Merry Christmas

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Holidays! Kim and I had a great time spent with family and friends and we’re looking forward to the new year.

On site note, look for some pretty drastic changes to this website in the very near future. I have been working on a new re-design complete with a new logo, layout, and features. I am currently finishing up a lot of the smaller details and of course testing the website across platforms and various browsers.

As it stands, I am hoping to go live with the new site within the next week so check back soon.

No Country For Old Men

I had been wanting to see this movie and Kim and I finally went to see it with a couple of friends last night. I still cannot get this film out my mind, as it simply blew me away. This is in all likelihood, one of the most perfectly made films I’ve ever seen. Every facet of the movie is designed to draw you in further and further until you simply ache to escape. The plot is mundane in setting yet riveting in execution.

Every one of the characters are simple and unassuming yet force you to engage them on deeper levels than you really want to. The main character played by Josh Brolin is a perfect example of this when you expect a basic man, a cowboy simply out of place in the modern world, confronted with a moral dilemma that puts you in his boots for a gut-wrenching escapade across west Texas.

The killer hunting him is portrayed in such a manner that you cannot help but like him on a visceral level. He is the epitome of raw, pure evil and his intellect and uncompromising calmness drag you onto a never ending roller coaster ride of emotion and sheer terror.

Tommy Lee Jones will win an Academy Award for his portrayal of a nearly retired Texas Sheriff who is dealing with a changing landscape of moral and cultural divides when he is assigned to a multiple homicide that is apparently a drug deal gone wrong. His character is so perfectly portrayed and so engaging with a wit drier than the west Texas soil under his boots.

I simply cannot state how much I enjoyed this movie, especially the ending. I know that a lot of people hated the ending or were confused by it. To me, the ending was the right way to do it. End the movie like things end in real life. No Hollywood, feel-good, get the bad guy, ride into the sunset type of conclusion here and that is what ends this movie the way it rightfully should.

If there is a movie that you need to see, this one is it.

Google’s GrandCentral.com

So, I’ve been using Google’s newest acquisition called GrandCentral. It is a VOIP tool that allows you to have a free phone number of your choice, that can be forwarded to any phone you wish. This great new service doesn’t stop there though, it offers a plethora of features that are simply outstanding. The main highlights are visual voicemail, assign numbers to groups and then assign specific actions to those groups and stop telemarketers by forcing them to enter a name before the call is completed and delivered to your main phone number.

I’ve just started to scratch the surface of all of the features that are offered but so far I am simply stunned by the power that this service gives you over incoming phone calls. This is the future of telephony as far as I am concerned.

Many thanks go out to Eli Horne who hooked me up with an invite. Speaking of invites, if any of you would like an invite so that you can try this awesome service out, leave a comment and I will be glad to get you an invite.

I hate flying

I really don’t like flying anymore. I don’t know what happened as I used to love to fly when I was younger. Now, it just seems like a massive ordeal and you can never quite feel comfortable doing it. I know, the air warriors out there will be saying different but for me; I just can’t seem to get into it.

I don’t really actually hate the flying part, but the entire process involved. I just cannot understand how an industry that has been around for so long, can still continue to treat their customers like utter crap. It is one of the few industries that can do this and get away with it. I can somewhat relate to this in that the web industry was like this when it first began some 15 years ago. But the web industry is a much different beast now and has changed immensely in that short time. The same cannot be said for the Airline industry, unfortunately. Customers are still treated like baggage and the pricing is still incredibly variate. I guess I should note that website pricing is still a bit varied as well, but the same product is not one price one day and a whole other price the next like Airlines fares are.

Anyways, I’ve got to go, God is calling over the speakers in the terminal telling me that it is last call for boarding my flight.

These ladies rock!

Annika

So, while on vacation for the weekend, we attended the LPGA Tournament of Champions golf tournament at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Mobile, Alabama. We had a blast as usual (we’ve been going to it for several years now) and we finally got to see Annika Sorenstam play. Although she did not win, she did play pretty well and it was just nice to see the Tiger of Ladies golf, up close and personal. She seemed very nice and approachable and she is in great shape. Like Tiger is on the PGA, Annika has been a dominant player on the LPGA tour and she was fun to watch.

