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Monday, April 30, 2007

Never Know When You're Gonna Launch A Rocket

So we're driving along and I spot some folks looking up. I look, too, hoping to spot the kite someone's flying or whatever. Then I see the rocket coming down under canopy.

I still had a bunch of rocketry in the trunk from the day before, so naturally I stopped to launch a few.

Perfect place to do it. Hardly a tree in a quarter mile. This used to be the RC airfield before they built a bunch of houses right next to the park.

Well, it was too windy for rockets. But a huge area, I figured if I launched a heavy bird I'd be safe. Mardi Gras was blown over on his launch rod by a gust of wind and his launch lug got ripped off. I'm regluing that. So then I launched Dudley.

Dudley isn't all that heavy, but for a variety of legitimate reasons that can be explained by people with the patience and math for all that physics stuff (drag coefficients and such), he tends not to fly excessivly high. As in I can't recall ever losing site of him.

And true to form, he went up fast and straight but not out of site. Parachute open, good, processing nicely. Coming down. Coming down...

And wham, lands right in the one tree. Proof that trees don't need sunshine to photosynthesize, they live off rockets.

This Might Be The Breaking Point

Okay, it's been almost a year since the air went out on the mobile tragedy that is my car.

Hey, it's paid for and it's got a very respectable stereo. And I can leave the key in the ignition for months without it being stolen. I actually did this last summer during a period when I couldn't get the damn key out of the ignition. I don't worry too much about locking up my stuff (which is handy since not all the door locks still work), just cover up anything like cell phones or cameras that someone might boost on impulse. Who is going to rummage in a heap like this hoping to find pawnable consumer electronics? At a glance, any drug addict could see that this car is owned by someone possibly even worse off than a drug addict who's been reduced to car burglary to feed the habit.

The friendly folks at the Toyota dealership were perfectly willing to put me behind the wheel of my dream car. Well, given some issues with my credit, it wasn't impossible, but it wasn't like I was going to get zero percent financing. I was a few months into a divorce, well into the sub-prime strata of credit ratings, a place I'm still at despite a much better track record of paying my bills on time since the schism. The payment, plus insurance and taxes were going to be over half what my mortgage payment is.

And when I got kicked to the curb with no severance and no unemployment on false pretenses five days before Christmas, well I was glad I didn't have that monkey of a payment on my back.

For any of you who think divorce ever solves anything, ponder this: if my ex and I could have worked together, like people actually playing on the same side in the game of personal finance, what I'm paying in child support could have floated two car payments, and on pretty decent cars. Kind of like how my refusal to do my share of the housework led to my being responsible for all the housework. What am I going to do? Wait for the blow-up sex doll to mop the floor?*

Anyway, the thing is, I'm still driving this POS sans AC. But while I found it turned out to be doable to tough out a two mile commute across my little berg, I now travel about thirty miles to kill the mammoth and drag it thirty miles back to my cave.

Here's the dilemma: if it's over 80º, it's impossible to keep the windows up. If I roll the windows down, the Interstate is louder than an artillery attack on a Tool concert. It's physically painful on the eardrums, and mine aren't exactly pristine after a youth spent in garage bands and 22 piece big bands.

I bought some earplugs, but besides the fact that those mean writing off listening to the radio, one of the few things that make a 40 to 70 minute drive tolerable, Mo ate my earplugs. The texture, it seems, is irresistible, and while I can successfully hide a digital camera on the front seat of my car, she immediately found all three of my clever places to hide earplugs.

So what to do? There are car lots that will put me behind the wheel of a car, but if I thought the interest rates Toyota was offering me last year were usurious, well, I probably ain't seen usury yet. And really, my budget is a negative integer already. Add child support, mortgage, an average month of utilities, groceries and gas to get to work and you've exceeded my take home pay. And that's not counting things like car insurance, stuff like brake jobs and whatnot.

But there is a resource I haven't tapped. My 401k from my last job. I know, I know.

I don't believe in raiding 401 money. Those who know me can attest that I have less faith in government than the average bear, so it's not like I expect to get Social Security. I'm not even sure I expect there to be a United States of America when I retire at the rate things are going. And it took a decade of hard work to save that money, and what's there is what's left after I had to divvy up in the divorce settlement.

