Monday, September 28, 2009


Found a hummingbird feeder at a garage sale for 50c. Cleaned it up, read up on making the nectar, and hung it up in the back yard. Saw the first bird (a brown female?) later that day. Just now a green one was at the feeder.

Here's a page on identification of hummingbirds in Texas.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

a meditation after 9/11

I couldn't take much time to think about 9/11 on the actual day this year. I had 300 or so kids to get through the day at a local high school and that kind of thing leaves little time for introspection.

So today I find myself reflecting on things most of the world thought about last week.

I think this is perhaps the most moving, serious, and genuninely heartfelt tribute I have seen. I thank the BBC and the British people for their kindness in those days after the tragedy.

"Leonard Slatkin Conducts the BBC Orchestra on September 15 2001 in honor of those who lost their lives a few days prior. Visuals from BBC's 'Last Night of the Proms' and ABC's 'Report from ground zero'. AUVIEX edit. "

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

sprouts: lentil, mung, fenugreek

I do most of the cooking at home because I like it. There was a four-year stretch when I was working nights and the Dear Wife was pressed into service. She did great but I don't get the feeling it was fun for her.

My meal planning isn't bad but for the past year or so I have been aware that we don't eat enough fresh greens. My rough plan to correct this has been:

1. try my hand at gardening (more about this in a future post)
2. shop more often at local stores to pick up green shtuff. This sucks a bit because I hate my local Kroger and the road is torn up between me and Sara Bakery.

Neither have been big payoffs, though I predict my garden will produce more next year. We are eating some tomatoes now.

So I was wandering around youtube one day and saw a video about sprouting various beans and legumes (sprout content starts about 60seconds into the vid). Hmmm. I knew I liked the alfalfa sprouts you get in salads and the mung bean sprouts you get in many Asian foods. Question is, how hard and how expensive could this get?

I had some spare screen scraps and cut them to fit the inside of some mason jar lids. Commercial sprouting lids are about $6/each as far as I can tell.

It turns out that sprouting is stupid cheap and stupid easy. Forget all the hippie "your body loves the owl spirit of the superfood raw enzymes" crapola, they are cheap, fresh foods you can grow on the countertop.

Basic how-to
Put a small amount of seeds/beans in the bottom of a mason jar. Start with a tablespoon full or other small amount until you know how big they will get. Some really explode on you. I do the soak overnight. Cover the jar with screened lid (commercial or homemade). You can also use something like cheesecloth or nylons and secure with rubber band or the lid ring.

8 hrs later (like the next morning) rinse with water, leave inverted or partially inverted. I prefer a 45deg angle which keeps sprouts from blocking airflow. Then 2-3x a day rinse and drain and leave inverted again. I do this in the morning, at night, and if I remember once in the afternoon.

A few days into it (3-4?) your sprouts will be luverly and ready to eat. You can put them in the window if you want them to green up more.

I eat them raw with salad dressing, soy, or vinegar, or cooked into other foods, or stirfried for a very short time (like 60 seconds).

Win: lentil, mung, fenugreek.
Fail: wheat sprouts were weirdly sweet; kids might like them. Garbanzo/chickpea; got weird.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pee on your tomatoes

Really. It's good for them.

Where your Doom money went

Those of us that bought Doom, Doom II, etc, in the 90s funded more than a few Lambos and Ferraris around Dallas. It used to be that if you saw an exotic in town it was probably owned by one of the Id guys; now it's probably Mark Cuban. Saw him in a yellow 'rari on 35 earlier in the year.

Anyhow, one of the Id team was John Carmack. For the past several years he's been heavily involved in amateur rocketry (somewhere in Rockwall?), and it just paid off. $1 million if I understand correctly.

Check out the video. It's not dramatic but it's truly impressive.

Way to go, John. You continue to rock.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

class overcrowding

The City-Data Dallas forum has an interesting, ongoing thread about a kid being moved (with others, apparently) into a different classroom due to overcrowding. There are several complicating factors.

It's an interesting problem with interesting forum input. I think it's worth the read. If nothing else it is heartening to see a parent put thought and interest into their kid's relationship with the teacher.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Ok, last stove/lantern geek post for a while, I promise.

This gem of a post came from a thread called How I Became a Stovie. A stovie, btw, is a person who collects/uses/tinkers on liquid fuel stoves.

My Sainted Mother, bless her, taught me to read before I was five. I then began reading my older cousins' boy Scout books. There in print was tacit permission to have fires! I liberated empty cans from the garbage and washed them preparatory to savaging them with tin snips and straightened nails in order to contain small fires made of twigs and pine cones so I could incinerate food purloined from the kitchen. My parents saw no harm in it until I assassinated an innocent cottontail going about his lawful business in our vegetable garden. I divested the victim of his furry waistcoat and most of his inward workings with the aid of my (t) rusty pocket knife, then made some barely edible rabbit fricasse in a tin can kettle over a fire in a tin can stove. Nirvana!

