Final Fun

Before I even think about going back to work tomorrow, I decided to try to do something fun in my basement. My project is to make something to hang coats by my door. I have a couple of boards that I made out of lathe that are around 6" wide and maybe 30" long. I sanded them down and painted them red with milk paint. Once they dry, I'm going to pound in some of the original nails to use as hooks. Then I'll hang one of the boards on the wall by the door. I haven't yet decided if I'll hang them both. I think I'll see if I like the one by itself first to see if I like how it looks. And how the nails work as hooks.



Black Friday

Today is "Black Friday", which means that I'm spending it relaxing after hosting Thanksgiving yesterday. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I believe yesterday was quite enjoyable for everyone. The wild turkey got deplucked and turned out ok. My turkey breast roast, made out of a bunch of pieces, was good. The roasted sweet potatoes were good. And as always the desserts were finished off without a problem.

I had fun yesterday posting to twitter about all the things I was thankful for. And we ended the evening by introducing my sister's kids to the beauty of Star Wars. Since we normally have a Christmas viewing of Star Wars, I'm not sure what we'll do then. We may have to move on to "The Empire Strikes Back".

Today people will shop, which is a little weird after spending yesterday being thankful for what you have. While I have no desire to "go shopping" ever, I know that I ran out of laundry detergent yesterday. So if I want to wash all the dirty linens, a trip to a store might be needed today.

As I now have three full days over which I don't need to think about work, I have a couple of personal projects that I'd like to take a crack at. One is the letterpress-printed save the date cards for my brother's wedding. I'm hoping my plates get delivered today, though they may not. It would be nice to be able to play around with that today. Another is to build a little project with some of the wood I have in my basement and to try out the milk paint I bought as a finish. Lastly, though it's supposed to rain for most of the day, I'd like to go for a bike ride. It's supposed to be in the 50s today, which will make for a nice ride.

Winter Biking

Chicago had it's first snowfall of the year yesterday. A few inches. But then it got quite cold and while roads were plowed and salted, the remaining water froze to ice. Since I have been biking all year and loving it, I wanted to keep the commute to work for as long as I can. I was a bit nervous about biking in the snow, so I decided to get up early this morning and bike to the grocery store, four blocks away. It was 14 degrees when I left. I was dressed well, so the cold wasn't a concern at all. All I was worried about was the ice.

I live on a side street, so it gets plowed after all the main streets. It doesn't have a ton of traffic, but it has enough that the snow gets compacted pretty quickly into ice. I started by taking the bike right out into the street and going very slowly. I had read someplace that when you're on ice, putting your foot down usually is a very bad idea. So I rode really slowly because it was all ice until I got to Ashland. Since that's a main street, it was completely clear and dry. I had no problems there. Normally though I wouldn't ride on Ashland because it has a lot of traffic and people drive fast. But I was pretty sure that the side street I normally take was a sheet of ice, so Ashland seemed to be the better option. All was good until I got to the parking lot for the store. Again, a sheet of ice. Fortunately, there was hardly any traffic out, so I could take my time and the whole road to make my turn. So I made it there and back ok, but I wouldn't ride in that to work. Mainly because on a weekday morning, there's much more traffic around and I wouldn't feel safe at all.

The good news is that I should be able to use my own street as a gauge. If it's clear, the ride in should be fine. If it's icy, I probably shouldn't take the bike. The temperature only comes into play when it gets cold enough that the salt won't melt the ice. That's right around 15 degrees I think. So if it's colder than that, I'll check for ice. If not, I should be ok.

I also just finished this book called Frostbike by Tom Babin. He's a guy who lives is Calgary who wanted to continue biking year round. He went all over the world to find places where people do and don't bike in the winter and why. It was very interesting. But the main thing that I took away from it is that, like all things, it's all about your attitude. We've pretty much demonized winter so that all we do is complain about it. This is stupid. If you live in a northern climate, winter has always been around. What's the point of complaining about it? He also gave some good backup data to my new favorite saying (which is not in the book), "There is no inappropriate weather, there's only inappropriate clothing." I had actually been thinking that I want to take advantage of winter this year. I had been ice skating past winters and really liked it. I'd like to do that more and even just go out for a nightly walk in the cold. That's one of the things that I love about biking anytime...being in touch with the weather.

Car Repair

My last car repair class at the park was a couple of weeks ago. While I sometimes dreaded getting in the car to drive over when it was already dark out, I enjoyed every single class. And I learned something in every single class. It was easily the best $60 I've spent in a long time.

The most important lesson that I learned though, is that I'm really not that interested in working on cars. When I started the class, I was thinking it would be fun to buy an old pickup truck and fix it up. But after learning a little more about cars, I'm not so interested in doing that anymore. I don't see me doing much with cars. I have one and I could see me changing the oil. Learning how to do that using an evacuator through the dipstick hole will save me enough on oil changes to easily cover the cost of the class. I think I could also change a spark plug. And I know where to look if I need to fix something more complicated.

