Friday, August 28, 2009

Rode the bike lane

I rode the marked portion of the bike lane last night around midnight.

* cars were driving down the bike/parking lane

* the bike lane paint strip goes away at lasalle in the northbound lane, and terminates at beltline for the southbound lane. I assume they are still working because spray paint dabs are present on the northbound side. Perhaps it's not officially open yet.

* the bike logo stencils are not yet present. I hope they will help clue people in that they are driving in the bike lane. [note - this draft is 24hrs old - since I started writing this the logos have started showing up]

* people are parking fullsize trucks far enough away from the curb that a bicycle cannot pass without hitting mirrors or crossing the solid white line.

I don't know if having the bike lane will reduce the chances of getting run over or not.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Water bill envelope

I assume this reusable thing must save money/paper when compared to a seperate envelope but I find it annoying. Particularly when humidity is high and the gummed strip sticks to itself when folded up.

I didn't see any mention on the COR website about envelope cost savings. Anyone know if we are saving money on this deal?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More notes from the 8/24 city council meeting

I am eating my own dog food at the moment (listening to the .mp3 I uploaded of the Ch16 broadcast from 6pm-10pm). I zipped through the video earlier but didn't pay close attention. On closer listening I have a few more thoughts.

Keffler's car compensation
I completely agree with visitor (is that the right term?) Mr. Morgan's call to re-visit the city's auto allowance for Mr Keffler, and indeed all city employees.

I believe that no one but the city employee should enjoy vehicle benefits; under no circumstances would anyone other than the designated employee use the benefit. And then even when on city business. This means no joyrides, no grocery runs, no dinners and a movie. Perhaps the car could be fitted with a woo-woo so we could always hear where it's going:

I trust that Mr. Keffler and his family drive better than Li'l Sis (or Bubb Rubb, whoever was driving that Supra in the video).

I appreciate the general civility of council members when dealing with each other, speakers, and visitors. It's better than I expected.

Executive sessions
I'd like to see a sunset provision on the sessions. Audio or videotape those sessions and set them aside for a year or five years. Then publish them on the COR website.

Collections fee last year
Does anyone know what the unusual collections fee was that is not expected to recur during the next budget period?
Is it 3498 - Attorney Collection Fees - $40,000?

Mr. Murphy and open records requests
Sounds like Mr. Murphy would prefer to put a chill on open records requests. I have not made any such requests but highly value the ability to do so. I will take Mr. Keffler's response at face value, that he and his team are dedicated to discussing requests with anyone that wants a real answer. I am less impressed with his subsequent discussion of car allowances.

Bike route on Grove

The interesting thing about the new, slightly behind schedule bike route on Grove is that it's not primarily about bicycles or bicyclists; it's about "traffic calming". The bicycle lane is a bonus, a pleasant side effect. Grove does not appear to have been planned as a bike route for the purpose of building good, usable bike routes. But there is a strip of area between the parked cars and the now-single-lane road; the result of traffic calming efforts. Let's call it a bicycle path! Ok, I'll take it. I'm glad it's there. Bicycling along Grove has been pretty scary at night, even with my dayglo gear and LED lights. So far I have only seen my wife and I cycling on Grove. Perhaps that will change with the new lane in place.

Apparrently there have been longstanding concerns that there is too much traffic on Grove and that traffic drives too fast. I have only lived directly off and driven on Grove for 1.5yrs so I am no expert on the matter. I have not personally seen evidence that traffic on Grove is excessive or dangerous but I will assume the longer-term residents have seen otherwise. The city's traffic planners called Grove a 'major thoroughfare" and "arterial" in 1962. Now it is referred to as a "major collector street". How much traffic, one wonders, should a street like that carry?

Here is my take on the traffic problems, if there are any exceptional ones, on Grove:
1. drivers rolling through stop signs when there is no cross traffic
2. difficulty of getting through the Grove/Centennial lights. This is intentionally caused by the traffic calming scheme. Does it deter non-residents from using Grove? Maybe. But it also makes it difficult to get back to one's house off Grove after shopping across the street at Highland Terrace's closest grocery store, Kroger.
3. it is not possible to enter Woodhaven Grove park going southbound on Grove; you can only access it by going through the problematic Grove/Centennial intersection. I have seen cars drive the wrong way down the divided end of Grove to get into the park.
4. Southbound traffic on Grove backed up from the Grove/Centennial lights far enough that they block the Grove/Summit intersection.
5. Southbound traffic on Grove that would like to turn right on red trapped in a single lane behind people that want to continue south on Audelia. A curved right turn lane (yield only e, not subject to the Grove/Centennial light) carved out of the unused, grassy SW corner of the intersection would alleviate that problem, and alleviate the backup noted in #4.

