Month: September 2014

Disaster Recovery

Chicago from the Air

Chicago from the Air

As I begin writing this it is Friday night, September 26th, at about 10:00 PM Central Time. I have just departed Chicago O’Hare Airport for Nashville, and while I feel blessed to be on this flight, it was not originally in my plans for the day.

I began this morning in Denver, Colorado, with an early morning flight to Chicago, followed by another flight to my only local airport in Paducah, Kentucky. If all had went as planned, I would have been home by 3:00 PM, though I know that is not something to count on. Even so, what happened today should have never happened.

Airlines often get a hard time from folks over things that are beyond their control. Believe me, they mess up their share of the time too, but things like weather are hard to control. Today was one of those days. One of those days the airlines weren’t to blame. My airline of choice, United, and all of the others would have preferred today never happened. Though I have been in the midst of this all day, I have yet to see the news, so I don’t know the full story, but let me tell you what I know.

A disgruntled employee set fire to the air traffic control headquarters. As I understand it, this wasn’t even at the airport, and it is certain that it had repercussions that went much further than Chicago. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this disgruntled employee was, at least for a short time, the most powerful man in America, though I don’t think that was his point.

As tragic as this is, it will likely derail the real tragedy in all of this. The real tragedy is that a critical piece of the infrastructure of this country, air traffic, was effectively halted by one man. ONE MAN. This raises a question that must be answered. How did this happen? Unfortunately, the focus will be put on this disgruntled employee, but it will probably miss the real issue. The real issue is that there was not an adequate disaster recovery plan in place.

As many people know, critical businesses must have disaster recovery plans. I suspect that there was a disaster recovery plan for this critical service, but was it adequate? No. A critical service of this nature should have had the ability to fully recover in a matter of minutes. Though I am not one for unnecessary spending, a complete replica of this system should have been in place at another location, and it doesn’t seem that it was. In fact, as I departed tonight, flights were still being cancelled, and it seems they will be tomorrow too. How could this happen? What will the total cost of this outage be? I fully suspect that the cost will be far more than it would have cost to put an adequate disaster recovery center in place.

Why is this so troublesome? It is not the first time this has happened. This same location had an issue just earlier this year. When will people learn? How much money will the private sector have to spend to cover the mistakes of the public sector?

I don’t know the answers, but I sure hope someone in a position that can make things happens makes it their job to find the answers.

“Forever Trevor” – A Review of the Rodizio Grill in Fort Collins, Colorado

This past week I was in the lovely city of Fort Collins, Colorado.  As I was on the jet flying to Denver, my mouth began watering thinking of an absolutely delightful Brazilian Steakhouse I had been privileged to be introduced to the last time I was here, the Rodizio Grill.  Though I had only eaten there once, the experience was one I looked forward to repeating.

I looked forward to this visit with an anxious hunger in my stomach, and I chose to make this a mid-week meal.  Each day my taste buds would water just thinking of this coming party for my mouth.  The beautiful, tasty salad bar, the wonderful supply of tender, salty meat.  Mmmmm!

The night finally arrived, but one of the first things I experienced was not pleasant.  The parking lot next to the restaurant takes you right by a dumpster to enter the restaurant, which smelled of something putrid.  I picked up the pace to a nice brisk walk and quickly left that behind though.  Once I entered the restaurant, I was met with the same world-class service from the hostess that I had experienced the first time, quickly replacing the thoughts of the putrid dumpster.

As I sat down I experienced the problem with the restaurant, though I didn’t fully pick up on it then.  It took F-O-R-E-V-E-R for the waiter, Trevor, to come to my table.  In fact, I was severely tempted to go on to the salad bar on my own, though I decided to follow protocol.  When he arrived, he was quite friendly and did his job well.  After he turned to depart, I rose from my table to start the meal at the salad bar.

The salad bar was beautiful, just as it was the previous visit, but after sitting down and eating from it, I didn’t find it as tasty as it was the first time.  This is really a minor complaint, as my taste buds could have been off, and quite frankly, it was still quite edible.  It just wasn’t WOW good.  The salad bar is not the reason I go to a Brazilian Steakhouse though, and as I began to finish the plate of salad, I prepared for the main course.  I pushed the plate to the side and flipped the wooden hourglass that was painted half red and half green over, with the green now on top, letting the gauchos know it was time to bring on the main course.

