Sunday, April 22, 2018

About a month ago...

About a month ago ... I bought a trailer to tow big, heavy things behind our Tesla Model X.  I bought some accessories for it, and yesterday I finally got around to installing them.  We're leaving on Thursday for a three-day trip to Lander, Wyoming, where we're going to pick up a bronze sculpture that we commissioned last year.  We're going to the foundry where they're pouring and finishing it – should be great fun!

The photos below show the additions I made to the trailer (as always, click on the little pictures to embiggen them).  The first photo shows the spare tire mounted, with a cover on it.  The second photo shows the mount I had to install.  The mount was quite easy to install – the hard parts were getting that cover on it, and getting the right stainless steel hardware to mount it (stainless steel because I don't want rust on the aluminum trailer).  The third and fourth photos show the box I mounted on the trailer's tongue.  There are six bolts and fender washers holding it to three frame members.  The tricky part for this thing was getting all those holes precisely drilled, so that all six bolts could be simultaneously inserted.  The six holes in the frame members needed to be in the centers of those members, and then I had to drill six perfectly matching holes in the bottom of the tongue box.  Another tricky bit was finding the right stainless steel hardware – I did a lot of bin-searching at Ridley's.  Finally, I installed a trailer lock – the red gadget showing on the tip of the tongue in the third photo.  This is an ingenious device that inserts into the trailer ball socket and locks around it, preventing anyone from attaching the trailer to their vehicle and towing it away.  Simple, but effective.  I'm completely unworried about trailer theft around home (we have nearly zero crime in Paradise), but when we travel to other places things may be a bit different.


By the time I finished with the trailer stuff, I was wiped out.  I went back into the house, and discovered that Debbie was feeling puny, too.  We both took our temperatures and found that we had matching 102°F fevers.  No wonder we felt awful!

It's a glorious morning this morning.  As I was taking the trailer photos above, our three young field spaniels were cavorting in the fenced yard, begging me to join them.  They love this nice weather!  The first photo below shows how nicely things are starting to green up, and the willow is starting to come into leaf. 


Saturday, April 21, 2018

I blinked...

I blinked ... and all of a sudden it's Saturday! 

Yesterday afternoon was beautiful here, and we took a nice drive up Blacksmith Fork Canyon in the hopes of seeing some of the wildlife that spring should bring us.  We were quickly rewarded with a great viewing of an osprey, recently returned to the man-made pond just above the Hyrum City power generator.  Not only did we see the osprey, we saw it tussling with a juvenile bald eagle – and then got to watch the eagle for awhile.

A bit later on our drive, Debbie spotted our first banded kingfisher of the year.  Soon we'll be seeing these all up-and-down the streams and rivers here.  On our last drive out, a few days ago, I had a brief sighting of the American dipper (one of my favorite little birds).  Didn't see any yesterday, though.  I saw a male Bullock's oriole resting in some wild roses, looking very bedraggled – I suspect he'd only just arrived.  We spotted a single Sandhill crane, with a much-darker-than-usual body coloring – we're thinking it might have been a yearling.  We saw swallows high above us, the first sighting of them this year (and I saw a single purple martin in our yard yesterday – most likely a scout).  Then there were the deer: lots of deer.  No elk, though...

All this gave me my first real opportunity to try out our new binoculars, and these live up to their promises.  Despite being purely mechanical (and no batteries!), the stabilization mechanism does a great job of taking out the jitters.  They gave me 20x magnification, hand-held, with a perfectly clear image.  The 60mm objectives make the image beautifully bright, and I can not detect any chromatic aberration at all, even out at the edges of the field of view.  They're great!

Debbie was feeling lousy yesterday, so early in the afternoon we took her temperature: 101°F.  Dang!  She's got some sort of bug.  I'm holding out hope that it's not the lingering malady I had earlier this month, as that was the pits.  Her symptoms are different...

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Southwest 1380...

Southwest 1380...  I'm sure you've heard the story by now – if not, just search for the flight number and you can read all about it (and try to stay more in touch with the world, would you?).  Here I'm posting the audio of the communications between the aircraft and the air traffic controllers as the pilots flew the damaged aircraft to the Philadelphia airport.  They made a safe landing there.  Several passengers were injured when the left engine disintegrated, one of them died later.

