Sunday, January 28, 2007

To jalapeno or not

I remembered there was this beer recipe that I had wanted to try when I first started looking for beer recipes online several years ago. The person I was making beer with at the time was too chicken to try it and I subsequently put the recipe on the back burner, until today that is. I was going to the beer store so I thought I would pick up the few items I needed to make a Jalapeno beer. I did decide to use Thai chili peppers instead. I bought the wrong amount of dry malt and so I decided to add more grains to get the right sugar mix. In the end, my one gallon batch turned into a 1.3 gallon batch requiring me to use two gallon sized bottles instead of the one that I had prepared. Oh well, at least I had an extra bottle. I might have been able to fit all the liquid in one bottle, but the first few days of fermentation are quite vigorous and I would have blown the airlock and made a mess, so two bottles are better than one.

I decided to make a smaller batch so I can have a chance to play around with only a few 'mistakes' to drink, or foist off on unsuspecting friends. Although, they might not stay friends for long if I do that too often. This beer will also be ready sooner than the other beers I currently have brewing. So at least I get some faster satisfaction from this batch and something to hold me until the big batches are ready.

I found a really cool podcast that is also split with a video side too that is all about homebrewing either beers or meads. I listened to the first few and it is nice. I will be exploring more of them as I get time. They are called Basic Brew Radio and there is also Basic Brew Video.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

More snow, or maybe not

Its been snowing off and on again for a good few hours but there has been no accumulation. There does not even seem to be a chance of accumulation. The weather here has been a little annoying. It is as if it can't decide to snow or not. Oh well.

I went to a writing group that was spawned off from a NoNaWriMo a couple of years ago. The 'head' of the group posted to the nano board saying they changed to thursday night, so off I went. Good thing I off loaded an updated version of my writings or I would have been left with a slightly outdated copy. I guess I would have had to read the thing and try to outline it so I would know where to go next rather then stumbling around in the dark, aimlessly. I should take the time to outline what I have and try to pickup forgotten characters. It might even help me to figure out how fast things are happening and how to bring things together. I will get to that, but later as the procrastinator in me says.

In the meantime, I didn't get much written but I did get to meet with a few other writers from NaNoWriMo and we did chat on and off over the course of two hours. I will try to go somewhat regularly. I will also have to figure out if it is better to drive there as it is rather close or commute. I commuted tonight and found out they moved my bus stop so I missed the bus. It was cold out so I started walking and picked up the next one a few stops down. It isn't that far a drive but I would worry about not being able to find parking on the street back at the apartment. It does fill up after a certain time. In some ways that has made me less dependent on the car, I really don't want to move the car if I know I can't get a parking again. Also, the car still needs work so I don't want to move it more then I have to.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Beer and snow

I managed to find a little time to run down to the school with a friend to pick up my last two living plants. Apparently there is something in the water, or the lighting, that was not very condusive to keeping herbs alive. Or maybe they just didn't take well to the transplant from the aquarium. Anyway, I got the Norfolk pines home, removed their decorations and they are now on the table near the window watching it snow. I was a little skeptical that it would snow for longer than five minutes as that is all it has done over the last few weeks. But to my surprise, not only did it snow for most of the day, but it actually accumulated. I might just be able to get out and find enough snow somewhere to snowshoe with.

In the meantime, while it snowed outside, I stayed in and made beer. I actually put on two batches and was up until 11:00 doing so. I should have known better but once I started the messy process, I was loath to clean up only to have to make the mess again another day. So I put on a 5 gallon batch of Trois Pistoles and a 2.5 gallon batch of a white. I ended up cleaning up the mess tonight and eating left overs, thank goodness for leftovers. At least I didn't have to add to the mess before cleaning the mess.

As for the beer, next week I have to transfer it to a clean bottle to continue fermenting then comes the fun part; bottling. I will definitely bottle the white but the TP is another matter. I have about 6 weeks to decide whether I want to keg the whole 5 gallons, bottle half and keg half or bottle the whole batch. As I have never kegged before, I am curious as to what will happen and how to go about doing it, but I am also unsure if I can keg half a batch without CO2. I also don't have enough bottles for 7.5 gallons of beer. And since they mature at different rates, I can't even drink one batch to make room for the other, so kegging or getting more bottles are my options. Obviously, kegging lookes like the cheaper and easier alternative as I have a 5 gallon keg with some fitting. But I think that after I get the rest of the fittings and possibly some CO2, it may actually work out to be cheaper to get bottles. Decisions, decisions. Time will tell. I guess if I bottle, I can keep the beer around longer. If I keg it I will likely bring it to the school for a tgif and it will go faster. Hopefully I will make some friends that way assuming the beer is good. The best option though is to keg half and bottle half. I can keep some around and have a keg party. Time to do some research.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Spike and Mike Twisted Animaltion Festival

I remember seeing one of their festivals a few years ago and remember liking it. Unfortunately, this year I really didn't enjoy it that much. The animated shorts just didn't have much substance and several of them were just plain dumb. At least one had me scratching my head in confusion and still others made me wonder why I was stil watching. I am sure the bathroom had better content on the walls than some of the shorts had. I did have high hopes for Happy Tree Friends which I have seen before but even that seemed to let me down. Maybe you really need to be in the mood (or drunk) to really appreciate the shorts that they had lined up. I apparently was not in either mood and therefore did not enjoy myself.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Car woes

I just got a quote for all the ills of the car and it is listed below, I am just getting the muffle and vacuum hose fixed for now.

