Friday, March 23, 2007

Fill 'er up

Yesterday was my second fill-up: 7.231 gallons with a trip odometer reading 298.3 miles for a "tank mpg" of 41.3 mpg. The "consumption screen" claimed 45.5 mpg for a total of 297 miles. Um, I don't think so??

This last tank included a highway trip, doing speeds as high as 65 mph. It also included a day when I had to shovel the car out from under a load of icy snow, while the car sat still for 20 minutes burning gas to run the front and rear defrosters. All things considered, not too bad.

Now that the weather is warming up it will be interesting to see if the mileage improves.

A review of "Dead Like Me - The Complete Second Season"

by Tony Westman

The series Dead Like Me is a real gem; the first season was good and the second season even better. Very witty, well-written, with great performances by all the actors! The plotlines were often a bit weak in the first season, but were gradually improving. However, I enjoyed the acting and character development so much that a weak plot didn’t matter. It’s a pity that Dead Like Me was cancelled. It was one of those rare shows that make television worth watching.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Passed by the Rising Sun Tavern

I was unaware that there was a building in North Haven that was in the National Register of Historic Places, until I saw the Rising Sun Tavern listed in 43places.

So I went by there today. It looks like you can’t go inside but it was fun to see it from the outside!

Why is this building of historical significance? Good question.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Soak some dried black-eyed peas

Actually, I have soaked dried black-eyed peas before. However, it has been over a year since I’ve done this, so I’m counting it as my “new” thing for today.

I’m going to buy some collards (or some kind of greens) in the morning to go with these black-eyed peas. Yum!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Meditated for one hour

Not the most successful meditation I’ve ever done, but certainly the longest. It took about 30 minutes for me to hit my stride with the breathing. But then I lost it after a while.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Made a homemade candle

I cheated some in doing this. A friend of mine had already given me a glass candle holder containing a fresh tea light; I used the new tea light metal cuff, its wick, and some old candle wax to create a candle. I should be able to repeatedly use the metal cuff, and presumably I can create a new wick from some twine. This exercise is designed to be a fun way to use up all the wax that gets wasted when a candle runs out of wick.

However, it involves "playing with fire" in the sense of manipulating hot wax, putting a candle in a toaster oven, and so on. YOU CAN GET SERIOUSLY HURT! This can be a dangerous activity even if you are careful, so BE EXTRA CAREFUL and if you follow these instructions, take responsibility for your actions and don't blame me if something goes wrong. All I know is, this worked for me with my particular set of materials.


Step 1: melt old candle
1) Take an old candle, put it in the toaster oven at about 200 degrees F. You must be very careful to keep pretty constant watch over the candle. DO NOT BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN DOING THIS, IF YOU DO IT'S NOT MY FAULT! Eventually, the wax begins to melt. In this case, I had an old burned out candle in a clay base that I put in my toaster oven and watched carefully as it melted.

Step 2: fill tea light shell
2) Remove the wax candle from the (new) tea light metal shell (cuff), and remove the wick from the candle. Save the wax candle for later use. Remove the old candle with the melted wax from the toaster oven - it's HOT so be careful not to pour it on yourself, be careful holding it, etc. Carefully pour the melted wax into the tea light metal shell, set the wick with its metal base down into the shell surrounded by the melted wax, and then let it all sit till the melted wax solidifies.

Step 3: finished product
3) Voila, the candle is done. I was able to pull the candle out from the metal base, but this is not necessary.

Step 4: It works!
4) From there I dropped the new tea light into a candle holder and lit it. Works!

See more progress on: Do something new every day

First fill-up

Yesterday I tanked up my new Prius for the first time. It's got just about 300 miles on it now.

I don't know how accurate the mileage is. When I got the car, it had about 17 miles on it. The tank was supposed to be full when the car was delivered, and I believe that it was, but I forgot to reset the trip odometer at the time. My best guess is that I got 43.9 mpg, but the car's mpg gauge claims it has gotten 40.7 mpg.

