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.

Yard Work

Sep. 12th, 2012 09:28 am
dxmachina: (Garden02)
Wow, after weeks of mostly hot and stiflingly humid, the weather has been wonderful this week, sunny, clear, and right around seventy. I took advantage Monday to plant some azaleas to replace the enormous junipers I'd removed from the front of the house back in July. Not only should they provide more color than just dull green, but I planted then much further out from the house so they won't rub right up against the wall. They are currently dwarfed by the rhododendrons, but they'll catch up, and I don't want them to get that big anyway. A firm hand with the trimmer should take care of that. Next year the arbor vitae go.

As I suspected, the vegetable garden has called it quits, even before the past couple of nights that were down in the forties, though sans frost. My neighbor's tomatoes and peppers all died of verticillium wilt, and now I'm wondering if that could be at work here, too. The tomato and cucumber plants still look reasonably healthy, but I suppose it could explain what happened to my cantaloupe plants.
dxmachina: (Garden02)
Labor Day is the end of summer, or so my garden apparently thinks as it seems to have packed it in for the year. Mind, I had only planted tomatoes, pickling cukes, and spaghetti squash, all warm weather plants, but we've also had weather that wouldn't be out of place in August in Louisiana, so it's not likely death from frostbite.

The spaghetti squash I can understand. I'm sure growing something that big takes a lot out of the plant, which is probably why the vines are basically dead. I harvested the squash today, 21 lbs. worth, and all appear thoroughly ripe. The pickling cuke vines are still hanging in for the most part, although there are few new blossoms or cukes, which is just as well because I am up to my ears in pickles, with a dozen pints and three quarts of various recipes of bread and butters and dills (see below). I threw away quite a few enormous overripe cukes, too, as they grow from gherkin to mini-watermelon sized monsters in what has to be just days, hidden deep in all the foliage. It was hard to keep up.

The tomatoes were a good news-bad new situation. The good news was that apart from a few early nibbles, my precautionary measures against the local field mouse colony seem to have been effective. The bad news is that none of the four varieties of tomatoes I planted were particularly satisfactory, and now, as I said above, all the tomato plants seem to have packed it in for the season way ahead of time. My neighbor's plants are all dying, too.

I had planted one fairly mature* beefsteak variety that gave me two fruits early on, but nothing later apart from one fruit that rotted on the vine. There was one Ultra Boy variety, which produced a number of perfect, superball-sized** fruits that seem to give me digestive problems. Then there were a couple plants each of two heirloom varieties. One yielded large, neat-looking yellow fruits streaked with red that went from underripe to rotten in the blink of an eye. I think I was able to salvage one by picking it while still mostly green on top and letting it ripen a little more on the counter before cutting away the entire still green top half of the fruit.

* By which I mean there were already flowers on the plant when I bought it.

** That do not, alas, bounce like superballs when dropped.

The other heirloom, a pink variety, gave me most of my usable tomatoes. It's problem was that I wound up having to cut away the tops AND the bottoms of most of them because the blossom ends were badly deformed and scabbed over. Fortunately, most of them were fairly large fruits, so there was still plenty of tomato left. And once it started producing, I was able to pick sufficient tomatoes to meet my needs, at least until this weekend. Even so, only one of the two examples of that variety I planted actually produced any fruit. The other just sat there, growing tomato foliage and little else.

Next year I'll try some different varieties. I should also water them more often, even if they don't need it, just to keep them from bursting at the seams every time we get a good strong thundershower. The other thing for next year, if I do cukes again, is to install a trellis for the cukes to climb. I found that the best looking cukes were the ones hanging from vines that had started climbing the tomato stakes. A lot of the cukes growing on the ground were deformed, stumpy looking things. Also, a trellis should make them easier to spot instead of having to root around through all the ground covering foliage.

