Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Stereotypes and Social Stigmas in the Twenty First Century

A stereotype, as defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “a fixed or conventional notion or conception” (Agnes, 2003). In other words, it is a generalized idea about something or someone. The most prevalent stereotypes in modern society are those regarding people. These concepts attribute qualities to members of various groups based on race, ethnicity, economic status, education, age, and many other factors. Being highly generalized, stereotypes are often incorrect when compared to a specific individual, but there are also cases where a person is the embodiment of such generalizations.

Each of these stereotypes also carries with it social implications, which separate those to whom the stereotypes are applied from other people who are not of that group. This separation can manifest as a result of either the group’s desire to exclude non-members or the expulsion of the group as undesirable. While the former example is often referred to as “snobbery” and draws upon the application of positive attributes to the members of the group, the latter—stigmatization—causes the greatest duress for individuals. Being the victim of a social stigma can be devastating psychologically and physically. The physical damage may come from attacks by others or from the stigmatized person’s self-loathing (suicide, cutting, extreme dieting, body modification, etc.). Regardless of the form or source of the harm, the damage done can be irreversible.

The Power of Stereotypes

There are many common stereotypes within the United States—the politician, the country bumpkin, the city slicker, and the geek to name a few—but most of these are harmless enough if a person has a good sense of humor and/or thick skin. There is another stereotype, however, that has seized the minds of Americans in recent years and driven some to commit hateful acts in the guise of patriotism: the Muslim terrorist. Under this concept, any proclaimed Muslim must be part of or aware of a plot to assault citizens of the United States. This stereotype is also applied to anyone who appears to be Middle Eastern or wears clothes reminiscent of that culture.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, American Muslims and citizens of Middle Eastern decent have been harassed, slandered, and physically attacked based on little more than their religious beliefs or their appearance. As seen in a 2009 article, American Muslims suffer insults and fear reprise for acts they did not commit (Associated Press, 2009). In May of 2010, Muslim artwork—created as a commentary about the increase of hate crimes against Muslims—was defaced while on display at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (Lasagni, 2010). While it is unclear why the artwork was vandalized, it is suspected to be due to the animosity of many Americans towards Muslims. The reason for such hatred can only be explained by a deep-seated belief in the Muslim terrorist stereotype.

The Perpetuation of Stereotypes

The answer to where stereotypes come from and how they persist in the world can be disturbing. The generalizations about people are often created through ignorance of their culture and a need to categorize them. These ideas become fixed when people increasingly see and hear the descriptions from places they trust for information—such as the news, respected officials, and parents.

The media have long been known for providing information in such a way as to have the greatest impact. This is best accomplished through appealing to emotions rather than critical thought. The unfortunate result of appealing to emotions is the removal of understanding, and the acceptance that all individuals can be defined by their grouping. The same concept applies when dealing with respected officials. A leader can easily control a community that does not question or analyze information, which is the result when they are swayed purely by emotion.

While it is easy to blame others for instilling incorrect information in the nation’s youth, parents have often done the most damage. In some cases, the parents subscribe to the stereotypes themselves and foster their belief. Other parents commit a far greater disservice by not taking action to encourage their children to question the stereotypes and to see people for who they are rather for what someone else says they are.

Education, Acceptance, and Understanding

It is possible to combat stereotypes and to reduce them to mere footnotes in history, but this is a very daunting task. The road to understanding requires educating everyone about the flaws in generalizations. The acceptance of this idea can lead people to make an effort to fight their preconceived notions as well as remind them that every individual is unique. Stereotypes can only be disproven using critical thought and analysis, which is something people must do for themselves. In this respect, there is great wisdom in the song “Closer to the Heart”, which offers this statement: “Philosophers and ploughmen / each must know his part / to sow a new mentality / closer to the heart.” (Peart & Talbot, 1977).

Rush: Closer to the Heart

References

Agnes, M. (Ed.). (2003). Webster’s New World Dictionary (Fourth ed.). New York: Pocket Books.

Associated Press. (2009, September 11). For Muslims, backlash fear builds each 9/11. Retrieved June 15, 2010, from MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32782444/

Lasagni, G. (2010, May 13). Attack on Muslim artwork at School of Art Institute called a hate crime. Retrieved June 14, 2010, from Medill Reports Chicago: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=164662

Peart, N., & Talbot, P. (Composers). (1977). Closer to the Heart. On A Farewell to Kings. South Wales, United Kingdom.

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Making a Bow Stringer

The kindest thing an archer can do for his bow is to use a bow stringer. Aside from making it easier to string the bow, the stringer allows for applying even pressure on the limbs during stringing so there is less chance of breaking or damaging the bow. This article will explain how to make a stringer that will work on most bows. The stringer is made up of three parts, the pocket, the saddle, and the cord. The function of each part is explained at the end of the article.

