My attempt to move from Southern California and create a happy and sustainable urban homestead in North Dakota, with some musings on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Few New Books

It's been a bit quiet on the ole blog here for the last few days.  There's been no crazy weather to speak of, though it's -10 right now with wind chills around -25.  The Wind Chill warnings don't even get me really excited anymore, it's just chilly.  Though I did take out the recycling to the garage this evening in nothing more than shorts and a t-shirt, it was indeed brisk.

So being that the weather hasn't been blog-worthy and the four legged inhabitants haven't partaken in any entertaining shenanigans, there hasn't been much to say.  That and this week has demanded some actual work time and attention.  Not the excuse you expect from a slacker like me, that it's da truth. 

You can also blame the lack of blogress (that's a combination of blog & progress) on a recent reading binge.  With the help of my library matron, Professor Alycia, I have an unlimited well of books at my disposal.  I spent the last weekend/week reading a couple of books that have been on my list for several years - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.

Both were great reads, highly entertaining and humorous pieces of fiction.  I'd recommend them strongly.  I also have a handful of Christmas books to get crackin' on.  Too many books, not enough free time to read them all. 

And in case you want to purchase either of those books for a friend, you can access my Amazon Associates page on the blog.  Yes it's a new feature, and yes I've totally sold out.  This shouldn't shock you.  If you happen to be in the market for something from Amazon.com, access the site through my blog, I'll get a referral for it, and you'll get my undying gratitude.  OK, now I feel dirty for pushing the hard sell on you all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Vanity Fair Article - Roll Over, Charles Darwin!

A highly entertaining travel afield review of Kentucky's Creation Museum, where dinosaurs and people frolic side by side, science be damned.  

Vanity Fair Article - Roll Over, Charles Darwin!

Here's an exceprt:

"The Garden of Eden is well worth the trip to Petersburg, Kentucky. Seeing as this museum is in the literal-truth business, this must be the literal Garden of Eden. This is exactly what it looked like. This is no simile, no mock-up, no artist’s impression. This is it. And it takes your breath away. Sharing the perfect rest stop with Adam is a whole mess of animals. There’s a worried-looking sheep, a fox, a chimp, a wallaby, a bear, a llama, a scarlet ibis, a fallow deer, an ibex, a cougar, a dinosaur, and a snake. It could be the diorama in a hunting-goods store. The animals aren’t doing much, just hanging out, waiting for something to happen. There’s nothing to do. No hunting, no mating, no nesting, no getting better, no getting worse. Just the infinite drip, drip, drip of bliss. Things that weren’t in the Garden of Eden at its planting but came later as part of the fruit-knowledge-shame-punishment plea bargain—poison weeds, carnivores, carrion eaters, fear, and thorns—are of great concern to creationists. A fossil with thorns is proof that it must have been made after the fall from Eden, because Genesis is quite specific about Eden’s being un-sharp and blunt, or, you might say, dull and pointless."

Professor Cummings In The News

One of Alycia's colleagues has grade school aged children, who in exchange for being subjects for Alycia asked that she attend their most recent Science Club meeting.  The event was covered by the local newspaper - The Grand Forks Herald.  Even though she mentioned that news photographers took many photos of her, sadly none of them made it to the paper.  This article ran on the front of the B section - City and Region

Here's the article in its entirely.  You can also (hopefully) read the article through this link.

On the same wavelength

St. Michael’s Elementary Science Club studies sound 
 

About two dozen third- through sixth-grade students at St. Michael’s Elementary School in Grand Forks put their voices and ears to good use Thursday afternoon.

The members of the school’s Science Club donned electro caps and headphones, tapped and blew into glass bottles filled with water and made noises into microphones and plastic tubes, each exercise with one subject in mind.

“The idea I want you to get used to is waves,” said Sarah Robinson, professor at UND’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She and fellow professor Alycia Cummings have been studying children’s brain and sound waves in their research models. On Thursday, they were joined by eight UND students to bring a little of their classroom to St. Mike’s.