I'm thrilled that I learned a bit about cars, but even happier that I learned that this is not something that I'm going to look into more. Since I tend to be interested in just about everything, that is a wonderful change.

Working with Wood

I have written before how I'm trying to reuse the old lathe that I saved when I redid part of my house. The procedure was basically to plane the lathe, glue it together and then plane it to a smooth thickness. This has produced some very nice boards and I've made a couple of nice things with them. The problem is that I'm not enjoying the process. First of all, the planer is freakin' loud. I wear ear-covering sound mufflers and it still sounds loud to me. I tried using a sander and wet-dry vac, but that's crazy loud too. As I get older, one thing I've noticed about myself is that I like quiet. Another problem is that the planer seems to be breaking a lot. I've spent a lot of money on a new set of carbide blades, which have worked well, but cost $249. And I've replaced the belt twice. It also generates a tremendous amount of sawdust that gets all over the place. But the main problem is the noise. I like working in the mornings...the earlier the better. But I don't want to make that much noise. I'm sure my neighbors could hear some of it and I don't want to be a jerk.

I still want to do something with the lathe though, so what to do. Perhaps I should be planing them by hand. I know, it's crazy. I'm taking an already ridiculous slow task and making it even slower. But I tried it a little today and I think I might like this more. I took a very old plane that I had and tried planing a piece of lathe. I actually enjoyed it. The scraping makes a very pleasant sound as you go across the wood. It generates thin strips of wood and not sawdust. This should be easier to clean up. I think it might be kind of relaxing to do this after work. I could listen to music while I'm doing it, which would be great. Problems? Yes, this is even slower. More importantly, I don't really have a good way to clamp the lathe down while I'm trying to plane. I also think it would be nice to have a shorter table to plane on, since I could see my back not enjoying the height of my current workbench. I also don't know much about hand planes. I'm guessing I'd have to sharpen the blade a lot and I have no idea how to do this. But even with these problems, I'm liking this idea. I'm going to give it a try and see how it goes.

Getting Built-in Sound Working with RHEL6

I had a user running RHEL6 who no longer had sound. His computer has an Asus P8H67-M PRO motherboard. This board has a built-in Intel soundcard.

# lspci|grep Audio
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 6 Series/C200 Series Chipset Family High Definition Audio Controller (rev 05)

After much screwing around, I found that the modules I needed to install were kmod-snd-hda and kmod-snd_hda. I'm not sure about the difference between these, but I put them both on. When I tried to install with yum, they also had a dependency on an older kernel.

# yum install kmod-snd-hda kmod-snd_hda
Dependencies Resolved

 Package                Arch             Version                        Repository                            Size
 kmod-snd-hda           x86_64           1.0-1.el6_0                    rhel-x86_64-workstation-6            1.1 M
 kmod-snd_hda           x86_64            rhel-x86_64-workstation-6            1.4 M
 kernel                 x86_64           2.6.32-573.3.1.el6             @rhel-x86_64-workstation-6           126 M
Installing for dependencies:
 kernel                 x86_64           2.6.32-504.30.3.el6            rhel-x86_64-workstation-6             29 M

Transaction Summary
Install       3 Package(s)
Remove        1 Package(s)

Total size: 32 M
Is this ok [y/N]: 

Since I was currently using the kernel it wanted to uninstall, I reboot and picked a different kernel. Then, I just manually installed kernel 2.6.32-504.30.3.el6. I reboot again, into the 2.6.32-504.30.3 kernel and then installed the kmod-snd-hda and kmod-snd_hda packages. This took a while and I got a lot of warnings. But after a reboot, sound worked fine.

According to the RedHat page,
"This package provides the snd-hda kernel modules built for
the Linux kernel 2.6.32-71.18.2.el6.x86_64 for the x86_64
family of processors."

So I should probably not upgrade the kernel on this computer if I want sound to continue to work.

Chicken and Dumplings Soup

I just made this chicken and dumplings soup. It's ok, but it's not great. My main problem is with the dumplings. They're really heavy. And the soup is good, but I think there should have been an onion in the soup. So after thinking about things, this is what I'm going to try the next time I make it.


  • 4 cups chicken stock (this is on 32 oz container)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 carrots (chopped)
  • 2 celery stalks (chopped)
  • 1 onion (minced)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 4 teaspoons button
  • 1/2 cup whole milk


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk

In big pot, melt butter. Add carrots, celery and onion. Cook them until softened. Add the rest of the soup ingredients, and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Probably 20 minutes or so would be my guess. While that's cooking, mix everything except the milk and butter together. Heat the milk and add the butter so it melts. Then add it to the flour mixture and mix it all together. Should form a ball. Break chunks off, about 1 inch in diameter and drop into the soup. When the chicken is cooked, take it out and pull out the bay leaves. After the chicken cools a little, shred it and then add it back to the soup.