We started our second batch of beer on Saturday. It is a Northern English Brown Ale (BJCP style 11C), from a recipe of mostly my own design - (click for link to recipe on Hopville). Dead Like Me was a great show. ;) Nothing overly special, but should be a nice, highly drinkable beer. We'll know in about 14 days!
Later that day we went to the holiday gathering of our homebrew club and had a BLAST! Met a bunch of new friends, hung out with some older friends, and sampled lots of good homebrewed beer, mead, and 11 year old Boris Barleywine from LBC (which is where the party was). Amazing fun!
Then yesterday, she made a killer sourdough bread from a starter she'd been working with for about a week. The bread rose perfectly with NO added yeast - the starter (as it's supposed to!) provided all the leavening. The bread tastes amazing, too!
We also packaged up a batch of sauerkraut we'd had fermenting for probably close to 2 months. The flavor is very good - easily better or at least as good as any commercial kraut I've ever had. A success.
Was a nice weekend of mostly food/etc hobbies. :)
Before I get onto the main subject of this post, I just want to mention I took a couple bottles of our first-ever homebrew, a black IPA, to the club meeting on Tuesday and it was well-received. "Doesn't have the typical 'kit flavor'" was said by more than a couple of the members. While it was brewed from a kit - it was a kit assembled by the homebrew shop (Great Fermentations), rather than a commercially packaged, mass-produced kit. And while it used extracts (liquid and dry), it also used a lot of specialty grains, and lots of separate hop additions during the boil, as well as dry-hopping in secondary. So, a very complex "kit." Anyway - we're happy with our first brew!
Our second batch will be a Northern English Brown Ale (11C), from extract-with-specialty-grains, a recipe of my own design, cobbled together from what others have done. Can't wait to get it going.
My favorite style of beer, overall, is Stout. And one of the most interesting varieties of Stout is Russian Imperial Stout, or simply Imperial Stout. It has a higher alcohol content, and higher hop (bitter) content than the other Stout styles, in order to survive export to Russia from Great Britain. It also allows for a huge range of specialty grains to be used to create flavors in the brew.
So - our first batch of all-grain brew will be a Russian Imperial Stout! We don't have the gear for doing all-grain yet, but we'll work on getting that set up, and in the meantime, make the Northern English Brown using extract. Moving to all-grain will be exciting!
We're also getting into tinkering with water chemistry. We never do anything half-way. Sigh. :D
For years, we've liked quality coffee. We'd been ordering fresh-roasted whole bean coffee from Intelligentsia, located in Chicago. We'd have our coffee within a few days of it being roasted, as opposed to mass produced commercial coffee, which may have been roasted months and months ago. Then, earlier this year we decided to try home-roasting, so we bought a HotTop roasting machine. Since then, we've roasted approximately 75 batches of coffee, 250 grams each; so, over 37 pounds of coffee. Buying green and roasting yourself is a lot cheaper than buying pre-roasted, so discounting the cost of the roaster itself, we've saved quite a bit of money. And the roasting process is enjoyable, plus it gives you a lot of control over how your coffee comes out. Even tiny changes in roast length, temp, and so forth, have a dramatic effect on the outcome.
We've had the chance to try numerous origins, processing styles, and so forth. We've really had a chance to taste pretty much everything coffee has to offer. Last weekend, we were talking with a local friend, who was raised in Puerto Rico, and he told us of a family member who owns a small coffee plantation there. He's aging, and hasn't actually tended the plantation actively in a while, but we still may be able to get some green coffee from there and try roasting it. It'd be very cool to have that direct connection to the coffee. Without active tending of the crop it may not be very good, but it'd still be worth it to try it and see.
The previously mentioned Chicken Raising Cabal©™ is going forward nicely. The group has decided to structure it as an informal co-op. 30 shares were created, and each family can purchase as many as they like. We bought in for 4 shares, and if needed, we'll buy more just to see the project go forward. We need to use the land of Wabash Mountain Farm as we're not allowed, and don't have the room, to raise chickens at our house, so we kind of feel we should put more into the project financially, since we don't have as much to offer physically and knowledge-wise. Most of the other families have at least raised laying chickens before.
Lizz got her second tattoo last night, and it went very well. Except for a few spots, she said it was much less painful than her first. It's a beautiful design, and as expected Grant did a perfect job. :) We have pics of the process up on Facebook, if you have either of us friended. I'll be getting my second one fairly soon; I'm working out the design as I can.
As a parting topic, I wanted to mention how odd and interesting it is how people meet. We've met a few people lately, that we could have met via probably 3 or 4 or more different "paths." It's almost like we were "destined" to meet, and this has been a pattern for a lot of my life. Back in California, in my odd circle of friends, there were sometimes 5 or more paths we could have met via, so there was really no way we could've not met somehow. And here it is happening again, later in life. Almost like a tribal recognition. Very strange, but very cool. I wonder if it's like that for other groups of people; I suspect it is. :)
Last Tuesday, I got my first tattoo. It's healing, so I'm not ready to post a picture yet, but if you have me friended on Facebook, there is a rough picture there. By next week it should be ready for photos. Lizz is getting her second tattoo today, and we're both excited to see how it'll come out.
