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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Other J-Pop

I'll leave Japan's awesome pop music scene for another time, this is about Japanese soda.

I included the $20 bill in the first photo because I had looked for Ramune soda at the Asian market before and looked right past it. I'd bought some Ramune flavored candy there and was curious to try the soda it was based on.

The pictures I'd seen online, well, I guess Japanese people aren't as big as Americans and I had the impression I was looking for something more the size of a pint Coke bottle. It's a very distinctive bottle, but it's only a 6.7 ounce serving. I guess the Japanese haven't gone completely insane on the serving sizes of sugary beverages.

The bottle is fascinating. It's got a marble stopper with a pinched neck and a slot for holding the marble out of the way while you pour the soda.

I gather that the distinctive bottle is associated with summer over there in much the same way Coca-Cola has insinuated its trademark feminine bottle shape in the States.

I love finding stuff like this, things that are absolutely everyday for tens of millions of people that most Americans have never even heard of. In the age of globalization and the internet, it sometimes seems like we've managed to do worldwide, through commerce, what the Chinese government has done to Tibet. And I find homogeneity dull.

You take the plastic tool out of the cap (it's perforated so this is quite easy), then push the marble down into the neck with it. Hold it for a sec while it settles, then decant and drink up.

The 'original' flavor has been described as lemon-lime, but it doesn't taste like Sprite or 7-up. In fact, it doesn't taste like any American soda I can think of. It is a citrus-ish fruity flavor, but you'll have to try it for yourself. The other bottle I got was lychee flavor, another fairly unique fruit flavor, like a blend of melon and berry flavors, with some floral aromatics.

Molly didn't like them, but she's a big fan of Sprite and I think it pissed her off when it didn't taste like her expectations.

Natural History

We've been limiting Mo's screen time lately because she hit her head pretty hard during a seizure the other day, and while the only thing she generally seems to want to do is watch YouTube on her tablet all day, that's contraindicated with a concussion.

Okay, it's contraindicated by having a life, too. But while we generally try to break up the YouTube binges with stickers, painting, outings, etc., I had to redouble my efforts this weekend. And going to a matinee was out because, well, that's screen time, too.

So we went to the Kemper museum pretty recently, so my first thought was we were overdue to visit the Nelson. All that walking would be good therapy for the ankle she broke last fall, but then there's the ingrown toenail (same foot), I just couldn't make her do that much walking. So the Natural History museum in Lawrence. It's not like you don't walk at all, but it's pretty compact and on a Sunday you can park reasonably close.

She doesn't look super elated in these pictures, and there was some whining, no doubt related to that toe. But there was also laughter, and her briskly walking up to things she liked and turning for me to take her picture. She also thought it was funny when, by the Jayhawk sculpture outside the student union, I asked her if the bird was the word. That rhyme really struck a chord with her echolalia and if I said 'The bird,' she'd laugh and sing-song 'is the word!'

They're only open until 4:00 on Sunday these days. They had to cut back hours a bit thanks to Sam Brownback's miscomprehension of math.*

*Supply side economics, like stimulus spending and a lot of other terrible ideas embraced by both left and right is a different thing at the Federal level. States have to balance their budgets, they can't just pretend there are big dividends coming from their bullshit 'investment' in a few years. Brownback's tax policies are the Republican equivalent of Krugman's idiotic calls for massive government spending: it feels good if you can pretend you'll be able to borrow a constantly growing amount of money based on perpetual economic growth. It's not real economics. The only ways an economy grows is by adding population or increasing productivity, and once you've industrialized, you're pretty much left with minimal productivity gains. You can look at Japan's decades malaise to see what America would look like minus all that immigration. It's a good thing Kansas can't just go into the hole instead of coming up with actual revenues to pay for whatever it does, but it's a bad thing when the Governor and a significant number of legislators pretend tax cuts are magic fairy dust.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

February Mass

Second month in a row for 2016 that we had unseasonably warm weather for Critical Mass. I guess that means if certain theories about our climate are correct, the cagers brought this on themselves. Because Critical Mass happens no matter the weather, last Friday of the month, but it doesn't draw many riders are last very long when it's cold and pissy out.

