570 Bottles of Beer on the Wall...

Monday, July 31, 2006

First-off, man I had a riot on Sunday. My first competition as a judge was an amazing experience. There were 570 entries and over 40 judges. We all crammed into King Brewery in Pontiac from about 11:30 Sunday morning until around 7:30 in the evening. This event was the largest in Michigan homebrew competition history, passing the previous record holder by about 30 entries. It also put Michigan on the map as one of the largest in the country. This was truly a sight to behold, and took an amazing amount of organization and patience. Given that, for hat it's worth on my blog, I would really like to ofer congratulations to the contest organizer Phil Kitkowski who worked amazingly hard n getting this put together and making sure it ran smoothly. For what I could tell, there were no glitches that were obvious. Also, a big congratulations to Rex Halfpenny, editor of the Michigan Beer Guide and all-around nationally-recognized beer judge for his hand in this as well.

For my part, I judged 12 porters (robust and baltic) and 9 stouts (oatmeal, American, foreign extra, Russian Imperial). As always, there is a range of complexity and quality, but in the interest of the promotion of home brewing, it really takes a lot of guts to enter a product you have worried and slaved over for a long period of time. You are entering a part of your creativity, and it means a lot. It's why there is a special program to train judges: as a judge, you have to separate your personal tastes ("I like a thicker stout") from what the guidelines require ("This beer requires a hop presence that yours didn't have"). That way, everyone is judged fairly and less subjectively, rather than on taste preferences which are totally subjective.

I was paired with Janice, an experienced judge, for the round of porters. Janice has actually won first place in porters in the past, so I was lucky to be paired with someone of her epxerience and taste. Of course, she did not enter a porter this year, because you can't judge what you have entered. You inspect the bottle for a "ring" around the inside of the neck (which there shouldn't be), and for the "pfft" when you open it. You also deduct points for a "gusher," which are always a laugh riot, especially for the dude judging stouts with white shorts on. You pour about a 4 oz. sample, and judge it based on each beer's guidelines for aroma (12 pts possible), appearance (3), taste (20), mouthfeel(5) and overall impression (10) for a total of 50 points. There are, of course, hardly any scores of 50, with most heavy-hitters probably getting 45 or slightly higher. We're all perfectionists and are constatntly in search of the elusive "perfect beer."

There were some overall decent entries in the porter category, with the best examples rising very clearly above the rest. Porters (and stouts) are pretty tough, because they are so easy to overdo and the differences in styles are slight, so it is easy to enter a Baltic porter that really should have been a Robust and so on.

I was paried with another very experienced judge for the stout round, named Bob, from Kalamazoo. Bob is also a huge fan of stouts and really helped open my eyes to the minutia of difference between styles.

Of note, one of the others in the porter "foursome" of judges was one of the brewers/owners of Dragonmead brewery, a great brewery in Michigan (brewer of the famous Final Absolution Trippel). Great guy, and true appreciator of excellent beer.

In order to "place" for the best of show competition at the actual State Fair at the end of August (the 26th), a beer had to reach a certain score. It is tough at times, but a judge again has to keep to the guidelines for a fair critique of a beer. Since the judging is "blind," it will be interesting to see who actually brewed the winning beers.

This was a truly awesome experience, and I can't wait for the next opportunity to judge. The judges as a whole were really great folks, unpretentious, and enthusiastic about great beer and brewing beer. They're from all walks: lawyers, business owners, professional brewers, construction workers; you name it. Eclectic, happy and personable.


Free Beer

Friday, July 28, 2006

I am really geeked: this Sunday, I will be a judge at the Michigan State Fair Homebrew Competition! All of the hard work of studying for the BJCP exam and taking the test finally pay-off this weekend.

As I understand, there about about 580 entries and over 40 judges for the competition, organized into 15 three-person panels. I have requested to judge porters and stouts, but being a newer "apprentice" judge, there is a possibility I could get bumped by someone with more seniority, which is not really a big deal at all.

