Tuesday, April 26, 2005


If you're curious about the stoves:

Here are the altoids and V8 stoves next to each other, plus in the background of one pic you can see the wind screen and pot. That little silver thingy made out of an aluminum strap is the pot handle. Everything fits inside the pot. With the altoids stove, the whole set weighed in at 7.5 ounces (pan, windscreen, stove, handle).

Haven't tried it with the ion stove yet.

Like I mentioned in the previous post -- it might be better to put the "pot holder" on the ion stove to transfer more heat down to the fuel and get it good and hot beforre ignition for better efficiency.


Another pic from last weekend's hike:

Put together the ion stove last night, sans pot stand -- but now I'm wondering if perhaps the pot stand may transmit more heat down to the fuel chamber, heating the fuel better and providing feedback for more efficient fuel burning. I may have to add the hardware cloth.

Pretty cool, though!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Fence Posts & Morells

Saturday Jeff and I pounded some posts in and helped Dad put up some fence around a goat pasture. Pretty day. The whole place was emerald green and the new vegetation was quite pretty against the deep blue sky with the puffy white clouds. They do live in a pretty place.

Went 'shroom hunting with Daryl & Ryan Sunday... we went down by the river -- nothin' much there, then over to a place where I've been sworn not to tell where we did actually find some. Did a lot of hiking on yet another lovely day.

Set up the tent to measure the material for the rainfly. I have enough.

Also, friday night I built the Altoids alcohol stove. Indeed, boils water in 8 minutes (from about 55 degrees to 212 at 730 feet). We tested it. And the whole cooking system, minus fuel, and including pot and windscreen -- is 7.5 ounces. Wow.

Probably a little inefficent, though -- so I'm going to build the ion stove next..... it'll look cooler. Still, I appreciate the simplicity of the Altoids stove. Not that the ion one is complicated, it's just more complicated than the altoids one ... which isn't hard.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Hummingbird don't fly away, fly away

Saw the first hummingbird this morning.


Guess I never really knew what taffeta was. Always thought it was that stuff that filmy sheer stuff petticoats were made out of. But, apparently not. It's basically a shiny nylon. So now I know what a taffeta dress is. Does that make me gay? :-)

Well, it turns out taffeta has much more manly uses as well. Tents are made out of it.

Recall that my rain fly on the kid's (ahem "lightweight backpacking") tent is far to small to be effective.

Went to Wally World last night and found grey taffeta for a buck a yard. Niiiiiiice. Got 3 yards of it. Probably only need two or a little over. I think it's 44" wide. Take off 2" for hems, and it should be 42". Make it 6 or 7 feet long, add 4 loops (one in each corner) and hooks and a pocket on each side in the middle for an extra tent pole to hold it taut.... add silicon, and I think I have me an effective rainfly.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Tent Test & Electric Fence

I set up the new tent last night to check out the size. It will *not* sleep two people if either one of them is over about 5'5. Whey they say it's 6' wide, they mean it. My head and feet touch.

However, it's still a great one-person packable tent, and you can sleep catty-corner in it if you're my height. A little geometry tells me it's about 8' that way, and is at least 6' for a foot either side of that.

The rainfly, I'm afraid, would be insufficient in a real heavy or prolonged rain. I may have to make me another.

Hooked the electric fence back up last night. Heh! No marmot holes in the garden this morning.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Lightweight Backpacking Coolness

I love my Ozark Trail 4 person dome tent.

It kept me dry during 3 consecutive nights of mountain valley downpours on the front range of the rockies in 2003 with nary a leak. Easy to set up.... very nice.

I consider a 4 person tent a 2 peson tent, really. I like a little room. But for backcountry backpacking/camping, the lighter and smaller, the better. If I can't carry it with my daypack, I don't want to carry it. And this is too bulky, and also too heavy at 9 lbs.

But I saw a smaller version of it for kids at Walmart -- for $17.62 -- a far cry from the $90-$300 for lightweight flashlight tents, especially two person tents. This is 6'x5' - which would hold two people (under 6', of course) snugly, but dry-ly.

I took it out of its box and carrying case, and it weighs in at just about 3 lbs. The way it was packed it was too tall (long) for the daypack. The reason for that is -- the poles. I had thought about getting more end-sleeves and re-shock-cording the poles to make them shorter, but I think the poles will attach quite nicely to the outside of the daypack. They are not bulky at all. Then unrolled the tent, folded it in half, and rolled it back up. About the size of a football. Heh!

I'll seal the seams and silicon it. I think I just might have me a cheap packing tent. (note the sandal is to give an idea of scale)

How many tomato and pepper plants would a woodchuck chuck?

Gonna have to get the electric fence working again. Apparently the disturbed ground where I planted the plants in the garden last weekend was too much for a woodchuck to resist. Easy diggin' for grubs -- plus, maybe he smelled the bloodmeal. At any rate, he dug up most of the peppers and all of the tomatoes. Fortunately, he wasn't interested in the plants themselves -- just worms and grubs -- so I re-planted them.