I sampled some of the first batches of pickles, which were also not very satisfactory. The first batch of B&Bs tasted fine, but were very rubbery. I probably over processed them. The first batch of dills were made from an old Betty Crocker recipe from a long time ago, and are way, way, too salty. And that's after I substituted kosher salt for the table salt in the recipe without converting the quantity, which means they should've been even saltier. I cut the amount by half for the second batch I made, and tasted the brine before adding it. That batch should be better.
dxmachina: (Garden02)
1 four-pack cucumber seedlings - $2.75
1 onion - $ 0.66
spices, salt, sugar, vinegar - $2.00
1 dozen Mason jars (pints) - $12.83
1 canner and utensils - $27.76

3 pint jars of bread and butter pickles - priceless $15.33 a frelling jar for pickles?!?

So, the garden has begun to bear fruit, mostly pickling cucumbers of which there have been multitudes. Except that once you take that big bowl of cukes and slice 'em up and pack 'em in jars they don't amount to all that much. Today, two days after I did the B&Bs, I had another bowl of cukes ready to go. These I cut into spears and made dills. Yield was 4 pts of those. Apparently spears don't pack as well as slices.

I've never canned anything before. The ex did occasionally when we were together, and I always likes the results. I figured I wasn't going to have all that many jars to do, so I tried to use my stock pot, but it just wasn't deep enough, even for pints. Also, it would only fit three jars, and at the time I thought I'd have more than that, so I just went and got the canner. It works great, but man that's a lot of water to boil to can three lousy jars. Now I have enough pickles for quite awhile considering I'm the only one here. Meanwhile I now have to figure out where to store the humongous unitasker.

Finding decent recipes has been a challenge. None of my modern books have much apart from the occasional refrigerator pickle recipe. Tried that last year, but I'm not a fan. My go to Cook's Illustrated cook book doesn't even mention pickles. Even my ancient 20 volume Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedia of Cooking failed me. I finally got the B&B recipe out of a James Beard cookbook snagged from my mother, and the dills from my old Betty Crocker.

I've harvested two tomatoes. The first was nibbled by field mice, but I cut off the nibbled parts and it was still pretty tasty. The other was tiny but good. I'd hoped I'd seen the last of the field mice, but I guess not.

The spaghetti squash are abundant and doing splendidly.
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: (Garden02)
Two more cherry tomatoes and even a plum tomato. Even better, there were two full-sized pickling cukes hidden down under the foliage, which is exactly the number needed to make Alton Brown's refrigerator B&Bs, so I did that.

It's been wicked hot, and today is wicked humid, albeit less hot. Not a fun weekend for riding. I didn't even attempt my usual Friday evening ride. Too. Frelling. Hot. I did ride early in the morning yesterday, while the temps were only in the high eighties, and was soaked after one lap. Today I rode right after a t-storm, and got soaked both from within and without. Feh.
dxmachina: (Garden01)
Picked my first cherry tomato of the season today. Just the one, but it's the principle of the thing.
dxmachina: (Garden02)
Today is the 4th of July, which means it was time for the 11th annual Casa Machina shrub trimming extravaganza. The spring growth surge is over, and it's time to do some hacking. Of course, I decided to wait until the hottest day of the weekend to do it...

Shrubs and tomatoes... )
dxmachina: (Warp Speed!)
The Machinamobile needed some serious engine repairs, so I've been driving a rental for the past couple of weeks. I got the truck back Thursday, and I returned the Ford Fusion to Enterprise yesterday. Nice car, although it felt weird driving a sedan. OTOH, it had a six cylinder engine, so it had way more zip than I'm used to. It also had a stick shift, so that, along with the zip, took a little getting used to. Of course now I keep reaching for the stick when I want to put the truck in gear. All in all, with the rental on top of the repair bill, it was a very expensive week around these parts. That said, when I first heard the estimate for the repairs, I priced potential replacements. Repairing was a LOT cheaper.

My riding also suffered a little as a result of not having the truck to tote the bike around with, although I did strap on my old bike rack onto the rental last weekend. The weather was more to blame as, apart from one day last weekend, it stubbornly refuses to warm up much above 50°. Yesterday was gray, cold, and windy, and eventually it rained buckets. Today looks a little more promising, but a glance out my window shows the branches on the Bradford pear whipping around in the wind. Feh.

Found out* a piece of neighborhood news I somehow missed when it happened. Apparently someone was storing massive amounts of cocaine and cash in a storage locker just around the corner from me. Huh.

