Women (and their ability to tolerate us)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Those of you who know me are probably aware that I enjoy some of the simple things in life; poor hygeine, unfortunate wardrobe choices, full days of eating Cheetos and watching TV in my underwear... You know, the basics.

However, I may have to leave these things behind. Over Christmas I asked my girlfriend, BMac's woman, to become Mrs. BMac (Or SheMac, if you will).


(She said yes. Not sure why.)

SheMac (also known as "Jill") is a Michigan State graduate who works down here in South Bend. She drinks Coors Light (strike one), but I've got her into some Brown Ales and Belgians, and she's a big fan of Guinness, so there may be some hope. Plus she's a Democrat, so she's got that going for her.

No date yet for the wedding. The bachelor party starts this week, and runs up until the evening before the wedding. I'm thinking an Ayinger Celebrator in celebration of this occasion, though I'm open to opinions.

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1st Annual Keg Stand Awards: The Nomination Process

So sure it's cliche'. But we love end-of-the-year awards as much as anyone. I watch all the VH-1 countdown specials, I'm a sucker for Food Network shows...on and on.
We (the collective "we") have decided to do our own end of the year awards, so welcome to the First Annual Keg Stand Awards!

Around the Keg covers a lot of ground: beer, politics, pop-culture, beer, and politics. Thus, our awards will cover the same amount of ground. And this is just the beginning of the process. Below is a list of categoeries for which we need nominees. Nominations can be placed in the comments section, or emailed to me at thatsMYguinness@gmail.com. Please be sure to inclue a link to the page or post in question.


Without further ado:


Rickey's Wildest Ride
Rickey Henderson over at Riding With Rickey is nothing if not hilarious, with a real gift to make the mundane absolutely riotous. What's the Wildest Ride on Riding With Rickey?


Most Furious Rant
Mr. Furious is a blogging staple here, and many of us make his rants a daily stop. His furiosity is matched by Mike over at Mike's Neighborhod, who parallels Mr. F's ability to package solid arguments with righteous indignation. What was the Most Furious Rant of the year?


To George or Not To George
George over at I'm Not One To Blog But is a gifted writer, with his series of Tiwsted Histories, his various trips to parts of the globe and food reviews best putting his skills on display. What was his best prose this year?


Wingnuttiest Wingnut Post
What was this year's most gratuitous defense of blatantly right-wing nonsense? The most drooling defense of Bush Administration policies, or lamest lauditory of the Republican 08 election team?


Bleedingest Heart Post
Somewhere out there is indignant liberal outrage so far left as to make Che Guevara proud. Somewhere out there is sniveling about Obama cabinet picks or insipid arguments in defense of Marxist policies. Where is it?


Wingnuttiest Wingnut
Which blogger or anchor is the shining example of wingnuttery?


Bleedingest Heart
Which blogger or anchor openly bleeds from a gaping wound in his or her chest?


Desert Rose
What was the most cogent, well-reasoned post worthy of real thought or discussion?


Best Beer
What 2008 release could you drink forever and be totaly happy?


Worst Beer
What in 2008 made you regret the money you spent?


If there are any categories I forgot or should add, let me know in the commenst section. Again, please add links to posts or videos, as well as to whm to attribute it to and which category they belong to. We wil compile the nominees, and post the second-round near the end of the week. Round 2 will be a few picks from all nominees submitted to then further narrow to the winners of the prestigious Keg Stand Awards.


Happy submitting!

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Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 25, 2008

To those of you that celebrate Christmas, I hope things are going well and that you are having a great day.  

There are many great Bible verses, but as we get ready for a new administration, this one has been on my mind:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God--Matthew 5:9

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Thank you George W. Bush.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I think everything I have come to expect about this world has been turned on its head.

First, we elect a black guy with a funny name to the Presidency. Next, I compliment Congressman Thaddeus McCotter for standing up for the automakers. Now I have to thank George W. Bush for loaning the automakers enough money to get them through spring.

I have no idea what separated Bush from the bunch of scum in the Senate, but I have to assume he took action with the best intentions and because it was the right thing to do.

This morning Bush said:

"The financial crisis brought the automakers to the brink of bankruptcy much faster than they could have anticipated."



Also:

"If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy. In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action. The question is how we can best give it a chance to succeed."

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The growing fraud that is Wall Street

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In the 1990’s many people said that Wall Street would be democratized by the internet. Cheap internet-based trading would allow people to become day traders in bathrobes, moving stock trading out of the hands of brokers and off the trading floor to our PC. Yet, if we have learned anything since the financial markets collapsed in the fall, it is clear that much of the world of finance and Wall Street is still done in the shadows.

We have now learned about bizarre new financial instruments, and a complete lack of governmental regulation. We learned about Bear Stearns, AIG, collusion between insurance companies and banks and, most recently, about a guy named Madoff, who made off with a bunch of people’s money.

As it comes to light that a greater and greater amount of Wall Street business is built upon fraud and lies, how can we continue to believe the economic theories that have been born of Wall Street?

Economists have claimed for decades that the new world order meant the so called financial, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) industries would be the best generator of jobs in America. We were told that globalization was inevitable and that the FIRE industry could replace the jobs that produced real goods. We were told that certain jobs were expendable, but cheaper imported goods would allow us to afford our children’s college education.

The economists of Wall Street have made protectionism a bad word, hushing all those who would disagree. Instead of expecting the free trade economists to prove their theories, we gave them a free pass and ran headlong into a system that has weakened our country. We were promised that free, unregulated trade would raise the standards of living in other countries, creating markets for American goods. We were told that the new world order would create better jobs for Americans in new, better industries. We were told that the FIRE industries would be the main protected and export industry of the nation.

The proof of economic failure is all around us. We see declining standards of living, a growing gap between the wealthy and the lower-middles class, and losses of employer-provided health care. We have seen a diminished tax base, higher pollution in newly industrialized third-world countries, and an inability to keep lead out of our children’s toys. These growing inequalities and problems demonstrate the real impact of our trade policies. Instead of increased global prosperity, we have witnessed a race to the bottom on wages and benefits.

I am not proposing we erect high walls and turn all the boats away at our shores, but shouldn’t we be asking ourselves if, along with greater regulation of the financial services sector, we should regulate trade? It seems to me free market fundamentalism has failed on both fronts.

Many other countries regulate trade, some of them erecting high barriers to protect their industries and create export economies. Others, like China, have been bringing down barriers, but have continued to regulate trade, to make sure jobs and a domestic market is created.

For too long we have taken economists at their word, and have been admonished whenever regulated trade is mentioned. It seems to me their track record isn’t so good. Isn’t it time to listen to the unconventional wisdom and hear from a much broader array of economists, including those advocating economic theories often considered taboo?

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Chocolat

Friday, December 12, 2008

I figured with a title based on this movie, I would be sure to score way higher on the gender analyzer, just for kicks.


I did pick the title, though, based on this week's selection: Ommegang's Chocolate Indulgence Stout.

I had been eyeballing this beer for some time at my local beer mecca, and decided to buy a bottle for a dessert drink after the Thanksgiving gorge-fest a few weeks ago. The cashier, who was not one of the ones I recognized as one of the true gurus of the mecca, told me it was "more chocolate than beer" so I figured maybe it'd be a hit for those at dinner who might be skeptical of a beer like this.

Served corked-and-caged in a 750 mL bottle, it definitely got some interested looks from those willing to try it out.

The beer itself poured a dark brown, just edging towards black. I poured it slowly and evenly into several glasses so as not to disturb the yeast. Each glass yielded a thin but persistent tan head. So far, so good.