Winners from this will move on to the "best of show" competition that will actually be held at the Michigan State Fair on August 26. This is like the preliminary round to narrow the field of 580 a little.

I am extremely excited about this opportunity and am grateful to Phil Kitkowski for getting me involved in the BJCP to begin with. I will write a much more detailed report in the Monday edition of this blog, for all 2 of my readers (one of whom hates me), whom I know are waiting with baited breath for my stunning synopsis.

The other cool thing about this venture is that people are submitting beers that they have really slaved over, trying hard to perfect in order to win a statewide competition. How cool is that? Art in progress.


2 Fronts + 2 Conflicts = 0 Solutions

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Nobody is really surprised by this headline which explains the breakdown in peace talks concerning the new second-front in the War on Terror.

Apparently, there was much agreement at these talks about the need for a U.N. peacekeeping force and humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. No problems there. But the disagreement, which was between the U.S. and everyone else, was about the terms of the ceasefire. Everyone else says cease fire now, then create the long-term solution. We say let 'em keep going until we find a long-term solution. Interesting.

This created a perception among participants:

With the violence still ongoing, participants said they agreed to continue discussions, but CNN's John King said there was a sense among European and Arab leaders that the United States was buying time for Israel in its offensive against Hezbollah.
So...our refusal to accept a ceasefire was seen by the middle-east as another pro-Israeli maneuver from the U.S.? No way!

I do understand Condi's worry: "that taking that [immediate ceasefire] approach would leave Hezbollah in place and still armed with its rockets." Yes, Condi, it would. But you see...with an immediate ceasefire, it actually becomes easier to find the guys with the guns and get them. If you say "no more guns" and you see a dude walking around with guns...he's probably up to no good. Additionally, you have the added benefit of not have more civillians die in a reasonably-justifiable conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

To the Administration's credit, their peace plan at least includes a prisoner swap, a withdrawal of the Israeli army now in southern Lebanon, and transfer of the disputed Shebaa Farms area to Lebanon. This is good. But the sting of the U.S. tactical approach to this solution, letting the fighting go on until a solution is drafted, is reflected in a diplomat's statement that "everyone but the United States wanted cessation of fighting to make room for more negotiations and humanitarian aid." Certainly doesn't make us look really good over there, where our perception is already a little, ah, clouded.

The toll so far?
Since July 12, at least 401 people -- mostly civilians -- have been killed in Israeli strikes, Lebanese sources said. The IDF said the death toll from Hezbollah rockets striking Israel and the fighting in southern Lebanon is 50 -- 19 of them civilians.

The fighting also has wounded about 1,500 people in Lebanon and more than 300 civilians in Israel, the sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday suffered its largest loss of life in its offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas. Nine Israeli soldiers were killed while fighting in southern Lebanese towns.

Eight soldiers were killed and 22 more were wounded in Bint Jbeil, near the Israeli border, while battling militiamen in what the IDF has called Hezbollah's "terror capital."[CNN.com]
So, you know, no hurry Condi. This is nowhere near the level of death from the first front in the War, which we seem to be forgetting about during the Israel-Lebanon hullabaloo.

So let's not forget about what's going on in Iraq (thanks to Atrios for the link). An estimated 100 people per day are being killed in Iraq. So you know...no hurry there either. While it is not yet classified as Civil War, which is definitely arguable, there continues to be no viable solution for a sovereign Iraq. It's not about cutting-and-running. It's about how to stop a civil war and make Iraq viable. We pretty much owe it to them at this point.

But our ability to do so is hampered by our treatment of the Middle-East. By levvying threats against Iran and Syria, we fan the flames. Even if the truth behind the perception of Arab diplomats is absolutely wrong (about our dragging our feet to buy more time for Israel's offensive), it is still their perception and is justified.

