Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books #142 - Pilgrim's Progress

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. This book can be found on the Sybervision and Observer Book Lists.

I will start off my review of Pilgrim's Progress with my general review. This is an overly heavy-handed biblical allegory written at an elementary level. First off, almost every single character in the book is a trait that defines the character, i.e. Mr Honest, Faithful, Mr Worldly Wiseman, etc., where sometimes the traits don't even make sense based on the way the character acts. It is as if the author didn't know the definition of some of the words he used. Second, the story is written very poorly. It feels like the writer has never actually written a book before. Phrases are repeated line after line and the setup of the book doesn't make sense. It is written as if it were a play, with the characters name spelled out where they should talk, but then it has a phase like "so and so says this." for instance:

"Christian: 'Truly,' said Christian, 'I do not know.'"

Why would you call out the character that is going to speak, then write again that they are speaking? And the story is beyond hypocritical. Maybe it is because I am not a religious person, but the main character, Christian, complains about nobody listening and doing what he tells them they should do, but he doesn't do anything they tell him he should do. Do as I say not as I do? Every single character is one note, and the women characters in the second part of the story are next to useless. Why make the second part centered around Christian's wife (whom he left willingly) to just make her a useless character that needs everyone around her to do everything for her? In short this is a overly heavy-handed, misogynistic, racist, piece of garbage that I am thankful that I will never have to read again. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books #141 - Babbitt

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. TThis book can be found on the Sybervision Book List.

Babbitt is a rather interesting book. It takes place during the prohibition era of the early 1920's in middle America. It is set in the town of Zenith in a state that does not exist, but the main character, George F. Babbitt, frequently travels outside of Zenith to actual places like Chicago and Maine.The story is about an upper middle-class conservative businessman, who seemed unhappy with his life. Around the midpoint of the story, there is a breaking point that sends Babbitt off the deep end into a midlife crisis. During his midlife crisis, Babbitt eventually finds "liberalism" and "fun" (i.e. drinking and carousing) and it seems like he supports those wanting to make a difference in society (the worker unions) but eventually he is brought back into the conservative/religious/anti-union fold. Although the story seemed to be rather plodding at times, it had an interesting subtext. I got the feeling that the author, Lewis, was promoting liberal thoughts and anti-religion, however in the book, conservatism and religion "won". Religion even seemed to be a joke to everyone involved at the end, which was something you just had to do whether you wanted to or not. It was weird. Overall the story was well written but the majority of the story was just dull. It was an alright book, but not one I would go out of my way to point out to someone to read.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

2016 Personal Goals - Month 11 Update

Eleven months in, time to finish up.

1. Finish 1st Draft of my Novel
Start - Again on the list.

2. Drop weight to 167
Start - This has also been on the list since the beginning. Starting at 179.7
Month 1 - 179.0
Month 8 - 189.6
Month 10 - 190.2

3. Read 1 of the Top Ten Books on Zane's List
Start - In the middle of The Stories of Anton Chekhov.

4. Read 6 books on the Sybervision Book List (including 2 in the Science or Philosophy sections)
Start - Current count is at 89.
Month 1 - In the middle of The World as Will and Idea
Month 8 - Finished The World as Will and Idea and The Three Musketeers. 4 to go.
Month 10 - Finished Vanity Fair. 3 to go.
Month 11 - Finished Paradise Lost and in the middle of Babbitt. 2 to go.

5. Read a total of 12 books on my book list. (need to get to 200 books by my 40th birthday)
Start - Currently my total count is at 131.
Month 1 - Finished Artemis Fowl. 11 to go.
Month 2 - Finished Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 10 to go.
Month 3 - Finished Mort. 9 to go.
Month 8 - Finished Guards Guards!, The World as Will and Idea, and The Three Musketeers. 6 to go.
Month 10 - Finished Vanity Fair. 5 to go.
Month 11 - Finished Paradise Lost. 4 to go.

6. Finish 1 more Geological Movie Review
Start - Earthquake still looks like the best bet.

7. Watch 10 of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time
Start - Current count is at 75.
Month 8 - Watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. 9 to go.