My first tattooing experience went amazingly well. I was nervous about the pain, of course, but it really wasn't bad. Sure, yeah, it hurts, but it's not that bad, and it's so worth it. I'll be getting more, for sure. Grant at Tattooed Heart is an amazing artist, though we're both planning to get work from other artists eventually too. As they say, tattoos are addicting...
Our first batch of homebrew is bottled! We bottled 46 bottles, and poured out 2 pints for us - and it tastes great even now. Totally drinkable. After a week to 10 days in the bottle it'll be even better though, and we're looking forward to sharing some of it at the THC meeting on the 14th!
Next batch will be a Newcastle clone, more or less. Should be better than Newcastle, though. ;)
Couldn't think of a "B" word for planes. :D
My first batch of homebrew is coming along exactly as it should. On Saturday evening we transferred it from the primary fermenter to secondary, drawing a small sample to test for specific gravity. It was in the range it should be, so all is proceeding well. We tasted the sample, and it tastes like slightly weak, non-carbonated beer - which is what it is! No off-flavors at all - at least not to our untrained tastebuds.
So, in about a week, we'll be bottling it, then 1-2 weeks later, it'll be ready for drinking and giving probably 80% of the batch away, as we don't drink a ton of beer. There'll be some happy people for sure. ;)
As I said in the last post, I have the chance to learn to hunt, and use some very nice non-public land to do so, so on Saturday I headed over to Arrows 3 and purchased a hunting bow. It's a very popular entry level hunting bow - a PSE Stinger NI. I bought it fully setup and ready to shoot/hunt with - arrow rest, sight, peep, you name it. After having some arrows made for me, I used their indoor range to roughly sight it in at 20 yards, with the help of my friend Chad.
I haven't shot a bow in about 20 years, and even then I had no training or clue about how to do it. I just picked up a friend's bow and shot it, doing basically everything wrong. But, I did hit targets and I wasn't too bad. So now, 20 years later, wanting to "do it right," I wondered how I'd do. Well, my second shot grazed the fletching of my first. ;) So, I have a "trophy arrow" with 1 cut fletching. I've got a lot of practicing to do - a HUGE lot - but, at least I have the confidence I'll be at least moderately skilled at archery. And it's fun!
Chad is moving, and downsizing some hobbies, so he had some R/C stuff for sale at a good price, so I now have an X9303 transmitter, and a mostly fully setup H&M Performance FW-190 sitting in my hobby room. The 190 is a big, 63" wingspan, built-for-electric scale model of the German WWII fighter. It's considered one of the best large electric warbirds out there, and I'm lucky to have one, as H&M Performance folded under the pressure of massive competition. The only things I need are batteries (and hence a charger), a power analyzer, and a receiver, and that beautiful bird will take to the air. After I get some time on a cheaper, easier to fly airplane, that is, since I haven't flown in nearly 2 years. It'll all come back though; muscle memory is a wonderful thing.
A couple weekends ago, we finally prepared the pork tongues we got from the Ladds a while ago. Good, good stuff! We'd had pork tongue before, from La Tapatia Mexican grocery here in town. Pork tongue is not like beef tongue at all! It's very much like regular pork, just a lot darker in color, and has more flavor. It's not oddly-textured like liver or any other "variety meats." Very good stuff! And the Ladd-pork-tongue is the best we've ever had, hands down!
Last item: tomorrow (11/30/2010), I'll be getting my first tattoo. The design is somewhat hard to describe, so I'll leave you in suspense with a promise to post a photo tomorrow evening, or Wednesday morning. Grant at Tattooed Heart, who did my wife's first tattoo, will be doing mine. He's amazingly talented and I have no doubt he'll give me the perfect art for my arm. Picture soon. ;)
I'm still alive - and we're still planning to do the "CD A Week" project. I've just been taking a little break from the "ZOMG MASSIVE INPUT/INFO COMING AT ME 24/7" world of Twitter and Facebook for a little while. Sometimes it gets to be a bit much and you have to pull back a little and look at what's important. I'll probably never go back to being plugged into Twitter 24/7; it's a little much, really.
We started our first batch of beer yesterday. We were focused on the project though and I have zero photos of the process. Pretty straightforward process. Fill a bag with a few pounds of a grain mix, steep it in 2 gallons of water at 150°F for 30 minutes, then take it out. Put in liquid and dry malt extracts and some hops, bring to a boil - boil for an hour, adding other hops at 15, 30, 45, 50, and 55 minutes. Strain that into 3 more gallons of water into the Ale Pail. Use the immersion chiller to drop it to about 70°F - that took about 10-15 minutes. Then transfer that into the 6 gallon glass carboy and add the yeast. Cap that off with a stopper and fermentation lock. Throw it in the bedroom closet (coolest spot in the house) and let 'er go for several days.
This morning, the beer-to-be had a huge head of foam on it, and the airlock showed very active bubbling - confirmation I did most everything right and the beer is "alive." Woot!
