The Japanese Letdown

Posted in Video Games at 11:46 am by Ryan

I really respect the gaming panache of the Japanese market. Their willingness to play creative, innovative games is unparalleled. And that willingness has led to a ton of great games like Phoenix Wright, Katamari Damacy, and Ouendan.

But apparently, if you ask the Japanese what their favorite all time game is, it’s Final Fantasy X.

Seriously? The game that brought us blitzball and racial stereotypes so thick that it makes Cheech and Chong blush is the best game ever? I was going to write this off as Famitsu appealing to a younger fanboy market, but Final Fantasy 3 was in the top 10, too.

Is this what people in England felt like when Lord of the Rings beat out The Bible in a ‘Most Popular Book’ poll?


Ruby - Learning in Progress

Posted in Tech at 4:41 pm by Ryan

I’m learning Ruby and Ruby on Rails in my free time, and I’ve got to say that I’m impressed with the capabilities of both the language and the framework. The only area that I’ve found things truly lacking is in handling unicode text.

It’s not like you can’t do anything with unicode in ruby. With gems like jcode you can rework a bunch of the basic string functionality to support UTF-8. But it really is a hack, and full support isn’t going to be in until Ruby 2.0.

Anyone out there running an internationalized project that’s implemented in Ruby? If so, how are you dealing with the unicode issues?

Also, the GUI bindings for Ruby are still … nascent. I gave RubyTk and fxruby a go and they both had issues showing UTF-8 characters. I might have missed something in trying to figure it out but it’s not as simple as ‘display the literal’. Ruby/QT and Ruby/GTK+ would probably handle it, but getting QT and GTK+ to build on windows is a challenging proposition.

I’m hoping to follow up with some posts about specific things I like about Ruby and RoR, but starting with the main issue I’ve found is easiest.


Stupid Google Tricks!

Posted in 日本語 at 12:55 am by Ryan

Well, trick anyways.

As I practice my japanese translation skills, I often come across words that aren’t in my pocket dictionary. Sometimes the incredibly useful JDIC helps me out. When I can’t grok the results of that, I’ve come up with another methodology that can help give context.

  1. Type the word you’re looking for into google
  2. Pick any page that shows the word your looking for, and go to the google cache page. The word you entered should be lit up in yellow
  3. Now copy the url for the google cache page, and go to google’s translation service
  4. Have it translate from the original language to English.
  5. Rejoice in your overly-complicated contextual translation!

I’m fairly sure it’s for things like this that my doctor keeps me locked up in the padded room.


Trusted Computing, Untrusted Users

Posted in Tech at 12:12 pm by Ryan

My friend John and I have been having a discussion about how to allow computer users to have the freedom to do what they want on their machines, while still maintaining a secure environment. It’s a complicated problem and I’m not even sure there are any good solutions.

I think it also represents the best of the goals of the Trusted Computing people. I dont’ really want to run a machine where I can’t compile and run arbitrary code, but I could imagine buying one for my parents. A simple machine that could run applications from authorized vendors would (hopefully!) protect them from a lot of the malware issues that exist today.

Of course, if the trusted software has security holes, are you much better off?

Blog House and Rocks


Colleen’s Wild Irish Stout, Part 5

Posted in Brewing at 9:39 pm by Ryan

It’s done!

And I’ve gotta say, I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s got the same mellow flavor of Guinness, with a little extra bitterness on the aftertaste that comes from using more hops.

If I make it again, I’m also going to try to add some lactose sugar to make the head a bit creamier and the beer slightly more sweet.

But really, it’s a small change. The recipe and the process was an outstanding success, and I can’t wait to try it again with a new recipe!

(Or, y’know, try to make wine again. If I’ve got the patience…)


Colleen’s Wild Irish Stout, Part 4

Posted in Brewing at 8:50 am by Ryan

Notes from 11/26:

Bottling! After letting it sit in a secondary fermenter for two weeks, my beer is now ready to be bottled. To get it carbonated, I’ll add a simple syrup (water and sugar) into the beer and mix it in before I siphon the beer into bottles. That’ll give whatever yeast remaining some food to consume so they create some CO2 for us.