See a pattern here? I think the Grove/Centennial intersection is deeply flawed.

Once more, with feeling

I am beginning to think that acerss deliberately misunderstands my position re: RPD and residential burglary.

I'll give it one more go. Perhaps I am either too stubborn or naive to know when it is useless to try to explain.

> I'm glad you cleared up the focus of your dissension with the police
> department, but

I am not bagging on the RPD. I think we have a professional and competent bunch of officers on the street. 100% of the officers I have interacted with have been decent guys, competent, professional, and well-intentioned. I can't vouch for the deskjockey, detective, or leadership types because I haven't met many/any of them.

On the other hand I am not a cop worshipper. I do my part by obeying the law and treating others civilly and the LEOs do their part. I think it is important to make the city and PD better by pointing out what can be improved, and when spin needs to be reconciled with reality.

> you are still wrong about RPD's priorities regarding residential burglaries.

I wish that were the case.

> Both officers and administration have pushed hard to develop patrol initiatives
> and create public awareness to battle the rise in residential burglaries that have
> plagued all of north Dallas County cities.

I am aware of this; it does not refute my assertion that there is a difference in the level of concern about residential burglaries that RPD has v. what the homeowners have. {Emphasis added to help the reader home in on my assertion}

>Articles have even been posted by the department in the Richardson Today paper
> detailing how citizens can help the police in reducing and reporting suspected
> burglars in addition to education at crime watch meetings in the affected areas.

I stay informed of city publications, RPD suggestions, and crime watch issues so none of the above is new information to me. Again, your argument does not refute my assertion that there is a difference in the level of concern about residential burglaries that RPD has v. what the homeowners have.

I agree with RPD that prevention is the key here. I will go further and say that prevention is critical because the chance that any residential burglary scene will have Crime Scene called to it is exceptionally low, and it is very rare for residential burglars to get caught. In other words, if it doesn't get prevented it won't get solved. For whatever reason.

I am doing this from memory, but I think the Aug 18th arrest was the first time residential burglars were arrested at the scene in the last several months, during which citizens reported ~130 residential burglary incidents.

> The implication that any part of the Richardson Police Department does not take a
> felony offense seriously is flawed and uninformed.

I think you are intentionally misreading or misunderstanding me. I do not claim that RPD doesn't care about residential burglaries or any other crime. I am suggesting that given pressures from above and time constraints on the street something has got to give. The choices that RPD leadership and supervisors make in prioritizing residential burglary cases is not, I am claiming, the same priority that homeowners would assign. That's my last try at explaining it.

> The implication the RPD crime scene unit does not process burglary of habitation
> crime scenes is not only uninformed, its just wrong.

I would gladly review your evidence supporting this claim. Here's how I assessed it for myself.

I have monitored, recorded, and listened to hundreds of hours of COR public service radio transmissions, including RPD. I keep the last (rollling) 10 days on hand in digital format in case I need to refer to it. I keep close tabs on the serious crimes that are reported in my area of Richardson. I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that Crime Scene is very rarely dispatched to residential burglary scenes. Crime Scene is more commonly sent to business burglarly scenes. I do not know why this is so, and I won't try to guess.

People who have asked about this have been told "there's just no evidence to process". That does not ring true to me. It would make no sense that residential burglars are wiley criminals who leave no trace while business burglars leave abundant useful evidence.

The bottom line is that in residential burglary situations Crime Scene is generally not called, even when the homeowner is asking for surfaces to be processed for prints. That, IMO, is evidence of a significant difference in priority. Even if the citizen is dead wrong and the patrolman is completely right it's still a difference in priority.

If you think I am overstating RPD's willingness to shut down residential burglary calls with little post-contact investigation (generally zero detective or Crime Scene investigation), camp out on the crime map and see how long before the residential burglary incident goes INACTIVE. Historically, very few have any kind of PENDING or other status, even if citizens are volunteering information. Many are already marked INACTIVE by the time they show up on the map (generally 2-3 days). Cross-reference the incident with the scanner traffic and see how often Crime Scene is dispatched.

> Rant all you want about the city counsel and mayor, but leave the Richardson
> Police Department out of your politics.


Not sure what my politics are, or what they have to do with residential burglary.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Notes on the 8/24 council meeting

Work session

* The word "actually" started to annoy me in the Routh Creek Parkway presentation.

