Monday, June 21, 2010

Tennessee House Starts Construction

Just after the beginning of this year I was contacted by a former client about a new project.  Almost exactly 10 years ago we were completing the design and moving into construction on his Lake House, which he still owns in northern Indiana.

Several years ago, he and his girlfriend purchased 28 acres in east Tennessee, south of Knoxville, and were now ready to put a house there, to which to escape the cold northern Indiana winters.

After a relatively quick initial design phase, followed by a couple of heart-wrenching (for me - and, I think, for them) false starts with different contractors, the house started construction today.  This is a major milestone for me, and I am convinced that this house represents my best work to date.

The new house will be added to a building that has a 3-car garage with a little studio/guest room that they built shortly after occupying the property.  This existing garage building is on the edge of a gentle hill, with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the south and east.  It is also right next to the barn.  A small shed appended to the barn will be demolished, to give a little more space between the two structures.

Let's have a tour of the property:

Here is a view of the garage/studio building that already exists, to which we are adding.  To the left you can just see the barn (which will stay) and shed that will be removed, right behind that cute Beetle convertible. 

This building is oriented to the cardinal directions and we are looking northwest in this view.  The large windows in the corner towards us have those great views I was talking about earlier.  That room will become the kitchen in the new house.  The new house will be built to the east or to the right of the garage building in the photo above (the garage doors are on the other side.)  All the main rooms will take advantage of the spectacular views.

The view above is looking in the same direction but standing on the other side of the garage.  The house behind the trees over yonder is the cramped 3-bedroom, 1,000 square foot house that Mr. and Ms. Client are living in now.  It will become the bunk house.  You can't really see it in this view, but the drive into the property from the main road comes up through a little valley between the future bunk house there and the new house.

The view below is looking west and you can see the cool silo next to the barn.

Can you make out those furry critters to the left of the barn and silo?

It's a veritable armada of donkeys!  They all have clever names like Guffman, Pootwaddle, Sulley, Fidgit, and others that I can't remember.  The animals are Ms. Client's project.  She rescues donkeys and horses.  Apparently there are lots of abandoned horses out there.  Who knew?  She takes them in and fosters them, and eventually finds them new homes.

So here is the view to the south, from standing on the north side of the garage.  That's Mr. Client in the edge of the picture.  By later this year, if you stand here, you will be looking right at the front door.  Below is an overall site plan to give you the big picture.  (This does not encompass the entire 28 acres.  The area shown is probably about a quarter or a fifth of the entire property.)

And here are a couple more views of the views:

This (above) is the view to the south.  The kitchen, dining, living rooms and sun room will all look out on this.  So will the south end of the mezzanine and the south roof deck off the mezzanine (which is above the sun room.)

This (again, above) is the view to the east.  The sun room and bedrooms look out on this view.  You can also see this from the south roof deck.

Today they laid out and staked the outline of the addition.  These photos were all taken when I visited the farm at the end of January.  I will post more this week with some drawings and images of the new design.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Raw Milk Event Rescheduled and I Can't Go :(

Great news from the folks over at my favorite local paleo foodsource, Figueroa Produce. The Raw Milk Event has been rescheduled for Saturday, July 17th, at 5:30 p.m.

The not-so-great news is that it looks like I will not be able to attend. I am very disappointed, not only because I wanted to see the presentation myself and taste the samples, but also because my earlier post on the event seemed to generate some real interest, both over at Modern Paleo and on the OEvolve Google group.  I hate disappointing my gentle readers.

Then I had a great idea this morning at the gym. (I do some of my best thinking at the gym, and am planning a whole blog post on why I think that is. Stay tuned.) The idea I had is to get a guest blogger to cover the event for Creatures of Prometheus! How cool is that?! So, I'm putting it out there. If you would like to cover the Raw Milk Presentation for C of P, and have your guest post appear here (and probably over at Modern Paleo also, although I have to check with the admins over there before I can promise anything) please email me thru (my first name)DOT(my last name)AT gmail DOT com.  You don't particularly need to have your own blog or any blogging experience per se.

I have a few specific questions I wanted to ask at the Q&A session, which I would like to have addressed by my correspondent, and I also want the post to have pictures. I would be more than happy to help with resizing, editing etc. of the photos if that's not in your bag of tricks.

Also, I would prefer to have someone who shares either (or preferibly both) my Objectivist and/or Paleo views of things in general.

So, if you can attend, take some pictures, ask some questions, and write up a short report, please be in touch!

