Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brewing Report

Did some brewing maintenance today.
Here are my notes for Brew 19: Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2005-11-13 SG Reading 1.102 Brewing Day
  • 2005-11-15 SG Reading 1.042 Those yeasties work fast!
  • 2005-11-17 SG Reading 1.026
  • 2005-11-19 SG Reading 1.012
  • 2005-11-19 SG Reading 1.004 It's tasting like a beaujolais nouveau, and I can taste the CO2 dissolved in it. Tastes good so far.
    Racked. Actually, just removed the v-vessel ball and reattached it. It's now officially in secondary fermentation stage. In 10 days it will be time to stabilize.
  • 2005-12-14 SG Reading 0.096 Stage 3. Added 4g Potassium Metabisulphite and 5.5g Potassium sorbate, stirred vigorously, added 2 packs of Chitosan. Removed the oak bag. Really starting to taste more like Cabernet now. This was about 10 days later than I expected, I noticed when I stirred it that it had considerably less outgassing than the last wine I made. I wonder if this represents an advantage to having a busy schedule. In 10 more days it will be time for the clarification stage.

Here are notes for Brew 20; the Blackberry Honey and Cherry mead.
  • 2005-11-30 SG Reading 1.082 Brewing Day
  • 2005-12-07 SG Reading 1.065
  • 2005-12-14 SG Reading 1.036 Still bubbling, but starting to slow down. This is really good. The honey and the cherry flavors seem nicely in balance.
I'm looking forward to the finished products!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Brew 20 -- Blackberry Honey and Cherry Mead

This was a completely unmeasured, throw things together and see what happens kind of mead. I took 6lbs of Blackberry honey, about 2.5 gallons of water, a handful of dried cherries I nuked in the microwave, a very generous pinch of yeast nutrients, and some dried champaign yeast from which I made a starter the day before. If it's good, well, I'll probably never be able to make it quite the same again!

Date of Mixing: November 30, 2005
Ingredients

  • Honey: 6lb Blackberry Honey
  • Fruit: 2.2 oz dried Cherries
  • Water: circa 2 gallons
  • Other:About 2t Yeast Nutrient

Original Specific Gravity: 1.082 (quite low)
Expected Final Specific Gravity: 0.998
Expected Alcohol Content: 12%
Gallons in Fermenter: about 3 gallons
Yeast: Red Star dried Champaign yeast
Quantity: 900mL
Time of Pitching: 23:00

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Beer cures cancer!

According to this article, there's a nutrient in hops which helps prevent cancer. In the interest of overhyping, please ignore the scientist in the article who says "We can't say that drinking beer will help prevent cancer". He's clearly just being modest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Goodbye Treo, part I : the Palm TX

My Treo 600, for the most part a wonderful device, is starting to die on me. At least, it sure seems that way. The phone starts buzzing a lot once the battery gets low, where low is defined as "less than 70% capacity left". You'll note that this is not the usual definition of low.

The problem is that T-Mobile doesn't support the 650, and I'd rather not get a windows phone. So, I decided it's time to separate functionality. Perhaps, if the pda and the phone can connect via bluetooth, then the effect will be almost the same as an all in one device, without the comforting "all your eggs in one basket" feeling.

I decided on the Palm TX for the PDA. It's a little bit larger than the treo, but has a beautiful 320x480 screen, about 100 megs of ram on board (pause to contemplate the 16k memory on my first computer), and built-in WIFI and bluetooth.

So far I've been pretty happy with it. The WIFI had one problem: The symptom was that the web browser would say that "page cannot be found". The router confirmed that it had given it an ip address though. I tried the usual connectivity check: I put the IP address of google.com in it and that worked just fine!

So for some reason my router was not serving domain names to the pilot. I checked the status of the connection on the pilot, and it confirmed that the proper DNS entry was there. Doing a bit more searching I saw a post where someone suggested overriding the DNS entry. I put in SBC's DNS server, since I use their DSL. This worked just fine.

It is nice having a machine that will hotsync now. The network sync over t-mobile's internet service was dreadfully slow... on the order of 150 bytes per second. And I could never get the usb cable to work with it either. Syncing over 802.11, on the other hand is wonderful.

