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Sunday 2017.7.23

Another Weird Dream

I think it was triggered by something I saw on television. It was a short piece about caves in a region of Europe, on the walls of which were prehistoric paintings of hands and beasts. In my dream I was telling someone that in prehistoric times religious people found caves in which to paint as part of their worship of the spirits. I went on to explain that today we build our caves out of wood, brick or stone, and rather than painting on the walls, we paint on the windows — stained glass.

Tour de France

This has been the first summer in which I was really enjoy the Tour de France cycling race the way I've only been able to dream about in the past. I have a new 65-inch UHD 4K TV. Although I bought it about eight months ago, I still marvel at it. And, with my new cable TV box, I have a DVR. So although the live broadcast of the race starts each day at around 4:00 in the morning, I can record it and watch it after a full night's sleep. The alternative in the past was to watch the shortened "prime time" coverage, which only showed the last hour or two of the day's race.

The Tour did have its disappointments this year. On the fourth day two of my favorite sprinters left the race. Peter Sagan was eliminated by the UCI judges for "irregular sprinting" that caused a crash. Mark Cavendish, the world's best cycling sprinter, was injured in that crash and had to withdraw. Then, in stage nine, Richie Porte failed to negotiate a mountain road successfully and crashed into a stone wall, also resulting in injuries that forced him to abandon. I was hoping he might win the Tour this year.

The outcome seems obvious. Today is the finale and unless something has happened to Chris Froome in the past few days (I haven't watched all the recordings yet), I expect he will win the Tour again this year, which ends today.

My Kitchen Vlog

I had too much fun with my latest Kitchen Vlog. I think this one is scheduled to go be uploaded on Wednesday of this week. I therefore don't have a link to it yet, but I did upload a new Vlogging the News video.

Vlogging the News


I'm still experimenting with the format, and I might have explained this in an earlier blog. Rather than trying to cover three or four news articles in a single vlog, I'm trying to look at one story reported in different sources — New York Times, Washington Post, HuffPost, Reuters, etc. — thereby looking at the story from different angles, and therefore, hopefully, get the full story with less bias.

The ultimate goal has always been to discuss the news in a way that I find enjoyable. I mentioned many time in this blog the world news discussion group I used to attend. It was fun to get together with others and talk about stories in the news. Although the group is no longer functioning, I still enjoy a little pleasure discussing the news with friends at lunch.

There was a time many years ago when several of us would meet regularly, almost daily, to discuss the news. The restaurant knew us well. When the owner saw us coming he's change the channel on the TV from sports to news. We were such reliable customers, he'd always give us our soft drinks for free.

Fire News

The fire up in the mountains is nearly fully contained. With the progress the fire fighters were making (what with good weather and almost no wind) I expected them to have it fully controlled by today or early this week. This morning's report says, "The Whittier Fire is now 87% contained and the fire has not grown for several days." All evacuation notices have been lifted. There is a small front burning in rugged terrain and I think they're just letting it burn, getting rid of old fuel. The weather will turn unfavorable later this week; so I expect they'll make their final push in the next few days to get this fire fully under control.

And, Finally, Fat

I mentioned earlier that I have been editing and encoding old cooking videos that never made it onto YouTube. It's summer and I'm on a summer schedule, like I was last year, uploading every other week and doing as little cooking as I can. In those videos I look a lot thinner. I want to try again to lose the excess weight and get my body back into decent shape. I can lose the weight. It's difficult, but doable. Keeping it off is the problem. At 66, almost 67, I won't ever be in as good a shape as young athletes, but I should lower my health risks. So, I'm trying again.

Wednesday 2017.7.19

Latest Whittier Fire Update

As expected, the progress on the fire has been going well. All this week the daytime temperatures were forecast to be in the low 70s with an on-shore breeze blowing off the ocean bringing the marine layer into the coast. Up in the mountains the temperature would be higher. The marine layer is a fog bank that hangs out in the ocean during this time of year. When it comes in, it usually causes overcast days and occasionally fog at ground level. During peak periods we might not see the sun for days at a time, but usually the mornings are cloudy with sunshine in the afternoons and early evenings.

