Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Neighbor

I was attempting to demonstrate to Jamey and Arthur how you can detect animals in the bushes at night by shining a flashlight into the brush and watching for the telltale reflection of night-eyes. Jamey said that sounded scary & I vaguely agreed with him.

That's about the time I happened to notice a decent-sized eye-glow coming from the brush on our eastern border. Being only one glow, I immediately supposed I was seeing only one side of a deer, but then I thought it might be a coyote with only one eye, or worse...a one-eyed bear! It's well known that Zimmerman's are able to discern one-eyed bears better than most.

Nevertheless, with Jamey and Arthur there, I didn't want to look nervous and impart upon them some irrational sense of fear of wild animals at night, so I suggested we investigate.

Arthur immediately scrambled up the hill, presumably to let Heidi know she should prepare the first-aid kit to treat the gory lacerations we would have, if we even made it back.

Meanwhile Jamey and Snowbear agreed to accompany me in taking a closer look at the one-eyed beast in the bushes.

As we got closer it suddenly happened that the one big eye resolved into two smaller eyes that were very close together. We stopped, suddenly feeling that we didn't want to scare this creature off as much as before.

After Jamey saw the two eyes and we both "Awwww"-ed at the cuteness of it. We tiptoed on. Based on it's elevation, we could presume it was a bird, though it wasn't all that far from the ground.

We were able to approach close enough to see dimly the size, shape and some of the coloration of the whole bird. It was an owl perched on the lowest branch (barely more than a twig) of a cascara tree.

Once she finally flew off, she tolerated our presence far more than most wild creatures, we came back to the house and looked her up in the bird book. The book affirmed the apparent "tame-ness" and said these owls have been known, due to their defensive "hiding" technique, to get bundled up by accident inside Christmas trees branches when the trees are cut and wrapped for shipping.

I wasn't able to get a picture because it was too dark & I didn't have my camera. But I found a blog with some very nice pictures of our new neighbor:

And for a sample of her song:

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Turkey Turned Out Well

The slow-roast method was a success. The meat was moist and stringy, like pulled pork.

There was a brief moment of concern when I discovered the oven was off, but it couldn't have been more than about an hour, so I turned it back on and all was well.

The meat was so loose, there was no way to carve a slice. Instead I just dragged it off the bones with a fork.

My first foray into gravy also turned out just fine, even though I kind of winged it a bit.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

My friend Dwayne gave me a tip on cooking turkey. The keen observer will note that this one is "breast-side down", which keeps the white meat submerged in the drippings.
The other main component to his tip that I'm trying this year is the slow-roasting technique. This one has been in the oven since about 8:30 PM last night and after an initial searing at 400 degrees F, has been roasting at 200.

Overall this 24 pound bird will have roasted for over 18 hours by the time dinner is served.

The outcome will undoubtedly be recorded here tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving one and all!
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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Lithium Battery Woes

Tip of the Day: Don't drop a LiPo battery

That's what I did.

LiPo batteries have the rigidity of Play-Doh (tm) and are damaged by small indentations.
Once I dropped mine, the 3rd (of three) cell was no longer able to take a charge. This rendered my battery "unchargeable", meaning I couldn't drive Dulcinea to work in the dark.

$65 later, I have an upgraded battery with almost twice the total capacity. My lights are once again bright as the moon at midnight & I can drive confidently knowing I'm easily seen. Furthermore, I have the capacity to run on one charge for about a week!

Here's a picture of how I've wrapped my new battery to protect it from a repeat of my earlier mishap. Three layers of "ShamWow" felt and the original box it came in.

No Sugar - Month 2 Wrapup

During September and October this year I have avoided almost all sucrose and fructose. I certainly haven't had any candy or desserts, but sugar is found in the most amazing places these days and so through oversight and willing lack of rigor I have allowed some to slip in. Very little though, especially compared with my former self.

I don't mean to say that I was ever a rampaging sugar-holic, but looking back I find that I consumed sugar in nearly every meal I've had for years. Whether it is the after-lunch mint, the sweet-and-sour pork, the spoonful of honey in my oatmeal...whatever, sugar was a constant presence.

Now, two months in to my "sugar-avoidance-diet", eating as much food as I want, whenever I want, provided it contains no sucrose or fructose, I've lost approximately 16 pounds.

I only have about another 16 pounds between me and my "known healthy weight" of 190 lbs. This is the weight I was when I was 19 years old, playing basketball 4 hours per day and lifting weights. I have no overriding ambition to achieve that weight. I would consider it completely OK to be that weight again. If I were to go below that weight by more than 10 lbs, I would begin to worry.