As far as gaming goes, well, I just haven't had a lot of time to do it, so I've turned off all my subscription games. I play a little STO now and then, as I have a lifetime sub. I'm in the beta for another MMO that is action-oriented - not my thing but it's actually still kind of fun. Other than that, no gaming to speak of. Still have Fallout: New Vegas to play through, but again with time.
Our theme lately has been "determine what is truly important to us, and focus most of our energy on those things, and prune out what is truly 'chaff'." Some of that has meant we've caught up on sleep. We'd been running on an average of 4-6 hours of sleep per night for quite a while, tending more towards the lower end of that. Some nights as low as 3. That isn't healthy, and as you age, it's worse. So, we've been focusing on getting proper amounts of sleep and it's paid off in feeling better. :)
I'm still planning to maybe re-enter R/C flight this Spring, and this Winter I may be learning to bow (and possibly shotgun) hunt. I have a great opportunity to learn with a very experienced hunter who has an amazing amount of land to hunt on - which is nice because hunting on public land, at least here in Indiana, is (from what I've heard) extremely frustrating.
Anyway. Just a quick update to let folks know I haven't abandoned the blog, and I'm still around.
Published on October 27th, 2010 @ 11:24:00 am , using 360 words, 1048 views
Last night, I was talking with my wife about my gaming hobby, and past games I'd played and tested. She pointed out that not including the many years we enjoyed Everquest together, I seemed to enjoy it the most when I was in a testing phase for a game.
And you know... she's right. It's no secret that I've always wanted to work in the gaming industry. The problem is, the barrier of entry is high, and I'm kind of stuck in my current job and financial situation, and am unable to take the risk of switching industries. So, I think, being a beta tester gives me a chance to "work" in the industry, help make games better, all while keeping my current job.
The problem now is that no one seems to be willing to pull me into a beta! SW:TOR: Nope. The Secret World? Nope. the White Wolf/CCP Vampire project? Well, I don't think it's even in beta yet, but maybe I should get REALLY into EVE so CCP gets to know me? Seriously, there's quite a few large and small MMOs in beta phases right now, and I've got no invites. I'm starting to think it's personal! >.>
I was in LOTRO from the first Alpha stage onwards. Many of the things that exist in the game now were fought for by myself and a dedicated group of testers. I really feel a sense of accomplishment, having successfully lobbied for a lot of things that are just part of the game now. I've been in many, many closed (and open) testing phases for various MMOs, and I always enjoy it. I'm just dying to get back into one.
I always follow the guidelines set forth for testing - I test what they want tested. In cases where there's no specific guidelines (as has mostly been the case in recent betas), I go around and try to break things, find bugs and exploits, and generally run through content to make sure it makes sense and is fun, etc.
I'm sure I'll get into one beta or the other soon, butin the meantime, I bide my time playing games for fun.
Published on October 25th, 2010 @ 09:04:00 am , using 46 words, 504 views
We got our recommendation for our first "CD a Week" CD, and ordered it. It should be in tomorrow, so we will try to have the post about it ready for next Monday or Tuesday. :)
If you missed where this idea was introduced, read this post:
It should be an exciting feature - and we're actually hoping more bloggers pick up the concept and thus increase awareness of music out there.
Published on October 21st, 2010 @ 06:59:00 am , using 275 words, 576 views
I don't have a lot to write about, as I've not been able to spend a "lot" of time back in WoW, but what time I have had has been fun.
I had been planning to slow-level a rogue, but since I do have 2 level 80 characters sitting on that account, I had to at least log them in and see where I'd left them and at least set their talents, since they'd all been reset due to 4.x.
While logged on Vendraen, my Warlock, I realized that I've always loved the class, and now that Demonology plays like what I feel a Warlock "should" be, I should give it a shot. I've only done a couple Heroics, but it's definitely totally different and a lot more fun.
The spell priority list is pretty involved; there's about 10-15 spells you've got to track and prioritize if you want to put out good damage. So I've just been working on getting that "set" in my brain.
Another thing I always liked about WoW is the holiday events. They've got a holiday event for pretty much all the major real-life holidays, and right now it's Hallow's End. The holiday events always have a bunch of things you can do, some of them really easy, others not so easy. It's a completist's paradise! I've got a few of the easy Hallow's End tasks done, and will maybe work on a few more while the event's still running. I doubt I'll finish all 16, though!
Anyway. Warlock is fun. :)
Also - picked up Fallout: New Vegas last night, but haven't had a chance to start it yet. Maybe in the next couple days.
Published on October 18th, 2010 @ 06:27:00 am , using 356 words, 550 views
For the last week or two, I've been talking with various co-followers on Twitter about WoW, and so it was inevitable I'd return to the game, at least for a month-long romp. You never know how long I'll stay, but no matter what it'll be a fun romp.
I haven't played since January, so of course, I'd mostly forgotten how play, but even if I hadn't, it wouldn't matter as 4.x is in and every class plays very differently than before anyway! I have 3 level 80 characters: a Hunter, a Warlock, and a Druid. The Hunter and Warlock are both on the account I've activated, so I could mess around on either of them. So far all I've done is set their talent specs so I at least "could" play them. I need to research rotations for both classes; I have no clue what they are anymore.
