Not gonna quit my day job

by Chuck March 26, 2010

Last weekend the family was out of town so I took advantage of the missing family to do some work on Odyssey. I pulled her into the barn and started cleaning out the stuff inside. Some things, like the towels, needed to be taken out and washed. Other things, like the cushions, just needed to be dried off and they were good to go.

I pulled the sails out of the sail bags and hung them up in the garage over night to make sure that they were dry, and I used the shop vac to pull 4 or 5 gallons of water out of the bilges. All in all, however, it was remarkably clean in there.

That weekend I pulled all the miscellaneous lines off the boat. I pulled the boom vang, the main boom downhaul, the main outhaul and the earring off and took them to West Marine to replace the lines.

I’m not sure what it is about the people at West Marine, but there are two kinds of people that work there. Good-natured people who don’t know anything about boats and unpleasant arrogant people who don’t know anything about boats but treat you like the problem is you, not them.

Of course, when I went in on Saturday there was one of each.

At one point I was doing the “I’m smiling because I don’t want to tell you exactly what I think about what you’ve just said to me.” I think they might have got the picture, ‘cause they backed way off.

Anyway, the good-natured guy helped me size and purchase new lines. I picked up a tide table and actually made it out of the store for only $21.

Yes, it was too good to be true.

I stopped on the way home and picked up a spool of waxed whipping twine at the other marine shop on the Everett water front (can’t think of the name. Typical.) because I didn’t want to go back to West Marine and try to explain to them what I wanted. Saturday night while I watched TV I whipped the end of all the lines.

The lines looked good, but when I went out to put them on the boat it turned out they were all a sixteenth too big. So I put Duchess in the car and headed back on Sunday morning.

The same two guys were working. They were standing in the exact same place they had been when I got there on Saturday. Worst nightmare ever. And it cost me another $17.

This time I bought extra line for the boom vang. I wanted to try to splice an eye around the beckett on the vang’s fiddle block. On Wednesday I finally gave it a try. It took me 3 hours and two tries to put in one rather ugly splice, only saved by the long whip I put around the splice. I can have one done for me for $6. Couldn’t make a living doing that…

Anyway, I took the lines out to the boat – put the vang back on the boom and tied the outhaul and downhaul where they belong. Looks rather spiffy with the new lines.

So far so good. 



Or don't say anything. Please.

by Chuck March 26, 2010

Turns out I made a couple mistakes setting up Commentor on the Web site. Another 300+ comments. Another 300+ to delete. I suppose there may have been one or two legitimate comments in there, and if yours was one of them I apologize for making it go away.

Someone even spammed my blog – while I was deleting the other blog spam.



Green house

by Chuck February 16, 2010

Dana bought me a little plastic greenhouse for Valentine’s Day. It’s nothing like the ones that I thought I wanted last year – it’s just 4 feet wide and about 8 feet long. I figured out that it will hold about 18 flats of plants, but that’s plenty for me to be getting in trouble with right now.

We set the greenhouse up next to the garden shed. We tried to pin it to the ground with the stakes that came with the kit but there is a layer of rocks about 6 inches down that we can’t drive a wire stake through. We put several concrete pavers on the frame to hold it down, hopefully it will keep it from blowing away.

Anyway, we looked through the Seattle Tilth gardening calendar that I bought a couple of years ago. We figured that when the calendar said “start in a cloche” that was the same as starting in our greenhouse, so we planted some spinach and some hardy annual flowers to start with. There’s only one flat of plants in there right now, so you can see that I’m starting slowly.

It works pretty well, actually. Dana put a thermometer in it and she found that the temperature inside was around 10 degrees above the outside temperature. Today i went out and found the temperature was 87 degrees inside, and only 60 degrees or so outside. It really catches the sun and makes it heat up inside.

And it gets pretty humid. The ground is very wet underneath – the rain we’ve gotten that last couple of weeks has really saturated the ground. The greenhouse is pulling that moisture up into the air, when I went in this afternoon my glasses immediately fogged up.

I’m looking forward to getting some more plants started inside the greenhouse and seeing how it works out for us. If we like the way it works we’re going to build a more substantial greenhouse for next year, something that will be big enough to hold quite a few plants as well as a place to sit and relax on sunny winter days.

Sounds pretty good to me.



Go ahead, say something

by Chuck February 12, 2010

I installed the BlogEngine.NET Commentor extension tonight and turned comments back on. Let's see if anybody other than me is reading this thing.



