Monday, June 1, 2009

Grace Photos

Grace Ann Moore made her grand entrance yesterday afternoon at 1:15 after a hectic, yet amazing morning. As promised, here are a few photos from her first day of life. We'll have a few hundred more (of better quality) once the grandparents all get their DSLRs synced. Until then, these should hold you over :)







Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mock Draft

Welcome to the first annual Moore Madness Mock Draft. Since I'm not an NFL scout or a paid analyst of any kind, my scouting consists of listening to rumors and mooching off of other people's player rankings. Putting those pieces together, I've come up with the following draft, which is guaranteed to be correct up through at least the first pick :)

1) Detroit - Matthew Stafford, QB, U[sic]GA

The Lions are currently negotiating a contract with Stafford in an attempt to have him signed before the draft. Should those negotiations fall through, they reportedly already have an agreement in place with Aaron Curry as a backup plan. They really need to get a QB here, though, so expect something to get done. Stafford is also not going to hold them hostage in negotiations, because there's no telling how far down he'll slide if the Lions don't take him here. Even if they're offering him a below-market contract, it's far and away the best deal he's going to get.

Update: The Lions and Stafford have agreed to a contract that would make him the highest paid rookie in NFL history, which was to be expected. The language of the contract still has to be approved by the NFL Management Council, but with the numbers agreed upon by both sides, all major hurdles have been cleared, and Stafford will be drafted first overall tomorrow.

2) St. Louis - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor

While they haven't come out and said who they're planning to take, the Rams put their cards face-up on the table for this pick when they cut Orlando Pace earlier in the offseason. Nobody on their roster was able to fill Pace's shoes when he was injured the past two seasons, so there's no reason to believe that someone is going to step up now that Pace is gone forever. When you also consider that this draft doesn't have a lot of tackle depth in the later rounds, St. Louis absolutely has to take one here.

3) Kansas City - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU

This is really too early for Jackson to come off the board, but Scott Pioli is going to draft for need over value. I'm sure Kansas City will be working the phones between now and when they go on the clock tomorrow, desperately trying everything they can to move back. But if they're ultimately unable to move, look for them to just take the guy they want, regardless of what the "draft experts" say they should do. Those draft boards that say who should go at which pick will be forgotten by Monday anyway.

Ultimately, I don't see them moving back, as nobody really wants the financial burden of picking this high. But if anyone can weasel their way out of this pick for even a fraction of it's perceived value, it's Scott Pioli.

One thing to consider is that the Chiefs picked up an extra second-round pick in next year's draft when they traded Tony Gonzalez yesterday. Fans were outraged that they traded away a legend and got nothing immediate in return, but I can't help but wonder if that was just step one in a larger plan. Any trade for their #3 overall pick this year will almost certainly net them an extra 1st-rounder next year. But with most teams reluctant to trade away 1st-round picks, will KC package Atlanta's 2010 2nd-rounder to soften that blow? If they do, remember that you heard it here first :)

Update: after I wrote this, ESPN.com's Todd McShay said the exact same thing about the 2nd-round pick next year. Great minds think alike, I guess :)

4) Seattle - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest

I don't buy the hype that Seattle is after Mark Sanchez, and you shouldn't either. Just like everyone else, Seattle would love to trade back for some extra value, and making teams think they have to jump this high for Sanchez is the only way they're getting out of this pick. But after they figure out that they're not moving, Curry is the obvious choice. He's widely considered to be the best and the safest pick in the draft, and he fills a direct need after the trade of Julian Peterson. Seattle will be disappointed that they couldn't move back, but they'll also be thrilled to land a player as talented as Curry.

5) Cleveland - Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

Last week, Cleveland was reportedly infatuated with Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree, but now conflicting reports are coming out that he acted like a "diva" during his visit and has been dropped from their draft board altogether. I don't know if I buy that rumor or not... personally, I think they're playing the same game as everyone else, which is to try to convince the world that they really will draft Mark Sanchez if available. But nobody is really going to buy into that rumor unless Cleveland moves Brady Quinn and/or Derek Anderson first.

Regardless of how much they actually like Crabtree, I don't see them pulling the trigger, as they still have a #1 receiver on their roster in Braylon Edwards. Edwards is still on the trading block, but until some major headway is made with the Giants, I don't see him going anywhere.

Cleveland would also love the chance to draft Aaron Curry, but I don't see him still being on the board at #5. If he is, they'll snatch him up, but if not, they'll gladly take Orakpo, a player who fits their scheme and their needs quite nicely.

6) Cincinnati - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama

Cincy needs an offensive tackle as badly as anyone in the draft (except maybe St. Louis), and based on pure talent, Andre Smith is probably the best prospect available. A host of character/immaturity concerns have dropped him way down a lot of draft boards, but that's not likely to scare away a team who has most of its players vacationing in various federal and state prisons during the offseason.

7) Oakland - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri

The Raiders are in a great spot here, as D-line, receiver, and offensive tackle are their primary needs, and solid players are still on the board at each of those positions. It wouldn't shock me if the take B.J. Raji, Michael Crabtree, or Eugene Monroe here. But Al Davis likes flashy players first and foremost, which means they'll probably take a receiver. Crabtree is generally considered to be the best one in the draft, but Davis is in love with Maclin's incredible speed. Darrius Heyward-Bey has also been rumored here, but even Al Davis won't reach that far.

8) Jacksonville - trades pick to N.Y. Jets, who select Mark Sanchez, QB, USC

Washington will desperately try to move up to get Sanchez, but all they're going to succeed in doing is driving up the price on the Jets. Ultimately, the Jets have more firepower, and they much more desperately need a QB. Kellen Clemens in the only person on the planet who believes he's good enough to start for the Jets next year.

