the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero


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The Awkward Pause

Super busy and not feeling too awesome right now… I’ve got writing plans in my head but having difficulty with time and energy to churn them out, like Norrin Radd/Silver Surfer and the rest of the Monomyth.

Hang tight, dear readers… I will come back to you with that good stuff.

Life is as it is– all that which I have called homesteading and such.  Much of the battle that’s keeping me away from here, is trying to keep up with there.  Know what I mean?  Cool.

Current pet peeve: No Google, I do not want to use my real name.  My username is unique.  Madison Avenue and Wall Street are just going to have to figure out how to whore out to that.  Thanks.


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Solar cooking

It worked well last time (about a week ago) with a Cornish game hen, so today I'm doing a ham.

This is a Tulsi solar-electric hybrid oven.  It folds up and can be carried like a giant suitcase.  It is manufactured in India and a note that came with the package says that solar cooking is an ancient method there.  The lid has a reflective mirror and the side reflectors are removable.  The oven also has two electric heating elements that can be plugged in with an optional AC cord connected, and there are two rocker switches to turn them on and off.

I bought this a few years ago so I could avoid heating up the house in the hottest months of the summer here, which is July and August.  It took me this long to figure it out, hehe.  Right now I am using it for defrosting and slow cooking.  If all goes well I will try using it to make yogurt, although I think it may be yet too hot to do that right now.

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Homemade custard-style yogurt

(Adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking: You Can Make Yogurt In Your CrockPot, which was shared with me by an old schoolmate and friend.)

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I wasn't sure if it would work, but it seems to have turned out fine.

I talked to my mother beforehand and she said I could use powdered milk, with double the usual amount of powder.  We have a lot of powdered milk, and it's important to me to use what we have on hand.  She also recommended the Lucerne yogurt in the small cup size, which is available at the grocery store we do most of our shopping at.  So that's what I did– mixed up a quart per the directions, with 4 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups powdered milk.  I figured that was enough for the 2-quart slow cooker we have.  I added a cup of Lucerne yogurt (vanilla at the same price, but figured the flavor would be helpful).

Because that particular crockpot has only two settings, I wound up setting it to low and then turned it off after maybe an hour or two– but still wrapped it in a towel.  It must have carmelized the sugar somewhat because what I got was a rather custardy yogurt that was slightly like cottage cheese in texture.  I strained it through a pillowcase, as there was a bit of water left.  I'm sure something went right, as I could see there was more there than the amount of starter I used.

So far, Cimmy and Jak Jr. really like it, so I'll count it as a success.  Now, if I could only find Princess… we allowed her to play outside as long as she was within earshot.  If only she knew the deliciousness that awaits her (not to mention her mother is threatening to eat it if she won't)…!  Oh.  I see now.  She's just come in now.  She was waiting for the ice cream truck.

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Apple Has Declared War on the Tinkerers of the World

I understand you Neighbors of mine that are Mac users may never wish to tinker with your machines, but it does appear that Apple is moving to punish you if you decide to.

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So I guess I had a walkabout today?

 My mornings have a nice predictability.  I get up, and I walk my daughter to the school bus stop.

Today was a bit of an adventure, though.  It simply started where I wanted to walk with a donation down to the nearby thrift shop.  They have a drop box on the corner of the street, so I did so.  Then I decided I wanted to walk over to the hospital's Diabetes Education building to weigh myself.  353 pounds.  Nice.  But I wanted to go on, so I walked to the library, to see if they had any books I wanted or movies to check out.  Not open yet.  OK.  I go to the adjacent park and get a drink.  They're open when I return.  I request "The Te of Piglet" at one of the catalog search terminals.  Meanwhile, there is nothing on the shelves that I want.

