Book Review - Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans

For Christmas, my wife Sarah (who knows me all too well) gave me this book, which I dove into with great excitement and interest.

In their fascinating historically focused books, Kilmeade and Yaeger have hit upon a recipe for an engaging narrative. They weave their story around some of the most interesting characters - people we’ve all heard of, but the story takes us through a segment of their life that is little considered by the mainstream.

In this book, the central character is Andrew Jackson, who would eventually be the seventh President of the United States. During the War of 1812, considered by some to be a second War for Independence, Jackson worked hard to defend the port of New Orleans. This critical port was ideally placed for a young nation to grow. Losing it to the British, who might keep it or hand it back to other European powers, would eliminate the possibility of further westward growth of the United States, and also severely limit ocean-going commerce during and after the war.

The exciting narrative, with an incredible supporting cast of characters including Davy Crockett, will captivate any reader. The suspense is built by a careful introduction to the reader of the background and geographic importance of New Orleans. From there, scenes of battle, intrigue, and even piracy give a Technicolor spectacle that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The War of 1812 comes to live in this exciting narrative.

The Kohler Sink - 1 Year Later

It’s a cold day here at the homestead! Roughly 12 degrees or less on the thermometer, lots of wind and snow.

I realized the other day, we are coming up on a 1 year anniversary with our new Kohler kitchen sink. Last year, Sarah brought up the idea of replacing our kitchen sink. I was all for it, the old one was stainless steel and starting to look its age. With our hard water, it really adds to the dingy look.

You can read about that adventure here.

In the intervening year, Sarah put up a nice curtain to mask the under sink area, since we had to remove the cabinet doors. This is a nice touch that can be updated seasonally, adding color and personalizing the kitchen.

The biggest challenge has been keeping a white sink clean! We have found that Bar Keeper’s Friend is truly a lifesaver when dealing with the various marks that come from the pots, pans, and silverware. These marks look like scratches, but the enamel itself is not damaged. A quick scour with the Bar Keeper’s Friend will remove those marks very quickly. To avoid staining, we simply use bleach - a soft-scrub bottle with bleach will help keep the enamel clean and bright.

Kohler provides a small packet of paste cleanser that is specially formulated for their enamel products. My thought is that this is probably the best cleanser for the sink; but I haven’t got around to buying any yet, and the cleaners we’ve been using just work so well we’ve had no reason to change.

One year on, things are looking as sharp as ever. The hard water does a number on the hand sprayer, but thankfully those are cheap to replace when the time comes. Frequent vinegar usage will help keep the buildup to a minimum. A water softener is somewhere in our future, but there’s a few other things to do first.


Playing With Drones

A couple of months ago, we ventured to a ‘surplus store’ where they sell returned products at dramatically reduced prices. It was a lot of fun to peruse the aisles and see the random items that were available; a lot of the items may have come from WalMart or other similar stores. 

I was pretty intrigued by the drones they had. There were several different models, and the prices ranged from about $20 to $80. These were NOT DJI or other professional type drones. But rather that more toy style streaming drones. 

 Since I am interested in technology, and drones I thought it would be fun to pick one up. I made sure to get one that had its own controller because I knew that those are generally more responsive and capable. 


The one I got had decent flight and control capabilities: GPS for auto-takeoff and landing, along with telemetry in the remote control to provide back information about altitude, speed, compass heading and battery levels. 

The flight time on this drone was roughly 6-7 minutes, which is not great compared to most mid-level drones, but adequate for learning. Removing the video module saved on battery life enough to make it worth it - especially since the streaming video was very poor quality. Video is streamed over a WiFi connection to a smartphone app, and while the range was good the quality was just very poor. 

My first flight wasn’t so hot, as you can see. Never launch under a tree! Gradually, I got better at it., even flying one handed while I shot a video on my phone.

I really feel like this has been a great entry point into the exciting world of drones. They are so fun to fly, and terribly easy to crash - if you haven’t got a huge amount of money invested, then you can afford to be fearless. Graduate to something better when you’ve outgrown the cheap one, and have no regrets if you destroy it. 

My little drone currently needs a new propeller shaft, but it’s ready to fly again once I order it!