Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shut up and play the hits

LCD Soundsystem probably isn't for everyone, but I was surprised by how many of their songs I had heard and liked, but didn't know it was them.  I decided to try and watch their concert documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits[?] for some reason or another and just finished.  I don't know that I would have made it through 3 dvd's of it if I had gone through netflix or bought this, but the 1:48 minute avi I found floating about on the internet was pretty good.  I have a strange love of concert/music documentaries (see Under Great Northern Lights and It might get Loud[?]) so this spoke to my quirky love of music.

Anybody got some other good concert documentaries I should watch?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Small updates and thankfulness

Well it was an uneventful thanksgiving (minus one parent having a meltdown and generally pissing everyone off) and it was amazing to spend so much time with my son over the long weekend.  He's just over a year old now, and I cannot believe how little "baby" I see in him.  He communicates somewhat with sign language, has clearly defined likes and dislikes, and is such a sweetheart.  Last night when my wife laid him down for bed he rolled over and blew her a kiss.

Lady Killer.  For real.  It's a good thing we not competing for the woman in our life, because I would loose daily.  For all that he's a boy, pushes boundaries at every turn, and has so little fear of anything.  I had two cell phones in my hands (kid loves the technology) and he wanted them, so I handed him one while I was trying to get directions on the other.  He kept reaching for the other one (it's screen was on so he wanted that one) and when I told him he hand one and pointed at the one in his hand, he looked at the phone and then looked me dead in the eye and chucked the phone out of his car seat!  He's barely mastered walking and he moved on to climbing.  Couches, chairs, stairs, baby gates, beds.  Yeah, I have smart and destructive monkey that runs around my house all day long.  He walks like a drunk circus clown, but he doesn't miss a thing.  You leave it in his arm reach he's going to find it, and chew on it.

Nothing is safe, but I like the evolving challenge of it all.

On the beer front, the american strong went into the barrel on Friday and that whiskey smells so amazing.  I need to get something brewing this weekend, but that seems like so much work to me right now.

My Soured Vanilla Bourbon Robust Porter needs to go into bottles, the Soured Oatmeal Stout needs to be bottled, and finally the small beer from the American Strong (3 gallons worth) needs to be bottled.  That's a lot of beer work that I'm talking about doing this week, so brewing again lands fairly low on the todo list for some reason.  I'm assuming that the American strong will only be able to last about 2 maybe 3 weeks in the barrel before the oak overwhelms it so if I do another beer this weekend it will be ready to go in the barrel in 8-14 days.  Hopefully  the second beer can sit on the oak a little longer than the first one so I can slow down a bit, otherwise I'm going to have to start recruiting the local bums to come drink my beer!  I mean friends, local friends.  I'm not sure I have enough bottles for almost 11 gallons of beer, I may have to keg some just for lack of space.  I made a gallon of the supper weak runnings of my American strong that I threw the lee's of New Belgium's Brett Beer onto.  If that took I could blend the 3 gallons and that one gallon in the keg for a lightly soured blended beer on tap.  I'm probably the only one I know that likes this stuff so, who cares what the haters think.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Budgeting for Hobbies

I've got a couple of hobbies, and finding time and money to pursue them is something that takes a lot of effort.  Lifehacker's post on the matter offered some thoughts on how to get your hobby's under control and moving towards completion.  The tips are straight forward, make a list and organize it according to importance, then use that list to budget time and money to them as is appropriate.  It's very ecumenical but also predictable.

I have some vague hobbies, that are explored with whimsy.  Cooking in particular is one that is taken by seasonality of ingredients and sales on equipment so while I have nebulous goals with regards to cooking projects to complete I don't much plan my undertakings of cooking.  The concrete planning and prioritizing doesn't leave room for that so I tend to let money accumulate so that if something comes up I can pounce.  The beer barrel was an instance of this.  I've wanted to do some oak aging, and thought of buying a barrel but the relatively cheap barrel and my having a glut of cash on hand all made this come together.

