2012 Look-Ahead

Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 retrospectives take a ton of work for very little payola. Nobody reads them, everyone's busy with holiday crap, they're never as clever or biting as you intend them to be and really, they take a lot of time and research (and given that the holidays are busy-but-not-busy-but-very-time-consuming, who has that kind of time?). So instead, I want to do a 2012 look-ahead. What is ATK going to "be" in 2012? What are our new goals we'll never accomplish? How will we again fail to be relevant next year? I'll let Bob and Steve and Ricky if he reappears and anyone else fill-in their promises-to-break.

But as for me? It's beer.

In 2012, from Smitty, we'll see:

  • Beer head-to-head competitions:  style versus style, brewery versus brewery;
  • Homebrew Adventures;
  • Holiday-themed reviews/head-to-heads (Oktoberfests for Oktoberfest, Maibocks in May, etc.);
  • Brewery "tours"
  • Big News in Michigan Beer;
  • Occasional socio-political snark as I see fit.
I used to love to do weekly beer reviews.  Kids, life and work prevent that, and honestly, I need to be inspired to do a beer review.  I weekly bit gets uninspired and becomes work, and the last thing I want after a hard week is one more but of damned work to do.  But this other stuff?  It's all done on a whim.  That makes it "not work."

All the other contributors are more than welcome to update this entry with their own promises-to-break; I hope Bob does more political snark (he is so good at that) and occasional reviews (don't sell yourself short Bob...you've got a great palate).  I hope Steve weighs-in with his giant legal mind and thought-provoking posts (though none of us will ever be the contrarian that Hitchens was, Steve does a great job without being a dick).  Maybe Joel will find unrestricted access to the blog, maybe Rickey reappears, and I really really hope Sopor, who has moved to Oregon to fucking brew for Rogue will stop by and tell us what it's like and make us jealous and shit.

2012 is gonna be a great year.  My brewing has stepped-up, it's a monumental election year, the world is supposed to end, FOX is getting crazier every day, and Michigan seems to open a new brewery a month.  Plenty of material to miss, skip, not post and pass on to better bloggers.

I can't wait!

Happy New Year...early!


Top Ten Beers for 2011.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A beer post by Bob? Yes it happens occasionally.

Drink Michigan, which hosts Smitty’s beer reviews, has posted its top ten Michigan beers of 2011.

Their results:

• Founders Brewing Company – Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS)
• Short’s Brewery – Ginger In The Rye
• Old Hat Brewery – Peanut Butter Stout
• Kuhnhenn Brewing – Imperial Creme Brulee Java Stout
• New Holland Brewing – El Mole Ocho
• Founders Brewing Company – Blushing Monk
• Bell’s Brewery – Hopslam Ale
• Kuhnhenn Brewing – Fourth Dementia Olde Ale
• Jolly Pumpkin – La Parcela
• Founders Brewing Company – Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS)

Not all of ATK’s 1.78 million readers are Michiganders, so what are your top ten craft beers from Michigan or elsewhere for 2011?


Worth Reading

Friday, December 16, 2011

I just discovered an interesting blog that I have added to our lefty links below.  Stone Kettle Station is written by a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer in Alaska.  The quote from his current post "Everybody’s So Different, I Haven’t Changed" is about the shock his hometown friends (in Michigan) have when they realize he is not a right winger like them.  It seems like a good read...

When did I become pro-abortion? When did I become anti-gun? When did I become anti-religion? And so on?

I never did.

It’s all part of a set piece. The world is full of dying children, here and abroad. They starve to death every day in unlamented tens of thousands and rot in a hundred thousand unmarked graves. They die of disease and neglect and war and poverty and abuse and slavery and a thousand other horrors. I’ve seen them. I’ve walked among their shattered bodies. Those folks who bleat so loudly about God’s will and God’s love should go out and see with their own eyes what God’s will and God’s love has wrought in the dark corners of the world – and right here in the United States. People like the Pope pray and sing and enjoin his followers to save a handful of cells unattached to the uterine wall. That pompous hypocrite. Children? You’re goddamned kidding me. There’s a place in hell for that guy, yes there is. See, I’ve walked through his home too. He lives in a palace of gold surrounded by a city-state of riches while real live living children are abused under his very roof, while tens of thousands more starve and struggle and cough out their lives on parched soil. Mega-Church pastors stand before millions of TV viewers every Sunday and lament their poverty, while surrounded by billion dollar empires of glass and steel and silver. They talk of peace and wage war. They speak of sacrifice and live like kings. They praise truth and yet decry science. They preach love and inclusion but practice hate and exclusion. They offer salvation, at a price. They speak of humility and arrogantly try to impose their will upon the world. When did I come to hate bullies? For just as goddamned long as I can remember.

When did I change?

The simple answer to that question is that I never did.


Rest In Peace, Christopher Hitchens; April 13, 1949 - December 15, 2011

Christopher Hitchens died last night. I wish I would have been able to see him speak in person.  I have always enjoyed Hitchens; his honesty, his wit, his acid tongue.  He finally lost his battle with esophageal cancer. The Washington Post article I link to above provides a great eulogy; my favorite part is right at the end, and so typical of Hitchens and his vast knowledge of literature and thought:

Mr. Hitchens was fully aware of that some people believed his cancer was the result of divine retribution for his seeming apostasy. Others gathered to prayer for his recovery and, in many cases, for his eventual conversion to the faith of their choice. He was grateful for their kind wishes, but he reserved special disgust for those who thought he might recant his atheistic beliefs in the face of cancer. “I sympathize afresh with the mighty Voltaire,” Mr. Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair in October 2010, “who, when badgered on his deathbed and urged to renounce the devil, murmured that this was no time to be making enemies.”


Results of a Obama Vs. Gingrich general election?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I am just throwing this out there.  It is not real sciencey.

I looked at the 2008 states that were close, but went for McCain, plus added in S. Carolina, where recent polling shows a possible upset.  Yes, it is early, but I love maps and its just fun to speculate.

Electoral College Results: 
Obama: 381
Gingrich: 157

Source:  270towin.


Sigh...can't we all just get along?

As you likely had already heard, Lowe’s home improvement stores pulled its sponsorship from the TLC show “All American Muslim” after receiving complaints from a group called the Florida Family Association. They objected to the TLC show’s portrayal of five Muslim families.  Problem is, they objected to TLC portraying the families in a positive light.

Most reality shows highlight the worst of people. This one seemed to be doing the opposite, so out of curiosity, I watched a couple episodes. One of the people showcased on the program is a dedicated football coach at a public school, who is invited to the White House for a dinner marking the end of Ramadan. Another is an officer in the Wayne County Sherriff’s department. A third is a pediatric respiratory therapist.

Pretty normal, even exceptional stuff, but I guess that was the problem.

Had TLC shown them as gawd-hating, anti-American terrorists, that would have been OK.  According to WaPo,

“…the Florida group branded the series “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”
So the show depicts a pretty normal group of families, impeding the efforts of right-wing Christians to stereotype all Muslim’s.

I am finishing up a kitchen remodel and a great deal of stuff came from Lowes. I have a couple hundred bucks in tile left to buy and over a thousand dollars of flooring. I will return my tile samples to Lowes. Yesterday I sold my stock (not a lot) and I will buy my stuff from a local merchant in the hope that he isn’t a tool, which is what I should have been doing all along.