In other related raw milk news, Fig Produce has expanded their product line to include Caravale Farms raw Jersey milk and cream:

Pure, Raw Jersey Milk - Mmmmmm

I have had milk from jersey cows before, and I can tell you that if you like milk, you haven't lived until you try pure Jersey Milk.  I don't know what those jersey cows have going on that makes their milk so delicious, but it is definitely an experience!  That, combined with this milk being raw, makes this stuff a true delicacy.

And, as an aside, it's a true delicacy that you won't find at that big expensive national organic supermarket chain store that no longer sells raw milk, for reasons completely unrelated to the wholesomeness of the product, and in spite of the growing demand for it as more and more people realize how much better it is for you than regular milk.

Raw Cream, how great is that?

Raw Butter too!

In addition to the Claravale Farms products, they have expanded their Organic Pastures section as well (those are the folks who are presenting on the 17th.) Now they have raw butter, raw cheese (which you can see the edge of in the cream photo above) and I think a few other things I'm forgetting about.

Also, the produce at Figueroa Produce has been particularly lovely lately.  These chiogga beets were so beautiful I hated to cut them up and eat them!

Who knew beets would be so photogenic?!

All I did was coat them in olive oil and roast them for about 45 minutes at about 350, stirring and turning them about every 15 minues or so.  I think I covered the pan with foil also, to help keep the moisture in.

Here they are with the sea bass they shared the oven with.  The sea bass was drizzled with the juice of a grapefruit I picked from my own tree, as well as olive oil, and then baked.  The beets took longer to bake than the sea bass.

This was a pretty good pairing, and the sea bass was quite affordable at only about $3.59 a pound.  The beet greens got cut up and mixed in with lettuce for salad.  They were slightly firm, almost like spinach, but not at all tough.  They could be served sauteed, but I think they were delicious raw.

Good stuff!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Glider Update

It has been way too long since I have posted on my latest and greatest creation in the welding shop, The Glider.  In truth, it isn't really my latest creation in the sense that I have made some other smaller things lately, but those were more like quick exercises that didn't require huge amounts of thinking and figuring out.

For example, I took this plant stand, of which I made several a couple of years ago, and added this cylinder on top of it:

a little tack weld on the three points where the
cylinder touches the legs

add some gravel so the dirt doesn't fall through

and made a planter which now sits in my front yard like this:

For me, that wasn't really a new idea (but I really like it!)

I also welded up some raised garden boxes that are now nicely housing some tomato and pepper plants along the driveway, which will hopefully have a blog post of their own soon.

These easy projects give the glider time to marinate a bit in my subconscious brain.  But I have been working on it, bit by bit.

At the point these were taken, the seat frame is mostly done, but the wooden seat and back are just sitting in place and need more supporting steel to be welded in.  Also, I welded extensions onto the arms, bringing them forward a few inches.  I think this really helps the proportions.

Here is a side view.  You can see the bright spot where I welded the extensions to the armrests.

The lighter colored metal shaped like an "I" is the base that will support the bench off the ground and allow it to glide.  Here I demonstrate where the connecting rods will attach:

I had it this far but wasn't exactly sure of the best way to connect the rod ends to the piece.  Then, while working out at the gym one morning, I looked up and realized that the machine I was using had the exact same type of linkage!  Theirs was bolted into a female-threaded sleeve.  Genius!  Simple!  Easy!  Their bolts weren't very elegant looking but I knew where to get some more attractive ones.

Upper linkage

Lower linkage

I rushed home and ordered some coupling nuts and hex bolts from my bff McMaster-Carr.  I love those guys.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, although still a work-in-progress, I proudly present my glider, gliding:

I'm not particularly crazy about the noise, and I'm going to have to work on that.  I think I'll try graphite lubricant first.  But, if it's going to squeak, I suppose I could be doing a lot worse than the sound of a cello repeatedly playing a low 'E'

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Israel Rally Update

Last Sunday afternoon I went down to the Pro-Israel Rally in front of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.  You can read the whole essay I wrote on why I was attending here.

The Consulate is located on Wilshire Blvd just east of San Vicente Blvd, and near the line between Beverly Hills and L.A.  Here is my overview of how the whole thing was set up, in the form of a marked-up satellite view:

They had closed Wilshire Blvd all the way from San Vicente on the west to Crescent Heights on the east.  I parked a few blocks north of Wilshire on San Vicente.  When I walked back, I learned that they had not just closed Wilshire to car traffic at San Vicente, but were not letting pedestrians through either.  They were diverting all pedestrians through the residential neighborhood to the north, and making them enter the rally area off of La Jolla.  I'm not sure why they did this.  Let's just say I'm sure they had their reasons, as the police presence was very heavy, and security looked extremely well coordinated.  There were LAPD, as well as Beverly Hills PD, and also lots of other private security peopleguys.

