Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are 20 pounds of suck in a 5 pound bag.

batch[28] AG Racing the Coldfront weizen

BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: batch[28] AG Racing the Coldfront weizen
Style: Weizen/Weissbier
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 18.93 L
Boil Size: 22.79 L
Estimated OG: 1.052 SG
Estimated Color: 6.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 12.7 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
2.72 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 63.86 %
1.36 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 31.91 %
0.12 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 2.82 %
0.06 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 1.41 %
14.20 gm Pearle [9.00 %] (30 min) Hops 12.7 IBU
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs 3068 weihenstephan culture (wyeast #3068) Yeast-Wheat

Mash Schedule: mouse mash
Total Grain Weight: 4.26 kg
mouse mash
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
60 min mash in Add 13.33 L of water at 161.7 F 152.0 F

No 20L, subbed in half by weight of 40L (115g).


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bar review: Chase Place

Chase Place is an unironic dive, and I mean that affectionately. I got a passable chicken fried steak and a pint of domestic draft for $10.

The regulars were busy chainsmoking, hacking, and nursing last night's hangover. It's quieter than Main Street Liquid Co, more not-closed than McCarty's, so if I can handle the smoke I'll go again.

Chase Place
(972) 234-1947
1724 E Belt Line Rd
Richardson, TX 75081

Saturday, December 6, 2008

batch[27] Village Smithy

This is an attempt to brew an Irish Red like Smithwick's.

BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: batch[27] Village Smithy
Brewer: bloggermouse
Asst Brewer:
Style: Irish Red Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 18.93 L
Boil Size: 21.67 L
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 12.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.0 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
3.63 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 85.02 %
0.34 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 7.97 %
0.23 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 5.31 %
0.07 kg Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) Grain 1.70 %
14.17 gm Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (60 min) Hops 9.1 IBU
14.17 gm Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (20 min) Hops 5.5 IBU
7.09 gm Fuggles [4.50 %] (10 min) Hops 1.5 IBU
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084) Yeast-Ale

Mash Schedule: mouse mash
Total Grain Weight: 4.27 kg
mouse mash
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
60 min mash in Add 11.84 L of water at 163.0 F 152.0 F

26.17# of mash water @163F
31.06# of sparge water @190F


Thursday, November 27, 2008

batch[26] "Hop and Change"

I planned to brew this batch on election day (took the day off), but the yeast was not ready.

The beer is a clone of Young's Double Chocolate stout, with cocoa powder in the boil and chocolate extract in the secondary.

No, it's not a chocolate stout because of Sen. Obama's election. I wanted to brew this for a long time and picked election day as a nice day off to do it on. The name, however, is a reference to David Allen Grier's "Hope and Change" mantra.

Passed the TeXes, Thanksgiving

I took the Texas exam for Social Studies 8-12 proficiency (American History, World History, Geography, Social Studies proper, economics, etc) on Nov 8 and got my test back yesterday.

I passed.

This was not a foregone conclusion; it requires an 80% score and many of the questions were of the "which of the following correct answers is the best answer" variety. Being a Philosophy minor, I get in trouble with such situations because I want to argue for several different points of view.

Anyhow, I am grateful for having past. On this Thanksgiving I am aware of the small victories.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


We have been on extended hours at my Day Job for solid year. This entails coming in early, truncated or no lunch, and leaving late. The company claims we are Overtime Exempt, but this has no basis in reality and will likely eventually get their publically-traded asses in a crack at some point like happened with EA, IBM, etc. Working overtime when needed isn't a big deal. Working unpaid overtime constantly starts to affect your quality of life. In a way, I am grateful for the unpleasantness because it continually reminds me to do what I need to do in order to transition to teaching.

Sot at night I am going to night school for Texas teaching certification, and after that I do the online homework.

Not complaining so much as trying to explain my general grumpiness and the dark circles under my eyes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


There was 4" of water in the rain gauge last night.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election tomorrow

I have two main thoughts about the election tomorrow:

* I think this is the most important election since I started voting in 1984 as a young soldier in the US Army. I did the Early Voting thing last week and I got a little choked up doing it; I've never had that reaction to a vote before.

* I believe the US will thrive with either Obama or McCain at the helm; I don't think we've ever been in a position where we have two excellent candidates to choose from. I think Obama will win and I think he will be an inspiration to us and to the world. I believe that if McCain pulls off a win from behind he will govern with the judgement, integrity and tolerance that comes natural to him. We just can't lose either way.

