Friday, November 21, 2008

My Nemesis Returns.

I don't think that Dr. V had it quite figured out in regards to the ole right knee. I'm pretty sure I can feel something poky slicing through my tissue between my tibia and kneecap, and it feels further down than the theoretically rough backside of my kneecap. I'm going to soldier through until Januaray, so that anything I have to do will count towards next year's deductable, but I'm really getting tired of this.

The pain level never gets lower than a 2 or a 3 on the totally subjective and probably unreliable scale they keep asking about. That is tolerable. But at least one or two days a week, it flares up to a 7 or 8. Last weekend, I tried some honest-to-god biking and actively using the Wii fit. I'm just now getting to where I can sleep easily at night again and take steps with my right leg without wincing. For a day or two, it hurt worse than anything associated with last year's surgery. So scratch the workout routine. Hyperelastic collagen could be exacerbating things, but I'm pretty sure that Osgood Schlatter is at work again.

And for a mead report, it is barely fermenting now. There are scattered bubbles on top of the must, but the airlock is so barely active that you can't measure any movement with the naked eye. The towel wrapped around the carboy to keep the sunlight out has become one of the kitty's favorite places to lurk.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Going to Hawaii!

Everything is official--booked and paid for. I have no clue what I'm doing for Thanksgiving. The day after, Kerry is going to join the hordes of sinister shoppers. But the day after that, we'll be flying to an island in the middle of the Pacific! Since I've never been further west than San Antonio, this will be a big leap for me.

Kerry is interviewing in Honolulu for a psychiatry residency on Monday, but we'll have most of Sunday and Tuesday to explore and do fun things. I'm excited. Hawaii has the most ethnically and religiously diverse population in the United States. I'm not sure how much of an impact that will have on our actual trip, but that alone makes it a place worthy of pilgramage. I've never been on a vacation befor without an ulterior this will be a learning experience.

The mead is coming along, I think. The must is bubbling a bit and the airlock bubbles about once every two minutes or so. From what reading I've done, that is an extremely slow fermentation. It could be a bad thing--meaning that my poor little yeasties are struggling for every last breath because of poor nutrition. But it could be a good thing--meaning that the early fermentation was so vigorous that it is nearly done. In the case of the former, I'll have a very weak mead because I am not going to add any more nutrient or energizer. In the case of the latter, though, it might have time to settle and clear up before I stabelize and bottle it prior to Christmas. Either way, Brandon and James, we're going to have mead.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sleeping Beauty: My First Opera

Yesterday, I attended my first opera performance. The UALR theater group put it on, I believe, way out at the Wildwood theater in West Little Rock. That is a beautiful place, by the way. From what I saw of it, it is a wooded park complex of which the Operahouse is only a component.

But anyway, I was skeptical about opera. I've seen bits and pieces of operatic performances before, but I've never seen an entire piece. Even when the performances are in English, I find it difficult to discern what the singers are actually saying. It was a little easier live, but what I failed to understand didn't ruin the pleasure of the performance. I was elated to be able to listen to a live orchestra accompanying astounding solo and choral pieces without being tortured by those who fail to harmonize.

The piece was Sleeping Beauty, and it was nice to be able to see past the Disney incarnation of the story. The theater group threw in a few unique interpreations, too. After an entirely traditional performance through the first three acts, it was hilarious to see Prince Charming introduced as a country club golfer who kills the evil spider guarding the castle with bug spray. But the final acts do take place 300 years later, so perhaps it is actually a more honest portrayal. :)

The costuming and the lighting were amazing, and it just felt rewarding to watch a performance without a medium between me and the entertainers. It was not mass broadcast for millions. It was not recorded to be sold and rented in movie galleries. It was not posted on Youtube. It was a singluar, unique moment of entertianment in which artisans and audience celebrated the arts together.

I think I want to go to more operas.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Serendipitous Story.

Yesterday evening, with Kerry still in Lexington and my computer still at the Best Buy Recovery Center, I called my buddy Josh--a friend I picked up from my Starbucks days--to see if he wanted to go to Senior Tequila's for burritos. He declined, but offered a counterproposal. So, to kick off the evening, I got to hang out with a few of his friends for an hour and tour his new house: a very lovely classical affair in the downtown area with a rose garden, fruit trees, and a pool.

