Monday, December 30, 2002

Post-Christmas Update

Argh---Blogger finally ate a long post of mine; I was too careless to copy it before posting. Swearword swearword swearword, swearword swearword.

Anyway, it was a wonderful holiday, with visits to and from friends and family, gifts given and received, and travel negotiated with a minimum of fuss and muss.

First, the goodies. It was a Very Beery Christmas for me this year, with several welcome books from Dad including Designing Great Beers, Brew Ware, and Brew Chem 101. Matt supplemented this with an outstanding example of the amalgam of coiled-copper and silicone tubing called an immersion wort chiller. Mom rounded this all out with a set of four beautiful handblown pub-style beer glasses with air bubbles embedded in artful patterns. Thanks to everyone!

The kids' gift to the parents this year was a refitting and repainting of one of the upstairs bathrooms. Matt was the spearhead of the project, and under his direction I was able to help with a fair bit of the shopping, sanding, taping-off and initial painting. I had to return to Richmond before the project was completed, but reports from Mom and Dad indicate a very good result. Pending receipt of scans from Dad, I'll post pix of the finished product one of these days.

Mary (for whom I still don't have a good link; bloody, stupid school administrators) dropped by on her way to visit an old friend in North Carolina, and I managed to cover her with dog hair before sending her on her way - since I've been traveling, there's been little time to do any vacuuming. Mary also was nice enough to present me with a martini-making kit, including a shiny cocktail shaker and two spiffy glasses appropriate for the work. I'm slightly suspicious of the purity of her motives' altruism, though, because she made absolutely certain I had the technique of martini fabrication down during our visit. Very detail-oriented, Mary is...

Well, Rich's Big Dawg Brown Ale is in bottles, but it's anyone's guess how it'll turn out. Between a scorched grain bag, a quick, then stuck fermentation, airlock-seal trouble and finally some bottling hassle, it's up to the Fates to rescue this brew from the hopper. My next effort (to be begun ASAP) will be a custom-designed India Pale Ale, because A) it's different from my prior efforts so far, B) it'll be a good test of my technique, keeping a pale ale pale and adhering to the prescribed type, and C) Joanie suggested it. :-)


[Addendum: This little post from USS Clueless has made my day, especially in light of how unutterably trivial the above post is. :-D]

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Apologies and Belated Thanks

Spoke with Mary today about some holiday logistics, and she tactfully reminded me that I hadn't made any sort of post-Thanksgiving post, and let me know that I hadn't replied to an e-mail that Kate sent (that I can't find! sorry!) expressing concern for my sick self.

So I wanted to take a post to apologize to Kate and her Fam for not managing to thank them for their hospitality and rave about the wonderful time I had. It was great fun to put (moving) faces to names during the visit, meet Paul, Moira and Olivia, and generally make new friends and hang out for holiday fun, eats and conversation. I hope you don't feel too bad, Kate - Mary's right. I do this to everybody. Sorry, and thanks! :-)

Didn't suck meeting Mary in person, either. You meet the neatest people blogging...


Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Beer Status

Cool. Checked Big Dawg Brown's specific gravity last night, and sure enough, it was down around 1.025. Not quite low enough to bottle, but I'm betting it will be by this weekend. Heh - I have this image of a stampeding horde of yeast cresting the steppe, glistening in leather and bronze and waving axes and spears...

Now if only I could get a good seal on the airlock. Since CO2 is heavier than oxygen I have no worries about contamination, but it's annoying not being able to check the activity from moment to moment. Ah well. If the SG numbers allow, I'm going to bottle on Saturday, and then the airlock becomes superfluous anyway.

I may well start another batch immediately, though. Four to six weeks bottle conditioning... Oy.

Any suggestions as to what type of beer to brew next? I'm thinking an India Pale Ale (high-alcohol and hoppy), or perhaps a porter (mild but flavor-rich). Heck - I could even do an Irish stout...


Tuesday, December 17, 2002

PromoGuy's Monday Mission 2.50

(Thanks to sugarmama for the example...)

1. So, what do you want for Christmas this year that you probably won't get? A new computer, or rather the funds to build the one I want to build. My box be boggin'. :-)

2. What do you know you will be receiving for Christmas this year? A week with family. That's enough, really.

3. If you had the means to do so, what presents would you get some of your fellow bloggers? Be specific, it's more fun that way!

Acidman: Several bottles of Zin, a month straight with the Tall Pup, and a no-consequences potshot at the BC.

Joanie: Hand delivery of several bottles of 2Red.

Sugarmama: A shiny new Frisbee, a postage-metering machine, and a front-stoop welcome mat. And I don't need the perfect woman, sweets. Just one like you prefer your men, without issues. Shame I'm divorced and generous about the tum - I appear not to be your type. ;-)

Joie: Minnesota snow and a sled for Michael.

Hunter: Oddly, the same as for Joanie. Best not to think about that one too much. ;-)

Tripp: A stringed instrument, designed by Tripp himself, and built by these folks. (Dangit, boy, where're your archives? The people who build those beautiful compound guitars.)

