dxmachina: (Dandelions)
Boshe moi, the pollen vortex is frackin' killing me.

March finally showed up on April 1st, and for the past few days April has been trying to shove it out of the way with a vengeance. On one hand, I was finally able to ride my bike two days in a row. On the other hand, I am wheezing like a patient in a TB ward. I hate to think what it would be like without the zyrtek, because even with it, boosted by some diphenhydramine, my mucus membranes are still running overtime on histamine production.

I had the windows open for the first time yesterday. Did I mention I had all the windows except the ones in the front replaced? Back in January, when it was 7 °F outside. Cold as it was, at least I could breathe.

I never did see any crocuses this year, although the daffodils and tulips have sprouted. I'm worried about the two krabapple trees in the front yard. Neither has shown any signs of life yet. They're both a few years old, so it's not like this was their first winter. The branches still seem fairly flexible, so at least there's some moisture in there.
dxmachina: (Snow02)
I am so done with winter...

I've had to deal with two full and one partial snow days in the last week and a half. One of the full ones and the partial (they shut down classes at 4:00 on a day when I teach from 3:05 to 4:20) happened to my course at Central, one that already had four credits worth of material jammed into a three credit course. I lost yesterday from my MCC schedule, but at least that course has more places where I can make up the difference. I normally tack on some non-syllabus material on the last day anyway. Both of the full days landed on the final lecture before an exam, so I've had to postpone the exams a day, which is probably harder on the students than it is me.

Boskone kicks off today, and I'll head up there for the evening in a little while. Had the Subaru maintained* this morning, so there should be no problems with the drive. I would dearly love to be able to take the train up from Wickford, but while it would get me there today, service stops before I want to leave tonight, and there's no service at all on the weekend. Bother.

* I've already put 10,000 miles on the Sub since I got it less than six months ago. It has been very handy having AWD for the snowy days, especially the drive out to and back from New Britain on that partial snow day.


dxmachina: (Snow02)
...and other thoughts about the blizzard of '13.

It's another snowy weekend, although I don't think there's as much on the ground as they were predicting (6"). At least there's still power. I lost power in last weekend's blizzard around 9:30 Friday night. I didn't come back until around noon Sunday, so around 39 hours without heat or other conveniences. It wasn't so bad Friday night, as the house is well insulated and there was still a lot of residual heat in the house. It was getting near bedtime anyway, so I reported the outage to National Grid, and then stuck myself under the blankets around 10:30 and went to sleep.

Staying warm... )

---
Pushing snow )

---
In other neighborhood news, whilst doing my second shoveling of the end of my driveway, I finally had a conversation with my across the street neighbor. She's lived across from me, on and off, for 9 years, so it was probably about time. I also had my first chat with the guy who lives next door to her, so it was a very social blizzard.

---
The power outage bugs me more and more. I'd been lucky in previous big storms, not losing power when many others did. What is bugging me so much is that during the great blizzard of '78, which was a much worse storm, far fewer people lost power. This time around, more than 190,000 homes were without, and remember, Rhody's population ain't all that big. There's been storm after storm after storm that just clobber the infrastructure in dimensions that seem to far exceed what they used to. I wonder how much of that is due to the utilities cutting back on tree trimming in the name of profit. Blech.

---
Speaking of natural disasters, I am so very glad that the meteor didn't hit Russia, say, thirty or forty years ago. That could have been bad, in the crossing the streams sense.
dxmachina: (Writing 03)
SLOCUM, RI - The search for a cordless drill, missing for two months, was called off today when it was found safe, sound, and and still charged, sitting in plain view on a high shelf in a local man's attic. The owner had first reported the drill missing in early November. The man claimed to have searched that area several times without seeing the drill, and suggested that perhaps it had only just returned from going on a spree. He said he had heard rumors that in recent weeks numerous phillips head screws had been found mysteriously loosened around the neighborhood.

Local authorities discount the theory, saying that the fact that the drill was still charged when found is evidence that it was likely not, in fact, screwing around. Some neighbors allege that there have been rumors that the owner may be abusing his tools, and theorize the drill may have been simply hiding to escape. Authorities say that they are looking into the rumors, but that no charges are anticipated.




dxmachina: (Calvin)
Awright, whoever hid my cordless drill, you did a spectacular job. Bravo!