I argue that success in Iraq hinges on how we treat the rest of the Middle-East, including Lebanon and Israel, Syria and Iran, not the other way around. The other way around, hinging Mid-East success on Iraq, ain't worked so well. There are too many folks with too much of a vested interest in our failing in Iraq...and using our apparent block of a solution to Israel and Lebanon as further justification of our intentions.


Coors and Bud Can Determine Your Alleigance

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In a shameless ripoff from the guys at LLPN from their less shameless ripoff of a great report from The Carpetbagger Report, I give you a test to determine if you are a rightie, a leftie, or a fence-sitting weenie.

This test has been thoughtfully created by "a unique team of authors," including a former Clinton aide, a two-time Bush campaign strategist and a journalist, and is a part of their new theory called Applebee's America. This theory is also a book by the same name.

In it, a new political buzzword called Gut Values (under the premise that Americans make choices about politics, religion and store purchases with the heats, not their heads) which determines a person's habits and ultimately their political leaning. Leaders, as this book perports, can use this information to touch people at "gut-level" through strategies that speak to these urges.

The authors go on to say that Red State/Blue State doesn't matter, given that in some cases, the minority party is nearly 50% of the population, thus claiming total redness or blueness is innaccurate. Instead, they offer that individuals are part of a "tribe:" a red tribe (R), a blue tribe (D), or a tipping tribe (swing). These theories come full-circle in that which tribe someone belongs to can be determined by, again, their consumer choices. Interesting, no?

Where this theory really gets fun is that the authors offer a 12-question quiz. When you submit the answers, it gives you a rating. Apparently, I am solidly in the Red Tribe with a score of 11.

Take the test, and see where you are. Then come back here for more.

Besides for this quiz and the overall concept being amazingly...ummm...silly and stupid, I see some real problems with the questions that I think bely the actual political leanings of the authors of this debacle: they are all solidly in the Red Tribe.

Some of the "better" questions include:

Which special event would you be more inclined to attend?
*Monster Truck Show
*Pro Wrestling Match

Personally....neither. I hate both and find them boring and unentertaining. But I have to choose one of those two predominantly non-blue-state special events.

If we checked your Internet history, it would more likely show that you had visited:
*An auction site, like eBay
*A dating site, like Match.com

What if I don't visit either? Given that I really only use the internet to blog or download porn (or both, simultaneously), I have no options here that I feel truly classify me.

Take a serious look at some of the questions and their implications:
1) Extra Dollar. Rainy day? Fiscally conservative. Lottery Ticket? Financially irresponsible.

4) Free subscription. US News? Informed. TV Guide? Trite and shallow.

5) Buying groceries. Wal-Mart? Regular American. Whole foods? Drippy hippy peacenik.

8) Happy Hour. Coors? Huge Republican contributor. Bud? Made by unionized labor.

The test is wrought with examples of "what is American" like so many other brainless "here's America, here's what's not" publications. Again, I contend that the authors show their true colors through they choices they give.

Now look at it this way. I took the test and gave all of the first answers; the answers I contend are more right-leaning. Sure enough: If you answer with the first answer in all the questions, you get a perfect 12; Red. If you answer all of the questions using the second option, which I again contend are drippy, boring, conservative-driven stereotypes of Democrats, you score a perfect 0; Blue. Now, randomly select and 6 to answer with the first option and any 6 with the other and you score...you guessed it...a 6; Tipper.

Two problems. Again, this is so far from a sociologically accurate study that it is literally a farce. Next, its answers rely on either a 1-verion of America (Coors and Bud? No difference. Wrestling and trucks? No difference) or stereotypical views (do you like big American stores or those silly Eurotrash organic hippy stores) of what is "red" or "blue."

What worries me the most is that this cute little gag-quiz is a marketing tool for their half-baked idea of a political theory. It either affirms that most Americans are brainless meatheads who can't think with their brains or that we so easily succumb to stereotypes that a "blue" person just couldn't ever drag themselves into a Wal-Mart or bother watching the Discovery Channel or mainstream sports versus hoity-toity soccer or tennis.

