Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bike cam

After I saw this post on Photojojo.com a month or so ago, I had to give it a try. Finally got all the pieces together, and it worked like a charm! Check out part of my bike commute home today, along Arlington Street from California Ave. to 1st Street:

video

Mysterious garage

Sunday night, kids had gone to bed. Mich and I were relaxing with a movie - she had spent the week camping with the kids and some friends, so was understandably tired; I had run the Lake Tahoe Marathon that morning. We weren't in full brainpower mode. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider seemed right up our mental alley at that point. During one of the quieter non-fight scenes, we looked at each other and said "Is that our garage door?" We somehow managed to peel ourselves off the couch and check the garage - sure enough, the door was open. While our fatigued brains were still processing that, the door started to close by itself. We hit the button to stop it and raise it up again, then started to wonder if there was someone hiding in our car with the opener or what? I walked out to look around, and when it started closing on itself again, jumped back inside to hit the keychain opener button that should have been hanging on my motorcycle. It wasn't there. That's when I remembered - I had put the motorcycle keychain in the sweats I wore to drive up to Tahoe in the morning, so I could close the door after I left in Mich's car. When I got home, I dumped all my running stuff right in the washer. Apparently the keychain garage door opener was shorting out, and opening and closing the door. I took the battery out, let it dry overnight, and it works fine. Whew!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Almost Green

Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of a Planet Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of a Planet by James Glave


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
The story of a regular guy trying to keep his sanity while he builds a super-green outbuilding on his Vancouver property. Fun to read, covers lots of angles of real-life enviromnentalism.


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Milestone

As I pulled into the garage this afternoon, I hit a little milestone on the motorcycle...



(Aww, why is the image rotated? I took it normally, didn't change it at all, and now Blogger rotated it. Why? WHY?)

Anyway, as you can see, I'm not as into polishing my bike as the Street Vibrations people, who are here in Reno this week...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Zen and Now

Zen and Now: on the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Zen and Now: on the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Mark Richardson


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Author Mark Richardson retraces the voyage of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, interspersing his travelogue with the story of the writing of the book as well as Robert Pirsig's life post-ZMM. I liked this mostly for the history - the motorcycle bits and traveling didn't really catch my attention.


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This is book number 78 on the year, for those who are keeping count...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quiet, Please

Quiet, Please: Dispatches From A Public Librarian Quiet, Please: Dispatches From A Public Librarian by Scott Douglas


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Scott Douglas starts working in libraries because he loves to read; only to discover that most of the people there have no interest in literature. Quiet Please is a catalog (heh) of his experiences, challenges, triumphs and disappointments working through library school and a few southern California libraries. Pretty well describes the crazy that happens in public libraries, with a pretty good attitude.


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Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I Was Told There'd Be Cake I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I haven't read any other reviews of this book, but I can't be the only person who thinks Sloane Crosley reads like a female, heterosexual David Sedaris. Very similar, unflinchingly hones, self-deprecating humorous essays from a New York lapsed Jewish standpoint. Funny, quick read.


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Book stack


Since I just finished the 900-something page Anathem, I glanced at my stack of books to see what was next. Oops. Got a little out of hand there. Guess I've got some catching up to do. Oh, and look - here's another one that I missed...

Anathem

Anathem Anathem by Neal Stephenson


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
I would love to write a big, meaningful review of Neal Stephenson's latest, but I just can't seem to find the words. Instead, I'll give my normal, no-spoiler capsule review. Cloistered monks. Philosophy, religion. Multiple universe theory. All wrapped up in a big science fiction/adventure package, with Stephenson's trademark flashes of humor thrown in. I, at least, REALLY enjoyed it.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gurgle

I was woken up this morning by the sprinkler system - the drip line, specifically, right outside my window. Moment of crazy panic as I couldn't figure out if my stomach was gurgling, there was someone in the shower or what...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lego Creator Set #4939: Cool Cars

While Julien was building up his cars, I started on a different set. I refined the photography a bit, too, as you can see...









This was the first of three cars from this set. We'll see if I can get the rest of them built, too..