I don't need to give my money to people who support Christian bigots.


Fun with Rick Perry

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Rick Perry Scary:

The Heathen Response:


'bout Time.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Washington Post:  "Obama attacks Republican economic theory: ‘It’s never worked’"

...Obama delivered a searing indictment of Republican economic theory, setting the stage for the coming presidential campaign. Summoning the image of a populist Theodore Roosevelt — in the same town (Osawatomie) where Roosevelt delivered a famous speech on economic fairness in 1910 — Obama deployed the language of right and wrong, fairness and unfairness, in a lengthy address that aides said he largely wrote himself.
The theory of “trickle down economics,” which holds that greater wealth at the top generates jobs and income for the masses below, drew some of Obama’s harshest criticism.
Link to WaPo.


Save our City Parks!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Who are all these so-called "Occupy" people and is it their goal to preserve park spaces that are in danger across the United States?

Washington DC

New York
San Francisco


F*** Metallica

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I blame Metallica for this:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

In all seriousness, of course I don't.  It's the entertainment industry as a whole.  And before anyone whinges about this vid being laden with hyperbole ("can go to jail for 5 years even for just singing a pop song"), it's actually true.  It's in the bill.

This bill is the end of social media, and I believe that's exactly what the entertainment industry wants.  They want to be the sole source of information, not the much more democratized internet, and this is their salvo.  This bill allows them to shut down site for just one single link that is subjectively offensive or in violation.  What will YouTube and Facebook do?  What will I do as a user?  If I see a cool piece of artwork, take a pic of it, and send it to my buddies saying "get over to this gallery; this is awesome," will I look at a fine?  Not massively likely, but Facebook will be forced to close my account (umm...on second thought...).

Call or write your Congresscritter.


Beer Deer Camp

Monday, November 21, 2011

For the first time in several years, I donned my hunter's orange and hit the woods in search of The Prize Buck. My Buddy Dave and I went to a friend's property just a hair outside of Cadillac. We ate and drank at Lakeside Charlie's; I remember a buffet, I remember steak, I remember gallons of Guinness and Two Hearted Ale. But this post isn't about Lakeside Charlie's awesome atmosphere or all the beers we had. Nor is it about the lovely Cadillac Sands....ahem...resort.

You see, despite expert effort, Buddy Dave and I returned to Lansing...buckless.

Let me explain. 

With full stomachs and Fred Bear-like spiritual zen in our hearts, we prepared for our hunt. This wasn't some tawdry gun-cocking, sight-checking scene in an action flick moments before The Big Climax. No, this was a solemn ceremony; a gentle and respectful rite that paid homage to our ancestors and their early struggles to fend for and feed their families, including:

  • The Loading Of The Massively-Accurate Weapons;
  • The Donning Of The Ceremonial Tree-Like garb (better camouflage than even our armed services are issued);
  • The Ruining Of The Ceremonial Tree-Like Garb With Eyeball-Piercing Orange;
  • The Deployment Of Dirty Tricks
You know.  Just like our forefathers.

With confident, knowing glances, we crunched-off with all of the subtlety of twin freight trains carrying coal and glass bottles colliding. We spoke the language of The Hunter at only mere decibels above a yell. It was late afternoon. Overcast. Windless and chilly. Perfect conditions for deer to come out of hiding and into the targeting reticle of my rifle.

We first set up my ground blind, some 50 yards from a previously-laid pile of bait: apples to be specific. Yummy, irresistible, crunchy, sweet apples. We set my blind with a minimum of racket (somewhere in the ballpark or "wrestling with a tent made out of candy wrappers in a library"), and there I sat, feeling the Great Outdoors seeping into my veins as I reached a deep connection with the earth. Or perhaps I was just cold. Buddy Dave crunched-off, apparently with "just married"-style cans attached to his boots.

I felt at one with Aldo Leopold, noticing all the sights, sounds, and smells of the woods. The shifts in leaves on the ground. The scurrying of animals. The duck or perhaps elephant in my bowels stomping around. Nature.

Around 5:40 pm the sun began to set dramatically, casting a gray pallor over daylight's vivid fall colors. Shadows grew until detail was obscured, bringing with it new sounds as evening grew. As my eyesight failed in the growing dark, my ears heightened to take in more of my surroundings. Suddenly, I received a sophisticated series of signals (via...you know...iPhone) from Buddy Dave. The blue glow from my phone lit the growing evening darkness.

Buddy Dave: Dude. There is a deer feeding at my bait pile. But it's too dark to shoot.

Smitty: Too dark? Just aim center-mass. Take the shot.

(Smitty, to himslf: he won't take the shot; he'll use the trust he's building with the bait pile to...)

BOOM; apparently, a grounded Aegis-Class cruiser fired a bank of missiles.  I didn't see this battleship when we first walked into the woods, but Buddy Dave is nothing if not resourceful.

Smitty: Huh. He took the shot. 

I began to pack my blind and equipment, given that after firing his nuclear-powered gauss cannon, deer for miles scattered like cockroaches. In the distance, I saw what at first appeared to be a burning meteor moving through the woods, but later revealed itself as Buddy Dave's flashlight. We converged, conversed, and bulldozed our way through the woods to the bait pile to look for what must surely be gouts of blood. But alas, given that the bait pile was 100 yards from the blind (pretty much the maximum range for a shotgun) and it was dark, there was no blood.

So to recap: the guy with a shotgun sat 100 yards - too far - from his optimal kill zone, and the guy with the high-powered rifle sat 50 yards - far too close, given ballistic dynamics - to his optimal kill zone.

Back to the Sands...resort. Change. Lakeside Charlie's; beer, dinner, beer.

At 1,000,000:00, my alarm went off. We packed ourselves back into our ceremonial garb and headed back to the hunt site. This would be our day. This would be our hour. The plan was fool-proof: trade weapons. Buddy Dave would take the rifle to the rifle-worthy blind he was in. I, in turn, would take the small artillery piece to my spot. Perfect. He had range to reach the further target. I had a small tactical nuke with which to vaporize my target at much closer range.

Night passed. The stars faded, one by one according to its lumens, as the slowly-rising sun turned the world a pale, ghostly gray. The chill in the Northern Michigan air, a mere 18 degrees, sank into our bones. But we sat still in our blinds, each merely making a small-town zoo's worth of noise as we shifted, grunted, coughed and hocked loogies for 3 hours in which we still became one with nature. A pissed-off chimpmunk chattered threateningly at me; Buddy Dave reported a similar angry diminutive rodent and remarked how ironic it would be to have to go to the hospital or die in the woods from a rabid chimpmunk bite.

Suddenly, movement. I froze. I stared. It was undeniable. Something was moving. I grabbed a pair of binoculars, and looked. It was a deer. About 150 yards away.

Oh yeah. Remember? I gave the rifle to Buddy Dave.

I decided to stalk this deer. With the subtle skill of a drunk, arthritic ninja, I extracted myself from my blind. The deer, clearly fucking with me, waited for me to get all the way out of my seat. He hung out, possibly out of pity, for me to take 3 steps in heavy boots across what was in actuality frozen, frost-covered leaves but to my ears was ground cover made from Captain Crunch before he turned tail and ran. I think I heard it laugh. I texted Buddy Dave that my effort was fruitless. He commented that since the ground he wished to hunt was still scorched from firing the cruise missile yesterday, he too was finished. With heads held high at the connection we re-established with nature and the shared experience of the thrill and blood-lust of The Hunt, we left our woodland paradise; batteries recharged for our foray back into civilization.