All these guys are doing is affirming these washed-up ideas of what is American (red) and what is not (blue) through an entire book about how to reach the American "gut-level." Apparently, it's by hoping we all fall into some sort of stereotype.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people who already see through this as silly, bogus and trite.

So tonight, I will drive to my suburban home in my GM car, spend quality time with my family, building character and values, and end the night by drinking a beer made by a small businessman and entrepreneur from Kalamazoo.


Einstein's Definition of Insanity

Monday, July 24, 2006

Albert Einstein has defined insanity as doing something over and over, expecting different results (to paraphrase).

I would propose a new definition, wrought by example. The new definition of insanity is based on California's Prop 209 (from 1996), which is taking different forms and spreading to outside states: proposals to end racism by...racism. Awesome.

California businessman Ward Connerly, himself an African American, has taken it as his duty to end "racist Affirmative Action" programs across the country. A quote:

I have seen firsthand the devastating effects that race preferences can have on young people. Contrary to what the proponents of "affirmative action" would lead you to believe, the issue of race preferences is not just about statistics and data, or clich├ęs about "leveling the playing field" or providing "opportunities" for disadvantaged "minorities." Real lives are radically affected, and incalculable social and economic costs result when decisions are made about individuals based on the color of their skin or the origin of their ancestors.

California' Prop 209 has been around California now for 10 years. The effect? Declining African American enrollment in major California Universities. The University of California and UCLA have each experienced a 3% decline to African American enrollment over the last 10 years, while overall enrollment has increased. Connerly's response?
"It's much more convenient to blame 209, and to blame the university's requirements, than to do the heavy lifting of getting our students prepared so that they can compete," Connerly says.

According to Connerly, the prestige of a UC diploma has upped the ante for everyone. Last year, more than 45,000 students applied to UCLA. Connerly says there are simply too few blacks who make the grade on the only standard that should count: academic merit.
As a counter-point, UCLA sociologists agree that UCLA's own enrollment process overall was equally to blame as Prop 209, but the reason one sociologist gave was that UCLA's admissions process "fails to take a student's background into account. [The Sociologist] says the University of California, Berkeley, which has a higher percentage of black students, takes a more holistic approach when reviewing an applicant's file."

Ward Connerly says, though, that that approach is simply "Affirmative Action in disguise."

UC Berkely's admissions process takes into account a student's high school performance as it relates to their background, family makeup, location and overall performance of their high school and other factors. In other words, a student from an inner-city high school, let's say Compton, who is able to get a 4.0+ GPA, plays an instrument, and is involved in sports, really ought to have a shot at college, where they will most likely compete quite well. But not according to Ward Connerly. The student from Orange County who is able to get a 4.2 GPA, has multiple Advanced Placement courses and access to collegiate-level coaches in high school is obviously more qualified, right?

Wrong. UC Berkely is absolutely right to take into account a student's entire history when looking at college admissions. This is where kids who excel against great odds finally get their shot at what people like me with my background take for granted: admission to college and a chance to advance. But Mr. Connerly would take even that shot away. Sure, on its face a 4.2 is better than the 4.0. But take in to account the sheer number of students who will get excellent grades from massively rich high schools, versus the kids from a single parent who lives in a gang-ridden part of LA...or New York...or Detroit for whom even going to school is a luxury. Should we relegate those students to Community Colleges and sub-par Universities**? The fact is that the kids from upper-middle-class suburbia will be able to attend pretty much their choice of higher education institutions. Indeed, Ward is correct in that we have to look at our public education systems to adequately prepare students for higher education, and in many cases, this is not happening in urban schools. But should we halt the current admissions practices of UCLA and UC Berkely, and many others, while we fix this complex problem, which could take decades? No way.

Mr. Connerly has taken his fight on the road to Michigan, in a ballot initiative called, confusingly, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. It will appear on Michigan’s ballot in November.

I should mention that Mr. Connerly’s group, and Mr. Connerly himself, makes about $1 million for each state he does this in. Who’s interest is this really in?

