Coming Up for Air

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

John Cole over at Balloon Juice does a nice little "while I was away" piece. Pretty much sums up the fun I was missing in the past week as I was swamped with 2 weeks worth of late nights and long days.

A few news thoughts of my own to add to Mr. Cole's:

1) Try this beer. It is an especially lovely dubbel that's been around for a long time. I had some last night and was reminded of what a world-class example of the style it is. Corsendonk Pater Abbey Brown Ale. Belgian goodness.

2) Finally got around to bottling, fermenting and drinking this concotion. I must say that I am quite happy with it. It has a taste quite reminiscent of Killians. But Killians, being a lager, has a more pronounced hop-up-front with a grainier malt taste overall. Mine, being an ale, brought out fruity esters and more of the malt's sweetness than its graininess. That being said, it has the hints of what makes Killians so damn likeable. So far, it's been a big hit.

3) Just heard Spyrogyra's Wrapped in a Dream the other night. Masterful. One of the key tracks is Impressions of Madrid. Absolutely beautiful music.

4) Well no shit.

That about sums it up for now.


An Honest Man Can Feel No Pleasure...

Monday, December 11, 2006 the exercise of power over his fellow citizens.

--Thomas Jefferson, in a letter he wrote to John Melish (a friend and early American cartographer)

I love the quote, which is extremely relevant in today's circumstances. This idea from the true American revolutionary is the foundation of a good President's mindset. Leadership is not about the exertion of power.

However, the quote is all the more relevant given the death of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who clearly derived intense pleasure from the exercise of power. Some statistics, nay, evidence of brutal exercises of power over one's fellow citizens includes:

  • Overthrowing a Democratically-elected government in a violent military coup;

  • 17 years in power, unchecked;

  • $28 million of the Peoples' money hidden in personal accounts;

  • Approximately 3,200 people killed or "made to disappear;"

  • Thousands more tortured, detained illegitimately, or exhiled;

Just to name a few. Even the Wikipedia entry on him is less than flattering.

There is a burgeoning discussion of this dictator-cum-corpse in Mike's Neighborhood to go check out as well.

But what really gets me are the loads of Pinochet apologists. There is a swell of bloggers and opinion editors willing to excuse this brutal dictator because of the strength of the Chilean economy that he set up. Never would I expect, though, an NPR affiliate to be among the list of the apologists.

Sure, they list a string of atrocities. But the title of the piece is "Pinochet's Economic Legacy." Not "One More Dead Bastard" or "Good Riddance to a Brutal Dictator" but "Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining [followed by much hand-wringing and meek shrugs]." The article also has lovely musings like:

  • Many have criticized his brutal regime, but he leaves behind a tremendously successful economic legacy [emphasis added]

  • Pinochet [violently] seized power [from a legitimately-elected government] in Chile in a 1973 coup. He then turned his country into a laboratory for free market reform [good for him!]

  • Even Pinochet's worst critics admit his economic model has been a success [worst critics??? What the heck have his best critics said??? That he was pretty cool??]

Chile's economy is strong. But to include in a vicious dictator's eulogy in an apologetic sort of "sure he was bad, but he did make one good policy" is to excuse the murder, torture, lies and corruption that were endemic to his regime.

Better to just say that's he's dead and be done, rather than candy-coat and excuse his crimes against humanity.


Winter Beer Offering

Friday, December 08, 2006

So here we are in Michigan with snow on the ground, frost in the air and ice all around. Winter has hit with a vengeance.

All of the cold reminds me that it's time to start guzzling my favorite winter beer offerings; heavier, darker, sweeter offerings with higher alcohol and more minerals, malts and proteins to satisfy the lingering hunger of winter or to provide that warming glow we need in the wintery North to survive the harsh winter winds and deep snow and ice.

Or we could wear a sweater and turn the heat up, but is that as fun?

Today's winter beer offering is Michigan Brewing Company's Bavarian Dark, which is technically a Munich Dunkel Lager.

MBC's creation pours a rich dark brown with a slighty eggshell-white head; just barely off-white. Not too thick, about an inch, with decent retention. Held up to light, this lovely dark brown beer yields beautiful ruby highlights.

The beer smells exquisite. Big, sweet Munich malts, almost like bread crusts, with a strong showing of chocolate and toffee. Imagine a chocolate cake baking in the oven. There is just a hint of coffee in the background; not a dark roast or a bold roast, but just that hint of a coffee bitterness.

The taste is so warm and inviting, reminiscent of that huge mug of hot chocolate in front of your fireplace. The sweetness of the beer is not at all cloying but is up-front. It's a fantastic highlight of the Munich malt. The chocolate is right up there with it, having acquired a definite chocolate taste without actually adding bakers chocolate. There is also a pleasant roasted-nut taste in the background; chestnuts roasted on an open fire. The hops are there; perceptable but not overwhelming at all. The fine German Noble hop, found prolificly in Sam Adams Boston Lager, is used much more sparingly in this beer, which is meant to highlight the Munich malts.

The moderate carbonation makes this beer really easy drinking, and provides a slight alcohol warmth at the end for that pleasant toasty feel.

Not as smokey as a rauchbier, not as toasted as a Schwarzbier and not a massively heavy-sweet as a bock or doppelbock, this is a well-balanced, sweet, chocolatey beer meant to please and entertain and highlight the fine genetic miracle that is the Munich malt. While the kids drink hot chocolate on a cold winter evening, you get to drink MBC's Bavarian Dark.


Lame Duck

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sorry no posting lately. It is Michigan's Lame Duck session and I am morning to night, 18-hour days for the next week or two. All I do is get home and drop. I think I have a wife and kid, but only in the form of a lump under covers in my bed, and a lump under covers in a crib.

More posts when the Lame Duck finally drops dead.



Friday, November 24, 2006

The dust has settled. The house is clean again. The family has all left. My stomach finally feels close to normal. I actually feel a little like eating again.

Thanksgiving was a great hit this year. My kid was "on," the food was fantastic. My second attempt at deep-frying a turkey was a huge hit.

Of course, I fried it in peanut oil, heated to 365 (with about a 15 - 20 degree drop once the turkey hit it, and it only took a few minutes to get it back up to 350). The rub consisted of 1/4 cup of garlic powder, 1/4 cup of white pepper, 1 T of salt, 2 T of garlic salt, 2 T of sugar...simple, simple, simple.

But for the important part, the beer:

As an apertif, we had Sam Adams Boston Lager. Plain and simple, forward hops to tickle the tongue and a strong malt finish.

With the appetizers, we had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Big hit. It went incredibly well with the goat cheese and bakers chocolate-stuffed dates, the shrimp and spinach dip and especially the avocado and mango salsa (seasoned with cilantro and lime juice). The citrus hops and light-ropasted malt finish just cleaned-up, and the hops temselves cleansed the tonue so that each bite was like new. Perfect.

For dinner (deep-fried trukey, bread stuffing, meat stuffing, sauteed squash, sweet-potato/potato caserole, blanched and breaded green beans, carnberry sauce of all kinds and even some dishes that are a blur in the feeding frenzy), we drank Ommegang Hennepin and La Chouffe. Both of those Belgian-style Golden Ales went quite well with every dish. The 8% abv helped cut through the fats of each dish. The sweetness of the candi sugar and choice of malts for each beer blended perfectly with the residual sweetness in each dish (except the meat dressing, but the cloves in the dish fortunately made just enough of a match).

For dessert, besides for the standard pumpkin pie, we also had a pot-de-creme of very bitter, dark chocolate. We drank Rogue Chocolate Stout. The stout itself is amazing, but the chocolate flavor in it was completely overpowered by the strength of the chocolate in the pot-de-creme. Oh well. So we really couldn't taste the beer as much as we could have (or did with the pumpkin pie...that beer with pumpkin pie is like an especially beautiful marriage) otherwise. Next time, especially with such a potent dessert, I will try the Rogue Shakespeare stout. The bigger roasted malts and coffee-like flavors would probably stand out much better against such a rich chocolate.

As a digestif, as our stomachs rumbled and we drifted in and out of consciousness, we enjoyed Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barleywine-style ale. Big, robust, syrupy...quite like a port wine in every sense of consistency and taste. The perfect beer to put us into the post-dinner snooze.

All in all, the dinner and the beers were a huge hit, with the near-miss on the Chocolate stout. Can't always be perfect, but with the closeness of my family and the fun we all had, it really didn't matter.


Beer Tasting, BJCP-Style

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A good friend of mine, Mark, gave me an interesting beer from Lithuania and asked me to do an "official" beer tasting about it. The only way to be truly as objective as possible is to use the BJCP guidelines in order to rate the beer.

Following the guideline-style "adjudication" of the beer, I will add my own much more subjective editorial comments, full of snobbery to be sure.

Without further ado, my subject for tasting this evening, supplied by my good friend Mark, is Zhiguly Beer Grand, from Gubernija brewery in Siauliai, Lithuania.

The hard part here is that the BJCP Guidelines don't cover for what this style of beer is, which is a Euro Strong Lager. American Light Lager doesn't quite fit. Closest beer-wise would be a Bohemian Lager, in my opinion. Technically, this is European malt liquor...the Euro version of King Cobra or Colt 45. But given the region and brewing technique, I'd put this in the Bohemian Lager camp.

Presentation: Green glass 16.9 oz. bottle, boasting a 9.5% abv, poured into a British Imperial Pint glass. No freshness date apparent on the bottle. With 9.5% abv...who needs fresh?