* When he found out where I lived, the kid who drove me home from Enterprise asked me what I thought of the drug raid, to which I replied, "What drug raid?"

Speaking of the Bradford pear above, it is just about to bloom, as are the rhododendrons and one of the krabappel trees. The forsythia popped out a day or two ago, and there are lots of daffodils on the south side of the house. The daffodils on the northern end of the property are getting close. OTOH, the dogwood and the second crab apple that I planted last September appear to be doing their best impressions of dead sticks. I hope that isn't true, but if it is, at least Lowe's has that one year guarantee on trees. I also started some tomato, squash, etc., plants a couple of weeks ago, and none have sprouted yet. I'll be patient, but I worry that my black thumb has come back with a vengeance.
dxmachina: (Bike)
Crocuses At least the crocuses next to the south wall of the house seem to think so. There's also a daffodil over there that seems ready to pop, as well. The other beds that don't get sunshine reflected off a wall appear to be a bit more uncertain about things.

I took the photo with my new camera, a Panasonic Lumix that I picked up on Woot! for not a lot of money considering it's got a 12x Leica lens. I still have my DSLR, but I was looking for something that I can slip into my pocket, or (even more so) more readily stick into the handlebar bag on my bike. The only thing I don't like so far is that there is no optical viewfinder. Of course, those are almost impossible to find on point-and-shoots. I've never liked using an LCD for framing shots, even if it is more accurate. It's hard to see anything in the sunlight, and even when I can see the screen, it's hard to keep things steady at arms length. I mean, all I'm asking is that they drill a little hole through the case. How hard can that be?

I've been riding, although not on my usual bike. I hit a sinkhole on the path at speed last Saturday, and broke a spoke on the Fuji's rear wheel. Thus I had to celebrate the onset of daylight savings by riding the old Univega until I could get over to the bike shop to get the spoke replaced. The Univega is a bike I rode without complaint for 12 or 13 years, but now that I'm used to the lighter, more nimble Fuji, the Univega rides like a pig. Plus it appears that the 5th gear on the rear cassette is shot, because any time I shift onto it, regardless of what chain ring I'm on, the chain slips. A lot.

The weather, apart from this past Friday, when it got up into the sixties, hasn't been particularly warm in the evening, especially in the shade of the bike path. It's also been pretty blustery, with a good stiff headwind to be fought on the return legs. Still it's good to be out.

I stopped by the bike shop yesterday on my way out to Tom's. Bike shop guy fixed the spoke and did some adjusting and fine tuning of the gear and brake cables, and didn't even charge me.

Yesterday I drove over to Tom's for our annual March Madness and ribs get together. Good times.


Aug. 9th, 2010 10:01 pm
dxmachina: (Bonk)
Had not the best weekend. I rode both days, but had zero energy. This was especially so on Sunday while riding Blackstone, when my legs ran out of gas all the way up in frelling Woonsocket, a good five miles from where I parked the truck. I managed to plod back, but I didn't enjoy myself much. It wasn't even all that hot, although the humidity cranked up to eleven later in the day.


I had similar luck with an attempt at smoking ribs on my super-duper grill. I'd actually done this a few weeks ago using a slab of spare ribs that I picked up for $1.99/lb, and they turned out great. I used a Cooks Country recipe which is very specific about times and temperatures. They did recommend St Louis cut ribs, but the regular spare ribs were fine, if a bit hard to get at some of the meat. So this time I splurged on some St Louis ribs for $3.99 a pound. It was about half the weight as last time, so the cost was about the same.

Anyway, the way they recommend involved heating the grill, with the pan of wood chips or chunks as the smoke source off to one side, and then putting the meat on the other side while turning off all the burners except for the one under the wood. All this whilst maintaining a temp of 257° for four hours. Well, I'd figured out last time that I couldn't turn off all the other burners (there are four, all told), but that I could do it with burner #1 (under the wood) on high, and burner #2 on low. I just had to shove the meat as far over the unlit burners as possible. This had worked.

For whatever reason, I didn't do that this time. I turned off all but #1, and then when I went out the turn the ribs an hour later, the temperature in the grill was only 200° or so. So I flipped on all three burners to low. (I was already very hungry from the smell of it all.) An hour later, when I went back out to turn them again, I had a nice smelling slab of charcoal. Bother. I wound up throwing a frozen burger on the grill for dinner.

