Rumors of my absence have been greatly exaggerated.

Quite a bit has happened since March. I had to give up blogging for a little while to finish planning my wedding (which went off without a hitch).

I’m writing this post from Louisville, KY where I am currently attending the Governor’s Local Issues Conference. Thus far I have  learned about TheLeaderInMe, which is essentially an alternative model of education,  and Kentucky Infrastructure Authority grants.

I’m drafting blogs now to cover this conference, the wedding beers, and some recent adventures in cooking. Hopefully those will start rolling out as early as this weekend with updates coming weekly again (as originally planned).

Sour Dough Spent Grain Bread

I would apologize that I haven’t updated the blog in a few weeks, but to be honest nothing interesting was happening during (hopefully) the last big chill of the season.

I’ve talked about spent grain bread before, now I can update with a new twist on that recipe. This week Rebecca and I were able to make spent grain sour dough bread using some yeast I caught here in Cincinnati. It ended up with a great yogurty sourness that went well with honey.

I caught the yeast by throwing some rye flour and water into a bowl with a towel covering it and letting the bowl sit out in our house for 48 hours. It took longer to see bubbles than others had advised me due to the lower temperature of the house.

I took about 1/4 of the slurry and mixed it with more flour and water every 24 hours for a week or so (sometimes going as long as 3 days). By day 7 it had a really sour smell and was very acidic. Rebecca took about 1/4 of the culture and threw it in some water with more flour near our pre-heating stove. The yeast took off and eventually she began following the spent grain recipe with this yeast instead of the dry active yeast prescribed by the recipe.

It took about 24 hours for rising to fully occur. She punched it down about halfway through and let it rise again. The rise wasn’t huge like a regular yeast, but it was enough to warrant attempting to bake the dough.

What came out was what is pictured above. A really nice dense but moist bread with a really complex sour flavor reminiscent of plain Greek yogurt.

Since she baked the bread I’ve started feeding and diluting the yeast more, I think it was less vigorous due to acidification and am hoping that this will correct that problem. Once the yeast became more active (eating everything in under 12 hours) I threw the whole thing in the fridge for storage until we want to make bread again.

Unfortunately I don’t have more concrete numbers or measurements for this post. Yeast culturing turned out to be much more of an art due to my haphazzard method.

Modernist Cuisine Beer Cheese Mac + Cheese

I love to tell people about sodium citrate, a chemical that is similar to what the inventors of Velveeta used to keep their cheese from separating into fats and proteins. It works great for creating nacho cheese and cheese sauce at home using a few ounces of cheese, a bit of water, and some sodium citrate.

You can easily find the recipe on the Modernist Cuisine Website. I cobbled together the advice of a few different recipes to create what, effectively, tasted like beer cheese. If you want to recreate out creation follow the recipe below:

Modernist Beer Cheese:



  • 265 g Dunkelweiss beer
  • 11 g Sodium Citrate
  • 285g (10 oz)  of Vermont Sharp Cheddar (I ended up using 11.5 oz)
  • 2 cups cooked macaroni (or whatever pasta you prefer)



  1. Combine sodium citrate and beer into a pot, whisking to dissolve, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Add cheese slowly to simmering liquid, blending with an immersion blender (or just whisk really hard, like I did)
  3. Mix cheese sauce with macaroni/pasta

The beer is really the key difference here, the added flavor contributed by the dunkelweiss gives a distinct beer-cheese flavor that adds to the sharp cheddar flavor of undiluted cheddar cheese (we may try adding some mozzarella next time to thing the flavor a bit, it got intense). We also discussed adding garlic and roasted onions and peppers. In addition, Rebecca has promised to make some spent grain bread to go along with it (so we can mop up the extra).

If you have problems with the emulsion refer to the original recipe (linked above) and look at the tips section.

KAMM Regional Training (Region III @NKAPC)

KAMM_LOGO(2)Yesterday I attended a training put on by the Kentucky Association of Mitigation Managers at the NKAPC (Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission). The training was a basic introduction to Flood Management and Mitigation and the changes coming to Kentucky (and the nation) under the Biggert Waters reform passed last year. Every time I read “Biggert Waters” I always think “bigger waters” instead. Sort of a funny coincidence given the connection with flooding, though the changes being made are no laughing matter.

The first ‘session’ covered Flood Plain Management and discussed the basics of flooding, how we find flood plains, and other terminology. As well as federal, state, and local agency contexts, regulations, and KRS.

