Misc

“No” Inflation

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This is a 30 ounce jar of Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise.  It cost me $5.29 today.

This is noteworthy because its the first time in awhile I’ve had to purchase mayo.  The last time I purchased it, I’m pretty sure I got 36 ounces for the same price.  In fact, I vaguely recall even larger quantities prior to that.

It’s just like ice cream, where $5 used to get you a full half gallon and now can get you 1.5 quarts.  Remember that when the “experts” talk about “no inflation.”

Chicken Pizza

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How ’bout a meal?

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This is a chicken pizza I we make.  The Wife found the recipe in one of her magazines.  The toppings consist of chicken, mozzarella, cheddar, salsa and guacamole.  The crust is my own, an awesome thin crust- a recipe is over on the side there under the bread category.

The chicken is seasoned and grilled prior to cutting it up and placing it on the pizza.  The seasoning consists of 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp onion powder, 1/2 tbsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp cayenne.

The basic process is make the dough and split it in half to make 2 crusts.  Spread the dough on cookie sheets and cook it at 450 for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, make sure the chicken is grilled up and also whip up some guacamole.  When the crust is done par cooking, pull it out and sprinkle cheddar cheese on it, followed by the cubed chicken and finally a layer of mozarrella.  Put it back in the oven until the cheese begins to brown.

Spread the salsa on it, followed by the guacamole.  Finally, sprinkle a little fresh cilantro on top.  Serve with sour cream.

Enjoy.

Snow

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Yep, halfway through April and we got a combo of snow and sleet at the tail end if the rain that came through last night.  It’s 30 outside right now as well.

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Skies are clearing now and it looks like it will be a heck of a nice day.  Snow wan’t last long.

UCONN 2 for 2

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Not terribly unique, but it’s the second time they’ve managed this feat. The men beat Kentucky last night in a close one, while the women blew out Notre Dame tonight. Congrats to both squads.

And Now Time for Something Completely Ridiculous

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BEHOLD! A record setting hot dog that weighs over 125 pounds.

The dog itself weighs in at 51 pounds, with the toppings and bun accounting for the rest. You really have to click the link to check out the pictures.

Are you afraid? Grossed out? Or hungry?

Surely Someone Already Thought of This

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The Malaysian jumbo jet that disappeared has been all the rage lately with people and the media all speculating about what happened.  Wired has an article that’s now making the rounds which proposes the most boring, but plausible explanation: a fire.

The article is a quick read and written by a pilot familiar with the aircraft.  The gist is a fire of some sort forced the pilots to shut down the electrical systems and ultimately caused the plane’s demise.  The abrupt change in course was the pilot’s attempting to get to another airport.  There’s more and it’s worth the read.

It makes so much sense that my only rebuttal is, surely they already considered this explanation, right?

Whither Spring?

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The high temperature for yesterday was about 30 degrees. The low’s last night dipped down into the teens. Currently, it’s in the high-teens now and supposed to get colder before the morning arrives. Tomorrow, the forecast high is in the 30, as was today’s high temperature.

If we were still in January or February, none of this would even register as interesting. Even early March can be a bit dicey. But were only a few days removed from the official start of Spring and right now, to call it a “cold” start doesn’t do it justice. We’re basically seeing Winter temperatures still.

Astoundingly, we’re supposed to continue to see these temperatures. We get an occasional warm-up into the 40 and 50’s, and then the temperatures head right back down into the 30’s. So I wasn’t surprised to see this.

Spring will get here eventually, but evidently not before Winter has had its fill.

A Little Rain Never Hurts

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Looks like the majority of the rain has passed us by.  It was coming down in buckets earlier.  Given the heretofore unrelenting cold, this could have been a real back breaker.

The cold returns tomorrow, but not for long and we won’t be getting any snow with it.  Which is nice since we can finally see the stone of our driveway for the first time in a couple months.

A Lament

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The lass’ Girl Scout cookie order arrived over the weekend. The Wife and I divvied them up into their destination customers, including those that belong to us.

I opened the first box on Monday. It was a box of Samoa’s, a favorite from way back when I was a boy. The little plastic tray in the box has 3 sections with 5 cookies in each section. I grabbed three from the first section.

Then, I stood there, staring at the 2 remaining cookies in that section of the tray.

