• The View From Musikfest

    Pretty good night last night: we went with some of Anne’s orchestra friends and saw a trio (violin, piano, clarinet) doing Mozart and a few more modern classical pieces at the Moravian Church, then grabbed a beer at the Sun Inn, which was amazingly quiet compared to the street just outside. Left there, went home for some quick food, then caught Scythian — or the first half of their show anyway, thunder and lightning clearing the metal-pole tent. Doug & Lori joined us, as well as John & Donna who stopped by their place to grab some Scotch they got in Scotland. Much fun ensued, studying the relative merits of different Scotches… (This morning started a bit more slowly than we’d planned.)

    We caught another chamber music trio earlier this week, as well as a Faroese folk singer one evening; both of these were at the Moravian Chapel behind the church — these both were firsts for me, being inside these buildings. We also saw the Skatalites at Volksplatz, but other than that, and last night’s rained-out adventure, we’ve been avoiding Musikfest after dark. With age comes wisdom?

    Speaking of wisdom, I realized that my use of categories here (“the sporting life,” “cultural ramblings,” etc) has caused me to fragment my writing, trying to keep myself to one subject per post. I usually don’t have enough to say about any one thing to sustain a full post though, not on any regular basis at least, so my posting has dropped off and I’ve ended up not writing about anything. Therefore, I think I’ll make a conscious effort, to go back to my previous diary-like mishmash of whatever pops into my head, or into my life. Thus…

    Reading: The other book I read in Canada was A Gentleman In Moscow, by Amor Towles. This is the story of a Russian aristocrat who is sentenced by the Bolsheviks to house arrest for life in a luxury Moscow hotel. The novel has som many surprising twists that anything else I reveal would be a spoiler, so I’ll just say that this was a great book, and well worth reading.

    What else has been going on? I was back volunteering at the Canal Museum on Wednesday, but while there I heard that they had so many bike rentals last weekend that they needed to get some of the spares out of storage, and their tires were low on air, etc. So, I went in yesterday and went through all the bikes, making sure that they would be ready for use if needed this weekend. I also did some volunteering at CAT on Tuesday, building up a bike with Anne. In terms of actually riding bikes, Anne and I did a road ride, with lunch in Riegelsville, and Doug and I rode Jacobsburg on Thursday. Yesterday was rainy, and tonight threatens more, so if I ride tomorrow it’ll probably be a road ride.


  • The Expanse

    Just before we went on vacation I picked up James S.A. Corey’s Babylon’s Ashes, the sixth and latest in the sci-fi series “The Expanse.”  I read about half the book before we even left, and finished it not long after. Six novels so far — and last night I downloaded (and devoured) a short story in the same universe, “The Butcher of Anderson Station” — and I still can’t get enough. Now I have to wait, maybe subsisting on Kindle short story downloads, until the next installment comes out in a few months…

    The books are total “space opera” adventures in a future several hundred years away, in a well-built storyworld consisting of overpopulated Earth, independent Mars, and a hardscrabble society of “Belters” living on asteroids and the moons of the outer planets, where a billion-year-old alien artifact is found that triggers unimaginable upheaval.

    I won’t say more, but will say that I highly recommend it.

     


  • From An Old Family Recipe

    I caught a cold in Canada, which seemed to be get better before it really settled in — D’oh! — so I’ve been indoors the past two days, just feeling out of sorts and sniffly. I spent most of yesterday studying up on graphing in R, but since we’re out of laundry soap I thought I’d go the other direction today and make a batch. (Anne left the ingredients in the kitchen, I took it as a hint.) Here is the recipe:


    DIY Laundry Soap Recipe

    • 2/3 of a bar Lye or Fels Naptha Soap
    • 1 cup Borax
    • 1 cup Washing Soda
    • Medium-sized pot or saucepan, and a 2-gallon (or bigger) bucket

    Grate the soap, then put it in the saucepan with 6 cups of water and heat it until it melts. Add the washing soda and the borax, keep heating until they dissolve, then remove from heat.

    Add 4 cups of hot water to the bucket, then add the soap mix and stir. Add another gallon plus 6 cups of water, stir again, and let it sit and gel for 24 hours.


