Warm again

Feb. 8th, 2012 08:18 pm
lucianus: (Default)
The plumber just left a little while ago and we have a spiffy new furnace. It has an automatic water feed so it will always be topped up and we won't have that boiling dry nonsense again. We have all Iron pipes now as well. When this place was condo-ized and the separate boilers were put in, they plumbed this in the easiest cheapest way possible with copper pipes coming out of the boilers. It was from those joints of our copper pipes that all the solder melted during the overheating. That won't happen again.
lucianus: (Default)
On Saturday we were woken to a call from our downstairs neighbor. Our furnace had malfunctioned, boiled dry and was continuing to heat. Thankfully the smoke detectors had done their job and she had been alerted, otherwise there was a very real chance that our house could have burned. The guy from TBros came that day and took down all the particulars and that unfortunately it meant a new boiler because the old had been cracked. I'm not sure if our neighbor panicking and running water into it had caused the crack or if it had cracked already, but it was a goner in any case. Monday an estimate was put together which we approved and Tuesday the boiler was ordered and received. This morning the crew arrived to do the replacement and they are hard at work on it now. From the sounds I have been hearing through the pipes I think the old boiler and accouterments have been removed and I expect they are working on the installation now. Hopefully heat will be forthcoming in a few more hours. Yes it is indeed pricey but we will be getting a new boiler (82% efficiency) which will definitely be better than the 25 year old one we had. Best of all our house didn't burn down and we weren't all overcome with fumes and killed, proving that any day you don't die is a good day.

USS Olympia

Dec. 6th, 2011 10:42 pm
lucianus: (Default)
The USS Olympia, Admiral Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay is in danger of being scrapped or reefed. The Friends of the Cruiser Olympia has been formed to try to keep that from happening: http://cruiserolympia.org/site/


Winter CSA

Dec. 2nd, 2011 03:20 pm
lucianus: (melons)
Yesterday we got the first of our winter farm share from Enterprise Farm in Wateley (http://www.enterpriseproduce.com/). It will run until May and will carry us up to the start of our local CSA from Revision Farm. Enterprise will be supplying their own winter greens and keeping crops as well as produce from organic and sustainably grown farms on the east coast with whom they have partnered. We decided to go with a ½ bu. share so we wouldn’t be swimming in veg like we are in the summer. Based on yesterday’s box, I think we made the right choice.
This week’s haul included:
1 bunch of red chard
2 yellow squash (some of the best I’ve seen all season)
2 zucchini (again really nice)
3 Apples (nice large ones, enough for a pie just on their own)
2 Tomatoes (keeping tomatoes so better suited to cooking but large and nice nonetheless)
Carrots (many)
2 red grapefruit (I ate one for breakfast and it was super sweet, organic too)
field greens (a big bunch which I shoveled into my mouth last night with a simple vinaigrette)
3 green peppers
Cape Ann fresh catch fish begins again on Tuesday and will run for 8 weeks. We’re looking forward to that as well.

Fish CSA

Nov. 8th, 2011 11:47 pm
lucianus: (melons)
Today was the last fish of the fall season of the community supported fisheries. Le poisson du jour was pollack and it was as delicious as ever. If you live in the Boston area and like fish, I strongly recommend Cape Ann Fresh Catch. I can also recommend the fillet option. I have had the whole fish option and I always ended up spending my entire evening cleaning and filleting what we had received. The fillets are two pound portions which is plenty for [livejournal.com profile] jdulac and myself for several meals. Sign up for the winter season has started and I plan to sign us up for that as well. The new hitch begins on Dec. 8 I believe.


