Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A warning to donut splitters.

Most Tuesdays one of our chemical suppliers brings two boxes of donuts to our lab. We have scouts set up watching out windows and covering the elevators and staircases to let us know the second they arrive. When the word is given we all rush to the kitchen like democrates to someone else's wallet.

We take donuts VERY SERIOUSLY. Often these donuts are the only bright spot of our week. Everyone takes two donuts and returns to their offices. Then we sneak back through the next few hours to snag more until they are all gone.

But CERTIAN PEOPLE screw everything up. They are the donut splitters.

After taking their donuts they return and take half a donut more. They PICK UP A DONUT, RIP IT IN HALF, AND RETURN PART OF THE FINGER-SQUISHED DONUT TO THE BOX!!! Worse yet, some will want two different donuts but don't "cheat on their diet" by just taking HALF OF TWO DIFFERENT DONUTS!!! Soon the box is filled with nasty, fingerprinted donut halves. Nobody wants to eat the remaining halves, especially since we know everyone else's hygiene habits!

So there's going to be a change. Introducing my new kitchen commandos, the IGODD (International Group Of Donut Defenders):
IMG_1235

We are geared up and ready to rain .62 caliber, air-powered, paintball pain down onto anyone splitting a donut. Beware destroyers of our sugary happiness, that fern in the corner just might be the cleverly disguised Dark Mark, Trinadad's top shot! No one to see your crime? Hah, Big AM will pop up from the tea bags and blast you into painty submission! What's that sound? Oh no, busted by our chilly Canadian, Cold Fever hidden in the ice maker! That humming fluorescent light? Wait, it's our Moscow madman, Kremlin Kreamer! Donut splitters make him see (more) red!!!

Go ahead and make my day Mister "Three Solid Lines And Four Dotted Lines Report To Me On The Org-Chart So I Can Do What I Want" (I swear he actually has that printed on his business cards!) You had better stuff both halves of that donut into your mouth or by all that is holey I will leave you marked for life (or at least until your next shower). For I am he that wields the rightous sword brought forth in defense of jelly-filled innocents! My powdery flock shall remain safe under my steely gaze and hardened troopers!! The great baker in the sky has called my number and I will respond with CO2-powered vengence!!!!*

SPOOOOOON!!!!!!!!!

Adventure! Excitement! IGODD!!!

*Editorwether would like it known that the above rant is just a joke. The splitters will continue their donut desecrations unmolested.**

**Merriwether adds, "For now!".

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Last hurricane preparations post

For me, my wife, 3-yr old daughter, and two cats we have the following supplies:

WATER
Four 7-gal "Aquatainers".
One 2.5-gal "Aquatainer".
Eighteen 1-gal bottled water (stored in rubbermaid totes in case of leaks).
Case of Gatorade
Approximately twelve 1-liter water containers.
Two bathtubs filled with water.
Three 1-gal bottle water frozen in chest freezer.
Eight 500-mL bottled water frozen in kitchen freezer.
One gallon fresh Clorox bleach for water purification and general disinfection.
One water purifier pump and spare filter (First Need brand).
Three 55-gal rain barrels (normally used to water plants))
Several good neighbors with pools.

POWER
Xantrex Powerpack 400 Plus
Colman Powermate 400 watt inverter
We talked about a generator but at this point we feel it's not worth it considering the gas prices. If the power will be out for an extended period Misseswether/Miniwether will head off to any number of friends between here and Minnesota.

FOOD
Normal stockpile of stuff. Store what you eat, eat what you store. Canned fruits, tuna, and other "no-cook" type stuff. Focus on low-salt, high water content.

COOKING GEAR
Propane grill with side burner.
Two five-gal propane tanks.
Colman Duel Fuel Campstove Model 424 (runs on "Coleman white gas" or unleaded gas).
Propane converter for Colman 424 Campstove along with adapter to run off 5-gal propane tanks.
Two small propane tanks for propane converter for Coleman 424 campstove.
Assorted other camp stoves (alcohol, gaz, charcoal, and wood).
Assorted camping pots, pans, etc...

