Monday, June 27, 2011

Ah, the good life

Back to what this is all about, the Detroit Adventure!

So in real need of doing something I wanted to do, I brewed some beer the other day.

This is the bottle tree. It's how you was and sanitize bottles. Oh the joy. Well you have to put it someplace. To be honest this is the second brew day. So I'm bottling the first batch and brewing the second (actually two batches, or really a split batched, that is called a Parti-Gyle).

The carboy in the back with the fermentation-lock is the first batch waiting to be bottled.

So while bottles are being washed the brew pot is going.

I actually didn't document a lot. What is happening is I'm heating water in the metal pot to put in the plastic cooler with a bunch of crushed malt. That does it's thing for an hour or so and then you drain the water out of the cooler and boil that to get what you will ferment. So technically in this photo you see the HLT (Hot Liquor Tank - for some reason water is "liquor" in beer parlance) and the Mash Tun (where the grains soak "Mash") which in my case is also the Lauter Tun (the place you wash the sugars out of the mashed grain). Mashing is really a complex enzymatic process, but for the brewer it's basically just soaking the malt at the right temperature for the right amount of time. The grain does the rest on it's own.

And the bottled first batch. In a couple of days...

So a couple of days later we had rain. Midwest (east?) rain.

This went on for quite awhile and was accompanied by lots O' thunder and lightening.

Out in the hood Monty discovered CHICKENS. Almost as much fun as Squirrels.

And of course there is the Market...

The goodies

Peaches and plums. They ended up with the older plums in a brew made later...

OOOO peppers. They still don't have either the sweet red peppers or the little cheery peppers, but say they should be coming soon. And Carrots for le dog.

I broke down and got some bread. Can't really make any till the kitchen get semi put together. grrr
Oh and some sweets because, well. In the back are some pickled peppers I made up the other day. I need to get a better brine, but still OK.

Strawberries. I got there late and people were working to move stuff, these were $1.50

I though I would try to make some pickles.

And on my way out there was a vendor selling off their hanging pots for $2 a pop so I though I would spruce up the deck a bit.

And if you remember those flats of peppers and herbs...

Basin and Cilantro and a pepper.

Tomatoes and peppers and Rosemary. You cant see it but there is mint also in the two big pots.

The only fatalities I had were the dill. It croaked early and stayed that way so there you go.

The flowers in the front, have been hit heavily by squirrels. I guess they buried stuff around there because they dug up most of the flowers in a week or so. We will have to try something else next time.

As a final shot.

Monty has discovered he likes corn on the cob.

So long from the Big D


Warning Will Robinson OT AGAIN!

A quick and I promise relatively short clarification on the last post.

I actually got feedback on that one so I guess there are some readers ;~)

Apparently it came off as an anti war rant to a bunch of folks, which means I missed my point.


It has nothing to do with whether you think we should or shouldn’t be over there.
The point is that politicians get to play the “war” game and pretend they are at war but they have never declared war.
It’s the perfect political war. The naysayers say it’s un-winnable, what they miss is it’s also un-looseable! There is no metric for a claim either way so whenever you need it to end declare victory and go home. The trick is you have to go home after the victory or people start to squawk.

The folks actually IN the war are woefully under supplied, get no “war” benefits and are the first troops to be in a “for the duration” situation since the last World War.

If you are in the armed forces and are going to be deployed (and want to come back in one piece) you need to spend upward of $6,000 to buy equipment that you should have been provided. This number is from families who have had to do this for members that were deployed not some theorized amount. It’s what it actually costs, if your smart enough to buy it before you leave. It’s a lot more to get it to a member once they are over there.

In the intro to new recruits they are told what model of flack jacket to buy if they want to survive and are given a demo of why what the military issues will get them killed. Again first hand from someone who was there and wrote down the list of things that they HAD to buy.

As expensive as these wars (were in four now, or one with four fronts depending on how you look at it) are they are a fraction of what they should cost because the politicians have shifted a LOT of the expense onto the troops and at the same time yanked many of their benefits.

Someone said “It’s all volunteer and only stupid people are in now”.
God I hope not.
And “volunteer” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s a “non draft” army. A not insignificant portion of the troops are National Guard. They are supposed to mostly go into disaster zones and help out. They didn’t volunteer for combat duty and they don’t get compensated for that. But surprise. Not only have National Guard members been sent overseas but they have been swept up into the “stop loss” in for the duration nightmare. The other group are all those folks in inactive reserve. Turns out if you are an officer being discharged doesn’t do it. You have to specifically “resign” your commission or you are on inactive reserve till you die. A lot didn’t realize this till they got their “draft notice” informing them they were back in. The only real press this got was when they served papers on a 80 year old grandma. I think she got let off.

