Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Someone tweeted that the east coast earthquake originated on Bush's Fault, just like everything else according to some.
So I'm at my desk, seven floors up, and the building starts jumping up and down and rumbling. My first thought is 'earthquake' because I'm a California boy. I immediately dismiss that thought and think 'something blew up'. I stand up and look out the windows (I'm in the corner so have a decent view in two directions) but don't see any smoke rising.
Thinking to get a better angle, I start walking towards the windows when the second shock hit. This time, filing cabinets are rattling and fixtures are swinging. I moved away from the cabinets that might fall on me, back to my desk and start throwing stuff in my briefcase.
A quick look around to make sure I had everything and it was to the stairwell.
I was pissed at the number of people who were more interested in calling or texting than paying attention and getting the hell out of the building. I filed a formal complaint afterwards too. Stupid assholes.
Walking to our assembly area, I heard no sirens and saw no smoke columns, so I figured that it was indeed an earthquake.
We were cleared to re-enter the building about 45 minutes later, and soon after I left for home (my regular time).
I haven't seen traffic that bad since a big mid-day blizzard a couple of years ago. DC was gridlocked. Two hours to get home, and most of that was spent navigating the first five miles.
Heard that the National Cathedral took some damage, and I'm supposed to check online tomorrow to see if I'm supposed to report to work. I'm sure I will, it wasn't that big a quake.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Tonight's dinner was homemade tomato soup. I had a boatload of tomatoes ripen all at once in the garden, plus a few other goodies, so I looked up a couple of recipes online, then basically winged it.
Tomato Basil Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
10-12 fresh basil leaves, shredded
4 cups diced tomatoes (I used a Beefsteak, 3 Roma and maybe a dozen cherry)
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
I'm all about simplicity, so I didn't peel or de-seed the tomatoes. I also grabbed a handful of shredded carrot, chopped it and called it diced.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot, when it's shimmering add the onion and carrot. Cook for 10 minutes or so.
Add the basil leaves, tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally for 45 minutes or so.
Turn off the heat and let the soup cool for a bit, then run the soup through a blender or food processor. Do it in a couple of batches if you have to.
Back on the heat to simmer. Add the half-and-half a little at a time while stirring. Don't let the soup boil.
Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Be careful, mine wound up on the verge of too salty!
This was gooooooooooood!!! Next time, I'm going to try heavy cream instead of half-and-half, and maybe butter instead of the olive oil. I'll also give this a try with canned tomatoes.
A placeholder for places I want to remember.
Mark's Daily Apple
Jess Fink - Chester 5000 XYV
Pear Tree Pens
Friday, August 19, 2011
As kids, we used to make these as needed every summer, although occasionally someone would fashion a more elaborate one and keep it from year to year.
And no, none of us ever put an eye out with one of these. Then again, we were bright enough not to intentionally aim at the face. We also did a lot of target shooting with 'em. That's what I recommend: target shooting at cans or flies or plastic army men. Don't be dumb, and I'm not responsible if you are.
Wood - length of broomstick or dowel, or a 1"x2" or even a 2"x4". Whatever you use, you need a piece about 12" long (more for a 2"x4" rifle).
Clothespins - tradition says use the wooden spring type, but the plastic ones will work just fine. The simplest gun uses one, we usually used at least two. They come in bags of 100 or more, so borrow from a neighbor if you don't have your own. Or make lots of guns, you politically incorrect brute.
Rubberbands - in our house, we kept rubberbands around the doorknob on the furnace closet, and had plenty because you got one with every newspaper delivered. They're cheap, so don't go mugging the paperboy for his.
Take sandpaper and round off any sharp edges to eliminate splinters.
Use a file to cut a shallow "V" notch in the end of the wood.
Use one rubber band to fasten a clothespin to the wood on the opposite end of the wood from the notch.
Here's a picture of a fancy store-bought model that works exactly this way. It's a good view of the clothespin and notch setup.
Hook a rubber band around the end of the wood so it's in the notch.
Stretch it back with one hand, use the other to open the clothespin and catch the rubberband.
When ready to shoot, press on the clothespin and zing!
You can cut out pistol or rifle shapes from the wood, mount multiple clothespins (and make extra notches), and do all kinds of custom coolness with the basic design. Often we'd grab a piece of scrap wood, use a rock to gouge out the notch, grab a clothespin from the clothesline out back and a handfull of rubberbands from the doorknob. Within minutes you had something that worked, and sometimes the ugliest thing was the straightest shooter (my best was from an old yellow broomstick with two clothespins attached). Showing up with a store-bought rubberband gun was tolerated - barely - mainly because we'd closely examine it to see how they managed multiple shots if it worked that way.
