Monday, January 31, 2011

Pork Tenderloin and Sweet Potato Sandwich

This years Christmas dinner was comprised of pork tenderloin and sweet potato. The next day I made a very pleasant discovery when fixing a leftover lunch. The Pork Tenderloin and Sweet Potato Sandwich. For the most part I am not a sandwich lover. Sure it is an effective meal, but hardly am I ever excited when I hear that sandwiches are on the lunch docket. I considered sandwiches the human equivalent of dog food. Does the job of filling your stomach, pleasant enough to be eaten regularly, but nothing to blog about. That is until now. The pork and sweet potato sandwich I had the day after Christmas was the BEST sandwich I have ever tasted.

The pork tenderloin was pre-marinated in salt and pepper. Cooked on a grill. Then sliced into thin medallions the size of a 50 cent piece. The sweet potato, actually yams, were cooked in the microwave, finished on the grill and sliced up in the same manner as the pork.

In order for you to experience the same sandwich delight as I, you have to construct yours the exact same way as I. You can not make the tenderloin sweet po sandi to suit your liking, leaving out or substituting ingredients, and disagree with my "best sandwich in the world claim".

So let's put together this little marvel:

Since this is a hot sandwich and I was using left overs, the first step was to heat the pork and the sweet P. I used the toaster oven since I was planning on toasting the bread; this gave it a slight broiled/toasted aspect to the meat and tuber. The only bread I had at the time was a round loaf of a fancy whole wheat type. Sliced up and lightly toasted. On one slice I spread a thin layer of mayonnaise and on the other a healthy portion or dijon mustard. Next I put a single layer of pork on each slice of bread and a single layer of sweet potato on only one side. To finish off this master piece, grind fresh pepper on the sweet potato half and dribbled Sriracha hot sauce on the pork only side. Join the two halves together and take a bite.

The combination of flavors is amazing. Eating them individually does not compare . The mustard and the sweet potato compliments the pork and gives it an interesting pzazz. The contrasting texture of toast, pork and potato adds a physical element of oral adventure.

As my watering mouth is dribbling on the keyboard, I realize that I have not made this sandwich since the initial discovery. I will most likely go and purchase the ingredients for the sole purpose of making PSP sandwiches. This is one sandwich that I would not consider human dog food. Woof Woof.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Eneloop - Rechargable batteries

Nickle Cadmium really gave rechargeable batteries a bad rap. So much so, that many people think of rechargeable and do not want anything to do with them. These last 5 years or so has seen rechargeable batteries develop to a state where they rival standard alkaline batteries. These days most rechargeable batteries are made from nickel metal hydride, like cell phone batteries (not including the lithium type). These type of batteries claim three times the life in digital cameras.

Recently I have discovered the Eneloop battery made by Sanyon. Their claim to fame? They are ready to use right out of the package. This is cause they retain their charge longer than any other type of rechargeable battery, and thus no need to pre charge prior to using. They can hold something like 85% of their charge after one year. They come in AAA and AA sizes. For the larger C and D's they have sleeves which convert a AA to fit a C/D slot. Sure there is not as much life as a D but hey they are rechargeable. It is weird to heft a four D cell mag light with these little guys in them.

I have replaced all of my heavy use items with Eneloop batteries. I still however keep a stock pile of regular AA and AAA's for those items that rarely need a battery change.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lexus's Carbon Fiber Weaving Loom

I has been rumored for years that Lexus was going to build a new sports car. A super car: The LFA. In the last year details of this $370K car has slowly been released to the public. Most recently this video was released. At first it was taken off of youtube for fear that competitors would steal their new technology. But then they allowed youtube to host it again. This video made my skin tingle as I watched it. Here is Lexus's new carbon weaving loom.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Transfer and Auotmatic Punches

Prior to drilling a hole in a hard surface, it is common practice to mark the center of the hole with a dimple. This dimple is usually made with a center punch and a hammer. Having a dimple to start the drill on prevents the drill bit from wandering, and making a hole not where you want. This is not such a big deal when making large holes in soft material like most woods. But it is much needed when drilling holes in metals and other hard materials, including the top sheet of a pair of skis.

When it comes to making punch marks I relay on two types of punches. If I layout my hole locations and need to mark the starting point I will use an automatic punch. An automatic punch looks like a regular center punch. The only difference is that you do not strike the back end of it with a hammer. Instead you push down on the back end till the punch "automatically" punches the material. How? As you compress the punch you load up a spring. At the end of the stroke the stored energy is suddenly released against the punching ram and it strikes the object. Though the strength of the punch is adjustable, I find that these punch marks are on the light side. Some of the reasons to use such a punch is less tools required, better accuracy placing the punch, and single handed operation. Once established, a light dimple can be made deeper with more hits from the automatic or with a regular punch and hammer.

Sometimes a situation arise and you need to transfer a series of holes from a part onto the surface to another. Examples are ski bindings that need mounting or a bracket that you need to pre-drill holes for. The tricky part here is the the center punch is too wide to fit in the hole to make the transfer, or that it will be difficult to determine the center of the hole to be transfer with a standard punch. The solution is a transfer punch set.