It is remarkable to me just how calm the pilots (especially the captain) are as they flew this damaged plane down.   Lots of people are making comparisons to the “Miracle on the Hudson” a few years ago, and I think they're fair.  BTW, the captain on this flight happens to be a woman, 56 years old, and a former Navy FA-18 pilot.  Her husband is also a captain at Southwest Airlines.  I'll close with an excerpt from this morning's Wall Street Journal piece (The Right Stuff at Southwest Airlines):
At the outset, the pilot calmly announces, “Southwest 1380 has an engine fire. Descending.”

A short time later she reports, “Actually no fire now, but we are single-engine.” At one point she informs controllers, “We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit.” Each report from the cockpit is delivered in the same even and reassuring tone.

“If you would, have them roll the trucks,” she asks politely, hoping for emergency vehicles on the runway given that her engine has exploded, passengers have been injured and perhaps killed, there’s a hole in the aircraft and shrapnel has been sprayed around the wing and fuselage.

Readers may be wondering, just as this column does, how one could not only maintain composure but even exhibit impeccable manners in such a situation. After landing the airplane, Ms. Shults says to the controllers, “Thanks, guys, for the help.”

Where do airlines find people like this? The U.S. military, of course.
The right stuff, indeed...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Apparently not all dogs like banana slices...

Apparently not all dogs like banana slices...  Idaho mogul-of-everything Doug S. wrote yesterday; first time I've heard from him in months.  Amongst a lot of catch-up stuff was this little gem:
I tried to get my dogs to enjoy bananas, but the slices just hit the floor as I get questionable looks as if they are saying what's this crap... ha ha
This led me to do some investigation on the Intertubes, and what I found was lots of dogs that love bananas, lots of dogs that hate bananas, some dogs that are actually afraid of bananas, and a few that are allergic to them.  It's clear that our five banana-loving dogs are not especially unusual, nor are Doug's dogs doing the WTF?  I'm not sure why, but I'm surprised at the variation.  Generally foods that appeal to dogs seem to appeal to all dogs.  For example, I've yet to run into a dog that doesn't love Milk Bones.

Anyway, I'm sad for Doug.  The banana-slice ritual is a big part of our mornings, every day.  I'm well-known at our local grocery for buying bananas (we go through 14 a week), and many of the clerks know I'm buying them for my dogs. :)

More weird weather...

More weird weather...  It's April, or so the calendar tells me.  Yesterday was beautiful, sunny, and warm: 70°F.  This morning when I got up at 1:30 am to let the dogs out, the back yard was covered with ... snow!  This morning that danged white stuff is still out there, about an inch and a half.  Thankfully it didn't stick to the driveway or our walkways; they were too warm.  But the grass and the trees are covered.  I'm going to ignore it, and hope that our 40°F high today is enough to melt it all...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Windy!

Windy!  We've got a fairly steady 25 mph wind, with gusts considerably faster – about 35 mph, I think.  My barn is shaking!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Since we've been back...

Since we've been back...  Yesterday morning we woke to something we didn't expect at all: snow.  The forecast had called for rain, but we got heavy, gloppy snow instead.  In the photos below (of our back yard) you can see just how hard it was snowing, as I capture quite a bit of it in the air.  You can also see that the “snowflakes” were actually more like little snowballs.  We got just over an inch of this stuff before it warmed up enough to actually rain.  By the end of the day yesterday it was nearly all gone – but we do still have a bit hanging around at the end of the day today...


