Archive for the projects Category

Apparently 1-800-Flowers.com doesn’t think they’ve screwed over enough people.

Posted in beer, Photo, projects, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2009 December 14 by KLP

Today, I got a check in the mail for $9.25 from 1-800-Flowers.com. I assumed that this check was the outcome of some sort of class action lawsuit in which I was an unwitting plaintiff. I mean, I believe it was last Mother’s Day that they delivered a product inferior to the one I ordered to my mother, and failed to deliver the one Kat ordered for hers, and never produced any sort of refund. Surely, others suffered from this terrible service as well, so I reasonably figured that such a lawsuit had occurred.  Then, I realized that Kat hadn’t received any such check, so I decided to read the fine print.

By cashing this check I agree to a thirty-day trial offer in Elite Excursions. I understand that the $19.99 monthly fee will be automatically charged to my card on file with 1-800-FLOWERS.COM unless I cancel my membership by calling 1-866-709-2905 before the end of the trial period… By cashing this check I authorize 1-800-FLOWERS.COM to securely transfer my credit card information to Elite Excursions for enrollment, billing and benefit processing.

Yeah. Would you, at the suggestion of a company that had ripped you off once before, sell your credit card information to a company you’d never heard of for $9.25? You be the judge, Internets.

As some of my readers may know, I married Kat on June 20 of this year. She’s awesome. She’s sexy. She’s smart. She may or may not know what she’s gotten herself into. And all that makes me very lucky. I had thought about chronicling the wedding, honeymoon, and the preceding events, but I can’t possibly do it justice. In fact, I’d almost prefer that the stories of our wedding exist only as an oral history, aging for the sake of occasional tastings, like a good vintage, or more appropriately, a dark, potent brew. So, I’ll stick to something I had hoped I would write about more often when I started this blog: beer.

I prepared a really awesome gift for my groomsmen. It consisted of a homemade Oktoberfest contained in fancy, swing-top style bottles. Each bottle bared a hand-made label, and came packaged with a pint glass, hand-etched with the groomsman’s initials. Pat Faust, the wife of Dennis at Brew and Wind Hobby in East Hartford, did the calligraphy and screen-printing for the labels as well as the glass etching. I had the beer brewed and bottled for sometime prior to the wedding, but I waited until about 10 days before the wedding before I came up with the label idea and started looking for someone to make it and the glasses for me. In addition to creating a really nicely finished product, Pat did it within my tight schedule and the gifts were a hit. They simply wouldn’t have happened without her.

I had six groomsmen, properly represented by the label.

As far as actually brewing the beer went, it involved a lot of firsts. It was our first lager, it was Dave’s first experience with homebrewing, and it was the first brew session at my parent’s house. Also, this batch employed some new equipment, including a 185,000 BTU propane regulator and burner for brewing, and a mini-fridge equipped with a temperature controller for fermentation. The burner necessitated that we brew outdoors, on a cold December night, at my parents house. Since it produced lots of fire, heat, and carbon monoxide, we obviously couldn’t operate it in the apartment. Furthermore, I didn’t feel like lugging brewing equipment to and from the courtyard. However, brewing away from home would present its own challenges, like forgetting to bring the yeast. While brewing, I turned up the burner too much, leading to a boil-over and then a small fire. Apparently, the foam from the wort caramelized as it spilled down the side of the pot and then ignited upon contact with the flame. After dealing with that and adjusting the burner to a lower setting, I thought all was well. We still had a really strong boil going, which undoubtedly helped make the beer really clear in the end, but we also lost a lot of water, reducing yield and increasing the concentrations of hops and malt. I wish I could blame the small amount of beer, 3.75 gallons, on the insanely powerful burner, but truthfully, I easily replenished the lost wort volume with water during fermentation, achieving the intended concentrations of malt and hops. Therefore, the low volume really has to do with poor efficiency in the mashing process. Perhaps the small quantity increases novelty of the whole thing. At least it tastes good!

And it’s not just me saying that. Even Samuel Adams agrees. On a whim, I submitted four twelve ounce bottles of Groom’s Reserve to the Samuel Adams Longshot Homebrew Contest where it earned second place in the Oktoberfest category. I will point out that the brewer who took first in that category became a finalist with another one of his entries. In other words, I was beaten only by a skilled brewer, as opposed to some schmo. As a prize, Samuel Adams sent me a hat. I may only wear it when I get drunk, but I wear the glory 24/7.  Have a look at the judges’ report cards:

Before I close, I’d like to share a link to some of the wedding photos taken by our guests. When I get a hold of the digital copies from our official photographer, I’ll share them there.

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Managing a Button Collection on Election Night

Posted in adventure, projects with tags , , , on 2008 November 5 by KLP

Displaying the Buttons

Kat and I might not be following the polls and coloring our electoral maps this evening, but given that some of the buttons endorse political movements and candidates from as far back as 1940, for Franklin Roosevelt, we’re certainly politically involved, if not inundated in Americana.