But just you wait, deer. We'll be back. With an assortment of weapons.


Heady Times

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Short of the birth of my children and my marriage, one of the top days of my life was last Thursday as I attended a bill signing. Being a lobbyist, these are not new for me. I average 1 every other month or so. So the novelty of attending the bill signing isn't what made this special.

It wasn't a bill that ends hunger or homelessness.

It wasn't a bill that cured a social wrong or helps veterans open businesses or guarantees treatment for mental illness.

No, it was a bill for home brewers. And that is why it was so special.

The signed bill, with Special Pen!
It turns out, the massive home brew competitions I have adjudicated, with hundreds of entries covering every style recognized by the Americans Brewers Association, we're technically violations of Michigan's liquor control code. Fortunately, for the last 2 decades, nobody though to check or enforce this provision...but it was time to fix it.

And fix it we did! Breweries and restaurants with enough space and time can hold a homebrew competition either with clubs or statewide entrants with a simple written agreement, including that none of the beers are to be sold or distributed. In other words, pretty much what's been going on for years!
I am on the left, the Guv's right
Look!  The Governor is a leftie!

Home brew competitions are key; not only is it good for hobby home brewers who use the results and feedback from judges to motive their recipes and processes, but it's good for pro brewers who are entering test beers from small batches to see how they do. Today's gold medal is tomorrow's new brewery in your hometown. Today's silver medal is tomorrow's new release at your favorite brewery. HB 4061, now Public Act 219 of 2011, may just open the door for my Maple Syrup Porter (in dire need of a real name, by the way) to hit The Big Time!
Left to right:  Me, Phil Wilcox (owner of the brand new
Local Pub & Brewery in Jackson), Chris Frey (AHA)
Rep. Doug Geiss (homebrewer!).  The Guv is seated.


The Worst Generation

Monday, November 14, 2011

Over at Streak’s place, he links to a great essay written by an Iraq war vet and published at the Washington Post.   In the essay, Thomas L. Day  says:

Think of the world our parents’ generation inherited. They inherited a country of boundless economic prosperity and the highest admiration overseas, produced by the hands of their mothers and fathers. They were safe. For most, they were endowed opportunities to succeed, to prosper, and build on their parents’ work.

For those of us in our 20s and early 30s, this is not the world we are inheriting.
Day says what I have been thinking for a long, long time. If the WW II generation was the greatest, the one that followed was the worst. The greatest generation paid the taxes that built our roads and infrastructure that created an economic boom. They went to school on the GI Bill and sent us to the moon. They were patriots, who paid their fair share. The generation that followed failed us. They greedily squandered what their parents built, because they selfishly wanted cuts to their taxes and favored benefits of the individual over the collective prosperity of our nation.

This is what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about.

Read it.


Happy Carl Sagan Day!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Today is Carl Sagan Day, in honor of Carl Sagan's birthday!  He'd be 77 today.

I love this particular line, as it kicked-off his famous Cosmos series:

There are so many quotable quotes from Mr. Sagan, but my favorite is this:

Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
That makes me tingle every time. So today, bake an apple pie from scratch, as is customary on this day, or at least eat one (I hear GT Pie Co makes a killer pie...). If you're making one, though, you better get on it. I hear it takes more than 13 billion years to preheat your universe.


Veterans Day

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanks to all who served before, who serve now, and who served along-side me.

A single battalion stood between a regiment strength Japanese Sendai Division and a vital airstrip at Guadalcanal. Providentially, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Lewis B. Puller nicknamed “Chesty” for his barrel torso. The Japanese force suffered over 1400 killed in action and the airfield was held by the battalion with the Americans sustaining 70 casualties ...

All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us ...we've got 'em right where we want 'em. They can't get away this time.

— Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, (1898-1971), USMC


Michigan's Proposed Anti-Bullying Law

Monday, November 07, 2011

There is a good discussion over at Streak's Blog on "religious" exception. In looking at the rest of the law, I see some potential problems, but before I get on my soapbox, I wanted to see what other people thought. Here is the main portion of the Bill.

SB 137, Section 10:

(b) "Bullying" means any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, by a pupil directed at 1 or more other pupils that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm 1 or more pupils either directly or indirectly by doing any of the following:
(i) Substantially interfering with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of 1 or more pupils.
(ii) Substantially and adversely affecting the ability of a pupil to participate in or benefit from the school district's or public school's educational programs or activities by placing the pupil in reasonable fear of physical harm.
(iii) Having an actual and substantial detrimental effect on a pupil's physical or mental health or causing substantial emotional distress.
(iv) Causing substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.

Does anyone see any potential problems with the language of this bill?


The Tea Party Peasants.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

As the so-called Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests have grown, many people, including President Obama, have compared the groups to the Tea Party protests. While both groups seem to like dressing up in funny costumes, it seems to me that only two or so substantive factors energize both groups:

1) The stagnant economy.
2) The banking crisis/bailout.

This is where the similarities end. The TPer’s blame the Government for creating the mess through too much Government. The OWS crowd blames the mess on not enough government: "Wall Street"* is the problem and government is not regulating/punishing them enough.

What are the TPers answers to our problems? Less oversight, less government, less economic justice and more regressive taxation. In other words, the Ayn Rand fantasy world that Wall Street loved, right up until they needed a bailout. The two groups might be pissed about similar problems, but their solutions could not be more different. OWS wants policies not seen in a generation. TPers want more of the same stuff that got us into this mess.

Take it from a Conservative:

The tea party stands for a series of propositions that don't meet the reality test: that deficits matter more than jobs, that cutting deficits and tightening credit will accelerate economic growth, that high taxes and over-regulation are the most important reasons that growth has not revived, and that America still offers the world's best opportunity for the poor to rise. Tea party plans call for a radical shift in the burden of taxation from the rich to the poor -- and promise big reductions in government spending without touching any of the benefits of current retirees.

If put into practice, the tea party platform is a formula for political and economic crisis.

David Frum, the author of the above piece at CNN is no lefty.  He worked for President George W. Bush. He might not be calling for a return the Glass-Steagall Act but I think he makes it clear whose side these fools are really on.  He admits that an American Laissez-faire economony does not lift all boats.

If the Tea Party advocates for all that corporate America wants, are they really a populist movement of the right as the MSM has made them out to be? I think not. In reality, they are a mislead group of peasants, carrying water for the ruling class.

They sure aren't patriots.  It's time to call them what they are:  peasants advocating for the landowner.  They are like a sharecropper running to the Government for more land for the landowner.  They are the slave fighting for the confederacy on behalf of the plantation owner. 

The TPers are just too ignorant to realize who is pulling their chain. Between Freedom Works, a lobby firm, funding their operations and Fox News giving them marching orders, I have little confidence they will figure it out.

*For purposes of this article “Wall Street” is shorthand for the international corporate overlords in the Financial, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) Sectors and other paper-pushers who make a boat load of cash at the expense of everyone else.


