February 28, 2011

Thing a Day pau

All photos (and many more) are available in .NEF format. I started this project with 12 ideas on my calendar. I managed a few new ones during the first two weeks but every day afterwards I was struggling to come up with someone. I highly recommend a couple of weeks to plan, or at least define the scope of what you want to do.  For me blogging and photography were the project. I generated a lot of content and of that I am proud of.

Making fudge was a first for me and I talked to my brother about it which led me to an epiphany of a desert my mom made years ago but never taught me how to make. Making lebne is a family tradition that I am able to continue.

All of the food projects were great because I got a direct return on them. Wife really enjoyed the fudge and so it'll become a frequent occurrence.

Changing the differential oil was something I'd been waiting to do since before Xmas. Combined with an oil change the car runs like it's brand new. I really enjoy working on my car because it's the most dangerous thing I expose myself to, and keeping it running well lowers the risk.

This was a really fun project. It forced me to blog and photograph almost every day. I discovered new settings on my camera. I cleaned a lot of stuff. I changed my routine and created a new one.

I'm glad this is over.


We have a copy of the C&H Tenth Anniversary Book that we've been reading the last few weeks. I really identify with Hobbes more than Calvin, who strikes me as spoiled and kind of a jerk. Hobbes makes the most sense to me, as someone who's always down for whatever and is pretty forgiving.
Bill Waterson is the real hero of the comic, never merchandising or selling the rights. How great. I'm sure he was often offered a lot of money to sell out and he managed not to. 

This is great Sunday morning activity with someone you love. You have an activity, you create something beautiful and create a shared memory.

February 26, 2011

Removing wallpaper pt 2

Being useful
My fancy services were called in again for additional application. This time we cleaned up the remaining areas, thin strips between the door and the wall. Then we used a strange detergent to remove any adhesive, wallpaper and dirt, followed by a rinse with warm water.  Finally, we emptied all of the cabinets in preparation for their replacement.


 I came across a Rage comic the other day which was actually a recipe for making fudge. So I did. I don't like that alcohol is a staple ingredient in vanilla extract so I found some that is alcohol free and I couldn't tell the difference. I'm not sure about the benefits of organic sweetened condensed milk but I'll take it anyway. I forgot nuts, nuts! I considered granola but did not want to get too fancy on my first time out on the fudge train.

February 24, 2011

Folder redirection

The battle continues about how to manage data on my network. I recently had to format my HTPC and I used that as an opportunity to enable folder redirection for Wife's desktop and docs. One goal was to allow Wife's data to be centralized, when she's on the netbook she'll have the same stuff as on the desktop.  I think Roaming Profiles might be a better choice.
Every night SyncCenter has errors, usually regarding .tmp files and it's pretty annoying. Otherwise it works alright. These errors might be related to how WHS duplicates data. I'm not sure and I don't know how to find out. I enabled redirection on my account on my desktop and it also had with errors, I save stuff and it doesn't match what's on the server for some reason.  This is stupid, there should be a straight forward solution for this

Pic unrelated. It's where I work, Deepwood. you can see where every generation built an addtion. I work in the basement, with no windows or heat.

February 23, 2011

Camera stabilizer

There's a pretty straight forward tutorial on how and why to make this. Despite being an Eagle Scout, he still doesn't understand the value of a good coil before putting in his pocket.

A coworker moonlights at a hardware store and she picked up the parts for <$2. I assembled it after coffee break and before lunch. Ideally the parts would be brass for aesthetics and because it doesn't rust.

February 21, 2011

A bird heard I had a beard.

Perhaps that last note was a little violent, here's how I actually marked the tumble into the new decade.

Operation: Dinner Out

My IT dept has been struggling with team building and social activities since I started.
We've had Silly Hat Day, NDCHGaRC, pizza party for a birthday, on Friday we celebrated my birthday. Everybody gave me very thoughtful gifts and I ate way too much meat.

A note about turning 30:
Having shed the yoke of youth, I am now poised to own the future. I have the path for victory in front of me, and like the Romans, whatever I cannot dominate I will destroy.

Rain X

Sunday I applied Rain X to the windows and side view mirrors of the Forester. I highly recommend it. It took me 30-45 minutes to wash & dry the windows and then apply and buff the Rain X.

