Ginger Beer Recipe

Ginger Beer BottlesHome made ginger beer is awesome, and not hard to do at all. It takes a few hours to prepare all the ingredients, then several days fermentation, then another hour or two for bottling. Usually I make about 8 or 9 1L bottles of ginger beer in a batch, and I like to make it less sweet than the commercial stuff. It is slightly alcoholic (1-2% approximately) and has a really nice gingery bite the goes well with pizza, spicy food or just about anything else! I use a recipe adapted from the Ye Olde Ginger Beer Recipe. It is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 4 lemons
  • 900g sugar
  • 9L of water (enough to fill a demi-john)
  • 1 packet / 2 teaspoons of Ale yeast (you can use bread yeast if you're desperate)
  • 200g fresh root ginger
  • 4 heaped tea spoons of tartaric acid (Cream of Tartar)

Equipment
Carboy

  • A large pot that can boil four litres of water
  • A jug
  • A glass
  • A coarse cheese grater
  • A wooden spoon
  • 10L carboy (10L water container does nicely) washed & sterilized with bleach
  • A bubble seal for the carboy
  • A lemon juicer
  • A lemon zester / fine grater
  • A fine sieve
  • 9 X 1.25 litre soft drink bottles, empty, washed & sterilized with bleach

Method

1. Fill pot with water and put on to boil

2. While the water is coming to the boil...

  • scrape the zest from one of the lemons
  • grate the ginger on the coarse cheese grater
  • add the sugar to the ginger and lemon zest in a bowl
  • cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the jug
  • add the tartaric acid to the lemon juice
  • put the yeast into some warm water with a little sugar in a glass

3. When the water has boiled ....

  • add the sugar, ginger and lemon zest to the water, turn off the heat and
    stir
  • allow the water to cool to roughly blood heat, stirring occasionally
  • add the lemon juice and tartaric acid to the water
  • add the yeast mixture

Carboy with bubble seal

4. Use the jug to pour the mixture into the carboy and top up to 9L with boiled water (cooled to blood temperature)

5. Seal the demijohn with the bubble seal (I use salt in the water to sterilize the seal)

6. Stand the demijohn in a warm place for 48 hrs or for several days in a cool place

7. After 48 hrs pour the mixture through the sieve into the jug and fill the bottles leaving an air gap for the pressure to build up in (1L into each bottle). Screw the caps tightly onto the bottles

8. Leave the bottles at room temperature for 24 hrs (to generate the C02 fizz)

9. Put the bottles in the fridge for 2-3 days to allow the yeast to settle

10. Drink and enjoy 🙂

Notes
If you ferment the mixture in the carboy for longer before bottling, it will be less sweet and more alcoholic.

8 06 2008

Photos from Sapa, Vietnam

I put holiday photos on my screen saver, and these favourites just came up. I thought I'd share them with you...

Exploring Sapa

Sapa Guides

29 05 2008

Loan Calulator: Monthly repayment and interest breakdown

Wondering if your loan repayment calculations have been performed correctly this month, taking into account interest rate rises and extra repayments? You might be interested in giving my monthly loan calculator a go.

As my home loan provider doesn't show balances online, and only sends statements every 6 months, I like to ring up every month or two to make sure things are on track. I used to calculate interest, new balances etc in a spreadsheet / calculator but spent an afternoon writing a little Rails app to calculate it for me. Hopefully my little monthly loan calculator is of some use to you too.

14 04 2008

Wedding and Honeymoon Photos on Flikr

Well, being married and all, we decided to splurge and buy a Flikr account for us both. It is:

http://flickr.com/photos/soosun_and_james

For the impatient, jump straight to:

5 02 2008

Married! Our Wedding In Korea!

Soosun and I got married in Suseo Church, Seoul on 5 January 2008.

Married!  Married in the Church

It was pretty exciting, with multiple costume changes, lots of food and exotic ceremonies! Soosun had heaps of family and friends, and my parents, sister and her husband and one of my grandmothers and some of my close friends were able to come to Korea for the wedding.

We got up bright and early and went to the Korean hair, make-up and dressing place before the wedding, and also had a spot of breakfast.

prewedding1.JPG   prewedding2.jpg

One we got to the church, we welcomed friends and relatives and had photos taken.

At noon, we had the wedding ceremony in the church. Soosun's uncle is a Catholic priest, and he performed the ceremony and took our vows. It was then time for lots of photos with all possible permutations of relatives and friends.

Picture with Soosun’s uncle  Family  Friends

After the religious ceremony, we changed into our hanboks. Meanwhile, the guests were enjoying the banquet. The food looked really good and we had a chance to nibble a little bit before cutting the wedding cake with a sword and making toasts.
Cutting cake with a sword

The last part of the ceremony was traditional Korean. We dressed up in a double layer of traditional Korean hanboks and bowed away like crazy to relatives, and they gave us advice and honeymoon money in envelopes. We poured plum alcohol for close relatives out of a teapot and drank with them. We at dates stuffed with pine nuts and various other traditional foods. Our parents threw chestnuts and dates and we had to catch them in Soosun's hand veil. We caught 10 dates and chestnuts altogether, which means we're meant to have 10 children!

