After transferring beer the other night, I shifted my gaze to the 4-drawer file cabinet sitting next to my brewing stand. It’s jammed full of files that date back to my house in the city–phone, water, and utility bills I don’t need and will never have to refer to. I loaded up Top Gear USA on my iPad and started sifting through the drawers, making a stack of paper about a foot high, and within an hour I’d winnowed out all of the 620 South Lakewood stuff into two piles: shredding and non-shredding.

I found the final mortgage bill for my rowhome, the details of which still take my breath away: a monthly payment of $515.40 at an APR of 6%. My utility bills averaged about $90 for the month. Why did we move to the suburbs again?

I found an unused registration sticker for Chewbacca. I found a copy of the city-drawn plat for 620 S. Lakewood. I found piles of old illustration mailing lists, including a carefully hand-drawn graph of geographic regions cross-referenced by what postcards they’d been sent and when. I got all of my tax records in order from 1993 until we were married. I found utility bills from 620, some in the name of my old girlfriend.

Then I started shredding in front of the Texans-Steelers game, stopping only when the motor on our little shredder got so hot it refused to run and I’d filled a trash bag full of spidery paper. There’s still about 6″ of phone bills and mortgage statements to go through, as well as some medical bills, and I’m not done culling the drawers. I’ve got a stack of twice-used manila folders to recycle and a pile of rusty paper clips to throw out.

I set aside stack of utility bills for our current house, put them in order, and scanned them into PDFs at work this morning in preparation for the shredder. I’m thinking about entering some of the year-over-year data into Excel to look at trends, now that we’ve been here over ten years: things like our average monthly bill, therms and kWh used, and average monthly temperatures. It would be interesting to see how it graphs out, considering our first couple of bills averaged ~$700/mo. (it’s come down considerably since then).

As I think about it, scanning our old mortgage statements and water bills isn’t a bad idea either, so I’ll probably bring those in tomorrow. (The scanner at work has an auto-feed, which makes life so much easier). As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to organize and scan as much paper in as possible and then shred it. I’d also like to organize an automated download of bank records and mortgage statements, given that our bank only lets us go back a certain number of months.

Date posted: October 21, 2014 | Filed under general, projects | Leave a Comment »

How happy am I that a date I took a pretty blonde on fourteen years ago has turned into a family tradition?

Grand and Finn 1

Guns and Clowns

Jen, Finn and Cathy

Heaven

Race

Date posted: October 19, 2014 | Filed under family, finn, photo, travel | Leave a Comment »

I transferred my Session IPA to the secondary fermenter last night, took a gravity reading (4.5% ABV-perfect), and dry-hopped it with twice the recipe’s ingredients: 2 full ounces of Simcoe. I went back and forth on whether I should stick with the kit recipe, which called for one ounce, figuring I’d only had three glasses of it before it was killed on Parade day and I never really got to sample it in detail. But then I said fuck it and dumped the second one in. Let’s see what happens.

Date posted: October 19, 2014 | Filed under brewing | Leave a Comment »

Having finally brought wired power to the garage, I thought it would be a good idea to add a battery conditioner to help the Scout make it through the winter. I generally get out and start her up every weekend during the snowy months to keep systems lubed and working (three of the saddest words in the English language are ran when parked) and there have been some days when I’ve needed to pull one of the Hondas up to jump the battery. I found an inexpensive battery conditioner on Amazon and got it a few weeks ago. It’s meant to keep the battery topped off, which is just what I need.

photo

I heard from our friend Mike in Colorado after a long quiet spell, who has been driving his shiny Scout daily after rebuilding it from the ground up. He offered me a spare set of traveltop window seals he’s got sitting in his garage, which is fantastic timing. I’ve been eyeballing my traveltop in the garage, thinking it would be wise to get it back on the truck before things get really cold. It’s got solid side windows but I’ve got a set of sliders from the crappy top I had sitting in the backyard, and the seals they came with are OK but not new. One of my goals before it goes on is to knock down and shoot the rust inside along the bed rails with some Eastwood encapsulator and then cover them with etching primer. It’s in great shape overall but there are a bunch of inexplicable screw holes that need to be welded shut, something I’d like to test out a new welding rig on.

