Beersperiment 1, Part 1: Belgian Banana Bread Beer

I’ve finally decided to try my hand at making a beer from my own recipe and hence, beersperiment #1: Belgian Banana Bread Beer.  I’m aiming for a higher alcohol content (~11%) Belgian with a lot of banana smell and flavor.  In fact, you could say I’m wanting to make you drunk off banana bread. 🙂

Loading up the wonderful BeerSmith, I started with a standard Belgian Dark Ale recipe and began to modify it to meet my needs.  After I was happy with how all of this should end up according to BeerSmith, I printed out the instructions and grain bill and headed down to my local homebrew store to procure most of the goodies.  I had to pick up the dried banana chips and fresh walnuts from Sprouts.  The fresh walnuts are part of the experiment that’ll be done during the time the beer spends in the secondary carboy and I’ll explain it then.

Brew day went fairly well except for a little miscalculation near the end on the amount of water I needed in the pot during the boil.  I was a little low and ended up with a bit thicker wort than expected.  However, I can’t say it was too bad since the gravity came out almost perfect to what BeerSmith calculated.  Once the beer was put into the primary fermenter and started fermenting, I was glad I did the whole blow-off tube setup on this one.  The yeast for this is particularly active and had I not had the blow-off tube setup, I’d probably be cleaning wort off of the ceiling and walls…

In part two I’ll talk about the racking to the secondary along with the little walnut surprise that I’ve cooked up.

The Woodworking Project: A Semi-Hollow Body Gibson ES-335 Replica Guitar

As I mentioned in the post about VLC, I’ve been deciding on a new project to take up.  That new project is a hollow bodied electric guitar with hand carved top and bottom; the one I’m planning to build is going to look a lot like this, a Gibson ES-335.  I have a lot of oak so I want to make use of it extensively in the guitar even though it is a rather unconventional wood for guitars.  Unfortunately, this time I’m not going to use the oak; perhaps for the next instrument :).  As far as the other specs go, I’m wanting to use dual humbuckers, dual volume and tone controls with the ability to coil tap the humbuckers.  Of course, you’ve gotta go with the Bigsby B7 vibrato, 22 frets and a few custom touches.

Here it is a little more broken down (and where I intend to get the electronics and such from)

  1. Electronics
    1. Two Humbuckers (Wolfetone Pickups)
    2. Two Volume pots (long stem, 500k)
    3. Two Tone pots (long stem, 500k, push/push)
    4. Bigsby B7 Vibrato
  2. Woods
    1. Maple top and bottom and center block
    2. Mahogany sides and neck
    3. Ebony fretboard

Of course, there is so much more to get, like the wood for all the molds that will need to be made along with some tools that I am lacking in order to make it.  I could do it without some of these tools, but really, where is the fun in doing something without a new tool to play with :).  When I finally gather all the parts and start actually working on the project, I’ll be sure to update the website to keep y’all informed of my problems and successes and other such ramblings.

VLC Media Player

Recently, I’ve been thinking about doing a wood working project and had been searching the tubes for any ideas or help I could find on how to accomplish my task.  Well, as luck would have it, I found a site devoted to what I wanted to do and it had a ton of videos for download on how the person went about accomplishing the task.

So, as any rational person would do, I downloaded all the videos to my hard drive in order to watch them when I had the time (and because you never know when the person will decide to take down the videos).  Anyway, I decided to make sure that the videos downloaded correctly and double clicked on one of them only to be given a wonderful error message from QuickTime.  QuickTime couldn’t play MPEG2 video without spending $20 on a codec download from Apple.  Even worse, the codec itself was not getting stellar reviews from people on the Apple site.  So that was two strikes against QuickTime and it already had one since I don’t like it in the first place.

At this point I needed a video player that was free and played MPEG2 and hopefully didn’t suck.  Then I remembered VLC.  It was a staple program on all of my pcs and I hadn’t just gotten around to downloading it to my new iMac.  VLC is hands down one of the best video players you can get.  It can play almost every format without any additional codec downloads, it has a small footprint, and is extremely quick to load.  I downloaded VLC, got it installed (as simple as dragging the application to the Applications folder (thank God for simple software install on a Mac) and then double-clicked the icon and I was on my way.  I tested the videos and they played without a hitch — I can work on planning my project a little bit more (while doing my PhD work and regular work and having a social life :)).

Iif you need a video player, don’t rule out VLC, in fact, I’d make it your go to choice when watching videos or DVDs on your computer.

Diabetic Book Reviews

After leaving work at little early on Friday after not feeling the greatest and suffering some of the effects of high-blood sugar associated with Type 1 Diabetes, I decided it’d be very beneficial to me to read some book out there on the subject and see what I could learn.  I read Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, Pumping Insulin: 4th Edition, and Think Like a Pancreas from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning.  Yes, this was a heck of a lot of reading, but when things concern your well-being, you tend to be able to maintain more focus than what you think you can.  All the books offer some great advice, some good advice, and some advice you’re just not going to take.

Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook is a great book discussing what changes a diabetic would need to make in order to perform at their peak during a given athletic activity.  The first seven chapters describe the basics of exercise, fitness, insulin, blood sugar control and other related subjects.  I’ll admit I found them very interesting since they describe in layman’s terms what is going on in the body when you exercise and how to best control your blood sugars.  The second section of the book is really what you want the book for.  This section provides guidelines on preventing low blood sugars while partaking in your particular athletic endeavor.  The book covers everything from gardening to football (both American and the rest-of-the-world) to motorcycle and off-road racing.  I found it worthwhile since I enjoy working out, mountain biking, and doing day hikes and nature trails.  This book has exactly what I need to do in order to remain safe without me having to go out there and find out for myself how to best handle it.

The next book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution is billed as ‘The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars.”  I won’t disagree with the title, the book is very thorough on what exactly Dr. Bernstein does with all of his patients from how to draw insulin correctly to what diet you should eat.  Although he never comes out and says anything he doesn’t seem to be a fan of Insulin pumps which I think are wonderful things (thanks to my severe hypoglycemic reactions to the long lasting insulins like Lantus); however, the advice can still be followed by pump users even if you have to modify some of his advice.  Personally, I’m not a fan of his diet routine described in the book, but, I see where he is coming from and do intend to integrate some of his ideas into my diet.  I am also very big on his idea of getting all diabetics down to normal blood sugar levels seen by non-diabetic people, even if it will take them a little bit of time to drop their blood sugars and feel comfortable in doing it.  The section devoted to supplies that all diabetics should have is complete and matches almost exactly what I was told when I first visited my endocrinologist.  In fact, many of his ideas were used by my endocrinologist and diabetes educator so it was almost like redoing the first few visits at the doctor’s office.

Pumping Insulin: 4th Edition is nothing like Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger unless pushing a button on a pump is like doing bench presses :).  Pumping Insulin is probably the best book for general information I read this weekend.  It goes into detail on everything needed to adjust and determine initial bolus and basal doses as well as carb to insulin ratios and correction factors when using a pump.  If you’re on an insulin pump or thinking of going onto one, this book is worth getting.

Think Like a Pancreas sounds like a children’s book, but it is most definitely not.  I was amazed that this book covered situations that occur in the real world and doesn’t tell you to just “don’t do it.”  For instance, drinking alcohol; most diabetic books will say never drink it, this one says, you can drink it, and here is how to make sure you don’t suffer from the low blood sugars afterward.  Of course, one still needs to exercise some form of discretion because getting hammered isn’t going to help you adjust your pump and there aren’t many people I’d trust to adjust settings on my pump.  This book in content is much like Pumping Insulin and covers most of what Pumping Insulin covers, just sometimes not as in as much detail.

If you’re looking for a good general reference book I think Dr. Bernstein’ book is the best bet.  If you’re looking for information on helping you adjust to a pump and are an adult Think Like a Pancreas is better than Pumping Insulin, but if you’re prone to forgetting things, Pumping Insulin is better.  Finally, if you’re an athlete or like to think of yourself as one; Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook is worth the purchase.

Modifying CSS in the LightWord theme for WordPress

The theme that I am currently using on my website, LightWord, is generally very nice and I love it.  However, there are a few issues with it, luckily, LightWord offers a nice way to correct some of the formatting issues without actually having to update the theme itself through the LightWord Settings page.

To access the LightWord Settings page, go to the Appearance -> LightWord Settings choice on the left side menu in the WordPress admin dashboard.

In this page, scroll down to the Custom CSS settings text box.  At this text box you can enter any additional CSS and it will be inserted into every page on your blog.  I’ve used this to fix a few issues that I have with LightWord.  First, I wanted my blog title to appear in a different color.  I changed this, with the following bit of CSS:

h1#logo,h1#logo a{color:#FF6600;}

Secondly, I wanted a different background; which was solved with this snippet:

body {background:url(‘wp-content/themes/k3290370.jpg’) repeat;}

Lastly, the drop down menu background was too small for some of the titles it was displaying so it would cause them to overflow.  I did a quick change that expanded the size of the menu drop down background, like this:

#front_menu ul {width:300px;}

Of course, you can override all the CSS you want within this text box, so if you wanted to change the color of links or whatever, you can do it right here without modifying the actual LightWord theme.  In addition to the Custom CSS, the settings page also allows you to add in additional scripts, headers, and footers.

New battery for the car

A few days ago I had decided to drive the 911 out to meet some friends at the wonderful German food place near my house.  So, I took the time to pull the cover off the car, give it a quick dust off, move my other car out from behind it, then hop in and then hopped in to start it.  Alas, as you can guess my the name of this post, it didn’t happen.

I figured what the heck, I only drive the car a little bit a year and I hadn’t driven it in over two months, so it’ll just need to be jump started and I can do that later.  I finally got around to later yesterday evening.  And, I tried jumping it, which was no good.  So I let it sit for a while with the other car running to see if it would charge up the battery enough to start it.  And that didn’t happen either.  So taking my a multimeter to it, I found out I only had a 9V reading across the terminals.  Yep, a dead battery.  Sucks to have to buy a new battery, but this time I’m being smart(er) and procuring a trickle charger as well.  That way I can hopefully prevent this from happening again anytime soon.