Repelling flavor of THAT magnitude: that home-made ice cream is operational!

DIY has become a great deal sweeter.

Having had a great deal of success and enjoyment from my housemate Martik’s fantastic little bread-making machine, that got me to thinking about other products which would taste loads better without any preservatives, and fairly quickly I realized that ice cream fits that bill.  Spoke to some friends about which ice cream maker to get, and the consensus was definitely this model.  In a serious way, what we have got in this thing now IS a Cuisinart.

The matter of which ice cream(s) to make was a rather important concern; also consulting with friends from home, I quickly learned of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, which is among some of the best ice cream in these United States (and several disunited states, too).  In Connecticut, I have learned of Jeni’s analogue, called Ashley’s, and enjoyed it several times. That said, I also finally tried Jeni’s while I was at home on vacation, and I am inclined to call it a fair deal tastier.  Even more exciting: Jeni’s sells a recipe book, which I acquired a copy of and have put to use highly effectively thus far.

As a wise man once said: beware Greeks bearing gifts, but get excited when Prussian/Hungarians come bearing one quart containers that are sweating on the sides from the cold temperature of its contents.


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There and back again: A Mike’s tale [of the first of many outdoorsman experiences in New England]

The first of many outdoorsman-themed posts to come!

While I seem to be on some kind of LOTR-kick for naming recent posts, that isn’t the issue here (Donny); I write with news of the first of a slew of incoming posts regarding outdoorsmanship in New England.

I have always enjoyed camping and being outside, but for many years I subordinated that set of interests to things like being too busy, being addicted to video games, and schoolwork while in DC (not to mention the difficulty in scheduling other interested campers as well as someone who could drive at the same time).  No longer will that kind of thing be allowed to mess up my nature-enjoyment plans; instead, my housemates and I are now planning on visiting each state in New England at least once, in each case doing a weekend outing involving some kind of tourist-ish visit or tour of somewhere famous, camping two nights in tents, and for the majority of the time there hike as much as possible.

The overall plan thusly outlined, I can speak to the specifics of this inaugural hiking day trip.  Martik and I departed for Litchfield CT, which is on the border with New York and therefore about an hour and a half away from New Haven.  We got a little turned around due to spotty reception for GPS and cellular signal in the Appalachians, and ended up getting sent down a certain “Jericho Road South” by Google Maps.  In Martik’s Toyota Camry, we ended up offroading across up to 1 foot tall rocky formations to get across that “road.” This made for an interesting experience, in that “I wonder how many times the underbody of the car can make that screeching noise before we rupture the gas tank” kind of way.  Eventually we arrived at the 2 car “parking lot” at the foot of the trail, and got prepared for a good day of hiking.  Ended up being a whole bunch of foliage over most of the trail, making for a nice shady and therefore cool environment for some serious hiking – one of the hills being particularly steep on the walk back, this was much appreciated.  Brought the camera along and got some pictures of the Housatonic River, the views from the trails hills and valleys, and more.  All told, an extremely tiring but rather enjoyable day.  This was not hurt by going afterwards to Chipotle for my first real meal of the day (3 cups of chocolate milk and 1 cup of granola, sufficient calories does not make).


A smattering of the photographs I took en route today:

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One home theater to rule them all; and in the darkness, entertain them

A projection big enough to suit the Eye of Sauron

This is actually not hyperbole in any way; my housemate Martik’s initial concern was that “the screen is so big and so close that our eye’s won’t be able to focus on the picture very well!”  While this fear didn’t pan out entirely, I can honestly say it takes some adjustment to play Halo 3 on the size of the wall.  As you’ll see in the photo section, Luke Skywalker’s head is nearly as tall as I am (and standing at 6’4″ myself, that is basically 12 stories tall); this makes for some FANTASTIC cinematic possibilities in the basement.

The story of how I got this Sony projector is like a brief introduction to my job at Yale Law School; I am often point where the buck stops at “does this equipment need to be recycled or kept in storage as a backup.”  In the case of AV gear, those guys usually make the call themselves and put equipment to be recycled with the rest of it; I still try to always check with one of them directly to make sure that the stuff is ACTUALLY meant to be recycled.  In this case, I found the cart weighed down with multiple video cameras and then the behemoth that is this Sony projector.  I asked my coworker “this is all good to get recycled, right?” and added “does any of it still work?”  I was informed that while the cameras are bad, the projector has a cracked case and some purple around the edges of the projection, both of which disqualify it for continued use.  But otherwise, it works just fine.  As a matter of fact, “you can have it, if you’d like.”  To put it mildly, I was slightly excited on the inside; on the outside, I believe my poker face was so stoic that he had to inquire as to whether or not I felt blessed.  I then betrayed a hint of my excitement, made sure he wasn’t messing with me, and quickly moved the projector over to my office, for transportation home.