Another thing that the "always make time everyday" mentality misses is the random association benefit.  Sometimes letting a problem stew in your mind will let you draw inspiration from other things that you encounter while you are not working on your project.  For me, having the Rise of the Meritocracy in the back of my mind for so long really helped me see how the notion has been absorbed en masse by the United States as I read other unrelated articles.  Had I completed the reading and note taking in a week or two I may not have been as mindful of the examples that I encountered during the more drawn out reading.   I also don't know that I would have spent as much time talking about it with people.  By dragging it out I experienced the book from many different mindsets and benefited from the diverse perspectives that I encountered by talking about it with others.

In any event how do you budget time and money for your hobbies?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ITU and the internet

Okay so I watched the video below, and am not so sure if I agree with them or not.  Thus far the US hasn't really bungled the management of the Internet, but that is not to say that they can't and the ITU itself isn't the trouble per se but rather the people that get to vote on and submit resolutions.  I do broadly agree that there are more countries that want to censor the internet then do not, and the openness of the governance has thus far helped users insure that those urges are not the consensus.  I signed the petition, but I'm sort of iffy on how if this is the catastrophe SOPA and PIPA where.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Decoction and Infusion in a world of limited mash tun volumes

If the Title didn't throw you, this blog post is sure to do the trick.  Since I brewed over the weekend, beer nerd is in full effect as I contemplate the wins and losses of the weekend of brewing.  Decoction and Infusion  are two different styles of mashing which is raising the temperature of and washing the sugar out of grain.  Infusion is the most straight forward to understand so I'll start there.  The basic premise is you have malted and crushed grain that you need to extract sugar from.  The malting process has made enzymes available to start acting on starches, milling the grain has freed the starches and enzymes from their husks and now we need to hit various temperatures for the enzymes to activate.  There's a good deal of science that will explain what happens at the various temperatures, but this chart is a handy enough reference for our purpose here.

The beer I brewed this weekend had a grain bill of 15 lbs, which is pretty big for the 10 gallon cooler that I use as a mash tun, if I followed the traditional proscription of 1.25 quarts/lb I would be an initial infusion of about 4.6 gallons at dough in, then added the second infusion of 2.7 gallons and the third of 2.7 gallons for a 104 - 140 - 158°F rest schedule, the water alone would be enough to overfill the cooler.  With grains added infusion mashing of adding boiling water to reach my rest temperatures was not possible with my equipment. So decoction was the only option that would work for my grain bill and equipment.  If I'm reading correctly the "proper" decoction method is done by removing a portion of the grains and boiling them and return it to the mash.  The method I used was somewhere between infusion and decoction in that I used the ball valve to draw off wort from the bottom (about 1/2 gallon at a time) to boil and return to the mash.

This method worked for my purposes and got me to about 75% efficiency (measured) which is probably the highest I've managed on any mix of equipment to date.  In the past I've mashed using my keggle as the mash tun and directly fired the mash to raise/maintain temperatures.  I like using the cooler because the mash stays within +/- 1°F of the temperature you put it in at making it much easier to hold temps for whatever the mash schedule is.  I'm reading a lot of different information about the rest schedule with opinions on the "ideal" time for each rest ranging greatly, from just 10 minutes up to 90!  I've followed a few different sites recommendations and the longer rests have just extended my brew day, but haven't improved my yields or flavor as far as I can tell.  I think that it will take a few more brews with my current equipment setup to get a real feel for it, but my current inclination is to stick with John Palmer's mash schedule and do my modified decoction process.  The only item I'm inclined to add to my process at this point in a true false bottom for my mash tun, as the stainless steel braid is annoying me.  it feels like towards the bottom half of draining the wort the tube gets plugged up and the flow the the wort slows considerably.  To counter this, I use my stirring paddle to kind of rub the hose and pull the grain away from it enough for the liquid to flow to the hose, which speeds up the flow considerably, but requires somewhat constant attention to get the mash tun completely drained.  From some reading on the matter the false bottom might not help with the thing that is truly bothering me, as I'm not doing the "sparge" correctly.  My problem is called a stuck sparge, but I'm not adding liquid to the top of the grain bed as I drain wort so I've been doing it wrong.
This kind of makes me feel like an idiot, but it also makes me confused.  What does one do with the water that you've now added to the grain while you drained?  You'll have 6 or so more gallons of very, very lightly sugary water to deal with.  I drained it and cooked it down but the wort was only 1.014 OG, and Palmer recommends you collect down to 1.008 or until you have collected enough wort.  With this about 5 gallons of low gravity wort you could cook it down on low heat, but your talking about a good deal of time to accomplish this task.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sweet mother of beer

