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Monday, July 25, 2016

Tandem Ride/City Market Run

What with the primary (we do a lot of political printing where I work), by bimonthly freelance thing, I worked like twelve days in a row, most of those days ten hours or a little better. Whipped? That's not even a start.

And I'd done a lot of driving. As in, during this period, I didn't ride my bike to or from work, not even a bike & bus. One thing and another, I just lacked the time and energy to do it. So when I finally got to a weekend, and Corinna suggested I make a City Market run with our guest, Phil, I was all about that. What about Mo? Well, the tandem. She'll generally say no to almost any choice that's not YouTube or going to the movies, maybe a garage sale store. So Corinna asked her if she wanted to tandem bike to the garage sale store.

We went by Side, also, which Phil was keen to visit. He's an O.G. Recovery Movement guy, and he had a lot of fun talking shop while we soaked up some air conditioning before Corinna and Mo went to the thrift store, and me and Phil went to City Market get get pickling cukes and such.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Might Have to Get a Bumper Sticker Done

When the Trump-Pence logo was unleashed today, FB started going with the Cornholio jokes: TP for my bungole. Which is, I guess, apt, if ever a presidential ticket was for wiping your ass on, it's this one. But what jumped out at me when I first glanced at it was the swastika-ish impression I got from the blue inter-locking T and P (I guess depicting Donald penetrating the jerk from Indiana).

So I whipped this up. Might have to get a run of bumper stickers made, the question is whether to sell them, give them away, or covertly cover over Trump bumper stickers I find out in the world. Because Hillary is bad news, but she's basically the same bad news as Obama, maybe not quite as bad as W., probably about on par with her husband and the elder George Bush. Which is to say, she sucks. But while she's been raked over the coals for supposedly flaunting the law, Trump has actually said that if he gives an illegal order, he expects it to be followed because once he gives the order, it becomes legal. I know, he's said a lot of things, but that's not an attitude we can have in national politics, that's Nixon all over again.

I'm a little surprised at the choice of Pence. Pretty vanilla, not quite as shitty as Sam Brownback, probably a little shittier than Chris Christie (who, being a third rate gangster at heart, was actually the most logical choice). The biggest worry I have is not so much that I'll miss the Republican Party once it's been utterly destroyed by Trump and his shenanigans, the GOP is awful. But Democrats are pretty odious, too, especially when they don't face competitive elections that make them at least lie about what they're all about.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Indiana Brewers' Cup

Back when I got into homebrewing and beer judging, I started out traveling to judge a bit. But this was also right around when I started having babies with the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster and it became evident pretty quickly that I'd be luck to just judge local competitions. Which for a few years meant two or three a year, as Kansas City was a regional site for the National Homebewers' Conference, plus the Bier Meisters competition, and for a while there was a pretty good small competition at Renn Fest that got me in to that carnival for free.

I know what a lot of people picture when I say I'm going to judge beer. They say things like, 'I'm gonna judge a few beers tonight myself, and I know exactly what score they're getting.'

It's fun, but it's not the scene people picture. I suspect it's very similar to judging a barbecue competition. If you're just eating a slab of ribs or powering down some burnt ends, that's dinner. And an awesome dinner, at that. But if you're judging at the American Royal, you're examining how the bone pulls away from the meat and looking at the smoke ring and doing a bunch of stuff that basically takes that dinner and makes it into an academic exercise. It's not about what you like, it's about whether the target, as defined, was hit, and if not, they why not and by how much.

This was the first competition I've judged that had a professional section. KCBM is a biggie, but it caps at 600 homebrew entries and calls it a day. Indiana Brewers' Cup allows 850 homebrew entries and 650 professionals. They're segregated, of course. But a couple of the flights I judged were professional brewers entries and it was really interesting. Because one of those flights was American IPA, a genre I'm generally fond of. But judging isn't about my personal preferences, it's did the brewer hit the style as defined in the BJCP guidelines? And to sum up a 'no,' I think the highest score I gave on that flight was a 41. There were plenty of beers I'd drink buckets of given the chance, but as far as the way they squared up to the style, meh.

