Generic Randomness

I really have nothing in mind to write about today so I'll just follow the name of my blog and type in the random things that flow through my mind today.  Sorry if you aren't interested, but no one is making you read this.

  1. Why is it that we are willing to furlough all of the civilian federal employees who, for the most part, do a good job but we are allowing the elected officials to continue to get paid when they have failed to pass a budget for this year before the budget deadline?  Wouldn't we be better off not paying them if they have not passed the budget for the next year at least three months before it would take effect?  We should also stop paying them once they leave office.  Once their terms are up and they no are no longer serving the country, they should go and get another job, just like the rest of us need to if we leave our current employment.  Politicians make me sick.
  2. I received the ten trees and two crape myrtles from the Arbor Day Foundation today.  Now I just need to find a place to plant them.  I also have to wait until the weather warms up a bit more.  I don't think the saplings would like to be transplanted in this cold weather.
  3. I really like Pop Secret popcorn.  Act II used to be my favorite, but lately the taste has changed.  I also really like Pepsi Throwback.  It tastes much better that the version that uses the corn syrup.  I understand that the corn syrup provides a consistent sweetness, but there is a difference in taste that can not be denied.
  4. I really dislike McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, and Taco Bell.  All of their food makes me sick, usually after only an hour or so.  It did not do that when I was a kid.  It makes me wonder what they have changed.  Thankfully KFC and Subway don't make me sick yet.
  5. I have recently gotten back into woodworking.  I have a lot of things I would like to make.  Unfortunately, I have no place to put them once they are built.  I guess I'll be giving away a lot of homemade gifts this year.  I guess that will take care of Christmas!
  6. Maybe I can sell some of the things I make.  That would be nice.  I think I'll start small and make a couple of cutting boards or a jewelry box until I can re-hone my skills.  Of course, that will be after I make the workbenches I'll need so I can have a decent workspace.
  7. Just saw the first picture of Mercury that was taken by the Mercury Messenger spacecraft.  It is very detailed.  I also found it interesting that they have discover that the poles of the planet are frozen and that there is liquid water on Mercury.  I would have thought that a planet that close to the sun would be unable to maintain water of any kind.  It was also in the article that Mars has a large liquid iron core that, similar to the Earth's, that generates a magnetic field like we have on Earth.  Fascinating stuff.
  8. Opening day for baseball is tomorrow!  Go O's!  Go Cubs!  Go Keys!  I can't wait to go to the Keys game on the 12th.  They will be playing the Pelicans.  Then on the 30th I'll be able to see the Keys play them again in South Carolina.  I will enjoy it, I hope the kids do as well.  They are at least excited to go to the first game.
Well, as you can see, not much goes on here.  I'm going to close this out now because I've been typing off an on for over six hours.  Time for me to get ready for bed so I can be at work bright and early tomorrow morning.

Until next time, keep safe and warm and enjoy life to the extent you are able.



The A.T.

One of my favorite things to do is to go hiking.  I like throwing my pack on my back and taking off for a couple days to see what nature is up to.  My favorite place to hike is the A.T., or the Appalachian Trail for those who are uninitiated in its splendor.  I have hiked the Maryland section several times and I always manage to see something new each time I return.  When I get back to the trail, it always seems like I'm visiting an old friend that didn't even know I ever left.  Things just pick up from where they left off, as if we never parted ways...a welcomed homecoming every time I visit.

Last fall, my brother and myself and a couple of friends hiked a 90-mile section of the trail from where the trail crosses PA-94 south to Harpers Ferry, WV to raise money for the Save the Ta-ta's Foundation (a great organization that helps in the fight against cancer, check them out!).  Due to our lack of fundraising knowledge, we didn't raise much money, but what we did raise was appreciated and we all had a good time.  Except for those darned Chinese stinkbugs that were everywhere once we got south of I-70.  They got into everything!  From now on, I think I'll do my hiking in late spring/early summer before they become active.

Anyway, I yet again digress from the topic at hand.

One of the things I like most about hiking the trail besides the scenery is the people you meet along the way.  I have yet to meet anyone on the trail that I didn't get along with or have a good conversation with.  The people on the trail have so many stories, such diverse backgrounds, it is amazing the different people the trail attracts.  Everyone I have met is friendly and generous.  If you need help and they can assist, they will. 

The shelters I have stayed in are, for the most part, well kept and in good condition.  I have a couple favorites, one being the new Rocky Run Shelter.  Water is a short hike down the hill, but the area is gorgeous, nestled in a valley, just north of Lambs Knoll.  I have slept well there on a couple of occasions.  My other favorite is the Quarry Gap Shelter that is situate a few miles north of Caledonia State Park.  It is a beautiful shelter situated in a rhododendron grove.  The caretaker for this shelter told us he hikes in to check on it just about every day and it looked like it, the place we very clean and there was plenty of TP in the bathroom.

Other things I like about the A.T. are the places we stop to eat lunch or take a break.  Usually lunch is taken at a nice outcropping of rocks that gives us a good look at the scenery below or if we are in a lowlands area, we stop in a park or find a nice grove of trees to sit and relax in.  Whenever we reach Harper's Ferry, we always go to the same restaurant to have a bacon cheese burger and fries with a coke to celebrate the end of our hike.  It tastes so good every time, probably because we are tired of trail food by that time.