    And… voilà! In basically the time it took to write this, I made a year’s supply of laundry soap for like two bucks.

    Note that this is double the concentration of the original recipe, so while it’s OK for HE washers (it contains no “sudsing agents”), you should only use the amount your washer recommends.

    So anyway, Musikfest starts tonight. We should be able to hear it happening from the porch, but we may also head down to check out the festivities if I’m feeling festive.


  • Oh, Canada!

    Just got back last night from a trip to Canada’s Maritime Provinces — specifically, Prince Edward Island and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Awesome time: we had a great time with friends, the weather was sunny, breezy and delightfully cool, and I learned to eat and enjoy mussels as well as lobster. Great local brews, and great bicycling too, in both places. We were gone just under two weeks, spending about 4 days on PEI with Judy, Toby, Erika and Josiah, as well as Steve and Kathy, before heading down to Halifax on our own for another 4 or 5 days — it’s all starting to blur, can’t remember the days… Two days travel time each way, and now here we are!

    Our friends Donna and John are also coming home tonight after two weeks in Scotland; if they (and we) have the energy we’ll meet them to catch up over a few quiet beers, the last before the summer mayhem descends. Because… Next Up Is Musikfest!

    RIP Toni: My friend Doug’s mom passed away last week, after a long struggle with cancer. (We didn’t even know until we were back in the States.) I’ve known her for a long time — the mother of a good friend, she was my first regular reader/commenter at my first blog — but I haven’t really talked to her in a few years. She was a fiesty, outspoken woman; it’s painful to think of her as gone even if I know she’s now free from her suffering, and hopefully at peace.


  • Huckleberry Hounds

    Posted on by Don

    We just got back from a trip to Brady’s Lake to pick blueberries, the high-bush kind that may or may not actually be huckleberries rather than blueberries — these are big berries, and huckleberries are supposedly smaller (and grow on evergreens), so I’d still go with blueberries. Two hours of picking, and I think we got more than three quarts — and it looks like there’s a lot more to be had as the season progresses. No bear sightings, though…

    Yessssssss! Successsssss! The keyboard crapped out on my laptop a few weeks ago, with the “S” key sticking more and more — very frustrating. I finally brought it in to a repair shop yesterday, where I had the keyboard replaced, as well as the insides cleaned (like, the fan/air vents) and the heat sink refurbished. I thought it would be days, but he called in about an hour saying it was done, and I picked up my cool-running, feels-like-new laptop that afternoon. Sweet!

    No Bearings On The Case We rode to Anne’s orchestras summer picnic yesterday, along with Shari, an orchestra-mate who lives in our neighborhood. It was a reasonable distance, maybe 14 miles one way, but we were going slow and I wanted to be wearing normal clothes/shows when we arrived. So, I took the Iguana, for its first big ride since I re-worked the headset last Tuesday at the CAT office. That was a bit of a disaster: I took off the stem, lock nut and spacers, then as I was taking the upper race off all the ball bearings fell out of the bottom bearing and scattered bouncing across the floor. Turns out the seal was gone, and the bearing cage was mostly gone, so once I loosened the fork there was nothing holding them in. I managed to retrieve most of them and replace the missing ones, put them into what was left of the cage with a whole lot of grease to act as “glue,” and put it all back together. This is a temporary fix until I can get a new bearing/cage assembly, but despite everything, the bike’s steering feels better now than it has in years.


  • Sprinter’s Blues

    Posted on by Don

    I’ve fallen so far behind my normal riding fitness this summer that I decided to take a drastic step:  intervals.

    Yes, I began doing them last week, on a standard towpath ride to Easton and back — I added three 1-minute intervals (with approximately 2 minutes rest between) on the return, and it beat me into the ground. Today I did a harder but more structured workout: 10 minutes warm-up, then the same 1 minute all-out, 2 minutes easy for five intervals (basically, from the Minsi Trail Bridge to the ball-field), then did the rest of the ride at an easy pace. It was totally doable this time, but now my legs have a lot to say about it.

    Tomorrow I’ll be riding in to the Canal Museum, but that (and the later “Ladies’ Ride”) will be fairly easy. Thursday morning will be a run, and then Friday morning will be the next interval workout. Two days a week is pretty hardcore, but I should start seeing results within a month.