For the uninitiated, these things are judged on a 50 point scale. There's a fixed number of points available for aroma, appearance (which gets only three points), flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression. I used to split points up, give 2-1/2 for appearance for instance, until a registrar unloaded on me. And he was right: I was saying my palate is so refined a 50 point scale is inadequat: I need a 100 point scale so I'm scoring this beer a 27.5.

Fuck off, your palate ain't all that.

But anyway, those 50 points. I can't take them home with me, they're not really good for anything else, so your entry, homebrew or pro, I try to approach it with a presumption of greatness: you have 50 points, when I find flaws and deviations from style, you lose points. A lot of times an entry will smell fucking spectacular, and I'll give it maybe ten or eleven of the points available for aroma, finding maybe one little detail to ding it. It'll look great as far as appropriate color, head/head retention, etc. Maybe hazy, so two out of three on that one. Then I take a sip and holy cow, did you use a donated car as an adjunct? I know I've filled out score sheets with an 11 of 12 on aroma and a 7 of 20 on flavor. It happens.

And of course, in the homebrew entries you sometimes have a brewer who is competitive, is playing to win, and another who is going like, Dude, I fucked up but I don't know where, why does my beer suck? In the pro categories, there's no such doubt.

Though the reasons a pro brewer would enter a competition like this, well, if you medal you have free advertising than your Bo Pils or Dark Belgian Strong or whatever won a medal. And the judges you're trying to impress are the nerds who freak out about beer and their family and coworkers ask them for recommendations, look in their fridge to see what you'd buy if you cared about good beer, etc. So that score sheet is research into both a targeted demographic and a demographic influenced by that target demographic, so why not enter?

So if my assessment of those American IPAs was harsh, the Belgian Strongs I judged the next day, again pro category, damn. Usually you get to a mini-BOS (when there are forty entries in a category, you have four pairs of judges evaluate ten beers each, then the senior of those four pairs sits down and comes up with a first-second-third among the winners of the sub-flights.

So at the after-party, which looks a lot more like what people envision when they think 'homebrew competition,' there were tons of beers, brewers, etc. Including, after the awards ceremony, I got to meet the brewers who took bronze in the Belgian Strongs. I'm like, dude, usually there's eight beers at the mini-BOS and three or four of them are obvious clunkers and get kicked straight away. That category, there were eight beers on the mini-BOS that deserved to medal. If you think third place sucks, the second place beer got a 48/46 in initial judging.

I said you have 50 points until you give me a reason to take some away. I've given a 50, I think two times in my twenty years of judging. When you smell, examine, taste an entry and really can't come up with anything they could do better relevant to the style, that's Fifty Point Entry. They are rare. A 48, that's almost as rare, and for such a score to wind up with a silver, I just gotta say WOW.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Biking Indy

So my trip to the Indiana Brewer's Cup, it seemed obvious I should bring my bike. For one, judging a homebrew competition involves taking on a lot of calories, it's good to get some activity in to mitigate that. For another, nobody is pulling over my Surly Long Haul Trucker to see if I'm blowing hot, and while judging isn't about consumption, awards ceremonies and such most assuredly are.

Plus, I erroneously thought, initially, that because the Brewers' Cup is part of the Indiana State Fair that I'd be getting in and out of the fairgrounds during a full blown State Fair. Trying to move a car in and out through 50,000 Hoosiers was bound to be more of a hassle than biking right up to the door.

Anyway, there turned out to be other good reasons. Indy is a fun town, I wish I could have hung out a few more days, ridden around checking out more of it. And it's flat. Really, really flat.

Hoosiers are also, as far as I can tell, ridiculously courteous. At ever intersection of the Monon trail and streets, it's posted for the trail traffic to stop. Yet almost universally, cars approach the trail, even when you've already freaking stopped, and they come to a halt and waive you through. I mean, they insist, even when you try to waive them through since they actually have the right of way.