We didn't do all that much yesterday; made a grocery run and picked up our mail.  In the mail I got the “reward” from one of the Kickstarter projects I backed: Wood Trick.  The actual reward is a (very complex, hundreds of parts) big rig model, but they sent along two much smaller models with it.  I built both of them yesterday afternoon; somehow it was the perfect thing to occupy me – very relaxing after our trip.  Photos of these two below.  The first one is a cute little animated frog – by moving a lever in the back of him, his four legs all wiggle and his eyes goggle.  It uses rubber bands as a return spring, and wooden gears to provide the animation.  The second two photos show an amazingly realistic jeep, made entirely from laser-cut pieces of plywood.  This entire model was cut out of a sheet of plywood roughly 8" by 12".  It's all assembled with friction-fit connections – no glue or fasteners are used in the model.  The wheels turn on axles that work quite well, despite being made of square pieces of wood!  Wood Trick is a Ukrainian company, trying to break into the world's biggest toy market: the U.S.  I hope they succeed, because their products are very cool indeed, and quite reasonably priced (the little frog kit, for example, is $4 at retail)...


Today the highlight was the Lily fashion show in our living room.  Little Lily, you might remember, is the little girl that Debbie bought some outfits for while on our trip.  Well, today Michelle (the grandmom), Lizzy (the mom), and Lilly all came over to try out Lilly's new outfits.  Afterwards we all went out for lunch at Jack's pizza.  A grand time was had by all.  Below are the photos I took during Lily's fashion show (which Lily appeared to thoroughly enjoy!).  You can see Michelle at left in the second photo.  I'm partial to that yellow dress myself; everyone else seemed to like the outfit in the second photo the best....

Hanging around Kalispell...

Hanging around Kalispell...  After we arrived in Whitefish (just north of Kalispell) and checked into our lodging on Monday night, we were exhausted.  Debbie had the brilliant idea (especially in hindsight) of eating at the hotel's restaurant instead of driving into town as had been our plan.  The restaurant got good reviews on Yelp, so we thought we'd be ok.  Well, we were ok and then some!  Our delightful waitress Natalie strongly recommended the grilled elk tenderloin, so we tried it – and man, were we glad we did!  That was hands-down the best elk dish we have ever had.  So on Tuesday morning, we went there for breakfast – and it was just as wonderful as the dinner.  I had a special, pulled-pork and eggs with a mild verde sauce; Debbie had the stuffed French toast.  Both were outstanding.

After breakfast, we visited Lazy K and Advanced Powder Coatings to take care of our actual business up there.  After that, we had some time to just hang around the Kalispell area.  The first thing we did was to visit the Hockaday Museum of Art, in a former Carnegie library (my photo at right), right downtown.  We'd read about an exhibit of bison engravings they had going on, which sounded interesting to both of us.  It was even more interesting than we'd expected.  Most of these engravings were woodblock prints, but there was one exquisite engraving that was perhaps the best example of a steel engraving print I've ever seen.  The detail was such that you'd need a magnifying glass to see it.  It's hard to even imagine the patience it took to make that engraving with nothing but a block of steel, scratch awls, and an idea.  The exhibit including engravings from every phase of European's encounters with bison, and the commentary that accompanied the exhibits ended up giving us a nice history lesson – much of which is quite sad.  It treated the American Indian's involvement quite objectively, which I was glad to see.  “White men” and American Indians both carried out the near-extinction of the bison, a fact which all too many history books ignore in their efforts to blame Europeans...

After our enjoyable visit to the museum, we headed up to Whitefish to search out a pottery store that we'd read good things about.  Here we were a bit disappointed.  There was some stuff there that we found attractive, but the majority of the pieces were of the imaginary category Debbie and I call “modern art”, which is really our catch-all term for art that we don't understand, don't find beautiful, and really don't understand why anyone does.  That store was full of it. :)  However, on our walk toward the pottery store, we happened by Sprouts, a store selling children's clothing.  Now you might well wonder why we might be interested in such a store.  It's all because of our friend Michelle H., whose daughter Lizzy is also a friend.  Well, six months ago Lizzy had her first child (and Michelle's first grandchild): Lily, a beautiful little red-headed girl.  Debbie was hoping to find a store with locally-made clothing for Lily, and at Sprouts she hit the jackpot.  We came home with a complete wardrobe for Lily!  :)

We were ready to pack it in for the day at that point, and we headed back to our hotel.  After a bit of discussion about where to eat dinner, we decided ... to eat at the hotel again.  It was so good!  This time Debbie had an all-appetizer meal, with a nice salad, a bowl of excellent parsnip and cauliflower soup, and luscious elk meatballs (below).   I had the soup as well, along with crispy roast duck.  I love roast duck, and have had it many times; this was among the best I've ever had.  I especially enjoyed the contrasting flavors of the Brussels sprouts and apple slices along with the rare duck.  Most delicious, that was!  We had no room for dessert, though we suspect it's just as wonderful as the rest of the food there...


