Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall is in the air!

And happily bubbling away in the basement. No, really. Last Sunday we picked about 20lbs of wild grapes from the fenceline in my back yard:

Sorted and rinsed to remove bugs, green grapes, wrinkled grapes, and all other nasty bits:

The fun part - mashing the wild grapes for juice and pulp, leaving the seeds and skins behind. What a mess!

Throw the juice, 12lbs of sugar, one Campden sulfite tablet, and the balance of water into the primary fermenter, and give it a good stir. Note the gorgeous purple color of my wooden stirring spoon!

The next morning, the yeast got thrown in there, the lid was attached, and the airlock installed. It began burping almost immediately as the yeast chowed down on the sweet stuff and reproduced at a prodigious rate. Now when the must gets stirred twice a day, I cannot feel any undissolved sugar in the bottom of the fermenter - so they must be doing their job. The bouquet released into the air when I open the lid to stir the batch? Absolutely unbelievable!

Next up, 20lbs of fresh Concord grapes from my dad's farm. I've already mashed them, and the liquid looks like it'll make something closer to a blush than a red. That's fine, I'm willing to give it a try, too. I also have fresh elderberries and plums ready for their turn in the fermenters...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The coolant - it got cloudy!

Note to self: WalMart distilled water ain't exactly the cleanest stuff in the world.

I had a bacterial or algae bloom in my computer's cooling circuit, and it got progressively worse over the course of a couple weeks. The reservoir looked like a kitchen sink full of dish soap suds as the coolant foamed and actually pressurized the tank.

Not good.

A quick Google of the topic, and it appears I've gotten a biological mess in the system. So it all got drained, and a diluted vinegar/Walgreen's distilled water flush was performed, followed by a pure distilled water rinse. I saw no sludge visible in either the reservoir, hoses, or CPU water blocks, so hopefully I got rid of most of the stuff.

Of course, that meant that my $14.00/700ml Koolance blue coolant was gone for good, and it would take a few days for another bottle or two to show up via the brown UPS truck. So I grabbed the big container of Prestone DexCool and another bottle of Walgreen's distilled water to make a 50/50 batch of automotive antifreeze. Into the reservoir it went, and I power-cycled the system until it was burped adequately.

To my relief, there's no more foaming, and opening the fill plug in the reservoir no longer results in an audible pressure relief. Temperatures are just fine, even with the thicker solution. It definitely looks different with the orange/red stuff running through the hoses and reservoir, especially with the blue LEDs back-lighting the tank. Call it a lesson learned, but I used my remaining jugs of WalMart distilled product to water my tomato plants.

Koolance says to change out coolant once a year. I made it all of a whopping three months, but I also bought a used system, so there's no telling how long it had been running without a change. I'll definitely pay closer attention now.

Cash for Clunkers - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

From the back lot of my local GM dealer, I give you examples of what people traded in under the tax-assisted fiasco known as Cash for Clunkers. There are some damned nice vehicles, with plenty of life left in them. I approached one dealer, and he said they're all allotted to the local scrapyard, they won't entertain cash purchases from people like me. I've read that the Federal Government spent 8 dollars for every dollar of "clunker" they got off the highways. Wouldn't it have been better just to give the automakers the money directly?

I was seriously interested in buying the pewter 2001 or newer Chevy S-10 Blazer. It was clean enough to eat off of, and the interior was pristine:

Note the two very nice full-size Dodge pickups. A closer inspection revealed that they were in great condition, too. As I walked the lot, looking at the "Clunker" verbage written in crayon on the windshields, I shook my head in disbelief. Really - look at this late model Ford Explorer:

How about some more nice Chevy S-10 Blazers, along with the two aforementioned Dodge pickups?

Anybody for a nice Jeep Cherokee or another S-10 Blazer?

Makes me just plain sick, it does.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 11th, 2001

I refrained from posting yesterday because I felt it more somber to reflect in silence.

On September 11th, 2001, yours truly was on leave, getting ready to take advantage of a 15-year retirement option offered by the Air Force for select career fields.

Within days of the events of 11 Sep 01, Stop Loss was implemented, and stayed into effect until fairly late in 2002. By the time Stop Loss was lifted, I was well into my 16th year of service, and it then made more sense to go for the full 20 years or more - the job offers at that time could just wait.

To say that 11 Sep 01 changed people's lives is an understatement. My career plans, as well as the remainder of my military career afterwards, took a drastic turn. We as a people, and as a nation, may never again live a pre-9/11 existence. That's either good or bad, depending on your point of view.

Regardless, we shall not forget.