2017

2/21/2017: New Date Rule

Interesting. Just had this post get nuked by some weird session persistence bug. Ah well. It was only about 3 lines anyway.

So this ‘consecutive dating’ thing is making me nuts (really? that what did it? Seems more like an effect than a cause. But whatever. You do you.) So I’m instituting a new policy which, I sincerely hope for the sake of all y’all’s sanity, will only make sense to me: If a post is at all bound to events of a particular day, I’ll title the post with the appropriate date. Otherwise I’ll give it a backfill date. That way at the end of the year I’ll be able to back scan for gaps and write a bunch of filler posts so I have “at least one post per day.”

2/19/2017: ’cause THAT’S what I needed, another task

I woke up a few times in the night “bothered” by the amazing smell of garlic coming from I couldn’t figure out where. Each time I came to enough to remember I had the marinara sauce not-quite-simmering on the stove over night. It was absolutely heavenly. I fell back asleep fantasizing that it was strong enough to similarly inflict my neighbors.

It was good enough (when I finally got out of bed and tried some) that I found myself just eating it with a spoon. A dramatic improvement over my previous batch. The role of parsley was surprising, once I picked out the flavor.

So I jarred all of that and cleaned off the kitchen counters…sorta.

I got out the sparkolloid powder, looked up some directions and mixed up a bunch. Sparkolloid’s a powder you dissolve in water then add to a wine/cider/mead that’s at the tail end of it’s brewing process to help clarify it. It’s funny to me how some meads just settle out and end up clear as glass. It’s lovely to watch. But I have some (most) batches that are 6-7 months old and still cloudy as hell. I finally decided that a fining agent was needed.

Not too big a deal. I grabbed all 7 bottles and made a play at identifying them by smell. Yeah I got a couple. The cherry mead was a gimme. But it smelled like there were 2 strawberry meads, and I don’t remember doing 2. So I gave that up pretty quick, put the sparkolloid solution in each of them and re-capped them (with airlocks…JUST in case.)

Hopefully in another month or so these will be clear enough to bottle and more importantly, taste.

Also just started the great filet mignon sous vide experiment. More on that next week.

Okay I’m just rambling.

2/18/2017: Marinara: Take 2

9:00 on a Friday night and I clearly don’t have the good sense God gave a horse because I decided to start a marinara sauce a couple hours ago.

Not quite sure what it was I did wrong the last time, but it came out oddly sweet. There was no sugar of any kind added. Closest thing I can think of is that the onions were a bit sweet and I didn’t use a dry enough wine.

So here’s the source ingredient list again:

  • 2 14.5oz cans of tomatoes (says diced, going with crushed)
  • 1 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 4 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove (oh, honey…)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/3C finely diced onion
  • 1/2C white wine

First of all I doubled it. I have a disease about doubling or tripling recipes. I live alone. There’s no excuse, especially when I’m experimenting (which pretty much means “always”.) So I don’t get it. BUT I always do it.

Also I really REALLY don’t have the patience to “finely dice” onions. They’re too tough to wrangle once they get small.

So that all went in the pan about an hour ago and has been simmering in the most lovely fashion since then. The only problem is that I’m pretty sure it needs several hours to cook, so I guess I’ve committed myself to staying up until some ungodly hour to keep an eye on it all.

The kicker is that I still have a couple jars from the last batch someplace.

2/17/2017: Echo Echo Ideas

A funny thing is happening as I accumulate bodies of text and ideas, however poorly organized. It’s the same thing that happened the first (and really, last, if I were being honest) time I blogged with any frequency.

I’m forgetting what I’ve already posted and I’m finding my brain rediscovering paths I tread 15 years ago.

The thought process in this case goes like this:

“The problem with blog posts is that they’re serialized in time. You have to go through them in chronological order (or referenced by their posting time/date) in order to find something specific. There should be an extremely fluid way to be able to cross-reference meaningful posts and concepts between them with an absolute MINIMUM of extra work (or post searching.) Then you could jump in at any point and spider through conceptual relationships rather than chronological ones.”

Now this is a describing a Wiki. And no I don’t mean that giant bag of shit over at wikipedia. I mean Ward Cunningham’s original wiki. You’d type a post and use what was called a WikiWord, two (or more, iirc) words joined together, both capitalized. That meant you were typing a post title.