I found these little bootsies at the thrift store. They don't smell like rain.

February 18, 2011

Worms eat my garbage

Vermiculture allows active and aggressive composting and most importantly in a small space.
I think about 50% of my waste is organic and goes to the worms. We generate so much organic waste that I can't generate enough shred to compensate. Last fall I subsidized with leaves and pine needles. I just enlisted a friend's help and am now receiving his shredded paper. It makes all the difference. I have two bins now and I think I could handle a third.

There is a 3:1 ratio of paper shred to organic waste this helps keep the moisture level down as that makes it stinky. Bins need ventilation holes to breathe; we drilled a connect-the-dots picture of a giraffe wearing a sombrero. This spring I will harvest the castings and give my aunt the richest soil around for her garden. She grows garlic which she gifts to us, we eat it and the shells will go back into the bin.

There is a nice lady in my office. We were talking about trash and said she generates very little, only 2 bags / week. Wife and I empty one bag about every 3 weeks and that's generally more because of smell than filling to capacity. A good recycling program and vermiculture allows us to generate 1/6 of the waste that a single person does. I think that's pretty great.

Worms are pretty great. They don't complain, they dance, they eat my trash.

February 16, 2011


Overhead kitchen halogen
I made a simple, but delicious dinner tonight. I marinaded a salmon steak in a sweet & sour and shoyu. I baked for 10 minutes on 250F then broiled for 5.  I also included rice made with shrimp broth and chopped up lettuce.

"Long" exposure in the kitchen

Making Yogurt

Yogurt making is easy:

  • Warm milk
  • add starter
  • let sit for 12 hours
  • ????
  • profit!
Wearing a hat

tl;dr - I have a lebneh starter from my aunt. I warm 1/2 gal. of whole milk in a pan until I can't keep my pinky in the milk for more than 10 seconds. Then I add the starter, cover it with a blue cloth and let it sit on my stove. My stove has gas pilot lights that keep the temp a little warmer than the rest of the house. I leave it for about 12 hours and then strain it using a reusable coffee filter my grandmother picked up in Sweden. A lot of whey is produced which I often try to find other uses for, usually mixing a little bit with my eggs in the morning.

February 14, 2011

Snow Cones

New England Snow Cones:
  • Snow
  • Maple Syrup

I'm saving these for a friend in NC. She'll be back in about a month. Maybe it'll still be snow.

Snow walk

Sunday night I walked in the snow and ice barefoot. Just for the experience. I've always been warm blooded and loved to frolic in the cold weather but since moving to New England I've been very cold. I just wanted to see if I could.

February 13, 2011

Removing wallpaper

My Aunt's kitchen is being redone. I went with some friend and we spent the afternoon scraping it away. She has an old house in New England, the walls are plaster and haven't been touched since she moved in over 10 years ago.
We brought scrapers, vinegar and professoinal stuff called DIF Wallpaper Remover. The vinegar was much more effective than the DIF. We scored the paper using a special tool, then sprayed on vinegar and let it sit for about 15 minutes.  The vinegar wasn't perfect but it did a decent job of dissolving the adhesive.

February 11, 2011

Shoe maintenance

I tossed my slippers in the rubbish bin in the airport as I left Hilo. Work only asked that I have foot wear, I wore sandals. Mainland work asks that I look professional despite crawling under desks and around filthy wiring cabinets.

Wife forced me to purchase these shoes last summer, I resisted but she found some nice shoes. I wanted something that I could be very comfortable in. A lot of dress shoes lack functionality and I hate them. 

I wiped off the dirt with a wet cloth, then rubbed in Lexol that I got from my leather guy.  This will keep them strong like bull for a while longer.


February 10, 2011

Shrimp broth

When we eat shrimp I save the shells. When we eat fish with bones, I save the bones too. When I have enough I:
  1. add them to a pot
  2. add water
  3. boil for 10 hrs.
Today I made it in the crock pot, I put it on low before I left for work, when I came home I added water and put it on high. When we were sick of the smell I put it in a pot on the stove and boiled it on high for 20 minutes.