Brew Day - Scottish 80 Shilling

Monday, October 31, 2011

With all of the things that require a decent amount of fussing-over when brewing beer, including the 4 - 4 1/2 hours to actually brew, chill and pitch the yeast, one would think that brewing is stressful or at least a pain in the ass.  For me, it's anything but.  All the fussing, all the things to be hauled, cleaned, sanitized, stared-at and stirred, is relaxing.  Plus, there are great spans of time in which I can peel away and still be an active member of my household.  It's like a two-fer for Mrs. Smitty; she gets beer, and still gets help with kids!

At Mrs. Smitty's request, this weekend's brew is a Scottish 80 Shilling.  That's their "export" beer, meaning its alcohol content and general malty robustness makes it travel-worthy (a lot of beer actually doesn't travel well).  The name refers to its cost Way Back When; 60 shilling, 70 shilling, 80 shilling - the price went up as the beer got stronger.  This, given old Scottish culture, was not designed to deter the consumption of higher-alcohol beer; rather, it reflected an increase in the amount of grains used.  More grains, more expensive beer.

Cracking the grains
A Scottish 80 shilling is a malty beer, but a balanced malt sweetness.  It's not a malt-bomb in the same sense as a Winter Warmer of a Barleywine, which is that syrupy-thick cloying kind of sweet.  A Scottish 80 is just...malty.  A hint of botterness from mild hops, and a slight roastiness from a scant handful of darker-roasted grains rounds out the palate of this crowd-pleasing style of ale.  Not a lot of complexity; in fact, it's sort of "boring" as that goes.  But it's an easy-drinking beer for sure, though on the upper end of sessionable.

The grain bill only weighs-in at about 10 pounds (9 pounds of a nice biscuity  malt called British Golden Promise, and 1 pound of English Medium Crystal for some color and roasted flavors), and the recipe only calls for 1 oz. of Fuggle or East Kent Golding hops (I used Fuggle), making the beer just barely bitter.  Fuggles and Goldings are extremely mild hops and are really there as a natural preservative and to remind you that this is a beer and not just grainy sugar-water!

Boiling wort
I am pretty happy with the mash, and despite the 43-degree temp in my garage, my mash tun kept the mash steady at about 155 degrees for 45 minutes of the hour it needed.  A quick addition of near-boiling water (about 3/4 gallon) brought the temp back up to 155 for the last 15-20 minutes of the mash cycle.

The beer is happily fermenting away in its dark little cabinet thanks to the big fat yeast starter I made.  I added Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast to a little bit of wort - made from 2 cups of water and 1 cup of dry light malt extract, which was happily fermenting by the time I pitched the yeast into the cooled wort.  2 weeks primary, 2 weeks secondary, and a few days as I force carbonate it; we're drinking it by December 3!


And I Was Just Starting To Like The Place

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We're hosed, as a people:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Weathering Fights - Science: What's It Up To?
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook


Republican War Policy Explained...

Monday, October 24, 2011

...If its profitable, its a good war.


Freakin' awesome.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Click to enlarge.


H. Clinton in 2012? Why?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I don’t normally like linking to the Huffington Post, whose articles and guest columns, often drafted by celebrities, seem to just promote knee-jerk stereotypical opinions of the left. I saw this article linked by a bookface friend and had to make fun of the content.

It seems that Hillary Clinton supporters (AKA a cult.) are donating $20.12 to her to get her to run for president against President Obama.

Hey HCR-lovers: She lost!

Why would any legitimate progressive want her to run anyway? Because Obama is less progressive? I don’t think so.

Maybe it is not fair to judge HRC by her husband's policies, but it is a measure we cannot ignore. Let me remind her supporters that her husband (and HCR) was unable to get health care reform done. BC signed the repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act, which partially led to the banking crisis of today. He also promoted the anti-government policies of the Republicans, signed onto their welfare reform proposals and bought into the foolish, Wall Street-driven trade policies that have helped decimate the middle class. He also signed the “Defense of Marriage Act.”

As I have posted before, I cannot think of a single progressive policy he accomplished.

Let us also remind everyone that as it started to become clear she would likely lose the primary election, she started running the “white people will vote for me” campaign as a last ditch effort to pull it out.  Why the hell is she even Secretary of State?

If I want another Clinton in office, I will vote for Romney.


GOP’s ‘seven biggest economic lies’

Friday, October 14, 2011

As told by Robert Reich and printed at RawStory.



Quote of the Day (But not every day)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then
they fight you, then you win.”

-Mohandas Gandhi


Obama's Assault on Civil Liberties

Saturday, October 08, 2011

I voted for Obama and think that he has done some significant things. I also think that he has failed in some regards and as time goes by, he is reminding me more and more of Jimmy Carter, in that he is a decent person and not a great president.

This op-ed is a week old, but I still think it makes some great points. First of all, I agree that he portrayed himself as someone that would correct some of the Bush era infringements on liberty. While I understand that for many voters, this isn't a top priority and with the economy struggling, he has his work cut out for him. That being said, I don't understand why he has expanded many o Bush's worst programs. The author doesn't pull any punches:

It's almost a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome, in which a hostage bonds with his captor despite the obvious threat to his existence. Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama's position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him. Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism: A Republican would be worse. However, realism alone cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama's policies on civil liberties in Congress during his term. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama's policies have become secondary to his persona.

What will happen? The GOP certainly doesn't have any better alternatives. Will Democrats that care about these things call him to task? What about moderate voters? The author feels that civil libertarians may have had enough:

This calculation may be wrong. Obama may have flown by the fail-safe line, especially when it comes to waterboarding. For many civil libertarians, it will be virtually impossible to vote for someone who has flagrantly ignored the Convention Against Torture or its underlying Nuremberg Principles. As Obama and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. have admitted, waterboarding is clearly torture and has been long defined as such by both international and U.S. courts. It is not only a crime but a war crime. By blocking the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for torture, Obama violated international law and reinforced other countries in refusing investigation of their own alleged war crimes. The administration magnified the damage by blocking efforts of other countries like Spain from investigating our alleged war crimes. In this process, his administration shredded principles on the accountability of government officials and lawyers facilitating war crimes and further destroyed the credibility of the U.S. in objecting to civil liberties abuses abroad.



Friday, October 07, 2011



Let me back up, and tell you a tale of negligent beer-icide.

I took a trip to my favorite beer store to buy a gob of beer for a cookout I was attending.  To nobody's surprise, I was asked to bring the beer.  It was a fine selection of Michigan beers to fit all beer preferences; Atwater Block's Bloktoberfest, New Holland's Mad Hatter and Full Circle, Oberon, Founders Porter.

But then I came across a 4-pack of holy manna, hidden behind rows of other, lesser beers.  Something I haven't seen for months:  Founders Breakfast Stout.  My #1 beer.  My favorite beer forever and ever for all of time.  One of the best beers in the world, according to Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate. I staggered.  I swooned.  Then I pulled my shit together, grabbed the 4-pack, and made my way to the checkout.

I hid the Breakfast Stout myself, jealously guarding it like a dragon and its treasure.  I put it in the cargo containers in the back of my van, closed it, and set the rest of the beer on top of it.  I was then off to the cookout.

Fast forward 3 hours.  The cookout is over, and like a good guest should, I left the remaining beer at the host's house.  Folks, you never ever leave with the beer you brought.  Bad taste.  Leftover beer is a gift to your host. I got home, and started unloading my van; dirty grill aprons, messy grill tools, a few other odds and ends.