The garden is doing okay, I guess. My three spaghetti squash vines have produced two fruits amongst them, and don't seem to have any intent to produce more. I've been picking tomatoes now for a couple of weeks, but they have all been smaller than a clementine. The heirloom variety I planted has sme bigger fruit, but they are staunchly refusing to completely ripen so far.


Jul. 19th, 2010 10:35 am
dxmachina: (Bike 05)
It was wicked nasty outside this weekend, a combination of mid-90s heat and cranked to eleven humidity that made me nostalgic for the 100+ temperatures of a couple weeks ago. Apart from a couple of rides, I stayed inside, huddled near the air conditioner, entering receipts and reconciling old credit card statements in GnuCash. The garden seems to like the weather, though. A couple of tomatoes are starting to color up, so perhaps in a week or so there'll be tomatoey goodness to be had.

The rides I took were polar opposites. Saturday morning I pushed the Fuji hard, hitting an average of 15 mph for the second time ever. Sunday morning I had a nice easy jaunt on the 3-speed, about 12 mph, easy mostly because the legs were still recovering from Saturday's ride and couldn't have gone faster if I'd had the inclination, and because the ridiculous humidity had me sweating buckets before I'd even gone a mile.

After Saturday's ride, I took the Fuji over to the bike shop. It has been making a nasty clicking noise of late, located somewhere in the drive train/rear hub. The noise is always worst at the start of a ride, then eventually disappears after a mile or two or sometimes three. Which meant that since I'd already ridden the thing, I couldn't demonstrate the noise to BSG. We both agreed that the noise disappearing was probably a matter of the parts warming up as the ride proceeds. He suggested a new chain, pointing out that the chain should probably be replaced every 1500 miles or so. The Fuji is approaching 5000 miles, and still has the original chain. So he installed a new chain. I'll find out if that was it tomorrow night, weather permitting. We'll see.

One of the beauties of my 40+ year-old Sears 3-speed is that pretty much all of it is original equipment. The saddle is the only thing that isn't, being a very similar to original saddle I bought on eBay. The downside to this is that the rubber in the tires and, especially, the brake pads is showing its age. The pads have hardened to the point where they are more slippery than sticky, like the eraser on an old pencil, so braking the bike quickly can be a problem.

So I picked up a pair of new pads and installed them on the rear wheel. They don't quite match the rest of the bike, being all new-fangled looking, but do do seem to work a little better. The bike still doesn't stop on the proverbial dime, but I think that's also a function of the brake mechanisms themselves.

The tires still have a lot of tread and are in better shape, but the rubber is cracking here and there, so I picked up a pair of new tires at the bike shop. They're gum-sided (yellow walls), so the look of the bike will be different, but they'll be sturdier in the long run. I still haven't installed them. Sometime this week, perhaps.
dxmachina: (Bike 02)
I rode all three mornings, Saturday and Sunday in Kingston, today up at Blackstone with friends.

I've taken to riding early on Saturdays so that I can do whatever chores I need to do after I ride, rather than before, which leads to tuckered-out rides. Given the forecast, i.e., lovely on Saturday, blistering after that, I did my annual July 4th trimming of the shrubs Saturday afternoon. It was still hot, messy work, but it wasn't baking hot nor terribly humid, so it worked out.

The basic problem is that the previous owner let most the shrubs get too big. The hedge on the north side of the house is perfectly sized, and the shrubs on the south side aren't ridiculous, although perhaps there are too many, but the junipers, yews, and even my beloved small-leaf rhododendrons out front are all my height or better. The yews are tall enough to partially block the view from the windows behind them. I can't really cut them shorter, because the leaves end not far behind the new growth, and because they also got too wide, so the sides the plants that face other plants are completely barren of foliage. All six of them are pretty much hollow.

I don't even like the junipers, as I get a mild allergic reaction if I get scratched by one, and although I don't mind the yews, they're just too damn big. The problem is that if I cut them out of there, I'm left with two rhododendrons that will flower gloriously come spring in front and on top, but not at all on their sides. To do it properly, I probably need to take them out, too. Sigh.

