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

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!



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