Hefeweizen (359th new thing).

January 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

One of the pitfalls of brewing beer in your house is the aromatic infiltration of hops…to everything. After an evening spent making wort the house smells as if a brewery exploded in the kitchen, and it’s not necessarily a positive experience. The first batch of beer I brewed wasn’t too bad, but the pale ale stunk up the house for days. On Day Three Hundred Fifty-Nine for the first time I tried my hand at a wheat beer, and it turns out with the small amount of hops used, the house smelled more like baking bread than a beer factory.

The process went like before: Seep the grains, add the malt extract, add the hops, boil, maybe add more hops (not for this one), dump in a bucket, sprinkle some yeast, and let sit for two weeks.

The first sign that this wasn’t the beer I thought it was came when I poured the liquid into the primary fermenter (aka the big bucket). It was darker than a typical hefeweizen and not cloudy at all. I figured that might all resolve itself after fermentation and put it out of my mind.

When it came time for bottling the brew was still a dark amber color and relatively transparent. But beer is beer, so I finished the process and hoped it would all turn out well. I did seep the grains for longer in the boiling stage.

In the end, the beer turned out highly drinkable, but didn’t really have the qualities I associate with a wheat beer. No cloudiness (unless you dumped all the sediment at the bottom of the bottle) and no golden color. I figured next time I could go back to pale ale that I liked so much before, and air out the house really well.

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Crafting with Canvas (358th new thing).

January 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Day Three Hundred Fifty-Eight’s activity was suggested by my coworker Jeremiah. Apparently he had been browsing his Pinterest Board that morning and figured I could make this photo to canvas thing as a new experience. So I did.

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Basically the idea is to print an image on tissue paper and then Modge Podge it to canvas. Sounds easy enough, right? Try printing on tissue paper. My printer jammed about seven times before I managed to scotch tape every edge of the thin paper to a piece of regular old copy paper. Even then it was a bit of a stop-and-go process.

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Once  I had my photo images successfully inked onto the tissue paper (I chose two from my HDR photography day), I carefully placed them on the glue covered small rectangles of pre-formed canvas. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully let the ink dry and managed to smudge the sky on one. Barely noticeable.

I added more of the clear drying goop over the top of the image to smooth down the paper and set it aside to dry.

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It didn’t turn out as awesome as those photos printed on canvas, but it was a cool project nonetheless. If you squint you can pretend it’s a realistic painting.

Green Eyed Monster (357th new thing).

January 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

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I don’t wear glasses, but I’ve always wanted to. Way back in second grade I even attempted to “fake” the eye exam in order to earn my own pair of lenses. I think they caught on when I described a “C” as “could be an O or a G…definitely a G.” My line of thinking was that I only wanted light lenses, something I could get used to. They told me I had perfectly acceptable vision and sent me on my way.

In sixth grade my enthrallment with visionary aids turned toward contacts. The cool kids were coming in with tiger stripes in their eyes and I just thought it was the neatest thing. I imagined turning my own indiscriminate blue-gray irises into something far more exotic. I could have brown eyes! Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

Even at the ripe old age of thirty, I still need neither glasses nor contacts. I have a couple of fake pairs of glasses, but they are pushed out of sight in the back of a random drawer. As for contacts, the novelty of leopard print eyeballs went away awhile ago. Until Day three Hundred Fifty-Seven, when I changed my eye color to green.

My friend Asif’s wife works at a Lens Crafters and managed to snag me a couple sample colored contact lenses and some cleaning solution. I was going to wait until I got home to try out the change, but my coworkers encouraged me so I dragged myself to the sink in the women’s restroom and tried to put in a contact lens.

It’s beyond tedious to put in contact lenses for the first time.

I continuously went back and forth from the production booth to the sink to try again and again. There’s something highly unsettling about touching your own eyeball, much less putting something against this sensitive organ. I even enlisted Jeremiah and Asif to try to put in the contact. You think touching your own eyeball is strange, try having someone else do it. By the way, copious amounts of hand sanitizer were used.