$480 - muffler
$520 - front rotors and new brakes
$420 - back rotor and new brakes
$195 - parking brake cables
$390 - strut mounts worn
$300 - splash shields missing (and likely missing for a long time and unnecessary, also gets in the way of me changing the oil)
$1100 - subframe control arm and alignment (from when I hit that rock at leaat 2 years ago, car is still going fine but with a little squeek every once in a while)
$150 - vacuum line for intake manifold

This next was suggested simply because I am now at 108,700 miles.
$661 - 100,000 mile check up and fuel line replacement (I can save $71 if I change the fuel line filter myself)

The list is rather impressive but I did know about some of this and have ignored it as non-essential for quite a while now, like splash shields. I know I need rotors but apparently all 4 need to be replaced. I can likely do a fuel line filter myself, so how important is a 100,000 mile check up? Also, to buy all the rotors myself costs $293, then tools and brake pads, plus a new lug bolt will come to less than the $1000 repair but is it worth the headache. I am not sure how many more good years this car has left in it as they did mention there was a fair amount of rust underneath. Not sure it is worth it to cut my losses now as I don't think I can afford the expense of a decent car right now and I don't want to buy another car that might be even worse off then what I have. I know new is not necessary but I would like to get something decent.

Well, I get the car back tomorrow sounding much better but the bank account will be a little bit lighter. The muffler repair isn't so bad considering I really haven't put that much money into the car for the last few years, basically a new windshield and oil pan. Not sure what to make of the rest of the list.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Billy Goat trail

Had a chance to finally get out and explore the Billy Goat trail. Today was a holiday so I took the opprotunity as did many ohter people. I had heard that it can be difficult and is a challenging section of trail quite close to DC. It was about a 20-30 minute drive away and while it was a nice hike, I didn't find it that challenging. The steep climb up was a little intimidating at first, but the hard part was actually walking over some of the water smoothed rocks. Even though they were dry, they were slippery as can be. Some areas were also covered in a find beach sand. I hiked in sandals, t-shirt and shorts. I still can't believe how mild the winter is right now. I keep waiting for the big blizzard to come in and cover the city. Would certainly help me get going on that snowshoe test I am trying to do. I fear I might have to give up on the snowshoes this year. That would be a shame, I really wanted to get out and use them and try snowshoeing with good snowshoes.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Casino Royale

Decided to go watch the movie even though it is a remake of an older movie. Actually, I tried to look up the old movie and couldn't find it on so now I am doubting my memory of the title.

I had not heard many good things about the new James Bond. Most of the complaints seemed to center around his being blond but then the complaints came out before the movie did so I didn't put much stock in them. Also, the critics don't rank very high in my books and I never listen to them. I decided to listen to a friend who had seen it before and we went out and watched the movie together.

I really liked the movie, I liked how they started the film off in his past the jump up to 'modern times' was a little disconcerting though. The film has the feel of being in his past while the film seems to be ahead of the other films. This dichotomy gave the movie a strange feel but overall the movie was still enjoyable. I have been trying to remember if the old movies had M as the director but again, this would be a minor plot point that does not detract from the film unless you are a die-hard Bond fan. The action sequences are spectacular and the action set at the beginning of the film was almost surreal. The man Bond is chasing looks like he had springs for legs and a rubber body. Of course Bond gets the great car, has the good looking girl on his arm and survives death to win the day. It is the getting through all that that makes the film worth watching.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Beer supplies, check!

