Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


The Heavy Artillery

Many of those who know me know that I like to cook and that I am a bit of a breakfast aficionado, especially in the waffle department. In that spirit, I bought a Waring Belgian waffle maker a couple of years ago and proceeded to use the heck out of it. I often had as many friends over as I could find in my phone's text directory for long Sunday breakfasts:
Old and busted: The Waring "Pro"

That all ended back in September, when after a year of declining service, the Waring (with my uncle, grandmother, parents and wife in somber attendance) kicked the bucket for good. Stupid consumer -grade kitchen appliances. Over time, it took longer and longer after the "beep" for a completed waffle to emerge, until the very last waffle, which languished in liquid state until I finally gave up. 

I took the thing apart to find cheap, thin sheet metal wrapping the nonstick irons and heating elements, and totally fried wiring and insulation between the iron and the base.  The "flipping" action that is so necessary for a good waffle was too much for the pathetic wires inside.  Tired, greasy, and with cuts on my fingers from the sheet metal casing, I gave up and put the whole lot into the trash. 

Later, I went back to Amazon.com to see what the reviewers said.  Many who put their iron through heavy use like I did had the same problem, and some had gone so far as to replace the thermal fuse in the wiring.  In fact, that fuse is one of the things that shows up when you look at the "other things people who purchased this item also purchased" section of the listing.  So, if you buy one of these, you are likely to have to go out and buy a new fuse for it and will have to rewire it within the first few years of ownership. 

We have been waffle-less all winter long (of course, I have been ski instructing all winter long, so the opportunity to have friends over for long, lazy breakfasts is also severely limited until after the end of March.)  I have been wishfully looking around the Internet for a good replacement, but there is a surprising price gap between consumer machines (maxing out at around 200 dollars) and commercial ones (starting at about 600 dollars). 

The $1.50 part that fails inside of the $75 waffle iron. 

Enter that wretched hive of scum and villainy, eBay.  After few months of watching and bidding, I am the proud owner of a serious waffle machine (used, of course), for a consumer-grade price.  It heats to skin scorching temperatures, weighs somewhere in the high twenties to low thirties, and has no lights, no temperature adjustment, no silly sheet metal or plastic cladding. The power cord coming out of the back of it is as big around as my thumb. It could probably use its own electrical circuit. 

New hotness. (with apologies to Shepard Fairey.)_

(For illustration purposes only. Some scoundrels on Ebay are selling waffle irons that look much like this that are actually, much like plastic milk crates, "not for sale" and are only available if you are a subscriber to their proprietary batter mix and service plan.  I would never take part in such shenanigans. ) 

So rejoice, my friends and breakfast invitees.  Some day, when the snows of winter have receded and the time presents itself, there will once again be waffles at the Boulanger/Nugent house.  They will issue forth from the machine with a hearty "ding from a mechanical timer. Arms will be strengthened with the turning of the massive plates. Appetites will be satisfied.

Now, to find a place to park this thing...     


Home improvement: Sticky Back Door

Our back door stuck so badly it required a hip check to open and such a hard pull to close that the doorknob became completely defunct and pulled out of the door most of the time. 

I've been working on the doorknob situation and got it rigged back together, even if it did require a little duct tape.  A more permanent solution is coming. 

In the meantime, getting the door unstuck has necessitated a great deal of sanding, planing, lying on one's side, opening and closing the door, etc.  I managed to remove all of the paint from the door sill, which helped, and then to plane a small amount of material from the door itself, which helped even more. 

Which brings me to the real point: tools. Our first house marks my first time having the necessary room for the proper storage and maintenance of a good set of tools.  Although most of them are of the hand variety, (a Makita cordless drill from Kate's dad being the single exception) they are hugely useful and in the case of the plane I put to the rough work of fixing the sill, priceless.  When my father's father passed away, Dad had the unenviable task of salvaging the tools from Pa's basement.  He put a good collection of them away for me, kept them until we moved back to Vermont and bought our house. 