Transfer Punches come in a set with many varying diameters of punches. You find the punch that fits the hole best and use it to mark your work piece. Since drill bits come in many different series of sizes (letters, numbers, fractional, metric), a typical hole can be of any size. Transfer punch typically only come in fractional sizes (fraction of an inch). The fit is never perfect but good enough. Transfer punches are not of the automatic variety and thus a hammer is needed to deliver the dimple making blow.
When creating a set of holes never transfer all the holes at once. What I mean by this is do not lay the part down on the work piece, dimple mark all the holes then drill them all out. Instead I typically transfer one hole. Bolt the part down with the one hole, then transfer the next. If the part has more than two hole, I will do the first two holes individually then do the rest at once. Once two of the holes are fixed, there is no chance of that part rotating, and you have a equal chance all the rest of the holes will then line up. I find that this is a much more accurate method of transferring a set of holes.
And there you have it, another chapter in the life of drilling holes. (said with a southern draw, like an instructor I once had did, makes that last sentence funnier)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dynafit Heel Release Trick

I was BC skiing with my long time Dynafit using friend the other day. On one section he chose different route up a steep narrow ridge than I, and found himself on a very steep section. Locking the heel and side stepping was his only safe option. Once he gained that section he needed to switch back into the tour mode from ski mode. In my G3 Onyx review , I mentioned that one of the primary toted benefits of the Onyx is that you can switch from ski to tour mode without releasing out of the binding completely (staying in the toe portion of the binding) . Since the toe part of the binding is tricky to enter, keeping the toe attached while while switching between ski/tour modes is a plus, especially on dicey terrain.

I thought it was common knowledge that you can pop the heel out (ski to tour) of dynafit bindings if you did not have ski brake equipped bindings; I guess not. So here is a little video for you'all. Watch, learn, practice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baby Care - Sleeping 2 of 5

Sleeping-Get a bassinet. There are many types of bassinets with many names but they serve the same purpose; a mini crib. Find one that is stable, and has a decent pad. If it rocks/swings, make sure the pivot is sturdy and without too much play in the joint. A lock out on the pivot is valuable. "Well why not just get them a real crib, then I don't have to buy two items?", you might ask. Size is the main reason. Your newborns should sleep right next to your bed for the first few weeks, even months of its life. A full size crib might not fit conveniently in your bedroom. You might then want to try to move it further away from the room; this could be a little too far. From the babies point of view a full size crib might be too big. Having spent the first nine months of life in very the close confounds of the womb, babies need to feel close. Bassinets have high sides and often a half canopy cover to give them the cozy feel. This can make a difference between sleeping and not. And trust me, you will do anything possible that will make your baby sleep. The bassinet pictured to the right is the one we have: Eddie Bauer, assume it was bought at Target. We bought it from a used baby supply store. Fairly sturdy, however the lower portion of the legs were not. The wood is thin, and when the holes are drilled for the wheels and bolts, it leaves very little material. Our came cracked, and I did not notice until I brought it home. A little bit of epoxy and sanding and it was better than new. I assume that it was abused: dropped and bolts over tightened. It fit all of our requirement otherwise.

So what should your baby sleep in. First off, nothing should be in the bassinet. No stuffed animals, no blankets, no toys. Babies should be wrapped up in a swaddle. A swaddle is a piece of cloth that their entire body is wrapped up in; A baby burrito. This goes back to the confound space of the womb. They are more comfortable this way.

White noise, air flow, and temperature. These are three additional items help fine tune the perfect sleep environment. White noise is often a sleep aide for people who have trouble sleeping. It sounds like static on the radio and drowns out background noise and helps you stay asleep. Babies benefit from this even more than you. Again this goes back to creating a womb like environment. Their ears at the time were filled with amniotic fluid. Which from our experience of being under water sounds more or less like white noise, minus the screaming and splashing sounds of children most pools seem to possess. Sure you might dismiss what you read as "only needed if you have a prissy or fussy baby." But somewhere in your sleep deprived first few weeks of parenthood, these words might suddenly take on a different light. White noise can be generated many ways. The easiest is a small white noise generating machine found at your local drug store. Simply turning on the radio often works. You can even tune it to an "empty" station to get some white noise-ish sounds.

SIDS-sudden infant death syndrome. Though there is not a particular identifiable cause; most experts believe that most cases involves some form of suffocation. Many baby experts recommend adequate air circulation in the babies room. Some even go as far as placing a fan near the bassinet. We have found that using a HEPA filter in the room where the child sleeps kills several birds with one stone. The noise it makes is constant and soothing. Air circulation is good. The added benefit of air filtration can only be a bonus.

During the winter months we typically keep the thermostat set very cold. We then heat the living area with a wood burning stove. Our baby came on one of the coldest days in February. We naturally needed to provide some additional heat to our bedroom. The ideal temperature for a sleeping baby has been said to be between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to maintain this temperature in our room we decided to use a radiator style room heater. This style of heater heats oil within it cavities and gently heats the air. It is not forced air, and does not require too much electricity. Ours had a simple controller and was cheap (<$50). Some have programmable thermostats and timers. Heating a single room in the house is much cheaper with a room heater such as this one, then trying to heat the entire house up to the proper sleeping temperature.