Monday's report said the containment had increased again, to 49%, and the area of concern where the electrical transmission lines are located was well controlled. This morning's report says 75% containment.

The two burn areas I blogged about earlier, the Scherpa Fire (2016) and the Gap Fire (2008), are providing natural fire breaks, as those areas have little fuel to burn. The area between them last burned in 1955 and therefore the fire danger is high.

The mandatory evacuation area was expanded southward close to where I live, but that has since been changed to a "warning," rather than mandatory. The area around where I live is a developed area with homes, businesses, industry, and a golf course. To the west are ranches and north of those, toward the mountains, is a wilderness area. It's the wilderness are that will likely burn and I would not be surprised to learn the fire fighters are letting it burn to clear out the old fuel that has been a fire hazard for decades. That would mean the mountainous area north of here would be cleared of fuel and the prospects for a fire in future years, at least for the remainder of my life, would be poor.

Yesterday I washed my car. It was almost gray with ash. Hopefully the wind will continue to blow the smoke and ash away from us. And with the weather continuing to be cool and cloudy, I expect the fire might be fully contained by early next week.

Old Cooking Videos

The process of upgrading old videos that never made it onto YouTube continues. It isn't a simple process of copying the encoded videos from backup discs to my computer and then uploading to YT. It could be easier, but the backup hard disk drive is sealed in a static-proof package for safe keeping. I am copying the archive files from backup DVDs onto my computer, then de-archiving them. That takes longer, but it also certifies that the archives are good.

The videos need to be updated because I edited them with different procedures back in 2014 or earlier. Each video had the URL of this web site emblazoned across the bottom of the screen. I was hoping to drive traffic to the site, thinking it might become a source of income someday. The YouTube videos became the income source instead. So good-bye to the URL.

And I now take advantage of newer feature on YouTube; so I am changing the videos to make use of those features.

I'm not updating the recipes. They were good back then and they are still good now. The only recipe I changed was the Steelhead Trout recipe, using heavy cream to build a sauce rather than mascarpone.

So far I have three videos updated and ready for upload. This week I'm working on a fourth and by Friday I'll probably have a fifth one done.

I don't like doing cooking videos during the summer. It's too hot to cook. What you don't see is the folded piece of paper towel I have tied around my head to absorb perspiration, preventing it from getting in my eyes. I remove the towel when the camera is on me. With these old videos prepared for YouTube, I should be able to stay out of the kitchen for a while.

Yellow Watermelon?

Have you heard of yellow watermelon? I hadn't. The neighbor who gave me the plums told me he had bought some yellow watermelon. Really? He told me to come over and get some pieces. Here is a photo of what he gave me.

Yellow Watermelon

When I was a child growing up in Connecticut, we never heard of yellow watermelon. We only knew of the pink kind, with the large seeds you weren't supposed to swallow or a watermelon would grow in your tummy. We'd see a woman with a big bulging belly (pregnant) and think, "Uh-oh, she swallowed a watermelon seed."

It tastes just like pink watermelon, maybe a little milder in flavor.

Old Recipes

And, finally, I was digging through some old recipes and came across one, all yellowed with age, from my college days. That one involved a professor and has a story attached to it. I might vlog about it.

My last vlog, about making money on YouTube, did not go viral. I didn't expect it would. There are thousands of videos on YT telling people how to make money with videos. As I said on Wednesday, you can make more money telling people how to become rich than you can by trying to become rich.

And, Oh Yeah, a Dream

Last night I dreamed Donald Trump was the professor of a college course I enrolled in. He gave us a writing assignment and we found his instructions so confusing, many of us immediately dropped the course.

Sunday 2017.7.16

Whittier Fire Update

The fire continues to burn in the mountains north of here. As of yesterday it was 35% contained (down from 52% Friday) and had grown to 17,400 acres. We've entered another period of warmer weather, which will make it more difficult for the firefighters to control this fire.

We had been doing well. The smoke and ash blew to the east or the west, not toward us. On Friday, however, the wind turned toward the south, in our direction. Light ash fell throughout the day and the sky had an orange hue to it. By 3:00 in the afternoon the sun was orange, like it was sunset.