I look forward to the election results with a sense of hope for my family, my community, and my country. I look forward to the cessation of foreign entanglements and a return of American soldiers to our own soil, out of harm's way. I look forward to citizens of all beliefs and political parties working together to rebuild our reputation and standing in the world.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

bread machine

Whenever I am in a thrift store I see an entire junkyard of automatic bread machines (ABM hereafter). I've always wondered why they are so bad that people give them to Goodwill or whatever.

So I threatened that I would eventually buy one from the thrift store, max $10. No more. I read a few wikis and faqs and found some basic info. Came home with a Welbuilt ABM4110T .

It's big: 9"x13"x14" and does 1#-2# loaves.
Had to find a manual online.

Dead simple. Dump the ingredients: wet first, dry second, yeast on top
This thing makes great bread from scratch ingredients
Timers, different modes.
Fantastic crunchy crust.

I think the reason people don't use them is that it is easier to buy Wonder bread than to measure and dump ingredients. Plus there's that pesky actual crust... Also, it takes up a lot of counter space. I put it away after each loaf.

I have a gram scale for my homebrewing hobby, so this makes it trivial to weigh out small amounts of stuff. Here is my go-to ABM loaf recipe:

5.5 liquid oz water
1.25 teaspoon butter
2c flour
6.7g sugar
5.8g salt
6.8g yeast

Dump and press the button.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Zenna: dinner review

Dear Wife and I went to Zenna Thai/Vietnamese in Plano, just off 75. Actually, we went there twice.

The first was last Saturday evening. The interior is interesting and calming, service was gracious and the food was good.

The 20-something idiot kids at the next table were not good. I suppose they were UTD students on a binge (beer tower at the table) and their behaviour was abhorrent and very, very loud. They were screaming, shouting and (NOT making this up) spitting on the floor of the restaurant. WTF?

We knew not to confuse the place with the morons in it, so we went back with DW's sister. A wonderful experience all around.

Bottom line: go there, but not on a weekend night.

2500 N Central Expy
Plano Tx 75074
214 473 9797

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bats is nice

Do not be afeared about the rabid bat in Richardson. Bats is good and eats lots of bugz.

Of course, don't go around touching dead, dying (or seemingly-healthy) wildlife, right?

I still haven't decided on a bat house design.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What a weekend

  • bottled 5 gallons: Bitter Ike batch[22].
  • brewed 5 gallons: Farmer's Daughter farmhouse, batch[24], pitched using a yeast batch I pulled off culture[7].
  • mowed
  • weed eated (is that a word?)
  • poured and sterilzed some new blank slants
  • Did my Region10 teaching homework
  • made 5 gallons of root beer
  • made 5 slants each by harvesting from culture[4] and culture[7].
Tired, but feeling like I accomplished a lot.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On the teaching job hunt

The next steps in the teaching road happen simultaneously:

1. do the certification coursework (starts next week)
2. get a job teaching Social Studies in a public/private/charter school as an intern on a probabational certificate.

At the end of the year of teaching (and completion of coursework) both entities sign off on the cert request, asking the state to issue the regular certificate.

Thus begins the next stage of my life.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

batch[22] Bitter Ike

Found a box of English Bitter kit and brewed it up today in the cool, breezy aftermath of Ike.

We got 1.5" in our back yard and only a few dead branches (thumb-sized) fell out of the trees. All in all, a good outcome.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

More bottling

I bottled 10 gallons yesterday; 5gal of batch[20] Wall-e Weizen (named because I brewed it the day we say that movie), and 5gal of batch[21] Trainwreck MMA mild ale.

I tasted one of the bottles from bach[18] Farmhouse and it was rustic, rough (in a good way, as in "not refined") and satisfying.

I also am moving to .5L bottles. I scavenged a few hundred .5L german bottles that should be enough to keep 5-6 batches in rotation.

And I got word that my teaching accreditation application was finally accepted. I have an orientation in a couple of weeks. Will post more on that later.

Kel's (Richardson) breakfast review

The original Kel's is on Preston/Forest, and is known for good food, modest environment, and moneyed North Dallas folks slumming with the normals.

Kel's in Richardson is just as good. Good food, appropriate portions, excellent service, and friendly environment.

Check it out.

800 N. Coit Rd
972.238.KELS (5357)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

compost success

The first tub of compost, started in Nov '07, was returned to the soil today.

Over time had collapsed down from about 1.5 feet deep down to about 3". Rich, black, and odor-free, it is now distributed over the patch of land I will aspirationally call The Garden.

The second tub is about 3/4 full and the surface is covered with giant worms or grubs of some kind. They look like grubworms only armored instead of soft and squishy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Finally went to see Wall-e.