Due to the freezing winter temperatures the air around here tends to be very dry. The dry air can dry out the soft moist membrane of the your babies repository tract, and nasal cavities. This will in turn cause your baby wheeze and sound like it has a difficult time breathing. This coupled with the knowledge that SIDS is primarily caused by suffocation can lead to many sleepless hours listening to you babies breathing. One thing that can help out a great deal is to humidify the air. Doing so can easily be accomplished with a humidifier. Two basic type of humidifiers exist. A cooling mist and a warm vapor. If you live in a cold climate get the warm one. You should also consider filling the humidifier with filtered water. A cold mist type, uses an ultrasonic vibrator to atomize the air. This puts everything in the water airborne for you to breath; chlorine, fluoride, iron, and other minerals. A warm mist type humidifier basically heats the water and steam is released into the air. Theoretically steam is only water, and other stuff is left behind, this is the bases of distillation. However I swear I can smell the chlorine in the steam from using tap water vs. filtered water. Using filtered water also keeps your humidifier cleaner. The internals get pretty gunky and require regular cleaning. After the first few weeks, I stopped using filtered water. It was too much effort and the negative effects seemed to be minimal.

Wow you might be thinking. This is beginning to be very gear intensive. How did primitive people get by without all these gadgets. Did their babies all just die?? Well that isn't really a joke because infant mortality rates are almost nothing these days compared to what they use to be. Sure, there I go spewing unsubstantiated claims. But this is easily fact checked, if you so desire.

What about co-sleeping? Hey if the baby sleeps in my bed then I won't have to worry about half this crap. Though I know many people that have their babies sleep in bed with them, my recommendation is: DON'T, you'll smoother and kill your baby, and you will not sleep well. Ok that might be going a little far. But sleeping with your baby presents some risk. Rolling over and crushing it is just one. Your spouse can help determine if you are a gentle enough sleeper to even consider it. What is more likely is that you pull the covers over your baby. If those are not good enough reasons then keep reading. A baby, like a puppy, sleeps way more than you; 12+ hours overnight. If your baby gets in the habit of sleeping only when you do, and unless you sleep over 12 hours a day, your baby is sleep deprived. That is bad for development, since growing is only done while you are sleeping.
If a baby sleeps so much, why is it that you always hear of lack of sleep as the number one complaint of new parents. Though babies sleep alot, rarely is it continuous. The fact that they need to feed every 2 to 3 hours makes continuous sleep difficult. I read that we must have a minimum of 5 continuous hours of sleep to feel rested, or gain any benefits of sleeps. With a new born it is just hard to do so. One life saver are baby naps. In addition to his nightly 12 hours of sleep, babies typically take two naps a day. This is a great time for you to get a little rest as well. I know personally it is difficult to take this time and use it for sleep, since it is the only time in the day you have for yourself. I usually take this time to clean, work on personal projects, catch up on e-mail, or just watch some TV. But after a few sleepless weeks, nap time might be the time of the day you look most forward to.
How much of this is fact and how much opinion? Well that all depends on which Doctor, baby book author, Amish Midwife, Mother, or blogger you believe. The best is to gather alot of information and pick your own parenting style.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Silvretta 500 for sale

Seems like there is a heavy interest in the Silvretta Easy Go 500 bindings these days. I guess since this is the season for skiing and the fact that they are the only mountaineering boot compatible AT binding , has lead to a lot of hits about the 500's. I was doing some shopping and came across these two deals. As a disclaimer I am not related to either of the companies or individuals; these are just something I came across today and thought I would share.

First is a good deal on a early model 500 with the old school (better) heel piece. This is a decent deal on e-bay granted they are still in good used condition and the seller is honest. Size Medium. Might want to ask for pictures of the heel piece contact area to check of excessive wear.

The next is a Mountaineering shop in Maine. I initially hit their site cause they share the same name as the local mountaineering shop here in town; Alpen Glow . This is a new binding with the new heel piece. But the price is decent.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Tale of Two Snow Blowers - The Craftsman - 1 of 2

I was told once that a Tahoe local has owned two snow blowers. And their second one is a Honda! I guess that makes me a local.

On the third place rental house I lived in, snow removal was the renters responsibility. The local plow company had several different tiers of service they provided. Basically it was going to cost $1000 for the season for snow removal. The year prior I lived in a house down a 1/4 mile dirt road and no plow service available at all. The owners of the house left an old, but operational, Honda snowblower for us to use. Since the current place required 1/10th the snow removal, I figured I could do it myself.

After the first large series of storms I attempted to shovel out my driveway. After hours of toil, I had successfully shoveled out the driveway and one of the three parking spots. This was not going to work, I needed mechanical help and decided to buy a snow blower. It was late fall: the worst time to buy a used snow blower. I knew that in general Honda made the best blowers. But I was sure that some of the top models of Craftsmans, Arnies, MTD, or Snapper performed well. But none of the other brands are known to throw snow like a Honda. The only draw back is that a new Honda was going to set me back $3k. Since I have always trusted Sears tools, I looked into getting a Craftsman.

Since I was not getting a top of the line blower, I made sure to get one that was slightly larger and more powerful. Snowblowers are often classified into two catagories. Single and dual stage machines. All larger blowers are two stage, with a auger to bring in the snow and a second one to throw the snow. I found a Craftsman blower with a 9 hp Tecumseh Snow King engine, a 28 inch clearing path, 6 speeds, and tire drive. The whole deal cost me $1000. I ordered it and it was shipped to the Sears store in South Lake Tahoe (Zephyr Cove). Picked it up and within an hour of getting it home, had it put together and fired up. Went outside and rammed it into the snowbank and watched it shoot snow in the air. What a great feeling.

