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Monday, June 30, 2008

Wanted: A Rewind Button

I went to see Wanted this evening. My friend Julie urged me not to, on account of the violence.

As the t-shirt says:

At least with fantasy violence, I can go along with this up to a point. That point is somewhere before Kill Bill Vol. I, I guess, since that film left me asking fruitlessly for a refund (that film was where I learned that just like in a restaurant: once you eat the meal it's too late to get out of paying the check. If you're really offended, leave early). But maybe it's not much before, because I saw the senseless slaughter of maybe a hundred people portrayed on the screen tonight and still found myself entertained.

When I think about hired assassins and secret societies, certain questions arise: who hires them? If I wanted to hire a killer, what part of the yellow pages would I look in? Or should I google it? Here's what I got as the top hit when I tried that.

Anyway, this movie brings a lot of the reductio ad absurdums of the genre into high relief. I won't elaborate as it would amount to spoiler material. The only spoiler I'll engage in is this: (waits a minute for people who don't want to read the spoiler to skip to the next paragraph) Angelina Jolie does not display her marvelous breasts. Her butt and a fairly suggestive scene with the protagonist's girlfriend were apparently enough to get that 'some sexuality' detail in the R rating box. If you want to see Brad Pitt's girlfriend show off her boobies, get Taking Lives on DVD. She's probably shown them off elsewhere, but that's the only movie that comes to mind.

I know, they're just mammary glands, 52% of the population has them. But you gotta admit, like her lips (which almost 100% of people have), hers are a cut above.

Those lips and eyes are an example of what I mean when I say sometimes a woman can be so beautiful it borders on ugly.

But, to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, that's not what I came to talk about. I came to talk about kid sneaking into R rated movies.

When I was fifteen, I had the most perfect girlfriend. By perfect, I mean she was a year older than me, had pretty nearly a woman's body, and liked for me to eat the lipstick off her in the back row of a movie theater. Okay, she was annoyingly vacuous and said things like 'You should use eyebrow pencil on your stubble, you'd look so like George Michael.'

And one time we went to the dollar theater to make out and there were two movies showing: a G rated dinosaur movie and an R rated movie (I don't recall what it was about, it was sort of immaterial).

Looking old for my age, I'd bought tickets to quite a few R rated movies without getting questioned by the (equally young) box office personnel. But this time, it was a chick who knew me. From church.

And she flat out wouldn't sell us tickets to the R feature. So naturally, we bought tickets for the dinosaur feature and promptly went into the other theater.

And I didn't even have my hand up the perfect girlfriend's shirt when an usher told us we had to actually go into the theater our tickets were for or leave.

Crap. Do you have any idea how hard it is to behave in an utterly inappropriate way in the middle of a bunch of families trying to watch a G rated family film? It was even worse than when Dad confiscated my AC/DC albums.

But then again, that's not really what I was starting to tell you. Ahem. Rene, if you're reading this, that was some tasty lipstick you wore. I'm sure you went on to make some fine young man extremely unhappy.

No, we're back to the movie I saw this evening, Wanted. There was a row of kiddos causing a ruckus during the previews. Some of my fellow movie goers had tried hissing or hollering at them to shut up during the previews, but nothing doing. I was thinking, Why isn't the adult who brought those honyocks settling their pubescent hashes?

When the feature I'd paid five bucks to see started to roll and they continued as if still in their middle school's cafeteria, I got up, climbed over the railing, walked over to their row and said, 'Now that the movie has started, you think you kids could shut the hell up?'

I'd love to say there was no anger in this move, that I was cool, calm and collected. There was not, as I anticipated, a negligent adult in this group of eight or so barely teenaged kids. There were at least five cell phones being texted upon, but no adults. Forgetting my own past, I was stumped at how these squirts got in to an R rated feature.

I wasn't cool or calm, I realized as I returned to my seat. I was fairly vibrating with confrontation. Almost as much so as the time I got charged with disorderly conduct, but that's another story entirely.

Not to worry, soon people were getting murdered in spectacular ways, and apparently the fat bald guy getting out of his seat was enough to put a sock in the honyocks.