Appearance: Pale gold, almost brilliantly clear. Yielded a 1" slightly off-white head; vaguely cream-colored. Shrank quickly to about 1/4" and dissipated from there. Very dense, but ultimately poor retention. 2/3

Aroma: The famous Saaz hop is present right up front; very typical Bohemian Pils smell right away. Earthy, somewhat cornhusk-scented; noticeably adjunct-heavy (I'd say corn). There is a lingering sweetness in the distant background. Mostly, however, what you get is huge alcohol. The alcohol pretty much burns away whatever else there was that is truly pleasant about a typical lager of this style. Way too much alcohol. 5/12

Flavor: Big earthy, spicy hop up front, as I'd expect from a beer of this general style. Definite cornhusk graininess, but that Bohemian "skunky-funk" like Pilsner Urquell (a wonderful commercial example...the gold-standard of Bohemian Lagers) is present. Then the alcohol hits. This is more of an alcohol warmth like you get in a solid stout or even an Imperial Pilsner or Double IPA. This is like a shot of vodka in a light beer. The hops and sweet malt backbone are completely overshadowed by a massive alcohol burn. 7/20.

Mouthfeel: Lighter-bodied than a true beer of this style, most likely from the use of adjuncts to lighten the beer and boost the alcohol content. Despite the big alcohol, it was not dry. Medium carbonation, appropriate to style. Leaves an unpleasant alcohol taste in the back of the throat with a strange, cloying sweetness. 3/5.

Overall Impression: This was tough, but no matter if I compared this to an American Light Lager, a German Pilsner or any other similar lighter lager, I'd get near this result. This is a European malt liquor for all intents and purposes, with a rushed fermentation. Alcohol of this proportion for a lighter beer than a porter or stout is better suited for the crazy American Double- and Triple-IPAs, or the newer Imperial Pilsner style (which Sam Adams does quite well). This beer deviates from American Light Lager and Standard Lager, especially in even with those, this beer is so unbalanced by the alcohol with absolutely nothing to compete with it. The "by-the-book" flavors of a Bohemian Pilsner were there, they were just utterly decimated by the alcohol and adjunct tastes. 4/10.

Total Score: 21/50. Drinkable, but there are serious flaws.

This beer is fine if you are out to get sloshed. There's not enough to taste here to make this a beer you sit and drink and enjoy. Like malt liquor, this beer's goal is to get people drunk. I sincerely hope that the procurer of this beer for me didn't pay more than $1.50, because this is imported as a .99 cent beer. And that's about says it.


And Speaking of Turkey Neck...

Cop humor strikes me as extremely similar to military humor; it's all about the well-placed and well-timed joke, usually of an insulting, disgusting or demoralizing nature. With professions like that, you just have to laugh at the things you're given, or you go nuts. Out of necessity, death, drugs, guns...all become part of what needs to be funny.

Take a look at the attached video clip. Did that cop really just happen to be leaving the house at that very moment? Or did he wait for the camera to go up on the shoulder and the reporter to start blabbing? Was there a fight inside that house about who got to walk out with the...implement on camera? Why was it put in the box (no pun intended) the way it was, instead of flat?

Cop humor. Love it.


Your Turkey Wants a Beer

Monday, November 20, 2006

As I begin, let me suggest that you readThe Brewmaster's Table by Garrett Oliver. The whole book is about tasting beer and pairing different beers with different foods. Excellent for so many reasons.

I bring this up because a common question around Thanksgiving, especially for people who are invited guests to such a dinner, is "what wine goes best with Turkey?"

The right answer is beer!

Beer was absolutely the staple beverage of the Pilgrims, being the most ship-worthy beverage in terms of being able to be produced in a large enough quantity to be the beverage of choice for the 4 - 6 month voyage. It has also been dicovered in reading the ship logs of the Mayflower that they put ashore in Plymouth (which was not their target destination) because beer supplies ran low.

When the Pilgrims landed and began to settle, a brewery was one of the first buildings to be erected. The reason: they were suspicious of water -- which was often tainted back in Europe -- and wine and spirits in the Mayflower's era were medical provisions and not for the table. Beer was a way, because of the alcohol content, to purify water to make it drinkable. This form of water purification goes even farther back.

So did the "first settlers" drink wine at the "first Thanksgiving?" Hell no! They drank beer!

We benefit now from such a massive variety of specialty craft beers to choose from that we can pair different courses with different beers. Following are my own recommendations for beer-food pairings. If you're looking for something to pair with the Bird other than a boring Chardonnay, consider some of these.

Nothing huge here; we don't want massive alcohol contents, huge hops or tons of roasted barley to kill the tongue so that we can't enjoy our dinner. For this course, as guests arrive, consider a nice light Pilsner or Lager; something lightly grainy and vaguely hoppy to give the tongue a little tease. Consider:

  • Warsteiner Premium Verum
  • Sam Adams Boston Lager
  • Brooklyn Brewery Lager
  • Weihenstephaner Original Lager

    Hors d'Oeuvre Hour
    Turn on the hops a little more for this course, as you will have probably several different appetizers of varying taste, oiliness, fattiness and complexity (even if it's just chips-n-dip and salsa!). The hoppy character in Pale Ales will go really well greens, cheeses, fruits and the like without overwhelming what you're eating (you never want your drink to be the star over your food). Try:
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Pale Ale
  • Anchor Liberty Ale
  • Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale
  • Bass Pale Ale

    And now for the bird. And the stuffing. And the potatoes. And... Now's the time to hit a strong-tasting ale with some residual sweetness to compliment the latent sweetness of the bird and the feast. Also, you want a boosted alcohol content, because the higher alcohol concentration will help cut through fats and starches to help you taste the beer and will cleanse the palate between bites. Try some Belgian-style beers here:
  • La Fin Du Monde
  • Delirium Tremens
  • Michigan Brewing Company Celis Grand Cru
  • Ommegang Hennepin or Rare Vos
    You could also look at more lagers (not American Light spiciness or taste), since the higher carbonation and hoppiness in lagers cleanses the palate between bites and the spicey hops compliment the dishes well. For instance, try Pilsner Urquell, which features the wonderfully-spicey Saaz hop. Peppery.

    The best course, in my opinion, for beer pairings is dessert. This is mainly because I am a massive fan of Stouts and Porters. Think big, huge and rich:
  • Founders Breakfast Stout
  • Great Divide Yeti or Oak Aged Yeti
  • Rogue Chocolate Stout or Shakespeare Stout
  • Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

    This is the kick-back, sip and relax drink, where belts and pants-buttons are undone and you watch your favorite football team lose terribly as you nod-off to a restful triptophan-induced slumber. Think smooth and numbing:
  • Dogfish Head Raison d'Extra
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
  • Rogue Old Crustacean
  • J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale (look for a vontage older than 1 year, so '04 or older)

    Again, this is by no means definitive, but hey, if you've never done this or are looking for something more interesting than the $9 sale wine at the local grocery, give this a shot.

    And be thankful to the Pilgrims for establishing a fine tradition of drinking beer with your feast!

  • The Unwanted Vacation

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    Posting is light today. Wife and kid are both sick with the barfs and the watery poops, so all I am doing is comforting sick people and cleaning up my son's barf and sodden diapers.

    Back next week with beer reviews, a Thanksgiving turkey recipe that involves beer, and bad political discourse.

    Wish me luck.


    Fridays Are For Beer

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Yet another lovely Friday in late Fall in Michigan can only mean it's time for today's Friday beer selection.

    To mix things up a little today, I thought I'd do an Overrated/Underrated beer selection. Which beer doesn't stand up to the hype? Which is the best beer you're not drinking?

    The most overrated beer may surprise you. It surprised me, for certain, as I lined-up beers and tried to figure which one, while still good (it is beer, afterall), just doesn't live up to the image it has portrayed.

    This beer is a solid beer with a long history; over 300 years of history to be exact. It is drinkable, and is generally considered a "session" beer, meaning you can sit down and quaff one after another all night.

    Don't get me wrong: this beer is a fine beer, but the image attached to it by millions in advertising dollars just doesn't hold up. It is the beer of choice for drinking establishments across the country (the world for that matter) who want to appeal to a more "sophisticated" drinker because this is marketed in a more sophisticated manner (even though it has a goofy ad campaign, it is based on a self-depricating humor meant to appeal to a "smarter" drinker, not a "farts-are-funnier" kind of drinker....farts are funny and always will be, by the way).

    It also comes with a very cultural, simple feel but was honestly, from its very conception, absolutely meant to dominate an entire country's drinking habits.

    For all that makes it (especially in the version available in the States) vaguely watered-down and lacking complexity among its closest competitors, it is still a drinkable beer that I enjoy in amazing amounts every week. It just doesn't live up to its "sophisticated" image nor its "uniquely homey" image and has honestly joined the world of the Macro-brews, which it was always meant to.

    Most Overrated beer: Guinness.


    The most underrated beer is one that ought to be proclaimed from the mountaintops, but is strangely hard to find despite how prolificly it is brewed.

    This beer is from a brewery in Michigan that continually gets overlooked, but regularly has huge hits. It falls victim to the prolificness of Dragonmead, the challenge of Founders and the distribution power of Bells.

    This beer is hugely complex. Pure dark roasted barley, big roasted flavor, backed up by a Chardonnay-oak flavor. Sticky-sweet vanilla with a hint of bourbon. Pure black, thick lacing. Imagine a vanilla latte.

