Life “on the road” can be tedious. There’s a whole lot of “things you must do” that are of little interest. Things like laundry, figuring out what restaurants are lousy, figuring out how to make a lunch without a kitchen, buying gas without any idea what stations are decent, flipping channels on “basic cable” and pondering a better class of hotel ;-)
The experienced Road Warrior “finds ways” to be self entertaining.
I’ve already done one posting on “Hotel Camping” and one of the bits of “kit” that worked well. This posting will have a picture of another one (the “Billy and a Burner”) along with an example of an ‘ersatz hobby’. Things you start to do partly just out of boredom and opportunity…
First off, the “Billy and a Burner”. In my road kit is a single electric burner that cost me something like $10 or so at a local grocery store. It works remarkably well for “hotel camping” with the only real “issue” being that the use of very small pans, like camping cups and such, can be a bit unstable on the burner as there are fairly wide openings between the loops of the coils. It is a common “issue” with all kinds of stoves and burners; having a pot support suited to the size pot you wish to use.
Too small a pot support and large frying pans are unstable as they are only supported in a small part of their diameter. Too large a pot support with too large a gap between elements and very small camp pots will ‘fall in’ (sometimes only on one edge, causing the pot to tip over and spill). It’s important to match the size of the pot to the particular burner. The electric one is fine for more or less ‘normal’ sized kitchen ware; but not for the very small micro sized cookware used for ultralight camping. Scale Matters. (We will see a different matter of scale below about ants…)
In this case, I’m using a “Coleman” brand stainless steel camping pot set of medium size. This is the ‘billy’ from it. The bail locks in place in the upright position (a nice feature to help prevent spilling, but steam can make it hot if lifted into position a bit too early.) Here’s a picture of that single burner with the billy pot in place. Note that the cored is a bit short, so it had to be wedged into a narrow triangle of counter between the sink and the wall.
So, partly out of necessity and partly out of a genuine interest in cooking; one of my “Hotel Hobbies” is trying different combinations of cookware and stoves / burners to see what works well, and what is not so good. What equipment ought to be added. In this case, a short ( 5 foot or 2 meter) power cord extension would have been handy, though I did OK without it.
My small sized pots ( about 10 cm in diameter) are too tippy on this burner, and on the Trangia alcohol stove; but work fine on the ceramic cooktop in my present Studio and on a Sterno Stove (fold up type). This Coleman medium sized cook set works fine on all of them (though as plain thin stainless steel, they are a bit more prone to food sticking). I made one of my favorite simple dishes in this example. One can of oysters, about a tbs of butter, some salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, add one can of milk. Turn the heat down and let things come up to just under a simmer again. Serve with crackers. Yum!
One of the things I do “on the road” is watch the local flora and fauna. For example: I think that just outside my room is kudzu. At some later time I’m going to check it against an identity key and then try cooking up a ‘mess o greens’…
One of the more odd bits of fauna in Florida are these “micro ants”. About the size of a bit of ground pepper, or a coffee grain that spilled. Sometimes you can only tell them from the dust bits due to them moving sometimes.
I’ve seen them in several hotels and homes here.
The thing is, they are just so damn polite. Makes ’em cute.
Being so small, they seem to be very fearful of just about everything. That means that a light tap on the counter and many of them run for cover. A few drops of water, they head for cover. (Not surprising, since I saw one get trapped inside a very small dinky drop of water that got splashed out of the sink. When surface tension is your enemy, learning to run from raindrops is a good idea!) A side effect of this is that they are rarely seen, and even then run for cover if disturbed.
So I saw a couple hanging out around the sink (in two different hotels). I decided to see if I could figure out what they like.
Ants generally are “sugar ants” or “grease ants”. So I put out a bit of sugar and a bit of fat / meat and waited. In the end, they mostly liked the sugary foods. But even then had a peculiar tendency to be ‘finicky’. Larger ‘drops’ of jelly or fruit juice seemed to scare them with the risk that surface tension or similar micro scale forces would trap and kill them. They liked a very thin film the best.
Yet they also showed some interest in Jerky. But that jerky had a semi-sweet finish, so it might still have been sugar. Oddly, mixing a bit of the oil and juice from an empty tuna can in with some jelly seemed to get them especially interested. Eventually, I left an ’empty’ plastic tub from some fruit laying on the side so that only a thin film of sugary stuff remained. This gave a nice surface to attempt some pictures. After leaving it out over night, enough of the shy little guys stayed in place when I turned the lights on so that I could get a decent picture.
I have no idea where they ants are from, or what their native habitat might be. I’ve only ever seen them in homes and hotels, typically on top of the counter in the kitchen, and only in very small numbers near very small food sources. Not swarms in the garbage can (even when it was all of 2 feet away under the counter – go figure… then again, having 1/2 your hive carted off when the trash is changed would strongly select against a lot of them going into a trash can… that, at their scale, is bigger than the Grand Canyon.)
