Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eastern Neck Paddling Trip

Every few months, the Chesapeake Paddlers Association goes on a trip to Eastern Neck in Maryland. This is the first time I have participated in a large CPA outing and it was lots of fun. The weather was rather nasty, with winds up to 30 mph and the water was quite choppy but I had lots of fun and enjoyed myself which is what counts. The wind did make it difficult to set up tents. Every tent raising had at least 4-5 people helping to hold things in place and hammer in pegs. I was testing out a new tent and the high winds made for good testing conditions.

I once again borrowed a better boat from a fellow paddler. This time he brought a different seat back so I could swap it out to help with the leg falling asleep problem. It mostly worked but I still got occasional numbness creaping in. There is just something about the seat design that I can't figure out what is causing the numbness. In the end, I find myself shifting around a lot to relieve pressure points. It is a nice kayak but I think I liked his Force 4 better. They are quite pricey but I think that after looking around, that is the boat I ultimately want to get as I feel I will grow into it best. Anything else I feel will just get replaced with this one in the end, so I am cutting to the chase.

Since the weather was rather inclemental, about half of the group ended up turning back, mostly due to inexperience with such weather and rough chop. The die hards ended up paddling against the wind which was really hard. I later heard that we only managed to average about 1 mph. The area was very nice and I wish the wind had died down sooner so we could enjoy the day more fully. As it was, we turned back early and rode the waves back to the cars. The wind mostly died down after that, of course. I was a little sad that the guy form whom I had borrowed a boat ended up leaving that night so I couldn't participate in any of the Sunday morning paddling. I tried to borrow from another person but everyone ended up splitting up into many little groups and leaving that it never worked out.

The after paddle picnic dinner Saturday night was great. I felt a little bad that my pie didn't survive the trip to the site, but in the end, there was sooo much food that it really wasn't necessary to add such a sweet dessert on top of everything. As it was, people kept bringing out dish after dish. I found myself full from the first few dishes, then had trouble keeping away from subsequent dishes.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 28, 2007

Short week, busy weekend

Although I worked Sunday, Monday and part of Tuesday up in New York, as we worked long hours, this felt like a short week. I have Friday off since I worked Sunday, which is adding to the short week syndrome. So it really only feels like I worked two days this week. I didn't work Tuesday afternoon. This was a combination of not feeling well and getting back late enough and exhausted enough that I couldn't bring myself to walk down to work even for an hour. So I unpacked and finished the book I was reading. it was a good book and I will try to write a little review of it soon. I find I have been slipping a litlte in my posts. I have been seeing someone lately. Add that to the crazy work schedule of this last week and all the kayaking I have been doing on the weekends, plus the intermittent wifi I have, and that means I have been slipping in my posts.

Trying to look on the bright side of things, I did manage to get the whole first chapter of my NaNo writing edited and posted to my other blog. Not sure when I will have a chance to get any other chapter posted though. Time will tell. I am going home for Thanksgiving next week so that should give me a chance to get some things done. The list is getting long. I want to finish up the baby caps I was knitting over the summer and post those for sale soon. I was also going to see if my friend wanted to try to sell a few to her customers. And a friend had a baby recently so I was thinking of giving her one. That is always a good way to get requests and more sales. I wanted to make tags for the hats so that people could contact me or at least know who made them. And that is one thing that has really been holding up the caps.

I am also gearing up for a weekend paddling trip. We are heading out to Eastern Neck to paddle and have fun. We will be heading out Friday night to stay at the camp grounds, then we paddle Saturday. There will be a group potluck to which I will be bringing my Death by Chocolate pie, then we will head back Sunday. I made the pie this morning (cutting it a little tight) but it is less rich than I normally make it. I was making a smaller one this time so I followed the recipe were normally I make a larger pie and increase the amount of chocolate which makes for a richer, denser filling, hence the name. This one will be good but I don't think it will live up to the ones I have made in the past.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Back from a business trip

A few of us in the lab had to go up to New York for work. We had hoped that the new guy we hired to take over this project would be able to take over the whole project. Instead we have the horrible situation occurring where the boss and I have to hold his hand through the whole project and in the end, we spend (ie waste) more time trying to keep an eye on him than we did before we hired him. He is clueless, has no initiative and is rather spaced out most of the time. It took three tries before he had a half way decent working protocol that we could follow. We found out over the course of our experimental run that there were mistakes, typos and errors in the protocol. On top of that, even after the boss asked him to add space for comments and notes, there wasn't enough space. It is a good thing he attached a few sheets of blank paper to the back of the protocol. But in the end, if he had planned out the protocol design more carefully, we wouldn't have needed the blank sheets.

