February 27, 2008
I can only think my scale was off last week. There’s no other explanation for what I’m seeing today. Two weeks ago, I weighed 249.8. One week ago, I weighed myself in the evening and suddenly was 250.8, then the next morning and it read 249.4. And today, a week later, I saw something very strange.
The scale read 241.8. I was shocked. So I moved it to another area on the floor and tried again. 241.8. I moved it one more time and tried again. 241.8!
So it looks like, according to my conservative estimate, I lost 7.6 lbs in the past week.
Actually, I’ll bet it’s not true. As weight tends to fluctuate a bit day-to-day, I’m betting I was at a local maximum when I weighed last week and a local minimum this week. That would explain why I had to wait until the morning to count a 0.4 lb weight loss last week, and made this week’s loss especially large. So I may lose absolutely nothing in the next week. But either way, I’m pretty happy, and the average loss per week has been pretty good. Judging based solely on this scale reading, I’ve lost over 23 pounds in about 6-7 weeks. I’ll take it!
My wife lost another 1.2, for a total loss of 14 lbs or so over the same time period. That in itself is a very impressive and sustainable weight loss rate, so kudos to her!
Well, I submitted about 6 beers to a local San Diego homebrew competition. Of the 6, there were really only two that I thought had a good shot, the Rye Pale Ale and the Milk Stout. Outside of that, I thought our Amber Ale was halfway decent but not great, and while I really, really like the Light Belgian ale, it’s a beer that’s been sitting around a while and doesn’t age well, and a 4.5% session beer usually will be overshadowed by most other things in the Belgian Specialty Ale category. I think the IPA wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, and the Belgian Witbier was partially submitted just so I could get rid of it!
Of all those, and based on the critical acclaim from my brother-in-law’s drunk poker buddies for the milk stout (who drank ALL of it — those rat bastards!), I thought we’d place in the competition with that beer. Alas, no luck. Stout is usually a pretty tough category, and while I won’t know much more until the score sheets come back, it didn’t make the top three.
The Rye Pale Ale, on the other hand, took second place in the American Ale category! For my first crack at the recipe, I’m pretty happy about that. And I’m even happier that I just re-brewed 15 gallons of it!
There are a few other big competitions coming up, such as the AHA National Championship and the Sam Adams Longshot. I think the second brewing of the Rye will be submitted for both of those, as well as the milk stout (assuming it turns out properly when we re-brew it in March). I may also do a simple extract hefeweizen, as it’s a category that usually does not receive large numbers of entries. But that just might be for personal consumption
February 26, 2008
In the beginning, like most babies, Wyatt was immobile. Over time, he went through the milestones of rolling over for the first time. Then doing it regularly, then squirming along like an inchworm.
But it’s on now!
Yep, he’s crawling. Time to baby-proof the house!
It’s been a busy month. I’ve been in the Midwest and in Denver during the course of the month, but I did manage to have a nice picnic with the family on the weekend following Valentine’s Day.
The weather was slightly better here than the Midwest, where it was 7. And that was Fahrenheit!
February 24, 2008
First things first… We brewed a mere 15 gallons of Rye Pale Ale today. I say “mere”, because my brother-in-law just bought a 20-gallon stainless-steel brew pot, which means that the 15 gallons we brewed was a single batch. I had considered brewing a second 10-gallon batch of a simple extract hefeweizen, but ended up not being able to source the ingredients in time, so I chose not to.
It’s a very nice thing to brew 15 gallons of beer in 6 hours, while still having time to drink a few, smoke a cigar, and hang out. For this day, a former coworker joined us, so it was very nice to catch up on old times as well.
The rye is a beer that I brewed a 5 gallon batch a few months ago, and have been loving ever since. It’s loosely based on the Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, but while they have a fairly complex grain and hop bill, I’ve gone simpler. It’s about 70% pale malt, 20% rye, 10% crystal 60L, with Nugget (a replacement for the original Chinook) as the bittering hop, and a blend of Nugget/Ahtanum for flavor/aroma, and nugget/ahtanum used in a dry-hop.
The original 5-gallon batch had a bit of a flaw. Do to some process issues, I think I oxidized it before bottling. I don’t think it destroyed what I was going for, but I think it might have kept the beer from being quite as good as it could be. That shouldn’t be an issue this time around, so I’m looking forward to it. In about 2.5-3.5 weeks, I should be drinking it. In addition, I’ve convinced my brother-in-law to take a more active role in controlling fermentation temperatures, which should clean things up a bit.
As I earlier pointed out, though, we had time today to sit down and drink some beer. Unfortunately my bro-in-law and his friends drank all but one bottle of the incredibly-tasty milk stout at a poker game yesterday. I was a bit upset when I found that out this morning. But luckily, he had kept that one bottle available, and also luckily, I was able to go to Denver last week for business, so I picked up some Left Hand Milk Stout to drink side-by-side in a blind tasting.
Of the two people who weren’t familiar with the beers themselves (i.e. I immediately knew which was mine and which was the commercial version), one preferred my beer and one preferred the beer from Left Hand. When that happens, it’s already an indication that it’s a good beer. Especially when the commercial version won a gold medal in the sweet stout category of the World Beer Cup. What surprised me, though, was how similar the beers were, not how different they were.