Sitting pretty in traditional costume  Bowing to mum and dad  Catching chestnuts and dates

After the wedding, the younger crowd headed out to Beer Plus for an after party...
img_3416.JPG  img_3418.JPG

The whole wedding ceremony was recorded, and we're going to edit together a short highlights movie. Stay tuned...

29 01 2008

Treo 650 incompatible with Optus Postpaid SIMs

Over the last 6 months, my old Treo 600 touch screen was dying. Cleaning and re-seating helped for a while, but eventually, the touch screen stopped working. As the Treo 680 barely improves on the Treo 650, and costs a lot more, I bought a new-ish Treo 650 on eBay. All went well until I tried to send SMSes using my Optus SIM. No luck - I got an error 4027 every time I tried to send a SMS, although voice and GPRS worked fine.

First attempt at a solution was to set the Message Centre Number in the phone. Strangely, the Message Centre number (configured though the SMS app) was always empty, and when I tried to set it to the correct number for Optus, the value wouldn't stick past a phone reset.

Thanks to Google, I found the outline of a solution on a message board.

In summary, the Treo 650 (unlike the Treo 600) is not compatible with Optus's standard post-paid/plan SIMs used in Australia. However, it is compatible with the Optus pre-paid SIMs. If you have a Treo 650, and a post-paid/plan SIM, you can buy yourself a new pre-paid SIM for $4 from your local Optus store, then ring the Optus call centre to have them do a "SIM replacement" to move your account and number to the new SIM. This solves the problem within minutes of the "SIM replacement".

13 12 2007

Some Murakami Quotes

Recently, I've been catching up on my reading. Haruki Murakami is one of my all time favourite authors. His novels are always interesting, and the writing style is generally gorgeous, although it does vary a little between different books. I'm not sure if this is Haruki Murakami changing his style in the original Japanese, or simply results from different translators.

Something I've been noticing lately is that in all of the Murakami novels I can recall, the protagonist always has a lot of time. This is so different to most other novels which try to rush from one exciting event to the next. Perhaps this is part of the reason why I really like Murakami's writing so much. Anyway, here's some memorable quotes from Murakami novels that I've read recently:

From Kafka on the Shore:
"Perhaps most people in the world aren't trying to be free, Kafka. They just think they are. It's all an illusion. If they really were set free, most people would be in a real pickle. You'd better remember that. People actually prefer not being free."

"Pointless thinking is worse than no thinking at all".

From Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World:
"Huge organisations and me don't get along. They're too inflexible, waste too much time, have too many stupid people."

"It's frightening," she said. "Most of my salary disappears into my stomach."

From The Wind Up Bird Chronicles: (language warning on this one)
Show quote, although it contains 4-letter words.

2 12 2007

WebJam this Saturday Night

WebJam is usually quite fun. The premise is that a large group of people meet in a pub, have a few drinks (often sponsored by some generous company) and see quite a number of presenters who have 3 minutes each to show off cool, web-related stuff they've done recently. The next one is this Saturday. Details as follows:

Place: Bar Broadway (opposite UTS)
Date: 29 Sept 07
Time: 6pm

I'm planning to go, and also to give a 3 minute presentation on my new free wedding registry site.

Hope to see you there!

26 09 2007

ScreenCasting

After being inspired by the Rails screencast long ago, I thought it would be fun to make a screencast for my free wedding registry site. It takes a bit of work.

I checked out a few different screencast recording packages and ended up going with CamStudio. It is a fairly basic product but free and good enough for my needs. It lets you choose a window to record and also lets you include an audio track. I think the easiest way to use it is by recording to AVI (very quick) and then converting to Flash SWF (slow), when you are happy with the movie. In terms of SWF settings, I found the best combination was 16 bit colour, Playback rate and Keyframe rate at 20 frames / second. It is also a good idea to set the 'Percent of movie to preload' to something like 15%, to get things rolling quickly for your viewers.

I'm reasonably happy with the resulting wedding registry screencast, although there is certainly room for improvement. CamStudio unfortunately doesn't let you set the look and feel of the playback controls, so they feel a bit out of place. When I get time, I might also split the screencast into two - one from the bridal couple's perspective, and one from a guest's perspective.

16 09 2007

YourWeddingPresents.com (wedding registry site) now live!

I'm really pleased to announce that YourWeddingPresents.com (a free, independent, wedding registry site) is now live!

When my sister was getting married, she had a lot of trouble finding a good free wedding registry that was not tied to any particular shop. I developed the wedding registry site to fill this gap, and also to improve my web programming skills. I've tried to design Your Wedding Presents to be really quick to sign up and easy to use. Please tell me if there are any problems with the site, or ways the site could be made better.