It was the first time we'd been in a movie theater for about a year. Too many idiots, screaming children, and generally rude people in theaters. Our main way of dealing with this is to project DVDs on the wall. We make our own popcorn and chill. Perfection.

Second-best is to go to an upscale theater where people know how to behave. We picked the Inwood. The audience and the movie were both delightful. Two thumbs up and all that.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Found a used Roomba on craiglist for $40. It's running around the living room now. It's pretty hilarious.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mucho bottling

Bottled the batch[7] apple cider w/3068 weizen yeast after about three months in the primary. It was only down to 1.004 but I bottled w/4oz of priming sugar and stored it in a bottlebomb-proof container.

Also bottled half the batch[18] farmhouse (the part that didn't go onto blackberries).

Cleaned and delabeled about 50 .5L german beer bottles; They rock.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Economic Stimulus scammers

I have found three main ways that mortgage scammers try to fleece folks with misleading mail:

1. the original "Important mortgage communications -- answer immediately!" scammers, who suggest their junkmail scam is from your lender.

2. the "Important information about your VA Loan -- open immediately!" scammers, who suggest their junkmail scam is from the Veteras Administration. Nice, huh?

3. the latest one "Economic Stimulus Program -- Do not throw away! Economic Relief Voucher Enclosed.", who suggest their junkmail scam is a stimulus check (ie, from the US Treasury).

In case anyone has questions about this fine company, I have included their toll-free number below.

Center for Stimulus Relief

Again, to folks who are getting their first mortgage: read EVERYTHING carefully, and contact your lender if you have questions about what is a scam and what is not.

BTW, my last few posts have been whines and gripes. Let me give a glowing recommendation:

Guardian Mortgage - Richardson Location
North Central at Beltline
100 North Central Expressway, Suite 150
Richardson, TX 75083

Scott Broyles treated us with respect and professionalism, and helped us get into the plain vanilla 30yr VA loan we were seeking.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

So long Bagelsteins....

Bagelsteins was next to Bill's Record and Tapes, and the Dear Wife and I ate many good meals there.

Then they got weird and moved further north on Coit. We followed.

Now they've moved into North Dallas around Preston/Royal. Service, always amusingly obnoxious, has turned incompetent and the food orders are no longer as good as they were.

We are not returning. Bye, Bagelsteins, I've spent my money in your restaurant for 10 years, and you've run me off. Bah.

Friday, July 11, 2008

digital tv converter box scammers

If you are buying one of the boxes (out of your pocket or with one of those $40 cards), I advise you to buy it in a brick-and-mortar store rather than online.

I made the mistake of sending my $40 card info (and CC for the remainder) to a shady outfit that accepted orders although apparently had no compliant product to ship. They kept stringing along the customers until the $40 card expired. This behaviour has apparently attracted the attention of the feds but that doesn't help the customer with the expired card. Note that the NTIA smackdown came out after I placed my order and the customers still were not informed that their orders were in limbo and the cards' expirations were ticking along....

And they say that customer service is dead.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Friday morning (the 4th) I brewed another all-grain batch of mild, and took the blowoff tube away last night. It's sitting in the Johnson-controlled fridege at 65F.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

roof rat's buddy

The aforementioned roof rat had a buddy, who was dispatched to his maker sometime early this morning.

They sure are cute. If they weren't determined to live in my attic I'd be inclined to let them continue their ratty lives. Now, I have seen giant scary rats before so I know the difference. I once engaged in one-on-one combat with a nasty, greasy, unafraid water rat that was drinking out of a toilet in an old apartment. That was not fun, and I wasn't sure who was going to die in that bout.

OTOH, I've had luverly norway rats as pets before and liked them a good deal. I think they are much more suitable for children than the ill-mannered hamsters and nocturnal gerbils. But people freak out at the "rat" word for some reason.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

speed trap

It is common for the RPD to have motorcycle cops running RADAR on Spring Valley between Park and Oak. I don't have a real problem with that as long as the aim is to enhance public safety and not the RPD treasury. I'd rather have them catching narcissitic redlight runners, road ragers, and no-signal laneswervers, but that's a rant for another day.

My problem was that the (yummy) BMW bikes were parked on the sidewalk. Can I park my motorcycle on the sidewalk? Did they ask the homeowner if they could stand on his grass? If they were only on the easement grass between the sidewalk and street, does that require permission? If not, can the city ticket someone for not mowing that easement? It would be weird to have only responsibility for a strip a land but no control over its use. I am ignorant of these things.