There's lots of bike shares downtown, and lots of pedal pubs. I know of one in Kansas City, a metro area roughly the same size. I saw four or five on Saturday afternoon when I went for a ride between the end of judging and the start of the reception and awards ceremony.

I spotted this ghost bike on the trail. Strange one, it's hard to see anything anywhere near the ghost bike where there's much of a hazard, helmet or not. The plaque on the bike says to wear a helmet, and I'm sure someone named Dave died there, ghost bikes don't just happen. I guess this reinforces my helmet theory: I always say I don't wear the helmet for when I collide with a truck going 50 miles per hour, you're toast in that scenario no matter what you wear. A helmet keeps minor slipsy fallsy things minor.

Helmets are also super handy for mounting lights and mohawks.

Anyway, if you don't get to Indy with a bike, they've got lots of bike share bikes downtown, and given how flat the town is, even a total pig is pretty easy riding.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Cure for the Motel Blues

I don't mind camping, but with a CPAP, I have to camp near an outlet. Then there's the climate control issue: on RAGBRAI last year, I camped out and there were so many nights when I was bone exhausted but it was almost impossible to fall asleep in the heat of the tent. So while my wife generally prefers tent camping, I generally prefer a bed in a climate controlled environment. Except it's expensive.

When I decided to register to judge in Indianapolis at the Indiana Brewers' Cup, I got on Expedia and started looking for bargain motels. I thought, since the competition is part of the Indiana State Fair, that I was actually going to be there during the Fair: which I figured might mean camping at the fairgrounds was a possibility but a lousy one, with the noise of a State Fair and a definite possibility of blistering heat through the night. I planned to bring a bicycle, that's just common sense: who wants to wade through 50,000 Hoosiers in their cars in an automobile when a bicycle gets you right to the freaking door?

Anyway, I'm searching Expedia for cheap thinking that I'm probably going to be out, minimum, $80 a night. And I see $26. It seemed so impossible (even a joint with bed bugs runs more than that in Motel Land), I called the place. The girl who answered said "Yes, that is the rate, unless you want to camp, that would only be $10, and oh wait, we're sold out for camping that weekend. Or unless you want a private room."

So what you get for $26 is everything I ever wanted in a motel room: a 110 outlet for my CPAP and iPhone charger, and a bed in an air conditioned environment. It's a bunk bed in a coed dorm, but I'm just going there to sleep, and I'm a sound sleeper.

And as I enjoyed the first Three Floyd's Alpha King I've had since the Kansas City Bier Meisters hosted the National Homebrewer's Conference (in Y2K if memory serves), I got to thinking: motel rooms are fucking depressing. A hostel is not, it is chock full of people from all over the country and world, who have an international pot luck on a nightly basis ("I have more salad than I can eat...I love free food, and it's healthy me finish this bottle of wine...")

A hostel is full of vibrant, interesting people, a motel room has HBO, a parody of art on the wall, and if you're lucky a mini fridge (where a hostel has a kitchen, so if you're feeling a little broke restaurant-wise, you can just go to a grocery store and cook up as if you were home).

I told Nick (from Brazil, about to get his mechanical engineering degree and move to Italy, talk about interesting folk), I didn't know there were hostels in the United States. Nick said, 'this might be the only one.' But then Sam (from Wisconsin) piped up and said, no, there's not a lot of them but they exist, mainly in big cities. Sam said there was one in Chicago that tried to keep Americans out, be strictly international, but he got to crash there when he had a Japanese girlfriend.

The only real drawback I could see to the hostel is I have trouble putting myself to bed. It's not insomnia, once I head to the dorm and put on my CPAP it's pretty much lights out, the moans of Marley's ghost won't wake me. I'm not even aware of my hostel mates coming and going in the morning and whatnot. But while there's a half dozen interesting people having a rambling conversation in the living room, how can I go to bed? Even as I try to get there, I find myself on multiple digressions and sidetracks and tangents. So I guess if I'd payed three times as much, I could have spent my three nights in Indy in some shitty isolation chamber watching a few minutes of cable TV to remind myself why I quit owning a TV or a cable subscription, and gone to the Brewers' Cup sessions (and my drive home) better rested? No sale.

