Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Healthy Breakfast

     ...Is what I am having this morning: oatmeal. juice, coffee.  Yesterday, I indulged:
     Sweet Italian sausage, a little bit of red onion, a nice Poblano pepper, sliced grape tomatoes and scrambled eggs -- and a touch of hot sauce.  Poblanos are not hot but have a delicate flavor, somehow "wilder" than a bell pepper and a very nice accompaniment to the other ingredients.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seen In Traffic

A Bodger's Guide To Woodworking

     I've had a few questions about the shelves -- tools, methods, materials.  There are people with a real knack for woodworking; my Dad was one.  He rarely used cutting guides other than a penciled line, rarely questioned a measurement, and drew up sketchy plans if any -- yet the end result was square, straight and true.  He'd had a lifetime of weekends working at it, he'd grown up in a family where slapping up a toolshed or treehouse was a casual activity and he knew what he was doing, how to do it and no tool was a mystery to him.

     Me, not so much.  I work things out on paper, having learned the hard way that it's costly to do so with lumber.  I spend a lot of time setting up for every cut, and always use a guide -- a nice straight piece of 2x2 and a few clamps can spare years (or dollars) of regret.

     Safety glasses and gloves are your friends.  Wood is not kind to your hands and you will find a good pair of gloves will make the work easier and faster -- no matter how tough you are.  (I should not need to lecture about eye protection.  You only have the one set.  Keep them safe.)

     I use power tools:
     - A sliding compound miter saw for most of the cutting, a gift that has made a huge improvement over a circular saw and guide: it is much simpler to get a square cut and a lot simpler to support the work.
     - A router to cut dados and rabbets.  This is possibly the most useful power tool I own.  They're not terribly expensive.  Using them is mostly a matter of measurement and getting to know what the thing can do.  (We're talking about an exposed, sharp cutter whirling at high RPMs: a guide makes the difference between a ruler-straight cut and a meandering trail -- or a chopped-up fingertip.)
     - Cordless drills to make holes and drive screws.  You can use a hand-cranked drill, a Yankee driver or a brace for this, and I often do, but for a big project, a battery drillmotor or two saves time and effort (in an Indiana August, they also reduce sweat).  I like Dewalt; I have one of theirs and a small Makita, plus an electric screwdriver and here's the trick: load each one up with one bit necessary for the job, so you're not constantly changing -- or buy a quick-change drill-driver set.  You need a couple of spare batteries; with a total of three, you'll be be able to have one in use, one charging and one ready to go.

     I use hand tools:
     - Buy good-quality drivers and use the right one.  Phillips drivers come in graded sizes from at least 000 (tiny) to 4 (big) and the rule is "fill it or kill it:" the driver tip should make full contact with the fastener recess.  "Anti-camout" or JAE (Japanese standard) Phillips drivers often work better.  Straight-blade drivers also need to be a good fit -- "hollow-ground" bits are best, and a set of "gunsmith" bits are an inexpensive addition to your tools.
     - Japanese-pattern hand saws cut quickly and cleanly (and on the pull stroke).  For most  work, you can't beat them.  One backsaw and one combination saw (rip and crosscut teeth on opposite sides) are almost essential.
     - You cannot own too many clamps.  Pipe and bar clamps are especially useful.

     I don't push myself: a project takes however long it takes.  When you get into "gotta get this done today" mode, you will try sloppy shortcuts, make mistakes, leave things out.  Don't do it.  Divide the job into a series of smaller jobs, and set achievable benchmarks: cut all the pieces one day, set them up for routing the next, and so on.  Elaborate set-ups that have to be taken down and reset should be avoided: I usually route both uprights in a single pass by clamping them side-by-side but I usually clamp them and then temporarily screw them to pieces of scrap wood, so the clamps can be removed and whole assembly can be stored as a unit if I need to knock off for the day (or even a week or two).

    Work to acceptable standards of accuracy -- and not beyond them.  Not sure how to explain this, but time spent measuring and setting up pays off in the finished work; time spent fiddling with the work once cut to make it "pretty" is generally wasted.  Get it close, plane it down, don't fret the small stuff.  Only you know how good is good enough for your application -- but stop yourself from chasing decimals.  Clean, square and straight covers a multitude of sins.