I returned to my van for the last item:  my hidden treasure.  My Breakfast Stout.  But here was my mistake:  I treated the 4-pack nonchalantly.  Instead of treating it with the reverence normally due the Eucharist, I carelessly half-lifted my cargo container lid, grabbed the 4-pack handle without looking, and hit the bottles on top of the very same container lid that I didn't lock into place.  The force of it hit the tops of the bottles, which forced them out of the bottom of the 4-pack, where they fell 3 feet to their doom on the cement floor of my garage and driveway.

There, they died a horrid, messy death.  Rivulets of dark-black ichor forming puddles around the shards of broken dreams, running down my driveway like the remains of some horrid murder in a back alley.  Oh, but this was murder.  My own negligence committed this crime.

My screams and cries woke neighbors from their comfortable slumber.  My bitter weeping conveyed a soul-deep wound that no amount of sympathy could ever repair.

I force myself to look at this picture again and again to remind me of the consequence of carelessness and devil-may-care attitude.  Let this be a lesson to us all.  Let my suffering serve as a warning to the rest of you.  Let this never happen to anyone or anybeer ever again.


Not Necessarily News

Thursday, October 06, 2011

I love science. Besides for providing insight into even the deepest questions, a lot of the time science is just fun. The discoveries scientists uncover are often vastly entertaining.

Take for instance this lovely article I stumbled upon yesterday that for me was the perfect confluence of 3 of my favorite subjects: science, beer, and sex: Beetles Die During Sex With Beer Bottles.

From the article:

Besotted beetles are dying while trying to get it on with discarded brown beer bottles, according to research conducted by Darryl Gwynne, a University of Toronto Mississauga professor.

It's a case of mistaken attraction, because the beer bottles happen to possess all of the features that drive male Australian jewel beetles wild. They're big and orangey brown in color, with a slightly dimpled surface near the bottom (designed to prevent the bottle from slipping out of one's grasp) that reflects light in much the same way as female wing covers.

"Ha," we all think, "them bugs is so stupid!"

But it turns out, it is probably "men" in general that are so stupid:

As a result, the beer bottles are irresistible to the male insects

Who knew that the male of a species would find beer bottles irresistible?


Fuck It. Food.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

I mentioned yesterday in a comment to my "Fuck It.  Beer" post that we have a top-notch foodie in our midst.  But it bears repeating and extra attention ought to be drawn to it.

Take a look at the "Beer Buddies" link list to the right.  You'll notice a new one:  George Eats.

George is a long-time friend of Around The Keg.  Unfortunately for George, long-time friend sometimes means someone whom you think of fondly but often just forget to check-in on.

Well, no more.  We're back to the basics here at ATK, and George hits one of our sweet spots (pun intended):  food.  George is to food (and damn good beer, wine and spirits) as this blog is to beer.  He cooks good food, knows all the chefs who cook good food, and has been bestowed a grand gift from his local Santa Barbara, CA news rag:  the mandate to write about all the good food he eats.  And not only does George write about food; he writes about it with interest and passion.  Lads, he doesn't just write about a plate of fucking pasta.  He damn near makes you want to fuck a plate of pasta.

Go check out his site.  And then gnash your teeth and shake your swords at the abyss that you don't live in fucking California and have the every-day access he has to culinary delights we only drool over on Food Network.  But it's OK; we can all eat vicariously through George.  He brings a dish to your senses without you even having to be there.

On top of it all, George is a radio show host, beer afficianado, live-music enthusiast and fellow part-time political hack.  George, in a nutshell, is one interesting motherfucker, and I encourage everyone who reads here to check him out.  Welcome to the blogroll, George.

(yes, I know I put this in the comments section yesterday, but I know at least 3 of you who are too lazy to click through to the comments page, let alone actually fucking comment)


Christian Nation?


Fuck It. Beer.

Monday, October 03, 2011

OK, I can take a hint.

The last several posts I've tried to toss up here of an intellectual nature have fallen flat.  Perhaps we're all stressed-out and tired from shennanigans at the national level.  Or perhaps the depth of these topics takes along time to research and form an educated opinion.

Or, perhaps, it's way over our heads and we just want to talk about beer.

If we want to be all intellectual, we can go to Streak's place and wax philosophical with a dude like Streak who's qualified to actually be intellectual.

Here, for now, let's stick with our true qualifications and discuss beer.

It's official!  The winners of the 2011 Great American Beer Fest Pro-Brewer competition are in!  And this year, the Big Winners didn't include a brewery I've heard of (beyond Firestone Walker Brewing Company in CA, which is a damn fine brewery).

I was a bit disappointed this year, in that for the past several years, Michigan has had a very strong showing.  Maybe The Man is worried that Michigan's surge in breweries is gonna topple the almightly Californians  from their top-of-the-heap roost, or maybe we just didn't bring our A-game this year.  But the few Michigan beers that won include:

  • GOLD! Mangalitsa Pig Porter, Right Brain Brewery (Traverse City); Category:  Experimental Beers
  • GOLD! Expedition Stout, Bell's (you better know where Bell's is); Category:  Aged Beer
  • BRONZE! Pin-Up Blonde, Bastone Brewery (Royal Oak); Category:  Belgian/French-Style Ale
  • SILVER! Cream Stout, Redwood Brewing Company (Flint); Category:  Sweet Stout
And that's it for the Mitten State this year.

Check out these fine beers at your local beer mecca; all but Right Brain enjoy pretty wide distribution, and Right Brain, though rare, can be found.

Congrats to Michigan's breweries, and though it seems Indiana, Illinois, fucking California and Colorado ran away with medals this year, we'll be back.


Democracy and Economy

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I recently (sure, mote than a decade late to the party) got turned-on to TED talks, a series on conferences held in Palm Springs and Edinburgh for intellectuals by intellectuals. TED's tagline is "Ideas Worth Sharing," and that in a nutshell is what it is. Massively brilliant people are urged to give "the speech of their life" in 18 minutes or less. The ideas discussed are the pinnacle of the human condition. This is the kind of conference that sets us apart from the animals. Well, sure, conferences themselves set us apart from the animals, as even higher primates seems not to hold conferences, but a TED conference lacks animals who cheer for death and boo sacrifice.

I downloaded the TED app for the iPad, which gives you access to the thousands of talks accumulated over the few decades TED has been around. Some are funny (there's a great story from John Hodgman and a woman who does a bit on 'wearable communication devices' that is a scream), most are profound, and a few will melt your brain. Besides for the 2 big TED conferences, there are thousands of little TED-x events, which is a local Community doing the same thing, drawing your own local geniuses. East Lansing did. TED-x in June, and Detroit is set for one in October if I remember correctly. I really do, however, want to make one of the Big Ones one of these days.

That sets the backdrop for this bit: a speech by Chinese economist Yasheng Huang entitled Does Democracy Stifle Economic Growth?

I'm not giving anything away if you skip the link and read on before you watch it (though you should stop and watch it now) by saying that of course, his conclusion is that Democracy indeed promotes economic growth; it doesn't stifle it at all. No real shock there. The interesting thing is how he gets there. It's one thing to hear our own economists extoll the virtues of our own democratic and capitalist systems; it's quite another to hear a Chinese economist say that despite the massive growth of the Chinese economy, the fact that there is still authoritarian rule stifles how much they could be growing. His own shining example of a Democratic government promoting a solid economic growth? India.

