Joe's New Blog

Nothing special, this is just my third effort at writing a blog about my life and what goes on in it: Hobbies, cooking, work, maybe the occasional book or DVD review, and so forth. Nothing really noteworthy, but this is sort of a little subset of my world...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Adventures in Bicycling, Texas Edition

So the girlfriend convinced me to get a bike yesterday.  Didn't really take a whole hell of a lot of convincing, since I like bicycling, but I just hadn't done it since I got down here to Texas.  Well, I certainly didn't buy the high end model.  It was a hundred-dollar mountain bike at Target, but I figure it'll do the job since I won't really be using it for all that much aside from riding around town a little.

This morning, we got up and went down to a park on the south end of town and rode around a little.  I felt like my lungs were going to explode after about half a mile.  We ended up going a total of about a mile and a quarter.  Hopefully we'll be able to get out there and do some more riding, because it'll be good to get back into some kind of shape.  It's amazing how out of shape I've become in only a year or so without riding.

On the way back home, we stopped at a sporting goods store and bought one of those racks that mounts to the back of an SUV or station wagon.  Not the trailer hitch kind, because neither of us has a trailer hitch on our vehicles.  It took us about half an hour to figure out how to get the thing attached and get the bikes on it, but it seems to work all right.  I also got  a laptop case to replace the one that was too small which I'd purchased a couple of weeks ago.  It's a messenger bag style, and it doesn't have quite as much room for all the accessory crap as my old case did, but I'm pretty sure it'll do the job.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Texas Sourdough Adventure, Take Two!

About a week and a half ago, I decided that I would try creating a new sourdough starter. I had one in Oregon, which died when I was in the hospital with the blood clot in my leg. I knew they did well there, but I wasn't sure how they'd do here in the heat and humidity of Texas. Well, it turns out that they do pretty well. As long as you don't water them with the highly chlorinated city water here in Denton. I'm pretty sure that's what killed it off, but what I do know is that it's now gone down the sink. And there's a new jar sitting on top of the fridge.

So, how does one go about creating a batch of sourdough starter? Well, for me it's a mix of 1/3 cup of Bob's Red Mill Organic Dark Rye flour and 1/4 cup of moderately warm water. The water in this case is regular tap water which has been filtered through a Brita pitcher. That's what I used last time, and it seemed to work fine until I just added the unfiltered water. Some of the websites and such that I've seen recommend using distilled or bottled water, but I don't see any reason not to use the water from the pitcher, since most of the crap has been filtered out of it.

I use the Red Mill organic flour because that's what one of those same websites recommended. They didn't specify the brand, but they said that it should be an organic stone ground flour, and I think they said that dark rye flour seems to have a good strain of yeast, or the right ingredients for yeast to thrive off of, or something like that. In any case, that's what I used in Oregon, and I still had half a bag left, so that's what I used here. I'm sure other organic flours would probably also work just fine.

You take the water and the flour, nothing else, and mix them together and put them in a covered, but not airtight, container. If you put them in an airtight container, the waste gases from the yeast will eventually poison them, and you'll wind up with nothing but a slurry of flour and water which wouldn't make a pancake rise, let alone bread. Personally, I take a dish towel and put it over the top of a wide-mouth mason jar, then secure it on with one of those big rubber bands that comes wrapped around newspapers on the weekends. Put the container in a warm place to let the yeast grow. I put mine on top of the refrigerator, but if you have a nice warm cupboard or something, that'll work just fine, too. Just don't get it too hot or you'll kill the yeast.

A few hours after you mix the stuff together and put it in the warm place, you should start seeing some bubbles forming in your slurry. If you really feel like watching it for a while, you'll be able to see it rise to nearly twice it's original height, before settling back down to near the original depth. If you don't happen to feel like watching a blob of goo all day, and you're not lucky enough to see it near the peak, you can still tell that it's alive because you'll be able to see the little smears on the glass from when it rose and fell.

Every day, add the same amount of flour and water to the mixture, making sure to stir it very well and making sure that the water isn't too terribly hot. Heat will kill the yeast in the mixture. Cold, on the other hand, will just slow down it's reaction without harming the actual yeast. In face, if you have to leave your house for a while and can't feed your sourdough mixture, the best way to prevent its dying is to just stick it in the fridge. In the chiller, your sourdough starter can go for up to a month without feeding if need be.