(sidenote: make sure you have enough room in the fermenter to pour the syrup in! I didn’t, and I made quite a mess!)

Now that my beer is in the bottle, I’ll wait two weeks for the yeast to work it’s magic and then give it a go. I can’t wait to try it!

Colleen’s Wild Irish Stout, Part 3

Posted in Brewing at 8:47 am by Ryan

Notes from 11/11:

Primary fermentation is completely finished, and now I’m starting my secondary fermentation. What that means is that I’ll transfer the beer from it’s current 6.5 gallon glass carboy into a 5 gallon glass carboy. It’ll pretty much fill it up to the top, so it won’t be exposed to oxygen. The other nice thing is that it will get it away from the big sediment of yeast that’s collected in the first carboy so I won’t get a lot of yeast flavor in my beer. There should be enough yeast suspended in the beer to finish making the beer ‘dry’ (converting all the sugar to alcohol). I’ll let the beer sit in the 5 gallon container for two weeks before bottling.


Specific Gravity!

Posted in Brewing at 3:42 pm by Ryan

Whoops, I forgot to mention something in the initial process. When everything is finally in the primary fermenter at the end of the brewing process, you want to measure the specific gravity of your wort. Specific gravity is used by brewers and winemakers to determine the sugar content pre-fermentation so you can determine the alcoholic content of the final product. It also has the benefit of being a good indicator of whether or not your fermentation is stuck. You measure specific gravity with a device called a hydrometer and it looks a little something like this:
A triple-scale hydrometer
To measure specific gravity when you’re done brewing, do the following steps:

  1. Using a tube, siphon out a bit of your final mixture into a hydrometer test jar (these look like 11″ tall test tubes, usually). Try to get it about 4/5th’s of the way full.
  2. Put your hydrometer into the tube and read the value off the hydrometer. The value will be in the 1.0xx range (For instance, my batch of beer this time around my beer had an initial specific gravity of 1.050).
  3. If you have a triple scale hydrometer (most of you do), then it should also have a potential alcohol reading on it which is handy. My stout’s potential alcohol is 6%, but this is something that varies wildly between beer types and even different batches of the same beer.

It’s also worth noting that not all the sugar will necessarily get converted into alcohol. So when fermentation is done take another reading and see what the specific gravity and potential alcohol ended up at. If you subtract this second potential alcohol reading from the first one, you’ll have the approximate alcoholic content of your beer.

Colleen’s Wild Irish Stout, Part 2

Posted in Brewing at 12:30 pm by Ryan

During primary fermention, I’ll be updating this post with how many seconds between airlock bubbles I’m getting. It’s a good indicator of how much work the yeast is doing.

Morning: A bubble every 2 minutes or so.

No surprises here, fermentation is dying down and I have about an inch to an inch and a half of yeast sediment on the bottom of my carboy. At this rate I’ll be drinking my new beer around a month from today.

Morning: A bubble every 50 seconds or so.

It’s really slowed down and the foam that you get during fermentation is almost completely done. There’s still a fair bit of hops sediment on top of the beer (it’s beer now!) so it will still probably need a day or two to settle before I’ll proceed to the next step, which is transferring it to the secondary fermenter.

Evening: A bubble every 80 seconds or so.

It’s continuing to slow down at a pretty good pace, I’d say I can transfer it on Thursday or Friday.

Morning: A bubble every 5 seconds or so.

Apparently I had yeast that was strong like bull. There’s no reason I’d have a stuck fermentation, so I’m guessing that the hardest fermentation work is done and the yeast are slowly starting to run out of sugar to ferment. The evening count should be even slower.

Evening: A bubble every 15 seconds or so.

Definetly slowing down. By the end of the day tomorrow I’d expect to see it closing in on a minute and a half or so between bubbles, which means primary fermentation is effectively over.

