Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Moon Crazy

The smallness of the picture doesn't do justice to the beauty of the moon this evening. Well, good night.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Beam Me A Tribute, Scotty

The immortal cry, "Beam Me Up, Scotty," will once again ring out at a "Star Trek" convention this weekend, but the phrase will have far greater resonance than usual.

The vintage sci-fi series' original cast members will gather to honor James Doohan, beloved for his role as U.S.S. Enterprise Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. The 84-year-old actor, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, is retiring from public life following the four-day convention at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and the unveiling of a star in his name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Read it all. Its nice. I guess it is a Trekkie weekend here in SnabbyLand.

Vast New Energy Source Almost Here

Hat tip to Vulgarius for the link...

Australian scientists predict that a revolutionary new way to harness the power of the sun to extract clean and almost unlimited energy supplies from water will be a reality within seven years.

Using special titanium oxide ceramics that harvest sunlight and split water to produce hydrogen fuel, the researchers say it will then be a simple engineering exercise to make an energy-harvesting device with no moving parts and emitting no greenhouse gases or pollutants.

I wish them luck. Like organic polymerization, non-crystalline solar, cold fusion, some black box hydrogen/electrical inventions and other technologies, there is a great deal of excitement with varying degrees of success. Whichever of them results in a reduced need for petroleum will meet with my approval.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Actor Stewart Recovers From Angioplasty

LOS ANGELES - "X-Men" star Patrick Stewart is recovering at home after undergoing an angioplasty procedure earlier this week to widen an artery, his publicist said Friday.

Angioplasty involves the use of catheters to place a small balloon in a narrowed blood channel. When the balloon is inflated, the artery flows more freely.

Get well soon! It it too soon to visit Sto-Vo-Kor.

Your friend,

Company Pulls Toys Depicting 9-11 Attack

No comment. Just bizarre.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Governor unveils solar-homes plan

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a plan yesterday to encourage the construction of 1 million solar homes in California by requiring builders to offer the systems to all new-home buyers.

Schwarzenegger's proposal would create a fund of about $230 million for rebates on solar installations, with more funding possible if state regulators later find it is needed to meet the million-homes goal by 2017.

"Once implemented, it will establish California as a world leader in solar technology," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Under Senate Bill 199, as the governor's proposal is known, builders would be required by 2008 to offer solar systems in much the same way they offer other home upgrades.

It looks like there might be some devils in the details, but considering the financial situation of California, I think this is generally good news. I wish Oregon the same solar incentives California does for do-it-yourself solar.

A New Creature for My Amusement

Lunch time:

We are now proud owners of a TI-84 Silver edition calculator. My daughter's school requires them for all students entering her grade level. On the surface, it is a graphing calculator with a USB port. However, the screen is fully graphic and controllable and programmable, so it is really a specialized hand-held computer.

I was hoping to find someone offloading theirs cheap on eBay, but apparently nobody there has heard of accumulated depreciation. In fact, some were selling theirs for $30 more than it costs new. Ouch!

Also, it is programmable using the TI BASIC language. This version of BASIC has none of the bells and whistles demanded of good, pure programmers like functions or objects...or even subroutines. It uses line numbers and Goto statements. Just like the old days! I think it uses the old Z80 processor (circa the '70s) which explains alot. Nonetheless, it appears that an array of graphic games is out.

Previous TI calculators have Windows and Mac emulators out. The TI-84 is too new for that, so I guess I need to make sure I don't crash the calculator wiping out all my daughter's schoolwork. There shouldn't be too much danger of that. With all my standard Visual Basic programming for work, I am also training on the new Microsoft .NET programming platform and learning RealBASIC so I can write for the Mac and Linux as well as Windows.

Something tells me I won't have much time to mutate the TI-84, but I will be thinking about it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

'Super-Earth' spotted in distant sky

European astronomers announced they had found a "super-Earth" orbiting a star some 50 light years away, a finding that could significantly boost the hunt for worlds beyond our Solar System.

The planet was spotted orbiting a Sun-like star, mu Arae, which is located in a southern constellation called the Altar and which is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, they said.

The so-far unnamed world, which whizzes around mu Arae in just 9.5 days, is the smallest of the estimated 125 so-called extrasolar planets that have been detected so far.

Hi, I am almost 1,500 years old...on mu Arae. The star that unasks the universe.

'Flower power' cars could be in your future

Lunch post:

Researchers in England have found a promising method for producing hydrogen from sunflower oil, a development that could lead to cleaner and more efficient hydrogen production for powering automobile fuel cells as well as homes, factories and offices. The development was described today at the 228th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Dupont and her collaborators developed an experimental hydrogen generator that uses only sunflower oil, air and water vapor along with two highly-specialized catalysts -- one nickel-based, the other carbon-based -- that are alternatively used to store and then release oxygen or carbon dioxide while producing hydrogen intermittently. The new process does not involve the burning of any fossil fuels, they say.

Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: The Parting Instinct

Mi was an old lady of a cat. We weren't exactly certain of her age because my father-in-law picked her up as a stray about twelve years ago.
She definitely looked old, too. From about a year ago, her calico coat, once so glossy and beautiful, became matted and filthy-looking. Her teeth went bad at about the same time. The vet said it was pretty much all over. He said the same thing again a few months later and again a few months after that. Mi was a stubborn cat, however, and she just kept soldiering on and on.
A few weeks ago, something strange happened. While Kiharu was in the bath, Mi pushed open the door and came in, squeaking all the time. (You can't really say that Mi ever meowed. It was a cute, little squeak.) When Kiharu got out, Mi firmly positioned herself between her feet and refused to budge. Kiharu tried putting the stubborn cat out of the room, but she came right back in and planted herself right back between Kiharu's feet, squeaking and purring the whole time. She made it plainly clear that she wasn't going anywhere without some proper affection.
You have to understand; not only was Mi a rather skittish cat most of the time, but she NEVER seemed to like Kiharu very much for some reason. She'd let me pet her, but not Kiharu. Kiharu used to wonder whether it was because she'd been jealous of the way Mi had been pampered by her parents...often at her expense...before we got married. Mi's adoptive son, the big, red tabby named Aka (red), has always been everybody's buddy, but she herself had never really been all that friendly. At any rate, for Mi to go to such effort to be affectionate with Kiharu was damned unusual.
From about the same time, Mi started appearing wherever I was if I was outside for any reason. Whenever I went to my car, whenever I came back, or whenever I went over to take down the laundry, she was always right there, usually positioned as conspicuously as possible so I was forced to take note. If she was awake, she'd start squeaking at me. If I gave her even a tiny scratch on the head, she'd immediately vault between my feet as if her life depended on it.
Apparently she was being unusually affectionate with everyone...even my son Taiki (whose natural, 4-year-old-boy inclinations had kept her on the run before).
After about a week of this behavior, she suddenly took a horrible turn for the worse. She had more or less stopped eating completely, and she was reduced to a saddening bag of bones with remarkable speed. Even so, she was always right there to greet me when I came home or lying under the clothesline when I went out to bring in the clothes. Eventually, with her emaciated frame and gummed-shut eyes, she looked positively frightening; she was more like a zombie than a living cat. She barely moved at all. Even so, she still managed to keep herself faithfully positioned to greet me whenever I appeared.
She also never failed to squeak at me if I scratched her head, even when that squeak became hideously hoarse, almost a whisper.
It was heartbreaking.
This went on for almost two weeks. Then, when she stayed under the clothesline without moving for a full night, father-in-law made her a bed in a box and placed her in it.
Sometime during the night that followed, Aka curled up beside her. That was odd, too, for the two cats hadn't tolerated each other's close presence for the previous seven or eight years. Aka must have known, as his stepmother herself had clearly known, that it was all over. She didn't live to see the light of the next day.
The kids were pretty upset, to be sure, and the whole household was understandably gloomy, but I think Mi made her peace and took her leave in the best possible way. Not bad for a "dumb animal", at least.
If the Buddhists are right, her soul is probably going on to something better, anyway.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

An Appointment with Water, Part II

(Here is part I)

Now, where were we. Ah, yes. I brought a day pack and put my smaller water bottle and some items for dinner. I was able to avoid the "dog people" as they were all busy watching their pooches splash through the water yelping at one another. I reached the rope swing junction and proceeded up the trail. The first section thickened into a dark canopy of older coniferous trees with very little undergrowth. As the trail steepened, it opened into an area of thinner trees and lots of mountain huckleberry undergrowth (I think). I walked through a couple hundred knee-level spiderwebs hoping not to get nailed.

At one point I noticed the silence of the area by its occasional absence. An alarmed chipmunk snapping a twig sounds much louder when the silence becomes normal. I snapped my head over to see the commotion. When I saw the little 8 inch chipmunk I started laughing...possibly maniacally considering I was laughing alone. It remained quiet but a cool wind had begun blowing down the hill swaying the trees enough to provide a gentle shush as I hiked on.

After a mile or so, my right upper thigh started feeling very tired; perhaps it was a pinched nerve. In any case, I needed to stop a few times thereafter as I climbed to let it rest. Walking slower didn't seem to make a difference so I just pushed it until it bugged me too much each time.

But who cares about that? The important thing is that during one of these rests, I heard a very large snapping sound that definitely was NOT a chipmunk. Being a solo hiker in the middle of a giant (and sweet) field of admittedly barren huckleberry plants, my first thought was "bear." Then I immediately pooh-poohed the idea, but I startled whistling a little Jethro Tull tune just in case. The reality that a deer was hundred times more likely was just beginning to dawn when I almost got taken out by a mountain biker.

Luckily, he was quick on the brakes. Even luckier, the guy behind him was even quicker because the first guy was almost taken out by the second guy. The main guy said there were two more, so I decided to wait for them all before proceeding. The fact that they weren't supposed to be on the path wasn't as important as the fact that I was on such an "unused" path. Rather than argue or point out what they already surely knew (no bikes on the Pacific Crest Trail), I decided to leave them with their pre-Copernican view that they are the center of the universe. That brand of libertarianism is the reason why Libertarianism (see the big L) won't work. Too susceptible to cheating...but I digress.

The one good thing about my temporary adrenaline rush was that the bikers removed the remainder of the spider webs for me up the trail; a service for which I was grateful. The trail grew steeper and I marveled at their ability to keep a bike on that narrow, rocky, steep, root-strewn trail...and then forgot them. I reached the base of a steep slope of scree and I thought I might be nearing the top. I was not. It was getting cooler and a little windier.

