Monday, December 23, 2013

Social Media..

I have been a user of the Internet since 1993.  For the young folks, that was before the World Wide Web and most things that we consider normal these days.  I've learned a great many things in the 20 years I've been using this great and wonderful tool.

Perhaps the single most important thing that I've learned is that while the Internet is a wonderful tool for expressing ones views, it also lacks the personal connection that we all use to gauge the effect of what we're saying on others.  It lacks the mechanism that provides the ultimate feedback when we say things that are truly hurtful: physical threat.  Said another way, if I were to say something truly hurtful/hateful/mean to someone in person, I'd have to consider the very real threat of a punch in the mouth, right?

The Internet lacks this feedback mechanism. There are ZERO consequences for poor behavior. We've devolved into a society which alternately places too much and too little emphasis on what the masses say & think and marginalizes the truly beneficial connections to those around us.

My real reason for saying these things is this:  Facebook has become the altar at which all these undesirable behaviors manifest.  I've watched it become something fun, interesting and useful. I've also watched it become a cesspool of misinformation, hate and spite as well.  I find myself going less & less and with the New Year, will be making a decision.  Starting on 1/1/14, I will not post to Facebook any longer. I may check in from time to time, but it will not longer pollute my life.

If you want to find me, I'll be over here on Google+.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shameless plug for a good cause...

Hey everyone,

I figured that I'd put this here rather than blast out status updates.  

I've decided to do something that I haven't done before. That's been a theme of mine for the last several years.  Life is way too short to spend it wanting.  It's what prompted me to begin practicing martial arts and brew beer.  It's also why I'm posting this.

You see, I've lost 3, close family members to cancer or complications as a result of it.  My grandmother was in the late 90's, but my father and grandfather were in 2008 and 2010 respectively.  For them, I've decided to participate with a couple of my co-workers in the Jimmy Fund Walk this year.  The Jimmy Fund supports a local, children's cancer hospital that does amazing work.  

I'll be walking 26.2 miles along the Boston Marathon route on September 8, 2013.  If you're interested and would like to support my walk (and cancer research and a children's cancer treatment center), click on this link: 


and donate, if you like.

I appreciate all support in any way that you choose to give it.  

Thanks!

Jeff


p.s.  I'll be live-tweeting, Facebook updating throughout the entire thing.  I'm sure I'll be a wreck but I have 2 great partners to walk with.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Tripel

This is another beer post.  After what has seemed like a long time, the Belgian Tripel IPA that I made over my holiday vacation is finally drinkable.  I decided to try one this evening.  I put one of the oddball bottles that I had in the fridge at around 6pm. It was moderately chilled by 8:15 or so.

I was rewarded with a healthy pop when I opend this one.  The last month sitting in my office did the trick.  Warming up the yeast and letting it eat the last bit of sugar in the beer and I now have a decently carbed Tripel.

I'm going to leave it in my office until 5/15 and will then transfer it downstairs.  This is not an every day beer. We'll see how it ages.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rage

I was angry in 2001. I can only describe what I feel today as rage.  Rage that someone would do this to innocent people. Rage that the individuals responsible chose my new home.  Rage that the perpetrator thinks that it will somehow change us. I want to spit in the eye of anyone who thinks he can intimidate me into changing my lifestyle due to fear.  If I'm honest with myself, I really want to do much worse than spit in their eye.

My parental genes, at least on the DuVall side, are pushing in a direction that doesn't surprise me.  Rather than cower in my home, where I feel safe, I feel an overwhelming urge to continue to do what I have always done.  I want to go to work and enjoy the time I have here.  I want to continue to help those that I can and, hopefully, enrich my family and my life at the same.

Those feelings are at war with my intense desire to keep my family safe.

I resolved today, on my train ride home, to not cower in fear if I saw someone doing something wrong. I resolved to do something to stop it, if I could.  I resolved to be the person running toward the problem and helping rather than away.

I guess, in short, that I resolved to put my rage to good use.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Holding out for Winter Storm Shaggy.

I've spent the better part of today, when I wasn't working, watching the Winter Storm Nemo updates either on the local news or on Weather.com's live stream.  It's been enlightening to watch modern technology at work.