I stated here that I thought that my version was perhaps a bit more roasty and aggressive than the commercial version. After tasting the commercial version again, I’m thinking that’s not the case. If anything, I think Left Hand’s version is a tad bit more roasty than ours, which makes me think it might be necessary to increase the roasted barley slightly, not decrease it.
Either way, it’s definitely one of the best beers we’ve ever brewed. I can’t wait to do another 15 gallons of it!
I’m a few days late on this one, but so be it. We both weighed in on Wednesday, and there was a bit of mild disappointment. My wife lost 0.2 lbs, and I lost 0.4 lbs. I was definitely expecting more, but some weeks are like this, I’m told. I can say that my wife is well on the way to a good week, though, as she lost about 3 pounds since Wednesday, so I think her total will be pretty good this week.
February 14, 2008
As I mentioned, week 3 was a bit of a “stall”, where I only lost 0.8 pounds after having lost 10.6 over the previous two weeks. Thus, I was very interested in seeing whether I could improve momentum for week 4. It’s been a tough week, though, as I was traveling and my diet always gets thrown off when I travel. A few trips to brewpubs in the evenings will do that!
Either way, though, it worked, as I dropped another 4.2 pounds. That puts me at a total weight loss of 15.6 pounds over 4 weeks, which is not too bad. I’m now back under 250 pounds total!
My wife is doing well also. She had lost nearly 10 in the first two weeks but stayed dead even during week three, and dropped over 3 pounds in the past week, so we’re both past the little mini-plateau that we had hit.
So, I’m now within 20 pounds of my “soft” goal, and about 30 pounds from my “hard” goal. If I can keep up a strong pace, I think I could make the soft goal within two months, and the hard goal within 3-4 (I assume those extra 10 pounds will come off a bit slower than the first 10)…
February 11, 2008
So, overall we’ve had some good luck with recent brews. The Amber Ale turned out very good, which was expected, as we’ve made the recipe before. I think I may make some tweaks to it, though, as it’s not quite where I want it. I also will be submitting it to a few competitions, so I’m really looking forward to see what sort of feedback I get.
The other beer, of course, is the Milk Stout. This is a new recipe for me, something that I loosely based on the Left Hand Milk Stout, a beer which I used to drink in Georgia, but isn’t distributed in California. A sweet stout generally has low hop bitterness/aroma, but anywhere from a mild to heavy roast character, and a residual sweetness unlike that of a “dry” stout. The name “Milk Stout” comes from the use of lactose, a partially-fermentable sugar, which due to its limited fermentability lends a sweetness to the finished product.
I just got the opportunity to taste the first of the Milk Stout, and it blew me away. It’s definitely on the upper end of the roast character, but the residual sweetness gives it a very nice balance. It packs a whole bunch of flavor into a rather innocuous (probably just under 5%) package. This is a beer that won’t knock you off your seat, but the flavor will take your socks clean off!
I’m sure there’s some tweaking to be done on this one, since it was only the first attempt, and it was only 5 gallons. I think I’d cut back on the malts which lend that roast flavor a little bit, just to make it slightly smoother. But for a first shot, it was quite tasty!
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Brew Day & Milk Stout Tasting Notes
February 10, 2008
I should have posted about this last Wednesday, but I’ve been sucked into other things. The previous week wasn’t that great, with me only dropping 0.8 lbs. However, that does put me at a total of about 11.4 lbs total over the last three weeks.
I’m not sure why it stalled, as I didn’t go off eating more than I had in previous weeks, but hopefully things will pick up this week. I’ll know on Wednesday!
Wow, it seems crazy to know that Wyatt’s now 6 months old. It’s even crazier to look at pictures of him as a newborn and pictures of him now, and still to believe it’s the same person!
C’mon… How does someone go from this:
February 6, 2008
No. It’s not a million-dollar idea. But it’s a good idea, if I say so myself! And, because I’m that kind of guy, I’m only posting about this idea because I can’t figure out any way to make money off of it!
As a new parent, and having watched many other parents, I know that romantic dinners with your spouse seem to disappear once the kids arrive. I recently made reservations for my wife and I for Valentine’s Day, and it’ll be her, myself, and Wyatt out for the evening. Luckily, Wyatt is still young enough that he’s reasonably well-behaved (and immobile) at restaurants, so we shouldn’t have much trouble. But it’s a pretty nice restaurant, and if he was anywhere between 18 months and 4 years, I’m guessing we’d probably get our asses thrown out of the place.
But there’s a problem. Luckily for us, we have family in the area, so if we really wanted a night away, there are people we trust to leave in charge of Wyatt. And grandparents are known for volunteering for that sort of thing. But not long ago, we were living in Georgia, and there were only a very few people we knew well enough to leave as a babysitter. Trying to get a babysitter, at what we have learned is a relatively large cost ($5-10 per hour, which can add up quickly), would make it nearly impossible for us to go out for a “nice” dinner on a whim. And society has become more like we were in Georgia, with young couples moving away from family to follow jobs, than it is for us now, where young couples live in close proximity to family.
