Friday, January 30, 2009

Windows 7?

Some of you may not have heard, but Microsoft has released the Windows 7 Beta for techies (like me and many of you) to preview and help build buy-in and interest. It's pretty obvious to most of us that the seemingly hurried release schedule is in direct response to the bad press and poor response that Windows Vista has been buried under. Personally, I don't understand why so many people are willing to jump on the Vista-bashing bandwagon. Perhaps it is the pack mentality or "all the cool kids are doing it" or they simply fear change. Whatever. I've been using Windows Vista Ultimate since I got my first beta back in late September of 2006 and I don't have many problems with it... fewer than with XP... but definitely different. That said, I'm an IT guy who has focused on using Microsoft server and desktop products over the years, so I'm a different kind of user, and I can be more forgiving than others.

What I'm really here to bring up is the name "Windows 7". Really? That doesn't sound right. Let's count the versions:

[DISCLAIMER: in the HTML, this is an ordered list with numbers, so I don't have any idea where the freakin' flower bullet points are coming from]

  1. Windows 1.0 - I remember the box, but I think I used GEM at the time
  2. Windows 2.0 - I think I immediately upgraded to 2.03 with overlapping windows, rather than sticking with 2.0's tiled window interface. I also used Word for the first time with this version
  3. Windows 3.0 - it is arguable that Windows 3.1, and 3.11 for Workgroups were different enough to be "versions"
  4. Microsoft Bob - I had blocked this from my memory, but Trent pointed it out and I must include it
  5. Windows 95 - this was like day and night when compared to 3.1
  6. Windows 98 - I think Windows 98SE (as in Second Edition) is worthy of being called a separate "version"
  7. Windows Me - ::hork:: let's not talk about the "Millenium Edition"
  8. Windows XP - for Home, Pro, or Media Center Edition, this was a nice improvement
  9. Windows Vista - Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate
  10. Windows 7 - or should that be "Windows 10"... oops, make that "Windows X"?

When I counted this with the guys in my IT crew, we ended up with ten, but that included Windows 2000 in the list, which is really a different "flavor" of Windows (covered below). That would make it "Windows 10"... or "Windows X"... "Windows OS X". That makes me uncomfortable.

With the Microsoft Bob included, the list is now up to ten. "Windows X" it should have been! However, with my mentioning it here, there are lawyers at Apple twitching, Mac fanboys getting the "Windows just copies Mac" flame-mails ready, and perhaps even Microsoft lawyers hovering near "cease and desist" documents. All in good fun! :)

Maybe they were counting "IT professional" version of Windows when they came up with the name? Let's count:

  1. Windows NT 3.1
  2. Windows NT 3.5
  3. Windows NT 3.51
  4. Windows NT 4
  5. Windows 2000 Professional
  6. Windows XP Professional - the much beloved XP Pro so many people have latched onto
  7. Windows Vista - Business or Enterprise editions (by the way, Vista is "Longhorn" for those who wonder where that version went)
  8. Windows 7 - or should that be "Windows 8"
If I condense the IT pro list down to leading version numbers, we'd only have six, not seven.

I could break out all the different editions, service packs, and releases into their own items, but the lists would be even longer. We could throw in DOS versions, but they are not Windows even if they are operating systems for the PC.

Wait, I think I see what they did:

  1. Windows 1.0
  2. Windows 2.0
  3. Windows 3.0
  4. Windows 9x (95, 98, Me)
  5. Windows XP
  6. Windows Vista
  7. Windows 7
That's cheating the list's count though. It's probably a marketing spin on the underpinning technologies of Windows. Thanks to Wikipedia for having a good list for me to check my memory against.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Woodworking Progress

For those of you who read my last post about New Year's Resolutions/New Beer Revolutions progress, I mentioned a couple things that don't make much sense unless can see what I am working on. So... to facilitate that, I've taken some photos that I will post this evening. First, I want to have a 2005 Double Bastard downstairs in the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Then, once I get home and everything settles in for the night, I'll upload the photos (and probably the "tasting notes" post about the beers we drank last Friday night).

Okay, now that the evening has settled down, here's the rundown...

First up, the makeshift bar. What you see in the picture to the right is the physical mass of the bar I would like to build. The space it takes up is just about what I desire for the dimensions of our studio. The bar surface--as shown in the photo--is salvaged mahogany from a giant pallet, and will be resawn (probably by hand) to make two 16" x 1.5" boards 65" long for the counter top. The smaller pieces sawn off the larger pieces will be around 32" long. The upper portion of the bar--the arm rest if you will--is made up of er... smaller boards: two 9 x 16" pieces at 64" long also with 32" pieces attached (one of which I have already sawn off).