“Oh, who am I kidding?” I said as I grabbed them and scarfed all 5 down with a milk chaser.

Damn Girl Scout cookies.

Guess I Was Tired

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The kids went to bed around 9 last night. After saying my “Goodnights” to them, I came back downstairs and laid down on the couch. The Wife sat down in her rocking chair. I recall closing my eyes…

… I woke up and it was dark. The Wife was not in her chair anymore. I glanced at the clock and it read 10 o’clock. I glance at the fire and saw it was still in good shape. So I closed my eyes again…

… and opened them to see the fire was way down. I glanced at the clock and it was midnight. Bleary eyed, I got up and tended the fire. I noticed the lights were still on outside so I turned them off. I then went back to the couch, laid down and closed my eyes again…

… and woke up at 3AM to see the fire was a bit sluggish. I was still bleary eyed, but I got up and stoked it a bit to get it going again. Once it was burning, I wandered back to the couch. The dog got up and changed his position as well. I saw that my phone was lit up telling me the battery was low. I plugged in the charger and set it down. I laid down and closed my eyes…

… and woke up about 6 feeling great. The fire was down and ready for a new load of wood, which I took care of. The light of the morning was coming through the windows now and the birds woke up. I went and got a drink of water. I took the dogs out for their morning pee. I came back in and made myself a cup of coffee, then went back to the couch and sat down. No need to close my eyes this time.

Winter in New England

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Where we live, we haven’t had a “big one” for a storm this year.  If memory serves, we haven’t topped 10 inches yet in any single storm.

With the consistent cold though, none of the snow has melted between storms.  We’ve had 3 or 4 that have dumped anywhere from 4 to 8 inches and the cumulative toll has added up to about the same as a single big one.

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There’s supposed to be a warm up over the next few days with temps consistently above freezing.  If that pans out it, this will likely be the high water mark for snow.

Freefall Video of Felix Baumgartner

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A new video featuring footage from Felix Baumgartner’s suit during his record setting free fall in 2012 has been released. WARNING: don’t watch if you are prone to queasiness. The footage includes views from the spin he endured before stabilizing. Plus, he was really high in the air. Like, really

I still highly recommend watching though. It’s as close to that sort of thing as I’m willing to get.

Watch Boiling Water Vaporize Instantly

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On Saturday, when it was -8 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning when we all got up, I tried to show the boy what happens to boiling water when it’s cold enough. I loaded boiling water into a cup and then went outside and tossed it in the air. About half the water vaporized, and the rest plopped down onto the deck where it froze a moment later. Not quite the effect I was after. As cold as it was, it wasn’t quite cold enough.

This guy, on the other hand, had -41 degree Celsius (about -41 Fahrenheit, interestingly enough) temps to work with and came up with a rather nice twist on presentation:

The video author writes:

Woke up to a balmy -41C this morning in South Porcupine, ON. Thought I’d share what happens when you mix boiling water and a water gun and take it outside for a few shots.

The boy liked it too.

(Hattip: Watts Up With That?)

Cool Grill Design

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Via Instapundit, a cool grill design for campers. The “grill” portion rolls up and the stakes are the only other component for the system. Read the article for the gist of setup steps, but the entire design is just dead simple. It wouldn’t take up any space when packing and who doesn’t start a campfire when camping? Very nicely done.

3 Counter-Intuitive Observations for Burning Wood

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With temps around 12 outside right now, it’s about 75 in the house and about to get warmer. I’ve just put a new load of wood in the fireplace to make sure the cold stays outside.

It occurs to me that running a wood fireplace is not necessarily an obvious thing. I had a bit of a learning curve from when I first got it 6 or 7 years ago. In that time, it’s easily saved us thousands of dollars in heating costs. Our oil tank only gets filled about 3 times a year and of those times, only the fall fill-up is a big one because the April fill-up lasts until about November when there’s only a few gallons left in the tank. The fill-ups we typically get in January and April are just toppers because our fireplace heats the whole house.

Our fireplace is a 75,000BTU model. It has a blower for a heat exchanger and a single air-flow control rod to control the burn. It is designed with airflow tubes across the top of the fire-chamber to achieve a secondary burn of the gases of the wood as they burn. When everything is running right, and hot, no smoke comes out the chimney because it all burns inside the fire chamber. Properly run, I can go 8 hours between wood loads, as the literature says. Though when it’s real cold outside, I find it better to load more frequently.