    Fine by lots of standards. The brewery itself projects no image at all, but stands by its truly impressive beers. The beers define who they are, not overmarketing. They are tragically underrepresented even in Michigan's beer market.

    The best beer you're not drinking, but you damn-well better start:

    New Holland's Dragon's Milk.

    Of course, Blogger is not accepting images right now, but bear with me.

    Buy this beer. Support this brewery. These guys need to know how outstanding their beers are. The microbrew market is a tough market, and guys with real winners need all the support and love they can get.
    Check them out here.


    There is a Song for This...

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    What's the name of that song? The one where you would use it to wish someone goodbye? I think you can hear it from the Whitehouse lawn...

    So Bush says it's a decision they came to as they continually reassess Iraq. Mm Hm. Sure it is, Mr. President. And that they discussed this over the weekend but decided to wait until today to announce it so it didn't interfere with elections.

    No...I see they did it because of the elections.

    Some good news, at least.


    So, Now What?

    I guess I have to divorce my wife, marry my buddy Greg, get a cloned baby, murder another one for its stem cells so we can get paid by underground scientists for them, give all our money to the government and offer my job to the first illegal immigrant I see.


    More Election Night Bullshit

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    So here I am at home with my kid in bed as my wife galavants from victory party to victory party. Couldn't get a sitter. So I have CNN, NPR, Fox, and my computer on all at once. This is a real war room over here, covered in scraps of paper and empty beer bottles. It smells vaguely of sweat and fart.

    At about 8:15, my buddy in Colorado called. Apparently, all of the voting computers in Denver shut down. He stood in line for 2 hours. As of right now, as I type this, they are still down. Voters in Denver have gone home.

    9:23 CNN calls the Stabenow - Bouchard race in Michigan. Debbie apparently retains her seat. I think it's a little easrly since the good numbers aren't in yet.

    9:40 My buddy Hoss from Colorado calls. Screams into the phone (that's just his natural tone of voice) that he thinks Dems take 7 Senate seats (I said 5) and 32 House seats (I said 22) on the federal level. Well, with Santorum and a few others down, that really leaves Montana as the big swing, maybe Tennessee. He says Dems take those 2, plus Colorado, putting them at 7. I tell him to go smoke more rope.

    9:52 The supporters of the K-16 ballot initiative in Michigan concede defeat. Prop 2, the anti-affirmative action initiative, is still too close to call.

    10:07 In Michigan, it seems Republicans on the state level have conceeded a few of the seats they thought they'd lose, but are retaining some of the seats that were in danger. Looks like state house/senate may be a wash...

    10:15 On my 3rd Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. 21% ABV, by the way. It's getting hard to type.

    11:00 Dems in the Michigan House stand to gain 4 seats. Jesus.

    11:14 Make that 5.

    11:45 6? Fuck off.

    12:10 So, on the national level, I see that Dems have 18 of the 15 needed for the House and 3 of the 6 for the Senate. I never thought that the national-level grumpiness would ever have trickled down to the state level.

    1:06 Hammered. Going to bed.


    Election Day Pundit Bullshit

    Allow me to firmly place the Hat of Self-Importance upon my brow and project a few ideas on election day wit and wisdom as it progresses along.

    By way of qualifications and resume', given my particular line of work, I am great at sounding like I know what I am talking about when I truly don't. So take this with a grain of salt. And by grain, I mean one of those Morton's cardboard containers with the little metal flippy top.

    Dems will take 22 seats, up 7 from the 15 they need to take control of the House. Comfortable margin indeed. Split power in the Senate? No. Dems miss it by 1. Racism wins the day in Tennessee.

    In Michigan's races, for the federal level, all incumbents win. The only close-call is the Walberg seat. Schwarz made the cutoff date to register as a write-in. This sends his base into a tizzy, and reduces the total votes Walberg gets. It could put Renier in striking distance. Not holding my breath, but there is an outside chance.

    BUT: it's raining in Michigan. More exactly, it's raining in the Democratic strongholds of Lansing and Detroit. Dems stay home, because that's what they do when it rains (no kidding). Where is it sunny today in Michigan? Grand Rapids. Of course.

    Given that, Granholm, the Democratic Governor, wins reelection by a narrow margin; maybe the same margin she won by 4 years ago against challenger Dick Posthumus, which was about 4 points. When you win by a margin that small, there is plainly no "mandate" set by the voters. I'm talking to you, W.

    Attorney General Cox and Sec'y of State Land retain their posts without much of a problem. Land has done an amazing job with Michigan's antiquated voting systems. Also, she has reduced the cliche'ed lengthy visits to the Secretary of State offices from a total and wild tragedy to only a minor inconvenience; from two broken legs to a couple of badly-placed mosquito bites. She's done this by offering as many services as possible, including license renewals of all sorts, online.

    General Cox's messaging around deadbeat dads and other issues plays very very well, even though that's not really what an AG is for. But since nobody knows what the Hell an AG is for, he's doing a fine job by all accounts, and he really has. Lots of revenue into the state and has streamlined the department quite well. Plus, lotsa deadbeat dads are paying their due, which is fine by me.

    Control of the House and Senate on the state level remain in Republican control. All of the movement and grumpiness in Washington does not at all translate to the local level where people see their Reps doing a fine job of scaling-back spending and cutting taxes but providing smart services. For all the complaining and bashing, the Guv and State Legislature have done a decent job of passing policy compromises that generally make sense, except for the stuff about a month before they took a break for the elections. But everyone has to campaign on something. The House and Senate Dems are able to narrow the margin a bit more, making it a little harder to be completely blown-off.

    Proposal 1 fails. It is weird and complicated to some voters, and on ballot initiatives, the rule of thumb is when in doubt, vote no.

    Proposal 2 fails by the slimmest of margins. There are enough people who find value in affirmative action programs and enough people confused enough by it (remember, confusion = no) to have the "no" prevail by a slim margin.

    Proposal 3 fails. I think it's dumb. The legislature and the Guv already said "yes" by passing and signing the ability to hunt Mourning Doves. But it will fail. There are enough folks that think it's silly to hunt 2.5 ounces-worth of meat.

    Proposal 4 passes. Keep the Government's hands off my damn property.

    Proposal 5...passes. For all the trouble and chaos it will create in upcoming budgets, with having to plug a $500 billion gap (on top of the $1.9 billion gap created by the elimination of the Single Business Tax) in the state budget to cover it, enough people will want to bolster and constitutionally protect education funding to pass it.

    This is all bullshit. I am guessing and am flinging averages between polls I have read to come up with my thoughts. I have also added about every rumor I agree with into these thoughts. We'll see after 8:00.


    Go Vote

    If you are here, reading my blog, and haven't voted yet, go vote.

    Then come back and read my astounding wit and wisdom. Until then, you are not allowed to read my blog until you vote.

    I'll blog later with thoughts and general punditry.

    Go vote.

    Live in Michigan and don't know your polling location? Go here.


    News Round-Up and Open Thread

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    For all 7 of my readers (and all 2 of you who care enough to leave comments):

    There is so much going on today that I can't fully blog each one, but there are several things that all bear at least a mention and a snark.

    As Bush stumps for candidates, he is pretty unwelcome in states where the race is close enough that his presence could actually hurt the Republican. Solid strategy from the politicos, but how sad are things for you when your own party has to worry about whether or not the President of the United States will hurt your chances for victory?

    So Hussein was sentenced to death on Sunday. I have heard great arguments from both sides...not whether or not he is a guilty fleabag of contempt - that's a done deal. He sucks. But from the camp that believes his death is an important gesture, befitting someone as dangerous and connected as he, and the side that says that violence is no solution to violence, and his death may spark more violence. For example, this from a Sunni (who don't want him killed, by the way):

    "Today's sentences were a death sentence on righteousness, and this makes it obligatory to take the revenge for Iraq," said the man, 29-year-old shopkeeper Ibrahim Yahya, joining other Sunnis in jabbing rifle muzzles and pistols in the air in angry protest.
    What do I think? He's better off dead. Why? This:
    AA white-haired, gray-robed man in his 50s, who identified himself only as Abbas, walked among them holding up the swaddled bones of his son Hassan. "Saddam took my sons from me," Abbas said. He began crying. "What was the crime that my son committed? He was only 4."

    Color me doubtful:
    Hussein, as he was read his verdict:
    "Long live the nation! Down with the criminal invaders! Down with the spies! Down with the occupiers!" Hussein declared, thrusting his finger in the air, his body shaking with rage.

    "Go to hell! You and the court!" Hussein shouted. "You don't decide anything, you are servants of the occupiers and lackeys! You are puppets!" [from WaPo]
    Then later, from Hussein's lawyers:
    Saddam "knew that he would be sentenced to death and wanted me to pass on this message to the Iraqi people and to the whole world after the verdict was announced," Khalil al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Baghdad. "His message to the Iraqi people was 'pardon and do not take revenge on the invading nations and their people'," al-Dulaimi said. [USA Today]
    Yeah. I bet that's exactly what he saidd

    From WaPo: It's Official. The campaign season and all of its ads and robo-calls will become completely intolerable tonight. I don't think I will turn the TV on. Speaking of robo-calls, check this our from Balloon Juice. True? Big deal?