9) Green Bay - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn St.

The Packers will think long and hard about Eugene Monroe, as they have a need at OT, but they have an even bigger need at DE as they switch over to the 3-4. Maybin is big enough to handle that role, and the Packers can't continue to ignore such an important position.

10) San Francisco - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

A lot of people think that San Francisco is hoping for Mark Sanchez to fall to them at #10, but I think they're going to use this season to give Alex Smith one final chance to be the QB of this team. They could take Eugene Monroe here so that Joe Staley could move back to ROT, but Crabtree is too much talent at a position of need for them to pass up.

11) Buffalo - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia

Buffalo's representatives at the draft will be tripping all over themselves in an attempt to get this pick in as quickly as possible once they realize that one of the three best tackles in the draft has fallen to them. After trading Jason Peters to the Eagles, the Bills absolutely have to make this pick.

12) Denver - B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College

This is much lower than Raji should fall, but sometimes these things happen. Denver will be elated to get the draft's best defensive lineman at #12.

13) Washington - trades pick to N.E. Patriots, who selects Clay Matthews, LB, USC

This is really just a guess. The Patriots are rumored to be trying to move up to get someone, and they have need at linebacker. This would be considered a little bit of a reach for anyone else, but nobody dares question the Patriots during the draft. Jarod Mayo was a "reach" at #10 last year, and all he did was step in and earn defensive rookie of the year honors. They could just as easily be going after another LB here, but Matthews is my guess. He comes from a football family and is a very intelligent player. He really fits the mold of what the Pats look for in a linebacker.

14) New Orleans - Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State

The Saints need stability at corner, and Jenkins is the top corner in the draft. Some experts think Jenkins is too slow to play corner in the NFL and that he'll have to move inside to free safety, but the Saints have a big need there as well. This one makes too much sense not to happen.

15) Houston - Brian Cushing, LB, USC

The Texans need more playmakers on defense, and Cushing fits the bill.

16) San Diego - Rey Maualuga, LB, USC

The Chargers need an anchor on the inside of their linebacking corps, and that's where Maualuga plays his best. Some drafts have them considering a running back here since LDT isn't getting any younger, but that would be premature. They have too much money tied up in LDT and Sproles to consider drafting a 3rd back this early, plus most rookie RBs are ready to start right away. I'm guessing they'll wait until Tomlinson is ready to retire and then draft someone who can play from day one.

17) New York Jets - traded to Jacksonville, who selects Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi

The Jags will be happy that the run on tackles stopped long enough for them to still be able to grab one of the top four after trading back.

18) Denver - Everette Brown, DE, Florida St.

Brown projects as a hybrid DE/OLB and would serve as a rush linebacker in Denver's new 3-4 scheme. Denver will be concentrating on upgrading their front seven all weekend long.

19) Tampa Bay - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee

Ayers is another solid prospect who will fall simply because this is the next good place for him to land.

20) Detroit - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona

Britton is the last tackle on the board with a first-round grade, and Detroit will take him here to protect Stafford's blind-side. When paired up with Gosder Cherilus (last year's first-rounder), the Lions should have bookends for their line for the next ten years.

21) Philadelphia - Knowshon Moreno, RB, U[sic]GA

Moreno is the best back in the draft and will fit nicely in Philly's West-Coast offensive scheme. They need someone to take the load off Westbrook, and Moreno will do just that.

I think there's still a chance that they trade this pick to Arizona for Anquan Boldin, but rumors on that front seem to have dried up.

22) Minnesota - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida

The Vikings haven't been able to hide their interest in Harvin, and coach Brad Childress is already salivating about the possibility of having Harvin and Adrian Peterson on the field at the same time.

23) New England - traded to Washington, who selects Larry English, DE, Northern Ill.

The Redskins attempt to fill the hole that Jason Taylor failed to fill least year.

24) Atlanta - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi

Jerry isn't as big as Grady Jackson, but he should still fit nicely beside Babineaux.

25) Miami - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina

Miami desperately needs receivers, and Nicks is pretty solid.

26) Baltimore - Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland

Baltimore will consider Vontae Davis here, but they can't pass up the opportunity to get a speedy receiver for Joe Flacco.

27) Indianapolis - Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers

Indy needs help on defense, but they always seem to spend their early picks on new toys for Peyton Manning. With the loss of Marvin Harrison, look for Indy to use this pick on someone who can line up opposite Reggie Wayne.

28) Buffalo - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma St.

The draft's top TE falls all the way to #28, where Buffalo gladly picks him to fill in for the released Robert Royal.

29) New York Giants - Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan

With no viable WR prospects still on the board, the Giants fill a need a safety. I still think its possible that they trade this pick, either to Cleveland for Braylon Edwards or to Arizona for Anquan Boldin, but that remains to be seen.

30) Tennessee - Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest

Vontae Davis is rated higher on a lot of boards, but not Tennessee's. Character concerns will cause them (like many other teams ahead of them) to steer clear.

31) Arizona - Chris Wells, RB, Ohio St.

And the Edgerrin James era comes to an end.

32) Pittsburgh - Alex Mack, C, California

The defending champs' biggest weakness is their offensive line. Look for them to address it early, and probably often.

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Draft Rumors

Rumors today have the New England Patriots trying to move into the bottom half of the top 10 for an undisclosed player. They have reportedly offered their first pick (23rd overall) along with the second of their three second-round picks to Jacksonville for the #8 overall pick. Jacksonville has publicly turned the deal down, at least for now, which only confirms my belief that they've had talks with San Francisco and/or Washington and/or Denver about Mark Sanchez. Jacksonville must be hoping for a bounty of picks from someone wishing to move up for a franchise QB. If Sanchez is still on the board at 8 tomorrow (and I think he will be), things could get very interesting.

