Christopher
Stoll

Chippewa Lake Amusement Park

Chippewa Lake Amusement Park
A few weeks ago when we were Christmas shopping, my wife and I bought the book Weird Ohio, which had a lot of interesting stories about strange places in Ohio. We bought the book because we just plan on traveling around Ohio for our family vacation next year, and this would give us some more ideas on what to see. I was reading through the book and saw a lot of interesting places not far from Akron, including the Chippewa Lake Amusement Park.

I had heard of this abandoned amusement park before, but never had the chance to go see it. So, I mentally marked that as someplace I'd like to go see and then forgot about it.

Then, yesterday I read an article about five modern abandoned cities, and that made me think of the Chippewa Lake Amusement Park again. So, I decided to do a little more research on the park. I found out that the land has been sold to developers who plan on turning it into an 80-acre development called Chippewa Landing. So, I though that I better go visit the area before the wrecking crews get to it.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but most accounts said that it was possible to see some of the old rides from outside the fence. And, I wanted to take some pictures, but I didn't wanted to get busted for trespassing, so this sounded promising.

My oldest son and I made the half hour drive over to Medina county and started to look for the park entrance. Right off of Lake Road in Chippewa Lake we saw a street that was divided by a small concrete median with an old block sign frame on it, this was Main Street. We had a feeling that was the right road, so we turned down it. Next, we spotted some old street lights on the side of the road that looked liked the belonged at an amusement park, so we knew we must be close. Then, right in front off us we saw the roller coaster. It was locked behind the gates of a chain link fence with what seemed like hundreds of no trespassing signs. We respected the signs and just stood outside of the gates and took some pictures.

As we moved down the fence looking for a better angle to take photographs we started noticing the numerous holes in the fence. We were tempted to walk inside and take a look around, but decided better of it.

After checking out the main entrance, we decided to drive down some other nearby streets that seemed to dead end into the park property. On the next street over we were presented with a view of the rest of the roller coaster we had seen at the main entrance. It was quite impressive to see such a great structure rotting in the woods. It is hard to make out in the picture at the top of the post, but the curving vertical line is the tree entangled roller coaster.

I had seen some interesting photos of this old park on the internet, like ones of the old Ferris wheel, but those areas were not visible from outside the fence. It would be nice to be able to get some photographs of some of these rusting relics before the land is cleared, but I doubt that the owners would be willing to take the risk of having people walking around the decaying structures.

If you are interested in old curiosities like this, then I suggest you swing by and take a look before they tear the old place down.

Why Web Applications are the Future

Update: This post was written in 2008! So long ago. By now even the dustiest old IT manager knows about enterprise enabled SAAS solutions in the cloud.


It is largely assumed that most people know, as younger people know, that web based applications are the future. But, there are still many people, especially in large corporate environments, that I don't think fully appreciate this. Or, if they intuitively know that the web is the future, they don't understand why or how to get there in their enterprise.

When I speak of large corporate environments I am speaking of corporations that are not focused on developing software, large manufacturing corporations who use custom software to gain competitive advantages and therefore do not sell the software they develop. That is the type of company that I work for, so it is what I am most familiar with.

Background
I have been struggling to get a web based application development strategy implemented at my company, but to this point have not been successful. I feel that there are a few reasons for this. First, we are a manufacturing company and have had a stated goal of not developing software, so management largely turns a blind eye to internal software development. This has also caused software development to become somewhat decentralized outside of IT, and further complicates the issue. Second, we have so many legacy applications that the limited development resources are consumed with maintenance activities. Of course, in our case, this is really a symptom of a lack of strategy in general. And, finally, the point of this article, the management does not appreciate what web applications would do for them over traditional applications.

At my division of our company, our IT management decided many years ago to move to a strategy of utilizing intranet applications. The impetus for this switch was that users were creating applications that quickly grew outside of their ability to design and support, so IT was doing more work supporting poorly designed, user generated application. In many cases users would start by creating a simple Excel document, and as the scope grew they grew the complexity in their Excel spreadsheets. Once they reached the limits in Excel they switched to Access and began growing their application there. There is where the problems started coming for IT. Microsoft Access is not inherently scalable, and performs poorly over a WAN. So, the user solution was to create multiple copies of their Access databases. And, when IT got involved to assist with problems we would have to fix the problem multiple times for each copy of the original. Furthermore, the Access applications themselves were not initially designed for scalability or extensibility, so fixing issues was overly complicated. Therefore, IT made an upfront investment of rewriting these applications for the intranet in order to save time in the long run. And, that strategy has worked well.

In another division of our company they ran into the same issues with user created applications, but decided upon a different solution. Their decision was to create what amounts to a custom client-server version of Access. This worked well inside of the facility in which it originated. But, as it grew, problems with scalability began to appear. The program was still sending large amounts of data across the network, like Access. And, as the number of user of the application grew it started running out of server resources. The server portion of this custom application was designed to be scalable across server, but it had never been fully tested and it's designer had long left the company. So, this strategy did not resolve all of the problems exhibited by Access.

