Rambling Jack's Laboratory
A McKinleyville-based repository for ruminations and assorted rubbish.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Trip to the Big City
I punched out shortly after 5 p.m. today, got on my bike and started pedalling across the Arcata Bottoms.
I took this self portrait of my shadow while riding. Then I bumped up the contrast in Photoshop. As you can see, I was riding one of those old-timey bikes with a giant front wheel.
Next thing I knew, I was in the Big City. It was all very strange and overwhelming for me being that I'm just a simple country boy. I saw hookers and winos and all sorts of interesting people. The restaurant above reminds me of an old Talking Heads album cover.
Jim Dunn's is closed. I had a drink there back in the late 1980s. Interesting clientele. No matter how much I drank, I couldn't stay buzzed because I was scared that someone would stick a knife in my back.
Cool building, different angle.
This is the oldest structure on the waterfront and some people want to save it. They're nuts.
On the way home I noticed this old garage in the Bottoms. I like the wood.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Mill Creek Falls
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
Hot, but not hot enough
I set it up at 12 p.m. and measured the water temperature.
I checked the temperature at 2 p.m.
I checked the temperature at 4 p.m.
It was hot enough for a cup of tea, but not hot enough to cook food. I want to reach a temperature of 250 degrees. Minor modications will take place next week. Perhaps I'll add two side reflectors, paint the cook pot black (non toxic paint) and place a black metal plate underneath.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Almost every Monday afternoon I deliver newspapers to the Arcata Co-op. If it’s sunny, there’s a good chance that Bart Orlandi is outside cooking something in his parabolic solar cooker.
The food doesn’t look very appetizing, but one thing is for certain – it’s hot. I’ve seen him stir a steaming pot of vegetables, make something that resembles rice and even pop some corn.
I’m always impressed by the display and, almost every week, I think to myself that I should build my own solar cooker just for the heck of it. The thought preoccupies by brain for a few minutes before the demands of work push it down until it settles in with the gooey mass of hare-brained ideas that bubble away and simmer in my little crock pot of a brain.
I figured the idea would stay there where it belongs, but then something happened. I heard a report on the radio about an exhibit titled “Design for the Other 90%.”
Most consumer products are designed for the richest 10 percent of the world’s population. Those rich folks include myself and everyone who reads this blog. We’re filthy rich. It may not always seem that way, but it’s true. Trust me.
The exhibit features products for the other 90 percent. There are lots of neat ideas in the exhibit, including bicycles designed to carry large loads.
For some reason the website made the solar cooker idea bubble up in my brain.
Dammit! I don’t have a lot of capacity upstairs, so my only recourse was to excise the idea and get it out of my head so I could make room for more useful ideas and information. And the only way to do that was to build a solar cooker and test it out.
So earlier this week I went in my garage and fired up the TMD – tools of mass destruction.
Awful noises emanated from my secret compound as scraps of lumber were transformed into a solar cooker. When the dust settled, and I stopped sneezing, this is what I had.
That’s my wallet on top just to give you a sense of the size. This is what it looks like when closed. It's sitting atop my utility trailer in a sunny location in the yard. The outside box is made from cedar fence boards. The internal box is made of thin plywood. The outside of the box was painted black. The inside and the lid were lined with foil. There are some old newspapers inside for insulation.
I used Plexiglas from an old newspaper box for the cover. I placed an old mess kit pot, filled with water, inside. The water was about 65 degrees at 5 p.m. today. Then I positioned the lid so that the sun reflected on the pot.
I took this shot and then we went to the Six Rivers Brewery. After some Cadillac margaritas and a crab cake BLT, we returned home. About an hour and a half had passed. The water was about 112 degrees, with little bubbles at the bottom of the pot. It felt very warm like a nice bath.
The water temperature increased by 47 degrees. But is that enough to warm or cook food? Modications may be necessary.
On Friday, I’ll put some water out at noon and see what happens. Then, next week, we'll go back into the laboratory if necessary.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Durham's Quality Beverages
The 299 Opine blog includes a posting about soda pop. That got me thinking – if I wanted my soda of choice, I'd have to get in a time machine and travel back to the 1940s and 1950s.
I would visit Tuolumne County, California, and buy one of these. Durham's Bottling Works was my grandfather's company, located in Jamestown. The back of the bottle reads "Bottled in the Mother Lode with pure mountain water." The bottle is dated "1952."
That's the year that "High Noon" was released, which coincidently was filmed in Jamestown (the train depot) and nearby Columbia. So perhaps I'd drive on over to nearby Sonora and visit the local movie theater, buy a Durham's Quality Beverage and watch the Gary Cooper classic. A lot of the people in the audience would recognize themselves as extras.
Before the movie, this slide might be projected on the big screen. One quart of Durham's soda sure sounds delicious. It's hard to see in this photo, but there's a little kid shown on the bottle. That's my dad!
