Finding the Hot Spot

I was getting super uneven cooking in my square cast iron pan on my induction cooktop. I had another I found at Goodwill for $10, and was inspired by this post to do some hotspot testing using almond flour.

The point of this testing was to find the hotspots, so I didn’t make an effort to be super scientific. For instance, I didn’t wait for the cast iron pan to to fully cool down before trying it with the second burner. It was still noticeably warm. I tried to get the temps as close as possible to begin with, but my last test, with the Gourmia cooktop and my big stainless skillet, required me to amp up the heat to see the pattern.

Here’s the original black Tramontia 81500/100 cooker with my cast iron pan set to 245 o F on the left, and same pan on my Gourmia GIC 100 at 250 o F:

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I did the same with the big stainless pan I use for most of my cooking these days:

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In both cases, the hotspot was smaller and more concentrated on the black Tramontia, which isn’t surprising since the diameter of it’s inner ring is a little bit bigger.

Gonna try using the Gourmia for a few weeks and and report back!

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Back in the Saddle

Doing financials at Thai Fresh!

Winter is depressing and hard, but I’m back, and I’ve balanced my checkbook for the first time since 2015!

I have returned to the indubitable Thai Fresh to plan for my financial future! My weekly visits here to keep track of money during my two-year home remodel was one of the few things keeping me sane.

I haven’t had a real budget since I sold my home in 2015. That was the first and biggest step in drastically reducing my “standard of living” while greatly improving my quality of life. But I want the bragging rights of being able to say *exactly* how much cheaper my life is than it was back then, and for that I need to crunch some numbers.

Previously I’d been using Banktivity to keep track of my accounts and transactions. While it has a lot of powerful investment features I don’t use anymore, it was actually much worse than the simpler Quicken at doing basic budgeting and expense tracking. Now that I’ve switched back, all my happy little account numbers agree, and all the transactions since 2015 are still in the system. The data for a new budget is in there, I just have to massage it out!

This is a huge step, because until I have a more solid idea of how much my life costs, I can’t really make any plans for travel, retirement, or decide what kind of jobs I might get. I’m excited to be moving on this again!

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OUT!!!

I feel really amazing and free right now!

I’ve used this 100 sq. ft. storage unit since I moved out of my house. Seen here it’s already more than half purged:
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Shortly after dark last night, I loaded the last of my possessions into Junior, swept the floor of my storage unit, and *closed the door*!

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It’s been a long road, starting back when I first decided to sell my 2400 sq. ft. house in 2013 after years of accumulating crap. I went through at least three major purges before I finally sold in 2015. I *still* had so much stuff I had to stuff my derelict Metro to the gills to get everything off property in time for the closing!

The storage unit was a necessary step as I downsized my life from that big house to a tiny 113 sq. ft. yurt. There’s plenty of storage out here on the farm, though, just waiting to be claimed. This space above the milking parlor in the barn is a perfect example. Here’s what it looked like when I started:

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And after I cleaned it up…

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The only problem is that it’s 10 feet off the ground and there are no steps. 🙂 The only stuff I let myself put up there were large, light items that don’t need much protection and take up huge amounts of space.

Now I have the yurt, my van, an on-site 75 cu.ft. storage space that used to be a milk fridge, and a few spaces like this. Most of my big tools, some of the largest things I have left, are in our barn workshop.

This is the fridge storage. Having relocated the Big Floofy Stuff to the barn, I can now add two new sets of shelves and store nearly twice as much neatly.

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My decision to move as much as possible into transparent tubs has been a huge success. It’s easy to find things, they’re reasonably weatherproof for short periods of time, and they’re cheap. I’d prefer to get stronger ones that cost more, as these are pretty easy to break if they’re overstressed.

Now that everything is back in one place, it’s time for one more pass through the Konmari tidying system. Despite having been purged separately several times, I can guarantee I’ll end up able to reduce my space usage another 20-25%.

The $80 a month I spent on storage is one my last unnecessary expenses, and as of today, it’s *gone*! WOOHOO!

I want to acknowledge that it was a *lot* of emotional labor and time to do this, but it’s 100% worth it. It’s totally normal for it to be hard. But, my life is cheaper, I can find things quickly, and I feel more open and free. I found the Konmari method helpful, and there are lots of resources and help available for people who want to downsize but are having trouble. For me it’s a huge milestone in increasing my quality of life while reducing my standard of living. Time to head out and celebrate!

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Hibernating in the Yurt

Hiding from the weather in the yurt is a perfect excuse to look for drafts. The only possible justification for winter is snow, which we got for exactly one day so far. Instead we have this horrible gruel of cold rain and gritty wind, and I’m totally over it. To be honest, I was before we started. I would like to go the rest of my life with nothing below 65 o F touching my body if it isn’t ice cream or snowing outside enough to build forts, lob snowballs at strangers’ children, and sled down dangerous inclines without parental supervision.

However, it *is* a chance to check the yurt for gaps. In between naps, whining about the weather, and playing Ori and the Blind Forest, I got out my infrared leak detector and got to work.

The biggest is at the door. It’s made of fiberboard and I knew that, despite my attempts to waterproof it, it would eventually fall apart. It’s been serious warped by water infiltration, so I have this huge gap in the bottom.