Jimmy was the first gaucho to the table, and I have to give nothing but praises to this young man.  He did quite a job telling me of the meats he was carrying, and allowing his great personality to add to the evening.  I cannot recall the other gauchos name, and perhaps that should tell you something, he was unmemorable.

The Picanha was the most mouthwatering of the meats during this visit.  This beautiful top sirloin was cooked to perfect, and my tongue was literally fighting to leave my mouth in pursuit of this meat each time it came nearby.  The Bife Com Alho was also quite good, though not nearly salty enough for my tastes, which was a common thought throughout the evening.

The surprise of the evening was the Assado, a Brazilian beef roast, which was one of the best beef roasts I have had.  That is quite a statement, as my wife, Charity, cooks like a grandma, making some of the best meals known to mankind.

Other meats that were memorable were the Picanha Com Parmesão  and the Lombo Com Queijo, both with the wonderful coating of Parmesan and even the Presunto.  I was disappointed that I never saw the Alcatra come around, as it is a wonderful looking piece of meat.  Even so, it was a slow night, so I couldn’t rightfully expect to partake of the full offerings of all meats.

During the meal I periodically saw Trevor, but like the gauchos, he wasn’t present as often as I had wished.  Empty water glasses are a real pet peeve of mine, and mine sat empty all-too-often.  Even so, I was continuing to look at the meal with rose-colored glasses, even going to far as to tell Jimmy I would be back the next time I was in town with several other folks, as this seemed to be a great place to have a nice meal together.

Sadly, the rose-colored glasses began to fade as the meal ended.  I turned the hourglass over, and pushed my plate to the other side of the table, then laying my napkin in front of me.  I took my wallet out of my pocket, set it on the table, pulling out my credit card attempting to illustrate I was ready to pay.  I sipped the last of my water down, and I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I could see Trevor talking behind the bar, but it was as if I had become invisible.  In fact, another waitress came and took the check and tip from another table, glancing over at me, then turning and walking back to the kitchen.

At this point it became a game to me, to see how long this would take.  I would guess it had already been five minutes since I emptied my water, and I glanced at the time to see how long it would be before I was serviced again.  Two minutes.  Two L-O-N-G minutes.  Yes, I know that is not a tremendously long time, but that was on top of the approximate five minutes I had already been waiting.  Though Trevor still was behind the bar talking off and on, he never paid attention to the fact that his client needed service.  Finally, the aforementioned waitress came back out to her table again, and asked me if I needed something, to which I replied, “Yes, my check please.”

I had decided at this point that I was not going to make a big deal out of this, but it only got worse.  It took a considerable amount of time for the check to be delivered to the table, and when it was, it was by a different woman.  I was shocked.  Where was my waiter?  I immediately handed over my card, as I was ready to leave.  The waitress then left with my payment, and another long time passed.  Finally Trevor brought my card and check back, and I sat there astonished as I had seen three different wait staff come to my table, and not one of them asked how my meal was.  It was at this point I shared my frustration with Trevor.

If you know me, you know poor service is a real pet peeve of mine.  Trevor effectively erased all good images of this restaurant during the following seconds and minutes.  I shared that I was disappointed to feel I had become invisible.  Rather than apologize for this, Trevor proceeded to tell me that if I were done, my hourglass should have been laid on its side.  I was stunned.  What kind of response was this?  I apologized for my misunderstanding, but pointed out that my water had been empty for some time, and I was thirsty.  Trevor then said a superficial apology, and left the table WITHOUT FILLING MY WATER.  I then completed a survey card, sitting there for several more minutes, astonished that my water was never refilled.

During those few moments, my fond memories and delightful satisfaction were erased by a waiter who either was having a bad night, was not well trained, or did not care.  As I left the restaurant, I handed the survey card to the friendly hostess, asking that she be sure the manager saw the card.  Once again, I was astonished to hear her say, “I sure will.  Have a good night.”  Having been in the food service business for a number of years, I am well aware that this is the last opportunity a restaurant has to repair damage and ask if everything was okay, but that did not happen.  And so I walked out, still in shock as I walked past the putrid dumpster on the way to the car.