Laminating the family room floor

by Chuck February 12, 2010

On Tuesday Dana and I went to Home Depot while the kids were at cat 4H and bought 18 boxes of Pergo laminate flooring, along with the floor padding and a few tools that we need to get the job done. Last night we started unloading the family room so that we can put new laminate flooring in instead of the existing carpet, which after only two and a half years is starting to show the wear and tear of cheap carpet in a high-traffic area of the house. We finished unloading the family room tonight after watching Burn Notice, hey, after all we need to have our priorities straight.

Anyway, as soon as the show was over I started taking apart the A/V equipment in the entertainment center. Wow, was it dusty. There were dust bunnies on the dust bunnies hiding behind the equipment. Sneezing happened.

After moving out the couch and the entertainment center we got to work pulling the molding from around the room. Dana came up with a marking system, and the kids carried the strips out into the garage.

After that Joey and I rolled up the old carpet and hauled it out to the garage. I needed to work fast, Dana was getting awfully close to vacuuming the carpet that we were about to throw away. Joe and I managed to stave that off, however.

Next up was the carpet pad. I was surprised (although I guess I shouldn’t be) to see lines of moisture where the subfloor panels butt together. Dana said there was moisture in the carpet pad too. The new underlayment for the laminate is supposed to provide a moisture barrier, not sure what good it will do but it sounds good.

Anyway, the family room is now almost the same as it was before they put the carpet in. It’s funny – I saw this house’s bones when it was going up but I still find it intimidating to see the subfloor hanging out there.

We jumped pretty quickly past the “OK, we’re committed” part of this project. Now that the carpet is out we pretty much have to go ahead with the project. Only we’re still not 100% certain, or even 90% certain, that we can pull it off. This could still be a train wreck.

Cross your fingers.



M44 - Beehive Cluster

by Chuck February 10, 2010

After taking a look at the Orion Nebula Katie and I decided to look around for some more easy-to-find Messier objects. Since the Beehive Cluster was very near to Mars – a quite recognizable landmark in tonight’s sky – I gave it a try.

At first I couldn’t find it. I was confused by the star chart and looked down and to the left of Mars when in fact the cluster was down and to the right. I gave up on finding it and decided to take one more look at Mars before calling it a night. As I swung the binoculars up to take in Mars, there it was.

At first I wasn’t completely sure what I was seeing. Surely it was a Messier object -- there was marked at that location on the Astronomy magazine star chart. I just wasn’t sure which object it was. In these situations, Google is your friend, and the very first image Google returned looked almost exactly like what I saw through my binoculars. See it for yourself here.

In my binoculars it is a bright mass of stars with a few very bright blue stars that shine out. When I had it in my binoculars the bright light of Mars was just out of the field of view of the binoculars, helpful since Mars was brighter than Sirius tonight.

Katie got a chance to see it too, so her bag of Messier objects is still the same size as mine.


Backyard Astronomy

Batch 15

by Chuck January 25, 2010

I’m not sure why, but on Saturday I decided that I needed to brew some beer. That’s not totally surprising – I have all the equipment that I need for extract brewing, it’s just that it’s been 4 years since I brewed any beer, and 12 years since I brewed regularly.

The biggest problem I’ve had since we moved to Brambly Hill is finding a place to ferment the beer. I made two batches at the Hill, one in 2002 that I fermented on the built-in sideboard in the mobile home, and one in 2006 that I fermented in the chest freezer in the barn.

Neither of those places are available any more. Both the sideboard in the mobile home and the mobile home are long gone, and we keep the freezer full of food instead of fermenting beer. There are lots of places to put a carboy, but not many that meet all the requirements – steady temperature, dark, out of the way.

That changed when we built the wall between the laundry room and the powder room. Now I have a little room that doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic that I can stash a carboy in while it works. It’s not ideal – we do use the powder room – but it’s the best place I’ve had since I moved to the Hill.

Anyway, Dana and I made a trip to Homebrew Heaven for supplies on Saturday afternoon. I decided to start with of a batch of “Ye Olde #2,” my favorite recipe so far. It was only a little tricky. I couldn’t find my brewing log, so I had to rely on a note that I wrote in my PDA in 2002 with an ingredient list, but the list didn’t include the yeast type or type of bittering hops to use. I decided on Yakima Northern Brewer for the bittering hops and Wyeast 1098 for the yeast.