It smells a little unpleasant, but I get shrimp gold as you can see. It's a little weird saving chitin for months in the freezer but also a little macabre in a fun-house kind of way. I hope the shrimp appreciate that I am getting as much nutrition from them as possible and wasting as little as possible. I sub the broth for 25-50% of the water in recipes. It definitely gives rice a nice flavor and some variety because I still am having trouble making nice coconut rice.

Getting rid of clutter

Just over a year ago when I was leaving HI, I was packing all my possessions and I got rid of everything I could.

Aside from clothes my largest group of personal things were computer gear. I reduced two large boxes down to two smaller flat rate boxes and sent them off.

I kept obscure cables that I rarely used but were so difficult to find that I felt value in holding on to them.  I kept everything I thought I'd find a use for.  Here I am a year later and I've taken another stab at those parts. I kept the obscurest of the obscure: the USB male A to male A and the USB to proprietary connector for an old phone. I got rid of the useless: compact flash with 128mb storage and WiFi.

I'm now down to one small flat rate box. Some things were difficult to get rid of, but if I haven't used it in over a year then it's becoming more a burden than buying it again if I ever need it will be.

I also organized my Dremel bits into one container, put all my tools into the general tool boxes even if they were generally used for tech.

When I opened my tool box I realized I had way too many tools. My tool box had a funny smell to it; I've smelled it in other toolboxes before and now I know what it is: mold. A few of my screw drivers had mold all over the handles. No thank you. They're gone.

Everything is organized and I'm getting rid of enough to feel accomplished.




February 9, 2011

Wrote a letter

To someone else this time!  No photo. Does this mean it's a failure? Only we can decide

February 7, 2011

Cast iron griddle

I seasoned these cast iron pans recently.
I cook breakfast every morning in the little skillet, quesadillas on the flat pan, and spaghetti sauce in the large skillet. The griddle was intimidating. It sits on two stove eyes, it's the heaviest of all my pieces, I'd never cooked on it before.

I put both eyes on super low and let it sit for about 10 minutes to make sure everything was warmed up evenly. Then I put on the carrots and tofu and cooked until the carrots softened and the tofu firmed. I put the fish on its own side at the same time adding onions and the frozen broccoli to the veggie side.

The griddle has a rough texture which is noisy against the spatchula, otherwise it worked well; nothing stuck to the pan it was pretty great. A bed of rice with furikake, slamin salmon Alaskin sockeye and mixed veggies. You're welcome, Wife.

Cooking noms

Completed noms

February 6, 2011

Differential Oil

I have 2006 Subaru Forester X. It has 47.5k miles. It has AWD with two differentials. Today I changed the rear differential oil and the front differential oil / manual transmission oil.

Magnets holding on to shards
The rear oil is a pretty simple process, you can access the differential case without using ramps. Make sure the car is level and the parking break is engaged. It uses a 13mm socket which is .512". Most ratchets are .5". You probably don't need to purchase the 13mm socket.Tools needed:
  • 5" ratchet.
  • oil pan
  • differential oil. My Subaru takes about .8 of a quart.
Begin with warm oil. To change the oil, remove the top (fill) plug to relieve pressure, then remove the bottom (drain) plug. Let it drain. Examine the drain plug, it has a magnet on it that catches pieces of the differential gears. If you see large chunks then you may need to have it checked out by a pro, though changing the oil might be the preventative maintenance needed. Clean the plug and, once it is drained, screw it back in. Pour the new oil into the fill hole on the top.

This can be tricky because there is not a lot of vertical room in which to pour down. Some quarts have a mechanism to squeeze it out, others don't. It is full when the oil starts to spill out of the top fill plug, now screw in the top plug. Tighten both the top and bottom plug as tight as you can.

The front differential oil is shared with the manual transmission. If you have an automatic transmission it will have its own oil and you should not mix them. Tools you'll need:
  • .5" ratchet.
  • T70 Torx bit
  • oil pan
  • differential oil. My Subaru takes about 3.8 quarts
  • tube and funnel
  • clean cloth to wipe the dip stick

The front drain plug does not use the same 13mm socket, it uses a T70 Torx bit. I found mine at Advance, most auto shoppes carry them, it was $6. To drain, unscrew the T70 bit. This case has about 4 quarts of oil so be prepared for such a large amount of fluid. Be sure to check the plug for shards again and clean off the plug before replacing it. Once it is drained, screw it back in. 
The fill plug is on the top side of the same case, accessed through the hood.  It is in the center of the engine compartment all the way back against the firewall. It is a bit tricky to find it, but it has a yellow handle and is pretty deep in the back.  I have a very poor picture here, with the firewall to the left.
I recommend a tube and funnel, make sure the tube is all the way in the fill hole to so you won't spill any, differential oil is stinky. Fill it up, when you've emptied 3 quarts, begin fill slowly and stop to check the dip stick frequently. Differentials do not like being too full or too empty.