The putrid dumpster was a fitting way to end the meal, as that is the odor that was left in my mind.  Just moments earlier I had planned on leaving a 20% tip, which did not happen.  Just moments earlier I had shared with Jimmy that I would be back with 6-8 others to share this restaurant with them.  But the putrid odor of poor service effectively over-shadowed everything that was done right, and now I will likely never visit this restaurant again.  Perhaps it was an off night for Trevor.  Perhaps the hostess felt I was leaving a compliment and was an exceedingly happy customer.  Those things matter little now though, as my once glorious opinion of the Rodizio Grill in Fort Collins, Colorado has been shattered.

Friction Welding

Friction welding?

How could I have gone this long in my life without having heard of such?  Be sure to watch the videos!

The Chicken Chronicles

What a week it has been – one of the busiest in a while.  Last week I was out of town.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean things around the house slow down.

Speaking of not slowing down, let me tell you about the ladies.  You may remember last week that I wondered if their egg production had maybe begun to slow down for the winter, but I am happy to report that it is not seeming to be the case yet.  As a reminder, last week they laid 36 eggs for the week, which was 2 less than the week before.  This week, however, they broke  a record and laid 39 eggs.  Go LADIES!

We blessed our neighbors with eggs this week.  We blessed a few neighbors the week before last, but this week we were able to give each of the neighbors whose property is adjacent to ours half a dozen eggs.  It isn’t enough for most people to not have to buy eggs, but in each case they seemed appreciative.  One of the neighbors also shared an interest in getting hens themselves, which made me smile.

Interestingly enough, it seems the Easter Eggers are outlaying the Rhode Island Reds, which has not been the case up to this point.  There are two more of them, but the Rhode Island Reds have been egg-laying machines up to this point.

Now that the sun is rising later, we have been opening the door to the run before the ladies have really woken good for the day.  Charity was laughing about it several days this week, sharing with me how they were kind of staggering around like children who are woken from their sleep in the middle of a good dream.  🙂

Over the weekend I was having fun poking a cherry tomato into the run and the ladies would all run over after it.  Whoever got it would quickly run to the other side of the run, hoping to escape the others who wanted that tomato as bad as she did.  I think I finally poked enough of them in there that all the ladies that wanted one got one.

There is much more to write, but time is short here.

Be blessed.



Easy Real Vanilla Extract

The older I get, the more I realize these two things:

  1. Homemade is almost always better.
  2. Doing something right is almost always worth it.

A couple of years ago I decided to make my own vanilla extract, and I haven’t regretted it.  Not only has it been significantly less expensive, it tastes better too.  A few weeks back Charity let me know that it was about time to make the next batch, so I began getting the ingredients together.

First, I ordered vanilla beans from

Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Resist the temptation to get premium beans and save some money while improving the quality of your extract by using grade B.  Thankfully it is not the end of the world if you order grade A because I messed up and did that on this order.  The reason to go with grade B is that there is less moisture in them, which makes for a better extract.  In my case, I will just have to use more beans.  Of course, grade B beans are less attractive, but who cares how they look for an extract?

You can spend all day searching for vanilla extract recipes, but you might still miss out on the real keys.  To be considered real vanilla extract, the extract must have the following attributes (see CFR part 169.175 for more information on the regulation specifying these attributes):

  • Vanilla Extract must contain no less than 35% alcohol (70 proof).
  • Vanilla Extract must contain 13.35 oz of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol, which means you need 0.835 oz. of vanilla beans per cup of alcohol.
  • If your beans contain more than 25% moisture, then you will need to use more beans.  In my case, Beanilla’s premium vanilla beans contain approximately 33% moisture, which meant I had to use more beans.  (I used the following formula: (13.35 oz * 0.75)/0.67 = 14.94.  In other words, I need 14.94 oz of premium vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol (or 0.934 oz per cup, which I will round to 1 oz per cup).  Because I am using 80 proof alcohol, I could further adjust this, but I am going to choose not to since a higher alcohol content is acceptable.)

With all that legal mumbo jumbo out of the way, let’s make some extract!

The ingredients I will use is as follows:

  • 1 oz of vanilla beans (this is more than is required, but more is acceptable, less is not)
  • 1 cup of alcohol that is at least 70 proof (35%)

Now, let’s begin the real work.

