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Stationery v Stationary

One of the things I love about English is the amount of wordplay that is possible with it.  I don’t know how true that is with other languages as I am universally bad at languages.  I can barely speak English well enough.  But I love puns and rhyming and the multiple meanings that arise in English and love learning why our language is the way it is.

These two words are connected, believe it or not.   For those who don’t remember, stationery is paper or more generically writing supplies and stationary is to not move.  The former got its name from the later.  During the 1300’s through the 1500’s, most sellers sold from carts.  You moved your store around as you needed to or as markets allowed you to. Some days you had product to sell and some days you didn’t.

But the paper sellers eventually always had supply and always had demand.  They would set up outside of the universities, etc.  With the demand for paper high, they never needed to move their carts.  They remained stationary and in time, became known as stationers, those who didn’t move, and thus, their products were stationery, things a stationer sold.

I have started looking down the rabbit hole at paper making.  I have looked at it before.  I will take a class on it soon.  And like everything, when I start looking at something, I develop grand plans on what I will do with it.  Let’s look at a bit of the research I had done so far.

Paper gets it start in the 100’s BC in China.  Needing a cheap medium to write on, they develop a method of turning bamboo or mulberry bark into paper.   From what I can see, the method for handmade paper hasn’t changed much in China.  The plant fibers are mashed, originally with a mortar and pestle, but later with a drop hammer.  The fibers are then layered and dried.  Then cut.  Then soaked in large vats.  The slurry is caught on wire mats and then transferred to couches (often bamboo).  In the Chinese method, these sheets are then quickly put on hot stone walls to dry.   Depending on the need, chalk can be added to the slurry to whiten the sheets.  I didn’t see evidence of sizing being used yet.

Paper then moved to the Muslim world with the siege of Samarkand.  Not having either bamboo or mulberry trees, the Muslims use cotton or linen.  These fibers need more processing to soften so there are now multiple soaks with some fermentation to help break the fibers down.  The overall process was about the same though.  The Muslims did use sizing, in this case starch.  The sizing helps develop a water resistance so ink doesn’t just get absorbed.  The Muslims also found they had to burnish their paper with smooth stones to make sure it was flat enough for clean writing.

Finally, paper comes to Europe with the Muslims.  Rags of cotton and linen are still the main source but more industrialization is used.  Water wheels with trip hammers help break the fibers down.  Couching is done on felt sheets with presses to expel the excess water.  Sheets are hung in warm rafters to totally dry.  Gelatin is used to size the paper.  Watermarks appear.

Finally in the 1800’s more machines enter the process and wood pulp is used for the paper and the modern method is not that dissimilar to the 1800’s method.

We will see if I take this up.  I can see watermarking my paper as a tag to myself.  I can see adding watermarks for Royal and Baronial use.  I can see scrolls and cards made on handmade, medieval paper. I can see something like the Great Machine in Calontir used to drive the beating hammers.

Too often, I can’t be stationary but perhaps I can be in stationery.

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Philosophy by JRR Tolkien

I think I have talked before about our house fire several years ago and the outpouring of support by good friends we had and good friends we didn’t know we had yet.  It was literally a transformative experience for me.  Recently, a good friend related some experiences they had at Pennsic and of course there are other crazy experiences in the world.  What once seemed like a world getting safer has become a world that seems to be getting more dangerous.

Aside:  I read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings every summer for probably close to 11 years.  It is surprising what phrases of hope can be found in these books.  Recall, the world is one on the brink.  A great evil that was thought gone has resurfaced.  Also recall, JRR Tolkien had recently (when he started writing the LotR at least) come from WWI where some of the worst atrocities man has done to man had occurred.

I find some interesting insights in these books. In particular, these two quotes stick with me.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. ” Gandalf to Galadriel.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Gandalf to Bilbo.

Aside:  Outside of the craziness of Pennsic and the SCA, another good friend who recently had a heart attack just told us that she will be fighting breast cancer now.

So what are we do with this world?  One where hate is not afraid to show its face?  One where friends thinking they are safe become another crime statistic?  One where the vagueries of fate and genetics can strike good people?

Again Tolkien gives us an example.  Frodo and Sam are at one of their lowest points.  They must get to the heart of evil to do their quest. They must get into Mordor but the way is barred.  They produce a vial of water that has captured the image of starlight.  Special water and special starlight to be sure but at its real essence just water and light.  It is their faith that this is enough.  That is, if they can believe it is enough then it is enough.