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I’m going to make a new waterproof door, preferably out of cedar, but in the meantime I stuffed a dish towel into the gap and that helps a lot.

Obviously the roof ring needs to be plugged. I used to have a transparent plug that fit the hole, but this time I’m using the circles of the moving blankets I cut out to make the top of the insulation. Since they were cut for that specific hole, they fit perfectly. There’s no light, but there’s no optimism or hope in the Universe when the weather’s like this, so that’s ok.

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With my little 1500 watt heater on high and 40 o F outside, the average temperature at waist level is about 70 o F, which isn’t bad. Up near the roof it’s in the mid-high 70s. It turns out the biggest problem is the floor. It started at about 55 o F, and has been slowly warming since I turned the heater from low to high up to about 58 o F. This is also not bad, since most heat escapes through the roof. The floor is insulated with 1/2″ or 3/4″ load-bearing foam insulation as you can see here:

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I kind of wish I used more, but actually it might be better than I didn’t. Keeping out cold is only a minor issue that’s easily compensated for with a little more electricity or propane. But in the summer, the cooler air below the yurt helps keep the temperatures down.

It’s nice to live in something I built myself, and never more so when it’s beating the elements and keeping me cozy. It continues to improve as a home and workspace, and I feel pride every day in my little round experiment. How many people can say that?

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The 12-Hour Winter Wonderland

I’ve frequently said that the only justification for winter is snow, and we finally got some here in Austin last night!

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“But aren’t you freezing your ass off in the yurt?” you ask? Actually, the yurt has been pretty cozy in the cold, and I’ll give some details to prove it in my next post. Yurts are stellar for cold climates, and many people use them in Alaska.

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This is more cold and photogenic than Junior has ever been! Good thing I changed that glow plug and re-charged the batteries!

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I’ve been fighting the strong urge to hibernate for weeks. I’m never at lower productivity than in Texas winters. I’ve mostly been playing Ori and the Blind Forest and watching Stranger Things on Netflix.

Nothing gets people forwarding my blog post like adorable animal pictures, and Lee’s mustangs Dixie and Daisy were happy to oblige! So cute!

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I had to get up early to get these shots, because the snow is already melting. I’m glad I got a bit of White Christmas first!

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A Plethora of Options for Mapping Out My Mind

I want a mind map driven task manager for someone with a Mac laptop and an Android phone.

My life is much too complicated to manage without a digital brain, but the last thing I want to do is face the fact that I have too many interests and not enough time. My To Do list scares the hell out of me, which is why I only really use it for shopping lists. I know I’d get a lot more done if I could ride herd on my long list of intentions better, so I’m looking for a new tool. Enter mind maps.

Scott's Life

Mind maps are a way of seeing ideas that fits better into my brain. Like any worthwhile viewpoint, *I* am at the center, and major points of interest radiate out from there. Ideas flow into each other the way I think about them, instead of as collection of lists. But, with the right software, tasks I want to do related to these ideas can be converted into task lists. That last part, connecting the two technologies, is the part that seems hardest to pull off, particularly as a Apple user.

There’s quite a variety of free and for-pay apps for mind mapping. So far I’ve examined FreeMind, XMind, and Mindomo. The tricky part is the integration with the task management software.

Specifically what I want is to be able to create tasks from either the mind map on my laptop or the task manager on my phone and have them automatically synchronized. I think the mind map will provide the high-level coordination my system has been missing. I’ve also seen a good case for using all-day tasks in Google Calendar as a task list, because it allows one to see their tasks and calendar on the same page.

At the moment I’m leaning toward XMind Free to start with. It’s fully featured, open source, and free, and will get me started. For around $100 it has project management features that would be useful for my game development process also. There are also third-party plug-ins that automatically sync with popular task managers, but so far the only ones I’ve seen run on Windows, not OS X.

If necessary, I will manually do the syncing to try the whole system. I can create categories or tags in ToodleDo or Google Calender/Tasks for each node on the Mind Map. I will then have to manually keep them in sync by checking them completed in each location, etc. Once I decide if the system generally has merit, I can then do a free 30 day trial and see if I can accomplish the same thing automatically before forking over my cash.

I’ll keep you posted as to my results, and I’m open to suggestions about what works for other people.

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Double Low-Carb Pound Cake Muffins

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One of the biggest struggles in living small is trying to fit a full sized kitchen into a 113 sq. ft. living space. These delicious low-carb pound cake muffins have been a staple of my low-carb diet for quite a while, but only half a pan of muffins would fit in my small combo oven, until today!

I tried using the included rack to stack another half pan on top, and it worked! The thing I most dislike about this oven it that it doesn’t seem to support turning off the convection fan. Convection is great for meat and veggies, but terrible for baking. Although it evens out the temperature, it also causes the outside to cook faster than the inside. This is why I use a muffin pan instead of a normal pound cake tin. However, this oven only has burners on top, so if it *didn’t* use the convection fan, it’s almost certain the top muffins would be burned and the bottom ones would be under-done.

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There’s no way to disable the fan with the oven’s built-in controls, so I’ve been thinking about installing a manual switch just for that. It also occurs to me, though, that simply baking at a lower temperature for a longer period of time might fix the problem also. I’d get the more even heat of a convection bake, but there would be more time for the heat to penetrate into the inside of larger baked goods instead of just burning the outside. I’ll try some experiments and report back.

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