The Science Club kids took turns wearing the “biosemi hats,” which look like swim caps with 64 connections for electrodes plugged in to record brain waves. Students are shown and asked to identify images. Their responses are measured in waves from parts of the brain that deal with vision, memory and comprehension.

“There’s all sorts of activity going on in your brain,” Cummings said. “We’re trying to learn how your brain is coming up with that word. How do you think brain waves get smaller?”

“You don’t need to think about it as much,” came a quick answer.

The students learned how their vocal folds, facial muscles and scalp muscles all assist in making and changing sounds and their frequencies.

Nicole Lee is the organizer of the club, which has been meeting every third Thursday since September. She said Father Gerard Braun has tasked the club with monitoring a crack in the choir loft of St. Michael’s Church. She said she wouldn’t be surprised to see the kids correlate the impact of sound waves on the crack.

“They create their own experiments and come up with results you wouldn’t expect,” Lee said. “I don’t have to give them much guidance.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vocabulary Day

We're gonna learn some new vocabulary today.  Are you ready?  We learned in the paper yesterday that the cool, frozen fog that painted the trees with delicate white frost is actually called hoarfrost (suppress your juvenile jokes children).  You can see the definition for hoarfrost here.

Our other vocabulary word is an odd weather condition called graupel.  Graupel exists in the strange nether world between hail and snow, it's soft hail, not quite fully formed snow.  Since it's neither hail or snow, it gets it own special word.  You can see the definition for graupel here

The odd thing about the word graupel is that I've never heard it before in my life, but today I read it twice, within an hour of one another, from two totally different sources - The San Diego Union Tribune and the Grand Forks Herald.  It turns out that the weather conditions in both San Diego and Grand Forks actually have the possibility for this odd weather phenomenon.  Weird.   

Now that you've learned something, here's your reward.  More cool pictures from the hoarfrost the other day.  Admittedly these are a day late, but I have an excuse, I've been fixing the snowblower in preparation for this weekends big storm, another foot or so of snow is on the way, and I gotta be ready. 

Here's a picture of the Riverside Park near our house.  

Another picture from the park. 

My intrepid photojournalist sidekick in her lovely brown cardigan.  I don't claim to be a mind reader (in fact I frequently make statements to the contrary) but I think that look is the "Uhhhh when can we go running again?" look.  Soon enough, soon enough. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pictures of the Freezing Fog Aftermath

Got your attention there, didn't I?  Was it the freezing fog?  Aftermath?  The promise of pictures instead of poring through my tedious prose?  

Starting at midday yesterday the whole Red River Valley (which includes Grand Forks - this is your geography lesson for the day) was under a dense fog advisory.  The last week or so has seen very mild temperatures, and yesterday we had some "warmer" southern winds that crept up and created the dense fog.  During the day this was cool, and quite odd since that type of fog is rare around here, but at night the temperatures dropped well below freezing again, meaning that whatever the fog touched, it stuck to.

We woke up in the morning to a scene even more dramatic than after a big snowstorm.  In stead of white snow everywhere, everything was coated in fine white frost, the trees look like they have bright white leaves, it looked very cool indeed.  A world that had been turned into Frosted Mini-Wheat Land.   

In following my standard opearting procedure, I waited until the normal job-having folks left for work before I ambled out in my own yard and snapped pictures like a tourist.  I feel as though this is a good policy to have in order to help the acclimation process and so Alycia and I don't look like, well, like folks who fell off the proverbial turnip truck from California. Unfortunately I stepped out the front door and who's standing on the sidewalk, but our neighbor from across the street.  Luckily he was taking pictures too and said that he'd never seen anything like this before, which made me feel better about snapping pictures on my own sidewalk. 
   
Here's a picture looking down our street to the west, taken from the front sidewalk. 

The other street, pointing north with some frosty trees. 

This is the view from the balcony, towards the southwest over the driveway.  It's hard to believe, but that huge pile of snow to the left of the tree is my garden area.  Seriously, in a few months there's gonna be all manner of green things growing there.  Hopefully.

