Thursday, November 05, 2015

Mezcal or Mescal?

Technically, I suppose

that it should be Mezcal, it is a Nahuatl word, after all, meaning 'oven-cooked agave'.  In any event, we had seen a cooking show called Taco Trip, and were interested in a place in Denver that was featured, Adelitas on South Broadway.

In a nutshell, an absolutely fantastic taqueria.  And all the other things on their menu are great as well, additionally the best house margarita I've ever had, for five bucks. In about half an hour, it became one of our favorite places.

On with the story.  They have a very nicely lit bar, and it's pretty much all Tequila and Mezcal.  Kyri and I are both curious folks, so we asked one of the guys there about Mezcal--and we picked the right person, Nathan, the gent who makes the trips down to Oaxaca, looking for the best of the best in Mezcal to buy for the bar.  He sat down with a couple bottles of Mezcal and some tiny little clay cups, and we had a Mezcal tasting.

Wow.  Great stuff, that.  Similar to good single-malt Scotch, because the agave is harvested, ground and smoked before it's distilled.  Tequila is made from 100% blue agave; Mezcal is made from a single-strain of agave, or up to forty different species blended together.  Mezcal is also known as a stimulant, rather than a depressant, like straight alcohol.  Interesting.....

So, for the last couple of months, we've been having Saturday lunch at Adelitas, and having a Mezcal-tasting afterwards.

Like Scotch Whisky, there are hundreds of distilleries, one or more in most villages in Oaxaca and Guerrero, each blend is subtly different (some not-so-subtle differences too), "traditional glasses, all sorts of little hints and kinks.  One of the traditional glasses for mezcal is a flat-bottomed votive candle holder, with ribs (pretty for the candle light, but makes it easier to hang on to) with an embossed crucifix in the bottom.
Like these:

 ....and that's the way it looks from here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Vacation Slides....:(

Not going to bore you with a slide show--I sat through way too many of those as a kid.  Just a few jpeg low rez copies of some raw shots in South & North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

Miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles of nothing.
   Seemed like the sky was a lot more blue up there.  Altitude, humidity, ??
Kyri and Timber, overlooking Theodore Roosevelt National Park

 Snow fences _everywhere_ -- try to travel up there in the winter and you'll appreciate them.

Unknown flower - not hard to find flowers that are unknown to me... 
...enough for today.


August 13 - strange things in the park.

So, on my walk around the lake this morning,...

 I saw this kid asleep (or passed out) right in front of the ladies’ restroom, head on skateboard, snoring away, so I took a couple shots.  As I’m walking away, he jumped up and started yelling, “Did you just take my picture?”  Not in the mood to take any shit this morning, I turned around and we had a little ‘conversation’  I told him if he wanted to sleep right in front of a bathroom door, in a public park, then he deserved whatever happened.  He’s lucky the parks guys didn’t do what they usually do with people sleeping on the sidewalks, give him a bath with the high pressure hose… The unwritten rule is, if you’re in need of a spot to crash, go sleep under the picnic tables, out of the way of everybody else. About the time he noticed I had him by at least a foot in height and probably 75 pounds, he decided to shut up and move on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stevenson Screen? What's That? [Part 5, finally! ]

OK, done with another project!  I can certainly say, if I were 

to do this again, I would go to the lumber yard and buy some good wood - cobbling things together from scraps that have laid around the shop for decades (dried out, warped, twisted) is not the best thing for my patience.  

All glued, screwed and nailed together, out on the driveway for a final coat or two of paint:

(It's really not tilted, I'm taking all these shots with the iphone and I have a hard time figuring out what's level, from time to time.  

Here we go - all equipped, Max-Minimum thermometer, two Current Temp thermometers, and the new barometer:
The barometer came in ahead of schedule -- I told the seller what I wanted it for, and she shipped it "One Day Priority."  Nice.  Rosebud was quite interested in the bubble wrap packaging.

A thing of beauty, a Taylor High Altitude Barometer, made specifically for use from 4900 to 9500 feet above sea level (ASL).  
It reads from 21 inches to 26 inches Hg, so you have to apply the proper correction factor for your altitude.  About a 16th of a turn of the adjusting screw, and it was set for my altitude.  The correction factor for my back yard is plus 5.3757 inches, and when added to the dial reading, it turns out that it's within .02" to .05" of the reading from the Davis VantagePro2.  Not bad for a "vintage" instrument.  It actually looks so good, and the copper and brass case is in such good shape, I'm not putting it outside in the SS, it will reside right on the radio table. I've got it hanging on a bookend, by the way, so it won't tip over onto its face.