So volunteering is pretty much like you accept a job with a two year contract and at the end of that they tell you that they have you for life and BTW were cutting your benefits.
If signing a two year contract means your a “volunteer”, well I think some dictionaries need to be altered.

If the press actually educated and everybody knew the facts then there might be an argument for “diminished capacity” with some of the troops. And as much as I would love to lay it at the feet of FOX news, tain’t nobody covering it. You might get a snippet, but it will be sidelined by whatever bit of juicy BS comes around. Ex governors boring email, congressman's twitter accounts... And how much real information can you squeeze into a two minute sound bite between commercials?

My general point was that we are screwing a generation of military personnel. No mater what your position on our current “entanglements” is any reasonable person will concede that at some points there is a need for a military, even if it’s only for humanitarian missions. Once this generation of military comes back and word really gets out about how screwed they were, we may be in a position where only the stupid will join.

Think about that for a few seconds.
Now that IS scary.

Well don’t debate it here. Call a congressman.

...Now back to our regularly scheduled programing...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WE are at war

I have been sort of barraged by A) reading a great book by a friend on Film Noir and B)re-watching "The War" by Ken burns and by knowing a bit about the current situation because my cousin deals with it.
It doesn't make the news much and the numbers of troops aren't as great but we are at war. The country isn't "mobilized" and the press doesn't cover it much but we do have young men and women who are going through the same kind of hell that the "troops" went through in WWII.
You may not agree with why they are there, I'm with you on that one. But that is a political issue. For the troops, who also may not agree with why we are there, they are just there.

It is a war and we as a nation should be more supportive. Not of the politicians who either put us there or didn't stop us from going there but of the young men and women who are there. They didn't make the decisions they in many cases were in effect drafted. Many are national guard. They were never supposed to leave our soil. They were supposed to be the folks who went into places like New Orleans and helped in times of national stress. But folks who don't have to go let them go to an actual war zone. A place where people die everyday because it IS a war.
These folks are not given the respect and support they deserve. Either from the population as a whole OR the government that, well tricked them into going where they never should be. Even the real troops, the actual military folks who one could argue signed up for the possibility of being sent to a war zone. Because the congress in their collective ... um gutlessness? Not sure of the right word here, never declared war.

So nobody over there gets combat benefits. You hear about the "war on terror" or the "war on drugs" or the war on whatever. But the fact is that through political posturing they have all played like they are at war but never had the guts to actually declare war on anything.

So our, and they are our - wether you agree with the mission or not, troops do not get ANY of the benefits and support that all of our troops have gotten in all other wars. The survivors don't get medical, the families don't get survivors benefits, etc. They are even cutting the GI bill.

It's a bloody crime.

It may be a "fake" war but on the ground it doesn't make any difference. It's very real if folks are shooting at you.

This isn't a partisan stance. Bush may have foisted this on us but the Dems could have made it "real". By not doing so they have left a generation in the wind. There are a lot of people coming back with all the typical war issues, and hey have NO support. Their jobs are not still available, they do not get the medical help they need. And all of us look the other way and hope it will all go away.

It wont. The suicide rate among new veterans is staggering. It turns out that they get an insurance premium if they die within six months but their extra "return pay" lasts less than that. So it actually pays to off ourself in the gap. With no job prospects and families in the lurch this turns out to be a "positive" option for way too many folks. That and "stop loss" that returns folks who should be home for an indeterminate number of redeployments is a powerful motivator for people who just need it to stop.

Indeterminate sentences (a California thing till it was decided that it was unconstitutional) is the standard for the unfortunates that have gotten swept up into this "war".

It just struck me kind of hard because these folks are in the first "your in for the duration" situation since WWII and they are not even in a "war". They are getting all the bad parts of a real war with out any of the support and compensation that they would be getting if we were actually in a declared war. It is in a very real sense a film noir world that was only on the screen before. It's dark and it's awful. It saves money in veterans benefits but what does it cost?

It sort of comes down to do we need an army or a national guard? As pacifist as I am I'm not stupid and I think the answer is yes we do need those groups. We need a military and there are going to be national disasters and so we should have a national guard. If we want them we have to treat them like we want them. I can't imagine anyone going into either right now. Well not if they knew the raw deal they would be getting.

So personally, aside from it being the right thing to do, I think we NEED to deal with this travesty. These folks are at war because OUR representatives sent them there and they should be treated as such. They should get the same benefits and compensation as all other combat troops have gotten. And the national guard should NOT be deployed off our shores.