Since we were working both with mice and cells, this was going to be a tough run, and it was. We arrived Sunday afternoon and did as much set up and labelling as we could in preparation for a Monday morning run. On Monday, I ended up getting a phone call from the clueless one asking why I didn't tell him to pick up his badge. Apparently they move things like that when offices start to open, so if he had picked it up when he was in the building earlier rather than waiting, he wouldn't have had to hike across campus to get it. I pointed out that not only did I not know they would move such items, but he could have walked back over and asked for a lift rather than make everyone late for our initial training and dry run. We have to put up with this guy for another 4-6 months. I am hoping he finds another job and just leaves.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Kayaking farewell to summer

We had one of the last meetup trips today. There might be time left in the season for another paddle but this was the one were we gathered together to paddle, then eat, drink and be merry. One of the members wanted to have a wine and cheese event and so we had a farewell to summer toast off. It was quite nice. There was a nice selection of food and a lot of great people to chat with. We ended up breaking the paddlers up into two groups, a faster group and slower group. Although I was in a slow boat, I ended up leading the faster group. I felt a little bad for the organizer as he was in a fast boat with the slow group, and it seemed like they were quite slow. He ended up getting them back then came back to get up and do some faster paddling. I think we are switching next time. Might be time to find another assistant organizer to help lead the slower group.

I am not sure if we will be able to pull people into doing winter things so we may not see them again until the spring. We are looking into some sort of homebrew beer tasting events but still have to work out logistics and location. The brainstorming has been fun though.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Show me the honey!

So I fianlly took the time to pull out all the honey I was carefully stockpiling and made a batch of mead. It was relatively straight forward, although a little sticky. I decided not to heat the must (the technical name for the liquid that the yeast gets added to, in this case honey and water). There are two different schools of thought around this. FIrst is that you have to pasturize the honey and must to prevent things from growing in it. Second, it is best to not heat the honey as you loose some of the delicate floral aromals and nuances. Whatever, I decided to be lazy. I diluted the honey in the water, and I splurged and picked up some bottles of spring water. I added the yeast nutrient and energizer. I also found out I bought two nutrient bottle by accident, oh well. Then I rehydrated and pitched the yeast. Done.

So now I wait. Apparently mead takes about 4-6 weeks in the fermentor, with there being no reason to hurry to bottle. Then another 6 months to a year in the bottles before being fit for consumption. Sometimes it takes up to 3-5 years for the mead to fully mature. I am hoping it doesn't take that long but I am prepared for it. I am also going to bottle some of the batch as a still mead and some as a sparkling mead, meaning effervescent. I am kind of excited about this. It is something quite different from my normal beer batches and quite easy to make. Too bad the honey is so expensive but maybe I can find a local beekeeper and get wholesale honey cheaper if I decide to make more batches. I am thinking I will definitely make another batch in about 6 months and hopefully keep to that loose schedule and always have mead on hond for events.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An even better kayak

I was out kayaking again Saturday afternoon. The guy I had borrowed the other nice kayak from was along and I had a chance to play with it again. This time there were some waves and the water was a little choppy. It was fun, as the wind was to our backs and the waves were pushing us along. The wave surfing was great. The way back was against the wind but not as bad we thought it would be. Mostly it was bad before the bridges as they were funnelling the wind. I had a chance after the trip to try out another kayak, the Force 4. Very nice. I really liked the cockpit and the boat was a dream to handle as well as being more stable initially. I also felt I could lean into the turns with more ease. As a bonus, my leg didn't fall asleep. Although I wasn't in the boat for a very long time, I could tell that the seat and cockpit was much more comfortable. I will have to think seriously about whether this is the boat for me, as it will be difficult to find one used. This particular model was only just started last year. Oh well. Maybe I will think about a new one in the winter when the prices might be a little better.