Here is a closeup of the rally area, with the area outlined in red where the crowd was the densest:

This map must be a little old because the 2 buildings on the northwest corner of the intersection weren't even there anymore.  That's where there were paramedics and TV news trucks were set up.

Here's how it looked when I arrived, taken from that northwest corner and looking southeast towards the consulate:

And another view in the crowd:

Some of the signs people were holding:

This makes a good point.  The people living in Gaza are not free,
they are living under dictatorship.  Hamas doesn't exactly 
recognize freedom of speech, for example.

'Peace Activists Don't Use Knives and Clubs'
Apparently other boats in the flotilla were boarded and
searched, without incident.  See

This is the main reason it is important to support Israel,
and this is why I was at this event. Read my previous post
for a more complete explanation.

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Israel's enemies seek to undermine her moral right to exist and to defend herself.
This is called 'delegitimization' and is also one of the central issues of this incident.

Here is the crowd a little later, around 3pm:

Fliers & Handouts

In addition to the signs, a number of people were handing out fliers.  One very good one was from an organization called Stand With Us.  They were promoting these websites:
  • This appears to be a good source of facts regarding the flotilla that have been ignored in the anti-Israel reporting that has dominated the issue.  For example, there were other boats in the flotilla that were boarded and searched peacefully, and without incident.
  • More info on Turkey's relationship to the whole incident;
  • Seems to be a general Pro-Israel information clearinghouse, specific to this organization, with info on other events and updates.
There was also an organization called the Israeli Leadership Council, promoting a project called which lets you register for rallies and counter-protests that come up on short notice.  Their whole mission statement is too long to reproduce here, but I found it pretty interesting and encourage you to check them out and read it for yourself.  I plan to sign up for their emails, even if just to know what's going on in the world of protests and counter protests.  They also have a facebook page at

Another leaflet I came home with was from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, titled "2010 Top Ten Anti-Israel LIES".  This one is pretty eye-opening as well, and you can read it online at

I was looking in the crowd for Gideon Reich, who I knew from the OActivists List would be there and possibly distributing some leaflets as well, but we missed each other. (It was a pretty big crowd!) He wrote up a nice blog post about his experiences at the rally, which you can read here.

The Crowd and My Overall Experience

I have to say, the overall mood was really much more of a rally or festival or celebration, than one of protest or counter-protest.  Everyone was smiling and friendly, and it was easy to approach and talk to just about anyone.

The speakers were really hard to hear, unfortunately.  That's really my only complaint.  I also found myself wishing there were a beer tent, but then I would remind myself that this wasn't really a festival, even though it seemed like one in some ways, and I could go to the bar later.

I was tweeting the whole time too, and I just found this cool app where you can revisit your old tweets, called TwimeMachine.  Through the magic (not really) of TwimeMachine, you can revisit your old tweets.  Here is a log of my tweets that day, courtesy of Twime Machine.  To read them chronologically, start at the bottom:

Crowd Size Estimate

One report I read indicated that LAPD estimated the crowd at 2,200.  At the time, I estimated the crowd as closer to 8-10,000. I thought I had tweeted that, but a quick check of my tweet log above shows that I must have been distracted or something and decided not to tweet it.  I wish I had, because my quick math shows that I was probably pretty close without going over, and would have likely won the Showcase Showdown if this were The Price is Right.

Here's how I defend my number:

I took the satellite image from above, imported it into AutoCad, and scaled it appropriately to the graphic scale shown on the map (omitted from the cropped image above.)  Then I traced a polyline around the red outline I drew.  According to ACad, the area encompassed by that line is around 50,000 square feet.

When designing a lobby or other closely packed standing space, the building code calls for 5 square feet per occupant.  50,000/5 = 10,000 occupants.

From my pictures, you can see that the crowd isn't exactly packed in shoulder-to-shoulder for that whole area, but they are that dense in some places.  Also, there were lots of people milling around outside the red-outlined area.  Plus, there were people coming and going the whole time.  So, if you took everyone who attended at some point during the afternoon, and packed them into that space, I think you would at least fill the red outlined area, if not exceed it.

So, perhaps the more accurate figure is 10-12,000 people.

