May 26, 2007
So, last night it was time to brew the yeast starter for Sunday’s brew session. It’ll be my first brew in California, and my brother-in-law’s first ever. I’ll be doing a raspberry wheat, and he’ll do an IPA.
A yeast starter is typically brewed 1-3 days before the brew session begins, and it allows you to let the yeast go through the majority of their multiplication phase, to give you a large number of viable yeast cells to ferment the beer. This means that they don’t spend their time in your beer multiplying (which can contribute to off flavors), and they get a foothold in your beer very quickly, so no other microorganisms can get a hold of it and infect it. A starter involves boiling a small amount of malt extract in water, cooling it down, and pitching the yeast.
Yesterday I bought a 2L Erlenmeyer Flask for the purpose. Thinking that it would be perfect for brewing the starter, as it’s designed for high heat applications, I set it on the stove, with water and malt extract, and went to work. It started heating up, and when it came time to boil, it boiled over so fast I couldn’t even do a thing about it… So I tried again, keeping a close eye on the burner this time. I noticed as it was about to reach boil, cut the heat, as I noticed it slowly bubbling up towards the top. With a towel, I was working to transfer it off the burner, when it suddenly shot up and boiled over. Right on my hand. It immediately took some skin off.
Beautiful, huh? I put it under some cold water, put some neosporin and a bandage on it, and finished my starter. I decided it was better to boil the wort in a saucepan, and then pour it into the flask after chilling. There’s no real danger doing it that way. Consider this a very painful lesson learned.
I managed to do all this without exclaiming in pain, and didn’t even toss out any four-letter expletives. I really didn’t want to call attention to it, as I was hanging out with all my in-laws. Somehow I’ve still hid it from the wife, although her mother saw it today, so when she gets back today, I’m sure I’ll be “caught”. I hate when people fawn over me to try to take care of me, so hopefully they’ll leave me alone in my recovery.
On the bright side, I was flipping throught the channels today, and saw the below video… It managed to take my mind off of my hand for a while… I recommend turning the sound on your computer all the way down, and then watching.
May 24, 2007
Sometimes being honest isn’t very lucrative… Today is one of those days.
On Sunday, we went out to buy a replacement TV. Instead of the 42″ LCD, we ended up with a slightly more expensive (but much higher quality) 46″ DLP. One of the selling points was a special Best Buy was running online, where certain big-screen TV’s would get you a free $250 TV stand.
There was one snag. The stand wasn’t in stock in the store. So I paid for everything, they gave me a claim check, ordered the stand, and it was to be in the store today. Or so I thought. They made a bit of a mistake, which I didn’t even realize until today.
I arrived at the store, handed over my claim check, and the guy wheeled out another 46″ DLP TV. It turns out they didn’t order me a TV stand, they ordered me a TV. And I was holding in my hand a claim voucher for a $1200 TV, which I had already picked up and started watching three days ago. Knowing a little bit about Best Buy & having seen their inventory control when I took possession of the first TV, I realized that if I had wanted to walk out of the store with that TV, it’d be basically a risk-free way to take Best Buy for the difference in cost, or $950… And I’m sure that TV would have fetched a hefty sum on the secondhand market, especially since it was new in the box and I’d have a receipt to prove it wasn’t “stolen” (even if it would have been). Or, it would have made a pretty sweet father’s day gift for my dad.
But I knew that I had no choice. To take that TV would have gone against all my principles. I alerted the salesman, and we started working it all out. While I suggested a few times that it would be pretty easy for them to just give me the TV, they weren’t about to jump at the deal…
Then the fun began. Since they hadn’t ordered the stand (ordering the TV instead), they didn’t have the stand in stock. Having fought through SoCal rush-hour for the better part of an hour, I wasn’t about to leave the store unsatisfied. They couldn’t give me store credit to purchase it at another store, because the special deal they were offering would make it impossible to give me full credit. And I didn’t want to come back. So I suggested that we look at other stands in the same price range, and they agreed.
