Sunday, December 9, 2012


I received a giant package over the summer. It was a Northern Brewer Essential Brewing Starter Kit with ingredients for their Irish Red Ale, a wedding reception gift from my bros in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately with my gate guard rotation I didn't get around to brewing until September 7th. Even that was impulsive; I thought I had plenty of time before my overnight shift began, but it ended up being uncomfortably close. First time mistakes and uncertainties were probably normal, though. Adding the initial hops before reaching a boil, not having a plan in place to chill my wort, not having enough bottles. I'm just glad my yeast didn't die in the Texas summer. I got around to bottling on the 14th of October. A bit later than instructed, but it turned out well.

November 16th was my second brew day. This was Brewer's Best Scottish Ale kit shipped from Fine Vine Wines. I was a little insulted that they pre-measured the priming sugar, but happy to see enough bottle caps to put the whole 5 gallon batch in 12oz bottles. This time I took more comprehensive notes.

 1540 300oz tap water in kettle
1555 Grains added 151 F

1616 Grains removed 206 F
1618 Put lid on Wort. Began sanitization.
1620 DME added. Heat reduced.

1622 LME added. Heat returned to High.

1630 Small boil-over. Continuing uncovered. 0.5oz Cascade Hops added.
1636 Cover replaced - weak boil while uncovered.
1710 0.5oz Cascade Hops added.
1725 1 cup grade A dark amber maple syrup added to boil.
1730 Removed kettle from heat, uncovered.
1740 Moved kettle to cool water bath. 156 F

1745 134 F. Moved water around.
1750 108 F.
1755 100 F.
1800 Discovered that temp varies widely. Bottom and sides low 80s, middle and surface still around 100 F.
1840 82 F.
1920 77 F.
1930 Siphoned cooled wort into fermenting bucket. Added water to bring it up to 5 gallons.

1940 Added yeast and aerated.

9 December I bottled. I used a dozen 22oz bottles and 2 dozen regular bottles. Everything went much smoother this time and I still have plenty of extra bottles. Some of them would still need to have the labels removed, but it's better than running short and having to resort to growlers. We'll be taking as much as we can back north.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stunting Scrambler & San Antonio

What a Scrambler can do with the right tires and the right rider.

Sarah and I took a trip to San Antonio this weekend. It was the first time for both of us.  Got to see the Alamo and walk the length of the River Walk. We didn't go into the chapel part of the Alamo, the Spanish missionary building you probably imagine as "The Alamo." But we did go through the museum section in the standing barracks part.

Pictured: not the barracks
After that we got some fancy Tex-Mex food and walked around the Riverwalk. It's fascinating that such a thing exists in an American city. We watched Wreck-it-Ralph in a mall theater right on the river and took a boat tour around everywhere we'd walked. I definitely recommend taking the boat tour after dark; there's more to see and the route will less disorienting if you've walked around a bit first.

Unfortunately, when we got back to our car we discovered that someone decided to help themselves to our overnight bags we'd left in the back seat of our car. I lost my assault pack and a fleece. Sarah lost her school bag, research, and planner. We both had clothes and phone chargers in there too. The car window was fixed early this afternoon and we'll be getting some cash to defer the value of the stolen items. San Antonio PD, USAA insurance, and Safelite glass repair were all helpful, but the situation still sucks.
Odometer: 9312

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

We're handing out Reese's, because they're delicious.

So over 2 months have passed since I actually finished and published a post here. It somehow didn't feel like that long until I saw Christmas decorations in Home Depot. In this time, I've finished my 3-month gate guard rotation and experienced some significant professional developments at work. It's a bit more engaging and professional now; email me if you want further details.