To make a simple stringer you will need the following:

· a length of cord 7-8’ long ( I use 8’)

· a scrap of leather or suede at least 5 inches square

· a hole punch

· a rivet (not a pop-rivet) or heavy waxed thread and needle

Figure 1: Leather Tab Patterns
Figure 1: Leather Tab Patterns
You will need to cut two shapes for the leather (see diagrams). The first piece will be used to make the pocket. This piece is shaped like a “T” and measures 4.5” for the top and 5” for the body. The second piece should be 3” long and 1” wide. I usually round the short edges. Once these are cut you are ready to begin assembly.

You will need to punch holes in the ¼” from each of the sides of the saddle. The holes should be large enough to fit your cord through. The number holes required for the “T” depends on whether you use a rivet or thread. If using thread, you will only need one hole, large enough for the cord to pass through twice, punched ¼” from the bottom of the “T”. The diagram shows the single hole and the approximate holes for the rivet.

Figure 2: How to fold the pocket tab
Figure 2: The Pocket

To make the pocket you will need to fold the top of the “T” over twice and then fold the flaps under so the overlap. You will then secure the bottom three layers; the two flaps and “T” body. You should now have a pocket with a loop above it (see diagram).You can now run your cord and complete the stringer

Start running the cord into the “T” with the pocket on top. The cord should pass through the hole from the top; then through the loop (pictured on the left above), and then back through the hole from the bottom. Once the cord is run, secure the strand together with a knot. The saddle is strung by running the cord up through the first hole, down through the second, and securing the cord together with a knot that will not slip. You should leave some room in the loop so it will slip over the bow without too much trouble.

Figure 3: A completed bow stringer
Figure 3: A Completed Bow Stringer

 

 

 

You now have a bow stringer, but do you know how to use it? If not read on and I will offer a quick lesson in stringing your bow. Hold the bow so the string hangs beneath it and slip the pocket of the stringer over the end that already has the string in place. Now slip the saddle over the other end and position it just behind the other loop in the bowstring. Place your foot on the stringer cord and pull up on the handle of the bow; the bow will bend into shape. While holding it in position, slip the loose loop down into position. Your bow is now strung. You should verify that both ends of the string are seated correctly before drawing the bow.

Outdoor Games Played in Medieval Times and Earlier

Overview:

Finding something to do at an event when you’re too young to take part in many activities can be difficult. In this class, we will learn some games that are easy and appropriate for events. This isn’t as difficult as you might expect, in fact you may already know several of the games. Here is the list:

  • Hopscotch
  • Hoodsman’s (Blind Man’s) Bluff / Jingling
  • Barley Break
  • How Many Miles to London?
  • Bowls/Bocce/Boules

Hopscotch:

Hopscotch dates back to the Roman occupation of Britain. The first thing to be done is to draw a course, several common court styles are seen below.

Each player then chooses a marker, usually a stone. Play begins with the first player tossing his stone into the first space. If the stone lands completely within the designated square, the player proceeds to hop through the course. A player can only have one foot in any given square, so single squares must be balanced and double squares (side by side) are straddled. While hopping, the player should alternate the foot he lands on for each square. Any space not marked with a number, ie London, Home, etc., are considered rest squares and can be landed in any fashion.

When the player reaches the top of the court, he then turns around and comes back, collecting his marker along the way. Play then continues with the player tossing his marker into the second square and so on.

If a player fails to toss his marker into the correct square or if it touches a line the players turn ends. The same is true if the player steps on a line, misses a square, or loses his balance and falls.

The first player to complete the course for each numbered square wins.

Hoodsman’s Blind / Jingling:

Hoodsman’s Blind is known today as Blind Man’s Bluff. The person who is “It” is blindfolded or hooded and must try to catch any player that ventures too close. The other players see how close they can get to “It” without getting caught. The last person caught is “It” for the next game.

Jingling is the reverse of Hoodsman’s Bluff. All of the players are blindfolded except “It”. “It” is given a string of bells and the players must try to catch him. The person who catches “It” is “It” for the next game.

Barley Break:

The game starts by marking an area on the ground by drawing a circle or other shape. “It” cannot leave this area. The players must try to run through the area without getting tagged. If a player is tagged, they must join hands with “It” and help to catch the other players. As more players get tagged, they join onto the end of the line. Only those at the ends of the line can tag a player. Those in the middle can however help to “net” the player as they try to run through. The last person caught is “It” for the next game.

How Many Miles to London?:

This game begins with “It” being blindfolded. The other players then stand in a line and ask “It” for directions. “It” tells them how many steps to take forward backward, left, or right they must go. Then “It” is led to the starting point and must follow his own directions. When “It” has reached the final destination, he must try to touch another player. The other players may duck or sway to avoid being touched, but they cannot move their feet. If a player is tagged, then he is the next “It” otherwise “It” must try again.

Bowls/Bocce/Boules:

This game has many names of which I have mentioned three. Each variation has minor adjustments in the rules, but essentially are the same. The equipment required for the game is 1 small white ball (about 1 – 1 ½” in diameter) and 2-4 balls of about 3” diameter for each player. The field is a flat stretch of ground generally 10’ wide by 60’ long (the distance can vary depending on the age and skill of the players).