I ended up getting a stand that both my wife and I much prefer to the one they were offering. The offered stand was somewhat contemporary, and the one we got was wood and much more “warm”. While my own tastes tend toward contemporary, it wouldn’t fit with anything else my wife owns, so it was a better fit for our house. It was $10 more, but they gave it to me at no added cost.
So while I didn’t get a second big-screen TV, as much as I wanted it, I ended up getting a stand that I like much better than the free one without any additional cost. All that without the guilt that would have come from violating my principles.
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Good Karma
May 21, 2007
Woke up this morning, and it was time for another walk. Guinness, as always, was up and rarin’ to go. Spanky hid under the bed so I couldn’t take him. He’s lazy.
But as VRB suggested, I brought the camera and decided to snap some pics this time.
To give you a sense of scale, below is a satellite shot of the complex. The building in the white square is ours. You can see a walking trail between the complex and the golf course, which heads under PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and out to the ocean.
Below is a shot from right outside the apartment complex, on the walking trail.
Farther down the trail, I got a good shot of one view of the St. Regis hotel. We’ve come here for drinks a few times back when we lived in Irvine, and actually spent an anniversary there. Beautiful place…
Across PCH, here’s one of more of the golf course, with the ocean and cliffs in the background…
Gotta practice surfing before I’ll be ready to ride this…
So that’s where I live… Hopefully if I make this walk regularly enough, I won’t be quite as big as I am in this picture anymore!
May 19, 2007
You know, there are a lot of things I don’t like about California. But the fact that I can make a statement like that really makes it pretty bearable.
Anyway, on the way back, I saw a guy wearing a vest that said “Lone Wolf Motorcycle Club”… I was reminded of the scene from Gross Pointe Blank, where Dan Aykroyd’s character is trying to get John Cusack’s character to join his assassination “union”. Cusack explains that he’s not interested in joining a club, what with wearing all black; trying to craft the “lone wolf” persona.
Who came up with this name? Were they thinking?! I could see something like “Wolf Pack”, but not “Lone Wolf”… Lone wolves ride alone; joining a club kinda defeats the purpose.
It’s about as wrong as this blog was in the old days, when I had two other bloggers at “The Unrepentant Individual”. No offense to my former co-bloggers, but that was just a bad idea from the start…
dustbury.com linked with The Hermits' Association will come to order...
This was three weeks ago, but they just got all the photos online. As you can see, the wife’s already showing off the little one soon-to-arrive… It’s amazing that we’re just about through May, and little Wyatt is arriving in early to mid August… If not sooner, as babies have a way of telling you when they want to arrive, not the other way around…
Doesn’t she just glow?
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Brought The Camera This Morning
Ahh… 7 days without internet access at home, and with morning-to-night activity. I’m just starting to wind down.
All told, the cross-country drive was uneventful. I was a bit pissed as our closing on the house took 4 hours, so I was 2-3 hours behind schedule, but it all worked out. I got to meet Nick M in Tucson as I went through, so that was good.
Here’s the car… Packed up to the gills, leaving nothing more than a little cocoon for me to drive.
Next is somewhere in Texas on day 2. Of course, Texas was also part of Day 1. That’s a big damn state… But we made some good time across it
Then, I managed to get into California. What was I greeted with on Sunday afternoon? Yep… Traffic. On.A.Sunday.Afternoon!
But hey, what can ya do? I’m here. I’ve made the drive to and from work a few times, and that’s smooth sailing. It’s about 20-25 minutes, but I never have to get on a freeway, and traffic moves the whole way. At this point I’ll take it.
The apartment is slowly shaping up. I hope to use some Memorial Day sales to acquire a 42″ flat-panel HDTV… Still not sure whether to go LCD or plasma, but I figure either is good. And we still need a couch. And I need to buy a keg to put into my kegerator…
All in all, I’m here, I’m back with my wife and my dogs, and while it’s not exactly my ideal situation, all is coming together. And now that I’ve got a real internet connection, I’ll be able to devote time to blogging again.
