Saturday, December 19, 2009

Some books

Some great books:

The brown book at the bottom left was written by my grandfather. The one at the top left is Joy of Sex.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"My influences include"

There are a few people who have influenced in the last decade, and I was just thinking about who they are, how I found them, and how they are connected.

While visiting my in-laws we were served home-made kefir and raw milk. I was definitely hesitant at first, but we didn't get sick. My mother-in-law (MIL) also showed us Nourishing Traditions (NT). We read & discussed the whole visit, and came away with a bunch of new ideas.

The MIL bought us our own copy of NT, as well as a copy of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, aka Sandorkraut. This book blew my mind. It's not just a recipe book. It continued to change my thinking about micro-organisms and about industrial vs. home-made food. It also got me thinking about issues beyond food: death, compost, and social change. When he wrote a second book, The Revolution will not be Microwaved, I bought it and read it immediately. Both of Sandor's books have a safe home on my small bookshelf.

While trying to learn more about Ginger Soda, I came across an article called The Economics of Fermentation by Charles Eisenstein. Something about this guy's writing spoke to me. It was wonderful to read, and made complete sense to my way of thinking. I looked for more, and found his book The Yoga of Eating. It blew my mind. For the first time I understood Yoga Breathing. I now read everything he writes (book, blog, audio, video).

Sandor Katz came to Seattle to give a workshop in the summer 2006. My twins were just 5 months old, but I went anyway, exhausted but enthusiastic. He was teaching Wild Fermentation, while Frank Cook was teaching Wild Foods. I had never thought of eating wild, and Frank was way over my head, but he sure got me thinking. He recommended a book called Botany in a Day by Tom Elpel. Tom had self-published 4 books, and offered them all together at a discount, so I went for it. The others are Direct Pointing to Real Wealth (which fell flat with me, but maybe it's time to re-read), Participating in Nature (which got me thinking about primitive living skills; now I go in to the woods almost every week), and Living Homes. Now I'm working on plans to build a new house for my family. While I won't be building in quite the same way as Elpel, his thinking about the how & why of homes has shaped me greatly. More recently I read Rob Roy on Cordwood & other topics, and realize that I match Rob's outlook on life more closely than Tom's.

There's another thread, and I can't remember all the details. Even though I love learning, I deeply disliked going to school. So much about it seemed wrong. I heard claims that I was supposed to be learning math, science, literature, etc., but actually was learning very little of those things for the time I was there. It was such a cruel place at the same time. I decided early on to homeschool.

As a young adult I discovered Lies my Teacher Told me by James Loewen, although I can't remember how. At the same time I read A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and some of the work of John Taylor Gatto and John Holt. They got me thinking about how school works, and why. Eisenstein talks about it, too: school is perfectly suited to preparing you for an adulthood spent doing work you don't care about.

As a parent of a spirited child, I was grateful to discover Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. More recently I've watched some of his videos on Youtube and it has moved me deeply. Both Rosenberg and Eisenstein explore the way that our language is structured to a society of good vs. evil, the separate self, control of nature and human nature, etc. The roots of these values go very deep indeed.

Any reading on homeschooling quickly leads you to Unschooling. I have been a parent for 8 years, and I still haven't figured out how to be an unschooling parent. I used to think it was because my son was so spirited, but now I think it's because I wasn't ready for it: I still had work to do on myself.

My step-brother turned me on to a podcast by Willem Larsen called The Learning Revolution. The podcast immediately preceding was both exciting and confusing. It was an interview with Evan Gardner, about his method for learning languages quickly, called "Where are your Keys?". WAYK is an amazing way to learn languages, but also shows us different ways to think about learning. Ways that don't fit the conventional model of education, with its hierarchies, systems of control, and misery.

All of these things are connected.

The world is in crisis: global warming, coral reef death, peak oil, H1N1, the heart disease epidemic, rising asthma and Asbergers rates, obesity, economic collapse, the war on drugs, the police state, the prison industry, the growing gap between rich and poor. There are many more for this list, and they are all the same problem at root.

Similarly, these work of the people mentioned above is part of the solution. The coming turning of the age. From fermentation to unschooling to home-made houses, these people are seeding the ideas that will help us remember a new way of being, if that makes any sense. Living in the gift, believing in the more beautiful world that our hearts tell us is possible, recognizing that you and I are not separate, but instead expressions of the same universe.

I hope you will read the works of these folks and let them move you, and become a mover yourself.

Build a house

We've been looking for a house to buy, and haven't quite made it. We got close - an offer on one that didn't stick, and another that was already pending when we found it - but for now we're still looking.

Eventually I decided to revisit what I had learned about alternative house construction. Materials with low embodied energy, reclaimed materials, build-it-yourself, insulation, thermal mass, solar gain, and integrated design.

That last one is important. Integrated design. By that I mean thinking about how each part of a house design relates to the rest. For example, laying out the floor plan so the plumbing can all be together ("wet wall").

In Permaculture (and in nature) every element serves multiple roles. Chickens don't just produce eggs; they also consume food scraps, protect the orchard from pests, turn soil in the garden, and produce fertilizer. In conventional house construction, we use studded walls, meeting the needs like this:

strength - studs, OSB sheathing
fire resistance - drywall
insulation - fiberglass batts
beauty - drywall, siding, paint
thermal mass - none

Contrast that to Cordwood, my current DIY favorite.

strength - cordwood
fire resistance - cordwood
insulation - conrdwood
beauty - cordwood
thermal mass - cordwood

Furthermore, Cordwood is cheap and accessible for the amateur. No fiberglass to make you itch, either.

In addition to building our own house, we'd like to grow much of our own food. Chickens, ducks, goats, honey bees, a small orchard, and a big garden. Maybe pigs. You don't need a whole lot of space to do that, but I don't want to be buying a lot of food for the animals: I want them to roam and forage for themselves a lot. That means having a little land. I don't need to produce enough food to sell, but I do hope to produce more than we need and trade or gift the surplus.

Then again, I don't want some sort of rural McMansion. A hundred acres I can call "mine". 3000 sq. ft. of house at $120 / sq. ft., with active solar heat management and laminated "green" floors. Driving 20 miles just to see friends or by shampoo.

We've found 1.7 acres for a reasonable price. That's more than enough to grow all the food we can eat, but not enough to feed all the animals we could want. That's OK.

It's outside the city limits, which gives us more leeway with codes & construction methods. However, it's right over the line, so we're close to stuff, including a bus line. It also has city water in the street.

It's wooded. I have reservations about clearing land. But the alternative is to buy land that someone else has already cleared, which isn't much better. However, land that has been abused (e.g. gravel pit) and is super-cheap would be an opportunity to bring rich life back, which I like. Anyway, I love the woods so being wooded isn't terrible. And having a supply of wood for building and fuel is good, too.