 More frosty treetops.

I'm gonna wrangle up the pooch in a bit and walk out to the park for a National Geographic-esque photo expedition.  The trees are denser there and should have some more dramatic pictures.  Now you'll have to come back tomorrow and see what photo journalistic excellence I have captured. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Day of Mourning

Howdy faithful blog readers.  I don't have a lot to say today, feeling sad and mopey after the Chargers utter and complete playoff debacle yesterday.  With very little hope for the Padres for the next two to four years, all my hopes were pinned on the Chargers, and as usual they disappointed yet again.  I'll leave it at that and just wallow around like a sad panda today.  :(

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Class War - How Public Servants Became Our Masters

How about some fun reading for a Thursday?  I challenge you to read this article without feeling sick to your stomach.  Not in the gross, dead body kind of way, but in the "I understand now why our cities are being flushed down the toilet in California".  I read it and immediately wanted to go and hug a Libertarian....


Class War - How Public Servants Became Our Masters

Can Farming Heal the City of Detroit?

Some interesting ideas on how to reconstruct the city of Detroit.  Can farming reclaim the land from the disuse and squalor and broken down houses and return jobs, fill local tax coffers, and give the community something to be proud of?  We shall see, but it is an interesting experiment, one which other Rust Belt cities will be watching carefully. 

Can Farming Heal the City of Detroit?

Loose Ends

I realized today that I never wrapped up our pre-Christmas poll, sorry there faithful readers.  I dropped the ball on this one.  But the poll results did give me a measure of great satisfaction knowing that I'm preaching to like minded souls.  More than half of the poll respondents need their cup of coffe ASAP, even though it's Christmas morning and there are presents to open and festivities to enjoy.   On a certain level it's good to know that my readers are also cafeine junkies.

I'll also try to come up with a new poll today to both dazzle and astound y'all.  

Alycia and I had an evening out on the town yesterday, went out for a delicious dinner at one of our favorite restaurants downtown - The Toasted Frog, then to purchase some cross country skis.  Yeah it's a bit of an extravagance, but we're going to use them for years to come, and if they help us look forward to winter by having a fun winter time activity, it's worth the expense.  And in my opinion anything that encourages physical activity and exercise out in nature is a good thing. 

So cross country skiing might take the place of running for me during the winter.  I think I can manage two to three days a week of moseying around on skis through the park just a couple of blocks from the house.  Lot's of potential here.  I'm gonna venture out in a bit here, for some mid-week cross country skiing, it should be fun. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tiny Cupcake Giveaway

My blogging compatriot, and friend from San Diego, Sara over at Sweet Somethings is giving away free sweets.  Free tiny cupcakes to be exact, made through her Sarandipity website. They're delicious, though you must grapple with the guilt of destroying a baked creation so cute that it seems criminal.  But once you overcome your instincts not to destroy such a lovely creation, you'll be glad you did, as they are yummy. 

All you have to do is leave a comment on her blog or Facebook site to be entered into the contest. 

You can follow this link to the giveaway location.  Good luck.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cross Country Skiing

Alycia and I have been discussing cross country skiing for quite a while now, thinking that a fun enjoyable outdoor activity will be just what we need to look forward to the snow and winter wonderland that is North Dakota for 5 months (approximately) out of every year.  We visited the local ski shop and looked at the bottom of the line cross country ski package, and it was pricey enough that we wanted to make sure that it was enjoyable enough before we dropped a few dollars on our own skis, poles, and boots. 

So on Sunday we went down to Lincoln Park where they check out cross country skis, ice skates, and sleds for free (awesome!!) and picked up some cross country skis.  Seriously, how awesome of a city is that rents this stuff for free in its local parks.  So we got geared up and set out on the trails, spent an hour and a half zipping around the huge park, and had a great time.  The temperature was in the pleasant range 15 above or so, but there was a stiff wind, which made it seem pretty chilly.  We were definitely done after an hour and half. 