I also salvaged some other wood to use on this project: oak, also from pallets up for grabs up at work. I think it is white oak, but it also could be (and probably is) some cheaper variety from South America or Asia. Regardless of that (or "irregardless" if you want to watch a certain big Irish guy twitch), it looks pretty good. It's the wood to the right of the photo. The mahogany (which could also be a cheaper substitute from overseas) is the wood to the left of the photo. Again, it looks pretty good. Both woods are heavy... hea-vy... dense... and difficult to cut, especially when compared to pine and douglas fir, which is the usual wood we encounter regularly.

Anyway, back to the bar concept... you'll also notice a few other "salvaged" items that, while helping me determine the actual shape and function of the bar, will not be a part of the final piece. For instance, the chair legs balanced on the right side of the frame are there to represent one of the four turned posts which will ultimately support the canopy over the bar (you know, where stemware is hung from).

Below the bar to are two whiskey barrels. They will not be used for the bar directly, but they will be used around the bar area. Look on the wall above the beer bottles. That circle (and one that should be below it, but fell off) represents a barrel end that will "stick through" the wall from the refrigerator behind the wall to the bar area. I think that at least one tap per barrel end will pour from the kegs in the 'frig. I also think I will be able to use the remaining barrel staves for some bar stools. We'll have to waiti and see. Representing the front of the bar are two desk ends. Sure, they don't look that bad, but on closer examination, their facade starts to fall apart. They are a "cherry" veneer on pressed wood... not exactly what I'm looking for in the finished piece. Instead, they nicely represent the two large mohogany panels that will be front (and side?) of the bar.

The drawback? This is not the project I need to complete for my NYR/NBR. It'll help me lear stuff, but it doesn't put a bookcase in the library, nor does it empty the... what... fifteen? twenty?... numerous paper boxes of books that are filling one of the corners of the studio.

What clears things up and helps me learn about what I'm getting into are the breakfast nook benches that I've started working on again. One of them was started previously, and the other was brought to a point where I can figure out the corner seat. The carcass of the bench seats is essentially all you see here, as quite a bit more work is coming this weeknd. I'll bulk up the feet up a bit and complete the boxes just under the hinged seats. Now this project is helping me learn about the construction of the bookcases for the library. So far so good.

Just for the sake of "sharing" what woodworking projects I'm working on, here is the gargoyle I'm working on:

I think I'll learn a bit about hand carving various aspects of my future projects. Plus it will look cool somewhere in or outside the studio.
Oh, and here's the drawing it is based on.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tasting Notes: Rarity and Obscurity

Since Marc asked for it, I'll offer up some tasting notes from New Year's Eve (I think), when my boss decided to "thin out his refrigerator" and share the spoils of his trip to Europe with several people at the brewery.

First on the list was a pair of "rustic" Italian beers: "La Mummia" and "Dolii Raptor" both brewed by Birrificio Montegioco. I'd categorize these beers as "farmhouse ales", since they had that flavor typified by some Belgian traditional fermentation techniques: Brettanomyces was prominent, but well balanced. The "Dolii Raptor" (Barrel Thief) was my favorite of the two, as it had some wonderful oak flavors.

Those two were quickly followed by... er... a beer that everyone around the table said I had to try (while snickering, that is). I tried it, and wondered why it was at the table. I was "underwhelmed". It didn't have a label, so I can't tell you who made it or what it was called. Hec, it didn't even make it downstairs to the lab for other people to taste. I think it was poured out when people left the conference room.

Anyway, off to the next beer on the list... Struiselensis by Struise. It was a nice follow-up to the Italian rustics, with tart fruit-like flavors. It was good, but among its neighbors at the table (it's the one to the right of our next entry), was not outstanding. I still like the "Barrel Thief" better.

What was outstanding was the Kriek Cuvée René by Brouwerij Lindemans. Now, for those of you who know your sweet "lambics", this isn't one of those. It also isn't extremely sour, as my caveat might have led you to believe. Instead, this beer was nicely balanced... slightly sour, with some cherries in the nose and more in the flavor, but the nicest thing (to me, of course) was that this beer was not sweet. Now, I have a "sweet-tooth" of a sort, but that beer normally doesn't fit into what I would consider a "regular" beer. Again, for those of you who know your sweet beers, especially Lindemans, you'll note the red label in the photo, instead of the usual school bus yellow found on most of their bottles.