In the new year we plan to put an offer on the land. Then we'll build an outhouse to explore the building techniques we're thinking about. Then a temporary shelter. We have a year on our current lease to get all that done and then start building.

I also hope to inspire others with my example, and by teaching what I learn. You don't have to have an enormous, expensive, toxic, wasteful home. It can be modest and comfortable and beautiful and cheap and healthy.

More to come, I hope.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Solar house design

I've been thinking about building a house. Ideally it will be cheap, modest, super energy efficient, comfortable, beautiful, and low maintenance.

My friend Andy loaned me a book called The Passive Solar House, by James Kachadorian. There are a bunch of worksheets in the back, and I turned them in a Google Spreadsheet. (I accidentally drank caffeinated tea in the evening, so I'm up late.)

Then I plugged in data for my family and my house, and found a lot of bugs. Fixed the bugs, then fixed some more, and found some interesting data.


I can stay comfy in winter for ~1 cord of wood per year. That's dry, seasoned hardwood in a woodstove. A masonry stove will be more efficient with that wood.

This area doesn't get that cold (good) but doesn't supply much solar energy (bad). Having lots of big windows helps, but not enormously.

Most of the heat loss is through windows (especially at night) or from replacing air.


The house design I'm using is built in to a hillside. The north side is fully bermed. The east and west sides are bermed part-way, but leave space for some egress windows and a doorway.

The south side is mostly windows. Just how much is a variable I'm playing with. Some web sites recommend floor-to-ceiling windows, which is expensive, but creates an in-home greenhouse, which can be very beautiful.

The book points out that windows may allow a lot of solar gain in the summer, but then lose a lot at night. In many climates, it's a wash: adding windows only increases temperature fluctuation. Then you need to add thermal mass to compensate. Glass insulation ranges from R-1 to R-3, which isn't much.

The design is 48' x 32', for 1500 sq. ft. That's more than we really need, but if I'm going to build a house in the ground, I figure I should design a little extra room. Size can matter a lot, so I will ponder these numbers carefully.

In my calculations I'm ignoring 2 areas of thermal mass. The design includes large planters in the greenhouse area. The moist soil can hold a lot of heat. The walls may be built out of concrete block, filled with dirt or concrete, which will add a lot more thermal mass. I haven't accounted for either of these factors, but I should.

I'm calculating wall and ceiling insulation at code requirements, approx R-20 and R-30 respectively. Glass is double-paned, which is R-2 (ouch!). Both can be improved, for greater cost.

The book recommends replacing 2/3rds of the interior air every hour, to keep it healthy and fresh. I don't know hot that compares to conventional homes, but it seems like a lot.

The calculations assume 72 degF as the ideal internal temperature. I'd be happy with 68, but I can't figure out how to work that in yet, but I will.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What is "Where are your Keys"?

I heard of Where are Your Keys a while back, and it seemed cool, but couldn't understand what it was from the limited materials available at the time. Now we're starting to see some more material, especially video, and it's making more sense to me. I think it's awesome.

I want to write down what I think it is, both to clarify my thoughts and maybe to explain it to others.

Where are Your Keys ("WAYK") is...

...a way to transfer a language from one person to another. It does this very quickly, and in an easy, relaxed way, in contrast with the miserable experience of the classroom.

...a way to transfer language fluency instead of language knowledge. Conventional language learning often begins with rote memorization of vocabulary. Memorizing a large vocabulary will not make you sound like a native speaker; children who are just learning to speak have a small vocabulary but still speak with a comfort and natural ease that is out of reach of students in conventional language classes. By comparison, WAYK builds fluency: the ease and grace of a native speaker.

...a way to teach / learn sign language. Signing has the unique property of working concurrently with speech: you can talk and sign at the same time. Sign is a fundamental part of WAYK.

...a way to teach WAYK. When you play WAYK you are taught the techniques that are being used in the game. You walk away knowing how to play WAYK with others. You can then use it to further disseminate the language skills you have just learned. This is especially important for endangered languages, of course.

...a tool for student or teacher. As a student in WAYK, you aren't being "filled with knowledge" by a teacher; you become your own teacher, and are responsible for your own learning. Hence, a teacher of a language can use WAYK with a group of students, but a student can also use WAYK to learn from a reluctant native speaker. The latter is great for "rescuing" endangered languages of indigenous peoples.

...modular. WAYK is composed of many small techniques, which can be applied one at a time. Each has a memorable name. The first technique is called "Technique": the use of small, individual techniques with memorable names. The first WAYK video is about this very topic: source. Anyone can create new techniques. As WAYK spreads, the collection of techniques grows quickly.

...light on materials. You don't need textbooks or a classroom or a chalk board. They seem to start with 5 objects (red pen, black pen, white rock, dollar bill, and stick) and a table to sit around.

Up until now, Where are your Keys has been spread in person, playing the game face-to-face. This has created a geographic restriction on dissemination of the game. Now the people behind WAYK are working on internet videos to teach the game, so people can learn it without traveling to Portland, OR. They just started; you can watch the progress at

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New centerboard (part 9) - Pouring in the real centerboard

With the test pouring done, we started making plans for the real thing.

In the test, as the lead cooled, it shrank and pulled away from the sides. To fix that, I wanted to use a smaller hole and slightly overpour, and then use a hammer to smush the middle, driving it towards the edges. Also, I read I should taper the edges of the hole, so the lead would flow around it, making the lead hold on to the shape of the wood. This would also smooth the transition when the lead shrank. In both cases, I needed a smaller hole, so I reduced from 6" square to 5" square for the first cut of the hole, with the plan to cut some more away for the taper.

The 1" spade drill bit provided the corners again. This time I used the jigsaw to cut the sides of the hole, since the circular saw wouldn't fit in the smaller space. I then turned the jigsaw to cut a 45 degree angle, and shaped the edges a bit. I followed with a rasp to take the edges closer to a 30 degree angle.

I didn't want to use screws on the inside edge again, since the lead hadn't flowed around them well. Nails seemed like a better choice. The plans show 3 nails per side, but getting them in without splitting the plywood seemed tricky, so I drove one in to each corner. Because the corners weren't tapered, they seemed stronger and needed help holding the lead in.

Because I wanted to overpour the lead for later pounding, I added a top mold, with a hole cut in the middle. The top mold also means that being perfectly level isn't required. So now the bottom layer is a 10" square; the middle layer is the centerboard with a 5.5" hole cut out, and the top layer is a 10" square with a 4" hole. A 1" pour hole would have been easier to cut (with my 1" spade bit), but harder to aim for. It would also have held in more heat, and I wanted the lead to cool faster so it would burn less wood.

I was told that lead was thin, so make sure everything is clamped tightly in place. I didn't have a clamp deep enough for the inside corner of the molds, so I used a lead-acid battery (in a case to protect from heat) to apply pressure in one corner. I've seen a section of railroad track used for this purpose. I'm not sure where to find one. Clamps did the other parts.