These two strategies were created before our divisions were brought under the same corporate umbrella. Now, we have two competing strategies for handling internally developed applications in North America, three if you include the official strategy of ignoring it. I, of course, am a proponent of web-based applications. So, I will explain why these types of applications are the proper approach in my opinion, and why I feel that the represent the future.

Fungibility
In my opinion one of the greatest strengths of web pages is that the server is detached from the client and they communicate via standard protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, and FTP. This flexible interchangeability on both ends of the connection certainly drove the popularity of the Internet to it's current ubiquitous state.

Any type of client hardware which supports these protocols can use a given web application. In practice, any hardware with a web browser can utilize a web application. Web applications are considerably "future proof" as next year's client hardware will likely still support web technologies. This gives a business flexibility when choosing which operating system or hardware they would like to use for their clients. Our company has a team of people who are constantly evaluating which IT hardware we will deploy, they have to be sure that the hardware they select will run the various applications that our business has. This process could be simplified if they only had to verify that the hardware came equipped with a modern web browser.

The infrastructure itself can also be changed. In theory, Microsoft's IIS could be replaced with Apache or some other web server. In practice this switch is not so simple, the server-side scripting language and existing data would have to be considered, but it is possible. This allows the technology services or infrastructure people to have flexibility in choosing their operating system as well as the physical hardware. It also opens up the possibility of outsourcing server space as well.

In my mind, web servers and web clients can be somewhat treated as a commodity, assuming that established standards have been used when designing the applications that run on them.

Maintainability
Properly designed web applications require no additional software on the client equipment. There is nothing for the IT department to update, install, and distribute on a regular basis. When changes are made to a website's structure, standard redirection techniques can be used on the server, no changes are required on the client computer.

Our company also has a team of people who update software packages and make sure that the latest versions of software are distributed. Switching to web-based applications would reduce this load.

Scalability
Properly designed web applications are inherently scalable by simply using standard network and web server infrastructure. There are numerous methods for spreading the load of a web based application, the specific strategy would depend upon the intent of the applications being used, but here are some example cases.

If a web server becomes saturated with requests on a regular basis, then another web server can be added that is basically a copy of the original. The DNS records could be updated to list both servers for the given web address, and users would be randomly spread over the different actual servers.

If an application is serving a lot of media, such as images or videos, then special servers could be set up just for serving up the large static content.

Conclusion
It seems that there would be an upfront cost to selecting a web application strategy, but it would pay off in the long run. A company might have to hire more skilled web technologies programmers, but it could possibly reduce the number of people supporting server and desktop computers. The business wouldn't have to spend as much time on IT overhead items like selecting hardware and upgrading software, it would spend more time on developing solutions that help it be more competitive. The keys to this strategy would be finding the right web technology developers and having a manager who understands the strengths of web technologies and is able to exploit them for the company's benefit.

Odinzale

My Imitation Christmas Ale is nearly nearly ready to serve. I have begun to bottle it, so now it only needs to condition for about a week in order to build up a proper level of carbonation. It's a light amber color with a slight amount of haze. My experiences brewing mead leads me to believe that at least a portion of the haze is from the honey. And, since real Christmas Ale is not crystal clear, I don't feel that this as a flaw.

As an experiment, I will reserve one gallon and let it lager for a longer period of time. I have a feeling that as the more complex carbohydrates in the honey are consumed by the remaining yeast it will become more clear. The alcohol content should also go up somewhat, but I am more curious as to the taste after lagering.

I have named this years recipe Odinzale, in honor of the Norse god Odin who may be the original ancestor of the modern day Santa Claus. My wife picked the name, and I created a new custom label for it. The description from the label follows:
Odin
(Óðinn, Wōđanaz, Wōđinaz, Wōden, Wodan)
Odin, the chief god in Norse paganism, is most likely the original ancestor of modern day Santa Claus. Odin was described as a tall old man with a long white beard. During the frigid nights of Yule he would ride his eight-legged horse through the sky, punish the evil, and reward the good. The Norse, looking to copy Odin's generosity, exchanged gifts during Yule. Norse children would fill their boots with carrots or straw and leave them near the fireplace as a gift for Odin's horse Sleipnir. In return Odin would leave gifts for the children.
If you are one of my friends and family who gets a sample of the brew, please kindly leave me a comment below to let me how it tastes for you. I appreciate any honest critique, just let me know how you stored it (in the garage, in the refrigerator, etc.) and how it was served (ice cold, 50 degrees, in a glass, straight from the bottle, etc.).

And, remember to read my homebrew drinking tips.

Enjoy!

Job Comparator - Version 4

On Thursday I published another version of my job comparison tool. The new version allows for jobs to be publicly shared. At first this seems like a bad idea, most people would not want to share all of their salary information. But, organizations might want to. It could give employers and recruiters a good tool for showing prospective employees what they offer. Then a candidate could privately do a comparison to see how good job offer is based on actual data.

