Thursday, May 26, 2005

Family Feud

Family Feud has to be about the most worthless game show on TV today.

The idea is good enough: get two gomer families to compete guessing the most popular responses to rather ordinary questions. It's simple, you can play along while watching.

What's stupid is the money.

These two families battle over a grand total of $10,000 (oh, wait, update, in 2001 they doubled the grand prize to $20,000!).

Now, I'm not one to turn my nose up against $20,000 - but that's the limit, that's all an entire family can win! Divide by five, and you get $4,000 per person. The Feud organizers probably make that much money just selling popcorn to the audience during the shows.

Most of the time the family doesn't win the grand prize, they $5 per point (200 points is the grand prize) and generally score 140 points or so - a grand total of $700. Perhaps the family has picked up two thousand along the way to getting to the "final round". The average winnings are probably less than $3000 (for those who don't win the grand prize).

Let me contain my excitement.

Now, Fear Factor is a real game show...


Mary and I stopped by Cost-Plus yesterday, under the guise of picking up some rootbeer for me. We ended up finding our favorite wine for sale there, so we picked up a few bottles.

Luckily, the shop also had Hank's rootbeer, so I picked up a four-pack. Nice flavor, a little cream-soda-ish, but mostly a rootbeer flavor. It tastes as though it is going to be super-sweet, but it turns out to have the right balance. I'd put it in the top 5 rootbeers.

So, pick up a bottle if you see it, it's worth the dollar.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Fast Squirrel

While riding down Dan's trail yesterday I came across a squirrel.

The little bugger ran down the trail in front of me for a good 20 seconds - at over 15 miles per hour.

Wish I had that kind of speed.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Back Deck

The back deck is gone.

I tore it out.

Since we're putting in a path and a patio, it's time to get new tools. I almost bought a sledge-hammer, b/c we'll probably want one for installing the bricks (a rubber one). But, at the stone shop, the rubber hammer was $45. No-way Jose! And they had a neato 48-inch, laminated, wooden level with brass edges - $80 or so. No-way Jose!

We went to Home Depot and picked up a $10 level (bright plastic yellow), and punted on the sledge hammer.

I started tearing apart the deck and quickly realized that my little "crow bar" was a little to little, and a little too flimsy to do the trick. So I just used the back of my trusty claw hammer. That actually worked pretty well. And, when it came to hammering boards apart, I just used both of my trusty claw hammers at the same time - swinging them like some raged barbarian out of one of those fantasy books I like to read. Yeah, it took more effort than if I'd borrowed a 5 pound sledge hammer, but it was fun.

Now we have a patch of uneven, cracked soil where the back deck used to live.

Only thing is, we still have a 12 foot board bolted to the side of the house. It's going to be tough to remove for several reasons:

First, one of the bolts is rusted on. Yes, I sprayed it with penetrating oil. That didn't help, I just turned the nut and the bolt together - so now they're spinning like a top (not so effortlessly) but not moving anywhere. So I'm not quite sure how to get that portion off.

B, I can't pry the board off (even with a nice, big, sturdy crowbar) because the house is made of cement ... and styrofoam. It's bolted directly onto the styrofoam - and I don't know that I really want to damage the styrofoam horribly to get this board off.

And, because it's styrofoam, there's really not a whole hell of a lot to leverage against.

Lastly, it's a 12 foot board, and I really need to work on one of the four bolts at a time.

So, I'm gonna have to get a saw (think my dad has one) that lets you cut a hole in a flat surface. I don't want any fancy power tools b/c I don't want to cut into the siding/styrofoam. Every screw up I make will be visible, so no screw-ups.

The other things that were uncovered by removing the deck are:

There's an access pipe to the sewer right by the back door (good thing nobody told us). We need to figure out how to make it accessible without making it look like the sewer is protruding through the patio.

The storm water drain pipe (from the downspouts) runs right through the back patio area - basically at ground level. So we'll have to adjust our patio height to accommodate that.

And last, but not least, we have a downspout that connects directly to aforementioned storm water drain pipe that we need to somehow pretty-up, so that (again) it doesn't look like the sewer is protruding through the patio.

