Thursday, December 22, 2016

Festive or Ominous?

You decide.  Nim declared the vanilla-mint buttercream to be yummy.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Signs of the season

Things that tell me it is almost Christmas:

I find myself transporting unlikely objects by bike.

Low-tech Christmas crafts (though this one does have a teeny-tiny LED on top connected to a battery in the base with a thin line of conductive ink).

Geeky Christmas craft (see the 3-D printer in action!)

And of course, the kiddo's fun drawings.  Can you tell she is a teenager now?  I love these:)

She does occasionally engage in something more conventional.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The red bows suckered me into it

Never mind that I was tired and only planned a short ride halfway up the hill.

Never mind that it started to rain on me.

Never mind that the kiddo was getting out of school early at 10am after her math final was over.

Montebello Road was festooned with cheerful red bows every 50 feet or so all the way up the hill.   Some were on mailboxes, some on telephone poles, some on trees and some on fences.   I just couldn't turn around at the school and miss some of them, so I had to ride to the top.

"Mom, WHERE WERE YOU?????"   Out having fun.

(You can't see the view down 2400 feet to the bottom in the fog, but trust me, it's down there.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

I Made a Thingy

So I was recently cooking up the new batch of beer for Christmas, and needed to make a yeast starter. That consists of boiling a couple liters of water with a couple cups of malt extract, cooling it all down in an ice bath, and then letting yeast do their thing for a day or two - thereby turning one little vial of yeast into a much larger amount of yeast, primed and ready to go to town on the beer. Lots of happy yeasties make for better beer.

Key to getting the best, healthiest, and most yeast cells is oxygenation. Short of having an oxygen tank bubbling through the mixture (which I could in fact do, but dragging my welding cart in to the kitchen might result in objections, and it's too cold for the yeast out in the garage) frequent stirring is the next best method. So every hour (or whenever I happened to think of it, which was in practice a lot less frequent than hourly) I'd give the container a thorough swirl; the yeast clearly loved it, but it was a pain to have to do this repeatedly. "I wish I had a stir plate" I said. I've said this before. Yesterday I decided to get ready for the next time.

A magnetic stir plate is really pretty straightforward. It's a motor, with a magnet on top. Now you can get fancy and add speed control, or a heater, or a nice case to put it in... but the basic function is simple, and I figured the parts were already lying around the garage.

I had several old computer fans in a box, so I grabbed the biggest one. They're already speed-controlled to about the right speed for this. Hm, what has a big magnet? Why, an old hard drive of course! They have a couple of super-powerful magnets, and I have a big stack of dead hard drives from which I could scavenge. I also keep a box of assorted power supplies, so I easily found a 12VDC wall-wart to wire up to this.  A few screws from the hardware store (but only because I didn't have anything long enough lying around), some foamcore from the craft closet, and a layer of Rapid Ingenuity Tape (Thanks Greg!) and voila - one ugly but highly-functional and super-cheap stir plate! Ta da. A thingy.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Strange noises on the roof

Last weekend, we heard a strange skittering on the roof, sort of like a million tiny claws tap dancing.  "Must be a critter up there," said Chad.  I was busy, so didn't think much of it.

Monday rolls around.  I'm doing the bills after a windy morning bike ride.   "Skitter skitter skitter skitter...."  45 minutes of annoyance.  I finally went up on the roof to investigate.

No critter.  Fine -- the dumb squirrel or whatever must have jumped off.  I cleaned out the drain grates while I was up there.

Back inside, ten minutes later.  "Skitter, skitter, skitter, skitter!"  Or is it "pop, crackle, pop, pop"?  Now my mind is interpreting the sound as something horrible happening to the foam roof.  We had had some work done on the interface between the edge of the house and the patio cover to fix a leak the previous week, and now all I could imagine in the face of this weird sound was the adhesive unsticking and pulling bits of foam roof off.

Back up to investigate.  No horrible self-decomposition of roof occurring.  No critter.  No apparent weird noises any more.   Hmmm.   In the face of nothing to react to, I headed back inside to eat lunch.

"Skitter, skitter, skitter, pop, pop, skitter, pop, skitter, pop, pop, pop....."   Argh.  I finally took the ipad up on the roof to sit and work there to see if the sound would come back if I waited long enough.  Besides, there was nice warm sun to bask in up there.

Warm until the wind came up, that is.   "Whoosh!"  "Skitter skitter skitter pop pop!"

Where is it coming from????

Then I really looked around and saw that the roof was covered with small bits of plant matter.  These tiny 1/4-inch diameter fruits were rolling around every time a gust of wind came up, making surprisingly loud skittering and bouncing noises as they blew across the foam roof.

Hmmmm....never seen these before.  Never noticed the noise in previous years.  No new big trees in the neighbors' yards.  Where are they coming from?

I looked up one more time and saw this:
See the clump of fruits hanging down from the neighbor's palm tree?  Apparently it decided to fruit for the first time in the eight years that we have lived here.  Mystery solved!

Ok, mystery solved, and I don't have to hunt down any rabid varmints or engage in roof repairs, but there really isn't anything to be done about the fact that the noise of dates raining down and bouncing across the roof is DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Coastal Anniversary

I ran across the pictures from our quick anniversary getaway weekend this morning and realized I hadn't posted any, so here they are.

It was a gloriously sunny fall weekend, so we headed up through San Francisco

with a brief stop on Hawk Hill to enjoy the view and look at the migrating birds,

as well as to admire the lighthouse at Point Bonita.

We eventually wound our way up the coast and found our way to the Osprey Peak Bed and Breakfast, up a crazy-steep driveway near Point Reyes.  The place was perched up on top of a hill with lots of big trees to admire from the back deck.

What you can't see in the above picture is the sheer number of hummingbirds that hung around the back yard (due to their being about a dozen feeders).  The sound of fifty hummingbirds right outside the window is actually entertainingly ominous.

Naturally, most of the weekend was spent riding our bikes :)

We headed out to see the lighthouse on one day, did what was supposed to be a 30-mile loop that turned into a 50-mile loop the next, and explored the northern part of the peninsula in the thick fog on the third.

In between, there was lots of good eating, poking around galleries, and mead tasting at the local meadery.  A fine weekend escape!