But what I'm really doing in the game is leveling a Rogue. Slowly. Reading the quest text, exploring the environment, really "enjoying the ride" as they say. It may take months to level; heck it might take a year. I don't have 4-6 hours a day to play an MMO anymore, so even if I was "rushing" it'd take a while. But since I'm not, it'll take even longer! That's ok, it'll be fun.
I've always loved playing rogues anyway, so...
Right now she's (yeah, she; my rogues are always female) level 5 and just got Stealth. ;)
I'd link to armories for my characters, but they're not in yet; my account had been inactive too long. It'd give you something to laugh at though. ;) For when they are, I'm Drost (Hunter), Vendraen (Warlock), and the new rogue is Zariu. All on Argent Dawn (US).
I've got a real-life friend that wants me to play with her on Black Dragonflight (PvP), and a Twitter-friend that invited me to another server, and I may dabble on both of those, but my home in WoW has always been on AD with House Stalwart, a guild founded by a friend from way, way back in EQ. :)
Anyway. Playing WoW for at least this coming month. :D
Yesterday we, along with about 10-12 other people, met to discuss costs, work, and other things involved with setting up a cooperative effort to raise and process chickens for food. Turns out the cost isn't too bad, and neither is the work. Chickens are pretty darn simple animals, and don't need a ton of care. You need two "major" pieces of equipment to process them. One, a scalder and two, a plucking machine. Each of them can be built for around $500 each, for a total of $1,000. If we do this, we're planning to split the costs between 10 families, which makes the per-family investment only $100. Not bad!
"Why the heck would you want to raise and process chickens!?? You can buy chicken from Walmart for under a buck a pound!!!!", you say? Yeah, that's true. You can. And for a lot of families, that's fine. I'm glad that basically life-sustaining food is available to most people here in America for such low prices. I'm aware of how those animals are raised, kept, and processed. It is horrifying? Eh, well, sure, kind of. But, I'm aware, and fully accept that we humans are far and away the apex predators of the world. We're so far at the top of the food chain that we've made it such that most of us don't even have to predate anything. It's all done for us on a huge scale.
But, there's a growing realization out there that the food produced in this manner may not necessarily be the absolute best thing we could feed ourselves. It's important to realize that the food we eat is what our bodies use to build and repair us, and it also controls a lot of the chemistry in our bodies. Most of how we feel, brain-wise, is controlled by the chemicals our various glands and such secrete into our bloodstreams. Doesn't it then make sense, if we can, to feed ourselves the absolute best things we can? I believe it does!
"But isn't chicken, chicken?" Maybe not. Just as our bodies use the food we eat to build us, so it is with the animals we eat. The things they eat "become" them, just as the things we eat "become" us. Chickens evolved to run off a rather varied diet. They're supposed to live in a field, and roam around said field eating basically all kinds of stuff. Plants, bugs, you name it. Not to mention they also need sunlight (just like we do!) to synthesize vitamin D, an important hormone (yes, hormone). Industrially raised chickens have none of this. They never receive sunlight, and they're fed an engineered diet that is designed simply to raise them to "market weight" as quickly as possible, while making sure they don't die before they get to said weight. It's far worse with cows, since they have very, very special dietary needs that are very much NOT met by industrial feed, but still... Chickens are not optimally raised either.
Even if you don't believe there's any difference nutrition-wise, there's still the issue of taste. I first figured it out when I worked with a Muslim man back in California. He used to bring me food from his Mosque. It was damn good - and in particular the chicken tasted WAY different from any chicken I'd ever had. I asked him if they used a special breed of chicken, and he said that no, the taste was because of the Muslim method of slaughtering. Done by hand, and in a way that reduces the suffering of the animal. All I knew was wow, it tasted way better. Turns out there's a lot of science backing that up. You scare, mistreat, generally piss off, an animal, and it secretes a bunch of stress hormones into its body, and it turns out... they don't make the meat taste good.
So, basically, it either tastes better, or it tastes better and IS way better for you. We believe both.
We've already been eating pasture-raised chickens; we get them from the same farm we have our cowshare with, and we like the taste a lot. So, when we were offered the chance to participate in this co-op, we jumped at the chance.
There is also another benefit to being involved with this - one that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with raising and ganking chickens. All of these people are interested in what has become known as "real food." And local food. And making, rather than outright consuming, food. One of them is involved with the local homebrewing club - and we're about to begin our adventurers as homebrewers, too. A couple of them make cheese often. One of the families seem to be very musical - and we're also looking to begin taking music lessons. All of these people know where to acquire various harder-to-find food items. We're all valuable resources to each other, and can all help each other in various ways; it's very, very fortunate to be able to communicate with each other.
No conclusion was made on whether or not to actually go forward with the project. It's too late in the season to actually do any birds anyway. We could get the equipment built over the winter, and likely will, if we decide to do it. All of the other families have raised chickens for eggs before, and have the land to raise chickens on their own land. We do not, and it's not legal to keep chickens in our city limits anyway. We'd have to share land with one of the other families - and I think that's not a problem. However, even if we DON'T go forward with Project Gankachicken, we now have a more "formal" network of local Real Foodities, a real food tribe, so to speak. And that just might be more valuable than the chicken project, in the long term.
