Sunday, November 8, 2009

Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Lego

I love this stuff. Lego animations are one of my favorite things about YouTube.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some random fall colors

Just some random fall color pics. These were taken a couple weeks ago on the one pleasant fall day that we had.

Friday, April 3, 2009

World Ideologies as Explained by Reference to Cows

My dad sent me this today. It brought a smile to my face. I hope it does the same for you.


World Ideologies as Explained by Reference to Cows


You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

Pure Socialism
You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you all the milk you need.

Bureaucratic Socialism
Your cows are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and eggs the regulations say you should need.

You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

Pure Communism
You have two cows. Your neighbours help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.

Real World Communism
You share two cows with your neighbours. You and your neighbours bicker about who has the most "ability" and who has the most "need". Meanwhile, no one works, no one gets any milk, and the cows drop dead of starvation.

Russian Communism
You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk. You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the black market.

You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the Mafia takes all the milk. You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the "free" market.

Chinese Communism
You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

Pure Democracy
You have two cows. Your neighbours decide who gets the milk.

Representative Democracy
You have two cows. Your neighbours pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

British Democracy
You have two cows. You feed them sheep's brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.

You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. Then it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

Pure Anarchy
You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbours try to take the cows and kill you.

Pure Capitalism
You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

You don't have any cows. The bank will not lend you money to buy cows, because you don't have any cows to put up as collateral.

You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

Political Correctness
You are associated with (the concept of "ownership" is a symbol of the phallo centric, war mongering, intolerant past) two differently - aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non-specified gender.

You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

AIG Capitalism
You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank. He then executes a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by your CFO who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on six more.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Filler Material

I have some plans for some upcoming actual content, but until then here's something to fill the space:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Roasting Coffee is Easy!

Whenever I tell someone that I roast my own coffee they look at me like I just dropped in from Mars and then they ask "How do you roast your own coffee? Isn't it hard?".

Roasting coffee yourself is easy. Really. If a person can make popcorn, they can roast coffee. There are many methods to roast coffee at home. There are even appliances dedicated to home coffee roasting. The method I use and will describe is with a hand crank popcorn popper. Some call it the "Whirly-Pop".

Required equipment: Coffee beans, popcorn popper, stainless steel colander, scale or measuring cups, a heat source and if indoors, a vent that pulls the smoke outside.

The first step is to acquire some green coffee beans. There are many sources to obtain green coffee beans. Some that I have used and like include Sweet Maria's, Cate's Green Coffee, Bald Mountain Coffee, Smith Farms (Hawaiian Kona direct from the farm), or Higher Grounds Trading Company. As you can see below today's batch is from Higher Grounds.

First, I put the "roasting vessel" on the stove to pre-heat. It takes a few minutes to get the pan hot enough. At this point it might be appropriate to mention that I am looking for good heat control, not just a lot of heat. Too much heat will scorch the beans, too little will bake them instead of roasting them. It's a balance that a person develops a feel for. Burning a batch or two on the way to getting the right amount of heat is common. The pan is pre-heated so when I drop the cold beans in, the pan can recover quicker and spend less time recovering.

While the pan pre-heats I measure out the beans I am going to roast and set them aside. Here I've measured out about 2/3 of a pound. For those without a scale this is a little more than 2 cups. Through experience I've found that is about what I drink in one week, so that's what I roast. Coffee will lose about 15-20% of it's weight while roasting. So, to end up with 1 pound roasted will require approximately 1.25 pounds green.

When the roasting vessel has pre-heated (the air just above the bottom of the pan should be about 350 degrees) and I have my beans measured out it's time to get roasting. I drop the beans in the roasting vessel and start cranking. No need to crank wildly, just crank constantly. It's important to keep the beans moving so they don't scorch.

About 4 minutes after dropping the beans in puffs of steam will start to appear. Soon after that the aroma will become very floral. After 6-8 minutes the aroma will become increasingly coffee-like and the beans will begin popping. The sound is something like the sound of stepping on a large stick when walking in the woods. This popping will continue for a minute or so. Then, all will become quiet again. This is what is known as first crack. A person could stop the roast here, dump the beans to cool and have a nice lighter roast. At this stage there will be more bean flavors and not many roast flavors. However, we can continue roasting.

After about a minute or two the aroma will change again to something best described as burnt toast. The beans will begin popping again. Only this time the popping is softer. It sounds more like walking through dried leaves. This is what is known as second crack. I usually stop the roast and dump the beans just as second crack gets started. This makes a nice medium-dark roast with plenty of bean flavor and some nice carmel notes starting to appear. If pushed farther, the bean flavors disappear and roast flavors completely dominate. If pushed too far, the beans will experience third crack, which is flaming.

Note that roasting coffee will generate quite a bit of smoke. It's best to roast coffee outside or under a vent hood that will pull the smoke outside.

To cool the beans, I dump them into a stainless steel colander. Why a stainless steel colander? Because the beans are about 440 degrees when coming out of the roaster. They would melt a plastic colander.

This batch I pushed a little farther into second crack for a somewhat darker roast. I stir the beans and hold the colander up to the hood vent fan to pull air through the beans to cool them quickly.

Once cooled I put the beans in mason jars for storage. I keep the mason jars in a dark spot in the cupboard where the temperature doesn't change too much. Light is as bad for coffee beans as it is for beer. While the coffee will be really good right out of the roaster, the peak flavor will start about 24-36 hours after roasting and hold for 7-10 days. After that the flavor will decay pretty rapidly.

It's important to note that the chaff will remain with the coffee using this roasting method. It doesn't hurt anything. Some other roasting methods will separate the chaff as the coffee is roasted. If the chaff is bothersome, take the colander outside and blow on the coffee while agitating it. Most of the chaff will blow off this way.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Resource Investor - Should You Put Gold into Your IRA?

Resource Investor - Should You Put Gold into Your IRA?

Holding gold (or other precious metals) in an IRA is easy. But, it's not for everyone. This is a nice article with some things to think about when deciding whether to hold gold in an IRA.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Quote from the Federalist

Lately I have been reading through The Federalist Papers. The other day I came across some great quotes from Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 8 first published Tuesday, November 20, 1787:

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.
And further...

The perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories, often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors. The transition from this disposition to that of considering them masters, is neither remote nor difficult; but it is very difficult to prevail upon a people under such impressions, to make a bold or effectual resistance to usurpations supported by the military power.
The entire paper can be read here. These are thoughts that made me pause and think. Are we willing to be less free in order to be safe? Are we elevating the military state above the civil? Alexander Hamilton seemed to be seeing far into the future when he penned these words.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Advanced Presspot Techniques from Coffeegeek

This video demonstrates some presspot techniques that I haven't tried before but might be worth a shot. Pulling the grounds off before pressing will make for easier cleanup if nothing else.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Official Gmail Blog: New in Labs: Offline Gmail

Official Gmail Blog: New in Labs: Offline Gmail

This is pretty cool. Next up on the wish list: offline calendar and Google Docs. Google is very close to making it completely unnecessary to install an office (e.g. MS Office, OpenOffice, etc.) software suite on my computer.

Thursday, January 29, 2009 / US & Canada - Obama slams Wall Street over bonuses / US & Canada - Obama slams Wall Street over bonuses

Sending these clowns a no-strings attached bailout was bad enough. Now they are just adding insult to injury. When the banks are paying these bonuses out of their own profits, that's one thing and I'm OK with that. It's a tried and true method to attract and retain top talent. But, when they start paying these bonuses with our tax dollars that's something else entirely. It's just not right.