Play starts by throwing the small white ball known as a “Jack”, “Pallino”, or “Cochonnet”. The ball must land at least halfway up the designated field to be in play. The players then take turns trying to roll their balls closest to the “Jack”. When a player succeeds in getting his ball closest, his turn ends. If a player runs out of balls before getting “Best Ball” then they must wait while the other players attempt to improve their positions.

A player can get “best ball” in several ways. First they can simply roll their ball closest to the jack. He could also use his ball to hit another player’s ball away or one of his own closer. The player can also hit the jack causing it to move away from the other players’ balls.

At the end of each round, the player whose balls are closest gets one point for each ball nearer to the jack than any other players’. Games are usually played until a score of 15 is reached.

Initial Review of RedwoodHQ

I recently saw a post in the Test Automation community on LinkedIn suggesting that we should stop writing custom frameworks. The reasoning behind the suggestion was that it was time consuming to reinvent the wheel when there was an Open Source project, RedwoodHQ, that already had everything you need. Like most of the commenters, my first thought was that I was just reading a sales brochure for another “silver bullet” automation solution. The author, however, insisted that it was a sales pitch since his framework was free and he just wanted to raise awareness of a new tool that is available to the community.

I have long been a proponent of developing one’s own framework to build understanding of the underlying operations. In some ways it’s like Jedi training, you might start out using a lightsaber you were given but you will not become a master until you have constructed your own. In my experience, using pre-existing frameworks can limit an automator’s growth by obscuring the inner workings. Some frameworks will also limit a user’s ability to perform tasks because the developer didn’t consider that use case.

With that in mind, I decided to look at RedwoodHQ and see what it actually is. It wouldn’t be fair of me to write off someone else’s work without at least taking it for a spin. After reading a bit more about it, I downloaded the application and set it up on a VM. The installation process was smooth and I was connected to the web interface and poking around in the sample test in minutes.

For someone with very little knowledge of Selenium WebDriver, they could develop a test with RedwoodHQ right out of the box. They may even be able to begin learning by looking through the action example code. I wouldn’t, however, recommend keeping the original actions in the long term. If for no other reason, they need to be replaced because the current Selenium code uses hard sleeps and possibly relies on implicit waits.

With that said, don’t write off this framework yet. You’ll note that I recommend replacing the actions. This is extremely easy to do using the built-in web IDE and you can drop in any jars you like to use with your tests. This means that if you have built your own framework, you could compile it and reference your own classes and functions within RedwoodHQ. I am currently considering doing just this.

The efforts I have put into my personal framework have been focused on building functions around Selenium WebDriver to make developing page/component objects easier and by extension making the tests easier to write. In this way, I was not limited to using a specific test framework (although I tend to use TestNG most often). I have now realized that unlike other automation tools and solutions, RedwoodHQ operates at the same level as a test and reporting framework and will not interfere with working at the lower levels.

Since this is only an initial review, I can’t speak to how it integrates with a CI environment but I am willing to give this tool a chance. Once I have adapted my Selenium framework to RedwoodHQ, I am considering submitting it as a replacement for the existing actions. I believe the tool would benefit from having actions that utilize explicit waits and provide more than just basic functionality.

The take home from this is that I learned that RedwoodHQ is not another “silver bullet” automation nightmare. It is a test development, management, and reporting framework that won’t limit you to working within their methods. My intial opinion is “Well done!”

Building a Low-cost Video Recording Booth (High Tech Blanket Fort)

Tools Required:

Hacksaw
Measuring Tape or yard stick

Materials (per wall):

3 – ½” PVC pipes (10’ each)
6 – ½” PVC elbow connectors
4 – ½” PVC Tee connectors
2 – Spring-loaded Clamps (Optional)
3 – clamp lights (Optional)

I purchased 2 8.5” lights for in front of me and a 5.5” for filling behind me

1 – twin size blanket

Instructions:

  1. Cut the 10’ PVC pipes into three 3 foot sections and one 1’ section each
  2. Cut one of the 3’ sections into 1’ pieces.
  3. Assemble two 6’ upright poles by connecting two 3’ foot pipes with a tee connector for each one.
  4. Put elbows on either end of a 3’ pipe and set it aside. This will be the top bar.
  5. Lay the side poles down with the Tees facing each other. Insert a 3’ pole into the tee connectors to serve as a brace. You assembly should now look like an H.
  6. Now take the top bar and fit it on the top of the poles.
  7. Place two elbows on each of the remaining 3’ pipes and set them aside
  8. Make two 2’ pipes using 4 1’ sections and 2 tee connectors
  9. Assemble a rectangle using the two 2’ pipes and the 3’ pipes with the elbows.
  10. The final step is place the upright poles into the tee connectors in the center of the 2’ sides of the base.
  11. Use clamps or lights to attach the blanket to the frame

I hope these instructions are useful and make sense. I am including a picture of one of my frames. This one is a little different than the instructions because I decided to add an extension to the top rather than having a full rectangle for the base.

