters, which I don’t usually buy. I’ll just stick with petite diced, since I expect having to fish solids out to reduce sauce isn’t going to be a problem.

Yesterday we also made the stew portion of the Beef and Roasted Garlic Pie – which is a fancy name for Shepherd’s Pie. I’ll probably make the mashed spuds today, and then we’ll have it for dinner tomorrow or Tuesday.

I think for today I’m leaning toward either Chicken & Coconut Curry or Chicken, Leek, and Potato Gratin.

Progress & Book Review

Turns out that one of the fabrics I ordered was out of stock. The one that I was hoping would match some brocade I have, of course.  No further progress on sewing, although I did raid the bins of fabric for doll clothes this morning, to cut out something for Licentia. I’m thinking knickers-like hakama relatives, like the ones shown here:


Not sure what I’m going to cut out for the top half.

Still waiting on my pattern from Reconstructing History.

Mostly we’ve been hiding from the heat, and yesterday I advanced some more on the Program Book Death March.  The end of the death march is in sight – my plan is to get it to the printer Monday, maybe Tuesday. Yesterday I got the grid done, despite the Drobo flaking out. We’re hoping it was only suffering from the heat, as Ron was able to successfully run a backup this morning. Fortunately, after shutting itself down the Drobo came back up long enough to synch with my laptop, so I was able keep working from my laptop’s local drive (was working off the Drobo).

I’m really glad we got Chrono Synch a couple years ago – I was looking for something to synchronize data on a USB drive with a hard drive, and although it was overkill, it was what I decided on, as most lighter programs seemed to push data one-way only. Besides synchronizing data, Chrono Synch will do automated backups, yadda yadda. And a year-ish ago they came out with Chrono Agent, which makes it even easier to set up automated synching between machines. I have Chrono Agent installed on my laptop, and when it starts up, it goes and looks for the desktop machine and synchronizes auto-magically if it can. Before I got Chrono Agent I had to manually fire off synchronizations. Mac-only, last time I looked, though.

This morning Ron went to fetch Robin, who’s been off dog-sitting since Friday. In a house that is, IIRC, air-conditioned. I’m getting tired of the bedroom. Not that I’m complaining, it’s better than no A/C at all!  Today is also a holiday for Ron’s office, and he’s taking off tomorrow, as are most of his co-workers. Not sure what his plans are for today and tomorrow.  He was nice and told me to take the truck today and tomorrow. I wasn’t unselfish enough to argue, since there’s nowhere he *has* to go. Hopefully he and Robin got home before it got too hot (no A/C in the Kia).

After getting the grid done yesterday, we went to see “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer”. It was a fun, fairly brainless, summer movie. Ron says it’s fairly different from the book, and that the book is better. We’ll probably go see “Brave” this weekend (checked yesterday to make sure it would still be at our preferred theatre), we waited until Robin got home since he wants to see it too.

Earlier this week I read “Unorthodox: the Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots”, by Deborah Feldman.  I’d looked at it a while back, and then Ron mentioned hearing an interview with the author, and he thought it was one I’d enjoy. He was right. I think I went through it in about 24 hours.

What “Unorthodox” is not: an ethnographic study of a modern Hasidic community, or a dispassionate dissection of her experiences. You do learn a few things about the particular sect the author belonged to, but mostly because it either relates directly to her life (how much schooling girls get), or incidentally. It also doesn’t strike me as a tell-all marvel-at-the-freaks book. She wasn’t happy living that life, and is critical of things, but it is a very self-reflective story.

Some parts of the book just made me cringe: when she’s contemplating her impending marriage she thinks about she and her fiancee will break free of stifling traditions, etc. You know that it’s just not going to happen, and you want to tell her she’s setting herself up to be let down.

I don’t get the impression that the author hates the Hasidic members of her family. Not necessarily loves all of them, but although I don’t think she ever says it, I’d guess she still loves her grandmother, who raised her after her own mother left the Hasidic community. Or maybe I want her to still love Bubby, because Bubby is just as much a victim of the society as she is.