Oh, but I forgot to mention, the supports for the back deck's awning. They're just resting on small patches of cement. With one good blow from my hammer I could easily bring down the entire awning. And, the supporting cement patches - they're well above ground level. So, unless we want yet another super-ugly sore in the middle of what will be a beautiful path/patio, we need to dig those out and replace the supporting posts with newer, longer beams - all without letting the roof fall down and killing our 8 year old grape vines.

But, the good news is that our property is sloped nicely, and we won't have to do all that much digging to get the grade we want.

Oh yeah, and I got to Roundup a bunch of weeds in the yard. die weeds die!!!!

Friday, May 20, 2005


Mary and I decided to join NetFlix.

We watch a few movies a month, not a lot. But we've actually gotten lazy/forgetful and have gotten a few late fees in the last month or two (yes, we still use Hollywood - not Blockbuster).

Mary got all psyched up about using NetFlix when she found that it's real easy to use - that you can control the order in which you get movies and all that. So, we signed up.

We looked, briefly, at Blockbuster's online DVD rental. It's the same price (we just got the 2-DVD at a time option) as NetFlix, but gives you a little more. We decided that we wouldn't notice the difference between 2 at a time versus 3 at a time, and we'd rather support the "little" guy - or at least the new kid on the block.

But then I found out that NetFlix and WalMart are forming a partnership where NetFlix gets all the rental business, and WalMart gets the sales. I don't like WalMart, so I started wondering if we should really use NetFlix.

But I justified it as just a partnership - we're not going to buy WalMart DVD's, so we won't be supporting WalMart.

It did throw me for a loop.

Monday, May 16, 2005

New Thing For The Day

This will help shave seconds off my triathlon time, how to tie the "Ian Knot" - the world's fastest shoelace knot.

Watch the video, or watch the flipbook animation.

1500 baby

The three people that read my blog have hit the 'refresh' button enough times to make my stat-counter reach 1500. What a milestone!

Yard work and cobbler

We didn't quite make the dent I was hoping to in getting ready to put down the path. I took up all the black plastic and got it folded up and put away, and I removed three of the 5 old fence posts. I helped Mary with weeding the front bed some, and she planted about half of the impatients (did you know that impatients are native to Africa?) she'd raised from seed. So the front bed looks great, and the side yard looks dead, but that's about it. The next big task is to actually tear out our back deck.

On the plus side, I think we've decided which stones to use for our path, Appian interlocking pavers. We like the look, and they come in shapes that easily create circular patios. We're leaning towards the "classic" color.

After a long, hard day working in the yard (3.5 hours felt like forever), we made some yummy dinner, and even better dessert.

First, Mary started making some blueberry peach cobbler. She used the same cookbook I've been using - and though it seemed to have more steps than your average cobbler recipe, it not only looked great, it tasted awesome.

While that was cooking, I really wanted to try out my new marshmallows in some hot chocolate.

First, let me tell you the results of my marshmallow experience. It was a hoot. There is something really cool about making a food product as odd as marshmallows starting with only sugar, corn syrup, water, and gelatin. To start, all the ingredients form a clear syrup, tinged faintly brown. But after you've whipped it up, they turn into a glossy bright white. And after it's cooled enough to touch, the result is super sponge-like. Simply amazing.

I pulled the marshmallow out of the pan onto the cutting board, cut a few pieces, dusted them with powdered sugar and popped one into my mouth. It tasted *exactly* like your standard marshmallow. I don't know why this is so amazing, but it was very surprising. Mary was just as surprised when she ate her first.

Now I've got a pile of marshmallows I need to pawn off on people at work...

But, Mary had the insight to recommend making some hot chocolate and trying the marshmallows out on that. Genius! I knew there was a reason I married her.

I grabbed some of the best hot chocolate I've found, dagoba hot chocolate. I whipped some up, and threw in half a dozen small marshmallows. mmmm..... The difference between the storebought marshmallows and my homemade ones? Mine actually melt in the hot chocolate. It was divine.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday Night Hilights

Exciting Friday nights.

I made the marshmallows tonight. Mmmm.... sticky. I just poured them into the pan, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see what they taste like. But, from what I tasted while licking the bowl, they tasted like marshmallow. No big surprise.

What was cool was how some molten sugar and some rubbery gelatin would mix together to make such an oddly textured food.