Lego Designer Set #4883: Gear Grinders

Julien's been building his way through the instruction booklet of one of his Lego sets, and wanted to share some pictures. Here's the first car, p. 4-6:



The second car, a little sportier model. p. 7-9:



Third, a four-wheeler - p. 10-12:



Fourth, a simple little speedster, p. 13-14:



And fifth, a sporty SUV with ski racks (?), p. 14-16:



More to come, I'm sure, as he builds up some more...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kinney Lakes

On a whim Saturday morning, we decided to go for a little hike at Kinney Lakes, at the top of Ebbetts Pass. It's about an hour and half away, so I got to read some Harry Potter to everyone in the car.

It was a perfect day for a hike. Mid-70s up at 8500 feet. T-shirt or sweatshirt temperature. Here's Julien heading out:



And Mich and Sofia getting a ways ahead in the meadow:



We had some great views from the trail on the way to the lake:



The lakes (reservoirs, really) were really low, even for the end of the summer. The water level is usually part way up that tree to the right, and you can see the water lines all the way down...



So, a bit of playing by the water:



And a rest by the dam:



We found a couple of little wildlifes, some tiny red worms:



And a curly caterpillar:



The walk down was kind of a chore, cue to the kids having for wet feet and the ensuing blisters, but we made it. Passed this really cool geological display on the way down. Wish I could tell you more about it...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Small (ish) Dancer (not tiny)

Sofia treated us to a ballet show this morning, to the inspiring sounds of the Flashdance soundtrack. Pictures will say it best...







Monday, September 8, 2008

Bond Villain Swatches

So I'm a bit of a James Bond fan- I've read all the books, own all the movies, etc... So I was totally tickled when I saw that Swatch has come out with a series of special watches based on the villains of the Bond movie world. (There's even a Swatch for Blofeld's cat!) They've got a little test to see which villain you most closely match, and I'm kinda disappointed in my results. Although I do like that green faux iguana band...

Your evil

Saturday, September 6, 2008

50/50

50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! by Dean Karnazes


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Kind of surprised myself; I ran right through this book in one marathon session. (Sorry - couldn't help myself.) Anyway... I enjoyed this more than I expected to. Never been a big Karnazes fan, for no particular reason, but picked this, his latest, up for a quick read. The description of his 50 marathons in 50 days is fascinating, both from a logistical and endurance standpoint. He intersperses the travelogue (runalogue?) with lots of tips for runners, from beginners to endurance runners. (These might be helpful for beginners, but otherwise they're pretty much common sense or personal preference.) I was both impressed and a little turned off by Karnazes' humility. On the one hand, he unfailingly brings other people in to share his triumphs. His "I'm just an average guy" schtick, though - gets a little old - there's something decidedly UN-average about ultrarunners; even more so about people who win ultras, and he's even in a zone of his own beyond that. So: good, inspiring running book.


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Friday, September 5, 2008

The Last Theorem

The Last Theorem The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
I reread the 2001 series earlier this year, and this definitely felt like Arthur C. Clarke's writing (I haven't read any Pohl, so can't compare...) It's the story of a Sri Lankan guy who ends up solving Fermat's last theorem fairly early in his life, and what happens to him (and the earth) after that. The latter part of the book doesn't have much to to with the title, and mostly focuses on world events in relation to a side story about alien beings who are coming to destroy the earth. That didn't sound as disjointed while I was reading it, but in retrospect, I'm not sure the premise mad a lot of sense...


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Thursday, September 4, 2008

First balloons of the year


Not technically; we've seen one or two a day for the past couple of days. Today was the first day where a bunch went up, though.

Sofia wins the best quote award: "I want to pop one open and get the candy!"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Red Bean Pumpkin Muffins


A friend and fellow baking adventurer, Kirsten, recently made some black bean brownies that she blogged about and shared with me. Kind of inspiring; I decided to try the baking-with-beans meme a bit myself. First I tried a banana bread with white beans. I think it needed more flour to make up for the added liquid of the beans; it was tasty (and not at all beany) but didn't bake through all the way. The ends were good, though. Today, I decided to give it another try - Pumpkin muffins, with red beans. These came out awesome. I used a recipe out of the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, with a little extra flour added to make up for the liquid, and heavy on the spices to mask any beaniness (and the fact that my spices are getting old...) Moist but not too dense, and a little glaze for sweetness and visual interest. Yum...