Part of this work change involved me being "in the field" for 10 days recently. I won't bore you with the details therein, but the time spent not commuting was sorely needed for the bike. I was able to leave Bonnie at Grove Cycles the whole time without terribly inconveniencing Sarah. Because I ride rain or shine, the level of tread on my rear tire was getting dangerously low to handle the quick and violent rainstorms that Texas sometimes throws at me. I ended up choosing Continental ContiGO! on the advice that it's long-lasting and good for riding in the rain. Middle-range in price and felt solid on the ride home. I also had them install the new rear brake rotor and pads I had bought way back in march after my little crash. They also sorted out my confounding turn signal issue, so that's nice.

I'll try to post more often.
Odometer: 8828

Thursday, August 16, 2012


So Sarah and I like maps.
Back in June, The US Geological Survey had a sale on maps for 1 dollar each. Pretty exciting, I know. I bought 6 maps, plus 5 dollars handling and pretty promptly forgot about it. However, in July, they finally arrived. Some of the maps were actually Survey Bulletins with multiple maps inside as well as charts and research diagrams. 

Here are a few scans:
Aeromagnetic contour map of  southeastern part of the Lewis and Clark Range, western Montana.

Two scans of a map of geologic sections of the southeastern part of the Lewis and Clark Range, western Montana.

Youghiogheny Lake on a map of Allegheny Group Rock in southwestern Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh and surrounding environs. 1 : 250,000 topographic map. Revised 1969
And some pictures from my snazzy new phone:
What the Geological Survey Bulletins look like

The whole map of geologic sections of the southeastern part of the Lewis and Clark Range, western Montana.
Bozeman, Montana 1 : 250,000 topographic map, 1972

The whole Pittsburgh Topo map

Small shot of Monroeton, Pennsylvania 1 : 24,000 topographic map, 1999
Huxley lying on Ebensburg, Johnstown, and Altoona.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Overdue Bonnie Update

Remember when I got a motorcycle?  And then I started modifying it?  Somehow, that was months ago...

This is what Bonnie looks like now. The camouflage ditty bag is a BDU-era butt-pack I traded for years ago. It's mostly waterproof and handy for little things that don't need to be secured. Those luggage monsters are 1440 Pelican cases outfitted by Roger at Caribou Motorcycle Luggage. He tried valiantly to talk me out of getting the olive drab green ones (black is standard), but I couldn't be stopped.  They are waterproof, lockable, and detachable. A bit wide, but I use all the space and I'm very happy with them. My assault pack fits in one with room to spare.

They're starting to fade on top from the Texas sun exposure, but what can you do?  I think folks call that 'patina.'

The other big change is my brand-new, shipped-from-England front wheel. Somewhere along the line the frame of Bonnie's front wheel got just a little bit bent resulting in harmonic vibrations at certain speeds and drifty handling at higher speeds. I didn't know this at the time because hey; it's my first bike.  How am I supposed to know what vibrations are normal or how it's supposed to handle over 70 mph? Special thanks to my old platoon sergeant who notice the wobble during the Phantom Thunder ride back in May.

She rolls smoothly now and feels really solid at all speeds. I kept the old rim even though I really didn't have much of a plan for it. Maybe an art project later on? I was a bit dismayed to see rust spot forming on the inside track.  This is the original wheel to my knowledge, so my rear wheel probably has similar spots forming around the spokes beneath the tube.

Oddometer: 5443

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cellular phone and Spanish BMWs

Folks ask me what I think of my new phone, but I don't really have a point of reference to compare to.  It's on Verizon's 4G, which I guess is good, but using an older version of Android which I guess is bad (gingerbread, not ice cream sandwich). The Google+ application works much better than the Facebook app which is slow and uncooperative to navigate. Words with Friends is still great and now portable.  After trying both, I prefer the kindle device to the kindle app, but I'm glad to have the capability to read from my amazon library anywhere. Getting email right away doesn't save as much time as I thought it might. Text message and IM threads are easier to manage, though.

What do you think of when someone says "BMW Motorcycle?" Stalwart high-mileage touring bikes and adventure bikes for crossing continents?  Maybe their swanky new sportbike?

