- Published on Saturday, 27 December 2014 06:03
Why a blog?
My sister recently published her second blog. You can see it here: Sara The Writer. After commenting on hers she mentioned that I should start one. She said,"You have plenty of domain names that you own to choose from...," and,"You have an interesting job and help run the family business, think of all the interesting things you can write about." My family has an uncanny ability to be serious, while sarcastic, while motivating, while challenging as they say something. I don't know how to express that tone properly through written words, however Sara's statements were spoken in that tone. Challenge accepted, it was time to get busy.
Sara is an awesome sister. I have had the goal of creating a website for myself for years, so her ribbing was not misplaced. Typical of certain things on the my list this website had been sitting on the back burner for a few years now. I do have multiple domains so that wasn't really an issue, actually I had more than multiple, I had too many. I had become a domain hoarder of sorts, but that is a different topic entirely. I reduced my holdings significantly as it was time for some changes in my life.
Change is another reason for this site. A few months back, my life changed and it changed in a direction that I didn't want it to. While not intentional I felt that this change was almost a direct result of the way I go about my life. Being someone who believes in learning and growing I decided to take a good look at myself and highlight areas for improvement. At thirty-five years old I think some of these changes will not only be challenging but interesting. By sharing some of my flaws and paths to redemption (self redemption that is) maybe I can help others, but I am mainly out to better define myself. I have a good friend who long ago said, "Write a blog for yourself and no one else, when you wrap your mind around that then you are ready."
I'm ready, I think...I hope. This blog is for me, an outlet, therapy of sorts, a sounding board for the inner me. I am developing two sides of it, a front and a back. Articles for public consumption will be available as such, while others will be kept in the back for a possible later release or for sharing with friends and family.
Why a monkey?
I have always thought monkeys were cool. Our close relation to our fellow primates is very intriguing to me. I was a Curious George fan as a kid and always wanted a pet monkey. At one time I was seriously debating getting one. I had roommates at the time and discussed the idea with one of them.
Me,"I want to get a pet monkey." Roommate,"Why do you want a pet monkey." Me,"I think they're cool." Roommate,"You know that monkeys throw poop, right?" Me,"No." Roommate,"Yep, they'll shit right in their hand, throw it at you and then laugh about it."
That was the end of the of the pet monkey conversation. I did some research and he was right. Poop throwing does seem to be a popular monkey activity. An interesting fact is that there appears to be a direct correlation between the amount of poop throwing and intelligence, smarter monkeys throw more poop than less intelligent ones. And so ended my desire to have a pet monkey. Either way, I still think they're cool, as long as someone else cleans up their fecal matter.
I have always wanted to be better at drawing. I am a big Garfield fan and love the Sunday comics. Calvin and Hobbes is also one of my favorites. I always thought comic story boards were neat. A simple, yet fun way to get a message across. One great way to improve how you do something is to put it into practice. And so, here we are. I will start with one board at a time but would like to get up to a strip, or that is a goal at least. I sketch out each board and then scan it into my computer to clean them up and add color and shading. I did the Poke The Monkey logo first and then the Monkey behind the computer second. I can see improvement between the two already, I just hope that can continue to trend in the right direction.
This is another area for improvement. I have been designing websites for years, but I have always done it the old fashioned way though straight coding. As in no pre-designed templates or pre-made code, just a blank screen and a book on coding. I have made several sites that way that still function well today. Most have faster load times than any pre-coded site could dream of, mainly because they don't have extra functionality or bloated code loading in the browser. They are static though and not dynamic, which means they aren't interactive with the visitors. Dynamic sites need more code, code beyond my knowlegde or time.
Web design has come a long way in the past few years. It is easier than ever to customize and change code on the fly within the pre-packaged setups. This site is running Joomla! as the CMS or content management sysytem and I have installed the Wright Framework template from JoomlaShack. Thanks to many dedicated hours with FireFox and it's Firebug plugin, it has a growing custom.css file which is geeky talk for a change log file that the system reads to generate my color scheme and layout or scaffolding. It turns out all those years of raw coding have helped greatly in recognizing and changing code in the pre-packed programs. Everything is hosted on GoDaddy through a shared server. It runs slow and I am looking to move to a virtual private server or a dedicated server, but most likely a VPS. The site isn't perfect but it is getting better. Getting up to my level of perfection would've pushed publication back significantly, so I went with what I had. My perfectionism can be almost debilitating sometimes, another area of needed improvement.
Growth, change, improvement and education through documentation therapy. That is the main goal here, with some fun along the way too. Just getting this site up along with the first two story boards has been an assiduous process, but very rewarding. It is something I have wanted to get started for a long time. Not only did I start, but I brought the idea to fruition. The hard work is done, at least for the website. Now I just have to keep growing, writing and drawing.
- Published on Thursday, 19 March 2015 22:52
I made a recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico for work and while there I picked up a bag of coffee. I love Mexican coffee. I think I could go to Mexico at least once a week and be excited, merely for a cup coffee.