I'm very hungry; I hadn't eaten breakfast yet.  So I go further downtown to the Sun Mart that has a Subway, have a nice 6" buffalo chicken sub, and scribble the note you see above.  Walked past the old Sunburst video– quite a shame the business had to fold.  Looked at the beauty school that's located now in the old Penguin Plumbing building.  Wondered if they still had Halloween makeup.  (When I still played Live Action roleplay, such was needed now and then.)  Thought about going to the Big 5 sporting goods store on my way back to get camera binoculars.  Decided against it and continued on to Schuck's/O'Reilly's auto supply store to get a reuseable K&N air filter for the car.  Decided to get an oil filter of the same brand.  Hopefully it will pay off in the long run.

Did not want to climb the hilly street next to the store, so I doubled back to the street alongside the Catholic elementary school to take advantage of a shortcut only available to pedestrians.  Got home and had Cimmy put the air filter in.  The oil pump works, but there was no way she could get at the oil filter without crawling under the car, and we don't have the means to do that very well.  Besides, so little oil was drawn out and she thought she was missing something.  So we gave up and she took it to Wal-Mart to have it changed.

Now, if only I had the resources those trained monkeys do… 

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Just another little project.

I apologize for the poor quality of the last two photos.

I got my father-in-law to cut me some panel board to 3” X 10” specifications, and after he delivered them today during a visit, I finished this a few hours ago.  The crate-style boards that were removed from the top and bottom (that were replaced by the panel board) created the lip edges and reinforcements in the back.  I had to cut one of the panels so it would fit on top and extend the rather shallow board in the middle.

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QotD: Return on Aisle Two

Have you ever returned an item to a store for a refund after having used it?

Ah, another one of those morality questions, designed to measure your honesty.  Look, I spent some time working in retail, so I will share my perspective after quickly telling my story.

Princess Thunderstorm (Cimmy) and I went to visit a friend in Vancouver, WA (suburb of Portland, OR).  My son was very young at the time and he needed a playpen to sleep in.  We could not fit ours in the car.  Our friend helped us out by purchasing one at a local Wal-Mart and when we left, we gave it back to her so she could return it.  We used it for just one night and so there was not significant wear and tear.

She works in retail (or at the time, she did), and I have worked in retail, too.  This is how I see it:

  1. Ideally, a return should be when something doesn't fit, isn't the right color, etc. but is unused.  I think, however, that some flexibility should be granted when the item has been used very little and the product is still in excellent shape.  Stores process these items accordingly– they do not always put them right back on the regular shelves.
  2. Saving receipts is a must, or allow the store to retain a little information about you– say, if you have a credit/debit card, have a membership card, or whatever.  This helps them cut down on fraud by tracking the purchase.
  3. There is a point of no return.  Generally, I like to buy clothes at a brick and mortar store.  If I have to order online, I have found that I should have precise measurements so I get the right size the first time.  Of course, if you have sweat, bled, or otherwise expelled bodily wastes on it, forget it.  If you have broken it– forget it.
  4. There are folkways against regifting and there is a certain ingratitude seen in item returns/exchanges at the holidays, but there are times when it is appropriate to loan, or donate and there are organizations to help with that.  Look into thrift shops, service organizations, Freecycle, Craigslist, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, or see if someone you know can use it.  I have, and have been thanked for it, too.  Look to those places as well if you need an item, but not for very look.  The Knights of Columbus loaned me a walker and a wheelchair after my back surgery, asking simply that I let them know when they could reclaim them for someone else in need to use.
  5. Not to slam Chinese manufacturing, but because shipping overseas is so expensive, it's better to buy something used that you know is of solid construction rather than something cheap that will break.  I remember buying an Osterizer blender because it was a brand my mother trusted and I knew I could always get parts for it.  I use it as a blender and a food processor.  Although the original processor attachment bit the dust, I found other parts that would do the job.
  6. I follow the Owner's Manifesto and Repair Manifesto and fix items rather than buy again.

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New computer shelf

What's different, you say?  Compare carefully with the older picture:

The desk now has a plywood shelf that raises the monitor to eye level, the scanner has been moved down on that shelf at a more accessible spot, and… oh, just figure out the differences yourself.  (I will say the green on the monitor screen says I am running Linux Mint.)

I love my father-in-law.  I consider this a belated second part of a wonderful birthday gift.

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