And there we are - set up next to the post with the Davis, and the 4-inch rain gauge.  Timber wonders what all the excitement is about putting a box in "his" back yard.

That's all, folks - thanks for everyone's patience.  Not quite a 'bucket-list' item, but close.....

Monday, April 13, 2015

Stevenson Screen? What's That? [Part 4]

Well, I'm closing in on the end of this project,

I have got the Screen all put together, the secondary roof is on, piano hinge on the bottom of the door, a hasp and lock on the top of the door.  A platform to hang thermometers inside and the barometer should be delivered today.  
The only thing left to do now is to get a stand built up for the screen, and get it out into the back yard, and clean up the garage ........ again.  

....More to come, stay tuned. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Stevenson Screen? What's That? [Part 3]

More progress to report.

I found some more lumber to cut up in the shop, so I fabricated a bottom and top for the project.  Glue and screws and cabinet makers' clamps, can't be beat. So tomorrow after the glue has dried, air holes get drilled in the floor and ceiling of the screen, then paint.  

Good news!  -- I found a high-altitude barometer, being sold by a lady in Golden, whose husband either is or was an engineer.  About 20% of the price of a new one, too.  

More to come - thanks for looking!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Stevenson Screen? What's That [Part 2]

OK, on with the NØERG Stevenson Screen, Mark One

The table saw still works - it's been sitting for years - surprise!  Took some cleanup and a touch of oil here and there.  I probably could use a new saw blade as well - the crosscut, rip and plywood blades need a severe sharpening, and they all have been sharpened within a millimeter of their lives - time to invest in a blade I guess.  Making interior frame pieces by ripping big sticks into little sticks - cutting one by ones from two by fours.  

Might as well use lumber I have around the shop rather than running to the lumber yard (there's a slip - we haven't had a real lumber yard around here in decades, all big box stores now...)

Time to grit my teeth, cross my fingers and saw the shutters in half.  Hey, no metal pieces in there, which is a relief. I was worried that they might have strengthened the shutters where the center piece met the two side pieces.  That would have certainly made it necessary to run of in search of a new saw blade.  

Onwards to the painting stage.  I found some Clark+Kensington paint and primer in one can at Ace Hardware.  It seems to do the trick, and it's a nice glossy exterior latex enamel.  

The original finish on Stevenson screens was whitewash but a study in 2009 found that Latex enamel was a good substitute - although if anyone wants a recipe for real whitewash, I have one.  Contrary to Mr. Twain, whitewash was not routinely used on wood - it was much more commonly used to whiten brick and masonry.

Now for a roof - more scrap lumber.  I found a piece of half inch plywood that will suffice - cut it into a trapezoid so it will be an inch and a half wider in the front than in the back - why, I have no idea--just seemed to be a good idea at the time.  One big gouge to fill and then a couple or three coats of paint. This will be the top roof--I'll be using a double roof, as per the standard, for more ventilation.  The floor as well as the ceiling of the screen box will have several one-inch holes bored through--more ventilation, but covered by screen to cut down on bug infestations.  Time for the orbital sander...

More to come, stay tuned....

Stevenson Screen? What's That? [Part One]

Well, it's like this.  Back in the dim and misty past,

before the advent of electronic weather stations and before the environmentalists started having panic attacks over the mercury in barometers and thermometers and such, a Stevenson Screen is where you kept your weather instruments.  Barometer, Maximum- and Minimum-reading thermometers, wet-and dry-bulb thermometers for computing humidity and dew point, and so on.

A Stevenson Screen is basically a box.  It's made out of wood, for the most part, although there are late examples of metal and composite extruded plastic (which didn't work out so well).  They were made with louvers inside and out for ventilation, to provide air flow. This was to ensure that the recording instruments were in the shade, and at ambient air temperature.  