Anyway, after several hours of wielding my electric hedge trimmer as though it were Excalibur against the shrubs that say Ni, they were trimmed for another year. Actually, I got a little over zealous here and there, and there are some definite bare spots where I went a little beyond removing current growth.

Sunday after the ride* but before it got ridiculously hot, I pulled out the loppers and my camp saw to do battle with the part of the evil thicket that was encroaching on the SE corner of the yard. Spent about an hour working on that, then continued training the tomato plants to their stakes. I have lots on teensy green tomatoes on the way, and even one tiny spaghetti squash so far.

* I rode the now well-adjusted 3-speed, and it worked flawlessly. I'm still surprised, though, at how badly it managed to get itself out of adjustment just hanging from a hook in the attic for the last year or so.

Afterward, I spent some quality time down in the basement organizing and cleaning up matted sawdust. Then I repaired to the a/c in the office to enter utilities and pay stubs for the last nine months into gnuCash. Still much to be done on both projects.

Today, as previously mentioned, I went for a ride on the Blackstone path with part of the v-ball crew. Apart from Blake, none of them had ever been before, so that was fun. It was blistering hot, which suppressed the usual pack of strollers, pedestrians, and other speed bumps from blocking the path. (I will note, however, that since we were constantly stopping to wait for the slower members of the group to catch up, we often became speed bumps ourselves.) Later we went back to Dale's for a pool party and barbecue which was great fun. Fun fact: wasps will catch crickets and haul them back to their nests for dinner. I know this because the nest in question turned out to be in the tubular steel chaise immediately to my left as I sat talking to Christina, who was sitting in the aforementioned chaise. Fortunately, the wasps turned out to be too stuffed with cricket to do much more than glower at us as Chris noisily vacated the chaise.

The one tiny silver lining to the temperatures was that it never got particularly humid (31% yesterday, 50-60% today, not Arizona, but neither was it business as usual for the Northeast). Tomorrow it's supposed to be even hotter. Yikes!

I didn't go to any particular fireworks display, since a couple of my neighbors put on pretty decent displays in their own backyards. This year Rhode Island rescinded the statewide ban on private possession of fireworks (a state felony). They had been banned in the late seventies after a couple of well-publicized accidents involving children. It didn't help that Connecticut legalized them a couple of years ago, and that there was a store just over the border on 95. Now you can get them in Wal-Mart and even Stop&Shop. The fact that it had been a felony had never actually stopped the displays in the past. They've been going on for the ten years I've lived in this neighborhood, throughout most of the summer.

Garden Ho!

May. 20th, 2010 09:30 pm
dxmachina: (Garden01)
So, three tomato plants (from Wal-Mart) and some spaghetti squash seeds (left over from last year) are in the ground. There's still room for at least one more tomato, and maybe even a cantaloupe. I'll have to see what Schartner's has. Also, I should plant some daisy and marigold seeds here and there out front.

Rode tonight. Between the copious amounts of rain we've been getting in these parts and my being sick for several weeks, my riding has been sporadic at best. C'est la vie. I did get up to Blackstone on Sunday, so that's something. Pretty much had it with all the rain, though.
dxmachina: (Koufax2)
I was shocked to find daffodils in full bloom in the bed alongside the house. I thought it was a bit early, given that the crocuses had only popped a few days before, so I checked my Livejournal archives. Last year they didn't bloom until around April 12th. That's some kind of early blooms. Time to think about starting some tomato seedlings.

Drove down to Connecticut for the annual March Madness w/ribs at Tom's. Watched some terrific basketball, especially the Northern Iowa-Kansas game, which saw plucky N. Iowa outplaying number one seed Kansas for the almost the entire game. Then in the final couple of minutes Kansas's pressure defense seemed to have N. Iowa coming completely unglued. Kansas got within a point, but Iowa finally solved the defense, making a three and drawing a timely offensive foul from the Jayhawks, and it was all over. Another bracket busted.

I'm having an awful tournament as far as my brackets go. At one point in my competition with Tom (where we make our picks one round at a time), I was down 33 pts. I think I'm still down about 22. The bracket I have in the Dodger Thoughts competition over at ESPN got wrecked by the Big East's seeming total lack of interest in showing up for the tournament. I mean really... Georgetown? Villanova?