More draft info, including my mock, coming up soon.

NFL Draft Notes

I admitted in my very first post that I have an unhealthy obsession with the NFL, and especially with the draft. I spend way too much time at night reading any articles I can find, scouring all of the rumors, and doing my best to try to understand what's going to happen in an event that can't really be predicted. Usually, part of my draft prep includes reading as many mock drafts as possible, but this year I just don't have the stomach for them. I'm not exactly an NFL scout, and I don't pretend to know nearly as much as most of the professional reporters do. Yet this year I couldn't help but be appalled at the glaring inaccuracies of so many mock drafts. Even the experts that I trust, with all their inside information, seem to be missing the boat on several picks. This puts me in quite a bind. On one hand, I really don't want to join the growing number of people who have wasted time trying to forecast what will happen, but on the other, I'm extremely confident that I can do better than them.

After some thought, I've decided that I will go ahead and try to mock the complete first round of the draft. While this will almost certainly be an epic waste of time, I've found a few contests that I can enter that will at least let me justify the activity to myself. So be on the lookout tomorrow for the first annual Moore Madness Mock Draft. In the meantime, here are a few places where I disagree with several of the experts. I only wish I had posted these earlier, as many of the news stories today seem to be confirming some of the conclusions I drew a week ago.

1) Outside of QB, almost no position warrants the kind of money teams in the top ten will have to shell out to sign their picks. With that being said, Detroit is the only team in the first nine picks that will even consider drafting a QB. I don't care how much people say they like Mark Sanchez, you just don't pay that kind of money to a QB if you don't need him. Bulger is making too much in St. Louis, Hasselbeck still has some gas in the tank for Seattle, Cleveland already has enough of a mess without adding a third body to the mix, Oakland is still developing JaMarcus Russell, and Jacksonville isn't ready to give up on David Garrard. Stafford will go #1 overall to Detroit, and Sanchez will fall to at least #10, where the 49ers may or may not take him. The only way Sanchez's position improves is if Cleveland manages to trade Brady Quinn (and that still doesn't guarantee they'd take another QB) or if Washington mortgages yet another future draft to move up.

2) B.J. Raji isn't falling out of the top 10. Teams build from the inside out, so there's no way the best DT in the draft falls that far, especially when he can play in either the 3-4 or the 4-3. And forget about his "character concerns." The rumors of him failing a drug test were proven to be untrue, and nothing else negative has been said about him. I wouldn't be at all shocked if KC takes him at #3.

3) Chris "Beanie" Wells isn't going to the Saints. They can get the power back they need later in the draft. Their first-round pick needs to fill one of the many holes they have on defense. Look for them to take Malcolm Jenkins here and move him inside to Free Safety.

4) Everyone in the top five would like to trade down. Nobody in the top five will actually get to do it. No one except Washington wants to pay the salaries associated with those picks, and Washington doesn't have the ammo to move up that far.

5) The Bucs will NOT draft a QB in the first round, and may not take one at all. Leftwich and McCown will fight for the starting job, and Josh Johnson will hang on as the 3rd QB. Griese will either get cut or traded. Tampa's new regime is content to roll with what they've got for a year, but may look to cash in on next year's strong QB class if things don't pan out.

6) I wish I had posted this before the Tony Gonzalez trade went down today, but the Falcons were not ever planning to draft a TE in the first round. They have too many defensive needs to spend an early pick on a position that historically hasn't been used in their offensive schemes. The reason they pulled the trigger on Gonzo is because they didn't have to give up a pick in this year's draft to do it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ain't the Internet Grand?

I recently joined the masses and started twittering as @edm3. For the uninitiated, Twitter is a "microblogging" service that allows its users to share their thoughts with the world 140 characters at a time. If your account is public (as most are), then anyone can sign up to follow what you have to say. Relationships don't have to be two-way, however, so I can follow anyone I want, regardless of whether or not they want to follow me (and vice versa).

I originally thought that Twitter was a really stupid idea. After all, anyone can start a blog, and anyone else can go and read said blog. I can also e-mail, call, or instant-message most anyone I care to talk to (I could also text them, but I still think that's stupid, especially in an era where most people already get their e-mail on their phone, but that's another rant), so it's hard to believe that I need yet another means of communicating with my friends. But then I started Twittering and realized that it can actually be a pretty awesome experience.

By far, the biggest benefit I've gotten out of Twitter is reconnecting with my Atlanta friends. I've tried to stay in touch with several of them, but I never seem to contact anyone unless I have a specific reason to do so. I'm horrible about calling or e-mailing just to say hello, and I'm rarely on instant messenger outside of business hours. But now, I don't have to go seek out information on how my friends are doing. Instead, I get a steady summary of their lives, updated every five minutes. Likewise, they can get random tidbits about how I'm doing up here in the Volunteer state.

But the other awesome thing about Twitter is the non-personal presence that's beginning to emerge. Writers are using it to discuss new ideas. Talk show hosts are using it to increase their ratings. Companies are using it to stay in touch with their customers. Bands are using it to promote their new albums. Sure, all that information can be gotten elsewhere, but with Twitter, I pick what I want, and then it hands it all to me.

I'm still digging through all of the information that's out there, and as I go, I'm discovering that some sources that should be interesting are definitely not. Take, for example, the ESPN NFL Blog Network, which I read religiously. Each of the divisional blogs now has a Twitter account, but they don't use them for anything more than posting links to their new blog posts. Thanks for the effort, guys, but that's what my RSS reader is for.