As you can imagine, the whole town is geared for cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and other modes of frozen conveyance.  There are a ton of skiing routes (you can see them here) around town, and you can pretty much get from our house in Riverside Park on the north end, all the way down to downtown, and through Lincoln Park to the south end of town.  

Alycia had only been downhill skiing before, and not only had a great time, but took to it like a Presbyterian to rummage.  Considering that it's great exercise and very accessible (part of the trail starts right near our house in Riverside Park), there are very likely some skis in our future.  And next time, I promise we'll try to remember the camera so you can see how much fun you aren't having.

Volleyball Tourney Results

So the results from the Center Court Snowball Volleyball tournament on Saturday were less than stellar.  In fact we didn't win a game, though not for lack of trying.  Our team captain who organized the ordeal didn't know that the level of competition would be so strong and well above a team that hadn't ever played together (us).  Add our newness as a team to the fact that many other teams were littered with former Division 1 college volleyball players, and were just outmatched from the get go.

I learned a few things about how to play indoor volleyball, the plays you run and such, so that was something to build upon.  I also learned that if the other team has 2 to 3 girls that are my height, the outcome may not be in our favor.  Seriously, there were some really tall girls there.  

We all had a great time though and will play together again in the league starting at the end of the month.  It was also a very entertaining and active way to spend a Saturday afternoon/evening, and though I missed both NFL playoff games, that was OK since they were both un-entertaining blowouts.  This weekend - Go Chargers!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Volleyball Tourney Weekend

Guess what sports fans?  We've found a way to parlay our previous wallyball team into an actual volleyball team.  The four members of the wallyball squad plus a substitute that helped us out when I was out of town have formed, Voltron-style, to become what I hope will be an invincible squad of indoor volleyballers (though to be honest, I've never played indoor volleyball, only beach volleyball). 

The new volleyball league starts in a couple of weeks, but there's a tournament tomorrow that should serve as an adequate warm up/get acquainted session for the new teammates. You may hear some odd noises Saturday afternoon coming from the direction of the Center Court Fitness Club in Grand Forks, but don't be alarmed, that will just be the newly formed squad dominating us some sucka-chumps.

Once the league starts up, I'll relay our stats, triumphant tales, and any other news.  I'm not sure what our team name is since I'm not in charge (for once).  I would have opted for the team name "Unprotected Sets", though the wholesome folks here might not have been too keen on that.  I was also thinking I may unearth and reanimate our former beach team name - John and His Minions, that would be rad. 

In weather news, the high for Saturday is forecast to 5 above, and I couldn't be more excited, it's the warmest it'll be here in a week.  Next week is rumored to have a chance to get into the mid-20's.  Praise Jeebus. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Laboratory Grown Meat

Ah the progress of science.  Soon, we're promised, we'll be able to enjoy a tasty pork chop or rib eye steak without the messy ethical quandaries that are endemic in eating delicious animals.  How is this possible?  It turns out that scientists are in the process of perfecting laboratory grown meat and are a few years away from having a commercially viable product (at least that's what they say). 

No more ethical quandary, but what about the nutritional morass that come with eating something grown in a lab?  Well, let's not focus on that for now.....

Laboratory Grown Meat - Coming Soon to Your Dinner Plate

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Only Top Ten List I Read

Yay, verily it will come to pass that the year will end and everyone and their brother (and their cousin, friend, and friend of a friend) will spawn a Top 10 Something of the Year list.  Like the rising and setting of the sun, the pull of the year end list is inevitable, and impossible to avoid.  This is further compounded by the end of the decade and the same people who produced the other lists also feel compelled to create a Top 10 or Top 100 of the Decade list.  I read very few of these lists, especially when it comes to music, where everyone seems to have a top ten list. 

I usually quickly skim the 10 Best Album/Song/Artist of the year articles every year, but once I see Taylor Swift, Coldplay, or Lady Gaga on the list, I realize that the list, like the artists mentioned in the list is complete and unmitigated crap and quickly leave.  Does this make me a pretentious music snob?  Yeah, probably.  But I'm perfectly OK with that. 