I also don't believe in paying taxes, and if I use that money to buy a car, I'll pay Uncle Sam a hefty bonus. 10% in penalty, but the other thing is the total I withdraw will count as income on this year, which could push me into the next tax bracket, meaning I owe a larger percentage of the money I earn this year not counting the 401 raid.

And it's not like I'd be cruising in my dream XB after all this. What I'd have left after taxes and penalties would get me a decent used car, something relatively fuel efficient and reliable. And with air conditioning. Maybe even something made in this century.

I dunno. It might leave me nothing to retire on, but I'm seriously doubting I can last a summer of this commute in the duct-tape-mobile.

*No, I don't have a blow-up sex doll, but you get the idea.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Elton John-ish

Mo found these sunglasses, minus a lens, at the RC airfield.

Okay, Joon

Em wanted to know where the blender was this morning.

It's a manifestation of her Johnny Depp crush; having seen Benny & Joon she now wants to affect schizoid dietary compulsions.

Who wouldn't?

So we put in some milk and peanut butter, a bit of chocolate cake frosting, and Cheerios.

Her verdict is maybe we should skip the Cheerios. Takes away from the pure junkfoodiness of it.

Or maybe Mo had the right idea.

Highly Recommended

This is good stuff. Even if you're not a heart attack survivor or appalled by a PETA video or whatever. I won't say it'd fool you that it's mayonnaise, but it sure scratches the same itch.


So here's my 600th post. I don't generally do those 'why do I blog?' posts, but lately a few people have asked me exactly that.


Well, I don't necessarily have a good answer for it. Sometimes, I think it's a writing exercise. Other times, a way to stay in touch with family and friends. I know that some former in-laws save out pics of my kiddos that I post. And comments I get include some of that small but precious group of friends I have that date back to the birth of Lobsterism, back when I thought Reagan was going to draft me to send me off to Nicaragua.

It originally grew out of my wanting to learn a bit of web coding. I got a domain and everything, and then found myself wanting to do all these painful updates. Blogger makes it simple: it's all CSS based, and your most recent post defaults to the top. Exactly what I had in mind. I still have my domain: I use it to host the images I post here, and for my online portfolio and so on.

But more to the pointlessness of it, I blog because I have a deep seated inability to not express myself. I'm the guy who tells total strangers things about myself I should probably be concealing even from those who know me well. The Department of Too Much Information? I'm the district manager.

So given an open mic like this, what am I to do?

A coworker tried to explain to me how just being online at all was a risky deal. Because your privacy could be violated six ways to Sunday if you even put a modem on your computer. I kept asking, yeah, but who wants to know this stuff about me? And they'd do what with it?

I mean, it's not like my credit rating is something you'd want to steal. If you're going to commit identity theft, dig in deeper soil. Stealing my identity, you might not be able to con the record club out of those 13 CDs for a penny.

As far as other types of predators, I'm not sure who'd be trolling my blog for that. I mean, maybe they exist, but with millions of blogs created and abandoned, what kind of chances are we talking?

So anyways, here's my 600th post. When I started, I didn't even know what a blog was. When people ask me today, I still can't give a good answer.

If you love my blog, that's great. If you don't, I can't blame you.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Buffalo: It's What's For Dinner

So I popped for the other red meat.

My rant about the bees dying off, about how a little stupid goes a long ways in a world with six billion people, well, stupid is a pretty cheerful giver no matter how many people there are. There were a lot less of us when some set of geniuses decided to drive buffalo nearly to extinction without even caring to harvest their hides and meat, and then to go to great effort and expense to replace them with cattle.

Wouldn't it have just been easier to eat the buffalo?

Also, buffalo is a lot leaner and more flavorful than beef, so maybe our McAsses wouldn't be so Super Sized. Even with the beef we do eat, we got rid of longhorn varieties that are leaner than short horn, in large part because longhorn cattle, while requiring less grass and water, take twice as long to mature for market. You even see Angus marketed as if it was a premium product, e.g. 'Certified Angus Beef.'

