Category Archives: personal

A Burning Man 2014 Story

A cabinet, standing alone, in the Black Rock DesertIt was early in the morning around Thursday, when my family let me off-leash to go cruise the playa to see the art. I was way out in the deep playa, almost at the 12:00 apex of the trash fence, almost as far out as it is possible to be.  I rode my bike up to a cabinet standing alone by itself in the desert. The sun was just over the hills to the east. There was a man and woman about 50 meters away, on a blanket watching the sunrise, but otherwise, I was alone.

The cabinet was a slightly battered-looking piece of furniture, like you would find in a bedroom at a beach rental.  There were some drawers on the left, and two swinging doors, top and bottom.  The drawers were screwed shut.  The bottom door was secured with some heavy steel rings, locked with a bicycle lock, the kind that you dial in a combination of four letters and it releases. As I parked my bicycle and walked up to the cabinet, I could hear a woman’s voice from within, telling a story.  Here is what I heard, retold as best I can remember 6 weeks later… Continue reading

Whisky & Peat

I have never been much of a whisky(uisge) drinker.  Until a month or two ago, I had no particular interest in whisky, and I would have said that all whiskies pretty much tasted the same, and not particularly good.

Then, my wife bought me a bottle of Caol Ila (“COOL-Aye-la”), which tasted distinctly different:  It tasted like no substance I could ever remember trying before.  I was not sure I liked it, but it seemed so odd I kept trying it to figure it out.

One day I tried comparing it to some other whiskey (Bushmills, I think) that I happened to have on the shelf.  Bushmills still tastes like pretty much other whiskies, in my opinion.  In the comparison, I discovered to my surprise that I liked Caol Ila.

I shared these thoughts with my wife (who normally doesn’t drink at all), and she tried a small sip:  “It’s peat.”  She has traveled extensively in Ireland and Scotland; the odd smell & taste that I couldn’t figure out was instantly recognizable to her.

When the bottle ran out (a month later?) I thought about getting another – but at ~$55/bottle this is a vice I do not want to acquire as a habit.  Still, I remained curious: were there other whiskies with this same flavor? helpfully provided a chart with whiskies (all scotch) sorted by “peatiness”, measured as phenol parts per million (PPM).

(Aside: There is apparently one Irish whiskey that is also peated: Connemarra.)

Long-story-short: I went out to buy more peated whiskies “for science“.  The first liquor store I tried didn’t have Caol Ila (30-35 PPM) and so I tried Highland Park (20 PPM, $50/bottle).  They carried Lagavulin, (35-40 PPM) but at $70/bottle, that was a non-starter for me. Highland Park was similar to Caol Ila, but not as good.  Later I tried another store, and they also did not carry Caol Ila, and so I tried Laphroaig. (40-43 PPM, $40/bottle)

Before trying Laphroaig, I didn’t get the connection between “peaty” and “smoky”.  Laphroiag, in my opinion, is so smoky, it’s like drinking liquid campfire.  It’s got the peat kick of Caol Ila, but too much (in my current opinion).

I will experiment with blending Laphroaig with other non-smoky beverages to mellow it back to tasty, but so far, Caol Ila has a fascinating peat richness without being overpowering.  I guess maybe I’m a whisky drinker after all.

ArtJamz in Crystal City


ArtJamz in Crystal City

Zette took the Risacher family to “ArtJamz” in Crystal City this morning.  The event was held in the 11th floor of Crystal Square 5, which is one of the buildings across the street from my old office building. There is a lot of empty office space in Crystal City since BRAC Recommendation 133 was implemented.

Since I spent a great deal of time in Crystal City office buildings, being in vacated office space repurposed as an art venue is eerie, or a least cognitively dissonant.

But the light was fabulous and I don’t usually paint, so it was a fun change of pace.

Zette's painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12

Zette’s painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12


Dan's painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12 working title "Lilith Recaptured"

Dan’s painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12 working title “Lilith Recaptured”



Megan’s painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12

Luke's 1st painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12

Luke’s 1st painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12



Luke’s 2nd painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12

Jame did a painting too, but chooses not to publish it.

my reverse-proxy

UPDATE: There is a followup to this post.

Various people have asked me about my reverse proxy server, which I alluded to previously.  I’ve used Apache mod_proxy, and perlbal, but now I do it with a 50-odd SLOC node.js program, which leans heavily on node-http-proxy.  It’s too ad-hoc to be worth posting to GitHub, but its possibly worth describing for any other node.js types out there.
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Open Source Wedding Rings (update 2)

Polishing rings with a dremel

Polishing rings with a dremel. This technique will quickly burn your fingers, and is not recommended.

On 2013-03-14, Suzette and I had been married 10 years. We had a 10th anniversary ceremony with Mr. Gerald Williams, who was the celebrant for our marriage/elopement 10 years earlier.

As I noted in previous posts, I’d designed wedding bands with OpenJsCad for the occasion, and had them cast in platinum (actually a 95/5 platinum/cobalt alloy). I ground off the sprues and polished them myself with a dremel.

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Open Source Rings (update 1)

Unfinished castings

Unfinished castings

The castings of my 10th anniversary wedding bands arrived today. I had them made by Techform Casting. They came out well.  As they advised me, there are small pads that they added for the casting process – presumably they are residual sprues, although the casting folks didn’t call them that.

I had a lot of angst about the size of the rings.   We measured our fingers with sizing rings, but they were narrow, and these rings are almost 10mm wide.  Also, the metal shrinks during casting, which either makes the ring smaller or larger, depending on who you believe.

My ring came out fine, but Zette’s came out too small.  I had tried to err on the small side, on the theory that it’s easier to stretch rings than to shrink them.

I plan to finish the rings myself, but I’m anxious about that too.  Tempting to just get a jeweler to do it, but then they wouldn’t be quite as personal.