So how can “nice” restaurants, the ones who cater more to romantic dinners than your loud obnoxious family-friendly everyday eateries, cater to these young affluent parents? I think the answer is simple: have a room and a small staff devoted to taking care of kids!
Imagine, you want to take your wife to a nice steakhouse, but you know that your two-year-old won’t sit still for the 90-120 minutes that it will require to have a fine dining experience. You could leave your child with a babysitter, but then you constantly worry about what’s happening at home, and you have the thought in the back of your mind that even if you “got a call”, it might be 15-60 minutes before you could make it home. More often than not, you’re probably going to forego the dining experience in favor of something more convenient and accessible to a family with children. If you do choose the dinner, you know it will be a stressful experience where you spend more time worrying about whether your babysitter is watching R-rated movies while your child cries in a corner than tasting succulent medium-rare filet. And worst-case, you can bring your kids with you, which will probably ensure you spend your whole meal embarrassed by their behavior while the tables adjacent to you mutter nasty things about your lineage under their breaths.
But what if the restaurant had a “kids room”, staffed with one or more people who are good at entertaining children. Throw some toys, some books, and maybe a few TV’s in the room, and the kids will be more than occupied. Feed them some chicken tenders and let them play with other kids, and they’ll be excited to go out for a nice dinner. And if you worry about what they’re up to, you can go over to the room and check on them, because they’re barely out of arm’s reach the whole time!
The restaurant gets increased business from patrons who otherwise might not visit. The other patrons of the restaurant get a noise-free environment where they’re not subjected to the screaming kids. You get a great meal with your spouse, without having to worry about what some babysitter is doing in your home. It’s win-win-win!
As I said, I can’t necessarily call this a million-dollar idea, because I can’t figure out a way that I can make a million dollars from it. But I’m sure that the aggregate profit that could be realized by high-end restaurants due the increased business they attract could be well in excess of that million dollars. While I may never get credit if this idea is realized, I’ll rest easy knowing that I can enjoy the results: stress-free dining when my kid(s) aren’t around (but other parents are), and stress-free dining when I bring my kid(s) with (because I know they’re being cared for and entertained right around the corner).
February 5, 2008
Well, I just found something new. What would you say if you could have a completely customized radio station, that played only the music you selected and other music similar to that? What if that station, unlike something like iTunes, still kept you up to date with new releases and introduced you to new artists that are your kind of music?
Well, it sounds like a pipe dream to most. Yet I just found a site last night that fits all those requirements. Pandora is a free internet radio station that is customized to a listener. Tell them you like an artist, and they’ll play music from that artist and those like him/her. Add a few artists together, and you can have a station that plays your favorite styles of music, with a self-correcting feature that allows you to rate music you like and don’t like to refine your selections.
It’s powered by a group called the Music Genome Project, musicians who rate music based on a wide number of factors about the type, style, vocals, instruments, beat, etc present in the tune. From this and some software algorithms, they are able to link artists together based on those factors and help listeners find new artists.
For most radio listeners, this isn’t a big issue. If you’re a “Top 40″ type, you have no trouble finding music like what you already listen to, because it’s blared out on every third FM station, in the mall, in movies, and everywhere else. For someone with more eclectic tastes like me, though, it’s a lot more difficult. I’ve tried to look through amazon.com’s recommendations, but they don’t give you the opportunity to really evaluate an artist by listening to them for a while. Pandora allows me to do that.
For example, I’m a big fan of the sort of folk/blues genre. An artist that I’ve listened to quite a bit over the last few years, simply after hearing one of his songs on an acoustic compilation, is Chris Whitley. I own a few of his albums, but had no way to really found other music like his, until now. Today at work I put his name into Pandora, and over a couple of hours, had found a few potential artists and songs to pick up on iTunes.
I have a feeling that over the next few weeks, I’m going to become a lot more familiar with the workings of Pandora. After all, if a radio station where I’m the general manager fails to satisfy me, I have nobody to blame but me!
Hat Tip: Atlas Blogged
And for those of you who haven’t heard of Chris Whitley, here is the song that I first heard that got me listening to him:
February 4, 2008
What happens when you take someone who is controlling, violent, hotheaded, and one of the finest basketball minds in the nation? Well, when you’re a university Athletic Department, you watch as your win total and the cost of your PR department’s “damage control” team rise.
Bobby Knight has retired. The man who has spent time in the news for several “unconventional” coaching practices now gets coverage for the sheer strangeness of his farewell. But then again, it’s no surprise:
“I guess you can never be surprised at some of the things Bob does,” former UCLA coach John Wooden told the AP.
I don’t think I’ve ever been surprised by Knight. Appalled, perhaps, but not surprised.
Well, I’m not sure that anyone is interested in this, but I got a request from a reader*, and I thought I’d pass this along. If you’re looking for a copy of the movie Faster dubbed into 6 European languages, you can find it here.
So, for the few people who still read this tiny plot on the interweb, you can now order Faster in German. Good for you!
* More accurately, someone who saw that I wrote about Faster through a google search. But she took the time to write me an email about several of my posts, so given that she took the time, I thought I could give her 5 minutes to post this.