Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Relatives and Computers and Car Parts, Oh My!

Brought Mom down here late last week to be here for Brian's last pre-Iraq visit. We had him and Kristin (his fiance) and Mark & Gretchen for dinner Sunday -- Kevin and Adriene came over later and hung out.

Got Mom a new computer to replace the P-II laptop I steered her wrong with a year or two ago. It did... OK with XP and MSN and almost OK with the firewall and antivirus on top of that, but the more the software updated itself, the slower the thing got. It got absolutely ridiculously "let's go make the bed and get a cup of coffee" slow.

So I got her a Compaq P-III 733 sans OS and monitor for $80. Not bad. Picked up 15" a flat panel monitor for her (with speakers built in) and moved the install of XP from the laptop to the new box. Part of the old box's problem was the limit of 160 MB of memory. This one has 384. It screams, relatively.

Getting Brian's IPOD all fixed up with playlists before he goes. Put a new battery in it. Got him hooked up with all the power adaptors he'll need. He got a digital camera a couple of weeks ago -- so I got him an NIMH rechargable battery kit, too. And I gave him my Ambico mini tripod -- I've had one for years --- it's been up and down mountains with me. It's smaller (important for soldiers on the go) and much sturdier than those cheesey "Digital" brand ones you can pick up at Walmart for $5. They're getting harder to find, though, I think. Our Target store doesn't have them in stock anymore, but you can get them via Target Online or Amazon (which amounts to about the same thing I think). I ordered a replacement.

Put an older OS on the P-II laptop ... I can use it for a digital picture dumping/viewing machine on the road and an MP3 Library player at home. Cool. Now all I need is a 160GB USB hard drive to hook up to it. I have a big music collection :-) like... 700 CD's.

Got a K&N air filter for the Escort... bumped the gas mileage up by about 1.5 mpg both city and highway. So I'm getting one for the Taurus, too. Sure, it'll take a while to make up the cost, but it'll FEEL better. Plus I get extra power out of it when I need it.

Then I took my car in for an oil change -- $16.95, right? Nope. Broken rear coil spring. Replace those... might as well replace the struts, too, at 65,000 miles, right? $430 (with the oil change, labor, and tax -- hell, the tax was almost as much as the labor).

We'll be going out to dinner the next couple of nights for Brian's send-off -- he wanted to go to the 63 Diner again, and to the Outback.

Have to take Mom back to Fort Wayne after Brian leaves, then we have Renfest coming up, Tom wants to take us sailing, and before you know it October will be here and it'll be time for the Haunted Float, and then on top of that -- there's mom and dad's 50th coming up. So ... we'll be busy.

Well, that's about it for now.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Drought is Broken

Well, I'd say we've broken the drought. Over 6" of rain in about the last week. Hopefully things will be back to normal. Won't help the farmers much, but anythings good and we do have more than crops to worry about, like trees and water tables.

Went to the Elks lodge Friday evening with Sam for Linda's birthday... we ended up at Cody's where I could show my total lack of eptness for dancing. Sam can dance, so I'm glad Vicki gets to dance with someone who knows what he's doing. I "danced" with the Lindas... one of them ended up on the floor :-( Well, see how good I am?

Saturday we lazed -- watched several movies -- Benny and Joon, some other one, then the last of the Return of the King -- then Vicki whipped out the first two Lord of the Rings movies. In my defense I did get out and work on the rest of the fallen branch, but the effects of the previous night's alchohol and the hot, extremely humid weather made me queasy. So I only did that for an hour or so.

Today I got out in the garage and worked on trying to apply some order to it. I got pretty far, really -- still a couple more days like today out there is what it's going to take. Lot of trash.

We did a cookout with the neighbors this evening. I whipped up a new Boat Drink. I'll call it a "Cabin Cruiser". They were pretty good.

1 blender =
5 c frozen Peach/Strawberry/pineapple fruit mix from Sam's
2/3 c sweet/sour mix
1/2 c frozen orange juice concentrate
1/2 c coconut rum
1/2 c dark rum



We finished up the tree debris in the yard. (I say "we" because Ryan and Kristie had come over, drinks in hand to invite us to cook out, and they started pitching in without invitation - what are you gonna do? ;-) )

There's a leak where the neighbor's roofline and ours meet... I've patched it once but apparently it's back --- need to get back up there and check it out.

Oh, and I caught the second raccoon. :-) I also released him down at Gans Creek.

One more to go -- that I know of.

And that about brings us up to date.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Hey, until friday afternoon, I think we'd had about 0.8" of rain since early June.

Picked up an inch and a half Friday & Friday night, then another inch Saturday, and we've had a good, steady light rain all night and all day since (frankly, I don't know what the current tally is, but it's good -- at least another inch).