  • Cut the beans longways.  Some folks say to scrape the pith out, but by cutting the beans longways you are allowing the pith to come in contact with the alcohol, which is what you are after.
  • Next, cut the beans in small pieces.  The smaller the better here.  The more surface that can touch the alcohol, the better.
  • Put the cut beans into an appropriate sized jar and add the alcohol.
  • Store in a cool dark place, and shake vigorously every day for at least the first week.
  • After the first week, store in a cool dark place and shake vigorously a few times a week for the next three weeks.
  • At this point, your extract is done; however, I prefer to let mine age as long as possible — at least six months.  Longer is better.

First, we need to slice our beans longways:

Slicing Vanilla Beans Longways

Slicing Vanilla Beans Longways

Next, cut the bean pods into small segments.  Remember, smaller is better, as the more surface area that touches the alcohol, the better.

Cutting Vanilla Beans

Cutting Vanilla Beans

Cut Vanilla Beans

Cut Vanilla Beans


Place the pith and the cut pods into a glass jar and add the alcohol.

Cut Vanilla Beans in a Glass Jar

Cut Vanilla Beans in a Glass Jar

Day One of the Vanilla Extract Aging

Day One of the Vanilla Extract Aging

Aged Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Aged Bourbon Vanilla Extract

That’s it!  Now I’ve place my jar in a cabinet to be taken out and shaken as described above.  Though I will strain out the pith when I am ready to use the extract, I will leave the pods in the extract, as I suspect some vanilla will still extract out over time, and there is no danger of spoiling in the proportions used for this recipe.

You will notice, perhaps, the last picture is labeled “Aged Bourbon Vanilla Extract”.  The first time we made this, we made one batch with bourbon, which gives the vanilla a different flavor that adds some uniqueness to the foods you make with the extract, and you’re not likely going to find that on a store shelf.

I owe significant credit to the Vanilla Extract Instructionable and the superceding instructions.

The Chicken Chronicles

I knew it was bound to happen.  This is the first week that the ladies have went down in their egg production. Last week the ladies laid 38 eggs, and I had hoped for about 42-44 this week, but they only laid 36.  I am not sure if this was just an off week — they did have two days where the numbers were low, or if the time of year has come where the amounts will begin to decrease.  That said, today was a seven egg day.

OH!  Speaking of today’s eggs – I have long had a suspicion that one of the Easter Eggers is laying a “pink” egg.  I put that in quotes, because it looks quite similar to the brown eggs of the Rhode Island Reds, just lighter in color.  I have been waiting for the day where five brown eggs show up because that would mean that lighter one is indeed a pink egg from an Easter Egger.  That has yet to happen, but today something just about as good happened.  Four brown eggs were laid today and none of them were lighter in color.  This almost certainly means that the lighter colored egg is from an Easter Egger.

I kind of dread the winter with the girls.  Even now, when we don’t get out there as soon as the sun is up, they have their coop in a mess.  We could leave the door to the run open, but I like the added protection it offers.  Even so, come winter we may have to leave it closed some to keep the warmth in with the hens.  Only time will tell, I suppose.

The Law of the Circles

Are you a Christian?  Do yourself a favor and watch this video of Bob Warren explaining The Law of the Circles.  It is well worth your time.

The Chicken Chronicles

My egg-laying ladies have just finished another record-breaking week.  The new record is 38 eggs, or 3.8 eggs a week per bird.  I am expecting an average next spring of about 5-6 eggs per bird, so we are still several eggs a week short of that, but we are getting there.  If things go as they have in past weeks, they should lay a total of 42-44 eggs this week.

Speaking of records, today they once again tied the record for the most eggs in a day with seven!  This was a special day for another reason though.  We have our first green egg!  All of our Easter Eggers have laid blue eggs so far, with the possible exception of a possible pink layer (time will tell if it is a Rhode Island Red with a light-colored egg or not), but we haven’t had a green egg yet.  What that tells me is that we now have a new layer!  Woot!  Let me share a picture:

Seven eggs, including a new green one.

Seven eggs, including a new green one.

The color isn’t perfect in this picture, but the green egg is the second one from the top on the left.