I made spoke cards again. It was nice to notice that some of the folks I was handing them out to had the ones from last month still in their wheels. Spoke cards are one thing I barely saw anyone else riding with on RAGBRAI, but like a bell, you can't really call a bike complete without spoke cards.

The bell thing, by the way. When I'm commuting to work and pass another cyclist, I always ring my bell as a sort of amusing greeting. I would never ring it at a pedestrian on a trail as a silly and imperious way of saying 'make way' but I'll always ring it as a silly way of saying 'hello.'

And there's guys out there riding bikes that cost $10,000 who don't have a bell to ring back with. They bought everything the bike shop had to sell, in its most expensive permutation, but they didn't get the one thing that lets you say 'hello' back instead of seeming like a stuck up jerk with more money than cycling etiquette.

I guess I make an exception to that judgmental rant for Randall. Randall doesn't have a way to sport spoke cards since he rides a time trial bike with aero discs front & back. He also doesn't have a bell on his carbon fiber TT bike. But he rides in the city, including with the alcoholocaust the Critical Mass tends to be even though he doesn't drink, and he wears an eye patch so he's part pirate.

I thought at the end I'd talked a few of the folks into riding to my house. Close enough that I texted Corinna to make sure she wouldn't be pissed if I showed up with ten to twenty drunk cyclists, many of whom would probably want to crash on sofas and floors rather than ride back to Westport at that point. She was fine with that plan, and I managed to get a few of them as close as the bottom of the 12th Street Bridge but I couldn't get them over the river.

That river, or the county line between Wyandotte and Johnson or Jackson counties, sometimes that seems like the edge of the goddamn world.

People will show up for their first mass and ask what the route is. I'm like, the guy up front, we go where he goes. Unless someone decides not to follow, and then sometimes it breaks up a little early. It's half party, half parade, half protest, half not that good at fractions. It's the opposite of an organized ride.

But you'll love it. It's the most of whatever it is.

Monday, February 22, 2016

City Market Run

My wife said to kiss her where it smells funny. So I took her to Woodsweather & Ohio in the West Bottoms. Ba-doom-bah! Yeah!

If you didn't know, Endres Food Processors has a very fragrant recycling center there, right next to some turd ponds run by the Kansas City Water Department.


Anyway, I went by bike to the pharmacy and then to City Market for produce and Chinatown Market for some other groceries. A pretty normal thing for me on a Sunday afternoon, nothing remarkable, except Corinna rode the whole thing with me. She was just going to ride me out, but she's been laying off the vision therapy and I guess that's paying dividends because she rode almost twelve miles when her limit has seemed to be more like two.

It was fun. And I noticed something, you always do when you go by bike it seems. I never noticed it before, but the lettering on the Asian market, it's been the same letters for at least five years that I've shopped there, but I'd never noticed the pigeons.

They live there. They apparently find these three dimensional letters to be the perfect size for a nest. Which can't thrill the owners of a store, have a dozen or more pigeons living full time over where people access your store. But as obnoxious as pigeons are, apparently they're pretty harmless in this location because, like I say, I've been shopping here for half a decade and never realized they were there.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Getting Judgemental: KCBM 2016

I've been judging beer a while now. They rewrote the style guidelines again. There's your sign you've been at something more than a day or two.

Nothing changes radically, but as an example, when I took the exam in 1997 or 1998, Imperial Stout's definition did not allow for aroma or flavor hops. There are sound historical reasons for this, but as of 2008, it can be anything from none to high. Since a score depends on how close the brewer got to the stated target, I'm against revisions that change something from a narrow range to anything goes. But I don't care enough to try and insinuate myself into the process for the next style guidelines, and agitate, cajole, recruit and otherwise politic to try and change it. So I play it as it lays, re-reading the guidelines for the given category I'm presented with to find out what the target is these days.

Kind of like with competitive barbecue, it's less about what I like than about what the entry is supposed to present. It's fun, and if I thought I'd found the ultra nerds back in high school when I got introduced to the science fiction fan convention circuit there's less than 10,000 BJCP members worldwide. Only a little over 800 people on earth are ranked National or higher, and I'm included in that number.