When I refilled the car, I reset the mpg gauge and the trip odometers, so the next reading should be more reliable. Of course now that I work in a new location, and the temperatures are heading up, I should get different readings, anyway.

It's definitely very cool having a new car, but I still find this car far too big for my needs. Yesterday, I managed to scrape the front hubcap while parking, probably because I'm used to the smaller width of my old car. I still miss my old car terribly... *sigh*.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dissected an answering machine

After my last answering machine died, I saved its corpse in the hopes that I could use its parts in a "junkbot".

It has been sitting around for months, taking up space, and I haven't done anything about it. This evening I finally took the machine apart, it was pretty simple but nevertheless something new. Here are the before and after views:
Dead answering machine Dissected answering machine

After inspecting its innards, I have some doubts that I can use any of it in a junkbot. Oh well!

See more progress on: Do something new every day

Monday, March 12, 2007

Random vacation observation: ski tip

View from the piste
Originally uploaded by Little duckling.

When skiing for the first time each year, I am overconfident. My memory tells me that I made big improvements last time, and I think that I can start in where I left off. This year, the first day out, I bit off a little more than I could chew. I took a very long green run, got very tired out, and lost some confidence. I was sick with a cold that I caught on the plane ride, which didn't help things.

Here's a recommendation to myself, that I hope to remember next time: Stay away from long pistes to start with. With long pistes you can, of course, always stop and rest if you feel like it. But there's no enforced rest as there is with a short run, where you get to sit down while riding the lift back up. Repeating a short piste over and over again helps to get you comfortable, and practice technique on a familiar run.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Things to do in Val d'Isère

Candy at the market
Originally uploaded by Little duckling.

Since I was sick, I spent more time off-piste then I'd prefer. Fortunately Val d'Isère has some fun alternatives to skiing.

There's a cinema with movies every day of the week. Some of the films have subtitles or are shown in the original English-language version. Of course, we chose to watch purely French films, Je crois que je l'aime and Danse avec lui, to make the most of being in France! It is very entertaining to try to figure out what exactly is going on when there are no subtitles!

Then there's the open-air market on Monday, with sellers purveying traditional food like sausages and cheese, and really scary looking candy. It's fun to poke around there, but it won't distract you for more than an hour or two.

I suppose there are other interesting things to do, but I didn't take advantage of them. In fact, I spent far too much time in the apartment, hacking up my lungs and solving sudoku puzzles. But even that was fun!

Getting from New Haven to JFK

These are some details on my trip from New Haven to JFK by public transport.

My off-peak ticket on a Metro North train from New Haven to Grand Central Station cost $14.

The train ride took me about 2.5 hours. The ride can be much quicker if you get an express train, but there was no choice for me. You should buy your ticket at the station; it will cost more if you buy it on the train. I find the ride pleasant, especially when the weather is good. I can read or just think while the train chugs along, and I like the views.

At GCT (Grand Central Terminal), I got an MTA subway ticket for $2 to cover the trip by subway to the AirTrain.

Details: From Grand Central take the 6 (a local train), uptown one stop, getting off at the 51st St station. Transfer to the E train here. Technically this is the 53rd St station on the E line, so be aware of this when reversing your steps. Take the E to Sutphin Blvd/Archer Av. From Grand Central to Sutphin Blvd took me about 45 minutes, YMMV. Making the transfer from the 6 to the E is a little bit of a hike; I didn't find it too difficult, but it's a drag carrying luggage. When you get to Sutphin Blvd, you have to take another little hike over to the AirTrain, including a short elevator trip (it was large, clean, and working); I think there was also an escalator. Signage is pretty good here.

The AirTrain from Sutphin Blvd to all terminals at JFK costs $5. The ride takes about 5 or 10 minutes. The AirTrain is wonderful, and it's about time that JFK is connected to NYC via something other than taxi service.

In addition, I had to take a taxi from home to New Haven station. The cost of the taxi ride, a one-way trip which averages about 10 minutes, was about $27. I was a little surprised at the expense. Next time I should try taking the bus.