Finally, I managed to insert one green contact. I was halfway there. The second one was in place shortly after, the conclusion of an eerie burst of determination not to only do something half-assed.

The sensation of wearing contacts was really peculiar. I felt as though I were looking through a transparent shield, and the edges of my vision were vaguely obstructed. I blinked increasingly more and more as my hour of the contact wore on. I had the impression that my eyeballs were being smothered a little bit and other senses began to take on this almost claustrophobic feeling. My nose seemed stuffy and I was hearing everything through a tunnel. I was going through a real psychosomatic experience.

Fortunately, it was time for me to head home and I decided to leave the contacts in until I made it to my own bathroom. The green eyes didn’t last long once I was back at my house. I took a couple pictures, and went through the process of removing the slivers of plastic. It wasn’t nearly as bad as putting them in, but it was no cup of tea either.

Once they were out I felt like my eyes could breathe again. I could see all around, with no strange colored obstruction. I figured when my sight eventually deteriorates, I’ll go for the glasses over the contacts.

 

Tally Ho! (356th new thing).

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

On Day Three Hundred Fifty-Six I jumped out of an airplane attached to a strange man wearing a silly hat. That’s right, I went sky diving.

Most Unflattering photo first, to get it out of the way. I look like a chubby kid in a convertible.

Most Unflattering photo first, to get it out of the way. I look like a chubby kid in a convertible.

I originally planned to go a few days earlier, but Skydive Georgia called me a few hours before my 2PM appointment informing me that the weather conditions would not allow the jump to be completed safely. It was too windy. I rescheduled for the following Monday, taking advantage of having a weekday off to do something a little crazy.

My friend Melanie had purchased the half off deal with me months before, but lawyers work on Monday (along with most people), so I headed to Cedartown, GA on my own. The headquarters of the skydiving facility was located in a tin shack in the middle of a pastoral setting an hour and a half west of Atlanta. I timidly walked in and checked in with the front desk. They had me watch a safety video and once again sign a four page document releasing the company from any responsibility of my death or maiming. It was routine by now.

There was a weathered couch and a few chairs in one corner of the large carpeted reception, all seats taken over by a super redneck family and their extended relatives. A group of them went outside every five minutes for a cigarette break, leaving the small children to clamor towards me and sit inches away, peering over my shoulder at my computer screen as I rested by back against the aluminum wall with my ass on the dusty carpet. I was beginning to feel a little uneasy in my situation.

Meanwhile the “skydivers,” who looked like extras from some early nineties high-adrenaline action film (think Point Break or Hackers, but weathered) wandered in and out, eating fast food and joking around. I was torn between openly staring at each of the genres of groups in the room and going to my car to read until my name was called.

Universal hand signal for "I'm so extreme!"

Universal hand signal for “I’m so extreme!”

I never made the decision because after a few minutes the adreniline junkie skydivers began to gather their tandem mates. I put my backpack and purse away in the trunk of my car and was then harnessed up. In terms of harnessing, this one was probably the most comfortable, with the zipline one being the worst and rock climbing right in the middle. My “instructor” was a fast talking shaved-headed Midwesterner who smiled with his gums. He went through a brief safety talk as my belts were tightened and released for comfort. He told me he has tried skydiving fifteen years earlier, fell in love, and promptly divorced his wife and became an instructor. The tale came across as a rehearsed anecdote that, to me, was not all that encouraging. Seriously, he divorced his wife to become a skydiving instructor in Cedartown, GA? Not very promising, or very goal oriented. To each his own, right? I just hoped he was good at his job.

On a positive note, he did let me know that I could wear my borrowed GoPro since I had bought the video package for an additional hundred bucks. The promise lasted until the safety master walked by and took the camera away from me because of “safety issues.” Honestly, I had a hard time getting the darn thing to stay across my wrist without flapping around on one side, so I wasn’t too disappointed. Tandem guy promised to give me the video from his camera attached to his glove.

The first group of jumpers headed off across the field to catch their plane while those who opted for an extra 4000 feet of jump for ten bucks waited behind (me included). The “videographer” came over to “interview” me about the experience. Honestly, the only reason I ordered the video was to have media to add to this post. Knowing how formulaic the whole thing turned out, I should have opted out.

