Cheese. Wonderful Cheese.

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Have you ever sat down to an appetizer plate of good cheese and found that you completely ignored the rest of the room until all the delicious morsels had been disposed of? If so, you might be interested in some of the below:

Everything Niki Achitoff-Gray says in this article I agree with. If you like cheese, pay attention. She does a great run down of the simple things you are probably doing that take away from the enjoyment that is cheese.

10 Common Crimes Against Cheese You Don’t Have to Commit
http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/06/how-to-store-and-slice-cheese.html

Also of note, researchers find that cheese may stimulate the same area of the brain as drugs. Some experts think that cheese is so influential that they pertain to it as “dairy crack.“(Source)

Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0117959

 

The bay area has some amazing dairy producers, and gifted cheesemakers. If you get a chance, visiting a cheese company is a fun experience. And, cheese is often paired with wine…

Check out this list from Cheese Trail ( http://cheesetrail.org/visit-a-cheesemaker/ )

Bohemian Creamery– Sebastopol (North Bay Area)

Bravo Farms Cheese – Fowler (Central Valley)

Cowgirl Creamery – Point Reyes (North Bay Area)

Epicurean Connection – Sonoma (North Bay Area)

Gioia Cheese – Los Angeles (Southern CA)

Harley Farms Goat Dairy – Pescadero (Central Coast)

Hilmar Cheese Company – Atwater (Central Valley)

Loleta Cheese Factory – North Coast (North Bay Area)

Marin French Cheese Company – Petaluma (North Bay Area)

Matos Cheese Factory – Santa Rosa (North Bay Area

Nicasio Valley Cheese Company – Nicasio (North Bay Area)

Oakdale Cheese – Oakdale (Central Valley)

Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Company (Petaluma Creamery) – Petaluma (North Bay Area)

Vella Cheese Company – Sonoma (North Bay Area)

 

 

 

We built a Yurt

Over the past few weeks Mandy and I have been getting the land ready for a yurt. Over the New Years Holiday, some friends came up and helped us make it a reality!

We had the framing for the platform done when we started, but it still took 3 days of solid hard work with the group to get it finished. We slept in it on Sunday night, and it was worth it!

Thanks so much to Casey, Bradley, BK, Matt H, Steve, Matt T and Ari for helping us make this thing real!


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The Egg Nog Review

Egg Nog, a drink now sold by every creamery in America from November to December, has a long and storied past. It is responsible for riots, was drank by English aristocracy, and was even used to fortify travelers before setting off.

The American travelers, before they pursued their journey, took a hearty draught each, according to custom, of egg-nog, a mixture composed of new milk, eggs, rum, and sugar, beat up together. (Isaac Weld, Junior, in his book Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the years 1795, 1796, and 1797)

Egg Nog is a holiday tradition in my family, one that I have continued even with a lactose challenged wife. Since I no longer have anyone nearby to share my love of Egg Nog, I am writing down my feelings toward this drink as I consume it in the hopes that you might benefit.

The criteria:
TasteConsistency, and how well it mixes with booze.
All are on a (1-10) scale.

For consideration:
How (un)healthy it may or may not be. To get the full experience, I am drinking the entire quart of each type.
When drinking Egg Nog, health is something one must not dwell on.

Clover’s Organic Egg Nog

Taste: 8
Objectively, the taste is on point, but the consistency means that doesn’t matter.

Consistency: 3
Watery, thin, more like milk than true nog. Disturbing really.

With Bourbon: 4
The consistency gets even worse when you mix it with liquid. The booze flavor stands strong on its own and doesn’t blend.

Calories consumed: 1440

Clover’s Regular Egg Nog

Taste: 8
This is a good eggnog, taste is similar to their organic blend. Might be slightly on the sweet side for some.

Consistency: 8
Thick, creamy, lingers on your mustache.

With Booze: 8
Mixes well, doesn’t get too thin. Taste blends together in an appealing way.

Calories consumed: 1520

Humboldt Creamery Egg Nog


humboltTaste: 8
Slightly light on overall flavor, but not by much. I like the taste, and it goes down easy. This is a smaller dairy in northern California, they know how to do it.

Consistency: 9
The opposite of most nogs, this nog is light and fluffy – almost like sipping a cloud. Quite enjoyable.

With Booze: 8
Still great, stays fluffy.

Calories per quart: 1280

Berkeley Farms Holiday Egg Nog

Taste: 7
Not the best, not the worst – just nothing makes it stand out. Unless you live in the San Francisco Bay area, you probably can’t get this anyway.

Consistency: 8
Good, thick enough, with just enough weight.

With Booze: 7
Hmm… I am starting to think that all dairy products don’t really mix with booze. This one gets watery, but the nog taste stays. Just better with booze.

Calories consumed: 1600

It’s an Automotive Future

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Local Motors Winning Highway Legal Design

Some 12,000 hours ago Elon Musk announced that his company, Tesla, would

“not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, must use our technology.”