That run-on sentence is all I have to post right now, other than a story about an incident that occured when I went to vote today. My apartment number was wrong on the registered voter list. Luckily the ladies behind the desk were nice and let me vote. Be nice to old ladies. They are the gatekeepers of democracy. Also, when exiting the polling place, Kat and I accidentally used the entrance and not the proper exit to leave. We caught a slight scolding from a middle aged woman. Such women are powerless underlings.

Steve Jobs Chums His Bathtub with Whale Meat to Feed His Ego: Part 3

Posted in Photo, projects with tags , , , , , , , , on 2008 March 19 by KLP

Continued from Steve Jobs Chums His Bathtup with Whale Meat to Feed His Ego: Part 2.

On Monday, Kat’s computer stopped working again. I never really expected my fix to be permanent, but it did last a good while. I will probably be able to get the computer running again, for my own purposes, but Kat needs a reliable system to do her work on. So, last night we went to the UConn Co-op to get her a new 15.4″ MacBook Pro.

Anyway, Kat wanted CCP4 installed on her new system. Unfortunately, it was pain in the ass. I’m pretty sure that most of the problem has to do with the software, but we were unaware that the system didn’t come with Leopard already installed. This meant that it was a while before we realized that X11 wasn’t already installed. However, after upgrading to Leopard and confirming that X11 was now installed, nothing about the CCP4 installation changed for the better.

I believe that the problem is that the CCP4 binary sucks. So we decided to use fink to install the program according to the instructions on this wiki and CCP4 works now! I can’t remember if I followed the instructions for installing fink exactly but I think it was a matter of installing Xcode3, downloading the source for fink, which automatically decompressed, and compiled it by first navigating to its folder in the terminal and typing:

./bootstrap.sh

Then I followed the rest of the previously mentioned instructions. They are pretty clear except for telling you how to start CCP4. The instructions for doing so are here. I don’t expect that anyone looking for clarification about getting CCP4 running will ever look to this post for help, so I intend to update the wiki a little bit. Hopefully we’ll also have success in installing Coot.

I am going to drop the Steve Jobs Chums His… title after this post. I’m afraid that Treehouses might slip into the dark abyss of Apple hating, which isn’t my style. While I am usually impressed by their products and culture, I am only sometimes perplexed and offended. Such is the case with Kat’s new ‘puter. The case is really nice to look at, the screen is great, and Leopard seems to be nice to work with. However, we’ve noticed some really troubling behavior. For example, when switching between text fields in different windows, such as from Terminal to TextEdit, it takes a few seconds before keystrokes start registering. It’s not as though I start typing and then several seconds later everything I typed appears. Rather, there is some sort of waiting period before keyboard input is allowed. Kat hasn’t experienced it at work when the computer runs off of the wall outlet, but we definitely noticed it on the second evening of battery power, but not the first. Anyone with information on what is going on and how to fix it should let me know. This problem is really frustrating.

In other news, my Holga came in from China yesterday. I can’t wait to start taking photos!

Steve Jobs Chums His Bathtub with Whale Meat to Feed His Ego: Part 2

Posted in opinion, projects with tags , , , on 2008 January 30 by KLP

Continued from Steve Jobs Chums His Bathtub with Whale Meat to Feed His Ego.

The title of this post and the previous one is probably too harsh on Mr. Jobs. I have no way of knowing his or his ego’s feeding habits. I’ve employed this hyperbole to convey my frustration over and issue that plagues engineers and is subsequently injurious to society on a grander scale. For now, I will stick with the iBook as an example.

For the record, Kat’s laptop has been working soundly until today. We were hoping that the problem Kat experienced is just one of those weird things that would inexplicably never happen again. My suspicion that a certain chip is beginning to disconnect from the motherboard appears to be correct.

So I followed this guide to place a shim between the metal shield, which lies flush against the bottom of the computer case, and the rebellious chip. I cut out a small piece of a CD-R for my shim.

Opening up the computer was really easy with the exception of what may be another one of Apple’s dirty tricks. Photographs will probably describe it best.

See that orange ribbon in the back? I think it’s supposed to connect the hard drive to the motherboard. However, it was affixed to the shield and thus came loose from the motherboard when I lifted the shield up. In alternate universes, I tore the ribbon, forgot to reconnect it when putting the computer back together, and was possessed by Dr. Sam Beckett (“Oh boy!”) who fixed everything and left me to take all the credit as he hopefully made his final leap home. Here’s a closeup of the dastardly ribbon cable.

Eventually the hard disk ribbon came loose from the shield allowing me to take this photo of the poorly designed motherboard.