Back in our room the lake fogged over in a light rain.  That made the beautiful scene at right, from the balcony of our room.  We left at 4:30 am on Wednesday, and drove back home without incident.  I did cut the battery management a bit close on the Missoula-to-Butte segment: we pulled into the Butte supercharger with a mere 6 miles estimated remaining in the battery.  That's the closest call I ever made on that!  I have no idea how accurate that gauge is, or whether there's any reserve built in (as there is on gasoline-powered cars), so I'm not entirely sure just how close I really cut it, but still...

We pulled into our driveway at about 6:30 pm, and both of us were very tired.  After greeting the animals, we were snoring in short order...

The actual purpose of our trip to Montana...

The actual purpose of our trip to Montana ... you may remember, was to pick up a bunch of metal work we had done for us by the folks at Lazy K Wrought Iron.  We arrived at Advanced Powder Coatings (they do the powder coating for everything Lazy K does, and our stuff was still there) on Tuesday morning, per plan, and got to see the work for the first time.  As usual, it was gorgeous!  But ... there was a huge pile of metal there.  Larry (APC's owner), a couple of his employees, Debbie, and I all looked at the pile and said to each other that there's no way in hell that whole thing would fit in our Tesla.  I made a mental note to talk with Abigail (at Lazy K) about either shipping the part we couldn't take, or maybe making another trip up here.  

But we were wrong.

It all fit.  I'm still astonished at this!  The photos below show the back of our Model X after we packed it all up.  Larry and I worked for nearly an hour to achieve this, and some of it was advanced puzzle fitting.  Also, there were parts that we could only get into place by angling them in a side door, rotating them (very carefully!), and then nestling them in place.  We used every packing blanket we brought.  About 50' of paracord plus a ratcheting cargo strap strategically placed, and the entire load behaved as if it was a single piece of steel.  In that pile are about 30 pieces of formed steel, some of them quite oddly shaped, all locked together as if they were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  Kevin (at Lazy K) did not design that feature – that was Larry and I carefully packing.  Note how close to the ceiling of the car we got!


For the entire trip home, there was not a single rattle, and I never needed to retie the load down.  Larry and I did well. :)  We did have one minor casualty on the trip home, though.  Before we even got out of the Advanced Powder Coatings parking lot, we heard a couple of alarming “thunks!”m, quite loud.  It took me a while to figure out what they were, but I should have known right away.  The back floor of the cargo compartment is a false bottom, covering a small luggage compartment.  That false bottom is held up by a couple of fairly flimsy plastic brackets, one of which has broken before.  This time, they both broke.  That means another call to Tesla, and probably their tech will be back out here to fix them...

If you love dogs...

If you love dogs ... then you'll know what I mean when I say that I just love hearing the sounds of dogs happily eating their morning kibble, in five-part harmony (because we have five dogs).  In the case of our dogs, this comes right after our morning banana-slice ritual, which already had me grinning from ear-to-ear.  My favorite thing about being back home is being back with my dogs...

And I know, I know ... I missed my promised posting yesterday.  You shall have it soon...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

And we're back!

And we're back!  We got home around 6 pm last night, more-or-less right on schedule.  The trip went without a hitch, though with one mechanical issue I'll talk more about in a later post.  My original plan was to unload our (very loaded!) car this morning, but ... Mother Nature decided to innundate us with snow (photos later).  I think I'll wait until tomorrow. :)

While on our trip we found out that one of our neighbors (Elayne S.) is in the hospital for treatment of some issue with her pancreas.  She's been there two weeks and we never knew it!  We'll be visiting her today...

I'll fill in some details and post some photos later on today...

Monday, April 9, 2018

And we're off (well, close to it)!

