Monday, January 30, 2006

A nue doo

Been really busy getting ready for the twins.

Realizing that I will get even less done once they come, I have selected a new, easier-to-maintain haircut.

Getting a good picture of it seemed hard, so I decided not to. Instead, here are these shots:

(See also my previous do).

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Buying a car - class

With the news of twins, I have been working on buying a car. I think that I did a reasonably good job of handling the process, so I'm going to describe what I did here. I hope it can be useful to others.

The first step was to decide if we needed a car at all. Thanks to folks who commented here, helpimg me figure that one out.

Then we looked at how little car we might be able to get away with. For example, could we buy a larger sedan? It was easy to do some measurements and see that we couldn't fit all 3 kids, in car seats / boosters, across the back row. However, what if we put the big kid in the front seat, and the twins in the back? This is fine as long as there is only one adult. I figured that most trips only have a portion of the family, so using 2 cars for whole-family trips would be tolerable. However, the law in WA state will change next summer to say that kids can't sit in the front seat. And it's safer in the back, too.

It didn't take long to eliminate station wagons, either, as they wouldn't fit the 3 kids across.

An SUV that could fit us all (think 3rd row) would probably have terrible fuel efficiency, and conserving fuel is important to me. I also want to spend less, and put less weight on the road.

So, that means a minivan.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What have I done?

First they see this:

Then they do this:

It's all my fault.

Two different outlooks

I have this memory from my youth. I was probably 10-11 at the time. My brother would have been 4 or so.

My parents both worked to make sure I could go to a private school. The school didn't have bus service, like US public schools do, and it was on the other side of the city, in the expensive part of town (of course).

This particular day, my dad was driving the car, with all 4 of us in it. (I think my Mom's car was broken that day?). This is a city criss-crossed by interstate highways. We were approaching the point where you get to choose between highway or local streets. My parents started to argue about which way to go. The argument was about much more, however. It was about the way they thought about how to live life.

For my dad, the obvious choice was the highway. It was fast and efficient. Sure, the highway was ugly & ruined the natural lay of the land, but as long as it's there, you may as well use it. As he likes to say, you can take from the system what you want. He knew that his mission was to get to work, and start doing his job, providing for his family.

For my mom, the right choice was the local streets. They're more interesting. You get to see the different neighborhoods, and how people live in different part of the cities. Every day you can take a slightly different route, and you never know what you'll find. (My mom knew every thrift store in the city). It made the trip a valuable part of the day. It also was a way of saying "yes" to local, varied life instead of "yes" to the anonymous highway.

My dad rose to be president of the European subsidiary of a small software company. He figured out how to play the game of corporate life, and played it well. He is financially secure. He thinks of himself as a radical, though, because he doesn't take the game seriously, studies yoga and meditation, and only takes from the system what he wants, instead of doing what the system tells him.

My mom seemed to always take some of the most difficult nursing jobs available. Hospice, home care, etc. They never seemed to pay well. Every now and then a better paying job might come along, but even if she took it, she never adjusted her lifestyle to match. She never ate out. Her house was always small & cramped, and most of the work on it she did herself. This was all deliberate. Any time she didn't like the way things were done at a given job, she always knew she could just walk away. She could choose to do the most meaninful work she could find, without having to compromise for money.

I am a bit of both.

Yoga of Eating

I just finished reading The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein.

My first exposure to his writing was in his article, The Economics of Fermentation (a variation in Wise Traditions), mentioned in a previous post.

Something about his writing always seems to ring true with me. Perhaps he's saying things that I know but can't articulate yet. Or perhaps he has an attractive writing style. Or something else, I don't know.

There are some ideas in this book that have really got me thinking. I won't go in to detail now, just listing a few.

  • Changing one thing means changing every thing.
  • If you listen closely to your body, it will tell you what nutrition it needs. If you hear it saying "eat cake", then eat cake!
  • The way that our modern lives feel so busy, so hectic is not an unfortunate consequence of our lifestyle, but a central feature. In software we say "it's not a bug, it's a feature".

More to come.

Ginger soda - mixed results

This week I decided it was time to try the ginger soda I had started in December. Some mixed results that I don't fully understand, so I'm going to go in to a lot of detail here.

A friend had made a good batch of ginger soda & given me a bottle. After drinking most of it, I saved the sediment at the bottom in my fridge, for some months.

When I was ready, I mixed 1/2 of the sediment with water, grated ginger, and white sugar. (I wonder if the mineral content of rapdura would work better. Yeast needs nutrients.)

I keep my house pretty cool in the winter, at least by US standards -- 62deg F (17deg C). I've noticed that at this temperature many of my cultured foods go pretty slowly. To help the culture along, I put the jar in the oven with just the light on. Recently I measured with a thermometer, and it's probably about 80deg F in there.

Every day I added more ginger & sugar to feed the culture. As it grew, I split in to two jars to keep one in reserve.

Finally the big day came. I boiled 1.5gal filtered water w/ a stick of fresh ginger, grated. Then added sugar (don't remember how much, but it was sickly-sweet). Let it cool, which took a while.

First vessel was a 1gal apple cider jar. Poured in 2qts of the mix, through a plastic funnel. Added filtered water to 1/2in from the top. Put a latex balloon over the mouth to measure CO2 production and restrict oxygen exposure. There are special devices for this, but I didn't have one.

Then I juiced a few fresh, organic lemons and added to the mix (but not in the first vessel). A friend is allergic to citrus, and he loves ginger soda, so this one was for him.

Second vessel was another 1gal apple cider jar. Again, 2qts of mix, add water. Another balloon.

Third vessel was a 1.5L Grolsch bottle, with swing-top (aka bail-top) lid. This is the only one that isn't clear.

Forth vessel was a 1/2gal jar that Kevin bought me at IKEA. A thoughtful gift from a friend. It has a wide mouth with a swing top.

3 of the vessels have narrow mouths, so they're hard to clean. It's possible that the insides weren't spotless. I am sure I had rinsed them out very well, so I don't think there was much soap or anything, but maybe some dried-on stubborn matter was still there. They looked clean to the eye. I now own 2 bottle brushes that should work well in these containers, and an in-sink bottle washer.

The vessels went in to the guest room where they wouldn't be disturbed. (Why do I own an entire room that is only used for 2-4 weeks per year? Topic for another blog.) Every day or two I checked on them, and vented the balloons if they were full. Here's how it went.

Vessel #1 (no lemon) never produced a single bubble. After a full month, the balloon had been sucked in slightly. A bit of mould grew on the surface. Dumped down the drain.

Vessel #2 started bubbling very soon. It made the balloon stand erect 3-4 times. Then it went quiet. At one point I tried moving it to a warmer part of the house, but it never produced more gas.

Vessel #3 (Grolsch) showed no signs of fermentation for at least 2 weeks. Then it started to bubble, and was active for the last ~3 weeks.

Vessel #4 (jar) followed the same pattern as #3.

This week I opened #3 and tasted it. It was excellent, so I decided it was time to check the others.

#4 was also good. Moved it to smaller bottles & gave them to friends.

#2 was still way too sweet. Why would the culture go inactive, when there was still so much sugar available? I added a little bit of #3 to provide a healthy, active culture. Put the jar in the oven with the light on. It became somewhat active again, but not as much as I would have hoped. It's still sweeter than I'd like, but perhaps people who drink soda every day will enjoy it. (My taste for sugar is much more sensitive these days).

So, why these variable results? Why did #2 go dormant? Why did #1 never get going? Any ideas?
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