That said, I'd like it back now.

Please?

(I've searched the house from top to bottom. Twice. I'm now worried that it's outside somewhere, but I don't remember needing it out there for a very long time.>



dxmachina: (Christmas)
It's truffle time again at Casa Machina! I've put up 16 dozen or so truffle centers so far, and should finish off the last four batches of centers (about 9 dozen) today. Then it's time to dip.

There was a short snag when I went to look up my truffle recipes. I store them here on Livejournal so that I won't lose them, but LJ was down, and past experience has shown that they could be MIA for days. Now I have the basic mix committed to memory, so I tried to soldier through and make a batch of mocha truffles from memory. Turns out my memory of the details was faulty, as I discovered a couple of hours later when LJ came back. Fortunately, no harm was done. I used incorrect settings whilst melting the chocolate in the microwave, but my habit of checking the progress a lot caught the mistake before I scorched the chocolate. And mixing up tsps of coffee powder with tbsps yielded deep chocolate rather than mocha truffles, which were on the list anyway.

I saved a copy of the recipes to a text file so that I won't have this issue again. The irony here is that normally I am totally against storing info in the cloud, yet I have this huge blind spot when it comes to my recipes, all of which are here in LJ and occasional scraps of hard to find paper.

---
Some observations of the universe... )

---
I baked bread today, or rather, I took a bread recipe and made hard rolls with it, just to see how they'd work out. Just came out of the oven, so we shall see shortly.


dxmachina: (Hangover)
Didn't make it to down to Jersey yesterday for Thanksgiving. My cough was just too bad. That's twice now in three years I've been too sick to make the trip, and it's getting a little frustrating. And despite knowing it was likely I'd have to make my own Thanksgiving dinner, I didn't bother to go out Wednesday night to get a roaster of some sort and associated foods. So dinner was some frozen chicken thighs baked on top of cornbread stuffing. I made the cornbread from scratch, so that's something, but no cranberry sauce, and no sausage in the stuffing. It was fine. Maybe I'll do something better Sunday.

This is the weirdest cold. If I hadn't had a flu shot I'd swear it was the flu*. Not much nasal congestion or sore throat, but I'm still woozy here on the sixth day and it's totally rototilled my lungs. The fever and associated aches have mostly broken at least.

* I keep flashing back on an old Law and Order episode where a bunch of people died because some doctor decided to buy really cheap flu vaccine that turned out to be saline solution. It was one of Jack McCoy's famous "depraved indifference" cases.

---
With nothing better to do, I've been rummaging through the DVD collection and watching movies, something I rarely do anymore. Comedies, mostly. So far, I have watched Hogfather, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, Chicken Run, What's Up Doc?, Lilo & Stitch, and Lilies of the Field, although I dozed off early on during the last. I've also been catching up on The Big Bang Theory, a show I never really got into before.
dxmachina: (Charlie Brown 2)
For the second time in a month, I am sick. Low fever this time with associated achiness along with congestion. I was freezing for most of the afternoon, then took some dayquil and as the tylenol started reducing the fever started roasting beneath all the layers. A couple hours later I appear to have reached temperature equilibrium, at least for the time being. I had a flu shot a couple months ago, so it's probably not flu, just something obnoxious picked up at the elementary school where we play volleyball. I should probably buy some hand sanitizer for Thursday nights.

---
Looking out my living room window I spotted two separate tufts of down stuck to the outside, the remnants of a real life angry birds attack. Poor bruised birdies. I get bird strikes on my picture windows quite often. I'm not sure if there's anything I can do about that.

---
Things that take me out of stories, item the first:

Note to the writers of Law & Order SVU: Bernardsville New Jersey is pronounced BERnerdsville, not berNARDSville. I rarely watch SVU, but I caught a bit of an interrogation while channel surfing.

---
Things that take me out of stories, item the second:

Not so much a pronunciation issue, but the characters on NCIS (original recipe) would never refer to highway route numbers as "the 95." McGee does this all the time, and yet his entire family appears to live close to DC. The proper shortcut term back east is either Route 95, I-95, or just plain old 95. The only exceptions to this rule are named highways: the Turnpike, the Parkway, the Deegan, etc., and the Beltway if one wants a DC specific example.