My thoughts on which kind of differential fluid: do not use a fluid marked for Limited Slip or LS. The additives in LS oil does not work well with the synchronizers in the Subaru manual transmissions. Many Subaru fora recommend a mix of Motul 300 and Redline oils. I don't like the idea of mixing oils as they will separate over night and they'll have to remix every time you start driving the car. YMMV but I feel find putting just the high end Motul in. Motul is difficult to find locally, I ordered mine from Annapolis Subaru, a vendor on SubaruForester.org. I got a slight discount. The range of prices for the dealership to change differential fluid is between $200 and $300. If I'm already doing this work myself then I can justify spending more on high end fluid. Especially for such a vital part of my car.

This maintenance greatly improves shifting. Shifting is smooth an much easier to get in to gear. Motul is rated for low temperatures so I'm hoping to glean that benefit on the -9F mornings here in Mass.

Doing my own car maintenance is very satisfying. It saves some money but I mostly enjoy having a deeper understanding of my car and how cars work in general. 

February 5, 2011

Outlet insulators

Insulation is my favorite!

  • you only have to do it once
  • it's always on
  • it's good for heat and cold

This pack I think came from my dad, I put it to use.I made sure to apply them to all the exterior walls first. This house is pretty old and drafty, this may help but I doubt I'll notice it in temperature nor in the heating bill.
It was a fun project and I got to work with my hands.

February 4, 2011

Writing a letter

I wrote a letter to my aunt and uncle.
I had a root canal today, so today's TaD has to be simple. This is my cat, Merlot:

She desperately wants to eat but her dinner isn't until for another 1.5 hrs.  She also woke me up early this morning and I'm upset with her about that so I don't feel bad putting this unflattering picture of her on Internet.

February 3, 2011

Season the cast iron

This took about 45 minutes.
The larger rimmed skillet is the first cast iron that I bought, about a year ago from Target with a gift card left over from our wedding. I had been looking for some at the thrift stores but realized I'd never find a pan season for my vegetarian. There's nothing romantic about Target but it was cheap. The smaller rimmed skillet is a gift from my aunt for my vegetarian who has hard time lifting the larger heavy pan.
The other two are from a friend. For these I used the salt and oil method to clean them up again. I heated all the pans individually and rubbed them down with olive oil, heated them up even higher and coated them again. Then fancy photography.

February 2, 2011

Clean the fridge

I had a snow day from work today so I decided to take on a task a little more involved: cleaning the fridge.
It's not very interesting to write about and less to photograph. There were lots of things that expired about 3 weeks ago. I think they all were purchased around the time I cleaned at the end of last summer. That means I'm on a twice a year clean the fridge schedule which seems fair to me.

February 1, 2011

Oil tools

Like many, I have a tool box of mixed and matched tools assembled slowly over time and from various sources; a tool box from dad, wrenches from friends, pliers from family, and some of the wife's tools all combined into our well stocked toolbox.

Last summer I found some 3 in 1 oil in my mother-in-law's garage not being used. I put it to use on our tools. First I scrubbed everything down with steel wool, then oiled the hinges and worked it in to make sure everything opens and closes easily. I cleaned off all the grime and lastly left a thin cover of oil over all the exposed metal parts.

A little bit of elbow grease went a long way to restoring these tools and preserving them for my future. I think a strong collection of tools can not only be useful in life but also an important gift to my kids.

I  can live easily without tools, I did for years. I didn't notice what needed fixing or if I did just didn't fix it. Having the tools means I now put them to work. As soon as I begin fixing I get into the habit of it and start fixing everything I can. I carry a Leather person on me at work now and I suffer when I leave it at home.

Thing-a-day day one is a success.  I was let go early from work early today, so I was able to flush out day one well and start off with success.