BTW, I recently rode the entirety of the trails in that area. Nice ride, but there are some things to be aware of. Some of the corners are blind and bike riders will have to reduce their speed. There are homeless people in the park, though none were doing anything weird/dangerous when I was there. There are several intersecting trails, and the signage is not very good. It would be easy to get turned around if one had no sense of direction. You're not going to get lost, per se, but if you don't pay attention you could easily spend a lot of time backtracking.

* Mr. Omar asks relevant questions in a civil manner. Keep up the good work, sir.

City Council Meeting

* I can corroborate the issue that the Motorcycling gentleman reports (sensors not tripping the lights). I experience this both on motorcycle and bicycle. This is particularly unpleasant if you are at the front of a line of cars. You (and the cars behind you) can't go because your bike won't trip the light.

* looks like the session ran past 10pm. I will program the MythTV box to record until 11pm.

Audio of the session[s]
I pulled the audio out of the 4hr recording and am attempting to post it here. Caveats:

* it's unedited. At the beginning you will hear the buzzy audio off the channel 16 slideshow until the work session begins. You will hear it again between work session and council session.

* I don't plan on editing anything. Next week's will be 5hrs long and I'm not going to trim it if it runs shorter. My ability/willingness to post this stuff is directly related to how much I can automate the process.

* theoretically this means you could subscribe to an xml feed on this blog and get the council meetings and other audio (like the recent burglarly arrest) as a podcast. I don't know the details of how that will work yet. The enclosure is there in the alleged feed location if I look at the raw xml, but not in an RSS reader or podcast catcher. Hmmm. Will play with it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hot Dog Splash @ Terrace Park pool

Some electronics don't like getting wet, and this alarm is no different. To be fair, I don't think he'd ever been in (or seen) a standing body of water. Ex-racing dogs worked rather than played during their early lives.

If I carried him into deeper water his legs stuck out stiffly and he wouldn't paddle. Then he'd start to roll over and panic. Got him to dogpaddle a few strokes but greys have very little body fat and tend to sink. There was another grey there that had learned to swim, albeitly clumsily and with a look of intense concentration on his face.

So we stayed in the shallow part. It was amusing to see the water dogs leap into the pool with wild abandon. Good stuff. There was a Rottie that couldn't swim well wearing a vest. I think he was my favorite there; he was forever putting around the pool like a tugboat.

The event was well-run, and most people obeyed the rules. Dogs were supposed to be on leash if not swimming, but many were not. Young folks were posted at the gate to catch dogs that tried to make a run for it. Various corporate sponsors and volunteer groups with small tent booths.

Event cost was only $5 per dog; I think it benefitted the shelter. I'd say take your dog next year and have some fun.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Burglar alarm system

The idea is that in the dark of night the burglar will not see the black dog. I have chosen a retired greyhound because this breed has an uncanny ability to stretch out and completely block the entrance in question.

It goes like this:
1. burglar enters the home
2. burglar trips over dog
3. burglar curses or shouts in pain. Homeowner neutralizes the threat.
4. dog remains in position, unmoved, waiting to trip any accomplices

You can see from this picture exactly how hyper these animals are.

If you would like a high performance alarm system like this you can consult either Greyhound Adoption League of Texas or Greyhounds Unlimited.

Smile for the day: an actual transformer

This kind of fabrication is pretty danged cool. Well done.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Storytime: It's falling from the sky!

I was in basic training in OK with a fellow who had never been outside Hawaii. We were in formation when it started to snow. He broke formation and started running around yelling "OMG it's snowing! Is this snow? It's snow! It's just FALLING FROM THE SKY!" He was gobsmacked by both the concept and the reality of it.

We thought the drills were going to hammer him but they thought it was funny and let him run around for a while before ordering him back into formation.

more rain than I thought

I heard the thunder all night, but didn't think there was much rain associated with it. Found 2" in the rain gauge this AM. Cool.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Keffler's auto waste on the news

DVR'ed the 10PM showing of the news to catch this story. If the station doesn't post the video online I'll see if I can edit it down and post it somewhere.

The city manager said he has checked out the car while his family used the leased car.

It's obscene, and I am pleased the issue is getting traction in the wider community and media. I believe Mr. Morgan has been talking about this issue for a long while and it took the rest of us a while to catch up.

BTW, Mr Keffler and the Council: during this economic hardship you could probably pay someone $24k to drive you around in their own car. Wouldn't be fancy but at least it would employ a Richardson resident.

Heck, it'd probably be cheaper to call him a taxi every time. Current rates appear to be:
$2.25- Initial Meter Drop
$0.20- For each 1/9 mile

Let's run the numbers for the reported 1500 miles/year number the SUV gets driven.

Let's assume 4 rides a day, 250 days/year. That's $2,250. 1500 miles @ $1.8/mile = $2,700 for a total of $4,950. So we would save $19,050 a year if we bought Mr. K four taxi rides a day instead of providing his family an SUV.

