Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grape Juice - August 26

We planted grapes to shade our deck (which is currently demolished) and they were getting ripe.
Megan decided it was time to press them since the raccoons and wasps were eating them. We cut them down and filled one side of our kitchen sink with them. It was more than we were expecting and probably 5 times what we'd harvested the year before.

The first batch we just tried throwing them directly in the small press that we had. Even after cranking it down quite a bit there were some grapes in the middle that hadn't popped. Must be that great spherical shape that transfers the pressure so well.

So on our second batch we broke the skins with a potato masher. (I had suggested we use our feet but since we weren't making wine, Megan didn't think it was such a good idea.) That seemed to do the trick and we got a lot more juice out of them without having to work as hard.

We ended up with about a gallon of juice by the end. It's sweet and a bit sugary. Pleasant to drink but a small glass is enough. You're welcome to come by and try some if you're in the neighborhood.

Deck Demo - August 7

Well the deck in our backyard was starting to rot away. There were a few places you could put your foot though it even. So we started demo on August 7. My sisters, brother-in-law, and nieces came to help. Here's a picture of things part way through.

It was a little drizzly which made things muddy once we got the floor up but we finished all the demo in one day. Unfortunately my momentum has tapered a little since and things haven't progressed but there is motivation to finish things quick for our cider party this fall.

Sturgeon Falls - Manitoba, Canada

So two weeks ago I took a trip to Canada with a few other paddlers (Scott, Scott, Jeff, Danielle, Bill, and Brian). It was about a 10 hour drive the the cities with two stops to switch cars/pick up paddlers. We arrived around midnight and set up camp in the dark. The next morning we got all set by 10AM and went to go check in but the office wasn't open for another hour! With no self check in we had no choice but to wait. And when we checked in we found out we'd set up our tents in the wrong site! So that was another hour delay of carrying tents to our new site. And then there was a slow paddle out on basically a lake with these waves in the distance. They didn't look so big from far away but as we got closer they got bigger. Imagine ocean waves that stay in one place and are in the middle of a lake. That's what it was like.

One of the coolest feelings was getting into the waves. You'd turn your back to the wave and be looking at this glassy lake. Slowly you'd start to feel yourself slide down into the trough. This roaring sound starts and gets louder and louder until BAM the pile of surf just hits your back and shoots you forward. The anticipation and thrill made me think of an amusement ride.

Here's a video of me surfing Chameleon (one of the waves). Scott told me to do something cool but I just couldn't perform on demand like that.

There were also surfers there that would get towed into the waves behind jet skis. Luckily the waves they liked and we liked were different so everyone got plenty of surfing. I think we were out there for 5-6 hours just surfing and hanging out. I even had packed a watermelon in my boat to share but we didn't eat that until the 2nd day.

The 2nd day was windy and rainy but with all our paddling gear on it wasn't too noticeable unless you got out of your boat. Here's a clip from that day that also has a 360 pan so you kind of get an idea of what the surroundings were like (beautiful).

WARNING: Make sure to turn your speakers down because the wind noise is really loud!

The wave behind Chameleon where you see people also surfing was called Triple S. It was another fun spot to surf and we even got 4 kayaks on it at once. There was a bit of bumper boats going on but we had fun.

There were other waves we played on too, including one called Big Mouth. It had this really weird pattern of building up (almost like a huge hand coming out of the water) and then crashing down suddenly. The thing to try to do is surf right next to where this mouth forms and just before it crashes slide over into it and get shot forward. Easy to say when you're sitting on shore. A whole lot harder when you're staring at it. There were times where I was just hanging on for the ride. Amazing how much power there can be.

The weekend was a blast. Okay weather, great waves, and awesome company. Looking forward to going back again some time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Laser" - August 1

So I've had three weeks now at Medtronic and things are going well. Lots of training on all the systems and software programs but I think most of that is behind me. I've actually gotten some real work to do and am finally contributing to the progress of the project. What is the project I'm working on? It is a new battery for one of their ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillator). An ICD is basically an implantable version of the paddles that get used to jump start a person's heart. It works by using the battery to charge up a capacitor which can store the energy and then discharge it rapidly (sort of like how flashes work on cameras). If you'd like to know more or hear it from a more credible source, here is Medtronic's webpage on ICDs:

So it turns out there is a lot that goes into batteries and I'm getting to learn all about it. Anodes, cathodes, electrolytes, electrical insulation, shorting, electrical connections, etc. One of the processes that I'm working on is how the pieces are attached and sealed which involves ... "lasers". There's some resistance spot welding as well but the whole laser thing is really cool! To help me learn the processes, I've been trained to run the equipment and actually helping with the builds. Pretty sweet. I think it would get a bit old if I were doing it straight for 8 hours a day but it's new and exciting right now.

Other news: Our wood patio outside is in need of replacement so we're going to start that project soon. I went to Menards to shop prices and learn about all the options. The garden is doing well and producing more cucumbers than we know what to do with. The tomatoes, peppers, and basil were ready too so Megan made some salsa and pesto today.

Wisconsin Whitewater - July 17

A fellow paddler in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area (Brian B)called me to let me know that they'd gotten a lot of rain recently and the rivers were running high. I grabbed another local paddler (Dan M) and drove out at 6am on Saturday. We met up with Brian and some other local paddlers to test out the Black River, Jim Falls @ 8,000 cfs (10x normal spring release), and the Chippewa River.

The highlight was definitely the Chippewa River which was at 24,000 cfs and pouring out of the gates at the downtown dam. The standing waves were all on the other side of the river but still looked big from where we were. After a bit of discussion about planning and safety, we did a flyby to check things out with out committing too much. Everything looked good so we decided to give it a go and actually try to surf some of the waves.

Even though we'd floated past and looked at them, it's still a little unnerving purposefully paddling into the waves and seeing how big they are. Basically it was like having an ocean wave, crashing surf and all, sitting in one place on a river. I'd guess it was 8'+. Turned out to be a riot with great surfing. It was retentive enough that you could spin and stay on it but it would still let you wash off if you flipped or wanted to get off.

Unfortunately the video we took is zoomed too far out to see much but it gives you an idea of the scale of things. Watch how quickly I move once I get in the current and zip past Dan (in the yellow boat). It's hard to see the individual waves but if you look on the far shore you can see some of the ones we couldn't get to because the current was so fast. There's not much to see after the 1st minute but if you bother watching the whole thing, listen for my yell of excitement as I get on the wave (1:40) and the photographer laughing. He wasn't a paddler and thought we'd just end up getting flipped around out there.