My alma mater, Seton Hall, took a slightly different approach to tournament time it seems. They failed to make the NCAAs (as usual), but did make the NIT, and were even favored in the nationally televised opening game. Five minutes in, one of the Hall's better players got a little miffed apparently, and punched one of the opposing players in the groin. Way to represent, champ. The player, quite naturally got tossed, and things quickly went downhill from there. The next day the coach was fired for conduct unbecoming the University. About time, too. He was a jerk; an abrasive individual who antagonized pretty much everyone he came in contact with, including his players.

Meanwhile, player who only a week before had been dismissed from the team for criticizing the coach was arrested for an armed robbery in which he duct-taped eight people while stealing their credit crads and cash during a break-in. I guess since basketball had turned out to be a dead end, he'd decided to try a new career.

Vin Scully was back on the job today, two days after the entire Dodger community and fandom held its collective breath after Vin had a fall at home that required staples and an overnight hospital stay. Fortunately it turned out to be nothing serious.

What's funny about this is that Vin actually apologized on air today for causing such a fuss.

"Hi everybody, and a very pleasant Sunday to you, wherever you may be. Hope you don't mind if I take a moment out: First of all, I am sorry to have caused the accident that caused so much stress. I'm very sorry for that. I'd also like to salute the gentle heroes of 911 in Calabasas, and the doctors and nurses at West Hills Hospital, for taken care of me so very, very well. However, now that I've done that, let's get to the more important thing, and that is the game. The Dodgers and the Indians. Jake Westbrook will be on the mound for Cleveland. Left-hander Eric Stults will be on the mound for the Dodgers. And Lord, I am happy to be here. We'll be with the ballgame, right after this."

There's more here from his brief press conference today, including his own self-deprecating play-by-play of the accident. The man is a treasure.

Which reminds me of one of his more famous quotes:

"Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day... Aren't we all?"

I've been getting the MLB Gameday audio package now for a few years just so I could listen to him do the games. But he only does the first three innings on the radio, so this year, since it is likely to be his last, I decided to splurge on the MLB TV package for the year. They give you a discount if you're a returning subscriber, even if it was just the radio feeds, so that's good. What was less so was today's spring training game was going to be Vin's first of the year, but the feed wasn't available. Feh, I say!
dxmachina: (Hammer)
Yesterday I had a long (24+) and speedy (14+) ride. I figured tonight my legs would be tired and achy, but despite their protestations, the legs were still pretty strong (14.7 for 16). I broke 1000 miles for the year. The only fly in the ointment is that the sun was setting as I drove home. I hate earlier sunsets.

I should probably mow the lawn tomorrow, and I have a ticket for a Pawsox game Wednesday, the first time there in more than three years, so the legs will get some time to recover.

I finally harvested a ripe, non-rotten tomato over the weekend. I picked some small tomatoes about a week ago, but they had rotted while they were turning red, and were thus inedible. Fortunately, Schartner's has had plenty.

I've been slowly making some progress on the workbench for the nerd hole. After a lot of experimentation and overthinking, I finally hit upon a stain for the mouldings that I liked, and a protocol for applying it. It took awhile, and I now have a boxful of little cans of different stain shades for my trouble. I was trying for a warm, dark reddish-brown. The last time I wrote about this, I tried Minwax's Red Mahogany, but it wasn't reddish at all. Red Chestnut was better, but not very dark. I tried mixing the two, but that didn't look good, either. A second application of the Red Chestnut looked better from certain angles, but I still wasn't satisfied.

For my next set of experiments, I went to Lowes to see if they had anything different from what the Depot had. Turns out they did. Where the Depot only carries the full Minwax line, Lowes has several brands, but with fewer choices per brand.They had some Cabot stains, one of which was Red Mahogany, so I got some of that to see it was redder than Minwax's version. It was, but it sets up very quickly, so you can't leave it on the wood for more than three minutes or so, or it gets very sticky and hard to wipe off. I'd been leaving the Minwax stains on the wood for 15 minutes or so. The shade was okay, but it was even less dark than the Minwax. I tried a couple of Minwax shades, but nothing really satisfied me.