I picked up an audible but not visible companion for about 1/4 mile as I quartered around the bottom of the scree pile. A Clark's Nutcracker or Gray Jay (both of whom are locally known as camp robbers) periodically chirped and followed me up the trail. After nearly two miles I reached the top...of a lower pass. Well, that sign at the bottom of the hill wasn't too accurate. I will get to that in a second. The wind was much stronger up here and it chilled me as the sweat evaporated on my shirt. This pass marked a trail junction and also another 3/4 mile climb up the hill. Gee, they were only off by almost a mile. There was a good deal of blowdown timber around and the anemic, possibly diseased or just storm-racked trees were swaying rather a lot. No big crackles though, so okay.

The clouds were looking dull grey and although I had my rain coat, I decided not to lug my heavy rain pants up the hill. Also, it was beginning to look like the clouds would block my views anyway, so I decided to bag the last leg and head back down the hill. As I descended down the hill, it seemed as if I was drawing the wind down with me. It was definitely growing stronger. My bird buddy wasn't around to heckle me on the way back. The right thigh apparently didn't mind going downhill so that was a boon. I trudged my way down to the rope swing trailhead.

I was heading back to camp and saw one group taking their dog around the lake. However, when I approached the splashing, barking zone, the other dogs were still there. Two of them immediately approached barking and assuming the two-dog version of a pack formation. One dog, a big black lab, was wagging his tail and seemed friendly, the other, some golden colored variety was definitely NOT so friendly. It tried to get behind me and the tail was down and it had the look that said it didn't like me.

(An aside: Can you believe we're only six hours into the trip and I haven't even gotten to the water part!)

The smug twits that should have been controlling their canines were trying to assure me that these were good dogs. I mentioned, rather loudly, that one wasn't following their pronouncements. I took a firm step towards the golden dog...luckily the black lab decided I was okay when he was called back. The golden dog retreated for a moment, then started to try to get behind me again. The idiotic owner thought that by telling me his dog was only 8 months old (and 50 pounds I noticed), he had somehow changed the dog's intent. When I finally started looking around for a weapon, the fool finally got control of his animal. I continued on to my tent site looking back every so often. It was one of those times that having a nice can of pepper spray to whip out just to use on the owners would have been nice. Luckily, I noticed no real camping equipment, so the self-appointed disruption generators and their mutts would be gone before long.

A new group of two came in and set up camp while I was gone, so there would be people around. They were quiet so I didn't mind. One other group came in before dark but I was done hiking around for the day. I had some dinner (french rolls with Cheez-Whiz and trail mix, yum!) and started reading a book by Charles Le Guin, North Coast. While I sat against a log reading, I heard something just about a foot behind my head. As I turned my head, a loud fluttering burst forth and a camp robber fled to the nearest living tree.

I knew what it wanted, so I pulled a roll out of my day pack and ripped off a little hunk. I set it about 18 inches away on the log. The gray bird with the black eyebrow dropped down and snatched it up. It hesitated for a couple seconds and flew back into the tree. A high caw and within five seconds another was hanging around. I did the same thing and the second bird had some free dinner. There was a good deal of noise thereafter but only a blue Stellar's jay hung in the distance and never got any bread. Of course, that didn't stop the chipmunks from coming around. They were a bit more jittery than the camp robbers, but they would come within 5 or 6 feet to get bread. I went through the roll tearing off pieces alternately for the camp robbers and the little chippies. I enjoyed my warm, fuzzy Dr. Doolittle moment.

Well, the camp robbers followed me around for the rest of the evening, skittering around and cawing while I tried to lose myself in the ripples of the lake. Eventually I tuned them out and gave my brain a well-needed rest. It was definitely cold and gray, but still dry. It also smelled like smoke, but I didn't heed it until I noticed the whole lake basin was hazy with smoke. It appeared to be coming from the direction of my car, so I figured it would be better to stick it out at the lake if it was a real forest fire. I called Ladybug and they confirmed via the lovely Internet that there were no fires nearby. Given the brisk wind, it was probably from a fire far to the south.

I decided to turn in early, around 8 or 8:30pm. I laid out all the rain supplies I might need in case the tent flooded. I spent a fair amount of time trying to avoid dips and canals, but a hard rain could sometimes get creative anyway. I read for a while, then went to sleep. I woke up at about 9:30pm to the sound of rain drops. It wasn't too bad.

I never sleep well on the first night of a camping trip, so I woke up and shifted around frequently. Each time I woke up, it was raining harder (with a couple rare exceptions). About 2am, I noticed that a condensation puddle had formed in the corner where my feet were; a result of my sleeping bag sliding incrementally each time I turned over until it touched the tent wall. This causes moisture to wick into the tent and accumulate. The rest of the tent was bone dry, so I shifted my sleeping bag and went back to sleep. About 3am, my feet were wet because the bag shifted down again. They weren't cold, so I didn't worry about it. It was raining at probably a 1/4 inch an hour at that point. At 3:45am or so, I stuck my arm out of the bag and hit a wet spot in the middle of the tent. The waterproofing on the tarp seams had failed an water was dripping onto the tent floor from the ceiling. It was now raining at about a 1/2 inch per hour rate.

The batteries included with my flashlight began to die and I realized that my backup batteries were for my old flashlight; the wrong size. Luckily, my cell phone was plenty bright to illuminate the tent. Around 4:30am, I woke up for good. I thought I would be able to finish the night sleeping, but I envisioned sitting in my tent and watching it rain until it was time to go home. Also, the wetness was beginning to spread. I decided to put on my rain pants and coat and started packing. I found my wool socks so my feet would stay warm.