I decided to switch back to the cast iron pan instead of the coffee can. The coffee can didn't have a good pour spout, which was a problem during the test pour. I saw a lot of extra lead left behind in the can, so I used pliers to pull out some, and then melted out the rest. It took a long time to heat the can through the cast iron pan (pictured), so I removed the pan and heated the can directly. At this time I noticed the pan handle was so hot that I couldn't hold it long, even with the gloves. I timed it at ~10 seconds: not enough for a pour. I figured I could use the vise grips on the handle.

Once the extra lead was out of the coffee can, I put the cast iron pan back on, and then put the block of lead in. After 1/2 an hour of burning there wasn't any molten lead. It was breezy, which carried the heat away quickly. The cast iron pan had a lot of surface area and thermal mass, making it harder for the small campstove to do its job. Finally, the large block of lead was only touching the pan base at two small points, because the lead block was too big to fit in the pan. I needed to cut it like before, but now it was very hot.

I attacked it with a drill bit this time, drilling a series of holes in a line on one side, and then the other, and then poked at it until the lead split easily under my pliers. I gathered up all the shavings and put them in the pan, along with the two large blocks of lead. The shavings melted first, and helped transfer heat in to the block, which worked well.

To keep the heat from blowing away, I surrounded the setup with the panels from a plywood play house. When that didn't help enough, I added a piece of ceramic tile (from my "scary sharp" setup) on top of the pan, as a loose lid. Even better would have been heat reflectors, perhaps tile with foil over them.

After another round of waiting, the lead was melted. There was a little dross again, so I started skimming. After 5 minutes of "final" preparation, the lead had started to solidify at the edge of the pan. To work I had removed the plywood panel wind breaks and ceramic tile cover, and the wind was carrying away my heat.

Put them back in place, and waited again. Decided to do the pour quickly, so things would still be hot.

After another 15 minutes or so, the lead was all melted again. I clamped on the vise grips but found that it was too heavy to lift that way and stay under control. I used a second set of pliers to get both hands working together.

After the lead cooled, we removed the top mold, and saw that there was way, way too much lead. I shoulda stopped pouring when it was just ~1/16" up in to the top mold. Instead we had 1/4" or more. I experimented with removing it with a wood chisel and a block plane, but ended up buying a cold chisel to cut it away.

We spent a couple hours with hammer and cold chisel, to remove extra lead. Then we used the hammer to smooth the surface of the lead on the top, which caused it to bulge on the bottom. Hammered the bottom back to shape, then flipped and attacked the top again. After a while we decided it looked good enough. There was a gouge where we dug too deep at one point, and we were able to mostly repair it but not completely. Epoxy will have to fill in the hole.

I'm not certain if the centerboard will sink like it's supposed to. The new hole is considerably smaller than the old one (and the plans), and a substantial amount of lead is left over. However, the new centerboard is made of a denser, heavier wood, so it may be OK. If not, I can drill a few smallish holes and cast in the lead scraps.

Here's the good (bottom) side, in its final form.

- Clean up the cuts that went off the line
- Draw and cut the curve at the top
- Plane down the leading and trailing edges
- Cut a hole and pour in a lead sink weight (first time pouring lead!)
- Cut a gap for the pivot
- Prepare 1/8" sheet brass as pivot hole reinforcement (in progress)
- Drill 5 holes for fid and lanyard (ooh, the easy part)
- Epoxy and paint
- Install centerboard & lanyard
- Put boat back on trailer

Monday, July 06, 2009

New centerboard (part 8) - Failure becomes success

After failing to melt lead with a propane torch, I went looking for stronger tools.

Many instructions say to use a campstove to melt the lead. You want to be outdoors so the fumes don't collect (where do they go?). I didn't want to buy a new campstove for just one use, so I searched for used ones. There aren't many around. I finally found one at Marine Exchange, a used boating goods store. The salty old guy there suggested I use a weed burner, instead. It would produce a lot more heat, which meant I could melt the lead faster, using much less fuel. It took him 10 minutes of searching to find all the bits I would need: a hose with a regulator, a fuel switch, and fittings to adapt between each. Most of that time was finding the right combination of fittings. $10 for the set.

He also suggested a coffee can as a crucible, and vice grips to pick it up and pour. When I felt how heavy the cast iron pan + 11 lbs of lead was, I decided to get a coffee can. Who buys coffee in a can any more? I think most people buy it in plastic or fresh-ground in paper. It took a while to find one, but eventually I tried freecycle, and someone delivered it to my door. (Thank-you!). I didn't have vice-grips, so I decided to use 2 large pliers.

I borrowed a propane tank from a friend, and enlisted the help of my father-in-law who was visiting.

The block of lead was too big to fit in the mouth of the coffee can. My father-in-law said that a hacksaw would gum up easily with lead, and suggested a different approach. We used a hammer and a prybar, and perforated down the center. Flipped it over and repeated. Then leaned it against a concrete step and wailed with a sledge hammer, at which point the lead bent and we could pull it apart and put it in the coffee can.

We got all the propane hose bits hooked up, with Teflon tape between the fittings, and soap water to look for leaks. There were a lot of parts! Here's the setup, ready to go:

We fired up the weed burner and pointed it in to the can. The breeze blew the flame away from the can, so we made no progress fast. We moved in to the garage, with doors open for ventilation, and tried again. After 10 minutes we saw lead at the top melt, drip down, and freeze at the bottom. It looked like it would take a long time. I was getting tired of standing there holding the weed burner, so we turned it off and looked for a new plan.

Filled the propane tank up, to make sure there'd be plenty of fuel. (6.9 gal for $17). Went to the local general store for a camp stove, and found a basic model for $22. It was listed as 10,000 BTU, although I suspect those numbers are as much marketing as anything else.

I saw that it would screw in to the propane bottle that came with my little torch, but I was worried that there wouldn't be enough fuel for our job, and wanted to use the big tank instead. We looked through the set of fittings they had and picked one that seemed like it would work.

The next day we hooked up the camp stove to the big propane tank, went to light it, and got nothing. No fuel was coming out of the stove. We noticed that the small propane bottle looked like it had a pin on it that could open something on the stove's fitting, and figured we needed something more complex to push it. At the hardware store we found a different fitting that didn't just adapt to the right thread of for the camp stove, but included the little pin that we thought was missing. The hardware store also had a hose with the left-threaded fitting on one end, for a big propane tank, and a "throwaway" fitting on the other end for the camp stove. It was exactly what we needed, but at $42 I passed.

Back home we put the new fitting on, hooked it up, and again got nothing. *sigh*. After further pondering, we figured that there were two regulators involved, and that might be the problem. One built in to the hose, sitting right on the propane tank. The other in the camp stove's tubing. I guessed that they interfered with each other, and that stopped it from working.