Can I get a drop?

GatorGolf

Ok, so playing golf here in the South is always an experience, but the other day I ran into a problem that I hadn’t experience before. Gator Golfers. Yes, I’ve had the slow foursome or the guy who doesn’t know what “playing through” means, but having to take a stroke for a lost ball when it is clearly playable, really sucks!

Finally getting a few days away

My grandfather is coming into town next week, and I will be taking off a few days so that I can spend time with him and play some golf. I can’t wait, as it’s been nearly a year that I’ve been able to get out of town and do nothing but leisure activities like golf. We’re going down to a condo in Florida for a few days, playing golf, eating too much, drinking too much and generally enjoying time with my papa and mom and dad [edit – and of course, my wife.]

I’m not sure I am going to want to come back! After the last year of working night and day, to be able to actually go out of town and enjoy some time without my computer is going to feel really foreign I am sure. I say that I won’t have a computer with me, but I will probably have my iPhone, so I won’t be completely unplugged. I am not sure if I can completely unplug, actually. I would like to think I could, but I will be the first to admit that I am a prime candidate for a study on Internet addiction!

Anyways, I will have my camera and I plan on shooting a bit, so hopefully I will have some photos to post. I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything and I hope to change that soon with a few changes on the site that will allow me to more easily post photos. I’ve actually been shooting a bit here and there and have some new stuff to post but I’ve just been waiting to post it, thinking that I’d just post it when I get the site updated and when I get around to organizing my galleries a bit. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen but I’ve made it a point to get it done as soon as possible and hopefully that will be sooner than later but you know how that goes!

Site updates

Sorry everyone, I know I’ve been slacking on updating the old website here. It’s been a hectic period for me, with lots of changes and things happening. So much so, that I’ve just been too busy to really dedicate as much time to the site as I’d like.

Recently, I’ve been working on finishing up a new website for a client as well as taking on a new client which is a bit different for me, the automotive industry. I am currently the acting Internet Manager for a local auto dealership, which is really pushing me into new territories. I have not got their website public yet, so please don’t view their current website and think that I am losing it (it contains frames and some other atrocious coding practices)!

I am pursuing much more marketing based goals and targets rather than just coding and design for right now. I’ve been learning the intricacies of the car business as well which has been quite an eye-opener for me. It truly is the ultimate online purchasing mechanism. We’re not talking about typical e-commerce here, with items for sale online that cost a few dollars or even a few hundred. We’re talking about selling a product that in most cases is the largest or the second largest purchase in most people’s lives, a new car. Approaching this required me to really alter my views on online commerce and even the entire metaphor of what a website actually is. It’s been very tiring, with long hours involved so far, but I am enjoying it and look forward to the new discoveries I make and the knowledge I am gaining from the endeavor.

I’ll update my progress here, as I move forward – stay tuned.

Superior Printing goes live

Superior Printing Website

Finally finished and put live, my latest website for a local printing company: Superior Printing. This was a complete re-design of their existing website with a major emphasis on emulating their print campaign based on their corporate brochure. The website is CMS driven, built with standards-based design principles and incorporates several instances of newer technologies yet is designed to support a wide array of possible visitors.

Please check it out let me know what you think…

Chinese iPhone knockoffs

Those industrial chinese have once again beaten the rest of the world to making cheap product look-a-likes that will soon flood the global market. I must say though, that is appears that they have done a really nice job of replicating the iPhone as you can see here:

Source: Popular Science

I phone, you phone, we all phone for iPhone

Hopefully within a day or two, I will be the proud new owner of an iPhone! Tonight, my wife surprised me by telling me that she got me an iPhone and it is currently in route. I checked the Fed-Ex tracking number and sure enough, it is in Anchorage Alaska and on its way to me as I write this. I cannot wait, I am giddy inside like a schoolgirl. I have been wanting one since January but I’ve had to resign myself to waiting as I am still under contract with Verizon and we just did not have plans to make a purchase such as this at this time.