On the technical side, I developed Your Wedding Presents using Ruby on Rails. It is running on an Apache load-balanced Mongrel cluster and data is stored in MySQL. It is hosted on Rails Playground.

13 09 2007

BarCamp Sydney this Saturday

It is BarCamp in Sydney this Saturday. I haven't been to one of these unconference style events before, but I've heard good things about it from my colleagues. I'm quite excited to go along and see what it is like.

If you're in Sydney and interested in stopping by, details are as follows:

When: Sat 25th August 2007 from about 9am
Where: University of Technology, Sydney (Jones St entrance)
More details...

One of the novel aspects of BarCamp is that all participants are encouraged to present or start a discussion around something that interests them. For my part, depending on what people are interested in, I was thinking of one of the following:

  • new stuff in the .net space (C# 3.0, .NET 3.5, LINQ, WPF, WCF, etc) and showing some demos
  • giving a bit of a Ruby/JRuby introduction with help from Ola's JavaBin slides
  • or, if people are keen, a discussion around JRuby vs C# 3 vs Java vs ?? and their stacks for different situations and problems
    • By the way, the conference is free, and it is not too late to sign up 🙂
      Hope to see you there!

22 08 2007

Tech Ed Talks

Jim Webber and I will be co-presenting at Tech Ed Australia and Tech Ed New Zealand this year. Here's the low down:

Learning to live with the static-typing fascist and the dynamic-typing fan-boy in your enterprise...

Gold Coast
Thursday 9 Aug
5pm - 6:15pm

Auckland
Tuesday 14 Aug
2:20pm - 3:35pm

"What's best for your enterprise? Is it the 'glue that never sets' and flexibility of dynamic languages like Ruby, or the tried and true, hard and fast rules and tool support of static languages like C# 3.0? Are there different trade-offs for green field development and integration?

And more importantly, which is best, the Mac or PC?

In a dynamic, and combative presentation, Jim and James will let their alter-egos run amok and answer these questions from the perspective of a seasoned enterprise architect and a l33t hax0r. By the end of this session you will understand the interplays between the two personality types, have had a few laughs, and picked up a few tips on how to use both technology
sets in harmony in your enterprise. "

Hope to see you there!

2 08 2007

Ultimate Laptop Protection




Better than money can buy. Made by my dad 🙂

24 07 2007

Consulting


A present from my adorable fiancée 🙂

15 07 2007

Fixing a Palm Treo’s Digitizer (Touch Screen)

Let me tell you a sad tale. One day, out of the blue, the digitizer on my palm started to drift. Every hour, it got worse. This meant that when you tried to click a button like 'Add' the Palm thought you clicked 'Delete' - no fun at all! It was possible to temporarily improve the situation by running the re-calibration program built into the system, but within a few hours, where you clicked again had very little relation to where the Palm thought you had clicked. After about a week, it was not possible to run the re-calibration program, as the digitizer was so far out (program just looped forever so I had to reboot the Palm). I discovered that there are actually keyboard shortcuts for just about everything, and that the 4-way nav button gets you most places, so the device wasn't a total write off. However, it was slow and cumbersome to use.

Now, one month later, I'm sure you'll be thrilled to know that things are better, the sorry tale has had a happy ending (touch wood!). Much googling led to many suggested approaches to fixing the problem including:

  • Various auto-calibration programs (AutoDigi, DigiFix, etc).
  • Running paper around the screen under the casing to remove gunk.
  • Cleaning the insides by putting a vacuum cleaner to all openings.

However, all of these approaches ended with disappointment and no noticeable improvement.

Finally, near buying myself a new device (aside: it is a shame that Palm has not managed to produce a device significantly better than my several year old Treo 600), I came across a site selling replacement Treo 600 digitizer/screen modules. They kindly provide a very useful movie on pulling your Treo apart to help you replace your digitizer/screen module. With little to lose, I decided to open up the case of my Treo and see if there was anything I could fix.

Following the instructions in the movie was not too difficult. I didn't have a small star alan key myself (required for opening the case), but I borrowed one from my dear dad, who has an amazing tool collection. Also, lacking a plastic case opening tool, I used a butter knife - this worked OK, but did damage the plastic of the case a little. If you have something made from thin and strong plastic, like the case opener in the movie, it would be a better tool for the job. I had a great time pulling everything apart and finally had all the components spread out before me. I cleaned the screen carefully (there was a fair bit of grot around the edges), fixed the buckled taping on the side of the screen, and put everything back together, carefully re-seating the various cables.

And now, almost a month later, the digitizer still seems to be working fine! Hurrah! So if you are contemplating what to do about your Palm's broken or drifting digitizer, I recommend pull it apart, clean it all and re-seat cables and then hope for the best!

18 05 2007