We removed the regulator on the hose, and saw that it had different threads on each end. That meant I needed another adapter. I also saw that hose end was left-threaded, and there was a small adapter between it and the regulator.

We loaded all the equipment in to the van and drove back to Marine Exchange to find the right fitting. After 10 minutes we found two fittings that, together, would do the job. Drove back home, reassembled, and got leaks. Lots of leaks. We eventually figured out that one of the new fittings was really meant for plumbing, not for propane, and wouldn't seal well with the other fittings. Also, two of the fittings that should have worked together were leaking a little.

Here's the full collection of fittings:

We went back to the hardware store, and looked for alternative fittings. After 10 minutes of pondering, I decided to spring for the $42 hose that was exactly what I needed, instead of a cobbled-together collection of many parts that kept failing me in different ways. I wanted to get the lead melted already! I also picked up a pair of vice-grips, because having them securely clamped to the can seemed safer.

Put the lead in the coffee can on the stove, and turned it on. After about 1/2 an hour it was all melted. I used a cheap metal spoon from the thrift store to skim off the junk on the top. Poured it in the mold, saw it bubble and settle, and then let it set.

After it cooled I took it apart, and examined the result. The lead had pulled away from the edges all around, up to 1/8". It had not flowed over the tops of the screw heads; they probably cooled the lead quickly and were too high and thick. The bottom was relatively smooth and shiny, while the top was rough. During the bubbling stage, some tiny splashes of lead had left little bits sitting around, which we collected for later use.

New centerboard (part 7) - failed test pour

The centerboard is made of plywood, which is bouyant in water. We want it to stay down, so we have to add some weight. One way to do this is to melt and pour lead in to the board. The original was done that way, and I decided to do it again, reusing the lead.

Casting lead was all new to me, and it took a while to get things together. I decided to do a test pour first, and then repeat in the real centerboard.

To create the test setup, I started with two 10" x 10" pieces of the same plywood as the centerboard is made of. Neither was scrap, I'm afraid. The plans call for a 6" x 6" hole, to hold 10.9 lbs of lead. I drew a 6" square, then measured 1/2" in from each side. A small pilot hole, followed by a 1" spade drill bit in each corner got things started. To avoid tearing up the exit hole, I drilled 1/2-way through all 4 holes, then flipped and drilled the other side to match. Finally, used my small circular saw to cut the edges of the hole. That isn't very safe, as the saw wants to jump when the blade hits the surface. A jigsaw is safer, but straight cuts are harder and my circular saw is a better tool than my jigsaw.

Lead doesn't stick to wood, so I put nails and screws in the inside edge for it to mold around. I used both I wanted to see which would work better.

For a crucible (to hold the lead), I bought a 6" cast iron pan from the thrift store. Everyone recommends a coffee can, but I thought the built-in handle and pour spout would be useful.

I had a propane torch from a yard sale years ago, and decided to give it a go for melting the lead. It's a classic, probably from J. C. Penny. The instructions are amusing. In those days, you didn't need to worry about fumes from melting paint.

Applied the flame to the lead and all that happened was the lead and paint on the surface melted. I used the opportunity to scrape a lot away, but no lead melted. Not enough heat.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

New centerboard (part 6) - pivot plates.

The plans call for a pair of brass plates to reinforce the pivot hook on the centerboard. After popping them out of the old centerboard, I used a mill file to bevel the top edges, to smooth the transition to the wood.

The plans say to use screws to hold the plates in place, but the original didn't have them. Spent some time with the drill to machine some counter-sunk holes. Drilling brass it tricky, but I got the job done eventually. I have an ancient J. C. Penny drill press that didn't help much. I gave it away a few days ago, and will get a good one if I decide I really need one.

Used a mirror-sharp chisel to cut slots to bed the plates in the centerboard. If the plate had been placed on the surface of the plywood, all shear forces would be taken by the screws. The plates are 1/8" thick. The 3/4" plywood is a little thinner than advertised, and cutting it down 1/8" on each side would leave less than 1/2" of wood to take the strain, in an area where strength matters. So I chiseled through 3 plies, which makes them about 1/16" deep. Seems like a good compromise. The plates fit very snugly, which helps make sure they can transfer the shear forces to the wood.

I also decided to use some Gorilla Glue to hold the plates to the board. It is strong stuff, and grows by 4x as it cures, and sticks to just about everything.

I practiced screwing in to scrap plywood and found that it was easy to drive too hard and strip out the wood in the hole. I decided to use my bit and brace ($3 at a used building supplies store!) to do the last turns of the screws. I also experimented with different size pilot holes to see what works the best.

So, the installation procedure was:
  1. Wet both the wood and the metal plates
  2. Dab on a very thin layer of Gorilla Glue
  3. Wait 5 minutes for things to get tacky (gold lamé?)
  4. Install one plate
  5. Drive screws with the drill most of the way in
  6. Use the brace to finish the screws off
  7. Flip and install the other side.
It was at "flip" that we saw a problem: the screws were slightly too long. The screw tips poked through the wood on the other side, which would stop the other plate from fitting properly. Meanwhile, the glue is drying...

I quickly grabbed a Dremel grinder bit (I don't have a Dremel, just a grinder bit, left over from making a lock pick set 12 years ago), tossed it in the drill, and ground down the tips of the screws. They are soft brass, so it went fast. Then I put the other plate in place and clamped it down while the glue cured.

Meanwhile I cut the tips off the other screws so they wouldn't be too long. I used the grinder to shape them to a little point, to help the screw get started. Gorilla Glue reaches 80% strength in a an hour or two. After lunch I unclamped and drove in the remaining screws.

The result worked out OK, although I do see one corner bulging because of a screw that's still too long. Oh, well, it's too late to change and will be OK.
From Jay Bazuzi's personal blog
As you can see, the slots in the brass overhang the wood by about 1/16", so they take the strain first.

- Clean up the cuts that went off the line
- Draw and cut the curve at the top
- Plane down the leading and trailing edges
- Cut a hole and pour in a lead sink weight (first time pouring lead!)
- Cut a gap for the pivot
- Prepare 1/8" sheet brass as pivot hole reinforcement (in progress)
- Drill 5 holes for fid and lanyard (ooh, the easy part)
- Epoxy and paint
- Install centerboard & lanyard
- Put boat back on trailer

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Living on in memory

When my mom died, people sometimes told me that she would "continue to live in our memories". That sounded like a load of crap to me. She was dead and gone, and pretending that she still existed just because we remembered her was false comfort.

Today I had some different thoughts on the matter.

They start with a question of the nature of self: are we each distinct, separate, isolated beings? Or are we an expression of the ecosystem, and our relationships with the rest of the universe? For as long as I can remember, I've had the first perspective, but since reading The Ascent of Humanity I'm asking myself if the second makes more sense.