As I mentioned in Wednesday's blog, my concern was with the power lines that come over the mountains. Inciweb.com provides good maps and I was able to see that the fire neared the lines, but was halted before causing any electrical outages. The power hasn't gone off yet, and for that I am grateful. However…

Yesterday's map shows the fire burning into an area that did not burn during the Gap Fire in 2008, and thus there is a lot of fuel there. The transmissions lines move through that unburned area, but I don't know if they are incoming or outgoing. So we might see power outages yet. My oil lamps are ready.

And so we wait and hope for the best. The good news is that I do not live close enough to the fire area to be in any danger.

Something Old, Something New

First the old: In the archive there are 15 recipes that never made it onto YouTube. I might have mentioned them in an earlier blog. They were created for another web site. With a little additional editing, I can ready them for YT and this will give me some time off during the summer. I'll still do some cooking videos — this week's Steelhead with Mushrooms and Tomatoes was shot on Wednesday — but I won't feel as pressured to satisfy deadlines as often. It's summer. I get a vacation too. And the latest Costco Connection magazine (July 2017) recommended reducing stress to increase our life span.

What's new? I'm trying a new ending to my videos. You'll see it at the end of the Steelhead video. YouTube has a fairly new feature that lets us add end screens to our videos. The screens can point to other videos, ask viewers to subscribe, point to other channels, jump to a website, etc. They can be useful.

Derral Eves, who is a YouTube god, suggests no more than three endscreens (four are allowed). He recommends one for the "latest upload" and the second for "best for viewer." That latter one leaves it up to YouTube to suggest something appropriate that viewers might enjoy.

Starting this week I am replacing my traditional end credit — "Recipe and Video by Dennis Viau" — with a "Jump to recipe" arrow pointing to a link in the lower right corner of the screen. If it works, viewers who watch the video all the way through to the end can link directly to the recipe on my web site. I'm not sure what good, if any, it might do. But the service will be available for those who might want to take advantage of it.

As for a link asking people to subscribe, I think that would be the least useful. YouTube viewers are savvy enough to know how to subscribe if they see videos they like.

Google YouTube

Once again, I have been studying how-to videos on YouTube, trying to find ways to improve my channel's success. To be honest, I felt a little cheated by YT after I spent weeks working on and uploading custom thumbnail images to the videos that didn't have them. Then I saw my revenue plummet. I don't earn much money on YT anyway (and I did a vlog about it); so seeing my paltry earnings decline was a bit of a sting. Hard work should pay off, not penalize.

But to be doubly honest, when I compared the recent period to the same one last year, my earnings had doubled. So I don't have much to complain about.

My Vlogging the News channel is floundering again, mostly because I don't see much in the news that makes me want to talk about it. I did think the idea of a Trump Tower in Moscow was a good idea; so that the family would have a place to live. And I do wonder if those in the White House or close to the administration are staying put or planning a nighttime flight to a country that doesn't have an extradition treaty with the USA.

I decided to experiment with crass commercialism. I am reminded again of this cartoon, which I laminated and saved as a reminder that art can coexist with commercialism.


I have often said you can earn more money teaching people how to become rich than you can by trying to get rich. "You can be rich beyond your wildest fantasies!" can be a very profitable pitch to the right people. I think it was P.T. Barnum who said "You can fool some of the people all of the time," and "There is a sucker born every minute." Wasn't it W.C. Fields who said, "Never give a sucker an even break"?

I don't mean to be so crass, but I do find that part of human nature intriguing. A friend once tried to lure me into a Ponzi scheme. I declined. And, if I my numbers are correct (he won't confess, but I did some research) he lost about $9,000 on the deal.

So I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I did a vlog about earning money on YouTube. It's honest. I show exactly how much money I am earning this month, with graphs and analytics screens. Enough information is there to encourage or discourage anyone who hopes to earn a living on YouTube. Here is the link:

My Kitchen Vlog


Wednesday 2017.7.12


Sunday I walked up to the railroad tracks at the top of the trailer park and shot more video of the Whittier Fire. It wasn't good enough. So I loaded my camera and tripod into my car and drove to an area with a better view. There was a police car at the side of the road. No one was behind me; so I stopped and asked where would be a safe place to park and get some video. He told me about a good place, just around the corner.