The engine fired up on the first pull or two of the cord. There is also a electric starter. Unlike a car there is no battery and the electric starter needs to be plugged in. This is only needed if the engine becomes hard to start; after it has been sitting for the summer for example. On some reviews, there were complaints that the plastic chute was weak and broke. But over the three years I used this blower I never had an issue with it. I assume most problems arise when the chute is frozen and forced to turn. The 6 forward, and 2 reverse speeds are ok but can be improved with lower gear ratios. 1/4 speed, 1/2 speed, 1,2 and fast would be a more usable spread. 3,4, and 5 are too fast for snow blowing. Only one reverse speed is really necessary.

Snowblowers come equipped with shear pins. These are pins that are designed to break if it encounters a solid object, like a large rock. Instead to destroying the gear box or the auger, a shear pin will snap and the disconnect the auger blades from the drive shaft. I ordered a five pack of shear pins when I got the snowblower, not knowing that it came with two extra pins. The craftsman pins are very strong and I only ever broke one. In fact I think that the pin is too strong. When I attempted to throw a large rock once it broken the pin. But before the pin broke, it slightly bent the auger housing and jammed the unbroken portion of the pin within the hole. I needed to use a small punch to drive out the remaining part of the broken pin, then gently tap the new pin in the slightly deformed hole. A shear pin that was designed to break easier should have been specified.This particular blower was equiped with drive tires/wheels instead of tracks. Tires made steering the blower easy. Traction was adequate for most applications. I was tempted to add a set of tire chains to improve the traction but never did.

The "West" is known for its heavy wet snow. And Tahoe snow is a perfect example of that. Winter storms often blow in warm, with rain instead of snow. It is common for the snow that does fall to be on the verge of rain: wet and slushy. You can squeeze water out of this type of snow. It is a snow blowers worst nightmare. This was the Craftsman shortcoming, and the reason that it made it into the tale of two, as the lesser of the two. When the snow is wet and slushy, no snowblower can blow it, not even a Honda. This type of snow would jam the chute. When the snow was a little dryer but still heavy, it would be able to throw the snow only about 5 feet from the blower. Five feet is not enough range to clear the width of the driveway. Once you throw the snow once, you were not able to scoop up it up a second time to throw further. Thus on heavy wet snow days the snowblower was almost useless. On average days the snowblower was ok, and on dry snow days the snowblower was a champ.

I assume that the designers and testers of these snowblowers lived in the mid West, where the cold temperatures usually resulted in very light snow. And therefor did not design the blower for "western" or coastal snow. This was short sighted on the part of the eningeers. I assume that a faster spinning aguer of the second stage thrower, was all that was required to make the snowblower work in the heavy wet stuff.

Other than shear pins and gas, there is one more consumable item. It was one that I had not replaced yet: the friction wheel. This is basically the clutch. For the three years of regular use, I never wore mine out. On occasion the drive wheels did not engage when the lever was. Releasing the lever and re-engaging it always did the trick. There was is an adjustment of the control cable that could have solved the issue, but I never needed to examine it in more detail.

The Techuseh Snow King Engine was the best part of the snowblower. It started up on the first full pull. It ran strong and never bogged down. Over the summer prior to storage I ran it out of gas, and poured a table spoon of oil into the cylinder through the spark plug hole. When fall came, I filled it with gas, and it started on the first pull.
The craftsman blower was very basic. It did not have a lever to control chute discharge height. It was ususualy on the highest. It did not have scraper depth adjustments. But it was a bargin and would have worked for smaller driveways.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A guide to Tire Chains

Growing up in Southern California, it is hard to imagine that winter means snow for over 50% of the country. I however was not totally oblivious to the idea of snow, for the surrounding mountains are high enough to receive their share of the cold white stuff. Since almost no Southern California vehicle is 4wd, a visit to the snow almost always meant chains. As a child, my father was smart enough to avoid snow country during a snow storm. However as I grew up and visited the mountains in the winter, I did not share his good sense. Owning a 2wd truck, I soon became an expert on tire chains.

Like most things in life, it is better to be prepared. Have some chains with you and know how to put them on. However if you don't feel like being prepared, don't worry this is America, with a little bit of money you'll be taken care of. Most chain control areas have people that will install chains, cost is between $20 and $30. Many chain control areas are located near stores or gas stations that will also sell you chains, cost between $30-$150. Do not however bank on this. Many of the smaller chain control check points do not have such luxuries. Often times you need chains simple because you are stuck on an icy hill where there is no one around to help you out.

So you are going to the mountains this weekend to ski. There is a snow forcasted. What chains should I get? The term "chains" is generic. It refers to a traction deceive mounted on the drive tires of an automobile. In fact chains can either be comprised of chain links, or cables. The general rule of thumb is that you run cables for vehicles with limited clearance between the tires and wheel wells or smaller cars. You run chains when there is a decent amount of clearance or for larger vehicles. Basic tire chains have a ladder type constructions. Two long length of chain which wrap around the tire make up the uprights of the ladder. The cross links which go across the tread of the tire are the ones that are driven on, make up the rungs of the ladder. These types of chains are the most common, cost the least, and when they are made of actual chain material are the most serviceable/repairable.