However, our Apple contact called and said that she was now able to buy iPhones with her employee discount and with the price for the 8GB model being only $449, my wife jumped at the prospect. Needless to say, I highly recommend making friends with an Apple employee! I will only say “Thank You” to her in person, as I do not want to reveal anything that might get her into trouble, but Thank You Thank You Thank You anyways!

With all that said, expect more iPhone news posted here soon. I may even need to set up my domain name: iphonetrends.com as I had purchased back in January with plans to build for following the iPhone madness, but we’ll see.

Customer service catastrophe

I have been a faithful customer of 1and1.com now for several years (actually since the very beginning when they offered free hosting to kick off their business launch in the U.S.) and I have had my share of lapses in support here and there with 1and1 but nothing like recently. A week ago, my website went offline and after numerous phone calls, emails, and support tickets opened, I was livid that a supposed “hardware failure” had taken my sites down and all that the customer service reps could tell was that “someone was working on it” and it would be fixed “real soon now™”.

I finally became so enraged by the complete and utter disdain for my business shown by 1and1 that I made the decision to start the very lengthy process of transferring all of my domain names away from them, moving all of my websites and databases somewhere else. I have had hosting nightmares in the past with several companies and I know what a pain it is to move things. They also know this, so it is my belief that they really don’t care about you once they have you signed up.

After much research and from some of my previous experiences I decided to purchase a dedicated server with a company called Liquid Web. I have done business with them through my previous employer and although that experience ended up being a bitter one, it was not really because of Liquid Web but more because of the types of things we were trying to do that caused the problems. I had fantastic experiences with the tech support and since I’ve been setting up the new server on my account this time, I can only say that those experiences continue. Liquid Web has been a complete joy to deal with when compared to most other hosting providers that I have dealt with over the years. I can call and get someone on the phone in usually less than 5 minutes. My emails are responded to promptly and everyone I have come in contact with has been knowledgeable and quick to act.

I now have complete control over every aspect of my online businesses and coupled with the support I receive from Liquid Web, I am well on my way to web hosting bliss.

Congress is our last hope

Sadly, the US Court of Appeals denied a motion to postpone the start of newly enacted royalty payment structures as I wrote about earlier. This was the last possible delay before what almost seems inevitable at this point, the destruction of the online radio scene as we currently know it. The last hope is that Congress will intervene and so that is why it is vital that you contact your congressional representative and let them know what this matter means to you.

Please help this fight, as we are about to lose something that can be considered a “last frontier” for personal expression and online freedoms.

You can learn more about this issue by visiting the http://www.savenetradio.org/.

Hacking the iPhone

Were you one of the 700,000 people across the continent that purchased an iPhone in the last two weeks? Have you been in utter digital bliss ever since? If not, or if you simply have a few things that you want added or fixed but don’t want to wait for Apple to do it, fret not, as the Internet once again comes to your rescue.

As you read this, there are countless individuals on University lines, Internet cafes and war-driven connections that are furiously working towards one goal. That goal is the eventual unlocking of the latest Apple product that is the iPhone or otherwise known in some circles as the Jesus Device, iPhoney, or just simply the “the next greatest thing”.

The goal of unlocking the phone is based on several shortcomings, perceived or not, that the iPhone has as it is currently shipped by Apple. There are some very unique, industrial individuals in this “crusade of openness” if you will call it that. Almost to be expected, the infamous DVD Jon (Jon Lech Johansen who has been a thorn in Apples side for quite some time now with regards to breaking the iTunes music stores encryption) has become a general in the first salvo of the offensive geared at smashing Apple’s software-based defenses and rendering the currently locked device wide-open. The goal is to eventually create digital telephony anarchy in that one can use AT&T as Apple had planned or even use T-Mobile or other carriers if someone so pleases. This fight is one that will take place in the depths of the Internet where the DMCA cannot reach or that Apple legal cannot easily follow.