Public interest in Tesla spiked, but not actually in electric cars in general. A year and a half later the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt have not found widespread adoption. Charging stations are still the exception, not the rule.

However, shortly after Musk’s announcement, Local Motors 3D printed an electric car in 44 hours. Local Motors currently has Microfactory locations in 3 places, with plans to open 100 more over the next 10 years. At these microfactories they have a library of designs, customizations, and options you can choose from to print your own car on the spot. Starting at $18,000 with a highway legal version out in 2016.

They also have Mobilabs, which are fabrication plants on trucks roaming the country, that can repair and upgrade the Local Motor cars onsite.

Local Motors could put one of the mobile labs next to every Tesla Charging Station. They have the ability to share the same battery technology, so customers could get a fast charge, or have a new custom molded headrest printed out while they wait for their car to charge slowly. This is also revenue stream for Tesla as they can also charge for the electricity. (Only Teslas get free charging for life.)

I can see entire lines of customization like never before. Companies will sell custom mirrors, visors, steering wheels, and the ability to theme cars for different seasons.

Better yet, taking a leaf out of Google’s playbook these cars can be adapted to be self driving with a simple add on that they are already demoing.

With the amount of money moving into the self driving car market (Apple, Google, others) and now with Chinese billionaire backed Tesla competitor Faraday Future there seems to be no sign that removing cars from the road is going to be part of the near future. However, some of the most interesting public facing technology is focusing on changing our relationship with cars, roads, and driving. The day when we view cars as “mini public transportation vehicles” is not that far off. In a case where demand for rides will surge (Olympics, World Cup, etc…) more cars can simply be printed for the event, then distributed to other, initially less profitable locations. Instead of waiting for a bus, you pay for your ride in an Uber with your Metro card.

In 2006 Cory Doctorow released a short novella (Full text for free) that featured local printing as a normal part of daily life. In 2010 he flushed out the idea with “Makers” — a book I highly recommend that you can download free from that link! In that story he explores what the world would be like if local manufacturing made it impossible to enforce copyright

Five years later, I like where we are headed. Now if only my entire refrigerator worked like these do.

 

 

The importance of gatherings

Last weekend we held the third occurrence of “The Great Waffle Off.” Over 30 people showed up to our house for an afternoon of waffle goodness with baking, drinks, a backyard fire and plenty of post-waffle-coma conversations.

 

 

We also host regular “Bonfire Movie Night Potlucks,” featuring trilogies and classic cult movies like Star Wars, Back to the Future, and The 5th Element. These potlucks are held on Thursday evenings when not much else is going on, and they are over by 10:00pm. We generally have 15 – 25 people show up.

These gatherings are powerful for several reasons:

  1. They allow us to catch up with a large number of people in one go. It can be difficult to spend quality time with friends on an ongoing basis, and these events allow us to talk for a few minutes in person with many of our friends — long enough to have a meaningful connection.
  2. They allow the group at large to coalesce. Over time, the people who come to these gatherings have developed friendships that exist outside of and without Mandy and me. This is the best possible outcome as these groups then bring in new friends to our circle. Many of the people that come were originally friends of friends.
  3. They are FUN, participatory, and low pressure. Potlucks require only that you make/buy some food to share. The Waffle Off asks that you make a waffle to share, but if you can’t pull that together then there are more then enough waffles that need eating. Open time frames allow people to show up and leave when it suits them, and no one is offended. Babies and Dogs are allowed, which increased the number of people who can attend.
  4. We get to set the pace. Mandy and I put in a good amount of time setting up for the event and making sure everything goes smoothly, but once it is rolling, we can sit back and watch it unfold. If we want to spice it up we can bring out some fun drinks or an activity, and if we want it to wrap up we can let the fire burn out. This helps us stay sane as Mandy is much more social than I am, but at our home I can be as “on” or not as I want.

These events and others like them held at friend’s houses have helped our community grow, and have brought together many of the different social groups to which we belong.

 

 

The lure of adventure

It is like the National Park Service has a little fairy telling them

“You know what… Ben is a little disillusioned with the way things are right now. I bet you can get him if you send the following email:”

NPS

On to the Land

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Blurry Cam! The stream flows through the lot.

Mandy and I recently purchased seven wooded acres with a stream in the Sierra Foothills. It is four minutes outside the town of Nevada City, in Nevada county, California.

I have spent a week up on it so far in our camper which now lives there. Since it has solar power, we have not needed to run power to the property yet, but we do have city water hooked up to a hose spigot. Using this I set up a propane hot water shower so we can have a little creature comforts.

Out plan is to get a septic system installed, then build a 30 foot yurt on a platform as our initial home there. Eventually we will design and build a house that overlooks the creek, but for now, this is a good option to get something up there quickly. Pacific Yurts are high quality, and offer a surprising amount of space and comfort.  A quick search of yurt living will show several examples of how comfortable they can be. We plan on keeping it up as a guest house once the final house is complete, but there is a chance we enjoy it so much we just keep it as our main place.

