Monday, January 6, 2014

Does Boiling Water Freeze When Thrown At -17 Degrees (F)?

I had read that water would freeze nearly instantly when thrown at sub-zero (F) temperatures. Well since the temperature here is currently minus 17 degrees (F) why not find out using the scientific method. I did not understand the water needed to be quite close to boiling so my first test was with hot tap water, probably no warmer than 135 or 140 degrees. Nothing special occurred. A scientist friend pointed out that the water in question needed to be near boiling. Well, I had established a base test that proved that merely warm water did not spectacularly freeze when tossed, so I brought another pan to boiling and had my lovely assistant toss it while I photographed the result. Much more spectacular. Would have been even better if I had a backlight too!

We could hear it freeze - as a hissing sound - and very little wet water hit the ground. Actually projecting the water in a thinner stream like from a Super Soaker water gun would probably produce some pretty cool results!


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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lighting the Morning Rocket

Coffee is part of my morning routine. I am not particularly addicted to it (or caffeine) but I do enjoy a couple of cups each day. Over the years I have experimented with different ways to make coffee. I have tried garden variety drip with the Bunn maker we got as a wedding present. That coffee was always, always weak. I bought a Moka pot for camping and that made a pretty good cup of coffee, but it was fussy, and tough to brew back-to-back batches without oven mitts. I even added an electric Moka pot to my collection. French press works pretty well, but my wife and I diverge on coffee; she drinks flavored and I do not. The French press also doesn't do a very good job of keeping the second, much less third, cup hot enough. My wife presses, pours her cup, and pours the rest into a thermos. OK, but a bit of a pain. I don't gulp coffee down, and the last swallows are generally tepid. Since I also like iced coffee, I don't find that offensive but I do want the first sips of hot coffee to be hot. I am currently using a Hamilton-Beach "Scoop", s single-cup brewer that is probably the equivalent of a Keurig-type machine except I get to use my own coffee.

I start with fresh beans and grind them just before use. I have a fancy electric burr grinder, but the damn thing sounds like a jet landing in the kitchen. It is not endearing to my wife or the cat. It sits on a shelf, and this $20 hand-cranked grinder now does the job. It is not very consistent with the grind unless I go quite fine but that results in an unpalatable amount of dust in the brew. *shrug* It is quiet and quick enough, so tranquility is maintained. Everything has a trade-off it seems. I use slightly more than the recommended amount of coffee, at least Hamilton-Beach's recommendation, but still roughly 2.5 teaspoons per 8-oz cup.

The brewing takes about two minutes on the normal setting, not really long enough for a good cup. I use the "Bold" setting for a longer steep. My only real complaint about the machine is that, as you can see in the photo, the finished brew is at 150 degrees, or a good 25 degrees cooler than optimal. I have not been preheating my mug and that could have something to do with it. The water boils before it is fed to the grounds, so I know it is hitting the coffee at 205 or so degrees, but why the cool brew at the end? I had not measured the temperature before this, so I have not yet done any experimenting (dang that Cooks Illustrated magazine!) but I will be starting with the next cups. Preheated mug? Insulated mug? We shall see.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

House Spouse

Happy new year! As 2013 ends and 14 begins, I find myself without a day job. As luck would have it, that is not a totally bad thing. Reena still has her job which she loves, and with Obamacare we have affordable health care (affordable, as in less expensive with much better coverage, despite what the lying liars are telling you). I find myself settling a bit deeper into that of house spouse. I do still seek employment every day, which consumes an alarming amount of time on the face of it. But I find I am turning more to certain domestic duties. I still confess to having some sort of aversion to, you know, cleaning, but I am finding ways to improve that ailment. What I have been grooving on is kitchen detail. I do love to cook!

I discovered a love for Cooks Illustrated magazine, and Reena got me a subscription for the coming year. I put out a request on Madison Freecycle for any back issues, and a kind soul let me have a dozen or so, as well as another dozen or so of Cook's Country which I had never heard of. I look forward to many enjoyable hours with them! Another of my solstice gifts, partly by my mother-in-law and partly from our accumulated credit card points, was a fine new utility knife (blogged a few posts back). I have been getting bolder in my cooking, and while I will never be confused for a fine chef, I'm starting to get a grasp of things beyon the basics. It is great fun and tasty too.

Not having a job could be off-putting but we are in pretty good shape. We have no debt and our spending habits are historically frugal so while Reena's solo income probably is not sufficient to sustain us indefinitely we are not feeling a crunch. This year has been a tremendous turnaround year for our investments after five years of pretty much not going anywhere.

It is pretty tough not to feel buoyed after seeing a year of returns like that. While we do not anticipate having to draw from it yet, it sure is nice to know there is a pretty solid support there in case I do remain unemployed for a long time.

I ease into this new year with a profound sense of calm and a sense of possibility. What will come next? Is this a lack of a job, or is it an opportunity to cast a creative net and see what else is there for my next decade or so? Time will tell, or as the old saying goes, all will become clear in the fullness of time.

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