As of this writing, the open iPhone advocacy as we will call them, has currently succeeded in a few small skirmishes to begin the battle. First the iPhone has been hacked using a sort of end-around that allows for the iPhone to be activated without requiring AT&T to do so. This allows for the operation of the iPhone’s attributes that are not phone-related such as Wi-Fi, Email, and of course the iPod functionality.

iHackers, have also figured out how to delve into the file hierarchy, by cracking the 82 MB restore image file. They’ve started dissecting the first firmware that Apple released just 24 hours after the phone’s launch and already we know several things about the device that were not widely known before.

Apple has included several applications that are not normally visible, namely Demo.app and FieldTest.app. The FieldTest application allows one to view the number of cell towers that the phone is currently seeing as well as the signal strength and which carriers are involved with those towers.

The iPhone’s finder application called “Springboard.app” lists some very interesting files that could possibly foretell the future of the phone’s relationships with cellular carriers. There are .png files inside the package contents that show icons for “Default_CARRIER_ATT” as well as “Default_CARRIER_TMOBILE”, and “Default_CARRIER_VODAPHONE”.

Some have found evidence of a DisplayOrder.plist file that adds a row of application icons for special purpose apps that include testing apparatus such as FieldTest, and MALogger as well as the SpringBoard applications and the DemoApp as well. These are presumably enabled through a debugging mode meant for developers. You can access the FieldTest application by dialing *3001#12345#*

There are supposedly references to Translator and Unit Converter widgets but as of yet these have not been verified and for now we must wait to see if these will surface in a future software update from Apple.

There is also a .plist file (the preference files for Mac OS X) that sets the default audio levels for the device. This could be the method of fixing some of the woes of those who complain that the volume is too low on the device especially in noisy environments.

Interestingly, the Ringtones that ship with the iPhone are in .m4a format and are identified as iTunes v6.05 as made in Quicktime 7.02. Just today, a proof-of-concept was posted that showed someone with the first documented custom ringtone on an iPhone. The ringtone was the famous sound of the intercom “bleep boop” from the Fox “24” television show. Everyone knows that Jack Bauer would definitely be using an iPhone to deactivate a nuclear warhead!

The file system of the device has been extracted and can be found at: http://iphone.fiveforty.net/wiki/index.php?title=SystemFileAndDirectoryList

Many will be watching the progress closely and as more things get opened up the battle will surely only intensify. Stay tuned.

Mac or PC?

My new favorite rap video:

I give it an 8 because its a got a phat beat and you can jiggie to it.

The day the Internet went silent

Today marked a day that most online radio stations either went ofline, played white noise or played messages explaining why they went silent. Today is a protest to demonstrate what the internet would be like without online radio. Online radio is in serious jeopardy because of new legislation that could substantially raise the costs of putting copyrighted content on the airwaves. Unlike celestial radio stations, most online entities are very small operations without much financial backing if they have any at all.

On March 2nd, a ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board increased the royalty fees that Online radio stations my pay. In this case the increase would force them to pay $.0008 per song and is retroactive though 2006. This will effectively remove many stations from the internet airwaves. The SaveNetRadio coalition was formed to help fight this increase and save many of these small webcasters from disappearing entirely. June 26th is to be a National Day of Silence and hopefully will spur further legislation to help eliminate these unfair practices and help save online radio.

I strongly urge you to contact your Congressional representatives and voice your complaint so that a recently introduced “Internet Radio Equality Act” can be passed to help fight this situation.

You can learn more about this issue by visiting the http://www.savenetradio.org/.

For a three hour tour

Red Creek Kayak Trip

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.
Two passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

So I decided to try kayaking for the first time this weekend, as my friend Keith had been asking me to go for awhile now. We decided on a moderate trip from Highway 49 down Red Creek to Cable Bridge (about eight miles). Things started great, the scenery was fantastic, the water was nice and cool and the weather was warm and sunny. We traversed the small creek, making our way past downed trees from Katrina which were everywhere and made for a nice challenge bobbing back forth to navigate past. We were having a great time when suddenly we came around a bend and saw the bridge where we had planned to exit from.