On the other hand, some sources that seem like they would be mundane are actually quite interesting, as I discovered first-hand today. Most of you know that I'm a big Atlanta Falcons fan, and (judging by their number of followers) most of you don't know that they have a Twitter network of people in various official capacities. I currently follow most of them, and as you would expect on a day like today (where the Falcons completed a major trade), I was met with a steady flow of information as events unfolded. But the best information didn't come from the official team feed or from any of their media guys. The truly unique experience was provided by Jimmy Luck, who is the Falcons' equipment manager. Minutes after the Gonzo trade went down, Jimmy posted that he was getting a jersey and a locker ready for #88. I immediately shot back and asked if he could post a picture of the new jersey, and within minutes, I was greeted with this. Totally sweet! That's the kind of stuff I can't get on ESPN. Those are the little moments that make me feel personally connected to the team, even though I now live four hours away in a city with a pretty good team of their own.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Have a Wife, You Know!

Believe it or not, our camera sometimes finds itself pointed at someone or something other than Evan. Here are a couple of good pregnant shots of Kari a few weeks ago.


A Day at the Park

There's a park down the road with a pretty awesome playground, so Kari takes Evan down there on nice days. These photos are from late March, on what was probably the first warm Saturday of the year.





Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tired Boy

Evan was sitting on the couch the other morning after breakfast, and he looked so tired that I just had to grab the camera. His hair was a complete mess and he could hardly keep his eyes open. I must have taken at least two dozen photos. Here are few of the better ones:


Zzzzzzzzz.



Wha? Where'd that flash come from?



Yawn! So tired!



OK, seriously, Dad. Put down the camera and back away. I'm only telling you once!



On second thought, maybe you should snap just one or two. I am pretty cute, aren't I?

Around the House

Here are some random pictures of Evan around the house, probably from the January-February time frame.


Playing with his blocks.



Helping Mommy make a salad. Never mind that he won't actually eat salad. Right now he just sucks all the dressing off and spits the lettuce back out.



"Reading" in his chair. He'll sit there for several minutes at a time, just flipping through his favorite books.

Christmas Pictures

I'm not really feeling creative tonight, but I do have a pretty solid backlog of pictures. I guess we can call that material enough for a blog post :) Here are a couple of my favorite shots from this past Christmas:


There's just something magical about this one.



This one is sort of a sham since he didn't really understand what the present was yet. He was just excited to be in my lap getting his picture taken.



It didn't take him long to figure out that the present was pretty cool, though!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Look Ma, I'm Famous!

Okay, so not really. But I did recently write an article that got published. Sort of :)

My company has a blog that our owners post to frequently. If you're interested in getting a feel for what our company is really like, it makes for great reading. They try to be as transparent as possible about what we're doing and why we do it. Not only is it a pretty awesome way to show our customers what we're like to work with, but it also serves as a great forum to hold us accountable to our current and future clients. I can't begin to tell you how glad (and appreciative) I am, to be able to work for a company that goes to such lengths to do right by both its customers and its employees.

One other purpose for our company blog is to serve as a forum for sharing any interesting discoveries that we make. Mike and Tim (our owners) have told us repeatedly that if we're doing something interesting that may be of benefit to someone else, don't hesitate to take a little bit of extra time to make a blog post out of it. So when I started digging into the options for persistent storage solutions for our Amazon EC2 machines, I decided that my findings were worth publishing. Nobody else (that I found, anyway) had written about combining this particular stack of technologies, so I decided to write a guide for anyone who may be interested. If you're interested using Amazon's Elastic Block Store in conjunction with LVM and NFS, you should definitely take a look.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Next Beer Batch, Updated, Again

Necessity has forced my hand yet again! My latest batch of beer has officially gone from a Cooper's Sparkling Ale clone to a full-on British-style pale ale. I mentioned before that I wasn't terribly enthused with the Cooper's that I bought, but I didn't really go into detail. I actually spent quite a bit of time and effort hunting down a place that even sold the stuff, and when I finally found it, I had to shell out $12.79 just to get a six-pack. What I didn't consider at the time was, since I had such a hard time finding it, how long had it been sitting on the shelf? After my first taste, the answer was, "obviously quite a while."

When properly refrigerated, yeast goes dormant and can survive for quite some time. Thus, even though my bottle-conditioned beer tasted pretty old, the fact that I bought it out of a walk-in refrigerator boded well for the viability of the yeast inside. Or so I thought.

About a week ago I opened two more bottles of the Cooper's, making sure not to disturb the yeast sediment in the bottom of the bottles. I brewed up about a cup of wort and pitched it with the slurry from both bottles. Over the next two days I eagerly awaited some activity in my airlock, and... nothing. It looks like the yeast in both bottles was completely dead (though on the bright side, my sanitation practices were apparently good enough that no "bad" yeast got in there and took hold either).

Not to be deterred from brewing on my allotted night (Kari had already made plans), I rushed down to the homebrew shop and picked up a vial of While Labs WLP005 British Ale Yeast. This is my first experience with liquid yeast strains, but so far the results look promising. Primary fermentation is almost complete, and I'll be racking over to secondary (for dry hopping) any day now. With any luck, it'll be kegged and ready to drink in a couple of weeks!

Netflix "Blu"s

Today, Netflix announced a change to their pricing structure that affects all subscribers who wish to rent Blu-Ray discs in addition to standard DVDs. Starting on April 27th, all Blu-Ray renters will be assessed a $1-$9 monthly premium depending upon their rate plan. For customers like me on the "standard" 3-at-a-time plan, that translates to $4/month extra. Currently, all Netflix subscribers who want Blu-Ray access are assessed a $1 monthly premium, regardless of their rate plan.