I made it down to the local beer supply store. It is actually the basement of someones house and a home business but they had everything I needed. I did have to pick up some new equipment due to a lost in one of my moves but that was fine. The loss that will be harder to replace will be all the beer bottles. I can buy them from the beer store or try to find a free supply. Alternatively, I can use the keg I recently acquired from a hiking partner and pick up the hardware needed for that. The problem with the keg is that I will either have to pressurize the keg (this is most likely), or drink it all in one sitting (not very likely but I can bring it to a TGIF at the school and let everyone partake in the beer). So I now have the supplies, minus bottles for two batches of beer, I decided to do the Trois Pistoles clone again and give the white another try. I had great success with the Trois Pistoles the first time around but I have never had much luck with the white. While it is a great tasting beer, it has always been flat. I am not sure if this is due to the 2 month cycle in the bottle, unlikely but possible, or simply that the yeast is unable to cope with the high alcohol content. I suspect the latter and this time I picked up some champagne yeast which can handle higher alcohol levels. I am also tweeking the recipe a little and will be making a full 2.5 gallon batch. So I am set to go. If the weather is uncooperative tomorrow, I will make beer instead of hiking. There is rain in the forecast for this entire weekend, likely because the weather gods knew this was a holiday weekend. Oh well. At least I am getting out and getting some things done. Monday is going to be the slow day with nothing to do. Tuesday I will be trying to go to the Canadian expat meetup, Wednesday I get the muffler fixed on the car, Thursday nothing, and Friday maybe there will be a TGIF at the school. Then another fun filled weekend I hope.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Had a chance to catch Stomp with a friend and decided why not. I wasn't really sure what to expect but I was expecting something a little like the commercials I have seen. We did dinner at Elephant & Castle, supposedly traditional English fare. The fish was good, the chips could have been better and the roast beef with yorkshire pudding was good but not as good as mom's. Overall, the resaurant was quite nice and worth further exploring. We then made our way over to the theater and watched the show. In some resects it was similar to the commercials and yet it was also completely different. Each little section built on the last section and there were quite a few funny sections. Mostly sight gags. There was also audience participation. They had us clapping along with them. After all the clapping I did, it makes me wonder how they can bang on things for 2 hours straight. My hands were tingling and vibrating a little.

Getting downtown was easy but I really should figure out where to pick up my bus so I can get back easily. I ended up walking around the circle, probably took the wrong door out of the station then ended up catching the shuttle back to the school and walking home. I guess I should be happy I have that fall back. Poor cat was really hungry when I got in though.

Looks like the sore throat from the weekend has come back with friends. I am moving up the sick scale. The sore throat is much worse making coughing very difficult and I am tired. I am hoping I am well this weekend as there are lots of things to do. More hiking for one, plus it is a holiday weekend.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Night at the Museum

I had every intention of watching another movie but after the walk down to the theater and arriving late for that movie, I decided to catch this one instead. I was really not sure what to expect when walking into this movie. From the previews, I gathered that the museum exhibits come to life every night but other than that, there really didn't seem to be any point to the movie. And boy was I surprised. There was a story line to the movie and while a little simple, ended up being very appealing and made for a good movie experience. I was not disappointed after watching this movie. There was enough humour to appeal to both the adult and the kid in me which made for a good night. Too bad the rain couldn't have held out a little longer.

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On the trail, finally

There was a hiking meetup to Annapolis rock that I participated in. It was really nice to hit the trail. It was a section that I had already hiked but really in the end, I don't remember every section of the trail so it was worth going. I also really didn't take the time to explore any of the vantage points on the side of the trail at all so this was a chance to see some of the sights. The climb in was a little rough. Not only was the trail covered by lots of leaves, hiding the rocks, but apparently I have gotten out of shape. It also didn't help that I had a sore throat. The weather was actually spectacular. More like a warm spring day then the middle of winter. I was mostly wearing t-shirt and shorts for the hike then I would layer up when we stopped. I was really windy out on the ridge and ledges but nothing a windbreaker couldn't handle.

So the aftermath of the hiking is that I am sore is more places than I care to be. I had my knee braces on so the knees are fine but my hips, calves and thighs are quite sore. My wrists were tired from carrying the poles. Thankfully the weather was so nice that I could wear my sandals. That meant I didn't have to wear my stiff, heavy boots. I really dislike those boots but they are good boots and work very well in winter that I just can't justify replacing them. I should look into getting some trail runners for spring and fall when I am between sandals and boots.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

A new year has sprung up on me with out much warning. I really am finding it hard to believe that 2006 has past by so quickly. Where has the time gone. I went out to two parties with a friend. The parties really were not that great but the company was great and made up for it. We ended up watching movies all night after ringing in the new year. Monday actually felt a lot like a Sunday, nothing got done.

I picked up book 4 of the Megatokyo Manga. I was going to order it online from Megagear but in the end I was at a book store and decided to pick it up. I am not sure where the rest of the books are right now. I still have to unpack all my books but at least they are now out of the way, ie filling up the closets. I feel like there are still so many things I have to get in order to make the place livable and every time I think about it I end up putting it off. With a car repair bill coming up I am also not sure how much I should go out and spend on furniture. I have the option of bringing home some of the lab shelves and supports. That will work for the bed room but I am not sure it will work for the living room. Also some of the shelves are very wide, there appear to be enough narrow shelves to make it worth the effort. Maybe I will pick them up when I come get my plants.