If you are trying to decide between basic chains or cables, my preference is chains. They provide much better grip, and last longer. The downside is that they require a little more wheel well clearance. Might cost a slight bit more. Might not be as user friendly because they can get twisted up. And if you happen to break a cross link, and decide not to stop to fix it, can do more damage to the inside fender liner.

My biggest fault with cable type "chains" are the rollers. If you look closely at the pictures cable type chains, you will notice that the cross links have small rollers fished through the cable. Sometimes these rollers are not solid and made of a spring like cylinder. Why rollers, two reasons. One-increased diameter. The diameter of the cables are very small, and do not provide much grip. Adding the rollers increase the amount of bite into the snow. The second reason is to actually decrease traction. Cables are easy to break. If you drove on something that gave you solid contact such as a bumpy dry road, and hit the gas; the cross link of the cables can easily snap.

Basic ladder type chains are often the only thing available for purchase when you need them. They work, but are not without their problems. Three main problems exist with this type of chains that will make you consider buying a fancier set of chains. 1-installation. They are difficult to install. Most will need you to drive over a section of the cross link, and you also need to get behind the tire. 2-rough ride. Since you will only be on one chain cross link at a time and intermittently, ladder style chains yield a bumpy and loud ride. 3-poor traction. Again, since you are on the chains only for a fraction of the time, and your tires the rest of the time, you do not get the full benefit of running chains.

Z Cables and Alpine/Euro Chains If any product is titled "basic", you as the reader surely knew that a "fancy" was coming up next. These two types of chains have the benefit of easy installation and better contact patch. The contact patch improves both smoothness and traction.

In my opinion the Alpine Sport chains are the best on the market. They go by many different names, including: Alpine Premium, and Euro Chains. They have a split design which allows you to install the chains without needing to drive over them. The chains do not use standard ladder type cross links, but are diamond patterned. The diamond pattern insure that most of the time you have a section of chain between your tire and the ground. This also give a very smooth ride. The chain links are a square profile, and give good grip. They are also low profile, and should work for most vehicles, even those with limited wheel well clearance. As a bonus most of of these type of chains have a built in tensioner. These chains do cost more and is not always available at your corner store or gas station. If I was to recommend a set of tire chains these would be the one.
Finally there are the Z chains. I sometimes refer to these as the Highway Patrol chains, since these are the ones that the cops run on their cruisers. Z chains are in fact cables. I am not a huge fan of these chains, but they are a step above regular ladder style cables and are worth mentioning. These chains are available more often then the alpine sport ones. These chains have two major advantages. One is the diagonal contact which increases the duration of contact between the tire and the ground. The diagonal orientations also provides some lateral traction for cornering. Most Z chains also have a split design which makes installing a breeze. The split refers to the fact the cross link array have a break. Therefor you can attach the rear hoop, then pull the two "halves" around the tire and connect the two attachment points. Z chains also use spring coils instead of solid rollers which provides a bit more traction. My greatest fault with the Z chains is that they rely heavily on the rubber tensioner to keep the chains tight. There is limited static adjusted. Though these are slightly lower profile than the Alpine sport chains, due to the fact that they are held on by elastic tensioners, they tend to fling out at higher speeds and negate their low profile advantage.
This article barely scratches the surface of the topic of chains. More can be discussed on installation, tensioning, chain link variation... However this is enough to get most people started. Good luck and enjoy the mountains!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Tale of Two

It is very common for me to have two of an item. For example, say I need a tool, buy a cheap one, find its short comings then buy the better version. There are also slight variations to this. Such as I buy a basic tool, love it so much that I decided to buy the version with all the bells and whistles. Then only to find out that the basic version is all I needed.
Looking around my house I discovered that this happens all the time and I often have two items that serves the same purpose. If I was a full blown gear reviewer, I would like to test at least five of each item. However my pockets are not that deep, nor do I get dumped a bunch of gear on my door step begging to be tested and written about.

Combining the two situations mentioned above, I bring you a new series in my blog: The Tale of Two. The tale of two WHAT? Well you'll just have to wait and see. I promise I won't compare two cities out of respect for Mr. Dickens.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What to know for a Newborn- Eating 1 of 5

Recently I have eluded to the fact that I am now a father. However I have never posted specifically about it. Like other topics I have written about, I typically try to keep things based on "how to's" and gear reviews. I have wanted to discuss some of the finer points of parent hood. Not necessarily how it feels like to be a parent, or even how to be a parent, but more the gear involved in raising your little human. As a newer parent, I have categorized most things involving babies to fall into 5 subjects: Sleeping, eating, pooping, transportation, and entertainment. Hey aren't you missing some things? Why yes I am. But I either do not know enough about those subject or do not care to talk about them in my blog!

Giving birth to your child in a hospital is a great thing. They take care of everything. You can walk into a hospital in labor without any prior preparation, and the chances are good that you will walk out with a healthy child. Granted this isn't how you should do it. But the fact is that modern hospital provide the best facilities and experience needed to bring a child into this world. It is when you leave the hospital that you are one your own. This is when things get a little scary. I once had someone tell me, "you need a license to drive a car, but you don't need anything to raise a child." Unlike walking into the hospital were an under prepared you will be taken care of, the walking out of the hospital you better have "your shit dialed" before hand. The five subjects mentioned earlier are some of the basic things that will need to be addressed before leaving the hospital. Consider the next series of post to be a quick start guide to babies. This should be the minimal amount of info required to bring that baby home. More details of cool baby gear will come.