So that's one half of the story. The other half, hopefully, will arrive tomorrow.

Other notes:

  • The address book has been expanded. It now stores a small thumbnail photo of the contact if you like, and many more entries such as birthday (doesn't seem to be any good way to select the year, though... you have to scroll back year by year), IM address, web page. There's also an option to "tap to connect", to activate a bluetooth phone or the versa mail client.
  • The versa mail client that is included has a gmail setting included, which is nice, but I had to override the outgoing SMTP port. It was set to port 25, but it should be 587. It occurs to me that downloading all my mail, composing replies on the El when I go to work, and uploading the changes when I reach the office could be a good use of time.
  • The package came with three screen protectors, which seem to be very good quality, and a hard case cover. Nice touch.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Brew 19 --- Woodbridge Ranch 11 Cabernet Sauvignon

Today I started Brew 19. It's a Cabernet Sauvignon kit, from Wine Expert's Selection Estate Series. The last kit I bought from them made excellent wine, so I decided to get more. This is a 16 liter kit. Specs:

  • Serial Number: 0406705 (in case something goes wrong and I need to call the company later)
  • Grape: 16L Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Water: 3L
  • Additions: Benotite, Oak
  • Yeast: Lalvin Bourgovin RC 212, 5g powder
I put the oak in a cheesecloth bag, sewed it shut, sprayed it with Sodium Metabisulphite to make sure it was sanitized, and put it in the juice. Hopefully that will prevent it from clogging up the collection bottle.

The specific gravity was 1.102. The wine will probably be 13% ABV when the time comes.

I ordered two more kits from Northern Brewer. A Chilean Carmenere/Cabernet, and a Nebbiolo d'Alba. These two are limited edition specials. They release four a year, once a month, from January to April. Northern Brewer has a special where they will send it with free shipping if you preorder the kit. This is important, because my normal supplier, Morebeer.com doesn't ship the 16L wine kits for free anymore. (Not that I blame them, those are 40 pound kits!) Free shipping on these two kits will save $65.

One problem with these kits: it's best if you let the wine sit in the bottles for 6 months before opening. My first batch didn't last that long. It was very good. :-) I think the only solution is to make lots of it to start with, and count on buying wine for the next six months. Once the "pipeline" is established, it will be a lot easier, since there will be stuff that's "ready" while the new stuff is sitting around getting good. The downside: 1. waiting is not one of the American virtues, and 2. I figure I'm going to need at least 120 empty bottles in order to get up to capacity. I have 30 now. Needless to say, I'm starting to encourage my friends to save their bottles for me.

While I'm at it, there is sad news to report about Brew 18... some uninvited molds had a party and drank it all. I suspect it was the problem with the oxygenation---I forgot to oxygenate the wort until three days later when I noticed there was no fermentation going. Live and learn.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Adventures on the CTA: Having a Louis Moment

Last night, at about 10:30, I was on the El platform when someone yelled "Matt!" from behind. It was Jenny G., a good friend I had not seen in 12 years. We were mutually impressed that we recognized and remembered each other.

And to think, this kind of thing happens to Louis all the time....

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Sony vs. their customers

Apparently Sony has been caught selling a CD that will put a trojan program on your computer if you play it on your CD. From the reports, it appears the program was badly written: it uses up 2% of your CPU time, whether you are playing the CD or not. (Two percent isn't so bad. Unless you get a different version of this software each time you put a Sony CD in your drive. Can you imagine 10 different versions of this running at the same time?)

If you try to remove the software, it disables your CD Rom Drive. And worse, it's written in such a way that if anyone else wants to put a virus or spyware on your computer, they can use Sony's software to hide themselves from the spyware removal programs you should be running.

Without question this is incredibly unethical, and it is also most likely illegal. Sony has gone on record (ha! I didn't even mean that pun!) saying that they feel they have the right to do this.

Of course, I use Linux, so this doesn't affect me. Well, at least not until my windows using friends need me to take this off their computer. But until Sony issues a statement apologizing and promising never to do this again, I will never buy any music from them again. Or their computers for that matter. I suggest you seriously think about taking the same stance.