The dude positioned me in front of a speed limit sign which read, “120 MPH.” He turned on his fixed wide angle lens camera and shot the sign, tilting the camera left and right then moving in to the numbers on the sign until the lens hit it and went black. Then he suddenly popped up in front of me, asking asinine questions about how I was feeling and how high we would be jumping. Once he turned the camera off, obviously disappointed with my performance. he informed me that he would be asking the same type questions again on the plane, so maybe I could think of what I wanted to say. Hrmmmpf.

I saw a woman who had the figure of a twenty year old and the face of a fifty year old go through the same routine with a old man who was also about to tandem skydive. He was much cooler than me. And I decided right then and there I would never quit anything to become a professional skydiver. I’m pretty sure falling through the air at ninety miles an hour ages you faster than an hour a day in the tanning bed.

Finally our group was called to board the plane and the rednecks from the morning all whooped back into the metal building. We shuffled over a little hill to a group of small buildings as the tiny plane with a big sliding door pulled up. I climbed in last, straddling a bench with everyone else, in the front with Captain Video in front of me. This was probably the first time I began to get the telltale butterflies in my belly. I’m not afraid of heights, but I always get a bit of a rush as the airplane takes off. We climbed higher and higher, as I looked at the altitude on the tandem instructor’s wrist.

At about 6000 feet, my video dude turns back to me and asks a few more questions, just as silly as before. I try a little harder, but not that much. I try to talk about turning 30 and doing something new. I think I failed again in his eyes.

Old Dude Jumping First

Old Dude Jumping First

And then it was time to jump. My instructor told me to kick my legs back and keep my chin up when we exited the plane. I tried to remember that. The camera guy fell out first, back to the ground, and then it was my turn. I dangled over the edge of the open door for a few seconds and my heart went to my throat. The adrenaline began pumping. And then we were out, falling, though it never felt like falling. More like floating with a massive amount of wind forcing itself up my nostrils. The camera guy came parallel to me the instructor kept yanking my head back to expose my face. They signalled to blow a kiss (seriously?!), and I did. Then I tilted my face back down to get some more air. I felt almost on the verge of a panic attack from not being able to breathe, but still refused to open my mouth in case any bugs or birds decided to enter. I felt a hand on my forehead again, pulling my chin up.

Blowing Kisses

Blowing Kisses

The only time I felt the butterflies again after the initial jump was when the camera dude went beneath us. I realized I was actually falling, not floating, and had a quick prick of fear that I would land on him. And after that he floated away and released his parachute. Whew.

Shocked at finding someone between me and Earth

Shocked at finding someone between me and Earth

The video from my instructor’s GoPro. Love the frozen end shot.

Next it was our turn for the parachuting. There was a slight pull and the ground grew smaller again as we drifted sharply upward. The instructor loosened the harness into more of a seated position and we leisurely floated toward the big X not yet in view.

I saw the Atlanta skyline in the distance and a brief hump of gray that could have been Stone Mountain. We circled around, first to the right and then to the left. It was incredibly peaceful, and I instantly decided that this was the only part of skydiving that would encourage me to go again. Well, that and maybe if I could do a flip or something. It reminded me of parasailing.

After what seemed like both an extended and incredibly brief amount of time, the ground beneath my peppermint swirl sock clad feet grew life-size. As instructed, I lifted my heels up and landed ungracefully on my butt. The parachute was gathered up and my video guru came over one more time for some high fives and thumbs up.

Landing in my Christmas socks

Landing in my Christmas socks

I picked out a couple of songs for my video (super hasty decision) and gave the info to the video guy to put together. I also transferred the video from my instructors GoPro to my computer for an extra tip. And then it was done, and I wound my way back to Atlanta, pretty happy with my adventurous day, but not necessarily wanting a repeat experience anytime soon. I need to age naturally for awhile first.

Here’s the video that was made by the company. I get the impression they may have been using the same graphics font for at least ten years now, selected by a flunking first year graphic design student. I wish I had more shots of the parachuting, but overall, I suppose I’m glad to have some documentation.

