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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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

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

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 192.168.200.2, 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.

Automatic

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.

Dash

The Dash app reminds me of any.do 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.

Comparison

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 grnbug.tumblr.com
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.

NKADDSNAP Challenge Day Five

Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati SNAP out of it! Challenge is going on now too.
Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati SNAP out of it! Challenge is going on now too.

Today is my last day of the SNAP Challenge where I’ll be at work. Current stock suggests I’ll be eating small amounts of chicken and the rest of my eggs over the weekend with potatoes, soup, and beans. I did go running last night but forgot to grab my GPS watch, therefore those calories are not reflected in yesterday’s totals.

For breakfast I had two glasses of milk, a glass of apple juice, and a granola bar. My fiancee and I ended up eating the rest of the Avgolemono last night. Therefore I’m eating PB&J again for lunch today. I tried to make up for the lack of yogurt today by drinking an extra glass of milk. Running out of yogurt means I won’t be eating any honey today, which should positively impact my sugar consumption.

For dinner I’m planning to have a chicken and kidney bean omelette with a side of peas. I expect to repeat the omelette dinner two more times over the weekend, swapping kidney beans for chili beans and dropping the vegetable because I don’t have any other green items. With proper seasoning I imagine these omelettes taking on a somewhat Mexican influence.

Day 5 Nutritional Summary
Day 5 Nutritional Summary

Using my entire budget at the beginning of the week and then flexibly preparing meals worked well. I’ve speculated before that I would end up with food to carry over into next week. As of now it looks like I’ll end the week with extra ramen, apple juice, potatoes, and striped peanut butter and jelly. The extra $4.50 from not having to buy juice, ramen or potatoes next week would make it easier to add real fruit or produce and cheese to my diet. That would solve some of the problems I’ve had this week getting in my services of fruit and dairy.

Day 5 Inventory
Day 5 Inventory

Was this a breeze to do? No. Is it entirely possible to live with some focus on nutrition on roughly $30? Yes. Those answers come with some caveats though: 1) the cost of living in Cincinnati is fairly low compared to most of the nation and 2) while I’m fine with eating canned vegetables I’m sure some people would push me to use fresh produce. I can’t argue much with the cost of living, I pay a really low rent and price for food here compared to the places some of my friends live; I would not want to live in Washington D.C. on my current salary. Canned vegetables were an effective choice in my mind because any stock I could create would be non perishing. I think the main priority when living on this budget is to focus on immediate needs and ensuring future stability. Fresh produce, while nice, comes with a certain intangible cost due to its perishable nature.

I’ll be glad to get back to my normal coffee routine next week, and to have a Coke or Pepsi every once in a while. I’ll probably continue to pack my lunch though, as anyone offering financial advice would tell you, its cheaper than going out to lunch a few times a week.

While I’ve focused on the quantitative this week, I think its worth noting the qualitative and social aspects of food. I say that this budget is livable purely in the mathematical sense. It’s possible to make choices about food that will allow you to eat, get sustenance, and meet basic nutritional needs. That doesn’t cover the sociology and psychology of food as it relates to cultural expectations and family tradition/ritual. I gotten some inquiries through the week about why I wasn’t going to eat a free cookie, eat a free lunch at a meeting, or “at least have a coke.” Food is something we use to bond with others. Whether they be new acquaintances or family members. I cannot count the innumerable times talked about the best pizza place, how I like my chili (Cincinnati style or with beans), or which is my favorite burrito chain.

I got the chance to talk about Avgolemono earlier this week. My family goes nuts for the stuff and it is an important part of bonding for us. We do the same for a few other things like the caramel cake my grandma makes or the tomato pilaf that my great-grandmother used to make. Food is tied up in our identity as a family and as people with Greek heritage.

What is inescapable, then, is how food threads through our lives and our interaction with others. Therefore, while $30.00 will buy you food for the week, it will not buy you a fulfilling social life. If there is any reason SNAP is supplemental, beyond the simple economic contribution the program suggests, it is so that we can continue to take part in these social interactions. Some might be very cheap, as was the case with Avgolemano, while others might be trying for someone on a budget, like eating out with co-workers at lunch. That is why SNAP is so important and why cutting it has such an impact. It not only takes away from the extra nutrition a family can get by having these benefits but it also makes it even harder or impossible to take part in some of the social aspects of food that I and many others take for granted.