After the movie was over, a guy in the row behind me thanked me for being the movie vigilante. 'There was no way they were going to shut up,' he said.

On the one hand, I wanted to bask in the approbation of this stranger, but something wasn't quite right.

'I can't figure how they got in,' I said.

'They had tickets for another show and came here instead,' he said. Which was incredibly obvious after I heard the words.

So I asked the theater management, which is to say someone not much older than the kids in question, what should a Lobster do?

Because if I got up and, instead of rousting the offending kids myself, I'd gone and gotten the management, I'd have missed part of the movie. Would I have gotten a pass to another showing?

'Absolutely,' the management kid said. 'I'd probably give you a couple of passes because it's a real problem. If you're coming to me about it, I figure everyone in the theater has had their experience compromised.'

I might be misquoting her slightly, but you could tell at least some of the vocabulary was from a training video. Still, I wished I hadn't been so focused on my $5 ticket that I wouldn't go ask an usher to check this kids' stubs. Let them go talk over the movie their tickets were for. I mean, the movie I was there to see had show times every fifteen minutes or so, I don't know why I wouldn't have just known the management would gladly let me see the next screening of Wanted.

So what I want is a rewind button. I had a decent response to the motormouth honyocks, but not the best response. A response that would have sentenced these kids to the worst fate possible: watching the film they actually bought tickets for.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


A good time was had by all.

Good friends, good beer, good food, how could it be any other way?

Mo had a particularly good time with the parrot toy. It's the perfect union: a kid with echolalia talking to a toy with echolalia. Every time it repeated her words (and laughter) back to her was funnier than the time before, at least to judge by her reactions which became almost alarmingly manic before it was all over.

And a great mystery: I've had plenty of friends who never wanted to have kids. When they're at a party where kids are present, they do their best to pretend the children aren't really there. Some seem to struggle with fear and hostility at the sheer presence of honyocks.

But I have one friend who's never wanted a kiddos and yet every time she's around them, she drops down to their level and obviously enjoys them. I guess it's the 'when you know you can give them back' factor.

Punk Rockets

Me and the honyocks headed to Shawnee Mission Park for the club launch Saturday. Took lots of video. Once again, had trouble settling on a sound track. So both Vimeos here are basically the same footage, it's just a matter of whether you prefer the Dead Kennedys or Hayseed Dixie.

Untitled from Chixulub on Vimeo.

Got Floyd airborne again. Flew Mr. Creosote and Hatful of Hollow a couple times each, Scribble V once (and almost lost him).

Speaking of losses: Dave Bucher lost his four engine Patriot, a model that is theoretically too big to lose. A couple of club members scoured the apparent landing area to no avail. Spotted three wild turkeys strolling in some tall grass, but no Scudbuster.

Untitled from Chixulub on Vimeo.

Happy Anniversary!

I don't remember right off exactly when my brother's anniversary is, but this is seven years. And apparently pictures were in order.

It's such a rare thing to see a couple who still genuinely enjoy each other after seven years. So rare, I might not believe it if I hadn't seen this example. By the seven year mark, most couples seem to be coasting at best, more commonly resigned to their fate or plotting their divorce.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Bridge Too Far?

Okay, if not a Smart Car, what about a Zap?

Except according to their web site, I'd run out of fuel three fourths of the way to work. And with a top speed corresponding with the minimum speed on Interstate highways, I'd have to plot out the sort of route I'd take on a bicycle.

Zaps are cute, though.

Rolled a Few Fatties For the Party

Going to a soirée tomorrow evening with some of my favorite humans out of the six billion or so I hear inhabit this funny little spheroid.  Friends I've had since high school, despite what could be interpreted as a concerted effort on my part to lose friends and alienate people both back then and in my adult life.

So I rolled a few fatties.  Not weed, mind you.  I might enjoy it if I tried it today, but last time I tried it (when I was 21) it did not go well.  Smoking grass and not getting high was bad, but (maybe I was just too high strung at the time) getting incredibly high turned out to be even worse.  The paranoid side effect?  That was the primary effect.  I worried about everything from the possibility of a THC overdose to the possibility that I'd been transported to a ski lodge in Vermont for reasons I just knew were contrary to my well being.