Be creative and build what you need. I added another pole  and a 3-way connector to support the corner and connected the two walls so I could completely enclose the area rather than just having separate screens.

On the Making of Mead: An Introduction to the History and Practice of Brewing Honey Wine.

The following text has been created to serve as an introduction to mead and mead making. The material contained within is not specific to the Medieval and Renaissance periods as that time frame is just a small portion of the history of mead. Instead, I have chosen a broader scope which begins in Antiquity and ends in your kitchen. I believe the result is a well rounded overview which will not only whet your appetite for knowledge but teach you how to brew something to slake your thirst while delving deeper into your own studies.

A Brief History of Mead

Mead has been enjoyed by man through the ages from pre-history to the present day.

A Not So Brief History of Mead

Most people are familiar with the argument of whether the chicken or the egg came first, but not as many realize that there is a similar argument surrounding beer, wine, and mead. All three of these beverages can be traced back into antiquity through writings, art, and archaeological findings which makes finding an absolute answer to the question extremely complex. Rather than trying to unravel the threads and divine an altruistic answer, this work will present the facts and theories surrounding the origins and history of mead while making no apologies for perceived bias in the writing.

It is important to have a basic definition to work from when interpreting historical references. The definition must be neither too broad nor too narrow to be effective. In its most basic form, mead is the product of combining honey and water. Yeast would be the third ingredient in the list if we wanted to restrict the definition to alcoholic beverages, but this would also make it harder to locate references since most historical texts do not mention yeast. For the purposes of this article, mead will be defined as a beverage made from a solution of honey, water, and optionally other ingredients for flavoring.

One of the most intriguing facts about mead is that it occurs naturally when honey reaches a sufficient moisture level. With this in mind, it is not unreasonable to theorize that man did not invent mead but rather discovered it while seeking food in a hollow tree. An alternate theory for the discovery of mead works on the same basis but includes man actively gathering and storing honey and some of the containers became contaminated with water which resulted in the wondrous beverage being created. Using either of these concepts, we can speculate that once man began using honey as a normal food source the possibility of discovering mead rose exponentially. The earliest indications found relating to honey gathering are cave paintings and rock drawings dating back to around 15,000 BC (Schramm, 5). Given the nature of mead, there is no way to actually determine when the first batch was created but it should be very safe to say that man was enjoying mead long before he ended his days of cave-dwelling.

The skeptical reader is no doubt wondering why mead would have been forgotten until the Middle Ages if it was discovered so long in the past. Mead wasn’t forgotten; it just existed under different names such as soma, pyment, hydromel, and nectar. References to mead can be found throughout the ancient world from mythology and religious texts to accounts by Greek and Roman historians.

The Many Names of Mead

Let me start by saying that this section is not going to be about what the word “mead” translates to in other languages. It will, however, cover the various types of meads which have had names coined for them. In my studies, I have found that there is some contention over the appropriateness of some of these terms. The main issue is whether or not the distinctions are modern inventions. While a number of  the names do date to the Medieval period or earlier, the actual adherence to the terms and definitions is not strict before modern times (Krupp, 7). My general opinion is that they are all meads and the names are more guidelines for discussing them in a modern context.

Melomels:

This designation is used to describe meads that have been flavored with fruits. The term derived from the Roman name for a beverage made from honey and fruit juices, melomeli (Papazian/Gayre, 113).

Pyment:

The exact nature of pyment is a question of perspective. Some sources state that pyment is wine that has been sweetened with honey . Under the broader definition of what mead is, a fermented beverage made with honey, pyment would classify as a mead made with grapes.   While Papazian continually refers to pyment as a wine, he gives proof that it is more a mead while quoting Chaucer (Papazian/Gayre, 116).

Cyser:

A form of hard cider which uses honey rather than mead as an additive. It can also be made as a mead with apples, cider, or apple juice added for flavor.

Morat:

Mulberries are used to provide a deep color and rich flavor to this form of mead.

Perry:

Pears or pear juice adds its delicate flavor to this form of melomel to produce a crisp refreshing beverage.

Metheglins:

Braggot:

A braggot is often described as “a mead with a beer in it”. This description is fairly accurate since the additional flavors come from barley or hops which is the main ingredient for making beers and ales.

Rhodomel:

A Greek and Roman mead flavored with rose petals. (Schramm, 19-20) (Papazian/Gayre, 114).

Hydromel:

Some references use the term hydromel and mead interchangeably but it has been my experience that this term refers to a mead that has been cut with water to reduce its potency.

Sack:

A sack mead is made by increasing the ratio of honey to water such that the finished product is much sweeter than a typical mead.

Brewing a Basic Mead

Now I am hoping that you have prepared yourself to unravel the complicated and intricate methods and practices involved in the making of mead. If you are truly ready to learn the arcane knowledge that will start you on your way to producing the drink of the gods, you are about to be very surprised by the simplicity of it all.

