Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Long time, no see

Summer is beginning to wind down, although you can't exactly tell from where I'm sitting. Our A/C went belly up last week and we've been toughing it out for the most part. Also semi-roughing it by setting up the tent in the back yard. My eldest padiwan ran an electrical cord out and set up the TV and her x-box. While I marvel at her cleverness, I can't help but wonder if that was time spent best. All of us have been working, running around town and generally keeping busy, only coming home at night. With temps in the house reaching the mid-nineties, I transferred all my mead over to a friends house to keep cool. It was as if I gave him the keys to the hen house, which I basically did. Then I brought out my inventory list and showed him every bottle was accounted for and not to get any ideas. His smile lessened slightly when I also reminded him these needed to age a few more months. By which time they would be back in my properly cooled house.
So just a few more days of this and we should be fine. We've gotten through worse.
The other day my mead-holding friend called me an hour before I got off work to ask for a favor. 
When you own a truck, there are two things people will ask you: 
a.) Will you help me move? and b.) Can I get a jump? I always carry two ratchet straps and a set of cables for just such an emergency. Unfortunately, I also had to get my daughter for our three times a week tutoring. About two hours of rush hour traffic later I show up, cables in hand.
The battery was dead, no doubt about it. Batteries work great right up until they don't. I wish there was a bit more warning than that. It wasn't even my friend's car. It belonged to his roommate. Adding insult to injury, my friend didn't have a wrench or pliers to remove the bolts. So, back to my house to get my tools. Upon returning, I told my friend to go ahead and loosen the bolts while I wrap the cables up. From the other side of my car, I watched him strip two bolts from the terminals. He sheared the heads clean off.
This short job just became longer.
"Righty- Tighty!" I reminded him with the most patient voice I could summon. (God, I deserved a medal for that.) Taking over for my mechanically challenged buddy, I not-so-jokingly asked him for his man card.
Three years old and the battery could only hold the bare minimum of charges: 6 to 7 volts. By the time we got back from the auto store, the sun had long set. However, the lights would dimly come on once the battery was put in. It still wouldn't turn over, even with another jump. He would have to bite the bullet and buy his roomie a new battery, there was nothing I could do for the old one.
Once home and a bit closer to my bed time than I'd like, I sent a text message to the roommate: That when the battery was bought, I would put it in and not trust his roomie with the task. What an end to a 16 hour day.
Meanwhile, I'm looking in my garage for some spare bolts that will fit and hold things together.
There are times when I don't think I have my act together, then along comes a misadventure like the one described above and I think to myself: How do some people manage to dress themselves each morning?
Because of the camp site rule, (leave it better than when you found it.) I'm considering putting a video together for my peers. 'Basic things you need in your toolbox and how to use them correctly.'

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A different sort of review

When I review stuff, I normally complain about deaf accessibility. Today that isn't the case.
After a long hard week at work, I stop off at Spec's. It's a Wal-Mart for liquor. The standing rule with me is support your local businesses.
A friend owns a liquor store, I buy my beer or tequila from him. Simple, right?
But Spec's carries mead. I need to research what the other mead makers are doing in order to make my mead stand out.
There are two rules of thought there.
One: See what they are doing wrong.
Two: Make your mead stand out.

Too sweet. Too carbonated. Made with hops. The current trend is to make IPA's. Indian Pale Ales. Bitter to the point of pain. It's an acquired taste and I haven't acquired it, nor do I plan to. Just like I plan on never saying a kind word about Budwieser.

Mead made with hops just tastes like expensive beer. We can do better than that.

The selection at Spec's is small compared to the offerings from Anheuser-Busch or Coors, and I've sampled the local fare, but I'm here to talk about something else slightly different.