I was also certain that my ex girlfriend and my then girlfriend would destroy my car, leaving me to settle for $125 in scrap value from a junk yard.  Except that last paranoid delusion turned out to be alarmingly true even after the cannabis wore off.

Anyway, after that night some 17 years ago, it's been incredibly easy to waive off the rarely proffered joint.

The fatties I rolled for this soirée were more of a culinary nature.

I made a double batch of pretzels, and as the song goes, oops I did it again. I doubled the batch described in the company cookbook I submitted it to a few years back. But that recipe was itself a doubling of the recipe taught to me by the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster (back when my '75 Sedan DeVille was a rolling lust nest instead of 4000 lbs of scrap steel).

The problem with this quadruple batch is it becomes difficult to mix and knead the dough when it's 3 cups of water, eight cups of flour, etc.

Me and Em had fun, though, experimenting with shapes. I made a couple of bowl shaped pretzels I baked with the convex side up. I have the idea that maybe next time I make a batch, I'll make a few this way and then turn them salt-side-down and fill them with hummus or something. So it's like a tart with too much salt.

Finally I made a couple of Pretzel Men.

And a smiley face, with the hummus bowls as eyes. Em had fun with that. Insisted I post to YouTube instead of Vimeo because none of her friends look around on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Get Smart?

[Nope, not a movie review. Except to say Mel Brooks still has it, and definitely worth the $5 'weekday escape' ticket price.]

Being a big guy, I was one of those people who scoffed at Smart cars at first glance. Before they were showing up on American streets, I listened to the audiobook of Dan Brown's tedious hit novel and had to know what this 'Smart Car' of Sophie's was. So I Googled it.

I'll say this: having his protagonists run from the law in such a vehicle is an exceptionally good idea for Dan Brown. If anything else in his book was half that funny and original, it'd have been a worthy read.

But I came out of a doctor's appointment this afternoon and passed by one up close and on foot. And something grabbed me a little bit. It's such a weird vehicle, and I'm all about oddball rides. Okay, oddball pretty much anythings.

So I headed to Aristocrat because I remember seeing the Smart sign go up there. For those of you who don't live in the area, this is the dealership you go to if you have a hankering for expensive wheels. Mercedes, Jaguar, Land Rover, Saab, etc. Without the Smart cars, there's probably nothing on the lot under $30,000. It's not a place I'd expect to feel comfortable at: it's a place I'd expect to feel watched.

So after parking next to a sexy beast of a red Mercedes (and I'm not a car person really, but it was a gorgeous vehicle) I found my way to what appeared to be not a showroom but an internet cafe. The contrast with the dimly lit Mercedes showroom I went through to get to it was striking.

I was also surprised looking at the sticker on this red monster. $34,000. A lot of money, to be sure, but half what I'd have guessed looking at it and knowing it's a Daimler. If I had the kind of dough to buy such a vehicle and to not care that it gets appalling gas mileage, maybe.

I found something even rarer than a new car I could muster excitement for: a car salesman who's not a creep. I've only encountered one other such person, and I'm doubting it's a coincidence that in both cases the salesman lacked a Y chromosome.

Car salesmen seem to think if they cajole me enough I'll buy practically anything. Gertrude*, on the other hand, just engaged me in a conversation about the cars. I wondered if I'd fit in the thing to begin with and she told me to find out for myself. It's a very easy car to get in and out of even at 6'4" and 300 lbs. Of course it's a two seater, and I have two kiddos, so I inquired about the ForFour version to learn that, alas, they made it for awhile but no longer.

And then of course I mentioned safety. I drive the craziest traffic this little berg has to offer in rush hour every day, and you always hear that your chance of dying goes up as your car goes down in size. A Smart Car would only make sense as a second car to commute in since it's short a seat for my family outings, and getting run over by a Suburban and killed would put a damper on the fun.

Gertrude explained that the rigid steel frame around the cockpit actually keeps the driver quite safe and that despite it's small footprint, it's actually taller than some of the big sedans in the adjacent showrooms, so far less invisible than you might think.