Red Creek Kayak Trip

We had made great time and we were having a blast, so we decided to go to the next bridge, which Keith thought was not too far, maybe another eight miles or so. Onward we pushed as we enjoyed a bit of scenery change and noticed that the area looked much more “natural” and untouched by man. We paddled for another three hours or so, wondering when we would paddle around another bend and see our bridge and exit point. Another hour or so went by when we finally happened upon another person camping along the creek. We asked if he knew how far it was to the next bridge and were shocked when he told us that it was another five hours or so by water (about twenty two miles total from where we got in at). We started to get a little nervous as we had already been on the water for five hours and were getting tired. It was also about 4 o’clock and we started to ponder the possibility that we might have to spend the night out there. We had no preparations for this, other than water, some snacks and a change of clothes. Our wives were also expecting to pick us up from the exit point at any moment and since we had not been able to get a cell phone signal for the last few hours, we knew that they would start to worry that something had happened.

Red Creek Kayak Trip

Onward we paddled, now setting a much more frantic pace in our strokes, not know exactly how much further we had to go. We were moving at a very good pace, leaving a nice wake behind us as we furiously paddled our way down the creek. We started joking about hearing the narrator’s voice from the show, “I Shouldn’t Be Alive“; telling the story of two novice kayakers now finding themselves stranded and unprepared in the wilderness. It was amusing at the time, but each of us were actually thinking about the true consequences of our ill-informed decision to carry on down the Red Creek.

We kept paddling at a pace which started to take its toll. We were both very winded and our shoulders were aching badly. The sky started turning a darker shade of blue and we knew that we were running out of daylight. Suddenly, as twilight was surrounding us, we came around one last s-curve and there it was, the Hwy. 15 Bridge!

Red Creek Kayak Trip

We were then able to get up to the road, where we could get a cellular signal, and called our wives for us to be picked up. They were thrilled to hear from us as they were unsure of what had happened to make us almost three hours late from our proposed arrival time. What started as a leisurely excursion had turned into a strenuous workout that neither of us were very prepared for. My arms were like silly putty and I was as winded as can be, but we had made twenty-one miles on what was my inaugural trip! Needless to say, we’ll be checking our maps a little bit more closely when we venture out next time. All said and done though, we had a wonderful time and I enjoyed the peacefulness of gliding on the water and I can’t wait for our next outing.

When good blogs go bad

I have been participating in a rather heated debate over copyright issues(specifically Creative Commons Licensing) and how it pertains to web markup and styling over at unraveled.com. While this debate has been very lively and several excellent issues have been brought up by some people, other completely unrelated topics have surfaced because of Joshua Kaufman’s blog posting.

A serious issue with identity theft has surfaced in this series of comments; a poster identified himself as Zeldman, and posted a link to the zeldman.com website. This post was obviously not the real Jeffrey Zeldman, and it illustrates an obvious problem when allowing people to freely comment on web postings and articles. This point is mentioned by Zeldman today in his Daily Report.

I am not sure of the solution to either of these subject matters, but they are both interesting topics and I encourage you to follow them.

Joost Invites Up For Grabs

Joost Screenshot 1Joost Screenshot 2

So, I have been using Joost for a little while now and I have to say that it is pretty cool. It doesn’t quite replace regular TV for me yet, but it does offer a unique alternative to specialized programming. The interface is something to see for sure as it is also quite unique. I am not sure that I am in love with it, but it is “slick”!

Anyhow, I have been given free invites to offer to friends, so I thought I would just post them here and see if anyone wants them. If so, just post in the comments and I will dole them out as I get them.