I preplanned how to keep things as dry as possible so I could keep a somewhat dry pack. I had plastic bags to cover my sleeping bag & pack stowed in the elevated tent sidepocket, so they would be ready immediately. I stuffed my food and clothes into the main part of the pack. I stuffed my sleeping bag into the stuff sack and bungeed it on to the pack in the dark. I positioned the pack to come out easily and I was ready to get out, pull out the pack, waterproof it, strike the tent, fold it and put it away in a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, it would be an hour until it would be light enough to do so.

I listened to the rain in the tent and probably nodded off a couple of times waiting for the morning. I unzipped the tent flap to expose the mosquito netting and watched the lake slowly turn lighter and lighter blue. When it was light enough to see what I was doing, maybe 5:30am or so, I scrambled out of the tent into the quality of morning light that Ladybug calls 'Blue Bayou.' Luckily, if you can call it that, the rain abated slightly so I was able to perform my machinations and get the pack ready in a few minutes.

I put a black garbage bag over the pack with a square cut out for the straps. With all my layers of clothes on, there was no way the waist belt would fasten, so I was looking forward to more shoulder digging. Luckily, the gallon of water was mostly drunk so at least that would only be a minor pain.

I took a last look at the lake and noticed that the rain had stopped leaving only the substantial drippings under the trees. The white alabaster log jutting into the water became a slate grey wet log again after the night's downpour. I dodged several pools of water on the trail, some rather large. I passed the first tent and the occupants were probably asleep. I passed the second campsite and found only an abandoned and soaked sleeping bag. Obviously, someone had it worse than I did and probably left last night. The dusty trail up the hill was now wet and covered in fir needles.

The dripping continued and it was quite beautiful. The plants glistened and the parched woods seemed more like the lush forests of a Tolkien novel; like an Elven place. The upper thigh problem was worse going up the hill and I had to stop quite frequently. As I neared the top of the hill, the sky lightened and the rain stopped. I was hoping for a break in the clouds and a last view of Mt. Hood. Yeah, right.

The rain started again in earnest and quickly became a downpour. The trail once again turned into a maze of puddles and the Sylvan quality of the woods turned into a dingier Mirkwood wash of rain, mud, and drooping, beaten down plants. Then it started raining harder. I just started chuckling (probably maniacally) because I was alone in the middle of the woods and the pitter-patter of rain on my rain coat turned into a sound like a dump truck full of drum sticks spilling into a snare drum factory.

I kept walking faster because I was getting tired of it. With all the clothing on and the hiking, I was nearly as wet inside with sweat as I would have been without the rain gear. I finally made it back to the parking lot and dumped my pack next to the car. I had some sheet plastic in the trunk and laid it out in the back seat to accommodate my backpack. I removed my wet gear in the Forest Service outhouse and dashed back to the car before I got soaked again.

As bad as it was to hike in it, it started raining harder after I started home on the highway. I had to slow to 35 mph several times to keep from hydroplaning. In Welches, it was raining so hard that my wipers could not keep up on high at 35 mph, so I pulled off for a few minutes.

It was bliss when I finally got home, got into dry clothes and set all my gear up in the garage to dry. I was camping for less than 24 hours, but I was able to pack a number of experiences in even without doing all I had hoped to.

I look forward to doing it again! (this time the laugh really is maniacal)

RSS/Atom Syndication Link Active

I know Info Geek has bugged me a couple of times about this, so I finally got it done. For those propellerheads out there who use news feeds or syndication, now you can feed Snabulus. There is also a link on the lower right-sidebar of the page.

There are probably a number of you who don't know what the bejeebers I am talking about. That's okay, neither do I. :)

Monday, August 23, 2004

An Appointment with Water, Part I

I've been aching for a backpacking trip all summer, but the schedule keeps filling up. Last weekend, I decided that I would take my first backpack trip in a few years and this time I would go by myself. I picked an easy route and a short hike...boy am I glad I did.

The destination was Lower Twin Lake in the Mount Hood National Forest. It was only 2 1/4 miles each way climbing about 400 feet before dropping a couple hundred down into the lake. I relied on my faulty memory about what to bring on a camping trip and brought way too much. The aluminum frame REI SuperPak circa 1980 held all my stuff but the waist belt barely withstood my increased girth. Most of the weight would be borne by my shoulders.

I checked the weather forecast the night before and I am glad I did. It was slated to begin raining on Saturday afternoon, my origin day, and continue overnight and into Sunday (hike out day). I packed my good rain pants and coat (in addition to my cheap backup poncho). When I drove out at 8 am, it was sunny and nice. Travelling early helped me avoid the bulk of the traffic on Highway 26 heading east up Mount Hood toward Government Camp and past.

I parked at the Frog Lake Sno-Park lot at Wapinitia Pass and put on my pack. Gee, it was heavier than I hoped for (and I foolishly carried a gallon of water to avoid the need for using a water purifier). The clouds were starting to thicken but it was warm and nice. The sweet scent of mountain hemlock, silver fir, and the rest permeated the mountain air. Off I went heading north on the Pacific Crest Trail #2000.

Old number 2000 travels all the way from Mexico to Canada and there are actually people crazy enough to hike the whole thing. Within a couple minutes one of them whizzed by me liked I was standing still. The guy had two aluminum walking poles and a very compact pack. I don't know if he was going the distance on the trail, but he appeared to be in shape for it. I, on the other hand, quickly found out how badly my sedentary lifestyle treated me.