Ordered a ground-loop isolator off of Ebay yesterday so I can use the power supply in the car for my mp3 player without noise. Plus, when you use the car adaptor, you can put the player in "Car" mode which causes it to shut off when you turn off the ignition and turn back on when you turn the ignition back on. Niiiiiiiiice, since that's where the player gets used the most.

I'm also looking at hiking/camping gear for this summer. Have to decide how I want to do this. I'd like to spend 4 days out there, which means 6 days off. I'll have to decide what kind of food to bring and how much. I plan on hiking alone a lot, methinks. Maybe camp a few days, then head for REALLY high country -- climb a mountain. A 13-er or 14-er.

Looking at ultralight websites. Need to find a good mountain hiking/backcountry camping discussion group. Anybody know of any?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Ask, and ye shall recieve

Ok, I don't want to set that expectation too high, but here ye' go, Anonymous:

Monday, April 18, 2005

Busy, but beautiful weekend

Hmmm... two "weekend" posts in a row. I'm slackin'.

I took friday afternoon off. It was a beautiful day, many people were gone, and when I heard people talking golf for the afternoon, I did something I don't do very often. I just decided to take the time off.

Went to Lakewood and bought some tomato spray to keep the blight at bay this summer. Then I got some petunias to make a couple of hanging baskets and a mixed annuals arrangement for the front entrance.

Went home and planted the pots. Also found some volunteer straw flowers and potted them, planted the melanpalodium I bought last weekend at Strawberry Hill out front, tore the weeds out of the veggie garden plot and planted tomatoes and peppers with blood meal and bone meal.

Cleaned house Saturday, did a bike ride in my quest to improve my cardio system for some summer mountain hiking, got some stuff for kebobs and we bbq'd with the Williams Sat Evening.

Sunday I mostly set up the deck with the outdoor watering system for the plants and converted the automatic watering system from winter configuration (overflow plugged and stock tank heater) to summer configuration (circulation pump and reservoir with mini-fountain).

We rented "Ray" and watched it in the evening. You keep forgetting you're not actually watching Ray Charles. Ultimately, a good flick to watch (especially if you're curious about Ray) but not something I'd want to see again and again.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Nice Weekend

Nice weekend. Temps in the 70's and 80's, no humidity.

Friday evening was beautiful. Sat out with the neighbors on their deck and talked and had a couple of rounds of beer in the warm evening sunset. Ryan's dad had come in to town. They went to dinner after a spell. We left.

They got a new super-duper gas grill, and offered their old one to me. I'm not a gas grill man, really, but my Big Green Egg isn't very big (I have the 14") and if you have a lot of people over that makes a difference. So I thought I'd replace the wood side-tables (they were rotted) and handle (also rotted and half-attached) and re-paint it with high temperature paint.

And Vicki suggested we give it to Kevin -- who misses his gas grill. So I fixed it for him over the weekend to give to him. Looks much better.

Saturday I went for a bike ride -- need to hep up my cardio system if I'm going to go mountain hiking this summer. We also did quite a bit of cleaning in the house Saturday. My ticker is not in the shape it was in a few years ago. I've been weight training, but no cardio).

We're watching Kathy's DVD's of The Gilmore Girls -- (so how long have I been gay, Bob asks?) No, not at all. The writing is snappy and clever -- and that's saying a lot for me -- I'm not a huge fan of sitting in front of the tube a lot. Plus, the mother and daughter are both very pretty -- not hard to watch at all. Lauren Graham is -- wow. Pretty lady. Whoooo-ah.

Got a few plants at Strawberry Hill -- some moss rose and another citronella plant in hanging baskets, and a few tomatoes, peppers, and yellow melanpodium. Let's see, what else ... replaced the tips for my Rio Riot chargers to fit the new Creative Zen Xtra MP3 player, replaced the plastic belt clip with a METAL one, and made a little aluminum mounting strap for my dashboard to hang the MP3 player on while driving.

The flowering pears bloomed last week, and this weekend we got our annual "snowstorm" of white flower petals. Very cool. Plus the redbuds have popped out, and after our thunderstorms last night, I was treated to one of my favorite sights this morning on my drive in to work... blooming redbuds against a backdrop of tiny, light green leaves and the darkened bark of the wet trees -- beautiful.

Thinking about replacing the heat pump. It's about 20 years old, and it looks like the compressor and condensor were replaced about 10 years ago. The defrost cycle isn't working quite right in the wintertime -- probably not worth fixing. Might as well get a new one and get in on (hopefully) some energy savings. I'd love to get a ground source, but probably couldln't afford to dig the wells and the at least $6,200 price tag.

And I'd rather not wait until it's 105 degrees out with 6,000,000% humidity for it to go out.

Brian came over with Kristen last night and hung out and talked for a while. We sure like her. They seem to be getting along very well. Not all the snipping and physical play fighting we're used to seeing. Lots of laughing and pretty laid back.

I sat and played the guitar quietly while we talked. I had cracked the side of my Martin, but I patched it on the inside with some 1/32 plywood and hide glue. The barred "F" is up one more little tiny notch. Getting there.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Good Coffee, and Plastic

It's nice having excellent coffee again. I buy really good coffee, and I've been cheating myself most of the time the past few years brewing it in a substandard pot. I bought that pot because I thought having a timer on a coffee pot would be cool -- you know, have it brew for you and have it all ready in the morning when you get up.

