The Time of Impatient Waiting is Over

Published at 00:15 on 26 June 2014

Berry season has begun. The blackcaps* and best of all the thimbleberries† are ripening everywhere. Salmonberries have been ripe for several weeks now, but they don’t have the flavor of our other berries.

The wide variety of edible berries are one of the things I like best about this region. Many parts of the country are lucky to have one or two good wild edible berries. I can offhand think of nine types of native edible berries found on this island alone (so I’m probably overlooking a few), plus a couple of common introduced species.

* My namesake; I chose it because the species of blackcap they have in the Midwest is probably the first wild food I remember eating.

† A flavor, which together with the thoroughly non-native durian, I probably crave more than any other.

Well, This Is Stupid

Published at 20:26 on 19 June 2014

This, that is.

I’m not exactly the biggest sports fan in the world, but I’d have to be dead not to notice how much more popular soccer is in the USA than when I was in high school. Back then, there were no professional soccer teams in the USA, and the USA typically didn’t even bother to field a team for the World Cup (an event most in the USA were blissfully ignorant of).

Many of my co-workers are talking about the World Cup, and there’s typically a TV showing matches in the break room. That would have been unthinkable in the USA even 20 years ago. Yes, they’re a young crowd and the demographic from which soccer fans are disproportionately drawn in the USA.

But, so what. 20 years ago, you could pick any age demographic you wanted, and you wouldn’t have found much interest at all in professional soccer in the USA. There’s been literally tremendous growth in the popularity of soccer in this country.Arguing that Americans “don’t like” soccer and that it’s somehow a failure because it hasn’t immediately soared to No. 1 popularity amongst all sports as soon as it was introduced professionally is just plain stupid.

A Weak Link in the Chain: Washing Bicycles

Published at 12:21 on 15 June 2014

It’s more environmentally responsible to use a bicycle than a motor vehicle. It’s also more environmentally responsible to live in multi-family attached housing rather than single-family detached housing.

If you ride a bicycle year-round, your bicycle will get very dirty if you ride it frequently in wet weather (and the weather is typically wet for much of the year in this part of the world). The onus to wash or at least rinse one’s bicycle frequently gets even more urgent if one lives in a cold-winter climate where the local authorities use road salt.

If you live in an apartment or a condo, odds are iffy that you will have access to a hose bibb. If you have no way to wash your bicycle yourself, you have no way to wash your bicycle. Unlike with automobiles, there are not (at least in the USA, at least in the vast majority of cities) businesses that offer bicycle-cleaning services.

This has actually been an issue for me at a number of points in my life. I’ve typically had to beg friends for permission to use their garden hose, and it means my winter bicycle gets far grimier than I’d like in between its infrequent washings.

I recently solved the problem for myself by purchasing a garden-hose adapter for my bathroom sink, which is conveniently located in front a window through which the hose may be routed while in use. But I shouldn’t have to do something that awkward, and such a solution is useless for those who live in large, multi-story buildings instead of a 4-plex like I presently do.

My apartment complex provides a sheltered bike rack (one they recently expanded). That’s nice, and it might even have been required by law. But such requirements are incomplete; they need to be paired with requirements for furnishing some facility for washing bicycles as well.

The regulatory burden of such, whatever it is, will be far less than the burden of existing regulations for minimum automobile parking facilities, and one could negate it completely by pairing the new regulation with a relaxing of the latter.

Eating a Philodendron

Published at 21:49 on 14 June 2014

Let me say, they are very tasty indeed. Best described as a mix of baobab and pineapple.

“What?!?” You say? “Philodendrons are poisonous house plants and are most certainly neither edible nor tasty, you moron!”

Not so fast. The common “cut-leaved philodendron” sold as a house plant, also called the “Swiss cheese plant” for the perforations in the large leaves of mature specimens, has the botanical name Monstera deliciosa. That name is a clue.

All parts of the plant are in fact poisonous and highly irritating… with the exception of the fully ripe fruit (unripe, even slightly unripe, fruit is poisonous). They’re also tropical and actually barely survive as a house plant, and need to thrive to bear flowers and fruit. That typically never happens unless they are planted outdoors, which would normally rule out Seattle as a place to ever get a fruit for one.

Enter the Volunteer Park Conservatory, which has a large mature one. Twenty-odd years ago, it was the first time I saw one ever in bloom. It’s still one of the few places I’ve ever seen flowers or fruits on one. Today I noticed one flower open, a bud or two, and lots of developing, unripe fruits. The latter got me thinking if anyone who worked at the Conservatory ever ate them.

And lo, there in the gift shop, sitting on a plate, was a ripe Monstera fruit giving off a most appetizing fragrance. So I helped myself to a few small bits, and it certainly does deserve the deliciosa moniker.

Random Note: Comet SMA-503 on the Yaesu FT-60

Published at 14:52 on 5 June 2014

I recently and without planning was thrust into the market for an aftermarket antenna for my Yaesu FT-60 HT. The original one became unscrewed fell off on a hike last week. Gotta love those losing SMA connectors that merely screw on instead of clicking securely into place with a bayonet mechanism like the far superior BNC ones.

Anyhow, I needed a new antenna ASAP because starting tomorrow I’m going to be in the woods doing botanical surveys for a few days, and I don’t like to be alone away from cell coverage without some other possible means of communication. And since it was easier to source an aftermarket antenna promptly rather than an exact factory replacement, that’s what I did.

While the SMA connector mates fine electrically, the factory antenna had a little skirt below the connector that made a tight seal. The new antenna has no skirt, and so leaves a gap that is both unsightly and a way for dirt and moisture to enter. Comet even included a small rubber washer with the antenna for this purpose, but it is too small to fill the gap in my case.

The solution is an O-ring, in this case a #83 (1/2″ OD X 5/16″ ID X 3/32″ thick) O-ring. Figured I’d mention that here in case anyone fires up Google to search for a solution, and mention both the size number and the dimensions of the O-ring.

My experience indicates that about 49% of hardware stores sell O-rings only by size number and look at you like you’re a visitor from Mars if you give them dimensions, and 49% of hardware stores sell O-rings only by dimensions and look at you like you’re a visitor from Mars if you give them a size number. (I’m one of the lucky 2% these days; my local hardware store sells them by both specifications.) So be sure and take both specifications with you.

If you’re radio is something other than an FT-60, and you have a gap to fill, don’t rely on my information above. Each radio is slightly different. If the included rubber washer doesn’t do the trick, there is no substitute for having the radio with you so you can find exactly the best size.

Guaranteed to Annoy Liberals, but Meaningless

Published at 10:28 on 3 June 2014

That’s the Nucla gun law in a nutshell.

First, it’s a small rural Western town. As such, the local culture meant that firearm ownership was already the norm amongst residents.

Second, the law has so many loopholes as to be meaningless. Exempt are felons, the mentally disabled, the poor, and anyone whose religion or other beliefs lead them to object to owning a firearm. That italicized phrase is key: don’t want to own a gun, for whatever reason? You don’t have to.

The law may have the effect of scaring away tourists and some economic development, but that’s an issue for local residents to debate. It may be technically a law, but its actual effect is that of a nonbinding resolution.

In fact, all the whining about it actually shows it worked. The point of the law was to attract attention and to point out how many residents of rural Colorado disagree with the state legislature’s recent gun control legislation. As such, it’s succeeded admirably. A few people in a tiny town most never knew of succeeded in capturing the attention of the national news media.