FIRST AID
(Dangers expected include cuts from broken glass, bug bites, twisted ankle, diarrhea)
Tetnus shots!
Three 1-liter bottles of isopropal alcohol (disinfectant).
Three fresh 1-liter bottles of hydrogen peroxide (disinfectant).
Two tubes of Neosporin.
Lots of guaze rolls, large & medium truama pads, band-aids.
Two ACE bandages.
Two boxes of maxi-pads (great for covering wounds/stopping bleeding).
Four rolls of waterproof bandage tape.
Six 2-oz bottles of "Sting Ease".
Five cans of "Deep Woods OFF" bug repellant.
Two boxes of Imodium-AD for diarrhea.
Assorted pain relievers and other meds.

HYGIENE
Solar Shower
Lots of baby-wipes.
Lots of toilet paper.
Lots of alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel.
Lots of kitty litter.

ELECTRONICS
Two cell phones with text-message capabilities
Car chargers for cell phones.
Battery-powered 1.5" screen TV (VHF and UHF frequencies).
Three solar/battery/crank powered radios.
Two battery/solar/crank powered shortwave radios.
FSR radios (everyone on our block has them, sets them to the same channel, and moniters them when the hurricane hits in case someone needs emergency help).
Digital camera.
Digital video camera.
Rechargable 1,000,000 candlepower spotlight.
Assorted other flashlights of various size and power.
Battery-powered fan (large one designed for cooling tents while camping, not a toy)
LOTS of batteries.

OTHER STUFF
Six blue tarps for various sizes up to 20' by 20'.
Nails.
Crowbar.
Gas shut-off tool.
Waterproof 35mm camera.
Tent.
Sleeping bags.
Duct tape.
Several thick, plastic drop clothes.
Cleaning supplies (sponges, buckets, mops, Formula 409, bleach, rubber gloves, etc...)
Lots of rope.
Bicycles (plus spare tubes, pump, and a trailer pulled by bikes).
Wagon.
Awesome neighbors.
Out-of-state phone contact list.
Three 7-gal gas cans.
Two 2-wheeled "dollies".

This list was just off the top of my head. If you want more details on any particular item let me know.

Stay safe.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Neat plywood cover trick

Our house has several of big, beautiful, arched windows.

They are a total pain in the arse. Especially when you want to make plywood hurricane covers for them. Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a carpenter!

Luckily, I have the super-handyman neighbor. He looked at the windows, grabbed a thin, flexible slat and some string and climbed up the ladder. He then bent the slat along the curve and stapled the string to either end of the slat to keep it's shape. Presto, a perfect copy of the curve! Three minutes later he had it cut out and was up the ladder making the next curve.

I am in awe of his cleverness.

We should have the covers done by Sunday evening. A number of my neighbors think the 5/8" plywood is overkill. Quite frankly, I hope they are right. The next step is to increase the bracing of the roof joists. The trick there will be getting the long 2x4's into the attic.

Everything else (water, batteries, food, fuel, etc...) is ready.

Adventure! Excitement! Carpentry!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Seventeen days left.

Shutters1

Hurricane season officially starts June 1st. The Gulf of Mexico is currently 14 F hotter than normal meaning any hurricane which reaches it will quickly blossom into a hideous, monstrous beast. Statistically, Houston is overdue for a direct hit.

So, instead of hiking, camping, paddling, or poking things with sticks this weekend I'm building plywood window covers for our house. Okay, technically my super-handyman neighbor is building the covers, but I am helping him carry the big sheets of plywood. Um, and occasionally I'll untangle a powercord.

We've used twenty-four sheets of 4'x8'x5/8" plywood, sixty Plylox, and an undetermined number of 4" screws. The covers need to be waterproofed yet, then I need to find a place to store them. I'm thinking maybe bolting them all to the walls in my garage would work.

Overall, I'd rather be adventuring but after Rita we wanted to be ready the next time the world decided it might end in rain, wind and lightening.

Adventure! Plywood! Power Tools!

Monday, May 08, 2006

I love Texas

Out for a walk Sunday morning with Miniwether and we come across an 18" Coral Snake.
coralsnake
Can you say "teaching experience"?

Adventure! Excitement! Venomous Snakes!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

No turning back.

