What a difference a year makes!

Last year at this time, my portfolio was up about 14.5% over the previous year!  Joy!

This year, it is down about 13.5% over last year. Wow!

I guess I shouldn't feel to bad tho, it could be worse, since the S&P500 is down about 35% over last year.

Also, house prices here have fallen about 30% over a year ago: so I could actually buy a house if I
could ever get myself to take the plunge.

I've kept about  $300k on the sideline for that purpose,  so I might actually to it within the next year.

It is hard to decide tho: some  economists says  house prices could still drop another 20% around here.

So I'll be making low-ball bids, trying to get that 20% off the  asking price.

Another thing I'm trying to decide is whether to get something fairly nice for $600k, and then get a $300k loan,
or if I should get something that is not as nice and/or fancy, for about $300k, and either pay
cash or get a smaller $150k loan.

Since I might be   working another 3 or 4 years until they offer me early retirement, I could make
the payments on a 300k loan.  However, a smaller 100k loan I could make the payments on
whether I'm working or not: in case they offer me early retirement much sooner.   But unfortunately,
I'm go valuble to THEM,  and I don't think they're going to offer me  it for a while.

Another thing is: I've gotten very comfortable where I'm at.  The bay area is such a darn good place to be!
The only thing I miss is a nice house where I can garden and do other "stuff" that home owners are
always able to do.

Decisions, decisions!

Cutting down the trees to save the forest???

Apparently the big ado going on in my town that is making

national headlines is over with: they will kill the trees.

The people fighting the chopping down of the redwood trees have

run out of money for lawyers to fight it, so the trees have to die.

These people planned some redwood tree a while back, and then some

guy moved into the house next door, and put up solar panels.

The redwoods grew (as they tend to do), and are shading the solar panels,

so the neighbor sued the redwood tree owners to have them removed,

and won, because casting shadows onto your neighbor's lot is illegal

in California, apparently.

The man from the SIerra Club apprently sides with the solar panels. Quote the article:

Kurt Newick, who sells solar systems for a San Jose company, says he loves trees as much as anyone, but he falls on the side of solar energy.

"I'm a big tree fan. They increase property values and provide shade and cooling. But it's actually better for the environment to put solar on your roof than to plant a tree," said Newick, who is also chairman of the global warming committee of the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club.

"On average, a tree only sequesters 14 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and a solar electric system offsets that every two or three days," he said.

Original article at:


Getting drunk on barleywine ... again.

It was a great weekend for beer drinking ...
I got to judge the "finals" a the Toronado Barleywine Festival (2008).
This is the second time I've gotten to judge the finals ...
I think the last time was about 3 years ago.

This time we had to decide which of the 7 finalists was
the BOS. It was a long fight, which I won't go into here.

After that little "chore", I hung out in the judging area, and drank
2 pints of "Hop Stoopid" (sp?), a very tasting Imperial IPA
made by Lagunitas (they also won BOS with their Barleywine,
but it wasn't my favorite).

Then we all headed over to the Anchor Brewery for the
Homebrew Club of the Year Luncheon, and I drank a bunch more great beer ...
I think I drank about 7 pints there total. All for free.

I wasn't really very hungry, so I didn't even eat the luncheon.
Which might have been a mistake: it might have been wiser to
have some food in my stomach, since at about 6pm when they
ended the party, I was pretty drunk I guess.

Me and one of my other club members staggered the mile or so
back to the train station (I guess I wasn't so drunk I wasn't
able to walk a mile ...). But we missed the 6pm train,
by about 5 minutes, we had to wait until 7pm for the next train.

I sort of passed out for about 45 minutes, then woke up and
bought a second train ticket, since I had completely forgoten
that I'd already bought one earlier.

I didn't realize this until the next
morning when I found two train tickets in my pocket!

Fortunately, I didn't drink a whole lot of the Old Foghorn Barleywine,
since in years past when I did that, I was so hung-over the next
day that I felt horrible all the next day.

This year I only felt horrible for a little while in the morning. :-)

Coffee Roasting Results

So I got back to work this morning, to where all my
coffee brewing equipment resides, and was able to taste
the results of my coffee roasting for the first time.

The result, while OK, is definately not as good as I
was hoping for.

Even though the coffee beans are very dark, almost black
(one of my fears is that I roasted them to much ... is that
possible?), the resulting coffee is kind of thin.

But even tho its thin, it still has a lot of flavor.
A regular coffee that looks this thin to me would have
almost no flavor. Flavor wise, this is fairly high
up there.

I really like very dark coffee, so this is not it.

I'm not sure yet what the deal is.

Could it be the beans used?

Could it be I need to use much more per cup
than I normally do?

Did I roast them to much?

Did I roast them not enough?

But this first attempt has given me great expectations
at what I can do if I perfect my techniques.

First Coffee Roasting

At the Northern California Homebrew Festival two years ago
(the great yearly homebrewer's campout weekend in northern CA),
on a saturday morning, I discovered a group of people roasting
their own coffee beans with their homemade coffee roasters.

I thought that was very cool, and the coffee they were making
was great ... so ever since I've been wanting to do it myself.
But have never really gotten the proper equipement together.