I placed the piece of the CD-R between the offending chip and the black ribbon which connects the optical drive to the motherboard and then reassembled the laptop. And it works! Hopefully this surgery will be my last on Kat’s computer, but there is a chance that the shim I chose isn’t thick enough in which case I’ll have to cut it open and try again. I just want to say that I fixed it for good and be a hero.

Anyway, when a similar problem appeared in the iBook G3, which preceded Kat’s G4, Apple owned up and made an attempt to do right by its customers by extending the warranty. However, Apple hasn’t made any attempt to fix the problem with the G4. That’s just appalling and feeds my suspicion of Apple, their products, and the intent behind their design. In taking apart Kat’s G4, I noticed a design feature that annoyed me: extensive use of plastic snap tabs instead of screws, like older generations of the iPod. I understand that screws require inventory and an additional manufacturing step, but they make repairing the product easier and can always be replaced if damaged. Snap tabs are not replaceable and will weaken or ruin the case if broken. It’s as though Apple couldn’t care less about making the G4 repairable. Therefore, I charge that Apple engineers their products to be trendy, fast sells with lifetimes that satisfy Apple’s desires rather than customers’ needs. That is, I contend that Apple designs their products to require replacement in order to facilitate the sale of new products; planned obsolescence. Apple gets away with this because they’ve successfully sold the idea that having the latest Apple is fashionable. Yes, Apple products are useful and easy to use, but if I were to consider buying a new Apple product, its cool factor would compel me more than its ability to retain value. Other brands don’t retain value very well either, and it bothers me that consumers accept this standard of quality from their computers. Dixie cups are supposed to be disposable, not computers.

One final point of advice: keep screws and other removable parts in a safe spot. Replaceable as they may be, losing them is a pain in the ass.

Steve Jobs Chums His Bathtub with Whale Meat to Feed His Ego

Posted in opinion, projects with tags , , , on 2008 January 29 by KLP

Well, wouldn’t you expect him to do so given his treatment of Apple fans* and his company’s suspicious engineering practices?

The latter allegation seems to have affected Kat’s iBook G4. It wouldn’t boot properly this morning when she got to work. Instead the screen remained blank and the fan turned on at full speed. Over one thousand iBook users have reported the same problem which is well documented here.

So I decided to see if I could fix it. I got to step 7 on this troubleshooting list by Apple before it turned on. The computer conked out after a few minutes. Next, I place two hands to the left of the touch pad and applied a good amount of force and then slowly hit the power button. It turned on.

Thus far I’ve had the computer on for about 45 minutes. I am shutting down now and will reboot in the hopes of achieving a smooth and proper start up without doing anything special such as applying pressure to the casing…. and it works. No sign of the aforementioned problem. This result is good because it means that Kat is not computerless for the time being. But, it’s also bad because I think it may signify the beginning of the problem. If the computer acts up again, I may move on to this fix. If I’m feeling macho I’ll try this one, too.

More to come.

*This link bring you to a post on Violet Blue’s blog. While I do not consider it to be pornography, her blog is sexually themed and may not be safe for work.

Sierra Nevada Clone

Posted in beer, projects with tags on 2007 March 7 by KLP

I tasted my latest brew for the third time in four weeks and it was delicious. It’s Sierra Nevada clone made with the following recipe:

  • 8 lbs. of Pale malt
  • 1 lb. Biscuit Malt
  • 1 lb. Crystal Malt
  • Mash at 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour with 1 quart of water for every pound of grain
  • Sparge with 10 quarts of water at 170 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 60 minute boil; at 60 minutes add 1 oz. Chinook Hops, at 15 minutes add 1 oz. Perle Hops, at 2 minutes add 1 oz. Cascade Hops
  • Chill wort to less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pitch Wyeast 1056 (American Ale)

I fermented in the primary for about eight days and then in the secondary for two weeks. I used DME for priming. The last couple times that I tried the beer, it wasn’t so great. No esters, but hardly any flavor or carbonation. It’s totally delicious now and tastes very much like Sierra Nevada. I wouldn’t say that it’s exact, but I am very happy about it. The ABV is approximately 5% and my girlfriend, Kat, and I have decided to name the brew Last Semester Ale. Hopefully it will continue to age and get even tastier by St. Patrick’s day.

From Last Semester…

Pictured is the label Kat illustrated. I don’t really want to stick it on every bottle. I’d rather just save time and only put it on the ones that we give as gifts. Removing the original labels from the bottles is just two much of a pain. In fact, bottling in itself is a pain. I can see myself upgrading to a keg system within a year. Then again, there is an old school glamor to bottling and naturally carbonating, which isn’t to say that natural carbonation cannot be achieved when kegging. It’s just nice to see a little sediment at the bottom of the bottle, like that in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bottles.

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@dmytri

Venture Communist. Miscommunications Technologist. Telekommunisten Polemicist. ThoughtWorks Analyst.