There was an excellent space just off the road for parking a vehicle. It was even paved. I lugged my camera across the road and set up for shooting some video. About ten minutes later the police officer stopped and told me I had parked in the perfect place. He thanked me and I thanked him. It was a good tip.

The video is part of today's Kitchen Vlog. Here is the link:

Kitchen Blog link


Meanwhile… we all waited for the electricity to go out. The fire, as feared, burned to the east and south toward where the high voltage transmission lines are. In anticipation, I lit both my oil lamps and let them burn for a minute to remove any wax that might have built up on the wicks. The oil evaporates, albeit very slowly, and that leaves a waxy buildup on the wick, which makes it difficult to light the lamp. Every few months, especially in anticipation of a storm or other reason for a possible power outage, I light the lamps and let them burn for a minute. That readies them, in case I need them.

The anticipation also made me save my work often while on my computers. Writing an entire day's blog and then losing it all can be a real bummer.

There is some possible good news. There were two fires several years ago. The Gap Fire was east of the Whittier Fire and the Sherpa Fire was to the west. Those two areas might offer a natural fire break because there isn't as much growth in those areas. This area that is burning now supposedly hasn't burned since 1955. There is a lot of old growth in the area. If the fire stays out of the Gap Fire area, we probably won't experience any power outages.

Meanwhile, the weather has been cooperating — seasonal daytime temperatures, no high winds, and a gentle breeze from off the ocean raising humidity. That all adds up to make good conditions for successfully fighting a fire. The latest report this morning said around 12,000 acres had burned and the fire was about 50% contained.

More Google/YouTube

Such a saga. As I mentioned in earlier blogs, I added thumbnails to all my cooking videos because YouTube likes them. It supposedly makes my videos more popular — something to do with YouTube's algorithms that decide which videos to suggest. I have also been creating playlists of my videos.

The numbers have been plummeting — getting worse, rather than better. Here is yesterday's graph:

YouTube Graph

To explain, each data point is a 28-day period. That is YouTube's default. When I check my analytics, they are displayed for the previous 28 days. I have been checking their reports everyday and plotting them into a graph in MS Excel to see how my videos are doing with thumbnail images. The line speaks for itself.

It is not totally discouraging. Yesterday morning I looked at the same period last year. The earnings were almost exactly half. I do know that summer is the slowest period for cooking videos on YouTube. It will pick up in the fall.

However, I've been watching the numbers for my Vlogging the News channel, especially the video in which I talked about Peter Sagan being disqualified from the Tour de France for causing Mark Cavendish to crash and withdraw from the Tour because of injuries. That video has been wildly popular, compared to the others. None of my news vlogs have been seen 100 times since early April. 80 is above average. That one video about Sagan is nearing 1,600 views.

Some people commented, some writing long comments, and those were mostly opinions. The facts are boring; so no need to detail them here. I mostly stayed out of the debates because I don't like conspiracy theories. The important issue for me was that the video was out there and it was seen many times. I doubt it will improve the popularity of my channel, but it taught me a lesson. If I want my Vlogging the News channel to become more popular on YouTube, I need to talk about controversial subjects that piss people off. I'm working on it.

Finally, Plums

I love living in Southern California. Connecticut wasn't bad. One neighbor had a pear tree, another a grape arbor. So we had fresh fruit in summer. But it seems like SoCal has a bounty.

A neighbor emailed me to say his plum tree was ready to start harvesting. Some of the fruit was ripe enough to pick. He is up north helping a friend who had surgery; so he told me to go help myself. He wasn't kidding about the tree. Here are some photos.




I picked a few, the ones that were so ripe that a mere touch caused them to fall from the branch. The fruit is sweet and delicious. I need to do some research on plum jelly.

Sunday 2017.7.9

First, the Heat and Fire

We are just coming out of a short heat wave here. The forecast predicted high temperatures on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 92°F, 94°F, and 95°F (33, 34, 35°C) respectively. I saw it as a good opportunity to test my new air conditioner. The temperature outside my home is typically warmer; so I expected to see at least one day near or above 100°F (38°C).