Mississippi Burning – Still

Mississippi Burning - stillPoplarville Klan Rally
Lone Voice Against RacismLone Voice Against Racism

Today I got a glimpse of Mississippi 40 years ago. In the small peaceful town of Poplarville, a city is brought back to a time that it would rather forget. Over twenty hooded White Knights descended upon the courthouse building in the center of town. Even though it was pouring rain they persisted in bringing their message and distributing their pamphlets.

It was a surreal scene and one that I hope to never see again, honestly. I was and still am in awe. My wife and I drove away and barely spoke a word, just dumbfounded by what we had seen. Mississippi has worked very hard to remove the stereotypes and correct the image most people have of this great state. Unfortunately events such as this bring Mississippi crashing backwards.

View more photos in the photo gallery.

UPDATE: Due to abuse I’ve taken the comments for this topic offline. Thank you.

MapuSoft website goes live

MapuSoft NewMapuSoft New Site

MapuSoft OldMapuSoft Old Site

The most recent site I’ve been working on has gone live today. I proudly present to you the new corporate site for MapuSoft Technologies.

This was a complete re-design of their existing site that they’ve been using for several years. They needed a more modern site with the capability to easily make updates and additions themselves. They wanted a design that was sophisticated yet still easily navigatable. They also wanted to create focus and highlight their OS Changer®, OS PAL® and OS Abstractor® products.

I created a modern architecture based on standard xhtml and css practices while implementing WordPress as a CMS on the backend. The site is completely CMS driven and offers the ability to upload and maintain the content on the site easily and with little or no knowledge of web programming. The site is built with accessibility and search engine optimization in mind, while still offering an appealing graphical nature to the site.

Of course there are still areas on the site that are not finished (is anything on the web ever finished?), but the site is at a good starting point for them and with some minor tweaks and additions they should be on their way to web stardom!

Free Software

You get what you pay for – although not always!

I am what many would consider a power mac user. Not one that uses a Powermac, but one who uses Macs religiously and tends to know a lot about them. I have been using Macs since the beginning, in fact, before they were even called Macs. I started on an Apple II and actually began my graphics and web career on an Apple Lisa.

In all that time I have used thousands of different types of software. I’ve used everything from 3-D software to Photoshop and the Terminal. One of my favorite catgories of software is called “Free” software. I like it because it is FREE! This differs a bit from other types of Free Software that is more like free speech than just free as in free beer.

Today, I will be listing some of the Free Software that I have found and use and that in most cases beats out non-free software for just being best in the field. Some of these applications I have used for a long time, while others I have just recently discovered but quickly grown to love.

WhatSize

The first application I am going to highlight is called “WhatSize” and it is one of my favorites. WhatSize is an application designed to one thing and it does it flawlessly. From the developer’s own description: WhatSize is a simple tool that allows the user to quickly measure the size in bytes of a given folder and all subfolders and files within it. You would be surprised at how many useless files might be laying around on your hard disks. The files and folders are automatically sorted by size, with the biggest sizes first.

This application is nearly identical to the non-free software called Omni DiskSweeper except that the price is much better; Free! I can’t say enough about this simple program – it just works. It is helpful to find hidden files on your system that are needlessly taking up valuable space.

RSS Menu

This is one that I use on a daily basis and I love it for its simplicity as well. I have tried almost all the RSS feed reader programs available today and while some of them are wonderfully overstuffed with features and whiz-bangs, they lacked what I was looking for: a simple, menubar based RSS reader. RSS menu delivers just that. It has everything I need, all in one small compact menubar item or menuling. The developer seems to keep it very updated and the program is super lightweight and takes up very little resources. It’s also running all the time, so I don’t have to worry about checking for news, it just gets it for me.

Serverskine

This is a newer application in my list but one that I am quickly finding hard to live without. It is developed by a fellow web development team and is designed for web developers who need to keep track of lots of information regarding servers, customer login information, and other daily details that can often overwhelm. There are tons of PIM programs out there, but very few that are as well-done and thought out from a web developers point-of-view.