Yes it will cost some. But that is the nature of war! If we don't want to pay the price then fine, Bring the Troops HOME.

Right now our troops are paying a heavy price for congress having "plausible deniability".

Personally I'm in favor of both. Bring them home AND retroactively give them all combat troop status and benefits.

Personally I don't think they should have gone in the first place but that wasn't THEIR decision and they should not be paying for it.

This is a very bipartisan SNAFU so feel free to contact your representative and congressman and get them to own up. Neither side of the isle has "manned up" to this issue.

Next time I promise to return to Detroit happenings.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sprung Spring, the Market and BEER!

Don't think I have shown how the hood has bloomed. You virtually can't see the sky the trees are so thick. Makes it fairly pleasant when it would be a bit scorching otherwise - assuming it can be scorching in 75% humidity.

To Market to market.

Don't think I showed last week. Trying not to torn this into the shopping show. And things have picked up to the point that the Eastern Market is not the Island of positive it once was. It's still great but the contrast is not as great now that I can shower and drink the water and don't have to hide away in the "warm room".

Not sure of all the prices but I came back $25 lighter and that includes a bone for the dog and $1 to some of the musicians playing at the market. Maybe next week I'll take the Flip camera and see if I can capture some of the feel. Pictures somehow don't do it. I hit earlier than my usual scoop the bargains as people pack up time so there were some different vendors and a bunch more people.

It was the last day for Michigan asparagus. I didn't get any because I'm not going to eat that much and I'm still living with a dorm room refrigerator so...

1 lb Mushrooms, 1/2 lb Garlic (and I think this is local - the stuff that has been around was from California!) A couple of large cucumbers (for a salad), limes, tomatoes and in the back plums and a peach. I got some peaches last week but they were a bit hard and now that they have ripened there a little long in the tooth. I saw the plums and thought they would fit into some beer plans (more later) and the guy made me taste the peaches, mmmmmm, so he tossed one in with the plums.

More carrots for the dog and a little over a pound of cherries then in the back is a flat of blueberries and one of Raspberries, one huge bunch of radishes and some lettuce that was grown in Detroit on one of the urban farms.

I've been feeling a little too "meat and potatoes" time to get more vegetation in the diet.

Next week I hope to show some pictures of the studio work. I've been fixing and prepping and it's time to start painting. Then I can start reassembling and maybe get back to some sound work.

But one of the perks to trudging across the country was more sq ft and the chance to get back to brewing beer. I was really enjoying brewing and then I kind of hit a wall with the little nook I had for brewing disappearing and the capabilities of a stove top making all-grain near impossible (try to get 6 gall of water to boil on a conventional stove). So one big step was getting a turkey frier style propane burner (220,000 BTU!), now that can boil water (6 gal under 15 min). So last week I had a plan to do what is called a Parti-Gyle. Basically two batches from one start. I won't get too far into it but you end up with one high gravity beer and one low gravity beer (how high and how low are variable). The idea was to do two four gallon batches and then they would be drinkable by the time I got back from DC.

Well plans have a way of, ah "evolving" and it became one 3.75 gal batch. I tried doing it in the room off the basement that I though would be a good place for such things. It may be some day but not now. It has good ventilation and I had a box fan blowing fresh air in fro m out side and a monoxide detector (the house came with one) so air wasn't a problem. But it's damp down there and kind of moldy so it's not the ideal place to cook something that is going to be microbe friendly and the humidity of boiling down there is kind of overwhelming.

So as soon as the wort (the liquid that becomes beer after the yeast gets through with it) was cooled I got it out of dodge and upstairs.

It smells good and is really finished (very fast) but I'm going to let it clear for a few days before bottling.

It's percolating in the hall closet.

So with history in mind I have plans to try again. This time though I'm going to aim at a more summer fruit beer for the second batch. I'm going to run the old peaches and the plumbs through a juicer (to get rid of most of the pulp) and add that to the second batch. With that added sugar I should be able to make to moderate gravity beers. High gravity beer requires a lot of grain and I just don't have the capacity and the second runnings from a med gravity beer would probably have too little sugar to do anything.

That's the plan anyway. Since the fruit may take a long time to finnish I found a used 5 gal keg that was broken (so nobody wanted it) but is perfect for a long haul secondary fermentor. All stainless and light proof. So after some heavy cleaning it should be good to go.

So long from the Big D.