Somebody check my math on this stuff; it's late and I was never great at math anyhow.

[Edit: I had some facts wrong. The 1,500 miles number is for the pool car, not the assigned SUV. So my math above is not useful. The breakeven point for taxi v. SUV would be 12,083 miles/year]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

burglary arrest in SE Richardson

A Signal 37 call (suspicious person) from a citizen on Stillmeadow resulted in multiple arrests for burglary today.

The good news:
* RPD handled the situation professionally after they engaged it
* 4 burglars caught
* no LEOs hurt

The bad news:
* The first officer started underway to the location eighteen minutes after it was called in. The dispatcher gave the "holding a 37" notification three times before it was picked up.

Here is unedited audio of RPD radio traffic during the event. Note that not all the audio is relevant to the burglary, particularly for the first few minutes while the call is awaiting assignment.

I think we got lucky on this one. Professional burglars would have been in/out well before that 18-min mark. I suspect there is a significant gap between the level of concern homeowners have about residential burglary and the level of concern within RPD about the same crime. I get it. It's not exciting for cops to chase burglars (unless you can catch them in the house as heard above). But the citizens care deeply about it.

The situation will change when one or more of these events becomes commonplace:

* Richardson residents start applying Castle Doctrine to the defense of their home.
* Richardson residents get injured or killed by burglars.
* Richardson residents resort to hiring private crime scene examiners when RPD declines to do simple detective work like photography and fingerprinting.
* A city official personally experiences burglary/robbery.
* Richardson residents start running their own armed patrols to secure their neighborhoods. Think this is a stretch? Anyone remember pictures of the "Collin County Militia" that used to be on the walls at the Main Street Liquid Company?
* The white-flighters that rushed to Richardson in the 1970s (now retirees) either sell their houses and retire elsewhere, or start demanding nontrivial amount of attention from city officials.

I am not recommending, I'm predicting. None of these will look good on the local media. And that, as far as I can tell, is the only real leverage anyone has over city government. Reality is useless. Perception is everything.

Flip Page technology will save us!

Ok, Mr CVB expert at the council meeting. Here's my input:

1. You don't email a digital brochure to 100k meeting planners. You send them the link and they pull it off the website as needed. To do otherwise is annoying and wasteful of our bandwidth.

2. Next time you think you want to make something "jazzy" go visit Google. Go ahead, do it now. I'll wait. There is a reason that Google is the most visited, most useful page on the internet. Look at all that blingy jazzy crap! Wait, there is none. It's simple and straightforward. Blingy presentation for the sake of bling is the mark of a man who is in over his head / unsure of his content. Look! Shiny objects! Must collect that foil and blue hairpin! Caw! Caw!

3. I wanted to barf when you said that the ludicrous flip page technology was "huge for us", "will save us a lot of money", and will give people instant access". Someone has swallowed a load of corporate duckspeak on that one. You already have a cheap, effective, cross-platform and free technology called HTML. Use the 2.0 dynamic stuff if you must, but this page turning crap is a stunt. And it's a stunt that costs money, distracts from content, and is very likely to annoy your development staff. Trying to make the web look like print is a classic rookie mistake, the mark of a man who is in over his head / unsure of his content. See a pattern here?

There is an IT term for BS crap like this: AMS (Airline Magazine Syndrome). An exec is on a plane ride and reads some softsoap article about an expensive, useless technology. Returns to the office and starts raving about it. Rams it down the throats of customers and developers alike and will not listen to reason. Two years later the project is dropped as an utter failure and the exec starts his new round of misguided windmill tilting.

Oh, don't even get me started on the viewer plugin that users will likely be required to see this abomination, or which OSes will be supported.


Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9

Just got back from the Galaxy drive-in; Dear Wife and I went to see District 9.

Good stuff, Maynard. I don't recommend many movies for fullprice viewing but this one qualifies.

Program that DVR....

... to pick up the council meetings.

That little thumbnail is from MythTV's analog of the "now playing" list. Quality doesn't look great on the broadcast but the audio is acceptable.

I wonder if Ed is going to take his days-since counter offline?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

batch36: recipe

BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: batch[36] bighouse farmhouse
Style: Saison
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 24.60 L
Boil Size: 28.16 L
Estimated OG: 1.044 SG
Estimated Color: 3.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 23.7 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
9.10 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 84.85 %
1.30 lb Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 12.12 %
0.32 lb Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 3.03 %
38.30 gm Glacier [6.00 %] (60 min) Hops 23.7 IBU
1 Pkgs farmhouse limited edition (wyeast #3726) Yeast-Ale

Mash Schedule: mouse mash
Total Grain Weight: 10.72 lb
mouse mash
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
40 min mash in Add 12.87 L of water at 162.3 F 152.0 F

The target temp for primary with this yeast, according to Wyeast, is 90F (!)
135g of sucrose for priming.