The second ‘session’ covered the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Biggert Waters Act changes (KAMM hosts a PDF of the presentation). Specifically section 205 and 207, which hold many of the more controversial changes. For those of you unfamiliar with the Biggert Waters Act, it was a reform to the NFIP that eliminated many of the existing subsidies for those being insured in or near a flood plain as well as how flood plains are determined. This will effectively create ghost towns in some parts of Kentucky and the US as many homeowners could be forced to abandon their properties due to the increased cost of insurance.

The final session covered mitigation and grants as well as introducing the new CHAMPS tool. CHAMPS, or Commonwealth Hazard Assessment & Mitigation Planning System), “a tool used by local, regional, and state managers, planners, and responders to build community resiliency through a streamlined and standardized process for planning, assessments, and funding of projects.” Already, I’ve heard positive feedback from my co-worker that handles hazard mitigation that this system is fantastic. If you’re interested in learning about CHAMPS (see here to find out if you’re the target audience), the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management is hosting training on CHAMPS. More information about where and when they will be having these trainings is available on the KYEM website.

Brewing, Spent Grain Bread, and Dog Treats

Starting the Kolsch boil.
Starting the Kolsch boil.

Yesterday Rebecca and I went over to ‘Nesbitt Farms’ (her dad’s house) to brew the first of our two wedding beers (Kleinen Keisel’s Kolsch). It went surprisingly well but for a hiccup with the cooling of the wort. Turns out snow insulates as expected. Because the hose lines were shut off we could not use our immersion chiller and ended up having to rely on circulating water around the carboy in our brew pot and even that required that the wort be cool enough that we could transfer to the carboy. All said and done we were brewing from 4:00 p to 1:00 a on Saturday.

Kolsch Ferment
The Kolsch, in its final resting place for the next few weeks.


The Kolsch as of noon today.
The Kolsch as of noon today.

Today Rebecca is making bread from the spent grains of the Kolsch. She’s been using this recipe for almost a year and a half now. The results vary widely by the type of grain used, but the recipe itself is great. We found it somewhere on the internet and have since lost the source. If you’re interested in trying it to, here’s the recipe we use:

Spent Grain Bread


  • 2 cups spent grain, milled or used whole
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil


  1. Mill grains in food processor
  2. Mix yeast, water, honey and oil and let sit for 5 minutes in a warm spot (~70 F)
  3. In a large bowl, mix grains, flour and salt with hands–should feel like wet sand.
  4. Make a well and pour in liquid ingredients and mix until completely hydrated but not sticky
  5. Oil bowl, cover, and let rise until two times original volume is achieved (~90 minutes), punch down and transfer to 9 in. loaf pan.
  6. Cover and let rise again 90 min to 2 hrs.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 350 and bake 50 min. Internal temp should be between 190 and 200 F
Rebecca prepping the spent grain bread dough
Rebecca prepping the spent grain bread dough

Dog Treats

After Rebecca finishes her bread, I’ll be trying out a spent grain dog treat recipe I found here. I’d like to skip the flour, so I may try to replace or remove the flour the next time I make them. But for now I’ll be using the recipe as it is written. I’ll be using the last bag of grains from the Midwest Godfather Stout. The grains are dark and have a nice chocolate aroma without actually having any chocolate in them. Honestly, with a bit of sugar these might be a nice sort of biscuit for people too.

I’ll add pictures and and modifications I make to the recipe here when I’m finished.

Spent Grain Dog Treats Recipe

  • 4 cups spent grains
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter

Mix spent grains and flour (my grains were wet so this made a sort of paste), mix peanut butter and eggs into the dry-ish mixture.

Spread on oiled baking sheet, score into 1in x 1in squares using a pizza cutter or knife, and cook for 30 min on 350 F. Check the pan for doneness and, if done, drop the temperature to 170 and let them dehydrate (mine took 6 hours). If you’re in a hurry you could probably up the temperature and check them more frequently.

Westell Ultraline Series 3: How do I use my own router with Fioptics?

I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to networking. I took a some CISCO classes in highschool and ended up really enjoying it. Because of that I often don’t like or don’t want the equipment that my ISP tries to provided me with.

That was the case with Fioptic’s Westell Ultraline Series 3 (WUS3). It uses a VDSL connection to connect multiple units in our condo building to the internet. I really wanted to start using my Asus N600 router as my primary LAN/Wi-Fi, but the WUS3 has a built-in router too. Rather than messing around with bridging the WUS3 into a modem only, I ended up using the DMZ host function to expose my ASUS to the internet.

If you’re reading this you’ve likely had the same problem (the bridge interface is a pain and doesn’t really work). In that case follow my instructions and hopefully you can not waste your Saturday evening trying to get your network setup the way you want it.

1. Enable the DMZ Host on the WUS3 via the homepage by clicking Firewall>DMZ Host and setting the DMZ to the address you’ll give the router (I used, the next logical increment after the WUS3’s IP).