Now that I think of it, I was once (also at 19 yo) 175 lbs...after 9 days of hiking in the mountains, living on rations of dehydrated and flavorless food, while hiking 8 miles per day with a heavy pack. At that time, my bones were jutting angularly in a way that brings to mind victims of famine or anorexia. That is the absolute "weight-floor" for me. If I were to get that light, I'm fairly sure it would be due to some form of disease & would certainly avail myself of medical attention.

However, at this point, that is all very tangential...I feel good. I rarely crave candy or dessert. This may be due to the fact I've come to consider sugar to be poison & my desire not to be poisoned turns my appetite away from those "treats". It also may be because I don't let myself get hungry. I'm filling up on foods with fiber, protein and glucose.

I should also give some credit to Heidi, whose Channa Masala, Moroccan Stew and other delights make it enjoyable to eat healthfully.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Get Your Vampire Defense System In Place

Today is the day....if you haven't already done it, you should get some garlic in the ground.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Smiles and Waves

The reactions I've seen while driving my velomobile have been consistent and at times incredibly energetic.
  • The most basic and common is the broad smile, usually from someone alone and on foot.
  • Two people together will usually cause one to elbow the other while pointing excitedly my direction.
  • Two or more high-school aged persons will often shout vociferous approval, "Awesome car!" or something guttural, perhaps while thrusting a fist outward with index and pinkie-finger extended.
  • A young child might say: "I want one".
  • I had a Harley-Davidson rider pull up alongside me and quiz me on my power-source. Upon learning it was pedal+electric he offered to race me to the next gas station, which I found hilarious.
My perception from all this feedback is that driving the Quest is really worth the effort. Around here it really is something different. People recognize it as a thing of interest and I like to think that they intuitively understand its power as an energy-saving mode of transportation.

In any case it's nice to think that when the kids standing out at their bus-stops, or riding their buses, come home after school and their mother asks what they saw on "Mulberry Street"....they will have something worth mentioning.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Second Commute

I had dramatic improvement on my second commute, getting my one-way time as low as 78 minutes!

The only issues I'm having are fog on my goggles and rain at high-speeds.
I'm going to have to look into a product like Fog-Tech to see if I can defeat the foggy goggle problem.

Here's some photographic evidence of my morning commute from several days ago:

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

First Real Commute - Part 2

The rain moved in late in the day, which gave me the chance to test the theory that one can be comfortable driving a Quest velomobile in the rain.

The comfort-level was quite good. The amount of ventilation is about right to keep from overheating, while the amount of wind-blocking prevented me from getting chilled on the descents.

I do need to remember to wear face-protection in the rain. Raindrops are positively painful at speeds over 40 mph, which I hit on at least 3 downhill spots each way.

Also, I need some anti-fog eye-wear that really works.

Finally, on the last mile before arriving home for the evening my throttle-lever slipped out of position. When I re-adjusted it I found I was able to apply more amperage than before. This means it's possible I still haven't tested the system with maximum throttle. I'm excited to see how much faster I can ascend the hills with this new top-end.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

First Real Commute - Part 1

I laid on the throttle today at almost every opportunity.

Result: 1hr 31min morning commute.

This time, as you may know, is one minute longer than my target.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Other details:
I burned 8+ amp-hours on the battery.
Avg speed 18+
Max speed 47 (coming down a straight hill with great visibility. On the curvy hills I keep it at 40 or less.)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Commute Trial-run

Having received my battery back from Headway Headquarters this week, it was time to test the theory that launched this yearlong quest to obtain a motorized...erm...Quest.

I call her Dulcinea. This is supposed to reference her sweet, slim curves, but I tell ya, when you're pulling 80 pounds of machine up the kind of hills we have around Amboy, "fat-pig" is a term more likely to come to mind.

So, with my motor & battery (adding another 25 pounds) I set out yesterday to see if I could make the round-trip of 58 miles to my office and back, with only one "minor" mountain in between. Oh, and I really wanted to do it in 1.5 hours each way.

A bit after leaving home, I realized I left my battery charger at home, which meant I wouldn't be able to "refuel" at the office. So, I had to be a bit conservative with the "juice".  I have a 36-volt 16 amp-hour battery. I'm told that you should only expect about 13 amp-hours when running a battery of that capacity. So, with that in mind I planned to use no more than 6.5 amp-hours on the way to the office.

Pulling out of Amboy drained about 4 amp-hours. This was using my lowest gear and full-throttle, going 7+ mph for about 6 of the 8 miles required to reach the summit of Kelly road, which is about 1000 ft above sea-level.