Resized to 24.6L , hence the "bighouse" name.


batch36: brew day!

I brewed yesterday. I wasn't completely organized so it took 6hrs instead of my target 5 hours. It's not like you're completely tied to the process for 6hrs; there are two 1-hour stretches where you set a timer and walk away. For the rest of the time it's basically cleaning whenever your direct attention is not required.

There is a saying: "If you like washing dishes you're going to love homebrewing". :-) It becomes second nature.

I took crappy pics with my two-generations-back smartphone. Hopefully you can get the gist.

Ok, so brewday begins. Most people buy their yeast instead of ranching it so many people will begin here. This will be an "all grain" brew which means there are no extracts or sugars added to the batch. It's made from 100% whole grains the way God intended. I'll give you a heads up on where extract brewers would start the process.

Preparing for the Mash
batch36 mash water up to speed
The first step will be the mash.[0] This is a process of soaking malted grains (generally barley) in water at a given temp[s] for a given time[s]. It activates enzymes in the grains themselves that convert their grain starches into sugars. Literally, nothing is added but water. The grain wants to be beer and the brewers job is to facilitate that process.

batch36 grains
Here's what we are going to need for the mash: hot water (pic above of water heating on a turkey frier), milled grains, and a place to hold the mash at the proper temp. The pic to the right is about 9# of two-row[1] malted barley and about 1# of flaked wheat. See the recipe in the next post for details.

The mash
batch36 open mash
This recipe calls for the mash to be held at 153F for 60mins. During this period the mash looks like a thick, cloudy grain soup. If you taste it in the beginning it will be starchy, maybe biscuity tasting. As the enzymes start breaking down long starch changes into shorter sugar chains the converted liquid (now called wort) tastes sweet. Like malt.[2]

batch36 mashing
Once the temp is stabilized at the target temp the lid goes on and the 60min timer is set. Note the digital temp probe snaking out of the cooler. That way you can monitor temps without having to open it up. The coolers are so well insulated that it is common to lose only about .5F during the hour-long mash.

During the mash another pot of water has been heating up for the next step.

The sparge
batch36 spent grains
After the mash is done you've got a truckload of wet grains soaking in sweet liquid (wort, remember). How to get it out? I'll be using a batch sparge technique.

The "first runnnings" are drained off into the brewkettle using the spigot you see in the pic above. Then the spigot is closed and some hot water is added. Stir, wait, drain. Repeat.

At the end of the three drainings most (like 95%) of the sugars have been rinsed off and you are left with husks, or spent grains. It's just husk material because the white starchy insides have been converted to sugars then rinsed away. The husks are great for making dog biscuits or added fiber for bread or other foods. I usually add 1/3rd cup of the grains to the bread machine when it makes the "additions" beep. The rest goes in the compost pile.

Just brew it!
batch36 brewing
Brewing = boiling. We loosely call the overall procedure brewing but this is brewing proper.

BN: this is where extract brewing would start. You add water and malt extract to the pot instead of converting it from grains like we did. On this brewday we did it from scratch (grains). Why would be take the extra couple of hours to do it from scratch? It offers much more control and drops the cost considerably. Plus it's rewarding to do it the way people have done it for millenia. Most new brewers start with extract, and many stick with extract and make fine beers with it.

"What the... ", you might say, "that kettle looks just like a keg". And you would be right. This is called a keggle[3], a keg converted to a kettle by dissassembling the tap fitting and cutting a 12" hole in the top (with a plasma cutter, in this case). Why? Because brewing takes a big pot. A keg is about 15gal which is generous. A commerical 15gal stainless pot is north of $300. A keg (also stainless) is about $50 off craigslist. They can be dented and ugly and generally unfit for selling beer but work great as keggles.

batch36 IC chilling
After a 60min boil the wort is force cooled to pitching temperature, the temperature at which you want to toss in your yeasties. Normally this is around 60-65F. This particular yeast likes it unusually hot, so we will pitch around 80F.

