Saturday, May 24, 2014


Gjetost...  Have you ever run into this stuff?  It's a Norwegian cheese, made partly or entirely of goat's milk.  The brand pictured (Ski Queen) is the one I've been familiar with since childhood.  My dad loved to try cheeses, and when we traveled with him on his landscaping or botanical trips, there was a good chance we'd be picking up some “stinky foot” cheese – something like a Roquefort, or Liederkranz, or something along those lines.  But every once in a while, he'd pick up some Ski Queen gjetost.  We kids really loved that stuff – it was slightly sweet, had an interesting texture (sort of like peanut butter), and was really different.  We liked it much better than Roquefort :)

One day when I was about ten years old, we had some gjetost for lunch – and shortly after that I was violently sick to my stomach.  Our bodies have evolved a very refined defense against foods that make us sick – once the association is made, the smell – or even the thought – of such a food may make us nauseous.  That's exactly what happened to me.  For 50 years, if I saw that cheese in a grocery store, I'd steer my shopping cart in a wide arc around it.

Just a few weeks ago I worked up the courage to try gjetost again, 50 years after getting sick upon eating it.  It was even better than I'd remembered – a delightful flavor and texture.  I've had it twice since, and there's a chunk of it in my refrigerator as I write.  Today I learned from a neighbor that the Ski Queen brand is a sort of “poor man’s version” of gjetost – it has a little goat's milk, but it's mostly cow's milk.  He told me about ekte geitost – the real deal, gjetost made from 100% goat's milk.  I just ordered some, and I can hardly wait to try it!

It's been a long, long time ...

It's been a long, long time ... since I last hauled aluminum irrigation pipe around, fixed up sprinklers, and generally got an irrigation system going again.  Click to embiggen the photo at right, and you'll see a 12 sprinkler line set up on part of our lawn.  The last time I did this was probably in 1965 or 1966, most of 50 years ago.  But today I was doing it again.

It sure brought back memories – of deep, gloppy mud; of being soaked to the bone by a 6 gpm sprinkler you're trying to unclog; of the inertia of 30' long pipe sections that just don't want to go where you're trying to put them.  The one thing that was more pleasant than my memory was carrying the pipe sections around.  The irrigation pipes here are 30' (or shorter) long, and 3" in diameter.  The ones I was hauling around as a kid were 40' long and 4" in diameter – which means they were roughly two and a half times heavier (if you're checking my math, you should know the wall thickness of 4" pipe is about 50% greater than 3" pipe).  I'm probably a bit stronger these days than I was as 12 or 13 year old kid, too.  So hauling the pipe was easy.  The rest of it was still a miserable, wet, muddy job, though :)

For the most part, size aside, the irrigation system here is identical to the one on the farm I grew up on.  The simple, reliable hook-and-latch pipe connections are exactly the same.  The sprinklers here are not quite as nice as those we had when I was a kid; I think the former homeowner was trying to save some money (the good sprinklers are just over $50 each, and I need about 20 of them).  One thing is very different, though, and that's the source of the water.

On the farm I grew up on, the pressurized water came from a PTO-driven centrifugal pump that pulled water from one of our irrigation ponds.  The irrigation pipe connected directly to that pump.  Here in Paradise, the irrigation water comes from a company owned by everyone who uses it; a collective of sorts.  The water comes from Porcupine Reservoir and is piped under pressure to all the landowners who belong to the company.  On each plot of land there are a series of risers that terminate in a big rubber washer held down tight by a screw clamp.  To use the water, you attach a gadget like the one pictured at right to the top of the riser.  This gadget covers that rubber washer, and provides a handle to unscrew the clamp.  When you unscrew it, pressurized water erupts – and that pressure forces gaskets around the pipes to keep them from leaking.  I took this photo while the sprinklers were running, and as you can see the unit isn't leaking at all.  At the left you can see the first piece of pipe in the string of 12 sprinklers in the top photo.  That little hook is all that holds the pipe in place.  A gasket inside the female part of the fitting is forced against the pipe by the pressure of the water, and that keeps it from leaking.  That's the simple hook-and-latch connection system I referred to earlier.  It's been a standard for hand-line (irrigation pipe positioned by hand) for over 50 years now...

The moon hoax ... NOT!

The moon hoax ... NOT!  A disturbingly large percentage of American adults (55%) currently believe that it's possible, likely, or certain that NASA faked the Apollo moon landings.  That percentage keeps going up (Gallup polls it annually).  Every time I see that it's ticked up another notch, I lose another increment of hope for the human race...

Here's an excellent video by a professional photographer with a different take on the possibility of the Apollo landings being a hoax.  Essentially he's asserting that NASA couldn't possibly have faked the videos of activity on the moon, for the simple reason that the requisite technology didn't exist.  All the prior attempts I'd seen to prove the reality of the Apollo landings centered around things like the effects of lunar gravity, the motion of dust in the video, etc.  The people who believed in the hoax always seemed to have clever ways these things could have been faked – or at least, clever enough to convince the addled and the Obama voters (but I repeat myself).

This fellow has a different sort of argument altogether, and he presents it in a clear and amusing way.  Toward the end, he connects current politics to credulousness, and suggests somewhat slyly that if you believe in something so obviously bogus as the moon hoax, why then you may be doing the government a favor by ignoring the real conspiracies happening today, such as the financial bail-out or the NSA listening in on everything.  At the very end, he presents a twist that had me laughing out loud – and I'm not going to spoil it for anyone who'd like to watch :)

Oh, and the comments on YouTube are a wonderful combination of humor, good sense, and (dominating) ignorance and negative intelligence that will make you want to exterminate all life on the planet Earth...