In the end, Yasheng calls for serious democratic reforms in China, lest all their current growth be for naught in the face of new, emerging democracies with burgeoning economies. It got me thinking: what would a democratic China look like, and what would it mean for us?


Question of the Day. (But not every day)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I am taking a break from remodeling my kitchen (more on that later) to ask a simple question.

Is the United States "circling the drain"?


On Why The Death Penalty Should Be Abolished

Monday, September 12, 2011

I found an article in one of my favorite sites to visit, Skepchick, about the sad case of Cameron Todd Willingham. The New Yorker had an in-depth article about his case back in 2009 called
Trial By Fire. As it turns out, the "science" behind the evidence was wives-tale science and Mr. Willingham was indeed innocent. Too bad this evidence didn't come to light 5 years earlier; the state of Texas killed Willingham in 2004.

For crimes he didn't commit.

The long article is well-worth the read. It picks apart the case bit by bit and dramatically introduces the actual science behind fires and how they spread; the science that would have exonerated Willingham.
The article is flying around the internets again in the wake of Governor Perry's applause-laden response to NBC's Brian Williams' charge that he has killed more people (234) than any other Governor in our history.

I do not mean this post to be an anti-Perry screed or a missive critical of "conservative Christians."  Rather, I mean it to be an anti-death penalty piece.  While it indeed shocks me that people who vaunt their Christian Cred would be so supportive of the death penalty, I have to remember to take their brand of evangelical Christianity along with their conservative nature.  Guns and the death penalty are OK by this breed of conservative, and it is what it is.  It ain't changing.

I would ask, however, that they remember that Jesus suffered the death penalty as well.

That snark aside, that anybody who is innocent dies at the hands of the state is terrible.  That they get convicted on evidence akin to folklore is unimaginable.  While I only care about Rick Perry inasmuch as he is a possible frontrunner for Republicans, I do have to say that I am massively disturbed by his dismissive attitude towards people on death row.  In essence, he responded to Williams' question regarding sleepless nights for sending people to their deaths with a statement about Texas' due process being so "thoughtful" that nobody innocent could possibly be put to death.

This, of course, flies in the face of reality, in which innocent people are put to death (see the article I link above).  Perry is an interesting case study in that he actually went as far a firing a panel of investigators who were about to prove Willingham's innocence.  Maybe because he didn't want the political hit of having killed an innocent man, maybe to bury his head in the sand, maybe any number of maybes; what he does by his deeds and words is help prove that the state killing anyone is unreasonable, irrational, wrong-headed, barbaric and dangerous.  A state which is allowed to kill its citizens, whether through a fair trial, a kangaroo court, scientifically-valid evidence, or wives-tale witch-doctor nonsense, is not a state I wish to live in.

Again, this article's step-by-step move through the process for Willingham is so very telling of the flaw of the death penalty.  On top of that, Willingham was given a court-appointed attorney who was equally convinced  of his guilt and provided half-assed defense of a "guilty" client in hopes Willingham was convicted.  This speaks to our public defense system and the need for well-trained attorneys, with decent funding, and workloads that allow for an attorney to mount a decent defense (as well as for oversight in some way so that if a "bad" attorney is mis-handling a case a different attorney can come on board).  Just because a defendant can't afford a top-notch attorney to represent them against the state doesn't mean they shouldn't have access to one.

We do have a great system of justice here, regardless of how idiots like Nancy Grace abuse it in the MSM. We are innocent before being proven guilty, as opposed to the Napoleonic system of justice we see elsewhere whereby it is on a person to prove their innocence in front of a state who has accused them.  But even then we have gaps, as the Innocence Project so clearly shows given that to date, 273 people have been exonerated across the country.  That even one innocent person has spent any time at all in prison is terrible, but thankfully, even law enforcement (by and large) supports the Innocence Project; judges, cops, prosecutors and defense attorneys want to make sure we're doing this justice thing right.  But that even one person is killed by the state is unacceptable, especially when you add to that lazy or callous attorneys and "investigators" with reputations to protect.  Then it becomes a matter of life-and-death for our Democracy.


An Eye For An Eye

Thursday, September 08, 2011

10 seconds into this vid is all you need to know about the base:
  Clapping and cheering for killing people and a tough-talking cowboy Governor who loses no sleep about those he puts to death and the fact that maybe they're innocent, because of Texas' "thoughtful" process of capital punishment.


Oh wait...what about this guy?


If He Would Ask Me...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

If I were Obama's speech writier, my outline below would be my first draft of a speech on a jobs agenda, without going too much into the details of the plan itlself. If he asked you, what would you tell Obama to say tonight Thursday night?

Set the stage without saying the name “Bush”.
• Remind everyone what brought us here. Years of deregulation, tax cuts on the wealthy and corporation’s left us with a 2007 recession and a 2008 banking collapse that lead to the worst economic conditions since the great depression.

Remind everyone what has worked, but let everyone know how dissatisfied you are with the slow recovery.
• In 2009 we stopped the slide and created 3.7 million jobs after passage of a jobs stimulus package of investments, a third of which was targeted tax cuts and incentives.
• The stock market has recovered nearly all of the losses following the 2008 bank collapse.
• Corporations are profitable.
• The federal government is being paid back from our loans that saved the auto industry.
• We reformed the financial industry so a bank collapse won’t happen again.
• Interest rates and taxes are both historically low.
• Despite all this, jobs aren’t being created fast enough.
• When the jobs stimulus ended, growth slowed.
• We cannot be satisfied with the pace of this recovery.

Talk tough.
• Remind everyone that your will do your part, but you cannot not accept solutions languishing in Congress.
• The transportation infrastructure bills and jobs packages have not moved in Congress.
• The recent brinksmanship over the debt ceiling did not put a single person back to work, but it damaged the country’s credit, credibility and the economic recovery.
• Partisanship, inaction or returning to the failed policies of the past will not create a single job. It is time to put country ahead of party and ideology and do something.

Remind everyone that we will never get a handle on the debt without creating jobs.
• Everytime they talk about debt, say the debt will be reduced through job creation. (Polling shows people are not real concerned about the debt, but the R's have neutered any effective job creation due to a focus on the debt.)
• The best thing for reducing our debt is to promote jobs and create long term plan for growth.
• Create a near-term jobs package and a 10-year plan to balance the budget.
• Your proposed jobs package will build on what has worked and strengthen the recovery.

Announce the package without validating failed Republican policies.
• Nobody will votes for a fake Republican when they can vote for the real thing.
• Investments in schools, roads and the infrastructure the Greatest Generation built that have powered our national economy for 50 years.
• Targeted tax incentives that promote investments in some of the industries that create American jobs, such as home building and more.

Package the message.
• Repeat it. Over and over again.
• It’s a jobs package, not a stimulus.



Friday, August 26, 2011

As the economy grows slowly and Obama's approval numbers decline, I have read Democrats wistfully dream of days gone by and the Presidency of Bill Clinton. Some have wondered out loud what the hell Obama has accomplished as they look back at the good ‘ol days of Bill.

