June 21, 2008

A Sea of Hostas

Filed under: travel — origamifreak @ 5:44 pm
Tags: , ,

Yesterday Deb and I went on a long drive (3-hr each way) to visit a hosta farm. While I only have two of them (and I only recently inherited those from a neighbor), Deb has a lovely shady patch of them under the pines next to her house. I’d run across references to Glenbrook Farm online last year, and it sounded like it would be a neat place to visit.

The farm is in Fultonville, which is just west of Albany. To get there you have three options: via the Thruway to the north, via 88 to the south, or via old highway 20 between the two.

I left Romulus about 7:15am, and after getting gas (41.6 mpg), made my way to Freeville.

We took the scenic route to Fultonville. Old highway 20 is sort-of a northern counterpart to Route 66. Unlike 66 (which stops in Chicago), 20 actually goes coast-to-coast (OR to MA). Along the way we saw sheep farms, tiny old towns, a committee* of 7 vultures congregated in the road on a knoll, a barn roof with a portion of the metal twisted back and completely flattened as if it were paper, and had sandwiches for lunch in a tiny deli/bookstore/dry goods/grocery/convenience store.

We arrived about 12:30, and Viktoria came out to greet us. The website says they have about 1200 varieties of hostas there, with around 700-800 for sale. And I believe it. There were giant monster hostas, and teeny doll-sized ones. There were all colors of the hosta rainbow, and just about every variation on striping you can imagine. There were upright ones and mounding ones. There were smooth veins and puckered ones. Shiny leaves and matte. Ruffled edges, pointy tips, cup-shaped leaves, broad leaves, and narrow ones.

This staggering buffet of greenery was planted out in large gardens under trees.

There was a pond, with a frog sunning itself in a pot on the edge.

Some of the hostas were speckled, rather than striped!

There were lots of interesting shrubs and trees in the plantings, too. The tour ended at a shadehouse where we waded happily among thousands of plants for sale, organized alphabetically by name and also by size.

I brought home two, Striptease and Fragrant Bouquet. Deb brought took home many (with goading by me and Viktoria). I don’t recall all of them, but they included Victory, Liberty, Niagara Falls, Praying Hands, Dream Weaver, and Reptilian.

To save time we took the Thruway home and on an impulse picked up takeout at Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse. We encountered a fierce downpour along the way, as well. We stopped to get gas in Tully (35.3 mpg), and finally arrived back in Freeville at 6:30pm, where we ate with Deb’s family.

After that I spent the evening helping Kathie pack for the two trips in both cars we’d do this morning, taking things to her mom’s new apartment.

I have no idea why the mileage was so bad on the second fill-up. The difference could be due to a few things: there were two of us in the car all day so it was more weight, the terrain on old 20 was vigorously rolling – which required going up many short steep hills, we ran the AC part of the time because of fog on the windows from the rain, we left the car in defrost mode for about 100 miles, and driving on the thruway meant going so fast that even in 5th gear we were well over 3K RPM. I teased Deb that it was because she’d driven 122 of the 305.9 miles.

I think the real answer might be to keep the defrost mode OFF, except when absolutely necessary. Apparently all cars, starting about 15 years ago, are required to cycle the AC periodically while in defrost mode. You can supposedly decouple this at the switch by disconnecting the appropriate wire. I might have to look into that, as I would prefer to handle the AC myself, thank you. Mileage really takes a hit from AC.

*Yes, this is supposedly what a group of vultures is called. And they did sort of look like they’d been discussing things.


June 17, 2008

Roller Derby in Ithaca

Filed under: sports — origamifreak @ 11:06 pm
Tags: ,

Noel has done a fine job of describing the event, complete with action photographs.

I have only a few observations to add:

Somehow I’d expected a rougher, motorcycling, NASCAR-type crowd, but it was a generic cross-section of Ithaca, leaning toward the liberal intellectual. Perhaps this is because of the description I’d read in an inflight magazine a few months ago which described a punk atmosphere. Or, perhaps I’m still remembering the aesthetic that was attached to the sport back in the ’70s.

We got there about half an hour late because we thought it started at 7, not 6pm. Noel said it was a lot more crowded this time than last time. It was hard to find a place to put a folding chair – there were a lot of people standing, so if you sat you couldn’t see.

By the time we got there the score was Ithaca 67, Utica 6. That’s not a typo. There are three 20-minute bouts, and we were halfway through the first. By the beginning of the third bout the score was something like 87 to 40, and two-thirds of the crowd had left.