Oh, and all the food that was brought was very good, too. :)
Thanks, Brent and Elizabeth, for making this happen!
Published on October 14th, 2010 @ 06:08:00 am , using 342 words, 799 views
Short update today. Last night we had a bit of time, so we decided to finish up the DX-CC antenna installation. It had been mostly installed and operational, but one leg was just laying in the tree in the front yard. The center section is on a 10 foot mast installed in a 3 foot tripod on our roof, and the other leg is secured with rope to a clothesline in the backyard. But the second leg hadn't been finished.
So, with a bit of lopper and chainsaw work, we cleared out a bit of the tree to make room for the antenna to be stretched out, and then we secured it to a branch. The installation is nearly symmetrical angles, inverted "V" configuration. It's not "perfect" but the thing is with dipoles is it doesn't have to be. It should work fine.
And indeed it does. We fired it up, and ran through 20, 17, 40, and 80 meters. Sure, the bands were in the toilet, but we heard several stations all over the US and in Canada. We couldn't make any contacts, as most of the stations were deep in long QSO's, and the one that wasn't, couldn't hear us it seems. But, a dipole at 25 or 30 feet been driven by a measly 100 watts is practically "QRP" compared to what most people run these days, so... ;) Challenge is good!
Hopefully SPK will get her first HF contact in the next couple of days. Her voice should make it easier.
In other radio news - we have a plan that will maybe, hopefully, help to find new people interested in radio in our area. We took the idea from the knitting community's "Knitting in Public Day" concept - basically, we're going to "Operate in Public." We'll setup at a busy park, with our other antenna tripod and a portable setup, and hopefully people will be like "wow, what are you doing?" and we'll explain a bit about our hobby and maybe get some people interested. Or, it'll just be fun. Either way - amateur radio is fun! (And saves lives!)
Yeah, it's been a while since I've written...again. There's just a ton going on, and not much of it is blog-worthy. Not that this is, either, but... I like to write. ;)
I guess the "biggest" thing would be that we've purchased all the equipment we need to begin homebrewing our own beer. We've wanted to get into the craft/hobby for about 10 plus years, so we finally took the plunge. We got one of the complete starter kits from Great Fermentations down in Indy, so we're all ready to go in style. This is the kit with everything, including an immersion wort chiller, bottles, bottling bucket, primary and secondary carboys, all the measuring instruments, yeah, everything. And we got the ingredients for our first brew. It's one of them that GF puts together, called "Black Hole IPA." We'd had a sample of it when we were there before, and it's fantastic - and we don't usually "like" IPAs all that much! Expect pictures/posts as we get started with this adventure.
As far as gaming, I've had to keep it pretty limited due to time constraints. MMOs in general aren't exactly friendly to small blocks of time. My run in EQ1 was fun, but I was really mainly using it as a chat room to talk to some good friends that don't use email or IM. All I've got active now is a free 14 day reactivation of WAR, and it's fun because I can log in, jump into the Scenario queues, and usually within 5 minutes I'll be in a Scenario with guaranteed action and fun, and then in 15 minutes or less, I can be "done" if I need to be. Or I can just re-queue if I have another 15 minute block available. WAR is fun, so this works well for me for right now.
We haven't had a lot of action in the radio department. We do have our DX-CC up, as well as the 2m/440 base antenna. We have played around on HF, and I did get my first HF contact, K2TTT in New Jersey, on 40 meters, which was cool. We're not hearing "the world," but definitely all over the US. I suspect it's a band condition issue as a lot of the HF bands are in the toilet, basically. That and we don't have the south side leg installed "properly" yet; it's just laying in the tree. ;) We'll get to it.
I'm also looking to get back into R/C flying, but since I sold every bit of support gear I had - including transmitter, chargers, power system analyzers, all that - it's going to be a while. I have to re-buy all that, then get a plane and everything needed to get it in the air. It's a bit-o-cash and it'll be a while!
I'll close with mentioning a post series idea she came up with! I'm gonna call it for now, "CD a Week." We both have hugely diverse musical tastes. If you were to look at our media library, you'd go "what the...!?!?!" We also are lucky enough to have a real music store here in town. I don't mean a Best Buy, or an FYE, or any of that cookie-cutter corporate crap. I mean a real, actual music store: the awesome, cool, JL Records. The people that own the place/work there love music, and know just a ton about it. So, her idea was to go in once a week, ask for a recommendation on a "cool" album to get, get it, and then listen to it, and write about it here on the blog. We'll try to make it once a week, but if it the cost gets too much, we'll back it off to every other week, or once a month, or whatever we've gotta do. But, we both feel people don't really branch out enough, musically. ;)
Until next time (and hopefully it'll be a shorter delay this time)... :)
It's been quite a while since I've written here. Mainly we've just been busy doing a ton of new things, and I haven't had much time to write. That, and to be honest, most of the things we've been doing aren't overly appropriate for discussion on a public blog! ;)
But, since a friend yesterday told me how much he admires the passion I have for the things I write about, I figured I better start writing again!