I'm going to be bringing over the "Build It" series from the old Rocket Jones blog, so if you want to know how to make your own rubberband gun, box hockey, or model rocket (for starters), well, you're in luck!
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Rather photo-heavy this time around, but if you recall I use this blog as a journal to keep track of how my garden project is going. All pictures are clickable for Jolly Green Giant size.
But before getting to the yummy pictures, I'd like to introduce you to two ladies who have been co-existing peacefully with me out back.
This little lass has kindly relocated after I walked through her first attempted web without realizing it. She was trying to weave it across the area right outside the doorway, which of course just wouldn't do. I swung a length of her web towards the fence, and since then she has rebuilt (beautifully) between the fence and one of the trellises. I make a point of going the long way around now so as not to disturb her further.
This is the other lady. She lives by the spigot that I reach for daily. When she's agitated, she vibrates her web so that she's swinging back and forth, so fast that you can hardly see her. Pretty amazing.
Long-time readers know that I'm phobic about spiders, but can manage a truce as long as no startling goes on. These ladies help out by keeping the intrusive insect-American population at bay, and seem to be doing very well at it too. Other than one aphid infestation of one pea plant top (easily removed with scissors) and the vicious broccoli worms, I've had zero insect problems with the garden.
So far, I'm loving the Square Foot Gardening method that I'm trying this year. Here's a picture of the original boxes when I built them.
And here they are today:
The key point to remember is that I've been harvesting pretty steadily for the last month and a half, and the garden is still going strong.
Above are the cucumbers climbing the trellis. Buried inside this jungle are a half dozen ripening cukes, with another dozen or two just budding out. I've also harvested four (so far) that would make the Mayflower Madam blush.
Roma tomatoes. I made fresh spaghetti sauce with some of these a couple of weeks ago, along with some basil from the garden that was out of this world. I served it over grilled squash.
Here are the second crop of green beans in the ground (along the front). They're about two weeks old. I found out that there are two kinds of green beans; bush beans and pole beans (the kind that climb). Bush beans mature faster but you only get one crop, then you can get rid of them. Pole beans take longer to produce but they'll keep growing new beans until frost. It's a trade off, and this year I went for bush beans. Mainly because I didn't want to have to deal with another trellis crop.
Lots happening in this picture. In the back are my two green pepper plants. They're healthy but not really doing much. You may notice the white things on the ground, those are eggshells. Peppers really like extra calcium, so I just tossed some broken eggshells around them and hopefully they're leaching calcium into the ground. They keep slugs away too. To the right of the peppers are the start of my second snap pea crop, just getting tall enough to reach the trellis. In front of the peppers are two squares I just re-seeded with lettuce. And in front of them are my parsley and basil plants.
This is today's harvest. I finally got more carrots, including one larger than "baby" sized. Just as importantly though, the bunnies are going to be feasting on carrot greens tonight. On the right are the last leaves of the spring lettuce. The bowl of beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, along with a cucumber make a pretty centerpiece, and hidden in with the carrot greens is a huge bunch of parsley that I snipped.
A lot of people seem to think that gardening means you spend vast amounts of time tending the plants. With this Square Foot Gardening method, I water every evening for about 15 minutes, and weed once every couple of weeks for maybe 10 minutes. The whole thing is designed to be low-maintenance, and it is.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Monday, August 01, 2011
Jennifer Pharr Davis completed a speed-hike of the Appalachian Trail yesterday. Maine to Georgia (2,182 miles) in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. She now holds the record for fastest AT hike. Not the "women's" record, mind you, but the record.
She averaged almost 47 miles a day. For 46 days.
She wasn't wearing down either. Her second to last day was 62 miles, and she finished up with a 36 miler.
I can grow things. It's an unexplained knack I've always had. But even this kind of makes me go 'wow'.
This is that cherry tomato plant (one, each) I keep talking about. It's growing in a large plastic pot, maybe 12" or 14" across. The bottom part is almost completely bare because of the leaf rot that is working its way slowly up the plant, but, as you can see, the top half is healthy. As hell. Go ahead, count 'em. I did. This photo shows some 50 cherry tomatoes on the bush. There's at least 20-30 more not in the picture. And I plucked seven that were ready, plus we have a bird who's discovered a liking for tomatoes. He's gotten two or three this week.