Down the hill from us about a quarter of a mile was the western shore of a small irrigation dam which contained frogs, slime, hordes of mosquitoes, and an assortment of bullheads, sunfish, and perch. Some of these leviathans attained lengths approaching five inches. They were also severely retarded as proven by their propensity to bite hooks baited with bits of red bandana handkercheif. Many of these unfortunate denizens of "The Dam," as it was generally called, also came to ignominious ends on my various tin can crematoria. Since then I've had an unquenchable thirst for things "stove."

In my early teens I built a shack of salvaged (read: "stolen") lumber in the back yard wherein I and my partner in crime Joel Jensen had a stove fabricated from a 5 gallon lube oil can with a chimney made from a length of galvanised rainspout salvaged from a building being torn down in the neighborhood. We vulcanized dozens of eggs, cans and cans of SPAM, and boiled vats of bad coffee on that stove.

It was about that time I found a discarded REI catalog in the neighbor's trash. In it there were pages and pages of forbidden camping and stove porn ! ! Joel and I caught a bus to 11th and Pine in Downtown Seattle, where perverted enablers actually encouraged us to light up! We learned words like: "Svea 123", "Optimus 8R", "Primus 71L" and the delights of Army Surplus dried squash, spinach, and chemically mummified lemon type flavored drink powder. It would be many more years before I could actually buy any of 'em. I've never looked back.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009


some lamps

Fettling = working on an old pressure lamp or lantern. In Europe this might mean Primus, Petromax, Optimus, Tilley, etc. In America this means Coleman.

I have a ratty old 1961 lantern (red one on the right) that burns great but has been difficult to light. Hey, it's older than I am and start a little slow in the mornings, too.

Should work like this:

  1. fill with fuel
  2. pressurize with the pump
  3. crack open the fuel valve about 1/4 turn and listen. You will hear air hissing. Then after a few seconds you will hear fuel start to make a delicate gurgle sound. Close the valve.
  4. get your match/lighter/torch in there
  5. re-crack the valve 1/4 turn
  6. gentle "foof" as the fuel ignites. The mantles start to glow.
  7. when mantles glow gentle, increase the fuel delivery
  8. the generator gets hot enough to vaporize fuel efficiently and you get a soothing hiss and brilliant light. All is well with the world. Or the back porch, at least.

But it has been working like this:

  1. fill with fuel
  2. pressurize with the pump
  3. crack open the fuel valve about 1/4 turn and listen. Just air. No fuel.
  4. wait. wait more. Still no fuel. %&^#*&^!
  5. Get annoyed and open the fuel valve a couple of turns until fuel does begin to flow.
  6. floods or semi-floods the lantern as fuel at the 1/4 turn position is metered differently on purpose.
  7. get your match/lighter/torch in there
  8. dramatic "BOOF" as the whole top half of the lantern ignites. The neighborhood start to glow.
  9. if nothing (important) nearby is on fire, attempt to regulate fuel delivery until the generator warms up and things normalize.

The part that I needed to work on is hidden inside the fount (the metal base where the fuel is held/pressurized). This part, the fuel/air tube, serves partly as the fuel pickup mechanism and as a kind of crude carbureter. I cleaned the f/a tube and re-stretched a small spring that's part of the carbing process. Starts immediately now.

Here's a pretty good explanation of how it works.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

possum kingdom

A possum wandered onto the back porch; one of the (non-nightvision) security cams picked him up. He wanders up by the chair at around the 15sec mark, and I spotlight him with the q-beam.

He was licking beaded up water off the deck. I guess he was thirsty. He waddled off somewhere after a few mins.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

a football idiot speaks

To be sure, I don't know squat about the NFL.

But watching Friday's game I am confused why we are not keeping Carpenter and booting Kitna. Carpenter can at least take a snap, make catchable throws, etc. Heck, he even caught that one really high snap and got the ball passed off.

I wonder which Romo we get this season:

* the highly mobile, effective, mirculous Romo who can make a pass while falling, flying, or running, or

* the "throw it directly to any available member of the opposing team" Romo.

Maybe they are the same guy. I hope not. I hope he's got the Jessica curse washed off him and he's ready to pay attention.

Glee is back

I had suggested earlier that Glee doesn't suck. It's back on and worth a taping.

The pilot was rebroadcast with some extra (worthwhile) footage. They also did a "tweet peat" rebroadcast where the cast tweeted. I was hoping for something closer to DVD commentary, but it was mainly chatter. Good idea, but didn't work first time out.

Maybe just record commentary and put it on the secondary audio track?