Saturday, August 25, 2012

Home beer brewing (because Tom asked me to)

Here's another in the newly created series . . . You Asked for It!

My colleague and once-time left-handed tennis partner Tom asked me to write about home beer brewing.

Credit: Wikipedia
Sadly, I have zero experience in this field, so I can only break down the components of his suggestion and tackle those to see what I can come up with.

A. I've never tried to make beer at home, but I have been known to drink beer at home. What sort of beer, you might naturally ask? Lots of different kinds. I've never been the sort of person who settles on one beer and drinks that to the exclusion of other choices. I like variety and I like to experiment with different kinds of beer.

Here are the brands that I have liked the most in recent years. Sorry, but these probably won't turn out to be terribly exotic. I'm not that creative.

  • There was a time when I was big into Molson. Some people say that Canadians are especially devoted to beer, but maybe that is just me remembering the McKenzie Brothers from my youth. Still, I liked the taste of Molson Light well enough and I've always found the Canadian maple leaf aesthetic to be a pleasing logo in a variety of contexts.
  • When Lynda and I visited San Francisco for our 10th wedding anniversary years ago, I drank Anchor Steam beer for the first time. I liked the taste and I especially liked the distinct bottle shape and labeling. Anchor Steam isn't found in every grocery store around here, but I have reliably found it in Giant Eagle and if I'm in a beer drinking mood that also combines with a hankering for nostalgia, I usually spend the extra $1.50 to take a drink down memory lane.
  • Samuel Adams beers are easy to find, so I often pick them. I especially like to get their variety packs and also like their autumn and winter seasonal beers. I don't usually go for a regular old Sam Adams Light, but there is nothing wrong with that either.
  • Speaking of seasonal tastes, during the summer I like the Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy beer on a hot day when I might be spending time outside for a cookout. The strong lemon flavor is a good choice.
  • Finally . . . lately I've been enjoying the Magic Hat Elder Betty beer. It's a quirky name and the flavor is interesting. It might just be my latest experiment, but its a good one--for now.
B. Secondly, when I think of home brewing, I think of bathtub gin. I've never made (or tasted) that, but I have used my bathtub for unconventional means.

Back in my high school band days, I'd occasionally commandeer the bathtub at home to clean my French horn.
 This is something you have to do every now and then--fill up the tub with water, pull all the slides out of the horn body, unscrew the valve covers, let soak. Then you take everything out to drain, dry off, reapply slide grease to the tubing, add new valve oil, etc.

If you are in a really industrious mood (or if you had a concert coming up, you might follow this maintenance up with a bit of silver polish and buffing to make the newly cleaned instrument shine and look impressive.

Where is my F-horn now? Down in the basement, awaiting the day I decide to drag it out and find how few notes I can still play.

Anyway, Tom . . . there's my answer to your suggested writing prompt. Thanks for the input and I hope you learned something new.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thoughts On Evil (because Tracy asked me to)

Sometimes when you ask the Internet for help, you get back answers you weren't expecting.
But here goes . . .

What is evil? Some would say that evil is this:
Credit: cowcaholic, on Deviant
But, I try to remember that he once began as a lonely, abandoned boy in an orphanage. Or some might say that evil is more closely related to this guy:
Credit: Lucasfilm, &
 But . . . he too was an abandoned boy who didn't get all the help he needed and was given the wrong tutelage by the wrong people.

(And then, there is this version of him, which might be evil or hilarious, depending on your particular point of view.)

And for some other people, maybe this is the most evil thing of all.
Credit: Diet of Worms
Maybe you don't like this style of painting. Maybe you don't like Godzilla. Maybe you're not in favor of Godzilla unleashing its wrath upon this simple hut bathed in such beautiful light. But is Godzilla being evil here? Can we truly know what is in Godzilla's mind?

As one of my favorite YA authors suggests, we need to try and imagine others complexly and accept the fact that life resists simplicity. So, I'm not sure about the true nature of evil. Even that "legitimate rape" dude isn't evil . . . he's just terribly misinformed and perhaps willfully ignorant and misguided. In our fevered media culture all of our positions must be rock solid and we must all be true believers. That rigidity is dangerous, certainly. Counterproductive, absolutely. But even that is not evil.