    From Yahoo News: The title of the article says it all: Naked Man Arrested for Concelaed Weapon. There is only one option for concelment in that case, folks. But the horrid part is that the firemen were called, and one of them, cross-trained as an EMT like so many local governments do, had to remove it. "Hey Newbie! I got a job for ya. Bring the gloves..."

    From the New York Times: Apparently, the U.S.S. Intrepid wouldn't make it out of the harbor in NYC today. There's a joke in here somewhere about the Intrepid's trepidation.

    Fun stuff.


    Stop Trying to Help

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    I thought about a few more titles for this post, which included "Fuck This Guy." Thanks to John Cole over at Balloon Juice for bringing to our attention this greasy little fuck named Sey[mour] Hersh.

    This is the guy who, in the 60s and covering the Vietnam War as an investigative journalist, uncovered some "atrocities" being committed by AMerican Servicemen and used the footage and reports to turn American sentiment against the war. Of course, the side effect was turning American sentiment against many of the Servicemen as well, but hey. I bet Mr. Dickbag was willing to ignore that consequence as he climbed up the ladder of fame.

    Well, here he is again, now trying to turn sentiment against the War in Iraq by shocking footage of American "atrocities." Here's a little gem for you:

    If Americans knew the full extent of U.S. criminal conduct, they would receive returning Iraqi veterans as they did Vietnam veterans, Hersh said.

    “In Vietnam, our soldiers came back and they were reviled as baby killers, in shame and humiliation,” he said. “It isn’t happening now, but I will tell you – there has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq.”
    First of all, Hersh, thanks but no thanks. I don't know if you've seen the 32% approval rating for Bush and the disappointment expressed by Americans at the job he and Rummy are doing in Iraq, but sentiment is pretty much turned over here already. We don't need your fucking help.

    Second, this is not about our troops. This is never about our troops. Turning sentiment in a war...a not about a "scathing expose'" on American troop conduct. It's about the conduct of the people who are accountable for a miscued war: the President, his appointees and the Legislature who enabled it. Blame for anything belongs there, not with people who bleed, cry, pray, vomit, sweat and starve every day to simply hope that they won't be the one who dies that day.

    This is not about American troops gone awry, and it never was Mr. Hersh. Take your fucking Pulitzer (a Pulitzer won, by the way, by villifying our troops) and stick it as far up your wrinkled ass as you can.

    Cole then supplies us with this article from the New York Times. This article is a deeply moving, accurate picture of the mentality of our troops and what they face. More importantly, it's about how they truly conduct themselves. Read it. It's worth it. It nearly moved me to tears. Every Marine who has been activated...every single one...remembers, among many things, their platoon's Doc. That'll make sense when you read the article.

    So there you go, Hersh. Thanks for all your help turning the tide against something for which tide turned a year ago. Thanks for all your help to try to reestablish American civilian hatred of our servicemen. Felt good to you during the Vietnam conflict to do that? Did it?

    Kerry's comments certainly paled in comparison to this sludge's comments. Kerry's no danger, he's just aloof. This guy, this egotist, is the one that hurts. Make sure he fully understands that he is not in my camp, your camp, or anyone's camp. He's alone.


    A Bite of the Apple

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    God is indeed a personal affair. My own journey has taken me past several stops until I finally found one where I was comfortable in what a "relationship" with God meant for me.

    The hard part, though, has always been articluating why that separation between Church and State is necessary and more importantly even possible when someone has at least my commitment, let alone much heavier views. Certainly, someone would consult God on their own actions. We see it with athletes, praying for a win. We see it in our troops, praying for peace or not to die or for safe passage.

    So it is hard to say to a politician that they somehow have to separate that view. Certainly, giving the benefit of the doubt to some whom are truly spiritual, our Congressional Representatives would pray for guidance on how to treat an especially contentious issue.

    In fact, there is nothing wrong with seeking a higher power's assistance with issues that seem too large for us to handle, or too important, or too confusing. That's what we have beliefs for! That's what God wants us to do!

    It is in that where I began to understand, then, how a separation between Church and State works, and why. And a short, thought-provoking post from Kun Fu Monkey.

    Whether allegorical or absolutely true, Eve bit that apple and so did Adam. And suddenly, bliss became reality. We saw things the way they are, and applied our own interpretation to them. But that became our gift! Reason and doubt became what we got: the ability to understand our universe and the ability to question God and become stronger in our faith because of it. If we weren't going to have bliss, then by God (no pun intended), we'll come to appreciate creation by unlocking its weridest and most complex mysteries rather than just by child-like wonder.

    So then how do we get top the necessity of Church and State? It is not in that as soon as you are elected, you have to become blind to faith. Impossible, and unconstitutional (besides for prohibiting establishment of religion, it too prohibits quelling the free practice thereof). The separation is said very well in the post linked above:

    Once one side of the political debate claims God, then their opponents are against God. A "good heart" matters more than the facts. To change policy is to reflect doubt in God's plan. To question the mortal, fallible men in authority is to question God himself.
    That's it. When one side of the debate claims sole access to God, the other becomes evil.

    Moreover, as I pointed out in an earlier post, blind faith causes us to ignore what we see as true right before our eyes. Thus, when the simple fact that someone is faithful supercedes the truth as it is seen and written, we lose.

    And worst of all, when one side has claimed God, claims access to truth through simply being faithful and moves Government along those lines, then as it is pointed out above, changing the plan or agenda becomes literally changing the will of God. That is why there is a wall between Church and State, as Thomas Jefferson put it. Not to exclude faith from our daily lives, or even when determining how an individual may act on a policy issue. It is to keep one side from claiming all access to faith, and thus destroying public policy (and lots of other issues) debate because there can be no debate. Public policy is not tied to God, as much as we like to think it is "because we prayed about it." Interestingly, when 10 people pray about one issue, you get several different answers. It is created by men, who are fallible by nature. We bit the apple, remeber, and gained and lost some things because of it. But by having a one-sided debate on an issue that claims sole access to God, we establish one single religion and only one correct viewpoint. Remember what we think was so unpalatable about much of hard-lined, conservative Islam?

    Kevin Phillips, in American Theocracy, puts it when when he says, to paraphrase, that not applying reason to an issue because of religion is easy, because you never have to learn anything new. Therein lies the continuation of this thought: there is only one correct viewpoint, and any other ideas become unworthy of consideration. How does that advance public policy? How does that advance civil rights? How does that advance medical research?

    It doesn't. Enjoy the bite of the apple we received, and use it to advance public policy.


    Don't Believe the Hype - Friday Beer Blog

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    I decided to give-in to the commercial hype and try some Budweiser Select. My overall impression: absolute boredom. Not disgust, not violent fits of rage, just boredom. Like your least favorite college class, or a staff meeting. Or Anna Karenina. No...worse. Wuthering Heights boring.

    The facts:

    The beer poured a pale yellow, worse than the pale yellow of last week's post. More like hard-water yellow. Mineral water yellow. Just pale and transparent. It didn't have so much of a head to it as simply lacing on top of the beer. Normally, lacing is reserved for the sides of the glass. Not so with this beer. Consider this beer's head more of a comb-over than a real head.

    What did I smell? I think CO2. I think there was ahint of adjunct, like corn. I could not discern any grain. So what did I smell? Nothing, really. I smelled the smell of boredom. Like a house with no cookies in the oven. Like a hospital room.

    I could go all-out and include words to describe the taste like "crisp," "sharp," and "bite," but that's all there is. Nothing unique, especially for a mass-produced beer. Honestly, when I compared it to regular Bud, I tasted no difference. Imagine the joy you get out of drinking filtered, room-temperature water. That's the joy I got here. I tasted some roasted corn. I tasted some carbonated water. What I truly tasted is a total lack of character. This beer is that guy at work who doesn't tell jokes and eats cheese sandwiches by himself at lunch. This beer is the person whose idea of a good time is putting together a puzzle of puppy dogs. Rice cakes with no topping.

    So they found another way to market really boring beer. This is a total sleeper. It is so boring that I can't even come up with a clever post. It is just plain milquetoast backed by a multi-million-dollar ad campaign. Zzzzz....


    One of These Things is Much Like the Other

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    I know the whole anger-at-Lieberman thing has taken a bit of a back seat for the time being, but something just occurred to me. Just looking for some input on this. Anyone see the similarities between Joe Lieberman and the Mouth of Sauron? Especially in the mouth-al area?

    Have a look.

    Holy Joe:

    The Mouth of Sauron:

    Just me, or similar?


    On Staying the Cut and Run Course from Civil War

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    First, watch this clip. The current political dialog the White House is trying to have is about how Stay the Course somehow meant a flexible "strategy" in Iraq, and that our Iraq policy has always had in a built-in level of flexibility.

    Now go check out a few more clips from this post over at Think Progress from Dan Bartlett, the White House counsel, and some more video clips of Bush repeating his Stay the Course strategy. Bartlett claims that we change our tactics weekly (which I will address in a moment), but that we still won't cut and run. Given that, we still have "never had" a stay the course policy.

    Now consider Tim F's comments over at Balloon Juice. A worthy thought from Tim:

    I would add that constantly changing strategy is what people do when they have no strategy at all. People strategize in order to anticipate what the enemy will do and build plans to account for it. The fact that this administration plainly acknowledges now that they cannot see one step ahead of our adversaries in Iraq should be taken as nothing less than a total failure...
    Yes. Exactly. Our strategy is not a deft change of tactics to meet a sly foe. It is a weekly stab-in-the-dark at how to end the violence and establish a viable government.