The other main example is Frodo and Sam themselves.  They are hobbits.  They are not particularly strong.  They are not particularly wise or skilled.  To some extent, they are not particularly brave.  Gandalf tells them as much.  I can’t find the exact quote but it was to the effect, “if you knew what you were getting into, you wouldn’t volunteer.” Yet they volunteer anyway and it is Sam’s devotion in pure friendship that ultimately saves the day.

We are small.  We might be afraid.  We might lack wealth or power.  But we can have faith.  We can have friendship.  We can give each other those small acts of kindness and love.  Be the light you wish to see in other.

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Home is where the flatland is

I was going to title this “Home is at 37 ft above sea level” but then I learned that home is on average 764 ft above sea level and that doesn’t convey what I want to talk about.

This weekend I went to visit my oldest son in Roanoke VA.  It was good to be on the road which is something I miss.  It was good to travel with my wife which is something I love.  It was good to see my son and his fiancee.

The trip however, oy vey.

Going to Roanoke, we went through Dayton and down through southwest Ohio through West Virginia.  It was an okay drive.  I can’t say that the landscape of southwest Ohio was inspiring.  It was along a US highway instead of the interstate.  But West Virginia terrified me.

The road twists and turns.  How people take though turns at 70+ mph is beyond me.  At home, if went off the road, the worst that would happen is plowing into some guys corn field.  Here?  It is 100’s of feet or more down a cliff.  Not only does it twist and turn, it goes up and down to dizzying heights.  Going through Charleston WV, there are houses and apartments on higher mountains yet.  Are these people part goat?  I am sure the view is good but how do you not fall off?  As we remarked, the sky was too small and the land was too big.  There was a neat little artisan/craftsperson’s shop along the interstate though.

I did spend some time growing up in Virginia but it is a different place than Roanoke.  On the whole, I wasn’t impressed.  Supposedly, the area is about the same population as home. Geography makes it hard to go places.  I felt like we had to go around and around to get anywhere.  Services were smaller too.  For instance, their farmer’s market felt way smaller than ours.  The restaurants were similar.  I also felt that the people were not as friendly.  Maybe it is a midwest thing.  We went to Star City Games, the biggest Magic the Gathering store in North America.  I was not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

We stayed one night and then left for home.  We decided to go home through Kentucky this time.  Again the terrifying mountains but they quickly leveled somewhat into rolling hills. Then for some pure beauty.  Jaime and Eleanor, and the rest of the Flame, you guys have a really pretty barony.  There was still some up and down but the roads were mostly straight.  That bluegrass is very pretty to look at.  And the people were friendlier.  We stopped for the night in Louisville.  Unknown to us, there was a classic car show so we were lucky to find a hotel room but we did.  People were lined up on the streets to see the cars.  A truck was urged to revv and spin out.   I doubt the crowd wanted to see my mini van do the same 🙂  On the advice of friends we went to Ramsi’s Cafe on the World.  Parking was difficult but on the residential street behind it, there was some good spots and very pretty old brick houses.  We should have been warned that there was a bookstore next to it 🙂  It was there that we found the Midwesterner we know and love.  We chatted with the clerk at the bookstore.  He dated someone from Champaign and loved the area.  We asked about breakfast.  Several people in the store insisted that the only answer is Con Huevos.  They were right.  The food was good at Cafe and Con Huevos.  Definitely going back to Louisville again some time.

All of this is to say that after spending the first 20 some years of my life moving every four years then spending the next 20 some years of my life in one spot, I am definitely a flatlander Midwesterner now.

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Froderick goes to Martial Rum June 2018

Froderick helps work Gate with Dai and Magrat. Don’t fill up on donuts buddy, we are on a diet 🙂

Froderick helps work Gate with Dai and Magrat. Don’t fill up on donuts buddy, we are on a diet 🙂

 

  Froderick looks really happy to help with teacher sign in with Eleanor and Audette.

 

    Froderick help Emer with the teacher goodie bags.

 

   Froderick is like, “Hey Oswyn has some amber just like that! Did he steal it from you?” Saldis gives him the sideeye.

 

  Una and Rose with Froderick. Equestrian Champion and KMoAS? Some high rollers that Froderick knows.

