Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Place v4.0

Well, I’ve been living here working at this job for four years and now I’m about to move into my fourth place. The events which have been leading up to this have been making me many things but happy. However, as soon as it is all over I may actually prefer my new situation.

The first major disappointment about this move relates to the fact that we really didn’t see it coming. I think it was pretty close to the last legal day that our landlord decided to tell us that he was going to renovate and not renew our lease. This was a pretty big surprise because he had given us every indication that he was intending to renew up until that point. In May he sent us an e-mail indicating he wanted a reassurance from us that we were planning to stay. He was responding in part to the fact that one of our roommates was moving out and arranging for a sublease to take up his spot for the remainder of the term. When the new guy signed on and moved in he had gotten the word of mouth from our landlord that the lease would be renewed and that the new guy would be able to sign onto it. So…it was kind of a bombshell.

This whole thing hit me particularly hard (maybe not as hard as the new guy) for a couple of reasons. First, I’d been planning to stay here for a while so I’ve sort of been in settle in mode. I’d bought a couple of pieces of furniture and some kitchen equipment. I’d been in the process of planning a refurnishing and redecoration of our dining and living rooms to make them more satisfactory for social gathering. In addition to settling, I had spent my summer in temporally and pecuniarily expensive ways. Taking almost two months off of work to take a couple of classes left me without any vacation time and a handy fifteen-hundred dollars. Oh… well.

The next adventure came in trying to find a place. It took me a few apartment tours before I figured it out but, do you remember that whole housing loan crash stuff? I could be wrong, but I think it might have something to do with the annoying increase in rental rates. Another fifty to one-hundred dollars in this neighborhood would’ve landed me with a room two-thirds the size of this one in a cramped apartment with no storage space and inferior subway access.

After some frustrated hunting around and trying miserably to somehow find a place while disappearing to the island for week here and a week there, I lost one such place (though newly renovated with new kitchen appliances) which I had signed up for including and earnest deposit when my potential roommates insisted the landlady reject me. You see, they called me the night I was leaving to go the island and left a voice mail asking me to show up for a meeting, one which was to have occurred in about an hour of when the phone call was made. I didn’t get the message until well after but, had to get to work. A couple days later I got the call that this precipitated my being dropped. This completely sucked because it left me with one week to both try to find a place, pack, etc.

This led me to discover another reason why my landlord’s timing was less than favorable. Some people might argue with me about this point, but I like to think of Boston and the surrounding area as being kind of like one really huge college town. So… if you are in a college town looking for a new apartment for September 1, well you might be able to imagine what a race that has been. The choices become very slim very quickly. In one instance I went out some considerable distance from my home for an appointment to see a place that had already been rented out before the agent and I got there.

Anyway, I’ve got a place secured now. Strangely enough it may turn out to be a better situation than I could have planned. It’s near a neighborhood that I used to like to hang out in. The rent is cheaper than where I am and includes utilities. A nice point. The apartment has less space but, it should work out. Also, the kitchen has a dishwasher. So… that’s about all I know right now. I may write more about this move after it’s over.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Playing with the Hooch

I know that this post is only going to be so interesting to most people. In part because it is a report of something that was mostly a failure, a failure that has been a long time in development. For quite a few months I have been collecting the hooch off of my sourdough culture with the long term goal of attempting to distill the ethanol out of it.

For those who don't know, let me explain a little bit about what I mean. Hooch is the liquid solution which rises to the top of a sourdough culture that has been allowed to sit for a week or so. It contains mostly water but also some of the substances that are biproducts of the sourdough fermentation process. The bacteria in the culture produce various sorts of lactic and acetic acids that I'm neither equipped or qualified to identify. This is the stuff that gives the sourdough its sour taste. It also happens to make the culture acidic enough that nasty, unwanted microbes can't live in it. The yeast, of course, produce more water and some alcohol, mostly ethanol to be exact.

So anyway, I've been collecting this stuff for a long time and filtering it (a process that has been a major hassle) saving up to have about half a gallon in order to try out this protocol I found on-line for distilling box wines into sort of Franzia brandy. This method involves cooking the liquid at a very low heat in a big pot. The idea is to keep the temperature low enough to vaporize a lot more alcohol than water. You cover the pot with a bowl or inverted lid to catch the vapors and drop the condensate back into a glass in the center of the pot. The idea is that alcohol and water vapors will collect on the surface of the bowl-shaped lid and drip from the lowest part of the surface of the bowl and fall in the glass. The bowl is filled with ice to cause condensation.

It kind of worked but not really. The failure was all my fault in that I left and forgot the experiment and let it overcook. From the smell in the house I think I just boiled off all of the alcohol. However, a distillation did take place. You should be able to see in the picture posted here that I did successfully separate something from the solution. It just happens to be plain water. The clear glass on the left is the water that came out with a slight bit of vinegar in it. The brown liquid on the left is quite sour. Anyway, I'm a little disappointed but, quite impressed with the contrast in coloring and flavor here.

So, the question is: Will I try it again? Can't really say. The success and reason for failure are encouraging that I could be more successful with another go. But when I think of how long it took to accumulate the hooch... I hesitate. Maybe I could come up with a way to make it faster. Maybe, I'll just move on and find something else to try.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Check this out.

Watch this video and tell me this isn't both ridiculously amazing and pretty creepy at the same time.