A few years ago I was working a late-night shift and was driving home to Las Colinas on Loop 12 west of the tollway. As I crested the rise I saw a reflection; it was 2am and a DPD cruiser was sitting in the turn lane with no lights on. This, to me, represents a public hazard. Would a citizen be allowed to sit in the middle of the street at 2am with no lights on? Is this a generally-safe thing to do? Recommended in the drivers license test booklet?

Something similar had a not-unexpected outcome in Arlington a few years back when I was in graduate school. Cruiser sitting in the dark over a hill in a turn lane in the middle of the night. A drunk driver crested the hill and hit the cruiser. Public outcry was immediate: hero died nobly in the line of duty, etc. My reaction was somewhat different: public servant makes a citizen-endangering decision and it bites him in the ass.

Let me be clear: I was born in Richardson and have lived there on-and-off over the years. Every interaction I have had with the RPD has been professional, civil, and appropriate. So when razz them for doing something that would get a citizen ticketed (parking a motorcycle on the sidewalk) I am trying to make them better, not trying to beat them down. Flaunting the public rules makes citizens think the LEOs consider themselves above the law.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mutual of Richardson's Wild Kingdom

Went for a walk with the Dear Wife in the neighborhood and saw a rabbit, more fireflies, and a bat.

I have been reading about bat houses. We will see.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


The Dear Wife and I motored to the TomThumb to grab a coupla quick picks for tonite's bazillion dollar MegaMillions.

On the way we saw three firefiles in the street. I can't explain it, but we are very pleased to see the little bugs. Fireflies are magic, beautiful, a good omen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

roof rat

There was a small creature living in our rain gutters. He finally showed his face on the porch about a week ago.

He was small (and cute) for a rat, and didn't look like one of those nasty rats you see. He was more like a giant gerbil or large fieldmouse.

Anyhow, a rat trap from walmart and a smear of peanut butter on the trigger took him to his maker within about an hour. We saw where he was coming/going and put it there.

Re-baited it, but have heard no further noises. We shall see.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

National Homebrewing Day

Saturday the 3rd was National Homebrewing Day.

I didn't actually brew anything, but I did bottle 5 gallons of mild and 5 gallons of the apple cider.

I also cultured some of the liquid yeast that was destined for a new batch of cider; 10 test tubes worth.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

bottled the porter

I bottled the "porter" this morning and mocked up a label for it. It's not really a porter but I am calling it that for the sake of simplicity.

I learned that you can dip the paper label in milk and that makes a great adhesive that comes off easily later in water. Neat trick.

Also both of my hop rhizomes have now sprouted. The Cascade broke topsoil about 2 wks ago and just saw the Kent Goldings this morning.

And as a nice bonus I dumpster dived about 25 excellent 16oz Sapporo bottles this morning. They were in good shape, and are soaking in disinfectant now for santizing and to loosen the labels.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Experimental micro-batches:

batch[4] = half-gallon batch of Apfelwein with 33% organic cranberry juice, left.
batch[5] = half-gallon batch of Apfelwein with 25% organic cranberry juice, right.

Also fired up the pressure cooker and sterilzed some more water and wort for future yeast starters or other uses.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day off

Took my first day off in many months.

Accomplished these things:

* mowed yard
* watersealed toolshed and part of deck
* put up bookshelves
* bought some bulk malt (50# bag)
* brewed a 5gal batch: beer[3] port-o-LAN. Closer to stout than port, really
* made labels for all my batches
* picked up the freebie recycling bags from the City of Richardson
* figured out how the dingdang lawn sprinkler system works

A great, world-conquering day. I need one day like that every month and all would be well.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Dinner review: Tukta Thai

I've had two different cow-orkers goading me to to to TThai, so the Dear Wife and I finally went last night.

I was looking forward to it, since I've had some excellent salad rolls at Star of Siam (not recently!) and excellent pad thai and thai fried frice at the thai place that used to be at the NE corner of Spring Valley and Coit. It's since changed to Noodle Wave or something recently and haven't been back yet).

So I ordered thai fried rice and salad rolls. DW ordered some kind of beef dish.
Both were decent but not notable. I tried thai iced tea, and won't make that mistake again. Reminded me of licking a piece of pressure-treated lumber. The DW thought I was joking when I said it tasted like a patio deck. Until she tried it.

Two entrees, two drinks, one appetizer: $28.36 before tip.

Pros: many locals, BYOB, pleasant atmosphere, pleasant service and friendly (presumably thai) staff.
Cons: Kind of a crummy part of town. Food decent but not great.
Verdict: Not worth the hype, not worth the drive. I don't see us going back.

Located just off LBJ over near BoBo China (mentioned more for its sign visibility than culinary excellence).