There was another beer on the table at this point... maybe two, but they were overshadowed by the two that followed them... for the beer geeks in the crowd, you'll totally understand why I can't remember much about them. The monks at Brouwerij Westvleteren (Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren) produce some of the most sought after beers on the planet. And Steve brought two of them back to Stone. The first of these was Trappist Westvleteren 8 and is probably the second or third best beer I've ever tasted. Ever. That was followed up by Trappist Westvleteren 12. The "best beer I've ever tasted" list met its number one. Yeah. This was quite an afternoon. I suppose some of the flavor memory I speak of was due to the hype, but the flavors were really that good. So, in addition to being quite rare, these beers were awesome. I'll let the beer write-ups in the links to explain this... I can't do them justice.

The last two beers on the table were good, but I didn't even taste that much of them as I didn't want to ruin the Trappist Westvleteren 12 flavors still lingering in my mouth. Nøgne Ø brewed up a pretty damn good holiday ale in "God Jul", from what I remembe, but the crew over at a brewery I won't call out need to rethink the flavor in their Creme Brule beer. Usually that flavor needs to stay away from beer... creme brule needs to stay away from beer.
Anyway, I'm sleepy and any more of this will just make you want to get some beers of your own.

Resolutions: A Start

Wow, what a week. If it wasn't work they'd call it something else, right? It turned out to be such an interesting week that, by Wednesday morning, I wanted to take Friday off (thanks, Steve for giving it your stamp of approval!). Naturally, that meant that I had to bust my butt to complete some outstanding issues to make the day off practical as well as possible. I'll probably have a few interesting ones waiting for me upon my return. forward to Friday...

Friday morning I had breakfast at A Delight of France, which was a nice change of pace from the routine shower-shave-get the E-Man to preschool-show up at work. Nice. Decent coffee, good eggs and garlic potatoes, and an awesome almond croissant. (Item: Lose girth. Status: Fail.)

I called Shopsmith to purchase some safety items for my Mark V. That went mostly okay. In retrospect, I got something that may not fit my 1960 model. Fun. I'll have to fix that tomorrow. (Item: Bookcase. Status: Creeping forward.)

A short while later, I visited a particular antique store on Grand Avenue in search of a few items I saw in mid-December: a garden astrolabe amd a nice set of plates (hey, they looked awesome for the "look" I'm going for in the studio over the garage.* Success? Zero. It seems that the rule of "see it and buy it" applies to antique stores. (Item: None. Status: Fail.)

Now that I was on the road, I took a trip to Escondido Metal Supply to see if they had some items I need for my studio bar project. Some? Yes, but it is tainted by the hassle of dealing with an understaffed team of annoyed people. Eh. So be it. I got an idea of what some things will cost through them (more on that project later), but at what additional cost? (Item: Bookcase practice. Status: time wasted.)

Annoyed, I turned "Kompressor"** back toward home, stopping through Showcase Moulding here in town. Good crew. Awesome selection of moulding and wood. Their prices were a bit higher for what I was quoting out, but the cherry plywood was very clear. It’s worth another $20 a sheet to get knot-free cherry rather than having to compromise and use maple. I think they will be my supplier for the projects in the queue. (Item: Bookcase. Status: Information gathering.)

Arriving at home, I performed the remaining Mark V calibrations and preventative maintenance I could, all in an effort to get the system running as good as possible. I then re-sawed the two smallest salvaged mahogany boards that will be part of the bar… the arm-rest counter to be precise. It is amazing how long that took. The density of the wood only allowed shallow cuts, relative to the 4 x 10 board. Two passes at each depth, and four depth settings later, I still wasn’t through the board, but I was at the maximum height of the saw blade. The remaining 2+ inches in the center of the board had to be hand-cut. I ended up using one of the old handsaws hanging on the wall of the garage. I don’t really know how old the saw is, but it has held its edge far better than the other saws less than half its age hanging alongside it. Once I got the board split, I got a chance to look at it. The wood looks pretty good. So good in fact, that I am questioning the decision to utilize the natural wearing of the wood and make it look like it has been worn by countless arms, hands, and pints. For now, I’ll stick with the plan and incorporate the “aged” look. (Item: Bookcase. Status: Practice makes perfect.)

Last year, I started a breakfast nook bench project. It is made out of birch plywood with a design based off of Andie’s library desk. I didn’t finish. Obvious, huh? Thought so. I brought that unfinished project down to the garage, considered what it would take to finish it up, and realized the benefits to be gained from finishing it up. One less unfinished project laying around. One more thing to practice on before starting in on a new project that is much more unforgiving. Besides, we need a few more seats at the breakfast table. “I’ll work on that this weekend” I told myself. (Item: Bookcase. Status: Planning makes perfect.)