The aroma was weaker than what I expected. I barely detected any chocolate at all, quite counter to the bottles' promise. In fact, I didn't smell much of anything, which was disappointing. As the beer warned, all I really got was a hint of roastiness. I shook the glass, I raised the head a bit more, I did what I could, but still, nothing but a bit of roastiness. Certainly for a beer entitled "indulgence" I thought I should be getting a much broader array of aroma.

The taste was...fine. For a dubble. Imagine a Belgian dubbel with a bit more roastiness than usual, and then you'd have this stout. And again, I am using the term "stout" loosely. Mind you, this beer isn't bad, it's more just a different kind of beer than a stout. Finally, that hint of chocolate came through in the taste. It was there, in the background, subservient to the roasty flavor, which were also pretty mild for a stout. The sweet Belgian chocolate combined with the Belgian ale yeast to make a sort of interesting sweet-and-sour combination, but really, when I get more chocolate out of Founders Breakfast Stout than I do out of a beer called Chocolate Indulgence...something is awry.

The mouthfeel was a bit light-bodied for a stout, in part due to the higher carbonation. A tint of hop bitterness, and an unfortunate metallic taste that persisted throughout the beer. At 7% abv, I honestly didn't notice any alcohol warmth, aromas or flavors.

For the price, the on-bottle boasts, and word of the cashier, this beer was a disappointment. I wasn't a bad beer; nothing was horrid. It was just mediocre. It got some nods from the non-beer crowd at dinner, but the beer drinkers were left wanting. It was neither chocolate nor really very indulgent, unless you consider inflated prices for average products a form of indulgence.

My advice: spend less money and get Rogue Chocolate Stout or Young's Double Chocolate Stout. You'll get a stout for sure, and Young's has enough chocolate to be considered indulgent.

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I Meme Everything About You

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another harmless, "betchadidn'tknow" meme from Mr. Furious who ripped it off of one of his readers:

1. Five names you go by:
Noah, Smitty, Beef, Daddy, F***face

2. Three things you are wearing right now:
Dark suit, boxers, studded black leather belt

3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:
Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, a Playstation 3

4. Three people who will probably fill this out:
Sopor, B_Mac, Bob

5. Two things you did last night:
Worked at the Capitol until 3:15 a.m.; missed my wife and kids

6. Two things you ate today:
Fish-n-Macandcheese; honeycrisp apple.

7. Two people you last talked to on the phone:
client, client

8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
meet with clients, crash early

9. Two longest car rides:
Haslett, MI to Carlsbad, NM (1,560) and Haslett, MI to NOLA (1,087 miles)

10. Two of your favorite beverages:
If I really have to answer this question, then you have missed the whole point to a blog named AROUND THE KEG.

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7 myths about Detroit automakers – UPDATED

Monday, December 08, 2008

Considering that most people can’t figure out how to change a flat, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when the average schmuck doesn’t know squat about the auto industry and our auto-driven economy.

The following updated list comes to us from Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press and deserves its own post.


The debate over aid to the Detroit-based automakers is awash with half-truths and misrepresentations that are endlessly repeated by everyone from members of Congress to journalists. Here are seven myths about the companies and their vehicles, and the reality in each case.

Myth No. 1: Nobody buys their vehicles
Reality: General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC sold 8.5 million vehicles in the United States last year and millions more around the world. GM outsold Toyota by about 1.2 million vehicles in the United States last year and holds a U.S. lead over Toyota of nearly 700,000 so far this year. Globally, GM in 2007 remained the world's largest automaker, selling 9,369,524 vehicles worldwide -- about 3,000 more than Toyota.

Ford outsold Honda by about 850,000 and Nissan by more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States last year.

Chrysler sold more vehicles here than Nissan and Hyundai combined in 2007 and so far this year.

Myth No. 2: They build unreliable junk
Reality: The creaky, leaky vehicles of the 1980s and '90s are long gone. Consumer Reports recently found that "Ford's reliability is now on par with good Japanese automakers."

The independent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study scored Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Mercury, Pontiac and Lincoln brands' overall quality as high as or higher than that of Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Scion, Volkswagen and Volvo.

J.D. Power rated the Chevrolet Malibu the highest-quality midsize sedan. Both the Malibu and Ford Fusion scored better than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Myth No. 3: They build gas-guzzlers
Reality: All of the Detroit Three build midsize sedans that the Environmental Protection Agency rates at 29-33 miles per gallon on the highway.

The most fuel-efficient Chevrolet Malibu gets 33 m.p.g. on the highway, 2 m.p.g. better than the best Honda Accord. The most fuel-efficient Ford Focus has the same highway fuel economy ratings as the most efficient Toyota Corolla. The most fuel-efficient Chevrolet Cobalt has the same city fuel economy and better highway fuel economy than the most efficient non-hybrid Honda Civic.

A recent study by Edmunds.com found that the Chevrolet Aveo subcompact is the least expensive car to buy and operate.

Myth No. 4: They already got a $25-billion bailout
Reality: None of that money has been lent out and may not be for more than a year. In addition, it can, by law, be used only to invest in future vehicles and technology, so it has no effect on the shortage of operating cash the companies face because of the economic slowdown that's killing them now.

Myth No. 5: GM, Ford and Chrysler are idiots for investing in pickups and SUVs
Reality: The domestics' lineup has been truck-heavy, but Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have spent billions of dollars on pickups and SUVs because trucks are a large and historically profitable part of the auto industry.

The most fuel-efficient full-size pickups from GM, Ford and Chrysler all have higher EPA fuel-economy ratings than Toyota and Nissan's full-size pickups.

Myth No. 6: They don't build hybrids
Reality: The Detroit Three got into the hybrid business late, but Ford and GM each now offers more hybrid models than Honda or Nissan, with several more due to hit the road in early 2009.

Myth No. 7: Their union workers are lazy and overpaid
Reality: Chrysler tied Toyota as the most productive automaker in North America this year, according to the Harbour Report on manufacturing, which measures the amount of work done per employee. Eight of the 10 most productive vehicle assembly plants in North America belong to Chrysler, Ford or GM.

The oft-cited $70-an-hour wage and benefit figure for UAW workers inaccurately adds benefits that millions of retirees get to the pay of current workers, but divides the total only by current employees. That's like assuming you get your parents' retirement and Social Security benefits in addition to your own income.

Hourly pay for assembly line workers tops out around $28; benefits add about $14. New hires at the Detroit Three get $14 an hour. There's no pension or health care when they retire, but benefits raise their total hourly compensation to $29 while they're working. UAW wages are now comparable with Toyota workers, according to a Free Press analysis.




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The death of Santa

Saturday, December 06, 2008


This past week my daughter informed her first grade class that Santa Claus was dead.  When confronted with skepticism, she told the doubters that her father "said so."  Some background information is in order.  My daughter has always had some doubts about Santa.  She knew that characters like Dora, Ariel, and Cindarella were not real, so Santa seemed somewhat implausible.  My wife and I have always taken a neutral approach towards Santa.  If she wanted to believe, write letters, leave out cookies, we were fine with that.  On the other hand, if she asked us if he was real, then we saw no need to lie to her and I never cared for the parenting approach that involved Santa as some omniscient quasi-deity that watching to see if you are good (just like the Dept. of Homeland Security).

I was probably in 2nd grade when I figured out that Santa wasn't real.  My parents never made that big deal out of Santa.  We always opened presents on Christmas Eve (like many Scandanavian families) and had a few small presents from "Santa" the next morning.  My wife's family did the whole Christmas morning Santa thing.  Her Dad even dressed up as Santa on Christmas Eve and none of the kids ever figured out it was him until they were much older.  