Tukta Thai
9625 Plano Rd St 500
Dallas Tx 75238

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Like in the Fatherland

Bottled the hefeweizen; the cow-orker was a no-show. Sampled the Mild, although it's only been in the bottle for a week. Rough, but you can tell it will be nice enough.

After cleaning up I made a recipe for apfelwein, a hard cider. 5 gallons worth, and will take a month in primary.

Also picked up a bench capper.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Discount Tire fanboi

There are very few companies that have my complete devotion. One is NetFlix. Another is Discount Tire.

I bought my last set of Michelins from Discount Tire, and every experience since then has been fantastic.

You can find the tires you want, see where they are in stock, make an appointment, pay for them, and print your receipt. Then go to the store and they will be stacked up and ready for you. They also fixed my wrecked valve stem (my fault), plugged a nailhole (my fault), and, most important, made the wife feel comfortable and cared-for when she went in on her own to get her own tire plugged (giant nail, her fault).

Great business model, staffed with good folks. My highest recommendation. If you are in Richardson, the closest DT is off 75 and midpark.

Discount Tire
(972) 231-7828
Make Appointment
3 W 13645 N Central Expresswy
Dallas, TX 75243
M-F 8:00-6:00
Sat 8:00-5:00

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Went out to check the rain gauge last night and it had overflowed at the 5.5" mark. This morning there was an additional .75", so we've had at least 6.25" in the last 24 hrs.

Walked around the house to look for standing water and saw none; I guess that is a good sign.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

bottling and racking

I racked the beer[0] weizen to secondary (got a stopper for the Better Bottle!) which was a snap. Put it back in the beerfridge at 65F.

Also bottled the beer[1] mild ale and socked it away in the beerfridge. Cow-orker was supposed to come over and learn/assist and bring extra bottles, but must had other things to do. I had to bottle in some substandard (clear, etc) bottles but since it's in the fridge it should be ok.

Next brewday, ~Apr 6.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I thought I would be able to bottle the hefeweizen this weekend, but it's still active. So I put the weizen primary in the Johnson-controlled brewfridge at 65F.

P., a co-worker, came over to see how homebrewing works. I encouraged him to come over and help with a batch before deciding to buy-in for equipment and ingrediants. We brewed a low-gravity (1.030 OG) mild ale in a bucket since the glass carboy was still occupied and I didn't have a stopper for the Better Bottle.

He didn't run screaming, so we might have another larval brewer in the making.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


about 65hrs into the fermentation and the weizen is happily blooping through the airlock about every 11 seconds.

Looks like the tender shoots in the greenhouse did ok; nothing wilted this AM. Ex cept the basil that I'm trying again to propagate from the cuttings you're supposed to eat at the local pho house. Never made it work, but I'm going to keep trying.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

First brew in the new house

Made a yeast starter Thursday out of a pint of autoclaved wort and the liquid yeast culture (White Labs WLP300). Airlocked it in a 1/2gal jug.

Cranked up the propane burner (a repurposed turkey fryer) on Saturday and brewed 5gal of weizen on the deck outside. The monster propane burner made a huge difference in the overall brewing time; the water came to the boil very quickly and was finely controllable after coming to the boil. Cleanup was easy with a water hose.

Pitched at around 1530; by 2000hrs there was some bubbling. By 2330 hrs I had to install a blowoff. Now a half-day later it's still blowing krausen through the blowoff.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Experiment: yeast harvest from Sierra Nevada Porter

This experiment is not intended to yield a usable yeast. Rather, it gave me an opportunity to sterilize my implements, can some wort, mix Iodophor at 12ppm and re-learn good sanitary techniques.

The slurry from the bottom of my last SN porter was pitched into about a cup of previously-sterilized wort from a pint mason jar. It's in an autoclaved (pressured cooked 15 pounds for 15 mins, really, but that's longer to say) Topo Chico bottle with a bubbler-style airlock on top.

I would be very surprised to see any action at all, but it's a cheap experiment.

Will likely make a real starter for the liquid Weizen yeast vial that's in the fridge, because it was shipped on the slow boat.... Gonna try to brew that this Saturday afternoon.

Gonna kill some plants

The Dear Wife and I are famous for killing plants.

But the lovely old fellow who had this house before us built (among other things) a greenhouse that has overhead lighting, power outlets, and is plumbed for water.

So we feel we owe it to the greenhouse to try to grow some stuff.

DW picked some flowers and some veggies. I picked more veggies and whipped out some seeds I'd scrounged from some good-looking fruit. In the past I've had some grapefruit plants that were beautiful before I killed them. I am trying cherry, lemon, and grapefruit this time.

