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Monday, November 25, 2019 2 comments

Granddaughter Dearest!

Say hi to AJ, born Saturday afternoon around 4:30pm local time.

Keep me covered!
She was a month early, extending our streak to three generations. I was a month early, so was Daughter Dearest, and now AJ… all for different reasons. Still, she is doing fine, and might get to come home as early as Thursday (Turkey Day). As preemies often do, she has a touch of jaundice and spends some time in a tanning booth (the NICU version, anyway).

DD and I went down to NICU to see and feed her yesterday evening. DD was rubbing her head, and she got visibly irritated and calmed down instantly when she quit… so she’s already showing some preferences (besides hating to be cold). She also didn’t want to eat, pressing her lips together tight. The nurse persuaded her, though. I told her, “I’m gonna call you AJ,” and she gave me a half-smile and a fart. I guess she approved!

We’ve been a little concerned about DD’s high blood pressure, which was a side-effect of the pregnancy. But after she stood up a couple of times, it returned to a normal range. The nurse said it should go away soon, but the BP was what prompted the early escape this generation.

Back at FAR Manor, we’re in a flurry of activity. We’re sending Charlie’s crib mattress to DD for AJ’s crib, and working on converting his crib to a regular bed (he doesn’t have a lot of room to stretch out in the crib now). That on top of Turkey Day.

Saturday, November 23, 2019 No comments

I want to ride my bicycle

Long ago, I observed TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Laptop). I got a throwaway from work, but had to spend $120 to replace all three batteries. In those days, there was the main battery, the CMOS battery, and a “bridge” battery (which kept the system state up long enough to swap in a fresh main battery).

More recently, I find a similar adage holds: TANSTAAFB (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Bicycle).

The Boy found that, when you own a moving company, people give you stuff they don’t want to keep for whatever reason. One of his customers gave him a mid-range road bike—a Fuji Newest 2.0, to be precise. I had a chuckle at the name; I got a mental image of a marketroid trying 'way to hard to come up with something that sounded trendy, then I learned that there are 3.0 and 4.0 versions as well. Now I’m just confused. But I digress. The daughter-in-law was happy to pass it to me, especially since the frame size was perfect for me.

I figure, a “free” road bike is cheaper than buying a second set of wheels for the mountain bike and swapping them as needed (faster than changing tires). Maybe.

Dual action!
A few free weekend hours (amazing!) made themselves available, and I decided to give the Newest bike a trial run. It was a total fiasco: I had no idea how to shift, and the rear derailleur kept hopping between sprockets. Fortunately, both of my brothers are avid cyclists, so I took pictures and texted.

Turns out it’s a “Flight Deck” shifter. The little thumb lever goes up, and you push the brake lever sideways to go down! Other Brother told me, “Once you get the hang of it you can brake and [downshift] at the same time.” It makes sense in a way… if you’re trying to save weight By Any Means Possible, making something that has to exist (like a brake lever) serve two functions is totally logical.

So back on the road. I figured out how to shift the rear easily enough, but the front was frozen… and I was still having the hopping problem. Back to the ol' drawing board, as they used to say a loooooooong time ago.

At the drawing board, or rather flipping the bike upside-down onto a deck box (a/k/a the “camping box,” because I keep all the camping gear in it), I got things halfway sorted. Eyeballing the chain, it was a long way off-center. Shimano’s Sora geartrain has a handy adjustment where the cable enters the rear derailleur, and I got that part taken care of in seconds.

It’s dead, Jim.
Fiddling with the front took a while, but I finally realized what the issue was: the nub holding the spring back on the front derailleur had snapped off! I toyed with the idea of tapping a screw in its place, but decided to bite the bullet and spend the $30 on a replacement. (I also toyed with the idea of just taking the broken derailleur off and having a 9-speed bike, but I'm kind of anal that way.)

I don’t know how old this bike is, but it could have been built any time after 2006 (which makes it newer than my mountain bike, but whatever). Shimano still makes and sells the Sora geartrain, although there have been a few changes over the years. The old front derailleur is a 3304, and the closest replacement I could find was 3030. If it fits, it sits, says I.

One would think mounting a derailleur would be not terribly complicated… but then again, this is FAR Manor. First off, it seems that there are three sizes of seat tubes to contend with. Rather than to maintain three SKUs, Shimano decided to size the clamp for the biggest tube and include shim(ano)s for the next two sizes down. Kinda cheesy, if you ask me, but it seems to work.

Second, the new derailleur has a lot more plastic than the old one. If it made a significant weight difference, I wouldn’t mind, but the newer one might be slightly lighter. Might.