Go to this web site to find out more about how to oppose Mr. Connerly’s self-interested and racist voice in Michigan. And for God’s sake, vote “NO” in November on the purposefully-named Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which it wholly is not.

**I am a Spartan fan. I had to get my shot in at U of M. GO STATE!


Beer Day

Friday, July 21, 2006

Wow. It's been a long week this week, what with Isreal and Lebanon not getting on so well, stem cell vetos, gay marriages and heat waves. It's the kind of stuff that could drive a man to drink.

Which, by the way, it does. But I am also driven to drink because it's a Tuesday, or the Earth revolves around the sun, or because it's there, so don't use me as a lithmus test.

So it's Friday, and it's time for beer.

Rather than my random-ten-beers-in-my-fridge or some such endeavor, today I will spend my time worshipping just 1 beer for your satisfaction and review.

Today's selection is none other than:
Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout!

This beer pours a deep black, like a strong cup of coffee (pours about as thick too). Held up to light, it has amber-brown highlights and a thin but long-lasting tan head.

The aroma is exquisite. Imagine at once: a shot of bourbon with dark chocolate, followed by coffee, then molasses, brown sugar, and licorice.

The taste will boggle your mind. This is a stout of the highest order. The bourbon flavor is here, but feels less sweet than the same stuff straight from the bottle, an impressive blend of flavors. It is not as hostile as a shot up front, but has that linger thick bourbon sweetness all the way through.

This beer is huge and rich, and very rewarding. Each sip has enough flavor to taste a good for an eternity as it lingers fondly in your mind like a great memory from your youth. Imagine a shot of whiskey in your coffee: that's this beer.

This is definitely a sippin' stout! If you don't take your time, you're spoiling a wonderful experience.

This will only be released again next February, so stand by! If you can get your hands on some now, it's like striking gold. Black gold. Oil, that is. Texas tea.


Sincere Ignorance and Conscientious Stupidity

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Consider this, from Martin Luther King's "Strength to Love" in 1963:

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Bush will reportedly use his first veto...his first veto of his Presidency... on the stem cell issue. Keep in mind, this is the same mighty veto pen he has not used on unchecked Congressional spending bills.

The reason why he has not vetoed any Congressional spending bills, among many other fantastic pieces of legislation is, according to Rep. Jack Kingston (R - Georgia), Vice Chair of the Republican Conference, "[i]f he was vetoing a lot of House-Senate Republican bills, it would make us look chaotic and un-unified." Yes. You are now at least unified on the most out-of-control defecit spending in U.S. history. Congratulations. I digress...

It has been remarked in Congress that the use of federal dollars to "kill young human life (Re. Sam Brownback, R - Kansas)" is unacceptible and is a position that the President is taking as well. The President's 5,127,453rd spokesperson, Jay Lefkowitz, has even stated that "[t]he president feels he made the right decision, and a principled decision, and he's not going to be swayed by the fact that he may not have the votes on Capitol Hill." Never mind the science, he is sticking to his guns, like so many times before, which has so far worked pretty well for the U.S., right?

I my last post, I rambled on about science and religion's exclusive world views and how truth is created by the acceptance of both. The moral compromise struck by Congress and presented to the Senate is one that weighs the moral implications of a possible cure-all with that of a morally void program of fetal tissue harvesting, which most sane people would find deplorable. The bill package would allow federal funding for research on stem cell lines derived from frozen embryos that are stored at fertility clinics and slated for destruction. Additional bills would encourage research into creating stem cell lines without destroying human embryos and would ban the creation of a fetus solely for the purpose of destroying it and harvesting its body parts, meant as a way to soften more prominent Conservative Republicans.

Despite those restrictions, these bills are headed for a veto, thus still catering to a conservative base of religious absolutists, for whom this issue is black-and-white: the life of an embryo, regardless of its fate of some fertility clinic's trash can, outweighs all else, including other life. The irony is one I cannot grasp, and the moral certainty astounds me.