Speaking of that, did you know that a chicken will, more or less, lay the same color egg daily?  I think this is probably most pronounced in Aracanas, Americanas, or Easter Eggers since they lay eggs with more varying degrees of color, but it is true for all birds.  In other words, the pink egg I have mentioned above is laid by one bird, which I have yet to identify.  Since I am not around the house when they are laying, the only way I am going to know for sure, I think, is if I find five reddish brown/pink eggs in one day.  If so, then one of them had to have been laid by one of the Easter Eggers since I only have four Rhode Island Reds.  🙂

I think the egg-laying ladies aren’t sure what to do with the change of the seasons.  We are coming out to let them down to their run a little later than we had been due to the later sunrise, and the last few days they have had the coop in an absolute mess, as if they are chomping at the bit to get downstairs.  I would love to just leave the door open, but I also like the added protection it gives in case a raccoon or an opossum gets into the run during the night somehow.”

One last comment on the eggs for now – last night we had breakfast for supper.  There were enough eggs laid in the last few days to feed my entire family.  Woot!

Oh, one last thing!  Maybe you will enjoy this video as much as I did:

Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been a slow week around the homestead this week.  As I have been saying for a few weeks, the summer garden is reaching the end of its life, and nothing is yet growing for the fall.  In fact, I just put out some fall/winter crops this weekend.

I had really wanted to sow peas or some other legume for the fall to add some nitrogen back to my soil, but I waited to late to get that done this year.  After that snafu, I made up my mind that I would just forego the fall/winter garden this year, but then I became inspired once again.  Yeah, that happens often.  🙂

While it is too late for peas and other legumes, it is not too late for some other fall/winter veggies such as some greens, radishes, and carrots.  I placed an order at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I sowed what I had already.  That means I sowed Kale and Mustard Seed, both of which I sowed very randomly by just throwing the seeds.  I also sowed some radishes that way.  I then put some White Icicle Radishes in one of the raised beds. and I did the same with some lettuce.

The funny thing is, much of what I sowed this weekend is not for my family, though we will eat of the lettuce and radishes.  I don’t expect we will eat much Kale though, and I am sure we won’t eat the mustard greens.  You might wonder why we grew them then.  CHICKENS!  Yep, it is cheap and healthy chicken food.

Sigh, the things I do for those egg-laying ladies.  😀

Quarterback Sack

It’s not often I will put a post up here bragging on my boys, but I am really proud of my son, Elijah, and I wanted to share it here.  He plays for an eight-man football team, and his job is normally to knock a hole in the other team’s line.  He is usually one of the biggest young men on the field, but that was not the case this last Friday night when they played the Pleasant View Christian Academy Warriors.  This picture gives you an idea what he was facing (he is number 75):

At 6'2", Elijah doesn't normally young men larger than him, but you can see he had his hands full at this game.

At 6’2″, Elijah doesn’t normally young men larger than him, but you can see he had his hands full at this game.

At one point in the game I saw Elijah do something I had never seen before – he ripped through the other teams line and was near the group doing the tackling.  I asked one of the coaches what happened, and Coach Acree said something like, “I am not sure if he got the tackle, but he tore a serious hole in the other team’s line.  If he didn’t get the tackle, he was a big reason it happened.”

As you can imagine, I was beaming.  I honestly didn’t see him play a role in the tackle itself, but that he was close was enough to make me smile.  He often doesn’t get that chance.  As I said earlier, his job is almost always to make a hole.

That evening and the next morning Elijah kept saying, “I think I pushed the guy with the ball over.”  Finally, I started sorting through the pictures, and found Elijah was right.  Check out this sequence:

Elijah's teammates are already on the guy with the ball, but he isn't going down.  Elijah is coming in from the right.

Elijah’s teammates are already on the guy with the ball, but he isn’t going down. Elijah is coming in from the right.

Here you can see Elijah in the mix, and his body tells the story - he is pushing.

Here you can see Elijah in the mix, and his body tells the story – he is pushing.

Here Elijah is regaining his balance after the young man with the ball and our #28 hit the ground.

Here Elijah is regaining his balance after the young man with the ball and our #26 hit the ground.

There is no doubt, this wasn’t a solo effort.  Our boys, #26, #28, and at least one more on the ground all helped with the tackle, but to see that Elijah played a role in it has made my day.

I honestly don’t know a lot about football, but a part of me wishes this wasn’t his senior year.  To me he seems to be really playing a bigger role as of late, especially the last two games.  There aren’t many more games left in our season, so I am hoping that continues.  Who knows, perhaps this proud dad will have another opportunity to share another picture or two.