As can only be expected, comments on sites such as Hacking Netflix and The Official Netflix Blog have been largely negative, with many users threatening to cancel their Blu-Ray access, if not their whole Netflix account. Personally, I didn't join the public tongue-lashing that's still happening on those sites, but I am going to rant for a bit here.

Netflix explained today's price increases with some statistics, claiming that, on average, Blu-Ray discs cost 30% more than DVDs, while only about 10% of customers opt for the premium content. While I have no reason to doubt that those numbers are true, Netflix has a potentially fatal flaw in their logic.

Netflix needs to remember that increased prices lead to increased expectations. Companies can get away with charging premium prices only when they also offer premium services, and thus far, Netflix's Blu-Ray offerings don't live up to their billing. While Netflix claims a 60% increase in their Blu-Ray inventory over the last six months, the reality of the situation is that their supply pales in comparison to demand. In the three months that I've had Blu-Ray service, only three of the twenty discs I've rented have been Blu-Ray. That's an average of one disc per month, and only 15% of my total rental activity. $4 is a steep price to pay to upgrade one disc per month. And when you consider the $2+ per rental that I'm already paying, Netflix is about to become more expensive for Blu-Ray than my local video store.

I understand that Netflix is trying to keep costs as low as possible for as many users as possible, but the new Blu-Ray pricing structure represents a significant step in the wrong direction. With such limited availability of titles (and long waits for the titles they actually have), I see no reason to pay a fee that upgrades my whole account when I can only ever hope to use a fraction of the upgrade. Charging for the general right to rent discs just isn't the way to go for such a limited service. With availability as low as it is, it seems like Netflix asking me to buy a $4 lottery ticket every month.

I'd be willing to pay a small premium on a per-rental basis, and I'd even be willing to consider paying a (smaller than $4) premium so that any one of my three discs at home could be Blu-Ray. But asking me to pay almost 25% more money for a chance that one of my movies for the month might be on Blu-Ray is ridiculous. I guess for now, I'll just have to settle for enjoying my new TV with standard DVDs upconverted to 1080i, because my Netflix account is about to get downgraded.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Why My Wife is Awesome (Part 2)

Boys like their toys, and that's pretty much all there is to it. For me, that means fast cars, loud speakers, big TV's, nice computers, and pretty much anything associated with beer. Fortunately for Kari, the beer stuff is reasonably cheap, my job provides me with a MacBook Pro, and I already had the speakers and the car before we got married. What I didn't have was the TV, since my old roommate already had a nice 50" Toshiba.

Kari has been wanting a big TV, too, just not to the same degree as me. For one, she didn't want some behemoth to take over our living room. Secondly, big TVs cost a lot of money, and she's always had other priorities for any excess cash we may have. The ubiquity of Plasma and LCD TVs, combined with the large bonus room in our new house, have rendered her first point moot. However, the money was still an issue... until our 2008 tax return. Now, there's a 58 inches worth of bonus in our bonus room, and Kari's just as excited about it as I am!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fool's Wife Stout

It's been two weeks since I bottled my latest batch of beer, which means it's fully carbonated by now. Normally dark beers and high gravity beers (this one is both) are best served by an extended period of bottle conditioning, but since this one spent about a month in secondary fermentation, the flavor should already be reasonably mature.

Tonight I cracked open a bottle and was pleasantly surprised by the results. It's definitely not without its faults, but upon my first taste, I was greeted with a predominant coffee flavor, with some notes of chocolate and smoke, and just a touch of fruit on the nose. I think some extended time in the bottle will help to enhance those flavors, but it's already a very nice beer. At the very least, it will certainly encourage me to keep making more.

The two biggest problems with this batch are already issues that I had set out to fix before I tasted it. First is that it is fairly oxidized, due in part to my lack of a proper secondary fermenter (I used a 7-gallon food-grade plastic bucket with WAY too much head space), and in part to some carelessness when I bottled it. Second is that I just used a little packet of dried Munton's yeast for fermentation. While I did take the time to properly rehydrate it, the esters and flavors of a dried yeast pale in comparison to some of the liquid strains available today.

The remedy to my first problem was to get some proper fermenters. I bought a 6.5-gallon glass carboy to serve as a primary, and my friend Troy hooked me up with an extra 5-gallon one that will be my secondary. As for my second problem, I intend to start using liquid and/or re-cultured yeast from here on out. It costs a good bit more than dried, and it requires a bit more care (it usually has to be cultured for a few days before it's hearty enough to pitch), but it provides a lot more variety and will allow me to take another pretty solid leap forward in my quest to produce the best beer possible.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why My Wife is Awesome (Part 1)

I'm a bit of a fool sometimes, but at least I admit it :). This past Sunday was no exception. After a long day of chores sandwiched in between church in the morning and a pot-luck dinner in the evening, Kari and I had planned on each doing our own thing Sunday night. We normally like to spend our relaxation time together, but I had 5 gallons of Russian Imperial Stout that needed to be bottled, and Kari had a movie from Netflix that I had no desire to watch. So despite wanting to just crash, I set out to bottle my beer.

When I look back on most things, I don't usually remember them taking as long as they actually did. Bottling beer certainly falls into that category. But on Sunday evening, I somehow convinced myself that I could start bottling beer at 9:00 PM and still make it to bed by 11:00. For those of you who are slow at math, 5 gallons divided by 12 oz. = ~53 bottles to wash, sanitize, dry, fill, and cap.