In the first, Mom was contained exactly within her body. She ended at the "skin boundary". Everything inside was her, and everything outside was Other. Or maybe her body was just a host, and her Self is some mote that is hosted inside the body. I'm not sure, but I was sure that the Self is complete contained within the body.

In the second, Mom is the expressions of the ecosystem that created and grew her (her parents, her food, her intestinal microflora, the air she breathed, the people and animals she loved, the woods she walked in). That includes our memories and thoughts of her. When she died, the body began to decompose, and our memories changed to incorporate that knowledge, but all the "outside the body" aspects of Mom continued to exist.

In the second, perhaps we would say that her existence was largely diminished by her death, but not eliminated.

Lessons from agriculture vs. hunting and gathering

I'm channeling The Ascent of Humanity here:

We learn about the nature of the universe from our experiences. What does a lifestyle of agriculture teach, compared to a lifestyle of hunting and gathering?

AgricultureHunting and Gathering
I get by because of my hard workThe world generously provides me with my needs
There is only as much food as I growThere is as much food as I need, just waiting to be found
Work hard today for results in the futurePlay today; do tomorrow's work tomorrow
Nature is cruelly indifferent, destroying my food without reason or purposeNature is generous and kind, providing my food without asking anything in return
Food (and everything else) is finiteFood (and everything else) is infinite

In conventional discussions of primitive living, our descriptions sound a lot like the first column: The life of uncivilized man was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short"; our pitiful ancestors had to struggle every day just to get by, "let's blast those fuckers back to the Stone Age". However, that's only because we take our precept ion of the universe and project it on to our perception of prehistoric life.

The good news for us isn't just that the second column is possible, but that the second column is true. The universe is inherently generous and kind, and we live in it as it is. Our only mistake is to believe that the first column is the truth.

We live in abundance.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sienna convention

A friend recently opened a coffee shop here in Port Townsend, called "Better Living through Coffee". He takes his drip coffee very seriously.

Apparently his business is an attractor of Toyota Siennas. In red.

There's another, non-red Sienna just out of frame on the other side of the street.

In the woods

From Reid's wilderness classes.

A perfect forked stick for making a grilled sandwich:

Young people climb trees.

I took the twins with us one time. Here they are enjoying lunch.

Camera phone pics

The camera on my phone produces low-quality pictures, which is better than the no pictures I would get without it.

Apparently this water fountain is perfect for their purposes:

Dylan and Carcassonne:

Zephyr and I at the county courthouse.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Farewell to Phil Bolger

Phil Bolger, who designed 680 boats, including the Suprise from Master and Commander and the boat I own, a Bobcat, died yesterday.

Thinking of my reading of Eisenstein, I want to say that Phil made the world a more beautiful place, which is the best any of us can do.

New centerboard (part 5)

We know a family with 2 homeschooled boys; the older was really interested in working on the boat with me, so we invited them over. I showed him the work and he started planing the bevel. He ended up doing the rest of the side I had started. Later I tried clamping the centerboard on to the work bench in the garage and found that I could plane better there than on sawhorses. I beveled unevenly on purpose. The low point on the centerboard is often the first thing to hit bottom, so I left it thick for strength. (Perhaps a little metal reinforcement would be good here?). I also left it thick around the hook. You can see this in the path of stripes.

When the centerboard is up, it is held in place with a fid.

For the fid there are 3 holes in the centerboard. One is in the full up position, for beaching, trailering, shoals, etc. I've never messed with centerboard positioning very much, but when I have an easy-to-move centerboard, I will have a chance to experiment. I need the holes to be big enough for a 1/2" fid, but I don't have a 9/16" bit. I do have a 5/8" bit (uggh, these fractions are confusing!), but that hole seemed way to big. I ended up drilling with my 1/2" bit, and then wiggling the bit around to make it a little larger. Then I got the advice to put a couple thick layers of epoxy on the centerboard before I paint it, so I figured I should make the holes bigger now, so the epoxy doesn't make them too small. I drilled to 5/8" afterwards. (Yes, the bit kept jamming; it sucked.)

I drilled a 1" hole to hold the stopper knot for the centerboard lanyard, and then a 5/16" hole from the edge to the 1" hole to put the lanyard through. I practiced doing this a couple times on a piece of scrap plywood, and I'm glad, because it's hard to do well. The drill wants to drop to a softer ply, would would make the hole off-center. An awl + a very tiny pilot hold did the trick. Even so, it's hard to drill through the edge of a board and keep it perfectly centered. I was a little off when I came out in to the 1" hole, but not by much. (And it's better than the original centerboard's lanyard hole, so I'm happy with that.) If I ever do this again, I will look in to a jig.

From Jay Bazuzi's personal blog

The plans call for a metal plate around the hook to reinforce it. It says to use 1/8" brass plates, at 3" x 5 1/2". I wasn't sure if I could pull off the old plates without damaging them. The plans say to screw them in place, but the old ones were just epoxied in. Turns out that made them really easy to remove: a prybar under one end and they popped right out. (The alternative was to buy new brass from Amazon; $25 for a 12" square sheet, free shipping with Amazon prime, but without a bandsaw it might be hard to cut.)
From Jay Bazuzi's personal blog

Using a 1/4" bit to provide a starting hole, I used my grandfather-in-law's J.C. Penny jigsaw to cut around the lead sink weight in the old centerboard. Now there's no going back! The lead is held in place with small nails or screws, but the jigsaw only hesitated at these. After cutting 2 1/2 sides, I was able to pry the rest of it out. Wow, it's heavy! Duh. 11 lbs. (The alternative was to buy lead on Amazon, which I was surprised to find.) Now the old centerboard is really light. I suspect the wood I'm using is denser than they old centerboard, so I may not need as much lead to sink it. Hmmm.
From Jay Bazuzi's personal blog

From Jay Bazuzi's personal blog

While cleaning up I spilled the big bin of legos right in the sawdust pile. I don't really want glue, wood, and and metal shavings on the toys that my kids like to put in their mouths, so I hauled the legos inside for a washing. There are piles and bins of drying legos all over the kitchent.
The brass plates are supposed to be set in the plywood. Not flush, but not on top, either. Without that, the brass would scrape the inside of the centerboard trunk. Cut flush would take 1/4" out of the 3/4" plywood (which is really more like 5/8" thick) and leave it weak at the point where strenght matters most.