The most basic of meads is also known as traditional mead. The ingredients list consists entirely of two things honey and water. Of course, yeast will help if you intend to make an alcoholic beverage, but it isn’t required to be on the shopping list. When working from many early recipe sources, yeast is not listed as an additive. This is due to the fact that brewers of the time didn’t know that yeast is what caused the fermentation. Most often the must of these ancient brewers would be impregnated by yeast in the environment. This could be wild, airborne yeasts, bread yeast if the mead was made in a kitchen where baking was being done, or those that were residuals in the vessels used to make previous batches.

Once you have the ingredients, the next step is to gather the tools and equipment needed. Many people think that this means spending large amounts of money on gadgets and gizmos, but this really isn’t the case. The essential list of things you need is: a stock pot (preferably steel so it doesn’t impart a metallic taste to your mead), a long spoon, a funnel, and something to put your must in to ferment. There are some additional items that will make life easier and help you to produce “better” mead, such as airlocks, hydrometers, carboys of various sizes, hoses, bottles, corks, corkers, filters, and the list goes on long enough to make your head spin and your checkbook cry for mercy. For our purposes, I will be covering how you can start brewing with items you probably already have around the house or can obtain for $20 or less.

Referring back the basic equipment list, the first item we need to find is a large enough stock pot. The recipe to be used here makes 1 gallon of traditional mead. The stock pot you will need should hold 6-12 quarts. The next items on the list are also fairly common in any kitchen, a spoon long enough to reach the bottom of the pot without putting your hand in the boiling liquid and a funnel (any size will do but a wide mouth funnel will make pouring easier). The last item in our essentials list is something to put the must in to ferment. Most brewers will recommend glass bottles or carboys for this because they are easy to clean and do not absorb smells the way plastic can. For someone just starting out, I recommend 1 gallon plastic bottles. I used plastic apple juice bottles since my kids made them readily available in abundance. If you would prefer glass, I have found that 1 gallon wine bottles work wonderfully, in fact, they are the same as the 1 gallon carboys you can purchase at brewing supply shops only you need to empty them first. Once you have all of these items, you are ready to begin.

As a general rule, the ratio of honey to water is 2.5-3lbs honey per gallon of water (Papazian/Gayre, 169). As we are making a 1 gallon batch, we will need 3lbs of honey (less measuring that way) and 1 gallon of water. Start by bringing the water to a boil and then stir in the honey. Continue stirring until the honey is completely dissolved and then remove your must from the heat. Allow your must to cool  to room temperature and then pour it into your bottle (this is where the funnel comes in handy). At this point we need to get some yeast into the must and to do this you have 2 options, adding some yourself or sitting hopefully waiting for some stray yeast to come along. I recommend using some store bought yeast.

Since I didn’t go into this earlier, you can get brewer’s yeast from any number of brewing supply shops either locally or on-line. If for some reason you can’t find brewer’s yeast, you can use regular bread yeast from the grocery store. Using bread yeast will change the taste of your resulting mead. I have done this and received compliments, so it really boils down to your personal tastes.

Before adding the yeast to your must, called pitching, you will need to activate it. There are directions on the yeast packet regarding how to do this. Basically, you dissolve the yeast  in a small amount of warm water or juice. A better method is to take a small amount of your must to use as a starter. Once your yeast has been activated, it will usually start to foam after a few minutes, pour this into your must and mix it in. I use the handle of my long spoon for this.

You are now ready to sit back and let the yeast do its magic. Since we are working with very basic equipment found in the kitchen, you will need to make a decision about how to seal the bottle while the yeast is working. You can use the lid for the bottle but you will need to be very diligent if you do. While the yeast is producing alcohol, it is also making CO2. This means that if your bottle is air tight it will build up pressure and could explode. During a vigorous fermentation, even putting the cap on loosely could be too tight, so you will want to carefully open the cover from time to time to release the pressure. Another option is to use a cloth held over the opening with a rubber band. This works fairly well. If you are planning to continue brewing, I strongly recommend investing in airlocks. They only cost around $1 and they will protect your mead and your kitchen (I’ve seen carbouys explode from pressure and it isn’t pretty!!)

After about a week, you will notice that the bubbles in your brew are decreasing or have stopped. You will also notice a build up of sludge (actually called lees) on the bottom of your bottle. Most brewers recommend racking, transferring your mead to a new bottle and leaving the sludge behind, at this point. Racking is much easier to do if you have a length of food grade tubing, which can be found in most hardware stores, but can be done by carefully pouring your mead into a new bottle.

If you have made it this far, then you are now the proud brewer of a batch of mead. The question that   you are undoubtedly asking is, “When can I drink it?” This is a question that will bring about debate from brewers everywhere. Technically, your mead can be served when the fermentation stops, or even before if you really wanted to. Most mead makers today prefer to age their meads to improve the quality. Aging can take anywhere from 1 month up to 2 years or more depending on the mead. For the beginning brewer, I recommend tasting your mead to see if you like it. If you like the taste, then you are ready to serve, if not then close it up and put it in a cool dark place for a month or so.