It's got a cute little three cylinder in-line one-liter motor. There are motorcycles with more engine than this. And speaking of motorcycles, since I've always wanted one of those, I can't imagine why I'd think a small car would be too dangerous if I'd be willing to go out on the road with two wheels, no seatbelt and no walls.

The AC is electric, so running the AC doesn't damage your gas mileage. This is such a sensible thing, I can't imagine why more cars don't work this way. Your alternator generates all this excess charge beyond what's needed to keep your battery starting the car, why not harness that juice to run the AC's compressor?

So I'd get roughly 25% better mileage in this car than in my Accord. Given that I now feel lucky when a fill-up is under $50, a second car for the commute is definitely interesting. I doubt I'd save enough on gas to pay for the vehicle, but it'd help. Plus, it's a suitably bizarre mode of transport. Since Toyota took my former dream car, the Scion XB and changed everything that made me love it (rounded it off and put a bigger, less efficient motor in it, It ruins it! Stupid Hobbitses!), maybe I'm vulnerable just for the funk factor.

So I took a test drive. The semi-automatic transmission takes some getting used to. You can manipulate the clutch but you do it by letting up on the gas pedal. Gertrude could do it seamlessly, but I didn't really get the hang of it.

One drawback, and it's kind of something you'd have to expect with such a small motor: it takes a long time to get up to 70 mph on the highway.

On the other hand, the car feels surprisingly solid and handles nimbly. It feels a lot less like a golf cart than I expected, and I certainly didn't feel menaced, at least not more than usual, by the big SUVs and pickups on the road.

Another bonus is the price. Basing under $12,000, it's about as cheap as new cars come. I know, it's only half of a car, blah blah, but it would make a nice secondary commuter vehicle.

If I was ready to pull the trigger, though, it'd be time for a $99 deposit and a 12-14 month wait. And I'd have two cars to insure and all that. The Mini Cooper comes in a club wagon that seats four, but of course that's half again as much dough, meaning even less realistic a vehicle to crush on.

*Gertrude is not her real name. I started to publish this post with her real first name, then got to wondering if she'd be down with that. Out of respect for her privacy, I've given her a fairly horrifying pseudonym (though I'm sure I could come up with worse). Maybe unnecessarily since she seemed fine with my taking her picture for my blog.  If you really want to buy a Smart car, don't ask for Gertrude, just look for the person who matches the picture. She's a genuinely neat human being.


I had eaten a whole red tomato, sliced it and sprinkled a bit of salt and pepper on it a day before the big scare and recall. I don't know what the odds really were, it didn't seem like that much of a dodged bullet, but I loves me some tomatoes.

So we did cheeseburgers on the grill at my daughters' request. Smallish burgers, and the 93/7, the leanest I could find. I really let them have it with the rolling pin, trying to get a cooked patty that covers the bun but keep within a 4oz serving of meat.

They were so thin, in fact, that one of them developed a hole while it cooked.

So the slab of tomato on my burger was actually more substantial than the patty. It was perfect. A little onion, pickle, bleu cheese dressing.

Then, since the girls don't believe me that tomatoes are edible, I polished off the rest of this monster tomato.

Not Really Stealing Your Mail from Chixulub on Vimeo.

So then we took the Ministry of Altitude fleet (which badly needs some repairs and replacement stock) to the Purple Park. I put the ÜberTubester Chixulubster up on a D21-7. Those composite motors are amazing (amazingly expensive, too, I'm making the handful I bought this spring last the summer). On a C6 (the most potent black powder motor that will fit it), this rocket just barely gets the laundry thrown out before touching down. It's so underpowered it borders on being unsafe. On a D21, which is the same size but a different type of fuel, it's an absolute whiplash. I almost managed to track it going up with the camera. Almost.