It got me thinking. The economy sure rocked during the 90’s, which led to balanced budgets. There was cheap gas, SUV’s everywhere and tech stocks were rising. Yeah, the economy was great, but what else did Bill accomplish? Social Security wasn’t shored up, health care wasn’t reformed and the environment wasn't protected. What the hell did Bill accomplish other than get reelected? Maybe I have a short-term memory, but I cannot think of anything.

Can you?



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interesting infographic on traditional marriage:

The prospect of gaining concubines is pretty awesome. The multiple-wives thing, though? That's where it gets tough (love you, honey!).


What Are You Wearing...er...Reading?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Here's what passes for journalism at the National Review: What's Obama Reading; On this summer’s presidential book list, fiction trumps reality.

Seriously, besides for fiction quite often being an intellectually creative way to discuss and explore human nature, sometimes it's damn good. Is Tevi Troy, the article's author, seriously suggesting that all a President should read are books that make him (Tevi, not the Preznit) feel good?

No, Tevi is just taking a cheap political shot, and a massively stupid one at that:

First, five of the six are novels, and the near-absence of nonfiction sends the wrong message for any president, because it sets him up for the charge that he is out of touch with reality.
Really?? I read fiction, therefore am out of touch with reality? That doesn't even make sense. I drink chocolate milk, therefore I haven't grown up. Oh, but there's more epic grasping-at-straws:
Beyond the issue of fiction vs. nonfiction, there is also the question of genre. The Bayou Trilogy has received excellent reviews, but it is a mystery series...Room is another well-received novel, but it is about a mother and child trapped in an 11-by-11-foot room. This claustrophobic adventure does not strike me as the right choice for someone trying to escape the perception that he is trapped in a White House bubble.
Yeah. You read it. Reading mysteries makes it impossible for the President to escape a perception that he lives in a bubble. Shoot me.

He goes on to winge about a book about an Israeli woman maybe harming how he is vioewed in the Palestine-Israeli conflict and the absence of "conservative" fiction (which to me, is their entire platform). He ends with this gem:
Either way, the annual book list should be a relatively easy way to make the president appear to be on top of things and in control. This year’s list, alas, reveals a president who appears to be neither.
.Tevi is listed as a "senior fellow at the Hudson Institute." This Institute is a think tank wherein the first quote about its founder - Herman Kahn - is from Donald Fucking Rumsfeld. So...there's that. Tevi ought to be ashamed of having wasted the 35 seconds it took to write this diatribe. Unfortunately, it appears it was taken seriously enough for the National Review to put it up.


The Malty Falcon

Monday, August 22, 2011

My latest beer review is up at Drink Michigan: Bastone Brewery's Saison Noir.

I tried to write this one in the spirit of a film noir script, given the name of the beer. I hope it worked, I hope you like it.


Tea Party less popular than...gasp...atheists!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I reprint this from the NY Times in case their pay wall won't let you through the link. Emphasis mine.

Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.

Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.
So if atheists and Muslims begin to be just as loud and obnoxious as the Tea Party asses, do you think one of the two main partys will give them as much respect in the primaries?


Tinker Belle for President

Monday, August 15, 2011

While I only digested the low lights of the Republican Presidential debate held last week, it got me thinking about their belief systems. What can we say about people who support, believe and worship the following concepts?

• Supply-side economics
• Creationism
• Tax cuts as government revenue generators
• Being gay is a choice
• Cutting spending as economic stimulus

It seems that every one of the Republican Presidential candidates has based their campaigns on various forms of fantasy.

Surely they are appealing to primary voters, so I must ask these voters: How can one go through life when everything you believe in has been shown through math, economics and science to be pure fiction? Is there comfort in blissful stupidity?

While all the above points to the GOP teahadists/diehards/candidates as being loony, it also demonstrates an electoral strength not held by the Democrats. When your supporters back you due to some sort of “faith” (economic or otherwise) it’s pretty hard for your opponents to shake their dedication at the polls.

Why do I try to understand these people?



Friday, August 12, 2011

Never thought about religion in this light:


To Snuff Or Not To Snuff...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First, the fact that Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite authors, even has to have this conversation, breaks my heart just a little. Alzheimer's is such an awful disease that I wouldn't wish it on an enemy.

But second, the fact that Terry Pratchett, an author of such renown, is having this conversation gives me hope that people will finally really listen to the need for Alzheimer's treatment as well as the rationality and compassion of "assisted suicide."

Discworld's Terry Pratchett On Death And Deciding

I do want to note that Pratchett says of the term "assisted suicide": "I prefer not to use the word 'suicide' because suicide is an irrational thing whereas I think that for some people asking for an assisted death is a very rational thing," he says. "People who I have met who have opted for it are very rational in their thinking. And indeed so are their families, quite often, because they know they are in the grip of a terrible disease for which there is no cure and they do not want to spend any more time than necessary in the jaws of the beast." [emphasis mine]

Beyond the religious arguments against assisted suicide, there seems to be some fear of a 'slippery slope' whereby people who are 'weak' or undesirable are involuntarily forced to die (which becomes, umm, murder as opposed to suicide), or that people who are just weary of this life choosing to die, which advocates of assisted suicide oppose like Pratchett:

The clinic Pratchett visited for the documentary doesn't only serve those suffering from terminal illness. It also serves clients who are simply described as being weary of life, a practice Pratchett is opposed to.

He says he believes it's acceptable to have an assisted death if you're suffering from a terminal disease, but not if you're depressed.

"I've often felt depressed, everyone feels depressed," he says.
That this clinic in Switzerland, the Dignitas Clinic (yeah, I know, it's a Wikipedia link, but for obvious reasons this place doesn't have a web site), engages in assisted suicide for those people just "sick of life" does a disservice to the overall issue IMO. In fact, that adds fuel to the fire of the religious rationale (beyond rational rationale, as Pratchett points out) against assisted suicide; poor-me "sick of this life" stuff is really the goal of assisted suicide. I don't agree, but I think that unless that is regulated away, people may try to take advantage of "legalized" assisted suicide to kill themselves because they're untreated for depression or just fucking feel like it.

Is assisted suicide one in the same argument as abortion? Is a woman's control over her body and the "life" of the contents therein the same as a person's control over their own life's end? Pratchett looks at it this way:
He also has his life's work to tend to. Pratchett says the Alzheimer's has affected his ability to read and write, but it hasn't kept him from publishing. His new book, Snuff, is due out in the U.S. in October and, with the help of a computer dictation program, he's already working on his next two books.
In other words, the time to ask himself whether or not he wants to die because of his disease isn't right now; he can still publish and mostly has all his faculties. he still does what he loves and wants to do. But there may come a time where he can't, or where there is no more point. That's the point where he will make that decision; he just wants the ability to even have that option, not even that he wants to:
With all those plans, the author says he's putting off the question of when or if he will end his life.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm a writer who's writing books and therefore I don't want to die. You'd miss the end of the book wouldn't you?" he says. "You can't die with an unfinished book."
With assisted suicide, then, are we leaving a book unfinished? Or ending it when it should be ended? Is it the same moral question as whether or not abortion is ending a book before it starts?


Welcome to the 19th Century

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

I *could* have added a piece of classical
art, but...
It's nice to see some Evangelical intellectuals (try to hide the snickering) finally get in tune with Chuck Darwin's 1859 publication. From NPR's Morning Edition this morning: Evangelicals Question the Existence of Adam and Eve.