The Helen Thomas Incident

There were several signs, of the homemade variety (as opposed to all those pre-printed ones I showed you above) declaring "Helen Thomas is a Nazi" and that sort of thing.  I was completely unaware of the incident of the previous Friday, and didn't really know what was up with this.  I got some info from one of the other protesters at the same time the tweet came through from my twitter friend @shlevy : "Affiliated with White House press, made a statement that the Jews should leave "Palestine" or some such."  Then I realized that I had, in fact, heard of Helen Thomas, the old lady that sat in the front row of the White House Press Corps, mainly out of tradition, but I had no idea she was such a fearless bigot.

You can always count on your tweeps to help fill in the blanks and connect the dots!

It wasn't until I got home and read the news that I realized the incident was relatively fresh, and I then didn't feel like I was out of the loop for not knowing.  I usually spend Friday and Saturday out in the workshop welding furniture, and miss out on the news those days.  If I were to sit down in front of the computer on a Friday or Saturday morning, I could blow an hour or two very easily, just indulging my inner news junkie.

Then came Monday morning's news of her retirement. I found this pretty interesting in the big-picture context.

On the one hand, Israel's government is left alone in the world, to defend her actions regarding the flotilla.  Many ships were boarded, in international waters,  to be searched for weapons and contraband.  All but one of these searches were conducted peacefully.  One erupted into the ugly spectacle we have all read about and seen video of, and for which Israel is universally condemned.  Israel has every right to conduct these searches, in the interest of her own self-defense against Hamas, and their never ending volley of thousands of rockets into Israel.  Note that these rockets have been launched after the Israeli pull out from Gaza in 2005.

Yet, on the other hand, the kind of speech delivered by Helen Thomas is resoundingly condemned and vilified, and her immediate retirement is the result.  Her speaking engagements are canceled, and she is put out of the Press Corps.

I'm sure that in the Arab world, Ms. Thomas is being celebrated.  Many accounts have surfaced that she was always known to be anti-Semitic, only that her timing and choice of words were extremely poor in this case, and they got the better of her.


Somehow, Hamas is seen by most as a legitimate body which is to be taken seriously and negotiated with in good faith.  Yet, Helen Thomas is instantly delegitimized by her own remarks, which are essentially the same thing Hamas is saying.

If only the world would wake up to the fact that Hamas and their brethren march in lockstep with Thomas and her ilk, and they mean it.  America needs to wake up to the fact that Israel's enemies are America's enemies;  that Gaza needs to be freed from Hamas; that, in fact, peace activists don't use knives and clubs; and that the delegitimization of Israel is wrong.

Only then can there be the real possibility of peace in the Middle East.

6/10/2010 Update to the Update

It has been pointed out to me that I did in fact tweet my crowd estimate, just before leaving the rally.  I somehow managed to crop my screenshot of the Twime Machine search at the wrong spot.  Here is the full tweet log, with my crowd estimate at the top:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Letter in Opposition to AB48

I saw this item in my twittter and facebook feeds this morning:

@Rob_Abiera:  An End To Flight Instructors Excellent comments.

Apparently the State of California has unleashed a whole new bunch of regulations and fees on private flight schools in response to the bankruptcy of one such enterprise and the (apparently) fraudulent loss of up-front fees paid by students. 

In typical fashion, this was stealthily smuggled into the somewhat routine re-authorization of an existing bill, and the flight instructors and schools were caught completely off-guard.  

They are now trying to play catch-up and salvage what they can of their livelihoods, before they are driven completely out of business (or out of state) by the onerous fees. I wrote the following to my representatives in Sacramento, and to Governor Arnold, this morning.

Dear _______,

This is in response to AB-48 which was passed and signed into law last year.  This bill imposed new regulations and fees on private flight schools in California.  Apparently this was done in response to the bankruptcy of Silver State Helicopters and subsequent loss of up-front tuition paid by students.

The proper response to a case of apparent fraud such as this, no matter how large, no matter how many victims, is to prosecute it vigorously as a case of fraud. 
It is horribly unjust to sanction an entire industry, simply because of the fraudulent actions of one party.  To do so is, in effect, to declare them all guilty.  The only people or corporations who should be the object of government action are those who have been proven guilty, in  a court of law, of a specific crime against another.  The idea that government is legitimate in taking regulatory action against innocent businesses, who have done nothing wrong, is the complete inversion of the American concept of 'innocent until proven guilty'.
The proper legislative response, if any, would be to examine the laws around fraud that exist already, in an attempt to determine if there are any legitimate failings, loopholes, or other weaknesses in the law, which might create difficulties for the investigation and prosecution of actual fraud.
Many flight schools will be forced to close as a result of this bill.  That this sort of action, which will cost hundreds of good jobs, and destroy the hard work and dreams of many individuals, is perpetrated by the State of California on its citizens during the worst econonomic downturn since the Great Depression, speaks to the viciousness of those in power.
This bill will do nothing to protect the innocent from the unscrupulous, and will only make it harder for honest, hard working people to puruse their own happiness.
I urge that this action be repealed immediately.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Memorial Day and an Epic Knitting Project!