---
And then there are historical inaccuracies in non-fiction... )

---
Talked to my folks tonight. They were 13 days without power. The generator was a good idea, at least until they ran out of gas for it. They had to throw out all their perishables. Jane, who lives way out in the sticks, was without power for even longer. Yikes!
dxmachina: (Snow02)
The nor'easter is upon us; it's snowing like crazy out there.

It's actually been pretty windy most of the day, with smatterings of rain here and there, but now it's really coming down. It's 35° out there, so I doubt any will stick.

---
This week's Castle was hi-larious, what with all the Firefly references, Ed Quinn and Armin Shimerman (Stark and Quark!), and cameos by Frakes (who directed) and Shatner. So much fun.

---
Anyone seen my cordless drill? I was looking for it earlier, and I damned if I can find it. It's not in any of the usual locations, i.e., on one of the benches in the workshop downstairs. It's not in the last place I used it, either. It's got to be here someplace, but where? Bother.

---
And 10 minutes later the snow is starting to stick. Temperature is dropping, too. Double bother.
dxmachina: (Rats!)
So, I roasted an oven stuffer last weekend, and buoyed by my stock making effort for Christmas dinner, yesterday I took the stripped carcass of the roast, threw it into a pot, added veggies, herbs, and water, and set it to simmering. After about four or five hours, I strained out all the bones and stuff, and simmered it some more to reduce it down to about a quart of liquid. Then I set it on the counter to cool off some before sticking it in the refrigerator, and forgot all about it until this morning. Nothing like some good ol' salmonella soup. Rats!

What I should've done was just stick it in the back of the truck last night, because it was the coldest night of the winter so far. It was 11° when I woke up. It's only 21° as I write this mid-afternoon. The cold is putting a crimp in my current project. I need to paint it, but it's too damn cold down in the basement for the paint to apply, much less cure, properly. I tried using an electric heater down there yesterday, but not much joy. I was able to get it warm enough to apply primer with a roller, so that's something, but the spray cans I have for the main coats have to be used at 65° or above. It's 50° down there today.
dxmachina: (Rats!)
Oh, woe! My private home improvement warehouse is closing. Okay, so technically the Quonset Lowe's was open to to the public, but oftentimes (especially weekday evenings) it seemed like I was the only customer in the place. When Lowe's announced that it was closing underperforming stores, I had no doubt which store would be number one on the list.

To be honest, I was stunned it lasted this long (it opened January, 2009). As I said, on weekdays there always seemed to be more employees than customers, and it wasn't much better on weekends. It wasn't the recession. The Home Depot by me is always busy. It was that they stuck it in the middle of an industrial park, where it's not on the way to anything except a couple of marinas and the port where all of the northeast's Subarus and Audis arrive from overseas. You can't see it from the main commercial drag in town.

On the other hand, it's within eye shot of where I work, so it was very convenient for me on the way home at night. Not so much on weekends, because I live just a couple of miles down the road from the Depot. The two stores are comparable, but each had strengths and weaknesses. Lowe's had better hardwood and a better specialty hardware aisle. I shall miss that. There are still a couple of other Lowe's in Warwick and Cranston, but neither is particularly easy to get to from here, except by bike

Woe!.
dxmachina: (Computers 02)
Previously on LiveJournal, our hero managed to dump a glass of milk into his wireless keyboard.

That was Wednesday night. I took it over to the sink and ran a bunch or warm water through it, then left it leaning on one end to drain. Friday morning it seemed thoroughly dried out, so I gave it a try. It connected all right, so I figured all was well and detached the wired keyboard I'd been using as a substitute. I opened a browser window and that's when odd things started happening. Every time I typed something into the browser, it opened a new tab. The first time I thought I'd accidentally hit the new tab key combination by mistake, but by the third time I realized something was amiss.