Guadalupe Brewing company is out of New Braunfels, Texas. Just up the road from me. I sampled the Texas Honey Ale, (A reward for a lawn well mowed.) A caramel semi-sweet ale that goes down easily.  Alcohol content came in at a whopping 7.38% 
(Remember: Texas climate is great for ales, lousy for lagers.)
Light brown and slightly cloudy, I spent my first glass evaluating how they made it. Much like a chef tastes the dish before him and deduces the ingredients. A bit of warning there: don't do that, it spoils the experience unless you are a trained chef or an experienced brewmaster.
After writing that I realize I put myself in the later category. There's no test for this other than; 'Do you make stuff that doesn't suck?'
Judging by the people who ask me when the next batch is ready and the friends who show up for 'quality control', it must be good.

The other ale I'm sampling from Guadalupe Brewing is the Scotch Ale. This is an award winning ale, 2014 and '15 Gold medal in Open Beer championship.
Slight taste of chocolate accompanies the dark brown ale which comes in at 8.17% ABV.
If hot chocolate were frozen and carbonated, this would be it.
When I bought it, my mind was on the 'Scotch' word.
Whiskey and Scotch are made from distilling beer. I was curious as to what it a Scotch would taste like after going through the entire process one and a half times. (Substitute water with Scotch in the beer making process, the results would be interesting. By interesting I mean; 'turn over your keys NOW.')
On a business note, do we really need to list the ABV out to two decimal places? I round up or down depending on reading. Does it really matter at that point?

When all is said and done, I'm back to refining what I do and don't like. 
When I was growing up, I witnessed a lot of adults drinking Bud Light. Promising myself I wouldn't be like that, I continued on to adulthood.
Generally, I found Pilsners and colorless beers to be less than useless. Didn't taste good for the buzz they gave and you had to pee a lot. If that was all that was offered to me, I would have been a tea-total-er. (Spell check won't let me spell it any other way, go figure.)

So what do we take away from all this rambling?  

Find your local brewery and see what they offer.
Get away from the colorless, useless brews.

Closing story: I was up in New England for a funeral. They serve weak, pussy beer. I'd be ashamed to serve it, let alone make it. say nothing about drinking it.
If New Yorkers are as tough as they claim to be, look in your fridge. If there is anything from Anheuser-Busch, consider your man card revoked.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Science time!

By Copernicus's ghost, who says we don't use science everyday? Or rather, we see science every day. This gives you an example of how much cardboard we use in a day's time or so. Currently my store is producing a bale of cardboard a day.
Now what happens when these torrential rains and said cardboard bale meet?

Expansion happens. The bales are bound with four wires of 12 gauge aluminum. The baler spits these out onto a pallet and we stack them in the back of the building where they are put on a flatbed headed for a recycle plant or something to that effect.

This happens every so often, especially after a rain storm and guess who has to re-band it? In all honesty today was a group effort. Rene and Sammi get all the credit for cleaning up that shit storm.
Oi Chihuahua, Madre a Dios, and a bunch of other stuff.
My partner Ronni and I were frantically receiving stuff behind this picture. I'm sure the paint department had some choice words for me as five pallets were broken down and available for stocking in the last hour of our shift. Not all the cardboard was soaked through, so we didn't have water leaking out as our baler compressed new bales. Well, not that much.

It could have been worse. Oh wait, it was! Why I didn't grab the picture of this, I will never know. A five gallon bucket of roofing tar fell off of a contractors truck in the parking lot. A whole case of absorbent was used to keep this stuff from spreading and making a bigger mess. We cordoned off the section of parking lot with some aisle blockers. I'm not holding my breath it stopped anybody. These are the same people who barrel (read: more than 20 mph.) on past our forklift and a truck of cement as we're unloading it. Typically there are inches to spare, I shit you not. Next time I'll take a picture, I promise. We put a bright yellow chain with a sign up across the access way, but they broke through that with little trouble. We placed whole pallets of sand and cement down. That discourages most people, but Lowe's shoppers aren't most people. A few drivers think, 'Hey, obstacle course!'
I wish that was the punch line.
One guy actually had the cajones to get out of his car (while on his phone, no less.) and demanded that I move those pallets blocking his path.
Folks, there is a perfectly good asphalt road not twenty feet from where we are unloading and it goes to the same parking lot you are trying to get to. Bonus point: my forklift won't have to play chicken with your Saturn SUV. A tiny part of me wants to see that happen. My concern for the safety of the forklift driver would be the utmost importance. My money is on the forklift and 18 wheeler carving up the SUV trying to sneak around the back of the building.

