Saturday, December 3, 2016

Feeling Christmas

It's finally starting to feel like December. Last week it got up to 80. Granted, it was windy, but come on guys, make up your mind! I moved the mead into the garage to make room for the tree and here I'm thinking I'm going to have to move everything back. A rainy Saturday morning in San Antonio. Fifty degrees and a good time to knock out the Christmas cards. Which reminds me, I need to pick up stamps.
Cleaning up the yard and driveway has been on my 'To do' list for a few weeks now. The acorns are all over the place and need to be raked up. The other day I actually skidded while trying to back out. It's hard to get good traction with crushed acorns covering the driveway.
I know! I can delegate some jobs to my kids! If they get out of bed, I can get them to help out. Don't laugh, it could happen.
Back in October I attended a meeting of Cervoceros, the local home brew club. In previous outings I'd attended a screening of a local film highlighting the growing brew pub industry. The club was making an Octoberfest beer from scratch and I wanted to see their technique. As soon as I walked up the drive, a shout went out; 'It's the mead guy!'
Well, if you must have a nickname, that one isn't so bad. Fast forward to the first week of November. My Dad and I attended a brew fest where we got to sample and judge a whole lot of up and coming beer makers. I would say it was a great marketing and networking event, because that led to what happened next.
A new brew pub called Weathered Souls opened last week and I sat in on a Cervoceros meeting. After that I got to talk with the brew master and discuss shop. I even got to pitch my idea for a mead tasting, which he was pretty receptive to. The next day I wrote a letter to the president of the club thanking him for inviting me and proposing I hold a tasting for the club and people interested in mead. The short of it is I will be holding a tasting some time in January in a location to be determined with several brew pub owners in attendance. Networking can be fun, but now I have to write a speech. I have an idea of where I want to go. I also have a pretty good idea who the audience will be: Professionals and craft beer enthusiasts.
This is a step in the right direction. Hopefully I can work with one of these guys and get something going. That to me is a great Christmas gift: New chapter, a fresh start, an exciting beginning. This is stuff I can look forward to.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

An early start

Having survived Thanksgiving and Black Friday, we as a family decided to get a jump on the Christmas season.
We have tons of decorations, hand made ornaments, kitschy stuff, Kids commemorative bulbs and do-dads.
But we didn't do that this year. The angel doesn't fit on this tree so we put the ribbon and bow up. Festive and classy at the same time. We will add more to it as the days stretch on, but keeping it simple, clean and elegant really appeals to me.
My wife referred to this as the adult tree. I think she was going for the mature non-commercial aspect. Of course we all broke out into laughter. Blue balls on the adult-tree. If the puns start this early, it's going to be a fun Christmas.

There's a lot going on in our house, mostly good. Breaking out the tree was a good reason to clean the garage. I faced some unpleasant situations that needed addressing. There was rat poop involved. It's all better now. My oldest thought it was a good idea to put the sweet potato peels down the garbage disposal. The sink promptly backed up and I've been taking it apart and fixing it several times over several days. My little hand powered snake is not doing as well a job as I hoped. I may have to rent something a little more powerful, we'll see. 
I was hoping to get a few more projects out of the way, but my stomach isn't cooperating. Hopefully I can push through what ever is ailing me.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Cooler days

