Monday, May 17, 2010

Biodiesel, Burmese Food, and Bands

As the sun rose, I clambered into Pat's van on Saturday. I agreed to ride with him to Purcellville, Virginia so he could buy a kit to make his own biodiesel through transesterification. A Purcellville local sold the kit of storage drums that were linked together on a wooden structure. He talked to Pat for an hour about lye, methanol, and vegetable oil. I listened from inside the van and only hopped out to ask about toxicity. The man agreed with me that the chemicals, especially the methanol, could be toxic. Create biodiesel with caution. He, however, reassured me that it'd be safe for animals. I may not be a scientist, but Pat's dogs need to avoid the lye.

I appreciate Pat's efforts to make fuel and to be energy independent. The formula for producing biodiesel only involves three ingredients. Little things can cause problems, though. If water gets into the mix of lye and methanol, even from the humidity in the air, you end up with soap instead of fuel.

The engine of Pat's van is already converted to run on either veggie oil or diesel. Pat has taken several trips in it relying on filtered veggie oil as a primary fuel source. Unfortunately, the veggie oil takes a while to heat up enough to be usable for fuel, so it isn't functional for short trips. Now, he can use his biodiesel for short trips and, potentially, for future cars. No one needs to get his or her diesel vehicle converted to use the biodiesel.

After placing the equipment in the back of Pat's van, Pat and I explored Purcellville. It's a small town. We parked next to a park hosting the Purcellville Heritage Day Celebration, which basically consisted of kids riding donkeys around in a circle and wine tastings. We walked past the festival for a mile and discovered an amazing coffee place. I got a frozen, soy mocha coffee drink and Pat got a similar drink with crushed Oreos. Worth the walk.

We returned to DC in time to go to Mandalay, which is an incredible Burmese restaurant, for dinner! Burmese food is a cross between Indian and Thai food. I ordered the ginger salad, which is out of this world, and a noodle dish laden with potatoes, tofu, and spices. Some people's eyes go vacant when they hear the word "salad," but push images of limp greens aside. The ginger salad consists of julienned ginger, shredded cabbage, and bamboo shoots in a spicy sauce of hot pepper flakes, sesame seeds, lemon juice, garlic oil and rice vinegar. The tangy sweetness of the ginger contrasts with the fieriness of the sauce, while the crunch of the cabbage adds texture. Mandalay tops the salad off with some crushed peanuts and fresh herbs. I always sprinkle on some extra dried, hot pepper flakes. Thinking of that salad makes my mouth water.

Pat's band Rations played on Saturday night at the Corpse Fortress with Troops of Tomorrow, Dry Spell, Pistol Bitch, and Lion of Judah. I watched Rations from the stairs and had a great view of everyone playing. Rations now has a tape of their demo and t-shirts available for sale. A friend, Gary, had done a two-page interview of Parsons, the singer for Rations, which was positive. Gary passed the interview out at the show like a one-paper zine. Parsons joked as he waved the paper that he'd started his own one-paper scrapbook. I had fun and the show wrapped up by midnight.

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