Category Archives: Kitchen

TV Shows to binge-watch 

On Acorn

Antipodian: New Zealand:

800 Words“,  Suddenly a widower, an Australian writer moves with his kids to the NZ village he spent summers in as a kid. Complications ensue. Great stories, charming characters, excellent writing and acting, several seasons.

Brokenwood Mysteries“,  Brokenwood, a medium size town in NZ, gets a new senior detective, colorful but as it happens, good at his job. Slightly flaky-seeming local Maori guy turns out to know everyone and something about everything. He’s like a benificent Trickster god. Detective Sims, 2nd most senior, is the only actual adult in the plain-clthes part of the station.

Antipodian: Australian:

Rain Shadow“, – a former grain-growing area of South Australia now in drought. Perminently? Story follows a young vet from the big city

Crownies“, – Crown Prosecuturs: Ensemble, very long-form stories, each lawyer has multiple cases moving at different points in the system. 
Janet King”  (sequel to Crownies), Crownies refashioned to center on one lawyer in particular, and with a brilliant freienemy mixed in
Jack Irish“. A winning, low-rent PI, only takes cases he wants…
Mr. and Mrs. Murder” – mostly comedy, two crime-scene cleaners show up after the cops are done, but often discover what really happened. The couple are charming and their neice keeps it in the family. The slightly hapless cop they are consistantly bailing out is at least grateful for the help

My Life Is Murder” – A retired ace detective neglects her baking to come back to the force, from time to time, solving crimes her old boss can’t get cleared by anyone else. Stars Lucy Lawless, formerly Xena, Warrior Princess.


Striking Out” lawyer drama, wonderful cast and writing- Brief adult situations. 2 seasons!
Finding Joy“, – a lot of the same cast as Striking Out.. Newspaper copy editor suddenly assigned to local-color TV reporter’s beat. Bungie Jumps, New Age retreats. Serious fish out of water.
The miniseries of Tara French’s In The Woods and The Image. Really, really, dark, but gripping.
Jack Taylor” about a former Guardi working as a private investigator. Noir-ish.


No Offense” – perfect cop comedy drama, funny as hell. But bad bad guys are in earnest, dark stuff happens. Story arcs are season-long but each episode has a point and arc of its own. Inspector Deering leads her squad with if-it-isn’t-true-it-ought-to-be-true verve. Mostly.
Ackley Bridge” – luminous comedy / drama about public school for a mixed stone poor Anglo and stone poor Pakistani imigrant/2nd generation community. Colorful cast of teachers and administrators. Superb writing and acting. We didn’t expect a 3rd season, but there is! and we’re enjoying it. Drop dead funny, and heart-breaking when it gets dramatic. An amazing amount of characters and their lives are stuffed into each episode.
Loch Ness“, the protagonist detective is leading her first murder investigation, on the shore and environs of the famous Loch. Her husband does “Nessie” tours for tourists, and gets a bit of education too.
Agatha Raisin” – former fashonista / publicity person moves to the Cotswalds and starts solving murders. The senior local cop is utterly incompitent, but she can work with the junior, and local worthies. Some of the outfits Agatha gets to wear may perimently damage older TVs…
Murder (Investigation) Squad“,  – London- based squad similar to Vera Stanhope’s Northumberland and City bunch- different people with different skills, one old-school white guy in a coat and tie, Inspector is a short, intense woman, her bagwoman is a taller, quieter Mc(something), not quite as driven. This is a DENSE show- You get more in one hour than some 2 hour or multi-part shows.”Line of Duty“. Anti-corruption/internal affairs procedural, in Northern Ireland. Complex plots.”The Good Karma Hospital” British doctor returns (?) to India, running a clinic with volunteer locals, ex-pats and returning migrants. Engaging stories move around the location of the hospital. 



19-2” as good as TV gets, but dark. A country cop with back-story moves to Montreal, teams with a city cop who’s former partner was disabled in a horrific shooting. Each has to prove himself to the other, while meeting their own high personal standards. And avoiding the machinations of the creepy captain. Crimes tend to be smaller and involve less gunfire than US cop shows- sometimes they get called for a fight in a bar, and assualts, property crimes, public safety and the usual sorta-organized illegal stuff you expect in a big city. One story starts with a homeless guy who’s outdoors, that the city cop knows. on a clear night that’s going to freeze. He should be indoors… and there-in lies the tale.

