Monday, February 29, 2016

Bare Bulb to This

 About five weeks ago, Tom and I visited Stockslager's Garden Center where he bought a mesh bag of hyacinth bulbs. He wanted to have some to force. Earlier he bought us a hyacinth at Kroger's, already begun in a forcing glass. That has since bloomed and I've reused the glass for one of the bulbs he bought in January.

 The hyacinth is already in full bloom, its intoxicating fragrance wafting by me as I sit at my usual spot on the sofa. How came this dry bulb to create this luxurious bloom is such a short time? I can't answer that question - I think that no one really can - but I can show you how it happened.

February 29 - Full Bloom!

January 24 - The Start 

 Forcing is done with a "forcing glass", an hourglass-shaped object which holds water in the bottom half and the bulb in the top half. The water is usually not allowed to quite touch the bulb - though slightly at times seems not to hurt - and it is replenished as needed.
 For the earliest stages of forcing, it's best to find a cool, dim place. As I keep the second floor at 65° in the winter, I sat the forcing glass on the back of my toilet.

January 28 - A Fringe of Roots 

 After only four days, this bulb shows that it's ready to grow. A fringe of delicate white roots reach for the water. This is the stage where the water level should be kept below the base of the bulb, forcing the roots to grow and reach for the water.

February 5 - Busy at Top and Bottom

Already the top has begun to split into two halves. The roots have dipped halfway through the water below. The bulb has been growing for a mere 12 days.

February 12 

 Now the energy is going into the top. The flower bud can already be seen forming.

February 15 - Looking Down Inside at the Bud 

 The early buds remind me of an unripe pineapple, clustered tightly around the stalk. This is just past the three week mark.

February 19 

 The plant is already fully-formed and ready to bloom at just less than four weeks.

February 28 - The First Buds Open 

 Already a few buds begin to open and that sweet intoxicating hyacinth perfume is beginning to be released.

February 28 - Very Close!

Thirty-six days and the plant is all but open. One more day will do it (see the first picture on this post).

 All of this makes me wonder: where does it all come from? It would seem that there is more plant, more structure, than could have been contained in that small, dry bulb. And yet fields of corn make me think similar thoughts. From that tiny seed, this six foot tall plant has sprung?

 And yet the corn tickles its roots in soil. There are minerals to be absorbed in addition to the rain and air. This hyacinth bulb has had no more than water and air. It has never tasted soil.

 They say that on an atomic level, the universe is mostly empty space. Isn't this hyacinth a demonstration of that principle? Isn't it mostly water and  empty space? And yet look  at what is contained in that foamy vacuum.

 Nature often pulls a slight of hand: from nothing, something.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Nancy's 56th Birthday

 Bob and Nancy stopped by this afternoon. It's Nancy's 56th birthday and Bob took the day off so the two could celebrate. The four of us played cards (Michigan Rummy). Nancy won (it's only fair, I suppose).

The Birthday Girl

Brother Bob 

Miss Mary 


 We have Mom's childhood table in our dining room and it proves a long reach for the people on the ends. It's gorgeous wood, though, and we love using it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

All Around the Moon

 I loved science fiction as a kid and I remember being given a bunch of old books and devouring them in the 1950's. My favorite was Jules Verne's All Around The Moon. Published in 1870, I have a copy printed in Philadelphia.

 I always though this book was one of my grandfather's (Elwood M Schmidt) but I wonder now whether it came instead from my uncle (Joe Huesman)? The title page explains why ...

 The book was a Christmas gift from "Penelope" to Ward A Blossom. The Blossom family lived in a brick house (long gone) at the northeast corner of Miami Avenue and Linden Avenue in Miamisburg. My uncle lived just a few doors south of there. Uncle Joe was also interested in science and the book certainly seems like one he'd have acquired. I'll bet he picked it up during an estate auction.

 Jules Verne certainly presented a scientific treatise, trying to use the then-known laws of nature to describe this circumnavigation of the moon. Shades of Apollo 8!.And he placed the beginning of the flight in Florida and the splashdown in the Pacific. That's exactly what happened with all of the Apollo flights in the 1960's and early 1970's. How could Verne have set the scene so accurately a century before the program unfolded (and sadly, ended)?

Page 114

 I especially love the engravings in the book. I particularly remember this one as it affected me most during my childhood. One of two dogs on the flight ("Satellite") died after the launch and had to be dumped into space. The body followed the trajectory of the "bullet" throughout the flight. You nailed that one, Jules.

 Only, can you imagine the bottom "light" being opened in the vacuum of space? The incredibly cold temperature? And only when the spacecraft is at a neutral gravitational spot between the Earth and the Moon are the crew weightless. Verne missed a lot, too.

Page 217

 Or, can you imagine standing at a "widow" constructed as one you'd find in a house, replete with nails in the frame? How did the glass survive being shot out of a cannon? For that matter, how did the crew survive such a blast?

Page 294

 Ah, the moon! There was so much talk about the "Selenites", moonlings! And descriptions of forests and water and even cultivated fields. All imagination? Above is a fanciful illustration of "aqueducts". And yet as the spacecraft circles the moon, Verne correctly identifies craters and mares, all visible, of course, from Earth.He also concludes with a lifeless moon, at least at the present.

Page 415

 If the launch wasn't violent enough, what about the landing? The bullet, without the help of any retrorockets, plows into the Pacific Ocean at 25,000 miles per hours. The crew is found safe much later, bobbing about, having extended an American flag on the top of the craft.

 A note about the engravings: they were often placed a bit crookedly on the page and they're reproproduced here just as I saw them.
 The entire book, by the way, is presented free of charge on Project Guttenberg. Click here for details. All of the engravings are provided, too.

