Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Wort Cooler

I'm quite proud of myself at the moment :) I completed construction of my wort cooler for brewing my beer. For those of you unfamiliar with the process of brewing beer, the wort is the liquid mixture you create by steeping the grain and adding the malt. This is all done at a temperature of approximately 160 degrees.

Once the wort is finished (takes about 2 hours), you have to cool the wort down to the temperature needed to pitch the yeast. This is typically 70 degrees for the yeast I use. The tricky part is that you have to cool it as fast as possible because the temperatures between 150 and 90 degrees are the ideal temperatures for bacteria to grow. They are not dangerous bacteria, but they will spoil the flavor of the beer. In the past it has taken me 2 hours to cool the beer by setting the 4 gallon pot in an ice water mixture. Not very effective. It hasn't hurt the beer, but I still wanted to improve. So, last night I bought 50 ft of copper tubing, some acrylic tubing, and got to work on my wort chiller.

There are two types of wort chillers; immersion and counterflow. The immersion chiller is placed in the wort and then cold water flows through the copper tubing to cool the wort. With the counterflow chiller, the wort actually passes through the tubing and the tubing is placed in ice water. It cools faster than the immersion chiller, but is harder to clean. And cleanliness is THE MOST important part of brewing.

So, I built an immersion chiller. No blueprints, just the general principles of how it works. It worked beautifully. I got 3 gallons of water down from 150 degrees to 80 degrees in 15 minutes as opposed to 2 hours. Next step, test it in an actual wort. I'll be doing that this weekend. Wish me luck :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You're not the biggest loser... goodbye!

I'm addicted. The Biggest Loser somehow manages to draw me in every week. It's great seeing people put that much effort into losing weight. There's nothing that frustrates me more than seeing obese people not trying to change. I've never been obese, but I have been 40 pounds overweight. I'm actually about 15 pounds overweight at the moment. I'm on a moderate diet and am now working out 3 times a week warming up to working out with weights again. So, I sympathize.

The only thing that bothers me about The Biggest Loser is how they throw in those "reality show twists". I think it would be more fair if they simply eliminated the person who lost the lowest percentage of body weight that week. Forcing people who work hard together to lose weight to vote each other off is not fair. Every week people are in tears over the decisions they have to make. But maybe that's what keeps me coming back. Or is it that Jillian is hot...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of the Union

I was checking Yahoo! TV yesterday to see what would be on and saw the State of the Union was on after American Gladiators. I decided to be a good citizen and watch both :)

Well, I tried to watch the SotU. To begin with, it took about ten minutes for the Pres to even make it to the podium. Then every freaking thirty seconds, there was a legnthy pause for applause. I tried to withstand the pep-rally-ness, but one thing finally made me give up and go back to watching Enterprise on Sci-Fi. The content.

I understand the Pres can't go into great detail on everything purposed, but it just sounded like more politician fluff. Cut taxes but increase spending. Now, I'm all in favor of cutting taxes, but come on. And with no specifics to explain how all of these wonderful changes will be accomplished (I'm sure some other vital areas they don't want to mention will get budget cuts), it did not encourage me at all. Not even with all of the Hoorah, At a Boy, We Rock talk filling in the gaps where some details could have been placed.

I'm just tired of politicians in general. I'm starting to think the Federal government needs to be cut WAY back and we should go back to the states having more power. It just seems like a central government is too susceptible to corruption. I just don't believe any of them anymore.

I want to see clearly written white papers detailing how budgets are being balanced, or how these new programs will be paid for. But I think the Federal government is just too big for that to ever happen. /whine

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dane Cook

Last night I watched most of a stand up marathon on Comedy Central. It was all leading up to a Dane Cook special. The marathon was great, with some exceptions. The best comedians I saw were Frank Caliendo and Jeff Dunham.

Frank does some great impersonations, and is able to do them back to back. So you end up with John Madden talking to George W talking to Robin Williams. Good stuff.

Then Jeff Dunham had me in tears. He has several puppets and is amazing with his vantriloquism. I remember him from a long time ago using Peanut and Jose the Jalapeno on a Stick. He has improved alot.

But what totally ruined it for me was watching what little I could stand of the Dane Cook special afterward. I sometimes listen to Lex and Terry on the radio in the morning on Rock 104 and remembered them talking about how bad he was. Well, I had to see if he really was that bad. He is.

I sat through about 20 minutes and didn't laugh once. What was amazing was that he had a packed stadium laughing at his jokes. If you can call them that. Really, he just tells stories that are not at all funny. He's kind of like that pot smoking friend who tells incoherant stories (except Dane wasn't high), and they're only funny if you've had a little too much to drink. So, the only explanation I have is that they were all drunk.

Lex and Terry, you were right. Sorry I doubted you.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pitch Black

Netflix came in yesterday, and one of the discs was Pitch Black with Vin Diesel and Claudia Black. Well, Claudia didn't headline, but no other names are of any note. I was excited because I enjoyed the fantasy-esk feel of Chronicles of Riddick. Plus, I figured Pitch Black came first and we all know sequels are rarely better than the first movie. Very, very wrong.

The general plot, a group of colonists stranded on a foreign planet, trying to survive, is the standard generic action flick plot. But they fail miserably in creating a believable setting. The planet appears totally barren except for a small abandoned human settlement. The colonists have to use technology to find water. Then you have the antagonists, hordes and hordes of raptor-like predators. What irked me was, they're the only living things on the planet, but there is NOTHING to eat or drink. Nada. Zip. What?