Maybe evil is focused, determined selfishness. An unwillingness to consider that our actions have consequences outside of ourselves . . . to fail to notice that we are not the center of any universe, not even our own personal ones that we wrap up in every day. There are others--people who struggle with their own problems. And we can help them if we are willing to imagine that their lives are just as worthy of consideration as ours. To refuse to do that is evil.

Thoughts From Park Benches

Every day I leave the office; every day I take some work task(s) to do. This is because I do have that much work to do now (& upcoming) that continuing it at home is a good idea. I also take it home as a backup, in case there is an unexpected sick child, a doctor's appointment, or something else that might demand I have productive options available.
Still, I don't usually do it. Either because I don't want to, or because I'm otherwise occupied with chaperoning kid activities after school. (Lots of softball happening in the next five weeks.)
But I always feel a little bad about the lack of extra effort. (Though I know I'm staying on task at work. There's just lots to do.)
Truthfully, my perspective has broadened as I've aged into this job. I know that all the hard work in the world won't always translate into completely smooth project. There are just so many other things out of my influence that I just have to roll with the daily ins-and-outs.
There is comfort in knowing--even if it also serves as justification.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Through the Years

Tomorrow begins another year of school for Sarah and Grace. I'll add another photo to the list of their first days . . . as they grow older, more able, more prepared to walk out that door for the first time--for real.

Sarah entering Kindergarten in August 2005
First day of 1st Grade for Sarah in August 2006

Sarah entering 2nd Grade in August 2007
First day of Kindergarten for Grace in September 2008

Sarah in 3rd Grade in September 2008

First day of 4th grade for Sarah in August 2009

First day of 1st Grade for Grace in August 2009

Grace in 2nd Grade in the Fall of 2010
Sarah in 5th Grade in the Fall of 2010

Grace at the end of 2nd Grade and Sarah at the end of 6th Grade in June 2011

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Re: The Chik-fil-A Controversy

Photo Credit: LA Times
I have a long history of enjoying Chik-fil-A's sandwiches. We didn't have any stores where I grew up in Tifton, Georgia. (Tifton didn't have a fancy mall--which was the only place you used to be able to find Chik-fil-A . . . back before they began expanding into stand-alone stores.) The closest Chik-fil-A to my hometown was 45 minutes away in Albany. As a boy, I usually went to Albany only to make my semi-annual visit to the orthopedic surgeon that oversaw my leg surgeries and therapies. I asked Mom if we could eat lunch at the Albany Mall so that I could have my favorite chicken sandwich after the doctor's visit. The chance to eat their chicken sandwiches as a special treat.

Now I can get a Chik-fil-A sandwich whenever I choose. (Note that I've tried the McDonald's "Southern" chicken sandwich and it is a pale pretender to the delicious flavor of the original Chik-fil-A offering.) But I am NOT going to go to Chik-Fil-A for lots of reasons.

1. I don't agree with Mr. Cathy's religious views on homosexuality.
2. I would rather he didn't use his resources to actively slow the efforts to improve the civil rights of homosexuals in the United States.
3. I don't want to support the corporation Mr. Cathy heads, in an effort to make my own small statement about what I believe is a discriminatory point of view.

I also know that most of the franchise owners of Chik-fil-A restaurants are individual owner/operators and are only tangentially connected to Cathy's corporate structure. Still, I think a statement can be made.

I am saddened and dismayed by the outpouring of "support" that this past Wednesday's Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day and what I think that continues to demonstrate about the state of equality in our country. Many people say that they stood in line to support free speech, but I believe that the free speech being supported discriminated against a "different" group of American citizens.

I stand for the notion that everyone deserves equality. The push of history will eventually bear me out, I think. The kid in my memories misses the taste of those sandwiches, but I, like our culture, have changed since then.

I would like it to change a little bit faster.