We loved the first episode, and thought, “lets have another, even if they can’t all be *that* good”. But they *are* that good. Each better than the one before. Stories build and interconnect. The characters, and the rest of their station (19th precinct, they have car #2) have stuff going on, and histories. Substance abuse, domestic violence, everyone’s stupid problems and the cops own relationship issues offer a range of situations that don’t go as hoped, or planned. There are losses, and hurts that don’t heal quickly.  Yet, after 4 seasons, and the cruel and senseless challenges that most survive, there’s the matter of an out of season deer carcas that the country cop’s brother arrives with one night. Its cleaned and hanging in the back of the tractor-trailer the brother drives for a living.  The short term solution involves packages wrapped in pink butcher’s paper, but one of the cops at the station has a venison pie recipe… and there’s the happy ending!


Rebecka Martinsson” A detective from the forest and lakes part of the country is about to marry a guy from the big city, then things get complex and she has to stay where she grew up and get it all sorted out. Beautiful locations, a smaller town with more rural and less agricultural land than Wallander.

Straight Forward” A second-generation con-artist flees Denmark when her father is killed, going to ground in New Zealand and trying to rescue her daughter…

Megahertz Network / Cable channel 17:

Beck” – Swedish detective squad led by older widower, nearing retirement. Comedic relief by his wacky neighor- guy with orange-tinted glasses who always appears with a neck brace, like he just had whiplash… usually meeting inconveniently in the hallway or out on the balconies of their flats. Beck’s squad has a hot-dog guy who’s cynical but a good shot, a female nerd, normalish plainclothes dudes and one  guy clearly descended from Vikings- wild red hair and beard, He’s the emotional one. Beck has a daughter who’s a uniformed cop. Not as bleak as “Wallander,”

Baantjer“: Dutch detective, older guy, younger team, like “Beck”, or “Wallander” come to think of it.

Inspector Manara“: Groovy Italian detective, has a Zappa poster up in his apartment  and plays solo saxaphone to soothe his soul.


Animal shows, In order of best and most soothing staff and animals.

Bronx, NY, Zoo:

Chester, UK, Zoo:

Columbus, OH, Zoo:

Want more?

Houston, TX, Vet Clinic:

San Diego, CA, Zoo:

Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Aus. :

The Georgia Aquarium, GA


Big Little Lies“, both seasons. Very dark. Spectacular cast and writing, set in Monterey! Extra intense 2nd season goes past the source book and brings in Meryl Streep!

Six Feet Under” The unexpected death of the owner/father of a family morturary in L.A. leaves his widow, their 3 kids and the partner in the business, mourning, and existentially challenged. The painfully disfunctional family have to pull together,  with the partner, to chart their own course for the business. And as idividuals, to build new lives with or without significant others. It takes 63 episodes, in 5 seasons, to figure it out, with one of the coolest end-of-the-last-episode-endings ever made.

Tremé,” set in the neighborhood of the same name in New Orleans, starting some months after Huricane Katrina. The superb cast and writing show how great TV can be made from stories of normal people trying to make a living and stay relatively honest in tragic times. Great food and music never hurt, even when the apocolypse has come and gone. Death is still in business. Love isn’t always enough. But even a character who seems to only be for themself can find some redemption, doing something for someone else.

The Wire“, further proof that good TV is character and story driven. One season follows one character into his new career as a public school teacher. No superheroics, just seemingly hopeless disfunction only occasionally redeemed by small success. Or rare grace. And yet. Andre Royo, the actor who portrays the recovering heroin adict, “Bubbles”, so intensely inhabited his role that people, in Baltamore, would see him on the street and press money on him, because he *was* that character, and that character needed the help. The good guys are good, the bad guys bad, and like any story it has to end. After far too much death and destruction. Besides its quality as art, the practical tutorial on drugs, crime, poverty, hollowed city centers and race is well worth your time.


Masterpiece detective procedurals:

Vera“, “Shetland“, “Broadchurch“,(UK version), “Foyle’s War


I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” A gentler, “Parts Unknown”: travel+food

KQED’s “Check Please Bay Area”

On PBS and also on Acorn:

BBC’s venerable: “Doctor Who” The new Doctor had her break-out role in Broadchurch (UK).
Endeavor“, – Inspector Morse prequil. Interesting stuff, but the imagined Morse is a bit of a stretch, the senior Inspector he works with is fun, as is the young officer Strange and young medical examiner.
Inspector Lewis“,
Inspector Morse
Last Tango In Halifax“.
New Tricks“, An active duty detective gets assigned to cold cases and recruits 3 retired detectives as her squad. They’re all characters, the cold cases are a wide range, and the retirees change, and then the lead detective, as the seasons run on. Watch from the beginning if you can.