This morning while drinking our coffee, the large crack of a tree structure failing followed by the cracks and whaps and rustles of falling branches -- I knew immediately it must be the old rotted thorny locust tree behind our house. It has a much younger (still probably 15 or 20 year old) shoot growing right up through one side of it -- but apparently it was relying on the rotting structure of the old tree too much for support. The wetness probably weakened the rotten wood and put extra pressure on a large branch structure that leaned out over our yard toward the house, and it's covering that portion of the yard now. I'll wait until it dries out to go hack it up with the chainsaw.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Return of the Brewmeister

Well, we got home last night and Vicki wanted to go to CJ's. We called the Williams' (neighbors) to see if they wanted to go -- and we hopped in the car and went. The wings, as always, were good -- they're not as hot as they used to be, but they're still the best wings in town.

We came home and hung out on their deck until dark drinking wine & beer. Kristie wanted to go to the 63 Diner for breakfast. They have great food and a neat little novelty "doo-wop" nostalgia niche.

We went at 8, so we could be back by 10 when the brew session was to start. I started packing stuff across to Ryan's place.

As I started to get the ingredients out, it was immediately clear I didn't have enough two-row malt for two recipies. Then... it was also clear that I didn't have enough Munich for one recipe.

There are no real brew shops in town for grain brewers. It was either St. Louis, or Kansas City. Vicki and Kristie were in Jefferson City, and I found a web page for a brew shop there -- so we called them up to do a fly-by since the phone number yielded an answering machine for a different business (often homebrew supply shops are side rackets). But then we noticed the web page was last updated in 2001. So we called the girls back and said "ah, forget it".

We went with the Munich Helles recipe, scaled down to 1 recipe, and used the Munich malt in place of the Vienna, and added a bit of black malt for color and a little "roastiness".

So it's Phrysco beer, after Phil, Ryan, and Scott (a co-worker of Ryan's) -- the three brewers.

I still have a yeast culture for some Oktoberfest.... tempting.

So all in all it went pretty well after that, and I had everything cleaned up by about 6:00. I'm beat. The carboy of fermenting beer is in Ryan's beer fridge, where it will stay for about 4 weeks. We'll rack it into a soda keg after that and carbonate. The debut date will be October 1, before the Mizzou football game -- and we'll still call it Oktoberfest.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lucky Little Rascal

Well, I heard some thumping out on the deck this morning, and a quick inspection found that I had trapped raccoon #1.

Little guy. Fortunately for him, I didn't have time to ... ahem ... "process" him properly, so he was spared the furrier's knife and relocated to Gans Creek Wildlife Area. Survival out there is up to him... at least he has a chance. I must admit there was a small bit of pity and compassion involved -- very small. I just want them gone.

Two to go.

Global Warming?

Again, I don't get political on this blog, typically. But -- this is not political at its core, really. It's something near and dear to my heart -- climate. Weather.

A lot of you probably know I have a degree in Meteorology and I even did all of the coursework and some of the research for a masters degree in it. I have been exposed to the science behind this. And I have always been cautiously skeptical of human-caused (anthropogenic) global warming. I even wrote one of my college papers on it.

I found a really good website that explains the vast array of problems with the antropogenic global warming theory, and with the Kyoto protocol. Far better than I could explain it, and backed with research that a guy like me doesn't have the time to look for.

If you're interested in reading the side you're not hearing in the press and the reasoning behind opposition to it....

These are mostly Canadian scientists. It's probably the most balanced summary of the subject you'll ever read. There's even video out there for the attention-span challenged. I reccomend it highly, especially the Science Matters section. Next time someone starts spouting off self-righteously about the U.S. not signing the Kyoto protocols, you might just have a better understanding of the issues.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What can all this mean?

A sink with bleach-water, beakers, scissors, air-locks, and a yeast smack-pack.

A pan of boiling wort.

Beakers of yeast culture.

Yup, after a 4 or 5 year hiatus, I'm gearing up to brew again. Kinda wish I'd done it earlier so Brian could be around for it -- but we'll consider this a practice run for when he gets back.

After going on the Beer 101 tour with Ryan and friends at Flat Branch pub and Brewing, Ryan wanted to brew an Oktoberfest. An Oktoberfest is best lager-fermented and kept cold for several weeks before serving. Mid August is a good time to brew one.

I'm way out of practice. And we're doing it from scratch, meaning all-grain. No extract.

Stepped up the yeast last night. It's goin' down on Saturday.

It's an all-day thing. We'll have to clean and sanitize and arrange equipment -- and get the beer fridge ready for fermenting.

We're going to do 10 gallons. A double-batch.