I was huffing and puffing within a half mile with my shoulder straps digging into me, my gallon of water starting to feel like a lead suitcase in one hand and a slowly disintegrating sack lunch in the other. It dawned on me quickly that I was repeating every backpacking mistake I ever made on this trip. Well, that was what it was for. There was still another mile of climbing left, so I put one leg in front of the other and trudged on. Wild rhododendron lined each side of the trail along with another evergreen shrub I couldn't identify whose blooms smelled slightly of old urine (sorry, it was the most accurate description I could think of). Bloomed out spikes shot up out of bunches of bear grass (actually a lily, not a grass), the trifoliate vanilla leaf, a tiny herbal member of the dogwood family, and a few other familiar plant friends were completing their yearly cycle.

As I reached the apex of the climb, I was rewarded with a beautiful view of the southern flanks of Mount Hood. That volcano is a true beauty even during the summer with its snow fields and glaciers slowly denuded by the dry warmth of the season. I was sweat-drenched and exhausted at the trail junction down into the lake, so I rested a bit, munched some cashews, and washed it down with water from what increasing felt like a tank rather than a bottle. Finally, I hauled my beer-bellied countenance and pack from the log end I was sitting on headed down the hill to my campsite. Wow, downhill was easier...although the shoulder digging feeling never went away.

I figured this was a popular destination, so I braced for the possibility I might need to hike away from the main lake area to get privacy. Sure enough, three tents were pitched right at the first available spot. Luckily, they were on their way out and they appeared to be the only tenants. I ate lunch out of the tattered remnants of my lunch sack and relaxed for a time. There are several logs that have fallen into the lake, so I chose a large one and straddled it sitting and looking out across the lakes to the timbered hillside across the way. The log I rested on was bleached white by time, but ran straight as a Greek Column; a reminder of the Olympics I wouldn't be watching tonight.

After pitching the dome tent, I took a hike around the lake; about 1/2 mile. My original thought was to climb the Frog Lake Butte trail, but by the time I got around to the trail junction, my left hip joint was feeling very tired and so was I. At the junction, there was a yellow nylon rope attached that allowed people to swing out over the water and jump in. A father was helping his two daughters out and they appeared to be having a great time splashing into the lake over and over again. I headed back to my tent and decided to lay down for a bit; I ended up snoozing for the better part of an hour.

I woke up to the sounds of heavy splashing and barking. A group of people brought their four dogs to play in the water. Great tranquillity breaker. Well, I would avoid them and do something else I supposes. Since their noise was annoying me, I decided a hike up to Frog Buttes was in order after all. A bit over 2 miles and several hundred feet up, but I could always turn back if I was too tired etc. By this time (around 2pm), it was completely overcast and the wind had shifted to the south. Off I went.

(To be continued)

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Easy Indian Meal

These recipes were free recipes from an Everyday FOOD(Martha Stewart Living) magazine solicitation. In fact all the recipes I've posted with the exception of the Easy Peach Pie recipe have come from Everyday FOOD. I highly recommend this magazine, I don't currently have a subscription, but have bought the last 3 issues. Everyday FOOD is a small size (about 5x7), as it was designed to fit in a purse. I like that, as I can use it as my shopping list when I go to the store.
I can say my family loved this meal, it was simple to prepare, and gives your dinner table an international flair!

Cinnamon Broiled Chicken w/Raita
Serves 4

Salt & Pepper
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1 cut up chicken (about 3 lbs)*
1 cucumber (about 3/4 lb), peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tblsp chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 tsp ground cumin

1. Preheat broiler. In a small bowl, misx 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and the cinnamon. Sprinkle on the chicken. Put the chicken, skin side down, on a broiler pan, and broil about 6 in from the heat for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken, and broil until the skin is crisp and brown, about 15 minutes more.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the cucumber, yogurt, sour cream, cilantro, cumin and 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper. Serve chicken hot, w/raita on the side.

*Notes: I used boneless chicken breasts and thighs with no skin, which I had defrosted in the microwave; English cucumbers (which aren't so juicy as regular cucumbers), reduced fat sour cream, and 1/2 the amount listed of dried cilantro.

Golden Pilaf
Serves 4

1. In a saucepan, heat 1 tblsp vegetable oil over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion, and cook until soft. Stir in one cup rice, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp tumeric, 1 dried bay leaf, 1 pinch cinnamon, and 2 cups chicken stock or canned broth. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer 15 minutes.

2. Stir in 1/3 cup raisins with a fork, and simmer until stock is absorbed, about 5 mins. Set aside, covered, 5 mins.

Notes: I suggest using basmati rice, or regular rice. I used brown rice, which was ok, but takes a long time to cook. Switch to vegetable broth for a vegetarian version. Start the rice first, and then you will have the rice and the chicken ready at the same time.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Five Best Software Programs

Be sure to discuss the top 10 disasters below. When finished, enter your top 5 software programs here with the reasons why you think so.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Biggest Software Chokes of All Time

This article lists the ten biggest software blunders of all time, at least in the mind of the author. As for me, I have a serious, personal issue with #2 that I'm sure Mr. Snabbie will share.

With all you computer die-hards out there, why don't we turn this into a discussion forum? What are your views on this list, what do you think was sadly slandered, and what do you think was sadly neglected?

Alright, everyone, SHOW US YOUR UNDERALLS!!!!! (Well, metaphorically speaking...)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

French Fry Lung

Idaho Biodiesel Study Finds Flaws in Trial Run

Study of 200 school buses running on B20 showed pollution levels three times higher. Review of data underway.

BOISE -- Preliminary findings of a local study indicate burning biodiesel to cut vehicle exhaust may actually produce more air pollution.