I also fixed a few minor bugs and made some minor enhancements.

Homebrew Drinking Rules

Every time I share my home brewed beer with my friends and family I always remind them of a few simple rules that they should follow for a better experience. Most people are used to commercially produced beer which goes through more extensive processing than is feasible for most home brewers like myself. I do not yet have facilities to carbonate prior to bottling, nor do I have an expensive filtration system. So, to receive the best taste possible from my beer I submit the following tips:
  • Do not drink this beer directly from the bottle. Pour it into a clean, room temperature, glass container. Do not use a container that has previously been used for dairy products. Dairy products leave a residue that prevents the formation of a good head. It takes approximately nine runs through a dish washing machine to remove this residue.
  • Pour the beer out of the bottle in one continuous movement. Watch for any sediment at the bottom of the bottle and stop pouring before it comes out. While this mixture of sugars and dormant yeast contains many B vitamins, it does not look pretty, it can cause flatulence in some people, and can be a mild laxative. Commercial beer is artificially carbonated and does not contain this sediment.
  • Keep beer cool (below 50° F). In order to naturally carbonate a small quantity of yeast is left in the beer. In warmer temperatures this yeast will continue to consume sugars and produce carbon dioxide. Excess carbon dioxide will cause excessive foaming when beer is poured and will eventually cause bottle explosions. Cool temperatures cause the yeast to go dormant and settle to the bottom of the bottle.
  • Keep beer out of direct sunlight. Exposure to sunlight or fluorescent light will cause beer to oxidize faster. Oxidation is what causes beer to get a skunky character. It is the result of a photo-chemical reaction with hop and sulfur compounds.
  • Some beer will exhibit chill haze (cloudiness) when cooled. It is caused by proteins left over from the brewing process. As the beer warms, the proteins re-dissolve. Chill haze is only a cosmetic problem. You cannot taste it.
  • Unlike wines, most beers should be store upright to minimize oxidation and metal or plastic contamination from the cap.

Green is the New Frugal

Or is frugal the new green? It doesn't really matter, but it seems the two terms have almost become interchangeable lately.

Being in the automotive industry, our company has taken some fairly drastic cost reduction measures, at least in terms of large businesses. The company president has told us to bundle up because the heat has been turned down, and personal space heaters have been outlawed. We are starting to utilize the power saving features on our computers and monitors. The lights get shut off when we aren't using them, and much of the time we open the blinds and leave the lights off. Most people in the office don't mind because they understand that it helps the company save money and preserve jobs. But, it has become somewhat of a joke that we are just "going green".

Our company has supported Kaizan and efficiency initiatives for a long time, and much of these efforts have saved our company money while simultaneously reducing our impact on the environment. Years ago we implemented methods for recycling waste heat to warm the building, and replaced the sodium lamps on the shop floor with fluorescent lamps and skylights. But, this recession has made our company even more conscious of expenses and in the process more environmentally conscious.

Not only has our business become more environmentally aware, but many individuals have too. More people are brewing tea and bringing it into the office in reusable containers rather than buying drinks in albeit recyclable cans and bottles. In general it would seem that the use of reusable containers has risen around me. People have also been turning their thermostats down and reducing their fuel consumption. These people don't have to worry about being chided for being cheap because they are being green. It's a great alibi.

So, if anything positive comes out of this recession maybe it will a more solidified green movement in our country.

Calories in Christmas Ale

If my calculations are correct, then The Great Lakes Brewing Company's Christmas Ale has approximately 242 calories per 12 fluid ounces.

After looking through what search results have brought people to my site, I noticed that quite a few people have landed here in search of the number of calories in the Great Lakes Brewing Company's Christmas Ale. This is because for my Imitation Christmas Ale Recipe I show the number of calories in it. So, because I am curious, and to help these people out, I will perform an experiment. I will measure the final gravity of Christmas Ale (which of course requires that I drink one) and use the rest of the information I know about the beer to calculate the calories.

Alcohol(by weight) = 76.08(OG-FG) / (1.775-OG)
6 = 76.08(x-1.014) / (1.775-x)
6 X 1.775 - 6x = 76.08x - 76.08 X 1.014
10.65 + (76.08 X 1.014) = 76.08x + 6x
87.8 = 82.08x
x = 1.070

Now, we can calculate the calories:

C = 851(1.070-1)(1.070+3)
C = 242.45

If anyone sees an error in my calculations then please let me know.

Job Comparator - Version 3

Today my wife pointed out that she was not able to use the Job Comparator, my new tool for comparing earnings, without logging in. And, I said that was because you have to be logged in to save data. And, she replied, “why can’t you just disable saving when I’m not logged in”. What a brilliant idea. So, I have updated the application to allow people to use make job comparisons anonymously, then if they would like to save their data they must log in.

But, what happened to version 2? Well, there was just a little user interface imperfection in my first upload, and that was fixed in version 2. So, now, it is at version 3.