Worse, though, than the moral certainty is the sincerety with which they hold their views, and our President his. They consciously remain ignorant of the science behind stem cell research, and somehow are completely unable to hear that embryos will not be harvested, and the lines that will be used are most certainly from those embryos slated for death.

This is where their own moral imperative again breaks down for me: fertility clinics. These dens on iniquity certainly harvest scores of embryos and pump them into waiting women. Those souls that go unused are discarded. But somehow, this is an "okay" death, or at least one they are not willing to touch. So maybe their moral certainty does have some opt-out clauses, including fertility clinics. I don't see conservative evangelical women lining up to "rescue" unused embryos from the clinic's dumpster...

I see Congress and the Senate, then, actually weighing the two world views and creating a compromise that allows for research, rewards ways to get embryonic stem cells that actually don't destroy an embryo and prevent morally devoid capitalists from running stem cell harvesting clinics near, say, inner cities and college campuses.

It is, again, the fundamentalist mistrust of all things science. There will always be people of both camps: unfettered scientific research (a la Tuskegee) and pure religious literalism and fundamentalism. But I expect more out of my secular leaders in Government in that a rational view will prevail. Indeed it has among our legislative branch, and I suspect maybe so in our judicial branch. But our Executive has chosen to align himself on a path that ultimately contradicts itself, as pointed out above.

It is interesting how a world view can change based on circumstance. Bill Frist conservative Republican leader fo the Senate and a survivor of lymphoma, sees the value of this research and how the President back in August 2001 had completely hampered it. The debate over this research, however, is apparently over. The President has ignored all rational argument and instead took an extremist position, well out of touch with the majority of American sentiment.

Holding true to "down-home" values, blatantly ignorant of any of "them scientific types that talk all fancy," our leader embodies what another advocate for peace and understanding warned us about 43 years ago.


..."On My Dying Day, I'll Receive Total Consciousness...So I Got That Going For Me..."

Friday, July 14, 2006

A strange post today, somewhat apolitical, more observational. What brought this all together were some recent posts on a few other blogs I check out concerning the ongoing battle between science and religion.

As I travel around, I have been listening to the Dalai Lama's newest book, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. The downside: it's read by Richard Gere. Ugh. But that's a whole different discussion about gerbils...(or should I say a-hole different discussion about gerbils...)

I really started to get into the Lama during my whole "what the Hell do I believe" stage, and it all came to a head the day I nearly got run-over by the Dalai Lama's car in Washington D.C. Again, a whole different story, but one that I credit a high degree of positive karma to.

Anyway, the Dalai Lama starts out with the premise that science untempered by religion makes us to be a series of biological and chemical interactions. This does not impel us to be kind to one another, and it tears down a sense of value between each other and within ourselves. However, religion untempered by science requires us to ignore what we see to be absolutely true, and furthermore, can actually emperically prove. This leads us to ignorance of the gift of our world.

His overall thesis is that science and religion must coexist. He is not embarking on the cliche'd journey where the two serve as a compliment to one another. Rather, he views them as world views that shape our reality. In other words, we individually apply what each view means to us as we form our own reality. In his mind, these are diametrically-opposed views that alone, because they are philosophies, have no compulsion to peacefully coexist. It is up to us to create their coexistance as it applies to us individually.

He did mention that as the spiritual leader of the Buddhist world, he has the convenience of being able to reject certain outdated Buddhist views or legends in lieu of emperical science to the contrary. But he extends that ability to everyone in that, again, our reality is of our own creation. It is up to us to create that reality, but the goal of that reality is peace. Our reality should take into account all views and create a world where those views are embraced, examined, and when necessary, are modified.

Man, I like that guy.

So this got me thinking about some posts on a few other blogs concerning, as always, the abortion debate, but many others as well, including cervical cancer vaccinations, HIV/AIDS medications, cures, and vaccines, intelligent design, evolution, and the like. What has been created is chaos. The conflicting views on each subject individually have created a war of ideas of which the two sides are absolute.