Let's see, as I mentioned in the last post, we upgraded our ham licenses - I'm Extra class, and she's General, so we've got quite a lot of privileges on most of the bands. Our antenna system is still not setup, as we want to make sure it's done right, and with minimal risk of damaging the roof. We've heard that a roof is kind of important, so...
She has been learning to shoot. And by "learning to shoot" I mean "making me look bad." She's got a Ruger Mk. III base model, and she makes it look like a top end target model. I'm just amazed every time we go out to the range. :)
As far as gaming goes, well, I've been playing Everquest. Not II, just regular old Everquest. Dead? Hell no! The game is doing very well; lots of people are playing. EQ is a game that does require a time investment to "get things done," and I don't have a lot of time, so I'm not really "doing" much in the game. My reason for playing is that some dear friends are playing, and just seeing their names in chat makes me happy, so I log in and do stuff with them when I can. <3 Rhy and Prev. (And Drass!) Plus, to be in the skin of Sovek again is a wonderful thing.
As far as other stuff, well, like I said, a lot of it is inappropriate for discussion on a public blog. And the stuff that is, I'm not comfortable detailing yet, really. Let's just say we've been more or less forced, or at least "urged" to reevaluate a lot of what we believe and do. And it's been a good process, returning to old things, but with new eyes. As to the inappropriate stuff, I know you readers are curious, so I will just say that we've learned that never doesn't always mean never, and that adventures are good. ;)
I'm out of practice with writing, so I do apologize for the rambling nature of this entry. I will try to make it a priority to at least post once a week. And thank you, Tad, for spurring me to get writing again. :)
Yesterday at our club's local hamfest, I took and passed the exam for Extra class, and my wife took and passed her General class exam too. So now once we get our HF antenna setup, we can both operate worldwide on the HF bands.
Also, I don't think I mentioned we switched to vanity calls recently. When we were first licensed, we got the sequentially assigned calls KC9SPL and KC9SPK. We liked the SPL and SPK suffixes but wanted slightly shorter calls. We also like the idea of keeping the regional indicator "9" since we like where we live. And we're both a little oldschool, and (generally) K is thought of as "west of the Rockies" and W is "east of the Rockies" - and luckily W9SPL and SPK were available, so they are now ours!
Also picked up an in-need-of-service IC-901A mobile radio for $20 (yes, $20) at the Hamfest, as well as a ton of adapters and an antenna for our new-to-us F-150. Was a good hamfest!
It was good seeing N9YRX (John) and his grandson, N9GSU & KC9SPT (Rick and Holly), and N9IZ and his (newly licensed as of yesterday!) wife at the 'fest!
As I'd posted before, I've been playing LOTRO lately. It's been fun. I don't get a ton of time to play, but LOTRO works well for odd blocks of time, at least at the early levels. My Lore-master is just up to level 20 as of last night.
As he's of the Race of Men, I've been doing my questing in the Bree-lands. The quest tracks for this area have been completely and totally re-done since I last played. They were always a bit disjointed, with some huge travel times between quest-givers, and they've tightened this up and made it flow a ton better. They've also added some quests, as well as changed who gives some, and basically improved the Bree-lands leveling experience in every way.
I've enjoyed the re-do of the Bree-lands immensely. Except for one thing - a kind of big one, though, for me (and probably for any Tolkien fan). The Old Forest is supposed to be a confusing, scary, frustrating, and outright dangerous place. And from Beta onwards in LOTRO, it was. There was no map for the area, and there were many aggressive mobs, and in some places, they were Elites a few levels above level-appropriate for the quests in the area. This was perfect, IMO, as it fit what the Old Forest was supposed to be. Additionally, they used art tricks and such to make it very difficult to learn your way around - and they also changed the area with a few patches, just to keep you confused. ;)
Well, now, when you enter the Old Forest, you have a map, just like any other area. There are no confusing art tricks; it's just a normal, walled/funneled area. The mobs are normal, on-level for the quests, and there are no Elites, just Signatures. All the confusion, fright, danger, and such are gone. I was very let down.
It's not that I don't get it. Plenty of players hated the Old Forest and skipped all quests there and basically never went, so Turbine decided to nerf it to please them. And in the process probably annoyed most, if not all, of the players that are Tolkien fans - which, IMO, are the players that would stick with LOTRO through thick and thin.
IMO, the original LOTRO Old Forest was as it should be! Only the bravest dared enter the Old Forest! It wasn't necessary to go there in order to level; there was plenty of content elsewhere. So why not leave this one relatively small area for the adventurous players? :(
Published on July 28th, 2010 @ 06:00:00 am , using 91 words, 973 views
Played my Lore-master for a good 5-6 levels last night - yeah - definitely back to "my" class. Getting Blinding Flash was a huge deal back ages ago when I got it on Vendraen, and was a huge deal on Vendrayn last night. Pre-BF and Post-BF, a Lore-master is just not the same. Those that have played it know what I mean.
So now it's on to level Vend and see new things, eventually. Have to level through the beginning levels first though.