Gawker

Gawker is one of those applications that bears out of necessity but then shines showing that software doesn’t have to cost a lot in order for it to be valuable. I started using Gawker to access my iSight camera and record movies. I have been having trouble with my puppy (or so I thought) and I wanted to record the times that I am away from home to see what is happening and by whom. Apple requires Quicktime Pro in order to be able to capture movies with the iSight camera. This is just dumb and another reason why I think Apple needs to do away with the whole “Pro” registration racket that it uses, but this is material for another post, another time.

Gawker also offers something that is absolutely vital to what I needed, which was time elapsed videography. Who wants to sit and scan through hours of video watching to see what dog does what and when. Gawker lets me record every 5, 10, 30 seconds or any time value I wish. It also displays a timeclock onscreen which really helps a lot. Overall, Gawker is almost so good, that it really should be distributed with iSight to begin with, although it works with other cameras too.

There you have it, four applications that are free, yet immensly valuable. Hope you enjoy them and if you do, reward the developer by sending them a free beer or by donating to them through Paypal.

B.Y.O.B

Brew Your Own Beer

Mmm, Free Beer[Homer] Mmmm, Free Beer…

Yes, that’s right, I’ve recently begun brewing again after a much too long hiatus. Brew day came and my anticipation of all of the wonderful things that makes brewing fun had me so excited. It was a feeling I had not had in quite some time. The eager feeling you get Christmas morning or the bubbly feeling in your stomach before you embark on a plane trip – that’s what I was experiencing again. I love to brew beer. It seems to put things right and align the stars in my neck of the universe.

I had not been able to brew since Katrina, because most of my brewing equipment had been lost or damaged by the hurricane. I needed new supplies, and since I first discovered that there are no brewing supply stores within three hundred miles of me, I had to ship everything in and that was just too damn expensive. I had done it last time about five years ago when I first got to the gulf coast.

So, I went online looking at supply shops and trying to determine what I needed to get started again, when I noticed it. Right there, on my 4th Firefox tabbed window was the address to a place called the “Wine Smith” in Mobile, Alabama. Mobile?!? Heck, I had driven to Mobile for work for almost three years! Mobile was like a hop, skip and a jump away from me! How could this have happened and how did I miss it? Could it be true that brewing on the gulf coast had taken a quantum leap forward from when I left it last?

I quickly called the phone number to make sure that it wasn’t some cruel joke or to find out that they had gone out of business three years ago or something like that. A friendly gentleman name Dennis answered the phone and I just about wept out loud. I couldn’t believe that I was talking to a man that is a mere hour away from me and that had fresh cascade hops and liquid yeast cultures sitting in his refrigerator waiting for me!

Off I went to The Wine Smith and to meet Dennis Smith the owner, so that I could personally thank him by giving my credit card and doing some much needed damage on it. Over an hour of time, spent browsing the inventory and picking up things such as hops, yeast, malt, bottle caps, a new bottle washer (I had lost mine after several years of trusty service), brew buckets and finally, a new brewing spoon!

I scampered home (did I actually just use the word “scamper”?) to start my first batch of beer in almost five years. My first batch was to be an India Pale Ale since I am big fan of hops and an IPA is always a decent place to start. I also got ingredients for my next two batches which will be a Stout and Brown Ale, but more about those in a later post.

Watched pots donA Watched Pot Never Boils Over!
ToddTodd’s World Famous Wort Chiller 2.0

After a few hour’s time, it was all coming back to me. I was remembering the small tricks of the trade and learning some new things too. After no time at all I had a big steel pot on my electric stove and I was brewing again! Then I remembered why I hated my electric stove again, almost having a very nasty boilover because regulating the heat on that thing is just awful. I had also forgot one of my best brewing tips: Always have a spray bottle with water next to the brew pot to help knock down the foam and prevent boilovers. I did not have this essential tool so I had to try and quickly move three and a half gallons of piping hot wort off the burner. After that little episode things went on much smoother and before I knew it, the wort was traveling through my new wort chiller, a design that I have been making for quite some time now (although they’re getting much more expensive to make now because of the cost of the copper tubing).