You could call this a fringe group, but I say we're an elite. People who don't just love beer, we'll make work out of evaluating it. Including styles you've never heard of, including meads and ciders, we're very deep in the Dork Forest. Actually, I have almost 50 experience points which means it's high time I really re-read and study the current guidelines and take the exam again, if I can score a 90 on the test I'll be a Master rank judge. Which would mean probably always getting to judge Best of Show instead of it being a matter of luck. And I love BOS judging.

I didn't take as many pictures this year, I kinda felt like I'd already taken a lot of these shots a few times. See my blog posts from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, or last year. And that's not to count first round nationals.

There would probably be stuff from 2004 through 2006 around here as well, but in my late marriage to the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster, there was a dispute about whether the camera was a family owned item or just hers, and back then not everyone had a 13 megapixel camera just sitting there in their freaking phone.

Anyway, such a fun weekend. I judged Tuesday evening as well, and would have Wednesday if not for the Black Sabbath ticket I'd bought back in September. Even more experience points for me, I really need to get those exam scores up so I can redeem them for entry into the inner-inner circle of beer nerds.

I'm also, after the mead panel, thinking I need to study up some more on the making part. I'm not so old school I make meads that take years to get drinkable (if they ever do), but there are some techniques I've not tried (diammonium phosphate and such) I need to try. And I do love the meads, so I need to take the separate test for that (now that there is one), too.

I actually ended up judging meads and ciders about half the flights this weekend, and they're about two thirds of what I've made in the past ten years, so that seems to be a logical area to specialize in and I feel like I've let my knowledge in those areas stagnate.

If you can't tell from all these pics, I also really love the people I get to interact with when I do these things. Now that my kiddos are grown, I need to start branching out and judging in Lincoln, Des Moines, St. Louis, etc. There's lots of competitions around the country and in a lot of cases there's local club members who have spare bedrooms and sofas so you don't even have to pop for a Super 8.

And a National rank BJCP judge, at a homebrew competition, you're as in demand as a guy who knows how to dance at a wedding reception.

And as I was saying, I felt like I was taking fewer pictures than usual but here are 43 more.

Oh, and I said how these are some of my favorite people, that doesn't just include the ones I've been judging alongside for years (and some of them I've known since the late 90s). I meet new people every time, notable this year was Emily. I actually asked her if she was a gymnast, which in hindsight is embarrassing. I knew she had to do a sport of some kind, I'm married to a retired Olympian and you don't get the kind of shoulders Emily has by accident. No, she was like, wrestling. Kinda obvious, the only other woman I know who has shoulders like that is my aforementioned wife, who went to the Olympics in Judo, which is basically wrestling in a gi. And during her career, she did some freestyle wrestling too, and was ranked 2nd in the nation at one point by USA Wrestling.

I had such fun talking to Emily though, and I wished Corinna could have been there to meet her as well. Especially when I saw the look on Emily's face when I said, yeah my wife went to the '96 Olympics in Judo. Later I got to meet Emily's guy, I told him you can do a lot worse than hook up with a girl who knows how to grapple.

I did skip the banquet, I usually do. By the time it comes around I'm tired, overfed, kinda, well, drunk. This is after judging and then consuming quite a few beers. The banquets are great, and bang-for-the-buck they're totally reasonable. But still kinda spendy and like I say my appetite for food and beer has been well sated by this point, so I saddled up my bike and headed out after the raffle.

I hoped to win the steel cylindriconical fermenter in the raffle, not so much because I need another primary fermenter, but because I knew most of the folks there didn't think I could get it home on my bike. I brought a freaking KitchenAid mixer home from DeSoto on my bike, the fermenter would have been a snap.

I love biking to beer judging events because if I just judge what I'm judging I'm fine to drive, but judging really whets your appetite to actually drink some beer. Which is plentiful at these affairs. And since my bicycle is not a motorized vehicle, I don't really have to sweat it. I can drink hearty and know that my impaired judgement may cause me harm, I'm not going to be dialing my wife from a jail cell for bail. You can't get a DUI on a bicycle here (your state may vary on this), and when people tell me you can I'm always like, me and my friends have really tried. If you get arrested on a bicycle for being drunk, it's because you crashed into a parked patrol car and then picked a fight about the officer getting in your way.