Following the conversation on doubting Santa, we bought her a book on the historical and mythological origins of Santa.  Knowing that he was alive hundreds of years ago, she figured out that he was probably dead now, hence the conclusion that Santa Claus is dead.  I do remember talking to her about keeping her conclusions to herself, as some kids believed there was a Santa and it wasn't up to her to kids otherwise.  I am sure her teacher will get some calls on this one.

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Would You Like Some Turkey With That Beer?

Friday, December 05, 2008

One of my favorite things to do is imagine what beer I would pair with a particular dinner. When the dinner in question is "special" in nature, like Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Bar Mitzvahs, or no-kids-all-alone-with-the-wife dinner, I actually bring the imaginative venture to life and introduce the beer in question to the table.

This Thanksgiving, I chose Founders Brewing Company Harvest Ale, a nice, hoppy, beefed-up American Pale Ale.The moment the beer touched my glass, it brought to life a massive, mountainy full white head which capped my pint glass, growing like a fertile garden, nearly out of control. The beer itself, under that massive mound, was a gorgeous, glowing golden straw color, ready for the harvest. This beer just looks like a harvest of plenty: sunny, bright, warm, inviting. If a beer could look like the rest of the Thanksgiving spread, it's this beer: the whole table summarized by a glass of beer. Even the head clung like turkey gravy down the sides of the glass.

And again, on the aroma: the table in a glass. Fresh and inviting, warm and intimate. Sweet citrus like grapefruit and lemons, tops the nose. Pine trees atop a bed of sugary malt and fresh grains. Alcohol sneaks in, but only to add to the warmth and invitation of this glass of plenty.

The taste is a full cornucopia. The beer itself is the perfect marriage for every part of the Thanksgiving meal. Biscuits, grapefruit hops, a blend of spices from the alcohol. This is not a hop attack at all. Each part of the beer fits with the other, like the massive meal spread before my eyes. The hops cut through the fatty, dark meat of the turkey to accentuate turkey's natural sweetness. The malts highlighted and sweetened the breast meat. The alcoholic spice married perfectly with my mom's deep, spicy meat dressing. The residual sweetness of the harvest ale wedded the traditional bread stuffing. Mashed potatos and sauteed squash broke bread with alpha acids in the hops and the bready malt backbone of the beer. Even the cranberries didn't overpower the pine-and-lemon of the hops in the beer. Bit after bite, sip after sip, beer and food blended together, neither wrestling for notice. It was a table of plenty.

The medium body of the beer certainly contributed to the happy, healthy fullness in my tummy. The carbonation in the beer cleansed my tongue between bites of food and sips of beer that had me grinning like a fool for the entire meal.

Alone, the beer will be fine; I like a good pale ale. But with a full turkey dinner on Thanksgiving? Let's just say that Thanks was Given.

AND SPEAKING of Thanksgiving: 75 years ago today, Prohibition was officially repealed! December 5, 1933 is a day we here at Around the Keg are surely thankful for. Raise a pint (of Founders Harvest Ale) for repeal!

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National Lampoons Visits DeWitt, MI

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

This past weekend, per the "tradition" dictated to me by Mrs. Smitty, it was time to hang the Christmas lights.



That about sums it up.

Now that said, I do not have 25,000 bulbs, as Clark Griswold does. In fact, comparatively, I have very few lights., though we have all sorts of other junk like bows, wreaths, and authentic, tree-bough-like garland.

Normally, I wait until there is several inches of snow on the ground and that driveway is nice and icy before I put the ladder up, defy death, and perch myself on the shingles of my roof for a hair of traction to keep me from plummeting to my broken-limbed demise. This year, God was good and gave me a sunny, 33-degree day with a dry driveway.

Here's the deal: I am absolutely terrified of heights. The measurement from my driveway to the peak of my garage is 20 feet. To the eaves-trough along the front of my house? a whopping fifteen feet. But understand, folks, 15 feet might as well be a one thousand-foot cliff. I have a high-quality ladder that is a sturdy as the frame of a skyscraper, placed firmly on level ground, and I am still terrified.

How did I ever survive the Marines? Willpower and teamwork. When we had to rappel down towers or out of helicopters? I asked the Marine behind me to push me hard enough that I had no choice but to go. Mountain warfsare training? I looke UP the whole time, and knew I couldn't go back down because there were people right behind me. Parachuting? Again, I turned around and screamed "KICK MY PACK HARD!" And kick they would, sadistic motherfuckers. That's how I survived: I was forced to.

So every year since our marriage, the weekend of Thanksgiving, I swallow my fear, stare-down my ladder, and just go. It is important to my wife, and now it's important to my kid(s) too, to have lights on the house. If it's important to them, then far be it for me to let a little debilitating fear get in the way.

I grasp the string of lights in my teeth. I fill my pockets with the little plastic light-holders. I slow my breathing. And rung-by-rung, I climb my mountain. I hug the ladder, I stick a light holder on the string of lights, I hold the ladder with one hand in a death grip, and lean, just a bit, to stick the holder under a shingle on clip it onto the eaves. Repeat, repeat. Descend from my sheer cliff face over sharp rocks and sharks below, move the ladder a few feet, and start over. 5 strings of lights takes me an hour, but it gets done, a step at a time. Shaking, nervous, sweating, swearing, panting, straining, it gets done. It's important to my family.

And then I have a high-gravity beer.

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Credit where credit is due.

Monday, December 01, 2008

In all the media coverage of the blowhards on the hill lambasting the American automakers for past sins, real and imaginary, there was one voice on the Banking Committee that failed to get coverage. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan, 11) deserves credit for his 8 minute defense of the Automaker loan package. He is clear, pointed and makes much more sense than anyone who received news coverage.

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My Name Is...My Name Is...My Name Is...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

From Mr. Furious, who got it from a Mr. Furious regular Toast, a quick-and-harmless meme:

1. Witness Protection Program Name (mother’s & father’s middle names): "Richard Lucille"

2. NASCAR Name (first name of your mother’s dad, father’s dad): "Eugene Leonard"

3. Star Wars Name (the first 2 letters of your last name, first 4 letters of your first name): "Sm-Noa"

4. Detective Name (favorite color, favorite animal): "Blue Bear"

5. Soap Opera Name (middle name, city where you live): "Alexander DeWitt"

6. Superhero Name (2nd favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink, optionally add "THE" to the beginning): "The Green Beer"

7. Fly Name (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name): "Nosm"

8. Gangsta Name (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie): "Mint Chocolate (times two) Chip"

9. Rock Star Name (current pet’s name, current street name): "Spike Hardtke"

10. Porn Name (1st pet, street you grew up on): "Oliver Raby"

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Bob's Best: The five things I am most thankful for this holiday

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wives that put up with us
Let’s face it, most guys marry “up”. With all of our scratching, farting, burping and other mannerisms that show we have no manners at all, we are lucky to get a date, let a lone avoid a divorce.

The Big-three automakers…
…and the 4 million workers and retirees that they employ. Along with all the dependable cars my family has purchased from them over my lifetime.

A job and health care
9.3% of us in Michigan are looking for a paying gig. I will not complain about mine. Thank goodness mine even provides healthcare.

Michigan beer
According to the Michigan Beer Guide there are at least 88 Michigan breweries. You could likely drink nothing but Michigan beer all year round and never drink the same beer twice.

Family and friends
No explanation needed.

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

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Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gluttony.

Continuing what is essentially a daily tradition here at Around the Keg, we are happy to endorse and rejoice in a day known for over-eating, over-drinking, long naps and football. Again, what's really different than any other day? Well, on Thanksgiving, it's encouraged and expected whereas any other day we practice the above activities, we are yelled-at for being things like "no-good" or "lazy" or "bad parents."

Thanksgiving for Mr. and Mrs. Smitty involves getting to the parents' house and pawning-off the children immediately on the grandparents and other extended family members, under the auspices of "gee you must really want to see them sicne you don't always get a chance to." We then immediately dive into the heaps of appetizers already spread around, and it's all downhill from there.