2. Connect the Router’s WAN port to the any of the 4 ethernet ports on the switch of the WUS3.

3. Connect to the router and use the configuration or internet wizard to tell the Router to use the static IP we set as the DMZ host.

4. Check the connections and you should be on your way.

Update (2/11/2014):

After consulting this thread and failing to get bridge, I reset the Westell one more time. This time I did the following and it worked!

1. click on my network

2. click on connections

3. click on WAN

4. go to bridging

5. bridge the WAN and ethernet (I’m a bit foggy here, if you try the same let me know what you did here so I can have a more complete description)

6. you’ll be prompted about changes to br0 and bridging WAN

7. that should be it, my router plugged into an ethernet port on the Westell’s built in switch got a DHCP address from the ISP.

Bonus: I left the wi-fi active (and out of the bridge) so I can still access the Westell even though it is currently in bridge mode.

Which Android ODB-II is better? Dash v. Automatic

Update: 8/16/2015; A lot had changed in the past year and a half. I’m using Automatic daily now. Automatic has, I believe, a revision of its ODB-II dongle now with more features. Dash now has a page for picking an ODB-II adapter, making it easier to get started with Dash.

Prices for a quality ODB-II adapter are <$75, but the proprietary nature of hardware singularity with Automatic certainly makes a case for the increased cost.

I have not kept up to date with API/Integration, but I saw some information about using IFTTT with Automatic, this is one of the main reasons I use Automatic now. I have two spreadsheets on GoogleDocs that I run analytics on using the information passed over by Automatic.

I’m lucky enough to be doing the Android beta for both Automatic and Dash. I’ve tested out Dash since October and Automatic since Christmas. Automatic is still in beta for Android while Dash has seen a formal release to the Google Play Store.

First what do Dash and Automatic do? Both apps support the use of a ODB-II bluetooth dongle in for your car to gather information from your car’s computer. That means things like acceleration, braking, speed, and MPG. The apps take this information with GPS data to come up with some pretty interesting information about one’s driving habits (and they attempt to get you to change your habits).

One benefit of Dash, off the bat, is that I’ve been able to use the dongle I purchased to use for Dash with other apps. In the case of Automatic, I haven’t found any apps that could connect to it. Dash’s recommended dongle is $80 while other dongles are as low as $10. I use the $24 BAFX ODB2 Scan Tool. Automatic requires a $99 dongle (though I got mine for $69 due to pre-ordering). Dash appears to have a lower cost to entry versus Automatic.

In order to give you a better idea about how each app works and displays information the next two sections will go over screen shots and detail the features of each app.


The Automatic app obviously takes some design cues from Apple with its colors and use of white and gray. The home screen shows a weekly stats for driving. The app totals fuel costs, miles driven, hours driven, average MPG, and a driving score. Users can flip through previous weeks using the navigation in this part of the interface. Below this is a map that shows where your car is parked (or the last place you got GPS signal). The final third of the interface is a scroll-able log of each trip taken that week with information about miles drive, gas cost, hard brakes, rapid accelerations, and minutes over 70 mph.

The dongle uses audio cues to alert the driver if they hard brake, rapidly accelerate, or drive above 70 mph. The cues are nice, but often fail in the snow as a hard break and/or rapid acceleration are generally ‘detected’ whenever traction is lost.  Driving into work during the snow storm this week led me to a beep for a rapid acceleration when I got stuck in some snow and my wheels lost their grip. I got another beep when I braked lightly but lost traction, telling me I hard braked. Most of the time snow issues like these won’t be a concern.

The 70 mph driving beeps are annoying. Although it would be nice to drive under 70 mph sometimes, the heavy traffic of I-75 outside of 275 doesn’t give me a whole lot of options when the speed limit is 70 mph anyway. I wish there was a feature to turn it off.

The Automatic app currently lacks a number of features compared to the iOS version, but its really reliable and has been a joy to use.


The Dash app reminds me of and Cal, using transparency, large blurred out images, and simple white icons to communicate information. Much of the design has changed since early versions of the beta app. Users of Dash setup their app by creating a garage that informs their profile. The profile  includes the type of car, your name and location, and bumper stickers. Bumper stickers are a unique form of achievements given out for hitting certain metrics. It’s a bit less direct than Automatic’s alarms but I certainly felt more positive about trying to get a bumper sticker v. being alerted (yelled at?) by a dongle. Dash’s driving alerts can be switched off. Similarly the leader board serves as a form of competition and peer pressure to keep one’s score up.