And we're off (well, close to it)!  We're aiming for a 5:00 am departure, and as I write this (at 4:20 am) it looks like we'll easily make that.  Our first stop is at the Tesla Supercharger at Idaho Falls, Idaho – we should get there around 7:30 am.  There's a nice little coffee shop there where we'll get some caffeine and eats, then we'll hit the road again.  Then we hop to the next supercharger, at Lima, Montana – another hour and a half up the road.  After that, we head to the supercharger at Butte, Montana, about 2 hours away.  The last supercharger we'll hit is in Missoula, Montana, another two hours up the road.  Then we've got the last push to Whitefish, Montana (where we're staying), right near Kalispell – that's about two and a half hours.  If you add it all up, we've got about ten and a half hours of driving, and probably an hour and a half of charging – so with any luck at all, we should pull into Whitefish around 5 pm.  We'll check into our lodging and then head for a dinner at a restaurant we know there: the Tupelo Grille, where we've had several outstanding meals.

If you're wondering about how our animals (14 cats and 5 dogs) are cared for while we're gone, we've got the most wonderful setup here you can imagine.  Our good friend Michelle H. takes care of them when we're on a trip.  Our animals already know her well – many of our cats like her better than they like me! :)  She lives 3 minutes from our house, and she (or one of her very responsible children) will come over at least three times a day to care for everybody.  Michelle is very experienced in animal care, having quite the menagerie at her own house.  Our vets (3 minutes from our house in the other direction) know us and our animals very well, and they've go no problem accepting Michelle's intervention as needed, and then letting us pay for it on our return.  This is so much nicer that the arrangements we had available to us in California.  Even if Michelle couldn't help us on some particular occasions, we've got several other friends in the area who could pinch hit.   Care of our animals while we're on a trip was a concern of ours before we moved here; like so many other things, we're now wondering how on earth we ever put up with the miserable equivalent in California...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Road trip!

Road trip!  We'll be on the road from early Monday morning to late Wednesday evening, heading up to Kalispell, Montana to the Lazy K Wrought Iron shop to pick up the latest things they've made for us.  That includes beautiful wildlife silhouette railings for our front porch, plain railings for the entrance to our sun room, and all the metal parts for two stairs and railings for our deck (the latter matching the deck railings they built for us last year). 

We've got a nearly 600 mile long drive ahead of us tomorrow, the majority of it (sadly) on I-15.  However, the last 20% or so will be on surface roads, including a nice long drive alongside the gorgeous Flathead Lake.  We'll spend Tuesday in the Kalispell area, picking up our stuff and doing some sightseeing (including more time around Flathead Lake).  Then on Wednesday we'll head back, basically retracing our steps.

This trip illustrates one of the things we like the least about long-distance drives in the Tesla: our routes are limited to those which take us near the supercharger locations – and those are, of course, mostly near freeways.  In the future we hope to change that, by two means.  First, Tesla is aggressively expanding their supercharger network – even by the end of this year there will be many more locations, including the first wave of “off freeway” locations.  Second, we'll be putting together a trailer that includes a diesel generator.  That trailer-with-generator will have two purposes.  First, it will house not only the generator, but also our Nikola electric off-road vehicle, due to arrive in early 2019.  The generator can then charge both the Tesla and the Nikola.  This will allow us to travel in the Tesla to out-of-the-way four-wheeling destinations, such as the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, Alaska, or the Canadian Rockies.

But meanwhile: road trip!  Blogging may be light-to-nonexistent for a few days...

Saturday, April 7, 2018

If you're a bird watcher...

If you're a bird watcher ... and you're older than about 45 or so, you almost certainly know this book.  Peterson's book used to have roughly the same standing as Sibley's books do today.  This particular copy was printed in 1958, when I was but 6 years old.  My mother bought it new, and I remember that for years she kept the slip cover on it, to use as a bookmark.  I spent many hours at the big “picture window” in our living room, often with her, watching the birds that we fed in our back yard.  We'd look up birds in Peterson's book, and she showed me how to use the identifying features that Peterson marked, and how to look up the text on each bird.  Refilling those feeders was often my job, and in my teenage years so was repair and construction of the platform feeders (my dad wasn't very good at this sort of thing).  This poor, worn volume lived through most of that period.  Before she bought this then-new volume, my mom had an older edition, purchased used, and very beat up.  I remember that she gave that older edition away, but I can't remember to whom.  When my parents moved to southern New Jersey, she fed the birds there, too – and this little book, her birding bible, went with her.  It went with her when my parents later moved to Virginia, where again she fed the birds.  Finally, when she moved to Utah she hoped to feed the birds here as well, though she never did, and she brought this little book with her.