Read it or listen to it, it'll take you 5 minutes.

A few highlights:
Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: "That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all."
And Venema is part of a growing cadre of Christian scholars who say they want their faith to come into the 21st century. Another one is John Schneider, who taught theology at Calvin College in Michigan until recently. He says it's time to face facts: There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence.

"Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost," Schneider says. "So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings."
Of course, we have the fire-and-brimstone crowd:
"From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith," says Fazale Rana, vice president of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution. Rana, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio University, readily admits that small details of Scripture could be wrong. [ed note: Gee, thanks for that little glimmer, Faz]

"But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you've got a problem," Rana says.
Yeah, a mighty mighty big problem. But that's OK. The Fundy church has a way of dealing with its internal heretics:
"You get evangelicals who push the envelope, maybe; they get the courage to work in sensitive, difficult areas," Harlow says. "And they get slapped down. They get fired or dismissed or pressured out."

Harlow should know: Calvin College investigated him after he wrote an article questioning the historical Adam. His colleague and fellow theologian, John Schneider, wrote a similar article and was pressured to resign after 25 years at the college.
So when your scientific research finds you at odds with the bible, and you suggest that perhaps we be less dogmatic in our approach to fundamentalism and try to read that book-of-books as allegory and poetry, you get fired.

The end of the article sums it up perfectly:
But others say Christians can no longer afford to ignore the evidence from the human genome and fossils just to maintain a literal view of Genesis.

"This stuff is unavoidable," says Dan Harlow at Calvin College. "Evangelicals have to either face up to it or they have to stick their head in the sand. And if they do that, they will lose whatever intellectual currency or respectability they have."

"If so, that's simply the price we'll have to pay," says Southern Baptist seminary's Albert Mohler. "The moment you say 'We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,' you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world."

Mohler and others say if other Protestants want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn't be surprised if their faith unravels. [emphasis added]
There is a certain pridefulness in Mohler's willingness to be an intellectual martyr over the tenets of his faith, and that is so typical of folks willing to dive head-long into the sand. Mohler's last comment is exactly why: the fear of what happens as your faith unravels in the face of real evidence.

What do you do? You've been brought up to believe this series of stories as literally true, and that the nature of your belief in and love of God - everything you know to be good and moral and comfortable - is in question.

Or is it?

Somehow the Catholic Church has found a way to apologize for its treatment of Galileo and his findings, accept what science has to offer, and still attract a billion followers world-wide. The Dalai Lama published a nice little thoughtful book called The Universe in a Single Atom about how science and spirituality can converge if you view them as complimentary and allow that science is built to unlock answers to physical questions.

All they really lose by unburying their heads is an illogical literal belief in old stories if they still truly want to cling to God; a huge number of people are there already, given what most educational curricula still look like. Maybe the faith that unravels is faith in literal truth of poetry. Maybe the faith that unravels is all faith altogether. Either way, there is no reward for obstinance and ignorance other than ridicule and the departure of your former adherents as they accept the world as it really is.


Drunk Yet?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fellow beer geeks, beer nerds, beer afficionados, beer swillers and beer advocates:  today, August 5, 2011, is International Beer Day!

From the web site: As of this moment, there are 276 known International Beer Day celebrations planned across 138 cities and 23 countries worldwide.

What beers do you plan to enjoy in honor of International Beer Day? I might find my way over to Founders or Dark Horse to grab a few growlers myself.


Forgive Me. It's Summer Time

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Yeah, so maybe I'm a little lax about blogging lately. There is so much to say about politics that's disheartening right now, and I am too busy getting buzzed on patios to care.

And then it dawns on me: oh yeah! That's right! This is a beer blog! I can blog about beer!

A few weeks back, I bragged about getting the big-pants brewing equipment. Well, I've put it to good use brewing 2 batches of beer for my cousin's upcoming wedding reception. He's getting married in Oxford, UK, this weekend. He is coming back to the state to do a U.S. reception for friends and family whop couldn't make the hop over the pond, and given that he is trying to get into brewing too, he asked me to whip up a couple batches. Specifically, after getting his PhD at Oxford and drinking British beer for the last 3 years, he wants some American beers. He did stipulate that he didn't want the 5,000% abv beers we tend to brew, but just some nice, basic American beers. I decided to serve-up a nice malty/grainy American Brown Ale (the Brit style being malty/fruity/estery) and a classic American wheat ale (Oberon when it was still good; grainy, orangey, whereas the German equivalent is that banana-clove people have come to love). Both beers hover in the 4-5% range; plenty sessionable. He is well-pleased with the choices. We'll see how the results stack up.

Hot liquor tank (hot water) on top, steeping grains
below, ready for sparging (rinsing)
Hopefully, the steps work out. Being still largely new to the process, I have been very careful with each step to really learn and feel it as I go, before I go being a smartass and screw around with lautering temps and "whirlpooling" hops and all that crap. All that to say that given that I followed the steps pretty well, I think they'll turn out. I kinda have a way with beer!

Grains steeping, performing "recirculation"
step, just before the sparge.
Anyway, some action shots for your viewing pleasure:
Sparging, or, rinsing the remaining sugar
from the grain bed
Chief Assistant Brewmaster Joel sparging into the boil kettle
The boil.  Zzzzzzz.... Nice upgrade:  can boil whole
wort and not have to add water at the end!
VERY happy fermentation on the brown ale
Equally happy fermentation on the Wheat!


Oh Happy Day

Friday, July 22, 2011

I am like a kid on the last day of school. I can't concentrate. My mind is in a thousand places right now. I keep checking the clock.


Today is the Michigan Brewers Guild's Summer Beer Festival! More than 50 breweries. 450 beers to try. FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY. I might explode.

Here's the full list of breweries and the beers they're bringing. It is overwhelming. I am beside myself. Some highlights for me to hit this evening include:

  • Arbor Brewing Buzzsaw Massacre Double Dryhopped Cask Ale

  • Bastone Brewery Midnight Oil Imperial Stout

  • Bell's Spiced Stout

  • Black Lotus World Wide Wheat

  • Blue Tractor Smoked Silly Red

  • Brewery Vivant Zaison “Super” Saison

  • Corner Brewery Flamboyant Red Flemish Oak-aged Sour Red

  • Dark Horse has 6 tables; I can't list everything I want to try. So all of it. Parking there for a while

  • Founders Cashew Mountain Brown AND Devil Dancer (it's back!!)

  • Grizzly Peak La Poisson Rouge Wood-aged Red

  • Hideout Double Bubble DIPA with Bubblegum and the Cherry Mango Chile Pineapple Pilsner

  • Hopcat Sage Against The Machine Honey Sage Pale Ale and the Ville De Morte Peach Saison

  • Jolly Pumpkin Bam w/Jasmine

  • Liberty Street Clementine Lemon Thyme American Wheat

  • Mt Pleasant Sacred Gruit

  • Like everything from New Holland

  • Odd Side Firefly - Habanero and Papaya

  • Saugatuk Spring Thaw Spruce Ale

  • Schmohz Zingiberene Ginger Gruit

  • Everything from Shorts, twice

  • What else is there to say other than I better bring a lot of Gatorade and water. I'll need it.



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