June 2013

The Very Odd Interview: Dr Kiki on Triangulation

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Dr Kirsten Sanford on TriangulationLeo Laporte's TWIT network has a show where they interview notable and interesting people from, well, it seems wherever they can GET them. I suspect they have some trouble with their 'gets' as they call them in the broadcast business. Outside of their little bubble of fanbase, not many people know who the hell they are. Which sort of explains this past week's Triangulation interview with Dr Kirsten Sanford. Now Dr. Kiki is certainly notable, at least in my estimation, because she's one of only five or six serious science popularizers out there in American culture right now.  NOT tech journalists, but SCIENCE journalists . . . someone who knows what it is to work as a scientist and yet can talk to a general audience in a way we can all understand. 

We have Bill Nye, Dr. Kiki, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, and who else? Perhaps Laurence Krauss, who I notice mostly because he was briefly associated with my undergraduate alma mater, Case Western Reserve Univerisity in Cleveland. But Dr Krauss is mostly a dick.* There are a couple of people who particularly talk about space science occasionally, like Elon Musk (when it involves SpaceX), Peter Diamandis, when it comes to private industry space, and Miles O'Brien.  There is a very small cadre of people that the media calls upon when serious science topics need to be discussed. Now, Dr. Kiki, despite her long running This Week in Science (TWIS) web and radio show, is small potatoes compared to the others. She was starting to get a higher profile, being noticed in more places and getting called upon more to speak out about such things thanks to the decision by Leo Laporte to carry the TWIS show on his TWIT network.   But then, in mid 2012, This Week in Science was kicked off of TWIT.   According to a message shared by Dr. Sanford on her TWIS website, it was because the TWIT CEO, Lisa Kentzell, declared that the network was 'reorganizing' and would no longer carry other people's shows.  Just to set the scene, Ms. Kentzell is also Mr. Laporte's girlfriend.  This move came as a shock to me and many other people who watch TWIT shows and who liked Dr. Kiki's work there, especially since she had been used more and more to pick up coverage for other shows, such as MacBreak Weekly coverage of tech shows, among other things.

The trees are sick

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One of the sad reasons that I've been more and more interested in trees is that I've seen first-hand how poorly they are doing. Growing up on a farm in Ohio, we had a woods on our pastures. Now cattle pastures are not the most healthy place for groves of trees, because with the relatively high density of animals on a restricted piece of land, they tend to graze the entire plot extensively, and farmers tend to mow or brush hog to promote grass growth. All of these things mean that on a cattle pasture, there are often no saplings, except at the margins and just beyond the fencelines.  My father was better than most, in that we had a fairly large pasture for the herd population, and it had a well established grove of trees, particularly of dogwoods, maples, pignut hickory, shagbark hickory, mockernut hickory, butternut, ash, oak, walnut, and beech. 

But over the years since my early childhood, I've seen populations of trees sicken and die. The old Elms that were left when I was a boy died off from Dutch Elm disease early on. Since then I've seen the ashes succumb to Emerald Ash borers (including one in our front yard), and the few butternuts die from their own blight. 

There are things happening in dendrology right now, partially because of altruism (people want to bring back treasured old tree species such as the American Chestnut) but mostly because of economic terror. The entire Walnut industry is scared of the Walnut blight. Landscaping firms have spent alot of time and money trying to save treasured trees on college campuses and the estates of the wealthy.  But we, the general public, can't ignore what is happening. And with the new stresses of global climate change, many species are under attack in ways they may have encountered before, but never with the landscape limitations they now suffer, living in a world dominated by human beings.

It's always strange to me that woodworkers like myself are not usually that concerned about trees. To them, it's only a resource. When a species is under attack, they hear about it and talk about it (if at all), only in the context of how it will change the prices of their favorite lumber.  For ash, the emarald borer infestation has been seen as an opportunity to buy the lumber cheap.  But even I've been astonished at how little attention they've paid to the threat to the black walnut, one of their favorite woods.  I guess trees are too far removed from the business end of woodworker to garner notice.

I refuse to ignore this or be blind about it. I'm tracking stories as I come across them about what is happening in North America around our great forests and the wonderful trees that live there.

Chopsaw Station - Added top drawers

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Well, I'm really working on Adriana's cabinet right now, so everything else has taken a backseat. But I did manage to create the two small drawers for the chopsaw station this past week. Nothing fancy, just birch ply face and 1/2" ply wides and back, and an 1/8" ply bottom. All rabbet jointed using the table saw.  The right drawer is actually so closely fitted it really does have a piston effect on the air inside.  I may need to drill a hole to let the air out when I'm closing it.  (Nice! :-)

Small drawers fitted into the top of the chopsaw station

Little Shop thing - Base for the LN Dowel Plate

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Dowel plate base with holes drilled for the dowels to pass throughI bought the little Lie-Nielsen dowel plate in English units a couple months back, with the goal in mind to use it to create the dowels that will peg the leg tops to the case of Adriana's cabinet. I tried using it a couple weeks ago to make a simple 1/4" dowel. It takes a lot of work unless you've got the pre-dowell pretty close to the proper size. This can be somewhat tricky to do without sneaking into the 'inside diameter' area and giving your dowel an unsightly flat.  But the biggest thing is you really need to be able to clamp this thing down over a hole or a gap in your bench so it's nice and stable while you whale on the predowel piece.  So I got a nice thick old piece of oak, planed it smooth and flat on all sides, chamfered the edges and drilled a series of holes in it so the dowel will go through. Then I attached the LN dowel plate to it using the handy-dandy counter-sunk screw holes LN included at the ends of the plate. 

LN dowell plate mounted on new baseThis makes the plate about 300% friendlier to use. And so much easier to clamp.

Adri's Cabinet - Finally fit the webframe

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Webframe dry fit into Adri's cabinet  (Links to Adri's Cabinet gallery)After several weeks of cutting the mortise and tenon joints on the nine web frame drawer divders for Adriana's cabinet, I finally dry fit the whole thing to the case to see how it all works. It took some planing and tweaking to fit each one, but they're finally installed. This is still just a dry fit, I haven't glued anything on this piece yet.  Part of that is just prudence, but the other part is simply fear. When I designed this piece, I didn't thinkit all the way through to detail and decoration, so the second I glue it all up, I'm locking myself out from any more changes. 

Adri's Cabinet: Final dry fit of the cabinet case, with web frame installed

Restaurant review: The Mill Kitchen and Bar, Roswell, Georgia

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Review of The Mill Kitchen and Bar in Roswell, Georgia, 6/8/2013 --

The Mill Kitchen & Bar, Roswell, GAMy wife and I went out for one of our all-to-infrequent nights out without the kids. We were hoping for a nice romantic meal with some good food and quiet conversation. The Mill turned out to be perfect.  The atmosphere was good for conversation and they have a wonderful area outside to sit. We opted for the inside dining room since we wanted to talk and the guitarist playing outside wasn't loud, but since we were escaping the kids, we opted for quiet. The inside is decorated well and, aside from a slightly strong smell of fried fish when we first entered, was wonderful. We ordered the cheese vegetable and meat selection as an appetizer. This was clearly local food and very unique. The Georgia prosciutto was fresh and flavorful and I liked the sweet/dill baby pickles and very fresh olives. My wife loved the slightly pickled okra slices and I loved the sliced figs. This was accompanied by a sliced bread which was crumbly but not terribly flavorful.