   After taking Seto’s Leadership class, Froderick is ready to be General of the Midrealm Army.

  And when he does become General, Froderick wants some armor like Honor’s new kit. Honor before Victory indeed!

  Getting measurement taken just in case.

 

  Seto stressed that both rapier and heavy were important. Froderick tries some 2 v 2 with Adam, Cecily, and Alexander. At least, Adam’s feet are safe.

             After explaining the lilypad ceiling with respect to the Middle Kingdom’s Army, Froderick decides that Thrown Weapons might be more his speed. Mary tells him he did a good job.

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Run Hide Fight – warning political post

This is one of the rare semi-political posts.  You were warned.

So for the second time, I have had to sit through active shooter training.  The first time I was less than pleased and sent this letter to my boss, our CEO, and our HR department.  Names redacted with a semi-random number of yyyyyy.

__________________________________________________________________

My objection has to do with Sergeant yyyyyy portion of the training.  At some point, I realized that he used the word “kill” a lot.  He used the phrase “kill the bad guy” no fewer than 12 times in the hour we spend on tactical awareness.  There were probably times before I started counting them.  Most of the time, he used this phrase in reference to “it was his job to kill the bad guy.”  But a sizeable number of his use of this phrase was in reference yyyyyy employees should “kill the bad guy” in active shooter situations.  In your summary at the end , you did not use the phrase “kill the bad guy” but you did saying something to the effect of “if someone comes here to do something nasty to you, you (meaning yyyyyyy employees) should pay them back in kind.”  Since for the past hour, we were told repeatedly that the “bad guy” was here to “kill” us, I took your comment to mean you expected us to kill.

While Sergeant yyyyy did talk a little bit about running and hiding from attackers and he did talk about making sure to have a plan, he never presented any other option other than “kill the bad guy” for fighting.  There was never a mention of subdue, incapacitate, chase off, hurt, maim, or capture the “bad guy”, just kill him.

Both Sergeant yyyyyy explicitly and yyyy by inference gave us, as civilians and yyyyyy employees, “permission” to kill another person.

Near the end, Sergeant yyyyy felt it necessary to single me out (as an example; I am aware he did not do so on purpose) as a person that if I was not willing to “kill the bad guy”, I would be responsible for the deaths of my coworkers through inaction.

My objection is this: I have a deeply held religious belief about the sanctity of life.  We did not create these lives and therefore they are not ours to take.  I do not know if others at yyyyyyy have the same deeply held belief but it is not an unreasonable belief to have.  Every major religion and moral philosophical system has a prohibition against killing.  Even our own legal code prohibits killing.  If you were to kill someone in self-defense, an outside body would determine if you did so justly.  Even the police have their actions reviewed to determine whether they acted lawfully.  It is not for us to determine a priori and by ourselves whether we should kill someone.   Someone with my deeply held belief should have been an expected member of this training at some point and reasonable accommodation made to them.   Also, I was led to believe that you had attended this training before and unless Sergeant yyyyy just didn’t use the word “kill” as much, you should have realized this could be objectionable to someone with deeply held beliefs.   We were given no specific warning as to the content nor given any option but endure it as this was a mandatory training session.

Based on this training, the take away could reasonably be that both the police and yyyyyyy expects us to kill the intruder.  That intruder breaks into the barricaded room.  Those of us in that room fight the intruder.  We manage to disarm the intruder and maybe even render him unable to fight back.  No mention of this situation was made; we were repeatedly told to “kill the bad guy.”  Based on the tone of the training, what is to stop someone from yyyyyy, deciding before they are in imminent harm that they will kill the intruder regardless of what condition they find the intruder in?  Courts have already determined that this is murder if you decide beforehand that you are going to kill someone.

Contrary to Sergeant yyyyy and your own statements, no one can give us “permission” to kill another person.  You both lack the legal and moral authority to do so.   That both the police and yyyyyy management feel that they can give us permission to kill is disturbing to say the least. Potentially, such advice that we have “permission to kill” could be used against yyyyyy in a legal situation (wrongful death suit for instance).

Other than make you aware of my belief, I am going to do nothing else about it.  We were warned that it was a disturbing subject.  Obviously, discussing mass shootings is disturbing.  Being commanded to kill another human being does not have to be part of that training.  Based on what I heard, I would believe that Officer yyyyy and Sergeant yyyyyy would agree that it would be difficult for a civilian unused to killing another person to actually do it.  That said, then they should not be telling those civilians to do that.