Short post this morning; just wanted to comment on Vend's progress. :)
Published on July 27th, 2010 @ 06:23:37 am , using 318 words, 819 views
Ok, so it was inevitable. I was enjoying the heck out of the Hobbit, and the Hobbit-ness of the Shire, and all was good. Then I was at the Michel Delving bank area, and saw a level 65 Lore-master that happened to have nearly the same appearance settings as my original Lore-master, Vendraen, that is on the banned account.
"Damn it, that's .. me!", I said to myself, and then I logged off and logged in as the character you see above. I played a Lore-master nearly exclusively through Alpha and Beta, and well into release. I fought (sometimes bitterly) for changes I felt would make the class better, and out of all the classes in LOTRO (and I've played them all), it's definitely the one I'm best at and like the most.
It's not a "true" pet class, in the vein of UO Tamer, SWG Creature Handler, or similar classes, but it's the closest thing LOTRO has right now, and it's also a kick-ass class in other respects. There's quite a few ways to play it, and the way I play is pretty "in the thick of it."
Lore-masters have many skills related to melee combat - even though they wear cloth and are thought of as a "mage" type. Later on, they even get a Trait that allows wielding a staff and a sword at the same time. Melee damage output is not small, if you Trait and gear for it. And, using the Raven pet for it's high Flank! rate allows you to keep yourself alive, as later on, Flank! procs allow you to heal yourself.
Starting over is a little painful - I remember all the things I could do before, but can't yet, since I don't have the skills at my low level. But, I know the content forwards, backwards, up and down, so I should level quickly and in no time, return to my former power.
Published on July 26th, 2010 @ 06:11:15 am , using 189 words, 634 views
We've got our radio and power supply. We have our 80-10m (and possibly 6m) antenna, and a 2m/70cm antenna to boot (and a mount for it). We have a roof tripod and a 10' mast with a 5' extension if we need it. Actually we have two roof tripods thanks to WB9CZC!
What we don't have is those antennas installed. See, I have an annoying fear of heights. Yeah, I know, residential roofs are only about 16' high. I know. I tried 3 times yesterday to get up there and just couldn't do it. I will keep trying though, but I'm not overly hopeful. SPK isn't afraid of heights at all, but she has a shoulder injury and can't go up right now.
It'll get worked out eventually, one way or another I guess. I'm just excited to get everything setup and be able to operating the amazingly nice radio we've got! I'm hoping we can get it done ourselves, and not have to have club people do it all for us - after all, we're going to need to be able to add/maintain/etc antennas throughout our involvement in the hobby anyway. We'll see.
Published on July 26th, 2010 @ 05:50:41 am , using 217 words, 664 views
Back when I was playing LOTRO very seriously, I, as many people do, started a second account, and while my "real" high level/Lifetime subbed account is still banned, my alt account is just fine. The highest level character on it is level 18 and I have very little money and other "stuff", but the account's valid and I'm playing.
I'd been away so long, it would have been best to start a new character anyway! So, I started a Hobbit Burglar and went about the early levels. Seems they've done a small amount of re-tuning of the Shire quests, but not a lot. It's still a lot of back and forth between the little towns, but that's ok though as I'd planned to take it slow and enjoy the sights, and that's what I'm doing.
I've got no idea how long I'll be playing - as I know LOTRO doesn't satisfy all the needs I have in gaming (though, I don't think any one MMO does or can). But for now, Bolleni's enjoying his stroll through the early levels.
Something I've noticed is that, even though I've been gone for ages, nothing's changed with the community. People are still extremely helpful on the public chat channels, and there's a definite lack of Norris jokes and [Anal] links. Thank "Bob."
Ok, so, I went from 1-2 posts a day (or most days) to almost nothing, and with it went, I feel, my writing skills. I've got to get back to it!
We've been fairly busy of late. With our various food-related hobbies, bicycling, Ham radio, and my gaming, and her working, we have very little "free" time most days - but most of our time is spent doing things we find fun.
Finally got a chance to watch Zombieland yesterday - great film, if you like zombie films of course. Also watched Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather" (both episodes) and that was great too. We also have gotten back on our bikes over the last week and that's been great! Feels good to be out on them again! We won't be riding as hardcore (just no time for it) as last summer, but it's still good fun.
We're still working on getting deeper into Ham radio, and we've got a deal arranged with a local Ham to buy a used Icom IC-746PRO with power supply for an insanely good price. That'll give us all the capabilities and features we'll ever need and we're very excited to get it in. It's at Icom currently being reconditioned and brought back to "better than new" status.
Speaking of food "hobbies," we're still mainly eating what you'd call "real food" - nothing (or very little) processed, everything made by us from base ingredients, and > 90% of our meats are grass-fed or pasture-raised. No feedlot fed meat here! We also make our own yogurt (from Ooooo, Deadly Raw Milk of course), and sometimes cheese. It's made fairly dramatic changes in our sense of well-being, especially in her case. It's also very cool knowing that out in our freezer we have enough meat to feed us for a long time. We've got most of a whole goat, and 1/4 of a cow, along with a good amount of pork and 3 whole chickens. :) She is the Bread Whisperer™ and always makes sure we have good, homemade bread at hand for our meals. Mmmmm.