Third one’s the big annoyance. The old derailleur had a screw at the back of the cage (the part that surrounds the chain and pushes it from gear to gear), so it was really easy to take off. Undo the screw, cable, and clamp, and off it comes. The new one is riveted, which means I needed to separate the chain (and rejoin it after threading it through the cage). OK, fine, finding the master link wasn’t difficult, but this doesn’t have the U-shaped clip I was expecting. This is the newer “QuickLink.” Nothing I had would pop that thing loose, so I put Charlie in the Orange Crate and ran up to the local bike shop… only to find they’re closed on Sundays. So in a fit of pique, I went to Amazon and ordered a master link tool and a bike stand. Oh well, I have several other things on the list I can buy local.

The master link tool arrived Tuesday; I popped the chain, mounted the derailleur, then put the chain back together. Things go amazingly fast when you have the right tools. The adjustments had to wait for the bike stand, which arrived Wednesday. The stand also came with a pair of 5mm Allen wrenches, a common size on the Newest, so that was a bonus.

I’ve wanted a bike stand for years, ever since I saw one in use at a bike shop. They get your bike up high enough to work on, and you can work all the controls without having to flip the bike upside down or hold the rear tire off the pavement.

So while I was grabbing a master link tool, I decided to check out stands as well. I settled on one that had pretty good ratings, was less than $60, and folds up when not in use. I should have done this years ago.

Anyway. Initially, it seemed like the new front derailleur would need little adjustment. It hopped from chainring to chainring without issue… except for the chittering in certain rear gears with the middle chainring. I turned the adjustment screws, and the noise went away.

Friday came around. I was working at home due to some issues with Granddaughter Dearest (he next post will almost certainly be her birth announcement/celebration), so I ate a quick lunch, made some last-minute adjustments to the brake pads, aired up the tires (air leaks between rubber molecules at 100psi, I think), and started Shakedown Cruise #2. Still had the issue with the middle chainring, so breaking a sweat in 60F weather while wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt happened but didn’t run as long as I had hoped. I got that sorted, which requires more high-gear adjustments. You can’t do just one thing, I’ve found.

I haven’t rode more than 2 miles on this bike so far, and it’s clear the previous owner rode the living hell out of it. The not-stock tires are nearly new, I’m not sure if the fork and wheels are stock, the frame has here-and-there dings, the left end of the handlebar is ground off at an angle, and there’s a lot of rust in the threads (rather impressive, as the Newest 2.0 has an aluminum frame). Sensors and mount for a bike computer are there, as is a mount for a small 7-LED flashlight, but the computer is gone (the flashlight is still there, though). Some rear accessory was also gone, and the mounting clamp itself was rusted tight, so I cut it off. I kind of get the impression that the front derailleur breaking was the impetus/excuse to get a newer bike (but how could anything be newer than Newest?).

But that’s cool. I’m looking forward to putting a few miles on the bike, and hearing what it has to say about its history. My bro Solar has a “beer and tacos” bike; I have to go more than twice as far has he does for either, but that’s fine. I need more exercise. Maybe I’ll get a trailer to tow Charlie along on my rides; he can have refrieds and rice while I have tacos, and I’ll burn even more calories.

It’s supposed to rain all day tomorrow, so I can put Newest on the stand and get that middle chainring issue adjusted. If all goes well, I can at least ride to the church and back (10.2 miles round-trip) Sunday afternoon.

Friday, November 15, 2019 1 comment

Granddaughter Dearest, an early peek

It’s amazing what they can do with ultrasound these days. They zoomed right in on Granddaughter Dearest’s face…

Look at those duck lips!
Her face is all squooshed… as the Genie might say, “itty bitty living space!” Looks like she has some hair, too, although that could be focus/distortion.

The Blessed Event is about a month away, now… although DD is starting to be less insistent about carrying her to term. “She could decide to come early," DD opined recently. I don’t hold out a lot of hope about sharing a birthday, but whatever the date, it’s all good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 No comments

Fixing supper, redux

Back in May, I blogged about Kroger’s Home Chef meal kits. They’re basically raw ingredients and a recipe card. None of the prep work has been done, which is the only thing that would justify the markup on those kits.

Well, they still have the meal kits, but now they feature recipes on their website as well. Even better, you can get a weekly “meal planning” email with links to five recipes. I haven’t seen a week yet where I want to try all five (each week, at least one of them requires an Instant Pot and I don’t have one), but one or two usually catch my interest and I add them to “My Recipes” for future reference. Of course, they have a helpful feature that lets you add the ingredients to your grocery list. Many have a very short total time listed, but I’ve found those wildly optimistic (or, in the case of the most recent, doesn’t count the time needed to cook pasta). Clearing off work surfaces adds to the total time, but that’s specific to FAR Manor.