Google Kool-aid

A friend and I were discussing yesterday which Google products we use. I could list quite a few of them, from Adsense and Alerts to Talk and Web history. (The conversation started with comparing Google Chrome, their new web browser that was released yesterday. I've been pretty impressed so far.) It seems like Google hits things just about right for me, both design and timing wise. I like their clean look, simple and easy to understand but powerful once you learn how to use it. And they always seem to come out with things at the right time for me - not early-adopter soon, but just a little ahead of the curve. I'm currently waiting for the first generation of Android phones to work the bugs out before I make the plunge into a smart phone.

So, yeah, I've drunk the Google kool-aid. If it's something that they put out, I'm pretty inclined to give it a try.

One of the recent things that Blogger has done is to integrate a social networking-kinda thing - the "Follow this blog" box to the right. So, if you have a blogger ID, please "follow" me - it'll work best if more people use it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

I've made a few batches of these cookies recently, due to a couple of Costco overpurchases. My wife bought a gigantic bag of chocolate chips a while ago, thinking she'd make some chocolate mousse to take to work for her annual Bastille Day celebration. Those have been sitting around for a little while. Then, more recently, we bought 4 pounds of salted butter in 1 pound loafs, instead of the usual UNsalted 1/4 pound sticks. So: cookies.

Let me just state for the record right now: These cookies rock. They're by far my favorite cookies ever, and have been for a long time. That's partly because of how I make them, some of the secrets of which I'm going to share with you right now.

First, the recipe. This is an easy one. It's on the bag. Follow the directions, but toss in about a cup of old fashioned oats with the flour or before the chips. Easy.



And yum.

Now: This picture illustrates a few things to do right (ie; my way):


(Yeah, tilt your head to the right. I dunno, it looked fine on my computer...)

1. Silicone baking sheets. I actually have a couple of brands of these - Silpat, Matfer, whatever, they seem to work the same. They make the cookies bake up nice, though, and cleanup is super easy. I wish I had actual half-sheet pans that they fit on better, but haven't make it to my local restaurant supply house for them.

2. Dough scoop thing. Yeah there's probably a correct term for this. What am I, a pro? Anyway, the scoops make all the cookies the same size, so they cook up evenly. Plus it's easy and fun to scoop them out. These are my default purchase every time my wife or I feel obligated to buy something from a Pampered chef party. I have like three different sizes now; they come in handy for different types of cookies, as well as other things. (I have no idea what size this is - I thought they were labeled, but I can't find a volume on this one. Medium, as far as the three that I have are concerned.)



See how nice those cook up?

3. Nine minutes. The recipe says nine to eleven. Sure, it differs from oven to oven, but I like them undercooked. I went ten on my last batch, and it was too much.

4. Take them out and let them sit for a couple minutes before you transfer them to cooling racks. This lets the bottoms brown up and firm without overcooking the rest of the cookie.



5. Multilayer cookie racks. Two words. Counter. Space. Plus they look cool.



6. Kitchen mascot. Very important for kitchen morale.

And there you go. Hope you have as much success as I have.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Princess no pea

Sofia somehow managed to take all the cushions from one couch, pile them up on the other, then lay down on top of the whole mess. Silly...

Cinnamon blueberry

I've been jonesing to bake recently, and had an occasion to yesterday, with the BBQ up at the reservoir. I mada a Cinnamon blueberry pie, a recipe which Amber had passed on to me. Turend out pretty good - I'd make this again. Cinnamon was not overpowering, just an aftertaste. Kinda forgot to take a picture of it; this is the best I could do...

Boca fun

Went up to Boca Reservoir near reno yesterday to meet a few of Mich's coworkers, have a little BBQ, and play in the water. (Someone had just got a new Jet-ski.) Probably could have picked a better day - although it was sunny, it was REALLY windy, even for Nevada. Here's Julien on the Jet-ski, with Brian hanging on -



And some impressive moves by Joe:



And Jake:



The water was less cold than I'd imagined, so I did a little swimming - and I do mean LITTLE, maybe 150 yards worth. Today, my legs have cramps where I didn't even know there were muscles. Apparently I don't have ANY swimming muscles at all. Long way to go for my Ironman career.

Julien spent a lot of time in the water, and was pretty cold when he got out. Here he is hunkering down trying to get out of the wind...