At 11:30, I finally had my bottles washed and sanitized, and my beer was primed and in the bottling bucket. Kari came in to inform me that she was going to bed without me, but then she took pity on my poor, wretched soul and started helping instead. That's right, she's 27 weeks pregnant, she's just getting over a horrible cold, and she's incredibly tired, but she stayed up with me to help bottle a beer that she can't drink now and won't drink later (she's not much of a beer drinker, so a stout is definitely not her cup of tea). At 12:30, I was capping the last of the bottles as she rinsed out the bottling bucket.

I haven't taken to naming my beers yet, as everything I've done has been decent, but not noteworthy. Perhaps I'll break that trend and let her name this first batch. I'm guessing she'll go with something like, "Fool's Wife Stout."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ideas are Spinning!

Outside of my original post, I haven't really done anything very creative on this blog yet. Nonetheless, I think the act of writing has definitely stimulated my creative thought processes, and it led me to a pretty awesome software idea the other day. I'm always thinking of potential applications to work on, whether they be for me personally, for work, for the open source community, or whatever. This particular idea definitely falls into the personal category, but it's got potential to grow outside of that. I'm not going to share any details about it yet, as I want a month or two to chew on it first, but let's just say that Mark and his crew are getting TurboGears 2 ready just in time :)

Next Beer Batch, Updated

So I went to my local homebrew supply store today to do my usual: spend about $40 on ingredients for my next batch, and about $80 on equipment so that making my next batch is easier/better/more fun. I'd like to think that the amount of money I invest in equipment will eventually taper off, but I really don't think it will. This is, after all, a hobby, and not just a way to combat rising beer prices :)

Anyway, I mentioned a couple of days ago that I planned on making a clone of an Australian beer called Cooper's Sparkling Ale. I picked up a six-pack the other day, so I have a nice sample of their yeast, and BYO ran an article this month with a nice clone recipe. However, I changed my mind today for a couple of reasons:

1) I'm not sure I'm in the mood to drink (or share) 5 gallons of Cooper's over the next couple of months. It sounded like what I wanted when I read the article, but after sampling the first bottle of my six-pack (all in the name of research, of course!), I think it's not quite what I'm after.

2) Cooper's is a bottle-conditioned beer, so to clone it, I'd need to bottle-condition my brew as well. This used to be the only way I brewed, but thanks to my awesome job, I now have other options. It just seems like a shame to keep that keggerator empty any longer :)

3) Filling the grain bill for Cooper's wouldn't be too hard, but the recipe calls for Pride of Ringwood hops. That's an Australian variety that seems to be a bit hard to find at the moment. Granted, the hops are only for bittering, so in theory, variety doesn't matter. But in practice, the recipe calls for something I don't have, so why not make further changes?

So instead of making a Cooper's clone, I've made up my own recipe to create a British-style pale ale, which is more in line with what I've been wanting lately anyway. This will be my first batch where I've had input into the ingredients (beyond picking which kit to buy). Here's what I picked up today:

1 lb. 60°L Crystal Malt
3.3 lbs. M&F Light LME
3 lbs. M&F Light DME
1 oz. Northern Brewer Hop Pellets (8.5% AA)
1 oz. East Kent Golding Hop Pellets (5% AA)
1 oz. East Kent Golding Whole Hops

My plan is to use the Northern Brewer hops for bittering (60 min. boil) and the E.K. Golding pellets for flavoring (10 min. boil). Then, once I rack over to secondary fermentation, I'm going to add the fresh E.K. Golding flowers for the last week to get some nice fresh aroma and flavor.

For yeast, I'm sticking with my original plan of harvesting from the Cooper's bottles. I know it's not entirely kosher to use Australian yeast in a British-style beer, but who cares! It's my beer and I can make it any way I please :) Besides, the Cooper's yeast is supposed to provide some nice, fruity esters that I'm hoping will go well with my hops selection.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cooper's Sparkling Ale

Part of the fun of brewing beer is learning new techniques that make each batch better than the last. Since I'm still fairly new at this hobby, there are a lot of proven ideas out there that I have yet to try. One such idea is trying to reclaim the yeast from a bottle-conditioned beer for use in my own creation.

For those of you who don't know much about brewing, beer is traditionally made from just four ingredients: malted grain (usually barley), water, hops, and yeast. Each of those four ingredients plays a major part in how the beer tastes, though the grain and the hops are usually the parts that get the most attention. Yeast is often an afterthought to new brewers, as the differences between good strains are much more subtle than the differences in hop varieties. However, yeast is perhaps the most important part of the whole process. After all, without yeast, beer would just be non-alcoholic sugar-water.

Most commercial beers are brewed, fermented, carbonated, and then pasteurized before bottling. The result is a pretty decent beer designed to withstand some aging on the supermarket shelves. However, a few beers are "bottle-conditioned," meaning that they are not pasteurized, and that carbonation occurs naturally AFTER bottling. A by-product of this latter method is that live yeast cultures remain in the bottle with the beer. You can easily spot a bottle-conditioned beer by the prodigious amount of sediment in the bottom of each bottle.

As a home brewer, it's intriguing to be able to get my hands on the very same yeast that produces some of the world's best beers. For my next batch, I intend to try the Cooper's Sparkling Ale clone recipe in the latest issue of BYO, using yeast reclaimed from a real bottle of Cooper's. It'll be interesting to see how close my sixth batch of beer comes to tasting like the signature product from a 150-year-old brewery. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Pandora's Box Has Been Opened

My in-laws have always been very generous with their Christmas gifts, so this year, when they asked Kari and I for suggestions, we suggested the Netflix player from Roku. We love our Netflix subscription, and we liked the streaming video content a lot. What we didn't like was the ordeal of loading up VMWare Fusion, booting into Windows XP, and then still having to huddle around the 15" screen on my MacBook Pro in order to watch anything. The Roku box seemed like a great way to fully maximize our subscription.