Andie and Ethan came home shortly thereafter, so I was off to do some family things until after dinner. That night, Trent, Kevin, and Gary came over for beer-thirty. I have acquired several beers over time that have been relegated to the “share only” stash. The Lost Abbey beers we had that night will be the subject of another “Tasting Notes” entry. We had a good time and the “dry fit” of the bar worked out well. (Item: Lose girth. Status: Fail.)

Saturday and Sunday came around and spent most of it measuring up the breakfast nook area and working on the benches. (Item: Bookcase. Status: Practice, practice, practice.)

* Some might call the "studio" my "man cave", as much as I find that particular phrase... um... annoying? loathsome? Whatever. I don't think that I reside in a cave. It is currently filled with bookcases, boxes, a roll top desk badly in need of refinishing, and a bunch of stuff destined for Craig’s List, ebay, or one of the local thrift stores.

** Named early on by "the guys", my Mercedes Benz C230 Kompressor gained the name of another Kompressor out there in the world... of music in this case.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tasting Notes - 1980 Courage Imperial Russian Stout

Back on December 12th, I had the honor of tasting a 1980 vintage Courage Brewing Imperial Russian Stout beer. This is now the oldest beer I have tasted, coming in at 28 years old, knocking the 1985 Thomas Hardy's Ale I tasted early last year to #2!* Anyway, back to the beer at hand (ooo... I wish there was more "at hand"). It didn't have the usual "IRS" flavor profile I was expecting and was instead slightly sour with a tinge of soy sauce flavor. The grain roastiness was still there, as was the chocolately flavor. The mouth-feel was somewhat like a thin syrup, but that was most likely due to the nearly absent carbonation. If you're wondering what it tasted like, I'd say the closest beers would be Harvey's Imperial Extra Double Stout or Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada Obscura. It was quite good considering its age. Too bad I probably won't get any more of this ever again. Check it out at and Beer Advocate.

Anyway, my late lunch break is over. Back to work...

* I'll cover the oldest beers I've ever had in another post.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Beer's Revolution!

I am finally getting around to my second post, and it looks like I will be blogging more often now. Yep. I was off to a slow start (imagine that), but things will get rolling faster now that I made this part of my "New Beer's Revolution" at work.

Since I work at a brewery, and that brewey happens to be Stone Brewing Co., things aren't always traditional and are seldom boring. So why should the traditioal--and often boring--New Year's resolution be any different?

So let me guess, you’re planning on losing weight and exercising more in 2009, and that’s your New Year’s Resolution for the fifth time in six years? It’s ok to admit that—really it is. Or perhaps you’d like to improve intellectually, you know, learn a new skill or teach someone something? Maybe you want to make a difference in your community? All noble aspirations, but will you actually do any of them? Maybe, maybe not. But what if you had a support system—a team? And what if there was an incentive to accomplish your goals, like a reward?
That, and the "support group" of co-workers going through this with me... and the chance to win $500 or even $2,500 if the judges deem my efforts to be worthy of rewarding.

Let me guess. About this time you're wondering what I said I was going to do, right? Here's the list:
  1. Physical Goals: Decrease my waist size (36+ to 34-36) and "lifestyle belly" while increasing muscle mass and cardivascular health. Achieve this by exercizing (somewhat) regularly and making subtle dietary changes.
  2. Intellectual Goals: Write 50,000+ total words in the following areas:
    • blog (every other day)
    • novel projects (Talidon, Dune)
    • short stories
  3. Community Goals: Ride bike to work more (at least one time a week). Research "green" projects and solutions for my house and develop implementation plan (rain barrels, solar water heating, etc.)
I've finally registered for this thing on Friday, but as I said, I'm off to a slow start. Thankfully I have until the end of April to complete this journey, assemble the packet, and present it to the judges.

What have I done so far? ::hmm:: Not much. I'm not feeling well, and I'm not sure why I am so tired lately. I've been fighting some sinus issue or another for what seems like forever. Neither of those help me get moving. In response to that lethargy yesterday, I spent some time reading through the issue of Family Handyman magazine that has the plans for the bookcase I intend on building. I also spent some time tuning my vintage 1960 Shopsmith, getting it prepared for a workout. I took a quick trip to Harbor Freight to look for a pocket hole jig and some "extra arms" in the from of an adjustable roller assembly. I got some quotes for cherry and maple, but I haven't quite locked in the decision to go with the maple... it's slightly cheaper and doesn't have the knots like the cherry wood does (or so I am told). Since Andie and Ethan are home tomorrow, I won't have to take Ethan to preschool and I'll be able to ride my mountain bike to work instead of driving the "grueling" three and a half miles to work.

That's it for tonight. I'm falling asleep in front of the keyboard. I'll post again tomorrow... if I remember and am not too tired.