 While the book abounds with scientific errors, how is that different from today's science fiction? We know what we know and we guess at the rest. Verne did the same and he came eerily close much of the time. At the very least, All Around The Moon is a very entertaining read and well worth the time.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pinehaven in Virtual Reality

 So, how good is Google Cardboard? Not bad for a free app. And Google Cardboard Camera? Ditto,

 I fired up the camera today and gave it a try. Even with shaky hands, the app did a pretty good job of making a seamless panorama in 3D.

The shot was taken this afternoon (February 18, 2016 at 3:13 pm). Temperatures were in the low 40's and much of last week's snow had just disappeared from the ground. It wasn't an altogether pretty day and it was muddy and a bit breezy.

That's it for a first try.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mini-Reunion at Rob's

 We get together twice a year - normally January and July - with a sort of "mini-reunion" at Rob's Restaurant in Brookville. We've been doing this for many years now. The numbers have been falling but those of us who are left sure enjoy the chance to have a brief "catch-up" with other members of the family.

 This time Tom joined us for the first time. How he pulled that off, I don't quite know, as he worked last night and will have to be back by 6 pm. So he took off a couple of hours early, drove here in the late morning and was on the way home again by 2 pm. That doesn't leave much time for rest.

 Here are this year's attendees ...

 Joan Boyer & Lois Masters

Tom Buhler & Don Boyer 

Mary Schmidt 

 Bill Schmidt & Mary Schmidt

Shirley Cluxton 

Tom Buhler ... back at the all-you-can-eat buffet 

Mary Schmidt & Tom Buhler

 Hopefully come July Doug Cluxton and Tom Lowther will be able to join us  again. It's best when we're all here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Old Spaghetti Factory (again)

 A few days ago, Tom asked if we might go to The Old Spaghetti Factory on Saturday. We both love the place, though I have only been there once. We got there just after noon and the place was already quite busy. That's always a testament to the food.

 It doesn't take long for the salads to arrive. The OSF offers a "three course" meal and salads are one of the offerings.

 Tom ordered Misithra Cheese and Brown Butter, which they call "a toothsome treat for cheese lovers. Legend has that Homer lived on it while composing the Iliad". I don't know about that but I suppose Tom could make it a while on this.

 I almost always opt for something plain ... spaghetti with marinara. It's a lower calorie option and I can be sure its vegetarian.

 Along with the salads came a small loaf of yeasty bread and softened butter.

 And for dessert, spumoni ice cream.

 As we left I took this shot of Tom and I sitting on a brick bench outside the restaurant. It was cold out yesterday ... the high at Pinehaven was just 18° so it was no time to linger. Our trip to the OSF was part of our day-early celebration of Valentine's Day

 And before we left Tom's apartment, I took this shot of us sitting on the interior steps.

 Always a good time in Cincinnati but even better with the romantic holiday just ahead...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies

 At Christmas, Tom picked up a bag of Nestle Butterfinger Baking Bits (10 ounces) and I've been waiting to make a batch of cookies with them. Though there's a great recipe on the bag, I won't repeat it here because it's almost certainly copyrighted. I checked the Nestle website for the recipe and was surprised it wasn't there.

 Here, though, is something close.

 I like using the bits more than breaking up the Butterfinger Bites. Could it be that the bits aren't available year-round but the candy is?

 I used a portion scoop (#24) and placed the dough on a Silverstone cookie sheet.

 This size portion (just about a tablespoon) actual does make four dozen cookies.

 The dough is quite dry and therefore easy to work with. Not at all sticky.

 Another batch coming out of the oven ...

 As I neared the end of the dough, I began making the cookies a little larger. What's wrong with that?

 This is really a delicious cookie ... butter-scotchy, peanut-buttery. Now, time to make some coffee and have another.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lunch at Hunan House

 Tom and I both love Oriental food and yesterday, when we were discussing where to have lunch, I suggested Chinese. We had a choice of locations in Germantown or Miamisburg but we opted to make the longer trip to the 'Burg because I also wanted to visit Big Lots, too.

 We stopped at the Hunan House for lunch. Though they appear to currently not have a web site, they're reviewed on plenty of other sites. Click here to read the one on Yelp.

 The Hunan House is described as offering Chinese and Japanese cuisine. It's tucked into the Miamisburg Plaza Shopping Center with a nondescript, almost hidden facade. I don't remember eating there before - but Mom said we have, both alone and with Mae and Charlie. It seemed wholly new to me.

 The restaurant is bright and clean, most notable before you even take a seat. Because Tom and I both opted for the buffet ($6.75) we were able to eat immediately.

 The buffet counters offer a wide selection of oriental dishes, really too many to even contemplate. Tom and I both made two trips.

... and just as wide a selection of desserts. One layered cake had the distinctive - though subtle - flavor of coffee ... absolutely delicious! This is one to return for.

 My first trip to the buffet lines netted this plate: a vegetable (I hope) "dough ball" (start at left and then clockwise), a spicy rice dish, an Oriental vegetable combo and fried potatoes.

 Tom piled it on a bit deeper but then he didn't have to avoid the meat offerings. I hoped that the egg rolls were vegetable but the waitress said they contained pork. Most prominent in the foreground is a shrimp dish. I didn't find that they offer plain white rice, too, almost hidden at the back of the restaurant in an electric warming pot. Next time!

Tom's right hand is a blur because he's shoveling 

 This little dessert is a good example of the Hunan House's many sweets. Tom said it was cheesecake. It appeared wrapped in a delicate, crisp rice paper ... all edible. Beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. They even offer ice cream.

 That's certainly a good deal for an all-you-can-eat buffet.