Apple Switch Hard Cider: Update

Well, I bottled my first hard cider today. It tasted pretty good, even with 3/4 cup of unfermented dextrose in it. It's been sitting in the secondary for exactly 3 weeks, and it cleared nicely. I am anxious to taste it after it bottle conditions for a couple of weeks.

I even did a zesty hand-drawn label for this one, which you can view here.

I'll let you know how it tastes.

Mahmoud Abbas: The World's Hope for Peace

With the election of Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen as he is commonly referred to by Palestinians, the world has a new hope for peace. The more I think about this, the more excited I become about the possible development of an indpendent, and hopefully free Palestinian state. The potential for finally creating a peaceful coexistance between Isreal and the Palestinian people is a major step forward for the Middle East and the world.

Over the past years, it had become increasingly evident that Yasser Arafat was not seeking peace, but only to maintain his own corrupt rule. Despite the often poor attitude and actions of the Isrealis, one must see Arafat as the major impediment to the peace process in the past. I only hope Abu Mazen will be a beacon of peace and reasonable rule for the Palestinian people and the rest of the Middle East.


I am nerdier than 51% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Today I took a test to see how nerdy I am. I'm actually not as bad as I thought I was. I must say that I wish the test results had differentiated between geek and nerd, as I think there is a distinct difference. Oh well.

A Real Life Hobbit Hole and the Further Decline of American Culture

Today I ran across, in my web meanderings, a site run by a Maryland couple who are using the "beg for money on the web" (a.k.a. cyberbegging) method to raise enough cash to build and inhabit their very own hobbit hole. This intrigues me for a couple of reasons.

First, what a great idea! I mean they aren't the only people to think of it, but it really would be cool to live in your very own hobbit hole. Just from an energy saving standpoint, you really can't go wrong with subterranean dwelling. And just think of the increased survivability factors if you live in tornado country. Tolkien's opening sentences of The Hobbit immediately make almost anyone envious of Bilbo's hole under the hill, and the reader dreams of having such a home of their own. (This is what makes the opening of The Hobbit one of the best beginnings of a novel ever, in my humble opinion). Everyone would want to live in a home such as this, including me. But this brings me to my second thought.

I am sure the folks in Maryland attempting to raise money for their project are wonderful people. No doubt they are creative, smart, and most likely kind to animals. The thing is, if I've got $5 to give to them, these people with enough financial wherewithal to maintain a website and view this idea as fiscally reasonable, then why should I give them any money? I mean these people (unless I've missed something here) already have a home. If I'm going to give away five dollars, shouldn't I give it to someone, or to an organization to help someone, with no home at all? Why should I help make their dream come true, when they've already got so much more than millions of people in the world?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to come off as this self-righteous guy who will only donate money to homeless people. I don't deny that I myself have been tempted to try the "give me money because I need x " technique that so many people have used with moderate success. I don't deny that the thought of having a luxurious hobbit hole is alluring. I certainly wouldn't deny our Maryland couple their right to ask people for money. I guess I'm most puzzled not by the people that ask for money in this way, but the people who give it.

I can actually almost understand why someone might donate to help someone build a hobbit hole. I can certainly understand why someone might donate to help someone who is legitimately in financial peril. There's even an online listing of sites on which people ask for money, presumably for good reason. But how about the college student who set up a donation web site to get money for a boob job? Or the first one I can remember seeing (sorry, can't remember the link), where a guy asked for a dollar just because he wanted more money, and he got it! Why would anyone with even a dollar in change sitting around and an itch to donate it not give it to someone who's really in need? Why not give it me? (Just kidding).

All of this just makes me wonder about what we as a culture value. How is it that a person can derive satisfaction from giving money to a college girl who wanted (and got) a breast enhancement, but not think to give that money to the homeless guy on the street, or the orphanage downtown, or the charity saving lives over seas? I don't have an answer, and I'm not sure there's any moral imperative here. Yet I'm left with a sense of cognitive dissonance. The boob girl's site makes me want to take a shower. Certainly these people have a right to ask for money, and certainly other people have a right to spend their money as they see fit, including giving it to some kid who wants to be a millionaire. I'm just not sure they should.

Some Vacation Haiku

Vacation is nice,
but days with no work are long.
Oh the paradox!

My wife calls with chores.
Leave me alone! No chores now!
This is the rest time.

Time for vacation,
resting and relaxation,
but little money.

Much time on my hands.
Crazy thoughts of evil cats.
Darn vacation cats!

Tom's Apple Switch Hard Cider

It's been a while since I've brewed and I have had an itch to make some sparkling hard cider for a while. So this weekend I'm giving it a shot.