May 7, 2007
So the Hinder song, “Lips of an Angel”, has finally worn out its airplay, and not a minute too soon. It’s a song about some forlorn lover who pines for his ex while his current is in the next room. I never liked it. What a punk. But Hinder hasn’t exactly gone away, as I’ve been hearing their latest single, “Better Than Me”, far too often. Pining again about his ex, with the point of the song that deserves someone better than him in the first place. But I guess if he has a habit of pining for his ex while with his current, his current probably deserves someone much better than him too.
But something even beyond the songs themselves get on my nerves. His voice is like the current rock voice writ large. Most of today’s singers have a bit of rasp in there, but this guy sounds like someone took a rusty metal file to his vocal chords. And while that’s bad, that’s not the half of it. He combines that with a certain whiny self-pity in his voice that is just disgusting. How can you rasp like you’re a rocker while you’re whining like a baby about how unfair it is your ex left. I can’t take it…
Like I said before, I’m not quite sure if this qualifies as “emo”. Which, since I don’t understand emo, I think I’m going to stop calling it “emo punk” and start calling it “Elmo punk”. ‘Cause that little furry bastard is just about as annoying.
I was showing off pictures a few weeks ago of things like red meat and vegetables, elaborate fajitas, and the like. I chose not to show any pictures of tonight, because it’s little more than a broken man.
With the move coming up, I’ve been packing like a madman. I stopped cooking a few days ago, because I packed up the cookware. I’ve thrown away the various additives that don’t transport well and are cheap (vinegar, flour, etc). And tonight for dinner I polished off the leftover roast beef sub I bought for lunch.
Hungry in the evening, I started looking around in the freezer… “Hmm”, I thought, “there’s some mint chocolate chip ice cream in here! That’ll hit the spot!”
So I pulled it out of the freezer and opened the cupboard. “Ahh hell, I packed up the bowls…” Then I opened the drawers. “Ahh shit, I packed the silverware too!”
So it was off to improvise. I looked around and I saw a slightly non-conventional spoon. It was marked with a stamp that said “1 tablespoon” and was on a keyring with other, similar, spoons. And I didn’t have a bowl, but I still had the tub the ice cream was sitting in.
So I sat down with a 1 tbsp measuring spoon and a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream to end the evening… Gluttony, thy name is Brad.
May 5, 2007
So, with the move, I won’t have a nice big garage any more. This puts a damper on my brewing plans. But I won’t let things like that stop me!
I’ve already recruited one, and likely two, fellow brewers. My brother-in-law has volunteered his garage for the operation, and he’s the type of hobbyist (like me) that will be willing to go completely and totally overboard on this. His other brother-in-law is likely to be just as crazy about it, and I think I might have gotten him hooked when I was out there for the wedding last weekend. I think I had them hooked when I explained the process: drink, smoke cigars, and somehow at the end of the process you have more beer than what you started with! We might even get a few other hangers-on to join us from time to time, but I expect the three of us will be a core group of this operation.
As the brewers and beer folks out there know, I’ve already expanded a fair bit above the “basic” brewing techniques. I made the switch from extract to all-grain, which brings down the cost of a batch and gives me control over a lot of the parameters of brewing that you don’t get with extract. I’ve done fairly well with some of the recipes I’ve designed as well.
But there are a few things I want to do that will allow me to really cut down the cost of a batch. These are things that I could have done in Georgia (and likely would have), but having a third brewer really increases the ability to expand the operation. So there are two stages that we need to go through to really fire this up:
We need a fridge or two. The first fridge will allow us to store hops (bought in bulk), and to keep cultures of yeast on hand. Hops and yeast are two of the most expensive brewing inputs once you transition to all-grain. With this, we can make sure that we can re-use yeast by keeping a few strains on hand in the fridge, and buy hops by the pound instead of the ounce. The second fridge isn’t quite as necessary, but it can help us to control fermentation temps, since we’ll be dealing with SoCal summers.