The real pity of this is that the only people inconvenienced by this are the people who purchase Sony's music legally. If you steal this off the net, you won't have any problem---at least, not with Sony's malware. The blots on your soul and other hazards of online theft are yours to keep. But if Sony is so worried about people stealing their music, breaking the computers of people who buy their music legally seems counter-productive somehow. I feel badly for the artists affected by this....

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Blocking Script Kiddies

When you administer your own unix box, one of the things you find out (if you pay attention to the log files) is just how often someone tries to break in. Lately there have been tons of people using secure shell to do a "brute-force" attack: try all the usernames and passwords you can think of an hope one matches. It uses up a lot of CPU time because they try sometimes a couple of hundred connections before giving up.
I decided I was sick of it, so I wrote a script to monitor the log and block the IP address of anyone who tries more than 5 times to connect.

#!/usr/bin/ruby

p = IO.popen("tail -f #{ARGV[0]}")
#p = IO.popen("cat #{ARGV[0]}")

$bad = {}

def log(ip)
   if $bad[ip] == nil then
      $bad[ip] = 1
   else
      $bad[ip] = $bad[ip] + 1
   end

   if $bad[ip] > 5 then
      system("/usr/local/sbin/ipdrop #{ip} on")
      m = IO.popen("/usr/bin/mutt -s 'Dropped IP #{ip}' mattoxbeckman@-----.com","w")
      m.write("IP address #{ip} has been blocked for excessive ssh failures.\n")
      m.close
      print "Blocking IP #{ip}\n"
   end
end

p.each { |x|
   if x =~ /.*sshd.*Invalid user.*from ([0-9]+\.[0-9]+\.[0-9]+\.[0-9]+)/ then
      log($1)
   end
}
This morning after I got back from teaching I found an email in my box; some script kiddie at 211.22.84.102 got blocked! I checked the logs and found this.
Nov  2 10:26:22 calvin sshd[22502]: Did not receive identification string from 211.22.84.102
Nov  2 10:30:01 calvin cron[22507]: (root) CMD (test -x /usr/sbin/run-crons && /usr/sbin/run-crons )
Nov  2 10:31:07 calvin sshd[22523]: Invalid user test from 211.22.84.102
Nov  2 10:31:09 calvin sshd[22528]: Invalid user test from 211.22.84.102
Nov  2 10:31:11 calvin sshd[22533]: Invalid user test from 211.22.84.102
Nov  2 10:31:13 calvin sshd[22538]: Invalid user test from 211.22.84.102
Nov  2 10:31:15 calvin sshd[22543]: User guest not allowed because shell /dev/null is not executable
Nov  2 10:31:22 calvin sshd[22558]: Invalid user prova from 211.22.84.102
Nov  2 10:31:24 calvin sshd[22563]: Invalid user prueba from 211.22.84.102
Nov  2 10:33:25 calvin sshd[22568]: fatal: Timeout before authentication for 211.22.84.102
After the fifth attempt, my log watcher ran the command to block the IP. During that time, our kiddie initiated a sixth attempt (for prueba). The last line is fun. The IP got blocked before they could try a password. :-)
Okay, so I'm a geek. But a pretty satisfied one.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Couches!

A friend of a friend was giving away couches. Thanks to Jon and Jonathan who helped me get them up the stairs! Another picture can be found on my gallery.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Arm Photon Torpedoes

So, it's been 75+ days, and I still have not gotten back my security deposit from my former landlord. Chicago gives them 45 days, after which I can sue for double + legal expenses. I've called several times and gotten a different excuse each time, so the other day I sent a nastygram. Very polite, very professional, with a complete log of our communications (cell phones are cool!) and a Final Deadline. I gave him until the end of the month. If I don't have the check by then, it will be time to start asking my lawyer friends for a referral. I'd rather not have to go that route; it's nasty and time consuming. But I can't let this behavior continue, either.... Update: The deposit just showed up! It was two days after I mailed the other one, so he could have gotten that in time. Or maybe he sent it a bit earlier. There's no postmark on the envelope (weird) so I can't tell. I called to tell him that I received it. Moral: if you're going to do business, be organized. Not fulfilling terms of a contract looks the same whether it's by disorganization or malice.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Calling

A friend recently asked about my sense of calling. Here's my reply. Wesley once said that if God would give him 100 people fully committed to following Him, then Wesley could change England. God did, and so he did. My pastor has a similar vision for Chicago. Whether or not he ends up being a Weslian figure, I want to be one of the 100. How that plays out is not all that specific. All I know (or think I know) is that I'm supposed to be in Chicago, and that I'm supposed to be me... striving always to be more like Christ and impact my surroundings by being more like Christ.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

An old favorite

I just discovered this link to the audio of the infamous WKRP Turkey Drop!