Date posted: October 19, 2014 | Filed under friends, Repairs, Scout | Comments Off

pumpkin

This wonderful picture has the honor of being my 4,000th upload to Flickr.

Date posted: October 18, 2014 | Filed under finn, house | 1 Comment »

I shot another video interview this week at work, in less than optimal conditions (about 3 hours of advance notice, overcast weather) and it turned out pretty well. I’m getting the video portion dialed in, having practiced a lot on my own and helping my friend Dave shoot an event last week. The audio is the thing that’s bugging me. I’ve got the subjects miked up correctly, feeding into a high-quality recorder, but the results aren’t what I was expecting.

IMG_5690

The audio I got today was low quality. So bad, in fact, that I was afraid I’d made a technical mistake and was pulling the audio in from the built-in mic on the recorder and not the lav mic on my subject. (In order to boost recording levels on the Zoom H4N, you have to select the input device before changes will stick, and I was afraid I’d switched the inputs). I futzed with the levels in Final Cut Pro but didn’t like the results, and brought the original clip into Audacity to boost the levels, clean the garbage out, and split the signal. Once I’d done that the results were much cleaner and I was ready to sync it to video.

So, I’ve got to run some tests on my recorders to see what the issue is. I have a Roland R-09 as a backup, so I’m going to do a 1-1 comparison on recording levels to see what’s what.

Date posted: October 17, 2014 | Filed under geek, WRI | Leave a Comment »

I got an email a couple of days ago about my Flickr Pro account. It’s time to renew my account, which is fine; I’ve been a member for nine years and I’m very happy overall with Flickr as a service. In years past I’ve been able to renew it with no problem, but 2014 is different. Apparently they’ve gone to some kind of “wallet” construct for their payment services, which means they want to store your payment information (um…OK) and tie it to your account. Mind you, this is a Flickr wallet. Here’s the issue: There’s no way to apply my card to the bill. When I enter my card information (correctly) into the wallet, I get the cryptic message: “There was an error.”

So, tell me what I’m supposed to do, Yahoo. Do I put my credit card in again? (Did that. Twice. Didn’t work).

Do I click on the Order History links? (they don’t do a fucking thing).

Do I go to Yahoo and log in there and attempt to find my billing information and clear it up there? (Ha, that’s a goddamn joke. I can barely find the “Log In” button, let alone any billing information. And when I did find a link to the billing page, after a goddamn Google search, they had all my old invoices but not the new one).

Here are a couple of entry-level, UI 101, common sense suggestions to the wizards at Yahoo:

  • When there’s an error, tell me clearly what the problem is.
  • Don’t fuck with best practices, especially when it comes to important stuff like payments.
  • Give me some information about what I can do to fix it so that I can give you my money.

So I have to call someone and sit on hold and try to clear it up tomorrow. Stupid fucks.

Date posted: October 16, 2014 | Filed under geek | 3 Comments »

Hangover chess

Sunday morning I woke up with a slight hangover to the sound of Finn’s voice. She was asking if we would play chess with her, having set up the board while we were sleeping. We’d had friends over Saturday night for drinks and dinner, with emphasis on drinks, and both Jen and I were feeling the effects in the morning. It was my turn to get up, so I made some coffee, organized the board correctly, and we got to playing. She played four games, trying to make sense of the rules, but quickly got better with each. Later in the day, I started rolling white on the walls in the living room, covering over brown paint that dates back to 2006.

Saturday’s schedule called for a soccer game but it was cancelled due to rain. At the local Marshall’s, we found a raincoat for Jen and I found a down coat for the winter, a new fleece, and a sweater. We used the afternoon to clean up the house and prepare for our guests.


