6/7 complete

I’m one of the few people on the planet that have had the luck to travel outside of their home country. I’m also one of the few that have had the luck to travel to 6 continents. My latest off the list was Antarctica (probably one of the hardest to accomplish). I was recently certified as a ICE instructor for WINFLY (winter season) Antarctic C-17 airland loadmaster. It’s a mouthful but it means that I can take a student down to any of the landing areas in Antarctica during any time of the year. We went in the early part of the year in what is considered to be winter. It was COLD (-31 C).

All that I have left is to travel to South America. Jessica volunteered to travel there with me if the Air Force doesn’t hook me up.

JBB: Cloning a beer

It’s quite rare for me to try and duplicate a beer. Since I started brewing, I’ve only done it once. Tomorrow, I’ll try and duplicate a beer we dubbed “God Beer” – Karmeliet Triple.

My recipe is as follows (for a 10.5 gallon batch)

23lbs 2 Row (Belgian) Pale
4lbs Wheat Malt
2lbs Oats, Flaked
2lbs Candi Sugar (clear)

Mash at 148 for 60 mins and batch sparge. Target OG of 1.075. Mash efficiency is expected at 70%.

The boil is targeted for 90 minutes with the following additions:

2.5oz Hallertauer (4.8%) @ 60 mins
.5oz Hallertauer (4.8%) @ 15 mins

3.0oz Orange peel @ 15 mins
1.0oz Anise @ 15 mins
.65 oz Coriander @ Flameout

I used White Labs WLP550 for the yeast this time.

Cut to 8 weeks later when I actually got around to finishing a post….

My efficiency was a little better than I expected and I actually beat my OG and reached 1.080 I didn’t prepare a starter and simply used the yeast in the vials and still reached a FG of 1.012 which means that the beer came out at 9.0% ABV. I didn’t do enough research on oranges and I bought what I could find (Navel) and I simply peeled off the whole rind and threw it into the boil. I should have extracted only the orange portion and left the pith behind. I’ve only tasted two of the bottles and it came out good but it’s missing some of the orange flavor. Next time I’ll search for some Seville oranges or if that fails I’ll augment with some grapefruit rind. I’ve read that kumquats are a decent substitute when used whole so I might go in that direction. I haven’t been able to find a source copy to do a side by side comparison (yet).

I split the batch into two carboys and there was a little difference in color but no changes in gravity or aroma. Half of of the beer was capped in 22oz bottles while the rest was corked. I had never tried it before but so far they all look like they are doing fine. I had to get the hang of it but I’ll definitely do it again in the future. I’ll save the corked bottles for at least six months before cracking into them.

I fermented the beer at room temperature in the room of requirement (the basement) so temps were… what they were. I think it was in the mid 60′s due to the air conditioning running and then I brought them upstairs for a few days prior to bottling to a room that was about 73 degrees. The flavors are fairly close and it has a nice smooth finish. I did have one bottle that tasted a little strong so I think I may have had an issue with fermentation temps. If I wasn’t lazy and had created a starter I may have avoided this. The beer was in the primary for 2 weeks and in the secondary for a month.

As I mentioned, due to my lack of research and planning I only used the oranges that were available. This had a negative impact on the quality of the finished beer. It’s not too far off from what I remember but it definitely didn’t quite hit the mark.

I’ll have another taste in a week or two (when I get home) and hopefully compare it to the source so that I can see where I can adjust the recipe. Jessica had a taste and approved so I’ll be using this as a starting point next time. It’s a strong beer so hopefully it will last a while.

Dusting off the cobwebs

Well, it’s been quite busy for us since the last time I sat down to write something for this website.

The pups (which I don’t think I’ve mentioned) are growing quickly. We’re having problems training them together because all they want to do is be competitive and distract the other one. They’re not misbehaving all that bad but it’s hard to get them to burn off excess energy when all they do is try and wrestle one another. Making them think and wait is much more taxing on them. I’m confident that we’ll get them where we want them to be. Their names, by the way, are Stone and Rogue.

Sawyer turns 3 in a few months. We haven’t quite figured out how to get him to use the bathroom for #2 but he is doing well in all other regards. In fact, the other day, he went to his room and changed out of underwear to put on a pull-up so that he could go #2. It’s a good step – he knows when it is coming. We just need to get him to do it in the right location. It is frustrating. I’m sure that I echo what millions of other parents have said in regards to their children and toilet training.

I’ve kept Jessica busy – well – she has elected to stay busy with her garden. We’ve made some more space available in the front of the house and I put in a few garden boxes in the back yard. All told, we’ve doubled our usable space. Earlier in the year we put in a greenhouse (one of the kits) to get a head start on things. Hopefully by mid-summer we’ll have all of the fresh vegetables that we can stomach.