In this pic you can see a copper coil lowered into the still-boiling wort; the tubes connect to a garden hose. (You can also see a clothespin that is anchoring a hop bag. The hops are in the bag so you don't have to strain/fish them out later). Tap water flows through the coil, wicking heat out of the hot liquid. When groundwater is 80F like it is now this will get the wort down to about 100F fairly quickly. The heated water comes out the other end of the clear hose and is used in the washing machine, or cooled and used to fill up the birdbath or water trees.[4]

Let's stop for a bit of meta-information. Up until now the brewer can play it fairly fast-and-loose since everything will be boiled. But after the wort cools below 140F sanitation becomes the overwhelming priority. Everything from here on out is sanitized with no-rinse sanitizers derived from commercial breweries and/or dairies. Cross-contamination is the enemy. Although no human pathogens live in beer (ie, they can't make you sick) certain bugs can destroy the beer. There will be bugs in the beer (as with commercial beer) unless you brew in a NASA white room. The trick is to have your yeast so happy, so vigorous, and so numerous that they out-compete any non-yeast bugs. Microbial arms race.

batch36 carboy filled
I tell you that in order to explain why there are no more pictures until the wort was in the sealed carboy fermenter with the yeast pitched in. It was just me on the porch so I did the work instead of taking pics.

For the next couple of weeks the yeast will eat the sugars in the wort, converting it to beer. It will have an airlock on it to release the CO2 that the yeast create while converting sugars to alcohol.

After fermentation is complete the beer will be kegged or bottled. It should be ready to sample about three weeks after that.

Thanks for following along. I know it's like watching somebody else's baby slobber while the parent fawns.

If you'd like a more organized look at brewing, see Palmer's How To Brew website.

[0] Remember the term "sour mash whiskey"? Same concept only their mash is soured like sourdough in a controlled way. Bourbon makers take the resulting fermented corn-beer and distill it.

[1] Remember the Two-Rows brewpub? Now you know why it's named that.

[2] Now you know where malt flavoring comes from, like Malt-o-Meal, Malted Milk balls, or a chocolate malt. That's what the wort tastes like, only it's not concentrated the way the flavorings are.

[3] no direct relation to the popular pelvic exercise.

[4] The last bit of heat down to the final pitching temp is removed by a recirculating icewater system that uses the same coil. Didn't take pics of it and it and it's a little weird to explain.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A month without skype

You may remember from last month that I did not renew my SkypeOut account, which is $3/month for (practically) unlimited calls to the US.

I went with a company that uses the open/standard VOIP platform called SIP for PC-to-phone connections. Using SIP instead of some proprietary protocol means you can choose your own client (the softphone) and do all kinds of complex multi-service configurations if you want. The client I used was Ekiga.

So here's my take after 1 month. I have switched to Twinkle, a simpler client than Ekiga. The SIP-based VOIP works and sounds great.

Cost analysis
I spent $0.15 on my diamondcard SIP account in the last month. That same cost on Skype would have been $3.00, a factor of 20x.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Batch36: 250ml --> 1000ml

Nice colorshift in the yeast starter by this AM so I will decant into the larger 1000ml flask for the final step. The combined volume will be about 800ml of starter, or about 125 billion yeast cells. They're small.

In this pic I have shown the 1000cc flask of sterile wort next to the current 250cc flask of happy yeast. There is a substantial difference in color and opacity.

This should be ready to pitch starting tomorrow morning. All the stars are in alignment, just have to figure out when to brew. The brew session will take about 5hrs so a bit of planning is required.

Real life uses for a computer concept

There is a concept in the IT world called FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

I will leave it to the reader to decide where and when FUD is deployed in the Real (non-IT) World.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First light: Dietz #2 D-Lite streamliner

This is the lantern I picked up on our daytrip to Gladewater. It was grimey and full of dirt dauber nests but not rusted. Used a nylon brush on most of it and replaced the wick. Ran the globe through the dishwasher with the last batch of dishes.

The lantern is 18" tall with the bail up, 13" with the bail down. It uses a 7/8" wick and yields about 10 candlepower according to a contemporary ad. This stepped-fount "streamline" variant was made from 1938 to 1956 and there is no way to date it more closely than that.

I was going to repaint it but Dear Wife likes it in the current incarnation.

Batch 36: yeast starter 50ml --> 250ml

Next morning. Compare the color of the starter liquid (not the foam) in this 50ml flask to yesterday. The microscopic cream-colored yeast are multiplying and their increasing numbers makes the starter look lighter.

There are technical ways of judging when to step up the starter volume but I usually go by that color change.

So I decanted the 20ml of starter from that 50ml flask into about 110ml of fresh, sterile starter in a 230ml flask. Total volume is now 130ml or so and it looks darker again because the current numbers of yeast can't cloud that volume of starter. By tomorrow we should be able to step up again. I can feel your anticipation.

"not oppressively hot"

Dear Wife and I were standing on the back porch shortly before 6am. "Hey," she said, "it's not oppressively hot."