2012 Oscars (355th new thing).

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

I formerly worked in the movie promotions industry. It sounds loads more glamourous than it actually was. I would help set up those free movie screenings that take place a few days before the film opens to spread word-of-mouth and encourage critics to write glowing reviews. I’d also clip any mention of the studio’s movies from all the local papers. So when awards season was upon us, my fingers would turn extra black with newspaper ink. I’d religiously watch all of the ceremonies and attempt to see the nominated films. These days I barely see any movies in the theatre and awards shows are mostly something I may catch if I’m home on a Sunday night. The most fun part of watching the shows is Patrick sitting next to me with a scotch, tipsy tweeting sarcastic comments. While that could have been considered a small party of two in itself, I had never been to a sanctioned version, complete with gambling on winners. Until Day Three Hundred Fifty-Five.

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The Ballot of Shame

It turns out 2011 was a record breaking year of me NOT seeing movies. When I picked up a ballot at Gordon and Nasreen’s house, I recognized about twenty percent of the actors and films. And most of the actors were only known to me from previous movies. The winner of the oscar voting game would be the contestant with the most right answers, and out of about ten people, I finished in a solid last place. Maybe I got one answer correct, and that was a total guess.

Real life beer goggles

Real life beer goggles

Patrick and I left before the end of the show, and even now I can’t remember who won what during the ceremony. I’ve come a long way from my days policing Warner Bros’ evening screenings. Maybe this year I will try a little harder.

Queen of the Latte (354th new thing).

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Patrick and I were heading to Hop City on Day Three Hundred Fifty-Four to purchase some additions to my home brewing supplies. We never actually made it to the giant emporium of booze. Instead, we stopped for a coffee at Hodgepodge and my friend Lynne convinced me to try my hand at making a latte instead.

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Next time I’ll draw a feather. Or a heart.

“Laura Scott, Barista” has a nice ring to it, yes?

First the official barista, whose name was also Laura, demonstrated the latte-making process. I took notes detailing each step to the art:

1. Grind the beans into the holder.
2. Make a rounded top on the holder.
3. Thirty pounds of pressure onto the ground coffee with the mallet thing.
4. Insert into machine.
5. Pour milk into metal pitcher.
6. Steam the milk to make foam.
7. Brew the espresso for 20 seconds (with a timer). Coffee should come out of the spigot after five seconds.
8. Pour milk over espresso.
10. Clean everything.
11. Drink latte.

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After the demonstration, I tried my hand at creating my own version, with reminders along the way. Laura also double checked my work, making a better rounded top into my freshly ground beans and adding more pressure to the rounded scoop.

The espresso came out of its spigot after exactly 5 seconds and I intently watched the timer for fifteen more to ensure perfect timing. In the end, I made a yummy soy latte (mostly) all by myself.

I wouldn’t hire me as an official barista anytime soon without further training, but I certainly have more appreciation for the job. I can see why the job even has a unique, cool-sounding title.

 

GoPro (353rd new thing).

January 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

After talking about my zipline experience and my plans to go skydiving, a host at work offered to lend me his GoPro to document some of these exciting adventures through video. On Day Three Hundred Fifty-Three he brought it in and I spent some time with the small video camera.

I didn’t have any adventures planned for that afternoon, so my experiments included spinning around in a circle with the camera outstretched in my hands (think self-portrait style). I would have rolled around in a big-ass tire like in The Smashing Pumpkin’s video for “1979,” but I didn’t have a big-ass tire.

Later I attached the camera strap to my dog’s collar to see if I could get a “Murphy-eye view.” That didn’t turn out so well. It was too dark in the house, and the only image recorded was his two skinny white front legs trotting about. So actually, it was sort of cool for like half a second until he wanted the camera collar off.

Truth be told, I never fully took advantage of the camera. When I went skydiving later the instructor had a GoPro, but other than that all I did with the thing is somehow lose it on its way back to the owner and had to buy a replacement. After watching these videos, though, I would consider getting the portable waterproof camera…but only with a head attachment. The wrist one was too weird.