8. Finish 50 things on the Blog/Website, with 25 specifically on my To Do list.
Start - My To Do list currently has ~150 things on it.
Month 1 - Finished 5. 45 to go.
Month 2 - Finished 6. 44 to go.
Month 3 - Finished 8. 42 to go.
Month 4 - Finished 10. 40 to go.
Month 10 - Finished 18. 32 to go.
Month 11 - Finished 38. 12 to go.

9. Finish 8 things on the House Things to do List
Start - The list currently has 27 things on it.
Month 1 - In the middle of the kitchen remodel still.
Month 2 - Finished 1 item, installing new furnace. 7 to go.
Month 3 - Finished 3 more items, finished the kitchen, dining room, and front entryway remodel. 4 to go.

10. Finish skinning the top of the hovercraft
Start - Hopefully I can make some time to get to it this year.

11. Get my 5K time under 25 minutes
Start - My current best is 28:32

12. Collect and photograph all of the Star Wars Comics
Start - I got most of this done last year. It's time to finish this up and move on this year.
Month 1 - Only one comic left to go. Photographed box 5.
Month 8 - I have almost everything collected and photographed. I have 1 box left to go.
Month 10 - Everything in boxes has been collected and photographed. Just need to organize the photos and website them.

13. Submit my Masters Thesis for Publication
Start - Last year was actually spent getting a chapter of my dissertation published. Let's move on and get this done this year. This was the last big thing I had left to get published which I wrote before.

14. Get caught up on my Star Wars to read pile
Start -  Right now I have more than a bookshelf full of books that I am behind on reading.
Month 1 - Slowly working through my pile of stuff to read when I get the chance.
Month 2 - Still reading through the pile.
Month 10 - I actually have my 3 big piles down by about a 1/3rd. Not too shabby.

15. Watch and re-review an entire list of one of the 10 Top Ten Movies
Start - I finished one set of 10 last year. I plan on doing another set this year.
Month 8 - Watched/rewatched Back to the Future and 2001: A Space Odyssey on the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies list. 8 to go.

16. Collect, photograph, and organize my Star Wars novel collection
Start - I have it mostly set with paperbacks but I would like to get the collection organized and get the first release hardcovers.

-----------------------------------------------Other items of note-------------------------------------------------

I spent the last month working on a blog post a day and it paid off, getting 20 items marked off of my website/blog to do list. Plans to continue that this month with 3 posts a week and everyday working on at least one of my writing projects.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Massive Root Beer Taste Test

Last year I had signed up to do a root beer taste test at Pop n Sweets, which included sampling 80 different root beers over about a 3 hour time period. They unfortunately don't do this anymore but it was super fun at the time.

The end result of taking "shots" of 80 different root beers is listed below. Also I found out what a "sugar high" was. 

During the taste test we wrote down our thoughts on each of the root beers gave them a score from 1 to 10 (listed below). After the taste test was all done, I decided to take all of the top two scores (which happened to be 7 and 8) and redo them for my own blind taste test. I was able to better compare them to each other and find a personal definitive root beer order.

Here is my blind taste test. Out of the 15 root beers with the top 2 scores, I could find 13 in stores. Apparently two of them weren't made or sold anymore in any stores I could find so they were left off the list. Below are the results.

 Here is my order of the top 13 root beers. I ended up breaking them into four distinct groups. The left group was Level A: Great!, middle was Level B: pretty good, and right was Level C: ok and the one to the far right was Level D: How the hell did you end up here?

Level A: Great!

1. Bulldog Root Beer
Thoughts: Slightly sugary taste but otherwise smooth.

2. Empire Root Beer
Thoughts: Very similar to Bulldog. Hard to differentiate. Also a slightly sugary but smooth taste.

3. Dang! Root Beer
Thoughts: Rich root beer taste that goes down smooth.

4. Eli's Root Beer
Thoughts: Very similar to Dang!, couldn't really tell the difference. Same rich root beer taste that goes down smooth.

Level B: Very good

5. IBC Root Beer
Thoughts: Smooth, nice, soft flavor.

6. Virgil's Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer
Thoughts: Almost a licorishy flavor but not quite. Good on ice cream.