P.S. Not that I want to promote the competition ;~), but there is another blog that sort of inspired me to do this one. Also by a transplanted Bay Area family. They have been at it longer but he takes more strange shots around the city.

It's Sweet Juniper

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unleaded Please

The title refers to (no pict) finally getting a water filter installed in the kitchen. I was going to drill a hole in the sink to mount it but the "instant" hot water unit it turns out kind of exploded when it froze. So after sawing the heater off the sink (I'm sure there is a proper way but I couldn't find out how one removed it and even after I sawed it off I can't see how you would take it off) I put the new filter tap where it was. A monster filter that is supposed to remove the lead, mercury, arsenic, you name it. It was a long search for a filter that did what I wanted and didn't cost a fortune in filters, or water. I was drawn at one point to the reverse osmosis filters that are really good. Except you looking at about $60 in filters every six months AND a little thing they don't print in bold, RO filters wash 5 to 10 gallons of water down the drain for every gallon they filter. That just seemed insanely wasteful.
Bottom line I can drink the tap water with out getting a big dose of heavy metals.

This stuff started coming down the other day. Obviously some seed thing but it collects like snow drifts.

It piled up all over the place.

Probably the result of the strange heat wave but? This is a weird part of the world.

If you look close you will notice that the outside temp is 86 and it's 2:43 AM!
I have had just about every weather advisory since I moved here except hurricanes and blizzards. We are probably pretty safe from hurricanes (though they do get a lake version on the great lakes so...) but I'm sure the blizzard is just because I got here too late in the year.

This day it was a heat advisory. A lot of places shut down or went home early. Pretty much all out side work stopped after noon and they closed some of the schools and opened "cooling centers" to keep the death toll down. It only hit about 96 but the humidity was around 60% and the "heat index" was 9.9 on a scale that only goes to 10.
It's all so exciting! I only had to deal with earth quakes before. And in a lot of ways I still do. There is enough bounce in these old floors that when the dog shakes the right way you get a little wiggle and a lifetime of training puts me right into Fight or Flight. It can be really nerve wracking.

I may have complained here about the new (to me) iPhone 3Gs. It has been a royal pain because the screen was staying active so my cheek was accidentally hanging up, muting, launching other apps etc.

Turns out that, well, it's more my fault than Apple's. They moved the sensors that tell when you get close to the phone. The sensors blank the screen and disable the touch function when you have it up to your ear so your cheek doesn't do all those things. I liked my case for the old phone (I find the iPhone really hard to hang onto with it's sleekness and I don't like dropping phones) so I reused it. Any way the old case was blocking the new sensors... So the surgery you see above fixed all the issues. Once I dig out my leather tools I can clean it up a bit so it doesn't look so much like a rodent got to it.

The big adventure was to get my first batch of beer going east of the mississippi. I had big plans of making a brewery out of a hunk of the basement. Well I found out there is a reason it's always damp down there and has the faint aroma of "eau de toilette", but not the french kind.

I was cooling the wort which uses a small but constant stream of water. I used to run it into the garden in SF but I was experimenting with working in the basement. Then I noticed the plug on the site of a long ago removed toilet.

So the sewer backs up and flows up the old toilet and across the floor to the floor drain. That also goes to a sewer line but maybe less clogged?
Isn't that special? I sure think so. Anyway since beer works by having bugs eat sugar I moved the wort upstairs because I don't want to drink what the bugs in the basement might produce.

It's safely bubbling away in a closet upstairs now.

Cheers from the big D

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why the App store is the scariest idea in ...

If you don't know the "App Store" is Apples bid for world dominance. In theory it will be just like the iPhone App store and you will get (have) to buy all your Mac software through Apple.
Monopolies and restraint of trade aside it's the "just like the iPhone app store" part that is just horrible. If it wasn't for the fact that I got one very cheap and it integrates so well with the Mac OS the iPhone App store is what would keep me from owning an iPhone.

Recent case in point. Someone hacked my Apple ID (what you use to shop through the Apple store). It's one of the least secure ID's around in part because they make you use your email address as your ID so your password is the only line of defense. Why? Well I'm sure it was so it would be simpler and "user friendly", well it is... to would be thief's. Anyway they caught it sort of. They disabled the Apple ID, but not really. They disabled buying or downloading anything to my iPhone the ID was still in full force. As far as I can tell the bad guy (who if it isn't a dead drop I have all the particulars on) could order a Mac or other things he just couldn't download stuff to my iPhone. Since I have that phone it would have been a bit pointless of him to want to. My safety net is that I never have a credit card attached that anyone could buy anything with anyway. But you have to have a card connected!