I was a very busy brewing bee over the weekend knocking out a solid American Strong Ale with 6 gallons looking to be 8.1% abv 3 gallons around 4.5% abv (it's a blended og, with so many assumptions in there my head hurts) and 1 gallon at around 1.5% abv.  Pictured here, my keggorator, super sweet cooler mash tun, 6 gallon primary fermenter, 3 gallon fermenter. and a 1 gallon glass jug playing as fermenter all happily bubbling along and inexpensive vodka for topping up the airlocks.

Assuming everything goes to plan I should be able to get the big bucket transferred into the barrel sometime next week, I cannot make up my mind if I want to put the beer in the glass fermenter for a few days before sot that it is more fully attenuated

Friday, November 09, 2012

Progress and such

I'm about halfway finished reading Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy[?] which was always the next book on my list after Rise of the Meritocracy. It is so well written. It flows like a running narrative, but woven in there is a critique of America building to a final point. I hope that he has some excellent recommendations for alternative models, but the picture he's painting is spot on and has a great eye for history.

If you've read Rise of the Meritocracy and think that Young's warning should be payed warning, Twilight of the Elites is Christopher Hayes ringing the alarm bells and shouting.  Even if you're not an American, it's a pretty fascinating look inside of the body politic of America and how we came to feel like a bloated and rotting corpse in just 236 or so years.

In unrelated news I'm gonna get my beer brewing on this weekend, so I can get something in that beautiful and sadly empty oak barrel!  It will remain sadly empty for about 2 more weeks while the beer finishes fermenting to be ready for the barrel.  The style is going to be American Strong and the hops I plan on using are Cascade but that is about all I've managed to make my mind up on.  I'm waffling back and forth about using extract and sugar to bump the OG up, or just tough it out and try for higher efficiencies with the all grain.

I also started a batch of sauerkraut 2 days ago, that should be ready to eat in a few more days.  It's a pretty simple recipe and pretty traditional, but I needed to do something for the fall.  If I'm still feeling frisky I've got my sourdough that needs some attention this weekend.  In all it will be a busy long weekend!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I'll keep this short

I don't typically wax poetic about politics as well I can barely stand to listen to the hateful, and spittle filled rage of people that aren't as progressive in their politics.  I'm proud of you Washington; legalizing pot, gay marriage and Obama.

On gay marriage, I literally could not be more pleased with the depth of compassion it took to realize this in our state.  It is purely a logical extension of the non-discrimination from the state, churches not only do you not have to recognize these marriages I encourage you not to.  The more irrelevant you make yourselves the better.  Any argument that this opens up the door to marrying goats, or our children or about how this lessens the value of heterosexual marriage falls flat in the face of a loving couple that wants to spend the rest of their lives together.  Equating gays to goats is petty and not worth addressing, insinuating that homosexuality encourages incest takes a leap of logic I cannot follow, but finally I think heterosexuals have done a fine job of tarnishing marriages reputation all by themselves; I'm sure there isn't any new indignities to be brought to bear.

Legalizing possession of marijuana, is the first step in what is sure to be a long conversation about the values of our country.  Sending people to prison with no chance parole because of possession is a farce of justice, and the systematic injustices of drug enforcement particularly to non-white offenders only starts to be unwound by decriminalizing something that is no more harmful than alcohol.  Prohibition showed the effectiveness of making it flatly illegal, just make it expensive and let the people that want to be stoned out of their mind pay for the education of our children (via taxes).  Not only do we get the savings on incarceration, the benefits of more people in the workforce (from not being in jail), we take the money away from organized crime and put it into the coffers of the state.  For parity sake alone, I want to know why the same split on the tax of alcohol isn't in place?  Why isn't the money from booze earmarked for education, and substance abuse prevention?