And it wasn't. The wall thermomenter read 73F. It was a brief moment of grace before the sun came up.

I am eagerly awaiting October.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Batch 36: bighouse farmhouse

I'm going to start a running discussion that will illustrate the process of making a batch of homebrew from beginning to end. It will be deadly boring, but I will take lots of pics to make it more bearable. This batch, although it is a style that matures fairly early, will not be drinkable until mid-to-late October.

To give you an idea of the timelines, the bitter some of you tasted at Destiny's place was brewed on January 3rd. The apple cider was started on July 22, 2008. Brewing/fermenting is a game of patience and planning. The yeast are in control -- we just give them the food and time they need to do their work.

Ok, so the new batch. It's a farmhouse ale, which is a type of rual Belgian beer. It's part of a family of beers that are made with heat-loving yeast. Most yeast like it around 60-65F; farmhouse starts to work around 80F and really comes online around 90F. The resulting beer is a bit "wild" tasting, with a tangy, horsey, or leathery notes. The yeast lives there in Belgium and is harvested by American yeast culturers for propagation and sale to homebrewers. This batch is called "bighouse" because I am increasing the batch volume 30% for reasons that will become clearer on brewday.

I bought a pure culture of the farmhouse and propagated it in sterile agar slants like you probably saw in high school biology. This is where our story starts.

Preparing for brewday
The brewing (boiling) will occur approximately this upcoming weekend. There is no way to know for sure, because the yeast has to be ready.

I took the yeast culture out of the 40F refrigerator and sat it out to let it come up to room temp. While this happened I sterilized the yeast starter materials. Inside the pressure cooker: three different sizes of Erlenmeyer flasks with starter wort (unfermented pre-beer liquid) for the yeast to feed on. If you've ever proofed yeast before it's kinda like that, only working from much smaller, purer yeast samples and growing to much more yeast than you would ever use in bread. Takes days instead of minutes.

Sterilized the glassware, utensils, and liquids in the pressure cooker for 15mins @ 15 pounds. Did it outside on an old early-60s coleman camp stove I got for $10 on craigslist, as the 22qt Mirro doesn't fit well on the stove. And putting out that much heat wouldn't do any favors for my aged AC.

Let everything cool and laid out the sterile implements. The steel rod is an inoculating loop, which is flamed/quenched between each step to avoid cross contamination. The water in the mason jar was canned previously so it was already sterile. Since I lack an extra $5000 for a venthood, I make do with the poor man's version: bottom oven on low, vent-a-hood running. The object is to keep beastie-laden dirt particles flowing upward instead of settling on your working materials.
Not pictured: propane torch for flaming the 'noc loop.

Scraped the yeast out of the tube and deposited in a 50ml flask with a tiny magnetic stirbar. Re-covered with foil; this looks odd but is standard laboratory practice. The flask will sit on a stirplate for a day or so before the yeast solution will be "stepped up" into a larger volume of food in a larger flask. The stirplate has a spinning magnet in it that induces the magnetic stirbar to spin in the flask although there is no physical contact. The spinning aerates and agitates the yeast; you'll want to take my word that this is a Good Thing, as the reasoning behind it is arcane and of no use to normal people. :-) The styrofoam bit between the flask and the stirplate is for insulation. This old lab stirplate runs hotter than my other homebuilt one, and I want to control how much heat makes it to the yeast starter.

The starter is now 20cc in volume. By brew time it needs to be 500-1000cc.

That's it for now. I'll tag this series with batch36 label so folks can string the entries together after the whole thing is done.

"kids these days have no manners"

The folks that believe kids don't know how to behave these days might want to model civic discourse for the kids.

I have lived on a farm. I have seen cattle stampede. It's not good for the cattle, for the land, or for the fellow standing there in the field.

More light than heat, people. Bring your arguments and discuss them like grown-ups. If your position is correct you won't have to shout others down in order to win the argument. This is a tenet of a society based on the rule of law.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ron and Rand

Would I like to meet Drs. Rand and Ron Paul at a reception? Sure thing.

Do I have an extra $200+ for the buy-in? Not so much.

Hyundai Genesis abuse at TMS

Last month I got a piece of snailmail from Hyundai explaining the event ("hey, come drive the snot out of our new sports car") and giving a website for registration. I registered and marked it on the calendar.

The event was structured like autocross, and a majority of the attendees appeared to be autocross drivers. In events like this a tight, technically-challenging course is laid out on a large slab of concrete (usually an airstrip or large parking lot). The path is marked with paint and/or cones; the object is to get the fastest time with fewest errors.