No, from now on, if I'm looking for overnight accommodations I'm searching for hostels first.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Little Whitey-One-Bites

Unlike Harold and Kumar, I don't have to get baked to want White Castles. There are textures and flavors that go on with the real thing (and no, microwaved frozen ones just don't cut it).

Actually, there are two things that are awesome about a sack of Sliders: the warm sliders fresh from the drive through window are a delight of their own. This is why we go to White Castle. Then, there's the delight of next morning White Castles, straight out of the fridge, still cold, dipped in ample amounts of ketchup. The buns have dried a bit, the pickle is crisper again, and the flavors and textures of that morning after slider are a treat of their own. Right up there with cold fried chicken and leftover pizza straight out of the box in the fridge.

I have a special place in my heart (and waistline) for foods like this, and there's only a few of them, that are just freaking awesome fresh & hot, and then become an amazing delight cold and leftover.

I hadn't had a proper Slider since...October, 2009 when I spent several days bumming around Chicago and sleeping on my friend Heather's boat. So on my way to judge beer at the Indiana Brewers' Cup, as I entered the St. Louis area I started watching those blue signs on the highway for that logo. Pay dirt! Bingo! Yahtzee! Alas, I didn't order enough to have a cold Slider breakfast the next morning, but at least I scratched that itch. The chain started in Wichita, so I'm not sure what explains the fact that you have to go to Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, etc., to take home a sack.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Independence Day (Regurgitation)

Me and Mo did a double feature this weekend. I generally take her to the movies once a weekend when I have her (three weekends a month). But the way the show times were stacking up, and there were a few movies I wanted to see, I opted for the binge.

Which is fine with Mo. She loves going to the movies. So we hit Independence Day Resurgence, then the Big Friendly Giant.

The first movie, meh. I know a sequel to Independence Day is a dodgy proposition. I enjoyed the original well enough, though having some British assheads quote President Whitmore in the process of swindling voters into the whole Brexit silliness makes it seem a little less charming. Of course, access to a half-billion-person market and free travel to 26 countries isn't really the same thing as aliens who blow up cities and want to exterminate the human race. And as John Oliver brilliantly pointed out, the U.K. was already independent, it's the country a lot of countries celebrate their independence from.

But the Independence Day sequel is, if this is possible, dumber than the Brexit.

Spoiler Alert

For a start, it takes the aliens exactly 20 years to come back. Because they wanted to time out their re-invasion with our celebrations? Then there's the whole going-for-the-molten-core thing. Supposedly any old boat with shipwreck searching bounty hunters can probe just how fast the aliens are getting to the core with their big coring machine, but worse, if the aliens are just after the molten cores of planets, why the fuck do they start with the only inhabited planet in the solar system? I know they have superior technology and all that, but really, they skipped how many soft targets to re-attack the only planet that's ever given them any resistance?

There's more. I'm all for a good stupid movie (loved the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick, for example), but if you're going stupid you have to be entertaining, and Resurgence falls short at every turn. So anyway, BFG is a much, much better movie. It's more believable for a start (and if you're familiar with Roald Dahl's work, that's saying something). I'm pretty sure Mo dug the BFG more, too.

There's plenty of logical faults to the storyline of BFG, but of course you have Spielberg's magic, a charming giant, an adorable kid, I can forgive Roald Dahl for making the Queen actually matter. I mean, really, even if giants are eating children, calling the Queen of England is about as useful as calling Mick Jagger. Famous? Sure. Priviliged? Obscenely. British? Definitely, but not really someone who can solve your problem.

Anyway, then I didn't have Mo on the Fourth itself this year. Me and Corinna headed out to see the fireworks. Well, that's not quite it. We headed out, but she could give a shit about fireworks, and she had another mission to accomplish. Which we did, as we navigated neighborhoods where fireworks are legally sold to people who probably can't afford to make such a big noisy stink, but they do it anyway. I like the big, professional pyro well enough, and I grew up shooting the small stuff but I really have no use for the street level stuff these days. It's expensive, not impressive, messy, noisy, traumatizes our dog, it's likely to end in an ER visit, there is no upside to strings of firecrackers, Roman candles, buzz bombs and whatnot.