This model has no grate for setting the wood on. The firebox is lined top, bottom and sides with firebrick so the wood sits on a flat surface while burning. In order to get airflow around the wood to promote a good burn, a little care has to be taken when loading wood. First and foremost, do not just set the logs on top of the coals. This arrangement provides for no airflow around the wood and will smother the coals. The result will be wood that basically smoulders and delivers little heat and a lot of smoke with no secondary burn.

The simplest arrangement I’ve found is to push the coals into a pile into the middle of the firebox, trying to separate the ash off to the sides (or removing it entirely if there’s a build up). Then, place a pair of smaller logs on either side of the coals. Finally, push a couple of logs on top of the other logs and try to provide for an air gap between the coals and the wood. This is basically a log-cabin arrangement and it will burn very well with NO maintenance or futzing about with the wood for it’s entire burn cycle. Depending on the size of the logs, a third, cross-layer of wood can be placed on top of the second layer.

Which brings me to my first counter-intuitive observation of burning wood: quantity does not equate to peak-heat. That is, more wood does not mean that the fireplace will get hotter. It means it will deliver whatever peak heat is attained for longer. The peak heat is controlled mostly by the type of wood burned. It’s also controlled somewhat by the airflow control.

Which brings up the second counter-intuitive observation of burning wood: less airflow means more heat. There are 2 reasons for this. The first is that letting less air into the firebox means less cold air in the firebox to cool things down. The second is that it promotes more smoke from the wood, which ignites in the secondary burn and provides more heat. When I’m running the stove at it’s best, the airflow is closed down at least 3/4 of the way. How far airflow can be closed down depends on the type of wood, how well it is seasoned and how cold it is outside.

Oak, maple, birch and ash are generally all good burning wood. At least, those are the ones I have the most experience with. Birch burns the hottest, followed by maple, oak and ash. The longer any of these wood types has been seasoned and the colder it is outside, the more the airflow control can be closed down because the heat in the firebox will promote a natural draft that will pull in enough outside air to maintain an optimal burn.

A third counter-intuitive observation of burning wood is that more wood does not necessarily mean a warmer house. Here’s the thing: if I load the fireplace to it’s maximum volume and allow that to burn, I’ll get a long burn at peak heat. But I’ll then have a long period of time (up to several hours!) after peak heat where there are hot coals to burn off before enough room is available to fit another load of wood. Depending on how cold it is outside and how well insulated the house is, the house will being cooling off at some point after the stove naturally begins cooling down from peak heat. If there is a long time to burn off the wood coals that remain after peak heat, the house will cool off quite a bit.

Therefore, in order to keep the house at it’s warmest possible, I have to load enough wood such that peak heat can be attained and the house warmed, and the wood be consumed enough that another load can go in before the house cools down too much. This means it’s actually better to load slightly smaller logs more often (ideally every 3 to 4 hours) into the fireplace. This is why I’ve also found it better, from a burning standpoint, to have more smaller logs on hand than larger ones. Something to keep in mind when splitting cord wood.

How hot is peak heat? From the blower perspective (which is what does the lion’s share of house heating) the air is too hot for me to keep my hand in front of the blower for more than a moment. I measured it around 200 degrees with a temp probe. Usually, the door temperature is around 350 degrees Fahrenheit at that point. It doesn’t take a lot of that heat to warm a house significantly.

Stay warm out there.

The Cold Begins

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As I type this, it’s 7 degrees outside with wind chills below 0. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be around 10 before the bottom falls out and we go below 0. Oh, and it’s snowing too. Lovely weather this time of year.

Fortunately, we’ve got fire and warmth in the house. The kids are sleeping after a half-day of school after their 11 days of Christmas vacation. School has already been cancelled for tomorrow, which makes for 2 weeks with only 4 hours of schooling or so. With the cold it’s hard to say how much they’ll be able to enjoy the snow though. The boy is already grousing that the snow will fall but then it will melt before he can have any fun in it. He’ll be right eventually, of course but for the moment the snow won’t be going anywhere.