I was pretty quickly able to follow the basics – whenever the person with a star on her helmet got through the pack, her team scored. What was harder to follow was the setup toward that point, and where the fouls were occurring that sent people to the time-out boxes.

There weren’t any injuries until the very last second of the last bout, when the Ithaca jammer (the one with a star on her helmet) somehow tripped either over herself or the other jammer or something (it happened fast). She went on her back, holding her leg in the air, and her ankle was bending and dangling in a very strange way, like almost 90 degrees sideways.

Strangely, no-one seemed to be concerned about it at first. My reaction was, “geez, that doesn’t look right. I mean, ankles just aren’t supposed to bend that way. Are they?! Maybe she’s just really, really, really flexible? No, that can’t be right. Now she’s pointing at it. Why doesn’t the announcer say something? Why isn’t anyone calling the EMTs sitting in their ambulance, just outside? That really doesn’t look right.”

Eventually they did call the EMTs, and they took off her skates, put her ankle in a soft cast and wheeled her out of the building. (She survived in good spirits, if not entirely intact.)

The final score was Ithaca 00, Utica 43. (Ithaca had so many points they’d passed the limit of the scoreboard, which was 199 – they actually had 204.)

More information about the SufferJets here, or here or here.

There’s even an international registry for rollergirl names so they’ll all be unique.

June 15, 2008

That’s more like it!

Filed under: transportation — origamifreak @ 10:11 pm
Tags: , ,

I bought my third tank of gas today. 338.5 miles, on 8.249 gallons = 41.03mpg

OK, maybe the Honda engineers HAVE been doing their job over the past 17 years, after all.

And that’s with the windows down most of the time, causing turbulence.

Take THAT, you gas-guzzling SUVs!

Heh, Heh.

Finally, a hairbrush the whole family can agree on

Filed under: cats,technology — origamifreak @ 10:03 pm

Ever since I started doing water aerobics 4x per week, my hair has become progressively more brittle and snaggy, especially in the back where it has more contact with the chlorine.

I have taken just about all the precautions I can; I wet the hair thoroughly before going in the pool. I use a snagless elastic to pile it on top of my head to keep as much of it out of the water as possible. I use Ultra Swim shampoo and conditioner as soon as I get out. And I’ve been using my trusty Body Shop wooden-bristled brush.

That is, until it finally came apart. The rubber that holds the bristles had gradually been coming out around the edges. The last couple of days I’ve been making do with a nasty, ouchy brush with knobby bristles that yank my hair and leave little broken hair pieces all over my sink. I don’t have a particularly sensitive scalp, and even I hate this thing. I’d got it while on a trip because I forgot a brush.

Anyway, while at Walmart this evening returning a thermos that had imploded and getting other things like cat litter, etc. I stopped by the hairbrush aisle and looked around. Yes, you read that right. There are so many different kinds of brushes they take up most of an aisle, all by themselves.

Anyway, I noticed one by Goody that was labeled “ouchless.” The bristles seemed pretty pliant, even if they did have little knobs on the end. So I bought it and took it home.

I have just tried it, and I never want to use another brush again. It does its job without yanking at all. At all. This, my friends, is amazing technology.

And here’s the proof: Miaumoto actually agrees.

For as long as I’ve had him (going on 17 years), Miaumoto has loved being patted, but CANNOT abide any kind of brushing or combing. He’s got what is called a “medium hair” coat (somewhere between short and long.) He also has really sensitive skin.

However, he LOVES this brush. He rubs up against it, arches his back up to it, leans on it, and doesn’t show any signs of wanting to stop. And it catches lots of fine undercoat fur.

Sunny likes being brushed backward with it, too.

I think I might have to get them one, too.

June 9, 2008

Mileage report

Filed under: transportation — origamifreak @ 8:55 pm
Tags: , ,

Well, I’ve finally got a mileage estimate on the Fit, since I’ve now put gas in it twice.

It went 316.8 miles on 8.76 gallons of fuel. That works out to 36.16 mpg. I’m a bit disappointed, since my Civic got 37.5 mpg, and hoping this is due to the fact that most of the driving the past 5 days has been with the air conditioner on.

I guess I could learn to enjoy sweating while driving, so that I can bump that mpg up where I want it. I’ll be tracking it at the EPA website, so I can compare with what other people say they’re getting:

There are data on 31 manual 2008 Fits, both base and sport. These owners claim anywhere from 27.6 to 42.1 mpg; the average is 34.6 mpg. 10 people are averaging more than I got (I’m in the 67th percentile). The person claiming >42 mpg is in TX and says they have 40%/60% city/highway miles.

