Thursday, December 01, 2011

More Local Fabulousness

Last night I walked to the corner store to buy milk. It's been a while since I wandered through the business district of my neighborhood and it was nice. I read the menus on all the restaurants. I checked out the random flyers taped up on the utility poles. And of course I looked in the window of the antique store, Le Mix, which always has cool mid-century stuff.

It being late November, the window was all Christmas-y, with slightly creepy elf dolls and at least four Santa decorations that you remember from various aged relatives' houses. And there were some really neat old cocktail shakers in festive colors. Good thing for me the store was closed, because I already have way more cocktail shakers than I need.

Santa cups at Le Mix

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Shopping, 2011 Edition

So I spent "Small Business Saturday" slodging through chain stores buying stuff for myself. Completely against the spirit of the thing. But hey, I've been eating local vegetables all summer, that's got to count for something?

To atone for my sins against independent merchants, I will pimp a few of my recent discoveries.

Out Of Print Clothing

Wizard of Oz kids' tee
at Out Of Print Clothing
I discovered these shirts while shopping at another fabulous independent merchant, Island Bookstore in Corolla, NC (which is actually a dream shop, everything you'd want in a bookstore all at once - too bad it's 400 miles from my house). But that's another post.

Out Of Print Clothing uses classic book cover art to make shirts, tote bags, note cards, and other fun things. (Edgar Alan Poe phone case anyone?) The images are all actually licensed, and they're pretty awesome. The shirts are soft and cozy. I have a Hound of the Baskervilles tee - I ended up with a men's small because none of the women's shirts really spoke to me, but it's stretchy and fits great.

If you need another excuse to shop here (or put one of these on your wish list), the company has partnered with Books for Africa to send a book to a needy community for every product purchased.


Closer to home, I've been seeing some cool jewelry and accessories from ARTECO. E-waste has never looked so good.

Spectra Cable Belt
I picked up one of these cable belts at a recent Three Rivers Arts Festival - according to the card, it's a communication cable called Spectra that was popular around 1970. (I don't actually remember it but I've seen things like it.)

At this year's A Fair in the Park I looked through cards and cards of pendants, earrings, and pins trying to guess what they were in a former life. Luckily, the provenance is described on the packaging. The ARTECO website says "It's not only about what it is, but what it was." Turns out processor chips are sometimes really pretty!

Heat Sink Earrings
A lot of the components are relatively unadorned, which I like. They're just fascinating to look at.

Come on, one of your techie forbears would really appreciate an 8-bit Intel processor tie tack.
ARTECO Intel 80186
Processor Pin

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Slate of Candidates You Can Trust

A week or so before the election, the local political party (in Pittsburgh there is really only one) sends out a card with their endorsed slate of candidates. This is the card I got this year.

In case you don't want to zoom in and read the text, the third paragraph is most relevant. It says:

The candidates whose names appear on this ticket will not turn back the clock. These individuals will provide competent leadership while recognizing the fundamental values that make us Democrats. They also will be diligent regarding all issues which come before them. They will continue to move forward and lead us in our recovery from the failures of the past.
Sounds good. So who are these wonderful people? Here's the other side of the card:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Him: Where did you put the other dish towel?
Me: It's over there.
Him: Where?
Me: On my secret shelf.
Him: What secret shelf?
Me: You know, the shelf where I keep the little cutting board that only I use, and the dish towels that I don't want you to dry your hands on, and the jars and bottlecaps I probably should have thrown away but I didn't.
Him: Oh, that shelf.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Augmented Reality - Tour de France Edition

Or, How To Use Twitter To Watch the Tour de France

One of the things I love about Twitter is the fact that you can read commentary from other people while an event is going on. (When I was a teenager I occasionally created a low-tech version of this by watching TV over the phone - two friends in different houses, watching the same TV show.) I use it when watching hockey games, and it enhances my appreciation of the game. Other fans post insights and details I didn't know. And it's witty.

The same happens with the Tour de France, only the difference with pro cycling events is that instead of listening to other fans you're also reading news from the participants! A lot of pro cyclists and staff post on Twitter - and they're surprisingly candid. I've posted before about Kurt Asle Arvesen's photos of his road rash in a past Tour. Lance Armstrong has been tweeting almost every time he gets drug tested (though he arguably does have something to gain by that). Here's the photo Armstrong sent update this morning, before a seriously tough stage over cobblestone roads:

Deceiving Profile by Lance Armstrong

In the first few stages we had the Schleck brothers reporting on each other's injuries. First, Andy was in a minor crash and his brother Frank sent this:
@andy_schleck do U guys is that he is going to have a good sleep? Ich don t think so
Sadly, Frank had a more serious crash the next day. Still, Andy was there for us.
He need surgery
And also this, since his team kept the yellow jersey as overall leader:
@schleckfrank out with broken shoulder yellow is 4 him today!he be back stronger
Before you complain about their grammar, keep in mind that their first language is Luxembourgish - which I didn't even know existed until recently. So I think they're doing fine with English.

So here's a big list of Tour-related commentators on Twitter. Or you can just follow my public list for cycling (it has some of my friends on it too): or search Twitter for the #TdF tag.

Tour de France Cyclists on Twitter:

Twitter Cyclists Not In the 2010 Tour:
Tour News Sources on Twitter:
More Useful Websites:
Share and enjoy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two Pasta Recipes

I was going grocery shopping and wanted to make sure I had all the ingredients for this pasta recipe I wanted to make, but instead of getting the recipe down from the messy folder on the top shelf in the kitchen to read the ingredients, I just searched the Internet. This usually works - you might not find the exact recipe you want, but you'll find something similar enough that you can determine the key ingredients.