Nov. 5th, 2011 03:41 pm
lucianus: (Default)
Last night was date night and after a wonderful dinner at Aquitaine in Chestnut Hill, [livejournal.com profile] jdulac and I made our once a decade trip to the movies to see Anonymous, an Elizabethan potboiler about political intrigue and the question of who actually authored the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Leaving aside the authorship question which is a discussion unto itself, the plot was wilder than anything Luke could have dreamt up in his most intoxicant fueled fantasies. It included a government run by crazed, power hungry Puritans, illegitimate births, incest and overthrow of the monarchy (well at least we know that last bit is actually true), as seen through the eyes of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. The film is, shall we say, flexible, about its chronology and bounces back and forth from the present (about 1595-1604) to the past (about 1570ish to about 1580 or so (not that it’s easy to tack things down exactly)). The Cecil’s, pere et fils, are the heavies (and for the love of Mike, it’s not Lord William Cecil, its Lord Burghley), both of them scheming and plotting to run England as a Puritan police state and to control Oxford’s literary output.
That said though, the film is visually stunning. The creation of late Elizabethan London, both in built sets and cgi was amazing and I felt like I was flying over a three dimensional rendering of Hollar or Vischer engravings. Likewise the sets for the theaters and the Bear Garden were terrific and the interiors of the various houses, palaces and taverns were very well observed. There were a number of objects, costumes and sets that I could specifically recognize as being taken from an extant artifact or location (the dress from the sieve portrait, albeit being worn by Elizabeth in about 1602, Oxford wearing the shirt from the museum at Bath on his deathbed, etc., etc.) and even the props I didn’t specifically recognize, such as the super sweet gold hilted rapier Oxford has on towards the end, were very spiffy (they should have ditched the big feathers on the quills however). There were also just some toss away things that only a student of the period would catch, such as James’ white suit (very nice) and the delightfully queenly characterization.
I would definitely recommend this picture. The plot is pure fantasy and should be treated as such but as a visual evocation of the period, it is first rate. You probably don’t want to delay seeing it because I fear it won’t be in the theaters very long.


Oct. 31st, 2011 08:50 am
lucianus: (Default)
About a thousand years ago (well actually only about 30 years ago) I tried my hand at making a hard cheese following a recipe in Tournaments Illluminated or some such SCA publication. It was edible but I didn't have anything that could pass for a cheese press or any cheese starter or even a decent thermometer! Needless to say it was an experiment that wasn't repeated.

Fast forward a goodly number of years... 

At Pennsic one of our camp mates brought the cheese she had made which put the bee in my bonnet to try my hand again at cheesemaking. About a month ago on my visit to the brewing store I bought all the accouterments to make hard cheese along with a copy of Home Cheesemaking and some milk from the market. Five hours later I was in possession of a young 2lb farmhouse cheese as well as a small dish of ricotta cheese. I let the cheese dry for about 5 days, then waxed it and put it up to age for a while. Yesterday evening we cut into the cheese and were delighted by its favor. It was very remeniscent of a Wensleydale in color, texture and flavor. I made a second cheese to the same recipe about 2 weeks ago and will be interested to see how it has turned out. 

Stay tuned.

CSA Week ?

Sep. 30th, 2011 12:31 pm
lucianus: (melons)
This week was another bumper crop from the farm share. The cornucopia disgorged the following:
Potatoes (white boilers)
Sweet potatoes
1 Sweet Dumpling and 1 Delicata squash
1 large leek
2 red onions
1 bunch of radishes with their greens
Swiss chard (Bright Lights)
Collards (a large bunch)
Broccoli (2 crowns)
Macintosh apples
Our last share will be on October 12, but I expect our carrots and potatoes will last a while beyond that. We’ve done pretty well this year eating things up in a timely manner and I haven’t had to pitch very much that’s gone west. Last night I made a dish of chard with dabs poached on top, delicious! Once the farm share is done we will still have the Thursday farmer’s market at the Loring House for a while longer, although we’ll be mostly having squash and root veggies from there I expect. I will need to sign us up for Boston Organics for the winter.

CSA Week ?

Sep. 22nd, 2011 03:19 pm
lucianus: (melons)
I've not been very good the past weeks about posting the CSA bounty but this week was a bumper crop, 16lbs or thereabouts of greens, root veggies and other treats, including a bag of apples!

The horn of plenty:
Potatoes (red and white)
Kale (curly)
Chard (Bright Lights)
Onions (red)
Bok choy
Cheddar cauliflower
Delicata squash
Cortland apples
lucianus: (Default)
A very interesting article from the Guardian on academic publishers. I know from my own dealings with all the organizations mentioned below that not only are they expensive but their customer service is awful. They consistently get our orders incorrect, including incorrect billing and dunning notices and when you try to contact them to fix the error, they are not available and they do not return your phone calls. You'd think they would be right on things, but no.

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist

Academic publishers charge vast fees to access research paid for by us. Down with the knowledge monopoly racketeers

George Monbiot

Monday 29 August 2011 21.08 BST

Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist? You won't guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.

Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a "keep out" sign on the gates.

You might resent Murdoch's paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier's journals will cost you $31.50. Springer charges €34.95, Wiley-Blackwell, $42. Read 10 and you pay 10 times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That'll be $31.50.

Of course, you could go into the library (if it still exists). But they too have been hit by cosmic fees. The average cost of an annual subscription to a chemistry journal is $3,792. Some journals cost $10,000 a year or more to stock. The most expensive I've seen, Elsevier's Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, is $20,930. Though academic libraries have been frantically cutting subscriptions to make ends meet, journals now consume 65% of their budgets, which means they have had to reduce the number of books they buy. Journal fees account for a significant component of universities' costs, which are being passed to their students.

Murdoch pays his journalists and editors, and his companies generate much of the content they use. But the academic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free. The material they publish was commissioned and funded not by them but by us, through government research grants and academic stipends. But to see it, we must pay again, and through the nose.

The returns are astronomical: in the past financial year, for example, Elsevier's operating profit margin was 36% (£724m on revenues of £2bn). They result from a stranglehold on the market. Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, who have bought up many of their competitors, now publish 42% of journal articles.

More importantly, universities are locked into buying their products. Academic papers are published in only one place, and they have to be read by researchers trying to keep up with their subject. Demand is inelastic and competition non-existent, because different journals can't publish the same material. In many cases the publishers oblige the libraries to buy a large package of journals, whether or not they want them all. Perhaps it's not surprising that one of the biggest crooks ever to have preyed upon the people of this country – Robert Maxwell – made much of his money through academic publishing.

The publishers claim that they have to charge these fees as a result of the costs of production and distribution, and that they add value (in Springer's words) because they "develop journal brands and maintain and improve the digital infrastructure which has revolutionised scientific communication in the past 15 years". But an analysis by Deutsche Bank reaches different conclusions. "We believe the publisher adds relatively little value to the publishing process … if the process really were as complex, costly and value-added as the publishers protest that it is, 40% margins wouldn't be available." Far from assisting the dissemination of research, the big publishers impede it, as their long turnaround times can delay the release of findings by a year or more.

What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.

It's bad enough for academics, it's worse for the laity. I refer readers to peer-reviewed papers, on the principle that claims should be followed to their sources. The readers tell me that they can't afford to judge for themselves whether or not I have represented the research fairly. Independent researchers who try to inform themselves about important scientific issues have to fork out thousands. This is a tax on education, a stifling of the public mind. It appears to contravene the universal declaration of human rights, which says that "everyone has the right freely to … share in scientific advancement and its benefits".

Open-access publishing, despite its promise, and some excellent resources such as the Public Library of Science and the physics database arxiv.org, has failed to displace the monopolists. In 1998 the Economist, surveying the opportunities offered by electronic publishing, predicted that "the days of 40% profit margins may soon be as dead as Robert Maxwell". But in 2010 Elsevier's operating profit margins were the same (36%) as they were in 1998.

The reason is that the big publishers have rounded up the journals with the highest academic impact factors, in which publication is essential for researchers trying to secure grants and advance their careers. You can start reading open-access journals, but you can't stop reading the closed ones.

Government bodies, with a few exceptions, have failed to confront them. The National Institutes of Health in the US oblige anyone taking their grants to put their papers in an open-access archive. But Research Councils UK, whose statement on public access is a masterpiece of meaningless waffle, relies on "the assumption that publishers will maintain the spirit of their current policies". You bet they will.

In the short term, governments should refer the academic publishers to their competition watchdogs, and insist that all papers arising from publicly funded research are placed in a free public database. In the longer term, they should work with researchers to cut out the middleman altogether, creating – along the lines proposed by Björn Brembs of Berlin's Freie Universität – a single global archive of academic literature and data. Peer-review would be overseen by an independent body. It could be funded by the library budgets which are currently being diverted into the hands of privateers.

The knowledge monopoly is as unwarranted and anachronistic as the corn laws. Let's throw off these parasitic overlords and liberate the research that belongs to us.

• A fully referenced version of this article can be found on George Monbiot's website. On Twitter, @georgemonbiot

Stormy day

Aug. 30th, 2011 05:19 pm
lucianus: (Default)
We weathered the storm very well here in JP. We were on the edge of the system and while we got rain and wind, it was nothing like the battering that other places received. In fact we had harder, more torrential rain the day before when a batch of very strong thunderstorms came through.