Here's a shot of the inside of a fully equipped Stevenson Screen, including a ventilation blower - this Screen (also called, in some parts of the world a Cotton Region Shelter) is located at Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai (Community College of Bantry, in Ireland): As usual, double click on the pictures to get a larger look.
Mine will be a somewhat more modest affair.  I already have a very accurate weather station (a Davis VantagePro II) that serves every possible weather need I can think of, except one - I happen to like the idea of getting some of my information from good old analog instruments!  I'm looking forward to standing out in the weather, straining what little eyesight I have left, peering in at mercury thermometers and such.  Hey, it keeps me off the streets and out of the bars!.  Also, I don't happen to have anywhere between $600 and $1500 plus import duties and customs fees to buy one........ So, I thought I'd keep anyone interested up to date on the progress of the build.  
I found a pair of primed, one inch thick pine, louvered outdoor shutters for a reasonable price, and they were shipped to me in about five days.  

They actually arrived in better shape than I was anticipating - reasonably straight (they are pine, after all), packaged nicely with enough packing material to keep the corners and edges from getting dinged up in transit. 

They came pre-primed with some pretty decent white primer that was, I'm sure, sprayed on but the coverage is very complete.  

The shutters have a solid bar in the middle which divides them into an equal height upper and lower louvered section, so I figured I could simply saw them in two vertically and come up with four sides for the shelter.  

The next project (and it did turn into a two day marathon exercise) was to clean out the garage so I could get the table saw out where it was useable, and clean half a ton of general 'stuff' off of a bench to I'd have a flat surface on which to lay pieces out, do measuring and trial setups.  I have a bench made from the legs and drawer of my father's old manual training bench which he built in about 1919 I think, and I put a butcher block/bowler top on it.  Weighs an extra hundred and twenty pounds, but it's flat and square.
So, here we are, ready to get a move on.  

More to come in part two.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What's it got in its Bagses?

Well, it’s like this:  When I’m walking around, and don’t have a specific place to go, don’t know what I’ll have to clamber over or wade through, or if I need to get on a plane….. I pretty much pare things down.  Here’s a shot of what I am carrying these days.  

Small canvas/mesh zipper bag (mesh so I can look into it without 
having to unzip it), containing the following:

Giotto Rocket Lens Blower
Various lens cloths
Lens cleaning fluid
Lens Pen
Good old-fashioned Lens Paper
USB cord for the D7100 (semi- 
        proprietary micro usb on the 
        camera end)
Emergency 16Gb SD memory 
Nikon back lens cap and
        camera body cap
Allen wrench for camera-ball
        head and gimbal head plates

LowePro photographer’s gloves
Stocking Cap
Black Rapid Camera Strap
Peak Design Capture Pro Camera Clip
2-Stop and 3-Stop Neutral 
Density Filters
Circular Polarizer
Cable Release and Infrared Release
Sekonic L-758DR Digital Master Light Meter
Sekonic/X-rite Color Checker Passport
Rugged Camera Rain Cover
Nikon D7100
Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens
Nikon TC-17II AF-S Teleconverter
Two spare camera batteries

Here's what it all fits into:  {Note that there's no tripod or monopod in the picture(s), haven't 
                                           decided on a decent lightweight (maybe carbon fiber) travel 
                                           tripod yet.


Saturday, February 07, 2015

Finally completed my "kit."

At long last, I was able to complete my equipment 'kit' that I intend to carry everywhere; the only two lenses I should ever need, considering what I shoot:  The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, and the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8.  The best lenses of their kind that Nikon has ever made; I can now stop carrying a 50, 35, 60, 85, etc.  THE setup for what I do.  

If I ever (have to) take more portraits, I might throw on the 85mm f/1.8 portrait lens, or if I want to do some stealthy urban street shots I might put on the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6.  But I just don't shoot those things very much any more, if at all.

So, hopefully I'm now set up, and can avoid further acquisition syndrome purchases.

Hope this doesn't turn out to be like a New Year's resolution...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dry December

This December might be one of those history-making months,

weather-wise - very dry so far.  I did manage to get out to the reservoir yesterday and made a few shots with my new gimbal setup.  It's a breeze to set up ad use, after all these years I now really see the attraction.  Ease of Use is probably the biggest attraction-- being able to move the lens around with one finger and just let go of the camera when it's where I want it; no knobs or levers to tighten ad fiddle with.  Nice.

These were taken from across the reservoir, at f/1600, f/4.8 ISO 1000

And a quick snap of the setup: 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Strangest damn thing.....