The storm predictions seem to have been pretty accurate.  Local news is comparing the blizzard that we're in the middle of to the one in 1978.  In that case, many people died and the meteorologists complete missed the prediction because their models weren't as accurate as they are today.  Quite a few people died from what I understand.

In this case, however, preparations began several days ago, and for the most part, people prepared.

I'm sitting at home now with the only real worry is that we don't lose power overnight.  We're ready for it, but it's going to be a little cold.

Part of my "watching" today taught me that the National Weather Service must be hard up for a naming scheme for storms.  I thought Nemo was kinda silly but learned that Winter Storm Orko is in Utah right now.  Really? Orko?  Orko ranks among the top 3 most annoying cartoon characters of my childhood.  I had horrible taste in both television and cartoons, so Orko's making the top 3 should tell you something.

It's also funny listening to the TWC commentators say Orko over and over.

I spent a few minutes thinking up more ridiculous names for storms. Here they are:

  • Winter Storm Skeletor
  • Winter Storm Panthro
  • Winter Storm Ratchet
  • Winter Storm Scoobie Doo


and my personal favorite: Winter Storm Shaggy.  I'd better stock up on Scoobie Snacks.

Minor beer update: The tripel is very clear after a move to my 58F basement.  Can't wait to drink this one.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Brewing Update

It's been a month since I did my vacation brew-fest.  The ESB is just about ready.  The flavors are toning down and when I bottle this one, it should be very tasty.  I've had a very tough time not drinking this one.  In retrospect, I should have just let it age and not sample it until the recipe said it would be ready.

My tripel IPA, on the other hand, has been an interesting journey.  If you read my last post, you'll recall that fermentation ended very early and with and exceptionally high gravity considering where it was supposed to be.  The good news is that my gravity is now where it should be.  It's still fermenting though and I'm curious how long the gravity will go with the second addition of yeast and with the starter.

My sample today was 1.016.  My original gravity was 1.078.  That puts the ABV at around 8.5%.  According to my hopville.com, that's close to it's target gravity.  Taste wise, it tastes like the tripels that I've had.  I'm hoping the dry-hopping that I intend to do will balance out the fruity & alcohol flavors a bit.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Always learning

Enough politics and social issues for now.  Let's talk beer.  I brewed 2 batches while I was on vacation around the Holiday and both were ready to work on today.


Skid Lid ESB

I've been looking forward to this brew for quite a while.  I cut my teeth (or you might say I conditioned my liver) on Redhook ESB and Widmer Hefeweizen back when craft brewing wasn't as big as it is now.  When I started home brewing myself, I wanted to make beers that were close to both of these.

My first attempt at home brewing, while good, wasn't close in color or flavor to the Widmer brew.

Today, I kegged my ESB.  It is a beautiful golden/amber color and is exceptionally clear.  Having not dry hopped anything before (or actually tasting a Redhook ESB in years), I have to admit that I found this one interesting and quite nice.

In my sample, it initially hits you with hop aroma and flavor.   It's not an IPA, but the dry hopping certainly adds something that is intriguing and nice.  The back of the mouth has what I recall from my "youth" of the ESB.  It has a nice blend of bitterness and malt flavor.

I'm going to sample some in about a week but won't be truly drinking this in earnest for another 4 or so.


de Coster Hop Monster

My renewed interest in beer has taught me which styles and flavors that I like.  Two of those are Belgian/Trappist style Tripels and IPA's.   This brew was a kit purchased from Northern Brewer in Minnesota.  It combines both styles and I have high hopes for how this will turn out.

I racked it to secondary today.  I learned that I made 2 minor mistakes while making this particular beer.  If you're not familiar, Trappist styles are high alcohol brews.  The tripel weighs in at around 8-9% but has a clear and light flavor when compared to other styles.  They generally take 1-3 months to ferment and up to 1 year to condition properly in a bottle.

One of my mistakes, after a quick call, was to not get the yeast going prior to pitching.  The other was that my basement cooled down below the range where this particular yeast is really happy.  I'll be buying/ordering another package of the yeast and pitching it into the current fermentation container at a higher temp.

As a side note, it tasted pretty good today but wasn't close to the final alcohol content or flavor profile.


One last thing, all of my beers have a motocross/motorcycle theme.  Check out my work in progress, Holeshot Brewing if you want to learn more.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I have a fork and spoon problem. Let's ban those too.