Additional Recipes

The following recipes were gathered from various sources including my own recipe book.

Wulfric’s Traditional Mead (AKA BOOM!)

This wondrous mead may never truly be duplicated, but we are extremely hopeful. The first time I used this recipe, the result was a lightly sweet mead with an alcohol content of 22%, hence the name “BOOM!” This recipe is for a 5 gallon batch. If you do not have a pot large enough to heat all of the water and honey at once, you can hold 3 gallons aside and add it to the carboy later. This method is good for cooling the must quicker if you use cold water.

25 lbs Raw Dark Honey

5 Gallons Water

1 tsp Yeast Nutrient

1 pkg Lalvin D47 Active Dry Yeast

Heat water and honey to just below boiling, stirring to until the honey is completely dissolved. Skim the solution as needed to keep the surface relatively clear. Remove from heat and let stand until cool. While the must is cooling, you can start your yeast. When the must is below 90°F pour it into a carboy, pitch yeast and seal with a airlock.

When the bubbles slow to one or two per minute, you should rack the mead into a clean carboy. You will want to have an airlock on the new carboy in case a secondary fermentation starts. Allow the mead to sit in the carboy in a cool place until it clears, or clears enough for you (I don’t mind cloudy meads, they have more character), and then bottle.

“A Most Excellent Metheglin” (Digbie, 68-69)

This recipe is a nearly period recipe for metheglin from Digbie. I will list both the original text as well as the redaction.

“Take one part of honey, to eight parts of Rain or River-water; let it boil gently together, in a fit vessel, till a third part be wafted, skimming it very well. The sign of being boiled enough is, when a New-laid-egg swims upon it. Cleanse it afterwards by letting it run through a clean Linnen-cloth, and put it into a wooden Runlet, where there hath been wine in, and hang in it a bag with Mustard-seeds by the bung, that so you may take it out when you please. This being done, put your Runlet into the hot Sun, especially during the Dog-days, (which is the onely time to prepare it) and your Metheglin will boil like Must; after which boiling take out your Mustard-seeds, and put your vessel well stopped into a Cellar. If you will have it the taste of wine, put to thirty measures of Hydromel, one measure of the juice of the hops, and it will begin to boil without any heat. Then fill up your vessel, and presently after this ebullition you will have a very strong Metheglin.” (Digbie, 68-69)

For my interpretation of this recipe, I will plan to produce a 5 gallon batch. I have chosen this number because of the specification to pour your must into a “Runlet”. A runlet (rundlet) is a cask or barrel that holds between 3 and 20 gallons (14.5 is most common). Since most brewers don’t have barrels, I’m opting to plan for a 5 gallon carboy.

5 pints Honey (approximatly 5 lbs)

5 gallons Water

1 tbl Mustard Seed

1 pint Juice of Hops (optional)

1 pkt Yeast (if using a clean carbouy)

Boil the water and honey until the starting volume is reduced by one third. Alternately, you can check if it has boiled enough by placing an egg in the must. The egg should be fairly round and as fresh as possible. If the egg floats then you have boiled it down far enough. In this situation, the egg is serving as a hydrometer.

After the boiling, filter the must by pouring it through a clean linen cloth into your carbouy (or cask if you have one). The original recipe specifies that it should be a container that had wine in it before. While this may seem odd, the reason behind it is that there would be residual yeast in the container and that is why the recipe doesn’t call for the addition of any. Since sanitation is a major concern for most modern brewers, I have included a pkt of yeast in the recipe. The yeast should be added once the must has cooled a bit so as not to kill the yeast. You should then place the mustard seed in a linen bag and hang it in the must so that it can be easily removed later. A string tied around the bag that runs out of the stopper works well for this. When you have everything in place, put your carbouy in a warm place to work.

When the initial fermentation is complete, remove the mustard seeds, securely seal the carbouy and move it to a cellar (or other cool, dark place). At this time, you can optionally add 1 pt of “Juice of Hops”, which I suspect is the result of boiling hops in water, to 30 pints of your Metheglin. Since 5 gallons  is the equivalent of 40 pints, you can either remove a portion  of the metheglin, increase the amount of hops to 1 1/3 pints, or call it close enough. Your metheglin will begin a secondary fermentation at this point. When that completes, you should have “a most excellent metheglin”.

“Damn Shame”: A non-alcoholic mead

There have been a number of occasions in which I wanted to serve mead but could not distribute alcoholic beverages. I rose to this challenge by creating the following recipes.  While the steps are very similar to making the “fully leaded” version, you do not add yeast. The omission of yeast means that there is no waiting period outside of allowing the must to cool before bottling.