Friday, September 14, 2007

TGIF bbq

The Health and Safety department here at work had their end of year bbq. There was lots of food, burgers, hot dogs, pulled venison and ribs. I got a preview of the pulled venison at lunch, it pays to know the right people. I then opted to have the ribs since they were keeping the venison for themselves and they were really good. I think I ate a little too much but the food was great. They also had neon yellow 'lemonade'. They actually had to put a sign up on the 'lemonade' telling people it was margarita mix as a few people complained about the nasty lemonade. So the rest of the party we walked around telling EH&S how much we loved their 'lemonade'. I think I drank a little too much but the lemonade went down nice and smooth after the first one. I am glad that the weather held out this year. I was on campus last year for their bbq and it rained. I actually went back up to the lab and grabbed a rain coat before braving the bbq. The rain did come but it was near the end of the bbq, good timing.

I went to catch a movie down in Georgetown after the bbq. Good thing I don't fall asleep at the drop of a hat. I may have been a little drunk but at least I was able to follow the movie. I'll write something up on it later. I had a great time. I feel like I am settling in here in DC better than I was in Harvard. Maybe it is because I have been here longer, but I feel like I have more friends and more things to do now than I have ever had to do. Although RI still runs a close second.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

A better kayak

I had a chance to try out someone else's kayak tonight at the boat house. It was an NDK classic British sea expedition kayak, mostly meaning it is good and fast on rough water. So I hopped into the kayak and immediately noticed that the kayak was narrower and a little less stable then my fat kayak. After paddling around a little, I got the hang of the balance and started to get comfotable with leaning into the turn. I didn't feel like I was paddling any faster or harder than I normally do, but looking behind me, I noticed that everyone was further back. This kayak was a dream to paddle compared to mine. I definitely will be buying a new kayak soon but I just need to figure out what I will like and how I plan on using it.

I am not 100% sure I will end up buying an NDK Explorer mostly because I noticed that my leg kept falling asleep. There is something about the shape of the seat or the way I am sitting that causes my left leg to go numb. Not a good thing and it is rather uncomfortable. I will have to see if there is a way to modify the seat, or see if I can find a similar sytle with another company.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Lots of paddling fun

I talked a coworker into coming down and paddling with the group. She came with her husband and son and it was lots of fun. I had a little trouble getting the husband to sit up straight as his leaning posture was not giving an efficient paddling stoke and the leaning was causing the kayak to turn to the left. But their son seemed to have a good time splashing in the water and seeing deer, ducks, and turtles. I ended up paddling slowly to keep them company while the group went on ahead. Then once I got them back to the dock I caught up with the group.

I got in more wet exit practice. I discovered that the river banks on the Potomac at that point are composed of toxic, smelly mud that is hard to stand in. I almost lost a sandal when I tried to pull my foot out. I also managed to get a little water up the nose and into the sinuses when I went over the first time. Ouch. But I got in three good exits and know that I can get out of the kayak and get back into the kayak when I have nothing to stand on. Actually, the getting in part seemed to be the easier part of the practice. I am comfortable in the water and comfortable getting into the kayak but I still dislike having to purposely flip the kayak. I have to psyc myself up for it which won't happen if I get flipped by a wave.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

TGIF Happy Hour

Turn out for yesterday s Happy Hour event was really good. Apparently the students are back on campus and several of the old timers have been eagerly awaiting the first TGIF. I even had the department chair come and drop off a tip although he couldn't stay long. I was a little disappointed that the amber ale didn't carbonate. I decided to chill then carbonate and apparently that doesn't work. The trick is to chill, carbonate then chill further. I didn't do the chill further step so it was a little flat. I think I will stick with what worked best and that was to carbonate when warm then chill the beer. Since I over pressurize the keg, the carbonation has time to dissolve into solution as the beer chills. The soda was also flat, but something else was wrong with the soda. There were things floating in the soda as I was dispensing. I guess I didn't do a good job cleaning the keg so I had to toss the whole batch. That is a first for me, good thing it wasn't a beer. I picked up some cleaner and will give it a good soaking soon.

I was supposed to go backpacking this weekend but everyone pretty much bailed and I was left with two people willing to go. I called it off so now I am trying to help set up a last minute kayaking event in its place. Plus I could use more wet exit practice.

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 07, 2007

Wet Exit

So it was bound to happen, I had to learn how to exit the kayak in case of a flip so I purposely flipped the kayak in calm water. I did end up spending about 5-10 minutes whining and procrastinating about it first. I didn't really care if I got wet, I just didn't want to be upside down underwater. I also kept thinking about all the things that can go wrong, and what if my life jacket pressed me against the hull. In the end, other than hitting my head on the paddle, there were no problems leaving the kayak. The problems came with trying to get all the water out of the kayak. It took three people to get the kayak out of the water onto their kayaks then tip all the water out. I was even able to get back into the kayak like I knew what I was doing. I did discover that my life jacket needs to be a little tighter as it came up a little higher than it should.