Keyboards are tricky things. The keyboard is a PS/2 rather than USB, and if you plug as PS/2 keyboard in after the system has already started up they often don't respond at all. So I figured a quick restart would do the trick. The next thing I know I'm looking at the system setup screen* cycling through all of its options as fast as it possibly can. I hit the [Esc] key to exit, and that brought up the screen where I have to answer [Y] or [N] to exit. Yay! Except the [Y] key didn't work. Nothing for it, I plugged my wired USB keyboard back in, gave the machine the old three-finger salute, and... It did it again. Handy tip&emdash;If you're having issues with your wireless keyboard sending incorrect commands to the machine, make sure you remove its batteries when you plug in its replacement.

* You, know, the one where if you hit [Del], or sometimes [F2], right after start up so as to set your boot order and suchlike.

I put it aside, and tried it again yesterday. It was sending long lines of the number 2, but otherwise seemed functional. Put it aside again, then tried it this evening, and it finally seems to be back to normal. I was able to type this post without issue.

---
I have declared the garden season to be over. It was a very mixed bag of results. On the good side, I got seven or eight spaghetti squash for my mother. I also got a softball-sized cantaloupe, and four pickling cucumbers that got made into icebox pickles. On the bad side, I didn't get any particularly large tomatoes. There were plenty of smaller tomatoes, particularly plums, but anything of size that approached ripeness either exploded thanks to the combination of very little rain followed by buckets, or got eaten by critters.

I haven't mentioned the critters before, but back in early July my neighbor mentioned that all of his ripening tomatoes were being gnawed by chipmunks. I noticed the same signs, including burrow holes, so I got some rodent repellent down at the Agway and sprayed it around as best I could**. It seemed to work for awhile, and I finally got some non-prechewed tomatoes, but it turned out to be a losing battle. I also discovered that it wasn't chipmunks after all, but field mice. I actually saw one of them duck under a leaf as I tried to pick a tomato. It's a shame, really. There are a lot of half-eaten tomatoes out there that could've been mine. The ones I got were tasty.

** It's made from rotted eggs, hot peppers, and something else nasty that escapes me at the moment. It's not supposed to be sprayed directly on the edible portions of the plants, which was kind of difficult at that point, so coverage wasn't great. I was able to direct a stream down one of the burrow holes, though.

The threat of the field mice going after the other stuff made me pick things sooner rather than later. The cantaloupe was ripe, but not very flavorful. The squash aren't quite as yellow as I would've liked. Stupid mice.
dxmachina: (Bike)
Cable is still down at the house, which makes for boring evenings. Fortunately I can get on elsewhere. Things at work are back to what passes for normal, with the last two issues fixed yesterday, so that's good.

---
I rode my bike Monday evening and was surprised to see the bike path in almost pristine shape, with not so much as a leaf to be seen on the path itself. There was plenty of debris off to the sides, including some downed trees, so they must have cleared and swept the path. As a matter of public policy that seems to me to be a strange ordering of post-storm priorities, but I'm not going to complain. Last night the path was back to is normal leaf strewn self. The weather has been wonderful, bright sunny days in the seventies, with not much humidity.
dxmachina: (Rats!)
Just lost power. Thank goodness for the laptop and UPS. Still, should probably ration the batteries. Time to make a cup of tea and read a book or two

Update 9:05: And no sooner did I post and power down the laptop than the power came back on. Well done, National Grid.
dxmachina: (Rain02)
For obvious reasons, The Kinks' "Lost and Found" has been running through my head all day.

Waiting for the hurricane
To hit New York City
Somebody said it's hit the bay
This is the nitty gritty

And all the bag ladies
Better put their acts together
We're near the eye of the storm
This is really heavy weather

We were lost and found, in the nick of time
While the ship was going down
We were lost and found, just in time
With the hurricane crossing the coast line
We were lost and found, just in time
Oh

This thing is bigger than the both of us
It's gonna put us in our place
We were lost and found, just in time
Now we've got no time to waste

They're putting up the barricades
Because the hurricane is heading up this way
So won't you come in from the cold and the pouring rain
And the old sea dog says shiver me timbers
The sky's gone black
And it's like the dead of winter

We were lost and found in the pouring rain
When the hurricane swept across the coast line

This thing is bigger than the both of us
It's gonna put us in our place
We're gonna see what really matters
When you see that storm stare us in the face

We were lost and found
And we beat the fear
We came through the storm
Now it all seems clear
We were lost and found, standing here
Looking at the new frontier

Ray Davies, The Kinks



There's a video here, but YouTube disabled embedding, so you'll have to click.