I turned on the air conditioners (I also have an older one in my home office) in the morning, before the day heated up, and they did well enough. Fortunately, the forecast was blissfully wrong. The temperature never rose above 89°F (32°C) and inside the temperature stayed in the low- to mid-70s. No complaints from me. I remained comfortably cool in my home all day.

Yesterday, which was supposed to be the coolest day, was the warmest. The temperature reached the low 90s.

The hot weather is sometimes accompanied with fires. Here are some pictures of the fire that erupted north of here at around 2:00 in the afternoon yesterday. They titled this one the "Whittier Fire" because it originated near the Whittier Camp Grounds.

Whittier Fire

The above photograph was taken near the railroad tracks to the north of the trailer park (and that's why you sometimes hear trains in my videos).

Whittier Fire

The above photograph was taken from in front of my home in the trailer park.

By evening the smoke had filled the sky above the trailer park, turning the sun orange. The smell of smoke was not strong. Most of it was blowing toward the east. Here is a picture later in the day.

Whittier Fire 3

Compared to the earlier pictures above, you can see how high the smoke was billowing into the air in the early evening. Even later the sky turned dark and the sunset was orange.

I also managed to get some decent video that I will try to fit into a Kitchen Vlog or Vlogging the News for Wednesday.

The big concern is with the high voltage transmission wires that pass over those mountains. If the fire burns beneath them, the smoke causes arcing, and that results in a loss of electricity to the area. That happened several years ago and the electricity was off for periods as long as 10 to 12 hours.

Vlogging the News

I vlogged about the fire in my latest upload of Vlogging the News. Watch it here:

Vlogging the News


More Tour de France

Peter Sagan's team filed some sort of appeal with a legal body governing sport. The appeal was denied. The UCI (the body that governs cycling) said its decision was final and cannot be appealed. There was some dispute because the rules also state that a cyclist cannot be disqualified from the Tour without a hearing, giving him a fair opportunity to defend himself. No hearing was given to Sagan. I did hear, but only one time, that the UCI judges said their decision was based on Sagan's line of approach in the sprint, endangering the welfare of other athletes in the race. Then the focus went back to the elbow and shoulders, etc., for the sake of sensationalism.

Everyone focused on the body contact because that's where the drama was. But strip away the drama and focus on the boring details, and what you end up with are the facts. Sagan veered off his line.

I still hold by my opinion that Sagan was in the wrong, causing the serious injuries to Mark Cavendish that resulted in his having to abandon the Tour. All the TV cycling commentators are still focusing on Sagan's use of his elbow, the touch of shoulders, and Cav's head. That's fake news. The real story is told by the wheels of Sagan's bicycle. He clearly veered off his line, pushing Cavendish into the barriers. Whether intentional (to cut off Cav's sprint attempt) or not, the rule applies. Sprinters must maintain their line during their sprint. Sagan violated that rule.

And that is why Sagan immediately went up to Cavendish afterward to apologize. He knew he was in the wrong. In the 2014 Tour, Leeds to Harrogate stage, Mark Cavendish caused a crash during the sprint, resulting in his abandoning the race with a broken collar bone. He knew it was his fault and he immediately took credit and apologized. These guys are professionals. They know their sport far better than those of us who sit at home and watch it on TV. Cavendish knew the Harrogate crash was his fault and apologized. Sagan knew he caused the crash on Tuesday — thus his apology.

My Vlogging the News on the subject was the best one I ever did. Those vlogs are rarely seen 100 times. The Sagan/Cavendish vlog has been viewed nearly 700 times so far. That's "viral" for my news channel.

And, to be fair, I'm not biased toward either cyclist. I love watching them both compete. I was very disappointed to see them both leave the Tour this year. I had been looking forward to this Tour to see them compete together. Now it continues without them and that is a pity.


I haven't blogged about the water situation here in Southern California for a while. Most of California is no longer under drought conditions. We still are.

Surprisingly, the local reservoir is still at 50% capacity, despite the fact that the winter rain season ended in April. We don't have mountain snow here; so there is no runoff replenishing the lake. Maybe the rains filled sources of ground water that are slowly running into the lake through springs.