Only I couldn't find anything like this recipe. So I started worrying that my pasta happiness relied on the 4-year-old printout I made from the Post-Gazette website. And it's the kind of ink that runs when it gets wet.

So here is the Pasta with Ricotta and Broccoli Rabe recipe, so I won't lose it.


  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1.5 pounds (1-2 bunches) rapini (broccoli rabe), coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound gemelli or other short pasta (whole wheat pasta is good too)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese (1 2/3 cups)
  • 1 cup milk
Boil rapini in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Transfer to a colander using a slotted spoon. In the same pot of water, cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta and return to pot.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add anchovy fillets, garlic, and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant (30-60 seconds). Add rapini and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender - 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in ricotta and milk; cook just until heated through (3-4 minutes).

Add contents of skillet to pasta. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Six servings with 472 calories, 12.5g fat, 23.7g protein, 67.5g carbohydrate, 2.4g fiber

And just because I like it and it's also pasta, here's another recipe. It's not so easy to forget.

Linguini with Zucchini and Chick Peas

  • 12 oz (3/4 box) linguini
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 small zucchini, cut into thin half-moons
  • kosher salt
  • 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2oz)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain, and return the pasta to the pot.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, tossing often, until just tender (4-5 minutes). Add the chickpeas, garlic, and red pepper and cook until heated through, 2-3 minutes.

Toss the pasta with the reserved pasta water and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with the zucchini mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan

serves 4
from Real Simple August 2009 issue

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Emergency Leak Control

Drip Control System
Originally uploaded by erink
Since Snowpocalypse! hit Pittsburgh and brought us 2 feet of snow in 40 hours, followed by another five inches two days later and another five inches six days after that, a lot of people are dealing with leaky houses.

My first rental duplex had a flat roof, so I have years of experience dealing with ice dams. My current house, which is otherwise pretty great, has aged box gutters that have been leaking for two years (mostly because I put off fixing them after the high-priced roofer did a bad job). That means that when we get ice dams, water leaks in some of our window frames from the gutters.

An ice dam is ice that forms in your downspout. Snow melts under the ice on the roof because your house is warm, but with the downspout blocked, there's nowhere for it to go. If you're unlucky, it goes down, through your roof or gutter and into your house. Unless you can get the downspout unfrozen or remove all the snow and ice from your roof, it's going to keep leaking.

So, not much you can do outside until spring. But inside, there are a few techniques you can use to control the water.

Obviously, you want to deploy buckets. But it's tough to get the buckets right under all the drips, and even when you have a well-placed bucket, once it starts to fill up there's a lot of splashing, and that gets your floor wet too.

The solution is plastic. Dry cleaning bags work great, and trash bags are good too. (If you don't split the trash bags open to cover more area, you usually can reuse them for trash afterward.) If you have big problems, you can try those plastic painting drop cloths, as long as they're not too heavy for the tape.

Here's what to do.
  1. Tape the plastic bag up on the wall or window so that the dripping water falls onto it. You can use multiple pieces of plastic if you overlap the top piece in front of the bottom piece so the water falls down onto the second piece.
  2. Make a plastic highway to the collection area (bucket or trash can or whatever). You actually can move the bucket several feet from the leak, as long as the bucket is the lowest point in the system and there's a clean path to the bucket.
  3. Watch the water flow. If it's dripping off an edge, try to curl the plastic inward so that it funnels the water back toward the center.
  4. If you still have trouble with splashing, move the bucket farther away from the wall. The more gradual slope will slow the water down and minimize splashes. Make sure you don't create a low point on the way to the bucket.
Here are some details of the drip collection system in my TV room.

Top Detail

The plastic is taped to the window frame with scotch tape. You can see the brown spots where the water was dripping. (Click through for a larger version on Flickr.)

Bottom Detail

Here is the bottom of the system. I had water leaking from underneath the bottom of the windowsill so I taped up another bag there. I used masking tape there because I was afraid Scotch tape would tear the paint (still not sure the masking tape won't, but whatever). I had to wait until the wall was dry to get the tape to stick. This picture also shows the transition from dry-cleaning plastic to trash bag. I taped the trash bag to the window to catch another drip, but you can just tape it to the top bag (it is also taped to the dry-cleaning bag, but that's hard to see).

If you're going to be away for a while, you can use a trash can instead of buckets, it holds more water. Also, drips usually stop a few hours after dark when the roof water refreezes, so that gives you a chance to regroup. But don't leave your bucket out of the system for long!

I've often wondered if strings would be useful, but I've never tried it. For example, if you have a drip on the ceiling can you tack up a string and get the water to preferentially run down the string into a bucket?

Oh, another few tips. If you can access your roof or gutters by leaning out a window (carefully!), you can sometimes help clear the ice. A hockey stick is a great tool for this. We use my old stick to flick ice out of the gutters and to chop up the ice into flippable pieces. Be careful not to damage your shingles, or to clobber someone on the ground. We also pour warm water into the gutters to melt the downspouts. After the first storm we were alternating pouring in buckets of water and pumping the standing water out of the downspouts with a tiny battery-operated pump (you could also use a straight siphon or a drill-mounted pump).

There are gutter heater cables you can use to help melt ice from your roof shingles and downspouts. They're not much help once the ice is up there, you have to have a roofer install them ahead of time.

So, hope this is helpful - or at least amusing.

Quest for Paczki - 2010 Edition

Much easier than last year. But still not as good as Jenny Lee's.