And so, soon after we bought our house last year, I found myself in the doorway, in the cold, with this wonderfully warm and heavy piece of wood and metal in my hands.  I put it away when the job was done, wrapping it in the piece of salvaged inner tube it came to me in, and laying it (never blade-down, as Kate's father once showed me) in one of the salvaged toolboxes among its other companions. 

Pa must have really appreciated a good screwdriver.  I went from having a few poor examples in my collection- mostly the kind you buy at the checkout counter at the hardware store with a supply of useless changeable bits in the handle- to having drivers of all lengths and sizes.  More flat than Phillips head, befitting the time in which they were purchased.  Wrenches, too, all smelling of carbon, steel, motor oil, and must- how can metal smell musty? 65 years in a dirt-floor basement amid crates of moldering Popular Mechanics and railroad enthusiast magazines. 

All is in its place now, in my home, in my basement.  The job of the door is done and done right, not halfway or so another who comes after will ever have to give it a thought.  Pa wouldn't have looked so favorably on the doorknob- but set-screws and other replacement hardware for 60-year old doorknobs can be hard to come by. It'll get done right, soon.  


Lots of fresh groomed stuff today.
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Home Improvement: Kitchen Cabinet Removal

Remember Glasnost?  Openness.  That's what we wanted in the kitchen and dining room, and one night after yet another bumped head, the frustration had mounted enough that I got out the screwdriver.  An hour later, the cabinets between the kitchen and dining room were gone. 

The eventual plan is to install a range top in the now-uncovered counter, moving the oven from where it is and the fridge to where the oven is now, all of the appliances rotating counterclockwise and leaving greater room in the middle of the floor.  I hope that where the cabinets were mounted, I might be able to install a hood/fan/light unit. It's a straight shot to the exterior wall for ductwork, which is nice. 

I was able to deal with the loss of cabinet space pretty easily.  In the long term, though, as more space is lost to the relocated stove and an eventual dishwasher, we'll have to look at maximizing those two corner cabinets with some sort of lazy susan arrangement. 


Build a hotel, save some trees?

In my current and my most recent former places of employment, much has been made of the notion of transferable development rights (TDR), but as in many places in the country, the idea of giving a property owner value for not developing their land in exchange for allowing an owner somewhere else to develop more has proven difficult to implement.

Enter Seattle and King County.  During our time in Missoula, Kate and I drove to Seattle for long weekends to get our "city fix" a couple of times.  One of the most striking things about driving into Seattle as compared to almost any other city of its size in the US is the overall lack of sprawling suburbs.  Driving over Snoqualmie Pass, it's as if you are in the country, then all of a sudden in the city.  Why?  Seattle has a growth boundary.  But what do you tell somebody who has property outside of the boundary?  Tough luck? 

No.  You let them transfer their right to develop to somebody inside the growth boundary, so they can build more, denser, higher, or what have you. The last time Kate and I were in Seattle, we noticed the ongoing construction of the Olive 8, now completed.  What I didn't know at the time was that the 8 was built larger than would normally be allowed in exchange for providing for the preservation of land outside of the growth boundary. 

Enter this excellent piece by Bill Fulton, explaining how the TDR program works in King County:

..."the Olive 8 condo/hotel tower had gotten 30% more height because of TDRs (I was on the second-to-highest floor) and that one TDR from rural King County -- that is, removing the ability to build one house on a five-acre lot -- bought 2,000 additional square feet in the Olive 8 tower. That means every six or seven rooms on the upper floors of the Hyatt at Olive 8 preserved one five-acre lot in eastern King County from being mini-mansioned by a Microsoft millionaire."

I think a lot about this here in Vermont, where the trend seems to be that young professionals move as far away from the Burlington area as they can comfortably get as soon as they have the wherewithal to do so, seeking out the largest and most remote lots possible.  Seattle shows us a different way, and one I think we might be wise to encourage here in Vermont:

"One of the reasons that TDR programs work in the Seattle area is that even the most urban dwellers do not feel removed from the rural environment. around them. Even if they walk or ride transit during the week, they love to get out and collide hard with nature on the weekends. So saving land far aware isn't an abstraction. It's real."

That's exactly the kind of lifestyle I'm looking for in Burlington. 


My line up.
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