Sorry for the completely random soundtrack. I was searching for a tune to set this evening's launches to, searching in part for a track of the proper length. Or, that failing, a track that could be edited for a fitting excerpt. But searching by length, I came up with Stealing People's Mail, a Dead Kennedys masterpiece that somehow struck me as appropriate. When Em was taking piano lessons (in First Grade), it was one of the tracks on the mix we listened to on the way to and from the lessons. I know, I should be ashamed or shot or something for playing DK to a six year old, but at least I explained that I Kill Children was not meant to be a serious song.

She loved California Über Alles, as a matter of fact. So Em has known from an early age that the only good Kennedy is a Dead Kennedy.

Relax, you. It's a joke. I would never actually advocate making another martyr from that clan of degenerates.

Anyway, after recovering ÜberTubester Chixulubster, I noticed some damage. This could have happened from taking a hard landing, though it's never failed to open its 'chute that I recall. Or maybe there was a little bit of stress to the tubing from a hard landing and the sudden and massive thrust of that D21 motor did the rest of the damage. In any case, the rocket is officially retired. I'll probably build another similar ship and build it with a 24mm motor mount so I can fly it on cheap black powder D motors.

And of course Mo did her sidewalk chalk thing. It wouldn't be the Purple Park without it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Didn't Know My Honda Went That Fast

I get the call at work, Mo's having a seizure, her step-dad has called 911 because she's turning purple.

So I hit the ejector seat on my desk and work and headed for the hospital I know they'll transport her to. My ex, who'd placed the call, had a failing cell phone battery but said she'd call me from Em's phone when she got there.

I drove hell bent for leather out of the gate, but as time went on and my cell didn't ring again, I got more and more worried. Was it so bad I had to see it in person? Had she stopped breathing? Is my cell phone silent because this is the kind of news you have to deliver in person, not over a cell phone to someone who's already a menace in traffic.

Honestly, I was paying too much attention to the cars around me to notice the speedometer, so I have no idea where I topped out. Maybe an idea. My guess is probably less than 100, and for certain more than 80.

So I get to the hospital and I'm the first one there. Even though I had over five miles further to travel than the ambulance, and through much less speeder-friendly avenues. That's when I realized just how fast I must have driven.

If I cut you off, sped, followed too closely, ran a stop sign, almost hit you, sped some more, failed to yield, changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and speeding, sorry about that. I'm an inconsiderate prick.

The triage nurse knew Mo was coming, but the ambulance was still somewhere between there and here.

I called Em's cell, which it turns out simply hadn't gotten transfered to her mother in the confusion. I could tell from the way Em talked about it that Mo was fine, there was no freaked out in her voice. Mommy was in the ambulance with Mo and Em and her step-dad where chasing.

So I stopped and photographed this statue as a way to unwind my mind from the coil of horror it had been wrapping itself into. Then I remembered I was supposed to be at the dentist's getting a cleaning, but I wouldn't have made that anyway for just plain forgetting. And I had a date to carpe brewski with one of my bestest friends, but figured I'd probably be rescheduling that.

Most of Mo's seizures tend to be absence or partial seizures. I've seen her seize many times, but never witnessed a full grand mal. I've seen her not breathing during a seizure, but I've never seen her in a fully involved flail, her diaphragm convulsing so fast she can't get a breath while her arms and/or legs go berserk. It's not something I want to witness, mind you. I've seen how freaked out the few who have seen her have one of those monsters get.

She did bonk her melon falling out of a chair as the seizure started, but the whole affair was over before five minutes was up. She was groggy but in pretty good spirits in the ER, and the visit turned out to be uncharacteristically short. She enjoyed having her picture taken, wanted squeezed and tickled and was basically her usual self, albeit on low battery.

I was heartened to hear she fought the paramedics when they tried to give her supplemental oxygen. Because she couldn't have kicked an oxygen tank halfway across a room if she really needed extra oxygen. Plus, with autism, you worry a little extra about creeps, and this is one kid who isn't going to let you touch her in any way she doesn't approve of. I'm sure this will make dealing with menstruation an above average challenge when that day comes, but if it also keeps her safe long term, I'm down with that.