America has a problem.  The problem is that Americans, as a whole, are unwilling to look at a situation objectively and come to a reasoned and practical solution.  In this case, I'm talking about the recent mass shootings and the debate around gun control.

I'll be up front. I don't own any guns, nor do I plan to in the near future.  I do, however, believe in The Constitution and all of it's Amendments, specifically, the 2nd.  In my view, we'd still be a British Colony had guns in the hands of the public not allowed us to fight for our Independence.  I also feel that in a free country, you assume certain risks for your freedoms.  One of them is that occasionally someone is going to make a mistake and/or abuse their rights and harm someone.

The debate around gun control based on these incidents is like outlawing wheat because people are allergic.  The analogy isn't perfect but you get the drift.  Many, many people own firearms legally, use the safely and live productive lifetimes with them around.  They're a tool, and tools, when used properly, are a benefit to society.

Here's the question that I ask myself:  If someone walked into a crowded theater and began hitting people with a baseball bat, would I we be wanting to ban baseball?  No. We wouldn't.  Swords?  No.  Heck, if we extended the current thinking, we'd be banning forks because we're overweight.

The real problem is how we treat each other and how we, as human beings, value other life.  Something was and is clearly wrong with the individuals who perpetrated these events.  They clearly valued other human lives very little and their own even more.  We should be investigating how and why we weren't able to identify and treat these individuals for their problems prior to their actions.

Personally, I do blame my fork.  Of course, when I don't lose weight after the fork ban, I'll have to ban my fingers as well because I'll still eat more than I should.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

So the Mayans were practical too?

Like the mainframe programmers in the '70's, the Mayans simply made a practical decision about when to end their calendar.  As I suspected, the end of a calendar isn't some dire prediction of doom. It's an opportunity to start with a clean slate and move toward something better without the shackles of time to drag you down.

The year 2012 was eventful even if the supposed apocalypse didn't occur. It did see quite a few significant events, at least for me and my family.  Here's a recap.

Family

Where to start?  I suppose you could say that this was our year to try new things.  Everyone in the family did something that they haven't before.

In February, my son, daughter, and I started talking karate lessons in Grafton.  In particular, we are practicing Ed Parker's American Kenpo with a fantastic instructor.  My daughter and I are currently at orange belt and working toward purple.  It's been a great way to spend some quality time with my daughter while learning and exercising at the same time.  I've always wanted to try a martial art and this one seems to agree with me.

After a bit of a hiatus, the kids and I have started playing pen and paper role playing games again.  Our neighbor across the street has been interested in playing for a while and I offered to run a game for them.  With a few exceptions, we've played weekly since June or so.  It's been great fun and a good way to spend time with my son doing something he enjoys.  I expect that we'll be playing for the next several years.

Lastly, for me at least, I began a hobby that I've been interested in since I was in college.  I've had the equipment for several years but actually started brewing my own beer in August with the help of my neighbor.  In particular, this is a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy.  The act of crafting, and drinking, the beer speaks to an inner need to create things that taste good.


Friends

Thanks to my wife, karate, and brewing, we have begun building a network of friends in Massachusetts.  This was something that took us quite a while when we moved to Puyallup in 2000.  Thankfully, we have a few neighbors that we get along with very well and enjoy doing things with.  We've also been spending time with a few of my new friends in karate.

I look forward to continuing the building of those friendships in 2013.

Work

My job has been an interesting and enjoyable ride since our relocation to MA in 2010.  I've had a total of 3 different managers in that time, but those changes were primarily due to attrition. The first 2 managers have moved on to other positions outside the company.

The good news here is that I've been offered, and accepted, a promotion in 2012 and am working toward building programs and processes that improve our group and the IT department as a whole. It's interesting and exciting work. I look forward to 2013 and what my professional life hold in store.

Recently, I spoke at a user conference.  While I've spoken in front of groups before, I haven't done so in front of so many.  It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.  I'm resolved to do more of this in the future.


I'm not the sort to make New Year's resolutions.  I find that I don't keep them anyway.  Instead, I choose to look at every year as an opportunity to learn and grow.  This year will be no exception.  My message to my friends and family is this:  Keep striving for what you want. Keep learning. Keep growing. Never give up.  Lean on those that you love.  Seize the opportunity in front of you.

Happy New Year!