We’re planning a 4th of July party. In typical fashion, we’ll have way too much food and too much to drink. The one thing that may slow us down is the lack of parking. I’m curious to see how it will all pan out in the end. Jessica allowed me to replace our old grill a month ago with a new smoker. I’m a big fan. I’m going to try and cook over 100lbs of pork. My rough guess is that in order to get it done to the desired temp (190 for tenderness) I’ll have to have had it on heat for a minimum of 18 hours. It doesn’t matter what time you count back from when you have an 18 hour cooking session – somebody is going to lose some sleep.

My parents are coming out for the holiday as well. We haven’t seen them since… right. That is how long it has been. I’m trying to remember but it was probably last summer. Hopefully things change in our life and we can get some more free time. I’m hoping that it all works out for us.

Quick and ugly

As the title suggests, this should be quick and ugly.

I’m deployed and away from home this holiday season. I’m not a fan of it. I really miss my wife and the boy.

Football is nearly over for most of the NFL and I think my team may not survive the weekend. In all honesty, it would do them better to lose and move up a few picks in the draft because the defense needs some new talent ASAP.

I’m enrolled in a history class right now (the cold war) and it’s taking up most of my free time. I need to better prioritize my time to make sure the gym happens more frequently. Today was the first day that gym won over homework. Luckily, I think I’m ahead in regards to my homework.

The internet is poor here (but functional) so video calling has been difficult. It’s been good enough that I can see my family.

That’s it – more in 2-3 months…

Falling down

Monday 1700 – I was getting ready to go fly that night and my back started to spasm on me. I got my stuff together and hobbled over to the squadron. The longer I stood or even moved the more it hurt. I knew it was going to be a long night. Walking or sitting was quite excruciating

Tuesday 0200 – I made it to my room and dropped my bag on the floor. I took 800mg of ibuprofen and some tylenol. I hoped that when I woke in the morning things would be better.

Tuesday 0800 – I crawled out of bed – literally, on my hands and knees in an effort to go to the bathroom. Leaving my phone beside my bed on the charger would prove to be a critical mistake. I made it to the bathroom after 5 minutes and attempted to stand. My back gave out – completely out. I couldn’t move at all. Any movement led to excruciating pain. I could hardly breathe due to the pain.

Tuesday 0820 – I finally moved three feet from the spot on the floor to the desk where my computer was located. With great effort I grabbed it and placed a phone call over the internet to my wife. She didn’t answer. I tried her desk. She didn’t answer. I surely didn’t want to be stuck on the floor all day long. I tried one of her friends at work who directed me to the lab where she was located. I let her know what was happening – she was concerned. I had her start calling everyone at home because I couldn’t get close to any phone numbers for anyone local. It was on the other side of the room and it might as well have been on Saturn.

Tuesday 0850 – After a few calls back and forth she finally reaches the Director of Operations in my home squadron. One of the schedulers knew someone else here at school and contacted him. He found housekeeping and got into my room and called 911.

Tuesday 0910 – I was fairly coherent for the amount of pain I was dealing with. Firefighters/medics showed up and started to get my vitals. I almost forgot the name of the current President. They had to roll me on my side to get me on a backboard – there was no way in hell I was going to walk out of that door.

Tuesday 0930 – The county EMT’s showed up and took over from the base Fire Dept. They finally lifted me up on the backboard and got me on a gurney. We got to the ambulance and they got my vitals again. My blood pressure was a “little” bit higher than normal.

Tuesday 1000 – After a five minute drive to the ER they got my through the doors and onto a bed. Now they had to get me off the backboard. I was completely unable to fight the muscles that were causing spasms throughout my body. They gave me a shot….

Tuesday 1030 – The local First Sergeant shows and we start talking – I can still barely move

Tuesday 1100 – They give me another shot – I can still barely move

Tuesday 1200 – I have finally willed my body up but I can’t bend enough to get off the gurney and into a wheelchair. The doc at the ER is quite perplexed because what they gave me should have worked

Tuesday 1230 – I am given some pain meds and we make our way to the flight doc on base. The shirt, seeing that I was having a pretty crappy day, bought my lunch. It was greatly appreciated.

Tuesday 1300 – I struggle to get out of the car and into another wheelchair – my body does NOT want to relax.

Tuesday 1400 – I finally make it to my room and take all of the meds they have given me. I’m unsure as to how I’m going to get to the bathroom later or do… well, pretty much anything.

Thank god for technology – I don’t know how long I would have laid there on the floor without a way to get in contact with somebody… anybody. There are so many people to thank… I had fallen and I simply could not get up. I’m on the mend and able to walk about a quarter mile at a time but it’s going to be a few more days of recurring pain. Hopefully I can get health, return to flight status, fly two more times, and then depart from here. I can only hope.