Oops. That kind of throws a monkey wrench into things and takes some of the "feel-good" out of this environmental fuel. Of course, the technology is still quite young and I suspect there will be ways to combat this problem.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

National Pastime Dishonor

Say what you want about the 2nd string Dream Team for basketball that we've sent to the Olympics; at least they showed up. I couldn't find any evidence of an American baseball team. It appears that disrupting the schedules of the Toledo Mudhens and the Portland Beavers is too much for baseball to handle. Kinda sad, especially when baseball claims to be our national pastime.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Just a Hunch

I have a feeling that blogging could be light until the Olympics are over. Even though Botox Bob Costas is a crummy anchor, the games themselves are rather entertaining. Once again, the judges of the various events are putting up bizarre and inexplicable scores. If an event needs a judge, I am not sure it is really a sport. More like a vote for homecoming queen.

Anyway, tune in, turn on, and drop out on the Olympics and have fun.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Great Olympic Opening, Crummy Coverage

I always enjoy seeing athletes from around the world coming together to compete. The colors are bright and each city puts on a great show. Bjork had a pretty big dress I'd say.

So leave it to Bob Costas and Katie Couric (but really Bob Costas) to do everything they can to screw up the commentary and not know when to shut up. Costas seemed to have an inane or ignorant or insulting comment (the 3 Is of modern broadcasting) about pretty much every country. Here are two examples:

Get "Djibouti" over here. (Djibouti)
The Maltese Falcon starred Bogart (Malta)

Chuckles and guffaws for making fun of country names. When Portugal came up, I said he would mention Iraq's victory in soccer and so he did. They mentioned 9/11 as often as possible; especially with the "Islamic" countries. The Olympic opening ceremony is a good time to focus on foreign policy instead of athletes I find.

Both Costas and Couric kept flapping their gums for Bjork's song and the entire opening pageant. The scourge of reporters is not to know when to shut up. The Winter Olympic show in Norway was similarly ruined by obnoxious comments from ignorant news people blabbering over the top of the music.

Nonetheless, the spirit of Athens, Greece, and the Olympics were able to finally take center stage despite the aformentioned yammerings. And a good thing it was.

Let the games begin.

Bizarro World of Portland TV

I flipped on the TV really quick to see if the opening ceremonies of the Olympics were on. Well, they are not but that is beside the point.

The local ABC, CBS, and NBC channels here in Portland were showing Bush's speech live. The FOX affiliate was the only one showing Kerry. I wasn't interested in listening to Dumb (Kerry) and Dumber (Bush) speak, so I turned it off.

I found it funny that the "liberal" press carried Bush's speech while "right-wingnut" Fox carried Kerry's...so I thought I would pass it along. Good day.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Fall Fairs!

Summer is almost at an end, so now it's time for all the harvest festivals! Here are some of my favorites around the Portland Metro area; Pioneer Farmstead Day at Champoeg State Park-Aug 31st or Sept 4th, depending on which press release you read on their web page (Although I don't think it's the same since they changed the name from Indian Summer Festival- yea, Champoeg history started when the pioneers arrived-NOT!). There's a fun Ren Faire in King's Valley Sept. 17th, 18th & 19th. And of course who can forget the biggest, funnest one of all? The Mt. Angel Oktoberfest! From Sept. 16th-19th. Finally, a long time family favorite, the Verboort Sausage Festival, with corny down-home goodness (and a beer garden!) from Visitation Parish, "Always the first weekend in November. "


In Moody Minstrel's entry, Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: Bugs, we learned about a popular video and card game called Mushiking. Mushiking means "king of the bugs" or "king beetle" or "king of the beetles", depending on which web page you are reading.

Here are some links to the game:

Sega's Main Site

Screen shots of the video game

Mushiking card game

It looks pretty cool...

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Today's Quote

A nation full of people who know more about Scott Peterson's defense strategy than they do about Donald Rumsfeld's is not a nation that shows much ability to govern itself.

- From an excellent Op/Ed in the Salt Lake Tribune

(and yet, govern ourselves we must...)

Monday, August 09, 2004

Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: Bugs

If you asked me to choose the one word that best signifies this summer, it would have to be “bugs”. No, I’m not talking about the smart-aleck rabbit with the New York accent, though he has been gracing our TV a lot lately. I’m referring to the small, six-legged variety.

It hasn’t really been a particularly buggy summer, at least no more than usual. The newfangled air fresheners that include bug repellent have actually have been doing a good job of keeping the mosquitoes at bay, allowing us to sleep at night. The in-laws have been too wrapped up in their own affairs to come over and open all our windows and window screens in our absence (as they always did before despite my protests…yet another of their attempts to “save” me from my own ignorance) meaning we haven’t been coming home to find our house full of flies, mosquitoes, and the odd wasp, two-inch-long hornet and/or five-inch-long centipede. Despite all the talk about “generation X”, the bubbling din of the cicadas has been no more deafening than usual.

Heck, Mao’s passion for catching grasshoppers and katydids, putting them in her treasured insect cage, and then loving them to death (literally, since she keeps neglecting to feed them), while still present, doesn’t seem to be quite as intense as it was last year. She hasn’t even caught a praying mantis, thrown it in the cage, and watched with glee as it devoured all the other occupants. Yes, she did that last year.