Friday, September 2, 2005

Three more years!

Good news: I just got word that my contract has been renewed for another three years!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Modding the Kitchen, part 1

About the only bad thing about my kitchen was the refrigerator. There's only one spot where it will really fit, which is fine---it's a good spot---but the hinges were on the wrong side of the door, so the opening of the door faced the wall. Very inconvenient, to say the least. One friend made a comment that the hinges can be reverse, though, so after some looking at the fridge, I decided to spend some quality time with my Craftsman tools. It took about 30 minutes, most of that was on one part. There were a lot of plastic screw-like thing that went in the ``other'' side. I pulled them out, and remounted the hinges there. The plastic things were a pain, because they clearly were meant to be inserted and never removed, so a couple of them got destroyed in the process. I don't think it will matter though; you wouldn't really notice unless you were looking for it. So now my fridge opens ``correctly''. And I have a few leftover fridge parts that I'm wondering what to do with. Next project: modding the coffee maker.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Brew 18 --- Irish Red

First brew in the new apartment!

This is a standard from morebeer.com. Usually I add some red pepper and oak to turn it into a Burning Forest, but I decided to do something more normal this time. Yeah, I know. I'll be feeling better soon. John came over to watch, he's getting into the hobby soon.

I decided to try the V-Vessel for beer this time. It seems to be working, mostly. There seems to be a cone of sediment forming that didn't make it into the little ball at the bottom. I will probably try pushing it through with a wine paddle and see what happens.

One scare: I forgot to oxygenate the wort. After about 48 hours with no sign of fermentation, I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures, and oxygenated the wort. Fermentation started within an hour. Note that times are given in terms of time remaining for a 60 minute boil. Date of Brew: Saturday, August 13, 2005 Date of Bottling: Not yet! Ingredients

  • Malt Extracts 7 lbs Ultralight
  • Grains 1 lb Crystal 120L 8 oz Aromatic 8 oz Caramanich 2 oz Black Roasted Barley 2 oz Special 13
  • Hops 1 oz Magnum (Bittering, -60 mins) 2 oz Willamette (Flavoring, -5 mins)
  • Water Treatments Whirfloc (1)
Number of Gallons in Boil: 5 Boil Time: 60 mins Gallons in Fermenter: 4.5 Yeast: White Labs Clifornia Ale Quantity: 35 mL

Friday, August 5, 2005

The Move

The Move is finally completed. Well, there's still a bucket of cleaning stuff at the old place, and I need to drop by there to give it a once-over before I hand in my keys. But all the stuff is in the new place. I hired movers this time. The new apartment is on the forth floor (SBC thinks it's the third floor; it must be one of those first floor/ground floor things) and I thought it would be much better to pay someone else to sweat and risk injury than to ask friends to do it. My friends all thought this a very good idea. I hired King David Moving and Storage, partly because of the cool name, partly because their rates seemed reasonable, partly because one of their competitors "forgot" to tell a friend that furniture wrapping would be an extra $120. They sent four guys over, who did an excellent job; they only took 3 hours to do everything. I learned a lot of neat tricks for moving by watching them, too... especially about how you can use tape to do move just about anything. Later when it was time to move the plants (I thought it best to move the plants myself), we bubble-wrapped the Cactus of Doom and put it into a granny cart. So to all of those who wondered how I was ever going to move the cactus, there's your answer. The new apartment is very nice. I just got the office and computer set up, and will be trying to get the bedroom and kitchen set up today. Well, at least started....

