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May 31, 1999
a year ago

Fondue and Quills Redux

Last week we bought cinnamon rolls at Whole Foods, and forgot about them for most of the week. I found them in the refrigerator, and put them in the toaster oven to reheat. John made coffee and then we enjoyed our breakfast out in the swinging chairs. The day was just gorgeous, and Fezzik joined us as we ate. Occasionally, he would push against the chairs to get pets and swing me around easily. That was pretty funny.

After the cinnamon rolls were hot, I stuck my can of sand into the toaster oven. When we were done with breakfast, I put my soaked feather into the hot sand. The soaked feather tube was opaque, which I kind of expected. I wanted to see what the heat would do.

After watering all the plants, I went out into the garage and started working on my bike again. I finished my bike's front bearings, adjusted the derailleurs with John's help, straightened out the brakes also with his help, and then took about 30 minutes to lubricate the chain. The reason it took so long was because as lubricant went into the chain more of the grit and grime came out. The motion plus the lubrication moved the embedded dirt out to the surface, so I spent as much time wiping off the crud that came out as putting lubricant in the links. The White Lightning chain lubricant is very nice, because after it dries I can wipe off all the excess found, unlike oil, it doesn't hold dirt.

I then went on a test drive, and quickly found that the tires weren't inflated enough. Even with that handicap the feeling of the bicycle was very very different from that of my mountain bike. The road bike is very much lighter than my mountain bike, and far more responsive to any change in weight distribution and how much power I put to the pedals. Once it starts moving, it can go much more quickly than the mountain bike. I was very impressed. I also found out that the low riding posture was very comfortable for me, though it was much harder to see traffic behind me. The other thing I found was that the lighter bike was definitely less stable, and depending on my stroke I was wobbling back and forth a bit more than I liked. Though, some of that might be because of the lack of pressure in the tires, making them a bit less stable.

It was a good first ride, because I could really tell the difference that re-packing the bearings had made.

So, I started on John's bike. I ran into problems fairly early on, as John's rear axle was built differently than mine, with the bearing well far deeper into the axle chamber. So cleaning it out was much more difficult, but doable. I managed to get the tire and innertube changed, and the rear axle part before it was time to clean up and get ready for dinner.

Ryan and Frances had invited us over for fondue. I had volunteered bittersweet chocolate and fruit for a fondue dessert. We also bought frozen Sara Lee cheesecake for the chocolate fondue, because at La Fondue they had used frozen cheesecake to great effect. So we brought everything in a paper bag, and arrived to see Jonathan in the front window, waving at us as we came up.

Dinner was really fun, though, as expected, it took a while. Francis had made a wonderful cheese dip for a kind of cheese fondue course that didn't require the fondue pot. It was wonderful on great big chunks of French bread. The fondue pot didn't quite retain heat well enough for four people, and we ended up doing the breaded vegetables around the stove. That worked really well. The nice thing was having all the time to talk and catch up with each other.

One of the scariest things about moving to a completely new town is the prospect of losing all one's friends and finding none in the new place. In some ways by moving the entire group, we've managed to import a few of our friends as well. This is proving to be more of the comfort than I'd really anticipated.

When John and I went to Steele's to get fruit and the frozen cheesecake, in the third section they had apricots. I had been planning to only get strawberries, but the fresh apricots appealed to me. It turned out that the cut apricots were more popular than the bananas or the strawberries, because the tart smoothness of the ripe apricots contrasted well rich intensity of the bittersweet chocolate. The chocolate fondue was actually an experiment, I knew I had to melt the chocolate and I had to add something to make sure that it didn't congeal completely when it cooled. So, I'd bought half and half to mix into the melted chocolate, and it turned out to be the right thing to do. The half and half didn't lighten the bittersweet chocolate at all, just smoothed it out and helped keep it liquid.

We left happy and full and still fairly early in the evening.

I had plenty of time to play with my new feather. Surprisingly the tempering had made the feather's tube transparent again. This was something that one manual had mentioned would happen when the feather was ready to be cut. I then tried to cut it, and found that most of my previous experience was useless. The tube was much stronger than before, pretty much on par with the heat-tempered feathers I had worked with before, but it wasn't nearly as brittle. In fact, it was nearly impossible to get it to split by folding it on itself. What was worse was that it really looked like the only way to split it was to cut it, just as most of the instructions scattered across the Net said. Though, most of those instructions had left out all the other steps I had already taken.

The other complication which none of the other instructions had even hinted at was that with the necessity to cut the slit further nibs would have to be cut on the side opposite the present nib. This meant that the present nib had to be cut completely off in order to form the new nib. What was annoying about all this was that it corresponded with historical data that indicated a feather was only good for four or five nibs. Contrasted with the nearly infinite nibs I could cut in series from the original slit from the feathers that could be split further by folding. So, now I know where and how all that data came from and more of the practical necessities that caused them.

Not a bad thing to know. My quill page is now far more extensive than before, because I took a lot more pictures and put them up there along with a fairly large body of text explaining the choices between tempering methods and possible results.

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