But yesterday, I found a stove top pop-corn popper that some
people use, at a local thrift shop. So I picked it up,
and went over to the homebrew shop, which also sells raw coffee beans,
and bought a pound, in order to make my first attempt.

I bought the "Monsoon Java Arabica" which is supposedly "sweet pip tobacco,
light earth with smoky/nutty notes. Pristine light acid and very full body."
Mostly since this was my first attempt, and that was the cheapest available
at about $3.75

It took about 15 minutes on medium high heat on the stove top
to complete the roasting process.
It produced a lot more smoke than I was expecting (but smelled

Since I had watch people doing it a couple of times, I knew that
the roasting would be done, once the crackly popping stopped.

The cheap pop-corn popper did not seem to be the greatest ...
the gears have to be pushed at all times together, or they slip.
I'm sure the more expensive ones are built a bit better ...
but since I only spent $6, its hard to complain. I might be able
to fix it, buy bending the frame a bit so it connects better.
Of course the fancist ones at the homebrew shop cost in the hundreds
of dollars.

It seemed to work out though, the beans were roasted very dark black
(my hope is I did not over cook them).

I won't know what they taste like until tuesday, since my coffee brewing
set-up is at work.

(no subject)

Had a wonderful dinner to night, which I cooked,
and worked out perfectly.

I bought a 2.25# tri-tip that was on sale at Safeway
at 50% off, since it was the last day it could be sold,
on wednesday.
It was a burgandy wine marinaded.

I cooked it tonight for sunday dinner.

A few hours before cooking, I added about a half clove of garlic,
chopped into spears, and imbedded into it, then sprinkled with
rosemary and black pepper.

Next, I cooked it fairly hotly on a BBQ (mesquite coals),
for about 7 minutes on each side, to sear in the juices.

Next, I put it into the oven at 350 degree F,
for about 1.5 hours (in a covered dish),
to slow cook it and make it as tender as possible

After which I let it cool for about 10 or 15 minutes.

At which point it was mouthwateringly tender and fall apart
in your mouth.

Served with red wine and rice pilof.

So many times my cooking attems are culinary disappoints,
which is why I want to record this success,
so I can hopefully do it again someday!

2007 Year in Review, part 1

Seems like it was a pretty good year, generally.

Beer-wise, it seems like a lot happened:
I think I attended more beer-events this year than
any other year before: the highlight was a driving
trip to Denver, CO for the National Homebrew Conference
(which was about 3 days of beer drinking ...).

Another big beer event was the Northern California Homebrew
Festival. This was only 2 days of beer drinking,
but it was a lot closer and much cheaper
(only 4 hours of driving to it, and only $70).

Some other beer competitions and events I attended:
Dickens Fair Black & Tan HBC
California State Homebrew Compeititon
National Organic Homebrew Challenge!
Tulare County Fair Homebrew Competition
Santa Cruz County Fair Homebrew Competition
Amador County Fair Homebrew Competition
Amador Invitational
AHA NHC 2nd Round 2007
2007 Samuel Adams American Homebrew Contest
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing HomeBrew to ProBrew
Alameda County Fair Homebrew Competition
11th Annual Silver Dollar Fair Homebrew Competition
AHA National Homebrew Competition 1st Round West Region
World Cup of Beer
Toronado Barleywine Festival

In all I earn about 30 bjcp points!
If I earn the same amount in 2008, I'll be
at my next BJCP judging level: Grand Master II

Other beer events I attended that weren't offical
BJCP events:
Dr. Bill's Beer Tasting (the day after the Barleywine Fest.).
Ran a 11 week BJCP Exam Study Group.
Bay Area Brewfest
H.O.M.E. Xmas Party @ Anchor Brewery
Homebrew of the Year Dinner @ Anchor Brewery
Sudzer Xmas Party

And probably a bunch more than I'm not recalling at the moment.

Financial wise, I did fairly well:
while the S&P 500 increased about 3.8% over the year,
my portfolio increase about 13%.
The difference is 9% ... which was probably savings
from my pay-check and what I made in bonds.

My diet worked pretty good this year: I lost about 30 pounds.
I went from about 254 pounts to 215 (but I figure over
the holidays I've gained a bit back).

My resolution for 2008 is to loose another 30 pounds
or so, in order to get down to what I should be for
my height, and to be more healthy.

I have more resolutions and goals for the upcoming year,
but I'll save those for another time.

A weekend of good beer and good hiking

It was a very productive weekend ...

Saturday night I went to the monthly homebrew club meeting,
which was pretty good: plent of good, interesting beers.

The theme of the night was "strong ales", so people brought
many interesting things they've been hiding in their basements,
sometimes for years.

One very tasty beer was a very special edition of Old Rasputain
Imperial Russian Stout from the North Coast Brewery.
This was their 10th Aniversary version, which was higher
alcohol, 11.?% and aged in burbon barrels. The normal version
is one of my favorite beers, but this was extra special.
You can only buy this beer at the brewery in Fort Bragg,
and one of the members was up there over the summer and bought
it then. He never felt like drinking a full 22oz bottle by hisself,
so we were lucky that he brought it to share!