When you saved the text and it rendered in to a web page, the rendering code looked for WikiWords (yes, plurals created an interesting issue) and just replaced that with a link to a page of that name/title. IF that page didn’t exist, the link took you to a “create new page?” form. If it did, it took you right to the page.

Clicking on the page title brought you to a search page that listed all references to that page.

This way you can type a topic post and put in references to the pages you’re going to back fill later on. Back when the original was really active, it was kinda amazing how, if you were adding to a page, which was the primary method of conversation, you could type a WikiWord with the intention of filling in that page only to find out that it already existed when you saved your changes. So additional connections were drawn between existing content.

It really is absolutely genius in its simplicity.

I worked on a couple wiki style plugins for blogging systems back in the early 2000s. Movable Type, Blogspot (before Google fucking ate it), Radio Userland…aaaannnd I don’t remember the other popular ones. I was never patient enough to get them working with the apis correctly.

But now when I look for wiki plugins for WordPress (swidt?) I find that the generally accepted definition of a wiki has changed from what it was to the Wikipedia style full blown content management systems, which is just disgusting.

So I may end up whipping myself up some WordPress plugins. We’ll see.

Knowing me I already said all this a few months ago.

2/15/2017: Wow

I’ve always been a Jennifer Tilly fan. I just tripped over this video.

It’s…just…

She’s…

I mean, and then in the sidebar I saw this and it’s…

I got nuthin’.

2/14/2017: Bochet (or: Whups, the kitchen’s on fire)

So yeah. Blah blah mead this mead that. zomgz all the mead.

I bottled the 5 gallon JAOM out of the 5g carboy last night, into 4 1-gallon jars (between lees, headroom, and the bottle I took out last weekend for that spectacular taste test, it only amounted to 4 gallons, which is fine.)

I put labels on the bottles and went to my notes to get an initial fermentation date and notes to mark them with…

nothing.

*sigh*

Scooter forgot to write down what he did in creating this lovely batch of mead. I can ONLY hope it’s in my paper notebook (rather than the OneNote brewing reference I’ve been maintaining (and yes, backing up) for years.) So I was pretty pissed.

I’d been thinking that I needed to start numbering my batches so I could put them in an ACTUAL database (the OneNote thing is neat, but it gets a bit unwieldy) I called this the “M-1000” batch, and proceeded to take notes under an “M-1000” entry in OneNote like a friggin dipwad.

But, whatever. I put the four bottles in a box, numbered the bottles (I’m interested to see if it matters, though it shouldn’t) and stuffed it in the very back corner of my closet, for “bulk aging.”) I had a vision as I was on my way out of the closet, looking at the box over my shoulder, of a day in the far too close future, where I had a dozen or two such boxes, and shuddered.

The ulterior motive was to free up the 5 gallon carboy for further experimentation, since I had all kinds of plans. But when push came to shove, I was a bit stumped.

There are a couple things I want to try:

  1. A plain mead in bulk that I could freeze distill to see what came out. (This is how Apple Jack is made, but with hard cider.) I’m convinced a true honey liquor (instead of that honey flavored vodka horseshit) would be lovely. The start to yield ratio of freeze distillation is high enough that I’d really want to start with 3 or 4 gallons, so this would be the way to go.
  2. It’s mid March though, and I think my reputation would spread far and wide if, by the time it started getting hot this summer down here, I had case after case of hard lemonade, some with ginger, some with strawberry, and most plain (though a friend of mine said “and some with watermelon.” But he’s clearly nuts.) I haven’t made hard lemonade (or “skeeter pee”) in years and I was nonplussed by my previous result.

The bigger problem is, it’s No Spend March, so this is all academic (something I’d forgotten yesterday) so I washed out the carboy, ran a couple shots of bleach through it, then rubber-banded a top on it, so it wouldn’t get full of dust or other nonsense. Then I stowed it away….iiinnn the middle of the kitchen floor ’cause I haven’t been back over to the closet yet.

But what I DID start, realizing that it was Sunday night at 6:30 and I needed a couple wins under my belt, was a Bochet.

