Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How To: Shuck Oysters 

It has come to my attention that not everyone knows how to shuck oysters.  Like many things, it is not hard, but it does require the right tools.  I like this Oxo oyster knife - it is sturdy and has a slight curve up toward the flat side, which you probably can't see in the picture.  Sorry.  The back side has a reinforcing rib which makes it quite stiff and sturdy.

Oxo Oyster Knife

So grab an oyster.  Hold it with the hinge end (the thick, usually pointy end) towards you, and with the flat, or flatter side up.

Your snack awaits

Now, where to insert the knife?  Examine the edge of the oyster and you will see a zone, approximately half way between top and bottom, where the layers of the shell are very close together.  If you are lucky, you may see a dark band near the center. This is the junction between the lower and upper shells, and is not actually sealed. Instead the oyster is mightily holding the two shells together with its big muscle.

Where does the knife go in?

Nolw here's where you could get hurt.  Professional oyster shuckers (at an oyster bar, for example), frequently wear a chain mail glove on their left hand - you probably won't have that, so be *very careful*!

The moment of truth
Touch the knife, flat side up, to the junction between the lower and upper shells, about halfway between the tip of the shell and the hinge. Apply some pressure and twist the knife a little to help it penetrate the joint. Don't worry if you don't get exactly on the junction... the twisting motion will guide the knife tip to the junction. DON'T POKE YOURSELF IN THE LEFT HAND! If you're pushing really hard, you're doing it wrong. Twist more; push less.

Once you get the tip between the shells, swing the knife side to side while slowly pushing it in further, keeping the tip against the inside of the upper shell.  What you are trying to do is to cut the muscle that is holding the shells together.   It will be about midway across the oyster.  You'll know when you cut the muscle - suddenly there will be nothing holding the shells clamped shut.  Open carefully by twisting the knife, being careful not to spill the liquor inside, and be sure to scrape any meat off the under side of the upper shell.

Enjoy in your favorite way!

*No oysters were harmed in making this post - this was a re-enaction.  We ate them last nite...


Wednesday, August 22, 2018


It was a bucket list item.

Some of you may know that in my land-side life, I am kind of a gear head. So when my son, on the occasion of my still being alive after completing 70 trips around our local star, presented me with a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week, I was ecstatic!

Just in case you're not up on this stuff, Bonneville is where the world's land speed records are set.

Sunrise on the salt

The place is surreal. It is a salt desert - a dried up sea. It is dead flat, for miles and miles, and yes it is salt...  just like on your table.  Clean white salt.

Now here's a weird thing... Tho it is hot (100°+ most days), there are patches of water showing here and there... water that is so saturated with salt that it is syrupy.  And there are patches of moist salt too.  So not all of the flats are suitable for automotive travel, let alone high speed runs.  Each year the course must be carefully surveyed to ensure that it is safe.

Later in the day, the umbrella was unfurled
For Speed Week, the salt flats are invaded and a city is created.  And aside from the vehicles that will be competing, there is another whole host of vehicles, many not street legal, running back and forth driven by some real characters.  Adam described it as "Burning Man, but with nitromethane."

The event is BIG.  The pit area was perhaps 3 miles long and 5 rows deep.  The course itself is 10 miles long.  In fact, it is so long that it is not possible to see from one end to the other because of the curvature of the Earth.  There are timing traps on the first 5 miles of the course; the second five miles are for deceleration.

Six courses

Actually, there are six courses.  Why so many?  Well, first of all, this is one of very few venues of this type worldwide, so there is a lot of demand.  Second, there are classes for any type of vehicle you can imagine, and not all of them need 10 miles to reach their top speed.  For example, on one of the short courses a competitor on a 50cc Honda step-thru motorcycle turned in a blistering run at 58 mph.

Oh, and by the way, this event is all about breaking records.  There are no second place finishes.  If you don't break the previous record for your class, you fail to qualify for a second timed run (two runs are averaged to make the official speed).  The 50cc Honda failed to qualify - the previous record was 62 mph.

I have been to a lot of car shows and swap meets.  One of the joys of these events is the sound of a guy firing up a big V8 - something you hear fairly frequently.  But here it was an entirely different vibe.  Here when an engine was fired up (and there were lots of them!), it wasn't for show - it was for tuning or to warm it up.  In other words, it was serious business.  And something else - a lot of these engines were running on fuel, not gasoline.  An entirely different, sharper, exhaust note.

Some might want to make a comparison to drag racing.  Well, we talked to a drag racer who was there; he was just as awed as we were.  The fastest he’d ever driven was 180 mph...  there were cars here going more than twice that fast. More, a drag racer's engine only has to run for a few seconds, and then typically gets completely rebuilt after each run.  Most drag racing engines don't even have cooling systems.  The requirements here are far different.

An observation:  all the really serious cars here had rudders.  When your speed is above 200 mph, aerodynamics are extremely important.  When you are above 400 mph, they are everything.

Even the Jag gets fitted with a rudder

The Carbiliner - we called it the spaceship

A Lakester

A streamliner being transported to the starting line


Those are drag chutes in the tubes under the rudder


Finally, a video of a 300+ mph run. I'm sorry that it is so zoomed out - because of the bright sun on the salt, I couldn't see the screen on my phone so I left it zoomed all the way out and just tried to keep it pointed in the general direction of the car. Even this was difficult... remember that curvature of the Earth thing. You'd be looking back toward the starting line, trying to see something moving. Mirages made this difficult. and then you'd see, maybe, a dot. And then it would be past you in a flash if it was a 450+ mph run, turning back into a dot. I had a better chance at capturing a slower run...


Monday, July 30, 2018

A Tale Of Two Tread Plates

A year later

Some of you out there may recall an experiment I started a year ago - using benzalconium chloride (BAC) as a teak treatment.  Well, here are the two tread plates after a year of exposure and neglect.

Clearly, the BAC made a huge difference - the untreated plate on the left still has algae and lichen growing in the low spots and pores in the wood.  The treated tread plate on the right is free of these pests, except at the very top, where I probably didn't get a full dose of BAC applied.


This was so successful that I just completed spraying our teak rub rails with BAC - these are being fully colonized by the same characters, especially where the rain water from the deck scuppers drains on them - in those places, the lichen has completely covered the wood.  In fact, the coverage is so complete there that I will probably have to reapply BAC, since most of what I applied probably never made it thru to the wood.

Where you can easily obtain BAC?  See my first post on this handy material.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Adam’s First Law

Adam’s First Law:
All tools are hammers.
Except screwdrivers - screwdrivers are chisels. 

(See also: Salnick’s First Law
                Salnick’s Second Law
                Salnick’s Third Law)

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