This year’s bug theme mainly comes about as the result of a video game. Yes, that’s right. An arcade video game. Somebody had a brilliant idea, and boy, are they ever cashing in on it! The name of the game is Mushikingu (King of the Bugs). It is a smaller-sized game machine geared toward smaller-sized kids. When you put your coin in, the first thing that happens is that it gives you a single trading card. There are two varieties. A “character card” shows a particular species of rhinoceros or stag beetle plus its various strengths and weaknesses. A “technique card” gives your bug character a special ability. When you play the game, you can either settle for the default, no-frills rhinoceros beetle character or run your cards through a bar-code scanner for all kinds of cool possibilities. The game itself is a duel played using a rock-scissors-paper format. You can either face off against a live opponent armed with similar cards or face ever-stronger challengers from the computer’s bank.

The graphics are really cool. It is truly fun to watch the two beetles tear each other apart. Needless to say, it is a smash hit. There is always a pint-sized crowd wherever one of those machines can be found.

My son, Taiki, like many other boys his age, is obsessed with the game. His grandparents here take him to play it practically every day. He has amassed a huge collection of those cards (and since each one is proof of one play, at about a dollar a pop, it serves as a sad reminder as to just how much money is being sucked into those things). He has also proven to be adept at talking his doting grandparents (and sometimes his doting parents) into buying items from the ever-increasing line of bug-related products spurred on by that insidious game. Face it: the runty terror on two feet is a charmer. Right now our little cabin of a house is crawling with all manner of plastic beetles, and Taiki’s bookshelf is bulging with bug-related books.

The little four-year-old runt is now a veritable fountain of knowledge of rhinoceros and stag beetles. Show him a plastic figure, and he’ll happily tell you the scientific name, where it is found, and what it can do.

About a week ago, one of the in-laws’ cats was seen circling, eyeing, and pawing at something it had cornered. The poor feline looked totally at a loss as to what it should do. Its prey was a slow, clumsy-looking, black thing about the size of a small mouse. It had six legs and a couple of horns on its bizarre-looking head.

A rhinoceros beetle.

Both of the kids sailed right off into space. Telling them to leave the poor bug alone was like telling a political candidate to tell the truth. It just ain’t gonna happen.

Mao quickly dumped out her (probably much relieved) katydids and grasshoppers. In the next instant, the insect cage had a much larger and much uglier occupant. Face it: rhinoceros beetles are among the most bizarre-looking creatures living on dry land.

If keeping their bugs fed had been a problem before, it wasn’t now. Quite the opposite. Mao and Taiki seemed to want to feed the thing the entire vegetable contents of our refrigerator. I managed to get them to limit themselves to a few slices of cucumber and a chunk of watermelon. The monstrous, six-legged denizen of the cage immediately stopped trying to escape and set to work on the wonderful feast spread before it. You know, it’s pretty amazing just how fast a bug whose jaws look like a couple of little toothbrushes can put away a slice of cucumber!

Well, having that big, black, ugly bug in the house definitely kept things quiet, as the kids gave it all the attention they normally give to Cartoon Network. As for the bug itself, it just kept on eating. I’m sure it must have been pretty happy, too. While most of its brothers and cousins were scraping away at rotting trees (when they weren’t butting heads with each other), it was enjoying a luxurious supply of watermelon. I don’t think it complained too much. Still, it was a wild creature, and wild creatures tend to prefer freedom.

So do some domestic creatures, such as my students, but I digress....

I went off to music training camp for five days, and when I came back I found the insect cage sitting out in the car port. There were a few hollowed-out eggplant rinds in there, but no sign of the rhinoceros beetle. Apparently it had disappeared one night when it was (fortunately) left outside. Mao insisted that she had been keeping the cage dutifully locked. Her grandfather claimed that he had found the cage open and had locked it, but he’d been sure the bug was still inside at the time. (Of course, he also said it was night at the time, meaning it would have been pretty dark, so it’s hard to say). Any sadness the kids might have felt evaporated immediately when their grandfather then went on to suggest that they go to a place he knew at the nearby school where there were always lots of not only rhinoceros beetles, but stag beetles as well.

It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure there’ll be another monstrous-looking critter in that cage again pretty soon. I only hope it’s not a stag beetle. They have strong mandibles…strong, SPIKED mandibles. (I also seem to recall having inadvertently touched a species of stag beetle hiding in the barkdust in the flowerbed when I was about Taiki’s age. Maybe it’s something Pavlovian…)

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Typos 'R' Me

Sorry about all the typos in the last couple of posts. I will try to clean up the critical ones before long (if I feel like it).

Tusen Takk!
Don Snabulus

Saturday, August 07, 2004

SolWest 2004, Part III

(Sorry for the delay. We misplaced our notebooks that had many of the details.)

Just walking to breakfast this morning told us it was going to be a hot day. We munched away on the same continental breakfast fare at the hotel and slathered ourselves in BullFrog QuikGel to keep the sun from cooking us to a crisp.

I walked Ladybug to the fairgrounds for her class on sizing solar PV systems for off-grid use while I headed off through the neighborhoods of John Day. It must have been in the high 80s even at 9 AM. I wandered several blocks. On the way I saw several people out watering their grass or gardens and all seemed very nice (a stark contrast to some of the people on the main drag) and exchanged pleasantries about the weather and their yards.

After thinking I took a wrong turn, I found my way into the Kam Wah Chung museum. This museum was home to two Chinese immigrants for the early and mid decades of the 20th century. One was a business man and the other was an herbal doctor. They provided a kind of safe haven to the Chinese labor that helped build the railroads in Oregon (among other tasks). After the two died (in the 1950s I think), they left behind a treasure trove of items that were shut up inside the house for another 20 to 30 years until the city finally decided to catalog the items inside and make it into a museum.