We watched Motorcycle Diaries. Great movie. I had no idea what it was about, little did I know it was based on a true story. Worth watching on a big TV, and a good sound system would help - we're thinking of getting the soundtrack (it sounded great).

And now for snooze time. Gotta gear myself up for a ride in the rain tomorrow. More singletrack is what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Drinking too much can kill you

No, not that kind of drinking.

Several times now I've heard of this study that talks about how some marathoners become overly hydrated. Basically, they drank too much while running (enough to actually *gain* weight during the race), and their electrolyte levels got way out of whack.

I'm sure that people do this, but in all the coverage I've seen (and as far as they've reported about the study itself, there's no real critical thinking going on here.

Yes, if you drink too much water you are going to cause problems. People have even died of this. Fine. And some marathoners (evidentially the slow ones) end up getting too much.

So you're supposed to weigh yourself before and after your training runs to gauge how much you sweat and how that compares to the amount of water you're drinking.

But nobody talks about other alternatives. What about drinking sports drinks? What about actually eating something (pretzels, bananas, energy bars, etc.) to help balance things out? What about slightly salty water?

Wake up reporters - how about some critical thinking...

Here are two of the reports: the first and the second.

Cooking Again

I've been cooking some again.

My cooking seems to go in spurts. I'll really be into it, and then I won't do anything more exciting than warm meusli or sauteed spinach.

Well, last weekend I made meatloaf - using a recipe out of the Cook's Illustrated cook book. Cook's Illustrated tries to approach cooking scientifically, for example they'll roast 55 different pot roasts, varying the time/temperature/brining/seasoning to find the very best. The cook book describes some of what they go through in coming up with each recipe. I highly recommend it, it's very interesting. Miles even thinks so. Anyway, meatloaf. It was awesome even without the bacon (I didn't have any). It's not that different from your standard meat loaf recipe, except that it has yogurt and a glaze. The yogurt gives it a slightly rich and creamy taste and texture, and the glaze (almost a sweet and sour) is just delicious. Oh, I also used quick-cook oats as a binder (as opposed to the traditional breadcrumbs).

Tonight I made a kick-ass burrito with some left over chicken. Nothing fancy, but very tasty. Though this opinion might be influenced by the fact I'd only eaten three boiled eggs and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich all day.

I'm thinking of making marshmallows from scratch. I've been excited about the idea ever since I read a blog entry by Cooking For Engineers. If nothing else, his recipes are displayed very concisely and are easy to follow. Perhaps I'll flavor them with mint!!!

Last, and certainly not least. We had my in-laws over for dinner last night. Both their birthdays, mother's day, father's day, and their anniversary occur in about a 45 day span. For my birthday they gave me a beer-can-chicken stand. The basic idea is you stick a half empty beer can inside a chicken, stand it up on the grill, close the lid, and voila! Ninety minutes later you have a meal. The stand makes the whole arrangement very stable (I can't imagine trying to balance a raw chicken on top of a beer can). I rubbed it with a some oil and a spice mixture and threw it on the grill. The skin browned up beautifully, nice and crisp. And the chicken was amazingly moist. I didn't taste any of the beer (Coors lite), but we're thinking of trying the process with wine next time.


Garden and Strawberries

Last weekend we worked in the garden.

Mary and I had weeded some of it already, and she'd planted a few things like spinach and other greens. But we finished up all the prep work - and the garden looks pretty nice. Mary planted two types of beans - bush beans (green beans) and some scarlet runners. She also planted a couple different types of peas. Both the peas and beans have nice little trellises (trellisi?) on which to grow.

I mostly ho'ed the other beds, making them soft and manageable and ready to plant. This was, of course, after I mapped out the house and yard - getting ready for putting in a path and beds for plants.

The most exciting thing was the strawberry patch. It's 16' long by 5' wide, and packed FULL of berry plants. I almost pulled a couple out because they looked so foreign - I've never seen berry plants like this before. Mary counted 25 berries on a single plant. wow. In just a few weeks these puppies will be ripe, and then it's nothing but strawberries and cream for me (diet be damned).

I'll blog about the path/patio/plant beds another time, but it's our spring project (if we ever get actually started - I've got some work to do to get ready). We'll have a much nicer side yard to hang out in after it's done.