All-in-all, I would recommend anyone that can, take a hike on this magnificent trail.  It is very close to so many of us and the outdoors can be so enjoyable.  Also, it would be a good idea not to try too long of a hike on your first trip out.  Try taking a couple of day hikes and see how much you enjoy it.  Maybe take an overnight hike out to a shelter and back the next morning.  If you feel like continuing or going farther, make sure you leave an itinerary with someone you know and arrange a pick-up or leave a vehicle at you destination.  The last thing you want to do is get out there and have no way back.  Also, carry a cell phone.  So many areas have good signal that you can turn it on if you need it and keep it off the rest of the time to save the batteries.  Anything else you'd like to know, just google "Appalachian Trail" and you can find more information than you will ever need.

Well, that's it for this time.  Until next time, keep safe and warm and enjoy life to the extent you are able.


Ah, Books...

I love books. There is nothing like the feel of the pages between your fingers and the smell of a book takes me back to the elementary school library. I can't get enough of books. I still remember the first book I read solely for my enjoyment. It was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I was so enthralled with it, I read it in three days. Not so much of a feat for an adult, but as a seventh grader, I had never read more than fifteen minutes at any one time because, frankly, I hated it. After I finished it, I went right back to the book store and bought The Elf Stones of Shannara and that was all she wrote. I was hooked. Fantasy was my genre. Nothing could compare. Unfortunately, it was another five years before The Wishsong of Shannara came out but I managed to fill the time with various other books that did not have the same profound effect on me as the Shannara books have.


Transforming the Mundane into the Sublime – Part Three – Bottling and Enjoyment

**Warning** It is illegal for persons under the age of 21 to make/possess alcohol in the United States and laws are different in other countries so: This is being posted for informational purposes only. If it is illegal for you to make or possess alcohol wherever you are, don't do it! I will not be held responsible for your lack of judgment. **Warning**

At the end of my last post on this topic, I listed the equipment necessary for bottling the mead you have so painstakingly crafted. You should have had time to go out and buy/scavenge all of the items by now so, on to the last tasks in creating your first mead.

Step 1: As usual, you will need to wash your hands in warm soapy water, rinse them very well and dry them with a clean towel.

Step 2: Move your mead from where ever you had it while it fermented and place it on your kitchen counter. Move it carefully. (If you shake it too much, you will stir up sediment and if that happens, place the just on the kitchen counter, where you want it, and walk away for at least a week, then come back and begin again at step 1.)

Step 3: Sanitize all of the equipment we will be using today, which will be:
• Five empty wine bottles, or eight 500ml grolsch style bottles
• Five corks (if you are using wine bottles, I like the synthetic corks)
• The gaskets for the grolsch bottles (if you are using grolsch bottles)
Racking cane
• Tubing
• Hand corker (does not need to be sanitized)

Step 4: Once all of the sanitized equipment has air-dried attach the tubing to the racking cane and take the airlock off of the 1-gallon jug and set it aside.

Step 5: Note: From here on out, you will need two people to have the rest of this go smoothly. One person should insert the racking cane into the 1-gallon jug and lower it until it is in the middle of the liquid. DO NOT insert it into the sediment at the bottom of the jug (it is not poisonous; it just doesn’t taste very good). The other person should line up the bottles on the floor below the jug and place the hose into the first bottle letting the tubing touch the side of the bottles neck about half way down (you can also place the first bottle in an empty saucepan to help keep the floor clean in case of any spills).

Step 6: The step depends completely on the racking cane you bought: Whoever is supposed to start the siphon should do what they need to do now.

Step 7: Allow the first bottle to fill until it is about 1 inch from the top of the bottle, then the person filling the bottles should pinch the hose to stop the flow of liquid. Remove the hose from the bottle move it to the side. Place the next bottle where the first one was and fill it as well. Continue this process until you have filled as many of the bottles as you can. You may end up with a partial bottle, this is not a problem, just place it on your kitchen counter where it will not get spilled. Note: The person holding the racking cane should slowly lower the cane into the jug as far as they can without stirring up and sediment. This is to keep the racking cane from taking in any air, which will stop the siphon and cause you to have to start it again, possible stirring up sediment and causing further problems.

Step 8: Once you have finished filling the bottles, you can place the siphon hose into the sink and cap or cork your bottles as necessary. Once that is finished, wipe the outside of the bottles clean with a damp rag and place them on your counter.

Step 9: Move to your kitchen sink and put the gallon jug in it. Remove the racking cane and let it sit in the bottom of the sink. Run warm water into your jug just to loosen the sediment in the bottom and pour it all down the drain. You will have to work to get the cinnamon sticks and orange slices out of the jug, but it should not be too hard. Once rinsed clean, fill it up half way again and put back on the counter next to the sink. Insert the racking cane back into it, letting the end sit on the bottom. Start the siphon once more and drain the jug into the sink. Note: You are probably wondering why I had you stop and do this cleaning when you are so close to finishing the bottling, but it is important to get the gunk out of the jug ASAP as it can stink to the high heavens if you let it sit.