I have a coffee infatuation, I love the stuff. I am however a bit of a coffee snob, I figure if I am going to drink it and drink it black (as I do) then I want it to be rich and full of flavor. This has led me on an endeavor to find the perfect cup and to experiment with making my own in different ways and leads into today’s coffee brewing experience with a Moka Pot.
A Moka Pot is kind of like a mini percolator in a way. Water is brought to a boil in a lower chamber and then the water transfers itself up to a higher chamber; as it does, it passes through the coffee grounds. This process happens fairly quickly, as in less than a minute. I have been looking to get one of these for awhile now and what do you know but as I was shopping at Meijer on the day after picking up the bag of coffee in Mexico, there they sat on a display. Fate brought everything into alignment and a Moka Pot purchase was made that night. Once I arrived at home and put away the rest of my groceries, I pulled out the Moka Pot and began to investigate my new coffee brewing device. I did some research online and found multiple recipes for how to make coffee in such a contraption but I settled on this one. Off to bed I went, looking forward to the next morning and my first trial run.
In the morning, I read the directions again and then began, it all sounded simple enough. Per the directions of the Moka Pot I brewed one pot with old junk ground coffee that I had lying around. I simply poured water in to the fill line and let it boil until no water was left in the bottom. I dumped all that out and started on the first real trial run. First, I poured the whole beans into the chamber holding the ground, figuring the area of displacement of the beans would equal the area of displacement of the grounds. I was close, but did not factor in that the grounds fluff up a bit. The grind was fairly coarse but the grounds still fluffed up a bit. While I could’ve packed down the grounds and made them fit, the directions suggested not doing so. Due to that I had some extra grounds left in the grinder; I switch coffee beans frequently so I don’t like to grind anymore that what I am going to use each time.
Next is filling the water chamber. Any coffee guy out there typically uses filtered water in any application. I live out in the country and have well water. I have tried it both unfiltered and filtered and I don't notice much of a difference. I was raised on well water though, so if nothing else the filtered water almost has a taste of the filter in it, kind of charcoal like. I bring this up because the directions say to use preheated water. I used hot water directly out of the tap. I keep my water heater at a high temp and my flavor is good, so there is my reasoning behind it. As I experiment more on this front I may try different water heating and filtering methods, but for this time that’s what I did. I also filled my serving cup up with water and then poured it into the water chamber. I was curious if I was going to get a full cup based on the fill line in the directions (which seemed low to me). Filling the chamber from my cup put me over the line by quite a bit. I debated not filling it as full and then convinced myself that it was all part of the experimentation process and that I wanted a full cup.
Top and bottom screwed together and ready, it was time to set the whole contraption on the heat and see what happens again. I followed the directions and started off with the top open. As the water started to boil and come out into the upper chamber, I reduced the heat in order to keep a steady flow without it bubbling all over the place. I nailed it on the first attempt by going from ‘HI’ to ‘MED’ on my stove and it worked well. I am guessing that will vary based on the stove. The boiling process becomes a little more fervent towards the end and can lead to coffee starting to spurt everywhere. As this started to happen I closed the lid and quickly picked up the pot and ran it under cold water to stop the process. It is my understanding that if the water gets too hot it can start to affect the flavor of the coffee.
I poured the coffee into my cup and hand washed the Moka Pot. One of the nice things about the aluminum is that a minute or so under the cold water tap and the pot is ready to handle without fear of burning yourself. I then set it out on a towel to air dry. Next was to sit down and enjoy my homebrewed bit of Mexico goodness.
The first sip and it was good. It was dark and gritty, maybe a little strong for my liking, but the flavor was delicious. I found that a lot of small powdery bits of the coffee made it into my cup, much like a French press or similar. I think that there are a few things that I will try in order to perfect this. One is a coarser grind of coffee. The coffee may have been ground a little too fine, which would explain the amount of fine, powdery bits in my coffee and the dark flavor. The surface area of the coffee that the water is brewing through affects how much flavor is imparted on it, the finer the grind, the more surface area, the more flavor. I also might try reducing the amount of beans that I use after I try a coarser grind.
All in all I was very content with my first attempt. As with anything else the process I believe is an art form; kind of like cooking or baking. While you can make something that is good straight off of a recipe, a little trial, error and experimentation within your own environment is what leads to making something delicious.
Since I wrote this awhile back and just now am getting it posted, I have had a chance to use my Moka Pot more (every day I am home). I read a lot on seasoning the pot or getting a good coat of coffee oil built up on the inside of the top chamber. I find that this gives the coffee a little more richness and flavor complexity. I rinse the top chamber after every use and rinse it right after I pour out my delicious cup of coffee. Then I just let the whole thing dry. Rinsing it gets rid of the gritty coffee bits that are left but leaves the oils that are left from the coffee. It is like a coffee oil coating of the pot, which I find makes the next cup of coffee better.
Also, when writing this initially, I had only brewed and consumed one cup of coffee each time. Since the writing I have had a morning or two that I spent extended amounts of time around the house and had time for a second cup. Wow!! Two cups out of this thing is too much. I am a coffee drinker and love a strong cup of coffee, which is one reason I was attracted to this device. It makes a good, strong cup of coffee which is why two was probably too much. I quickly found myself over caffeinated.