7. Hippo Size Root Beer
Thoughts: Strong sugary taste but not too bad.

8. Joe's Root Beer
Thoughts: Slight tinge of the vinegary taste that Triple XXX has, but pretty smooth.

Level C: OK and 
Level D: How the hell did you end up here?

 Level C: OK

9. Cicero Salted Caramel Root Beer
Thoughts: Very butterscotchy flavor but not too strong a taste. Pretty smooth.

10. O-So Root Beer
Thoughts: Almost identical to Cicero, a not too strong butterscotchy flavor. Pretty candy smooth.

11. Chicago Root Beer
Thoughts: A sbit sharp with the carbonation but when it's flat the taste is pretty smooth.

12. Kutztown Birch Beer
Thoughts: Nearly identical to Chicago. Sharp with carbonation but smooth when flat.

Level D: How the hell did you end up here?

13. Triple XXX Root Beer
Thoughts: Watery and vinegary taste. Pretty gross.

Those are the thoughts on my personal taste test. Below is the results of all the root beers that I tried with my individual thoughts on them. When trying 80 different root beers it's hard to come up with very good taste descriptions but I tried.


Taste Test Drink Order Name Thoughts During Taste Test Initial Score Final Rank
74 Bulldog Nice candy flavor 7 1
80 Empire Nothing noted 7 2
33 Dang! Smooth 7 3
72 Captain Eli's Foamy and light 8 4
45 IBC Pretty Good 7 5
25 Virgils Bavarian Nutmeg Pretty Good 7 6
54 Hippo Size Smooth 8 7
12 Joe's Slight caramel taste 7 8
53 Cicero Not bad 7 9
32 O-So Butterscotch Toasted Marshmallow 7 10
11 Chicago Smooth, nice 8 11
20 Kutz Town Nice 7 12
27 Triple XXX I like 8 13
4 Iron Horse Smooth 7 NA
40 Big John Brewers Nice 7 NA
10 Filbert's Ok 6
21 Faygo Kind of like a RB Float 6
22 Frostop Smooth brown sugar 6
31 Foxon Park Smooth sugary 6
67 Saranac Nothing special, Ok 6
77 Bringham's Brew Not too bad 6
79 Frostie Not too bad, bit watery 6
1 Bedford's RB Sugary, Okish 5
2 Speckher RB Watery, not meh taste but smooth 5
7 Brownie Carmel Cream Candy RB taste 5
14 Maine Root Sugary light flavor 5
18 Red Arrow Slight candy flavor 5
24 Frostie Vanilla caramel 5
35 Ginseng Up Slight sugar 5
38 Big Ben's Light Flavor 5
48 Avery's Smooth 5
52 The Pop Shoppe Sugary 5
64 Anchor Ginger Candyish 5
71 Route 66 Marshmallowy 5
76 Dang! Butterscotch Candy - not too bad 5
78 Rocky Mt. Flavored water 5
5 Dr. Brown Watery, but better than 2 4
9 Barrel Brothers Very fizzy. Don't taste much 4
13 Dog n Suds Slight sugary taste 4
17 Crater Lake Ok. A little sugary 4
19 Sparky's Lingering candy flavor 4
34 Old Red Eye Candy. Cheap 4
43 Polar Eh 4
47 Caruso's RB Candy 4
51 American Brown Sugar water 4
58 Zuber Fizz Nothing special 4
62 Dad's Light candy 4
66 Thomas Kemper Marshmallow aftertaste 4
69 Reading Draft Weird flavor 4
8 Tower Meh 3
26 Bawls Meh sourish tatse 3
37 Hosmer RB Candy 3
42 Boylan Too Sugary 3
44 Ramlin Fake 3
49 Death Valley Too Sugary 3
55 Sioux City Brown sugar 3
57 Fireman's Brew Light flavor 3
60 AJ Stephans Butterscotch Caramel flavoring 3
61 WBC Meh 3
63 Capone Not much flavor 3
68 Abita Sugary candy 3
3 So-da RB Butterscotchy 2
15 Waialua Weird taste 2
28 Salted Caramel Licorishy burnt brown sugar 2
30 Johnny Ryan Watery sugar 2
41 River City Fake Flavoring 2
56 Squamscot Watery sugar, no flavor 2
65 Virgils Caramel 2
70 Crooked Oak Vinegary water 2
73 Bundaberg Meh 2
6 Gale's Weird Taste 1
16 Stewarts Strong brown sugar aftertaste 1
23 Old Brooklyn Too much candy taste 1
36 New York Seltzer Clear. Not good. 1
50 Swamp Pop File Vinegary 1
59 Jackson Hole Buckin Licorice 1
29 Oogave Oh god no 0
39 Fest Pecan Burnt 0
75 Tommy Knockers Strong cloves or something 0
46 Fenteman's Dandelion & Burdock Awful -1