I don't download a lot of random apps so this is probably not what happened to me. But there have apparently been a bunch of Trojan horse apps on the iPhone App store that do little but mine your info including Apple ID. That wouldn't be shocking except that Apple make developers jump through hoops and makes every app go through Apples approval process. So while Apple is very scrupulous about making sure there are no apps that do things like search for WiFi sites (so you don't have to use up your data), they apparently don't have as big a problem with apps that steal your personal info.

Now I have gone in and changed everything in my account so it should be safe now and I can log in and do whatever but I still can't update any of the apps on the iPhone!

So I'm sending a big WTF to Apple. If I can buy a Mac then I should be able to update apps on the iPhone. But according to an email response from Apple, from some guy in India I think, it could take days to re-enable my Apple ID. But actually the ID is fine it's just the phone...

Back to my point. I don't know about you but having all the software on my computer held hostage while some big corporation meanders its way it's procedures is enough to make me want to kill something. I've had this discussion with various developers because Apple is luring them on in because of the cost savings of not having to have your own store. They are going to go that way even though it means a lot of bad things for the end user. Apple does not allow demos, so you have to buy a pig in a poke. That is OK on the iPhone where $1 will get you an app that you may hate and toss (after it mines your info...). But can you imagine buying a serious app for $$$ and finding out it doesn't work on your system. Also no refunds, returns. Also you don't have a backup. You can back up your drive but a restore requires Apple to reauthorize all the software. Better not be away from the internet or have your ID disabled...
And there are also a bunch of other restrictions that have lead to many of the App store versions not having features that the non App store version has. This will disappear as the only version becomes the App store version.

In theory the plus for users is ease of use and the protection that Apple has checked the software out and it's "safe". Now that #2 is gone is it really that hard to install software? It used to be but now, on a Mac?? Many "installs" amount to dragging the app to your app folder. If you cant do that maybe you need to put the mouse down and step away from the keyboard.

Oh, I'm in Detroit. This blog is about Detroit, sort of. Well I spent way too long on something that should have been a phone call (no people you can talk to can tell you anything but send an email to xxx). and it pisses me off so there you go.

I have some updates coming that are more on topic. In the meantime if you have an Apple ID you might want to pop on it and make sure it hasn't been hacked. There are somewhere between a few hundred and a few thousand reported cases (depends who's talking) and there are probably double that number that like me didn't/don't know it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Nazi's ruin more than a good mustache

Despite the title this is not a political post. Just the side effect of folks you really don't like using things that were kind of cool and thus making them unpopular to down right offensive.

WTF? does this have to do with Detroit?

Well I was walking the other day and since the hood was all cleaned up for the big house and garden tour I noticed these stamps in the sidewalk.

Of course this creeps one out a bit till I realized that it's 1914 and that was before the Nazi existed.

So a little Googling and it turns out that the old Swastika was a very popular symbol in the west.

In fact the it was used all the time. It was a symbol for a car company, state highways in Arizona, a theatre in Sausalito California was named the "Swastika Theater".

Maybe most interesting was the military use.

Original insignia of the 45th Infantry Division (from the American Indian symbol).

The 45th Infantry Division of the United States Army used a yellow swastika on a red background as a unit symbol until the 1930s, when it was switched to a thunderbird. The American Division wore the swastika patch while fighting against Germany in World War I.

The Lafayette Escadrille squadron flew World War I fighters against Germany from 1916 to 1918, first as volunteers under French command and later as a US unit. The official squadron insignia was a Native American with a swastika adorned headdress. Some of the squadron planes also bore a large swastika in addition to the squadron insignia.

Among the Lafayette Escadrille members who were killed in action was Arthur Bluethenthal of Wilmington, North Carolina, who is buried in a Jewish cemetery with a grave marker that includes the squadron insignia, complete with swastika

The U.S. Army 12th Infantry Regiment coat of arms includes a number of historic symbols. A tepee with small, left facing swastikas represents the unit's campaigns in the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. The Regiment fought German forces during World War II, landing on D-Day at Utah Beach, through five European campaigns and received a Presidential Unit Citation for action during the Battle of the Bulge.

There is a lot more but you can check it out here

I was going to post yesterday about how Detroit bait and switched us on the weather, but considering what the mid west has gone through in the last month it doesn't seem like much to gripe about.

So I will leave with some shots of houses that are probably available for not too much in the hood.

This is the one I saw listed for $24,900

The current listings

And this very cool house with a roof deck (and I'm pretty sure not on the market).

And of course a dog in jail.