    This is nothing....nothing....against the troops on the ground and their commanders. See, when they change their own tactics, it is actually indeed a deft response to a sly foe. That's what we train and pay those people for. But they appear to be hamstrung by a complete lack of overall political strategy. When you fight a war, you give your troops an endgame. Since folks in the Administration were recently quite fond of World War II analogies, it's like this: the "strategy" wasn't to run around and whack Nazis wherever until they got tired and wanted to quit. There was a firm plan in place for when and where we wanted to beat them and, more importantly, how Democratization was to be handled in the ensuing power vacuum. Our troops and politicians had a goal.

    But our troops right now have no endgame for them to shoot for (no pun intended), save for a snazzy sound bite. Sound bites make horrible endgames.

    Here's another quote, care of Balloon Juice:
    Let’s be clear – if all we’re doing is maintaining the same level of forces and trying to play “whack-a-mole” with insurgent attacks in multiple cities, then we are not “adjusting to what the other side is doing.” As Philip Carter notes, if we aren’t pushing forces out into the cities under fire, getting our best troops to act as advisors to the Iraqi units, and seriously address the political and economic issues in Iraq, then we’re not going be successful.[John Sigger's Armchair Generalist]
    We are forced into a constant series of reactions, which is the weakest position to be in, at least according to such dimwit strategists as Sun Tzu.

    So, to sum up: we never had a policy of Staying the Course. We said "Stay the Course" but that meant in more general terms. What we do have is a flexible strategy built around that fun little whack-a-mole game.

    Great. So far, so good.

    Not really. Consider this soundbite from an NPR report this morning. The refulsal to call the situation in Iraq a civil war is actually hurting us more than the political damage that will be done by calling it civil war. By calling it as such, the United States will be in a stronger position to leverage the neighboring countries into coming toether for a cohesive resolution to the sectarian violence in Iraq and a swifter, more solid reemergence of Iraq. Right now, it's our problem, and they're happy to let us fight it. But as soon as it becomes a civil war, the very term is enough to pressure surrounding countries (Turkey, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, et. al.) into tackling the much larger issues that are as yet unsolved: infrastructure, security, government makeup to name a few. The report makes interesting contentions that are really worth taking action with.

    Our current strategy of making our troops patrol the same streets over and over, dying at 100 a month, isn't working. That is neither a strategy nor a tactic, from a foreign policy point of view. It is from a military standpoint a tactic. A strategy is what we hope to accomplish through our tactics. But with no discernable strategy, save for Stay the Course soundbites, makes our troops' tactics empty and leaves us nowhere to go. So while our civilian leadership figures out what exactly it is that Stay the Course means and what our strategy (not tactics) should be, it seems perfectly fine to sacrifice our troops until we get to that point. That's just gross.

    What we see if an Administration grasping at straws to save face rather than actually figuring out how to win this, which we can. But as we have seen, people who have a plan are admonished publicly or cowed into submission. Consider this reading list on how this Administration has discounted all of the good advice from qualified people in terms of a blind political goal, which itself is even failing, at least in the face of upcoming mid-term elections. Then go have a high-gravity beer. I suggest Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA or Great Lakes Brewing Company Blackout Stout. For those of you on the East and West Coasts, find a big bomber of Stone Imperial Stout.


    Friday Beer

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    This pretty much sums up this week's selection:

    This week, I had the distinct displeasure of sampling Crazy Ed's Cave Creek Chili Beer.

    I provide you with a picture of this beer so that you will know what to avoid. Consider the inclusion of this picture more of a mug shot than a photo. Like when you go to the Post Office, they show you mug shots so you know who to avoid and more importantly, who to report if you see them. Same concept.

    There was nothing redeemable about this beer.

    It poured a urine-sample yellow; the kind of urine sample that says you're well-hydrated. Pale yellow, little warm ring of fizz around the top. That kind. Strangely, as it poured, it had a slight greenish hue to it, most assuredly from the festering chili pepper slowly rotting in the borttom of the beer. The worm on the bottom of a tequila bottle is macho. The chili pepper rotting in this beer? Offensive.

    All I smelled was chili. There was a vague insipid lager smell, but mostly, this was completely overshadowed by the chili. This should have been where I drew the line.

    The taste was...polluted. Awful. All redeemable tastes of malt and barley were burned to a crisp by the overpowering chili taste. And by redeemable tastes, I mean like drinking an ice-cold Busch Lite at a tailgate on a freezing morning in late November. That kind of redeemable taste: just glad you can't taste it. Here's where they really get you, though. This beer coats not only your mouth but your entire throat with a burning rage that is chili pepper. Remember how you use beer to put out the flames of, say, a hot bite of wasabi or some toasty Indian curry. Well, this beer is that food and there is simply no hope.

    Understand: it's not that it's hot. Hot is fine. It's that this tastes like spoiled cheerios covered in red papper flakes.

    This beer is so undrinkable that it is tragically funny. I look back on this disastrous occasion and chuckle about it, the same way I do when I look back on that time an RPG went off over our heads or that time I totaled my car.

    Stay away from this beer.

    I imagine that in Hell, this is what they serve.


    No! I Said She Was F***ing Goofy!

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Great punchline from a great joke about Mickey and Minnie.

    Anyway, check out this article about a little back-room trist with your favorite Disney characters. The mere visual of this had me laughing out loud.

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday said it took "appropriate action" against employees at its Paris theme park who were caught simulating sex while dressed as Disney characters in a digital video that has received wide attention on the Internet.
    The video shows Minnie Mouse struggling to free herself as she is grabbed from behind by Goofy and then a giant snowman.

    Later, Mickey Mouse simulates sex with the snowman and Goofy does the same with either Chip or Dale, the chipmunks, as laughter is heard on the tape.

    And thanks heavens for You Tube for supplying the video.


    As always, Around the Keg is supplying you with the best, most tasteful entertainment.


    Weed Whakers


    OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of 10-feet (three metre) high marijuana plants.
    One of the funniest parts about the whole story (which is in itself hilarious):
    Even successful incineration had its drawbacks.

    "A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hiller said dryly.
    Go read the quote from a soldier right at the end of the article. Too funny.

    Thanks, as always, to the guys at LLPN and John Cole's Balloon Juice for the links.


    Today you people are no longer maggots. Today you are Marines.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Thanks to the fine people over at Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Nachos, who provided this link from Kevin Drum, I read this fantastic letter from a Marine in Iraq. It's a letter home from an Intel officer and is full of fantastic tidbits from overseas.

    What I love most about it is its frankness, expressed in ways that only Marines can express: raw, uncensored, straight to the point.

    Some of my favorite tidbits, with my comments in bold:

    --Most Surreal Moment - Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. I had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.

    Midgets are always funny. Midgets and monkeys.

    --Most Profound Man in Iraq - an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines (searching for Syrians) if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied "Yes, you."

    --Worst City in al-Anbar Province - Ramadi, hands down. The provincial capital of 400,000 people. Killed over 1,000 insurgents in there since we arrived in February. Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry. Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. I suppose it was no accident that the Marines were assigned this area in 2003.

    See that? He rarely sees Ramadi in the news. Hmmm...

    --Best Piece of U.S. Gear - new, bullet-proof flak jackets. O.K., they weigh 40 lbs and aren't exactly comfortable in 120 degree heat, but they've saved countless lives out here.

    --Best Piece of Bad Guy Gear - Armor Piercing ammunition that goes right through the new flak jackets and the Marines inside them.

    I remember one thing they told us before we entered combat was that a bullet couldn't kill you if it went straight through you, so if you get hit, keep running and fighting. Sure, there's little truth to it, but it made us feel invincible, and that's all that mattered to us. Call me Superman, and I'll be Superman.

    --Most Surprising Thing I Don't Miss - Beer. Perhaps being half-stunned by lack of sleep makes up for it.

    Someone send this Marine some beer, stat.

    --Biggest Hassle - High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and "battlefield" tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no affect on their preconceived notions of what's going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they've been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.

    --Biggest Outrage - Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest offender - Bill O'Reilly - what a buffoon.

    See that? Tell Condi and Rummy to stay away and tell O'Reilly to shut the fuck up.

    Go read the whole letter. There are so many more great thoughts in this letter home, some profound, some profoundly sad, some funny. But the best part of all is that it eloquently reflects the thoughts of the people who are actually over there doing the deed. It's Hell (in his opening paragraph, he even describes it as a level of Dante's Inferno), but he's so proud of the effort the Marines put into it. The distinction is that Marines are re-enlisting because they want to be with the other Marines. It's not about a war on terror, as I read the thoughts and apply my own understanding from being a grunt; it's about being a Marine in a brotherhood. The justice behind the war is not the concern. Not leaving anyone behind is the concern.

    Semper Fi, Marines. Come home. We don't want to see any more of this:

    --Saddest Moment - Having the battalion commander from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines hand me the dog tags of one of my Marines who had just been killed while on a mission with his unit. Hit by a 60mm mortar. Cpl Bachar was a great Marine. I felt crushed for a long time afterward. His picture now hangs at the entrance to the Intelligence Section. We'll carry it home with us when we leave in February.


    Friday Beer Blogging - Turn Out The Lights

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Oh, today's beer is a personal all-time favorite offering from the Great Lakes Brewing Company. It is non other than Blackout Stout.


    This lovely beer pours Goth black. Opaque. About a finger-thick dark tan head, like what you get on a Cappuccino, rests on top. The lacing, also very cappuccino in its color, is as plentiful as an antique curtain.