We're also going to put down 18 inches of gravel (that's width, not depth) around the house to help prevent weeds from growing right next to the house. But first, I get to spray round-up. Woo-hoo! It's so satisfying, it just kills everything (except those darned blackberries - unless, that is, you really saturate the ground). Evidentially, we've got some bind-weed in one corner of the yard (by the play structure), and the only realistic way of getting rid of it is round-up.

So be warned plants, I'm coming to get you!

Sick Cats

Our cats have been sick again lately.

Fysh got a nasty upper respiratory infection. It sounded like she was breathing through a thin layer of mud - her breaths were all spluttery. And she'd do her reverse-sneezing bit pretty often, resulting in big snot globules hanging from her face or all over the wall/window where she stood. We felt horrible and got a round of anti-biotics. Some of that, another drug, and her asthma inhaler, and she was back up to snuff in less than a week.

Then Jupiter threw us for a loop. He started doing lots of dry heaves, horrible sounding dry heaves. I mean scary, exorcist scary. And some of the time he'd puke up some bile. Plus, he stopped meowing. That was the weirdest. He's an odd cat, and will often wander around the house, meowing loudly in various places. There's no rhyme nor reason to/for his meowing. And he'll usually stop as soon as you let him know you're listening. But then, 5 minutes later, he might very well start up again.

So, we took him to the vet, and she said he was super dehydrated. Well, first she said he was impossible to handle, then she said he was a sick cat and really dehydrated. So, Mary being a doctor and all, we gave him subcutaneous fluids for a couple days. Like how I used the lingo? I'm learning through osmosis (pun intended - subcutaneous fluid ... osmosis ... get it?). Basically you stick this huge needle (pencil lead sized, not your mechanical pencil led, but those old-fashioned wooden pencil pencil leads) into the scruff of his neck and pump in 120 CC's of fluid (4 ounces or 1/2 cup) of liquid in there. Cats can absorb it like that.

After a couple of days like that, he regained his spunkiness, but had lost his voice. The vet said it might take up to a month to get it back. No such luck, he was meowing loudly within days.

But, back to the vet saying he was impossible to handle... Normally, Jupiter is about as low key a cat as you can expect. We've had kids around him and he just soaks up their attention, patiently hanging out as they hang him over their arm - feet dangling. You can thump him like you're fluffing up a pillow, and he just purrs louder and louder.

Well, at the vet's office, as soon as one of the helpers (nurses?) goes over to his cat carrier, he beings to hiss real loudly. And evidentially, he continues to hiss and refuses to be held or handled in any way the entire time. He doesn't bite and scratch, but wiggles around and makes it impossible to do any exam (he's rather like a slippery worm when he doesn't want to be held). When I picked him up the nurse went into the back room to fetch his carrier - and as soon as she opened the door he began hissing again. He hissed the entire time until I picked up the carrier and walked out the door of the vet. He immediately stopped hissing.

Later on, during the treatment phase, the vet called to ask how he was doing. She also mentioned, rather firmly, that we might consider finding a vet who does house calls if he needs further treatment.

We've been fired as clients (for Jupiter).

Single track with the new wheel

I took the new wheel out for a spin yesterday.

I love riding in Corvallis in the spring. The singletrack trails are just incredibly beautiful. You ride under a canopy of fir/cedar/oak trees and pass moss covered nurse logs, wild rose, coastal iris, buttercups, sword and brachen ferns, and vine maple. I even spotted a rabbit while on the Midge Cramer path. Luckily, I didn't see any poison oak and haven't had any signs that I ran into any unseen (knock on wood).

The wheel finally came. I got the same rim back with a Chris King stainless steel rear hub. Two weekends ago I put on the new rotors (I scratched the others while riding on the Slick Rock trail because my brake pads wore out), adjusted the rear derailer but didn't go riding on the account of mango.

So yesterday was the first ride. It felt great. First of all, the wheel didn't break. It made the little buzzing noise that Chris King is known for, and it rode beautifully. And the weather was perfect, just a little sunny, and slightly cool. It had rained the day before, so the trails were a tiny bit muddy - and there's just nothing like riding around with a little mud splatter to make you look like a real mountain biker.

