Author Archives: Mark

Hitachino Nest tasting

I saw a bunch of different Hitachino Nest beers at the Ashai Grocery store and decided to buy one of each. I really liked their Ancient Nipponia, which is a Pilsner.

From Japan’s most prestigious brewery, Hitachino Nest Ancient Nipponia is brewed using a forgotten strain of Japanese barley along with the historic Sorachi Ace hops.

This “new” barley malt, a cross-pollination between the European Golden Melon and the Japanese barley malt Shikoku, disappeared a “relatively long time ago” — about 50 years.
A few years ago, Mr. Kiuchi acquired 16 seeds from the Department of Agricultural History in Japan. He started to plant those 16 seeds (on a two-square-foot area!) about five years ago. After the first harvest, he planted all new seeds again and did the same the next year, and the following year …

The following are my tasting notes:

  • Hitachino Nest Red Rice: stronger, almost medicinal/astringent cedar taste
  • Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Ale: subtle ginger taste, mild spiciness, better than red rice
  • Hitachino Nest Weizen: No head, a little thin, good hefeweizen taste though
  • Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout: bitter coffee taste
  • Hitachino Nest Classic Ale: slightly medicinal/astringent cedar taste
  • Hitachino Nest Dai Dai: Not hoppy at all, too malty
  • Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale: a tiny bit spicy, couldn’t tell anything about the hops
  • Hitachino Nest XH: slightly medicinal/astringent cedar taste
  • Hitachino Nest Nipponia: slightly medicinal/astringent cedar taste, a little lighter?

In the end I was disappointed. I only really liked their Ancient Nipponia.

Cold weather biking gear

This is my second attempt at trying to bike when the temperature is in the 40s. I bought a cover that I could slip (with some effort) over my shoes. That helped. My feet weren’t nearly as cold as they were the last time. I also wore another cotton shirt. Which bring the total up to four.

While I am still not 100% warm, I am making an improvement. However, the Achilles heel to this getup is the yellow windbreaker. It is an excellent barrier against the relentless wind. However, it also acts as a moisture barrier. And, while it is quite cold out, I still sweat like crazy. What I need is something that acts as both a wind barrier but also vents moisture. Maybe I need to buy a Castelli Espresso Due Jacket for the next winter…

Boil over

Today was a really windy day. And it was probably not a good day to do an outside brew. In order to stop leaves and other unmentionables from falling into my sweet tea, I put the lid on top of the kettle. So, of course I had a foamy boil over. Sigh. Fortunately, Five Star PBW was up to the task of cleaning everything even if it took twice as long as usual…


Well, this year I participated in Movember and did not shave for the month of November (and a couple of weeks into December… I’m a slackard). I was tempted to dye it purple before I shaved it off, but did not get around to it. I definitely do not like the feel of mustaches or beards but am not motivated enough to shave every morning.

Oxygen choices

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been playing a trailer in movies that I watch for a while now. I’m not a fan of Ben Stiller, so it is annoying to watch it all the time. However, there is one quote which got me thinking today. It is:

"I’m gonna keep this short. I have to make oxygen choices."

So swimming with a slight chest cold brings up that thought process. I have a rhythm. It is stroke, breath, stroke, breath. I keep my head straight and down until I need to inhale. Where I will get my mouth above the waterline enough to quickly breath in. Exhaling is easily done underwater. If I need to cough water out of my mouth, I can skip a breath, but I’ll be redlining until the next gasp. I’ve even tried changing the stroke/breath ratios, but 1:1 works best.

So, this morning, I’ve got to pay attention to the phlegm in my lungs. Keeping my breath steady to not dislodge anything. And if something does happen, and I need to cough it clear, I need to wait until a time where I am face down in the water and I can strongly cough it out. That way, I can quickly inhale and go back to my rhythm.

Working on this skill has taught me to not panic in the water if I happen to breath in water.


Sometimes I think it is better to have been by myself and find a game to play with strangers than to be sitting with friends and have them start a game that has fewer players in it than are at the table. Rather than stand around and watching, I went back up to my room. Being alone when you are with friends is the worst feeling. It’s an order magnitude worse than being alone in a crowd of strangers.