    But…. well, ugh. I guess all I can say is that I did it to myself.

    PS I also did a short run this morning. One mile at a really mild pace, no knee issues.

     


  • The Fever Broke

    Posted on by Don

    Pretty cool today, and rainy too. I’m just hanging out, arguing with people who are wrong on the Internet (Facebook specifically), claiming that pedestrians do not have the right of way at every crosswalk, whether marked or not. FYI: unless there are traffic lights to otherwise control the intersection, pedestrians do have the right of way at every crosswalk (which includes the implied continuations of sidewalks, etc. across and through an intersection), not just the ones that are marked. Now you know — and now so do they, but they won’t believe me…

    Meantime, I got in a few good rides this week, including one “hot lap” on the towpath: pushed the pace on the way out, then did intervals on the way back. I was beat up, but still managed to join Anne, John, Dianna and another rider for a more leisurely, evening towpath ride, followed by burgers & beer al fresco at Brew Works. (Anne and I did a nice rode into Easton the other night, and had a nice beer at Two Rivers.)

    I may take a walk over to Southside for some sort of lunch, where I will also be buying tickets for Southside Film Festival for tonight and tomorrow.


  • Dog Day

    Posted on by Don

    We’re in the middle of the first real heat wave of the season — we went from “you could probably get away without a light jacket, if you’re in full sunshine” last week, to our third day of cloudless upper nineties — so of course we’re spending the day brewing! Of course, we’re also doing it outside, so the house at least is not like an oven, but it still is a hot sweaty operation on a warm day.

    We are making a clone of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, one of our favorites and, strangely enough, one we brewed almost exactly one year ago today.

    Other than that, there’s not much else on the agenda. I’m about halfway through George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, which I started yesterday after Anne finished it (in two days). Really weird and intense, a compelling creepy page-turner and that’s all I’ll say about it now, except to say that you should also read it.

     


  • Gardener Blues

    Posted on by Don

    Just got in from doing a spot of weeding in the front yard. The garden got away from us this spring, but as our free time slowly ramps back up we’ve been tackling it in bits and pieces. There has been a definite “two steps forward one step back” vibe to our efforts though.

    I’d grown a bunch of seedlings inside, and planted them out front a few weeks ago. Then just last weekend we bought a bunch of flowers (perennials: phlox and coneflowers, plus a few low, ground-cover things) at the nursery, and I planted them where the seedlings had been, because those had all been eaten by birds. We also picked up a box of ladybugs at the nursery, to deal with an aphid problem on our brown-eyed susans. We put the ladybugs out on Sunday night, and spent the week watching them in among the plants — they seemed happy, though I never saw them actually eating any of the aphids — but as of today they all seem to have disappeared. Aphids are doing fine.

    Anyway, the front garden is getting cleaned up (I just harvested our second bumper crop of weeds), and we have moved on to the beds out back, which all need a lot of love. I’m not saying I miss winter, but…

     

     


  • Dissolution

    Posted on by Don

    Beautiful weather so far this week, but I haven’t been able to get out quite yet. I did get to do some trail work at Sals on Sunday, while Anne did some hiking with Deb, so there’s that. Tomorrow is my volunteer day at the Canal Museum, and I’ll be riding over.

    QGIS vs GRASS vs SAGA: I’ve been trying to work with some more geoprocessing tools, specifically Dissolve (where several regions that touch or overlap are combined into a single shape — their borders are “dissolved,” hence the name). I set up some small test shapes and tried dissolving them. It worked perfectly well with GRASS, but with QGIS the two shapes did not actually become one. I tried using SAGA, and got the same failure — WTF? I thought at first that both programs were broken, but then found out that the two shapes weren’t actually adjacent, there was an infinitesimal sliver of empty space between them; technically, they didn’t actually have a common boundary for these two programs to dissolve, while GRASS apparently has a built-in tolerance to handle slivers like this and just ran with it. The more you know…

    More Maps: Check out Walking Purchase Park on the MTB Project. There were a few trails already done, but I added a bunch more, and it should now hopefully be a useful guide to the trail system there.