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The New Building Owner

Well, the new building owner just knocked on my door, and gave me his address. Turns out that he is not planning to condoify the building! I wish he'd said something earlier; I would have been able to stay here. Oh well, it seems this is what's meant to be. I am really looking forward to being in the new place, though, and having a real kitchen for once!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Ruby on Rails with Postgresql

I've been learning a new system called Ruby on Rails; it's a pure object-oriented programming language with a web application interface. It is supposed to be able to do the kinds of things you get with all the cool google web applications like gmail and google maps. I was following the instructions on http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2005/01/20/rails.html and having a difficult time getting it to work, since the instructions are written for MySQL, and not Postgresql. It would come back with an error about column id not honoring the not null constraint. After playing around for a bit, I discovered the solution. Postgres needs to be given a sequence first in order to automatically fill in the id numbers. Here's the SQL code I used to create the database:

create sequence recipes_id_seq start 1;

create table recipes (
  id int primary key default nextval('recipes_id_seq'),
  title varchar(255),
  date date,
  instructions text);
This causes the ID numbers to be inserted correctly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Brew 16 Bottled

Brew #16 has been bottled! I got 27 bottles of Cabernet/Shiraz blend, (and one 500mL bottle) which should be "ready" in 1-3 months. I tried some; right now it tastes something like a Beaujolais Nouveau. The bottling and corking went very smoothly except for the little filler thingy; a couple times it got stuck---in the open position! Fortunately not much wine was lost. I'm not sure if it's the sediment that got stuck, or the divot in the bottom of the wine bottle, which caused the problem. I might use a Phil's Filler that I inherited when a friend left the hobby next time.

Friday, July 8, 2005

Found a new place!

So on Wednesday I was at Galway Arms, and complained to one of the servers (Liz) that I had to move and was trying to find a new place. "Oh, did you know that Ian (the bartender) works for Apartment People?" He took down a few bits of information and said that he could get me something like that. Jack looked at my list of "Must Haves" and said that I was asking quite a bit.... Yeah, perhaps, but for the amount of money it costs to live someplace around here, I want to really like it. Well, the first place we saw I got to meet the landlord. He owns the building, and you can tell immediately that he really cares about the place. It has a very nice courtyard, and all the wood inside has been sanded down or replaced. He replaced all the pipes, and all the wiring. The kitchen even is quite new (that's very important)! The previous tenants had stayed there for three years, and were only leaving to buy a condo---another good sign. The specs: two bedrooms, one main room, all with south facing windows. Large closets, a back porch, bathroom closet. Oh, it has a dishwasher. I've never had one before... well, I did, but all that one did was spray the food off, spray it back on, then dry it onto the dishes. So I never used it. I think this one will be better. And, there's a very large tree in front of the windows. During the summer, the light is diffuse---this will keep the building cool. During the winter, all the leaves will be gone and the light will be quite strong, right when it will be most welcome. Those of you who know me well will not be surprised to learn that it's on the fourth floor, the top one available in this building. Here are some pictures; I didn't get to take pictures of the inside. You'll just have to visit me. Oh, the punchline....the building I live in now is about a 3 minute walk away. I looked all over the city for a place, and ended up almost right where I started!

I can stop when I want to....

You are a Black Coffee
At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it Your caffeine addiction level: high

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Ravinia

I went to Ravinia with Ji to hear music inspired by Don Qixote. The music was great, and the weather was perfect for a picnic in the park. During the picnic, she insisted that I take this picture and ask people what they think it is. :-)

Brew 17 -- Extra Special Bitter

This is an morebeer.com kit for the Extra Special Bitter. No modifications were made to this recipe, mainly because the last two heavily modified versions I gave to my bartender didn't go so well. So, I decided to make something more normal that she might like. Heidi, John, and Laura came over to watch. John is starting to get into the hobby, so we were hoping to give him an idea of how to get started. The brew went very well; no surprises, no panicked contingencies. Note that times are given in terms of time remaining for a 60 minute boil. Date of Brew: July 1, 2005 Estimated Date of Bottling: July 15, 2005 Ingredients