Nice machines for sure, the coolest things to roll out of the Bavarian Motor Works on two wheels have got to be the older air-and-oil-cooled twins like the R100 and R75/5. Below are two beautiful bikes based on those models coming out of custom bike shops in Spain.

"Scram" from Fuel Bespoke Motorcycles 
CRD#14 from Cafe Racer Dreams
These Spaniards have found a formula that works for me. Old, but reliable engines dressed up just enough. Looks like fun.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's been a while

...and I've been busy.  With both tangible, important things like traveling, the wedding reception, and work as well as nonsense like personal projects, relaxation, and getting enough sleep to function.  Each day is filled with big and little things that have to be done and it seems like actually finishing a post keeps getting pushed off.

Sleep is a funny thing; I think most people don't have to give it too much thought.  But when you've got 7 hours between when you leave work and when you have to report back (and a half-hour ride between work and home) it starts to become a pressing issue.

I got an LG Lucid over the weekend. I think I may have been a salesman's dream, being woefully ignorant, but somewhat eager to get the upgrade process over with.

For a while I was known in the Platoon as "the beer blogger" after certain folks discovered this website.  It seems sad that I've strayed from that considering how I've continued to accumulate bottle photos Sarah had kindly taken for me. So here we go: some time ago I got a sampler 12-pack of True Blonde Ale, ESB Special Ale, and Modus Hoperandi IPA by Ska Brewing Co.  It was on sale at Spec's and how could I say no to Ska on sale?

Modus Hoperandi - My least favorite, but seemingly spot-on as a well-executed IPA.
ESB Special Ale - Doubly special?  This style is growing on me; hoppier character than I would think I'd enjoy, but still smooth and balanced.
True Blonde - Nothing bad to report, but nothing particularly memorable either.  I think the word marketing executives use is "drinkability."  Sounds about right.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

I did pre-basic training workouts in front of the Pennsylvania Military Museum, but I've never been inside. I've never been to the Memorial Day parade in Boalsburg either, but I've seen the statue and know the general story.

Photo from
 “[I]n the summer or fall of 1864, Miss Emma Hunter of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, is said to have decorated the tomb of her father, Colonel James Hunter, who commanded the 49th Pennsylvania Regiment in the Battle of Gettysburg. Together with a Mrs. Meyer, mother of a son killed in the war, Miss Hunter conceived the idea of decorating all the graves."
Robert J. Meyers, Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays. Quoted here.
On this Memorial day remember those who died in the service of our country. They deserve your respect regardless of your feelings about current or past policies. No one from my unit died during my tour in Iraq. Maybe if one of the IEDs or rockets fired into the base had found someone, my perspective would be hardened or changed. I don't know. But I do know that there is an important difference between acts of service and content of policy and that the efforts by interests on either side to conflate the two is both disingenuous and harmful to our memory and future.

In Motorcycle news, the waterproof saddlebag/cases I ordered are finally cut and mounted. It really is much nicer to ride without a backpack and I can actually lock my sensitive army stuff in them instead of friends' cars and barracks rooms.  Unfortunately I've run into a perplexing electrical problem.  The size of the cases required smaller turn signals in the rear but fortunately, I thought, I had smaller turn signals in the front I could switch in. If all four bulbs work, all draw the same power, location shouldn't matter, right? Apparently not. After some initial buzzing and irregular blinking, I get no response from the blinkers and the 10-amp fuse pops whenever I try the turn signal toggle.  All other electrical systems (horn, headlight, starter, etc) are fine and there's no visible short. I'm going to try replacing the relay, but in the meantime it's quite confounding.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Helmet & Phantom Thunder

While the full-face helmet is my go-to option for freeway commuting, sometimes you just want the wind in your face.  At about 60 mph and slower, I definitely prefer the open-face (3/4) style helmet I got with my leather jacket. Stylistically the glossy-white helmet was a little too bright and a lot too plain so I decided that I would eventually paint it with some sort of custom design. I like the black-and-white work done at Old School Helmets, but in order to be able to ride on-post I needed to preseverve the DOT sticker on the back.

