All posts by Dean

I unscramble eggs for a living. When not working I make, judge & drink beer. Whether working or playing I enjoy exercise & sporting, folksy-punk-rockish-bluesy-nerdcore music and mathematics. Around me is the best wife, loving family & great friends.

We Might Be Okay Now, Well Better Than Last Year

Fifty-two months ago Adrienne had a hysterectomy. We have seen four Mother’s and Father’s Days since the decision.  Each one is easier than the previous however for some reason this Father’s day was more melancholy for me than the previous.  The first Mother’s Day Adrienne wrote

There is no I-had-my-uterus-and-ovaries-taken-at-32-so-I-will-never-have-children-of-my-own day. If someone makes one, I hope it’s in August. I don’t have anything else to celebrate in August.

The name isn’t catchy, the sentiment too raw, and it risks emphasizing our infertility.  Whatever it is named, we observe that day on August 11th.  I originally posted a request to our friends in this blog in 2010 where I detail objectives of the day. We receive a nice response each year.

Most of the time we are okay. Every once in a while emotion overwhelms us.  2013 has been pretty good, evidenced by the sparse blog updates on the subject. (Read most of the saga there.)  Thank you to all our friends sending Adie well-wishes yesterday.  It really means a lot to the both of us.  We spent the day playing video games then went to a private restaurant industry party, kind of a typical day off for us.

I am thankful that Adie & I survived the crucible.  Through the moments of weakness, flaring rage and years of emotional strife we built an unshakable relationship that continues to broaden and deepen.  With all we have been through I am profoundly grateful for this relationship borne partly from hardship.

To end this post I want to invite curious readers to ask me about the experience.  I feel compelled to talk about it, however the subject rarely surfaces and most people awkwardly change the subject.  Engage me if you are going through something similar and want to talk, or just want to know what it is like.  I may tear up, but I am better than last year – sadness and joy are part of life.

Happy Bragging Day (still not quite right, but getting closer)

Fourty months ago Adrienne had a hysterectomy.   We saw three Mother’s and Father’s Days since the decision.  Each one is easier than the previous.  The first one Adrienne wrote

There is no I-had-my-uterus-and-ovaries-taken-at-32-so-I-will-never-have-children-of-my-own day. If someone makes one, I hope it’s in August. I don’t have anything else to celebrate in August.

Today, August 11th, we observe that day.  The name isn’t catchy, the sentiment too raw, and it risks emphasizing our infertility.  One friend suggested Bragging Day and sometimes we call it Phantom Uterus Day, but I’m not sure either gets the point across.  Adie & I had some decisions, truly life-altering, world-shaking realities, forced on us but we want to make something positive out of our situation.

Let’s try to give today a good name.  Please think about someone that cannot or will not have kids and drop them a note to:

Celebrate the life and happiness they have

We let go of a lifetime of desires and expectations while simultaneously redefining and reorienting ourselves.  This process is not over, but our goal on this day is to be happy with all we have.

Emphasize accomplishments

Birthing and raising children is often quoted as the biggest accomplishment a person can make.  We do not believe it.  Your affirmation drives us on to other altruistic endeavors.

Show that they are whole people

Any -ectomy takes something away from a person.  We felt “broken” and may not get over that.

Today is not about trying or failing to be a parent.  We need neither sympathy nor reminders of our “enviable freedom” and that parenthood is “not all joy“.  At the same time the day’s purpose is not to belittle family.  Reinforce the good things that all of us do.

If you have a good name for today post it in the comments, twitter, facebook or email.

Infertility Checkup

It has been twenty-eight months since Adrienne’s hysterectomy.  Last year I made a request to our friends to help us celebrate our post-infertility life.  August 11th is this week and we still don’t have a name for I-had-my-uterus-and-ovaries-taken-at-32-so-I-will-never-have-children-of-my-own day (someone call Hallmark).  At any rate, here’s what we are going to do on Thursday.

Celebrate the life and happiness we have

We celebrated our 10 year anniversary last September with an Alaskan cruise.  We stay out late and listen to live music and her migraines due to hormone replacement are far more infrequent.  Adrienne spent ten days in Malaysia.  We continue to thrive despite my layoff eight months ago.

Emphasize accomplishments

Adie passed her PhD qualifying exams and is nearly finished!  I founded a brewery and a freelance software company.   These things are not impossible with children in tow, but I would feel much more pressure to stabilize our income and she to stay home if there was more responsibility over our heads.

Show that we are whole people

Any -ectomy takes something beyond guts & viscera away from a person.  As time goes on this feeling fades.  You’ll have to take it from Adrienne, because I don’t really know what it’s like.

I’ll close the same way I did last year: we are not the only ones.