Morning: A bubble every 8 seconds or so.

Given that it’s been about 12 hours since I finished, this isn’t too surprising. The yeast is still building out its population and really just starting to ferment.

Evening: A bubble per second.

Now that’s what I’m talking about! This is full force fermentation and the highest rate I’m probably going to see.

Colleen’s Wild Irish Stout, Part 1

Posted in Brewing at 12:26 pm by Ryan

Here are the ingredients that go into this recipe.


  • 1/2 # of Roasted Barley
  • 1/4 # of Special “B”
  • 1/4 # Karaffe Coffee Roast Malt
  • 1 # G.W. 2-row
  • 1/2 # Barley Flakes


  • 6 # Amber Malt Extract


  • 1 oz. Target hops
  • 1 oz. Goldings hops

Other Ingredients:

  • 5 gallons natural spring water
  • 3 bags of ice

Here are the initial brewing steps:

  1. Sanitize everything! I can’t emphasize this enough. Contamination is the #1 screwup in homebrewing, so a little extra care with your sanitation will go a long way. I use an iodine solution for sanitizing my equipment, but the bleach method works just fine. Whoever you bought the equipment from should be able to give you more details.
  2. Pour 3 gallons of your spring water into the brewpot.
  3. Place all of your grains into the a grainsock, which effectively makes a 2.5 # teabag.
  4. Place the grains into the water, and bring the water up to 155 degrees Farenheit
  5. Take the pot off of the heat and let sit for 40 minutes. This is a partial mash, and will extract sugars and flavors that will be the start of your beer.
  6. After the 40 minutes are up, remove the grains from the pot (squeeze it a bit to get some of the fluid back) and throw it away. Return the pot to the burner on high.
  7. When the liquid is almost to a boil, take it off the heat again and stir in the malt extract. Make sure you stir vigorously and only pour it in a bit at a time. The goal here is to to get it mixed quickly with the warm fluid so it dissolves and doesn’t stick to the bottom of your brewpot.
  8. Toss in 1/2 oz. of your Target hops and stir.
  9. Return the pot to heat and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 30 minutes. Be careful here! In the first 10 minutes or so the mixture will foam up as it boils and this is when you have the most chance of boil over. You do not want to have to clean it up, so keep an eye on it and adjust the heat as necessary until the foam is gone.
  10. Add the other 1/2 oz. of Target hops and stir. Boil for another 25 minutes.
  11. Add the Goldings hops, boil for 5 minutes.
  12. During that last 5 minutes, prepare an ice bath in your sink with 2 bags of the ice you bought.
  13. When the 5 minutes are up, cover the brewpot and place it in the ice bath. The goal here is to reduce the tempature to 78 degrees or so. This can take upwards of 45 minutes, so don’t feel the need to sit there watching the thermometer slowly go down. If most of the ice gets melted, add the 3rd bag of ice to the solution.
  14. When you feel like you’ve got another 15 minutes or so to go until the wort (that’s what the solution you just cooked is called) is chilled, take a look at your yeast packet and see if there’s any sort of prep work you need to do to prepare it. I had to reconstitute mine in warm water for 15 minutes.
  15. Add 2 gallons of spring water to your primary fermeter (either a plastic bucket or a glass carboy).
  16. Pour 1/3rd of the wort into the primary fermenter.
  17. Pitch your yeast into the primary fermenter.
  18. Pour in the remainder of the wort into the fermenter.
  19. Take readings on your specific gravity and potential alcohol (see the post on Specific Gravity for more details
  20. Cap the fermenter with your air lock.

Now sit back and watch your magical concoction do … nothing! Well, not right away. The yeast will spend around 12-24 hours building up their population to 50 million cells per milliliter, and then they’ll really start fermenting. You’ll know it’s started when your airlock is bubbling every couple of seconds.

Congratulations, the hard part is over. In 3-6 days primary fermentation will be finished and you’re just a few weeks away from drinking the fruits of your labor. So sit back and relax while the yeast does its thing.