I spent the day canning. I made sweet pickle relish, roasted garlic hot sauce and mango-habanero hot sauce. I was kind of winging the last one and hope I have enough vinegar, salt and sugar in it combined with processing time. I'd give anything for a chart listing percentages of salt/sweet/acid ingredients to low acid/non low acid ingredients which gave measurements by weight, not volume, cuz a cup of chopped peppers is different from a cup of pepper puree. You'd think someone would twig on that...

CSA Week 9

Aug. 26th, 2011 02:59 pm
lucianus: (melons)
Another box of bounty this week whose contents included:
Serrano and jalapeno peppers
Sweet peppers in white and purple
Leeks (2)
Bunch of radishes
Bunch of Swiss chard
Mustard greens
Tomatoes (2 huge ones)
Bunch of watercress
Garlic (1 lg head)
Apples (2)
The farm always includes a little newsletter in the box and this week they had a very interesting recipe that I wanted to share. I haven’t made it yet, but plan to.
Sautéed Watercress with Dates and Grains
1 cup of your favorite grain (cooked)
2 T of chopped walnuts, toasted
6 t walnut of olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 T garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed
1/3 c pitted dates
4 t white wine vinegar
2 T water
½ t salt
Prepare grains and walnuts. Sauté shallots until they begin to brown, add garlic, cook for about 15 seconds and then add the cress, dates and water and cook until the water is evaporated and the pan is dry (about 4 min). Stir in vinegar, salt and the grains, cook until heated through (about 1 min), remove from the heat and serve.
This week’s cukes along with those from the past several weeks are going to be processed into sweet pickle relish, yum! The garlic along with that from previous weeks is going to become a hot pepper and roasted garlic spread. I got some corn at the farmer’s market yesterday and will process some of that into some corn relish. Today I got some mangoes and will process them and some of my huge supply of habanero peppers into a Jamaican style relish.
Sense a theme here?
Yes, this weekend will be canning time!
lucianus: (Default)

I have, for some months, had a rotating series of military engravings by DeGheyn and Goltzius as the screensaver and desktop on my work computer. This has afforded me the chance to study the costume and weapons depicted in great detail and I've come to the conclusion that I need to re-examine any previous assumptions I might have had regarding military dress of the 1580s and 90s.

To this end I decided start with the most basic item of male dress in the period, the shirt. We have owned a copy of Patterns of fashion 4 : the cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c.1540-1660, conceived & illustrated by Janet Arnold. Quite Specific Media Group, c2008, pretty much since it was published but aside from browsing through it, I hadn't sat down to really study the garments. When I finally go around to taking a look, I found several shirts which were spot on in terms of dating (as much as one can actually date garments of this period) and of roughly similar dimensions. In addition there is a shirt of Gustavus Adolphus which can firmly dated to 1627. Although it is more recent, it has some similarities to shirts being worn by military men of 40 years earlier, especially in size and ornamentation of the collar and cuffs which could be worn simply turned over the doublet collar and sleeve cuffs. They are small enough though for a separate ruff and wrist ruffles to be pinned on over them.

Needless to say I have been reflecting quite a bit about Luke's shirt supply - how many did he own - where did he procure them from, etc., etc. When he was a boy and up though the time he went into service, his Mother, sisters and his Mother's maids would have made his shirts. While in Norreys' service he would probably have gotten some of his shirts as part of his livery with the remainder coming from home. Then later after he was on his own with his own men and military establishment he probably would hire a seamstress in London to make him the bulk of his shirts. His Mother still makes him some shirts and they are beautiful examples of the needlewoman's art. 

I decided to model the shirt I was going to make on numbers 10 and 12 from Patterns of Fashion. Both are from the last quarter of the 16th century and are of similar dimensions. The originals were quite long, shirts could be used for sleeping and receiving visitors in one's bedchamber and we have no way to know if these shirts solely served that purpose but had I made them to their actual length, I would be tripping over the bottoms. They also were wrapped about one's nether regions and did the office of jockey shirts of the day. I decided to shorten the shirt to my shins, still plenty long but not so much that I would fall on my face. They are both highly decorated and with reluctance I am dispensing with most if it, save for some bobbin lace edging around the collar, front opening, cuffs and hem. I feel like I want to get a good pattern worked out to fit me well before expending the time and effort on a highly ornamented shirt. I have cut out the fabric and will begin turning and sewing down all the edges. When that's done, I'll try to remember to post again with an update on my progress.