Second, as I mentioned yesterday, is the need for a grain mill. That way we can buy our grain in bulk 55-lb bags and crush it ourself, which *DRASTICALLY* reduces the cost of brewing. You can easily spend $20 on grain for a normal-strength batch, this will bring it closer to $10-12. Over three batches brewed at once, we’re saving close to $30 per brew day, so it will pay for itself quickly.
With this, of course, we need a scale to measure ingredients, and probably need to build another mash/lauter tun so that we can be mashing multiple batches at the same time. Those are pretty simple things to take care of, though, so we should be fine.
Two words: Go big!
We need first to build this. Why sit around doing three separate batches at once when we can do one REALLY BIG one? And if we need to, we could always have a separate batch or two going in case someone wanted to brew a specialty beer that day as well. This would allow us to brew 15-20 gallons at a time. Of course, that means we need a 25-gallon stainless-steel brew pot. So we’ll probably have to scour the restaurant supply places to get one of those cheap. We’ll also have to put together fittings, tubing, a new wort chiller, etc, to be able to take care of the added size. And, last, we need to set things up so that we don’t have to lift a couple hundred lbs of beer at a time… That may entail learning how to weld so we can build a brewing sculpture.
At this stage I can see us really starting to use the hangers-on to help us finance this. I know they’ve got friends that would probably like to occasionally homebrew, and so do I. With the savings we would have at this point, we could brew a batch FAR CHEAPER than they could by going to a place like this. If we charge them for their ingredients, plus $15-20 or so for our wonderful expertise and help, we could slowly recoup all our expenses…
Stage 3: (purely theoretical at this point)
Screw homebrew, we’re going commercial! Knowing our wives, I think I might even have a name worked out: “Whipped Brewing Co”…
May 4, 2007
This sounds like a pretty sweet deal:
If the typical stay-at-home mother in the United States were paid for her work as a housekeeper, cook and psychologist among other roles, she would earn $138,095 a year, according to research released on Wednesday.
This reflected a 3 percent raise from last year’s $134,121, according to Salary.com Inc, Waltham, Massachusetts-based compensation experts.
The 10 jobs listed as comprising a mother’s work were housekeeper, cook, day care center teacher, laundry machine operator, van driver, facilities manager, janitor, computer operator, chief executive officer and psychologist, it said.
So wants to hire me? I’ll cook and clean, and I’ve got a history of armchair psychology (usually after drinking gin)… I’ll bet I could do this job and still have time to blog on the side…
Plus, that way I could actually start paying my wife to be as stay-at-home mom when she starts being one in August… Right now she’s not making squat.
“Unintended consequences.” This is a phrase that needs to be drilled into the heads of every Joe Six-Pack in this country. When government tries to fix something, they routinely create unintended consequences that end up making everyone else worse off. Often (as in any complex system) these things are difficult to see and even more difficult to trace back causally.
But we’ve got a winner. And it’s perfect to teach Average Joe Six-Pack, because government regulation is raising the cost of that six-pack…
We witnessed the tens of thousands of demonstrators decrying the rapidly (and exorbitantly) rising price of corn in the “tortilla protests” in Mexico City earlier this year. The protests came about as a result of the growing demand for corn-based ethanol, the Bush administration’s biofuel of choice. But now there appears to be a new dietary staple under threat from the rising demand for ethanol: German beer.
Der Spiegel Online reports that a 2006 barley shortage will raise the wholesale price of German beer this May. Many brewing industry lobbyists attribute the price rise to farmers forgoing barley for corn in order to satisfy the global demand for biofuels, especially from the United States. In the past year, the price of barley has doubled on the German market, from â‚¬200 to â‚¬400 per ton.