    The aroma is pure brilliance. Coffee, espresso, dark chocolate, black patent roasted malt, a little whole wheat bread, heavy fruit (like a prune), and a really subtle, mellow hoppiness. Remember how Bugs Bunny was dragged along by an aroma that made itself into little fingers that beckoned him along? Yeah. That's this. What's Up, Doc?

    The complexity of this beer upon hitting the tongue is like quantum physics. It all starts right up front with the core taste, the atom if you will, of dark roasted malt. But this atom of bitterness is made up of so many smaller and more complex pieces: espresso, bakers chocolate, brown sugar, walnuts. Oh, but the parts break down even smaller and more complex: sherry or port, potent alcohol. The mildly bitter hops flow seamlessly into the bitterness from the dark roasted malts like string theory. As we go from quanta back to the world as we perceive it, it is about a perfectly-blended mixture of tastes as you'll find, where one is no more strong than the next. Everything plays around one central theme.

    Definitely a full-bodied beer, with a slight, tingling carbonation. Slick mouthfeel, slightly oily, but warmed and dissipated quickly by the alcohol.

    I fell in love with this beer from the first taste. I could not perceive any off-flavors, and I am impressed with the work that must have gone into this beer. With the delcate blend of otherwise dominant tastes, a lot of love went into making this beer.


    "...We Found it In Ourselves..."

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    I listened to an interesting vignette this morning on NPR from a Jewish gentleman who served in the U.S. Army in World War II. It encapsulated for me what this whole terror/torture bill means, and why I feel so damn betrayed by some of the folks who voted for it.

    To set the stage, this gentleman put his service .45 in his holster with the intent to go to the "Nuremburg Trial" and shoot Hermann Goering in the head. But of course, at the doors, the MPs made him check his piece. He recounted his anger at not being able to ultimately exact his revenge; revenge he had held on to until the right time, as if to strike vengeance for his whole people.

    But he had a change of heart at the hearing, whereby he couldn't fathom another act of violence as the solution.

    He went on in his commentary to describe the despicable acts of Hermann Goering as well as the evidence marched up bit by bit, from pictures to shrunken heads to lampshades made of skin.

    And then he starts to get to the key points. Despite how awful these people were:

    The U.S. War Department was determined that Goering and the other Nazis leaders would receive a fair trial. At Nuremberg, there would be no secret evidence or closed proceedings. The Allies believed that would betray their ideal of restoring democracy in Germany.
    A fair trial. No secret evidence. These would be the things that destroyed the ideal of Democracy, which we were trying to establish in Germany.

    Consider, as he went on:
    Today, in the midst of a national debate on how to treat captured terror suspects, my mind flashes back to Room 600 at Furtherstrasse 22. We gave Goering and the other war criminals a chance not only to defend themselves but in some cases, preach hate and violence.
    The worst of the worst received a fair trial. The evidence was overwhelming. But to me, the commentator's final comment summed it all up more eloquently than I could on my best day:
    In a ruined Germany, where so many corpses still lay buried in the rubble, and life seemed so very fragile, we found it in ourselves to give the worst of men due process.
    Moving. We found it in ourselves to give the worst of men due process. Read the whole commentary here. It's short, but worth the 2 minutes it will take out fo your day.

    That is exactly what is at stake. That regardless of the unparalleled evil of the people we face as a democracy, we offer justice. So the Nazis got to get up and propaganidize one more time before they were found guilty. So what? It justified in all of our minds our correctness; our correctness of their evil and our pursuit and defeat of it, and our correctness in justice, due process and fairness.

    Dispicable murderers, killers and rapers of children, serial killers, World War II war criminals: everyone gets a fair shot to defend themselves, even in the light of overwhelming evidence, because that's what type of society we are.

    Or were.

    Habeas Corpus keeps us from being falsely imprisoned and forces the State to hear us before a court. Or it did. Evidence is thrown in front of our feet if we are wrongdoers, and we have a chance to show we are truly guilty or that the State got the wrong person. Or we did. We had ideals that kept us from tortuing answers out of people because torture would make even the innocent confess. Or we did.

    I am so disappointed that I could just melt down. What happened to the rightness of what we are and how we conduct ourselves? Why are we so afraid that we can't honor a concept as old as Western Society? Worse: why are people so cynical as to put an election and fear of a negative attack ad - an easily answerable ad - before our values in Democracy?

    One day, when I am really old or passed on, I want my son to hear on the radio as he drives back from his morning workout that in this era of fear and terrorism, of hateful people who want to kill us and destroy our ideals, that we still found it in ourselves to give the worst of men due process. Then, we are a proud people.


    Beer:30 on a Friday Morning

    Friday, September 29, 2006

    What libation awaits us for today's version of Friday Beer Blogging?

    None other than Dogfish Head Brewery's 120 Minute IPA.

    The beer pours out a coppery amber color with red hues. There is a thin pure white head, maybe 1/4", but it is heavy and lingers. Excellent lacing down the glass as I quaffed.

    Surprisingly for a Double-IPA (DIPA), it has an amazingly fruity aroma: grapefruit, orange, grapes. I would have expected much more hops up front. But there it is, right after and under the fruit: pine, leafy-green, citrus/spice.

    The taste is spectacular. So many DIPAs are so over-blown. Hops upon hops with no balance, ends up tasting like grass clippings out of a tin can. But not this beer. It is so well-balanced, it's like a Tripel with more hops. Unbelievable. It tastes sweet up front: caramel and cane sugar, followed by a dominant fruitiness from both the yeast products and the choice of hops: citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges, with a great floral undertone. Then...wham! A big, huge alcohlic warmth all the way down the hatch. 21% ABV, baby. More booze in this 12 ounce beer than in most bottles of wine. Ahhhhh... Great spicy finish.

    The mouthfeel yields light carbonation, gentle, not at all biting. Huge, full-bodied and rich and creamy.

    Usually, a beer even close to 21% ABV is hard to drink, being harsh like doing a shot. But this beer is extraordinarily-well balanced with sweet, caramelly and sugary malts and such great, gentle fruit that it goes down so easily. I put this ahead of any other DIPA on the market right now. Maybe ever.


    Iraq and Terrorism: UNRELATED

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    I was reading this post over at Mr. Furious and having a...discourse with a blogger and detractor. The subject came to comparisons between Iraq and the mood of the public during World War II, as well as the merits of Republican stick-to-it-iveness and Democratic let's-change-it-iveness. Go check out the link.

    Anyway, listening to the news last night, there is an interesting distinction that the public is making that the Bush Administration and its throngs of devotees are either unwilling or incapable of seeing.

    A recent Gallup Poll shows that among citizens for whom "Iraq" is the most important issue, 60% to 23% believe that Democrats are better able to deal with the situation over there.

    On the other hand, for citizens among whom "terrorism" is the top issue, 68% to 17% believe the Republicans are better equipped to handle the issue.

    I think this is really why the Bush Administration is working so hard at keeping Iraq intrinsically combined with terrorism: it is clearly a Republican victory, in terms of dealing with terrorism. Even portions of the recently-declassified NIE report were the portions that agree with Administration counter-terrorist policies. Counter-terrorist policies. Indeed, according to the NIE report, counterterrorist operations have severly damaged the functionality of Al Queda and other jihadist movements.

    BUT....there is the distinction among a plurality of voters whereby Iraq is different than terrorism. In fact, to support such a distinction, the NIE report essentially upholds Iraq as a motivator for jihadists and Al Queda where it also upholds the efforts of counterterrorist measures.

    The distinction is clear, both from a public point of view as well as even within the Intelligence community: Iraq and terrorism are exclusive concepts. They are unrelated and one, Irq, is not helping the other, counterterrorism.

    Congressional Republicans see this important distinction, for the most part, and are running in the last month before the elections as the counterterrorism party. But what hurts is if and when the Dems can make them the "Iraq War party."

    I can't say enough that the dichotomy above in extremely telling. The public, by and large, see Iraq as unrelated to terrorism and a source growth among jihadists and future terrorists. The NIE supports this contention.

    Separately, the public sees terrorism as being handled effectively through anitterrorism measures, which do not include the Iraq War. The NIE supports this as well.

    Thus, as Mr. Furious's blog points out, the President and many of his most ardent supporters are clearly out-of-touch when it comes to handling the Iraq War, and Kerry and others are right to bring out the big guns and fight back on being branded chickens and triators. They are simply reflecting their thoughts as supported by the true majority. Iraq is a fucking mess and it's time for a new policy.


    What Would Dennis Leary Call It?

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    Back at it again: this weekend, I brewed more beer. The Chief Assistant Brewmaster in this case was my Father in Law, Steve. My son Isaac was designated pants-pooper and near-death magnet.

    My choice for this time around was an Irish Red. I struggled for a name for the brew until I asked myself a question: what would Dennis Leary call an Irish Red.

    Thus I introduce to you Kiss My White Irish Ass Red.

    The ingredients:
    1/2 pound British Crystal 60ºL
    1/4 pound Roasted Barley
    6 pounds John Bull Liquid Light Extract
    1 pound Dry Light Extract
    1 oz. Fuggle (pellet); 60 minutes
    1/2 oz. East Kent Golding (pellet); 5 minutes
    Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale Yeast
    We steeped the specialty grains for 30 minutes at 159º, and boiled everything for an hour thereafter.