Now, Bochet is mead made from burnt honey. I can’t IMAGINE what it tastes like. It’s always really dark in the pictures and people say they love it.

So I put my 8 quart pot on the stove (gotta be enough) and put 2 1/2 pounds of clover honey in it, turned it on medium low and went back and sat down to putter a bit. It’s supposed to take between an hour and a half and two hours to torch it all the way down, so I didn’t think anything of it.

Not until I heard that telltale “bubbling over” hiss. I raced over to the stove, but it was too late. Honey had boiled over and splattered everywhere. What. A. Damn. Mess. I moved the pot to another burner (dragging molten honey behind it the whole way) turned off the burner and barked an expletive… or six.

I disassembled the stove and cleaned it out, unable to quite judge how much had been lost in the boil over.

Undaunted I got my huge lobster pot, put it on the stove, poured the honey in, along with an additional pound, and turned it on. I figured I could measure it back out once it was cooked by pouring it in to the original container (which was a 2.5 pound container) until it filled up, then just using that. Simple enough. Then I’d experiment with whatever was left.

So it’s been cooking there for about 40 minutes. It’s starting to smell pretty burnt, but I remember the video I saw a long time ago of these hippies making bochet and burning honey over an open flame (I mean…in a pot, don’t be stupid) and the number of times they went back and said “uhm….LOOKS burnt….SMELLS burnt…but the book says the smoke should be smokey” so I’ll leave it a bit more and see what happens.

This should be an interesting experiment if nothing else.

EDIT: 20 minutes later: Well, I quit burning the honey before it was actually smoking. The bubbling had died down almost completely and it was a really weird color. Even the bubbles were dark.

Turned off the heat and poured it all in to a steel bowl and scraped the sides with a teflon spatula (CAREFULLY) because it was sticking to everything. Once in the bowl it was clear that pouring it back into the plastic container would almost certainly be the most unintentionally hilarious bit of misfortune of all time, as it was probably still at about 300 degrees or more.

Filled up a measuring cup of water and put about a tablespoon in, at arms length. It just sorta glided along the surface until I noticed a weird expansion. It was bubbling up from underneath in one big blop. I stood back, fearing molten honey, but it burst without event.

So I started pouring more water in, my goal to dissolve it and cool it down for easier handling. It formed a crust on top as soon as the water hit it, which I then mixed in, and the water started boiling (duh, I suppose) so I mixed in a bit, stirred a bunch, etc. Once it stopped overtly boiling, I poured it through a funnel into the glass jar where it will be living for the next few months.

Unfortunately a whole bunch had crystalized on the bottom of the bowl, so I filled it with hot water and stirred a bunch. Newp. Got a knife and started prying at the glass like honey that had coated the bottom of the bowl and eventually chipped it away and stuffed it in to the funnel, after which I topped it off.

Now it smells like burnt honey and I have a metric fuckton of dishes that look like they’re spotted with thick brown glass.

Yay.

Still got to let it cool down a bit more before I start adding brewing chemistry, then an airlock. But this one’s in the bag for the most part.

2/13/2017: Riddles in the dark

I haven’t been talking much about the mead, mainly because I hadn’t started anything new in the last couple months. I’ve got 8 batches just bubbling away waiting for me to free up a gallon jar to rack into their respective next stages.

But it’s time to crank up the production engine, as I mentioned a few days/week ago. The biggest problem I’m having (and it’s a lovely problem to have) is that there are so many varieties I want to try that I’m falling all over myself trying to prioritize them.

A couple ideas:

  1. Bochet: Burnt honey mead. Essentially you just cook the honey half to death first before fermentation. It sounds fascinating and I have no IDEA what the result would taste like.
  2. Lemon Melomel: It’s funny. I’ve made hard lemonade a couple/few times; badly, but drinkably (shut up, it is too a word.) I’m not sure I ever thought of making a lemon mead before. Seems like it would be a natural fit (and i’m gonna guess it would take ginger, mint, or strawberry flavoring really well on top of it.)

I know I’ve got more kicking around in my head. I’ll make more of some of the “easy win” meads as well. But I’ve got to get another round of experiments under my belt first. Summer’s closer than it seems and having a dozen gallons of hard lemonade/lemon mead would be awfully nice.