Now to the actionable feedback.

First, Sergeant yyyyyy should pay more attention to his language.  I think most people would like to believe that the police would kill someone as a last resort; not as a first opportunity.  Whether it is Sergeant yyyyy  job to “kill the bad guy” or not is a matter for a larger public debate, but it really doesn’t add anything to his training.  He could refer to why we should not attach ourselves to the police in these situations as he “needs to make sure the building is safe” or “he is focused on pursuing the bad guy” or “he is trying to resolve the situation.”  Additionally, he should not be encouraging the civilians in these cases to kill.  Fight back, yes.  Disarm, subdue, yes.  Kill?  No.    I understand he would probably trying to ensure that people weren’t pulling punchs.  I am sure adrenaline will take care of that.

Other language issues.  No one is a whore.  I am glad they finally realized that calling someone in a room full of women a whore is objectionable.  We don’t need to hear any of our coworkers referred to that way.  His point is that many medications interfere with sexual function and that is a reason some people don’t take them.  It in no way makes anyone a whore.  In fact, some of those medications also increase sexual desire.  That still doesn’t make anyone a whore.

Officer yyyyy needs to remove his references to media bias.  One, his talk isn’t about media bias against the police so the references serve no purpose to the training.  Plus, later comments by him and Sergeant yyyyy overuse of phrase, “kill the bad guy” actually reinforces that the media might be right.  Just don’t talk about it.  It doesn’t apply.

They both need to avoid tangents about officer shootings that are not about the presentation.  Sergeant yyyy mentioned the incident in Ferguson, MO.  Regardless of his beliefs in the case, that was not an incident of an active shooter in the crowded building.  Talking about media bias and Ferguson distract from their main points and encourage the audience to form other opinions about the police that have nothing to do with the training being presented.

There was very little presented about the fact that the most likely shooter these cases will have some connection to yyyyyyyyy.  That means the most likely shooter will be an employee (or recent former employee) or someone close to an employee.  That means the shooter will be someone you probably know.  According to the training, this person is going to be killed by you or in front of you.  It is traumatic enough to be in active shooter situation.  When that person is a friend or colleague, imagine how much more traumatic that will be.   They should talk more about that.

Aside from the overuse and objectionable use of “kill”, I felt the mental health portion was well done.  I would have liked a little more about how identifying mental health issues might prevent the active shooter situation altogether.  I would have liked more focus on the run, hide, fight aspects of the tactical awareness.  More discussion on what improvised weapons you might have, how you might use those improvised weapons, ways to actually make an effective barricade, and perhaps how you can safely inform the police that you have actually subdued the bad guy without the police wanting to shoot you.  Because regardless of whether someone has my beliefs about life and killing, very few people not used to fighting and/or killing will be able to do it.  In short, less “kill the bad guy” and more “here is how you survive.”

______________________________________________________________

Those comments seemed well received and my most recent training session was better.  There was more of a focus on run, hide, fight.  That said, I still find the subject misses the entire point.

One of the statistics presented was on motives for active shooters.  I assume these statistics were nationwide.   58% were listed as unknown and 21% were listed as workplace dissatisfaction.  This training focused on workplace dissatisfaction as it was for workplace violence.  I am willing to bet that a large portion on that 58% is also workplace related; we just don’t know because the person is died now and didn’t leave us any explanation for what they did.

A lot of talk was given to security measures we have implemented.  To make us safer.  I can’t help but recall Ben Franklin here, “He who is willing to sacrifice freedom for security deserves neither.”  A lot of talk and questions about “is doing that rude?” with the response being “it is better to be rude to protect your coworkers.”  Privately in discussions, I played devil’s advocate and posed the question, “what if that rudeness is what sets someone off?”  And I actually believe that to an extent.

Someone did have the courage to ask, “What are we doing in those cases where we terminate someone to make sure they do become an active shooter?”  I think for me that is the crux of it all.  What if we spent the money on creating a better environment instead of security measures?  What if we make it so that people don’t want to hurt us?  Maybe a bit pollyanna of me but shouldn’t we create the world we want to live in?  Because like it or not, we do create the world we actually live in.