I’m doing quite a good job at this

Someone asked me a few weeks ago why I had failed to write anything here. My response was that all of my time was spent on everything else and that this was the thing at the very bottom of the list. I guess that spending time in front of a computer is the lowest priority I have. I remember a time when I spent all of my waking hours in front of a computer – I vaguely remember being quite single and having zero responsibilities. It’s odd how things change.

I’ve got nothing else – I’ve been busy as heck but I don’t want to write about it now.

Africa

I’m flying out of Germany on any random mission that command assigns to my crew. A few days ago we got a mission that went to Morocco. We were to fly to Marrakesh and then onward to a really small military base to drop off some cargo for a USMC/Moroccan exercise. When I think of Morocco, I think of assasins armed with blades like this. koummyaWe didn’t have a reason to land at Marrakesh other than to stop and say high to two Moroccan Colonels that wanted to welcome us to the country. They were very excited to meet us. It was rather odd. We took off and head to the next location and then things got strange.

I met a few marine liaisons who were to help us unload the cargo. Soon, 30-40 Moroccan military were milling around taking a gander at the plane because they had never seen anything so big. It was such a big deal, the general from the base was there to check it out too. We normally offload our cargo with a K-Loader (a flat topped vehicle covered with rollers) or with a forklift. On the back of the jet I had two tandem pallets (pallet trains). They showed up with a single forklift (with hollow tines) and an old USAF ammo trailer (MHU-141). Looking at what we had to deal with I told them there was no way we could offload with the equipment they had. We were going to break something, hurt someone, or do both. The phone calls between our command and control, the US Embassy, and their military began at this point. At one point they offered to bring out something that “might” work but they would have to put it on a plane and fly it in. We did our best guess on what they had and we knew that it probably wouldn’t work. It was going to be about 20 inches too low to be useful. It was probably also broken. It was probably also going to take four hours instead of 50 minutes.

They insisted that they could fly the other equipment in but that led us to another problem. We were parked on the runway because we were too heavy to park on the parking ramp or on the taxiways. They wanted us to allow them to land with us on the runway… I told them we couldn’t do that. They wanted us to move to the unsafe area and I told them I couldn’t do that either. They wanted us to break down the pallets and move them piece by piece… most of the pieces on the pallets were in excess of 800 lbs. They wanted to bring in a crane and try to cherry pick the cargo out of the back of the jet… again, I knew it wouldn’t work. They wanted us to fly to another base and try and download there… we couldn’t because it wasn’t suitable for us. They tried to bribe me to get the cargo off the jet… but I knew that it was impossible.

After a few hours of conversation we flew back to Marrakesh. We sat there and were met by a US Embassy official. More time was spent on the phone and our flight manager (back at command and control) said he had never seen so many generals on the planning room floor. The Morrocans wouldn’t let us stay there, we couldn’t download our cargo there, we were having problems getting clearance to fly other locations, we were having problems with weather in other locations… simply put, we were in limbo.

Eventually we were sent back to Germany with all of our original cargo. Our max duty day is 24hrs. We used all but 15 minutes of that day. Africa is a strange continent – it’s the first time I’ve ever been there. It sounds like everyone else that has been there in the past has experience similar difficulties. This isn’t a built up area, they aren’t like most of Europe or the populated parts of the Americas or Asia. It’s going to be difficult to do this in the future but it sure is entertaining.

Unprecedented free time

I haven’t flown a mission since I arrived here so free time has been a commodity. We rented a car and decided to check out the sites while we had a chance. We are unsure as to how long we may stay here so we figured that we would take advantage while we had a chance. We started with a trip to Luxembourg and the Luxembourg American Cemetery (where Gen Patton is interred). We also made a trip to Bastogne to visit the Belgian memorial to the war efforts of Americans and then we drove further on to the Ardennes Military Cemetery where over 5,300 Americans were laid to rest.

patton site

I think we forget about the scope of what Americans were willing to do for our allies. Nearly 400,000 Americans gave their lives for their country in WWII. Every American dealt with rationing, increased taxes, and all manner of hardship so that we could fight this war.

Today, too many people complain that it is too difficult to fight a war and that casualties and losses are too great. I’m thankful that medicine and technology is allowing us to lose fewer service members. Our losses today aren’t overwhelming – the losses of Americans in the 40′s were staggering by comparison.

Deployed… or something like that

When most people, military or not, think of deployments they probably envision places that have no vegetation and acres of tents, barricades, and fences. I’m not in one of those places for a deployment and I’m making quite a few enemies. I’m not doing anything to incite their hate aside from being selected to deploy to a nice place while they are elsewhere. I’m also going to make a decent chunk of change, have the opportunity to travel, and will carouse at every possible turn. I will, of course, do my job whenever they call. I’ve been gone for a week and I haven’t done it yet. It’s going to be a strange “deployment” and I may never be this lucky again. Needless to say, I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity.

What is on your list?

Oooh – thought provoking