Eating-From the start this should be the easiest. Us mammals have this newborn feeding system built in right from the start. To not use it is foolish, and irresponsible. Baring some short fall, not breast feeding a newborn child is rob it of not only of the perfect baby nutrient, a special concoction of disease prevention, and establishment of a soothing mother to baby bond nothing can substitute. It is odd how many women think breast feeding is weird or even gross. HELLO what do you think those things are for anyways. Not for some drunk guy to motorboat at the bar.

Very little gear is involved with breast feeding. A burp cloth to catch the babies spit up. Nursing pads to catch any leaked milk. And a breast pump to store extra milk for when the mother is not there to feed the little one.

For the first couple of days of your child's life no milk might be produced by the mother. Instead a yellowish oily liquid will express from the breasts. This is called colostrum. Don't worry, it is not defective milk. Instead it is a super concentrated fatty substance designed just for a new borns needs. Feed it to them, they'll love it.

Of course this nursing thing can be difficult at the start. Most hospitals have a lactation consultant. Use them. Get them to coach you, or even over look what you are doing. Don't just assume that you and the baby are doing it right. For a first time mother, you are a rookie and so is the little one. Pointers from a specialist can make all the difference in the world. Think about joining a local lactation group. Even if you think you know everything about breast feeding, I am sure you will still gain some info. If not directly about breast feeding then about other baby related things that might be happening in your community. This can even act as a friend finder or support group. La Lecha Leagueis an international group who's mission is to help mothers breast feed. Through their site you can often find local lactation groups.

Some new parents believe that their babies should be feed on a schedule. A strict one of every 2 or 3 hours. With no variation. We have found this to unrealistic. The baby should eat within those time periods as a guideline. Surely you would not want a baby to go more than 3 or 4 hours without a feeding. However, if it has only been 1 and a half hours and the baby is crying for food. FEED IT! This isn't summer camp cafeteria, where the doors open at noon and close at 1. If your baby is hungry and you don't feed it, it will lose the desire to eat. Then when the scheduled time comes it will not have the same apatite and eat as much as it would have done otherwise. Now forcing the baby to eat when it is not hungry can then be frustrating. With out scientific study to back this up, we have found that babies who are feed on a schedule are typically more irritable and smaller than those who are not. In the first several months of development a child needs to know that you will be there for him. That his needs are meet. This establishes trust and a bond between the parent and child. Feeding a baby when they are hungry is a key part of this processes.

Before leaving the hospital, the basics of feeding the baby should be worked out. In some rare cases breast feeding just does not work due to developmental issues, which I have no experience with. These cases are best left to medical professionals to address. But for most babies, their feeding needs for the next 6 months are entirely taken care of by breast milk. They do not even need water. They need no other source of nutrition, expect vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced when skin is exposed to direct sunlight. Babies should not be getting that much sun.

And the best part breast feeding it is that it is FREE.

Friday, January 7, 2011

G3 Onxy - AT bindings

Of all the Alpine Touring bindings out there, none are more coveted then the ones made by Dynafit. At least that was before dynafit's patent of the "tech" bindings ran out. Tech refers to a type of AT binding where the ski boot is attached to the ski by a sets of pins in the toe, and another set in the heel. This type of binding has many advantages. The primary advantage is weight. Without the boot platform design that most AT bindings have, much weight is saved. Another advantage is pivot point. The location of the toe pins create a very ergonomic pivot placement. And finally tech binding ski well. The toe and heel pins create a firm connection between the boot and the binding with little flex.

It had been rumored for some time that G3 (genuine guide gear) was going to come out with their version of the TECH binding: the Onyx. Last year they finally release the binding, and I got myself a pair . I have toured on the Onyx binding this last ski season, and have enough hours behind it that I can finally give a through report. This year G3 released their Onyx binding with a few improvements in the toe pieces that resulted in easier toe entry and true DIN of 12.

Weighing several ounces heavier than the heaviest Dynafit binding, why would someone choose to use the Onyx. Sure there is brand loyalty and sponsorship, but a product must preform well in order to merit praise. G3 claims that the Onyx can do two things that Dynafits can not. The first is the ability to go from ski mode to tour mode on the fly. Dynafits require the complete disengagement of both heel and toe piece in order to release the heel from ski mode. With the Onxy you simply flip a lever down and you are in tour mode again. This point is not entirely true. Dynafit bindings that are not equipped with ski brakes can be switched back into tour mode with a careful twist of the heel unit with a ski pole. However this technique is not approved by Dynafit and has been known to break the climbing post of the heel unit.