I bought some chisels and a small mallet, and experimented with cutting a 1/16"-ish deep hole in my scrap plywood. I think it will be fine. However, these chisels aren't as sharp as they could be, so I'll spend some time on the sharpening plates before I cut the holes.
I think I will use both screws and some Gorilla Glue to hold the brass reinforcement plates in place. Belt-and-suspenders, I know. But better to make it easy to remove in the future + more secure now. I brought some #10 3/4" brass screws (like metals, right?) and experimented with drilling a hole in the brass for them. I also beveled the edges of the brass a little, to make the transition to the plywood fairer.
I am worried that the screw heads sticking out would focus the force of the moving centerboard and gouge the centerboard trunk. I plan to countersink the screws, but again, if I sink them too deeply, I'll loose the strenght of the brass. My plan is to sink them 1/16" in, leaving 1/2 the thickness of the brass plate under the screw, and only a little bit of screw head sticking out. Another reason I'm planning to use Gorillage Glue - to alleviate the stress on the screw holes.

I plan to cut the slots for the brass plates to be a snug fit, which should also help.
The lead pouring plan is coming together. I decided not to go for an asbestos plate to back up the hold, instead using a piece of scrap plywood. I will do a test pour in a scrap piece, so I can develop my lead casting skills, and then do it for real. The only thing I'm missing right now is the propane tank, and a friend said he'll loan me his.

Updated TODO list:

- Clean up the cuts that went off the line
- Draw and cut the curve at the top
- Plane down the leading and trailing edges
- Cut a hole and pour in a lead sink weight (first time pouring lead!)
- Cut a gap for the pivot
- Prepare 1/8" sheet brass as pivot hole reinforcement (in progress)
- Drill 5 holes for fid and lanyard (ooh, the easy part)
- Epoxy and paint
- Install centerboard & lanyard
- Put boat back on trailer

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eisenstein on school

Check out this short video of Eisenstein. It's part 2 of 3, but it stans well on its own.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

New centerboard (part 4)

Used a plane to smooth the curves around the centerboard, followed by some 80 grit orbital sanding.

One of the steps is to bevel the leading and trailing wet edges, to reduce friction and increase lift. I started to do that along the bottom edge (which is the leading edge when the board is down).

I then realized I needed to cut the hook in so I would know where to stop bevelling. I want to keep plenty of wood in place there, to keep it strong. I used a 5/8" drill bit to shape the main pivot point, and the circular saw to cut the rest of the slot. A 4-in-hand file/rasp to round the edges and smooth the transition between the hole and the straight cuts.

I also want to leave the lowest point a little thicker, since it gets beat up a lot when grounding, beaching, launching, or loading.

As you can see in the picture, the colors of the plys help to make the bevel even. I'm not trying to create a scarf joint, so perfection isn't required, but it's a good place to practice. Ideally the stripes are straight / parallel / equal width. There are 12 plies in this 3/4" sheet (although it's actually slightly less than 3/4"). The outer plies (the veneer) are thinner than the others. My plan is to bevel 4 plies worth, leaving the middle 4 plies intact (although maybe I will round the transition from the bevel to the middle section).

I've also been shopping for lead-pouring equipment. So far I have:
  • small cast-iron pan as crucible (thrift store)
  • long metal spoon to scoop impurities (thrift store)
  • weed burner / valve / hose / regulator to melt the lead (Marine Exchange)
  • lead (gonna pull it out of the old centerboard)
Still need:
  • asbestos tile
  • maybe a coffee can as an alternate crucible
  • heat-proof gloves
  • tongs
  • propane tank

Updated TODO list:

- Clean up the cuts that went off the line
- Draw and cut the curve at the top
- Plane down the leading and trailing edges (in progress)
- Cut a hole and pour in a lead sink weight (first time pouring lead)
- Cut a gap for the pivot
- Cut some 1/8" sheet metal to reinforce the pivot (will try to reuse the old one)
- Drill 5 holes (ooh, the easy part)
- Paint (no epoxy)
- Install centerboard
- Put boat back on trailer.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Ascent of Humanity

I'm reading another book by Charles Eisenstein, The Ascent of Humanity. It's very slow going. I read a section and have to take a break to chew the words. It's amazing. It has taken me 2 weeks to read 2 chapters.

I have some quotes to share:
Thanks to god Technology, we will leave behind all vestiges of mortality and enter a realm of without toil or travail and beyond death and pain.
This is a message we seem to hear a lot. Yesterday I heard it from the cashier at the cash register. She pointed to the way that most money is electronic today, and that this is an example of a trend to a virtual life (which, when complete, presumably mimics real life exactly?)

One thing I like about this quote a lot is that if you remove "Thanks to god Technology", it sounds like a message we're used to hearing from many religions. That suggests that science and technology is a religion for us today.

Next quote, when discussing the way that language is used to separate the words from the speaker:
The goal would seem to be to pretend that the words had no human author at all, existing purely as objective facts. Indeed, use of the first person is considered bad from in academic writing - a convention the author of the present work finds ridiculous!
How witty.

Bad sign on the bus

I was in Seattle taking the city bus to Adventuress. There was a sign that said:
  • Metro has provided 3 billion rides since beginning operation in 1973!
  • Thank you for helping Metro reduce traffic, congestion, improve air quality and save you money.
  • You're one in a billion 3 billion!
I know that the phrase "one in a million" generally means "you're more special than the rest of the members of a set of a million people", but here it means "you're lost in the crowd". Doh.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New centerboard (part 3)

Made some progress on the centerboard today.

The big 41" arc had a few high spots, which I brought down 1/8" at a time.

Two of the corners are rounded with 3" radius. Marked that line and made 3 straight cuts to get closer to that curve. My plan is to use the new plane to round it out. (I just realized that my jigsaw has an attachment that lets you do fixed-raidus curves. Oops!)

Had Julie the artist pick a curve for the top, and made 3 cuts to approximate that, too.

All the cutting was with the circular saw.

Here's where things stand:

New centerboard (part 2)

Got a Stanley 118 low-angle block plane on ebay, $35 shipped. I read this was a good one, and I needed something that could plane end grain on plywood.

I set myself up with the "scary sharp" system (wet-dry sandpaper, cheap ceramic tiles, and a honing guide). By the end the surfaces of the blade were mirror-reflective (although slightly distorted).

Here's a pic of the old centerboard and new one.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Patterns of behavior and the subconcious

Some quotes from Yoga of Eating, ch 13 - Dieting and Self-Acceptance, which got me thinking.
[Y]our body shape is integral to your current pattern of being. It's your body's proper and appropriate response to how you live and who you are.
If the body-soul has decided that obesity is the appropriate response to a given set of psychological, spiritual, and physical conditions, it will use whatever mechanisms are necessary to achieve this state.
So, if you decide to make some change in your life to reduce your weight (like cutting out carbohydrates), your body may respond with increased appetite, aversion to exercise, or reduced metabolism. 

What's interesting to me about this is not what it says about dieting and weight loss, but what I can learn about my deep unmet needs and fears and wounds and how to heal them.

I think of the choices I have made which have lead to my current body shape. I didn't overeat just once, and suddenly get fat. I did it over, and over again. I was proud of my reputation for someone who eats a lot of food. I also have eaten many, many sweet foods. I no longer eat Hostess, but that doesn't stop me from consuming plenty of sugar. As a teen I would eat Betty Crocker frosting straight from the tub. 