We want to clear two acres of the property to make a meadow / garden so that we have more light, and the ability to grow some of our own food. This is something I am becoming more interested in, although my patience for gardening in the past has been slim.

This is an exciting new time for us, and we will be spending much more of our time up there. If you want to join us ever, just let us know!

 

Australia – The Rest

I got so wrapped up in enjoying the trip that I couldn’t be bothered to keep writing while I was on it!

After the stargazing, we made our way west towards Broken Hill. Broken Hill is far out on the edge of the outback, and took us two days of driving to get close. We camped on the side of the road on the way there, and then got a hotel when we arrived.

The hotel we got is the Palace Hotel, as featured in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I have never seen it but Mandy immediately knew what I was talking about.

Broken Hill is such a strange place. The town backdrop is a giant slag pile, over a kilometer long that has built up over decades. The largest company out of Australia got its start by mining this town.

Photo Credit: Ulysses Canberra http://ulyssescanberrabranch.blogspot.com/2013/08/broken-hill-25-30-august-2013.html

We spent a the day exploring and headed even farther out to to Silverton, where Mad Max 2 was filmed and tourism from that movie pretty much supports the seven people who live there.

We headed south on our way back to Melbourne where Jason lives for the moment. Half way down, we camped out on a lake in a tiny town. It was incredibly windy, and was the coldest night of the trip.

The lake was right next the what had been a much larger lake. The dry lakebed was unreal and we spend a while walking through it and exploring. In the photo below, note the color demarcation in the middle. That is not the horizon, it is the old water line from the lake.

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Old water line visible in middle of photo

The next morning we made it through the countryside to the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. They were beautiful, but swarmed by tourists that take coach busses everywhere and use selfie sticks… We debated on if we should camp out another night or get to Melbourne a day early, and Melbourne won. Three hours later we were at Jason’s apartment.

Melbourne is an great city. It was planned on a grid, and feels very european. The best part are the laneways. Tiny alleys that are packed with cafes, vendors, restaurants, etc… Many are outside, open to the air, but some have become so established that roofs were build over them, enclosing them in.

We toured around, and Jason showed me all the sights, including the markets (and the cheese room!)

The next day he headed to work and I packed up and headed out. I made my way up the coast back towards Sydney. I camped out along the way next to a river in some cow fields with no one around. It was actually a little weird after having been in a city for two nights.

Sydney is like Melbourne’s grown up sister. It is very cosmopolitan, has a big city feel, and is full of life. I dropped off the camper then got a room at the Hilton next to the harbor for the night to end the trip well. That evening I sought out a good burger, and ended up at a restaurant called “The Rook” hidden on the top of an office building. the food was great, and the truffle fries were so good. In the morning, i checked out of the hotel, but since my flight wasn’t until 9:30o , I took my electric unicycle out and spent all day exploring. All around the harbor, to the opera house and then on a ferry over to Manning for lunch and to listen to the street buskers play.

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Sydney skyline and bridge at night

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Sydney Opera House from ferry

Getting back on the plane proved to be an issue, as security had no idea what this thing was, and made me surrender it. Once I told them it had a lithium battery, they brought it out of the cargo hold and I had to take it apart with keys to remove the battery. I thought I may never see it again, but it was waiting for me in Honolulu, where I simply did not recheck it at customs and was able to bring it right on with me again. TSA is much less strict.

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Australia – Day 08

We left Gibraltar National park and made good time heading south west. Our eventual goal was Broken Hill, a town on the edge of the outback and about as far out as you can go in New South Wales without needing to stock up on extra fuel. 

We have been playing it by ear each day so that we can take advantage of how the day presents itself. This day we decided to head towards Wurrambunga National Park, which put us about 1/3rd of the way to Broken Hill. On the way there, we realized how amazing the stars had been the night before, and started looking for an observatory. It turns out the astronomy capital of Australia was where we were already heading! We called up and booked a night with an astronomer named, no kidding, Peter Starr. 

As we arrived to town, we went up to the research telescope on the hill. It is massive. We arrived just after it closed, but the gift shop lady told us we could try. The door on the observatory wasn’t properly latched, so we went in, and took the elevator up. The visitors gallery was absolutely pitch black upon arrival, and more than a little creepy. Outside we got some photos, then headed down the hill for camp. This park had good facilities, so we made dinner, then took showers before going to Peter’s house in town. On the way there, a kangaroo jumped out of the bush and came about a foot away from committing suicide on our van. Adrenalin rush. 

Peter used to manage the large research observatory, and now runs his own at his home. He has a large computer controlled telescope observatory of his own, then leases out four remote operated observatories to people from all over the world. One of the owners, Terry, was in from the UK setting up a new camera on his and spent the the evening talking to us about his work. He observes galaxies that are colliding!

Peter’s research focuses on variable stars — stars that have variable light patterns, either from planets passing in front of them, or because they are getting hotter or brighter rapidly, or because they orbit other stars. 

We got a chance to look at Saturn, and several globular clusters, as well a dead star and some nebulas. It was incredible and we definitely geeked out for a while. 

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