Hops flowers!

Stopped by the hops tower today and saw some of the first hops flowers showing up!

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I don't think they've been there for very long, but I'm glad some showed up. After all the growing the vines have been doing, I was starting to wonder if any were going to show up. Did a bit of research a couple weeks ago and learned that there are male and female vines, and only the female vines produce the hops flowers/cones.

I'll watch these grow and see what they turn into.

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Wrapping up the Edmonton trip

Today is my last full day in Edmonton, and it's been a great trip, but it seems like it just flew by. Took the Basic and Advanced Canadian Amateur Radio certification tests yesterday and passed both of them. Met up with a couple of friends from my grad school days and had a good lunch with them.

Spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the U of A campus looking at all the changes. So many new buildings popping up among the old familiar ones that I know. It's a very different place from when I was a student there.

A couple more errands today, and it will be time to wrap things up and get ready to head back to Charleston. Flight leaves at 8AM tomorrow, and I'll be back in Charleston late afternoon.

Sad to be leaving, but it will be good to get back to Charleston.

Family photos

Got a few photos back from the photographer from Saturday's photo session near the Muttart Conservatory. Apparently the Muttart doesn't allow professional photography shoots unless they're booked in advanced, so we ended up heading out onto some of the nearby walking trails to take photos. I think it worked out better. The weather was great and the scenery on the trails was very nice with the leaves starting to turn colour.

This is the first time we've all been together in the same place at the same time in about 9 years.

Family reunion

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It was a good day, and it was good being back together again even though it was only for the day.

After a mostly uneventful flight from CHS->DFW->YEG (the inbound flight at DFW was late getting in, so we ended up leaving about 20 minutes late), I made it in to Edmonton safe and sound.

My rental car ended up getting upgraded to a Kia Sedona mini-van because that was pretty much all they had left by the time I got there. Pretty sure you could cram a couple dozen people into this thing with room to spare.

After a quick stop at a Bell Mobility store to pick up a SIM card to use in my phone while I'm here, it was off to meet my friends Joe, Alexa and Tom at a Boston Pizza in St Albert.

Mmmm, Great White North.

Joe and Alexa are nice enough to let me stay with them again, which I greatly appreciate. Always nice to be able to stay with friends while I'm in town.

Not too much on the schedule yet, although that will change soon. Already have most of Saturday booked up with the family and a few other things I need to schedule over the week. The rest of my time I'll get to play tourist and do some exploring again. Looks like I'm just in time to see the leaves start changing colour. That will be cool, it's been a while since I've seen that.

With any luck, by the time I leave Edmonton, I'll also have my Canadian Amateur Radio Certificate.

On September 30, I will become a naturalized US Citizen. Connie and I will be celebrating the occasion over at Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ in West Ashley. You're welcome to stop by at your leisure to join us for drinks and some of their yummy BBQ. We'll be there from 7:30 PM to 9ish. Stop by and hang out with us a bit!

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Sampling Trader Joe's Poutine

A little while ago, I learned that Trader Joe's sells poutine in their freezer section. I was somewhat skeptical about the product, but it got a favourable reaction from the website I saw it on, and from one of my friends that tried it out. On a recent trip out to the Trader Joe's around here, Connie picked up a package, and we tried it out this evening.

Disclaimer: I grew up in Western Canada, and as far as I knew at the time, poutine was never a thing in Edmonton. I'd heard of it, but never saw it anywhere. Fries and gravy was easy to find (and was a lunch time staple during high school), but not poutine. I have very little experience with poutine.

Trader Joe's poutine is a bag of frozen french fries, a pouch of cheese curds, and a pouch of gravy (they call it beef sauce).

Trader Joe's poutine

Frozen french fries ready for baking

Pouch of cheese curds, and a pouch of gravy

The instructions are pretty simple. Bake the fries at 425°F (about 220°C) for 20-25 minutes, and put the pouches of curds and gravy into a pot of just barely simmering water to thaw them out. You'll want to keep an eye on the pouches, especially the cheese curds. If you leave them in the water too long, or let the water get too hot, you end up with a mass of molten cheese rather than individual curds. My pouch of curds ended up a bit on the melty side, but the individual curds were still mostly separable.

When the fries are baked golden brown and delicious, put them all on a plate, cut open the pouch of curds, and sprinkle them over the fries.

Fries and curds

Cut open the pouch of gravy (not sauce) and spread over the fries and curds (careful not to burn yourself).

Poutine!

Serve right away while everything is still hot.

I dug in and was pleasantly surprised. The gravy, although thinner than I prefer, was actually pretty tasty and sort of reminded me of the fries and gravy I used to eat for lunch at the mall. The curds were pretty good, squeaky as they should be. The package is easily enough to serve 3-4 people, although one hungry person wouldn't have a problem finishing the whole thing off.

I don't know if I really get the whole poutine thing, but that's probably because I never grew up with it. I can't say how good Trader Joe's poutine is compared to any other poutine, but I'd totally buy another package just to do fries and gravy with.  As fries and gravy, Trader Joe's has a pretty decent product here. I might reduce the gravy down a little bit, or do something else to thicken it up a little more, but otherwise it's pretty good.

Ugly construction attempt

My first attempt at building a circuit using the ugly construction technique. It's supposed to be a simple oscillator circuit using a J310 transistor.

Ugly construction oscillator circuit

One of the advantages of ugly construction is that if you're working from a schematic or circuit drawing, building is pretty easy. I found that soldering components to the copper clad required a bit of patience, because it's essentially a very large heat sink. Put the soldering iron on the copper clad, add solder until you get a good sized pool, leave the soldering iron in place and place the component.

For this particular circuit, Vcc is applied to the big resistor with the free lead and output is off the capacitor with the free lead. I soldered on a piece of wire to make the ground connection easier. Haven't applied power to test it out yet. Will see if it works later on.