There's more to this than just "here's how I ate and got fat". Perhaps a pattern of behavior like this is indicative of an unmet need that the "body-soul" is trying to fulfill. That means our habits can be a tool for understanding the subconscious. Let's look at some examples from my life:

I think I wish to be healthy and attractive and fit, but somehow that hasn't stopped me consistently making decisions that took me away from those ideal. Why is it?

I think of all the times I could have ridden my bicycle somewhere, when the weather was fine, and I had enough energy, and I had enough time, and the ride was quite doable, and somehow I talked myself out of it. Why?

I'm not just fat: I am also terribly inflexible. I can't come anywhere close to touching my toes, legs straight. This is inconvenient a lot of the time, but that hasn't motivated me to stretch regularly. Why don't I stretch?

I also have pretty bad posture. I carry my head well forward of my shoulders. This means pain in my head, neck, shoulders, and back, and sometimes secondary pain in other parts of my body. Why don't I hold myself with good posture?

There's some reason I have made these decisions this way, consistently, for so many years. This isn't just about discipline or habits or not knowing that I was harming myself or not knowing a better way to do things. There's a reason I have stuck to these patterns of behavior that goes beyond such things. 

It seems clear to me that this is the work of my subconscious (cue ominous music). There's some unmet need behind these patterns of behavior. They can give me a starting point for digging in to my deeper self to discover those unmet needs and maybe find some healing.

I don't think I can group "overeating" and "overweight" in to the same behavior pattern. When researching food issues recently, I came across a story of a woman who would binge on food, and then work out excessively to burn the extra calories, so she could stay thin. This person had one issue that motivated the overeating, and another that motivated her to burn it off.

A friend used to binge and then go on strict diets to keep her weight down. She had one issue that motivated the eating, and another that motivated the dieting. Her life coach encouraged her to stop the diets. She promptly gained a lot of weight, and she seems to be a much happier person, having let go of that harsh treatment of herself. I think her thin shape was an expression of her self-loathing, and her fat shape is an expression of her love for herself and her joy in life. 

I talked about harmful behaviors above, but this applies to all my consistent patterns of behavior, including the ones I like. Digging in to those can help me understand myself in ways that I want to be careful not to change.

In Harville Hendrix's Getting the Love you want he hits on a similar notion when he says that your spouse's consistent complaints about your are likely to lead you to childhood wounds and your adaptations to those wounds. He's right, but you can go further and look at all consistent observations, from your spouse, friends, coworkers, family, and self.

Take a look at how you live your life. What are the things you do a certain way, consistently? Why?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Tonight on FOX

Episode 1 of Dancing with the Stars of Joss Whedon Shows (originally aired second-to-last): Sweet vs. Summer Glau.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New centerboard (part 1)

My boat (12' Bolger-designed plywood catboat, called a Bobcat or Tinycat) has centerboard trouble. It sticks badly, and I have to work hard to push it down and pull it back up.

Getting it out is a bit funny: you have to pull it out of the bottom of the boat. The boat is in the 400-500lb range, so getting it off the trailer, on to the ground, and rolled over is not something I can do solo! I finally got some friends over and 4 of us were able to lift the boat, roll it on to its side, and pull the old centerboard out.

My first plan was to use an orbital sander to lower the high spots, put a layer of fresh paint on it, and put it back in. Progress was slow at first, so I bought lower, and then still lower grit sandpaper. I then found that one side had been epoxied. I think that means the other side got soaked, and the board warped from the uneven wetness. I also did some measuring and found that the centerboard is about 1/8" thicker than specified in the plans. I decided to go for a new centerboard.

Original plans suggest laminating 2 or 3 layers of 3/8" or 1/4" plywood to make a 3/4" centerboard. I also want to make a new rudder at some point, and it's laminated to 1 1/2" (6 layers of 1/4"!). Instead I bought a single 8' x 4' sheet of 3/4" marine plywood at Edensaw Woods for $120. (I bought it with all 3 kids in tow, and we strapped it to the top of the minivan. Home boat building, yeah!)

Plenty of things stopped me from attacking the new centerboard, including lots of uncertainty about how to do it. I spent a while trying to cut and plane a small piece off the corner of the plywood, just for practice, and did learn that working with 3/4" plywood is hard work.

I eventually read some thoughts about overcoming procrastination with action, and decided to get cutting. I placed the old centerboard on the plywood & traced a line. Then I attacked it with my small cordless circular saw (not quite powerful enough, and won't cut a curve) and my grand-father-in-law's old J. C. Penny jigsaw, which will cut a curve but slowly, and it likes to splinter the veneer as it goes. I also decided to curve (a 4" semi-circle) the top point of the centerboard, instead of cutting it straight like on the plans. I think it'll look nice. (Maybe I'll discover why it was specified to be straight.)

It took 3 sessions of cutting, but today I finally finished separating the new centerboard from the rest of the sheet. What's left:

- Clean up the cuts that went off the line
- Draw and cut the curve at the top
- Plane down the leading and trailing edges (need a low-angle plane)
- Cut a hole and pour in a lead sink weight (first time pouring lead)
- Cut a gap for the pivot
- Cut some 1/8" sheet metal to reinforce the pivot
- Drill 5 holes (ooh, the easy part)
- Paint (no epoxy)
- Install centerboard
- Put boat back on trailer.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What I really want

Continuing on thoughts from Transformational Weight Loss.

Last night at dinner I stopped in the middle of the meal to get a drink of water. While standing at the sink I asked myself "do I want to eat another serving?" I noticed that I was hunched over, and corrected my posture. Immediately the pressure in my stomache became uncomfortable. I realized that I was holding myself in a hunched position to avoid the discomfort of being so full, and to make it possible to eat a little more. I decided not to eat more at that time.

Later I made a quick run to Safeway for some essentials. We usually buy our groceries at a food coop, so the Safeway is always a bit of culture shock for me. It's enormous; there are so many cashiers; there is a lot of non-food things, like school suppies and motor oil.

There are also a ton of candy / desert / junk items, like soda, cookies, cakes, pies, chips, etc. Safeway's cakes look pretty good, and they kept catching my eye. I was tempted to buy one, but had some reservations. I want to reduce my body fat, and a cake probably makes that harder, but I'm trying to follow Eisenstein's rule of "eat what I want" instead of "eat what I think I'm supposed to eat". I was also afraid that if I brought it home, the kids would wolf it down, and I don't want them eating that junk. "Protecting" them by eating it in secret seemed like a really bad idea, just because eating in secret is a warning sign for me, and I didn't like the hipocrasy of giving a cake to myself but not to them.