Leaving the hospital, I was going to call Hoodlie Chick to reschedule, but looking at the time I saw I could still make the date. I said to myself, Self, you can go home and feel sorry for yourself in solitude, or you can go have a chat and a couple of highly therapeutic pints with a great friend. I almost picked solitude for fear of being bad company. But Hoodlie Chick seems to be a fairly effective balm against self pity.

Sure enough, we were arguing politics and dissecting the relative hotness of Liv Tyler and Anne Hathaway, talking about Mo's seizure, the Bejing Games, Gitmo, polygamy, casual sex, the depravity of men, and I don't know whatall.

We even talked about the Incredible Hulk, her hang-up being that she can't figure how some guy gets twenty feet tall and his pants seem to accommodate, only ripping to the knee and popping the button at the waist. But I mean, really, if you're going to buy the whole green, apparently bullet-proof skin, and a transmogrification that includes a massive increase in weight (or else why would a stool Bruce is sitting on crumple beneath the weight of the Hulk?), what's some extraordinarily stretchy corduroys?

The great thing about arguing politics with this person is, in the final analysis, we both want pretty much the same thing, but I'm an anarcho-capitalist and she's a socialist. Which is to say, I marvel at how often I basically agree with someone who is so totally wrong. I don't know what it is, but we can have these arguments without any venom at all. This is someone I've known since high school, and it's always been this way. Hell, I think it was even this way when I thought of myself as a Communist (lo those many, many years ago).

In fact, back in high school, I would have described this person as much, much more conservative than me. Which, I suppose, was partly because she wouldn't have sex with me. Not that we were dating, but at the time I made it a point to make at least some effort to have sex with every girl I knew. Fortunately, this friend had the patience of a saint, and consequently remains my friend over two decades after I did everything in my power to alienate her.

After the scare with Mo, a couple of pints and several hours of rambling conversation with Hoodlie Chick was exactly the medicine I needed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Not So Tainted

I was going to do a Tainted Meat on this pic, but it's really too simple a picture to do a good one. I took it as I was loading up after Saturday's brewing festivities, it just struck me these three planes heading in divergent directions, the birds sitting on the wires.

Tainted Meat #2

Okay, kids, you know the drill. Identify the changes in the before & after shot. If you click on the pictures, they'll open up bigger in your browser. Actually, that links to a hi-res shot that would be suitable to create a print. The pic is a shot of the crowd at the Purple Park I took while waiting an eternity for Mo to finish up in the restroom. I don't think I know anybody in the picture.

There are seven differences this time, eleven was a bit of overkill. And again, if you give up or want to confirm, I'll post the key as the first comment to the post.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Ugly American (As A Matter of Fact, I Like Beer)

I had all this ambition to get to Bacchus & Barleycorn early to set up. I don't know entirely what it is, but defects in my character make it utterly impossible for me to be in any way efficient when I brew. I'm always the last one cleaning up, long after the store has closed. It's even been dark outside by the time I've been done.

So my efforts to get there before the official start time of 10:00 (which I learned had actually been moved back to 9:30) got me there at 10:15.

Everyone else was already in high gear.

I had a hope, though. There was a guy brewing an extract batch followed by an all grain batch. Surely it would take him longer to brew two batches than it would take me to make one.

I found I was short a cinder block despite my careful counting, but Jackie saved the day by loaning me a stand and burner that held the mash tun at the proper height. The aluminum frame of his stand was so light and easy to move I realized I'm an idiot for using cinder blocks. A smart man would buy this much lighter, fully assembled deal. I even tried to buy it off him.

I might have to get over to Metal by the Foot and get some angle aluminum to build my own.

I hadn't fully made up my mind about what to brew until I had the strike water heating.

Carpe Brewski from Chixulub on Vimeo.

I made an American Stout in the tradition of Sierra Nevada Stout. Traditionally, stouts do not use finishing hops (flavor and aroma hops), only bittering hops. Sierra Nevada Stout is out of character for a stout that way. But totally in character for a Sierra Nevada product. That brewery puts a ton of Cascades in everything.

Sierra Nevada Stout is also a favorite of mine for it's all out sensory assault. Huge malt, huge roasted character, massive bittering hops, an orgy of floral, citrusy Cascade flavor and aroma hops. It's the beer equivalent of a woman who's beauty is so severe it borders on ugliness. It's a caricature of a stout.