Finally Obama.  I wasn't ready to picket the Supreme court over any review of Roe v. Wade, but it's too important to not personally become involved in.  That type of fight seems unlikely now and even if it did appear based on the Obamacare decision Chief Justice Roberts may not be the conservative Congress and GWB thought they were getting.

Venture Capitalism is a "Meritocracy"

Catchy headline no?  Well this is a semi-sidebar on the whole "Rise of the Meritocracy" series that came up in May.  I noted it and am noting it now mostly to point out that the notion of meritocracy is a concept embraced in the modern world and still in the vernacular of popular culture.  In this particular instance it carries a more insidious undertone related to sexism and to a lesser degree racism.  The particular article was on Techcrunch after a Partner at a Venture Capital firm filed a sexual harassment suit.  The firm itself is well regarded as a pioneer in gender equality as it was the first to have female partners in the US, and has multiple funds managed by female partners.  It was shocking in that no one expected it of a firm considered progressive.

The author has a slant, but it is interesting that the panel was comprised of all men and only one had the stones to take on the question of sexism in the industry.  Of further concern is that the one man that did answer from the all white male panel dismissed the notion that there was sexism because venture capitalism was a meritocracy.  Nope nothing to see here, that woman's claims are without merit.

So sidebar it may be, but here you have gender politics and privilege wrapped up in a word coined just after the second world war.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Woo hoo tires

So this is sort of a straw poll about a rather unfortunate incident that happened on Sunday evening.  We traveled over the pass to visit my father because he had surgery on Thursday.  It was all well and good, but driving back about 25 miles out of Seattle the right rear tire went flat.  It was unfortunate for a few reasons, but the first of which was we were traveling with an infant and it woke him up and was delaying our getting home.

Now I was able to change the tire and get the spare on, but we didn't want to travel far on it so we stopped at my wife parents that were only 15 miles away rather than complete the 50 or so final miles on the doughnut spare.  We borrowed their car and went home, and my father-in-law was going to take the car in to get the warranty work done in the morning.  We had bought the tires at Costco, and we have only driven about 30k of the 60k mile warranty.  I didn't want one odd sized tire, and asked that he make sure we get both rear tires replaced.  They charged me $40 for the damaged one, and $170 for the other and argued the whole time that it was a waste of money and made my in-laws wait a few hours for their trouble to boot.

Do you always replace at least two tires at a time?  It's a front wheel drive and everything I've ever heard (from my parents and consumer opinion) makes me think you should do two.  I thought it was important because they were already 50% done to not put just one brand new tire on.

What do you think was I wasting money or were the tire people being jerks?

Mason Jars in the kitchen

So on some of our Culinary adventures in the last few months I've taken to using Mason Jars a fair amount.  I'm sure that this article from Popsci was related since it's in my draft folder, so I thought I would share.

I've been making a Strawberry Banana Spinach smoothie for breakfast and one quart sized mason jar is an excellent serving size for one.  Turns out that many blenders fit the narrow mouth mason jars just fine, so you can throw in the ingredients blend and go.  I thought that was pretty solid.

That was the only one from the popsci article I found interesting, but we have also been making summer porridge in the mason jars and got Regular Mouth Mason Jar Plastic Lids[?] to make it easier to carry to work.  The recipes I've been following come from YummyLife, but I'm sure you could free form something in a pinch.

I found this Big Red Kitchen blog post while I was looking for some more ideas for this particular short and semi-useless article, and am going to try her once a week mason jar style cooking.  The blog's author is doing crossfit and a mom, that wanted meals that she could heat and serve during the week to free up time in the evening.  I empathize with the author about how much time each week it takes to make meals, and the creativity that it takes to come up with something every weeknight.

I'm a fan of lists, so this 31 uses for mason Jars was interesting (and a touch hippy, but hey if the shoe fits).

Bonus link for kicks Thedecoratedcookie also had a mason jar meal that looked pretty acceptable.

And finally a Local, up in my neck of the woods NWedible on fermenting in a mason jar.