The next short fall of Dynafits that the Onyx attempts to address is the pre-release of the toe unit. The toe of the your ski boot is attached to the binding via two small pins which fit in sockets that are embedded in the boot. The pins are mounted on spring loaded wings which open and close. In tour mode the toe unit is intended to be locked down. However in ski mode the toe is suppose to be in the free position. This allows the DIN releasable heel piece to function properly. Due to weak toe wing springs it is common for the binding to pre-release. In order to combat this shortcoming , users often lock out the toe piece in ski mode. This however prevents any releasabilty of the binding. The Onyx is said to address this flaw, and allows calibrated DIN releases with the toe unit unlocked. The super beefy and polished toe unit of the Onyx rest in the closed position, and is opened when downward pressure is applied to the lever. This is the opposite of Dynafit which click close when pressure from the boot is applied. This variation in toe closer can be fix for the pre-realease issue.

A third component that makes the Onyx unique is the mounting plate. Because of this mounting plate you can adjust the binding to fit various sized boots. The toe piece has three preset mounting locations for major adjustment. The rear heel pieces slides on a track for fine adjustment. One can also mount other skis with extra plates and be able to swap the binding from one ski to another in a relatively short amount of time. Mounting the bindings at home with the plates however adds to some difficultly. Because the holes on the bindings attache to the base plate and not directly to the ski, you can not test fit, and drill the ski based on the holes in the binding; some type of jig or template is required. I did not find that this is too much of an issue since I was able to locate a paper template. However if I was out in a ski hut with new bindings with no Internet or printer; I'd be cursing G3.

Who cares about all this jargon, how do they ski! On their maiden voyage I took them out to the resort for some downhill alpine action. Keep in mind I just got new tech boots to go with the tech bindings. I was not able to afford new boots and bindings so I settled for a pair of first generation Garmont Megarides. A serious 4 buckle Alpine Touring boot by yesterday's standard. However they might as well be slippers when compared to the burly AT boots of today. On the easy stuff, you would not even know you were on back country bindings. They were responsive and did not have any flex issues. On the icy steeps of Granite Chief they did surprisingly well. Again no flex issues like I was use to with my Silvretta 500's. Most of my issues were because of the light weight boot not being able to power the skis like am I use to. There is a bit of built in rake, which helps set up your body for the proper attack position. When skiing downhill, I did not have my toe locked down, and did not experience any pre-release issues.

For my second test I took them out for a "backyard" ski. This is low angle rolling terrain. Within 5 minutes, as I was crossing a ditch, one of my skis popped off. I did not have the toe locked. In touring mode it is instructed that the toe be locked down. Without the heel locked down the toe can experiences quite an extra bit of torque. The toe is designed to disengage when torque is applied as in a downhill fall once the heels have released based on the DIN setting. Locking the toe down lead to no more releasing from the binding during tour mode. The pivot location and the lack of having to lift the binding with every step is the most noticeable and one of the reasons behind owning tech bindings. When compared the Silvretta's I noticed a bit of energy saving. But when compared to the frankenstride of the Fritchis the difference is obvious.

One aspect of rolling terrain that challenges not only dynafits but all AT binding is the constant engagement in and out of touring and ski mode. Dynafits have their above mentioned woe. Other platform based AT binding's heel piece sometimes ice up preventing full lock down engagement. Most of the time when traveling this type of terrain you just leave the skis in touring mode when hitting small downhills. But since I was testing gear out I decided to stitch whenever possible. I found it very simple to go in and out of ski mode when ever I needed. There is two ways to enter ski mode. One is to lift the heel of the boot, engage ski mode and then step down onto the bindings heel pins. The other way is the lift the heel of the boot right at the engagement level of the heel pins and insert the pins directly into the boot. I knelt down and use my hands to operate the lever most of the time. It was possible to use only the ski pole, though it took familiarity that I did not yet have. Sometimes it was easier using the handle part of the pole.

The heel elevators were very solid, however they were not idiot proof. Heel lift is accomplished by using two separate lifters. The first lifter needed to be in place in order for the second one to be engaged and rest on top the first. The second lifter could be flipped forward without the first one in place. This could be destructive if fully weighted as the lifter is not properly supported. Though it was never a problem for me, I could see the potential for destruction if loaned to a rookie AT skiing friend, or if high altitudes, exhaustion and recreational drugs were thrown into the mix. The lifters can also be manipulated with the ski pole, and is easier to deal with than the ski/tour lever since it has less resistance.

"Well shit don't you do any real alpine touring?" Not as much as I would like to. On the occasions that I did climb something steep these binding perform flawlessly. There was nothing really special that was discovered in steep AT conditions that I did not already know. The climbing was smooth and predictable. The scary icy decents were solid. Kickturns were a PITA as always, and had me dreaming of a kick return spring. I was not able to test the G3 Onyx crampon, as they were not available when I got the bindings and opted for a crampon from B&D. The stock leashes were great. They were comprised of a coated coiled cable. This coiling allowed the leash to extend considerably. This allowed you to manipulate the ski unattached to the boots with the leases attached.

One point that annoyed me about the binding was that you need to use the pole tip to open the front jaws. From a standing position you pushed the button with the tip of your pole. Because of this the contact surface gets really chewed up. This is not a functional problem, but you can not avoid it if you like to keep you gear looking new and fresh for resale reasons. You can not kneel down and exert enough force on the toe jaws to open them, and place your boot in the right spot.
Nothing on the Onyx binding ever failed on me, or simple did not work. But for the 10/11 season I opted out of using my Onyx's. The main reason that I am not using these binding is for the weight. If I am to enter the realm of Dynafit bindings, I want dynafit weight. So far this season I do not have a new set up and am simple riding "extra" gear that I have laying around.
Overall the Onyx binding provides very solid performance and is still lighter than many of the staple backcountry bindings out in the field. If you are a heavy aggressive skier that breaks things regularly and require a high DIN, lighter weight, and efficient touring stride, then the Onxy is definitely a binding that you should not over look.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tread Wright Retread Tires - Sentinels w/ Kedge Grip

Have I ever told you that I love tires. This year I needed some new winter tires for the truck. I have been hearing a lot about this company that makes retread tires; Tread Wright. So I decided to give them a shot.