Anyhow, these seeds have sprouted: Zinnias, cantaloupes, cucumbers, beets. We have no real idea when/what you are supposed to do with them at this point, but at least they sprouted.

Also picked up a pressure cooker and some pint jars to play with; I needed them for sterilizing various homebrew implements and ingrediants, so it will be fun if we do end up with some fresh veggies to can and to eat.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew

I used to homebrew extensively when I lived on my own.

But for years I didn't have enough room, time, or resources to brew. I've made room in my life for it again. Here is part of my intro post to a homebrewing forum:

I started brewing in the 80s when I was stationed in the former West Germany. Mailordered all my gear from the US, thanks to the small number of sellers that would deliver to APO.

Worked from extract for the few years. By the time I rotated back to the US and exited the army I had found an ancient grain mill at a flea market for $10 so started AG brewing, including with wheat. Weizen was my favorite style, but wasn't very common in the US if I remember correctly. Luckily I shipped back 4 or 5 racks of those lovely .5L bottles... Used to buy malt in 50# boxes from Stew's Brews somewhere in the midwest. He still around? Very pleasant fellow.

My recipe spreadsheets were in VisiCalc on an Apple ][e, if that helps set the mood... labels printed on a 9pin dot matrix. But I was getting to do some fun stuff; priming with kraeusen, breaking up and farming liquid yeast since it was relatively expensive at the time. I had read a letter about hop growing in Zymurgy by a fellow in Oregon (I think). Wrote him to ask a question about technique and he fedexed me a chunk of rhizome! It didn't like East Texas that much, but it did grow up the string trellis I made for it. I don't think it yielded any flowers by the time I left.

Life intervened; I moved, and lived in tiny apartments with no real room to brew in. I threatened that when I finally got my own house I would start to brew again. My well-thumbed Papazian JOHB sat on the bookshelf taunting me.

Flash forward: the Dear Wife and I bought a house in November; lots of room, a garage and a workshop. Woo-hoo! I started dragging out my old gear. Some was ok, some was broken, some lost, some given away. I mailordered replacements and an outdoor 7.5gal turkey frier propane rig to handle the boil. I only have electric stovetop (although the house is plumbed for gas) and it used to take FOREVER to get a boil going. I trust the frier will alleviate that somewhat. :-) Brown trucks are rolling across America to my humble abode. Come to papa....

And as some kind of sign from the heavens, I have since learned there is a homebrew shop that is about 2 miles from the house. Gonna stop by and pick up some extracts, hops, and some modern sterilants for my first batch; I see that bleach isn't as popular now as it once was. I did love AG, but it's been 15 yrs and I think I need to ease back into it with extracts until I get some of the old muscle memory back. I'll also wait for the credit card to cool off a bit before buying another mill.

First brew scheduled for Mar 2. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

dragons at the supermarket

Went to the Tian Tian supermarket for some groceries and was surprised by a flock of giant dragons.

This is my first youtube video. Don't be a hater.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hey, we have a garage

This would not be noteworthy for most folks, but it's my first garage. After 20yrs of living in tiny apartments I have space and a garage to boot.

  • Made a trip to Costco to buy bulk paper goods, etc, because we finally have a place to store the surplus.
  • Put together a reel mower on the floor of the garage; the abundant working space felt like a luxury
  • the motorcycle is stored out of the elements
  • the bicycles are easy to access and fun to ride
I hope I never lose this feeling of amazement with having room to live and work.

I'm feeling much better now.

Thought I'd give an update after two negative posts.

Spamgourmet is back up and running like a champ; they tend to get DOS'ed by spammers regularly so I was a bit worried.

Also, I joined another regional freecycle group (north texas freecycle) and was admitted with no drama. Successfully gave away some gear I didn't want to throw away.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Spamgourmet outage

I have used Spamgourmet for a couple of years to protect my real email address[es] from spam. It works remarkably well:

* you can generate new spamgourment addresses on-the-fly without visiting the site
* you can expire any address at any time (mail gets devnull'ed)
* the wanted email can be forwardeded to any underlying address, and changed at any time
* when you reply to forwarded mail it is smart enough to Reply-To from the correct spamgourmet address.
* you can use an email address in public then expire it when its usefulness is done (or when spambots find it). Example: this is a real email address -->

So why am I blue today? Spamgourmet suffers through DOS attacks from time to time, intentional and unintentional. Now is such a time. No email for about 12 hrs. :-(

All the mail will eventually come through, but it really puts a crimp in my morning activities.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Abortive attempt to freecycle

You know, the basic concept of freecyling appeals to me. I wanted to try it, I really did. I figure it's wasteful to throw away something that might have value for someone else. I've been giving away stuff for years, mainly on interest-specific forums and craigslist. I wanted to get involved in a community of folks that had a similar approach to excess material goods.