The most important thing (besides getting the starch to convert into sugar) is sanitation after the boil. That's really the hard part, and you have to be pretty much a stickler about it. Truthfully, you spend half your time cleaning & sanitizing when you're brewing.

But it's worth the end result.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Look Through My Window, yeah

Well, didn't make it out to Mom and Dad's saturday -- Joel called about 5:50 am and said that -- basically, the hay wasn't ready to be picked up. For some reason I thought we were moving it from one barn to another but somebody was wrong or changed their minds.

So, I turned my attention to our own house, where I had two windows on the north side with rotten moulding and sills. I tore off the brick moulding and assessed the damage. Parts of the window frame structure were rotting as well. One sill was unsavable.

I cut away the rotten pieces and replaced them with new wood, which meant about half the sash on one window. Used Liquid Nails and screws to attach it. Painted. Cut out other rotten window parts using the jig saw and a hammer and chisel when necessary. Only the ends of the other window sill were rotten, so I cut good pieces from the first sill, cut off the rotten ends and used Liquid Nails again to attach those pieces to the ends. Once I paint it you won't be able to tell. Then I put new moulding up and caulked the edges. I need to get some new weather stripping for the bottoms of the bedroom windows. And of course paint after the caulk cures. I worked on them most of the two days, running to Lowe's now and then as I figured out how I was going to tackle things.

In the mean time, Vicki got the new color she wanted for between the cabinets and counter and busied herself masking off things and painting. As planned, she carried the color scheme over from the "kitchen" side of the kitchen to the built-ins in the dining room side of the kitchen... the new creamy brown/tan between the cabinets and the counter, and the "plaster pink" on the soffits to the wall above the cabinets. It really warms the room up and brings the dual-purpose area together with a unifying theme.

Then we had an impromptu bbq with the neighbors. I was beat. We came in and watched another Thin Man movie -- the fourth. Vicki got the whole series on DVD at Sam's. We love those movies. Myrna Loy has never been hard to watch, either.

And that was pretty much the weekend.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sent to me by my goulish buddy Mark

Really, quite entertaining:

When talented people have too much time on their hands:

click here for link

Cwazy Coons!

Well, the raccons finally came back last night, wreaking their usual havoc.

I had a trap set for them (knowing I'd probably only get one at a time).

This morning, the food was gone, and the trap was tripped, but no raccoon.

I've observed these buggers. Its tempting, especially for furry creature lovers, to think that I was outsmarted -- but that's likely not the case. I'm dealing with three raiders who come together. At least two of them probably tried to enter the trap. The first one probably tripped the trap a split second before he grabbed the fish.

The second was probably inside the trap, and the door came down on his back, startling both animals.

As long as the door hasn't completely closed, the door moves freely. Raccoon #2 probably turned around quickly and shot out of the trap, the other hot on his heels. In this case the door never actually finished closing before both were out of the trap.

Better luck next time.

Meantime, today I'm smoking some pork ribs all day out on the deck in the Big Green Egg. They should be pretty well done (11 hours) by the time I get home. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Ribs.

We went to see "Must Love Dogs" last night with Rob & Kathy. Then out to the 'Roni Grill for dinner. Movie was your typical romance. Predictable. Entertaining. Food was good.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The countertop is finally in

We finally had a free weekend to, you know, do something around the house. So the new countertop that's been in the garage for at least the last month finally got assembled Saturday afternoon, and it was in by 10:00pm sans plumbing, which I did in the morning.

For some odd reason, the people who built the house decided that instead of scribing the back of the countertop to the wall, they'd cut a slot in the wall (at least on one side). Then they scribed the back on the short side. So I had to do that. Plus we've had to put moulding above the countertop to cover the rough edge left by the slot in the drywall by the builders.

No sooner was it in than Vicki decided the wall color needed changing -- actually in her defense she had decided that before but once it was in she couldn't resist doing it NOW.

Which is understandable. You kinda want to see it all come together.

So we went and got some lighter terra-cotta paint (once again, with too much pink in it for Vicki's taste) -- fortunately, it's a small area and easy to paint.

So now she wants to go get a still lighter color with less pink in it and go back, Jack, do it again.

I'm sure it will look nice.

The countertop looks good.

Brian swung through on 48 hours leave this weekend to see Kristin (and us). Had Ken and Glenda over for breakfast with Brian and Kristin. Strawberry crepes and eggs & bacon. Good schtuff. His plane trip went much better -- thanks to Southwest Airlines. They even got him on an earlier flight than he was booked on for his connection from Chicago to Kansas City.

Set a racoon trap. Three males tend to visit my deck and wreak havoc at night. Which means I'll have to ... eliminate them ... one at a time. They've ceased to be cute.