This is like saying a car is a certified lemon. There's nothing about Angus beef that recommends it except it gets big and fat in a hurry.

I kind of forgot how much leaner bison is, and I made the patties too big. I use a measuring cup to get the patties equal in size when I make burgers, but 2/3 cup was too big. I should have used the 1/3 cup measure. They hardly reduce at all on the grill.

Em was skeptical, but after a bite she said, 'Hey, this is sorta good.'

So were the tomatoes I got. I'm not saying they were as good as July tomatoes, but they were pretty good. Or maybe it's just been too long since I had some sliced tomatoes with cracked pepper.

DVD Return Redux

Yep, still this month.

The DVD Return hasn't been bothered in awhile, but Mo got the itch to disappear things again.

I caught her at it, told her to stop and go to time out, and she responded by trying to stuff one more doll part through the hole in the screen she'd managed to create.

After her time out was over, she went straight back to it, and did it again, right in front of me and in defiance of my repeated instructions to leave the damn thing alone.

If you can see it or touch it, it's not supposed to go there. Is that so damn difficult to understand???

It took three time outs to get it out of her system. And that, Your Honor, is why I killed her.


'Do you want to climb the tower?' I asked.

'YESSSS!' Mo answered. If her vehemence was an improvised explosive device, I'd be dead right now.

So we climbed.

Model Airplanes

The skill and patience it takes to build and fly these things impresses me. I had a kit to build one gifted to me forever ago. The book that came with it, I started to read but it was too intimidating. The box was just full of sheet balsa, basically.

I eventually let the kit go (sans book, not sure what became of it) at a garage sale. I still like to watch them fly. Mo enjoyed it too, for a briefer period than I'd have stayed.

They look pretty big next to their owners, but they sure get small in a hurry when they're being flown.

It was almost too windy for them to fly, but not quite. Same as what we ran into launching rockets this morning.

Spot the Rocket?

Can you see it? This is why rockets get lost, even when trees don't eat them. Like a golf ball, something so small, maybe crosses the sun in its flight and you lose visual. Or if it flies high enough and fast enough to elude the naked eye.

Mo pushed the launch button for Gonzo III's launch today. A couple of other launches were initiated by the enthusiastic kiddos that gathered around to see what's up with the guy who brought a trunk full of rockets to the park.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Big-Ass Mexican Marshmallows

Last time Mom went to Mexico, she brought me back a bottle with not a word of English on the label and a couple of worms floating at the bottom. And vanilla.

Mexican vanilla extract is, for whatever reason, double strength. At least what she brings back is. They're very explicit on the label that you're to use half as much of it.

This time, no booze came back. I remember the stuff being kind of smoky, a nuance I've never encountered in any other tequila or mescal. Not that I'm that much of a connoisseur of cactus spirits, but it was nice, an element kind of like the smokiness of single malt Scotch.

But she brought back these marshmallows, and I don't know what they feed their marshmallows South of the border, but yubba.

Mo inhaled hers the other day, when Em was on an awake-over. So when Em had hers, Mo wanted some marshmallows, and I didn't have any more steroidal versions, so I gave her a few of the regular sized kind. The ones that would actually fit in a mug of cocoa, rather than actually obscuring the mug from view.

And she apparently was in the mood for contrasts. She got the pickles out, and I told her I was skeptical of the combination, but she wanted to try it.

Pop a couple of marshmallows, take a bite of pickle. Cringe. Then repeat.

I have to say, I don't get it. But it's not as gross as Em's new favorite sandwich to make: cotto salami and peanut butter.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hot Wheels XB

Okay, usually the best I can do for a dream car is to get a Hot Wheels of it. Like my '61 Lincoln Continental convertible. It's like two inches long, cost less than a gallon of gas.

This is also how I came to own a Harley.

But here's a guy who can afford my actual top pick for a dream car, the Scion XB, and he goes and dresses it up as a Hot Wheels.

You Aren't Worried

But you should be.

Here's some news for you.

Bees might not seem like a big deal to you. Some people are actually hostile to them, fearing a sting. Having dabbled in beekeeping, I can tell you that getting stung by bees is not something you need to worry about. Even if you're allergic.