Things the contributors to ATK are thankful for:

  1. Malted barley
  2. Hops
  3. Yeast
  4. Water
  5. Brown Bottles
  6. Beer glasses (not goggles)
  7. Craft Breweries

Things that Smitty is thankful for:

  1. Beer fridges
  2. Bottle openers
  3. Camera phones
  4. Egyptian cotton sheets
  5. Founders Brewing Company
  6. How I Met Your Mother
  7. Barney Stinson
  8. W.A. Mozart
  9. Baby Einstein
  10. Wrinkle-proof suits
  11. Family, friends, yadda-yadda
  12. XM Comedy stations
  13. Charlie Papazian
  14. ATK's fine list of contributors
  15. ATK's fine "regular" readers

My thanks to all of you. Have a great Thanskgiving, and I'll be back here in a few days. I will think fondly on you and your families every time I hoist a Founders Harvest Ale with every bite of turkey.

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About as Michigan as Michigan beer can be!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Want to save Michigan's economy? Buy Bell's Christmas Ale!!


Ok... So perhaps buying Bell's Christmas Ale isn't going to save our slowly sinking state, but what we've got here is a beer brewed by a Michigan brewery, using 100% Michigan grown barley, Pacific Northwest and Michigan hops, and of course Michigan water and Bell's house yeast.* Bell's calls this a Scotch Ale on the label, but this is not like what we think of when we think typical Scotch Ale, a la Dirty Bastard or Arcadia Scotch Ale. What I think we've got here is closer to a 60 Shilling Scottish Ale, being somewhat low in alcohol (5.4% ABV in this case) and not as sweet and heavy. (Honestly, I don't know much about the "lower" styles of Scottish Ale, perhaps Smitty can chime in with some more info?)

The brew pours honey-gold to amber with a medium sized light toffee colored chunky head. It leaves a little lacing in my mug and a thin film sticks around all the way down. I get spicy hops on the nose... no hint of malt that I can smell but my sniffer has been a bit off of late. Juicy-bitter hop notes up front blend into dry, toasty malt with just a hint of toffee. As it warms it gets a bit sweeter, but still falls on the side of dry and bitter. Body is not as heavy as I expected, and this beer goes down EASY.

Not at all what I was expecting from a beer that says "malt driven scotch ale" on the label, but a good tasting very satisfying beer. Honestly if you had given me this brew blind I would've pegged it as an APA. It doesn't have the color, body, and sweet maltiness that I expect of scotch ales. My normal experience with scotch ales in very low to no bitterness, thick body resulting from LONG boils (two hours, sometimes more), and nice dark red colors... but again I've only had the Scotch Ales that would be classified as Wee Heavies or 80-shilling ales (and I'm not even sure if 80-Shilling Ales is right...), so perhaps this is on style for a 60-shilling ale. Regardless, it's good, just don't get this expecting heavy and sweet, or high ABV.

*So my only questions for Bell's... Where is the Maltster? Where do the raw materials come from and the manufacturing happen for the bottles, labels, caps and six-pack carriers? We're getting close to a 100% Michigan beer here, and I would love to find out that a lot of the packaging is Michigan based too!

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Hypocrisy of the Hill, Part II.

A good read.

The Detroit Free Press, column by Mitch Albom: If I had the floor at the auto rescue talks.

Albom:

"Besides, let's be honest. When it comes to blowing budgets, being grossly inefficient and wallowing in debt, who's better than Congress?

So who are you to lecture anyone on how to run a business?”

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Definitely Not Hermaphroditic

Thanks to ATK favorite George at I'm Not One To Blog But, we have been introduced to the Gender Analyzer. Plug-in your blog, and grab the results.

For what it's worth, Around the Keg is:


We think http://www.aroundthekeg.blogspot.com is written by a man (85%).


85% probable that ATK is written by a man. So, that begs the question: which of you who regularly post here are responsible for the 15% female? Or is it really just a combination of all of us getting in touch with our feminine sides?

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Video of the Week (But Not Every Week) #12

Saturday, November 22, 2008

FINALLY! Someone who can imitate Obama. I don't know who this guy is, but he's way better than anyone on SNL.

"Debate Prep."



"After the Debate"

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This Day In Beer

Friday, November 21, 2008


Busy, busy week. Crushing, really.

Tonight, and tomorrow, I will be drinking Founders Breakfast Stout, Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Backwoods Bastard until I go blind.

What are your beer plans for the weekend? Anything good on tap or in bottles? Lemme know. I could be willing to swich up my own menu.

Also, in about 2 weeks, I will be bottling my Maple Syrup Porter. After moving it into the secondary fermenter recently, all seems to be on track for this to be a damn good beer. So I'm in the market for a name for it. Suggestions in the comments section.

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A good look at the auto industry and DC

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Peter DeLorenzo runs autoextremist.com, an automotive site that first and foremost features Peter’s hard look at the auto industry. DeLorenzo comes from the advertising side of the industry and knows more than one industry insider, so he usually knows what he is talking about. He’s no big-three cheerleader though, he regularly whacks their bad product, advertising and business decisions.

I recommend going to his site every Wednesday after his weekly column is posted.

Today, take a look at his recent post which he reflects on the last two committee hearings dealing with the Detroit LOAN package. Today DeLorenzo takes hard look at the fools in D.C.

DeLorenzo:

We then had to watch as each of these U.S. Senators spewed their particular brand of inaccuracies and flat-out misconceptions about the automobile industry in their opening statements. A very few were actually worth listening to – and I mean like two - while most of the others were so blatantly self-serving and out of touch with reality that it was painful to watch. And then some acted like they were just hatched yesterday and were so resolute in their lack of awareness about what was going on and why they had to be there in the first place that it was simply appalling .

Read it here.

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Hypocrisy on the Hill

For the last two days, the CEO’s of the three largest American automakers have been before congress lobbying for $25 Billion in loans to keep them afloat for the next year or so. Much of the news coverage of their appearance has been of lawmakers ripping the CEO’s to shreds for everything from CEO pay, to building SUV’s, to flying corporate jets to Washington.

Clearly the current big three CEO’s don’t have the public relations skills that Lee Iacocca had nearly thirty years ago. At the time Chrysler was in need of similar assistance, and Iacocca worked for $1 per year.


These particular CEO perks don’t get me too worked up. CEO pay nationally is way out of hand but that problem won’t be solved by beating up the big three. That didn’t stop Congressman Peter Roskam, (R- Ill.) from demanding the three CEO’s work for a buck.

Need I remind Roskam that the United States has been running a sizable deficit for decades? When will Roskam begin working for one dollar? He won’t. It would be pointless and it won’t seriously benefit the national budget. But the point is, Roskam works in a body that regularly gives itself raises, regularly drives SUV’s, likely rides in private jets and helped contribute to the mess this country is in.

Roskam isn’t my Congressman, so I doubt he will respond to my e-mail, but I am sending the letter below to point out his hypocrisy.

November 20, 2008

Congressman Peter Roskam
507 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Roskam,

This morning on several news programs, the country witnessed you asking the CEO’s of the big three automakers to work for one dollar per year as part of the effort to get the companies back on their feet. While this would likely prove to be a nice public relations gesture, as Lee Iacocca did when Chrysler needed similar assistance nearly thirty years ago, I am sure you are aware that this would have little significance to the automakers’ bottom line.

Like the automakers, I am sure you have noticed that the United States Government has been running in the red for the better part of three decades. Since you find it so important for people in positions of authority to work for one dollar, when their organizations are running in deficit, will you be giving up your Congressional salary this year?