From there it switched from an exertion challenge to one of restraint, as I bombed down the other side of Kelly Mountain, a steep descent of approximately 2 continuous miles. I decided that it's best to keep my speed at 40 mph or less, since it does take some lead-time to come to a stop and you never know when a deer will be in the road.

Getting the rest of the way in was relatively smooth sailing. I made it in 1 hour and 50 minutes, (1 hr 43min rolling time), having used about 6.2 amp-hours.

The way back was more of a challenge. My legs were already "well-done" & there is a tad more climbing to do  on the return-trip.

I knew I'd need a solid 4 amp-hours by the time I got to the base of Kelly hill, so I paced the battery and tried to use my legs on the "flat" stuff. Still, I was pretty well exhausted & relied on the motor to boost me several times.

Pulling northbound up Kelly Road was every bit as epic as I'd imagined. I was so grateful to find that my motor and battery could sustain the ascent in my 1st gear...although my input was needed almost the whole way in order to keep the motor from laboring or lugging.

When I made it to the top, my legs were leaden. With my motor allowing me to "spin" I wasn't sidelined with cramps like I had been in the past, but I still contributed the whole way up and my legs were so depleted I began having an altered sense of reality.

To give an example...having reached what I hoped would be the summit, a stretch of road that was relatively "plano"...I decided to conserve battery and pedal alone. The stiff resistance I felt indicated that either my brakes were engaged ( I checked that & ruled it out considering how willing the machine seemed to be to roll backwards) or I was really fatigued and rolling on a flat-tire or two. So I got out to check & found the tires all fully pumped. I was really, really fatigued.

I took the opportunity to to stretch and take some water.

Back in the cockpit, I shed my illusions and cranked up the throttle, allowing me to crest what I finally realized was the real summit of Kelly Mountain. At the top, my joy was reinforced by the animated discussion and pointing that my arrival produced in two men standing in their garage about 70 yards to my right. I waved to them and they waved back. I was filled with the sense that I brought something positive into this corner of the world.

From Kelly mountain it is practically all downhill to my house, so that was quick and easy.

Heidi had roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, blanched kale & buttered lima beans all set on the table when I got home. Bless her sweet spirit.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Benefits of Whole-food, Plant-based Diet

More compelling information about a whole food, plant-based diet:

I just watched the documentary film Forks Over Knives, which focuses on two doctors who independently came to the realization that meat and dairy were leading causes of heart problems and that switching to a whole plant-based diet can stop the progression of those diseases.

Patients documented in the film went from some horrific cholesterol numbers to very healthy ones after 22 weeks of the recommended diet. Medications were eliminated. Energy levels were elevated.

Others mentioned in the documentary were vegan Ultimate Fighting competitor and a fireman whose physiques could leave no question that plants provide all the nutrients you could need. The fireman repeated the memorable quote, as he climbed the fire pole using just his arms: "Real men eat plants."

All this correlates to my own recent experience of losing 10 pounds in 3 weeks with the sole lifestyle change being avoidance of refined sugar.

One of the patients in the film echoed another experience of tastes incredible again. I've come to believe that refined sugar deadens your senses to the variety of flavor inherent in food. As a result we feel compelled to eat foods that are ever more rich. It's sweetness arms race.

Now though, after just 3 weeks of avoiding refined sugar, a plain Fuji apple tastes to me as sweet as a caramel apple used to. Literally.

I'm looking in the mirror and seeing angles returning to my face. I'm feeling more vigorous and I'm noticing less puffiness around my eyes.

I'm looking forward to my next blood test because I feel like I'm going to ace it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Inspired by's post on sugar, I decided to try banning refined sugar from my diet.
My goal is to get a good reading the next time I have my blood tested, but in the meantime, I've lost about 10 pounds of weight. Totally unintended and equally welcome.

I've also noticed that regular food tastes amazing now. Everything is super flavorful and sweetness crops up in many more places now.

Perhaps it's the placebo effect, but I also feel more energetic and more alert throughout the day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Inspiring Weight-Loss Documentary

I recently watched a documentary film called "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead", which was an incredibly inspiring tale of a man fed-up with his weight and health problems, who used a 60-day "juice-fast" to address his problems.

For the second half of his "fast" he traveled the US, engaging locals in conversation about food, weight and health issues, all while continuing his own "fast".

One truck-driver he met had so much in common, that he offered to help. The truck-driver subsequently accepts the offer and the second half of the film follows his progress, which is perhaps even more uplifting than the inspiring original.

