A hiking expedition to the East Rock

The longest mile[s]

Sometimes, we all have bad ideas that are good somewhere inside of them.  In my case in this instance, I woke up this day thinking “perhaps I would like to hike to East Rock from my front door today.”  As the tallest hill in town, it is certainly a long walk from my front door, at around 6 miles total, and we have to climb up the hill next to our house before even getting to the ‘Rock.  That said, it felt really good to go get some exercise on a windy and not too hot day (particularly after the brutal heat of this past week); Ryan and my new housemate Martik accompanied me, and we decided to turn the hike into a photography outing as well. East Rock has a great picnicking and sightseeing vista on top of it, and many people were out enjoying the lovely weather today; there is also the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument atop the hill, which itself is worth checking out as an interesting amalgam of various historical periods and somewhat odd artistic choices (the four ideas they decided to personify in statue form on the pedestal are one of them).  All told, I am still not convinced they couldn’t have come up with a better name that “East Rock.”  On the other hand, as Ryan and I joke about all the time, it seems that Connecticut is rather awful at naming things anyways; it seems that one can’t turn around without seeing a town named “x Haven,” where x is any adjective whatsoever, including “New,” “East,” “West,” “North,” and many, many more; collect the whole set!

Enjoy the photos of the trip; for those playing the home game of following my various blogs over the years, this is the first time I have broken out my Fujifilm camera I used abroad in the Holy Land in many, many moons. I am rather pleased with how most of these photos came out, and I welcome your comments on them!


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Surviving the Cancer Star’s assault via The Basement

The Old Foe

There comes a time in each person’s life when they must face the difficult facts.  Specifically, that although the sun warms our planet and makes life possible, it is actually the Oldest Foe we have; even its title of “sun” is merely malignant trickery, as it was originally called the “Cancer Star” by those it oppressed.

When one lives in an old house like mine, where the insulation isn’t done properly and 95% of the windows don’t open (far too old, and mostly painted over multiple times… not that they have any screens in them, anyways), it can be rather hot and unpleasant.  As means of evidence, this past week had daytime temperature highs of 95 and 96 degrees; at 7:30am, it was 86 degrees on the first floor of my house.  As such, it is often not especially pleasant to sit and melt in the heat, and so we escape to the basement.  Thus we have determined a series of tricks to make living in a non-central-AC household in the summer livable, shared here for your enjoyment and improved-cooling purposes:

Tricks for escaping the heat

1) work in an air-conditioned office 40 hours a week, like me
2) if you walk home from work like I do, consider investing in a synthetic towel for your neck; not only does it protect you from sunburn, the material is designed to seriously ramp up the effects of evaporative cooling so that the walk is rather pleasant!
3) if you have a basement [and particularly if it is decked-out for gaming like ours is], bring a fan downstairs to start the air circulating and run a dehumidifier during the day; seeing as air conditioners partially function anyways due to being dehumidifiers, you’ll reduce mustiness and mildew in your basement while essentially making it 10-15 degrees cooler than the air outside.  This summer has been, and will be, the Season of the Basement Socializing for our household.
4) the back of your neck is actually one of the primary places that your body uses to determine the ambient temperature; this means that having an ice pack on your neck for ~10 minutes can seriously trick your body into feeling cooled off for a good set of hours
5) another hack for your body’s physiology in the summer is to eat really spicy food; just as eating ice cream in the winter lowers your body temperature and makes you feel less cold, spicing up your diet will render you feeling less warm in the heat (ever wonder why the hot-as-hell Vietnam has such spicy food?)
6) consider investing in a window AC unit and a cheap timer for your bedroom, so it starts cooling slightly before your arrival; you won’t have to pay to cool the room all day long and yet still have a survivable environment on those killer hot days

There are many more tricks out there, but these are some of the most effective for us.  As per ever, enjoy the photos of random (yet related) things:


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Aquaforming all the time: resurrecting the reef

The closing of an [anemone- and pest algae-infested] age.

This is a very, VERY long-overdue update.  I originally had a draft of a post about my reef back in January, that I worked on here and there over the following months on trying to keep up with the upkeep.  Unfortunately, a couple of negative factors were present in droves: 1) I have had a years-long problem with what is called hair algae, given its appearance like grassy tufts of green hair, a problem caused by being lazy and thrifty – I used flake foods as they are cheaper and less of a hassle than frozen brine shrimp (this in turn made the phosphates in the tank shoot through the roof, thus aiding the constant spread of the hair algae foe).  This was exacerbated by 2) the infestation of aiptasia, a pest variant of sea anemone that would release 7 egg pods per anemone if it ever felt threatened… which meant that in a true sense, my foe was the Hydra of old, with new heads appearing after I cleaned one or two out.  These two headaches were compounded and rendered nigh unbeatable by an extremely stressful and unpleasant spring semester, which often left me too tired to properly focus on schoolwork, much less spend hours meticulously scrubbing every square inch of the tank with a toothbrush (which I did try several times, with the initial clean appearance soon overtaken by the algae and anemones anew).

