Friday, September 10, 2021
Monday, September 6, 2021
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Friday, May 7, 2021
Friday, April 2, 2021
Monday, February 8, 2021
Have you ever seen one? They're everywhere. They're so ubiquitous, in fact, that you might not notice them.
Many show where pipes and cables are buried. Some mark property boundaries. The one pictured above is a standard survey marker placed by the National Geodetic Survey of the United States (NGS).
Each survey marker of the NGS is paired with a file in a publicly accessible database that stores a huge amount of geographic data. Other countries have their own versions of the NGS.
Geocaching is a popular pastime worldwide. People establish a container of inexpensive souvenirs for other people to find. Geocachers take an object out and leave one in its place. The fun is in the journey - the searching and finding. There are geocaching websites on the Internet. Check them out...that just might be your next passion.
Survey markers are sorta the postage stamps of geocaching and some geocaching sites have sections about survey markers. Like stamps, they all have more or less interesting backstories on file. For instance, there is a survey marker on a step in the Colorado State Capitol in Denver that shows precisely (and I mean "precisely") where a mile above sea level is.
Last fall, I used a local survey marker as a destination for a hike. I planned to use it for an activity in one of my LabBooks. I found it by using the map search engine, here:
The marker was about two miles away on the other side of nearby Interstate 25.
The marker is on a little concrete mound on a shoulder between an urban street in the Denver Tech Center and the Interstate. There's a stake there to indicate its position.
It was a reasonable urban hike on a nice day.
If you tap (or click) the marker on the website map, you get a link to the data file.
How much information could be attached to such a little metal plate. You'd be surprised. There is position information - latitude and longitude to five decimal places of seconds, and altitude in millimeters. There's also a detailed description of the site and the buildings and streets in the area.
If you want to know your place in the world, a survey marker will tell you.
The map also gives a link to a geocaching site:
There are survey markers associated with monuments, mountain peaks and other geological points of interest, and town squares. If you think you might be interested in benchmark hunting (that's what it's called), check out this site:
Monday, December 21, 2020
I live in an extended family and as jobs and other life situations change, responsibilities shift over time. I have recently become the chief cook and bottle washer (literally) and that isn't a complaint because I really do enjoy cooking.
I specifically enjoy cooking because I enjoy eating good food and, if I'm cooking, it lets me ensure that there will be good food.
The problem is that, since I retired seven years ago, others have been doing the cooking. I was a little worried that I had lost my touch but, evidently, cooking is like riding a bicycle...without the pedals, of course.
A lot of the food from my first family has come to my rescue. I didn't really carry the food of my childhood with me when I started college and moved from home but, after my parents died, I found myself going back more and more.
Southern food developed in a society where people had little time away from work to deliver extravagant meals to their families and poverty often forced them to use what they produced from their own gardens or otherwise had on hand. From humble origins, a real cuisine developed.
A popular meal here centers on smother-fried meat. I didn't specify the kind of meat because pretty much whatever you excavate from your freezer will serve.
The key idea is that gravy will cover a multitude of sins. Bad cuts of meat, over cooked main dishes, left overs? Gravy is always the answer!
Smother-frying is a multi-step process.
I start with about a pound of meat for three people. If it's a big chunk like pork loin, it needs to be cut into slabs. Chicken breasts are fine whole. With a hot skillet (about 250°) with a liberal amount of oil or grease coating the bottom, I lay out the meat and sprinkle it with seasoning (Tony Chachere's seasoning is the current favorite) and a coating of all-purpose flour (I use about a half cup flour for 2 pounds of meat, then another half cup when I flip the meat ). Then, that fries for five minutes.
The flour isn't really a batter - it will make the gravy. I just want it to absorb the flavors in the pan as the meat cooks.
After five minutes covered, I flip the meat. Add a cup of water to keep the stuff in the bottom of the pan from burning to black. Charred is good, black is bad. More seasonings and most of the rest of a cup of flour goes on the meat. Cover again for five minutes.
Flip the meat and scrape up the stuff that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add a little more water and let it all cook covered for a couple more minutes. You'll want water and salt (I use soy sauce for the salt) on hand for the next part).
Reduce the heat to a simmer. This is the fun part where you craft the gravy.