So the total one-way cost was $27 + $14 + $2 + $5 = $48, round trip that's $96. I've never taken a limo ride into JFK, but I think it would cost at least twice that much to do so. I find the expense a little painful. The plane ticket to Geneva cost $650; it seems like transport to the airport should cost much less. Maybe I'm out of touch.

The time spent getting from home to JFK was about 4.5 hours. This includes "waiting around time" - time I spent waiting for the taxi, or sitting at the train station. Not bad. I guess if I took the bus into New Haven, it would take significantly longer, but I find the cost of the taxi ride so unreasonable that I'd be willing to try it. Of course, bumming a ride from someone would be even better, but my bumming skills seem to have atrophied.

Random vacation observation: rudeness

I found the behavior of some of the very young kids on the lower pistes to be appallingly rude. Some of them seemed to have no concept of queueing and pushed themselves directly to the front of the line. So far as I could tell these kids were not attached to a ski school, which would have given them some excuse. Where do these kids get their manners? I don't recall running into such behavior in the past. Maybe it's just that we were there at the peak of the season, although it didn't seem too ridiculously crowded.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Random vacation observation: no smoking?

I haven't been to Europe in about three years, and I quickly noticed a much reduced amount of cigarette smoke in public places. Every restaurant where we ate in Val d'Isère had "no smoking" signs. A big improvement! For years, the French have been arguing about a ban on smoking in public places. Is it finally coming true? If so, I'm loving the result!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Val d'Isère from a ski lift

Originally uploaded by Little duckling.

It snowed almost every day and night! This is a more typical view, riding down towards the town of Val d'Isère in the Solaise Express ski lift.

A look down the piste

Originally uploaded by Little duckling.

A view along the piste. Lest we become distracted by all the good food, this is the main attraction! Val d'Isère is truly "le plus bel espace de ski du monde"!

Maison Chevallot pastries in the window case at Les Clarines

Originally uploaded by Little duckling.

Les Clarines at Résidence Saint Hubert is another very good salon de thé in Val d'Isère. Their pastries seem to come largely from Maison Chevallot.

Lemon meringue tarte at Salon de Thé Moris

Lemon meringue tarte
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

The Salon de Thé Moris is the best salon de thé in Val d'Isère. They carry a varying selection of desserts, especially pies: apple, pear, etc., and this amazing version of lemon meringue. Their hot chocolate is made with real milk. Normally, it would be a bit too rich and creamy for me to drink every day, but with all the skiing my appetite was up.

Potée savoyarde

Potée savoyarde
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

One night we had a potée savoyarde, packaged in a large glass jar and purchased from the grocery store. An excellent dish, it tasted a lot like a traditional St. Patrick's day meal of corned beef with cabbage.


Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

Another big cheese dish: raclette.

In this case, the melting of the cheese was done non-traditionally, with an electric appliance. That's too bad; probably the best part of eating raclette is the business of melting the round of raclette cheese next to a fire or under a grill, and scraping off the soft layer onto your plate.

Despite the modern presentation, it was an enjoyable meal.


Originally uploaded by Little duckling.

Another cheese meal. This time we have cheese in its most pure, unadulterated form - the tomette.

In addition, we have four types of regional sausage (IIRC): paprika (red peppers), sanglier ("wild boar", although at first I thought it must be blood sausage), cepes (mushrooms), and beaufort (um...). We got the cheese and sausage at the town market at midday Monday.

I guess the sanglier is my favorite of the several sausages; it may be too fatty for some, though. The cheese is, of course, magnificent.

The baguette and salad rounded out the meal nicely.

Cheese fondue

Cheese fondue
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

Let the eating begin!

I'd estimate that I ate more cheese during my one week of vacation in Val d'Isère than I normally eat over the course of a year.

Probably my absolute favorite traditional dish is the cheese fondue. A delicious combo of wine and regional cheeses, it is indescribably good!

Monday, March 05, 2007

View from the apartment in Val d'Isère. It snowed almost every day that we were there. Skiing conditions were great, except that I found it disorienting to ski while it was snowing. It was hard to distinguish the snow from the sky and it felt like I was floating in an infinite field of white.
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