Deeper than this, though, are the base assumptions of the correctness-through-proof of science and the infallibility of religious doctrine. Science gives us a cure for a disease that ravages entire nations, but certain relgious sects, instead of tempering this discovery with moral warnings and obligations, takes a stance against that particular discovery.

The lesson that I believe the Dalai Lama is getting at is that of absolutism. Although there is a benefit to science, it is outweighed in certain minds by a larger moral absolutism that will not allow exceptions, even if the exception is a contradiction to the overall belief! If your belief is in the sanctity of life, the fact that there is a chance that a cervical cancer vaccine might contribute to an increase in premarital sex should never outweigh the benefit the vaccine provides in terms of the reduction of suffering* and the extsnsion of life. But strangely, it does, and it creates an inherent conflict within itself that somehow, a physical act of premarital sex is a larger moral dilemma than our using our gift of empericism to cure diseases.

The question becomes: which side has overstepped its role, moving from philosophy to "absolute?" Maybe our scientific push into cloning carries a true danger in that we don't understand cloning's implications on soul. But equally dangerous is the notion that our planet is 6,000 years old and that Americans are born to rule by divine rite.

As I reflect on this, it becomes apparent, at least to me, that the answer lies in the warnings that one imposes on the other. A balance is created not by some hokey compromise, because these are inherently uncompromising views. By compromise, you get "intellgient design" and other thoughts that appear to be the perfect blend of science and religion outwardly, but on little investigation are exposed to be a spin on one absolute or another. From a different perspective, just like intelligent design being a thin veil for creationism-by-another-name, science can not essentially advertise as absolute truth something that is still being tested as a theory, like the Big Bang, which leaves out an important question about what was even before that, and why. Just because something has been a theory for a long time doesn't make it an absolute.

Back to the balance issue: hokey, thinly veiled comproimises are not "balance." True balance is that we won't delve into certain scientific areas because we truly understand and feel the moral implications. We won't ignore scientific findings because they could violate some religious code. The human cloning issue is resolved if we realize that the technology possibly exists, but we choose to resist using that technology because we understand its moral implications. Conversely, the moral benefit of some scientific discovery, such as eliminating suffering from cancer because of stem cell research, should outweigh a fear that we will employ women to get impregnated so we can harvest their embryonic stem cells...which we could do, but are balanced by the moral implication and inherent worngness of that action. See the circle? Checks and balances, not absolutes.

When all you do all day is sit around in a purple robe and think about peace, you find an amazing product. Absolutism creates disagreement and conflict. This is not about being wishy-washy or the benefit of black-and-white right-and-wrong. This is about finding a world view that promotes peace and tolerance. I guess sometimes wisdom can't come from Southern Megachurches or Northern Catholic Megaperishes, but sometimes from a little dude who wears glasses, dreams about peace and wishes to be free from an oppressive state.


*yes, a basic tenet of Buddhism is that life is suffering, but this isn't what they mean. Trust me. The Lama told me.


10 Beers in My Fridge with 10 Songs on My iPod

Friday, July 07, 2006

It's Friday. It's time for 10 beers in my fridge, juxtaposed with the first 10 random songs from my iPod.

1) Cheatin' on You - Taj Mahal. Eatin' the forbidden fruit, baby. I been cheatin' on you, but somebody been cheatin’ on me. Tit for tat. Forbidden fruit…I’ll go with Unibroue’s Apple Ephemere’. Forbidden fruit indeed.

2) Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love - Van Halen. Wow. 2 songs in a row with flagrant overuse of apostrophies. Sort of like the flagrant overuse of hops in Arbor Brewing Cos’ Big Ben Brew. Tastes like tin, but the song I’ve paired it with is a great one from the great ones.

3) You Make Me Feel So Young – the Chairman of the Board. What beer would the Chairman himself drink? Something classy. Something fresh. Something with tons of alcohol. What better than Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA; smooth, sweet, hard-hitting at 21% abv.