So many couples and singles struggle with their sense of childless self worth.
Think of them on this day.  If you would like to help, it is simple as a phone call, email, tweet or Facebook post just to say “hi” or to remind someone of the good they do.

This day is not about trying or failing to be a parent.  We need neither sympathy nor reminders of our “enviable freedom” and that parenthood is “not all joy“.  At the same time the day’s purpose is not to belittle family.  Remember, Adrienne and I still make a family.  Reinforce the good things that all of do.

Exclusivity Does Not Promote Competition

Duh.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code is not a comedic document yet I laughed aloud after reading Subchapter C Section 102.51.  It goes something like this:

SUBCHAPTER C. TERRITORIAL LIMITS ON SALE OF BEER

Sec. 102.51. SETTING OF TERRITORIAL LIMITS. (a) Each holder of a manufacturer’s or nonresident manufacturer’s license shall designate territorial limits in this state within which the brands of beer the licensee manufactures may be sold by general, local, or branch distributor’s licensees.
(b)    Each holder of a general, local, or branch distributor’s license shall enter into a written agreement with each manufacturer from which the distributor purchases beer for distribution and sale in this state setting forth the sales territory within which each brand of beer purchased by that distributor may be distributed and sold. No holder of a general, local, or branch distributor’s license shall make any sales of any brand of beer outside the sales territory specified in the written agreement. No such agreement shall interfere with the rights of retailers to purchase beer as provided in Section 102.53. A manufacturer may not assign all or any part of the same sales territory to more than one distributor. A copy of the agreement and any amendments to it shall be filed with the administrator.

(c)    This Act is promulgated pursuant to the authority of the state under the provisions of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution to promote the public interest in the fair, efficient, and competitive distribution of beer, to increase competition in such areas, and to assure product quality control and accountability by allowing manufacturers to assign sales territories within this state.

Seriously?  Allowing only exclusive distribution rights is intended to promote competition.  This is the sort of legislation the distributor’s lobby fights for and what small brewers are up against.  Increase competition indeed!

How To Edit Friends and Not Look Dumb to People

At first I was going to detail how to make a friend list, put people in it and edit your privacy settings all in that little box.  Instead you get a blog post with pretty images.

An Allegory

LinkedIn is the “social network” for your co-workers. I keep track of a lot of people there.  Sometimes you like a person you work with enough to go to a Judas Priest concert with and you totally have to share that picture of you two with K.K. Downing.   So now you and Judas Co-worker are friends and she’s friends with that annoying guy in accounting who sees her tagged in a photo with a Grammy award winning guitarist and you.  That leads to Ned McNedly pressing the + Add as Friend button on your profile and you don’t really want the boss’s son to see how much you play Dumbo Racer.  Sometimes the network works against you.

If you can’t send Ned to you clinically app-free LinkedIn profile you can friend him without giving away too many personal details.  Time for some pretty pictures!

Go to that giant time-waster (that’s not the way I really feel about you Facebook, don’t be mad) and click on the Account button, then Edit Friends (where is this functionality IRL? JK I <3 u just the way you r).

Press the + Create a List button.  Call it something that would burn the soulless zombies you work with to their very core if they knew they were on your list.

Lists are a great tool for categorizing your friends.

Now to shut out the unworthy.  Click Account again and choose Privacy Settings.  You should see a giant field titled Sharing on Facebook.  Change to Custom, then click Customize Settings.

On the next screen you can “control” all the privacy leakages social networking enables.  Try it out.  Pull down the control next to Posts by Me and choose Customize.

Type the name of your new list in the Hide this From box and you can safely play Dumbo Racer all day long.

How Do You Know It’s Working?

Facebook gives you a way to check what your profile looks like to other people.  Click on Account then Privacy Settings.  You get the Sharing on Facebook screen pictured above.  Choose Customize Settings again.  In the upper right there will be a button labeled Preview my Profile.  Try that.

Profile Preview

Do like it says and start typing a friend’s name to see the world in their eyes.

Thirty Day Notice (Merry Christmas from CSC)

About an hour ago I received notice of termination from CSC.  Unless I find another position in this company of 94,000 people my last day of employment is December 30th, 2010.  I am working the contacts accumulated there over my four years of work there.

I am also looking outside the company.  Perhaps you, or someone you know, is looking for a system architect.  I specialize in Solaris and linux with experience developing for Blackberry and iPhone.  My resume will elaborate.

Although I have only worked for companies with more than 40,000 employees I think I would rather like to join a small or medium sized company.

Sales Tax & Your First Amendment Rights

This morning I heard a story about a large corporation and a judiciary both acting in favor of privacy over taxes.  It warmed my cockles.