So, with that, here’s a picture from further way showing the scale. The ants are the tiny little black dots on the plastic tub behind the pen.
I don’t mind the little guys at all, really. They are polite and get out of the way, only cleaning up the smallest of bits. They also let me know I’m not staying in a room soaked in toxic sprays. Something I’d be much more bothered by.
Here’s a close up. As good as I could get hand held with the Fuji Finepix.
It isn’t possible to see them this clearly with the naked eye.
I find it amazing that something so small is fully functional. They are on a scale where things like surface tension and van der Waals forces determine what happens. Where a very small bit of dew can be a death trap and where a salt grain sized bit of sugar is a meal for days. Yet on one occasion I made a smear of jelly and some added ‘tuna juice’ and left it for 2 days. They eventually ‘licked it clean’. What for me was about a 1/2 split pea sized bit of nothing, smeared flat so as not to be intimidating, was for them the feast of a lifetime. Taking days to clean it all up and pack it home.
So for a little while I had a “pet ant colony” to study and play with. In this case, the hotel was a Travelodge. ( I was going to ‘not tell’ so my little friends would not be at risk, but the pen shows their logo enough to recognize it…) The other hotel was a Motel 6. (I was not going to mention them by name either, but since I’ve named one I figure I ought to name the other.) I’m pretty sure that most folks would not even notice these guys, as they look like bits of dust until watched closely. Even then, they run for cover at the first vibrations of the counter or drops of “rain” / mist.
It is another whole thing to think about; to ponder what it says about Road Warriors, that watching ants in the room is sometimes the best entertainment around ;-) Yes, I’m in an entertainment mecca. But after a day at work, you don’t always want to be out in the hustle and bump. Looking for something a bit more introspective. Then noticing that “the dust moved”… then thinking “they are smaller than gnats” and “what could they be?”.
Who’ll Steam The Rain?
Finally, apropos the last posting about the nature of our water driven world and climate, and reflecting back on the even earlier posting about the sign of water vapor feedback being negative, not a positive feedback at all:
Today, about noon, I was working on the car. It was “beastly hot” in the sun. Just a couple of hours later, it clouded over and rained. This is the typical tropical pattern. Sunny and clear, evaporating water, that rises to make clouds and returns as rain. An enthalpy and vapor density driven heat pipe using steam to cool the planet. So while watching the rain start, I noticed strong steam coming off the parking lot and parked cars. I’ve done my best to capture it in these pictures (though I’ve down-rezzed them a bit for the posting). The steam looks like faint grey areas, sort of a milky haze in some places not in the others.
Here the steam is rapidly and obviously making a dramatic reduction in the pavement temperature and the temperature of the hot metal of the cars. The air temperature also cooled dramatically from the noon heat. Simple and obvious to anyone who wants to step outside in the afternoon rain. Water is the working fluid that cools our planet.
I don’t know how easy it will be to see, but here there is a puff of steam from the pavement that is rising behind and above the car. That’s a lot of latent heat in that steam cloud that is taller than me.
Hopefully you can see something in the pictures that looks like more than just a smudge ;-)
It is much more dramatic in “real life”. Obvious and clear. Water cools the planet. Added ‘radiative forcing’ just drives the water cycle faster, and that water cools the surface. Noon sun drives temperatures up to the point where water vapor and humidity rise, form clouds, and the rain falls cooling things by many whole degrees. Forget 1/10 C and 1/100 C is just insane. There’s a 10s of degrees process happening here, and it is cooling.
While I think the whole AGW “meme” is just “crazy talk” (since they have so many different bits of physics ‘exactly wrong’), IFF we ASSUME that there is more “radiative forcing” (a non-physical thing not found in my physics text book nor is there a metric unit of “forcing”… and calling it W/m^2 just dodges that THAT is a made up “force” based on assumptions) but if we ASSUME that it is real, all it will do is drive more water faster around the cycle. More of the world would become like the places folks love to vacation, and fewer would be cold miserable places or dry stinking deserts.
IMHO, even that won’t happen, as the reality is that the cycles are driven by changes of natural origin, changes of sea tides and ocean water distribution driven by the lunar cycles, and changes of UV vs IR levels (and where that energy goes in the water column) based on solar changes. In reality, we will see changes in the water cycle, but driven by purely natural processes.
Rather like watching tropical rains cool a solar heated parking lot once enough water is in the sky.
Such are the things that one can find to entertain themselves when in a hotel room. Without enough time or ambition to go out, but with not much more than Basic Cable as a “stay in” option. Things that make the mind wander…