Our continuing "Stage III Water Shortage Emergency Restrictions" are still in force. For example, we can water our landscaping only two times each week, and we must irrigate in the early morning or evening. Those who have been reading my blog for a while will recall that I replaced all my lawn with sandstone and drought-tolerant Dymondia ground cover. I water only once or twice a month.

As for the citrus trees in planters around my home, I water those with water captured from my kitchen's reverse osmosis filter system. That's recycled water and we can use as much of that as we want.

Google/YouTube Revisited

I wrote earlier, and vlogged, about my attempts to improve the ranking of my cooking videos on YouTube. I spent several days adding custom thumbnail images to them. Only 40% had thumbnails. Now they all do.

I decided to do a thorough analysis of the numbers to see if any improvement was evident. I have a very basic understanding of Microsoft Excel. I can create a spread sheet and with enough cursing I can figure out how to create a graph. YouTube uses a 28-day period as the default when displaying analytics data. So I went with that, taking a reading each day since I started adding thumbnails.

For a few days I saw an improvement in the earnings reports, but only by a few dollars. I still wasn't earning enough to be paid each month. Then this week the numbers plummeted again to where they were a month ago. In fact, as of this morning, the numbers were the worst they've been since the start of the year. Thank you Google/You Tube.

Wednesday 2017.7.5

Orange Juice (again)

About 18 months ago I blogged about coming home from the park manager's backyard with a box of oranges and squeezing them all for juice. On Monday the manager asked me to harvest all the ripe oranges from his trees again. I came home with two bags, 40 oranges, all of which I squeezed using my juicer attachment for my Kitchenaid.

It was a little messy, but well worth the effort. The oranges were so ripe, they were practically falling off the trees. The juice is sweet and delicious — and no additives, just pure fresh squeezed orange juice. I ended up with about five quarts. It might seem like a lot, but it won't last long. I love good orange juice.

The Fourth of July

My 4th was mostly quiet. There was the day's stage of the Tour de France to watch during the day. Another advantage to recording the live broadcast is the freedom to fast-forward through the commercials.

I was invited to a backyard barbecue for dinner. I chose to stay home instead. I was told they would be grilling ribs. That means the host probably hoped I would bring some of my homemade barbecue sauce. It would have been easy to prepare in advance and the afternoon and evening would have been enjoyable. However, I live near a park where they offer a fireworks display every 4th of July. I can sit on my back porch with something to drink, maybe a glass of wine or Kahlúa and cream made with some of my homemade Kahlúa. Last year it was wine.

I do have issue with the noise. Some of the explosions are a little too loud for me — even at a distance of more than a mile from the park. This year I tried my ballistics grade headphones. They don't block out all the noise, but they drastically reduced the bangs. My ears are not hurthing this morning.

Tour de France

After yesterday's gruesome crash of Mark Cavendish close to the finish line, I'm not going to withhold my judgment of the affair.

I agree with the disqualification of Peter Sagan from the Tour. His use of his elbow possibly against Cavendish looked bad. However, there was more to the infraction, I believe. If you watch his wheels leading up to the crash, and even afterward, Sagan steered his bicycle to the right, toward the barriers, cutting off Cavendish's line of advance. The rules state that during a sprint finish each athlete must maintain a straight line. That's for the safety of everyone. Sagan did not maintain his line.

The ruling against Sagan was mostly from his use of his elbow, appearing to knock Cavendish against the barriers, where he crashed. It is possible that Sagan's elbow came out as a reflex action to protect or balance himself when Cavendish sped up alongside him and they touched shoulders. However, it was the trajectory of his bike — not in a straight line, but in a line toward the barriers, cutting off Cavendish's line — that was a clear violation of the rules in my eyes. There was room to Sagan's left. He could have and should have maintained a straight line.

A lot of people weighed in on Sagan's side after the incident. That's understandable. Peter Sagan is a superstar on a bicycle. His contract is $8 million per year. Everyone loves him. He is an amazing athlete and I have rooted for him many times. But I really like Mark Cavendish too. Some said Cavendish tried to squeeze into a space too small for him and that caused the crash. However, he has been in many grand tours and he has won 30 stages in the Tour de France. He is the Tour's second greatest stage winner. He is also the world's best sprinter. He himself said, "I know what kind of space I can fit into."