Now I have it.  There are better references available today, and I mainly rely (like the younger bird watchers) on Sibley's excellent books.  But I keep this volume on my office bookshelf as a piece of memorabilia.  This morning I picked it up and paged through it.  It fell open naturally on certain well-used pages, and on one of those (page 214 and the facing plate) are the “Winter Finches”, including the Eastern Cardinal – the female of which species was perhaps the bird my mom thought most beautiful.  I was surprised that I remembered that plate.  I went to it many times as a kid, but I haven't looked at Peterson's book for probably 50 years – and yet that plate was still quite familiar.  Paging through, I found a few other plates that were similarly familiar – especially the plates with chickadees and wrens.  Funny how memory works.  I'd never have suspected that I'd still remember individual pages in this book...

Well, that big-eye tuna...

Well, that big-eye tuna ... was every bit as wonderful as we'd anticipated, in the poke we had on Thursday.  That poke had a bit more avocado than usual, because our grocery store had them for less than half the usual price – and they were big, luscious, and I found five perfectly ripe ones.  That was one delicious bowl of poke...

Yesterday we had a bit of rain, and I ended up working in my office most of today.  We're expecting even more rain today.  Debbie wanted to go to The Grille in Tremonton for lunch, so round about 2 pm we headed out that way.  I had their clam chowder as an appetizer, and I'm sorry to say that I regretted it.  I had two main problems with it.  First, it was (as is all too typical in American restaurants) way too salty.  Second, the broth was (as is, sadly, nearly universal these days) a cornstarch-thickened, sad imitation of what the milky broth of a good clam chowder should be.  Oh, well.  That failing, however, was more than made up for by the excellence of our other selections.  Debbie had a pulled pork salad, made of very fresh, crisp lettuce, the usual veggies, and a generous portion of cold pulled pork on top.  Watching Debbie pour the homemade ranch dressing on makes me suspect she thinks of the salad as primarily a substrate for the dressing. :)  She also had a side of sweet potato fries, which we've had before, and which have been outstanding each time.  I ordered the baby-back pork ribs – smoked and barbecued.   They were tender and full of flavor, the barbecue sauce was mildly spicy and (thankfully!) not overly sweet, and the combination was ... delicious.   Now I'm going to have trouble ordering anything else when I go there, because it was so good that my brain will be screaming at me to order it whenever I have the menu in my hands. :)

On the way home we stopped at Walmart to pick up a few things.  On the way out of the store we witnessed something that drove home just how much differently people here behave, in general, than what we were used to back in San Diego.  We saw something that wouldn't have raised an eyebrow back in San Diego – but which here is so unusual that we were quite shocked.  As we were pushing our cart full of stuff out of the store, we saw a woman with two toddlers running out of the store, weaving around us.  Her cart was full of various things, none of them in bags – when I first saw her, I immediately suspected she'd bypassed the registers.  Then as she went through the door, we heard the shoplifting alarm go off.  She kept running.  Nobody came out of the store after her.  As we proceeded to our car, we saw her running through the parking lot, hollering at her kids to hurry up, going in the general direction of our car.  Turns out she was parked three cars away from us, in an old beater of a sedan, full of rust, holes, and junk inside.  She hurriedly dumped her purchases in the car, threw the kids in (hollering at them the entire time).  We arrived at our car just then, and I started to unload our cart.  Next thing I know, that woman's shopping cart was rolling through the parking lot behind me, where cars turned into parking spaces – the woman had simply pushed the cart away from her and let it roll!  It was headed directly into a car behind us, so I ran over and captured it, and pushed it into the little enclosure where you're supposed to put your carts.  As I turned around after that, this woman backed at reckless speed out of her space, then screeched in a tight turn to head out of the parking lot, right past me.  I watched her, astonished, as she sped by – cigarette dangling from her lips, still hollering at her kids, and cackling madly with apparent delight (I'm guessing because it looked like she'd gotten clean away).  I didn't have the presence of mind to look at her plates, much less take a photo of her car.  Nobody from the store came out to investigate.

