"I work like I drink, alone! Or with a monkey watching me." - Krusty the Clown

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Red-Headed Woodpecker

 Red-Headed Woodpecker.  New to our bird feeder.

(all photos by J. Betke)

Bird Feeder Activity

Lots of activity at our bird feeder today, including what I believe are an Indigo Bunting (top), a Purple Finch (middle), and a Red Bellied Woodpecker (bottom).  Today we've also seen a Cardinal family that has been frequenting the backyard, and a number of American Goldfinches.

Indigo Bunting

Purple Finch

Red Bellied Woodpecker
(all photos by J. Betke)

Friday, February 15, 2013

"I Wish I Was in New Orleans"

One of my favorite Tom Waits songs.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some Sketches

Sketches traced from 1936's "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

Errol Flynn
Olivia de Haviland

Friday, June 15, 2012

In memoriam . . .

My father, John Betke, passed away September 17, 2010.  I was honored to give his eulogy.  Thinking about him this week I thought I might share it.

Dad at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 2006.

It's been overwhelming, but not surprising, to see so many people come out to pay respects to John.  I've spoken with childhood friends from Valley Stream, neighbors from Rockaway Turnpike, so many colleagues from Lufthansa, and friends and family from Commack, especially all of the Keenan family. 

Everyone has great memories, some from old times and others more recent, but every story ends with the same sentiment, about how much Dad gave of himself, and how generous and helpful he always tried to be.

I know how he helped take care of his parents and Aunt Linda and Uncle Eddie, how much he's done for Grandma Keenan and how involved he was at Abiding Presence.  But there are so many friends and neighbors reminding me of times Dad visited a sick friend at the hospital, or remembered that someone liked chili or pumpkin pie, so he would bring some along next time he visited.  And how so many colleagues at Lufthansa became lifelong friends because of the interest or help Dad showed them.

Dad was a thoughtful man.  He listened to people and remembered what was important to you.  He cultivated these friendships through a million acts of kindness that endeared him to all of us.  He did this out of love, especially for those who needed the most help or care.

When Dad just told me he was sick he said he didn't have a "bucket list."  He wasn't going to change his routine or rush to get things done.  I know I find comfort thinking about experiences we shared, and which most of us here shared with him in some way.  Family dinners and work picnics, road trips upstate or down south, and adventures overseas, bowling and snooker and golf; Dad enjoyed himself.  He made the most of his life, especially his life with Ellen and Meagan, and I think he showed myself and my three sisters how to travel, how to compete, how to eat, and how to be happy.

When I get back home to Chicago this week I think I'll cook up some of John's Swedish meatballs and maybe some chili, and I'll think about ways I can be more like Dad, a little more thoughtful and kind, a little more giving of myself. 

And maybe I'll have a "whatsis."

Bis sp├Ąter, Dad.

Wir lieben Dich.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My First Dubbel

A few pictures of my first all-grain Dubbel, Day Two of fermentation.

The grain bill was 12 pounds of Belgian pale malt, 1 pound of Belgian Special B (an aromatic, similar to a dark crystal malt), and 1 pound of dark Belgian candi syrup.  I used the pale ale instead of pilsen because it's more modified, and I think better suited for the kind of single mash I'm set up for.

I used a variety of hops, including Sterling, Saaz, Tettnanger, and Liberty.  Just 2 ounces total, low alpha.  (I was going to use just the Sterling, but I had the others in the fridge in small amounts, so I threw them in instead.)

Finally, I chose Wyeast's Belgian Abbey II ale.  I think it's good for strong dark ales.  Because I'm using a whole pound of special B I thought I would try this yeast.

The floculation has been crazy.  This is the best kreuzen I've had on an all-grain.  I'm optimistic this will be a good batch. 

Here are a few things I think I've learned from the last few all-grain batches:

1)  Make sure your thermometers work, and take measurements from different places in your mash!  I think I had too low a temperature for many of my early batches.

2)  Let your mash sit for at least 75 minutes.  I think the longer the mash, the better.

3)  It's okay to stir the mash near the end of your last sparge to get the last of the good sugar.

4)  It's good to brew with a friend.  You find yourself rethinking your processes.  It especially doesn't hurt if that friend is Larry. 

5)  The boil needs to be VIGOROUS.  And let it go for 90 minutes.  I pulled 6.75 gallons from my last mash, and boiled it down to just over 5 gallons. 

6)  Consider using gypsum, or maybe bottled water, for your beer if you live somewhere the water is soft.  I've started using gypsum in my all-grain brews and I think it's helping the fermentation.  I'm pretty sure Chicago water is particularly soft.

My OG for this beer was right on the mark - 1.065.  If I get it down to 1.012 or so, it'll be the right ABV, about 7%.  So far so good!  My last two all-grains, my Cascade Ale and Rye Pale Ale, were both pretty good.  I hope this one is as well.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Downy Woodpecker at our Birdfeeder

A new bird at our feeder; a downy woodpecker.  
You can tell by the red on his head, the white spots on his wings,  and the short beak.