I would have been happy to see either of them win the stage that day. But seeing Sagan's behavior in those last seconds of the stage, it was clear, at least to me, that Sagan violated the rules. And maybe worth noting is that he was faulted for causing an earlier crash toward the end of yesterday's stage. No one was injured badly in that crash. Expulsion from the Tour seemed reasonable and just.

Heat Wave

Tomorrow and Friday are supposed to be very hot here. NOAA is predicting 95°F (35°C) for Friday, which means it might reach 100°F (38°C) where I live. It will be a good test for my new air conditioner.

My Kitchen Vlog

In today's Kitchen Vlog I talk about my latest experiences as a creator and partner on YouTube. I did an early estimate of the numbers to see if my latest upgrades made any difference to my earnings. Comparing two similar periods, the addition of thumbnail images to my cooking videos appears to have increased my revenue by $7 per month. The next round of drinks is on me. Here is the link:

My Kitchen Vlog


Vlogging the News

Today I also went back to Vlogging the News again. It won't upload as regularly as I did in the past, but I'll keep it active for when there is something in the news that I really feel I want to talk about. Today it was about Peter Sagan being disqualified from the Tour de France yesterday because he caused a crash for Mark Cavendish, resulting in his sustaining injuries serious enough to force him to abandon the Tour. Here is the link (click the graphic):

Vlogging the News


And, as you can see, I'm trying a new look. I am still using the News Hits the Fan graphic at the beginning of each vlog, but for the thumbnail I am creating something more visual with large text in it.

Sunday 2017.7.2

Fewer Risks

If you haven't yet seen my Kitchen Vlog, "Dumb Things," you might enjoy a gander. Here is the link (click the trailer):

Dumb Things link


I also mentioned my stupidity a couple times in last month's blog. Standing on two milk crates, one stacked on top of the other, was not the brightest idea I've had lately. I fell, bruised my arm, but otherwise lived to embarrass myself another day. This week I bought a step ladder.

Although the job of upgrading the roof hatch with a new screen is done, I still need to open and close the hatch, which I do everyday during warm weather. I'd leave it open at night, but racoons sometimes climb the tree next to my home and get up on the roof. I'm afraid food aromas from my kitchen might attract them and they might claw at the screen. I would guess the odds of that happening are fairly low, but why take chances?

I've been using a kitchen chair to stand upon to reach the crank that opens and closes the hatch. I know the chair is strong enough. I can sit on it without it collapsing. But it doesn't feel safe without something secure to hold onto. The new step ladder solves that problem. Here is what I bought:

Step Ladder

The second step is just high enough for me to reach the crank (and, oddly enough, it is the exact same height as the seat of my kitchen chair), plus there is the advantage of a handle at the top to hold onto. I feel a lot safer. If you need more information: It's a "Gorilla Ladder," has a load limit of 250 pounds (113kg), and I paid about $50 for it at Home Depot. It's one of those things that I suspect will be useful for other tasks, such as when I wash the windows outside.

What's the Latest on the Avenue?

Construction continues. Some days are noisier than others, but nothing intolerable. Here are some before-and-after pictures to show some of the latest changes. First, though, we knew what was coming because all this stuff shown below was stored next to the park.

Road barriers

To the right, in front of that white truck, you can see a driveway entrance. That's the rear entrance to the trailer park. Those gates at the end of the road lead onto railroad property where the tracks are. Although this is a dead end street, beyond those gates is "officially" a crossing, and that's why trains must honk their horn when they approach (and you hear them in some of my videos), even though the road doesn't extend that far.

Here is the view looking west on the avenue, before the barriers were positioned to direct the traffic. Notice the traffic on the far side of the road.

West before

Here's the view after the traffic was re-routed. Now all the cars are on this side. (And I've got to tell you it feels weird driving on this side of the road, but facing in the opposite direction.)

West after

And here are two views looking east. You see the same re-routing of the traffic.

East before

East after

Now the white barriers are in place. Notice those big trucks lined up on the far side of the road, beyond the barriers, in the photo above. That was Friday's noise. (And it looks like they patched some of the pot holes.) Below is a photo of what was making all the noise.