Dash also lets users find their car, dropping a pin at the last known GPS point. It also allows users to search for gas and the price of gas around them.


Automatic is obviously in early beta. It’s a shadow of its iPhone counterpart. But it’s getting better steadily and once all the features are implemented, it will be a formidable product for those who want a hassle free experience. Overall the proprietary dongle and app seem to work flawlessly without much effort.

Dash is a bit more like what I’m used to on Android. Rough around the edges at times but works well and with relatively few issues. I sometimes have issues with connectivity between the dongle and my phone, but those have been limited in number. The developers have been responsive to my problems or I was able to correct it with a simple reboot and pull & plug of the dongle. Dash is much more feature complete at this point. All advertised features work as expected.

For my daily commute I’ll be using Dash, at least for the time being. The ability to use the BAFX for Torque Pro and Dash gives me a bit more utility versus the relatively basic Automatic app. As I said before, this should change in the future and Automatic is still the hands down winner for simplicity.

NKADD Chili Cook Off

A close up of my chili.

I’m not sure if I like this whole header image thing. This might be a one time thing.

Today is the NKADD’s Super Bowl Chili cook off. I expected fewer participants. As of 10:00a (the last time I updated this post) I saw at least 14 other chili competitors.

my chili
My entry into the cook off.

I love making chili in winter, especially during cold weather like we’re experiencing now. (Cold weather, not polar vortex, just cold). I make three kinds of ‘chili,’ Cincinnati/greek style, six bean, and winter warmer. Today I made my winter warmer chili. Its based on a heavily modified version of a recipe I found on PBS. Doubling the turkey and spices, adding tomato paste and another type of beans are among the changes I make. I also have a few secret additions that, I think, give my chili a bit more flavor depth. It’s definitely a hot chili since I switch out the recommended peppers for cayenne.

The six bean chilis is a modified version of a knock-off Wendy’s Chili recipe. I add extra varieties of beans to give it more mass on the cheap (feeds more people that way). I also tend to skip the celery, I’m not a big fan of how it tastes and I don’t think it adds much to the chili.

Some of the competition.
Some of the competition.

Cincinnati or greek-style chili is the chili of my people. I’m Greek on my mother’s side, and I grew up eating Cincinnati style chili without really knowing that it was really popular here. As fate would have it, I moved to Cincinnati the place where the most popular foods remind me of home. My own Greek chili recipe is all in my head and has few measurements. I will not even try to recreate it here as its more a system of spice-and-taste with a few key ingredients that any skyline recipe is going to have. One thing I do want to mention though, putting your onions into a food processor and slow cooking them until the essentially dissolve adds nice flavor to a greek style chili without scaring off folks that are adverse to onions.

In case you’re interested, here is my current chili recipe (though I’ll be making more changes to it soon!)

I think I remember you saying you liked my chili, in case you were interested here’s a copy of my recipe:

Continue reading “NKADD Chili Cook Off”

Why don’t these towns have a website? Accept credit cards? Or use Twitter?

One question I keep coming back to in my personal and professional experiences is how has small town X not started using Y or Z technology?

Obviously this is an opinion piece, but let me write it down just in case–these are my opinions and do not represent those of my current and previous employers.

This question has come from a laundry list of experiences I’ve had working, driving through, or living in rural/small towns. Most frustrating was my experience with a small city that would only accept payment for traffic tickets with certified checks, ignoring the progress in payment systems that so many places seem to have made. Many cities now accept personal checks, credit cards, or even PayPal. We live in an era where E-GovLink  allows municipalities to accept BitCoin. I think this highlights the gap in technology adoption and the digital divide between rural and urban places.

A Digital Divide

Access to computers and technology is still an issue in many places. Kentucky continues to operate its Broadband KY Initiative with the hope of wiring up more homes to the internet. Google Fiber is making progress to offer free internet access to people  and non-profits and community organizations. I would have guessed that by 2014 most places would at least have a web presence. Instead, I often search for cities and counties on Google and find that they have zero presence.

Cinci Public Services doing it right.
Cincinnati Public Services getting it right.

One example of the successful adoption of social media and web presence is the Brimfield, Ohio Police Department.  One of the most used parts of the City of St. Bernard’s website was the tax department webpage (disclosure, I worked for the city from 2009-2011). The Tax Department offers digital copies of their tax documents and information for residents ultimately lessening the calls the city get about taxes. The City of Cincinnati has made my life a bit easier by offering information through their Public Services Twitter account, connecting with residents to let them know about snow removal efforts, remind residents about winter safety, and posting about snow emergencies. Cincinnati has a whole slew of twitter accounts and Facebook pages, all helping residents connect with and get information from the city.