Well, I've done it maybe 10 times in 4 years. Ran into issues like -- sometimes Vicki didn't want coffee in the morning (and you have to know how much you are going to make at night before you go to bed), and then there's the fact on weekends you may not know when you're ACTUALLY going to get up... and you want your coffee as fresh as possible, so you don't want it sitting a long time (hmmm, coffee pot with a remote control, anyone?)

On top of that, I don't think this coffee maker ever got the water hot enough. It was a $50 drip brewer and it never made as good coffee as my $16 Mr. Coffee drip machine. But I felt obligated to use it since I paid the money for it. Silliness. Folks, life's too short.

The French Press didn't make enough coffee for two, and it was harder to clean... and between that and boiling the water in a separate vessel and all... more of a pain (but really good coffee).

The new vaccuum brewer is great. It's almost an antique and it cost half as much as the pot it replaced (Ebay. My friend.) Plus it looks a lot cooler.

Got my new MP3 player. Pretty cool. Two problems with it -- the latch on the cover opens if you look at it too hard (but not when it's in the carrying case, which it will be almost all of the time) and the carrying case itself -- has a PLASTIC belt clip. Folks, I just paid $200 for a nice portable music device -- honest, if it costs that much I'll PAY you the extra 50 cents for a real live spring-metal belt-clip. You KNOW that thing will break somewhere down the road, and at the most inconvenient time. What is it with plastic everything? I don't have anything in particular against plastic, but some things just shouldn't be made out of it. Like belt clips, or anything else that's going to have to be rigid and flex a lot under tension. Stainless Spring Steel, please!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Stove, Coffee

As a little windfall from Mike and Lois' move to a new house, we get a "new" stove out of the deal. Mike swapped the flat-top electric that came with the house for his old gas stove, and traded that for our minimal coil-top electric stove which he's putting in the in-law suite.

It's white, and goes quite nicely in our kitchen.

Don't know if you noticed, but if you look you'll see a glass, silex vaccum coffee pot just to the left of it. Just got that. It makes real good coffee. Mom and dad had a stainless steel one when I was growing up.

Apparently that was one of the best ways ever to make coffee. The water in the bottom chamber boils, and the steam pressure forces the hot water to the top chamber where the coffee grounds are. By the time it gets up there, the water is at 200-205 degrees -- perfect for brewing coffee. What's better about this than percolation is that no brewed coffee ever boils. Perfect extraction temperature + no boiling the end product = real good coffee. Plus, since it doesn't use paper filters, it leaves the aromatic and flavorful oils that the paper filters out. I've got the grind right. And it's great. A little extra work, but not much, really.

Mike brought the stove up when he came into town monday night for a couple of meetings here in Columbia this week. We put it in Monday night. And we've had fun the last couple of nights talking and playing guitars.

My new MP3 player should come today. It's a Creative Labs Zen Xtra 40GB player. I'm kinda psyched.

Went to St. Charles over the weekend and visited Joel and Dawn. We went down to Old St. Charles and went to one of the wineries and had lunch outside. It was Scottish Fest down there, so we had good seats for the noon parade of kilts and bagpipes. Did a little walking down the river and went back to their place for dinner. Tom and Betty came over, and we had a good time. Spent the night and came back home.

Aunt Pat's kidney removal apparently went well. Ed said she might even be home today. Hope she recovers quickly.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Trinity Irish Dance

Mary took us to see the Trinity Irish Dance troupe last night. We'd seen them on the Concert Series schedule for the last several years and just never went. We were both big Riverdance and Thistle & Shamrock fans -- this would be a natural extension.

Had dinner at the New Old Hidelberg. Hadn't been there since long before it burned down. It pretty much looks the same, only cleaner and newer materials. Smart move by the owners to keep it the way it looked before, as it's been an institution on Campus -- it would not have the same nostalgic appeal to alumni when they come back to town if they'd changed it. They did add a deck upstairs. Now that was smart as well.

Anyway, the dance troupe was great. I mean ... from my perspective, who wouldn't like to see 20 pretty young ladies in pretty outfits dancing pretty dances to pretty music. They did some traditional Irish dancing, but they also had some more modern stuff which was interesting. The opening number they had some pretty wild costumes that could have come out of some arty performance from the late '60's. Still had a lot of the traditional elements woven in with the interpretive dance.

They had another number called "Current Event" where they all came out in plaid min-skirts and did a lot of sassy, sexy moves along with the clogging and hand-slapping (I called part of it the "Irish Hand Jive") It was pretty amazing, the elaborate game of patty-cake between 10 dancers. Anyway, I guess they wanted to make sure we all knew where the Catholic School Girl fantasy came from... the Irish, of course!

After their break, they came out and did and Irish dance in Indian (eastern indian) costumes/style to some Sheila Chandra music... which is not what one would expect when one goes to see an Irish Dance show, but it was interesting and pretty all the same.

The guitar player for the "Trinity Irish Dance Orchestra (of 3 people) was humorous, and they played songs while the troupe changed/rested between numbers.

Pretty fun.