In a related note: they are bringing back that Eighties series Macgyver, this time on CBS. Let me see if I can get the link in here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Oh my

My phone went off while I was looking for a topic to write about. Okay, I was playing Minecraft, but it frees up the memory circuits and allows ideas to enter my mind.
It was my Dad telling me he was on his way over. Normally I use the phone for text only messaging. This was a Face Time call. Do I accept the call? A little unsure of myself, I pressed accept. After all, it was my Dad.
The speakers clicked on and I heard a familiar tone pitch. If I closed my eyes, I wouldn't be able to tell what he was saying by voice alone. But combined with seeing his face, I could read his lips and put the pieces together. I was also aware that my tiny visage was shrouded in darkness. Moving to a more well lit room, the conversation continued. He didn't need to read my lips, but it wouldn't be polite to show just a silhouette. 
After I hung up, it struck me as to how communication has changed. Even more so is how isolated my channels of communication are. Not a day goes by that I'm thankful I live in this day and age. E-mail and text have been my primary means of communication. I would be a hermit if I didn't have the internet. Instead I can wish far off friends happy birthday and share in their triumphs and failures.
We are social creatures and crave the companionship of our fellow man in one form or another. Once I went six hours surrounded by people at work and not once did people talk to me. That happens a lot, but half a work day is the record.
Video calls don't cheapen the human experience, for me it enriches them.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Deja vu all over again

Try as I might, I often pick up stuff from the grocery store that isn't on the list. Today was no exception. I was supposed to get only two items, but I knew we needed coffee. The wife said we needed pasta as well. 'But what kind of pasta?' I wondered.
Knowing what was planned for dinner I made a best guess. Either I was going to get scolded or some form of admonishment from the wife, it was anybody's guess. I sent a text asking for clarification that was never returned. Turns out my youngest was using Mom's phone to talk to a friend of hers. Oh well, I made the effort. I picked up another thing that was on my mind: the latest episode of Star Wars. Later that evening after we finished dinner, I saw the DVD. Finally I could find out what was actually going on in that movie. After the end credits rolled, a lot of questions had been answered. The gaps were filled in. I guess I'm now caught up with the rest of the world.
I'm not going to go over old stuff about my running battles with movie chains, it's too much energy wasted. This whole thing serves to remind me how far the deaf community has come into being part of the mainstream world, and how far we've got to go. Fairly often I feel like a hermit or recluse. I'm a few weeks behind what everyone else is going through.

My wife is invaluable in making appointments and doing stuff over the phone. She set up an appointment with the vet, I took our sixth family member, Pepper, in to get his shot and flea medication.
Often times I have to preface conversations with, 'Could you repeat that please, I'm deaf.'
To which their response is, 'That's all right.' or, 'That's okay'.
Well of course it is. I think they mean well, no one is trying to act like a jerk on purpose. I in turn, must be patient and polite.
Never attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance.

No one wakes up in the morning and says I want to go outside and kick a puppy into traffic. Instead, it goes more like this: I'm going to walk down the street and Nothing is going to get in my way. Certainly not that little puppy...

It's not evil, it's selfishness. Raising your leg to go over or around that innocent dog (who would more then likely lick your hand if offered. After all, it's only a puppy.) would not be that terrible an inconvenience for you.

I've noticed a common theme among people I know. Their mantra seems to be; 'I've got mine', with the corollary being screw you, get your own.
It's safe to say I don't consider these people friends. Seems a bit odd for me, considering things in my past. I generally give people second chances. A hand up certainly. However I can be a downright dick to you if you are not willing to get off your ass and waste the chance I'm giving you.

Often I have to look at my life situation and weigh the pros and cons. Usually the scale tips to the good. Things are going okay for me and mine. They could be better, but generally things are proceeding apace.  That's my problem: to put it in the vernacular, I'm chomping at the bit. I want to make more, do more. Live better. Provide for my family better. Bad things happen, I get that. I'm ready for the good news now.  The last few hands life has dealt me have been less than I'd hoped for. I need that ace to show up in my hand.