Turns out it's actually a collection of mailing lists. I read the FAQ and thought the banned list was a bit draconian: no "vitamins, creams, etc", no firearms, and many allow no pets. OK, a little controlling. Maybe it's for good reasons (past flamewars, whatever). Anyhow, none of the stuff I had to give away was in the prohibited list.

So I ran the yahoo gauntlet (yay, more yahoo signature spam), only to get denied by the dfwfreecycle moderator for using the the word "trade" in my introductory questionaire. How hard should a person work to join a group where you give your stuff away?

Subject: Request to join DFWFreecycle denied
Your request to join the DFWFreecycle group was not approved.
The moderator of each Yahoo! group chooses whether to restrict
membership in the group. Moderators who choose to restrict
membership also choose whom to admit.

Please note that this decision is final and that Yahoo! Groups
does not control group membership.

Part of my original response:

I have many things to give away... I will give them away elsewhere, probably Craig's list although I suspect there are more moochers there.

Doesn't matter to me where they go; I wanted to reward people who recycle and live frugally, but I am not going to fight uphill to do it.

I later edited my extended rant down to "It's your sandbox".

Reminds me of when I was delivering food to the Arlington Night Shelter in the mid-90s; I started getting harrassed by the recipients so much that I started to dread the delivery. Hey, if I'm giving you stuff you don't have to be gracious; I don't want your thanks or gratitude. Just don't be actively obnoxious or try to control the gift unnecessarily.

So try freecycling if you are so inclined; just remember that your membership in the group depends on how you answer the questions that are presented when you try to join the list. So don't blow through the questionaire quickly in your desire to start sharing. You may be shunned. Definately don't use any conjugation of the infinitive "to trade".

Galaxy Drive-in

The Dear Wife and I packed up the dog and drove down to the Galaxy drive-in down by Ennis. Easy drive from Richardson (about 45mins, instead of 2.x hrs for the Brazos in Granbury).

$6 for adults for a double feature. There are four screens, and they have in general done a fine job with the whole experience. The announce (RCA Jack, get it?) was amusing, the lots were in decent shape, the screens were in good shape, bright, and in focus. They have the vintage window-hanger speakers in addition to FM broadcast.

We saw Cloverfield, which was pretty good. We were tired and did not stay for the second feature.

Win: Generous portions and fair prices in the snack bar. Pets allowed on leashes. Employees seemed to be having fun and happy to work; a family deal maybe? No distracting peripheral lights (as with the old Astro).
Lose: Asshats in SUVs, but what's new about that? Bathrooms could use some TLC.

Galaxy Drive-In Theatre
5301 N. IH-45
Ennis, TX 75119

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dinner review: Ajisen Japanese Casual Dining

Ajisen is in the extreme NW corner of the self-titled "DFW China Town" strip mall on Greenville.

Decidedly more upscale than most of the unprentious shops and eateries in the mall. Modern interior, lovely view of a glassed-in kitchen.

It is noteworthy that there were actual Asian (not Mexican) folks in the kitchen. I say this not to denigrate our Hispanic brethren, but rather because it breaks the tradition that all kitchen staff in Dallas is Mexican regardless of the ethnic food type.

I had a scallop sushi, sea eel sushi, hot green cha, a bowl of edamame ($3.25), and a lacquerbox of kimchi-salmon fried rice ($8.95) off the Specials board that sounded too bizarre to pass up. It was decent, but I think I like my fried rice and kimchi seperate from now on. The lacquerbox presentation was perfect, my crappy pic above notwithstanding.

Every one on the staff (except my waitress) was omnipresent and attentive without being intrusive. Bad luck of the draw.

Win: Lovely interior. Good food (including $1/$2 sushi pieces), excellent presentation. Really nice to see the glassed-in kitchen.
Lose: Hit and miss service. Attentive ownership, attentive but socially clumsy waitress (first waiting job?). Strange 60s lounge music, thankfully not too loud.

Ajisen Japanese Casual Dining
400 N. Greenville Ave Ste 26
Richardson, Tx 75252
972 792 8888

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Zituna World Food Market

In case you've been thinking about exploring one of the neat international markets in Richardson but were worried/nervous/embarrassed/confused, here is your chance to get your adventure on.