A Conversation with Al Gore

The week at work was very busy, which makes this three-day weekend that much more appreciated. Among other large projects, I found myself about five feet from Al Gore on Wednesday evening, running second camera video for a friend. We launched the US version of the New Climate Economy report on Friday, where I shot stills, and then went across town to attend a lunch seminar on infographics with some very interesting speakers.


The update on my yeast is good. It finally started working on Thursday morning and it’s been burbling ever since. The recipe says it only needs two weeks to be done, but I’ll probably transfer it next week and leave it in the secondary for another two.

Date posted: October 13, 2014 | Filed under brewing, finn, WRI | Leave a Comment »

I was worried that I’d cooked and killed my yeast when I activated it the other day. The idea is to wake it up in a warm bath of clean water and then add it to the wort; I misjudged the speed at which our simmer burner could heat 1/2 cup of water, and it got up to 100° before I pulled it off. I added it on Monday but it wasn’t doing anything until late last night, and this morning there was about an inch of krauzen on the top of the fermenter. Usually by this point it’s spitting bubbles out of the airlock. If there isn’t more of a reaction by tonight I’m going to go get some replacement yeast and throw it in for good measure.

Date posted: October 8, 2014 | Filed under brewing | Leave a Comment »

As much as I love the smell, feeling, warmth, and challenge of building and tending a fire in our fireplace, the vortex-like draw from the flue chills the rest of the house down to subzero temperatures. This will change, possibly, after we replace our windows and plug drafty holes, but that’s a long way off.

Last task of the day: work on your bucket list.


Pique The Incontinent has been pissing on the front porch carpet to register his displeasure with the litter cleaning schedule. While I’m pleased it wasn’t on my bead, it got to the point where opening up the front door unleashed an almost physical wave of cat stink, like being punched in the face with a boxwood plant. We adjusted the cleaning schedule and decided to pull up the carpet for good, as no amount of remover would actually remove the smell. The carpet came up easily, and the padding underneath did too, but then we were faced with lovely white and green adhesive tile, which is almost certainly held together with asbestos, hantavirus, and lead-based glue. I put an order in on Amazon for toxic particle filters for my mask, and will resume careful demolition next weekend. Under the tile is some kind of useless fiber-based sheeting, and below that is the original grey deck planking. Hopefully the wood isn’t swiss cheese under the sandwich of cancerous building materials.


Saturday evening we attended a beer-pairing potluck dinner with friends. Jen accepted the challenge and made a delicious lemongrass soup (tom kha) to pair with a wheat beer, and the rest of the meal finished up with provencal chicken and roasted lamb. We drank lots of fantastic beer, ate wonderful food, and returned home completely stuffed.

Sunday we were invited to an afternoon party at one of Finn’s new schoolmates’ house, where we found ourselves outnumbered by Irish expatriates handing us fresh Bloody Marys–THESE ARE OUR PEOPLE. Within about ten minutes we felt completely at home among their friends, who could not have been more welcoming, and after our host busted out fresh brisket (from his backyard smoker, naturally), we knew we would be fast friends. Finn was tired out from Saturday night but rallied and played among the other kids; I had to pry her hands off the side of the car to get her to come home.


Fall day-time to brew beer.

I’ve had another Session IPA kit in the basement for two and a half months, and haven’t had anything new in the kegs since right after the Fourth of July, so I carved a couple hours out on Saturday to brew it up on the burner outside. Everything went smoothly, and I got it in the fermenter cleanly but about 20° below optimal temperature, so I waited until Sunday evening to add the yeast. I may have heated it up a little too high when I activated it, but we’ll see if it starts working this evening. Next up, I think I’m going to do an Irish Stout to replace the last batch I did (which is down to a six-pack) and then maybe an ale of some kind to get through the winter.

Date posted: October 6, 2014 | Filed under brewing, friends, house, life | Leave a Comment »