After looking through their work, I developed a design for myself but neither Home Depot, Michael's crafts, or Office Max carry contact paper here. It's a pretty standard material for all sort of crafts and projects, right? Oh well; I ended up going with Avery printable shipping labels. It removes a step because you can print your design directly instead of by trace or transfer, but the adhesive much stronger than contact paper.

I used one coat of gray Krylon primer and two coats of their flat black "camouflage" paint. I had to use rubbing alcohol to get the stencils off, but I think it turned out pretty good. The logo is a mixture of the modern and classic Triumph logos. The #07 is because my Bonnie is a 2007 model, and the question I get most often at gas stations and such is some variation of "What year is your bike?"

Thursday was the 6th Phantom Thunder motorcycle ride; everyone on Fort Hood with a running motorcycle and accompanying paperwork was supposed to ride and there were about 1000 bikes assembled. There were copious safety measures and pontifications by folks with far more rank than I, but I did get out of a day of work to ride my bike in civilian clothes. We went on a 82-mile loop at a pretty slow pace, but all of the stoplights and intersections were blocked for us by the local police departments.

The coolest part of the ride was the close air support we had from two helicopters during most of the ride. Riding through the rotor wash of a low-hovering Huey is definitely a thrill, but unfortunately I couldn't find any pictures.
This doesn't begin to capture what 1000 bikes looks like

Monday, April 30, 2012

Milestones & Phone Advice

This past week I passed 1662 on Bonnie's odometer. Why is that a milestone you wonder? Well that means that I've matched and surpassed the mileage that the previous owner had put on the bike. It may have legally belonged to me for several months, but somehow this feels like the trial-ownership period is over and the bike is more mine than anyone else's.

I took Sarah for her first motorcycle ride this past weekend.  First just around the neighborhood, then around town to Home Depot, then way across Belton Lake to the biker shindig at Grove Cycles.  It didn't take too long to get used to the extra inertia and I think it may have actually used a more natural roll on the throttle from a dead stop. I had fun and I'm looking forward to more ambitious trips with her.

Photo from
I've been contemplating turning in the old Samsung flip-phone for something than can run the Kindle app. There's a lot of downtime in the army, but whipping out a non-military book or regular Kindle is either frowned upon or impractical. But of course, carrying a phone is practically mandatory. I've invested a fair amount in a "digital bookshelf" managed through Amazon so I'd like to be able to access that. I don't really text or play games; any advice on making this 6-year leap forward in technology? So far I've got recommendations for the Iphone, Galaxy Nexus, and Sony Xperia...

Oddometer: 1940 miles.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Motorcycle Progress

Yesterday Sarah took some shots of the progress/improvements I've made to Bonnie.

First, the bad.
Small, but upsetting dent in my tank

Some scrapes low on the right side
The stock handlebar was bent up and the right side mirror was thrashed.  I got a new black handlebar in roughly the same shape (so I wouldn't need new cables) and I've been running with just the left mirror for now.

One of the front turn signals was cracked in the crash (though still functional). I decided to switch out the big stock signals for more tidy brushed aluminum ones. Since I was already paying shipping from this company, I opted for the chrome headlight visor too.  I thought it was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, putting the "tidy" turn signals where the old ones were interferes with turning the ignition. Ha; I've got to rotate the left side signal out of the way to turn the bike on and off for now. Simple fix, though.

Here's the big purchase: Hepco-Becker luggage racks.  This German company has quite the pedigree for touring and adventure luggage products and designed the stock luggage frames for a generation of BMW motorcycles. Not many companies make frames for the Bonneville, but there are lots of companies than make panniers to fit H-B frames, so I thought this gave me the most options.  I'm still exploring those options, though.

The red net is a cheap little bungee thing I came across
Here's what she looks like all together (for now): Before & After.