I still game, just nowhere near as "hardcore" as I used to. Longasc teases me for being too casual, but I really just don't have the time to set aside for the 4-5+ hour gaming sessions like I used to. I still have a lot of fun though. Most of the modern MMOs are very casual-friendly, so I take full advantage, jumping in sometimes for 10-15 minutes, or maybe as long as an hour when I can. STO is a lot of fun played this way.
We recently dumped our iPhones and switched back to Verizon for Android-based phones. We got the Droid Incredible by HTC (2 of them - thanks Jill! - you own!). The Android OS is amazing, and being free of Apple's prison, er, "walled garden," is just awesome. Also, the phones are super fast, even when running multiple apps. No more rebooting once a day to get the UI to not lag. Could not be happier with these devices and the Android OS.
Anyway, that's the nutshell version of what we've been up to. I will try to update a lot more often again, and hopefully can follow through on that.
Ok, so I promised that today I'd begin a series of posts over @ Nomadic Gamer on MMO gaming under Linux. And I fully intended to! The problem is, as I'm sure you've all noticed, I haven't been blogging much lately, and when you don't do things as often, you lose the knack for it. So I don't feel my writing quality is up to Nomadic Gamer's standards, so I'm holding off posting there for a while.
Anyway - my main machine is not running Linux anymore as of a week or so ago. Everything was working fine; I was playing STO and had LOTRO running too. Then WINE updated to -RC4 and STO died. I was on vacation and didn't have time to figure out what went wrong with RC4, so I put W7 back on the machine so I could "just play." That's one of the problems with Linux - things get updated OFTEN - so sometimes things will be non-working for a day or so. I really like running Linux as an OS. It's 10000x nicer than Windows, but I also need stuff to work all the time, and games are always the problem. So back to W7. Sigh.
In other news, I'm semi-sorta-playing STO again. I'm probably the only headstart/Lifetime player that's only Commander 4 still, but there you have it. ;) It's still a very fun game and they've made a TON of improvements since launch, and continue to do so. I started a Klingon character - and that's fun - but my main is still Sevok, my Federation character. Hopefully by 2013 or so, I'll hit Admiral 5. ;)
Published on June 28th, 2010 @ 07:04:24 am , using 392 words, 780 views
So after having been licensed for only about 2 weeks - and only on the air a little under a week - we headed off to our club's Field Day event. This is a yearly event for ham radio operators where you setup "in the field" using alternate power (generators, solar, etc) and try to contact as many stations as you can in these conditions.
It was a lot of fun! It was a first time for both of us operating on anything but our local 2 meter repeater - and we operated on the 80, 40, 20, and 15 meter bands. We contacted stations in quite a few U.S. states as well as Canada, and it was amazingly cool. Not sure how many contacts we made - I made probably around 20 and she made probably around the same. We weren't really trying to push it; just having fun. :)
Tuning through a radio band, listening for something that sounds like a voice, then fine-tuning in to make it more and more intelligible, until you finally hear a "CQ field day CQ field day CQ field day", then transmitting the club call and hearing it come back from the other station... amazingly cool! Just can't put in into words. I'm trying... but failing. From the first contact through the 20th, it was just really cool; something you don't get just messing around on the local repeaters (which are still very cool in their own right!)
Another cool thing is we got to check out quite a few different radios. There was an Icom IC-7000 and a Yaesu FT-857, 847, and FT-920 among others. The one we were actually using to make our contacts was the FT-920, and it's amazingly nice. It's an older unit, but still very feature packed. It also has a lot of controls on it. There seems to be a trend in the newer designs towards less controls and smaller cases, so in order to change a lot of settings, you have to delve into menu trees. It seems much more efficient to have as many functions on separate controls as possible. The 920 definitely fits the bill there. I think we'll be seeking one out on the used market as it's a discontinued model.
Anyway. If you were working field day, and worked a contact from W9REG, it might have been me! If the voice was female, it was definitely KC9SPK. ;)
Published on June 24th, 2010 @ 05:26:58 pm , using 74 words, 774 views
Just on a 2 week vacation. :) I'll be back at work Monday 6/28 and will be doing a blog series @ Nomadic Gamer on MMOing under Linux - sort of. Heh.
Anyway - received my license and call sign from the FCC a few days after the last post - I am KC9SPL. Also have my first radio, a Yaesu VX-7R quad band handheld. Nice radio; I'll be doing a review/etc of it soon.
Anyway - until next entry...
Published on June 6th, 2010 @ 05:50:54 am , using 123 words, 1952 views
As of yesterday morning, I'm a licensed ham radio operator. I passed both Technician and General class exams - and my wife passed Technician! We don't have our callsigns yet, as it takes a few days for the FCC to get it into their database, but it shouldn't be long.
I'm pretty excited - I've been interested in amateur radio for over 20 years, and indeed operated a little, let's say, outside the law, back in California in the early 90's. And now, I'm fully and legally licensed. :) Should be an exciting adventure.
BTW - if you're thinking of becoming licensed yourself, I can highly recommend HamTestOnline and the ARRL's study books. We used both of these resources in studying for our licenses and both are excellent!