But it’s not just Germany that is set to see soaring beer prices. The chief executive of Heineken (the Dutch brewer) warned in February that the expanding biofuel sector was starting to cause a “structural shift” in European and U.S. agricultural markets, which could precipitate a long-term upward shift in the price of beer. Already, futures prices for European malting barley have risen since last May by 85 percent to more than â‚¬230 a ton, and barley production in the United States has fallen to 180.05 million bushels (in 2006)â€”the lowest level since 1936. Global stockpiles of barley have shrunk by a third in the last two years. All of this augurs ill for beer drinkers, who may soon be paying significantly more for their pints.
So let’s lay this one out here:
1. Bush demands that we replace a certain percentage of our fuel with ethanol.
2. Because of American sugar tariffs, that ethanol is made with corn.
3. The price of corn shoots through the roof (creating consequences like increasing dairy, meat, and Mexican tortilla prices).
4. Because of rising prices, more farmers stop farming their other crops and focus their land on corn.
5. More corn means less barley, and thus the price of barley goes up as supply dwindles.
6. Beer prices rise.
Government intervention in fuel costs just happens to distort all sorts of other markets, including the market for beer. And when we start talking about beer, this isn’t academic for me: this is personal.
I think there is only one answer I have for this… Homebrewing, and to get the full cost savings of brewing my own, I need a Crankandstein so that I can buy my barley in bulk and crush it as needed. I’ll be brewing 2.5 cases of beer for less money than one case of Miller Lite!
Hat Tip: Doug @ The Liberty Papers
May 2, 2007
Alright, time to eat a little crow. I wrote a post about 2 years ago called “My Dust Bowl Migration”. In that post, I suggested that California was a lost cause, a place which will soon become the true People’s Republic that has been joked about for years. And I said it was time to leave for greener pastures.
Which makes it tough to say this… I’m going back.
The wife had been having trouble throughout most of last year, missing her family and friends. She grew up in a family that is extremely close, and all the square footage in the world doesn’t replace that. When we found out that she was pregnant, that was too much. So we decided to make the move.
Since my boss had held off until last night to actually make the announcement (and since I have a few coworkers who occasionally read this blog), I couldn’t announce it here. But it’s coming fast. We close out our house next Friday, and at that point I get in the car and start driving. In a mere two weeks, I’ll be a California resident again.
Obviously, if you know me, you know I’ve got some mixed feelings on this. I have to start going back to an office, which sucks. We’re moving from a 3400 sq ft 4-bedroom house into a 930 sq ft 2-bedroom apartment, saving $200 a month because we got a stellar deal. It’s off to a land of taxation, regulation, and a place where I’ll have to raise my son defensively so he’s not polluted by the culture of SoCal. There’s an infectious “status” society out there… While I was in California over this past weekend, I told two different groups of people that I didn’t have a TV. All I got in response were open-mouthed, aghast stares. Heck, when I bought my POS truck, part of the reason was that I refused to take part in the “If you don’t drive a Lexus you’re worthless” society. To put it simply, there’s something seriously wrong with LA culture, and while I may begin living there, I refuse to take part in it. In fact, it makes me angry to be around it. I’ve even joked for years that when I’m in LA, I’m always within 5 minutes of an assault charge… So stay tuned to the blog, there’s no telling what might happen!
On the bright side, though, I managed to get a few positives. We’ll be living in Dana Point, CA, which is down in south Orange County, not quite as horrible as LA. We’ll also be a 3/4 mile walk to the beach, which is close enough that I can take the dogs down there quite easily. I told Joanna that if I was headed back to CA, I need to be near the beach, and that worked out. One of the nice things about living near the beach, so I’m told, is that “there are only assholes on three sides of you”. Also on the bright side (for me, anyway), the housing market in SoCal is in it’s first stage of implosion. When the recession sets in over the next year, it will get truly ugly, and I think if I wait it out about 2-3 years, I should be able to buy in when it gets close to a trough. Last, I have a healthy wife and a baby boy on the way, and I’m sure when I see his face for the first time I’ll forget about where I’m living and just be thankful for life itself.
Oh, and from what I hear, Arnold’s going to pay for my healthcare, so I’ve got that going for me, right?