Recently, at our house, on cable TV:

Last week BBC miniseries “Pride and Predjudice”: (Collin Firth)
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – Fred Rogers’ biopic.
“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”
“The Best of Enemies” (recent, not David Niven WWII movie)
“Pride and Predjudice”: (2005 Kira Knightley)
“A Star is Born” (most recent version)
at a theatre: “Onward”
Before that: “Parasite”
We enjoyed “The Bridge” (Texas/Mexico) and “The Tunnel”, UK/France, both of which are very, very dark, though also very good

Don’t Forget: (From our DVD collection)

“Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With TIme”
“My Neighbor Totoro”
“A Grand Day Out With Wallace and Gromit”
“Porco Rosso”
“Spirited Away”
“Howl’s Moving Castle”
“Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams”
“A Taxing Woman”
“Hidden Fortress”
“Seven Samarai”
“Le Mans” (Steve McQueen, 1970 = sequel to “Ford Vs. Ferrari”, in some ways…)
“Endless Summer” (Bruce Brown, mid 1960s)
“The Kids Are Allright” (The Who’s biopic, ending just before Keith Moon’s death)
“The Way Things Go” (31 minute Rube Goldberg machine made of industrial junk in a dis-used industrial space)


Stay safe!

On to my next adventure

Besides the Inauguration of President Obama, January 20, 2009, was also notable because LTX-Credence had a Reduction In  [work]Force (RIF) and I am off to my next adventure.

Terrific support from my wife,  son, co-workers, friends and former co-workers has poured in.  And I’m focusing on being a homemaker, as long as the opportunity is here.

More soon.

One-handle temperature and volume control faucets. hours-of-darkness plumbing repairs :^)

So my sweetest Jean calls me at work and says that the kitchen sink started spraying water everywhere and when she got Benjamin’s attention, he turned off the taps under the sink while she held the handle and mixing valve assembly in place… and this situation will prevent the dishes from being washed, because the dishwasher is on the same taps… should they do the dinner dishes in the bathtub?

Along with “going to work” and “paying taxes”, you can add “hours-of-darkness plumbing repairs” to the real list of “Adult Subjects”! No, I’ve never seen this stuff in any movie or book either…

Now we’ve been around this bend a couple times already- there’s a disconcerting ‘loseness’ in the handle and then the whole business comes off in your hand and water from the supply pipes is shooting up and bouncing off the valve. There’s a retaining collar that holds the valve down on top of the common gasket for hot and cold in, and the path out to the spout. When the collar backs itself out, it, the valve and the handle are free… and you have to disassemble the combination before you can put it back where it belongs.

Fortunately, it was a weekend and daylight the first time this happened. By trying every other possible tool, I determined that the grub screw holding the handle to the valve is a Torx #10, and took it apart. A low-quality stamped steel ‘wrench’ purchased for large plumbing threaded stuff can sorta get a grip on the retainer’s flats, helped by a dishtowel to protect the pretty, chromed, brass retainer that can’t really be seen once its all togther. I go to finger-tight with my fingers first- really oughta buy a wide, wide, spanner set or adjustable wrench. My beloved brother Ian, a far more accomplished constructor, mechanic and fix-it guy than I, calls the Crescent style adjustable wrench, “The wrong tool for every job”. And he carries ’em in his tool boxes just like I do… but I digress.


I had a feeling that the valve and its faucet would require more maintenance after the first time it came apart, if for no other reason than the thick, heavy, rubber seals for in and out flows in the valve body are far from pristine looking… but nothing blocked the flow too bad, and the sink would be ‘down’ if I took the valve off to the hardware store for new seals… so I never did. This kind of procrastination seldom actually fixes anything, or prevents the wear and tear of the physical world, and so it was in this case. I’d probably enjoyed taking it apart and putting it back together 2 or 3 times before this latest one.

But this time was different. Sure enough, the retainer had backed out and I found the Torx set and started working on it, but I noticed that the handle didn’t move as freely as I was used to… and sure enough, when it was all apart, no question, the valve was binding when the handle rotated or moved fore and aft to open or close the common flow passage… and that’s how it was coming undone- with a little binding, torque exerted to move the valve was finding its way to the retainer, and unscrewing it.