In preparation for TGIF, I loaded up the amber ale and birch beer into the car with two boxes of old school texts and drove them down to the school on my way to kayaking. It was easier to carry the two kegs at once than lug each one alone. Needless to say, after lugging heavy kegs, heavy boxes, then paddling like mad, my arms and shoulders are tired and a little sore. Even my wrists are tired and a little sore. I could use a massage, or a hot tub soak. I am supposed to go backpacking tomorrow but the turn out is rather low and I am not sure my shoulders would be happy with that. I will have to see how I am doing later.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Shoot 'em Up

I had a chance to watch an advanced screening of this movie. I have taken lately to not reading reviews as I find that they give away too much of the plot and reduce my interest in the movie. The movie synopsis posted for this movie was a one liner with very little detail. My interest was piqued, plus the movie was free.

This movie is a comedy. There are many moments in teh movie where a suspension of belief is required in order to enjoy the movie. This is the type of movie where the good guy seemingly never runs out of bullets and his aim is perfect. What makes the movie is the dead pan humour of Clive Owens as an unwilling participant in saving a baby from an army of killers. He is a hard core hater of all things but every once in a while he shows a soft side. While it was hard to believe someone could be so lucky as to not get shot, I really did enjoy this movie.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Dinner party

I was invited out to a dinner party on Labour Day. I wasn't sure I wanted to go as I really dislike going to parties were I know no one. I had also spent a good part of the day doing an IKEA exchange and assembling and moving furniture. But I was talked into it so off I went. I am glad I went actually. It was a small group of people, more one on one, and the conversations didn't exclude me. So even though I really didn't know these people, I felt included. I also brought a couple homebrews and that always gets a few conversations going in my favour. Supper consisted of a really great bbq'ed London Broil. It was very good. Although I had an awful time finding neary parking, the dinner party was worth it.


Some assembly required

So I went to IKEA this weekend as I really wanted to get a dresser and bookshelf so I could clean up and organize the apartment. I also wanted to unpack the boxes of books I didn't have shelf space for. So I picked out a nice dresser and bookshelf. When I got back, I discovered the bookshelf was missing the back and had the wrong hardware so I had to bring it back the next day and fight with the return staff when the next one I bought had the same problem. After at least 30 minutes, everything was finally sorted out. The dresser had all the right parts and went together quickly with help from a friend and a cordless drill. Thank goodness for that cordless drill. It made all the IKEA assembly go so much smoother and faster than if we had had to hand screw everything.

After all the assembling, I moved the new dresser into the bedroom, the old dresser is in the linen closet and had some towels and hiking gear in it. The closet is mch better organized now. The little bookshelf that was in the linen closet will go in my bedroom closet and the new bookshelf is in the livingroom. I managed to switch all the clothes into the new dresser and fill the old dresser with towels and gear. I still have boxes lying around with stuff that I either need to sell, donate or toss. That is a project for another day.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Paddling the Chesapeake

A small group of us went out on saturday and paddled around part of the Potomac were it dumps into the Chesapeake. We also then paddled part of the Chesapeake bay and it was really nice if a little choppy. I didn't notice the chop too much until we stopped paddling. Then we were stopped paddling and started going up and down. Good thing I don't get sea sick, or haven't yet. It was a long day of paddling but the weather was nice and the views were great. We stopped for lunch on a small beach that had the lake on one side and the Potomac on the other. After we ate, we did a little beach combing then carried the kayaks over to the Potomac side and off we went.

After a nice day of paddling we ended up at a crab house for supper. The crab cake was excellent. It was so much food I was stuffed afterwards. The drive back was exhausting and I am somewhat glad I wasn't driving. The combination of the food, sun, lack of sleep and late hour and I was exhausted. I just had to get my car back to my place and find parking. Good thing there was some down the street. I discovered the next morning that I missed a few spots with the sunscreen. I somehow missed along the sides of my tank top straps. Either that or the sweat and lifejacket rubbed away the sunscreen. It wasn't a bad burn, just enough to be annoying. I will try to be more careful next time. I wish I had brought along the bug dope as the bugs on the beach were nasty and vicious.

Labels: ,