---
Spent the day getting ready for whatever comes. Tried to get some D cells, but everyone was sold out. Plenty of AA and AAA, but none of the big guys. I briefly considered looking at generators, but they were already long gone. I can rig up a makeshift using an AC inverter that I got years ago that plugs into a car's cigarette lighter. It won't run a refrigerator, but I can probably charge my laptop with it.

Took some photos of the Bradford pear out front, to capture what it looked like on what is likely its last day with most of its limbs.* I moved the gas grill and some of the other backyard objects close by the house and out of the wind. I also pulled the air conditioner from the bedroom window so that I can seal the window. I learned the hard way when hurricane Bob rolled through in '89 that air conditioners do next to nothing to prevent horizontally projected rainfall from getting through them. The downside is that it's been high 70's with 80%+ humidity all day, so it's been frelling miserable without the a/c.

* I've mentioned before about how Bradford pears are terribly susceptible to storm damage after they pass ten years old or so. I lost one of the two I had about five years ago. The remaining tree is now about 22 years old, and has lived a mostly charmed life so far. If the winds are what they predict, I suspect most of it will be on the ground by tomorrow evening.

They're also predicting flooding, so I spent some time in the basement making sure nothing was on the floor should the water table rise up through the floor like a year and a half ago. I never did dig a sump for the sump pump I bought back then, so since I had the time today, I hooked up the air hammer** I bought a while back for just that job to the compressor, and had at it.

** I got the hammer sometime over the winter, so I should've tried this out before now.

Turns out I'm gonna need a bigger hammer, or a better chisel for the hammer. I managed to chip out some of the top layer of concrete, down about half an inch to an inch below the surface, over about a third of the foot square or so of floor that I need to dig out. Looking at the chips that came out, the hammer works well until it reaches the level the aggregate settled to when the concrete was curing. Once it started hitting the stones of the aggregate, it was less effective. I saw Tommy Silva dig a sump on an episode of Ask This Old House, and he used a portable jackhammer, which he also said are rentable. I will need to check this out.***

*** If for no other reason than because when I was very young, I loved jackhammers. My parents even got me a toy one. Unfortunately, it only simulated the action of a jackhammer, and wasn't actually able to penetrate concrete. Sigh.

I'm not too, too worried about flooding. For one thing, I had warning to get stuff off the floor. For another, unlike most of the Northeast, we haven't actually had all that much rain this summer, so I don't think the ground is saturated as it is in many places. I had to water the garden the other night, and I've only had to mow the lawn three time since the 4th of July. We could stand some rain.

After I finished cleaning up down there, I emptied the shop vac so that it would be ready if I need to suck up any water. I also did a couple of loads of laundry.

---
The main thing I'm worried about is power. I have city water and a gas hot water heater and stove (plus the grill) so I should be okay for cooking and cleaning. I don't have any reserve batteries for my camp lanterns, but I have some AAs for my smaller flashlights, and I have candles. Worse comes to worst, there will likely be power at work before there's any here, so I can always head there. I was there today, too, shutting down the servers.

Stay dry, everyone.

Cranky...

Feb. 20th, 2011 10:11 pm
dxmachina: (Snow)
I'm sitting here staring at the notes I took at Boskone this weekend and not working up much enthusiasm for typing up a con report. I'm pretty meh about this year's edition, which is odd because Charlie Stross was GoH, and I find both him and his work very entertaining*. There just weren't many panels that I was enthusiastic about attending, and some of the few that I was interested in were scheduled opposite each other. Plus I was cranky before I even got to con, so that didn't help matters. I will write it up at some point, just not now.

* Early on he was walking around carrying a stuffed Cthulhu which was wearing a knitted Cthulhu ski mask.

---
Crankiness... )

---
There was one thing that made me less cranky. I seem to have developed a knack for stumbling across good barbecue joints while at SF cons. It may not be much of a super power, but it'll do. This time it found a place called Tennessee's BBQ just up the street from the hotel. Very tasty.

---
While at the con, I finished Stross's The Jennifer Morgue which is part of his Laundry series of Lovecraftian spy thrillers. It's a very funny book, and I liked it quite a bit.