Cinnamon
2 gallons water
4 cups honey
2 cinnamon sticks

Allspice
2 gallons water
4 cups honey
1 tsp whole allspice (crushed coarsly in a mortar & pestle)



Heat the water in a large pot. Once the water is hot, add the honey and stir until all of the honey dissolved. Continue heating the mixture but do not boil it. If you notice a scum floating on top, skim this off and discard it. I typically keep the mixture in low heat for about 20 minutes or so after mixing. Remove from heat and add the spices. Allow your brew to stand until it reaches room temperature and then strain and bottle it. Alternately, you could simply add all of the ingredients in at once and then heat it, but I prefer to do it in stages.

 

(Sibley)(Shapiro)(Griffith)

Bibliography

Digbie, Sir Kenelme, The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Opened… s.l., London: E.C. for H. Brome, 1669. (Reproduction by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works 1967)

Griffith, Ralph T. H., Sacred Writings Volume 5 – Hinduism: The Rig Veda, New York, NY: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1992.

Krupp, Christina M and Bill Gillen, “Making Medieval Mead or Mead Before Digby”, The Compleat Anachronist 120 (July 2003) : .

Papazian, Charlie and G. Robert Gayre, Brewing Mead : Wassail! In Mazers of Mead, Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 1986.

Schramm, Ken, The Compleat Meadmaker, Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2003.

Shapiro, Mark, “Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle Ages”, The Compleat Anachronist 60 (March 1992) : .

Sibley, Jane, “The CA Guide to Brewing”, The Compleat Anachronist 5 (March 1983) : .

 

My Impression of “The Phoenix Project”

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been listening to The Phoenix Project during my commute to and from work. Having finished it today, I decided to jot down some of my thoughts and share them with you.

The first thing I will warn you about is that if you have already read The Goal and understand how it can be applied to IT then you are not going to find any new, eye-opening concepts in this book. The plot follows a middle manager that finds himself being promoted to the head of a struggling department. Through determination and coaching from a elusive and wise mentor, he learns to identify and control work along with how to align it with the companies needs to become successful and rise to the top of their market. For the record, that is the plot for both books. I identified the similarities between the books within the first couple of chapters, but was amused when the main character’s mentor began to quote and reference The Goal while explaining that work is work and IT is no different from a manufacturing plant.

With my main criticism out of the way, I found the story to be a fairly realistic look at IT functions within an company. Misunderstandings and unreasonable demands result in repeated disasters and a generally oppressed and depressed atmosphere. I dare say the stage was set so well that I could not only draw parallels from my experience but was starting to have actual sympathy for the characters because I could see what was coming.

Overall, I think this is a good book for IT staff, managers, and all executives to read and gain an understanding of the processes that help work flow. For the IT staff in the trenches, the purpose of reading this book should be gain an understanding of why processes may need to change and to help acknowledge that their managers need help not resistance. The executive’s take away should be to identify things that were done poorly by the executives and the board in the book so that they can recognize and correct similar issues within their organization. For the last group I recommend this book to, I suspect the take away would be a number of ideas regarding how to implement changes and structure work for their teams and that there is some hope if you can get those above you and below you to listen to reason.

I would recommend this book over The Goal for use in IT organizations simply because it makes it easier to see how the concepts apply to IT while making a point of addressing the common responses from IT personnel. I believe this was the motivation of the authors and, if I am correct, they succeeded.

Testing Is Overrated

As I sit here on the morning of this sunny April 1st, I find myself thinking about the actual importance of testing. We’ve all heard the speeches from QA about how important their job is to the company and the product. How they keep the developers honest and reduce the risk of bugs reaching the customers. Seriously? All they do is hold up release while complaining that some obscure path through the product results in a 5 second delay every 50th time it is performed. Who needs that? The project team certainly has better things to do than listen to that kind of nit-picking.

Now I suggest you think about how much time we can save on projects if we can eliminate the testing phases. In some companies, testing can take up half the project because some module changed and now we have to go through regression testing. As if the developers didn’t already make sure it worked. Of course, the saving for some companies won’t be as significant since they are already practicing the superior process of using hard dates that result in QA only being able to look at the product for a day or less before going live. In today’s fast moving environment, every second counts when getting a new offering or feature out the door.

In the grand scheme, does anyone really expect software to be bug free or even fully functional on launch day? All customers know that the initial release is more of a prototype than a polished product and unless the want to get a feel for application they really should wait until the first or second patch is sent out. With that in mind, who is going care about the testing efforts done pre-release. Heck, we can even save money by letting the early adopters report any real issues found. They are going to be better suited to the task anyway since they are actually using the product rather than making up hypothetical uses. They are also more likely to follow the instructions for using the product and stay on the “happy path” rather than performing “Exploratory Testing”.

All in all, testing is completely overrated and unnecessary beyond the spot checks performed by the developers when they write the code. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are probably just whiny testers trying to feel like they matter, just ignore them.

 


The post above was written for April Fool’s Day and does not represent the actual opinion of the author or Wolvesbane Academy. If this article sounds like an opinion expressed by teammates or managers in your organization, I am so, so sorry for you.