Tread Wright has several of there own tread patterns but the three most popular are the knock offs; BFG AT, old Goodyear MTR, and the Bridgestone Dueler Revo.

For my previous set of winter tires I was running a studded classic mud terrain pattern. They worked in the deep unlowed snow, but was a nightmare on ice. Mudders are NOT good snow tires. Even though the look aggressive, don't be fooled. There is no way the 8 big lugs, which make up your contact patch, can provide much grip. Even with the carbide studs. Even after I hand grooved and sipped the lugs, they still suck.

Since it is commonly considered that the Revo pattern is one of the best snow treads of any all terrain tire without a winter compound, I figure Revo's with a winter rubber mix would be awesome; I was right. The top picture is the Revo the bottom is of the the Sentinels, notice the very slight differences. Kedge grip is Tread Wright's own winter formula. It is mix of glass and walnut shells. The glass, which is basically sand, make the rubber gritty. The walnut shells are designed to fall out leaving little pits which act like additional sipes. This compound is basically the same as Toyo's winter compound.

I had these tires mounted at Stone's Tire in Truckee (NEVER go there, worst tire shop I have ever been to). They balanced out ok. One tire was a little heavy but not too bad. I had brought the tire and wheels in to the shop off the truck and finally got them on the truck right before the monster Thanksgiving storm. Did not drive them till 3 days into the storm when the roads were a total sheet of ice. How did they do? They SUCKed. I was so disappointed. But then I remembered that new tires are greasy. This is well known fact in the motorcycle world. Do not try to get crazy on a new pair of tires till you break them in. Because of the mold release agent used, new tires are literally greasy.

After I got about 100 miles on them they started to stick. And boy do they stick now. I can drive into my neighborhood in 2wd, where before there was absolutely no way. I also rarely ever activate the ABS. Before it was every stop when the roads where snow covered. It is truly amazing the performance these tire provide. I have taken them up to 80mph with out any noticeable wobble.

The tires cost me $95 each. Shipping was about $25 each. And mounting and balancing was $25 each (I would have paid $15 but that is one of the reason's I will never go back to Stone's). So "out the door" I paid about $150 each. Not quite 1/2 the cost as they claim but ok. Not bad for a tire that uses 1/3 the petro and energy to make, and comes with a fat warranty.

Since this is the tire buying season, they are really low on stock for most of the popular tires and sizes. There is a couple of week back order. I got mine a few months ago, and I got them within a week of ordering them.

Based on my experience with these tires so far, I would not hesitate to buy them again. In fact when I am in need of new summer tires, I will surely go Tread Wright.

Update: Now that I have had these tires on for several months I am able to give a more long term review. I seem to have developed a slight imbalance, and feel a vibration between 50 and 60mph. I believe it is due to that single tire which took more weight to balance out than the rest of them. At speeds above and before the zone, the tires are vibration free. Though I initially raved about the snow/ice performance, I do not think that these tires perform as well as one which is labeled "studless winter". Namely when compared to a fresh set of Bridgestone Blizzaks with Microcell tech. On one particular icy snow storm, on one particularly steep hill, I was not able to stop and slid though the intersection with the ABS system pulsing to the max. Sure I was driving a little fast, and it was the worst condition possible, but our subi with blizzaks have never experienced such an event. Sure this is not an apple to apple comparison since my truck has the worse brakes and most sensitive ABS system. A set of blizzaks on my truck might have fared the same in the given situation, however I thought that it is my job to report the event. I must note that I believe the blizaks wear faster and the mirco cell tech is only incorporated into half of the thread life/depth. Given these updates, I would still buy another set of Tread Wright tires, as they are a good compromise of price, performance, and eco friendliness.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 a New Years Resolution

I am going to lose weight, work out more, stop smoking, stop drinking... and the list of things go on and on that people say they will do. As a child in school I remember an exercise that the teacher would do annually. The "New Years Resolution" essay. I promise to get better grades, I promise to be nicer to people. What a crock. If you want to make a change in your life, there is no reason that wait till December 31st to do so. The one benefit of a making a resolution is the planning. If a true change is desired, it is easier to make it successful with some careful planning. Setting a date for the start of the event, though it doesn't need to be January first, allows one to work out the details and get use to the idea that the change is coming.

That said, here is my new years resolution: Write in my blog at least once a week for the year 2011. What started out as a place to record events and documents repair jobs, has become a outlet for personal expression. It is a place where the thoughts in my head get to live without driving me crazy. I often have meetings in my mind regarding current projects that are attended by several members. There is the technical advisor, the safety coordinator, public relations, doc control, and the project manager. These meeting minutes are recorded here in this blog and the topic can then be laid to rest.

Happy New Years all. And I look forward to seeing you in blog world.