As I mentioned earlier, such behavior in, say, the El Cajon Walmart wouldn't have seemed unusual at all (though I suspect the store employees might have been a bit more on the ball than they seemed to be here).  Here, however, that sort of thing is most unusual.  It's not that there's no shoplifting problem here – I know from talking with store personnel that the big-box retailers here all have problems with shoplifting.  No, the part that's unusual is the blatantly criminal behavior – someone doing this without apparent shame, and without concern about being observed.  That's the part that reminded us of California...

Thursday, April 5, 2018

I just finished...

I just finished ... cutting up about 20 ounces of beautiful, fresh big-eye tuna, center cut.  I also cut up some green onions.  Debbie made the marinade and cut up several avocados.  That all got mixed up and put in the fridge to marinate for about an hour and a half.  Meanwhile, the rice maker is smelling up the kitchen with the lovely aroma of cooking brown rice.  And in a couple hours, we're going to be eating the most wonderful poke.  I don't think I'll soon get over my astonishment that we can get this kind of quality fresh seafood out here in the boonies.  I've never seen big-eye tuna for sale in San Diego's fish markets.  Ahi was available there (as it is here), but not the big-eye – which we like even better than the ahi!

Ah, eating well in Paradise, we are!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

We're planning to visit Canada this summer...

We're planning to visit Canada this summer ... and these days, that means we need a passport.  It's still hard for me to believe that's so, but I've made several business trips there since 9/11, so I know it is.  So a couple of weeks ago, I did some research online to find out what we needed to do, and I made an appointment for this morning at the big post office in Logan, Utah to meet with an “acceptance agent”.

There was some preparatory work, of course.  Debbie and I have both had passports before.  Mine were almost entirely for business travel, which I did far too much of.  It expired four years ago.  Debbie had a passport for the one international trip we've ever made together, in the mid-'90s, to Costa Rica.  That was a memorable trip, indeed.  But ... her passport expired in 2004.  It turns out there are two different processes for renewing one's passport: one for passports expired within the past five years (so, mine) and one for those expired longer ago (so, Debbie's).   That meant two different forms, each six pages long, needed to be filled out.  Both of us would need new photos, but the post office offers that as a service.  It wasn't clear what documentation Debbie would need, so we brought driver's license, birth certificate, and marriage license.  I didn't need anything beyond my expired passport. 

So after having filled out those monster forms, and gathered all the supporting documents, this morning we headed to the post office.  It was relatively painless, no long waits, no insurmountable problems.  We did have one funny incident, which the post office acceptance agent (a nice local lady with a great sense of humor) had never seen happen before.  She took Debbie's photo, electronically transferred it to a special “face printer”, and printed out a pair of photos for her.  Then she took mine ... and the printer refused to print.  “Huh!” said she, and she had me come back to try again.  Once again, the printer refused – but this time, she got an error message: “Face not found”.  That's what she had never seen before.  My face broke her printer. :)  On the third try, though, the printer finally agreed to print my photo.  Sheesh!

The biggest surprise for me was the cost.  Each of our passport renewals cost $110, and then there were almost $60 worth of post office expenses (photos and postage, mainly).  By the time we walked out of there, our bank account was close to $300 lighter.  That I did not expect!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Yaupon tea...

Yaupon tea...  My yaupon tea arrived yesterday, and I had a nice big cup of it this morning.  When I took the dry tea out of the bag to put it in my cup, the aroma instantly brought back memories of my childhood, working with cut American holly (Ilex opaca).  That's a different species than yaupon, but a relative – and the smell of it confirms it.  Holly leaves have a pleasant and distinctive odor, like many other trees do.  They don't smell much like black tea, though, so it felt a bit odd to be steeping them in hot water.

