All posts by kirsch

The Kirsch Sukkah

For the first time since I became a self-sufficient adult and incentivized by the lockdown to have another place to be in, we built a sukkah (סוכה‎) for… yes, you got that right: Sukkoth (סוכות‎).

When it comes to building a sukkah, there’s two ways to go:

  1. McGyver-style, using nothing but a swiss-army knife and raw unprocessed materials, which takes way too much work and aren’t reusable. I want a sukkah but not this badly.
  2. Get a pre-made kit, which you can reuse but I’m waaay too cheap to buy. And if you procrastinate like I do, they sell out anyway.
Thanks, but no thanks.

So for all the many readers of The MKX® and other people searching the Internet for instructions on “how to build a sukkah”, this is how I made a really nice, inexpensive, easy to build, reusable sukkah.

Get a canopy with walls

This is the key ingredient. When I bought it it had a nice discount so it was a bit over $200. It comes with walls, and neatly folds into a nice bag with wheels. Buy it in whatever color you want (I got white). Note that the walls attach to the roof using velcro, and I obviously don’t use the roof. So this is a problem.

Unlike most pre-made sukkot, this thing is light, sturdy, and comes as a single piece. No construction or tools needed!

The delight of seeing the future sukkah for the first time.
So easy to assemble even these clowns can do it.

Grommet kit

$12 from Home Depot. Since the walls attach to the fabric roof using velcro, I needed an alternative. Enter this grommet kit. I made 5 holes on each wall – right on the aforementioned velcro – so I can attach the fabric walls to the structure of the canopy. This part took the longest but is also the one part I won’t have to repeat next year.

Serious people trying to figure out how to use the grommet kit.
My signature “not too shabby” face. It all ended up looking quite professional, if I must say it myself.

Zip ties

One of the best things since sliced bread, zip ties are your friend. Buy a big bag and use them to hang the walls and just about anything you need. Apply them generously, mostly because they are so incredibly satisfying.

S’chach

The roof, perhaps the most important aspect of a sukkah is where it could all have gone wrong. My gardener Carlos didn’t come through with palm leaves, and the pre-made kosher roll up s’chach (סכך) would have cost around $300 for my 10×10 area.

My buddy Dajman gave me the ultimate tip: 6 ft. H x 16 ft. W Natural Reed Garden Fencing from Home Depot, $25. Perfect 👌🏻.

Unroll two of these on the to of the sukkah and you’re good to go. Didn’t even need to tie them.

Finishing touches

Add a few string lights and decorations and hang them with those zip ties that are sooo satisfying and… voilà!, we have a festival in our hands. Chag Sameach!

The canopy comes with an extra wall with a roll-up wall. I chose not to use it so the sukkah feels more open.

Apple Watch Series 6 ad

The new Apple Watch is out. I was very surprised by a very familiar sight at the beginning of the ad… as in: most mornings this is what I see familiar.

When did she shoot this? How much was she paid?

Screenshot
The full ad

Streaks Appear

After hundreds of scanned photos, I noticed streaks in the photos. I looked at the original prints and the lines weren’t there. Looking at more photos, it became obvious that the issue was in the scanner. Was my fancy toy broken so soon?

My bobe’s 80th birthday party, 1995. The lines are way more obvious in the full resolution images.

No, it turns out that the frequent warnings in the manual and in the software about cleaning the scanner often were legitimate. Turns out that dragging thousands of ancient photos through, many of them with glue residue in the back, gets things dirty.

Surely enough, a bit of wiping with the bundled microfiber cloth made the issue go away.

Pro tip: clean the scanner often.

And now, with a clean scanner.

And now what?… redo all the bad scans or no? It’s about 2000 photos.

I suppose if I don’t do it now, nobody will ever do it. Deep breath, roll sleeves up, and redo the bad scans. At least I’m now getting the hang of it.

The great Scanning project

For several years I watched the thousands of photos stored away in a closet at my parents’ house slowly rot away, the colors of my childhood fading. I wanted to digitize them all, in order to freeze the color decay.

