Who knows when our hero will remember this humble little blog!  He’s been occupied with designing a chamber for a mid-winter beam run, working on a book chapter, and fleshing out some explanations for out-of-phase crystalline film behaviors.  And he thinks I don’t listen.  In the meantime, our little household is chugging along!  This past Saturday, we had separate but equally important causes to tend: Tim’s, to ensure that we would eat delicious vegetables through the winter, and mine, to do what I could to help Barack and Michelle move their lil munchkins into the White House.

Clockwise: Some homemade tomato sauce, baked Hubbard squash (the farmers recommended dropping the squash from a balcony to open it), and blanched corn stripped from the cob.  The end result will be more photogenic, but having reserves is endlessly reassuring.  Bread-n-butter pickles!

Next: A standing-room-only crowd of volunteers at Illinois’ 7th District Democratic Headquarters; a man giving a spontaneous speech about how we are realizing MLK’s vision of judging a man by the content of his character; chaotically and democratically splitting up into cars for the 2.5 hr ride to Michigan; the Kalamazoo Democratic Headquarters.  My group spent half the day registering voters in a subsidized housing development and the other half talking to undecideds about where they stand and what would convince them.  We were only five people, but beyond the actual contacts we made, the presence of volunteers for a candidate is sometimes a strong message alone.  Or so I hope.

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With the first 40-degree nights in sight, we’re getting ready for the impending doom that is winter in Chicago.  Our hero and I scooted over to Michigan over the weekend to shake down an apple orchard and ride our bikes along the lake, where we learned that much of the lakeshore is private property and not so visitor-friendly.  Our hero would want me to tell you that we picked 45 lbs of apples, so says our bathroom scale.  Jonagolds, Empires, Fujis, and some contraband Honeycrisps –apparently they were off-limits but too tempting to pass up– turned into apple oatmeal, applesauce, and apple crisp yesterday.  Mmm.

Fall also demands a fall jacket!  This muslin pattern will (hopefully) be transformed into a jacket using these fabrics — the satiny being the liner.  I think the colors are more pumpkiney and cornflowerish in real life.  The sewing exploits may spin-off onto a separate blog in the future, lest the land of Lester and cooking be sullied by thread and bobbins.

In the absence of other things to occupy my time, I have taken up a new hobby which is taking our dining room by storm — a storm of thread and fabric scraps, that is.  Please note: if you have miniature people in your house, you’re more likely to get homemade things from my neighborhood sweatshop. 

From top left: jammies for the twin nephews, furry block for niece Sarah, chair cover for Tim’s bum, and furry hat for Tim’s head.

Apparently Chicago is prone to hurricanes. First Gustav and then Ike, with a vengeance. With all the flooded roads between here and Argonne it took at least an hour each way in the car. I guess I’ll bike again tomorrow since that’s a shorter-feeling 90 minutes. The one downside: the stench of mildew and sewage at certain points along the way.

In other news…not much going on! Postdoc is humming along well I guess and I’m still cooking a lot. Although I’m dreading the demise of the farmer’s market in October. Andrea is spending about 14 hours a day on her sewing machine, so I guess that was a good b-day present on my part. Honestly, I haven’t felt much urge to update this l’il website since she’s been out here, but I’ll try to once in a while.

Here are some pictures I found on the camera…explanations below.

(working across) nanoprobe, taken downstream; my peach b-day cake; new, nappable couch with our heroes; new, nappable couch with Andrea and Nubia (not exactly chopped liver); Andrea’s homemade beer cozies (get yours now!); a flock of Fisters; four pictures from a fancy dinner I made (local cheeses from down the street, beet salad, corn flan, scallops and roasted cipollini, shrimp with toasted cumin, ricotta/marscapone/lemoncurd/berry tart); Lester and his new, homemade cat toy; a bunch of tomatoes prior to getting sauced.

The beam has been craaaazy in the last 24 hours. We were getting “500 mA” for a while, then it went negative…apparently it was just the beam current monitor bit the dust. This right after we finally measured some speckle, <sigh>.