Never ones to do something halfway, Kari's parents went above and beyond our request and got us the Samsung BD-P2550 Blu-Ray player that, with a firmware upgrade, doubles as a Netflix player. It integrated so seamlessly into our existing home theater equipment that streaming video from Netflix now seems no different than popping in a DVD (or Blu-Ray!) or queueing up something on the DVR.

But wait, that's not all! The extra bonus (beyond the ability to play Blu-Ray discs) that came with the player was an interface to play music from Pandora, which, until yesterday, had gone unused. I'd never used (or even heard of) Pandora before, but yesterday afternoon at work, I created a station to give me a change of pace from my iTunes library. All I can say is, wow! What an awesome service! I've already discovered three or four new bands to check out, plus I've learned a lot of interesting information about countless songs that I'd heard before.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pandora, it's an internet radio site that lets you create your own custom stations. You start off by entering a song, album, or artist, and then it uses something called the Music Genome Project to select and play songs similar to what you entered. The results for me thus far have been great enough that iTunes has been temporarily relegated to Podcast-only duty. If you haven't used Pandora before, you should totally go check it out!

The best part is that I no longer have to hook up my iPod or my laptop just to have music in the family room. Now I can just crank up the Pandora player and stream music to my heart's content.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Caught!

Evan still won't say "Mommy" or "Daddy," but "cookie" has definitely worked its way into his limited vocabulary. 'Nilla Wafers are the item of choice, but the kid has yet to meet a cookie he didn't like. So the other day, Kari was cooking dinner when she noticed something... Evan wasn't in sight and wasn't making any noise. She peeked into the pantry to see what he was up to and immediately ran to get the camera when she saw this:




CAUGHT!



It should be noted that outside the frame of the picture, there's a Triscuit box that has been opened and discarded. It seems he went for more than one yellow box, but was disappointed with what he found inside the first one.

More Bumps and Bruises


Yeah, stitches weren't the only battle scar of Evan's recent adventures. About a month ago he was walking on an aggregate sidewalk with a toy in each hand. He tripped over something (or nothing) and, not wanting to let go of either toy, did a face-plant on the rocks. Poor guy can't catch a break!

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing (or fortunate, depending on how you look at it) is that he healed up before we could get any good pictures! This is the best one we got before the scab started clearing up.

Stitches


I was somehow fortunate enough as a child to never mar my body enough to require stitches. In fact, I've only had stitches once in my entire life, and that was during surgery (so I was asleep when I got them). So imagine my surprise when Kari called me the other day as I was driving home from work:

me: "Hello?"
Kari: "Where are you?"
me: "Coming down the hill... about 30 seconds away. Why?"
Kari (in a surprisingly calm voice): "Uh, I think we might need to go to the emergency room."
[pause, as I wait for details that don't come]
me: "OK, I'm walking in the back door now."

I figured it wasn't anything horribly serious, as she was way too calm on the phone, but I was understandably nervous as I walked in to find Kari and Evan in the kitchen. Kari was holding a bloody towel, and Evan had blood all over his head. Yikes! Kari immediately thrust him into my hands and began preparing a diaper bag so we could head out to the hospital.

It's at this point in the story that I should probably point out my attire. I'm not one to spend a ton of money on clothes, as I tend to ruin anything nice that I get. But a few months ago, we hit up a department store that was going out of business, and I found a really nice bright green cashmere sweater. Regular price: $400. Sale price: $75. Yeah, that's still an expensive sweater, but I wear sweaters to work nearly every day during the winter, and I'm a sucker for cashmere.... I'll let you guess which sweater I was wearing that day.

So here I am trying to hold a remarkably calm, yet bloody child, trying not to get blood everywhere (especially on myself), and trying to slow Kari down enough to find out what on earth had happened. It turns out, Evan was up in the incredibly super-duper baby-proofed play room. You know, the one room in the house with all of his toys and nothing that's supposed to be able to hurt him. Kari was up there with him, playing with a toy drum. Evan stood up and tripped over something, landing face-first on this stupid little plastic drum that seemingly should have collapsed under any sort of tangible force. The drum, however, did not collapse, and Evan caught the edge of it right on that bone in the corner of his eyebrow. Stitches would definitely be required.

The night continued in spectacular fashion, as we then got stuck in traffic behind a wreck between our house and the interstate. After turning around and navigating some back roads (thankfully Evan had stopped crying), we finally made it to the emergency room, in time to discover that nearly every other child in Williamson county had also done something to require stitches on this fine evening. Three hours later (and an hour and a half past Evan's normal bedtime), we finally got him stitched up and taken home.

Never Fear!

One of the things I said in my first post was that I hadn't started a blog before now because I didn't want to start one and then abandon it. Well, here it is 3 weeks later, and I haven't made a second post. I've set out to start one a few times, but I've never finished anything worthy of sharing. Tonight, however, Kari is out running an errand and Evan is upstairs in bed, so I'm going to take a rare moment for myself and crank out a couple of posts that I've been chewing on. I'm not normally one to forsake quality over quantity, but I think I'll make an exception tonight :)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

More Beer!

