..And Top with QuickCrete Frosting...

Sometimes, I'm pretty amused at the odd directions my work takes me. Specifically--one of the follow up studies for my job in Vermont was to perform material property testing on some building material samples that I collected. One step was to dry the samples down to 0% moisture content, as per ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) Standard C67: Standard Test Methods for Sampling and Testing Brick and Structural Clay Tile. So what does that mean?

Yep, I got to bake bricks! Okay, structural clay tile, actually. Strangely, the standard does not call for inserting a toothpick into the sample to find out if it is done.

Another test was to perform a 5-hour boiling absorption test. So JMD came home to this on the stove:

"Uh, Bats, why are you boiling bricks?"

"Making stock. You have to boil the heck out of them to get the flavor out."

I somehow managed to resist tasting the brick stock to see how it was coming along. However--no matter how long I boiled it, fall-off-the-bone my butt... it didn't soften up.

Anyway--ta dah! Ready to be plated.

Order up!


Adventures in Car Audio

Back over Christmas, I was at a loss for a good, personalized present for my sweetie. Fortunately, I came up with something--given my tinkering skills, I figured I should offer them up: so I gave her this gift certificate:

This gift certificate entitles the recipient to one (1) day of House Project / Construction / Furniture building / miscellaneous services. Services shall be rendered upon tender of certificate.

She had a great idea on what to collect with--her driver's side car speaker has been intermittent (and then dead) for close to a year now. Sure I'll do that--come on over!

Yeah, I know, too cute. My Subaru is the one that is older (1992!!), smaller, less sporty, and more weathered. Like me!

Anyway, I was hoping that speaker replacement would be a matter of simply pulling off a speaker cover or something. Nuh-huh. Turns out that you have to remove the entire door panel to replace a speaker. Grr. Fortunately, Sarah owns the Haynes manual for her car, and we followed the instructions to disassemble the door panel--mostly successful; not too many disasters:

I also told her to pose with the removed car door panel:

and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

Anyway... diagnosis time. Hrm... no obvious problems with a visual inspection. Wiggle all the connections, and look for corrosion on the terminals? Nope. Continuity from the wire terminals to the speaker lugs? Checks out. Wait... I have a set of half-broken old speakers in my junk pile... temporarily connected it... yep, the original speaker is shot. Argh.

I suggested that we head to the Buy More Best Buy and pick up car speakers, to avoid reassembling and re-disassembling the car door.

Man... it's been a while since I had such an object lesson on how incompetent their staff is. We already figured out that it was a 6-1/2" speaker with... say... a ruler. We flagged down a salesbot, and he tried to convince us that it was a 5-1/4" speaker. After more fruitless conversation, we wandered off into the aisles. Fortunately, Sarah could get signal on her iPhone--Crutchfield to the rescue! She could get the list of compatible speakers by car model year, and then cross-reference the speakers on the shelves with how they were rated by users.

And people wonder why I think brick-and-mortar stores have a limited use. One set of Sony Xplods later, we were heading out the door.

Installation went smoothly, although I had to resort to a headlamp and flashlights when finishing off the passenger side installation.

As a final note... as we were wrapping up and putting things away, Sarah picked up the old speaker that I had sitting on top of the washing machine.

"Ugh... this speaker is sticky... I think it got stuck to your washing machine or something..."

"Um. Magnet?"


We both had a good laugh over that one.


A Weekend in Maine

I had a weekend up in Maine with Sarah; sadly, the reason for this trip was that her grandfather is not well at all, and much of the family is travelling up to see him. Travel and visiting was most of Saturday and Sunday, through the early afternoon. But the drive back had a few things worth sharing.

We stopped in Portland on the way back (including Cape Elizabeth). We got to briefly check out the sights--from Crescent Beach...

...to Portland Head Light (obligatory postcard shot!)...

...to the local wastewater treatment facility! (okay, so we just drove by it on the bridge. But I found it interesting enough to find the web page about its construction).

Dinner was in Portland, at Street & Company--a great little seafood place, in a cobblestone alley off of the main drag. The Yelp reviews were really good... with many recommending the lobster fra diavlo. Yep... that's what we ordered (seafood with a spicy tomato sauce and pasta... including a whole split lobster):

We also had some "taste" side dishes to start--tomato and parmesan clafoutis (somewhat like a tiny quiche), and a small red pepper stuffed with crab mean. Both great... but man, the fra diavlo was amazing. Sarah taught me a thing or two about extracting the last bits of meat out of lobster (e.g., the fins on the tail actually have a nice morsel, if you crack them open).

But I have to say that the aftermath from our feast made me want to describe our dinner as, "spicy red sauce seafood massacre":

Like I said, yum. Strong recommend.

Finally, I had to drag Sarah over to the docks, to see if a certain boat that I know is still there:

Yep, the Bay View Lady is still in the water and in business, Amie. That fact makes me smile for some reason.

The Brown Mountain State

Last Monday was a work trip up to Vermont (West Rutland, to be exact)--about three hours from Boston. A nice drive both ways--although I have to say that this time of year, Vermont is more of a Brown Mountain State than anything else.

After completing my work in the early afternoon, I decided to have a nice slow meander back home--I wasn't going to be very productive, so I thought I'd let myself stop at those spots where I wanted to linger and check things out on the way up. For instance, passing by this piece of machinery in a scrapyard--"WTF is that?!"

Can't say I really figured it out. Apparently, the Traylor company made mills for the mining industry. It looks like the round indentation is a some kind of a ginormous bearing, with babbit surfaces.

I made stops on the way for maple syrup, lunch in Rutland (The Sandwich Shoppe--a thoroughly tasty and unhealthy chili wrap), and a coffee/snack break. Oh yeah, and postcards, of course. A lovely serendipitous find--allechante in Woodstock, VT.

It felt like the area I was driving through was kinda the ski resort/upscale/tourist/yuppie axis of Vermont--looking at the cars going by seemed at times like: "Subaru.. Volvo.. other... Subaru.. other.. Jeep... Volvo... other... Subaru..." There are actually three Subarus in the photo below, but I didn't frame it quite right:

A quick stop at the LL Bean outlet store on the way back, and dropping off maple syrup for my sweetie. A good day.