My time was 10:30am. The festivities had started earlier in the morning and I could hear the tires screaming and engines howling before pulling into TMS from the access road. This should be fun, and a bit scary for people like me who do not race on the weekends.

As I was signing in there was a particularly long, lurid tire scream and I looked up to see a fellow spinning one of the cars across the course. Oopsy Daisy. The Hyundai rep smiled and said "you don't necessarily have to do it like that." We'll see how it goes.

There were six Genesis coupes running, a mixture of manuals, autos, and one beta paddle shift car. I drove the 6spd manual with a 3-point-something 304hp V6.

The tour was called the Adrenaline tour and I was a little amped up as I was pointed to my car. Introduced myself to the Hyundai co-driver that was in each car and noticed that the AC was on and the car was quite comfortable. Neither AC nor passenger weight are conducive to a sporting experience, BTW.

The clutch had decent spring to it; it felt like a competition clutch that should be able to take some abuse. I launched off the starting line down a short straightaway and let off the gas about 3/4 the way down the strip to prepare for the upcoming hard left turn. The co-driver indicated I should keep my foot in the throttle. More. More. More. OMG. That turn is right... there.... ohhhhhh...

Terms like "opposite lock", "throttle induced oversteer" or "drift" are best for describing what happens on a course like this when you drive at your limits. There is a vid at the bottom that indicates what this looks, feels, and sounds like in the car. It's not an experience you get on a milk run to Kroger.

The whole run went that way. I kept trying to stay within sane, non-cerebellum-melting limits and the co-driver was on me to keep it floored long, long after my lizard brain wanted to brake. In a situation like that you trust the professional and remain open to the outcome. I will admit to no small amount of fear, but I followed the co-drivers guidance, made a respectable pass without hitting any cones or spinning out. :-)

The verdict: this is much more car than I expected going in. Serious grunt from the engine, serious grip from the tires, excellent suspension. The car never felt unsettled even in the most violent maneuvers. It's absolutely a better car than I am a driver. I believe this car would win over even the most vocal Hyundai doubters. If all cars in their line were like this then the Japanese makers would have to pay real respect to the dangers presented by their Korean competitor.

And what about the jaded weekend racers with their modified performance cars? They got in line again and again. It was like watching children at Six Flags riding the same ride over and over until they get sick. I didn't hear a single negative comment about the cars from those racers. That's saying something.

This is not my vid, but it is a vid from the same event before it came to Dallas. It will give you an idea how the track is laid out and what it is like to drive it. The camera work is very shakey -- it's violent inside the car when you are tossing it around like that:

It takes huevos for an underdog car company to flog their new model all day in front of their most critical audience. The cars worked perfectly, the event was well-handled, and the drivers (read: customers) were all happy. That's how an underdog kicks market leaders in the shins. And it will leave a mark.

Here is the official Hyundai Genesis promo site.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Daytrip: Gladewater, Tx

Dear Wife and I boarded the dog and took a day trip to Gladewater, Tx. It's a leisurely two-hour trip down Hwy 80.

The main reason for going to the town is they have an old city square that's full of antique shops. I got some old 1950s razors and a 1940s (?) Dietz #2 D-Lite kerosene lantern. Dear Wife, who does not drink coffee, got a groovey anodized 1960s coffee percolator and a few small things.

Drove back in light rain. Gotto the house and it was 86F in there. Weird. Turns out the power had been off for about 5 hrs and had just come back on 16mins before we got home. I knew this because of the uptime on my *nix boxen.

Terrible crush: VBH

Ok, confession time. I have a terrible crush on Vicki Butler-Henderson, British driver/racer/presenter. I picked a few clips from Fifth Gear to help explain the fixation.

Here she is teaching her mom to lap a track in a Lambo in the wet. Mom's a bit scared at first:

Here VBH track tests a Fiat Panda v. a Ferrari 360:

and VBH on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14 (ie, Hayabusa-killer):

She's a joy to watch.

Nowadays I hear she is still on TV but doing some kind non-motorsports stuff. How much fun could that be?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

flyer: Green Lawn Services

Young flyer distributor had no permit displayed, and taped the flyer to the door a few inches from the No Solicitors sign. Wrong 3x in a ten second period (taping is disallowed, in case you were wondering about the infraction count).

The flyer says "call Miguel", though the only reference I found to that number on google was used by Victor Santamaria.

Monday, August 3, 2009

LTS reversal

Lost the LTS position. The school realized that any LTS longer than 21 days requires the LTS teacher to be HQ in that topic. I am only HQ for Social Studies 8-12.

Bright side is that it will allow me more flexibility for interviewing Social Studies / History / Geography jobs.