CEO compensation is out of control, but you won’t fix that problem by letting the big three go out of business. Instead of showboating, isn’t it time to consider the 3 Million workers and retirees who are supported by the American auto industry? There are Illinois jobs at stake.

Signed,

Bob


You too can contact Roskam here:
UPDATE: Roskam doesn't accept e-mail from outside the distrrict, so snail-mail it is.

You can also write other members of the House Financial Services Committee to let them know what I think of their showboating. It's a long list, so hopefully one of them represents you.

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Some Rare, Intelligent Auto Commentary

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I really should write an auto industry piece, but instead, I will let you read this article in the New Republic. Jonathan Cohn writes one of the few pieces about the auto industry that required a significant amount of research and facts. This is unlike the rest of the anti-Detroit drivel that passes as journalism these days.

Cohn writes:

"Rescuing the auto industry is not, as so many people suppose, a question of giving Detroit one extra shot at transformation. It's a question of giving Detroit a chance to finish a transformation that was already underway."

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Church and State

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Over the weekend, there were several protests around the country about Proposal 8. A Balloon-Juice contributor, Michael D, had a short post about it this weekend that is worth the few moments it will take to look at. The Episcopalian minister in the embedded video clip has some reasoned arguments to make as to why there is biblical justification for gay marriage (we'll get there in just a moment...don't go nuts yet), and Ashton Kutcher stumbles his way through an endearing "Prop 8 is bullshit" diatribe. It's both of their points that really got me thinking about the role of the government and religion in the gay marriage issue.

Religion

First, the minister. He warns, before he starts, about "throwing scripture at each other." From there, he makes the case that biblically, divorce is the worst aspect of relationships; that Jesus spoke much more of divorce and adultry than any other part of marriage. From this minister's perspective, one does well to encourage monogamy and stability. It is the support of monogamy and stability that represents "conservative family values." In general, I agree with his statements.

What really got me thinking was his initial statement: "if we're going to start throwing scripture at each other, which is always a dangerous thing..." I recall an old email that went around some time ago that railed against "Dr." Laura Schlessenger, who had a show a few years back in which she heavily quoted scripture as justification for her viewpoint. This email quoted other parts of scripture that we ignore in modern times, like when it is okay to chuck stones at people or kill them. The point is this: if we are indeed to use biblical justification for public policy, we should be careful what we wish for. I think this is the Episcopalian minister's point, in a way: the overarching lessons are what we should be concerned about. Stable, happy families are what we should support, not one type of religious law.

On a whim, I googled "religious jutification for slavery." Lo and behold, plenty of references.


Genesis 9:25-27:And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.[King James version]

This appears to be the basis from which all other justifications for slavery and/or segregation arise. A curse is put on generations of one guy, who if I remember correctly, saw his dad naked, laughed about it, and told his brothers. From that horrid mistake, generations were seen as slaves (it appears that there was some opinion that Canaan settled in Africa).

In fact, there are several passages in the bible that specifically regulate slave ownership in some way, shape, or form. I'm not a biblical scholar by any means, waffling back and forth between agnosticism and Presbyterian-Lite as I do, but whereas the bible seems silent on prohibiting slave ownership (save for, of course, The Golden Rule), it lays out sets of rules specific to the conduct of slave ownership. Some examples:

--Exodus 21:20-21 - And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.
--Leviticus 19:20-22 - And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.

On and on...I found at least 10 examples where the conduct of a slave-owner is laid-out, from emancipation of the slaves to punishment of the slaves.

I bring this up, because we either agree that we pick-and-choose what aspects of the bible are relevent to modern life, or we take a literalist view. We accept everything that it has to say as The Truth, literally, or we agree that it serves as a guiding light to help us each individually make important, morally-based decisions. The key is individually. "Dr." Laura certainly uses it as a moral compass, but the hole in her argument is all of the canon law she chooses to ignore (various demands on the appropriateness of stoning, killing, beheading, drowning, and the like) because it is not relevant or even normal or moral in modern society.

Eventually, in the Mid-1800s, we largely agreed as a nation that slavery was bad, despite many impassioned speeches by, among others, Jefferson Davis, about the biblical and moral imperative of slave ownership ("[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation."). Yeah, we had to kinda fight a war over it, but the point was made: slave ownership is immoral in modern society. In the 1920s, women could finally vote, despite much biblical evidence to womens' supposed inferiority (which we now know, according to Mrs. Smitty, that the opposite is true). In the 1960s, further discrimination, however biblically justified, was legislated away. In 2008, we elected a black President.

Like the Episcopalian minister in the video clip referenced above, we should be careful to start throwing around bible verses, and recognize religion as an individual's guiding principles alone, and not some source for the justification of legislation that discriminates against people or creates a 2nd class citizenry. If I put my mind to it, I could justify anything...any behavior...by picking the biblical verses that suit my needs, however out of context they may be. One has to take the bible as a whole, which is globally about treating our fellow man with respect and to be a friend and neighbor when people need it. Obviously, God did not and would not condone slavery. We can say that now, though one hundred and forty years ago, people might not have been so sure that He didn't. But, as we now disregard biblical passages either justifying slavery or laying-out rules for the ownership of slaves, perhaps we should look at a similar disregard for any passage that advocates for the discrimination of anyone. Discrimination, no matter how justified in the bible (which again I don't think any of this stuff is), just doesn't, or shouldn't, apply in modern society.

Government

Now, Kutcher's statements. His whole point, however rambling, was that Proposal 8 is discriminatory. The height of irony to me in the Proposal 8 battle was the aftermath. According to the Los Angeles Times, "an exit poll of California voters showed that black voters sided in favor of the measure by margins of more than 2 to 1."[November 6, 2008] A group that has fought discrimination at all levels just voted in massive numbers (statistically speaking) to discriminate against another minority group. Some else's turn, perhaps?

All snark aside, Proposal 8 creates a class of citizenry that does not get to enjoy all of the privileges afforded to every other American. Marriage is one of those funny things, in that it has both State as well as religious implications. Ostensibly, marriage can happen in a religious setting without State-sanction. But it's the question of the State's involvement in marriage that I am looking at.

If you subscribe to the view that the reason for marriage is procreation, then should we disallow sterile couples from marrying?

If you subscribe to the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and is a union before God, I would say that in the affairs of State, God and religion have nothing to do with marriage. The State does not grant a license to marry based on your standing as a Christian. If memory sevres me, you can get a marriage license so long as you have the $50 is cost me here in Michigan. I was never asked my background, my religious belief, or my moral code.

Restricting a right OR a privilege (both of which people have argued marriage is) based on whether or not it aligns with my religious belief is not something the U.S. Constitution protects. Then why not allow rape or murder? Because rape and murder violate the victim's right to keep living and enjoying their rights and privileges, as well as the fact that they are morally wrong. All gay marriage is, to some people of faith, is morally wrong. It doesn't violate my rights that two guys (or women) get married.

So, again, California (and Michigan 4 years ago) has passed a referendum that removes the ability for one self-selecting group of individuals to enjoy the same thing that everyone else gets to do on a whim.

Simply stated: from a religious standpoint, anyone is allowed to believe that homosexuals should not get married and that God will not recognize that union (and in fact may "punish" it). But as soon as that person backs laws that disallow homosexual marriage, they are a supporter of discrimination. There is no philosophical difference between forcing blacks to use different drinking fountains, and actually passing laws to that effect, and disallowing gays the benefits of monogamous, loving marriage.

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In 2008, we (hopefully) elected some real Democrats

Monday, November 17, 2008

While I surely look back with fondness on the peace and prosperity of the 1990’s, this was a time in the history of the Democratic Party that I dare not return. The Clintonian policies of balanced budgets, fairer taxes and investments in education and infrastructure helped progressively power the economy of the 90’s, but other actions helped conservatives (Democrats included) sew the seeds of today’s financial crisis and further the decline of the middle class.