Step 10: Even with the bottles filled and corked, you are not quite finished yet. You have a couple more steps before you can enjoy this beverage. The first of these last steps is to label your bottles. Why, you ask? Because you have invested a bit of time and money in this endeavor and things always seem to taste better coming out of a bottle with a decent label on it. As for your labels, you can design them in a word processing program (tutorials can be found online) or you can go to the Beer Labelizer and design and print your own custom labels for free. Once you have them printed out, just cut them out with scissors and glue them to your bottles with children’s glue sticks you can get at Wal-mart or Target.

Step 11: Now that you have your bottles labeled, you still can’t drink from them (in your mind you should near Nelson from the Simpsons saying “Ha-ha!”). I know, I hear your cries and they do not fall on deaf ears. You will be able to taste your creation soon enough, but you must let it age and mellow a bit. You should put the bottles in the back of your refrigerator and forget about them for about another two months...that, or at minimum two weeks, to let the beverage settle inside the bottles. Now, if you have a partial bottle, this is where you are lucky (see step 12).

Step 12: For those of you who have a partial bottle, there is no point in placing it in the fridge. The oxygen trapped in the bottle will destroy the alcohol inside and make the mead taste nasty. You are one of those lucky few who will be able to taste what you have created right now. Just pour yourself a glass and sit back on the couch, turn on your favorite program and take a sip. Now, I am no guaranteeing that this will be the most fantastic thing you have ever tasted, but it should taste good. Remember, the longer you let it age before drinking it, the better it will get (to an extent, all bottles have their “maximum shelf life” and there is no way to tell when that has been reached. I have drunk meads I have created 3 years after making them and they are still good, but you could have a bottle go bad sooner.)

When you do finally go to drink your mead you might have a thin layer of sediment in the bottom of each of your bottles. This is nothing to worry about, just pour each glass slowly and try not to stir up the sediment. As I said before, it will not hurt you, but it may mildly alter the flavor of the beverage if it’s mixed in when you drink it.

That concludes my writing on this topic for now. I hope you have enjoyed this little tutorial and that you enjoy the beverage you make.  Until next time, keep safe and warm, and above all, enjoy life to the extent you are able.



Every Two Years...New Beginnings...

It seems that I get back to posting something just about every two years. I'm not sure why I am away so long between updates. Must just be life getting in the way. I always intend to get back to it the next day, but it just keeps getting stretched out until I forget I was even planning on posting something. Once again I find myself drawn back to posting sometime in late winter/early spring when I haven't been able to get outside in a while and I feel cooped up. It may have to do with the lack of outside time finally getting to me or just me finally remembering to get back to it. Anyway, I am apparently easily distracted by life and I now pledge to do everyting in my power to post at least once a day for the next week. After that I make no promises. Ontil I reach that point, we will all see what happens. Who knows, I might actually accomplish the task! Wouldn't that be exciting.

Now I just have to figure out what I have to talk about and get my random thoughts into some sort of an order. There are so many topics to choose from. I may need to ask the wife and kids for help or maybe I'll finish what I started when I wrote about making a simple batch of mead. That would be good. The only part I have left to write about Transforming the Mundane into the Sublime is what you need to do once the fermentation has finished. Should be simple enough...but...

I could also write about the woodworking I've been doing lately or the plans for this years garden. Another thing I could talk about is being a home school dad, something I've been "wrangled" into talking about next month at our homeschool co-op's Homeschool 101 session for prospective homeschool families. I could always touch on photography again, but I haven't been doing too much of that since the last time I talked. I have gone on a couple of good hikes in the last year, I could give the account of those for whoever is interested...So many possible subjects...You can see why I have a difficult time picking anything to talk about!

For instance, I could also talk about the hunting and fishing I've been doing. Even better, I could talk about the camping trips I've been on and the wonderful places I've seen. That would be really interesting to some of you. But where to start. That is the major dilema. My other problem is that I also see myself starting to write about one aspect of what is going on and being distraced and talking about other things that are going on as well. It is definitely hard to keep on topic when there is so much to write about.

I think I'll wrap up this little package by saying that I will do my best to keep things interesting and not bore everyone with the mundane details about anything and everything. I'll try to keep this as varied and interesting as you, the readers desire. With that in mind, please don't hesitate to post comments on my articles and tell me what you don't like. Also, please be sure to tell me what I do that you do like so I can keep it going. Feel free to suggest topics for me to talk about and I will see what I can do...no guarantees though! If it does not interest me, I will not write about it. Also, while I intend to stay on topic in a given article, understand that the topics will be greatly varied and may have nothing to do with any other topic I have talked about before and I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I wish to.

On comments and commenters: Try to keep the comments on the positive side of things though, no nasty comments to me or other readers will be tolerated. I will remove them from the site as I find them.

Well, I guess that is all for now. I hope I have not bored anyone to tears. As it stands now, I will be back tomorrow with another artice. I hope you will find it interesting and that it keeps you coming back from time to time to see what else I have to write about.

Until next time, keep yourself and your family safe and warm, and above all, enjoy life as much as you can.