As the recession continues states look for ways to fix budget shortfalls.  Raising or enacting taxes is politically incendiary in an election year but one state saw a way to increase revenue.  Last year North Carolina asked Amazon for information about goods it shipped (complete with names & addresses) to residents between 2003 and 2010.  It intended to collect sales tax owed by the good people of NC.

Even though Amazon does not charge sales tax on purchases the buyer may be responsible for paying come April 15th.  North Carolina asked for records revealing identities and purchases as part of a tax audit of the online retailer.  Amazon replied with detailed information regarding the items purchased, dates, amount of purchases, and county to which the items were shipped, but no personally identifying information.  The state acknowledged the information is sufficient to assess sales taxes, but pressed for all the requested details.

With the aid of the ACLU Amazon fought back citing the First Amendment, specifically the Video Privacy Protection Act which bars “wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records.”  Since passage in 1988 the protection was extended to cover DVDs, video games and books.  The federal district court in Seattle, Washington ruled in favor of Amazon.

Withholding the information was financially disadvantageous to the company because Amazon could not claim potential deductions, resulting in a higher tax bill.  They did the right thing in the face of monetary loss.

The cynic in me sees Amazon putting up a great public relations campaign in favor of privacy, all the while selling our personal information in secret to other companies.  Other states, including my home state of Texas, are pursuing uncollected tax revenue from Amazon and making a strong showing against the Tar Heel State may bolster their other cases.

Overall it is a win for privacy and I’ll take it.

References:

Cafélatté Homebrew – I ain’t talking about coffee

Cafélaté about to boil

The state of the art

Like many homebrew beer makers I also roast coffee.  It’s quick and simple to produce better java than you can buy in most shops.  While not a natural pairing, beer and coffee go together.  There’s coffee porter, coffee stout, ..uh… espresso porter….  I like to do things differently.

I thought about putting hops in my coffee grounds just to turn things on their head.  May still do that….  Instead, I picked a coffee drink and set about translating it to beer.  Astute readers have already picked up that I decided upon cafélatté – a mix of espresso and steamed milk.  This decision came mostly from the availability of lactose, milk sugar, for brewing.

The creative process

With one ingredient chosen I went a-browsing for the remainder of the grist.  To my surprise I discovered Coffee malt, a moderately roasted 2-row barley (130-170L).  My grain bills are almost always simple, with one or two specialty malts, so I decided to limit the beer to that one roast.  I also had an idea for a fourth ingredient.

The third grain is, of course, the base malt.  My normal favorite, Maris Otter, would likely be too nutty or biscuity for this beer.  Again looking for new things to try I cane across Golden Promise.  The description promised a “sweet, clean flavor” which I deemed perfect.  Although the beer will be malt-dominant, it should show the coffee flavors more than anything else.

To round the grain bill off I decided on rolled oats to give the beer body and a smooth mouthfeel.  The beer should feel like you are drinking a creamy latte and oats are just the thing.  With the four ingredients selected, I placed my order.

Days later it arrived.  Although the ingredients came 32 hours ahead of brew-day I was eager to taste my creation.  Originally the coffee malt was to make up 15% of the grist, but I ordered enough to make 20.  I mixed some of the Golden Promise and coffee malt and bit into a small handful.

Coffee malt does indeed smell and taste like coffee.  It has that burnt bean starbucks flavor that I do not care for.  But as the grain stewed in my mouth the base malt stepped forward to compliment the ash and roast.  I nearly couldn’t stop myself from eating the entire grainbill.

Enough already, get to the recipe

OG 1.042
IBU ~23
Efficiency 75%
BU:GU 0.5

Fermentables

  • 70% Golden Promise
  • 20% Coffee Malt
  • 5% Lactose
  • 5% Rolled Oats

I use a water to grist ratio of two quarts per pound.  Aimed for a single 60 minute step at 158ºF but hit 160º.  Collected six gallons of sweet wort at 1.041 SG.

Kettle

  • 23 IBUs of Hallertau at 45 minutes
  • Irish moss and lactose at 15 minutes

Yes, this is a 45 minute boil.  Chilled and pitched onto a healthy yeast cake of White Labs London Ale yeast.  OG came out to 1.045.

Whatsit taste like?

I like to taste my beers at many steps.  Right out of the chiller is an important place.  I am quite pleased with the way this beer matched my expectations of it.  The lactose really gives the impression of milk.  One of my tasters remarked that he expected a hot coffee drink from the aroma.

The wort smells of burnt grains and steamed milk.  The lactose and rolled oats combine to give the beer noticeable body, but a the malty sweetness remains thin, like something you would expect from a beer of ten SG points lower.  Hop bitterness is mild and should be nearly undetectable after fermentation.

I’ll edit link to the review when it’s done.