So, here’s links and commentary to the recipes I’ve tried so far:
  • Italian Sausage and Pasta Bake—this one was a hit with everybody, including oft-fussy Mason. Wife doesn’t like casing, so I removed them before slicing the sausages. The only wrinkle is that I bought mild Italian sausage and it still came out pretty spicy. Maybe next time, I’ll use “sweet” sausage. And, of course, the total time didn’t include preparing the rotini.
  • Quick Mediterranean Chili—another widely-accepted dish, which actually came in fairly close to the posted prep time (and I doubled the recipe). Wife thought it was a tad spicy, even though I used half the paprika called for. I added a half teaspoon of the ghost pepper sauce The Boy made for me to my bowl, and it perked everything right up.
  • Bacon, Apple, and Sage Stuffed Chicken Breasts—the adults really liked this. The kids were just OK with it. I thought I had sage growing along the driveway, but it must have died out (or the wife hit it with Roundup when she was cleaning up the weeds). I subbed fresh lemon balm for the sage, and (on the wife’s recommendation) rolled them in bread crumbs. Next time, though, instead of slicing into the side to make a pocket, I'll go in from the top and add side chambers. That should keep more of the cheese inside. I like big breasts and I cannot lie, but these were big enough to make two servings per. What I ended up with fed my family and Daughter Dearest’s with some left over… maybe I didn’t have to double the recipe on that one.
Haven’t had a clunker so far, anyway. I have several others I’m planning to try. With any luck, I’ll soon be able to plan a week’s worth of meals and always have something ready.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019 4 comments

Snack break

Recently, those “Balanced Breaks” snacks have captured some attention. It’s a great premise—a snack that concentrates on protein with dried fruit (mostly raisins or cranberries) for carbs. Nice idea, except for all the plastic waste. The “lid” (also plastic) peels off, and there’s no tops that would make the containers reusable. A few probably find their way into basement or garage workshops, as handy trays for holding screws, but the vast majority are destined for the landfill. I suppose if they did make the containers easy to reuse, a lot of people would refill them and not buy more.

So I was in the supermarket recently, saw a display case of Balanced Breaks, and thought, “you know, if they carry small containers with 3 or 4 compartments, I could just make my own and not have to throw away more stuff.”

I wandered over to the container aisle—and though I didn’t find anything small with three or four compartments, I found 2-compartment “meal prep” containers. Close enough!

There was a block of medium cheddar in the fridge that has been waiting for a purpose; I cut it up and diced some leftover ham. Nuts and raisins were in the pantry. Here’s the result.

Looks good enough to eat!

I showed them to the wife and Mason; both liked the idea. “Can I have this one?” Mason asked. No problem, but he stashed it in the fridge. I made another, and that used up the rest of the ham. Since then, I've made some with thick slices of ham from the deli, and even some not-crab (the fake crab meat they make from pollock); one of Sizzle’s kids suggested shrimp. Wife complained that I was using “her” cashews, so I got some almonds (light salt and habenero BBQ) and peanuts. The fruit is either raisins or craisins (dried cranberries)—I should mix them for grins.

I’m calling this one a win.

Sunday, November 03, 2019 1 comment

Charlie speaks (sort of)

A couple Fridays ago, I went to pick up Charlie from daycare, and this is what he looked like:

Fence 1, Nose and Forehead 0
…but he came out grinning!
Seems there’s a downslope at one edge of the playground, with a fence, and Charlie decided to take a trike down the slope at full-tilt-boogie. They said he put his hands out at the last minute, but it didn’t stop the faceplant (or was it a fenceplant?). The scuff scabbed over, and could be seen a long way off, before it finally started healing. Fortunately, it’s nearly gone now. I carried the incident report from the daycare around with me for a while, in case someone accused me of something they shouldn’t.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Charlie’s speech therapy is finally starting to pay off. He still can’t do hard consonants, but he can say several things recognizable as words: “gah-dah” (Granddad), “gah-ma” (Grandmom), “ow-ooo” (out, as in outside), “uh!” (up), “banana” (his favorite snack food) and a couple other things on occasion. The therapist is working on getting him a Dynavox, a tablet with speech software. You tap an icon and it speaks for him. She tried him on one she was setting up for another patient, and he took to it right away. Still, the old grunt-and-point often gets him a long way toward being understood. He’ll put a whiny edge on it when he wants something, too.

I observed recently that he’s looking less like a baby and more like a little boy these days. He wants to do more things for himself, which is commendable. One recent evening, we read a few books, and he held one and turned the pages after I read the text. He’s been working on dressing himself as well, and can do all but the shirt (The Boy, advanced as he was, didn’t start dressing himself until he was 4). He is even showing a preference for which car he wants to ride in… either M.O. the B.B. (huge pickup) or the Miata (tiny roadster).

Now if I could only get him to expand his approved proteins list…


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