Some attention was paid to the fact that it is likely to be someone we know if any of this happens.  And assuming they aren’t really insane, they will do some planning.  As an avid roleplayer, I have to say the exercise is not all that hard.  Not all that much more difficult than figuring out how to invade a vampire’s lair.  Many of the recent shootings demonstrate advance planning.  Someone didn’t randomly choose to go shooting that day.  They decided where to go, how to get in, who their targets were, and how to get the weapons involved.  Many even practiced beforehand.  Run Hide Fight works ok against a random person but how well does it work against someone who is specifically gunning for you?  Again, I bet not very well.

In the vast majority of cases, and I am pretty confident it is true in my company’s case, active shooter is a very low probability event.   I asked a few coworkers, do you think a fire is more likely?  They all said yes.  Our last fire drill, we did okay but people didn’t take it seriously and took their time getting out.  I don’t have a lot of hope for how we will respond to a shooter.  At least my office is a tornado shelter so that helps.

I just don’t see this training as valuable.  It feels like an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t solve anything.  It is a low probability event.  An intelligent and prepared person will overcome the obstacles put in their way.  I am not saying it isn’t serious and that some training isn’t valuable.  But I would like to see more time, energy, and money spent on preventing people wanting to shoot someone else.  Money for improving the workplace environment, energy on treating people with respect and dignity, and time to build relationship.

 

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This is why we can’t have nice things

I am working on a not so secret project for Midrealm 50.  Dr. Corey Olsen is a widely recognized Tolkien Scholar and expert on medieval literature.  The two things go hand in hand.  I am trying to get him as a guest speaker for Midrealm 50.  It is going well.

I have listened to Corey for years.  He ran the Tolkien Professor podcast for a long time and then he transitioned it into something else.  He started the Mythgard Academy which became Signum University.  It was when listening to his podcast and hearing him talk about the process to get Signum University certified that I was like, “we have to get him to speak at Midrealm 50!”  And it occurred to me that the SCA would be a good place for his university to flourish.  I want to learn Old English, I am sure others want to learn Old Norse.  The costs are reasonable.  I also assumed most of us wouldn’t care if it was for “credit”.  Many of us are fantasy and sci fi nuts.  Surely, he is our people; we just don’t know it yet.

Here is the podcast. It really touched me (http://s3.amazonaws.com/signumu.outreach/Special-Events/20180405_Signum-Update-State-Certification.mp3).

The idea of Signum University as a totally online center of learning is wonderful.   No bricks and mortar.  No insane overhead and headache for the instructors.  Better student involvement and lower costs for the students.  Heck, I have two pieces of paper from Penn State University.  They are very expensive pieces of paper that get no use.  I would much rather a digital piece of paper that I thought was useful.  Anyway, I am not doing the podcast justice.

In the process of trying to get Corey to speak at Midrealm 50, he wants to expand his student base.  That makes sense.  He has successfully expanded it into LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online).  They sometimes hold classes in the game in LOTRO.  How cool is that?  I discussed it with my “boss”.  I wrote up some copy.  Edited said copy.  Got said copy approved.  Posted said copy on the places my “boss” thought was a good idea.  Should be a no brainer.  I should have seen the actually outcome.

No sooner had I posted the blurb on the Middle Kingdom A&S site then I get a comment that this is a fraudulent university.  I don’t know this person personally and I won’t guess at their motives.  Given the speed of posting and the content, I can only assume all they did is google the street address.  Yes, it is a small office as part of a mall. They aren’t a physical university.  And I stated that they were working on getting certified.  That takes time and money to get.

I shouldn’t have been surprised.  If this person didn’t do it, someone else would have said something similar.  A little more googling or following the link on the post would have given the following:

https://signumuniversity.org/directory/corey-olsen/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corey_Olsen

https://signumuniversity.org/directory/tom-shippey/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Shippey

https://signumuniversity.org/directory/carl-edlund-anderson/

https://signumuniversity.org/directory/faith-acker/

These are not fly by night people.  They have verifiable research and books to their names.  They hold Ph’D’s from prestigious institutions.  It would have taken approximately 5 minutes to see some of the faculty and conclude, this Signum place is unusual but staffed by people who seem to be experts in their areas.