Street grinding

They were grinding up the street and loading the debris into trucks. This is where the new bike lane will go.

I'm really hoping this part of the road will be done soon and that they'll move onward to another section down the road.

Life Keeps Getting Better

Despite my occasional stubbornness when it comes to change, I manage. I kept my old 35-inch analog TV set until the cable company went all digital, then I updated everything. I limped along with Windows XP (boot time literally took 10 minutes!) until Microsoft discontinued support for it. And I still use my old Blackberry 8220 clamshell smart phone (which is actually a stupid phone when compared to newer models).

Here's the thing: I don't need apps. I almost never use the camera. I just make and receive phone calls. So why update? It still works. However, I like having custom ring tones. When someone calls me, like Rod, my phone says, "Rod is calling" because I created that ring tone.

I used to record them with a USB microphone attached to my computer, but it doesn't work correctly anymore. There is an annoying clicking. It probably isn't compatible. Maybe there is a newer driver, but I haven't looked. However, I have a video camera.

Using my video camera with the lens cover closed, I can record a sort-of video of me saying "Rod is calling." Transfer it to my computer. Open it in video editing software. Delete the video portion. Then encode it as an MP3. Job done. However…

How do I transfer the MP3 file from my computer to my phone. It took a while to figure out. There is a "latest version" software app on the Blackberry site, even though they don't support it anymore. It works. And that's good enough for me. So now my old Blackberry is updated with new ring tones for all the latest numbers I added. I'm happy.

And finally, one more little bit of good news. I ordered a DVD movie last week. Finding it was a chore, but I found one on Amazon. With shipping it was more than $30. Okay. It's an old movie, "Looking for Miracles", by Disney — a feel-good family picture, but out of print. When it arrived, it was PAL rather than NTSC. For those who might not know, PAL is a European broadcast format. NTSC is what we use here in the USA.

I went back onto Amazon to look at the listing. It was there, way at the bottom, "PAL". I should have paid more attention. I was surprised to see that my new Yamaha Blu-ray player converts the format. It doesn't look as good as a true NTSC DVD, but at least I have the film and I can toss the old laserdisc into the recycling bin.

The Tour

Yesterday was the first day of the Tour de France cycling race. It was broadcast live early in the morning. The pre-show was 4:30 to 6:00 AM and Stage 1 of the race was 6:00 to 10:30 AM. I recorded it all and started watching later in the morning. This was the first time I was able to enjoy the Tour this way, thanks to my new home theater system.

Not all of it was good. I sometimes wonder if the Tour organizers plan dangerous stages for crashes and injury to increase the sensationalism, and profits. Alejandro Valverde crashed into the metal barriers on a corner during a rain-soaked time trial stage, breaking bones in his leg and suffering a deep laceration. You could see that his body broke one of the metal legs off the barrier.

When I think how well drivers are protected in Nascar and Formula 1, both in the clothing they are required to wear and the way their cars are designed, it seems a shame not to recognize (or maybe intentionally ignore) that nothing but a thin layer of lycra fabric covers most of a cyclist's body. How expensive are hay bales if needed in some corners? The organizers should hang their heads in shame for what they did to Valverde yesterday.

Having gotten that bit of diatribe out of the way, it was an excellent first day of racing to watch. It was a time trial, each athlete mostly on the road alone, competing against the clock. Other stages will feature the peleton all grouped together, except for possible breakaways out front. Those are fun to watch too. I'll be watching this morning's pre-dawn broadcast later today.

And, Finally, an Anniversary

Yesterday was the 6th anniversary of my retirement. I didn't do anything special.

Oh, and as for my Mom's American Chop Suey I mentioned in Wednesday's blog, that was Friday evening's dinner, made with beef chuck that I ground myself. Would I recommend it? No. The chuck was kind of fatty and there was a lot of oil in the bottom of the pan. It was okay when grilling the hamburgers for the video because the oil fell away from the meat. But I had to drain the skillet before adding the sauce. Lean ground beef would have been better, but there was an expiration date on the package of chuck. I had to use it up.