The tea, when finished, is distinctly green – it looks much like Japanese green tea in the cup.  I made it my usual way, in a 16 ounce cup with a level teaspoon of sugar and a few tablespoons of milk.  The sugar, it turns out, is much more than needed to offset any bitterness.  Tomorrow I think I'll try it sans sugar; it may not need any at all to suit my tastes.  The flavor is light and quite nice – surprisingly it didn't taste at all like holly leaves smell.  Within a few minutes of finishing the cup it was evident that the caffeine was there in sufficient quantity to get me going, though perhaps not as much as my usual Darjeeling.

Overall, I liked the yaupon tea.  I only bought two ounces of it, and I will definitely finish that off.  When I'm done with that little bit, I'll decide whether to get some more.  At the moment I like it well enough to say that I likely will do so...

Monday, April 2, 2018

Just got back...

Just got back ... from a very nice wildlife-viewing drive up Blacksmith Fork Canyon.  We saw lots of deer on the north side of the steep hill just south of the Hardware Ranch visitor center, 35 to 40 of them in quite a small area.  Most exciting to me: we saw our first Northern Harrier of the year, in their classic low-and-slow hunting pattern over the big meadow about a half mile west of Hardware Ranch visitor center.  A bit further west we got a great view of two Sandhill Cranes, browsing along the edge of a meadow about 100' away from us.  All three of those viewings were high quality: as much time as we wanted, relatively close, and unobstructed sight lines.  We watched the harrier for about 15 minutes – it's not easy for me to tire of watching that effortless stunt flying.  That's not my photo at right, but I wanted to show the light coloration.  Later in the year the Northern Harriers are distinctly darker; this one surprised us with how pale it was.

I can see how some might think this was boring...

I can see how some might think this was boring...  SpaceX just did it again: a “nominal” launch of a Dragon resupply ship from Cape Canaveral.  As I write this, the Dragon is in its intended orbit, has tested its maneuvering systems, and has unfurled its solar panels.  Now it will have a two-day journey until it docks at the ISS.  Awesome, SpaceX.  And I'm not bored at all...

A confession...

A confession...  If you had asked me a month ago what the chances were that I'd pay $100 to subscribe to the Washington Post for a year, I'd have confidently asserted that the chances were exactly zero.  I'd also have asserted that there was nothing conceivable that would change my mind.  I'd read enough of their articles to know that their commentary was overwhelmingly in the “uninformed liberal” category, and that liberal bias spilled over, well, liberally, into their allegedly straight news stories.  If I wanted liberal bias like that (and actually, I do for the purposes of informing myself), I can get all I want for free from National Public Radio (including their online material).

But now I've gone and done it.  A couple of weeks ago I plunked down my $100, and I was definitely not happy about it.  So why'd I do it?  Because the Post found a way to entice me: they hired one of my two favorite columnists in the world, and now her work is behind the Post's paywall.  The Post got Megan McArdle.  Damn them!

Also, good for them.  It's an interesting choice they made to hire a writer who can be depended on to bash liberals whenever they deserve it (and conservatives, too).  And, I sincerely hope, it's also a good move for Megan.  I don't think it matters much, from her perspective, what bias the platform hosting her has – her work transcends and ignores that, which is precisely what I cherish about it.  I hope she got a nice jump in compensation for this move (away from Bloomberg).  In these politically polarized days, the tendency is for everyone to be categorized as “liberal” or “conservative”, with some relatively crazy minority identifying as “libertarian” or some other group.  I don't fit into any of these categories, and so far as I can discern neither does Megan (though it's often said of her that she “leans right” .  I think she has her own category to herself, which I'll call “sober and rational”.  This country could use a few more Megans.  Actually, a lot more Megans.

But, dammit, I hate forking over my money to such a biased platform!

Who's my other favorite columnist?  The reliably conservative (in an old-fashioned sense) Jonah Goldberg, who shares an ample portion of Megan's sobriety and rationality.  Plus he loves dogs (as does Megan)...

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Just found this online, by accident...

Just found this online, by accident...  But it (and an appropriate frame) are now on their way to me.  Reagan riding a velociraptor – how does anyone even think of these things?  Totally awesome...