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Kitchen Remodel - From Start to Finish

We had moved into this house in 2008, and since then we have not really liked the kitchen. Our purpose was always to remodel it but we were never sure when or what exactly we wanted to do. Then slowly we started getting all the pieces in order. We replaced all of the windows in the house first, then the sliding back and side doors since those ran into the floor. Finally we were ready to begin.


Below are some images from right after we moved into the house. We painted a little and changed the furniture around a bit but otherwise it didn't change much.
Kitchen facing the sliding door

Designing the Kitchen

When we finally decided to go ahead with the kitchen, Veronica (the wife) sketched out some ideas of what we should do. This included changing the wall with the fridge to be a pass through kitchen island and moving the fridge elsewhere.

Once we had determined roughly what we wanted, we moved on the Ikea and spent several hours and days working with their design software. Getting all the dimensions perfect and adding in cabinets and appliances where we wanted them. We decided that we were going to get rid of everything except the fridge. Below are the Ikea printouts of the kitchen layout.

The great thing about the Ikea software is that it can produce a 3D rotatable image of the kitchen. Here is what our kitchen was estimated to look like.

 On September 2nd, 2015 we went and purchased the kitchen at Ikea. They asked if we wanted to take all 175 packages home with us right then. "Ummmm, what?". Didn't know that was an option. We ended up just having them delivered along with having to grab a few other packages from elsewhere across the city. That and countless trips back to Ikea to add and exchange things made a lot of trips.

September 4th, 2015
Ready for destruction. You can see the wife had already removed the old floor.

Starting with removing the wall where the fridge was/is located.

We assumed and had confirmation that there was significant water damage below the sink and dishwasher. I had already thought we would have to replace the subfloor, this just confirmed it.

September 6th, 2015
The wall is completely gone now. Along with all of the upper cabinets. The cabinets has a small false wall above them that we wanted to remove as well.

September 7th, 2015
Delivery Day!!!!!!
The day we are gifted with tons and tons of boxes. I think these boxes got moved around more than anything else in the house. We had to keep moving them out of the way, eventually putting most of them upstairs.

September 10th, 2015
The frame for the small wall is starting to go in.

 September 11th, 2015
Removed the small wall that jutted out above the cabinets along with the paneling that was on the wall behind the cabinets.

September 16th
We had gotten far enough by this point to call in the electrician we needed. I Knew exactly what we needed done, but it was a lot of work. Once they arrived we were able to get everything on the above image (which I sent them) done.
 September 19th, 2015
Cabinets were starting to be put together along with continued demo in the kitchen.

September 27th, 2015
Adding in the overhanging cabinets over the island. They were initially pushed up against the ceiling. The fit between the walls was WAY too tight though and ended up with me having to sand down one of the walls heavily, and still ended up having to jam the cabinets up. Then we did have to eventually take them down to add in a 2x4 spacer, but luckily they slid right back up without much of an issue.

The electrical has been completed by this point.

October 6th, 2015
Added in drywall and starting to paint the kitchen walls and ceiling. We have not yet fully removed all of the old kitchen cabinets yet because we wanted to reduce the amount of time we didn't have running water in the kitchen.