You're on a first-name basis with reality chum, but to me he's "Mr. Reality" and that just doesn't cut it when the chips are yelling.
-The Tick

Okay, so the choices were either a) Sane: walk home to dry clothes, yummy food, and a loving family or b) Not sane: continue into the flooded unknown in my flimsy toy raft. Obviously there was no choice. A few minutes later I was back in the water with wet pants and a big smile.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love Spring Creek. It epitimizes my concept of Borderlands. You never know what you see here. One weekend it'll be nature in all her glory, another time it'll be a bunch of Mad-Max wannbes in souped-up mud runners. There's a large beach halfway between I-45 and Riley-Fuzzel that is somewhat accessible to 4-wheel drive trucks and is a big party spot. Usually the party involves burning a car, boat, or assorted appliances and/or computers. This weekend was no different. A number of tents and trucks came into view as I floated past this beach. A large bonfire was still smoldering and around it were placed several large, comfortable looking sofas. No one was visible but it was a only a little past 8am. The lack of life wasn't suprising judging from the piles of empty beer cans. I was really wishing I had brought a few mortars with me but past experience has taught me hungover people respond poorly to unexpected fireworks.

It would have been really funny though. I can just imagine them waking up to BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!! But a vinyl raft really isn't a viable escape vehicle. Note to self: next time bring some delayed-action timers...

I was having fun. Nothing (uh, except my loving wife and wonderful daughter) can match a day of solitude on a river. The only thing of concern was alligators. Every so often I saw a slick, bare patch on the bank. They could just be game trails, paths worn by numerous deer taking the easiest path to water. I couldn't actually make out any deer prints in these bare areas but they may have been washed away be the heavy rains.

Yep, I told myself that over and over.

I had been in Kon Texi for about three hours at this point. One of the two floor air chambers had deflated along with the right side support tube but she was still floating proud as her namesake. I was feeling comfortable and confident. So, of course that is when the water next to me exploded with thrashing and a deep grunting noise!

CRAP!!CRAP!!CRAP!!Cra...oh. I had suprized a medium sized pig. It charged up the bank and disappeared into the brush.

Sure, I was shaking from the adrenalin flooding my body but THAT WAS SO COOL!!! Nothing spices up a life like a bullet missing... Or in this case a pig running away rather than an alligator charging. :-)

It wasn't the last one. Rounding a bend twenty minutes later I came across four more pigs rooting along the shore. They took off as soon as they saw me so the picture isn't very good.

This trip was turning out even better than I had hoped. According to the gps unit I'd gone seven miles and had almost seven more to go. I hadn't ripped Kon Texi open on some submerged hazard. Nothing had attacked me (not even any mosquitoes!). I had had a few pre-cramp twinges in my legs, but they hadn't blossomed into the full-fledged muscle-tearing cramps I had been fearing. The skin on my legs was looking a bit less pale white, but I had put a layer of 30+ sunscreen early on and wasn't worried about sunburn. Turns out I should have had more concerns there. Oh well.

Okay, roll the beautiful bean footage:

Ready to launch
ready

Morning Mist
MorningMist

Party!
party

Wrecks
wrecks

Miles to go
KonTexi

Manly Man of Adventure!
whatscoming

Dam!
dam

Pretty1
SpringCreek1

Pretty2
SpringCreek2

Pigs
pigs

Me close to the end
me

Burned
burned

I had launched at 8am and at 1:10pm I reached the end of my journey, the canoe landing at Jesse H. Jones Park. I startled a young family fishing there as I coasted up to the shore. Apparently the four-foot tall sign saying CANOE LANDING didn't suggest to them filling the water with fishing lines in this spot was a bad idea. They just stood there staring dumbly as I wrestled Kon Texi out of the water and up muddy hill. Some people should stick to Nintendo.

I called Misseswether to let her know I was safe then began deflating the raft. Other than the one floor chamber and the support tube she had come through intact. I'm still amazed by that, also very pleased. This means I can do the whole thing over again the next time it rains! Who would have guessed a $20 raft would be up to such an adventure?

Misseswether and Miniwether pulled up while I was munching some beef jerky. Hugs were exchanged followed by Miniwether demanding the rest of my jerky. I wanted to tell them about my adventure but there really wasn't the right words. Two blog posts later and I still haven't come close to describing the experience. Some of you may feel it wasn't any different than tubing down some Hill Country river. All I can say is trust me, it was different. Maybe it wasn't a multi-month expedition across the Pacific, but it was something outside an ordinary life. It was adventure. It was excitement. It was a trip through the borderlands.

Adventure! Excitement! Exploration!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

13.37 miles in a $20 raft...

Evidence of an area being inhabited by gators include alligator slides onshore (these are markers where the belly of the gator has slid down the bank into the water).