Atlantic Puffin...

Atlantic Puffin...  Caught here swooping into it's nest, with food for its chick...

Spam comments...

Spam comments...  One of the banes of the online world is spammers – and they're not just on email.  If you keep a blog, you probably already know what I'm talking about, but if not ... spammers have “bots” (automated programs) that run around all the blogs in the world, trying hard to post a comment that contains a link to their evil, spammy site.

Once spammers started targeting blogs (about 8 years ago), most bloggers have switched to “moderated” comments – meaning that the blog owner has to read and approve comments before they will actually be published.  So now the spammers have taken to writing their spam comment in such a way as to entice the blog owner into approving it.

Here's a spam comment posted to my blog today:
This design is incredible! You definitely know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Wonderful job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.  Too cool!

My site Online Pharmacy
In the original spam comment, that link would send you to a site selling “male enhancement” products of the mechanical kind.  I've changed it to point to my own blog, since I most certainly did not want to send my readers to that site!  And of course I did not approve that comment!

Usually these spam comments are very badly written, most likely by someone whose first, second, or third language is not English.  Sometimes they're funny, or over-the-top, like this one.  But on very rare occasions, they're good enough that if I wasn't paying close attention, I might have approved it...

Mystery shrub...

Mystery shrub...  I found this growing along a fence in the nether regions of our yard.  It's about 15' high, and 10' in diameter.  The flowers are beautiful (the color came out more accurately on the right-hand photo below), and there's a nice perfume as well (though it's not real strong).  Anybody know what it is?

Paradise update...

Paradise update...  It's an overcast morning in Paradise.  Here's a few photos of from around our yard:

View to the NE, with sheep
Our one and only lilac (there will be more!)
It's a decorative onion of some kind
From our front yard, looking NE

We had a lot of progress on our remodeling this week. Nearly all the old flooring has been removed – I'm now walking around the house on the chipboard sub-floors, watching carefully for sharp nails and staples.  So far, I haven't stepped on any :)

There are some old flooring removal challenges in the kitchen, mainly because the cabinetry was installed on top of the old flooring.  This means that virtually every appliance has to be removed in order to access that flooring, and there are a lot of appliances in this kitchen.  Our garage now looks like an appliance graveyard, and there are still more that need to be removed.  The remaining ones are the hard ones, too: the (very large) gas range and the (gigantic) refrigerator.  Once all the appliances are removed, the old flooring has to be carefully sawed out.  This is done with a very special saw, the likes of which I'd never seen before: a “toe-kick saw”.  Our flooring contractor burned up his saw while removing some of our flooring; now he's waiting the arrival of a new one.  Watching this saw in action is pretty amazing – it neatly cuts the old flooring perfectly flush to a cabinet, without dinging the cabinet at all.

I've mentioned before that we're gutting the master bathroom and completely rearranging the location of everything in it.  The main motivation was to get rid of the very large, jetted tub and to create a large shower with the freed-up space.  The photos below show the current state of affairs.  All the old bathroom fixtures have been completely removed.  Yesterday, the plumbing for the new bathroom fixtures was completed (a two day job).  Some photos:

New shower valves
New shower drain
New sewer lines
New sink roughed-in

Plumbing has changed a lot since I last tried my hand at it!  All the new pipe being installed in our house is PEX (the semi-transparent pipes visible in the photos of the shower valves and roughed-in sink).  This was a completely new material to me (see the link for more information).  Up here, at least, it's now the standard for both new construction and remodeling, and for replacing copper pipes.  It has several advantages over copper: it's bendable (though with fairly large radii), it's forgiving of freezes (there's some give to the plastic), and the fastening technology is very simple and practically foolproof: crimped clamps over molded connectors.  The productivity of the plumbers using PEX is really something to see – easily 3 or 4 times as much finished work per hour.

The sewer plumbing turned out to be the big challenge for the remodel, specifically moving the toilet's 3-inch line about 5 feet diagonally across the room.  This took some creative routing and a little math on the part of the plumber.  The routing had to make allowance for two things: the 3 inch holes in the joists had to be more than 3 feet from any joist support, and the line had to be on a slope of at least 1/8" per foot.  To accomplish both, he ended up running the line in a "C" shaped route.

The roughed-in sinks had a number of features new to me.  The piece of galvanized steel with holes in it is purpose-built for rough-ins.  It has holes to accommodate hard plastic “grommets” to protect the softer PEX tubing from abrasion.  Over the sewer pipe in the photo, where it runs through a stud, you can see a metal plate.  This is to prevent the drywall installers from screwing through the pipe accidentally.  The plumber hammered on a couple dozen of these over every stud or joist penetration.

Next up: the electrician and the heating guy, to install outlets, switches, lights, fans, and heating ducts.  They should both be done by the middle of next week.  Then it's time for the tile folks to come in and start covering all this mess up!

UKIP in a big win...

UKIP in a big win...  If you follow European politics at all, you already know this story.  If not, here's the short version: UKIP is the party led by my favorite European politician, Nigel Farage (seen at right enjoying a victory pint).  They just made huge gains in an election in the U.K., to the point where they must now be considered a mainstream political party (and not just a fringe group of nutters).  It's impossible to capture their platform in a single sentence, but James Delingpole does a good job in the linked article, the thesis of which is that UKIP is a continuation of Margaret Thatcher's revolution.

To the extent that they succeed, this can only be good for the world.

Seeing this happen in the U.K. gives me hope for the future here, too...