And then not even a week later was one one of the worst nights I’ve had in recent memory. The room acoustics were bad enough such that I could not hear half of what was said, but I got the distinct feeling that I was a butt of a joke. I really had to force myself to not take it personally. Shouldn’t there be some feedback in a face-to-face relationship? If the person you are dealing with looks distinctly uncomfortable, shouldn’t you stop? It seems pretty one-sided to me…

And then it seems that I am no longer invited to games hosted by someone who I thought was a friend. Another friend told me he was still invited to games. And then I see four of them at a local game store during the usual game night. Sigh. At least there are still public game events out there…

Garbage disposal failure

Oh, the joys of home ownership. Somehow a hole was punched through the wall of the garbage disposal. There are now three holes in the side instead of two. Fortunately, it was relatively simple to replace it with a new one. The only problem was cleaning up the mess left by the containment breach.


A friend, Erin, won free tickets to Austin City Limit’s NIN taping. I lucked out in that no one else wanted to go by the time I saw it. So we get down to ACL and run into some problems. First, the close by parking garages were full. Then, we get to the building and they don’t have tickets. They tell us to wait for them to be printing. As 8:00pm comes around, they give us a wristbands and we walk in just before the show starts. Thankfully, there we still seats available and the tall dude in font of me (who stood during the entire tapping) noticed he was blocking me and moved over one seat (which was empty).

The theater is pretty small and most of the seats have great views as long as the camera crew is not in front of you. It definitely gives a very personal viewing. Highly recommended. The only disappointing thing was that they did not play Head Like A Hole.

Afterwards, I found this site with the setlist. And ACL reported that Nine Inch Nails concert exceeded expectations.

SuicideGirls Blackheart Burlesque

I arrived early and waiting in line for a bit. Once the doors opened, I was able to get to the front of the stage. However, there was a large table set up in the middle of the stage up against the front. Mel Suicide was standing behind it and playing music. As I waited for the show to start, I was wondering if they were really going to leave that table there. It was blocking most of the view and people were already standing on both sides where the view was unobstructed. Jon got there later and texted me that he had arrived. I motioned for him to come to the front, but he wouldn’t. Since I didn’t want to risk having a bad view, I went back to join him. And, once the show started, they moved the table off the stage. Sigh. I wish I had known there were going to do that. 🙁

Katherine Suicide then gave an introduction and told everyone that they specifically encouraged people to take pictures during the show and post them online. While I thought that was a cool policy in theory, in practice, it completely ruined the show for me. I was standing about halfway in the crowd. I am pretty tall, so I had a clear view over everyone’s heads. However that view was now obstructed by people holding their camera phones constantly over their heads and taking pictures and recording video. In a dark environment, these bright displays made it really hard to watch the performers. And, for all of that recording going on, I bet that 99% of the pictures and video turned out really crappy. Ugh.

I guess the only thing that could save this night would be to find some professionally recorded video sold by the Suicide Girls of their traveling show. Here is an interesting review of the show. Although he did not mention anything about people taking pictures.

Breaking down a butterfly valve

I switched from using a ball valve to a butterfly value on my conical due to problems inherit in the ball valve design. It was impossible to get a leak-proof seal with the o-ring. Fortunately, Stout Tanks gladly replaced my ball valves and I paid the difference in price.

It was easier (in theory) to disassemble the ball valve. All you needed was two big wrenches on either end and twist them open. But, in practice, the shoddy build quality meant I had to use two slightly different wrench sizes. While I worked around this problem, I could not get around the o-ring problem.

The butterfly value is a little harder to break down and put together. First, you have to use a tiny allen wrench (number 3 metric size) to separate the handle. There is a hole below middle one of the three stops which reveals the screw. When it is unscrewed, you can pull off the handle and cylindrical guard.

Next, you have to unscrew the four bolts. I use a number 5 metric size allen wrench on the bolt and hold the nut underneath it with a 10mm wrench. Once all four are off, you can remove the large rubber o-ring.

Then you can squeeze the two sides of the o-ring and remove the butterfly valve and also the two plastic guards? on both ends.

I clean everything well and put it back together in reverse order. I also use some vasoline to lubricate the butterfly valve. (I don’t know if that is official though).

It takes longer to clean, but it is a really solid and sturdy product!