They will defend their hives, bless their six-legged souls. Most times, when I'd work with the hives, I wouldn't get stung at all. But if I got stung, I got the shit stung out of me.

Because when they sting something big like a person or a bear or whatever, and lose that stinger and die, they send out an electrical signal, a sort of 'Aaarrgh' in bee-speak that tells the others to pitch in, it's a big mo-fo this time.

One time, the first sting was through my jeans, right on the knee where they were stretched tight from me squatting to lift a super. That hurt, and almost made me drop 50 lbs of bee hive, honey, bees and all. But after that first sting, I got six or seven more. Then there was the time I was wearing pants that were too lose around my boots, and didn't think to tape my ankles. I think I got close to a dozen stings on my calves that day.

But out in the open, when they're foraging for food, they'll do almost anything but sting you.

And in any case, this is all beside the point. Bees are important. Way important. Do you like almonds? The difference between an almond grove with bees and an almond grove with none is you get almonds if there are bees. Seriously, no bees means a 99% drop in that one crop. Then there's citrus, apples, various melons and berries. We need these bugs for all this stuff.

And wild bees do not exist anymore. They haven't for decades. Varroa mites, tracheal mites, American and European foulbrood (a bacterial infection of hives), have all taken their toll. Basically, without people to medicate them, bees can't survive anymore. At all.

When beekeepers get a call from someone claiming to have an infestation, they used to get excited and go thinking maybe they'd found a varroa resistant strain. Now they don't give a damn about such calls because it's never varroa resistant bees, it's always yellow jackets or some other wasp.

So now we have the beekeepers who are willing to suffer the bad backs and low honey prices and all the other hassle that keeping bees means, and they're losing 90% of their colonies and no one knows why.

My money is on the neonicitinoids. These are the new generation of pesticides, and they work by jacking with bugs' neurological workings. Bees have to be able to communicate the location of food to their colonies, and they ave to be able to navigate home. They are stunningly precise in this, and it wouldn't take much neuro-scrambling to fuck them up.

DDT almost wiped out bald eagles and a lot of other species. Thing that worries me is bees aren't as easy for people to get psyched up about saving, even though in many ways they are more important to our day to day lives. I'm not a big environmentalist, but with as many people as we have on this planet, a little stupid goes a long ways. And while we were able to save the whales to a great extent, nobody seems to much care that sharks are being decimated in an utterly inhuman and wasteful way for a stupid bowl of soup. And those sharks, like the bees, are major league important.

I know, my environmentalist friends will chide me that I don't take Al Gore to heart, yet here I am tilting at windmills to save my beloved bees. As far as the Goracle is concerned, I'm still skeptical. I've read his book, I've seen his movie, and he's not devoid of valid points. The book is pretty awful, but the movie is skillfully done.

But I heard a bit on NPR last time he went to Congress to testify. Then they ran a bit on what a shrewd businessman he is for investing in all these 'reduced carbon' technologies.

This is, politically, like Pete Rose not only betting on baseball, but betting on a Reds game and then trying to cheat in the game. Gore doesn't just want us to clean up our act, he wants the government to mandate the adoption of specific technologies that can't presently compete. Ones that, if a law forces their use, will make him richer and more powerful than he already is. Conflict of interest much?

Okay, now I've totally alienated anyone who I could have convinced to care about the bees. My work here is complete, just don't come crying to me when almonds are $18 a pound if you can find them.

Bumper Stickers

I made these at work. Regrettably, they are not on weatherproof stock nor printed with UV inks, so they'll fade and peel off the car pretty quick.

Which means I'll get to make more. I was thinking of one saying, basically, 'I hate those assholes who put their opinions all over the back of their car.' Or maybe one that says, 'BAN BUMPER STICKERS.'

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dark Side of the Krausen

Okay, it's not like this hasn't happened on the previous 91 batches, but this surprised me.

Why? For a start, the fact that I screwed up the evaporation calculation from the boil meant I had a ton more headroom than usual. Also, the ferment has been nice and cool, never above 68ºF.

I've had beers actually throw their airlocks. Make stains on ceilings, that sort of thing. So this isn't spectacular by those lights, but still.

