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Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I'd been waiting to brew this, for the weather to cool off a bit. My fermentation area is warmer than in the old house, and I've had to improvise a system of cement mixing trays filled with ice and then water, shirts over the carboys and a fan to control fermentation temperatures.

Even then, in August, the basement was far too warm to brew a Trippel. I learned this back in 1996 or so, when I brewed my first example of this style.

Initially I was excited that the beer had all these banana and clove aromatics, but the beer gave me a headache. Those nasty higher alcohols that are produced when you ferment at 80ºF+, and tons of them because the original gravity is so high.

And really, those funky Belgian beer flavors and aromas, restraint is the way. A little is nice, a lot is obnoxious. These beers should be balanced.

It took me a long time to get starch conversion. I think my mash was cooler than I measured it initially, maybe warmer near the top where I can reach with the thermometer. I thought I'd done a thorough job of mixing in, but maybe not.

The purple on the plate, that's starch. Should have been sugar by the time this picture was taken, about 90 minutes after mashing in.

Monday, October 29, 2012

In the Garden

While I was brewing up a Trippel, I caught Corinna harvesting some of our late crops.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jello Outdoors

I didn't let Jello and Zippy out at first because I wanted to make sure they knew where home was. I didn't fancy having some neighbor start feeding them while I was gone ten hours to work or something, and Corinna was travelling that week.

So I was brewing this fine fall Sunday, and with the garage door open so much, there wasn't any fighting it. And I was right there to see them get into mischief, play chase with the dog (Sheba was being chased by Jello, true story). They played, stalked bugs, played with water, rolled in the dirt, and generally had a fantastic time.

Eventually they were so tired they just found sunny spots to sleep in.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sacred Art

Some pieces displayed at my church a couple weeks back. Interesting stuff.

I've always had a general distaste for explicitly religious contemporary art, especially such genres as 'Christian Rock' (which is a weekly feature on the stage at Heartland).

You'd think my bridging the gap to belief would change that, but it didn't. A coworker made a comment once that there would be a Christian band at a particular event, but she didn't know which one.

I said, "Maybe you'll get lucky and it'll be U2."

She looked at me like I must be kidding, but I've heard for years that they are Christians. Even prayed with Johnny Cash once, and Johnny supposedly put a postscript on the Amen to the effect of, "I sure do miss the drugs, though."

But U2 is a great band. I'd want to listen to them either way. But if getting into Heaven means I have to embrace music first for its piety and then hope it's actually musical, reserve me a set in the brimstone section. Maybe we won't get to hear U2, but maybe AC/DC can get booked in down there.*

Once the Church quit being the government, non-folk art quit having to appeal to patrons' religious sensibilities. Except in the case of the NEA, where artists often had to appeal to their patrons' anti-religious proclivities. Generally, I'd say this was an improvement: I greatly prefer a DeKoenig canvas over a bunch of fat, winged babies floating in the sky around the Virgin Mary.

But on the whole, I liked the art Heartland put on display and I thought the theme was very valid. If you're creating art and you're a Christian, you should create the best art you can, because then you're bringing glory to God.

*I know, I know. God is smarter than that. If punishment were the order of the day, I'd end up with front row seats to Tom Jones, Garth Brooks and a bunch of Christian rock bands. That would be an awful sort of eternity.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I thought I'd killed our dogs. By 'our' I mean my wife's, I can't say I don't love Max and Sheba; but I can say I probably wouldn't go out looking for a dog on my own. Right or wrong, I'm a cat person.

Corinna is just the opposite, or why would she have a couple of dogs and no cats even if she likes cats?

And every time, the past year or so, I've said I miss having cats and should go adopt one or two, she has said, "You should go do it."

After my divorce, I was left with a dog and a cat initially, but I wasn't sure how my housing situation was going to shake out. I did know having pets was often an obstacle to affordable rentals.

So as my pets died off, I didn't entertain any thoughts of replacing them.

Since I've remarried and all that, things have shifted around, and every time I would interact with other people's cats, I'd realize how much I missed having cats.

Then I accidentally poisoned our dogs, like I say.

We'd gotten a mouse problem in our basement and even maybe the kitchen some. The first culprit was grass seed, a bag of by the garage/basement door that got torn up and was basically a mixture of grass seed and mouse turds spilling out on the floor. With a food supply like that, the mice weren't just visiting. Eventually I even found mouse droppings on my desk. They were getting bolder and bolder.

I bought some D-Con bait trays, things I used to control mice in my last house, including a decade with a dog, without an issue.

The day after I deployed the baits, I came home to see a D-Con tray chewed to hell in the middle of the living room floor. Two more in the basement had been found and consumed. We're talking about nine ounces of poison that advertises it kills mice in one feeding.

The emergency line said, relax. It takes three to five days to act and there's an antidote, Vitamin K.

Still, that night, every time I heard a dog clear its throat of shift around or go get a drink of water, I woke up thinking I was hearing death throes. It's funny, Corinna is the dog person, but I was the one losing sleep because she actually believed what the poison control people told her (she has a Master's in pharmaceutical chemistry, so she probably understands the mechanisms these things work in better than I do).

I didn't kill the dogs, though I did sentence them to a month of Vitamin K and in the case of Max some Immodium to go with that because otherwise he's a diarrhea powered rocket.

I was taking Sheba in for a follow-up with the vet for this poisoning thing (Corinna had seen some bruising she wanted to check on, possibly the pup needed a bigger does of K, though that turned out to not be necessary), decided to drop by the Humane Society where she was adopted from.