I decided to follow my true desire, if I could hear it. I asked myself "what do I really want right now?" I tried imaging eating different things, etc., to see what message my body would send about my needs. I immediately had the answer: "I want my back to stop hurting". I stretched a little right there, went home, and took some ibuprofen. No cake.

I had been unaware of that back pain the whole time. Ignoring pain is something I've gotten good at, and I want that to change.

The pain is telling me something more than "take ibuprofen". It's saying something like "sitting that way is harmful" or "these muscles want to be stronger". Unfortunately I'm suffering from a long, slow chest cold right now, so there's not a whole lot I can do about it right now, but I'm keeping the message in mind until I feel better.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fearing the end of addiction

I few years ago I read The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein. Every time I read something he writes, it resonates with me. He is able to see clearly and then tell us what he sees. I just finished another book of his, Transformational Weight Loss, which I sometimes call Yoga of Eating II: More Yoga of Eating.

I was trying to explain a tenet to Reid, now 7 years old:

When you eat, your body sends a message about whether this is a food you need right now. You can trust this message. The thing I've gotten away from is being able to hear this message. You can probably hear this message more clearly than I can, because I have more practice not listening to it.

When you eat what your body doesn't need, if you hear the message clearly, you will not like the taste of the food.

He asked me if that meant that he might eat some cotton candy and not like it. I gave him a simple "yes", but realized that I had a deep fear of that happening. I was afraid of the possibility of junk food not tasting good, of comfort food not providing comfort. As I thought about it further, I found that I've had that fear for a long time, but hadn't been aware of it before. When I read The Yoga of Eating and tried to put what I learned in to practice, I think this fear blocked me, but I didn't know it at the time.

As I tried to understand the fear, I realized I had fully faced it once before: when I was thinking about quitting smoking. It went like this: I knew the powerful desire I would feel when I went too long without a cigarette, since I experienced it every day. Every minute the craving gets stronger, the misery gets more intense, and it just continues. Whenever something prevented me from getting my fix (say, being in an airplane), it was very stressful. When I considered the possibility of quitting smoking, my subconscious didn't register it as "Ahh, freedom from that dependency and an end of the misery of craving", but as "I will never be able to satisfy that desire, and the misery will increase forever". Instead of hope, I had despair. I had to recognize that fear before I could actually quit. I was entirely successful, and haven't smoked for 9 years.

I know that I use food as a distraction, from anger, boredom, loneliness, or physical pain. (For some people, fatigue goes on the list, but I use a computer for that one.) I am so used to doing this that I usually don't realize it, and just think "I am hungry". The other day I overate and the feeling was so uncomfortable I kept thinking I wanted a snack, because the flavor would distract me from the discomfort. Silly, huh?

Anyway, when I consider the possibility of hearing my body's true messages about food, and that I might try to eat a cookie or a pizza or whatever and not enjoy the flavor (because I don't need the nutrition), that idea is really scary. My fear is that I will want a distraction from something, and food just won't work. I'll be stuck with the discomfort, unable to divert my attention, because I don't like cookies all of a sudden.
I want to get to the bottom of this.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bread log

I have been experimenting with sourdough breads, with limited success.  Most of the breads have been edible; one even tasted good; none have had a pleasant texture.

I'm making it hard on myself.  I'm using a sourdough starter from wild cultures I harvested in my kitchen.  No commercial yeast.  The flour is whole wheat.  No white flour.  No baking soda or other tricks.  I also don't like to measure.

I want to write down my most recent attempt, so if it's successful I can work from it.
  • 3/4 C starter
  • 3/4 C water
  • 2 1/3 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 T honey
  • 1 1/4 t salt
  • 2 2 /3 C flour
Neaded for 5 minutes.  Rested for 5 minutes.  When I came back, it was really springy.  Neaded for 5 more minutes, at which point it was no longer springy.  

Covered in olive oil, back in the mixing bowl, left in the oven overnight with the light on, door cracked.

In the morning it was huge and looked wet.  I dumped the whole thing out, intact, on to a cookie sheet.  Slashed the surface.  In to 350 degF oven for 45 minutes.

Let it cool for 30 minutes.

The crust is crispy.  The bread is sweeter than I expected.  Delicious.  This is a good starting point.

Monday, January 12, 2009


See, it's a cat-boat.  Get it?  Get it?

Friday, January 09, 2009


Reid is in a school district-sponsored homeschool group that does weekly field trips. Next week they are going to an indoor climbing gym. The group leader sent out an email saying that they needed people who were certified to belay while kids climbed, and offered to pay for anyone who wanted to take the training. I agreed to do it.

Wednesday night, in the pouring rain, I drove the hour+ to Bremerton to the climbing gym.

Everyone there was compact, lithe, muscular, slim.  I felt like I stood out, at 280 lbs.  But I was not about to let that stop me.

The other student in the class was Rick, who looked like he was in his early 20s.  He was smaller than me and also quite fit.  He said he was shipping out in a few days, for 6 months, and planned on climbing with his buddies while deployed.  

We spent 1/2 an hour in a classroom practicing knots and learning the equipment.  

Then we headed to the wall.  They gave me climbing shoes in a size 13.  Right right foot is about 13 extra-wide, and my left foot is about 1/2 a size bigger.  Ow!  But we didn't have a lot of walking to do.

Rick and I took turns climbing the wall on an easy path.  I was glad to be able to climb to the top each time.  I weight 70 lbs more than Rick; I wonder if he coulda done it with a 70lb pack?  Sure, I'd like to be 210 lbs, but I'm also proud of having the strength to climb this wall anyway.

When I was climbing, the instructor strapped Rick down to the ground so I wouldn't pull him in to the air.  Heh.

We eventually switched to a different area with a more difficult climb.  Near the top it tilted back to a slight overhang.  By this time I was too tired, and didn't even have the energy to try the hanging part.  

It was fun and exciting stuff.  If there was a wall here in town I'd consider climbing there periodically.  I wonder how well balanced it is as an exercise?  Seems like it hits a lot of muscles, but some more than others, and that it doesn't encourage flexibility.

On the way home my hands were shaky and my arms tired.  I slept very hard the next two nights.

When I was about 11 years old we went climbing in summer day camp.  My fear of heights was quite strong then, and I didn't want to do it, but felt pressured to anyway.  We didn't have nearly the equipment that I saw the other night: no harnesses, no belaying devices.  

When rappelling, just had two ropes: one tied in to a harness shape around my waist, led up to a belayer at the top of the cliff, who was tied to a tree; one rope around his waist, led down to me. I was supposed to let me rope out a bit at a time as I walked down the rock face.  As soon as I stepped over the edge, I slipped and fell and was very, very scared.  I worked my way down in deep fear.  At the bottom both hands were purple from gripping the rope.  

So next week we all go back to the climbing gym.  I'm hoping Julie will come and climb a little, but who knows.  
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