I imagine the soda business was a marginal enterprise. The real money was in beer.
Had my grandfather signed up to be a Budweiser distributor, I'd probably be living off a trust fund right now. Instead, he sold Acme beer and, at some point, Falstaff beer. There were probably a bunch of other beers in addition to these. He didn't get rich off it, but he made a living.
Growing up, we had a case of these cloth hats worn by workers in the bottling plant. Seems like every kid that ever visited my house went home with one of these until we ran out after a few years. The Falstaff lighter rarely lights, no matter how much I mess with it.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
Flag Day video
On Thursday I attended a Flag Day ceremony held in the "no man's land" between McKinleyville and Arcata.
Just for the heck of it I decided to shoot some video using my little point-and-shoot digital camera. The camera can only hold about a minute or less of video, so I only shot a few seconds at a time. That makes for a quick montage. Nothing fancy.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
I spent some quality time Tuesday evening working on my bicycles. The first order of business was to complete a long-overdue project – installing my electric bicycle motor on an old bike so that I can sell it.
Here’s a photo of the completed bicycle. For those not familiar with these contraptions, that big ass hub on the front wheel is the motor. That black bag on the rear rack contains the batteries. Pull a lever and – zoom – the motor takes you on a nice little ride- 10 to 15 miles.
I took it for a spin and it’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t make any sense for me anymore. So it’s for sale. Hopefully someone else can get some enjoyment out of it.
The proceeds from the sale will go towards fixing up an old aluminium Cannondale bike, which will become my new racing/touring machine and replace the Mighty Panasonic.
The nice thing about installing the electric motor on the old mountain bike is that it freed up my Specialized Rock Hopper for regular riding. I took it for a spin this evening and stopped to check the graffiti under the Hammond Bridge.
I imagine that a book club meets under the bridge and discusses the works of Charles Bukowski near this mural. Which is better, “Women” or “Ham on Rye”? Then they drink cocktails and read poetry aloud under candlelight.
Further up the road I stopped to take a picture of the bridge from a distance. It’s not much of a photo, but the scenery is spectacular.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
On Saturday I woke up at 7 a.m., put on my cycling clothes, ate a banana, slammed a cup of coffee and pedaled into town for my first real bicycle race – the Opie’s Buick-Chevrolet McKinleyville Criterium.
I figured there would be 10 to 15 participants in the men’s beginner race, but only four signed up – myself, a nice fellow named Pat and two kids that looked like they were in middle school.
Pat was a little older than me and said he’d never entered a race before. The kids were aloof and kept to themselves.
Sizing up the competition, it looked like the kids might be the real threat. Due to their lack of body fat and youthful exuberance, they would probably zoom ahead, leaving Pat and I to duke it out for third place.
I was wrong.
It didn’t take more then a lap and a half to see how things were going to shake out. Pat took the lead and distanced himself from the rest of us. He got further and further ahead until he was eventually out of sight.
The younger of the two kids fell behind and was eventually lapped by the rest of us.
That left me and older kid, who I dubbed “The 14 Year Old.” We played a game of cat and mouse for nearly the entire race, which lasted 20 minutes “plus a lap.”
I drafted him and he drafted me. Given my size, I suspect I was nearly pulling him along at times. Every couple of laps his father would yell “ride the wheel!”
That was good advice.
In retrospect, I should have stayed behind the kid for at least half the race, or more. Let him do all the work and get tuckered out. Then maybe – just maybe – I could have pulled ahead and beat him.
But I had a different strategy. I knew for certain that if we were neck and neck at the end of the race, he would be able to out sprint me and win. My only hope was to hit the corners hard and try to pull ahead in the straight-aways. If I could muster enough energy to put 30 to 40 yards between us, I could win.
I tried and there were a few times that I made some headway, but the kid always caught up.
When the horn sounded for the final lap, I knew I was doomed. The kid pulled ahead. He was a yard ahead, two yards, three yards, four yards. By the time we were on the backstretch, he was standing up and making some serious progress.
I was giving it my all and there was nothing I could do about it. I crossed the finish line and took third place, or second to last.
I caught up to the kid as we circled around the .67 mile course to cool down. We made the obligatory “good race” comments and that was the end of the conversation. We both struggled to catch our breath. He looked like he had over exerted himself and was in a little bit of pain – just like me.
There was a lot of interesting chit chat at the finish line, then I pedalled home, took a shower, changed into street clothes and pedalled back into town – this time on the Suburban – to cover the expert-pro race for the paper.
That race was exciting and fun to watch.
Later, as I reflected on my first race, I came to the conclusion that I’m nothing more than a slowpoke recreational rider.
I’d like to compete in the sport class, but it’s going to take a lot of work – more than just a few training rides.