    I estimated the Original Gravity to be 1.055. Our actual reading was 1.050, so we weren't far off at all. Our Terminal Gravity is estimated at 1.019, so we'll see what we get. The ABV ought to be a normal and respectable 5% or so.

    As you can see here, we pitched the yeast on day 1 and had no visible activity as the yeast wakes up and starts relicating, looking for an finding food.

    Now as you can see here, at the end of day 2, the yeast is going mad, and fermentation is healthy and active. Yippee!

    As always, more to come. This was a truly fun experience, as always, and it was cool introduce the joys of homebrewing with my Father in Law , who indeed appreciates a good beer.


    Beer, Beer, Beer

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    This is the title of a classic old Irish Drinking Song. Simple song, simpler times. A oade to beer.

    I chose an Irish drinking song today because tomorrow, my Michigan State Spartans take on the Fightin' and hopefully Losin') Irish of Notre dame.

    But my beer is far from Irish. My beer of choice for today is Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner 2005 Harvest.

    This is a fantastic...simply amazing...American Double Pilsner style of brew. This brew has 110 IBUs...enough bitterness to serve as an adequate metaphor for a particularly nasty divorce. But the extreme, nearly-reckless amounts of hops here are well-balanced by an underlying thick, sugary sweetness akin to the Golden Monkey I reviewed a few weeks ago (Belgian Strong Dark Ale).

    It pours a cloudy, hazy burnt orange color like a wheat ale, but instead of the haze coming from wheat protein, it is in this cae literally particles of hops because they used so many.

    I smelled citrus up front, fading to a pleasant floral with an undelying spice throughout. Tantilizing indeed.

    Big huge creamy mouthfeel, thick and chewy like a stout. Lively carbonation for as thick as the beer is.

    Sublime is the taste indeed. A big spiciness..almost peppery...comes up front with a huge alcoholic warmth. Next up are the sweet, bready malts, followed by juicy ripe citrus fruits. Throughout all of this is a massive profile of aggressive hops. Every word I can think of to describe hops are there: leafy, oily, resiny, coarse, piney, floral, herbal, citrus...all of it. At the end, this earthy, musky flavor creeps in but doesn't linger, as all the hops keep the tongue clean and ready for the next quaff.

    All in all, this is an amazing beer from the guys I would expect if from. What is truly remarkable is that this is a know, like Miller, Bud, etc. A Pilsner. Huge.

    Drag up a chair and spin me a tale of beer.


    Forgive Us Our Debts

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    In an earlier post I mentioned that I was reading American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips, and that the book has three secitons about what is leading to our demise: oil, increased secularism and debt. In the previous post, I mainly focused on the former two: oil and religion.

    I want to take some time to focus on another problem that is quickly and evidently coming home to roost: an economic system reliant on debt.

    In fact, consumer debt is being used to prop-up our national economy...which is comprised largely of debt and a heavy reliance on the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector (which is a sector built on debt and movement of dollars that are not real). Keep in mind: this consumer debt is taking the place of manufacturing, at least on the local and state level, in terms of what supports our dollar.

    The FIRE sector relies, of course, on the transfer of money from entity to entity, using money that exists (in my own simplified explanation) only in concept; the "value" of something that actually cannot be immediately traded of real dollars, and is thus only conceptually valuable. Assets are traded rather than actual goods.

    As I said above, what bolsters this economy is consumer debt - spending what I don't have and gaining possesion of something for which I cannot actually or possibly cover.

    Our national economy, then, is not based on anything tangible. Imagine the chaos if the countries to whom we are indebted decide to foreclose on our loans because we aren't actually paying anything and in fact are continuing to spend. Worse: not only are we not paying and still spending, our collateral is less and less valuable.

    Britain, Spain and the Netherlands have each seen this play out in different points in history. Britain could no longer sustain a massive empire because of its reliance on debt and credit (among other things). This reliance no longer allowed it to physically pay, in real dollars, for its own expense. The Spanish relied on indebtedness and "financialization" as it became the European bank of banks. All the the gold and silver bullion came to Spain, Spain made money, but it never produced anything. The end result: the total collapse of its unsupported economy of money transfers. Nothing actually held value but the money itself. The Dutch, similarly, overextended themselves through financialization as they lost the real value behind their dollar which was no longer supported by trade, but instead by transfer of liquid values.

    The Detroit News ran an article today that I think clearly outlines the real danger of an economy of debt. Take a look at the link. The way I see it, the economic bubble bursts when one of the pieces of the circle, in this case the consumer, can no longer cover its part of the liquid assets. This burst becomes an outright collapse as more and more people in increasingly-higher income brackets also fail to support their end of the overwhelming debt.

    To highlight this, according to the article Macomb County (Michigan's fastest-growing county in terms of population, housing and housing prices) in Southeact Michigan is experiencing a 234% increase in foreclosures. 234%. The byline of the article is that 35,000 southeast Michigan (Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties) residents are losing their homes this year. The families are losing their house and their ability to borrow again at an affordable interest rate. The bank will lose money on the property. Interest rates for the family in question will rise above their price range. Money is lost in these cases and is simply not recovered.

    The article continues to cite other reasons as to why this is a problem, but each of these reasons all have a common thread: it's all about investments that are tied to a market and not an actual value. When the basis for your economy fails - in our case, manufacturing - everything else slides with it, including your housing market.

    Imagine that this is just the beginning. In fact, the same article shows a 141% increase in foreclosures statewide. This is more than the beginning. This is happening.

    A solution? Banks don't need a federal bailout. Our manufacturing sector and tech sector need the bailout. We need to shift back towards exporting more than we import, but the problem is how absolutely lucrative it is to import goods using foreign labor (a big thanks to NAFTA and Clinton). Moreover, we need to stop spending beyond our means in D.C. Running a surplus is not a bad thing; it allows us to make payments on debts and regain our positive borrowing rating status worldwide. Tax cuts to the top 1% exacerbate the problem, and quite honestly, so will a cut in taxes to the middle! A recent NBC piece (can't make the damn link work) shows that there is a trend to actually accumulate debt, in that the question is: how big of a payment can I afford? If you free-up much more money, you contribute to accumulation of debt, which is used as a means to bolster our dollar. A dollar based no longer on goods but on money owed.

    Further, as can be seen with a 141% increase in foreclosures, even the top 1% might be having trouble supporting an economy of debt. However, it is the middle class which an economy of debt deemphasizes and punishes. It pushes-out the jobs that bolster a middle class in favor of a narrower, smaller class of people who actually understand economics.

    Cut-and-spend conservatives represent a huge driving force behind our increasing indebtedness and reliance on foreign investments in something that is losing value. We can increase the value so long as we value our dollar away from banks and back on our products. Remember "Buy American?" Debt isn't patriotic. Being a consumer isn't necessarily patriotic. But I fail to see how forcing a larger debt load on me is.


    Friday = Beer

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    The NFL Season has officially started, and it's a Friday. Smells like Beer Time to me.

    Today's incredible selection, if I do say so myself, is Rogue Ale Shakespeare Stout.

    The beer is pitch-black and opaque with a lovely inch-thick off-white head that leaves gobs of lacing down the sides as it goes. So thick, it even leaves "legs" like wine. So deep and thick, it has a gravitational pull.

    Now the aroma: perfect balance. Big roast balanced by chocolate sweetness from chocolate malts and a brilliant Cascade citrusy-hop, all at the same time. Romeo, Juliet and a bottle of poison, baby. Perfect symmetry.

    The taste is divine. All of those flavors come at you one after another; first the huge roasts, like dark toast and espresso. The best part is the interplay between the citrus Cascade hops and the chocolate. Ever had that orange-flavored chocolate candy? Here you go. Truly an American Stout, with ingenuity and hop-craziness replacing the more subtle British verison of a stout.

    This beer has a creamy mouthfeel, well-balanced with a medium-carbonated pop. A little light-bodied to remain true to the style, but that's no real barrier. Nice alcoholic warmth.

    This is no session beer; it's not that the ABV is too high for a good session beer; it's the complexity. Your tongue will get tired, like I imagine Romeo's would have on that sly minx Juliet.

    Enjoy this amazing offering from Rogue brewery wherever you can find it. A true classic from a consistently-good brewery.



    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Well, it's opening night for the NFL. NBC runs the show now, and we got a hyped and confused mash of entertainment, including a "countdown to kickoff" clock that started at 29 minutes. The excitement nearly killed me. We were treated by a live performance from Diddy aka Puffy aka Puff Daddy aka P Diddy etc. etc. from Florida at the site of the 06-07 Superbowl. God but I hope people didn't cram around that stage on the beach all day just for the Diddy song.

    Oh yeah, some band named Rascal Flatts played too. Whoever they are.

    Who is Cassie? Am I old?

    Look folks, I just wanted football, okay? Not a family event. Not some party where I slouch on my couch cramming potato chips into my mouth, staring mindlessly at the raging party on my screen.