Last things last, I pitched the yeast into my cooled wort and sealed things up. I took a beginning specific gravity reading that read 1.051 which was spot on for the recipe I was using. I also siphoned off a small taste sample and let it cool. I then tasted the most early concoction and decided that is was up to the high level of quality set forth by the newly formed “Biloxi Brewing Company”.

As for that first batch of Biloxi Brew? Well, put your requests in now for a complimentary bottle and see what all the fuss is about.

Worlds largest apple pie

Biggest Apple PieIt takes a full 18 apples to make this bad boy!

Woo doggy! That’s a big apple pie! Kim and I recently saw these featured on the Food Channel and we just had to get one. It was my Grandma’s birthday, and we decided to get the pie for her instead for a change. (Marie can bake one mean apple pie too!)

For more information, visit the Blue Owl and get one for yourself!

Law of supply and demand

I Love The 80sI Love The 80’s

I recently needed to be able to listen and record voice via normal cassette tapes, you know, the old 60, 90, and 120 min audio tapes that you used to make Mix Tapes from? I wish I could have gone with a digital recorder, or even one of those swank little mini-cassette recorders, but for compatibility reasons I was stuck with the old 80’s style technology. Trying to find a suitable cassette recorder that had two simple features: a pause button and an external playback speaker, proved to be quite a feat in this day and age. I looked at all the usual places, Walmart, Circuit City, Best Buy, and of course, Radio Shack. Most of these places carry only the very cheapest, crappiest, non-feature bearing models if they carry anything at all. In fact, most of places had nothing in stock at all.

I got “lucky” and found a model amongst the three total models available at Radio Shack. The kicker was that it was $48 dollars! Now, I am not too proud to admit that I used to be a cassette toting Walkman Junkie who happened to own several models that had every wiz-bang feature available at the time (EQ, MegaBoost Bass, adjustable levels, etc..) and I recall the last model I bought cost me $99 dollars at Circuit City, even with their purchase protection plan included.

Shortly thereafter the price of all cassette Walkmans dropped drastically due to a new invention called the Compact Disc. In fact, I remember seeing models more sophisticated than my previous glory, that cost in the range of $30 bucks! Now, as with all things “Vintage”, I am being forced to pay for the ability to use antiquated technology. Such is life and follows the laws of supply and demand I guess, but it sure hurt to have to ask three different sales associates before any of them even knew what I was asking for!

About to be discovered

My beautiful Boxers - Amy, Katie and EmilyRachael recently shot my three Boxers [l-r: Amy, Katie, and Emily] for our Christmas Card.

This is a little gem that I just have to tell everyone I know about – She also happens to be a good friend of mine. Rachael Cardella Photography is the new venture of one of the best natural photographers that I know of, and she is taking a cool spin on portrait photography. After witnessing her work first-hand I can attest that you need to get in touch with her and see it for yourself [http://rachaelcardella.com/].

Christmas Thank-You’s

Another Christmas has come and gone and I have eaten entirely too much as usual. We’ve had great times with family and friends and look forward to another year that will hopefully be as great as this one as been to us.

Canon SD550

My wonderful wife surprised me with a new camera for Christmas! I’ve been wanting a smaller point-and-shoot type of camera that I can take with me more easily than my D-Reb since I’ve been quite lazy and not photographing things because I’ve convinced myself it’s too hard to carry places. So, my wife to the rescue with a Canon SD550 Digital Elph. It’s so small, and takes really good shots. I got one for my Father’s birthday back in August and since then I’ve been secretly lusting after one of my own. Kim apparently caught wind of my desires and took care of me as she always does. Thanks Hon!

I’ve also got lots of different types of beer for Christmas, from Jill and Graham and from Keith and Denise. Jill and Graham brought some down from their parts (Portland, Maine) and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Keith and Denise brought me some beers from their recent travels in Gatlinburg. I love beer. Thanks Guys!