Phase I

About three years ago, Phase I of The Great Scanning Project started: to manually remove the photos one-by-one from those old-school sticky albums so they can be scanned, trasferring any hand-written captions in the process. For this I recruited Griselda who spent about a week working full time on this. And so all the photos went into boxes ready to be scanned.

Boxes full of memories, waiting to be digitized. I estimate about 3000-4000 memories in each.

On a later trip, my parents drove up from Mexico with two giant boxes and two small boxes full of photos, some from my great grandparents and dating all the way back to the 1920s.

Phase II

Phase II of The Great Scanning Project is to get them into a computer. There are several scanning services out there, but I had so many photos that it would cost several thousands of dollars – and even if I wanted to pay it, the photos were too sticky and curled up that they’d just be rejected or damaged. I had to take matters into my own hands.

After much research, I chose the Epson FF-680W. It can scan photos at high resolution at about 1 photo per second, and you can just put a stack of them and let it do its job. But still, it’s a lot of work and who has the time?

Then the COVID-19 Pandemic hit: Stuck working from home, I can feed photos to the scanner in the background while in meetings. I’ll never have a better opportunity. No more excuses.

One of the large boxes, open. Under those two rows of photos there are another two rown of photos. That’s a lot of photos!

I’m about 20% done with 1857 photos scanned at 600 dpi. Some great gems in there so far. Let’s see how long it takes me to finish and how many hard drives I’ll need to buy.

Scanning baby photos of my grandfather. I started with the oldest (and toughest, I think) photos: before the world standardized on 6″ by 4″. Unlike the newer ones, these black and white photos still look great.

Future

The photos are just getting scanned right now. I have yet to deal with fixing rotation, restoring color, adding rough dates, and identifying people. Ideally, in an automated fashion or close as can be. Then, figure out the best way to share with family. I suspect none of this will happen right away.

For now… keep on scanning.

Things that have broken since the pandemic started

In no particular order.

  • One burner of the electric stove
  • Microwave
  • Fridge
  • Garage door opener (door 1)
  • Garage door (door 2)
  • My wife’s car’s AC
  • My wife’s car’s tire, not patchable
  • AC (clogged drain line)
  • My iPhone (water in Face ID and main camera)

Gorditas de harina

As a boy in Monterrey, I grew up eating “gorditas de harina”. This is a regional pastry that is either not known in most of Mexico or whatever they call by this name is very different. For me, there were two gold standards:

First and best, those made by Fernanda at my grandmother’s house, where I’d down them by the dozen (not healthy). She retired around 25 years ago and I never had them again.

Second best were those made by Chelito at the JCC (aka “el Club”). Loving members of my family would bring me large frozen packages of them up until she retired about two years ago.

So I was surprised when my aunt Jenny shared Chelito’s recipe:

In Chelito’s very own handwriting.

They’re easy enough to make even for someone as useless around the kitchen as me (Ilán helped, though). And it seems like baking is the thing to do in a pandemic, and if my aunts can do it so can I. I am capturing it here for posterity.

Gorditas de Chelo

  • 1 kg flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (Rexal)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can of unsweetened evaporated milk (Carnation Clavel)
  • 400 g lard / vegetable shortening (Crisco)

Pour flour, baking powder, sugar in a bowl. Add lard and mix with fingers. Add eggs. Finally, add evaporated milk. Mix well. Let it rest for a few minutes. Make balls and use roller to give the desired shape (~12 inch circle, thick). Cook on a griddle.

Ingredients, adjusted for English system: single 2 pound bag of flower (a bit less) and 2/3 sticks of vegetable shortening (a bit less). This should have made the recipe a tad sweeter but it was fine.

If you make them, let me know! I’ll make more soon, since my batch lasted only two days.

Austin FC stadium progress

I don’t have my season tickets yet. But the construction of the stadium is coming along very nicely.