I was once again haunting the stain aisle at the Depot when I decided to take another approach. I'd been using oil-based stains, but Minwax also makes some water-based stains. I'd skipped past them earlier because there were way fewer shades, and they didn't have a mahogany, but on looking at them again, they did have a Rosewood stain. I have a couple of Rosewood-handled tools that are very pretty, so I figured it was worth a shot.

The water-based stains set up fairly quickly, although not as fast as the Cabot stains did. I did a three minute application, and the color had the qualities I wanted. Still not very dark, though, so I did another application, and another. That finally got the color about where I wanted it. Time at last to stain the mouldings. One problem that crops up with water based stains is that they raise the grain of the wood some, so you have to sand the pieces after they dry, which removes a little of the color. In the end, I did four applications, and they look great. Or at least as good as a light, not very porous wood can look when attempting to make it look dark.

After that each piece got three coats of polyurethane. I used a spray can instead of brushing. I don't usually like to spray, but it was a lot easier and quicker when dealing with a bucnh of long thin strips.

That done, this weekend I cut to length the rails and stiles for the face frames. Now I need to stain those...
dxmachina: (Computers 01)
Lots o' humidity yesterday and today, with added heat today, but the three days preceding were fabulous, especially Saturday. Good thing, too, because it made for a splendid day for vw's graduation party.

Yesterday I gutted the grill and replaced all the internal organs with replacements from the Depot. New burner, new drip pan, new grill surface, and new igniter, although the last doesn't seem to work. That was the one part I didn't buy. It's been sitting on a shelf in the basement for years. I bought it for my previous grill, but it was the wrong one, so I never installed it. It wasn't the proper part for the current grill, either, but I adapted it. Or so I thought. Shrug.

A couple of tomatoes have started to turn yellowish, and the spaghetti squashes are growing so fast you can almost see them expanding. At this rate maybe in a couple more weeks I can hollow one out to use as a garden shed.

I've had a Facebook account for a while now, but I never did anything with it until Saturday. The impetus mostly was because I was apparently collateral damage in the DDOS attacks on LiveJournal last week. It seems that at least one of the attacking machines must've been nearby, because even for most of Saturday I couldn't get to the site. They later explained that some of the steps they took to mitigate the damage might cut off folks on the same local nets as the attackers. Just to make sure I wasn't one of them, I ran a packet sniffer on my home network for a little while, and came up clean.

Anyway, in the meantime I decided to have a look at Facebook. I friended a few people, and was in turn friended by a bunch more, which is kind of neat. Previously, the only person who'd ever tried to friend me was a retired school teacher from the south somewhere who seemed like a nice lady but was a total stranger, so I passed. Probably a misidentification.

I don't know how much I'll use it. The people who I've friended and been friended by are all folks who I can see on LJ anyway, and the interface is strange and offputting to me. One odd thing about me is that it appears that none of my immediate family nor any of my meatspace friends are on Facebook (or LJ, for that matter). They all use the net, but apart from some of my nieces and nephews, none are into any kind social networking. Well, except my mother, but she hangs out over on the MSN WebTV boards. This was one of the reasons Friendster seemed so useless to me. I brought nothing to the table in terms of connections.
dxmachina: (Garden01)
Garden update based upon a quick inspection whilst waiting for the chicken breasts on the grill to cook. Still no tomatoes anywhere close to being edible. At least Schartners has them now. Finally have a couple of teensy spaghetti squash in process, with at least one other female flower noticed. Up until tonight I hadn't noticed any female flowers, but I guess there were at least two.

Note to self: Need to go to the Depot or Lowes and see about replacing the grill burner and drip plate, both of which succumbed to dat ol' demon rust this weekend.

I will also note that today is the hottest day of the year so far, the first time it's gotten up into the upper eighties. The recent weather has been annoying. Pleasant afternoons in the vicinity of eighty with wicked humidity and not much of a cool down at night. Makes trying to sleep miserable, leading to the absurdity of having to run the a/c at night while not needing it at all during the day. Feh.
dxmachina: (Rain)
...So WTF is up with the frickin' weather?

