November 29, 2005

Hard Butter + Toast problem solved

I've long been pondering how to deal with hard butter when making toast. I grew up in a margarin house, but have since eschewed the stuff for something less...chemically. This episode of Good Eats did some of the convincing, and Cindy did the rest. I can deal with softening butter at any time of the day except the morning. I'm usually hungry as soon as I wake up and it's hard to wait for the butter to be usable.

Anyway, I came up with some good ideas, most of which have been suggested elsewhere, but today, while preparing "potatoes bathed in butter" (photo 1 photo 2), I found that a vegetable peeler works great. It's not the unique, innovative answer I was hoping for but heck, it solves the problem for me.

Posted at November 29, 2005 06:59 PM, Categories: Food

November 16, 2005

Car Repairs

The night I got home from France I didn't even touch my car. Seeing no parking tickets, I assumed all was well, despite the huge piles of dead leaves around my car. The position of my car did leave me a bit remorseful: it seems I didn't leave quite enough room between my car and the alley to fit two cars. The neighbors must have cursing the wasted space the whole time I was away.

The next day, however, the little nagging doubt in the back of my head was rewarded: my battery was dead. I got about half a crank, then a fast clicking sound. I didn't recognize the sound so I called my father, our own Click or Clack, and he figured the solenoid was activating the starter motor, then the starter drew enough current to drop the voltage to the solenoid was deactivated, removing the starter from the circuit, allowing enough voltage for the starter solenoid to reactivate, engaging the starter motor, etc., etc.

So, jump start time. Except that most everyone I know works all day or lives far away. Even if I could have gotten a jump that evening, I was so exhausted (jet lag) that I didn't know if I would be able to drive the car around to charge the battery. So I left it until this morning, when my (former) neighbor Kristen braved the ridiculous cold and came through in a big way. (Thanks!) I drove the car all over the place to charge it up, then parked it back in the same spot so if I didn't start up again, it would at least be dead in a convenient location. Grabbed some gear that I needed to move to my studio, fired the car up again and drove to work.

As you may have guessed, the story doesn't end there. When I started the car this time it sounded a little weird, but it worked OK. I parked near work (in another legal, relatively convenient location), did what needed doing, and suffered defeat again when I tried to start the car. Same as before. Apparently it can't hold a charge very well anymore, and/or won't recharge well. The alternator must be working because I drove it for 90 minutes without a problem. So I looked up some Interstate Battery dealers, got some prices, and set out to get a new battery. It was time (6 years), and my father predicted the need, so I wasn't terribly surprised.

One nice thing about living in a big city is that you can usually walk to multiple auto parts or auto repair shops. After bundling up, trudging to the parts store, and forking over some cash, I was the proud owner of 35 pounds of fun. I contemplated walking back to my car with the battery, as it was almost comfortable when perched on my shoulder, but I figured that carrying a car battery for a mile is the kind of thing that would cause seriously sore back and neck muscles the next day, so I got a cab instead. It took a good hour to install..one of the stupid bolts on the stupid battery bracket is REALLY hard to get out, as things are in the way on every side. At least I know that my battery can't be easily stolen.

All is well now and I can get to the original point of this post: the only person that offered me any help was one guy who works at (I think) the parts manufacturer across the street. This was about 4:30PM and many people were getting off of trains and walking by, or leaving their offices and driving home. One person even got in the car next to mine, turned it on, then sat there for 10 minutes talking on their phone while (no doubt) watching me shiver. The only person willing to help, let alone say hi (and offer some sympathy), was the one working-class-looking guy I saw.

I've seen this before. I may have even mentioned the phenomenon in this blog. Working on your car looks low-class to people who think they're above it. I've actually detected looks of derision from neighbors while repairing my car on our street, like they shouldn't have to see this. Some of these people even own the same model car as I do, yet when they see me working on it they don't even make eye contact. I put up with their dogs urinating all over the grass in front of my building, but heaven forbid you should raise your hood!

Cindy often mentions how much she appreciates the typical midwestern warmness. You can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, but it usually seems to happen more easily when the two of you seem to be of about the same class. Who talks to their supermarket cashier? Or their bus driver? Put the same two people in a line a Starbucks and suddenly they are peers.

Maybe it's not that sinister. My opinions are no doubt being influenced by the hurricane fiasco in New Orleans, the riots in Paris, and having just been overseas. People in line at the hot dog stand might get along because, well, they both like hot dogs. Those in line for a schlockbuster action flick both like explosions. Folks who work on their cars both know how troublesome cold weather can be and how much a quick jump start can help.

Posted at November 16, 2005 07:04 PM, Categories: Beardcore

November 15, 2005

Jet Lag

Phew.. it's been a while since I've had to deal with jet lag, and it's just as dull as ever! Many people seem to find it easier to adjust when traveling west, but I have the opposite experience: adjusting to European time zones has always been easier for me. The technique:

  • Choose a flight that leaves in the early to mid-evening. 8PM is ideal.
  • Don't sleep on the plane. This step may not be essential: I can never sleep on planes, so I can't say whether it has any impact.
  • Have something to do the first day you're there. Nothing keeps you awake like an activity: unpacking, a walking tour, then dinner.
  • Go to bed at a normal time for the new time zone. Do everything you can to stay awake until 10PM or so.
  • Get up at a normal time.

Using this system I've always been well-adjusted on my first full day in the new time zone!

Coming back, however, doesn't go so well. I spend days in a mental fog, and bedtimes don't seem to make much difference. Last night I managed to stay up until 10PM and sleep until 6:30. Given that this was 1:30PM in Paris time, I couldn't manage to sleep in any later, and I could have used a few more Zs. Next time I think I'll try going to bed early, hopefully sleeping lots before waking in the wee hours.

Pictures soon, I hope.

Posted at November 15, 2005 03:18 PM, Categories: Beardcore
Nearby Entries
Hard Butter + Toast problem solved (Nov 29)
Car Repairs (Nov 16)
Jet Lag (Nov 15)
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