Anyway, this is a film that is good enough that I feel it worth recommending:

I streamed it on Netflix.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Canyon Creek Ride

Back in June I had Dulcinea on the Canyon Creek Road during a workout.
It seemed like a good opportunity to get a picture of her "in the wild".

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The View From Green Mountain

Arthur and Jamey gamely climbed Green Mountain with me today. I was lead to believe it was a 3.5 mile round-trip, but I think it was actually 5 miles.
Anyway, they were great sports. Arthur even found the trail that led us to this beautiful view of Lake Merwin.

Friday, July 01, 2011


Snowbear, Heidi's Great Pyrenees puppy, is already taller than a full-grown Golden Retriever. His shaggy white fur and black nose brings to mind a polar bear. So it was very understandable when Heidi coined a new phrase to describe him: rugamuffin. Yet another perfectly apt word coined by Heidi.

And the gift shows signs of emerging in our oldest boy. Today, while waiting patiently for the doctors to come around and do their thing, Jamey mentioned a "word": dewblop.

"That's not a word"
"Look it up"

So I Google it and find only one page in the entire interwebs that has dewblop in the URL, but no reference to it on the page.

Of course Jamey conceded that it wasn't a word.

However, as I continue to think about it I realize what a feat of mental agility it is to coin a word like that which has no precedent in Google's entire catalog.

Meanwhile the doctors were coming back a bit stumped as to what type of fever Jamey had. His symptoms were fatigue, fever for 3 days, and pink spots all over starting on the 3rd day.
The immediate care clinic, unsure as to the diagnosis, sent us on to the ER to give them a chance for a more thorough battery of tests.

While on our way, I described to Jamey that when you had the first instance of a disease, they usually name the disease after you (think Lou Gehrig).
Well, the ER docs didn't think it was anything remarkable enough to investigate beyond saying "it's a virus".
Feeling just a bit jilted for not having the disease named Jamey G. Fever by the doctors, we decided instead to name it ourselves. And the name that seemed to fit best: Dewblop Fever.

Hopefully Dewblop Fever doesn't last beyond about 5 days, or our trip to Seattle will be in jeopardy.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Good things

Martha Stewart has hers, now it's my turn:
  • Pomegranate Black Currant Balsamic vinegar, by A Taste of Eden LLC. My mom gave me a bottle of this and it is heavenly. I just had some with a fresh sourdough boule.

  • Nettles. These are free if you're willing to pick them and they make world class green tea. Two weeks ago I made some soup out of them and it was fantastic. Supposedly it is very good for you too.

  • Dandelion Jelly. Heidi found a recipe and made this a few days ago. I could have gone my whole life and never tried this due to the awful experience of getting dandelion sap on my tongue as a child. However, the petals (which are the only part used for the jelly) are as aromatic as the sap is bitter, which means my toast has recently become a playground for my senses. Dandelion jelly will now be in rotation along with rhubarb compote and the many more traditional jams and jellies Heidi makes.
There are more, but I'll save those for another post

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jamey's First On-base

While driving home after a long baseball practice (normal practice followed by another hour with just Jamey and myself), we got to talking about hamburgers and how hungry Jamey was. He asked:

"How many hamburgers could you make from one cow?"

Not being much of a meat man, I could only speculate based on vague memories of how much cows weigh and a guess at how much of that was meat that could be ground into burgers.

I came up with 1,000...not claiming any kind of certainty.

But then I pointed out that you probably wouldn't want to make hamburgers out of all the meat on a cow.

"Why not?"

"Because there are cuts in there that are way more valuable as steaks than hamburger meat"

"ooooohhhh....steaaaakkk.....slurp slurp"

That's when it occurred to me that it would be reasonably cheap to raise the stakes so to speak, and give Jamey something to think about while at bat other than the possibility of being hit by a pitch.

So I offered him a steak dinner after his first on-base in Little League. Hit, Hit-by-pitch or Base-on-Balls...all the same to me...getting on base is the only concern.

For a moment he was tempted to allow himself to get hit by a pitch as that seemed the most likely of the three options for achieving first base. However, in moments he decided that would make the task far too easy and so decided to challenge himself to acquire his steak by nobler means.

In Wednesday's game, the third played game of the season, Jamey walked on not once, but twice.

Especially on his second at-bat, he exhibited split-second decision-making with a skill that is hardly imaginable, falling for none of the traditional temptations of first-year Little-Leaguers (the high pitch in particular, comes to mind). Instead he kept his cool, took control of the pace of the at-bat by stepping out between pitches and once taking 7 or 8 practice swings, until the coach told him to get back in the batter's box. But, the damage to pitcher's (too fast) rhythm had been done, and he was subsequently unable to pitch a strike.