Fast forward to more than a week later, the planning had begun in earnest for how to take an older piece of equipment and turn it into the home theater of my pinch-hitting dreams, all for a low cost.  My first inclination was that permanent screens would be too expensive, and so I looked into the possibility of building my own screen: from stretching a bedsheet on a custom frame, to actually building a professional screen of some sort, I considered many options.  I eventually contacted the mother of an old friend, as she was educated in the arts and has always been super creative; her idea was to make the professional screen an option, but then she had an idea I feel stupid for not having.  “Why not Google prefab screens just to get a sense of how expensive they are,” I was asked.  “Why not indeed,” the snarkier part of my snarky innards replied; as per usual, they ended up being completely correct.  A nice 80×80 screen that rolls up into itself when not being used is merely $100, which split between 4 housemates becomes an eminently affordable option.  Cue the montage music, and a few days after ordering the screen and moving around the basement, the test movie (it HAD to be ‘Empire Strikes Back’ as anything else wouldn’t measure up to it) was screened.

To put it mildly, this whole episode is a massively unexpected, massively enjoyable blessing (not for our electric bill or the heat dissipating effects in the basement), one that we shall truly love over the coming months I am sure.  🙂


As per ever, a slideshow of images; I am particularly pleased with the last two, as they realllllllly demonstrate just how gigantic the screen is!

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The wagon train west: a delightful Ohio vacation

A delightful vacation in the Ohio Territory

Unlike the average person in my office, who (sensibly) took their vacation around the 4th of July as it was already a day off, I decided to have my summer vacation for 2012 fall the week afterwards.

The main events

While at home, I got to enjoy three major activities in droves, all of which did me a world of good.  First and foremost, I got to spend a lot of time with family and old friends who were in town.  From the delicious culinary artwork at Hunan East (the best Chinese food I have ever had, and certainly the best in the Cleveland area); to hiking with an old friend during the hottest part of the day with no water and no sunscreen in the Cleveland Metroparks; to bowling with friends and family at Freeway Lanes, there was a lot of great times to be had, and wonderful people to share them with.  At the same time, being home for me was so great due to the large piles of sleep I was able to accumulate; though I am an old hand at looking like I enjoy running around constantly, I actually do need to rest once in a while and recharge those batteries.  Directly related to the first and second activities was a great deal of gaming to be had over my vacation, but I didn’t play a single electronic game with or without friends.  Instead, I came home bearing a couple of board games (including old favorites like Britannia and Bohnanza, and featuring the newcomers to my collection, Death Angel and Betrayal at House on the Hill) and played the crap out of them with my brother and my friends.  All in all, this vacation was exactly what I needed during the heat wave in New England and after the stress of the 4th of July; go home, relax, and recuperate.

The trip back

While I am still a committed fan of the AMTRAK transit option, I must admit that my return train ride was less than ideal.  Pulling into the Albany station, they had three (3) separate train engines break down in a row, each for different reasons.  Due to the potential danger of on- and off-loading passengers while decoupling engines, we were all required to stay on the train.  This wouldn’t have been awful (I do travel with high quality earbuds, opera on my phone, my Kindle library on my phone, and my phone charger at all times for a reason), except for the fact that every single bathroom broke on the train at the same time.  And we were stuck in Albany for nearly 4 hours.  When they finally realized that someone forgot to empty the septic tanks in Chicago nearly a day earlier, we the passengers got inundated with the sights, smells, and smells of the sewage trucks fixing that particular problem!  Most people on the train were, as a matter of fact, not big fans of this turn of events, but personally, after spending time abroad and having ample opportunity to really examine what matters, I settled back and continued to enjoy Faust and The Old Man and the Wasteland, for however long it took.

Arriving into Springfield MA around 10pm when we were meant to arrive in New Haven before 9pm, the AMTRAK guy at the desk was nice enough to call cabs to provide transit to our (the 7 passengers who missed their connections) final destinations.  A Yale PhD student in Egyptology and I got into the cab, made nice conversation between the three of us, and then 3 things happened at the same time: 1) The student, exhausted from a long day, passed out into some kind of coma; 2) it began to absolutely pour rain and thunderstorm; and 3) our cabbie decided this was God’s signal to crank up the engine to Ludicrous Speed.  While it was fantastic to get home more than 20 minutes earlier than expected/than possible according to the laws of physics and the distances involved, it was a somewhat harrowing end to a long and trying day.

All told, a positively delightful vacation at home, preparing me well for continuing full time work at the Law School over the rest of the summer, and having a good time with my housemates (as the next post will help demonstrate!).


The photos include a smattering of all of the above, so take a look!

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