1. nice neighborhood, walking distance to nice drinking establishments, restaurants, gym, and library 2. in unit washer+dryer 4. five burner gas stove 5. ice maker can do crushed ice 6. small back porch for growing stuff 7. walls that aren’t off-white (9 colors, including a perfect green kitchen) 8. courtyard has a crazy big tree in it 9. nice water pressure in the bath room 10. sloping bath with original porcelain 11. near green line, an actual ‘el’ 12. deep window sills for Lester 13. tons of modern, dimmable lighting 14. A crazy looking fan (you’ll see) 15. more space for cartwheels 16. no shootings 17. a cute park half a block away 18. walking distance to my carpoolers 19. dishwasher 20. granite countertops

What a weekend!  Team Tim and Andrea just returned from a sun- and fun-filled tour of Southern Michigan.  While the casual citizen of the world might yawn and roll over to the words ‘Southern Michigan,’ TTA now know better.  Peaches, blueberries, wines, grape vodka, sun, sand, waves, and small-town fairs, (with sequined horse-riding youth) greeted us just over an hour outside our hustling Chicago.  Had you any idea?  Neither did we!

After filling up on cheese grits and banana pancakes at the legendary Sweet Maple Cafe, we drove through Indiana as quickly as possible and headed to our midwest paradise!  Those words are no longer an oxymoron!

The wineries out there were really cute and homegrown, with mostly friendly folks pouring lots of wine.  I think the Round Barn was the Team favorite, which was purchased in Indiana and moved –in pieces– to MI, where nice Amish folks reassembled it for our pleasure.  They had some fruity dessert wines and a grape vodka that made a smooth martini, and Tim couldn’t stop posing in front of the barn.  We also ran into a “town” fair, with Driers’ family-owned cured meats and some soft and squishy coffee-can corn bread, an art fair, with live twangy music, more wineries (I think we hit 6 in all), and bigger waves in that freshwater “ocean” than I’ve seen in some parts of San Diego.

Back in Oak Park, Tim is nursing his crispy skin.  That much fun has some consequences.

(isn’t that a nice picture that andrea took?)

The garden’s been producing a lot of beans and zucchini lately. Probably due to the greenhouse like conditions we’ve been having lately. I still cook, just at 8 or 9pm usually. Tonight’s offering of zucchini and string beans was a stirfry with lots of fermented black beans and sichuan pepper corns (and chili paste, bean paste, ginger, scallions, rib meat, and sesame oil). Goes down nice with this hoegaarden by my side.

Today I worked on filling out my cad drawings for this new experimental chamber I mentioned yesterday. Here’s the latest version.

FIG 3. New environmental chamber for combined scattering and spectroscopy at solid oxide fuel cell conditions. A) Huber diffractometer, B) New access port (x4), C) Be window (x2), D) Be windowed port and collimator for Vortex detector and E) detail of sample and probe sensors

Whew. I’m finally done with beamruns for a little while. I signed on to four different experiments, with about a week of x-rays apiece, which essentially erased my July. And now the book chapter’s deadline is looming, there are papers to write, and we’re moving…so I had to mess around in the garden this morning to decompress a little. At this point, I’m kind of giving up the battle with the weeds and am just trying to keep things from falling over. The beans and tomatoes are definitely trying to escape their stakes, cages, and trellises. I only had string on me today, so part of the garden now looks like it’s barely held together. The building maintenance folks mowed the lawn between the plots over the weekend, sawing off parts of my cantaloupes that were trying to make friends with the watermelons in the next plot over. I was a little peeved, but then I realized that the people who did the mowing were the same ones who started these plots in the first place. That and I now have something like 10 melons going right now (I think five or six are in that picture).

Ok, now I gotta work on designs for our next environmental chamber. Here’s a sneak peak.

Found two melons in my cantaloupe orgy on Monday. Okra’s really doing well in the hot weather too now. Here are some more pictures if you interested.

Just finished experiment 2 of 4 yesterday–on to #3 (night shift this time–blegh!). Also got a new apartment–but more on that later…