June 21, 2009

Check the wind velocity. I'm pretty sure I just saw Margaret Hamilton float by my front window on a bicycle. Meanwhile, my iGoogle weather widget is telling me that the winds are from the SE at 6 mph. Not bloody likely.

It was like this yesterday, as well, although not nearly as windy. I was going to take a ride around threeish, but decided to check the weather first. There was a huge patch of green just starting at the RI/CT border on the radar map, so I figured it would hit us within the hour and opted forego the ride. When it still wasn't raining by four, I took another look, and the patch hadn't moved. Same thing at five. It finally started raining as I was lighting the grill for dinner around 6:30. Is it any wonder people hate meteorologists? Even when they are just robot sensors they lie like expensive Persian rugs.

In garden news, the potted gardenia I bought at Schartner's last week is currently laying on its side on the front steps, with the bottom of the pot pointed into the wind. Even the flora are hunkering down. In the tomato patch, the tomatoes seem to be doing well, and the spaghetti squash seeds I planted a week ago or so are now robust little seedlings. On the other hand (you know, the one with the black thumb), the musk melons are deader than things that are dead. The first inch or so of stem nearest the ground just shriveled away. I had something similar happen to the melons plants I put out last year, too, so I suspect some sort of plant disease is occurring.

When I got the gardenia, Schartner's was clearing a lot of stuff out, so I also bought a pot of some sort of daisies, and a pot with some sort of alleged perennial that looks suspiciously like marigolds. I also bought a couple of packs of marigolds. The daisies went into the one spot at the top of the driveway where last year's pansies didn't come back. The marigolds and marigold-like flowers went into the circle around the cherry tree.


Jun. 7th, 2009 07:53 am
dxmachina: (Garden02)
Ah, circadian rhythms, you are a cruel master. I've been up with the sunrise the past couple of days, my eyes popping open for good somewhere between 5 and 5:30 in the frelling A.M. I've been hitting the sack between 10 and 11, so it hasn't been that bad. I was up at 5:15 this morning, for example. Went into the kitchen, ground some coffee, put water in the coffee maker, dumped the ground coffee into a filter, put the filter in the basket inside the maker, hit the switch, and went over to the computer to read the Sunday funnies. Five minutes later I went back over to pour myself some coffee, and noticed that there were coffee and grounds all over the kitchen counter. I'd completely missed the step of putting the actual coffee pot under the basket, and since the basket couldn't drain, it overflowed.

The weather continues to be ridiculously chilly and wet. I considered turning the furnace back on one day last week. Doesn't mama nature know it's June? Even yesterday was cool, although the humidity made it feel warmer than it was. Today looks good so far, though. Very sunny.

Tomato Patch, May 2009 Last weekend was pretty nice, too. I planted the tomato patch last Saturday. Just four plants, two reds (Better Boy and Beefmaster), a cherry (Patio), and an heirloom yellow (Brandywine), along with a pair of muskmelons. I got the melons and Brandywine at Schartner's, the others at the Depot. The Depot had single plants, as opposed to Schartner's four-packs, so although the price per plant was higher there, the overall cost was lower. The Depot's plants were from a local grower, and much cheaper (less than half the price) than the national brand they (and Wal-Mart and Lowes) also carry. I wanted to try spaghetti squash, but couldn't find any plants. I have some seeds, but I never got around to starting them.

I also hacked back the bush that sprang up from the root system of the Bradford pear that crashed to earth a couple of years ago. I'd originally let it grow in order to replace the lost tree, but then the town planted the new cherry tree in the same location. My next plan was to take the strongest stem and transplant it elsewhere in the yard, but I never got around to it. So the shrub grew. The cherry is doing famously, but the pear was also running riot (you can see it in the background here), and some of the stems were already taller than me. It was starting to crowd the cherry, so clearly something had to be done. So I took the loppers to it, and cut out all the stems but one. That one I'm going to try to move elsewhere. I'm not sure how easy that will be. It's growing out of a twenty year-old root system, so I may not be able to hack it out of there without seriously damaging it, or even be able to do it at all. If I can't do it, it'll have to get lopped, too. We'll see.


dxmachina: (Default)

February 2016



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