This particular storm is getting a lot of attention because of the cold. Most of the news has been wall-to-wall storm, with what seems like minute-by-minute updates. It would be easy to forget we live in New England- you know, an area of the country somewhat renowned for it’s cold weather. Stories about the predictions and the Governor’s plans and the road crews and the weight of the snow and every other conceivable detail.

Anyway, it’s cold outside.

Happy New Year!

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May all your New Year’s dreams come true.

And this post of mine,
Which is right on time,
Wishes you and yours,
The same thing too…

Creatures of Habit

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TWANG TWANG

Around 8 o’clock each night, the cat makes his daily appearance. He comes down the stairs and sits his butt down at the front door. If no one notices him in what he considers a timely fashion, he starts to yowl. Someone, one of the kids, myself, the Wife, eventually lets him outside.

TWANG TWANG

A couple hours later while sitting on the couch, I hear him. Or, more precisely, I hear him scratching at the screen. The dog reacts by starting to bark. I react by getting annoyed. I hate him poking at the screen. On occasion, I’ve sat here with the window opening and a squirt bottle. When I’d hear him scratching at the screen, I’d let him have it with the bottle. Another time, I let the dogs out to chase him.

TWANG TWANG

Neither has stopped him. I’ve come to accept that he’ll do it each night.

I don’t let him in via the screen door anymore though. He won’t always come in that way, which is even more annoying than the scratching at the screen. Now, I go to the front door and call him. After a couple seconds, I can hear the jingle of his bell as he jogs around to the front of the house from the back. He comes up onto the porch and waits for me to pick him up.

I do so, and bring him in the house. Upon opening the door, the dog is waiting for me. He knows what I’ve gone outside to do and the cat is a constant source of temptation for him. I bark at him to back off and leave the cat alone and he slinks off to a safe observing distance. He knows where the cat is going and he contents himself that he’ll get his opportunity.

Sometimes I let the cat go right there and he’ll scamper up the stairs to safety from the dogs. Sometimes I’ll escort him to his food and water bowl. It’s the only variation in our routine.

He’ll load up on food, and then do some exploring through the house. Eventually, he’ll find his way upstairs onto our bed where he’ll fall asleep. He’ll wake up eventually, and then make his daily appearance.

Um- no

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A somewhat intriguing link at Instapundit: 11 ‘Girly’ Things Men Wish They Could Do Without Judgment.

Having read through the list, I can’t say that I identify with wanting any of these things. The only item that comes close is the one about kids. But then, I’m not too worried about what other people think when it comes to me and the kids. So it doesn’t really apply in my case.

All the other things strike me as silly, frankly. Of course, the creators of that list would likely say that’s the problem. To which I’d reply- no, they’re the problem, and not the fact that they want to do these things. If they want to do those things, then just DO them! Don’t expect me not to think it a bit odd because it’s outside the norm, though- that pretty much defines “odd.” Besides, defying social stigmas is all the rage nowadays- these guys should just let there inner-whatever show.

Frozen

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The lass spent the whole movie giggling excitedly. The boy spent the whole movie wiggling uncomfortably.

That’s probably the best way to sum up Frozen. It’s called a movie, but I thought it was more a musical than movie by the time it was all done. The first half the characters were breaking into song every 5 minutes or so. It slowed down some in the second half, but there was still plenty of spontaneous eruptions of song.

Which isn’t to say I disliked it. I just didn’t expect so much of it to be told with music. As for the story, the main shortcoming I could come up with was how the loss of the girl’s parents was dealt with. That is to say, it wasn’t. They simply were there for about 20 minutes, and then gone- never to be addressed or spoken of again. Seemed kind of odd given that the girls were supposedly so close to them but then never grieved for them. Not to worry too much though- the 20 minutes they are in the movie is long enough to lay the ground work for what happens in the rest of the movie.

The movie’s strongest point is the ending. The “act of true love” which is needed to resolve the story is setup quite nicely. As a Disney movie, everyone is led to believe it will be one thing. What it actually becomes is much more satisfying and in keeping with the overall heart of the story- the relationship between the two sisters.

Sprinkle in comedy relief from Olaf and Sven, and there’s plenty of story and entertainment for everyone. Except, apparently, for the boy who claimed he didn’t like it. It was almost as comical watching him wiggle in his seat during the “kissy” scenes as listening the lass squeal with delight at Olaf’s goofiness. Disney did a nice job of adding a new twist on their “Princess” canon.

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