Sarah: An original manuscript of Don Quixote, autographed by Cervantes himself. Sorry again, Sarah!

Kate: A gift certificate for all the videos of Trading Spaces and The Sopranos.

Mary (sorry, no link as Mary's blog is MIA): A one-way ticket out of the Pokey and into a class full of smart, eager kids with responsible, eager parents.

4. Do you support any organizations that provide for the less fortunate during the holidays? Or do any volunteer work? Nope, I'm a selfish, heartless SOB with too many expensive hobbies and too little expendable income. I'd like to wax eloquent about taxes too, but the real issue is that I've been a poor planner the past few years.

5. Each year about this time, I notice Church attendance seems to spike, then drops off sharply after Christmas. It tickles me that these folks think they are pulling a fast one on the Big Guy. What is the most recent thing guilt has motivated you to do? Guilt? I have no guilt. (Ahem. Pay no attention to the axe-wielding man behind the curtain.)

6. According to the commercials, the only way to truly tell someone you love them on Christmas day is to let them "Unwrap a Jaguar" automobile. Are there any examples of excessive commercialism and/or blatant disregard for the "Christmas Spirit" that really get under your skin? Starting with the Christmas decorations before Halloween. The proliferation of fabricated pseudo-holidays like Kwanzaa by the politically correct. The disallowing of the mention of Christ and even displays of a Nativity creche. To name a few...

7. I remember a song where the singers wished they could teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony. What would you like to teach the world? This simple lesson: get over it. Kick back and have a beer or some cocoa, and unwind. Step away from your pet obsessions for a moment and enjoy the immenseness and richness of the world and people around you. Whatever you're exercised about, it's probably not as important as you think. Relax. :-)


More Beer Blather

Heh. Too much of a good thing. Seems my very active yeast may have fermented the whole batch already. When yeast does its initial reproducing in a fresh batch of wort (new beer), there's a head of dirty-looking foam called a "kraeusen" (kroy'-zen) that forms, and a tall or "high" kraeusen indicates a good, lively yeast pitch. Well, in my seven-gallon fermenting bucket there's two gallons (around seven inches) of headroom above the wort that I poured into the bucket, and when I checked the bubbler the other night there was residue from the kraeusen clinging to the bubbler's bottom edge. That is one serious ferment!

I improved the seal around the bubbler's neck with some tightly-wound plastic wrap last night, so it should be pretty close to airtight (pressing on the lid made the airlock's water level rise and fall reliably). This morning there was no appreciable bubbling activity, so I'm going to take a specific gravity reading tonight. If it's below 1.020, then the ferment is probably finished already, or close to it! (For those interested, the original specific gravity was 1.054, and the recipe's finishing gravity is between 1.015 and 1.020, for an alcohol content of around 4% by volume - take the difference in original and finishing gravities and multiply by 105.)

I have no clue how Big Dawg Brown is going to taste - I know what I like in a nut-brown ale, but between the scorch and a possible quick ferment I have no idea what to expect...


Monday, December 16, 2002

Full Weekend

Whoof. Glad that's done, though it was a fun weekend.

Saturday was a Brew Day. I put my new Nut-Brown Ale (tentatively named Rich's Big Dawg Brown Ale) in the fermenter, permeating my apartment with that wonderful sugary-grain aroma of boiling wort. I did scorch the grain bag slightly while mashing, though, so BDB may end up a bit more bitter and dark than I planned. Still, no burnt smell or horrific problems otherwise, though I did manage to push the airlock's gasket through its hole and into the fermenter after it'd closed, so the airlock doesn't have a great seal --- I'll have to check fermentation progress with gravity readings, because the bubbler ain't bubblin'. The yeast starter was kicking serious tail when I pitched it in, though, so it looks like this is going to be a quicker ferment than 2Red was. The Nut-Brown recipe calls for a good four to six weeks' aging in the bottle, though, so if I get impatient I may snag another fermenter and get another 2Red batch going (or even a new recipe altogether) while I wait.

Yesterday was Impromptu Concert Day, as well as Clean Up for Parents' Visit Day. The concert went very well, and there were even some new faces in the crowd. Afterwards Mom, Dad and I went out to a late dinner (I try not to eat before singing - prevents those embarrassing "unplanned" low notes ;-) ) and I showed them around the apartment, with all the brew equipment and other stuff lying around. It was great to see them, and it's very good to get the concert behind me so I can concentrate on all the other Christmas stuff going on.

Oh! For anyone interested in hearing a clip or two from the Impromptu CD we just put out, here's a link to our page on Impromptu: From the Garden.

Geez. I'm still tuckered. Back to work. :-)


Wednesday, December 11, 2002


Well, as spurred by Matt, Joanie, Tripp and others, I took a trip after work today and dropped $24.00 plus tax grabbing myself the ingredients for an English Nut-Brown Ale from The Weekend Brewer. I really won't have time to brew it up until Saturday morning, but if there's no interference from Life I should be able to get it in the fermenter comfortably before my 4:30 Impromptu practice.