At the time, the Democrats acted like liberals on cultural issues, but Democratic leaders caved into the Republican policies on issues of Wall Street. Back then, the Democratic leadership Council was still powerful within the Party and Clinton was their leader. According to the DLC, if you weren’t a “New Democrat” you were a loser, bound to be tossed out of office and relegated to the dustbin of history. According to them, everything that went well politically was a result of their policies and when things went bad, they were always quick to say that if Democrats acted more like them, they would have won. The DLC, with Bill Clinton as chief spokesman, pushed unfair trade and essentially told blue collar workers – and America as a whole - that manufacturing jobs were expendable. They conveyed a message that blue collar workers futures were being traded for the jobs of Wall Street and the college educated. It wasn’t too hard to paint Democrats as elitist when we were guided by a core economic message that picked winners and losers.

Part of the DLC message was declaring the “era of big government is over”. True to message, in 1999, President Bill Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. (Sponsored by among others, Phil Gramm, now banking lobbyist.) This legislation repealed portions of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was enacted following the Great Depression. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, among other things, established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and established banking reforms to control speculation and prohibit certain types of banks from owning other types of financial institutions. This included mixing commercial banks with investment banks and mixing banks with some of the insurance companies that are failing today. (Paragraph edited for clarity and corrections)

In the end, the DLC message and policies led to the Democrats downfall. Who wants to vote for a Democrat acting like a Republican, when you can vote for the real thing? Fortunately, when Democrats were tossed out of office, it was the DLCers who took the majority of the hit. Their ineffectual leadership, regular pandering to Republican demands and essentially making decisions based on political posturing, instead of core Democratic beliefs led to the Democrats losing control in 2002.

Thankfully, the Democratic Party is now led by the Obamas, Deans, and Bidens of the party, while and the days of Clinton, Harold Ford, Terry McAuliffe, and Joe Lieberman are over. The progressive movement regained control of the party and we seem to have grown back our confidence and spine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t soon enough to head off the financial and manufacturing melt down we are seeing today.

It is my hope that we have not only learned the political and electoral lessons of being “New Democrats” but also learned the economic lessons as well.

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For a short history lesson on the history on banking regulations, visit this article, written by Robert Sweere in the Springfield Missouri News-Leader.

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Phoning It In

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Long days at the Capitol here in Lansing yesterday, and again today. Today, in fact, looking at the list of bills on the agenda, and their relative contentiousness, ought to ooze into tomorrow. I kissed my family good bye this morning for the last time until probably some time tomorrow. Yippee.

At any rate, you can't leave a blog alone for days on end before you lose viewers (a lesson taught to me by astute blogger Rickey Henderson, who from time to time posts blogging rules). But I don't have the time to do a detailed post, so I'm phoning this one in.

First, go look at Cole's post on Balloon Juice about Lieberman.

Then, from a few days back, go see Mr. Furious' post on the same.

UPDATE:

Add to it Rickey Henderson's post as well.

I then leave the discussion and details to all 2 of you who will comment.

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Happy Birthday

Monday, November 10, 2008


November 10, 1775, in Tun Tavern located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States Marine Corps was created.

The way they told it to us, they wanted a group of the roughest, most psychotic warriors they could find. So, a bar fight was started. Those left standing were enlisted in the Marine Corps.

I'm sure reality is a little different than that, but we all have our legends. It seems appropriate to argue that our history, that of the U.S.M.C., started with a bar fight.

**UPDATE**

A buddy juest sent me a USMC birthday card. Lots of shouting and warriors in camoflage. A surprising lack of stuff blowing up. But a great birthday card! Thanks...

Semper Fidelis.

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Rebuilding my faith.

Friday, November 07, 2008

My father taught me my love of country. He always said that I was extremely lucky to be born into the United States. He valued the hard work of Americans and demonstrated it through a dedication to buying American products. He taught me the importance of helping our neighbors and most importantly, the value of voting. As a result, I have always been a liberal flag-waver.

But in the last few years, I had begun to lose faith in my country.

My crisis of faith isn’t due to the failure to elect Democrats. There are plenty of reasons for Republicans to rightfully win elections. I lost my faith when my people continued to respond to non-issues. I couldn’t help but be disappointed when voters responded to cultural, racial and class warfare instead of voting based on the best interest of themselves and their fellow Americans. Polls regularly showed that people voted for one candidate, when the other candidate better reflected their own positions on issues of the economy, education and foreign affairs.

Over the last few election cycles, it seems that a significant number of swing voters have based their votes on the superficial rationale of personality or baseless insinuations of character flaws. They’ve responded to charges of “flip-flopping”, boisterousness, and exaggeration. Some voters seemed motivated by fear of gays, Arabs, blacks, or other boogie men. Independent groups turned decorated war heroes into cowards and liars.

Voters couldn’t see beyond the rhetoric and see the damage happening to this country.

Yet, my faith is returning.

On Tuesday, my country elected a man named Barack Obama to be president. The victory of a Democrat does restore my faith, but not nearly as much as the actions of the people who worked to elect him.

We all expected racism be an ugly force in this election and it was. That said, the response to the racism was truly inspiring. Racist comments and voting behavior could have been brushed under the rug, but in this election, with so much at stake, white Americans confronted and battled racism in a way they likely never envisioned.

Richard Trumka, the Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO took initiative and made several impassioned speeches on race. In each of his speeches, he spoke of a conversation he had the day of the primary in Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, Trumka’s home town:

"This woman walks up to me. I'd known her for a long time, and I ask her 'Have you decided who you gonna vote for?' "

"There's no way I'd ever vote for Barack Obama," the woman responded.

Trumka said he pressed her as to why. First, she said it's because Obama is "a Muslim." Trumka responded that Obama is actually a Christian.

Then, she told him Obama never wears an American flag pin on his lapel. Trumka told her that, too, is false, then asked her why she wasn't wearing one if that is such an important issue.

Trumka said he continued to push, until "her eyes dropped down and she said to me, 'Well, he's a black man.' "

Trumka said he told her to look around at their town, the mining community where they both had lived for so long. "And I said to her, 'This town is dying — literally dying.' "

"Our kids are moving away because there's no future here," Trumka said. "And here's a man, Barack Obama, who's going to fight for people like us, and you won't vote for him because of the color of his skin? Are you out of your ever-loving mind?"

These lines would always elicit great applause and really moved minds.

(Source: NPR.org)
About a week ago, National Public Radio ran an excellent report on the individual campaigners on the front lines. They showcased ordinary union members who pleaded and fought to elect Obama and pursued the votes of people who were openly opposed to Obama based on race. Some people were shocked to learn that long-time friends and co-workers, many who worked side-by-side with blacks, were racist. People argued. Some minds went unchanged, but many did. Friendships dissolved, but others were created. Older people, who never thought of electing a black man, voted for him. Many good people asked themselves about why they weren’t comfortable voting for Obama and upon introspection realized it was race that was holding them back.

In the end, people who were never directly confronted by racism or were never personally impacted by racism stood up and did the right thing at a time when many people would have folded. These are the people who restored my faith in my country.

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Strange Brew

On election Day, I was a nervous wreck. I was also sick of the talking heads. Starting right away in the morning, it was all conjecture about what was going to happen, and the inane guessing game lasted until the polls closed. Then it got worse.

I woke up, took the Smith Herd to daycare, went to work for an hour, and left. I went home, and brewed beer.
It allowed me to relax, take some time, and most importantly, to not obsess over election coverage.

I brewed two beers that will largely be used for Christmas presents this year: a British brown ale and a maple syrup porter.