Monday, May 2, 2016

How it works

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, to herald new discoveries, is not Eureka (I found it!) but that's funny...
--Attributed to Isaac Asimov

There are online debates as to who originally said the above quote and I'm not going to go into that here. Asimov said many wise things. That's good enough for me.  Another guy recently had a 'that's funny' moment. In 2001 Roger Shawyer designed an electromagnetic propulsion drive. It was innovative, unconventional and defied the laws of physics, namely the law of momentum conservation.

-Momentum is neither created nor destroyed, but only changes through the action of forces, as described by Newton's laws.-

Are you with me so far?
Shawyer admitted he didn't know how his system increases momentum, but it did. By bouncing microwaves back and forth in a truncated cone, tiny amounts of thrust were created. He discovered propellentless drives.
Think about that. Every rocket we make has fuel tanks that make up a significant part of it's design. We're limited by how far we can go in the solar system by the size of our gas tank.
Of course the scientific community was skeptical. A few years back, some backyard inventors tried to get out the word they created a room temperature fusion. You know, fusion is what happens in the sun. Mind boggling burning temperatures, immense pressure, eyeball searing bright light (because hey, it's the sun.) If it sounds too good to be true, subject it to peer review and have an independent lab recreate your results. That was the problem: no one could recreate the result. Cold fusion went the way of the frictionless flywheel. But here's where the EM drive is different.
Several scientists have recreated the result, in a vacuum no less. UK physicist Micheal McCulloch has a hypothesis on how the EM drive works.  We have known about microwaves for a while now. Percy Spencer accidentally discovered microwave ovens at Raytheon in 1945 when the candy bar in his pocket melted. Talk about a 'That's funny' moment.
I truly believe we are in an age of invention. We (the human race) are plugging in things that normally don't go together, blending to create new and altogether different stuff.
This EM drive has a lot of promise. I believe it's a matter of time before we put the basics together and build a spacecraft for exploring the solar system and beyond.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


My eldest child turns 20 tomorrow.  Wow. There's not much point dwelling on the past, except to see how far we've all come. Getting to know all my children as they bloom into adulthood had been an honor and a privilege. They are going to be a fantastic adult, striking equal parts respect and awe in those they meet. They're not afraid of the small, petty minded stuff. In fact, they are going to make a dent in the world. I'm sure of that. Deep down I feel they were meant for more, that their sense of worth is higher than mine.
Back when my child was born, the first hands to touch their skin was mine. At that moment I stopped living for myself and began living for my children. My entire existence now revolved around them, as it should be.
My eldest child is finding themselves and creating a new world out of whole cloth.  You might have noticed I'm only using one pronoun to describe my child and that's because they are trying to figure out who and what they are. That's okay. The only thing I want them to be is happy.

A wise man can change his mind. He can listen to facts and opinions and come to a decision. He may have to reevaluate some previously held beliefs and conceptions. It took awhile for me to understand what they are going through; after all I have nothing in my personal life experience to base this on. But here's what I do know:
Casting blame, making them feel bad or criticizing them for being outside the 'norm', is a sure way to drive your own flesh and blood away from you. We've seen it all happen that way and I'm sure you know a friend who was cast out of their family for being gay or feeling uncomfortable in their own body.

I choose to not be like that. Not to give into hate or fear. Being compassionate and caring about my child's well being. After all, family is my top priority. One of my rules is I don't do fear. I don't fear someone who has different skin or religious preference. Certainly I'm not afraid of my child. That would be counter-productive. When my child came to us, the parents, the first emotion I felt was relief. Not shock, nor anger. The fact that they felt brave enough to come to the parental units spoke volumes.
I love my child and would do anything for them.
The first words I said were along the lines of; 'You're not getting out of the family that easily.'

I am proud of my child. Neither male or female. Rejecting society's norm and finding their own niche. The only thing I can do is be patient and be there for them.