And I love it.

So here's my take. I call it Ugly American Stout.

The recipe:

25 lbs. Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
2 lbs. Roasted Barley
1 lb. 120º Crystal
4 oz. Special B
4 oz. Biscuit Malt
8 oz. Chocolate Malt
4 oz. Bravo whole hops 13.5 AAU (90 minutes)
2 oz. Cascade whole hops 7.4 AAU (15 minutes)
1 oz. Cascade whole hops 7.4 AAU (5 minutes)
1 oz. Cascade whole hops 7.4 AAU (at knockout)
Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

According to Rooftop Brew's calculators, this hits 134.8 IBUs, but in reality it's impossible to get much more than 100 IBUs. Hop alpha acids reach a saturation point at around 100 IBUs where additional isomerization is impossible. But basically, we're talking about a beer that is literally as bitter as it can possibly be.

As you can see from the copious pictures I've peppered this post with, there were a whole gang of homebrewers on hand for this demonstration brew. And plenty of curious spectators, extract brewers curious about all grain, people who have just started out or are thinking about making a batch of beer, people who used to brew and are thinking of getting back into it.

Extract brewers commonly ask why brew all grain? Well, the grain is cheaper than malt extract for a start. But when you factor in the cost of propane and additional equipment, this is probably just a rationalization. Which is okay: anything worth doing is worth doing compulsively, and compulsive behaviors require rationalizations.

Really, this being my 98th batch, and being I went all grain back around batch 10, even allowing for thirty or forty cider and mead batches in that count, I've probably come out ahead of the cost of extract brewing. But at the three or four times a year pace I'm brewing these days (this is my first batch since August of last year), I'd be hard pressed to justify the expenditure for equipment if I didn't already have it.

The real reason all grain brewing rules is the flexibility it gives you. Dozens of grains to choose from, proportions to be set by your only formulations. Quantity is also infinitely flexible, as opposed to having to move in increments of whatever can size the extract you're using comes in. With extracts, there's no throwing in four ounces of Biscuit Malt or an extra pound of Pale Ale malt.

Brewing is a creative thing for me. I never brew the exact same recipe twice. I always experiment.

Plus, with extract brewing it's over too fast. A lot of the extract brewers out there today were packing up before I was done sparging. Granted, slow as I am, I can stretch an extract batch to six hours, but still.

The guy who was doing two batches: one of his was a spruce beer. He had these spruce cones from Alaska he added near the end of the boil.

I didn't get my act together enough to make a starter in advance, so I used an Activator pack of yeast for each carboy. This doubled the cost of the yeast for this batch, as I could have propagated this much from one pack. Hops have also gotten appallingly expensive due to shortages. About three times as expensive as a couple years ago. Still, all in, including propane and all that, we're at maybe a buck a pint cost wise.

And considering that buck a pint is for a no compromise beer, it seems reasonable enough. I liked it better when it was more like 50¢ a pint, but then gasoline was $1.40 a gallon when that was true. Homebrewing isn't necessarily frugal, per se, but it's a hell of a lot of fun and it does at least provide a decent value. A six pack of Sierra Nevada Stout retails for eight or nine bucks, which works out to about a $1.50 per 12 oz bottle, and buying their beer doesn't give you any creative expression or sense of accomplishment.

As the famous St. Louis Brews club shirt says, Give a man a beer and he'll waste an hour, teach him to brew and he'll waste a lifetime.

I did get to play with a new brew gadget. Not one I've purchased, just one I saw another guy using. It fits in a drill chuck and slides into a carboy and beats the hell out of the wort to aerate it. I use bottled oxygen already, but as a way to help it dissolve, this sure beats agitating a carboy. I'll have to get me one.

How did I do on getting out of there on time? Well, even the guy making two batches finished ahead of me. I rolled out of the parking lot at 7:15. A nine hour brew day is actually about as short as I can recall having. I really should just start the night before or something.

'The day you're not the last to finish,' Alberta said, 'I'll fall over.'