Here’s the grain bill for the recipe:

  • 7 lbs light malt syrup
  • 1 lb 20L crystal malt
  • 1/4 lb cara-pils malt
  • 1/4 lb wheat malt

I pretty much use this grain bill as the base for all my recipes, altering it to get different character for the beer. It gives me a O.G. of about 1.050 which ferments down to a 4-5% beer.

The hop schedule goes like this:

  • 1 oz. bittering hops for 60 minutes (in this case, Northern Brewer, though I’ve used others).
  • 1/2 oz. Yakima Kent Goldings for 15 minutes (the original batch used imported East Kent Goldings, but I haven’t seen them for years).
  • 1 oz. Fuggles for 5 minutes.

I should probably list the IBU or HBU of the hops, but I don’t have the numbers with me right now.

The beer went into the carboy about 3:00 p.m. and I pitched the yeast. This morning at 7:00 a.m. I heard a “bloop” from the powder room; there is about an inch of foam on top of the wort and a regular bubble of CO2 coming out.

Now it’s just a waiting game – primary fermentation should be done in a couple of days and then it’s into a secondary carboy to finish off. We’ll see how I did in a few weeks.


  • 1-27: Racked the beer from the 6-gallon primary fermenter to my 5-gallon secondary. Left all of the trub behind, beer is starting to clear nicely.
  • 2-6: Bottled. I tasted a little of the leftovers in the bottling bucket, for flat beer it’s tasting pretty good.



Home work

by Chuck January 14, 2010

We did a couple of projects over the holidays that made a big difference around the house. The first was something we planned to do from the first day that we decided to get the house. The second was not something that we planned but it is something that will make another project easier to get into.

Our first project was putting up a wall between the powder room and the laundry room. We wanted the builder to do it, but they don’t do pocket doors. So I did. Turned out pretty well and the downstairs bathroom was handy to have when we hosted the family Christmas party.

The second project was one of those that starts out with “How hard can it be?” and then turns into something that was fairly hard. And more expensive than we thought it would be. But we now have a “custom tiled entry” in our house. Taking out the 40-odd square feet of wood laminate in the entry will make choosing what to put on the floor in the family room easier, we don’t have to worry about matching or clashing with the entry.

Now that the entry is done, it’s time to move on to the family room and figure out what we’re going to do there. It’s probably going to laminate, we just need to figure out what kind of laminate it will be.



Where did all those petunias come from?

by Chuck September 21, 2009

This afternoon we pulled all the petunias from the front garden. Back in the spring Dana planted three flats of petunias (plus a few more) to fill in the gaping holes between the few perennials we had planted out there.

Dana took two heaping wheel barrow loads of petunias to the compost bin, then I came out and started helping. We switched to the tractor and filled the bucket on the tractor twice.

There is almost two feet of petunias on top of the compost heap right now. I know that they will break down over the winter and be ready to turn back into the gardens in the spring, but sheesh, that’s a lot of petunias.



M13 - Hercules Globular Cluster

by Chuck September 18, 2009

Tonight was a beautiful clear night, so I set the telescope up to try to get a look at M13 through our little 3-inch reflector. Two weeks ago at the Everett Astronomical Society's open scope night we'd seen M13 through a 16-inch Dobsonian telescope, a view that made the cluster look like the picture from the Hubble Space Telescope (here on Wikipedia). That night I'd went outside with binoculars and took a look, through the 7x50's M13 was little more than a smudge on the lens, but I could see it.

I was certain it wouldn't look anything like the 16-inch Dob in our scope, but the telescope would make it appear better than the binoculars, I was sure.

M13 is in Hercules, about 2/3rds of the way between the bottom two stars of the trapezoid (40ZetaHer and  44EtaHer according to Pocket Stars). I star-hopped from the tree line near Arcturus up to Hercules -- finding M13 was pretty easy since there was a straight line of bright stars from the tree line to the trapezoid. Once I'd found the trapezoid, finding M13 was easy.

Through the 16-inch reflector M13 appeared as a bright cluster of stars, the central cluster showing individual stars and thinning out toward the edges. Through the 7x50 binoculars the cluster appears as a bright smudge against the black sky, but with little detail. Through the 3-inch reflector I still can’t make out any individual stars in the cluster, but I can begin to see that it is round, bright in the middle and thinning toward the outside.

According to Wikipedia M13 is just visible to the naked eye on a clear night. I haven’t been able to pick it out yet, but since this is an easy to find Messier object, I’ll keep trying.

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