Cider has an advantage to beer in that is it much easier to make. Simply dump your ingredients in your primary, pitch your yeast, and go! No boiling or grains to steep. Here's my easy recipe for a simple sparkling hard cider to make 5 gallons.

  • 5 gal. pasteurized apple juice, no preservatives or added sugar (I bought the grocery store brand for my first try).
  • 1 can frozen apple juice concentrate, again, no preservatives or added sugar
  • Wyeast 3766 Cider yeast

When it's time to bottle, I'll prime the cider with 3/4 cup corn sugar for carbonation.

I was going for simplicity with this recipe. There's all kinds of different stuff you can add, but I figured I'd try for the "pure" route the first time out. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Exceeding the Standard...

A while ago I wrote an entry about my middle school's eminent transition to a standards based report card. It seems that now we are not only going to give parents feedback in the new "check," "+" and "N" style, but also in the traditional "A, B, C..." manner as well. There had been some doubt about this, but as next year draws nigh, we have been given the directive that this will indeed be the case. Of course only the standards based report matters, but the additional letter grade is supposed to give parents a better idea of how their student would be doing under the old traditional system of letter grades.

This of course brings to mind the first obvious question that I know I will receive from a savvy parent. "If my child is meeting the standard, why did you give them a 'C' on the regular grade?" Oh and then there will be, "If my child would have earned an 'A', then why did they only earn a 'check,' not a '+', on the standards based report?" Good question.

One must also keep in mind the other major problem I know other teachers out there are experiencing: How do you motivate a bright or talented student to challenge themselves, when they could easily earn a "check" with little effort? Other teachers that have already implemented this new system have reported that kids with high ability, especially junior high level students, will often only do the minimum to get a "check" since there is no other ranking system to motivate them. Why do "A" work, when there isn't a system in place for recognizing those efforts? And before you say it, the much touted "+" is only to be given (at least in our school system) to kids who consistently exceed the standard on their own, with no prompting from me. I have many students who do "A" work, but wouldn't necessarily earn a "+" by that definition.

To make matters slightly worse, my middle school team and I won't get the official training on the new system until this summer, which will make any sort of real coordination between us difficult until the school year starts which, of course, is too late. This is most frustrating. My principal, in an effort to help us out, has arranged a meeting with other middle school teachers to help us figure out how we'll implement our new system and to get their advice on questions like those above. However we do it, I think my school system gets an "N" for not anticipating these problems and addressing them early on.


This is a holiday greeting I received from a friend this year. You can never be too careful...

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at al...


A fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2005, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great, (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "America" in the western hemisphere,) and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/him or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

NaNoWriMo: The Great Failure...Again

Well, NaNoWriMo is over for another year, and again I failed. As you may remember I was very excited about my chances of completing a 50,000 word novel this year but, alas, I have failed. I topped out at 8,300 words after I gave up in week two. Last year I made 32,000 words, so I did even worse this time. November just kicked my butt this year, and I never got any momentum built up. These things happen. I'm still glad I did it, and I'll be back next year. I will eventually post what I did get finished in the fiction section so you can read the tripe I was able to produce.

Congrats to Carina for finishing her 50k. Good job girl! Hopefully I'll be inspired by her success next year.

What is Punk Anyway?

Now that the election is over, I can go back to bitching about everything else besides politics and the current administration. I'm sure my reader will appreciate it, whatever his/her name is. So, here it goes.

My lovely wife, Kelly, bestowed upon me the other day (actually like three weeks ago) a copy of the new Green Day album American Idiot. Now Green Day has always been presented to me as a band whose music falls more into the genre of modern punk. Having listened to a good bit of Green Day's music in my time, I can say that I would agree. But then, as I greedily opened the CD case, I discovered an advertisement; an insert that read " Now Featuring Ring Tones." What? Ring tones? Then the ad went on: "PICK UP RING TONES OF 'AMERICAN IDIOT' AND ALL YOUR FAVORITES!" Have I gone completely insane, I thought to myself. How can it be that a band whose album's title song decries the stupidity of media-influenced Americans can sell fucking ring tones on their web site? Oh, and did I metion the five-pack of CDR's with the Green Day logo emblazened on them?! How long until we hear "American Idiot" as the sound track for a fucking Starbuck's commercial?! I must say I was disappointed.

Now I know that punk rock is an ever changing and evolving thing, but I would hope that a band who espouses a certain point of view within their music would stick to it in their marketing. Perhaps their shameless marketing ploy is an attempt to show how stupid shameless media-influenced marketing ploys can be. I don't know. Where's Sid when you need him?

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