And I am a student at Signum.  I don’t care if it is certified or not.  In all my years hiring people, I never once checked if someone actually had the degree they said they did.  I never once checked to see if the place listed was a “fraud” or  not.  Yes it has been in the news that some places are frauds.  But it doesn’t take a lot of work to see if this is or not.  They are real people who do know what they are talking about.  And at the prices they are charging, they are not trying to scam you.  This isn’t Trump University.  This is affordable liberal arts/humanities education here.  To be honest, they are probably losing money.

I didn’t want my post to have as the very first thing “fraud”.  I didn’t want to have a debate on what was legit and what was false.  I want to see something awesome and special happen.  Hopefully, it will.

Froderick, Uncategorized

Froderick goes to Crystal Chamfron 2018

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Fire is the enemy

I said this to a friend recently.  Fire is the enemy.

I had been wondering what I should write about next.  And then, this past weekend (4/28) happened.  My son’s apartment building caught fire and is in total ruin.  As I wrote in Inspired2belong, this is the second fire my family has experienced in 5 to 6 years.  In many ways, it was different.  In some ways, it is the same.

It is odd that I just quickly responded with “fire is the enemy.”  I live in an area that is prone to tornadoes.  I don’t say, “air is the enemy.”  I have lived through 7 hurricanes if I recall right.  Certainly those were also with more frequency than I have experienced fire.  I don’t say, “water is the enemy.”  There was once a minor earthquake where I live.  I definitely don’t say “earth is the enemy.”   I worship a sun goddess whose very symbol is a burning ball of gas.  Fire shouldn’t be an enemy; it should be a friend.

Many of you reading this are probably my SCAdian friends and nothing is finer than gathering around a fire, telling tales, and drinking homebrews.  I enjoy it too.  And yet, I do believe fire is the enemy.

Of all of the “natural” disasters, fire feels the most personal.  In urban life (wildfires are different), fire disasters are all man-made, either through carelessness or design.  The smell of burning construction materials is pervasive.  We stopped by my son’s apartment building to see if we could get in.  That smell that I will never forget was there.  Fire changes what it touches.  Beauty becomes ash.  Soot stains all it touches.

Fortunately, we all had a sense of humor about it.  I remember joking with the firefighters years ago.  My son asked his friend, a math major, what are the odds of someone dealing with two fires in so short a time frame.  The answer is 1 Rowan (his name).  But that smell reminded me of the night of our house fire.  That wasn’t a time of humor.  I stood and watched my house burn to its shell.  The firefighters saved some of our cats.  My wife and youngest (I think) left with them to a friend’s house.  After a bit, my oldest went there too.  There was no need for them to stay around.  I stayed.  I watched and prayed that somehow these firefighters would get ahead of the fire so something would be saved.  They didn’t.  They worked hard.  I wrote a letter praising them to their chief and the local paper.  But fire is the enemy and it only reluctantly gives up ground once it advances.

For weeks, I would have to enter that house, smell that smell, to salvage what we could, to catalog what we couldn’t.  It took months before I stopped waking up at 3:00 am, the time the fire started.  Any siren was intrepretted as coming to me again.  This time at least, none of us stood watching it.  But too soon, Rowan and I will smell that smell again.  It is easier not having watched the fire burn.

Last time, we made some good lemonade from it.  We got the house we wanted.  Unwanted items became money that could become wanted items.  We lost some of the things we would not have chosen to lose.  I think the cats were highest amongst those. We were changed in a various ways.  I think I become more thoughtful, more truthful.  More forgetful too.  I can’t speak for the rest of my family.  But I think they changed too, much for the better but some for the worse.

Anyway, while none of us are hurt, and only a few things were lost (in the grand scheme of things), it is like going through it again. Fire changes what it touches.

Uncategorized, Vinegar

Starting Bourbon vinegar

Let’s go back to a safe topic, vinegar.   I started some new vinegars this weekend.  On the left is the bourbon vinegar.  The bottle of Jim Bean Maple said it was 70 proof so 35% ABV.  It was a 750 ml bottle so I added four cups of water (~ 1 liter) to drive the ABV down.  It should be about 12% or so.  I may need to cut it further.  The bacteria should be able to deal with less than 20% ABV but they really like it below 10%.    The middle one is an Orange Pale Ale.  The mother is floating.  That is always a good sign.  The right is a sake.  I added the same volume of water as the sake.  Should be around 8% ABV.