There's one list though that I actually pay very close attention to, and that is Paul Shirleys'.  Paul is a former pro basketball player turned author, who writes for espn.com about music.  I appreciate not only his musical recommendations, but also his writing, which pulls no punches without being unnecessarily caustic, and is never dumbed down for the masses.

I usually forget about his columns for 6 to 8 months, then at the end of the year, when aforementioned crappy Top 10 Lists come out I think "Holy crap I forgot about Paul Shirley".  I then guiltily track down his article and spend the next 2-3 weeks in a non stop orgy of reading the previous 6 months of his columns and listening to hundreds of tracks by several dozen new bands.  Out of the 50 or 60 bands I listen to, I usually find a handful that are worthy to purchase the album, and lo, things are right in the universe again.  Thanks Paul, you're now my cool imaginary friend who recommends great bands.  I'm missing the "actual" friends who recommend great bands, since I moved to North Dakota away from all my actual cool friends, I'm very appreciative of my imaginary friend Paul. 

You can read the full Top 10 Albums of the Year here, and if you're into music, I would also highly recommend going back and reading some of his archives, they're chock full of great music writing and give me numerous suggestions of new bands to check out.  His articles also have links to just about every band so you're just a click away from sampling Frightened Rabbit (try the song "Poke") or Manchester Orchestra (I dig "Pride"), very cool indeed.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Record Low And Non-Record Snow

Some weather related info here.  Yeah you're probably getting sick of all the posts about snow and cold and whatnot, but either propose some other topics (and they'll be taken under advisement) or deal with it.

It turns out that Blizzard Alvin, our Christmas Day gift from the weather gods, while a tremendous blizzard in its own right, was not a record.  The Grand Forks Herald did a thorough search of the historical record and found a larger snowstorm in 1966, and another in 1996 that preceded the huge floods in Grand Forks.  Why it took several days to discover something that happened in 1996 is beyond me, but we won't focus on that.  The other snowstorms were something like 31 and 27 inches respectively, so Blizzard Alvin likely ranks a solid third in "biggest snow events in Grand Forks history".

In other weather news.  Last night was a record low for this date, -35 degrees at the airport, breaking the old record of -27 degrees.  Now mind you, this is just the air temperature, no wind chill is factored in.  It was -35 degrees overnight and I can tell you that it was darn cold.  By the time we got up in the morning and took this picture (around 8:30 am), it had warmed to about -26 (see photo below).

Even though it's sunny, the thermometer says that it's a bit chilly outside.

So what does one do when it gets chilly outside?  You find a comfy chair, get a nice warm dog on your lap, cover up with a flannel shirt, and hunker down for a nice nap. 

New Reader Shout Outs

As you may well know, our policy here is to gratefully acknowledge each individual who subscribes to this wonderful blog with their own personalized shout out.  Due to the tremendous interest generated by the Family Holiday newsletter, we were able to increase our subscriber base by a whopping 40%!!!  This would normally be amazing until you realize that we merely added two new subscribers to the five we had previously.

So let's give a warm welcome to Yonni and Emma who became new subscribers to our lovely blog, possibly as some sort of New Years Resolution to take pity on me and increase my readership.

I've known Yonni since the first days of Junior High School, almost 20 years now, which is just a baffling amount of time.  And though he has forsaken the Stars and Stripes for the proud Maple Leaf of Canada, we don't hold that against him, unless of course he actually knows the lyrics to O' Canada, in which case he's dead to me.

Emma is a part of our Pacific Northwest contingent and is in the Top 5 of my "People You Need To Have Along When Venturing Forth For An Adult Beverage or Two" list.  Hopefully the homestead will eventually end up in Oregon and we can hang out with her and her doting beau Geoff more often.

Welcome to both of you.  May your presence enlighten us and your clicking generate thousands of dollars of ad revenue.