Zituna is an international market looks and feels like an American market except that the shelves are stocked with Mediterranean and Eastern European goods. It's a an easy entry into seeing how other folks eat. Check it out. Grab some interesting looking food and see how you like it.

If it was fun for you then you can start thinking about some of the other places with more "flava".

Zituna World Food Market
970 N. Coit #3025 (SE corner of Coit & Arapaho)
Richardson, 75080

Richardson to recycle Allied Waste?

Two interesting things in this article:

  1. current recycling level is about 25% of single-family dwellings.
  2. City of Richardson suspects they can save $$$ by picking up the blue bags themselves instead of outsourcing to Allied Waste

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dinner review, Venezia I Italian Cafe

Smallish place built into the east side of the stripmall in the Kroger parking lot.

Wife got a small, decent pizza which was big enough that she ate it that night, and we shared it for dinner the next night. Actually improved in flavor when reheated at 400F. I had a linguini with white clam sauce (generous portion) and a nice 'rustica' salad, heavy on onions. Garlic rolls were of the type that are common and not to my liking.

Table service from two different service was quite good and of Old World style. I don't quite know how to explain this. But good European waiters approach service as a calling, profession. Good American waiters are naturally good at it and see it as stepping stone to a better job.

Example: I was eating at a large table in a villa outside Florence. I had a bit of the local chianto classico (or had a bit of nerves) and dropped my fork on the (fortunately carpeted) floor. An attendant came out of no-where, leaned in as if to whisper someone discreetly into my ear or take a request. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that as part of the same fluid motion he had subtly placed a new fork next to my plate.

This is perhaps an overstatement of the kind of service I am trying to explain, but it illustrates the point.

Ok, back to the review. The waiters at Venezia had light accents that suggested eastern Europe. I couldn't place them until one presented the cheesecake and said "Enjoy, da?" :-)

Win: presentable food, quiet/appropriate music, appears to be BYOB, seating available, dine-in and take-out clientele appears to be 100% regulars. Gracious service; I overtipped.

Lose: not inspiring in any way. Cheesecake had a good flavor but appeared to be an industrial product created elsewhere. 'Thin crust' pizza was not thin.

Capable but not a standout. We were hoping to find a go-to restaurant nearby, but I am not convinced this is it. Maybe we need to go again and re-assess.

Venezia I Italian Cafe
908 Audelia Rd Suite 500
Richardson, Tx 75081

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Simple pleasures

Two small things which have been joyful experiences lately.

1. We made some ice cream out on the deck. Let it grind away until the motor stopped. Ate a little that night, but it really came alive once it "ripened" overnight in the freezer. I think we will also try ice milk and some sorbet. Sub-pleasure: got to use ice from the icemaker to do the ice cream. We've never had an icemaker before.

2. My old coffeemaker bit the dust after about 15yrs of loyal service. I bought a replacement at SuperTarget (luvs me some Target) and it has a timer feature. So coffee is made when I get up in the morning. Again, it's a tiny thing but it's lots of fun getting up and stumbling over for some of that black elixir.

Monday, January 7, 2008


It appears we are joining the crowd of folks who do not have a landline in the house. Before we moved the phone sat there and kept the answering machine company.

Every once in a while we'd get phonecalls from telemarketers but that was about it. Both the wife and I carry cellphones everywhere and generally only call each other. So when we are at home no one is calling anyone. Even then I only had a landline because at that time it was difficult to get a naked DSL circuit.

So now I'm running TW cable broadband through a tasty-hacked WRT54GL linux-based router running OpenWRT. Functional Quality of Service manipulation in a $50 router. Awesome and geeky. Awesomely geeky. Which I've tuned for VoIP.

Which brings me to the current topic. I'm a latecomer to Skype, but it loaded and runs fine on my 1ghz linux box. I sprung the $3 for the upgraded version that lets you call US/Canada numbers for free. Neat.

Since the Dear Wife luvs her some old-style phones, I ordered a box off Amazon that appears to let you jack a normal phone into your Skype feed. I've got a cordless phone that we'll press back into duty. I'll let you know how it goes.


Ok, let's be clear what I mean by bum. I mean a panhandler, a hustler. I do not mean homeless person in any generic sense.

Got panhandled at the 7-11 on the SW corner of 75/Beltline. Could I spare any change? No. Could I have spared a hotdog and a cup of coffee? Sure. I'm human.

I think people do like to help others; I do not think they like to be hustled. I know I don't. I am also conflicted about bums hanging around places of business. I am not for curtailing liberty of homeless folk, and I am not for curtailing the liberty of the business owner who might not want bums panhandling the business' customers.