On the way to breakfast this morning, we were traveling south

on Broadway, the sun was up (around 30-40°) and the sky about .3 scattered.  Kyri and I both were looking south south east at an interesting cloud.  We both independently thought the weird cloud was the result of our sunglasses and the tinted windshield, but ......  not the case!  Kyri pulled the car over and I was able to get out to take a few shots; this is what we saw:

 I've never seen anything like this, but I hope I do again - so I can take some more pictures.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Camera Features

Metering Modes

OK - here's some dramatic (but accurate) shots showing the difference between Matrix Metering and Spot Metering on the same subject, same light.  (I like to use spot metering for this type of shot, where there's a vast difference in light falling on different parts of the picture).  
The first shot is using Matrix metering mode, the second, Spot mode:
Matrix Metering  

Spot metering off the sky reflected in the water.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A few shots from the new camera:

I am sure enjoying having a camera again, and trying to get back in the habit of having a camera with me all the time, everywhere.  Here's a few examples of what I've been doing with my new equipment, from around the house and down the South Platte river:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Camera!

As you might know (or not), since June.....

I have been without a camera - I have a Nikon D300 that suffered an unfortunate accident, and I replaced it with a rebuilt camera from the local shop.  It lasted about seven months and decided to not recognize any lens attached to it.  Time for a new clickerbox.  

After a lot of research, I settled on the Nikon D7100 for a lot of reasons - it's a DX camera, 24Mp sensor and also has a 1.3 Crop mode - like getting 1.3 X whatever lens length you have.  And it does video, etc. etc.  In short, I really really like this camera.  It produces some stunning results.  

It's interesting to think back many (about 30) years, to one of our first PC-compatible computers; an Epson Equity XT.  It had a 20Mb (yes, twenty megabytes) and we really thought it was hot stuff.  This camera turns out a 29 Mb RAW file.  Wow.  Even a Fine quality JPEG from this beast is 17Mb.  

I wish you could see the photographs this camera turns out, but there's no way I could post that big a photo, and viewing at 72 dpi is not really representative of the photo.  

Here's a front and back shot of the 7100 taken with my iPhone:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Final (I hope) mods to the Espresso Machine

OK, the last two modifications to the espresso machine

are done.  I hope.  I removed the Gaggia steam wand with the crappy panarello on it and replaced the wand with a steam wand from a Rancilio Sylvia.  Much  better.  And, I ordered another portafilter to permanently attach the pressure gauge to.  Hopefully that will do it for a while.  I can't think of any more mods I could do right now.  
Here's a frame grab from a short video I did of the new steam wand

And the permanent pressure gauge equipped portafilter:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Espresso Machine, continued

More additions to the Coffee Bar

Since the last post, I've been doing some additions/updates to the espresso setup; notably, I invested in a real grinder that does consistent, fine, non-clumpy espresso grinds, another Gaggia product, the MD40.  The main complaint people have about this grinder is cosmetic--it slips and slides around on the counter top.  Well, yes...but- the grinder is made to slip into the Gaggia shelf which holds the Gaggia Classic, or Baby, or Twin and the MD40, so it has no feet.  Since the shelf would raise the Classic up too far to fit under my cupboards, I wouldn't be able to use it.  Simple fix- a $4 set of rubber feet from the hardware store; problem solved.  I also invested in a decent tamper and a tamping mat.  Here's a shot of the grinder in its proper place with the mat and tamper in front: 

Next on the list was a portafilter pressure gauge.  It screws on the bottom of the portafilter where the spouts normally screw on.  It's got a rubber gasket and a little filter screen - seems to be working fine. The pressure with the machine heated up properly is 10.2 bar on the gauge, which should work out to be 9.2 bar without the gauge and with a load of coffee in the portafilter.  Just right, no more adjusting required.   Nicer than homemade, but of course more expensive.
Next on the list is to replace the Gaggia Pannarello milk frothing wand, and replace it with this steam wand that originally was made for a Rancilio Sylvia V2.  Found a New Old Stock one on the Bay.  

Ok, that should bring everything up to, hang on - I decided to learn how to bake biscotti as well.  Came out just right-almond and vanilla-yum!

That should do it for a bit.  I'll post again after I install the new steam wand.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Yet another addition, Part 3

All right!  First off, I drove to Kaladi Brothers and had them grind me some espresso coffee.  When I got home, I plugged in the machine, let it heat up, and pulled a few shots - with both the "pressurized filter" and the normal.