Yesterday on my way to work, I noticed a thin layer of morning mist covering the field near my house. My youngest informed me it would be the last time I would have to ferry her to morning band practice. Of course, we won the game that night. Another team lost in a separate game and according to the statistics our high school football team is now in the finals. Granted, it's the bottom rung of the ladder, but this wouldn't be the first time the underdogs have climbed to the championship. Go Mavericks!
I'll know for sure today if Dad's taxi service is still required. 
Today is clean up day, laundry and fix stuff day all rolled into one. I've about four or five mini projects that need addressing. Find this, clean that. I've started to think about the holidays coming up and what it means for my family.
Next week is the election and my family has already voted. Friends and relatives have informed me through Facebook they've done their patriotic duty, good for them.
Many people have vowed to leave the country if their candidate isn't elected. I find that to be a childish and immature stance to take. If it bothers you all that much, then by all means leave. Good luck where ever you end up. I have friends all over the political spectrum and I won't be breaking off contact with them over stuff like this.
Life will go on. People will dislike you over the course of time. Good thing I'm not holding out for universal popularity. The reason I bring this up is that I'm charting the course for the next five years. Depending on who wins I'll make adjustments. Is a candidate going to abolish Roe vs. Wade and women's rights? Are they going to face the scientific and economic realities we all face as a global community? 
I'm concerned because I'm seeing this as an increasingly global issue. What happens over here affects markets overseas. If we don't do the right thing, countries and economies would collapse. That's never a good thing. 
Look, I get it that people are pissed off and didn't get what they wanted, but that doesn't mean you throw everything away. If I wanted five things to happen in an election year cycle and one or two of them happen, then I would consider that a step in the right direction. You can't always get what you want. Deal with it.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Early voting

Like a lot of people, I am sick and tired of the three ring circus that calls itself the presidential race. Down here in Texas Early voting began Monday. Many of my friends voted. The local library served as our polling (voting?) center. I'm totally cool with that. the volunteers were kind and helpful. I even shook their hands and thanked them for doing such a great job. The line to get into the library was long. Down the sidewalk and around the corner. This is the biggest turnout I've ever seen, and it's not Election Day yet.  
My daughters were anxious to  vote in their first election. I wanted them to make up their own minds about which candidate to support. In the weeks leading up to today, I received fliers and looked at non-partial websites showing the flaws and strength of each person.
Unfortunately I had to go to places outside the US to get some honest journalism. The BBC had a lot to do with my information gathering. And it's not just the presidential race. I'm concerned with the Senators and the rail road commissioner seats as well. In trying to convey this to my oldest daughters, I got a bit over the top.
Yeah, I told them both to get their lazy butts off the couch and get down there to vote.
Today I got this:

As long as she voted
Think she's pissed at her old man? Well, I don't care. You talk the talk, you better walk the walk. No putting stuff off until the last minute, that's why I got pushy.
Whoever the next president is, they will select the next four of five Supreme Court justices. This will affect how my kids are going to live for the rest of their lives. They know that, but I don't think they understand the depth of what's at stake.
By the way, I voted on the way home from work. Now if I could just turn off the damn ads and commercials. I did my part, now go away.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

You get out what you put in

When I was at the con two weeks back, a friend mentioned I needed to meet some people. Oh hey, networking! I love that. Turns out her friends were in SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism. The guys who dress up in Renaissance clothes and beat each other up with swords. Yeah, those guys. I've been to a few SCA events. Friends of mine are in it. I've always been circling the fringes of this group for years. A friendly orbit, if you will. I contacted the guy who runs the 'tavern' at the event. No contest, but simply an opportunity to meet other brewers and discuss shop.
The event was a 40th anniversary of the founding of the Barony. Confused? 
Turns out they have different names for groups in regions of the country. The San Antonio/ New Braunfels/ Seguin area is considered the Barony of Bjornsborg to the SCA people.
See, this is fascinating to me. A wide group of people living a different life on weekends. This is a whole subset of humans from different walks of life. (Ranging from biology professor to retiree, I asked.) The thing that struck me most was everyone was so friendly! People were welcoming and social. It also helped that I was giving out samples of the mead bottle I brought. Another item I can put in the win column, I passed out all the cards I brought and nearly talked myself hoarse. Someone also contributed to my fundraiser. This will go towards ingredients for my next batch. I also got advice to try a type of drink called a cyser. Linguists will note that sounds a lot like 'cider', and they are not wrong in drawing the comparison. There is a bit of juice (apple or grape) involved. I'm looking forward to trying this next creation, but first I have to get the ingredients.
I liked meeting these folks, even if I didn't know their real names. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Game Expo

