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Jury Duty

Being a US-citizen earns you two important rights that nobody else living here has: you can vote, and you can be called upon for jury duty. I have voted twice already since becoming a citizen, and that was quick and easy to do. Jury duty, however, is something that not everybody gets to participate in. You have to be summoned and selected out of a pool of people.

When I received notice to fill out a form, and then later got my summons to show up today, I was excited!

Some people had given me advice about what to say to avoid being selected, but I wanted to be selected. I checked in at the courthouse on time. About 30 people were there, waiting. We watched a brief movie about what to expect as a juror in Indiana. Then we all went upstairs into the Circuit Court on the third floor of the Allen County courthouse in downtown Fort Wayne. The place is stunningly beautiful! 

After initial instructions from the judge both parties to the case had the opportunity to ask questions, and try to find out what the jurors' opinions would be. About half of the initial twelve jurors were excused, based on their answers to those questions. After another two rounds of questions and answers and replacing individual jurors, I was lucky to make it onto the panel.

The trial was about a criminal case; a class C felony of operating a vehicle while on a lifetime suspension of the driver's license. The defendant actually defended himself. I thought, that was not a good idea. He should have taken the professional help, that was offered to him. After listening to two policemen's testimony and examining the defendant's eight page long driving record with over 40 violations on there, the jury came to a unanimous verdict quickly: guilty!

We were dismissed after that and not allowed to hear the sentence. One of the jurors said, he knew about a similar case where the defendant had been sentenced to three years in jail.


"Greek" Yogurt out of my Crock Pot

Ever since I read the ingredients list on a container of the goop they call "jogurt" in this country, I have been making my own jogurt at home. Long before "greek jogurt" officially became America's favorite, I was enjoying it for breakfast daily, at about half to price of store-bought. 

The process is simple, the results taste fabulous, but I saw room for improvement. My 2-quart jogurt maker renders 1 quart of finished product, so I had to make two batches per week. Also, the inner container of my jogurt maker is made out of plastic, and I always wondered how much of that was seeping into my jogurt during 12 hours of incubating a slightly acidic substance at about 95°F. 

Recently I had an idea that would solve both problems: my crock pot!
Now I make jogurt only once a week; and it sits in the ceramic insert of my slow-cooker during fermentation.

If you would like to try it for yourself, here's what you need:

  • 1 crock-pot, 5 quarts capacity or more
  • 1 gallon of milk
  • 2 cups of plain, natural jogurt with live cultures and absolutely no additives (Dannon, Chobani, or Fage)
  • 2 big 8-inch strainers
  • 2 cheesecloths
  • 2 mason jars, 1 quart capacity each, with caps

CrockPot.jpgTurn your crock-pot on at the lowest setting. Mine has "buffet", but "low" will be OK too. While the crock-pot warms up, heat the gallon of milk in a big pot. You need to constantly stir that and watch the temperature. The milk should be at about 95°C (or body temperature) before you proceed.

Mix 2 cups of plain natural jogurt into the warm milk, then pour the mixture into the crock-pot. Make sure it is well blended without any chunks of jogurt floating around in the milk. Now turn the crock-pot off. This is important! If you leave the crock-pot on, it will get too hot and your jogurt cultures will die. Just let the pot sit there undisturbed for about 12 hours.

When you see the whey separate from the jogurt a little bit, and the stuff in the crock-pot seems noticeably thicker, prepare two strainers. Line them with cheesecloth and set them up over large enough bowls. Now pour your jogurt out of the crock-pot into those two strainers and let the whey drain out. You can check once in a while to see if your jogurt has the desired creamy texture.

After another two to four hours of draining you'll end up with two quarts of the most delicious, healthy, creamy "greek" jogurt you've ever had. Fill that into the mason jars and store it in the refrigerator. 



no Alcohol, please!

EthanolFree.jpgJust because some type of fuel is "renewable" doesn't necessarily mean it's also "good".

Prompted by the special needs of the latest addition to our fleet of vehicles, a beautiful BMW R1200RT, which requires gasoline with a 90 octane or higher rating, I educated myself on the effects of ethanol added to fuel.  

In short: it's not good!

Ethanol attracts water, which then damages whatever engine is running on it. Ethanol also dissolves the softeners used in many plastic parts, tubes, and seals in our machinery. The production of ethanol creates more greenhouse gas and wastes more water than the production of gasoline.

Those 10% of ethanol added to most of the fuel available in the USA are the reason why carburators, fuel pumps, and engines get clogged up, need frequent oil changes, don't last as long, and run less efficiently.

Finding alcohol-free gas is not easy, though! There is only one source in Fort Wayne. A gallon of the precious stuff currently costs $3.959 there.


Automated Passport Control

Chicago O'Hare was the first airport in the USA to offer automated passport control terminals beginning in July of 2013. On our way back home from vacation we had the pleasure of experiencing those personally.

APC-ORD.jpgI really liked that! There are about twenty terminals in use, for US citizens only. You scan your own passport, the machine takes a picture of you; then you answer those yes/no questions from the current customs form. If you didn't bring snails or pet cows, this can be done with one click of a button - the machine prints a receipt, and you're done.

These APC terminals cut the wait down drastically! Two full jumbo's had just landed, and we were all through immigration way before our luggage showed up.



IMG_1284.JPGFederal law prohibits the shipment of alcoholic beverages, including beer, directly to consumers. All alcohol has to travel from brewery to retail via wholesale distributors.

That means, if you fancy a special kind of brew, you will have to travel to where it is available.

Hicksville, OH, is our closest source for "Yuengling" beer. So we took a very enjoyable trip through Amish country and came back with a case each of "Lord Chesterfield Ale" and "Porter".

Prost !