As I mentioned in my first post, one of my hobbies is brewing my own beer. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten to actually brew much lately, as I have changed jobs, moved to a new house, and started preparing for a new baby, all in the last eight months! So now that things are calming down a bit (relatively, anyway), I finally took some time three weeks ago to do another five-gallon batch. Since I'm still fairly new at this (and because I'm more than a little rusty), I'm still sticking with the basics... that means brewing from extract rather than whole grains, and in this case, using a pre-packaged kit rather than trying to craft my own recipe. If that sounds like cheating to those of you who are unfamiliar with brewing, let me assure you it's not! There's still a lot of work involved, and by simplifying certain steps in the brew process, you go a long way toward making sure all of your hard work doesn't result in five gallons of beer that no one wants to drink :)

Every time I brew another batch, people inevitably ask me how it turned out. The answer is that we'll have to find out later, because "brew day" is just the first step in a long process. One of the most frustrating things about brewing beer is that it takes a lot of time, and you don't really know how well it's going to turn out until the end.

The batch I've got going right now is a Russian Imperial Stout, and it's looking pretty fantastic so far. It's black as night, and has just enough hop bitterness to give it some balance. It's been setting in secondary fermentation for a little over two weeks now, and should be ready for bottles in another week or so. After that, it'll have to carbonate for another two weeks, at which point it will be drinkable. Given another month or two to condition, however, and it should be fantastic!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Intro (25 Random Things About Me)

I recently got tagged on one of those Facebook notes that says something like, "list 25 random things about yourself and post it on your notes page," and after finishing, I decided I also had the makings of a decent first blog post. So here are my 25 things:

1) I count steps every time I go up or down them. There are three up to my front door, four up from my garage, four down into my bonus room, sixteen up the back stairs, eleven (landing) then five up my front stairs, and six off my deck, though I only count five of them because the last one is really short. Back when I worked on the 28th floor of the queen building in Atlanta, we had a fire drill one day. There were 638 steps.

2) I once got stuck in an elevator that free-fell about a story and a half before the emergency brake stopped us. To this day, I still get a tiny bit nervous if there's an extended period of time between when an elevator stops and when the doors open.

3) Public restrooms with only one light bother me (especially in gas stations and fast food restaurants). I have this unfounded fear that the bulb will blow and leave me in the dark in some dirty, crappy public restroom.

4) I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with the NFL. I follow every coaching change, every trade, and every free agent signing. I can give detailed explanations of how the salary cap works and why contracts are structured the way they are. And given the opportunity, I'd watch the NFL draft from start to finish every year. I am also fascinated with sports statistics and how they correlate to the real game, to the point that I write my own software in order to prepare for fantasy football drafts.

5) I don't understand how anyone who's married or has children could doubt the existence of God. It's not within my abilities as a human to love my son as much as I do. That goes double for how much I love my wife.

6) I have a soft spot in my heart for campy 1970's and 80's slasher movies, and in its own special way, I think that Halloween 4 is the best of the genre.

7) I love to quote movies, and I miss my Atlanta friends who actually get the references.

8) I feel guilty if I have to hire someone to do something that I know how to do myself.

9) I firmly believe that the order in which ingredients are put on a sandwich affects the way it tastes.

10) I am father to the cutest son who ever lived. I will also be father to the cutest daughter who ever lived come late May/early June.

11) I hate driving cars with automatic transmissions. There's just something satisfying about rowing your own gears.

12) I enjoy making my own beer, and I can't understand why so many American craft brewers insist on ruining everything they make with copious amounts of Cascade hops.

13) I have been to the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum. You read that correctly. Not only is there a tow truck museum, there's also a tow truck driver hall of fame.

14) Some day, I will own a Porsche 911. One of the late 1980's turbos with the whale tail would be especially sweet.

15) Any proper vacation involves a good book, an extra-dry martini, and at least one trip to the hot tub.

16) I have two very large cats named Chloe and Otis. I love dogs, but for me right now, I think cats make better pets. There's something to be said about a pet that is affectionate, but that can also be ignored. (Of course, there's also something to be said for a pet that knows how to poop outside.)

17) I detest fluorescent lights, to the point that I almost considered my employment at Lithonia Lighting to be a moral compromise. I really can't stand the cold and lifeless spectrum of light that they provide.

18) My friend Jeff and I once drove two hours just to eat a cheeseburger. It was totally worth it.

19) The smell of a banana makes me sick to my stomach.

20) My wife used to be an awesome account manager, but now she's an even better mom.

21) My favorite dessert is what most people call "seconds."

22) As a young child, I once drank some bleach that I thought was lemonade. I haven't liked lemonade since.

23) I'm a fairly adventurous eater, and I'll try most things at least once, but I'm totally done with fish. I've tried various types of fish at varying degrees of freshness (up to and including, "I caught it a couple of hours ago"), cooked in a variety of ways, and it's always terrible. Regardless of what anyone tries to convince me of beforehand, it always tastes "fishy." I mean, it's right there in the name. By definition, fish tastes "fishy." So stop asking me to try it. I'm seriously never eating it again.

24) I became a Christian when I was sixteen, and while I know I'll never fully understand or comprehend the magnitude of the sacrifice made on that cross, I never thought the reality of that message could bowl me over again like it did that first time. But this year I sat in the Easter Sunday service holding my own 6-month-old son, and it was almost too much to handle. I can't imagine willingly sacrificing him for anything or anyone... especially someone as wretched and unappreciative as me.

25) I've contemplated starting a blog since before the word was even invented, but haven't gotten around to it for several reasons:
- I don't want to look back in ten years and see my name on one of several million abandoned blogs.
- I put a lot of time and thought into anything that I write, and I'm not sure that the effort will be well-spent on a blog that will probably have a readership of less than twelve people.
- I've always assumed that I would host my own blog, and I've never gotten around to setting a machine up for that purpose.
- I say to myself at least once a week, "if I had a blog, I'd write about that..." yet none of those moments have inspired me to actually start one.