My result for the MyNKY Young-Voice game. I can only imagine how much traction with would get on Facebook if it shared the result like a "What Harry Potter Character are you?" Survey
My result for the MyNKY Your-Voice game. I can only imagine how much traction with would get on Facebook if it shared the result like a “What Harry Potter Character are you?” survey. Click the picture to take the survey too.

Social media and web presence are often discussed as mandatory in comprehensive planning efforts. One particularly cool recent example is MyNKY, Vision 2015’s new public participation campaign. Using an interactive game (and what seems a lot like dot voting) participants contribute a quantitative opinion about spending priorities and follow-up with qualitative descriptions in a targeted survey. Not only is it easy, but the quant-qual pairing makes it easy to for MyNKY to demand preferences and then drill down into what those preferences mean to each participant. Not only is it efficient, it minimizes the time commitment to participate.

A bit more complicated than an easy button:

With so many examples of best practices, why don’t more cities use the web and social media for public engagement and information distribution? In my experience it comes down to a lack of available talent and budget priorities. My evidence about the talent needs of cities is anecdotal at best, but most places I’ve worked with that lack these elements also have an institutional attitude with little or no interest in websites, social media, or technology; essentially there needs to be organizational will to make it happen.

Even with the will to make it happen, figuring out how to finance it is not easy. Budgets continue to grow tight and there is no easy way to make room for an IT budget or department (especially in the smallest of cities). Some cities are already facing impending cuts to services or employees and cannot possibly cram in an IT budget.

One of the benefits of my current job with the NKADD is that I get to share my experience with technology, web development, and social media with the jurisdictions in our service area.

That doesn’t mean sharing my experience will always result in successful websites and a social media presence. Social media can require near constant monitoring and some citizens come to expect almost instantaneous response. Setting clear definition about the kinds of communication possible and when that communication can happen is difficult. Websites also need work to maintain them and take time to develop appropriate content.

Even in spite of the financial and labor requirements of having a digital presence, I think it is still worthwhile for cities to pursue. The possible benefit to efficiency, public interaction, and engaging younger generations is too critical to continue to ignore it altogether.

NKADDSNAP Challenge Day Six & Seven:

Day Six/Seven:

Found this GIF on
I miss coffee.

This is my last blog post about the NKADDSNAP Challenge. My thanks to those of you who have read any of my posts this week. I’ll be glad to go back to my normal eating routine on monday. I’m most looking forward to a nice big cup of black coffee come monday morning.

Final inventory:

The final inventory spread sheet with days 6 and 7.
Final Food Inventory

I have enough information now to fill in the rest of the puzzle for the week.  I’ll use up a can of chili beans, the chicken noodle soup, and the last of the granola bars today. Tomorrow, I’ll be finishing off another can of chili beans, the milk, the last of the chicken, and the eggs.

I enter the next week with six red potatoes, nine ounces of honey, four slices of whole wheat bread, eleven packs of ramen, 17 tablespoons of striped peanut butter and jelly, and two and a half cups of apple juice. It’s not nearly the stockpile I had envisioned earlier in the week, but it does make some progress on the goal of stockpiling for weekly stability on such a small budget.

Exercise ended up being the biggest calorie sink. I’m glad I got the mix of grains and starches I did, otherwise I might have ended up starving near the end of the week as I burned through all the vegetables trying to make up calories.

Meal Planning:

Day 6 Food Diary
Day 6 Food Diary
Day 7 Food Diary
Day 7 Food Diary

Today’s breakfast is apple juice, an egg, and a slice of toast. For lunch I’ll be having the chicken noodle soup and a granola bar. For supper I’ll be having chili beans and chicken sautéed with some fried potatoes.

Sunday I will be having an apple juice, an egg, and a slice of toast again. For lunch I’ll be going back to my go to lunch, peanut butter and jelly, and for dinner I’ll be combining eggs, chili beans, chicken, and potatoes (again).

Week in Review:

I did most of my reflecting on this experience yesterday. But its worth reiterating the social aspects of food that have made this more difficult than simply nutrition. We got an invite from my fiancée’s dad to watch the NFL playoff games with him tomorrow. Of course it’ll involve eating, we’ll be expected to bring something and I couldn’t afford that with only SNAP benefits, and once again I’ll incur some questions about what I’m doing and why I can’t just have some food.

Whats next?

After today I’ll be going back to my normal schedule of posting weekly and bi-weekly where appropriate. Thanks to the vagueness of “bi-weekly” that could mean twice a week or once every two weeks. If you have any questions about anything I’ve written about here, please don’t hesitate to contact me through Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. Google+ is easier than ever, you can now use it to e-mail me even without my e-mail address.