    With that out of the way, of course the Fantasy Season kicks off tonight as well. And boy did I get a hum-dinger of a team this year. My lineup is as follows:

    QB D. Brees (NO - QB)
    WR E. Kennison (KC - WR)
    WR T. Glenn (Dal - WR)
    WR Ma. Jones (Jac - WR)
    RB T. Barber (NYG - RB)
    RB T. Duckett (Was - RB)
    TE J. Shockey (NYG - TE)
    K A. Vinatieri (Ind - K)
    DEF Chicago
    BN M. Leinart (Ari - QB)
    BN J. Lewis (Bal - RB)
    BN M. Lewis (Jac - TE)
    BN M. Jenkins (Atl - WR)
    BN B. Griese (Chi - QB)
    BN M. Stover (Bal - K)

    I ditched Chris Brown for TJ Duckett on the premise that TJ gets put in for goal line poundings and gets play time until Portis is back (and even then still gets the goal line bid). I ditched Brett Favre for Drew Brees. Brett should have retired. Finally, I got rid of my second defense, which was the Lions defense (gag)(especially since their Defensive Line Coach is experiencing some...ah...difficulties), and picked up Griese. I think he's a sleeper who will surprise us. Normally, Chicago will simply have a shitty offense. But I am holding out on a what-if here.

    Thoughts on my trades? Suggestions for improvement? What do your teams look like? And how was your opening night?


    Friday Beer Mania

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    What a long week. Rumsfeld calling us traitors again, reminders of the days Katrina hit New Orleans, fresh reminders of our failure to revive a great Southern city, a record week of explosions and death in Iraq...

    With all that joy, it's definitely time for the Friday beer.

    This week's selection: Arbor Brewing Company's Reserve Select 2004.

    This beer was simply amazing. It poured a deep ruby red with brown highlights and held a nice, thick white head. The retention was great. This beer didn't leave "lacing" like most beers do; this one left "legs" like a wine does, whereby the beer itself clung to the glass instead of the foam. Interesting and full of foreshadowing for what was to come.

    The aroma was huge: full of Chardonnay, oak, tannin, as well as the typical Old Ale-style aromas of toastiness, slight hop bitterness and a thick sweetness with tons of deep fruits like plums and prunes.

    The taste was remarkable. It started with a hige oak/chardonnay up front, followed immediately by the thickness of heavy, dried fruit. From there it flowed into almost a sweettart aftertaste, which was truly interesting. The only bummer was that there was a hint of a medicinal astringency, but all in all it was a truly remarkable beer.

    It was definitely a full-bodied beer with little carbonation sting to it and a nice, lingering alcoholic warmth. All in all, this was a real winner and left me with a massive buzz after half a bottle. Truly an enjoyable beer, highly recommended and rare.

    What did your beer look like this week?


    "...The Life's Blood Of Human Freedom..."

    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Why, oh why, are these thoughts confined to blogospheric rants and a cable anchor who while derserving of the top spot on a major network is instead confined to a 24-hour cable news show?

    I have my own theories. After all, who really owns the media? Were it the liberals, Olbermann would have Katie Couric's job.

    As a million other blogs have done today, you must go to this post at Crooks and Liars, with video of Keith Olbermann's rebuttal against Rumsfeld's thoughtless and ridiculous comments against the detractors of the Administration's views. Really, this "aid and comfort to the enemy" crap is getting really, really old.

    As a follow-up, just in case hearing it right from Olbermann isn't good enough, read the whole transcript here from Kung Fu Monkey, as well as KFM's cogent commentary.

    This is a much more eloquent and well-researched version of the "dissent-is-patriotic" line. Olbermann's line "Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom..." is the point. Not of patriotism alone, but of human freedom.

    I won't add anything more; it has already been said, but better. Just go look at the links.


    A Year Ago Today...

    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    Last night on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams had a decent interview with a Michael Dyson, author of Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. In it, both men seemed to make some really great points, but the key point made by Mr. Dyson is, to paraphrase, that America squandered a huge opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about race, class and poverty. In other words, we could have rebuilt New Orleans right. It could have become a model city for dealing with poverty and service delivery. We were handed a clean slate and an opportunity to address more than a devastated city and population, but also to address the causes of why things are the way they are in New Orleans.

    Later last night, Brian Williams aired a special in which he reflected on his presence and role, and indeed the overall role and presence of "media" in general in New Orleans. It was surprisingly less self-centered than I expected and really became a piece that made some great points about how Katrina became and remained such a huge catastrophe. Again, he made some wonderful points that it was not the media's job to give food and water, which they did how they could. It was the media's job to ask where the heck the food and water...the relief...was, which they did, and which was never answered, except by a fumbling Brown ("the federal government just found out today about the Superdome...").

    There was a point at which he aired a brief segment of an interview with Bush, who was angry (Hulk maaaaaaad) and generally indignant that people would call him and his administration racist. He insisted that he wasn't and "rejected" those claims.

    My wife and I reflected on that statement and on the scenes that NBC quite effectively put together for their broadcast. It occurred to us that even if Bush and his people are not blatantly racist, what is racist is the catastrophe. The response is racist, and more than that, the fact that the huge black population in New Orleans, at least by media accounts, is predominantly poor is absolutely racist. This is our latent racism on display.

    The response was slow. Blatantly racist? Probably not. More of a reflection of incompetence. Latently racist? Certainly. We have sequested our poor into areas that are actually more difficult for us to respond to.

    Barbara Bush's comments; blatantly racist. Mmm...kinda, but ignorantly so. I like what Mr. Dyson, above, had to say about them:

    But I'll tell you — when Barbara Bush said that, it reinforced the reputation of the Bushes as clueless patricians, No. 1. No. 2, inadvertently, let's be honest, she was right at a certain level.

    Here's how she was right: That many of the people who were washed away were washed into better climates, better circumstances than they had before. That's a tragedy. You mean living in the Superdome, or living in the Astrodome, or living in a displaced geography that you had nothing to do with, you didn't grow up in, is better than where you were? For many people, yes. So even though she was right, she was right for the wrong reasons.
    That's it; that's it exactly. That is the latent racism I am talking about, and the real catastrophe. That a "displaced geography" is better than your previous circumstances? Tragic. That we continue to let our biggest cities devolve into that circumstance, where it is more difficult to deliver services and aid and emergency displacement actually offers temporary comfort; that is the real tragedy. And that this tragedy focuses on, in a sense of majority, one or two specific minority groups: that's racist.

    I love this post from LLPN (from Muckraker) because the "joke" that was played actually offers a real solution; a feasible solution actually applicable to every major urban center in America, but most immediately applicable to the real reconstruction of New Orleans. That the Bush Administration took it as an insult is not surprising. BUT...Mayor Nagan and Governor Blanco would do well to look at the joke's suggestions. They have as much a hand as putting together a real plan for reconstruction as Bush does. After all, Bush has shown that not only will his administration most likely screw it up if they tried, they're really not that interested in the first place.


    I Can Barely Contain My Rage

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    Am I the only one to find this ironic: there exists a communications company wherein one Department is unable to communicate with the other, even though they all deal with the same services and apparently share a database.

    There is such a company who provides me with the ability to post useless drunken ramblings on this blog and use many other internet-related forms of fun. This weekend, this communications company did some system maintenence which has caused an interruption in my service.

    I called. After an hour and a half and approximately 7,000,000 little steps (including telling the computer voice my phone number, name, and problem, only top have to repeat it to the customer service rep...), we found the problem, which I stated above. Cool. So all we have to do now is transfer over to the sales deparetment to confirm my order. Of course, the tech support person can't do this, even though they plainly share the same information and are even looking at the same screen as one another at the same time (I know this from previous troubleshooting exercises). I am on hold. Then suddenly, I am told that the sales department is currently closed (it was SUnday...makes a little sense). Again, while looking at the same information as the sales "team," they cannot help me. They told me to call back today (Monday).

    I called back. Of course, because it's a new day and a new person, regardless of all of the steps I already took yesterday, and regardless of all of those steps having been logged in their database in perfect sequence by the tech support person yesterday (again, I know they do this because of previous troubleshooting inquiries), I again have to repeat all the same steps. Apparently, the people they hire have no ability to apply the past to the present...

    ...say...that sounds a little familiar of someone or something else...hmm...

    So we do all of this again. And now comes the moment: they will transfer me to sales to confirm my order. Yes! We're here.

    Sales Rep: Can I confirm your name?
    Me: (name)
    SR: All I need now to look up your account to confirm it is your customer code on your bill.Me: what?
    SR: Your customer code.
    Me: What's that?
    SR: A new code we require people to give us, found on your bill statement, to modify your account.
    Me: I'm at work. Why would I have my bill?
    SR: Sorry, sir. We need that code to proceed.Me: So, after another hour on the phone, after nearly two hours yesterday, because of a problem you created, we can't proceed without this esoteric number?
    SR: Sorry, we can't.
    Me: How about my social security number? My cat's name? Anything else?
    SR: Sorry. We can't do the social security numbers any more. It's on a totally different screen that is not connected to this one.
    Me: So, we could conceivably go to this other "screen," I give you my social security number, you find this customer code, and copy it into the screen you're in now? Right?
    SR: No sir, we can't.

    So now, I will have to call back again when I get home and search my recycling bin for the old bill. And go through the same steps again.

    This is the problem with massive corporations. We have allowed so many companies to combine into larger companies that I no longer get any customer service. So driven are they to streamline their internal services into separate highly-functional pieces that the customer is left out. And worse, they are under no compulsion to actually give me real customer service. They make so much money that when I threaten to leave and take my $19.95 a month, they will never miss it. $20 is nowhere on their radar screen, and honestly, neither am I. What recourse do I have but to take it in the ass? And worse, who can I leave to? Nobody. They've all been bought. So much for competition.

    My only consolation is that after verifying who you are, they ask if they can call you by your first name. Maybe next time, I'll say no, call me Your Majesty.



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