I do this because the making of beer is one of the few activities I have that is purely and unabashedly fulfilling. It's a sensory carnival right here in my apartment, it plugs me into the life dramas of billions of tiny yeasts as caregiver, it commits me to a few weeks of attention and continuity, and evidently I don't suck at it. :-)

I also dropped by the December meeting of the James River Homebrewers club, and made about twenty friends in the space of two hours down at Richmond's Legend Brewery. I was offered tastes of no fewer than four homebrews (a strawberry mead, a smoked porter, a spiced ale and a Belgian Red faux-lambic ale), and was fed samples of cookies, casserole, bread and (no kidding) tiramisu that were all cooked substituting beer for an ingredient or two, beer-cooked cuisine having been tonight's topic.

Way cool.


Tuesday, December 10, 2002


Seems I've finally reached that indefinable cusp where more people respond with "get over it already" than "aw, poor fella."

Duly noted.


Monday, December 09, 2002


Well, I survived my flying about with little trouble -- no lost luggage, no missed or delayed flights, and I got to miss most of the clottedness that is Richmond with slow-melting snow. My voice is in pretty much the same shape it was when I left (i.e., iffy), but then I did have a lot of relatives to catch up with, so I suppose a little abuse of the larynx is to be expected.

That said, it was still a wedding. Weddings are hard. I was very happy for Liz and her new hubby Ken, but it's just tough to keep the sorry-for-yerself tendencies from bubbling to the surface during "Ave Maria" when your sister's singing and grandma's crying and the bride is even snuffling as she's walking down the aisle with her dad. Then there was the reception, with bride-daddy dancing, and groom-mommy dancing and garter-throwing and electric sliding and banging of glasses and all that...

...Sigh. Straighten the tie, have another pull of beer.

God help the first woman brave enough to get serious with me. After weekends like this, much as I loved catching up with Mom's side of the family again, I still feel very much like damaged goods.

On the plus side, among dozens of fellow Germanic and Finnish introverts in the Great Midwest, the level of demonstrativeness was just about right. It was good to feel normal, if only for a while. Sometimes I think the entire Richmond area is trying to invade my personal space, and that I must be the weird one. It's nice to be confirmed in oneself.

Dunno. Introspection meter is pegged, and work calls. Onward!


Friday, December 06, 2002

Digging Out

Beginning to feel a fair bit better today, and that's a good thing, considering I've got to get on a plane at 4:10 PM and fly out to Detroit for a family wedding. Oy. No rest for the wicked.

Richmond, like most of the rest of the eastern U.S., was blanketed by snow, then ice over Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Richmond, being a fairly wimpy snow town, pretty much shuttered itself yesterday, and is still mostly shut today, though I am of course out and about. There's been a fairly world-ending documentation deadline hanging over the end of today, but thanks to the miracle of XP Remote Desktop I was able to get my parts mostly done, despite all the illness drama. Not having to get gussied up and drive to work saves a surprising amount of time, though I doubt I'm an ideal candidate for telecommuting, because I'm far too easily distracted by the puppies, the kitty and the fact that I have Diablo II installed on my home box, and it's prone to whispering to me when the days get long. :-)

Still, the past few days have been replete with poor sleep, sneezing, coughing, and the baking of cheap storebought insta-pizzas to feed my cold-drug-slackened face. It's nice to think it may be coming to an end, but I'm famous for picking up bugs from crowded airplanes, and I don't doubt I'm doing my own Typhoid Rich thing lately, so don't break out the champagne yet.

Oh, and I had to take down my satellite dish - evidently my apartment complex has grown tired of all the new residents screwing their dishes into loadbearing members, and despite my painstaking efforts to create a freestanding mast-mount, with clearly visible guy wires and everything, they've imposed an additional security deposit and insurance requirement that I simply cannot meet. Jerks. So much for NFL Sunday Ticket. So much for TechTV, SciFi channel and all the extra HBO, Starz and Showtime channels. Paying for the equivalent digital cable package will be just as prohibitively expensive, so screw 'em all. I've gotta shift locations in the spring anyhow - rent's gotten horrendous where I am, and state workers are going to go a second year with no raises.

(For the record, DirecTV was just golden about the whole thing, and was willing to credit me the amount of the security deposit to keep my account alive, but it's the insurance requirement that was the killer, anyway, so no dice.)

But hey, it's the holiday season, so merry Christmas and all that, right?


Tuesday, December 03, 2002


Head hurts... Sinuses throbbing... Throat sore... Drugs... not working...

Did not go to work today; nevertheless, remoted into work thanks to the miracle of Windows XP, so some e-mail got answered.

Things better look up by morning or I'm not going into work then either.


Monday, December 02, 2002


Sorry for the no-update lameness; am tuckered after a crazy workday followed by errands and rehearsal. Yesterday was filled with pet-retrieving drama and football.

On top of everything, my throat hurts. Evidently I haven't yet fully kicked the bug I spent all last week kicking, and the worst thing is I can't taste beer properly.

Bleah. Off to bed! Tomorrow should offer possibilities for a proper Squeezings update.