  • Malt Extracts 7lbs Ultralight Malt
  • Grains 8 oz Crystal 40L 8 oz Honey Malt 4 oz Special Roast
  • Hops 1 oz Magnum Hops (-60 min, bittering) 2 oz Kent Golding Hops (-5 min, flavoring) 2 oz Kent Golding Hops (-1 min, flavoring)
  • Water Treatments Whirfloc (1)
Number of Gallons in Boil: 5 Boil Time: 60 mins Original Specific Gravity: 1.045 Expected Final Specific Gravity: 1.011 Expected Alcohol Content: 4.42 Gallons in Fermenter: 5 Temperature of Wort at Pitching of Yeast: Room Yeast: White Labs English Ale Yeast (#WLP002) Quantity: 35 mL Time of Pitching: 22:30

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Trip Report: California 2005

I went to California to attend Matt and Tina's wedding. Of course, since weddings don't actually take that long (the actual ceremony, that is--the planning is another matter, but I didn't have to do any of the planning), I spent a lot of time with other friends as well.

Adventures on the ATA: Kintergarden in the Sky

I left on Friday morning out of Midway. The plane wes full, holding about 250 people, and left at 7:00 am. From where I was sitting in the back, I could see seven little kids. I think there were more that I couldn't see. They were well organized... they took turns crying so that someone was always making sure that this important task got done. Two of the kids only knew how to communicate by screaming, so that's what they did. I didn't mind it all very much, actually, I mean, they're kind of cute... But the lady I was sitting next to had a different take on it. "I hate kids" she muttered several times. She really wanted off that plane. "Maybe if I tell them I'm a terrorist, they'll stop the plane and let me off." Okay, so maybe I should say that I saw eight children, not seven. Do people really forget that they were once kids, too?

Uncle Mattox

I was met at the airport by Jan and Jubi. Jon was at work at the time, so he met up with us later. Jubi (who just turned two) had a doctor's appointment that morning, so we went there. Jan said I could come in with them (she didn't want me to be bored in the waiting room). There was a new doctor that day; the usual doctor for Jubi was on maternity leave. She went over the growth chart, asked a bunch of "is development going smoothly" type of questions, and gave a lot of advice about things to try next. She looked at her growth chart and commented "well, she's very small, but you two are both petite so she'll probably be short for the rest of her life anyway". Neither of us bothered to correct her, so she'll be very confused when Jon comes next time. :-) After that we went to a Pho restaurant, visited their home off of a small lake, and had afternoon tea. We spent a lot of time playing with Jubi as well. For a two-year-old she has an amazing vocabulary! That evening, Jon came home and we all went out to a Malaysian restaurant called Baba Neo, in Mountainview. Their food and service is very good, I'd go there again. Conveniently, it was located just a few minutes away from Nicole and Glen's place, where I stayed during my trip.

The Wedding

The wedding was held in a beautiful church just outside San Jose. The windows are all glass, I wonder how anyone can pay attention to the service? The reception was fun. I got to see Sam Abraham, and Steve Kilgore. Nicole and Glen were there, too. Matt and Tina did a first dance that had everyone asking them for lessons.

Hakone Gardens

The next day I went to church with Nicole and Glen. After that, Nicole took me to the Hakone Gardens. In many respects it looks like many other Japanese gardens I've been to. Nice presentation, some water, tea rooms. One thing I noticed that's different about this garden is the incredible variety of bamboo they had. There were many different kinds there. We then came back, picked up Glen, and we went to a sandwich shop called Plutos, in Palo Alto. It had a very Chicago feel to it. It also had a wall with the names of all kinds of Space/Sci-Fi personalities... the kinds of names that geeks would know. Glen and I knew all but one of them, which I looked up on Google from my phone, thereby ensuring our geek status is safe. After that, we went to the Tied House in Mountainview. I got to try a small flight of their beer, and get a souvenier logo glass to take home. Glen and I agreed that their dark beers were the best.