Another was 3 year old barleywine made by a guy who is now
a profession brewmaster one of the local brew pubs.

And there were many more; dozens.
Some other Russian Imperial Stouts, and some other barleywines.

Once again, I probably tasted more, and more interesting beers,
than 99% of people in the US drink in their lifetimes.
Which is a sad truth (I know people who have only drank "Coors Light"
their entire lives!).And all in one night!

My only goal was not to drink so much that I be to drunk to drive,
so I only drank about 1 ounce samples of most beers presented,
and I probably drank only an equivalent of 2 beers the whole night.

But it was a potluck, so there was also plenty of great food to
stuff myself with.

I didn't make it home until about midnight, and I don't think
I got to sleep until 1AM in the morning, so I slept
pretty late into Sunday morning.

Although about 5am in the morning, I was awakened by police sirens,
apparrently somekind of drug overdose in an appartment down the street:
someone OD on mushrooms and went crazy.

So I went back to sleep and didn't wake up until 10AM.

So I went for my cup of coffee and read the newspaper for a few
hours at the one of the coffee shop hangouts, and didn't
get back to about noon.

Since it was so late, I decided not to do what I had been planning
(make another batch of Scotch Whiskey in my still ...),
and instead I decide to go on a hike.

I hadn't taking a good hike in over a month, and I've been feeling
a bit out-of-shape.

I feel like I should get out and do some good exercise whenever
I do a big beer event like the night before.

So I got out and went for a hike at my favorite local nature preserves,
Windy Hill OSP.

The weather was pretty nice today, to good to be staying inside
making beer or whisky,and it was good to get out.

But I didn't get started until about 1:30PM!

It was a very pleasent hike, and warm enough that
I only needed to wear shortpants and a t-shirt.
But I also wore my good heavy leather hiking boots,
because I'm still trying to break them in
(no blisters, so they are pretty well broke in now).
Plus I get better exercise hiking with them on,
since they are so heavy, compared to my hiking shoes,
which are basically glorified tennis shoes.

There were lots of mushrooms out, thanks to the recent
rains (last time I hiked here about a month ago, there were none),
some varieties that I've never seen.
I think I found one edible mushroom, but I'm not sure yet,
since I've never seen it before (I took a picture to help me ID it).

Since I got started so late, I didn't get to finish the hike until
about 5pm, and it was starting to get dark (plus their was a high fog
setting in). Which was kind of interesting, since I rarely
ever do this hike at dusk.

Best of Show

This weekend one of my homebrews won
"Best of Show" for the California State Homebrew

This is the best award I've received so far
in my homebrewing career.

The last best win was Best of Show at the
Bay-Area-Brew-Off/Alameda County fair a few years ago.

But this is a better win, since it is a much more
competitive competition: there are about 200 entries,
and a lot of top homebrewers in the state are
entering this competition, because it counts toward
the Sierra Nevada "Homebrewer of the Year" Competition.

The beer I entered that won, was a German style Pilsner,
which I knew was very good, but you never know if
the judges are going to think it is very good also.

Happily, it was unanimous, and I did win it!

I guess my next goal is to win "Best of Show" at
the California State Fair, and the "World Cup",
the other two "big" California homebrew competitions.
And then maybe I'll graduate to the "National Homebrew

However, what I really need to do to target that
competition is to enter a lot: I think my friend
Jamil how won it last year put in 34 entries, or
something like that.

But, at this point, I'm pretty confident that my
homebrews are world class and as good as any commercial
brewery makes.

The main problem I have is that I don't have enough
space to refrigerate all the beer I make, which is
required if you make lagers.

Maybe someday.

(no subject)

We've been having very cold and rain weather
where for the last months.

Normally we don't start getting cold and rainy
weather here until about the second week of November.

But it started very early this year ...
on the same day the Goracle was getting
his Peace Prize for all his hard work with
Global Warming, he had to give his exceptance
speach while shivering in a very early cold rain.

The papers all said that proves that he was right,
since if the weather is cold, that also proves
global warming. It would prove it even more if
the weather was warm, but no mater what the weather is,
it does prove it, since the global warming theory
says no matter what the weather is, that proves it.

But I especially don't want it to rain on saturday,
because that is the day of one of my parties of the year:
the Oktoberfest Party that is put on by the Santa Cruz
Fungal Federation and the Santa Cruz Homebrewers.

The party is just an excuse for eating lots and lots
of great food (a lot of it made with mushrooms),
and to drink lots and lots of beer of all kinds
(homebrews and commercials) ... all the people in
the mushroom club are supposed to bring a food dish,
and all the homebrewers are supposed to bring beer.

It is always one of the best private parties I ever
get to attend.

Then on the next day, I get to go judge beer at a
beer competition in San Jose. In this case, I don't
particularly care what the weather does, since it is
all inside. I'm hoping since this is being held in
on of the biggest brewers of German style beer in the county,
that we'll get to drink gallons and gallons of
very tasty beer ... hopefully they'll still have
some of their Oktoberfest beer on tap. If so,
I believe I'll drink at least 4 half liter glasses.
Woo woo!