Nothing bad can happen to the beer at this point because all the traffic is outbound. The C02 evolving from the fermenting wort makes sure of this.

But ferments reach conclusions, and when they do, that positive air pressure just dies. And if, for instance, the barometric pressure shoots through the roof right after, whatever is in that airlock is getting drawn back down into the carboy.

This is why I use cheap vodka as an airlock fluid. It's cheap and a quarter ounce of it won't really alter a five gallon batch of beer. And if it gets sucked back in due to sudden weather changes while I'm at work, nothing gets ruined.

Monday, April 23, 2007


When the beer first starts to ferment, little circles of foam form up, expanding to eventually cover the surface. This first shot is about five hours after pitching.

Then we have it at about 12 hours. We have a dense, rocky head of foam. Which gets taller another 24 hours later (the third pic), which is what's known as high krausen.

The is the reason for using acid carboys for primary fermenters: they have enough headroom to allow this to happen without the foam coming up through the airlock and making a big mess.

Or, likely as not, throwing the airlock completely. The proteins and whatnot that are floating on the foam, they clog the airlock whent he foam gets there, and a little bit more C02 builds up and the airlock flies like a champagne cork.

The Scene of the Crime

I spotted this building the other day and had a total trip in the Way Back Machine.

I don't know what the Society of 40 Men and 8 Horses (I think that's what it is) is all about. Apparently some sort of fraternal order of suburbanites. But I do know that when I was 14 or 15 years old, me and a chick I was dating, and her friend (who I secretly liked better than the girlfriend) and another friend (the one old enough to drive) tagged this building with a stencil of Bob Dobbs, the figurehead of the Industrial Church of the Sub-Genius.

Bob looks (as you can see) like Ward Cleaver on a cocktail of Thorazine, Ritalin and Quaaludes, and the stencil was almost too big for the trunk of an Olds 442.

Bob also ended up on the sidewalk in front of a Nazarene Church, the doors of a power sub-station, the wall of a Price Chopper, and so on. We almost got arrested for the Price Chopper one, and the church tag made the newspaper, which thrilled us.

Super Size Me...Bluh

Okay, last night I watched the movie Super Size Me. A pretty well executed propaganda piece, and one I'm not unsympathetic with.

But lordy did it make me hungry for a Big Mac.

This is strange, because I generally detest McDonald's food. I occasionally get roped into buying my daughters a meal there, and they think it's the bomb, but I always end up feeling it would have been better to just stay hungry.

It's not, unfortunately, that I just don't like fast food. But where it takes active will to avoid eating Wendy's or Taco Via, the Golden Arches are usually no temptation at all.

Even this morning on the way to work, I was thinking, boy, I could really go for a Big Mac. Even for breakfast. But I didn't.

At lunch, I ate a Gladware of Son of Lasagnchilada.

When I came home from work, mowed the lawn, ran to the library, went through Stuff-Mart for a few things, realized I hadn't eaten dinner (it was 9:00 pm at this point), I caved.

I didn't get their nasty fries or anything, just the one sandwich. $2.58 with tax.

It's as repellent as I remember. Not so awful to eat, just bland, but afterward, bluh...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Bro

My kid brother's birthday was today. If you wanna know what a great guy my brother is: our childhood was a guerrilla war. He was sneaky, but I was brutal. Sibling rivalry, attempted murder, the lines blurred.

I broke his arm once, though I didn't mean to. Not at the moment, I was actually playing with him then. Other times, I actually tried. I remember trying to bring his forearm down on my knee to snap it in two like a twig, but it didn't.

He doesn't remember it as play when he did end up in a cast. But even if I was innocent (and I was) on that occasion, I was guilty of the failed attempts. Several of them. Okay, many of them.

But when I was going through the divorce, when almost all of the friends that were both my wife's and mine basically turned their backs on me (though I'd never even tried to break a one of their arms), it was my brother and his wife who helped me clean up the house. It was my brother who came down and showed me how to pull a toilet when Mo had plugged it with toys and I couldn't afford a plumber. When we couldn't get it cleared, he decided to pop for a toilet for me.