They were startled to find that many interesting things had been preserved for all those years. There were cases of whiskey, 500 Chinese herbs, various canned and dry foodstuffs. There were oranges on display that dried in that arid climate into dried globes. The caretaker lady did a wonderful job of telling the story of the brothers and the area. The house had a reinforced door with a thick steel exterior. The rednecks of yore apparently liked to shoot up the Chinese house...charming. There were bars on the windows and the well-pump was inside. They could be self-sufficient indefinitely if need be.

There was a room with a few bunks and the timbers were blackened from opium smoke. Among the other services was a full-service opium den. There were, of course, Chinese calendars, newspapers, and so forth. They found hundreds of uncashed checks in a box from people throughout the area. The most interesting thing is that there was only one person who has come in to translate the Chinese on the boxes and bottles of herbs back in 1992. He apparently promised to share the translations but never did. The museum is going to become a state park next year and they are in the midst of a capital campaign to raise funds to prepare. Hopefully some of those resources can go toward hiring someone who can read all that Chinese in there.

I wandered back to the fair for a class on the National Electrical code and how it applies to alternative energy. The sun seemed relentless even at 11am. Much warmer than yesterday (Friday). Ladybug attended a class on wind energy. My class was interesting in that the instructor spoke of general areas of the code and allowed all of the designers, contractors, and inspectors to chime in on the rest. It was a great format that allowed newcomers like me to hear some friendly debates on approaches and on particular nit-picky parts of design and installation that will be invaluable to us when we are ready to install our own (or hire it done). Apparently the inspectors are not that knowledgeable about solar codes and mainly check to see the good basic electrical practices are applied.

Ladybug and I hooked up and walked back to the hotel. We left our air conditioning unit on full blast and boy it felt good to get out of the oven for a while. We went back to the Squeeze Inn for lunch. We walked by the bank at 12:53pm and the temperature was 101 degrees. Sizzlin'. We hid out for a while longer in the hotel trying to load up on water and stay cool for a while.

At 2pm, we went back for more. Ladybug attended a class on passive solar design (building to save energy rather than creating energy for heating/cooling/electrical) while I attended a class on water pumps. I learned about the different kinds of pumps and the pros and cons of each as applied to alternative energy sources. I wrote many notes that I won't bore you with here. At 3:30pm we were supposed to go on a walking tour but the heat was making me queasy so we hid out in the hotel again. I drank plenty of fluids but I just felt crummy the whole time. Ladybug was feeling okay so she headed off to a battery management class. At 5pm, the temperature was 105 degrees with a number of dark thunderheads coalescing overhead. I think it could have reached 110 if it weren't for that.

I headed back to the fair after I felt better. It turned out that Ladybug decided the printed materials of batteries were pretty good and the lecture wasn't so good (the speaker was pretty quiet I guess). We met up and decided to go check out a solar-powered telescope that was trained on the sun (with a couple of different filters). While we were waiting, a women with two kids was looking through the lens with one kid. Meanwhile, the other kid was playing on a chair like a jungle gym; climbing all over it. The mother put the smaller kid down and was looking through the lens just in time for one of her kids to fall over and whack his head on the wooden chair. The other kid said, "Mom, he's bleeding A LOT."

The mother picked up the kid and he did indeed have one of the cuts on the back of the scalp that bled and bled. By now, the mother and kids were all in tears. One of the people in line was a nurse who helped get pressure on the cut and escorted the family to the first aid section.

We did get a chance after all of the excitement to get a few good looks at the sun. One filter allowed us to see the sunspots very well and another allowed us to see the prominences. This turns out to be a very active time for the sun, so there were plenty of examples of both.

We headed off directly to dinner thereafter. I still wasn't feeling super great and actually didn't finish most of the beer I ordered with dinner. A couple of hours in air conditioning and some time in the pool alleviated the crummy feeling. About 11:30pm, the thunder, lightning, and rain began in earnest. The storm dropped the temperature down into the low-to-mid 80s (with the humidity spiking to 100%). It was a great show, but we were tired and headed off to bed shortly after the cable TV feeds were shorted out by some nearby ground strikes. There was probably half on inch of rain in 15 minutes. I woke up at 2am and the pavement was dry. That's living in the desert for you.

On Sunday, we had our final breakfast, loaded up, and checked out of the hotel. We went back for one more class on dealing with banks of batteries. Since the sun doesn't shine at night and wind isn't around all the time either, it is essential to have a large bank of batteries to store electricity for those living off of the power grid. This class did a great job of talking about the science of how wet cell DC batteries work, which batteries are best for solar/wind and why, and pricing of the bank. It was probably the most valuable class of the fair for me.

We headed out of town intending to eat lunch in Mitchell, but decided to press westward toward Prineville. Since we came to John Day through the Columbia Gorge, we decided to change our pace and head home over Mt. Hood. Once again, the fossil beds with their badland beauty was waiting for us along with the rust-red precursors to the Painted Hills off of our chosen track. We stopped off in Prineville and ate at an old style drive-in and burgers and shakes. The food was good as were the prices and the folks were very friendly.

The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful. Mt. Hood was as beautiful as ever, there was the beginning of a forest fire on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. I wonder if those folks from Colorado helped fight it. We learned alot from SolWest 2004 and, despite the heat, had a great time. As time moves forward, even the grumps we encountered in John Day seem more like the exception than the rule.