Monday, July 30, 2007

Blooming in Bloomington

A bunch of us from Purdue went down to Indiana University in Bloomington last week for a conference on Mathematical modeling. It started at midday on Sunday with a workshop for grad students and early career faculty. That was about frisbee golf and was OK. As you can see, we are all really so enthusiastic!
The conference was really good with some paper presentations, but lots of discussion groups or workshops. The schedule was good too with lots of breaks. There was also lots of food with breakfast and lunch every day, snacks in the afternoon and for the poster presentations on Monday and Tuesday there was beer, wine and snacks. Way to make posters interesting! Then there were the dinners. Sunday and Tuesday were just small (with beer and wine of course!) but Monday was a huge BBQ with a live band. One of the conference organisers was the lead singer and the head organiser decided he would play the harmonica and his didgeridoo. He was pretty good! Of course there was lots of beer and wine again.

Tuesday night we were allowed into the puzzle collection. That was quite fun. We all got at least one puzzle out.
After that we went to a Tibetan restaurant which at the time it was opened was only the second Tibetan restaurant in the US. The food was OK but as I don't like spicey food, I went for the dumplings!

One strange thing was this fan. That is a puzzle.
Another puzzle was during Wednesday night's big sit down dinner. Work out what is in this glass! It is a very strange serving suggestion and you definitely can't drink it, you need a spoon.

It was all fun. I really enjoyed it. It was hard work and I had to think a lot, but I met some new people to keep in touch with in the future including a few Aussies. It has left me very tired though.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Last Friday was my birthday! We went up the road to Applebee's with Robin and Shawn. Applebee's has some great cocktails. I had a Jamaican one...

Robin had a martini...

and Shawn had something very pretty!

Then Llew, Robin and I went out to play put-put. Very fun. I got a hole in one and Llew won.

And we enjoyed the garden gnomes!!!

Last Wednesday was Shanna's birthday. We had a cake...

and champagne. Very bubbly!

Because her birthday was on a Wednesday, it was only small, but Shanna had had a larger party on the weekend before. We learnt a few new skills like a game called "washers", very similar to "corn hole" which is extremely popular around here. Washers seems to take much skill, and we don't know if it is helped or hindered by beer!

And then there is beer ping-pong where a ping-pong ball is bounced and attempted to get into cups of beer at the other end. If the throw is successful, the opponent drinks the beer. Hence the losers get more and more sloshed and that advantages the winner more and more!

So that's the story of birthdays and nearby celebrations.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

True Brew - the USA Way

Well for those of you that know the Australian side of me, I got into homebrew a few years ago. The opportunity arose a few weeks ago that allowed me to try to make an American brew, and of course, how could I say know. (For those of you that have been keeping up with the blog, making beer seems tame compared to other things I have done).
I enlisted the help of Shawn to brew the beer in Robin's kitchen (with Gas). I ordered a wheat beer kit over the internet (the best way to buy things when your in the middle of a corn field) and set about brewing beer on a warm Saturday afternoon.
The first step is to steep the grains in warm water for about 1/2 hour. We then added the malt and the wheat extract, cooked for a while longer then added the hops (the bitter flavour in beer).

Once the brew was cooked, we needed to chill it down before we could add the yeast. We did this both with more cold water chilled in the freezer...
and with a copper cooling coil (used outside of course).

Once the brew hit the right temperature, we pitched the yeast and sealed it up. The airlock on the top allows the CO2 to escape as the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol, while not letting any nasties into the beer.
Once sealed, the beer was placed in Robin's basement and left to ferment for two weeks. Once finished, Gemma and i had to bottle the beer, as Shawn was on the East coast. We started by siphoning the beer out of the fermenter and into a large pot. This was mixed with a priming sugar (to make the beer fizzy in the bottles).
Siphoning the beer.
The best job of making your own beer is the cleaning of the bottles. The not only need to be cleaned with a special detergent as normal detergent ruins the head of beer, but also sterilised.
Of course, there are some nice leftovers from the yeast in the bottom of the fermenter.
Gemma filling the bottles.

The final product, 5 gallons (20ish L) of beer.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A drive through Illiana

We were a bit bored on Sunday and decided to go for a drive. We headed north-west up the 52. There were not many cars out and it was a great drive. Wow, that land is flat! All corn fields and soy fields. No mountains, hills or trees. Zoom in on the map and see all the rectangular fields! The green line is the state line.

When the road turned north, we decided that we would turn off and go further west into Illinois. Not exactly different from Indiana! The radio station we found called the area Illiana. We headed south for Champagne, but missed the turn off. When we got to the interstate, we decided to head back west and see what Danville had to offer. At this time it was about 4pm. Danville had absolutely nothing to offer. It really was the back of beyond! We couldn't even find a petrol station. Delapidated buildings and factories everywhere, bad streets and sad looking houses. This sums it up quite well.
Eventually we found a petrol station outside of town once the greenery started again.

We made our way back into Indiana and decided to drop in on our friends who have a farm just outside of a little twon called Attica.
They have the three cutest goats: mother and two kids, some sheep, a couple of horses and chickens.
They have a REALLY BIG barn where Adam plays basketball.
The sheep are for lambs for meat, so they get a shearing just to keep them cool. They have these white sheep and some brown sheep with black heads. One really cute one they raised from a tiny lamb that was born in February and they kept it in the bathroom during winter. It follows them around.

So we finally got back to West Lafayette. It was an interesting drive just to see the countryside and confirmed our knowledge that we live in the middle of nowhere surrounded by soy and corn.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More Inspire

We had our second Inspire acadamy this week. It was easier in some ways because we had done it before, but harder because we were more tired and a bit over it. It was all more of the same and for any of you who have taught the same thing more than once, it can be hard to do it with the same enthusiasm the second time around. Personally, having tutored ENGG1020 7 times, it was not that bad!

So we had more index card towers for angel bear...

More sail boats...

More discussion...

Another trip to the wetlands...

More water filters...

Another trip to the school with the little kiddies...

And another end celebration.

Do we look happy or exhausted? For about half an hour we just sat and drank beer and stared at the table. We were tired and glad it was over. Now we can all get some sleep.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What I've been up to

Just a quick update. I haven't written for a while because we started our second acadamy on Monday. This time we have teachers from all around the US. I haven't taken as many photos this time, but I'll but up any fun ones I might get of me!
We are running the same curriculum, so we are kind of flowing a bit more. Things just slip into place and time passes quickly without having to concentrate too much. It's all good.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

4th of July

Shawn had a get-together for the 4th of July. We had the obligatory hot dogs and hamburgers and of course, here in the US fireworks are legal. While it was light we set off a few snakes as they don't do any light shows and for those who have seen South Park, they are kind of disgusting. Llew tried to get them lit, and eventually the black ashy snakes grew out.

Then we tried the showering fireworks.

We threw a couple of poppers around that really just go Pop.
Eventually it got dark and we set off about 60 decent fireworks including a couple of dozen cannons. When we set 3 of the big ones off at once, it even looked kind of professional. Over the lake it was even rivalling the Purdue fireworks. We got some cheers from the neighbours too who were all out to see the Purdue ones from far away, but got a closer show than they thought.
We finished up after about an hour and had strawberry cheesecake made by one of Shawn's friends for his own birthday. It was nice and celebratory without too much palava and patriotism.