Ok, that explains that, now what? The valve is a clear-plastic gizmo with three rubber-bushing-sealed holes in the bottom, and a set of bumps and indendations that prevent it from rotating against the common gasket in the spout column. The outer casing is more than one piece of clear plastic, glued together, with a pair of ceramic plates, the lower one fixed in place, with two input and one output hole through it. The upper plate moves, and has indentations, but not holes through it. Lining up the indentations in the top over the holes in the bottom allows water to flow. The two ceramic surfaces are so flat and perfectly fitted to each other that they prevent water flowing unless an indentation is over a hole, but can slide back and forth.

Ours, however, weren’t sliding, and it was easy to see why. Some black or dark gray plastic piece that had been in the top of the cartridge was wearing out and its remains were stuck in the space at the top that the lever moved in. Black stuff had also built-up in on the ceramic sealing surfaces, so operating the valve with the handle was difficult, and just about impossible without the handle for mechanical advantage.

To make a long story short, this valve “cartridge” follows the (loose) conventions for “European” 40mm single-handle faucet cartridges- it is, for example, 40mm in diameter. There are a number of different cartridges and cartridge parts for sale in Berkeley and Oakland, at Ace Hardware stores, Orchard Supply, etc, but I haven’t found any American Standard 40mm “European” style replacements yet. Have to look harder, try the internet I suppose.

So here it is, midnight, and I’ve got this thing in my hand and the sink doesn’t work. Two choices- put it all back together as is, not functional, and turn on the water so the dishwasher can run, or try to fix it here late in the night. Of course I opted to try to fix it.

There’s a pair of bosses that the lever passes through and a roll pin serves to keep it all in place and provide a pivot. I drove the pin out with a bamboo teriyaki skewer, and had more loose pieces, but wasn’t any closer to the guts where the trouble was. It was time to apply wisdom others have taught me.

My friend Ted Brattstrom is a great tinkerer and taker-apart of old stuff. Long ago he taught me that if you find something that’s not working, and looks dirty or in need of cleaning, taking the thing apart and cleaning it gently but thoroughly, then re-assemble it. In better than half the cases, the item will work when re-assembled. Maybe not well, maybe you’ll know its got only a bit more useful life, maybe you’ll know to be VERY gentle with it, but it will work. But I couldn’t get inside the clear plastic bit to clean out scraps of plastic junk that was getting in the way, nor could I figure out how, precisely, the valve worked. Eventually I concluded there was no alternative to cleaning it as best possible as it was, and trying to understand it, and perhaps if that worked, the faucet would work too.

So I filled the open spaces and my palms with liquid soap and started trying to separate all the crud off the good pieces and float it out. I poked with my bamboo skewer. I flipped it over and saw all the black plastic bits that had built up on the ceramic surfaces, and scraped them with the bamboo. Between soap, scraping and flush-outs at the bathroom sink, I got the sliding surfaces clean and most of the junk out of the top. A little work with tweezers and long nosed pliers got the rest. Now the valve was clean, moved as freely as it ever had, and I was confident I’d missed not possible way of takingit apart. I put the biggest piece of removed plastic back on a ‘nose’ sticking out from the upper, moving, ceramic piece, which was guided by the plastic ‘glove’ over this protuberance. I had to trim off some damaged pieces, and rinsedin the hottest water I could stand, put it all back together, and at about 2:30 started the dishwasher, secure that we could run the sink next morning.

A few days later if failed again, and the remains of the little plastic bit that guides the upper ceramic plate were now gone. Without the plastic’s guidence, the plate can rotate and the ‘nose’ can get entangled with other stuff inside the cartridge.

I sorted through all my considerable stash of plastic bits and pieces, but coulnd’t find anyhing right enough to replace what had worn out. Then it occured to me make something not exactly like the old part, but formed of bent styrene and capable of cushioning the parts without binding them, and guiding them gently. Alas, there wasn’t space for the pieces of plastic I had.

Then the penny dropped and I thought- Oh Yeah! I got a srip of brass the same width but thinner than the plastic I was using- .5mm or less, vs .75 or more for the plastic. It took two tries to bend a suitably shaped sheet-brass replacement bit, and it works great.

I still need a new cartidge, but I’ve brought this one back form the dead 3 or maybe 4 times now.