Cooperstown

Feb. 6th, 2011 01:02 pm
dxmachina: (Koufax2)
Last weekend I joined my friend Tom Z on his annual pilgrimage to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I'd never been before, despite it being no more than 15 miles from my brothers' farm. Tom goes every year for a F2F with his online fantasy baseball buddies. Now I know how civilians feel at b.org gatherings.

We were a little worried about the weather, as snow showers were predicted, but they didn't really materialize. If fact, there was less snow on the ground in Cooperstown than in coastal Rhody, and far less that at Tom's house in central Connecticut. We were all supposed to meet up for breakfast, but the usual restaurant was closed for renovations, and we chose the wrong backup. We met up with the group at the Hall and spent most of the day there. I have pictures here.

It was fun. It's not a big museum, and there are areas where you think they might have done a better job, although a lot of that might be personal preference. You get a little bit of everything, but not a lot of depth, which I suppose is par for the course in any museum. One item actually annoyed me. In a generally well-done exhibit about baseball movies, they include a jersey Tim Robbins wore in Bull Durham. What annoys is that this is the same institution that banned Robbins from speaking at a celebration of that movie because of his political views. Jerks*.

* The museum is currently embroiled in a bit of a scandal of another sort. Sometime in the 80's some items went missing from their collection. Some of these have now turned up at some high end auction houses. An employee at one of the houses notified the HoF, and reports they seem to show no inclination of getting the artifacts that they were entrusted with back, along with apparently refusing to assist the FBI in its investigation. Meanwhile, the nY Public Library has been much more active in trying to sort out similar thefts from their collection. More information here and elsewhere on that site, which is for a forthcoming book on the subject.

Midway through the day we all had lunch, and the conversation turned into a bit of a wake. These guys are all heavy hitters in the world of fantasy baseball, and one type of game in particular**, a game that was just canceled by the company running it. I got to hear more about the politics and business aspects of running fantasy baseball competitions than I need to know, but not enough to put me off the day (my own leanings are to baseball simulation games, and the search for the perfect sim, so I know from the zeal). Apparently the company that originally ran the game was the outfit that successfully fought MLB's bogus attempt to copyright game data. They won, but used up a lot of dough in doing so, and sold out to another company. That company was sold to the conglomerate that owns the Atlanta Braves, among other things, and the corporate PTB decided to get out of fantasy baseball. So, RIP, Diamond Challenge. Or maybe not. One of the guys at lunch apparently helped launch the game back in the day, and is now trying to launch it again under new management. I hope it works out.

** Normal fantasy baseball involves drafting a team from the current list of ML players, and seeing how they perform over the course of the season. The late, lamented game (Diamond Challenge) has the same goal, but a different approach to rosters. In the usual game, once a player is drafted no one else can get him for their team, just like in real life. In the Diamond Challenge, players are assigned "salaries", and more than any team can draft any player, as long as they stay below a set salary total. Thus every team in the league can put Albert Pujols on their roster, but paying his humongous salary doesn't leave much to spend on the rest of the team.

Anyway, it was good day.

---
I stumbled across Momma Mia! on TBS last night, and watched it for the first time. So, who thought it was a good idea to have Pierce Brosnan sing? Because he makes Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon sound like Pavoratti.
dxmachina: (Plumbing)
Before...
Two projects for the weekend: install the new dishwasher and replace the kitchen faucet. There's also one other mini-project, to glue the porcelain cap back onto one of the cabinet door pulls. I decided to start with the simpler of the two jobs, replacing the faucet. There was nothing wrong with the old faucet other than it being old, ugly, and not very easy to use with greasy fingers. Also, the sprayer rarely worked properly, usually only working when the water pressure was really low, which sort of defeats the concept. I wanted one of those shiny, new fangled jobs with the goose neck spout (like they have in chem labs). I bought a Peerless at Lowe's earlier in the week. Time to get to it.

This should be simple... )

Man, was I ever stiff and sore when I woke up this morning.

Now for the dishwasher...
dxmachina: (Snow)
It's pretty bad when a snopocalypse is not the most aggravating event of the week. Not that it wasn't aggravating, but that was just the base coat of aggravation.

Aggravation within... )
 

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