I am a couple of days late with this post, which was intended for last Monday.  It was started with good intentions, but forces conspired to delay its completion.  Nonetheless, here we go:

Today being Memorial Day, we pause to remember those who have given their lives to keep the United States free from foreign aggressors, and I offer my thanks and gratitude to those who have served in our Armed Forces. 

Lately, I have been watching the HBO miniseries dramatization of the life of John Adams (which appropriately bears the title John Adams) and I highly recommend it.  It is amazing to watch the lives of this man, along with his wife Abigail, unfold on the screen.  You also get to see George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin in action, among others.  I have never watched any historical dramatization of these men, and it is wonderful to see them brought to life after having only read about them in books or seen their portraits, or illustrations of episodes in their lives (or perhaps a cheeky portrayal of Ben Franklin in some odd TV commercial, but I don’t think that counts.)

So, this Memorial Day, I have a particularly fresh sense if importance for the day, along with an extra helping of appreciation for those who chose to make it their profession to protect and defend the ideals of the great men who risked everything to launch our great Republic.

A special shout out goes to my cousin Tom, my other cousin David, and my good friend Wolfgang, all of whom are actual veterans of our recent and current wars.


This is also a post for the knitters (keep reading, I’ll tie this all together - trust me)

Last fall, I really got into making gloves.  Fingerless gloves.  I became interested in making them because I play the piano, but my house is really drafty and cold in the winter.  I wanted gloves that I could play piano in.  I made a couple of pairs, from my own made-up pattern, and got a lot of good feedback on the pattern development from my knitting buddy, deb.  (She actually was the one who came up with the gapless finger division technique that will appear in the final pattern.)

Then, this past spring, I showed a pair to my cousin, Tom (the same cousin Tom mentioned above.)  He is an avid hunter/fisher/outdoorsman-type, and told me that he thought they would be totally great for hunting.  With this comment, I made an immediate connection.  I had heard of organized Knit-alongs to make helmet liners to be donated for the troops.  If Tom thought that the fingerless gloves would work well for hunting deer and the like, what about fingerless gloves for hunting bad guys in Afghanistan?  What if I could get a whole bunch of knitters to make fingerless gloves for the troops?!

My buddy Wolfgang is an officer in the Marines, and I have dinner with Mrs. Wolfgang and him fairly regularly.  I mentioned the idea of an organized volunteer effort to make fingerless gloves for the troops, one evening over dinner, and they thought it was a great idea.  I brought out my sample glove, and they both agreed that they would be useful and very well received.  Mrs. Wolfgang happens to be a Family Readiness Adviser, and she has offered to assist with distribution logistics.

Thus, the Glove-Along for the Troops was conceived.

The schedule will be as follows:

- Memorial Day - Announcement of the Project
- 4th of July - Start your Needles!
- Labor Day - Gloves due for shipment to the Marines. 

Just take a minute and think about the freezing cold winter coming up in Afghanistan, and picture some brave soldier trying to operate some kind of technical equipment in a hurry, and how these gloves could literally save someone’s life.  This is not an exaggeration.  Join us and help make a difference for our men and women in uniform.

Plus, there will be prizes and lots of pictures and updates along the way, and tutorials and tons of step-by-step help, so even if you’ve never knit a glove before, you can learn!

I have made several gloves at this point, and have settled on this design for the ‘gloves for the troops’ campaign:

This sample is made from a slightly lighter weight yarn (Arucania Nature Wool) than the final glove, which will be knit on #4 needles, using Cascade 220 yarn.  Also, the donated gloves will need to be in either camel, brown, gray, or black, per military specification.  Once I finish the second one of the pair, I will be able to write up the pattern and finalize it.  I will have the pattern available prior to the July 4th start date. (It should be ready in about 2 weeks, at the rate I’m knitting.)

If you want to join the Glove-along for the Troops, then either join our Ravelry group  or our facebook group or follow us on twitter @gloves4troops.

Please help spread the word!  Our goal is to get 100 pairs of gloves to the troops by fall.  Help make a difference for the troops during the cold upcoming winter in Afghanistan.

Update 6/5/2010:

I want to clarify that the picture above of the sample glove is not to military color specification.  I knit it from some yarn that I had on hand, just to work out the pattern.