I didn't do an all-grain batch this time, as when I was purchasing ingredients, I was unsure of the weather. I figured it would be crappy, so I didn't want to brew outdoors or in my garage. Thus, I bought extracts and then some specialty grains, which you see pictured here. I ran some 60L Crystal malt and some black patent for the porter, and some 60L Crystal malt and some chocolate malt for the brown.

Now this may seem backwards, but the extract I used for the brown ale extract was a dark liquid extract, and the porter was an amber liquid extract (dark was Muntons, amber was Coopers). The brown ale is a recipe I have brewed over and over, and it is in a place where I am really quite happy with the flavors. The side benefit is that it is a huge starting gravity (will get it from home...forgot my recipe and stuff...will update later) and has flavors that taste mature pretty quickly, so this one will be ready on about 2 weeks. It just gets better as it ages for a few extra weeks beyond that.

The porter, however, is a brand new recipe. I made-up a basic brown porter recipe just so it would be something simple. We'll see if it came out okay. On top of it, I added a quart of maple syrup, right at the end of the boil to crash it (thanks for the advice, Sopor). I got the maple syrup from ATK-regular(ish) Christian, who told me in no uncertain terms to "not use it on your fucking pancakes." That really left me now choice but to brew with it. I am hoping the syrup will add a little hint of flavor with a nice increase in ABV given that maple syrup is liquid sugar! However, with using only a quart, I am not sure I am going to get much flavor out of it. I might just get the alcohol boost. That said, when I bottle these beers, I will use corn sugar as always for the brown ale, but I may use maple syrup again for bottling the porter (I found a little chart for how much syrup to use for priming bottles in Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing).

Some random shots. These are fresh-grown Cascade hops from Michigan State. Having an agricultrual University a few miles from home is kinda nice! I used Cascade for the porter, for the bittering as well as aromatic. Loves me some Cascade.




I used some Fuggles (boil) and Styrian Goldings (aroma) for the brown ale.
Throwing whole hops into a boil is fun, but filtering them back out when I move the beer into the fermenter is a giant pain in the ass. It's why I prefer pellets. But boy, whole hops in a boil looks pretty!
And here's the finished products. I was aerating the wort and waiting a bit for it to hit room temperature before I pitched the yeast. Brown ale is pictured first, then the porter.



When I chilled the wort, I use a copper coil chiller. I stuped-out for a minute and got the wort down to a nice 70 degrees, forgetting that I was about to add a few gallons of cold tap water. Duh. So instead of waiting for the beer to cool a little more, I had to wait for it to warm up! No big deal. The yeast is pitched (WLP 002 English Ale Yeast), and a quick check in my cabinets under my bar this morning showed healthy fermentation roiling away. Can't wait!

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The Perfect Storm

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What creates a perfect storm for an election? In 1994, the Republicans had it by taking control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. The capitalized on unpopular social issues (gays in the military, proposed nationalized health care) and entrenched incumbents. In 2006, the Democrats thought they had it by taking control of the Congress (House and Senate), and stunningly taking back the Michigan House of Representatives. But it turned out that the Dems were wrong because 2006 was precursor to 2008, which was the perfect tsunami!

What makes the perfect storm in politics that leads to a landslide for one party or the other? My thoughts:

The Economy. “It’s the economy, stupid.” Thanks, James Carville, for pointing that out to us. What held true in 1992 still holds true. But this time, it was not just the economy. That has been depressed for a while, while trying to make a rebound. Jobs losses are common and people are leaving the state. Leaders, whether governmental or business, are doing all they can to bring jobs back. But no one saw the financial market mess coming. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsing was big, but when real people see that that they can’t get bank loans or refinance mortgages then it really comes home to roost.

The Bailout. People really can’t believe that the American public gave so much money to Wall Street. Was it the right thing to do? Probably. But when you default on your loan, no one bails you out. When you make bad decisions, no one bails you out. Corporate America got bailed out, though, and people are sick of it. This reflected on President Bush and his administration, though, and not on the candidates nor on the Congress. People just seem to believe that we wouldn’t be there in the first place if not for President Bush.

The War. Going on so many years, people are sick of tremendous spending on the war. They want to bring the troops home victorious, but they see the incredible expense of the American people for a never-ending and potentially losing effort. Why not spend those dollars here at home? Or close the federal deficit and debt? See above, The Economy.

Change. People want change. They need it. People want to know that the country has new ideas to move forward. That is what brought us John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Whether you believe in the new ideas of the youth (Kennedy), or supply-side economics with the trickle-down effects (Reagan), or a plan to do something rather than staying the course (Clinton), you want change. New ideas, not the status quo.

None of these on their own creates a “perfect storm” but these all taken together created the perfect storm this year. Oh, and the addition of race to the mix. Barack Obama drew out African-Americans in droves. Young, old, men, women. Some thought that race would also be a factor in discouraging people from voting for Obama, and maybe it was. But I think the new voters greatly outweighed those that wouldn’t vote for him because he is African-American.

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Post-election ramblings of a conservative leaning/pragmatic/libertarian

It is no secret that I have some concerns about Obama in several areas. I am not going to blog about those. I appreciate the history and want to let his die-hard supporters enjoy their moment. I found this post by Ilya Somin on Volokh, which has become one of my favorite blogs (besides ATK) because they take a reasoned approach to the issues and don't seem beholden to any party (for the most part). It is called, Three Positive Aspects of Obama's Victory and I think they bear consideration by Independents and Conservatives.

One:

First and foremost, Obama's victory is an extraordinary milestone in the history of American race relations...As recently as 45 years ago, most American blacks did not even have the right to vote, much less any hope of being elected to the highest office in the land. Just a few decades before that, in the early 1900s, many southern blacks could not even freely change jobs, because of constraints imposed by state peonage laws.


Two:

Second, it is clear that Obama's win will improve the image of the United States throughout much of the world. I do not believe that pleasing foreign public opinion should be the be all and end all of American foreign policy. Sometimes, we can and should take unpopular actions. But it would be wrong to assume, as some conservatives have during the Bush Administration, that the good will of foreign publics is irrelevant.


Three:

Obama is an incredibly talented and charismatic politician. His meteoric rise from being a little-known state senator just four years ago is the most rapid ascent from obscurity to the White House in at least a century, if not longer. Conservatives and libertarians underestimate his competence and political skills at their peril.

The author ends with this point:

However, it is fair to say that Obama is unlikely to commit serious mistakes merely because of incompetence or stupidity. If he adopts flawed policies, it will be because of his ideology or because of perverse political incentives that enable him and his party to reap short-term political gains from policies that cause long-run harm.

I would be lying to say I am not a little bit frightened by one party controlling 2 of the 3 braches of government, but I am still cautiously optimistic. For now, congratulations to President Obama and his supporters on a well earned victory.

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Bob's Best: My five favorite images from this election.

As published in the New York Times, this image was taken at the Democratic National Convention:

Another NY Times photo taken during the primaries:

The picture below makes me wonder what this man might have been thinking or feeling to be brought to tears and inspiration by Obama. Is it pride in country? Was he denied a job because of his color? Is he another person holding out hope that the future will be better for his children?



A rain-soaked rally:


My little Obamamaniac. She can read two words: her name and "Obama."

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Yes He Did.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

We were there.

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Go.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Get the hell off this blog and go vote. Go. Now. Vote. Then talk about it in the comments section.

But for now? Go vote.

And for any loyal ATK readers who need an extra push, here's a little election day sexy for you.

Better?

Good. Still here? Go. Vote.

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Wicked Witch of Wayne County?