After that, we went to the Weekend Theater where he worked as master of the house and I worked the concession stand/bar so that we could watch Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens for free. Not exactly a chipper play...and not exactly a play so much as a collection of thirty or so monologues. But it had some chipper moments and was pulled off nicely.

Once the play was finished, we converged upon the Rumba for drinks and karaoke (I don't care much for their food). Walking into the place, I thought I recognized the girl singing on the stage. And upon looking around, I thought I recognized nearly everyone sitting at the table closest to the stage. Since our group was setting up camp right behind them, it wasn't long before we figured it out: all of my best friends from the semester I went to ASMS were there celebrating a birthday. We had a pretty close-knit group of five during the five months I lived in Hot Springs seven years ago: three geeky guys and two smokin' hot girls. One of latter whom was the unfortunate victim of my biggest unrequited high school crush.

So we mingled. We got tipsy. Some of us sang songs goodly, and the rest of us badly. Twas a jolly good evening. This afternoon, some of us are meeting again to attend an Opera.

The downside of this story is the recurring phenomenon that whenever I want to eat Senior Tequila's burritos, something always gets in the way.


Today I cracked the airlock on my mead long enough to dump in one and a half teaspoons each of ground cloves and allspice. Since I already added cinnamon, I'm not really making mead anyway. I'm making methlegin. So why not make a nice holiday-spiced methlegin?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thanksgiving Blend.

It is Fall--my second favorite season next to Winter. The air is getting cooler and gustier, leaves are turning all sorts of nice colors, and Starbucks has a new promotional coffee blend. Slap some Sumatra and Guatemala Antigua together, cram it into a pretty blue and gold bag, and Boom!: Thanksgiving Blend coffee. I'm usually not one for the extra-roasty dark blends that Starbucks offers, but adding in the Guatemalan beans cuts it down to a reasonable tone. It's mildly spicy and has a pretty little bite, but the aftertaste seems confused. It wants to be smooth and comes off as mediocre.

My three gallon batch of mead must was roiling like a carnival this morning, so I guess there's success on that front. There was no massive gushing of foamy bloom, but perhaps that is yet to come. I went ahead and put an airlock on it just for good measure. Given the rate at which the bubbles are fizzing and the cinnamon sticks are cycling around, though, the yeast is having fun. Given the temperature today, I may have to start a fire tonight to keep them nice, warm, and active.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Little Carboy.

With Kerry in another state and the good computer at the Best Buy Service Center for repairs, I finally took the plunge this evening with something I have been building up to for nearly a year. After work, I drove out to Fermentables in North Little Rock. I acquired a three-gallon glass carboy with a stopper and two airlocks, a racking cane and siphon tube, yeast, nutrient, and energizer. On the way home, I dropped into Kroger and got three gallons of spring water and six pounds of local Fischer's clover honey.

Yep. I'm attempting to make my first batch of mead.

So...I heated two and a half gallons of water in a giant ole pot, mixing in the three quarts of honey. I let one Lipton tea bag sit in the mixture for a bit, and then squeezed it out for tannin. I stirred in a tablespoon of yeast energizer and three tablespoons of nutrient. I then (after realizing I didn't have a funnel) siphoned this into the carboy. I crushed four cinnamon sticks into the top of the carboy, then chased them with a pack of D-47 yeast. After spinning it about for a few minutes, I set it in the sink, put a hollow stopper in the top, and covered that with a towel.

I expect to wake up tomorrow to a very sticky towel and messy sink, as the yeast should form a bloom as it goes hog wild in its new food supply. Technically, I should have let this first fermentation process happen in a different container so that I could siphon out the must and leave the sediments formed during this process out of the rest of the fermentation--a process called racking. But most of the ancient recipes for mead do not call for any racking, and I'd like to preserve a sort-of thick, cloudy, Viking texture in the final product. Since I'm also in a bit of a hurry (I'd like it to be ready for the New Year if possible), I don't want to lose any nutrient or yeast to racking.

I know this will cause my mead to be a bit harsh--hence the four sticks of cinnamon. As long as it is drinkable, I won't care. I'll have made my first batch of mead and be comfortable enough with the process to treat the next one like a pro. If it is too bad, I can always spice it before bottling.

So hopefully, this will work and in a little less than two months I'll have 15 bottles of hearty mead.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We did.