Currently reading “The Crossing Places”, by Elly Griffiths; the first in a mystery series with a modern archaeologist/forensic pathologist protagonist. I seem to have developed a thing for British mystery authors. Probably related to watching BBC mystery/detective shows. I’ve also read and enjoyed a couple of the Midsomer/DCI Barnaby books by Caroline Grahame, and most of the “Simon Serrailer” series by Susan Hill (although the reviews of the current one aren’t good, so I haven’t bothered with it). The first “Bryant and May” or “Peculiar Crimes Unit” mystery by Christopher Fowler was also good, need to get more of those.

I’ve figured out one thing with series like these – I need to  not read them too quickly. A few years ago I started the “Sookie Stackhouse” series and enjoyed them, but read too many too quick, burned out, and haven’t read any more.

Blech – sick

The middle of last week I came down with an Upper Respiratory Thing, aka A Cold. Blech.  Although I made it to work Thursday and Friday, I wasn’t exactly in top form. Saturday I slept in, took a nap, then we went out for dinner with Xap and the Xaplings, then to “The Pirates of Penzance” at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre. It was much fun. Many thanks again to Xap for getting the tickets! Bits of the Modern Major General song and the Constable’s song (can’t remember the proper title) were updated, amusingly. The production was in the round, and worked really well. It was fun evening all around.

The purpose to celebrate impending graduation for Robin and X1, but Robin’s name is/was mud, grade-wise. We shall speak no more about it at this time.

Friday night I declared I wasn’t cooking (actually, I haven’t had anything to do with meal preparation since Thursday), we didn’t want pizza or thai (best delivery options), but pancackes sounded good, so we went to Walker Thingies. After that we went to the Apple Store for my birthday present and Ron’s.

Yes, this is a little early for Ron’s birthday, but it makes sense – we got iPod upgrades. We got a new 64GB iPod for Ron, so he can play with photography stuff, and I got his almost-new 16GB iPod. My not-so-new 1st generation iPod was passed on to Robin. Yes, I understand that you may be experiencing some cognitive dissonance with the grade issues (ok, we’re speaking about them again I guess), but he realizes that he’s only getting my old one as a hand-me-down, not as a “Robin gets an iPod”.

Anyway, still suffering from this cold, on Sunday I slept in, took a nap, went to bed early, and still didn’t have trouble sleeping. Yesterday I got up at the normal time, stayed home and almost but not-quite napped, and generally was a lump until Ron took me to the grocery store. Then I came home and was a lump some more.

Such excitement.

Less dopey today. In part I switched from Mucinex DM to straight Mucinex, which doesn’t have the makes-you-sleep cough suppressant, but still not fully awake.  I suspect by the time I get home tonight I’ll be back to the “lump” status.

Finding Books

The other day, for no apparent reason, I remembered a couple-three books I read umpty years ago. Along with remembering them, I wanted to find them again.

One was a book (actually a two-volume set) about Michigan history, lots of pictures. The other was a time-travel story, young-adult-ish, where the kids of a family end up back in time living with Native Americans.

Thinking about it, I was pretty certain they were from my Junior High library – the fiction book was a little too young to have been in the High School library, and the history books  were past grade-school level. I did a little googling yesterday, but struck out.

Today I decided to try my Junior High library – got to the school district website, then to the pages for the Jr. High, and found that the library (sorry, “media center”) catalog is available on-line.  A little more poking, and I had a couple candidates for the history books. I started plugging information into Google, and quickly ID’d the books I wanted – the cover image on the editions I read had a Petoskey Stone on the cover.

“Pictorial History of Michigan” by George S. May.

I little more poking and I found the fiction book; as soon as I read the title I remembered it:

“Potawatomi Indian Summer” by E. William Oldenburg.

On the one hand, I’m kind of surprised that the library still has the books. OTOH, it isn’t like the fiction one would exactly go out of date, and even if there is a gap between the latest thing the history books cover and today, it doesn’t invalidate the interest of the images. Packrat librarians made my search easy, in this case.

Anyway, come payday I’ll probably see how much they are at ABE.