On the first BoB he was stranded, but on the second, his teammates moved him through the bases and he provided the game-winning-run!

And so, for exceeding the challenge put before him so extraordinarily well, he has earned an extraordinary steak: Filet Mignon from the Laurelwood Pub in Battle Ground.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dulcinea Driving

Never forget your balaclava on a cold day.

That's my advice du jour.

I thought I'd go for a short drive to start beefing-up my leg muscles today. The temperature was in the high 40's and a misty rain was falling. No problem, methinks...I'll be protected by Dulcinea and the temperature nor the moisture can affect me. True on the 95% of my body that is not my face. Somehow though, that 5% manages to suffuse 100% of your mind with thoughts of pain and suffering when you start going over 20 mph in cool rainy morning air. Thus...balaclava and goggles will be donned or brought along until the weather proves itself to be temperate.

Good news...I cut away a bit more heel-room below my pedals and that has all but completely alleviated the space issues I've been having. I've discovered that if I can keep my heels pushed forward just a bit, my knees don't bump. Keeping the keels pushed forward is perfectly comfortable, there just has to be room to do it. Now that I have the room, I'd say I'm 98% dialed-in. Cutting away just a bit more should take care of it. It's also possible that shoes with less tread would do the trick, so I'm weighing the option of getting new shoes as my next step.

I was happy to note that on a roughly level patch of road following a downhill, I was able do maintain 32 mph under my own power. I'm coming off 2 weeks of sickness that has left my lungs in a delicate state and my legs are still weak after three months of no biking. Considering that...I'm extremely pleased with the level-ground performance.

Soon, I'll be making an appointment to see EcoSpeed Motors about installing some hill-assistance. I expect to need shorter cranks to allow for the extra space the motor installation requires.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

First Real Ride

I took Dulcinea for a spin of 14 and 2/3rds very hilly miles.

Going up the hills was predictably difficult; I learned that you can simply stop and catch your breath without dismounting.

Going downhill was a blast, I hit 53.5 mph at my fastest. I'm still getting used to the feel of the vehicle and when going over 40 mph there was some apparent cross-wind action that made me nervous, but I'm guessing that's just one of those things you have to get used to in a new ride.

I still need to work on dialing-in the fit. I'm still bumping knees, toes and heels a bit.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dulcinea has Arrived

I took my new Quest velomobile for a short test-ride and found that I need to adjust it a bit for my legs. was quick to provide assistance to me even though it was late in the evening (Toronto time) when I asked them for help in adjusting the sizing.

So far I am impressed with the fit and polish of the components. The brakes are just awesome....I opted for the 90 mm size since my goal is to do frequent commuting and I reckoned the larger size would hold up better.

The electrical components are also more impressive than I had imagined...I didn't know I'd have side blinkers in addition the front and rear. Very nice. And they are Bright with a capital 'B'.

I'll have more updates soon as I get the adjustments done.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hungry for Snow

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Big Egg

The big egg in this picture weighed 101 grams.

The other eggs were in the mid-fifties.

We sent this group to one of our friends house who held a superbowl party. I think he said there was only one yolk in the big one.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011


While driving home this evening we noticed the Mt. Valley Grange-hall was hosting a crowd, as evidenced by the full parking-lot.

The meeting was to discuss local sightings of Bigfoot.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bob Ross Would Have Loved This

Driving in yesterday, I got a view of Mt. Hood with clouds high above it and just thin enough that the sun, barely over the peak, came through with a gentle yellow light.
A paintable moment.
I fondly thought of Bob Ross.

It wasn't exactly like this, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fun On Mt. Hood

Here's a nice portrait from our visit with Bob and Adeleide as well as my cousin Steve and his children on Mt. Hood. It was great fun. In the morning Bob and Steve were instrumental in digging out our Subaru. I was tremendously grateful for the help.
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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Fun Run (and Walk)

Heidi found out about a fun run put on by a local fitness club and so we signed up...all four of did Heidi's mom and brother.

I surprised myself by dragging myself across the course an entire 10K. I was very nearly the last person to finish the 10K, but I finished it. This gives me hope that with some training I could actually jog the whole thing instead of the mixture of walking and jogging that I did today.

Heidi and the boys completed the 5K option and were happy with their successes.

Heidi's brother placed 5th overall in the 10K and brought home the first prize in his age-group. It's fun to have a "home-town" favorite.

In the end, we were invigorated and reminded of how fun it can be to participate in a community exercise event.

We plan to do more.