I know, it's not the first thing you think of, but toilets are pretty important. Someone who will buy and install one, and even teach you what you'd need to know to do it next time it comes up, well, that's a hell of a brother.

That's just one thing; he's done a ton of others. He was there for me in a big way when my employer of ten years decided to throw me to the curb on false pretenses. And while I can't honestly claim to have had a genuine religious experience in the last 30+ years (if you don't allow brewing and jazz guitar as religions), and while he's deeply religious and would love to see me, as they say, saved, he's never pushed or been obnoxious about it.

Okay, yeah, there was one time when he read from Ezekiel (or something) while we were verbally sparring. But that was in junior high, and I was probably about to try and break his arm or something.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Son of Lasagnchilada

Okay, like I didn't get enough cooking in with my big brewing session...

Actually, it was more that I was half starved. I bowl of Ramen was the only thing I ate through the day, so my stomach thought my throat was cut.

That Cormac McCarthy line, by the way, is now Em's standard expression for being hungry.

So before Sally Struthers could bring a camera crew and start showing my plight to the world, I whipped up some Lasagnchilada.

Because it's good, but also because it's easy. Same basic procedure as before.

1 medium onion, chopped and sautéed, add:
1 28 oz can enchilada sauce
1 10 oz can Ro-Tel
12 oz Gardenburger crumbles (ground meatless)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 lb thawed bell pepper strips
1/4 cup sliced jalapeños
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin

Layer corn tortillas, the above concoction, and grated cheese. In this case, there are three layers of each, and I used Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar. About a pound and a half of the cheese, which seems like a lot, but I cut the casserole into eight servings, and that's three ounces to a serving. Since that's pretty much the only source of fat in it, not so bad.

New Peculiar

It's quite the undertaking...

First thing, I'm moving the gear up to the head of the driveway. Since the driveway is still jacked from a botched home improvement project, I need the vast majority of the waste water to go into the gutter. It's not as convenient, but doable.

I'm glad of the demonstration brews I did at Bacchus & Barleycorn a few years back. Having to cart my shit across town, set up, brew, clean up and cart it all home helped me get a better rhythm with a brew session. I'm out of practice, but I to pick up Mo by 5:30 and I couldn't bring her home to all this scattered about.

I'll try to explain the pics as we go here. The insulation around the mash tun helps maintain temperature. I lose about 2ºF per hour with the wrap on.

My kettles, you'll notice, are as illegal as they are cheap. I guess if Anheuser Bush wants them back, I'll trade them for the $12 deposit I paid to get them. Then I'll go pay another $12 per at a liquor store and take some fresh kegs to a sheet metal shop. Between the custom cutting and fitting and the deposits, I got three 15 gallon stainless steel stock pots for about a third of what just one 15 gallon Polar Ware would cost me.

The cinder blocks are a drag to carry out and stack, but stacked cinder blocks are the cheapest and most flexible beer tree there is. Job security for my chiropractor. Plus, I can really feel it in my forearms as I type, all the gripping and lifting I've done today.

I'm really glad I kept elaborate and relatively thorough brew logs over the years. All sorts of details I used to have at the top of my head have faded in the five years since I last did this.

I have a pH meter, but it's been sitting dry for years and the battery is dead. I need to get a new batter for it and let it sit in storage solution for awhile, see if it can wake up. Luckily, I still had some strips for doing it the old fashioned way.

What mashing does is convert the starch in the malt to sugars, many of them fermentable. I won't go into the details of pH and temperature ranges that the enzymes responsible like, but the way you can test to see if it's soup yet is with iodine. You already have iodine around (Iodophor), probably, because if you use any stainless steel on the cold side, you have to have a way to sanitize it. You can get away with bleach solutions for glass and plastic, but bleach eats stainless like Buffy slays vampires.

So the iodine turns purple if there's starch. If it stays brown, you have sacchrification and can commence to sparge.

Sparging is rinsing the sugary wort from the grain husks. Wort is the stuff that will be beer once it's fermented.

Okay, at the last minute, I changed my mind about hopping on this one, used the Fuggle and East Kent Goldings as bittering hops. I'll save the Warrior plugs for the next brew. I decided to stick more to the Old Ale style.