However..... like everybody says, way too much pressure.  So, time for the first modification; reduce the brew pressure by adjusting the OPV.

Really, a five minute job - the longest part was putting the top back on and dealing with the little rubber grommet at the front of the machine.  Here's the OPV, with my fingers in the way, removing the overflow tube, preparatory to unscrewing the top of the OPV with a 17mm socket wrench:

Once the top of the valve is removed, the adjustment is made by turning the actual innards of the valve 270º counter-clockwise, with a 5mm Allen Wrench {or, Alien Wrench as I call it}.  Here's a shot of the valve without the overflow tube:

After you have turned the inside adjuster 3/4 turn to the left, put everything back together, and put the top of the machine back on.  All done.

Did it make a difference?   Oh, yeah!

Yet another addiction, Part 2

OK, finished up the lawn mowing operation this morning, just in time for the Fedex truck driver to meet me in the front yard with the box containing my Gaggia Classic.

Shipping - you could hardly ask for more; the factory box was packaged in another sturdy cardboard box, which was in turn packaged suspended (in hard foam corner braces) in another sturdy cardboard box.  Nice!  No visible shipping damage whatsoever.

The machine comes with standard baskets, and pressurized baskets, as well as a "coffee pod" basket for making coffee from pods (think teabags).  Also included, the portafilter of course, a plastic tamper, plastic coffee scoop, power cord and extensive instructions in Italian, French, German, and Spanish.  All the stainless steel surfaces are covered in sticky film, to avoid scratching.  Nice.

First things first:  Get some espresso ground coffee, a proper tamper (that plastic thing has got to go) and I should be on my way.  I know, I know, you're supposed to grind your own coffee just before pulling the shot..... I'm "between grinders at the moment" --read broke.  Maybe in a couple months; my cellphone needs replaced first, still need to get the Harley running, etc. etc.

.....It's pretty!
Click on the pictures for larger views.                                    Stay Tuned!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Yet another addiction

I've long been a fan of espresso, French press coffee, vacuum-pot coffee, Chemex-pot coffee -- you get the picture.

Time to clean off some counter space, I have a new machine coming...

This is a Gaggia Classic, simple machine but since it's a Gaggia, enough advanced/commercial features to make it well worth the price, and reliable enough to last a few years with regular cleaning and TLC.

I was looking at some offerings from the "RUB" brand (Rich Urban Barista wannabe's) {dare I say Breville?} but the reviews are too mixed.  People who have had their machines for less than six months are falling over themselves saying what a great machine they are, but there are lots and lots of really bad reviews from people who have had theirs for more than six months.  At any rate, we'll see what happens.  Now, if I could find a decent grinder I'd be a happy guy.  By the way, free two-day shipping doesn't mean much when you order late in the afternoon on the 3rd of July -- I won't get it until Tuesday the 8th anyway.  Oh, well-gives me more time to clear a spot in the kitchen.  It will probably just fit under the cabinetry in the kitchen - at least I hope so, otherwise it will find a home on top of the clothes dryer in the laundry room.  No bueno.

....more to come - stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Grill/Smoker Mods, part 3

Continuing along with what mods I can afford and cobble up in the garage (why, oh why didn't I buy that MIG welder from Craigslist?) with the tools and such that I have.

The fire basket is done:  Expanded metal isn't as cheap as I remember it used to be.  So many things in life I remember differently than they are now.  At any rate, this basket will hold a whole whoop of charcoal and/or wood chunks.

The first iteration of a tuner plate; gas welded up in the garage.  there are four removable plates, and the angled plate is welded to a fifth.  Before I go farther with this, I'm going to take it out, and turn the lower grill and ash tray over.  It seals up much better than the straight plates.  If I still want to use the plates like this, I'll have to weld some triangular pieces onto the slanted plate to seal it up better.  The upside down bottom tray won't need that at all.  The down side of the upside down tray is that there aren't any holes in it; but if it works better for heat distribution I'll figure out a way to get some holes in it.  I may have to cut them with a torch; it's very thick metal to drill a 3/4 or 1-inch hole through with a battery hand drill.  We'll see.  The temperature on the firebox end was still quite hot compared to the far end of things in today's test, but the overall temperature inside the grill was double what it was with no mods at all.  If I can get the temperature to stay more even across the whole grill, then I can start adjusting the temp.