As such, rather unfortunately, the tank got to a rather bad place, with the water being way too low and the chemicals being out of balance.  At the end of the semester, though, I decided to put in a good set of hours cleaning it the right way, doing a big water change, and the like.  The good news is, the tank looked VERY clean for a handful of days after that.  The bad news is, the shock of being cleaned so well combined with the shock of chemicals being put into the system at too high a concentration (as compared to the low levels of pH, calcium, etc in the unclean past) was enough to kill off some of the hardier denizens of the reef.  At that point, I realized that it was time to cut my losses.

Bringing clean light to the benighted tank

Thusly, I decided that it was time to start anew, from scratch and being intentional about doing things the proper (albeit more money- and time-intensive) ways.  The first step in the process was to spend, all-told, about 7 hours over 2 days, scrubbing every square inch of EVERY surface (tank itself; heater, impellers, etc) with a toothbrush.  This was not a fun process, but as the photo gallery will show, this is easily the cleanest the tank has been since it was first manufactured.  In this process, I realized that the anemone infestation was inside of the mechanisms of the impellers and the like, and that although it would cost money to replace them, I would rather be rid of that menace for good, and start completely fresh.

Starting from scratch

As such, a couple of weekends ago  my housemate Amber drove me over to the aquarium store, and I picked up the essentials for starting off properly: heater with a thermometer; a over-the-back filter system (which will eventually get transformed into a refugium methinks); live sand and coraline algae-covered rocks.  A week into the new system, I also got a pair of impellers to get the circulation of water currents moving in the tank.  All of that, and 29 gallons of water plus the salt and other chemicals necessary to get the whole thing started.  It took about 3 hours, all-told, to get the system up and running – as the last image in the gallery shows, it is GORGEOUSLY clear and shall hopefully be kept that way in the future!

Tune in a couple of weeks to get a peek at which denizen(s) will inhabit the newly-restarted ecosystem (after the new reef’s biology has had time to settle and balance properly)!


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Many Bothans died to bring us this billiards table.

After many, many moons of waiting, hinting, and hoping, I am extremely pleased to report that my basement now features a custom-modified and -repaired billiards table, complete with cues, pool balls, chalk, &c.  I am very excited to say that the basement WILL be finished further over the course of June and July (drywall, actual ceilings, redoing the heat ducts), but for now we have essentially reached critical mass.

As some of you may want to know, there is a story behind this now-glorious billiards delight-engine:

The Situation as it came unto us

As this blog has previously chronicled, I have put a great deal of work into my current house to improve it and repair it, which is a pastime I enjoy.  The landlord, Whitney, was so pleased A few weeks ago, I walked downstairs to check out the dehumidifier we run constantly; lo and behold, as Whitney had generally mentioned but never gave a specific date for, there was a pool table leaning against the back wall of the basement.  As we had examined it more closely, we realized that 1) there were no legs attached; and 2) the places where legs WERE once attached were actually rather damaged.  As a matter of fact, there was a noticeable drought of billiards table legs in the whole of our basement.  We were a bit baffled, but figured there was some sort of story, and were simply excited to have the pool table in the house!

Catching up with Whitney later, I found out that the pool table was at his folks place, and they told the moving guys “oh, we’re not taking this with us” meaning to imply “so put it upstairs but off to the side.”  Unfortunately, the moving guys took that to mean “the pool table is trash” and so instead of checking to see if the pool table had easily-detachable legs (which it did), they tore the legs right off and put the table out in the yard.  Thankfully, they didn’t scratch the felt or anything.  At first, Whitney was extremely mad when it looked like they junked it entirely; luckily, it was still in a repairable condition.

Planning and effecting repairs

Thusly armed with a billiards table of high levels of joy-production but dangerously low levels of legs and usability, I had to figure out how to go about making legs.  My initial plan was to do simple 4×4 wooden posts as legs, with a crossbeam between each pair.  Each crossbeam would then be braced with an angled piece up to the middle of the bottom of the table itself.  Ryan’s dad visited last week, and he had an excellent idea – it would be a lot easier, if not more expensive slightly, to try and buy replacement metal folding legs for a table and attach them to the table.   This would also have the benefit of allowing us to store the table out of the way when we needed more basement space!

We bought the parts we would need for the plan (we thought), and then put the project aside until last night.  At that point, I started measuring components and quickly realized a couple of vital details: the initial plan hadn’t figured on the offset nature of the folding legs (so we didn’t have enough 2×4’s); the particle board table that was damaged by the prior leg-removal needed a lot more shoring-up than we initially realized; and the screws initially purchased wouldn’t be the right length to account for the additional structural bracing I would put together.  As such, we made a second run to Loews, and got the parts we needed.  Basically, the new legs were atop 1) small blocks shoring up the particle board; into which 2) we screwed the two long 2×4’s which run the length of the table; these provided the support for 3) the 4 2×4’s that would be the bases for the metal folding legs; and 5) the metal folding legs themselves went on last.

Come on by and shoot some pool, folks.  I almost forgot how much I love playing.

The written story is through; enjoy the brief photo gallery, compliments of Ryan’s phone:


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