Hops, if you're wondering, are these marvelous green, leafy flowers. They give beer it's bitterness, without which it would be cloyingly sweet, but more significantly they keep it from spoiling. Mad antibacterial properties, for real.

For that matter, I changed my mind a couple of times about how much to bitter it. In the process, I started to try and recall the formulas for calculating IBUs (International Bittering Units). Then I thought to Google this, and lo, there are tons of great free calculators for us beer nerds.

I even found one, Rooftop Brew, that gives both Jackie Rager and Glenn Tinseth formulas. I tend to favor Rager, but maybe that's because he's a friend.

You know that old saying about the watched pot that never boils? Well, there's a corollary for the pot you turn your back on. I was almost done with the boil and had briefly marveled that I hadn't had a boil over in the whole 90 minutes. One of the nice thing about outdoor brewing, a boil over isn't a catastrophic housecleaning project. Still, I've never really believed in sacrificing the first bit to the gods. Screw the gods, if they want a beer they can come over and be neighborly.

Gusty days are particularly tricky, because a strong wind will cool the pot so much the boil dies. So you crank the flame and then the wind dies down and you boil over. Today wasn't gusty, it was flat out windy. Like brewing on the deck of a sailboat, no kidding.

Then, I'd noticed in the home stretch the boil was looking a little puny. The propane in the tank super cools as it expands, and as the tank gets low, the flow is inhibited by the freezing. Rocking the tank will help free things up, so that's what I did. Then I went to attend to sanitizing a carboy and bammo, the wind died down and the re-intensified flame had its way and I'll bet I lost a half gallon of wort to the boil over.

I don't know if you'd see ice build up on the propane tank like this running a grill. The King Kooker I use is rated at 100,000 BTUs, and as windy as it was today I ran it full blast quite a bit. It sounds like a jet airplane getting ready to leave my driveway...awesome, I know.

When the boil is over, it's time to chill the wort (pronounced 'wert' by the way). A copper scrubby on the end of the stainless racking cane will help filter out the hops. I use a new scrubby each batch; when I'm done, it's great for scrubbing kettles. And there is scrubbing involved when you're done with this.

My wort chiller is a counterflow. The other type is an immersion chiller, which runs coled water through a copper coil you drop in the vat of wort. A counterflow chiller runs the hot wort through the copper, and surrounds the copper with garden hose so cold water can flow the opposite direction. In science class, they call this a counterflow heat exchanger. With a pressure cooker and a fitting to hook it to the pressure cooker, it'd be a still.

No, I don't fool around with distillation. Making beer is a perfectly legal hobby, making spirits is, legally speaking, on a par with a car trunk meth lab. It shouldn't be, but there it is.

So anyway, I mentioned how I'm kind of out of practice? Well, I should have sparged more runoff than I did. I started with 11 gallons, thinking I'd be fine because there's not that much in the way of hops here. Three ounces total. I've made beers where the hops probably soaked up two gallons of wort that never grew up to go to college.

I forgot how much evaporation I get in a 90 minute boil. If I had more diligently consulted the aforementioned brewing logs, I'd see that I've started out with 13 and 14 gallons to get down to 10 or 11 even with beers that use smallish amounts of hops.

So I ended up with like eight gallons instead of ten.

Then I did something stupid, which was I tried to consolidate them into one primary fermenter. They almost fit, but no dice. An acid carboy is about 7-1/2 gallons filled to the neck, but I was over that by a half gallon with the starter (another half gallon) not included.

So then I tried to pour back, but the outside of the fuller carboy had gotten wet with foamy wort running down its sides and I almost lost my grip on the booger. Which would have meant losing 7 gallons of hard-earned wort, a $15 carboy and it also might have cut the shit out of me.

So here we have the homebrewer's equivalent of six-pack.

And yubba, looking at the initial gravity, I definitely should have sparged longer. Instead of the 1.065 I was shooting for, I got an OG of 1.086. No, if you don't brew,that makes no sense. When it's finished fermenting the beer will be maltier and have substantially more alcohol than I had targeted. Still within the style.