Have you guys caught wind of Shirley Nagel, dubbed by one blogger as the "Wicked Witch of Wayne County"? I'll bet you have, but since I just heard about it, I'll assume there must be other who have not heard.

One Shirley Nagel, of Grosse Point Farms, refused to give candy to children on Halloween if their parents were supporters of Obama! What kind of a crock of shit is that?! She apparently even had a sign out front that read "No handouts for Obama supporters, liars, tricksters or kids of supporters." OMFG?!?! It's one thing for a couple of adults to hash out their political views in some less than savory ways... BUT LEAVE THE KIDS OUT OF IT!



One commenter on Buzzfeed said "And that's how many children learned to hate republicans. Not the brightest campaign idea."

Freep.com article

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Will the real Obama please stand up

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Over at the National Journal Magazine, Stuart Taylor Jr. has a great article, Which Obama Would America Get?  I think he takes a pretty fair look at Obama and asks some really good questions.  Obama is clearly one of the most gifted and talented politicians in recent memory.  Despite his age and relative inexperience, he has had a vibrant and interesting political career.  For someone to say that they "just don't know him" is silly, but I think it is fair to ask what kind of leader he will be.

"When John McCain and many other Republicans ask, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" there is an implication that maybe he is somehow sinister or extremist.

I don't believe that. But I do think that there are two very different Obamas. Both are extraordinarily intelligent, serene under pressure, and driven by an admirable social conscience -- albeit as willing to deploy deception as the next politician. But while the first Obama would be a well-meaning failure, the second could become a great president."

I hope we get the second.

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A Little Pick-Me-Up

Friday, October 31, 2008

I was throwing some beers back last night at a local favorite watering hole that carries 10 different Michigan brews and another 6 micros from all over the place. As I was quaffing a pint of Founders Harvest Ale (great offering this year...), I spied the label on the tap: Dark Horse Brewing Company (Marshall, MI) Perkulator. It's a coffee doppelbock.

Today's review is going to be uncharacteristically lacking in hyperbole. You see, I had a whole heaping ton of Perkulator last night.

The bartender handed me a glass of a hazy russet brown/chestnut beer with a thick, foamy off-white head. She wasn't exactly reverent as she handed it to me, but she did a good job of not sloshing any beer out of the glass. I appreciated that.

The armoa was all coffee. Underneath all that coffee was your standard doppelbock: chocolate, bread, malty-sweet malted milkball kinds of aromas). I was skeptical of whether the coffee would go well with the chocolatey-sweetness and malty richness of a doppelbock, but I got the impression of coffee-with-my-coffeecake as I whiffed the lovely brew, so yeah, I guess that kinda works!

The taste is a much more balanced blend of flavors than the aroma let on. The coffee mixed with the doppelbock flavors created a coffee-with-cream impression, which while I don't usually put cream in my coffee, I'll make an exception in this case. The malt profile of the Doppelbock is excellent. It wasn't overly-roasty or chocolatey, but balanced. Great molasses taste as well, which really added to the coffee-and-cream feeling. It finished sweet but had a great coffee bitterness to provide a balance to that sweetness. As appropriate, the hops are virtually non-existent. Anhy bitterness came from the coffee and the roasted malts.

The body was great for a Doppelbock: full-bodied but not cloying. The coffee flavors mixed-in really added an impression of a thicker body but, again, cut that cloying sweetness out of it.

Overall, this was a solid offering from this creative brewery. A coffee Doppelbock satisfies two of my vices at the same time, which rates pretty high in my book. Also, kudos for creative use of the historically-appropriate usage of the "-ator" suffix in doppelbocks.

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Undecided?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Somewhere around 7 or 8 percent of the U.S. voting population have not made a decision on who they will vote for president.

Who are these people and what is their holdup?

Maybe if you have not had a chance to turn on the TV this election cycle, you might be confused by one candidate’s economic plan versus his opponent's. Maybe if you haven’t even walked past a news stand, you might not know one tax plan from the other. But seriously, do these undecided voters have absolutely no opinion on the major issues that differentiate the candidates?

In case one of ATK’s 1.9 million readers is still on the fence, below you will find the simpletons guide to five major differences that can be defined in pretty much black and white terms. Each candidate for sure has more nuanced positions on these issues, but since some people are still pretty confused, I think we need to make it simple.

McCain – supports current tax policies, with an additional across the board cut.
Obama – wants to return to Clinton style tax policies, with an additional “middle class” cut.

McCain – supported the invasion of Iraq, supports a measured withdrawal of troops
Obama – opposed the invasion of Iraq, supports a measured withdrawal of troops, possibly a bit quicker.

McCain – opposed to abortion rights
Obama – in favor of abortion rights

McCain – generally supports reduced government regulation of business
Obama – generally in favor of greater regulation of business

Just in case you need extreme labels to make up your mind:

McCain – Conservative, fascist pig
Obama – Liberal, commie-pinko

I close with a funny quote from David Sedaris, written in the New Yorker on October 27th.

In regards to undecided voters:

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat.

“Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?

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Obama takes over the airwaves

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So tonight during prime time, Senator Barack Obama will buy a half-hour of time on eight different networks. From the moment this was announced, I have thought this was a risky move. The guy is ahead, yet he is buying enough time that everyone in America will be forced to watch him, which will even delay the World Series.

UPDATED PHOTO:
The Obama team has been darn smart so far the last two years, but this major move during the last week of the campaign still has me wondering. What do you think? Will the Obama infomercials close the deal, or cut loose some voters?

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***Prediction Time***

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We're one week away from Election Day. Get-out-the-vote efforts are kicking into gear. Poll workers are preparing their 87-year-old bodies for the masses of humanity. Florida is praying that they don't f*** things up again. And Ohio? Well, Ohio still sucks.

I think it's about time for the fine folks of ATK to weigh in. Submit your predictions for the following:

~ Popular vote percentage for Obama/McCain
~ Electoral votes for Obama/McCain (538 total)
~ Net gain in the Senate seats by the Democrats (currently 51 Dems-49 GOP, w/ independents)
~ Net gain in House seats for the Democrats (currently 233 Dems-202 GOP)
~ Three surprises

I recommend RealClearPolitics, Pollster.com, FiveThirtyEight.com, and 270toWin.com (especially for predicting Electoral Vote totals).

Whoever "wins" earns the title of "Chief Political Prognosticator" for the balance of November.

You all seem good at politics. We'll see about the math.

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Thug Life

Look who else pals around with felons.

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A literal take on Take on Me

Monday, October 27, 2008

This was a great song back in the day and the video was pretty edgy for 1986.   I like this take.  Yeah, they were kind of whiny, but since I have ancestors from Norway, there aren't a whole lot of other Norwegian bands to follow.  They were pretty big for a time and even scored the theme for the James Bond movie, The Living Daylights.  Unfortuantely, they faded pretty fast and were never able to follow up on their early success.

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Theodore Renatus

Two of the best biographies I have ever read** are authored by Sir Edmund Morris, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. His second book in his three-volume chronicle of Theodore Roosevelt is called Theodore Rex. Morris is a gifted writer whose genre of choice isn't always very exciting.
Could be though that in this case, Morris' subject was...pretty damn exciting.

At any rate, Morris did a mock-interview in today's New York Times, asking modern questins but answering them with actual Roosevelt quotes. What you get are Morris' conjecture about how Roosevelt may actually have answered these questions, based on what Morris knows about Roosevelt's mindset (which again, after devoting the time it takes to write three biographies about the guy, should be a pretty good idea...).

Go check it out. It's at least funny, if not also insightful.


**Biographies tend to be pretty damn dull (see: David McCullough's "John Adams." Szzzznnnkkkkkzzz....), but these were well-written and almost story-like. It's a tactic that got Morrris in a little trouble with the Reagan estate.

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