Anyway, the starter's on the fridge and we'll see how it goes...

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vista, Round Two.

Well, fortunately it didn't take a whole lot of time to get the DVD drive problem fixed on the new computer. Dell had a link to a fix on the Microsoft site, and running the little automatic fix program did actually get the thing back available on My Computer. Of course, the fix said that things like iTunes and similar programs might not work without being reinstalled, so I'm not sure what will happen with the DVD burning software which I haven't tried out yet. Of course, the software they have for that is part of Windows itself, so it should work properly. I hope...

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My Vista experience. Round One.

So, four days into the Vista "Experience," the first bomb drops. I woke up this morning with the computer's little power light blinking at me. I wasn't sure why, but when I started it up, it told me that it had installed an update and had to turn off the computer when it did. Okay, that was a bit annoying, because I don't know if it finished copying all the files I had it copying before it rebooted. That's not really something specific to Vista, but happens with pretty much any of the operating systems since Autoupdate has been available.
Anyway, I figured I'd just check the folder where I was copying the files against the CD I was copying from and make sure they were the same sizes and such to tell me if the process finished. But, wait!, there's no DVD drive in My Computer. It was there yesterday. So I restarted the computer, thinking that if it did a reboot while installing updates, it might have had some little kink in the works there. No, rebooting doesn't help. I try logging off and logging in as a different user, but that also doesn't help.
I went to the control panel, and it told me that it couldn't load the driver. I reverted back to my old tech support thoughts and tried uninstalling the driver and letting it find the device again. But it tells me the best driver is already available, so it doesn't update it. Of course, it can't load that best driver. So I tried rolling back the updates it did last night. So far, no luck with that. If this is how Vista regularly works, I guess I can understand why so many people despise it so much. I wish I'd just ordered a damned computer with XP on it. Maybe that move to Linux isn't so far off after all. Fucking Microsoft...

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just stuff and things...

I'm getting by still. It's been a fairly useless day, although I did send off a couple of applications that I found in the paper this morning. I haven't heard back from very many of the companies I've sent resumes to, and so far every one that I have heard back from has been a negative response. Either I'm not qualified enough, they have already filled the job, or I'm overqualified for the entry-level positions I've applied for. It sucks. Aside from that, the day was mostly spent copying data from my old desktop computer to the new laptop. I do hope to eventually get everything moved over onto here, so I can retire both of the old beasties, since I really don't use them any longer. Once I make sure I have everything off the old laptop, I do believe I'm going to load Ubuntu Linux onto it. I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep my career moving along the computer track, but at least I can kind of keep up with the whole Linux deal. It won't hurt, anyway...

I think I managed to kill my sourdough starter. I think I tried adding the tap water a little too early in the process, and it killed off the yeast. I guess I'm going to have to try it again, and this time I'll keep using the filtered water for the duration. I guess it really doesn't cost anything, so I might as well. Not sure why I really bothered using the tap water anyway. Live and learn, I suppose...

Hockey's on again tonight. Canada's last hope, the Canucks, got eliminated by Chicago last night, damn it. I just really don't think Chicago is going to be able to do very much against the Red Wings, and I have the feeling the Red Wings are going to close out their series against the Ducks tonight...

Because of all the hockey and playing with the new computer, I haven't had much chance to watch a lot of baseball lately. Oh well...

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day...

Yesterday, we got up a little later than we had really wanted to, due to having the guests over Saturday night. So the girlfriend wound up not making the cake that she wanted to make, and we had to stop at a couple of places on the way to look for one. Ravelin Bakery looked like it had been cleaned out by locusts, which isn't really that much of a surprise at about noon on Mother's Day.

We went over to the girlfriend's mom's place for Mother's Day, then went and saw James in the hospital. That's always just a ton of fun. He seems to be doing all right, pretty well stabilized, and now they're just waiting on some test results to make sure he's okay to come back home.

I called Mom and wished her a happy Mother's Day after we got home. She seems to be doing all right, which is good. Not too much else going on. On the way home from Lewisville, I picked up the local Sunday papers, and I need to get off my ass and send out some applications and such, but I'm still feeling pretty down about getting fired. Really need to get out there and find work, though...

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