Bulletin Board Systems: The Birth of Social Networking

One of the fastest growing segments of the modern internet is the use of social networking sites and software.  With users numbering in the millions, applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are helping to keep people connected despite distance between them. While all of these websites are recent creations and are considered to be new concepts, the fundamental ideas behind this type of computer use began to surface in the 1970s with the introduction of the bulletin board system (BBS).

The Humble Beginnings

A BBS is a “[c]omputerized system used to exchange public messages or files” (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011). Bulletin board systems were originally restricted to companies and educational institutions until early 1978 when Ward Christensen launched CBBS in Chicago, IL (BBS Corner, 2009). From this point, BBSs began to spread as hobbyists and computer enthusiasts created their own systems. Most bulletin boards served small areas because they required users to connect via telephone lines and few people wishes to incur long distance charges.

As the boards became more sophisticated, their services expanded from simple file sharing and public message forums to include games, private messaging, and chat rooms. For the computer-savvy, these services became the equivalent of the barbershops, ice cream parlors, and coffee shops of previous years. The influence, acceptance, and use of bulletin board systems continued to grow until the 1990s when the internet became readily available to the public and World Wide Web blossomed.

Evolution and Revolution

Beginning in the 90s, the nature of the internet began to change drastically. Local bulletin board systems were being replaced by national services (CompuServe and AOL) and a new type of company, the internet service provider. These new companies hosted large modem banks to allow their client to dial in and connect to the internet. They typically provided email access as well.

As ISPs became dominant and the internet more accessible, BBSs began to fade away. In their place, email, internet forums, and internet relay chat (IRC) gained popularity. Some websites included all of these methods of communication. While users now only needed to connect to a single access point, they were still visiting multiple virtual locations to carry on their business.

The next evolution of public internet was the introduction of high-speed, broadband internet connections. Users could now be online 24/7 and accessing data at ever-increasing rates. The increase in speed and connections led to the more innovations in software offering once they were combined with the increase in processing power of the average PC. Forums, Email, and Instant Messaging—a child of IRC—continue to be staples for communicating, but in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century a new moniker was coined for websites that performed these functions. The term that was now used to describe these services was Social Networking.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Just as the current incarnation of social networking has come to overshadow the bulletin board systems of the 1980s, future software will enhance the functionality and speed of communication between individuals. Some of the technological advances are already beginning to show themselves in the form of video chats and simultaneous discussions between groups of people—all of whom are in different locations. Since most methods of communication have already been introduced via the internet, it is likely that the future will hold mostly improvements on existing technology rather than pioneering completely new methods of communicating. An exception to this could be the introduction of holographic projections to replace the current video feed. Regardless of the kinds of changes seen in the future, it is clear that the computers, electronics, and internet will continue to make the world a smaller place to live.

References

BBS Corner. (2009, November 29). The BBS Corner – A Brief History of BBS Systems! Retrieved August 30, 2011, from The BBS Corner: http://www.bbscorner.com/usersinfo/bbshistory.htm

Encyclopædia Britannica. (2011). bulletin-board system (BBS). Retrieved August 30, 2011, from Encyclopædia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/183745/bulletin-board-system-BBS

 

Preventing Issues or Helping to Mitigate Risk

I recently read an article by Cassandra H. Leung claiming that promoting the idea that testers prevent issues is harming the “tester brand” by establishing unrealistic expectations for testers. My initial reaction was to think that she was crazy because testers do prevent issues if we are allowed to join the project early and influence development. After reading a bit farther, I realized that the latter part of that thought was what she was talking about. Testers can’t prevent issues if they are not allowed to be part of planning or their warnings go unheeded. Unfortunately, both of these scenarios are more common than teams would like to admit.

This revelation leads us to an identity crisis as we are forced to ask, “What should we being doing as testers?”.

Over the years, testers have been charged with many formidable tasks including: assuring quality, catching bugs, policing issues, preventing issues, enforcing acceptance criteria, etc. As a whole, we’ve done a fair job of achieving success despite having the odds stacked against us by these vague definitions. The reason we cannot be completely successful is that we rarely have the level of control needed to perform these tasks.

As thought-leaders continue to move quality considerations “left” and raise awareness of the need to have testers involved early in the process, the need for testers gets questioned. If developers are testing and product owners are writing tests in the form of acceptance criteria, testers need to properly define their role on the team. Since Quality is a team responsibility, we cannot claim it as our goal. My recommendation is to define the tester role as mitigating risk though observation and review of project quality considerations and conversations with the team.

This means that testers are not gatekeepers, defenders of quality, or even responsible for catching all of the bugs. It is our job to bring our unique perspective and abilities to the team and use them to minimize the risk of issues within an implementation.

I admit that this definition is still a bit vague but it is something that we can accomplish. Testers cannot control the quality developed into the product. Testers cannot prevent decisions that could result in issues down the road. Testers can raise concerns to the team and make sure that quality conversations occur so that everyone involved has the best information available to them before making a risky decision.