     Anyone can build "good enough" utility furniture.  The trick is taking the time to do the job right -- and that includes learning materials, techniques and technology, getting your ideas fully worked out before you head off to the lumberyard with a handful of cash, and not trying to rush the actual work.  There's no trick to it; all you need to do it take one -- and only one! -- step at a time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Office Bookshelves

     I finally nerved myself up to attaching the shallow shelves to the deeper set last night.  "Nerved?"  Well, yes: all but two are fastened with Kreg "pocket holes" and the only jig I have is intended for much wider cabinet sections: it had to be held in place by hand, power drill with the other and mind your fingers, please!.

     All but one went well; the highest shelf with a corresponding shelf in in the other set was unexpectedly tough and the hole got off-course early. The answer to that was to get out a brace and bits -- they drill at whatever angle you start with and don't easily get off-course -- and drill at hole at 45 degree for the screw to hold the two units together. (My skinny "chairmaker's" brace was ideal for this; total swing is around 5 inches.)
     Not too bad.  (Don't mind the broken spring-suspended microphone; it's a modern homebrew and the Brush crystal element, salvaged from a headphone, failed some time back.  The suspension hooks need to be resoldered with proper hard solder).  One of the deeper shelves will hold my scanner at a height reachable without the present necessity of standing on a chair.  There's plenty yet to do but plans are for the next project to be a set of shelves on Tam's side of the office -- a Research Annex for VFTP C3I!
     (The 2001: A Space Odyssey monoltith-style view.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Political Carousers Who Can't Explain Their Flaming Trousers....

     Ah, the new, revamped Meet The Press, in which yesterday, the President's poor approval rating and Congress's even worse one were discussed, with an eye to the likelihood of a GOP Senate majority after the mid-terms: all in terms of if it would be a good thing [1] or a bad thing [2] for the Democrats.  'Cos remember, the message is, "What's good for the Democrats is good for the country;" I think they picked that up in trade when the .gov bailed out General Motors.

     Me, I dunno; I think the GAO ought to look into determining if we could save money by outsourcing Congress to a private contractor.  At least then we'd know who the Congresscritters were beholden to.

     I'm pretty sure we already know who the Old Media's sugar daddy is.
1. "The Republicans can share the blame as things get even worse, then the Dems can come roaring back and save the day!"
2.  "The GOP is The Devil!"

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Roseholme Mushroom Soup

     Sunday night: mushroom soup!
     Now, Mr. Campbell turns out a nice version but as any practical cook will tell you, it's more of a starter kit, and gets used in jillion different recipes.  It occurred to me one day that it would make a great starter for...itself!

     I just fried one (1) strip of bacon (peppered -- YMMV), then diced a potato and cooked it in the bacon fat until it was starting to brown a little, added a whole package of fresh mushrooms (washed and diced) and once they darkened up and start to smell really good, I added half a small red onion -- also diced.  And a tiny bit of celery seed.

     Once the onion's getting translucent -- you can go farther if you like, but keep an eye on it -- turn the fire down a little, pop open a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and pour it over, following with a soup-can of milk.  From then on, it's pretty much follow label directions: heat slowly until hot, stirring often, do not boil.  I have a big pan with a clear glass lid, so I cover it between stirs and still keep watch -- you can do this but you'll be happier if you don't boil the milk, so be mindful.

     I sliced a couple of green onions for garnish, gave it a touch of paprika when serving and broke the bacon on top of the soup.  The flavors work together wonderfully!  This should serve at least four -- more if you hand out sandwiches and sides, too.  At  Roseholme Cottage, it's dinner for two tonight and my lunch tomorrow, with plenty left over.


     Bought boollitts at the gun show, in addition to the knife.  Elsewhere, I found other items...
     Check out the authors listed on those covers!  Perfectly good ball pein hammer, too.  The little turnscrew is more like paperweight material.  And the Russian-marked Nagant revolver ammo was in the glovebox of my car, probably since the last show.