To be fair to the new car, I should also mention this little tidbit from the EPA site: “New vehicles will not obtain their optimal fuel economy until the engine has broken in. This may take 3-5 thousand miles.” There are barely 600 miles on it, so far.

Also, I’m wondering how I’ve managed to drive an average of 63.36 miles per day, over the last 5 days? That seems kind-of high, somehow.


  • 6/4 drove to Geneva for work, plus a detour to water aerobics on the way home (49.7)
  • 6/5 drove to Geneva for work, plus a detour to water aerobics on the way home (49.7)
  • 6/6 drove up to Geneva for work, then home (28.6), then to Ithaca (36.2), then around downtown Ithaca (?), then up to Cornell (?), then back to downtown (?)
  • 6/7 drove around downtown Ithaca (?), up to Cornell (?), back down to downtown (?), then up to the mall (?), then back downtown (?), and then home to Romulus (36.2)
  • 6/8 no driving
  • 6/9 a trip to Farmington to the doctors office this morning before work (37.4), then to work (24.8 ) plus a detour to water aerobics after work (34.1)

296.7 mi is accounted for, which means I drove about 20 mi around Ithaca. I guess that’s about right. It just sounds like so much, when you add it all up!

I suppose I could investigate doing water aerobics in Geneva, so that my daily round trip will be closer to 30 mi, than 50! Yeesh.

June 8, 2008

Sourdough is forgiving

Filed under: food — origamifreak @ 2:16 pm

Last weekend, while on the phone with Lisa, I lost track of what I was doing, and instead of just folding in enough flour to the sponge to make it kneadable, I ended up folding so much in that it was not even sticky anymore.

So, having read things about no-knead bread, and having other things to do, I just stuck the ball of “dough” in the fridge to sour for a couple of days and wait until I had time to bake it.

On Friday I whacked off a chunk of dough and brought it in a bag with me to Ithaca, for baking on Saturday.

Kathie put it in a cake pan (she’s already packed her other pans for her imminent move to DC), and after rising, it had basically spread out without increasing in volume. It wasn’t smooth on top as usual, but rough and there were visible fissures down into the “loaf.” We reshaped it and let it “rise” some more, then came back to see it looked just the same as before (spread out, but not increased in volume, and funny fissures and holes).

So we just baked it as it was, and it came out like biscotti, and the texture was very strange, more like a wet quick bread than a yeasted bread, with irregular holes, and extremely dense. The taste was good and sour, but that’s about all I can say about it that is nice. It was not a successful loaf.

I guess that’s what happens when you don’t knead. The gluten is not structured in such a way that it can hold in bubbles. Just like all the baking books say. Go figure!

This morning, back at my house, I pulled the remaining “dough” out of the fridge and started kneading it. It behaved oddly, tearing instead of stretching, with no elasticity. I just kept at it, and eventually it started behaving more like “normal” dough. It was almost viscous by the time I put it in the pans to rise.

After 6 hours rising, it had just tripled in volume, and I baked it.

Now it looks like the sourdough I have come to know and love. Spongy texture, crunchy crust, and really, really sour. In fact, it might almost be too sour, even to my Bay Area tastes. I guess a week is the extreme of how long I want to let my dough ferment in the fridge.

It’s nice to know that you can rearrange the steps and knead at the 11th hour, and still get decent bread, though.

June 1, 2008

Pulling Strings

Filed under: music — origamifreak @ 5:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

A son of some friends had a violin recital today. He’s in a community arts program which includes instruction in strings.

Today’s concert was an hour and a half, and included solos from 21 violinists and three cellists.

There was also a presentation of a Bach double concerto by a subset of the students and an instructor, as well as the requisite group finale “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Most of the pieces were accompanied on piano. Although the accompanist was very good about following the variable tempo of the performers and careful to keep his instrument soft, I actually preferred the unaccompanied pieces, as the acoustics of the church were fantastic with a single cello or violin voice; adding a piano tended to muddy the sound.

There were three different violin teachers represented, and it was interesting to see that their proteges reflected differerent teaching styles; one group of students had fairly solid technique and intonation, while another group were more expressive. The teachers themselves have played or do play in the Rochester Philharmonic, or the Syracuse Symphony.

I could tell that Stephen had the benefit of additional outside instruction; he was one of the few students who faced forward rather than watching his left hand, and the amount of improvement over last year is a leap, rather than a step. His progress has accelerated. Best of all, he still looks like he enjoys it.

Although all the performers were more or less nervous, I was particularly impressed with the bravery of the adults. It is not easy to go in front of a group of other parents and children and earnestly play a simpler piece than the subsequent third or fourth grader.

Create a free website or blog at