And don't even get me started on the idiots who shoot guns in the air as if those bullets don't have to come down somewhere. I want to drive through the neighborhood taking pot-shots at those assholes, they're too stupidly dangerous to be allowed to live.

But I like the big public displays. Leave it to the pros, they do it so much better.

Anyway, Corinna's mission ended up making us a bit late for the start. We'd talked about watching from the Heart of America bridge bike lane but we were lucky to make the Town of Kansas overlook. Which turned out to be, probably, a better place to watch from. A few years ago we watched from the Cheauteu Bridge but that's way too far east to get good shots (though we had fun meeting Ryan Hefron and making margaritas on the bridge). And the past few years I've headed to the IBEW building which is a pretty good view from above. I think I'll try to make it down to River Market again next year but earlier, with time to get down to the trail and get over under the ASB bridge, it appears they were launching from right past it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Explore the Glore

So we've got a sick kitty cat, Bulldog has a tooth infection. We tried to take him to the vet, but they were overbooked and turning people away Saturday morning. Started to head to the emergency vet, which of course is a pretty spendy option. And the only measure we were really agreed on taking would be antibiotics: he's old, a $600 tooth extraction just doesn't make sense. I don't want to have him put down, but I just can't put that kind of money into an old cat when the shelter is full to the rafters with kitties needing homes.

So we headed out to the farm supply to see about buying the antibiotics and administering them at home. But the farm supply, while it had amazing $9,000 lawn mowers and equine antibiotics, didn't have the dog and cat stuff. For that, we had to go to St. Joseph. And since all the pets were due for their routine shots, we went ahead and got all of that together. The total was $110, that's rabies plus the five way annual vaccination for two dogs and three cats plus intramuscular injection penicillin for bulldog. I bet the emergency vet would have been more than that just to look at Bulldog on a Saturday afternoon, and as far as getting the other animals their routine stuff, I don't remember what I paid last year but I figure we saved at least $250 there.

While we were in St. Joe we ate at Crumbly Burger, a loose meat sandwich shop that's just cute as a button and super awesome delicious.

Then, as an afterthought leaving town we went through the Glore Museum. Which was cooler than I expected, with displays of some of the worst ideas we've had over the years for dealing with the mentally ill.

ECT, burning at the stake, various isolation boxes, the hollow wheel (basically a giant hamster wheel you can't see out of), surprise immersion in cold water, hydrotherapy... I knew about most of these things but seeing them up close and personal, picturing yourself forced into one of these things, creates a visceral reaction.

There's also a doll museum and a black archive in the Glore. Some of the photographs in the black archive really struck me, both because they were photographically interesting, the shallow depth of field says huge aperture, yet you can see motion blur in spots because the exposure was still quite long, and because these were not cheap snapshots. These were huge glass plate photos that would have cost real money, and to have so many of them in one place with black subjects, I wondered (the museum people didn't know) if perhaps a black photographer was operating a photo studio in Atchison, Kansas where the photos were from. These pics date back to the 1870s, so I'm sure it was rare to find blacks who could afford to sit for such portraits (and photographers who would take them).

After all, you only had to look at the segregated water fountain setup to see how separate and unequal things were.

There's also a morgue museum in the basement of the Glore, and oddly a couple of very highly customized cars.

Civil War stuff, too. The mental health section of the Glore is pretty focused, but surrounding it is really a mix.

When we got home we gave the animals their various injections. Bulldog is now on day three with the antibiotic injections, I can't tell if he's getting better. So he may need to go to the regular vet on Tuesday after all.

But we managed to have an adventure. Mo really dug the Glore despite thinking it was bullshit that we were stopping places we hand't planned on. And I know she dug Crumbly Burger. Same basic concept as NuWay, if you've had that, it's a sloppy joe minus the sauce.