October 11th, 2015
The walls are done. Sink is the only old cabinet remaining.
 October 15th, 2015
The sink was finally removed along with a chunk of the floor to replace. This meant having to remove all pipes and drains to the sink and dishwasher.
 October 17th, 2015
New floor installed.
 October 20th, 2015
New floor finished off and upper cabinets added.
 October 21st, 2015
Lower cabinets placed into position.
 October 24th, 2015
Larger wall cabinets added and lower cabinets secured. 
 October 26th, 2015
By this point we were ready for the countertop. However, we didn't realize that the lower  paneling needed to be attached to the lower cabinets in order to measure for the countertop. To attach the paneling, we needed the floor installed. And so began the marathon of installing the floor. And of course the walls aren't straight so we had to start on the far side of the dining room. 
 October 27th, 2015
Most of the floor has been finished in just over a day. The most important parts are around the paneling, which are done.

View into the main kitchen area, which is a mess at this point since that is where everything went when the floor was put in.

October 29th, 2015
Appliances are being installed slowly. First in is the stacked microwave and oven.
 November 5th, 2015
Paneling is finalized and most of the floor is finished.
 November 6th, 2015
Getting ready for the countertop to be installed. Cabinets are starting to be used and doors and drawers being added.

Dishwasher installed and water pipes are being added. The drain was already replaced by the time the cabinets were installed.

For some reason the cooktop did not fit into the cabinet space which it was supposed to fit. So before the countertop was installed I needed to cut in grooves on the sides so that the cooktop slid in nicely once everything was said and done.

Still the same day after all of the countertops have been added and the cooktop installed.

November 12th, 2015
Spent a long weekend in the crawl space getting the faucet hooked up after about a month of having no running water in the kitchen. Dishes were cleaned in the upstairs bathroom.
 November 14th, 2015
So nice and tidy under the sink now. Everything is installed and the dishwasher is now hooked up.
 November 20th, 2015
Moving towards finalizing major construction and getting the walls ready for painting.

Added the doors to the cabinets.

December 14th, 2015
We ran into a problem with the ceiling. We had a popcorn ceiling in the dining room, a stucco ceiling in the kitchen, and a tiled ceiling in the front entryway, all of which were now flowing into one another. So the wife found plans to add paneling and whitewash the ceiling. This project alone took about a month to do but it came out looking very very good.
 January 9th, 2016
Finally finished the ceiling panels.

January 23rd, 2016
Whitewashed the ceiling.
 February 1st, 2016
Added a new fan and lights.

Also was able to add in most of the tiling along the kitchen wall. There was a contention over this type of tile and a more "rocky" tile but I lost.

February 3rd, 2016
Added tile to the island walls to tie it into the kitchen as well.
 April 4th, 2016
Needed to remove the doors to redo the walls around the front entryway. There was paneling along much of the doorway, however we removed it above the door and to do the mudding of the walls, the doors needed to be taken down.

Inside view.
 May 12th, 2015
By this point, we had finished all of the major projects except building the bookshelf/bench that was going around the dining room window. This is the window picture I took to Ikea to have them help me get the required materials.
 May 14th, 2016
Most of the kitchen is in final shape, with the walls all painted to what we wanted.

May 16th, 2016
Started construction on the wall unit. 
 May 27th, 2016
Installing the cabinets.
 May 28th, 2016

May 30th, 2016
Working on the bench seat.
 June 1st, 2016

June 5th, 2016
Mostly finished on the bottom.

June 18th, 2016
The bottom portion of the wall unit is completed including cabinet tops for the end cabinets.
 June 22nd, 2016
Starting to build the top part of the cabinets.
 July 16th, 2016
Wall unit is complete.

Job Complete!!!!!!
 November 17th, 2016
During the completing phase, we ran into several small problems that took a while to resolve. The floor was losing stain rather easily so I added more stain and sealed the floor. Also some of the undercabinet lights were overheating in the attic, so I had to rewire them so they came down into the kitchen, like the other lights.

Since the main entryway ran into the stairwell, this was added to the to-do part of the project. That added a bit of time to get everything complete.

So, in all, it took over 15 months to complete, but the major part of the project was done before Thanksgiving of 2015. We had running water in the kitchen and all appliances were hooked up. The rest of the project dragged out for quite a long time because we didn't have as much time to devote to it as we did earlier in the project. But by the time it was done, over 1/3rd of the house was completely demoed and redone.