This entry is crossposted from Artifacts of a Life.


Aug. 23rd, 2011 02:01 pm
lucianus: (Default)
Did anyone else in the Boston area just feel that tremor (about 1:54pm ET)?

CSA Week 8

Aug. 18th, 2011 01:04 pm
lucianus: (melons)
The veggies are really coming in now! The past 2 weeks while we were on vacation, our house sitter collected our share and was not able to keep up with it. That's good news for us because there were tomatoes large small, cukes, peppers and greens all waiting for us when we got home.

This week's bounty includes:

Parsley (a large bunch)
Swiss chard
Sweet peppers (green and cubanelle)
Serrano pepper
Carrots (an army of them!)
Cherry tomatoes (2 pints)
2 huge tomatoes one yellow one red
Coron (2 ears)

A delicious haul! I have been thinking that I will sign us up for a membership in Boston Organics (http://www.bostonorganics.com/) for the winter. It would make sure we ate our veggies into the colder months.

I have also signed up for the fall session of the fish CSA from Cape Ann Fresh Catch. We'll be getting 2lbs of filleted fresh local fish for 10 weeks starting on 9/6. We have subscribed in the past and been very pleased with the quality of the fish. They have now added a fillet option which will simplify my Tuesday afternoons.


Jul. 26th, 2011 02:23 pm
lucianus: (melons)
  This pan, which is a 14" Calpholon number, is filled to heaping with fresh cut basil from the porch garden. When processed it yielded 8 cups of packed leaves and about 32oz of pesto (minus the pecorino cheese). It is now happily divided into 4 containers and residing in the freezer. There was a bit leftover so I poached and then sauteed a heap of zucchini and added it to make pesto squash. Yum!
lucianus: (Default)
Yesterday it topped 103 degrees in Jamaica Plain, according to the weather station down near Forest Hills. Where we are I think it was a little bit less because we're higher and could catch a miniscule amount of extra breeze. That said, the living room was 99 degrees at its hottest yesterday and I and the cats retreated to the bedroom where it was slightly cooler. When [livejournal.com profile] jdulac got home we even ate dinner (farm share veggies and cut up chicken), picnic style, on the bed. We toyed with the idea of going to a movie, but we couldn't break free from the inertia. Slept fairly well, all things considered, and found the living room was down to 85 this morning, thank heavens. Ah, the joys of living on the 3rd floor!

Now its raining a bit. Let's just hope it stays cloudy for a while longer...

CSA Week 6

Jul. 21st, 2011 03:33 pm
lucianus: (Default)
This week was a box of vegetable bounty which included:

Beets with their greens
Corn (super sweet, we ate ours last night)
Spring onions
Green beans (tasty raw!)
Zucchini (2 smaller, one larger)
Collard greens (a large bunch)
New potatoes (makes me want to check on the potatoes I’m growing)


lucianus: (Default)

For the past several days I have been listening to the terrific collection of historical recordings from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project of the University of California, Santa Barbara (http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu). I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about it before but it bears a re-post, this music makes for very interesting listening. Yesterday was Popular Music Day for me (with an emphasis on the march repertoire) and today is Grand Opera Day and I have been enjoying performances by the likes of Lucrezia Bori, Antonio Scotti and Leo Slezak. I’m given to understand that there are some of Caruso’s early Pathé recordings included here but I haven’t come to them yet.

New since I last visited the site is their “Adopt a Cylinder” program (http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/adopt.php) which allows the public to sponsor the preservation of a cylinder from their collection. It costs $60 to fully catalog, digitize and rehouse one cylinder recording and while they have gotten some generous grants there are still upwards towards 900 cylinders available for adoption.I see that a version of the Liberty Bell March is available so I think that might be the first cylinder I sponsor.

CSA Week 5

Jul. 14th, 2011 12:03 pm
lucianus: (melons)
This week was the fiesta of root veg.

Spring onions (with large globes)
And a container of RASPBERRIES!
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