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.


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!


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


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."


"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."


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?



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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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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