4) Cigaro – System of Down. Cigars go with Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. This beer, though, doesn’t have the same tinge that System’s singer gets in your ear after like 3 songs. I can tolerate the beer way longer.

5) When Darkness Falls – Killswitch Engage. Killswitch is vaguely engaging, especially with their “new” singer. It shouldn’t be as catchy as it is..but it is. A similar beer, that I just can’t put my finger on why I like it, is Iron City Beer. It’s generic, it should just be “blah….” But dammit, I drink it when I can find it. Why?

6) Terrible Lie – NIN. Classic, hurt and angry, just like the guy who brewed Rock Bottom Brewery’s Angry Hippie APA. Big hop explosion with a new variety and spicy hops grown in Oregon. Sort of like the big, angry, spicy explosion Trent Reznor made with Pretty Hate Machine.

7) Freewill – Rush. I will choose a path that’s clear. I will choose Free Will. Free will, being a philosophy, is like New Holland’s Phi. Phi is the concept that everything in nature is divisible and thus made in perfect proportion. For Phi, they took all their ingredients, divided it by Phi, and brewed it. Awesome beer.

8) Paranoid – Megadeth. Remake. Sabbath’s version can’t be touched. I’ll drink this with the beer that started it all for me, Guinness, to take the sting off a bit.

9) Agent 00 Funk – Jon Cleary. Smooth funk about smooth super agents. Of funk. To be drunk with a smooth but funky beer, Frank Boon’s Gueuze.

10) Meaning in Tragedy – As I Lay Dying. This band is one of the ones who have mastered perfect congruence between the bass and the double-bass drums, adding the rhythm guitar in the same syncopated rythms and adding a counter-starin on top. All as fast as they can play. A beer with similar multi-layered congruence, where each piece stands apart alone but in perfect rhythm, not syncopation, with the rest is Stone’s Imperial Stout.

Got 10 random beers to share? Go right along. You don't need the songs. I just want your beers!



Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Okay, so I am a day late. But I have an excuse. My wife and I moved out of the old "party couple" house and into a new "suburban responsible couple with a kid" house over the weekend...and I don't have my computer or DSL hooked up yet.

With that said, as we sat in our new suburban home and met many of our new neighbors, we got a glimpse of how many of them chose to honor America: mowing, drinking, grilling, watering their yards...and blowing stuff up until midnight.

As we sat on our new neighbors' deck, we discussed the merits of July 4th, and what it meant to us (yeah...like anyone, we wax nostalgic and philosophize as we get a good buzz cookin'). It was unanimous in our discussion: that dissidence and the need for constant review and change are the true benefits of what our forefathers laid out for America.

Kudos to LLPN fo their post on this topic and the links they chose. They support the notion that we are successful as a ntion because of the victory of dissent, the freedom of our press and the rule of law, not tyranny.

Sometimes we indeed pass laws that are oppressive by their very nature, usually in reaction to some threat or perceived threat. But through constant review, questioning and dissent, these types of laws are repealed. I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson's remarks in response to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act in 1798, which we opposed:

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt...If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience until luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.
I love that quote, because it is always our principles that are at stake. When you are a free and liberal (in the classic definition of the word, not the Fox definition) society, you are always going to deal with mayhem, both from abroad and, quite often, from home. It's a consequence of being free, and one we can't lose even in small pieces. It's why laws like the Alien and Sedition Act are repealed, and...who knows...maybe even parts of the Patriot Act. Woodrow Wilson oppressed us with his own version of a Sedition Act. F.D.R. interred Americans. It happens in war, serves no purpose ultimately, and is put to rest. That it keeps happening is a normal part of the human condition. That is keeps getting undone is a credit to our extraordinary ability to hold to the principles that keep us free. As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas warned:
As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
It is the repeal of laws that we oppress ourselves with, and the vigilance to keep them from happening again and again, that mark true independence and patriotism.



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