October is a busy time for band parents. Friday night ball games, Saturday marching competitions, Sunday...
Wait, there's nothing going on Sunday? Well that's not entirely true...
Friends of mine run a con known as Game Expo. It's a little celebration of all things Geeky. Board games, Role playing games, miniature warfare scenarios and video games. A good time is had by all. Every year I volunteer to run a board game or two and help out in anyway I can. This is a chance to meet up with friends I don't usually connect with on a day to day basis. Even though I think the world of these people, we simply run in different circles. It's a different sort of family reunion.
There is an artist I've talked about before and I'm going to give him a plug now.
Freddy Lopez had his table set up and he was out in full force. Every piece of work he does provokes a reaction. From me, the emotion that surfaces the most is awe. He's that good. Funny, inspiring, and I just want to say; he gets it.
I have one of his works and I wish I had the money to buy all of his stuff. This weekend at the con he unveiled his latest creation, the Critical Dragon.
There are no words
Cons attract a lot of people. There are genuine artists such as Freddie, but for every diamond there are some cubic zirconias out there. Merchants who sell prints and imitations of artwork. They blot out the name of the original artist or simply claim or steal it as their own. Plagiarism at it's worst. I feel it is not only theft, but a slap in the face to the one who put in the effort that goes behind creating something this fantastic. I'd love to figure out a way to tag an artist's work and keep some low life hack from making a buck off of it.
Freddy has a distinctive style and if I ever see some street vendor selling the art as his own, then I'm going to call him out. The only real way for him to protect his copyright is for fans to be on the lookout for artwork being ripped off.
Here's a suggestion: look him up on Facebook and like his page. Get updates and get the word out on the stuff Freddie is doing. He is an illustrator worthy of following.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Truck repairs

Last week my truck blew a manifold gasket while a rain storm drenched the city. I barely got my youngest Jedi to school in time. Sadly, I limped home to call work and tell them I was going to be late. The folks at Auto Zone were more than helpful and the way they described the procedure I thought I could fix this.
Because the week was so filled with errands and running around, I only had about an hour each evening before the sun set and made it impossible to figure out what I was doing in the dark. That and I had to wait until Friday to buy the new gasket.

You know how one project can evolve into several mini projects? I put a new gasket on the thermostat as well as the manifold, a new air filter and even a new rubber tube that the mechanic experts at the store had trouble naming.

The You Tube videos I found were helpful to a degree, (The captioning sucks.) I ended up buying a repair manual to help guide me through the process. This was probably the best decision to come out of this experience.

I spent the better part of Saturday and Sunday under the hood. Cleaning, scraping, getting layers of grease off. At one point I dropped a razor blade into the just sealed manifold. I couldn't fish it out and I couldn't shake it out. Sadly, I ended up tearing the whole thing apart and started over. Even I knew I couldn't simply leave it in the engine. That means I had to buy a new gasket at 28.00 dollars a pop.

The wife unit had an idea: since I did all the hard work, and my oldest two daughters were good at putting things back together, I should let them do it while I'm at work.
To say I was a little worried would be fair. If I'm being honest, I felt my girls would do okay and things would work out.
Of course there were problems. I didn't have the manifold seated correctly and they couldn't bolt it down. They then did the next natural thing to do: they reconnected nearly everything else.
I gotta say I was impressed the fuel rods were on correctly and the alternator assembly was solidly in place. Except we had to tear the whole thing apart again to adjust the manifold.
The girls insisted I go inside and take care of dinner and make sure the little one was doing her homework.

After several setbacks, the girls are back on track. Manifold in place, things tightened down. I don't care if I don't get any sleep tonight, the truck needs to be done.
We've got lights set up and the girls are doing their best.
I am so proud of these two. They call me when they need brute strength to move or hold something and I'm going out there in a bit to reconnect the serpentine belt, but I have a feeling this is going to be done tonight come hell or high water.

P.S. We were done just after Eleven PM. Drove it around the block. My girls did great work. I'm proud of them.