2/12/2017: TDD between layers

Civilians might want to sit this one out.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away I used to be an Extreme Programming coach. THAT didn’t work out. I just lock up when I’m presenting organized material for a crowd, which is odd really. I’ve got no trouble speaking in front of groups of people generally. When I was working with little teams of enthusiastic developers it was all good. I’d get involved in their project and we’d excitedly press forward.

When I had to hard-sell a room full of suits with their arms crossed over their chest, wearing their best scowls, well… I buckled. I’m much less worried about that than I used to be.

But one of the deep practices of Agile development/Extreme Programming is Test Driven Development. That’s where you don’t write a single line of code before you have a failing unit test. So you write the test, it fails, then you write the code that makes it pass.

It’s time consuming.

It’s EXHAUSTING.

It’s slow.

But it produces better code than any other minute-to-minute technique I’ve ever used.

Still though, when you’re working on something in the small (like any of the examples they use in the hundreds of videos on the topic over on youtube) it’s lovely. You end up with a series of classes or functions that do exactly what the spec says they should, with a battery of unit tests covering 90+% of the code.

And all is right with the world.

I have a huge problem when I try to zoom out and write unit tests for larger and larger blocks of functionality. Yeah if I’m creating a little tiny thingie it’s no problem.

But developing test first and letting design emerge from the 15-30 second iterations starts producing insanity when I do it “in the large.”

So when I’m facing (as I am now) a new project that I want to run, fully tdd (determined to dust off my chops and do it right) I’m utterly flummoxed.

When I try to start from a higher level, the nature of tdd brings me instantly into this microcoding work style, which I suppose is appropriate, but I keep expecting the tunnel vision to abate and eventually to be testing larger and larger integrations of tiny code bits.

I’m gonna have to play around with it. Maybe I just need to start working from a “clouds on a whiteboard” design instead of letting it kind of….develop.

The biggest problem with a post like this (he realizes around word 430) is that I can’t give you a concrete example because this is a problem I’m having in the office and I can’t exactly post the damn code. Any contrived example I came up with would be sufficiently contrived that it would almost certainly not exhibit the problem I’m describing.

Yeah, sorry. No big conclusions or apostrophes (I think you mean epiphany) just something I’m trying to work my head through.

2/11/2017: The Same?

I was thinking about the post from the other day about game playthroughs and my lack of variety and, rereading it, I realize I went off on a wildly different tangent from where I expected/planned (yeah… plan… lol) to take it.

I didn’t mean to diverge into the moral issue of not being able to take the Left Hand Path IF the context of the game made that optional, though it’s a reasonable point to have made.

The post was precipitated by this curiosity I have about my own complete lack of desire to do things differently.

Sure it manifests most frequently as “playing the good guy” but that’s only because that’s the only set of choices that are available.

It’s far more interesting to me that, as much as I love these games for their sense of discovery and working through the plot lines, I will abandon the unknown ENTIRELY the next time around.

“It’s as if” (up there with “If I didn’t know better”) once I play them through once, replays serve a completely different role. It’s…comforting, soothing even, to play through these games again and know how it’s going to go. My enjoyment isn’t reduced, it’s ENHANCED by the predictability. Like listening to a favorite song on repeat I can get nice and lost in it.

I don’t remember much about the first time I played Mass Effect 1. I remember AFTERWARD, finding out all the shit I did “wrong” and how I could’ve saved Wrex, etc. I remember my first Dark Messiah of Might & Magic playthrough and how completely awkward it was because I didn’t know what I was doing. Sure, it was fun. But I was fumbling around, lost the first time.

But once I settled on a style, I played it through…maybe 5 times. And sure, I thought about different styles and strategies. I just…didn’t need to use them.

And it’s not just RPGs. I do the same thing with Command & Conquer: Generals, and other old-school RTS games. I’ll play them through the same way over and over and over again.

When push comes to shove, I’ve much less consternation about it than I used to (until very recently) and now maintain a bemused curiosity about the whole thing. I’m not ALL that sure what changed. But six months ago I’d agonize about it.

I dunno. Gets me to thinkin’.