On my way back I rode on the road that cuts across the OSU farm/ranch land (and through the covered bridge). A college class of some sort had assembled on the path - so I whistled and they parted, making two columns of bodies for me to ride through. I felt like Lance Armstrong, riding in the French countryside with excited cycling fans eagerly waiting for a glimpse of greatness. Sure enough, their faces showed the disappointment when it wasn't Lance but an overweight weekend warrior wearing spandex and no giblet cover.

But, I didn't let that dampen my enthusiasm. I rode on.

Before I go, I recently found out that Chris King had moved to Portland. I'm very excited about this for three reasons.

First of all, they sound like an awesome company to work for. They seem to treat their employees very well, and their attitude toward the environment is incredible. Almost no waste leaves the building - they recycle their oil, their water, everything. Read about their environmentally sound manufacturing processes here, and why they choose to continue to manufacture their products in the US in this article.

Secondly, I want to go on a tour of their shop - and it's much easier now that they're in Portland (as opposed to southern California).

Third of all, if my rear hub breaks, I can drive up there and throw my rear wheel at them and yell, "Fix it damnit!"

Monday, May 02, 2005


I'm not a big fan, but they're my home phone provider. Mostly because that's what everyone uses around here.

Well, the last bill was almost triple what it normally is, due to a few calls to Australia. Since we didn't have the "international" calling plan, they socked it to us for over $1 a minute. Friggin highway robbery.

So I got all pissed and called them up. The guy tried to calm me down, but there was no reasoning with me. I remember when I signed up for the Qwest plan - I got some trainee and spent nearly an hour on the phone with him/her. I figured somebody had to suffer, I'd do my part. Evidentially they neglected to ask if we ever make international calls.

Anyhoo, I started looking for alternative providers. There are MCI and AT&T, but they're probably just as bad as Qwest. It also turns out that there are co-operatives like Pioneer. I really wanted to sign up for Pioneer, but they don't serve our area. It looked like it'd be cheaper and I could support a local company. But, the Oregon PUC says who gets to have phone service where, so no small companies for me.

Today I called up and gave Qwest a chance to keep my business, and the guy did the right thing - he reduced our bill to what it would have cost had we had the international plan (a savings of $85). And, he gave us caller id.

Now I'm spoiled (after 3 whole phone calls), and I don't know if I'll ever be able to not have caller id.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Another Weekend

My wheel finally came. Yay. After 5 months, I finally have my full-suspension bike back. I would have ridden it this weekend, except my left eye swelled up so much that I looked like an overweight Borris Yeltsin. Yup, the mango inflammation just got worse over the weekend. No riding for me. Just resting with either an ice-pack or a tea bag (hey, it works) on my left eye.

I did finish two books though, "Absurdistan" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." One is about unbelievable craziness one guy finds during his travels, and the other is a science fiction book. ba-dum-dum!

But seriously, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law-law picked up "Absurdistan" for me thinking I'd like it. Sure enough, they were right - I had trouble putting it down. Half the book was witty and funny, the other half was rather scary. Kind of how the first scene in "Saving Private Ryan" reaffirmed my certainty that I didn't want to go to war, "Absurdistan" reaffirmed my believe that as messed up as I might think the U.S. is, I could be living in any one of those horrible situations reported in the book. And not that this could replace a "thank you" card, but my Auzzie relatives can expect to get a card saying pretty much what I just wrote. Two thumbs up on the book.

I read "The Guide" because the movie adaptation opened this weekend, and I needed a refresher on the storyline. It's a fast read, and I'm not sure how they're going to turn it into a movie, but I'm sure the DVD will be worth a rental (I'm too cheap to watch movies in the theater).

And while I'm speaking of random things, my Cat, Jade, is a seat thief. She takes everyone's chair/sitting-spot. If you get up to go to the bathroom, or perhaps one of the cats gets up to drink some water, you're sure to find Jade sitting in your spot just seconds after you've vacated your position. I can't figure it out. Perhaps she likes the already warmed-up cushion. She even picks on Jupiter, not waiting for him to leave, but bothering him until he leaves - then settling in for a nap. I can't quite figure out the attraction - perhaps she's just attention starved.

ps. I only mowed 100 gallons of grass this weekend. I'm keeping on top of things.