San Francisco

The next day I took the Cal Train to San Francisco. It had a very metra-like feel to it. The ride cost $4.95, a bit more than a comparable Metra ride would have cost, I think. I met Vicki at the Sony Metreon. For the second time, I got to be Uncle Matt. We went to the Yerba Garden next door and Vicki had me ride the merry-go-round with Wesley while she took pictures. Wesley has a lot of energy. We went to Chinatown, and then Vicki and Wesley had to get home. So I stayed in Chinatown for a few more hours, had dinner at a nice but touristy restaurant. (Bad sign: almost no locals there!) Next time I'll research a bit more before coming. All in all, a fun trip!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Trip Report: Chicago 2005

My parents and niece came over to visit last week! The weather was not the best---very hot and humid most of the time; but it was clear most of the time so I really can't complain. We went to the Millenium Park, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum, and one day while I was at work my parents went to a lighthouse in Evanston.    My niece really loves the CTA. She drew all kinds of pictures of the Chicago El stop.

Gotta Move....

Well, I got confirmation from the landlord last night; they're selling the building, so now I have to move. On the one hand, I'm bummed, because I really like my unit; not to mention that I hate moving. On the other hand, it's an opportunity. Maybe I'll get a nice veiw of the City or the Lake. Or maybe a basement in which to keep my brewing supplies or my tarantulas.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Chocolate!

My friend Jane has been in town for a conference, and Heidi organized a trip to the Chocolate Bar at the Peninsula Hotel. They have an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet. Good chocolate and good friends... hard to beat that combination!

The buffet itself had all kinds of chocolate treats... Raspberry chocolate, creme brule, hot white chocolate, chocolate covered pretzels, white chocolate chips with dried fruit, chocolate covered strawberries... I think you see the theme by now.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Adventures on the CTA #6 -- Truth in Advertising

You may have heard that there's been quite a stink with the CTA lately over a lack of funding, with all kinds of dire consequences promised if they don't get more money---routes cut, all trains running on Sunday schedule, that kind of thing. Someone added some text to a sign on the Red Line poster. The text that the CTA put on it said "Learn how to cut your commuting costs by up to %40!" (by using pre-tax transit dollars from your employer). Someone taped some paper underneath that said "And we'll cut your service by up to %40!". :-/ (It would be funny, except for the minor detail that it might be true!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Brew #16 Has Begun!

I got a new toy...

It's called a V-Vessel.  It's supposed to make brewing a lot simpler, because you don't have to transfer the wort from one vessel to another all the time.  When you would normally have done a transfer (to move the fermenting wine/beer off the sediment) you simply remove the ball at the bottom (remember to close the valve first!!), dump it out, resanitize, and add it back in.

More pictures are on my Brew 16 Album.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Adventures on the Shangahai Transit

Here's a special edition of Adventures on the CTA. I'm up late at night, absolutely wide awake because of jet lag, because of my trip to Shanghai. To pass the time I thought I'd tell a CTA like story. Here are a few pictures of the Shanghainese equivalent of the El. The first thing to notice is the TV set on the tunnel. It tells you when the next train is coming. Very cool! The subway is also very popular here. Here's a picture of what greeted my when I was about to get on the subway during rush hour. Dive in! In all, though, their system is very clean, and it only costs 2-4 RMB (25 - 50 cents!) to ride. And when it's not rush hour, it's not nearly so crowded. The other cool thing I got to do was ride the maglev train to the airport. I didn't get many pictures, but the inside looks like an airplane. It takes 7.5 minutes to get from the city to the airport. Finally, I'll leave you all with this imporant safety tip from the Shanghai public transit.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Adventures on the CTA #5 --- Perverts and Heros

Wednesday I was riding back at night on the Red Line (never a dull moment, as one rider that night put it). One very foul-mothed pervert with a camera phone was trying to take pictures of this one woman, who was clearly not happy about it. The only place she could really be was by the doors, so she could at least look away from the pervert. Meanwhile, he was harassing her and swearing up a storm. My first instinct was to pray that God would thwart his plans. Within 1 second, a man with a newspaper stood up, walked to where the pervert was sitting, and stood between him and the woman, causally reading his newspaper like nothing else was going on. The pervert wasn't very happy, but it's not like he could say anything. Thought one: it's nice to see there are people who are willing to intervene. Thought two: why didn't I think of that? Next time I'll know what to do. Thought three: Praying for strangers has special rewards.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Adventures on the CTA #4 --- Not the best way to wake up.

This morning I was taking a nap on the red line on the way to work. I woke up to the sound of someone puking on the floor behind me. Needless to say, I went to the other side of the car. Yuck!