Scrape all the stuff off the bottom of the skillet with a spatula and start adding water and, maybe, more flour until you have a lumpy gravy. This is not a place for satiny smoothness. Work out all the big lumps. Taste the gravy occasionally and add salt and other seasonings until it tastes the way you want it.
Let it simmer until you've ready to serve it and you've got a great meal.
I like this dish because you can play with it using just about any kind of meat (fish takes a delicate touch and a lighter gravy with much less thickening, in fact eggs, instead of flour makes can interesting gravy), different seasonings and thickeners, and a vast variety of sides. In the picture above, I lined up smother-fried chicken breasts with white rice and seasoned, steamed vegetables.
Smother-frying involves a good bit of style. If you try it out, you'll find yourself automatically adjusting to the amount of heat you use, how you deglaze the pan, how much and how often you add water and seasoning... it's a method you can own.
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Heh. In the Denver area, that's easy.
That's west. (See the Rockies?)
That's east. No mountains. In fact, when you top that hill, it's plains as far as you can see...all the way to the Mississippi River, 600 miles away. They don't call the Great Plains "Great" for nothing.
Facing the Rockies, north is to your right.
But why should you care?
Let's say that you're hiking somewhere other than Denver and you suddenly realize that you don't know where you are? Even if you have a map, you have to orient the map to your surroundings and the way you do that is to point north on your map (there will be a symbol pointing north just for that reason) toward geographic north.
You could just choose a direction and start walking. Surely a straight line will bring you to a road or stream or something you can follow out.
The problem there is that humans are very bad at walking in straight lines. They're much better at circles. People have a dominant side. If they're right handed, their stronger right side tends to push them to the left.
The way to walk in a straight line is to find a landmark and walk to it. When you get there, sight back to where you came from and extend that line of sight in the direction you're going, find another landmark, and walk there. Repeat.
But it's best if you have some idea of where you're going. Do you remember a road to the east of you? Is there a town somewhere to the southwest? Your reference is north.
When you face north, east is to your right, west is to your left, and south is behind you. And the sky will always tell you where north is.
At night, Polaris, the pole star is due north (actually, it is off by about a degree but it's good enough for navigating on land.) If you know any objects in the sky, you should know Polaris, the Big Dipper, and Orion. The Big Dipper is hard to miss because it looks very much like a...well, big dipper. The two stars in the outer edge of the dipper are called the "pointer stars" because they point straight up at Polaris.
(South of the equator, Polaris australia is a very dim star, so you have to find where it should be by following the upright of the Southern Cross.)
If you find Polaris, you've found north so just walk straight toward...oh, wait, it's night. You shouldn't be walking around in a strange forest at night. Just wait until morning and, okay, where was Polaris, again?
Well, look for moss on a tree.
Eh, that's not a reliable way to find north. Moss likes sunshine and most of the sun in the Northern Hemisphere comes in from the South so, yes, mosses like southern exposures but they grow where they can. In dense forests, you can't trust them.
So, here's one.
Set up a vertical post (what astronomers call a "gnomon" - a rod used to cast a shadow or sight some object) and, at the top of its shadow, drive another rod into the ground. In about an hour, come back and place another rod at the tip of the gnomon's shadow (it will have moved). Strike a line from the gnomon halfway between the other two rods - that points north. A line from the second rod to the third points east.
The idea is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and in the northern hemisphere, the sun is to the South, so the sun's shadow points north and moves from west to east. The problem is that this method depends on when you mark the shadows.
In the picture above, a line drawn from the rod at the left to the nearest rod points due north because I placed them at solar noon (not at Daylight Savings Time noon). At solar noon the sun is due South.
If you place the rods an equal time before and after noon, this method works.
Don't know what time it is? Well, start before noon and place small markers every so often at the ends of the gnomon shadow - maybe use little rocks or stick small twigs in the ground. Where the end of the shadow is closest to the gnomon - that's solar noon. Draw a line from the gnomon to that point and you have north.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors and pay attention to where the sun is, you can get to where you can just look at the sun and tell about what time it is and where north is.
Keep in mind that, in the Southern Hemisphere, you have to look for where the southern pole star would be if you could see it, and the sun will be in the north during the day.