When we walked through those doors, six months of training her not to jump up on people evaporated.

I've never seen her so excited as she was seeing her Humane Society peeps again, and they were glad to see her.

And I wanted to see about some cats anyway, because like I say, I missed having cats. Their website (I'd visited it a day or two earlier) listed a pair of kitten siblings, six months old, who were good with dogs and other pets, and who played with each other. However, when these kitties saw Sheba, they freaked out and poofed up. At which point, the Humane Society girl asked if I really needed kittens.

She had a pair of adult cats who weren't siblings but who acted like they were. They had even played with dogs, were rough and tumble with each other and pretty fearless.

I walked into that second cat room and Jello tried to climb me straight off. Then, when I went to talk to Zippy, Jello climbed the tower Zippy was on and tried to climb my camera bag and get in my face.

Then Zippy got on Mo's lap and I was like, These cats are doing everything they can to make sure I adopt them. Really, I felt like they were already my cats. It didn't hurt that Jello proved his smarts by turning on the faucet to get himself a drink.

They stood their ground with Sheba in a room and the next thing I know I'm in the pet store buying litter boxes, cat food and scratching posts.

Jello, so far, is more apt to come upstairs and deal with the dogs. Even petted himself on Max's nose this morning. The dog was standing there, deciding whether to bare his teeth and snarl, and Jello just jumped up and head-butted the dog's snout and walked away.

Zippy has stuck to the basement, but I think he was the one who freaked Sheba out and sent her through a shelf down here tonight. She went upstairs to feel sorry for herself.

And in their first twelve hours, they killed three mice, that I took and threw away, so I guess they're the thing for that problem and far less harmful to dogs.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

West Bottoms Escape Route

I kind of have a new bike since I killed the Tall Pale Hooker on a trail a few weeks back.

I haven't formally named the new bike, but names in the running include Minnie Pearl, both because I bought the frameset new and because the color is, according to Surly, 'Smoggy Pearl.'

Anyway, after Mo had a seizure and we missed church and my kids didn't want to visit the Nelson or Kemper Museums or even go to Worlds of Fun, and I decided I needed some fresh air on the new bike.

I stickered the new ride up, though. Including some stickers from It's a Beautiful Day, the head shop on Broadway.

Getting down to the West Bottoms was easy, but finding a place to shoot pics of my bike, well...

They need a number system like the meat counter at Bichelmeyer, there are that many photographers scrapping for a spot to shoot a wedding party, family, aspiring model, etc.

After shooting Minnie Pearl in front of Scribe's Billy Goat, I found a door I wanted to put my bike against and a photographer immediately asked me if I was about to shoot my bike.

What it was, she wanted that door, and she was willing to take a picture of me and my bike with my camera if it would move things along to where she could shoot her clients on that backdrop.

Meanwhile I got panhandled in a fairly original way by a homeless guy who had a bike with two flat tires.  He wanted me to change the tubes as a favor, saying he even had the new tubes and would then take the bike to the gas station to air them up.

I'm like, I don't even like changing my own flats.  Why I spend crazy money on Schwalbe touring tires, they save me from a part of urban cycling I have no patience for.  Can I just give you some money instead?

He asked for ten bucks, I gave him five.

From there it was just a matter of staking out a claim. I could see photographers eyeing me as I set up to shoot, obviously wanting to shoe me away but of course having no more right to the All Packaging building than I had.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


When I got my D7000, my photography definitely improved in some areas. Shallow depth of field portraits, for instance, were suddenly at my command.

Longer exposures, that was a big one for me, too. My PowerShots had only been capable of a 15 second exposure, so if I needed the shutter open longer, I was SOL.

I still haven't figured out how to use some of those features entirely. 'Bulb' exposures, where I can put it mirror-up and leave the shutter open as long as I like, well, how long should I leave it open?

And then there's the extended ISO range. Part of why I bought a D7000 new instead of a used full frame DSLR (I could have scored an old Nikon D2 for the same money or maybe less) was the lower noise at high ISO settings.

A situation like the school talent show is one where I was always frustrated with my pocket cameras. But even with the ISO cranked to 6400, I still find these shoots troublesome.

The only shots I got of my daughter, the highlights are blown out and the detail looks less than crisp or real. I did get some stop-action shots of other acts I never could have scored with the PowerShot.

And I suspect some of the not-getting-the-shot business has to do with me not really knowing how to use my camera.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Underground Railroad

Over by Faultless Starch in the West Bottoms, at the present-day terminus of that area's section of the Riverfront Heritage Trail, is a sculpture garden telling the story of slaves escaping across the Missouri River to Quindaro.

I'm sure the escape came with a certain let-down factor. Kansas was a 'free' state, but the Fugitive Slave Clause of the Constitution allowed for them to be hunted down and returned as far as I know—so I wouldn't be surprised if it was often a mistake to get too comfy just over the river in Quindaro. I'm sure that 'freedom' was far from equal, too.

One of the narratives made a reference to having a wedding by Big Eleven Lake, 'just south of town.' Before this area developed, Quindaro was a separate entity from the Town of Kansas/Kansas City. Big Eleven Lake* would indeed by 'south of town' if you thought of the town as Quindaro.

*Word to the wise: don't swim Big Eleven Lake. It is only a body of water if you count broken beer bottles, discarded firearms and bacteria as 'water.' If you come into contact with Big Eleven, at least make sure you have some Immodium in the house.