In Which I Am Successfully Marketed To

    I was still a little discombobbiulated Saturday morning and managed to leave the house without my usual watch and pocketknives.  (Not to worry, I had the Leatherman on my belt!)

     This resulted in my looking at knives at the Tri-State Gun Show and lo, the Kershaw "SelectFire" #1920 caught my eye.  Somewhat silly name aside, you could hardly find a pocketknife more suited to the geeky/tech-y set:
      Nice blade -- of course -- and a flip-out 1/4 hex diver that accepts standard bits, four of them already on board in spring-loaded holders, two straight blade...
     ...and two Philips.  Along with inch and metric rules and a bottle opener.  (The bottle-opened cutout allows the bit holder to fit flush when stowed -- it has very positive detents at open, closed and 90 degrees.)  At the normal 10% off, I could hardly pass it up.  It is made overseas, so that may be an issue for some buyers.  It's a good knife, I have found Kershaw's product support to be outstanding and that added up to me buying one. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Four From Spain

     Tam's latest tests had me digging into my mostly-Star collection of Spanish-made handguns to come up with a short-barrelled .45.  If my Star PD didn't need a new buffer, that would have been the best choice, since it's a scaled-down 1911 in appearance (lockwork is quite different, though largely Browning-inspired).  But between that and her decision to add +P loadings to the test, my choice was clear: Star's rugged little "Firestar."

     The entire Firestar series is overbuilt and heavy for their size, by no means a "purse gun" but pleasant to shoot.  Since I had the case out, here's the lineup:
     That's a 9 mm Firestar Plus with a double-stack magazine that creates a boxy and (unusually for Star, who generally had good ergonomics) awkward grip, followed by the much nicer .45  Firestar and the sleek 9 mm version.  For a little balance, an Astra A-75 in .45, a lovely piece of '70s Deco that runs like a champ.  They are my newest Spanish-made guns except for the polymer-frame Ultrastar, a clever Glockier-than-thou design that was supposed to save the company...but, sadly, didn't.

Starting To Feel Human Again

     Got a proper night's sleep and woke up in the morning, just like a real diurnal animal, even.  Finished my Raymond Chandler book, too.

     When people say a Robert A. Heinlein or H. Beam Piper character is too competent, too confident?  If they snicker at the way John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee always comes up fighting, or Correia's O. Z. Pitts never gives up?  You point 'em at Chandler's tough-guy heroes, who are quite often right even when they're wrong, and are usually three moves ahead of the reader -- and four moves ahead of everyone else in the story.

     Which reminds me: if you haven't yet seen the BBC four-part miniseries about Ian Fleming, The Man Who Would Be Bond, and you liked the books or the movies about that fictional spy, or you ever wondered what a real-life Sterling Archer might be like, you should be watching it.  (I've read several fairly savage reviews, all of which seem to miss the point that, like a Bond film, this fiction-spun-from-life is meant to be fun, the cinematic equivalent of a box of chocolates.) As lushly shot as any of the Bond movies, well-cast and nicely acted, it's got an excellent score and none of the usual Beeb cheesiness of sets.  He's a hometown boy* who made good, after all -- and a very bad boy, at that.  It's Fleming's biography as he probably would have liked it. He had a good eye for drama.
* For a given value of "hometown:" the Flemings were Scots!

Friday, September 12, 2014

...But I Have To Make a Food Post!

     Corned beef hash with red onion (cooked with a few drops of chili oil) and a Hatch chili, paired with scrambled eggs helped out by some crunched-up blue corn chips:
     It'll do. 

I Slept For Twelve Hours

     Other than waking to do as one does over the course of a long night.

     Alas, no photos of the Big Breakfast Bowl at Zest I had for dinner: double-sausage gravy (a spicy, sausage-laden amber concoction) poured over homemade biscuits and scrambled eggs, washed down by big mugs of cafĂ© au lait. It was wondrous.

     I'll probably need most of this day to recover from my week-plus of early mornings.  So not liking that shift.