I had left the signs of man behind several hours ago. What had my attention now were the occasional bare patches along the riverbank. When one is floating down an unspoiled South-Texas river in a flimsy vinyl raft alligators invade the mind. I had never actually seen an alligator in Spring Creek, but according to different sources it was possible. Every publicly-accessible bit of water around here has big, yellow signs warning not to leave pets or children unsupervised for fear of becoming Purina Alligator Bits...

I had been wanting to do this trip for a long time. Clark has been too busy to go out adventuring for months so Seeker's Fate has been sitting unused. Even if Clark had been free the drought gripping Texas would have prevented any runs in her through the borderlands.

But Friday it RAINED. And Saturday it RAINED. And Spring Creek rose. It was time.

I was up checking the flow rates Sunday morning at 6am. They had peaked at 400 cfs during the night and were now dropping. The most recent measurement was 298 cubic feet per second! Spring Creek can't be navigated when the flow rate drops below 150 cfs. On the other hand it becomes too risky above 400. The current level was perfect. It was time to go!

I had inflated the Kon Texi the previous night. The sun was breaking the horizon as I headed down the sidewalk to the railroad tracks on the edge of our neighborhood. Once on the tracks I had to walk another 1.13 miles (aren't GPS's wonderful?) to my designated launching spot. It was stunningly beautiful. The chill morning air caused streamers of fog to float up from the river. Birds called, the wind whispered, the raft hissed, and the river burbb...HISSING SOUND?!!

NO! DO NOT LEAK! NO! NO! NO! AAAUUUGGGGHHHHH!!!

Oh wait, the hissing was just some insects trying to score bug booty. Whew!

I had an unknown amount of water ahead of me. My goal was the canoe launch at Jesse H. Jones Park. I didn't know if the raft would make it. I doubt the manufacturer had this sort of usage in mind when they made her. Mucking about in a swimming pool or small pond? Yeah, sure. Spending five and a half hours paddling down an untamed river (possibly containing alligators)? Uh, probably not.

I put the raft in the water. I put me in the raft. Several gallons of water came in with me. It was not a promising start. Rearranging myself brought in even more water.

This definately was not a promising start.

I bailed out the water (ALWAYS have a towel with you when on an adventure) and took stock of the situation. It was 8am, the day was beautiful, the river was flowing strongly, and whenever I tried to get comfortable water poured into Kon Texi. Do I give up three miles downstream at the Riley-Fuzzel bridge or push through moist adversity?

You can't imagine how pretty Spring Creek was. I took lots of pictures with a waterproof 35mm camera and I'll put the photos up once they are developed. You'll just have to take my word for it, it was stunning. Strands of fog, golden morning light, colorful birds, dark forest... It just doesn't get any better than this.

According to the GPS if I didn't paddle the river would pull me along at about 2.5 miles per hour. Since at the time I didn't know how far I had to go I paddled. I had some fear that I'd still be on the river at nightfall. Via roads Jesse H. Jones park is twentyfive miles away from our house. Spring Creek forms a hypotenuse to the road's right angle but it is a very squiggly hypotenuse. I thought it might be 18 miles or so...

Paddling got me up to 3.9 mph for short stretches. That seemed likely to get me to the park on time, so I paddled. Even so, the raft was quieter than the aluminum canoe so I was able to sneak up on assorted wildlife easier. I couldn't real manouver worth a darn, but could go sneakily in random, barely controlled directions.

It took me an hour to get to Riley-Fuzzel. The canoe would have made it in half the time. Do I push on or stop here? And what is that funny crashing-roaring noise?

OH CRAP!! A WATERFALL! PADDLEPADDDLEPADDLEPADDLE!!!!

They are building a new bridge at Riley-Fuzzel and to make the job easier the apparently decided to put in a (hopefully!) temporary dam! Water was rushing over it's three-foot drop onto large chunks of concrete and rebar.

PADDLEPADDDLEPADDLEPADDLE!!!!

I made it to shore ten feet from the dam. The bank was ankle deep goo mixed with construction debris and I slogged through it dragging the muddy raft. On the other side of the dam the Spring Creek was flowing fast. A branch tossed in quicked shot downstream. Kon Texi was still intact. According to the GPS it was about ten miles straight to the landing. Spring Creek doesn't flow straight though. It was 9am and I was still within an easy walk home. If I continued I'd be trapped on the river to it's end if anything happened. I looked East, downstream. The sun was breaking through the trees and making the river glow.

There was no turning back.

To be continued...

begining-pt2

Adventure! Excitement! Moist Adversity!