Then you have the three suns orbiting a planet in between them. Huh? I have confuse. My favorite though is the rain scene towards the end. A cloudless rain on a desert planet. I mean, I know this is Sci-Fi, but the lack of believability killed the experience.

If the characters were interesting at all, I may have let all of that slide. But the were as one dimensional (is there a .5 dimension?) as any disposable action characters.

Actually the first time I tried to watch it, I fell asleep. I tried to blame it on a long day at work, but... not so much. If your audience falls asleep during an action flick, you're in trouble.

Rating: D-

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Two blogs in one day!?!

I know, I know. But I just saw this and thought it was pretty funny.

Versatile Operational Neohuman Used for Rational Repair, Infiltration and Ceaseless Harm

Get Your Cyborg Name

We Were Soldiers

I'm going to try something I haven't ever done before. Critique movies. We'll see how it goes.

I saw We Were Soldiers all the way through for the first time last night. It's about a battle of the Vietnam War that took place in what came to be called The Valley of Death. It stars Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear, and Sam Elliott.

Not a bad war flick. It was one of the most brutal battles in American history, so the battle scenes are pretty intense, although I think Saving Private Ryan was more so. The movie seems to be written to get you to care for Mel's character and his family, but I didn't find myself getting attached to any of the other characters. So when the other characters start dying off, I don't find myself caring as much, aside from a general sympathy and appreciation for what all soldiers must go through in war.

Another part of the movie that falls short is an attempt, toward the end, to make you connect with the Vietnamese soldiers. It's too little too late. You've already spent most of the movie watching them throw themselves at the American troops, who even if we weren't American, we care for more because that's what the story focused on at the beginning. So, seeing a Vietnamese soldier looking at a picture of his girlfriend/wife in a journal before he heads off to battle isn't going to get us to sympathize very much.

Overall, it was a good experience. The acting was great, and so was the dialogue. Of course, I may be slightly biased since I enjoy most movies with Mel and Sam.

Rating: B

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wii Weekend or MLK Day for Geeks

Wii weekend was lots of fun. We had the Wii with it's sports package and played most of the weekend. It includes bowling, tennis, baseball, golf, and boxing. Bowling and golf were my favorites, probably because I was able to put up some good numbers. Tennis and boxing were good fun, I just wasn't very good at them. Baseball. Baseball was just as exciting on the Wii as it is in real life. Not at all.

I also got to see and play some of Playstation's Assassin's Creed. Much goodness. The graphics were ridiculously good to the point where someone walking by would think we were watching a movie. The gameplay is pretty clever, but the combat is rather one dimensional. There are very few attacks, although there are several animations for the same move, and all quite brutal.

I also got to see National Treasure 2 Saturday. It was an attempt to set me up with a girl who works with my friend. She was beautiful and sweet, but very shy. And the fact that it was a group outing to a movie did not make it very condusive to getting to know one another. Once we started talking, after our other friends "had to go get snacks", it wasn't long before the annoying pre-previews started and made conversation difficult. I asked her to watch The New York Football Giants with us Sunday, but she had a friend come in town and bailed. I don't blaim her; hang out with an old friend from out of state, or hang out with a guy you just met and talked to for 15 minutes : )

All in all, a great break from the everyday grind, and much needed. By the way, National Treasure 2 was good fun. (Incoming SPOILER!!!) Although a vague cliffhanger at the end which did nothing more than say "Hey, we're making a third one too" was rather weak, but whatever. Good times, good times.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There's no place like Starbucks outdoor cafe in the rain

I was going to write a blog about my bad day yesterday, but I decided not to. I didn't want to be one of those blog whiners. So, I'll sum it up and move on. Work sucked, I had to sit outside at Starbucks to work on my book, I got writer's block, and then had to walk my dad through setting up his new motherboard, over the phone, which would not recognize his hard drive. Crappy day.

But, on a good note, I took Monday off (MLK day) and am going to Jacksonville to visit a friend of mine. There will be lots of WII (that's the console, not the war) and lots of football. I should also be able to get some writing done, since I don't seem to be able to get much done at home; distractions and what not.

Well, back to work. I should probably get something done today... like research my dad's MB issues.

Monday, January 14, 2008

How to write like Robert Jordan in two short lessons

...ok, not really. I wish it were that easy. I started writing the book mentioned previously, and have found the process to be quite daunting. I started with a basic idea of a fantasy story line, created a few characters, and started writing. A few things happened once I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard; actually, more like stylus to PDA).

I cannot seem to turn of my inner critic and simply let my writer write. I'll stop after a paragraph, reread what I finished, and then decide it's not quite right.

Another problem I found, due to reading some hints from actual authors and podcasts from seminars, is that you can't write a book as if it were a movie. I thought that was my ace in the hole. I've seen tons of movies, particularly in fantasy. This is actually the downfall of alot of first time authors. While movies are great story telling devices, they do not get inside the head of a character as well as books. So my first few pages were flitting between some outside observer and my main character of the moment. I didn't realize how distracting this can be to a reader.

So, all in all, I'm still writing. But I have definetly realized just how challenging the whole process really is.