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Monday, May 29, 2017

Aleš Juvanc

So I'm just out for a ride, trying to get my body in shape for RAGBRAI, blowing off some steam from the weekend, enjoying my bike. And I spot a guy who's obviously out on tour.

Aleš Juvanc from Slovenia. Says so right on his kit, he was asking me how far to Kansas and I'm like maybe a mile (we were in the River Market). He needed to clip a corner of Kansas to check a box on his LA to Quebec tour, and he was trying to make it to Odessa tonight.

He asked about taking I-70 to Odessa, which I thought was strange. If he's ridden from LA, by now he's got to be aware of the prohibition against bikes on interstates. But he looks like the real thing, split lips and all. Said he's ridden 75 countries so far. Which is really cool.

He seemed surprised, looking at my bike, that I wasn't on tour. I was just on a grocery run if you get right down to it. I'd extended it to get a few more hills and such but yeah, I was just getting cooking oil and salad dressing. On my Long Haul Trucker with front and back racks.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Critical Mass May

The best party ever, we meet at Scumfresh on the last Friday of the month and hilarity ensues. I'd made spoke cards for six straight months last year and got spooked when several people asked me if I was the organizer.

I'm like, I don't even fully accept responsibility for my actions at this event. There isn't an organizer, it's not organized.

A lot of folk have too much faith in organization. In authority. When I tell them Critical Mass goes where the rider up front goes unless the rider behind decides that's bullshit (and literally, this is how the route is determined), the general reaction is 'how does that work?' Very well, actually.

As I put it on my May 2017 spoke card, it's 'half party, half parade, half protest, half bad at fractions.'

I had to make spoke cards this month, last month when people were asking me why I hadn't, before I could explain about the theoretical liability issues, someone asked, 'Do you need contributions to the spoke card fund?'

The question kind of caught me off guard, I don't make money off the spoke cards, I just make them and give them away.

So if people are liking the cards enough they'd pay to keep them coming, how can I not show up with cards?

So I did. I made 80 cards, ran out pretty early actually. I think we had around 150 riders total this time

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Epic Stupidity

Beer commercials, I swear they must recruit a special kind of imbecile to write them. I sometimes feel a little sorry for the copywriter who has to come up with a pitch for why you should, say, prefer Phillips 66 gas stations over not-Phillips-66 gas stations, especially when that name seems to be attached to a motley crew of franchisees ranging from almost-as-good-as-QuikTrip operations to third world shit holes.

So maybe I can cut the folks at Coors' ad agency a little slack for not having a product that's particularly inspiring. I mean, those mass market lagers are the commodity peanut butter of beer. They are insipid, perhaps none so much as Coors Light. The best thing I can say for the Silver Bullet is it's consistent. But the ad copy that says it's 'frost brewed?' That's just offensive.

Kids, if you don't dabble in zymurgy yourself, lemme clue you in on something: 'brewing' involves converting starch to sugar, which happens when a couple of enzymes in malt are at around 149ºF. Alpha amylase is active between 145ºF and 158ºF, beta amylase does its thing between 131ºF and frosty as 149ºF. After this step, the wort is drained from the grain and boiled for at least an hour with the hops preserve beer and make it bitter (though Coors Light is hopped below the threshold of perception for most people, it is still boiled with hops). Fermentation happens a little cooler, and in the case of a beer like Coors Light, it is lagered after that, and this last step can get borderline on frosty, but the beer has already been brewed before it hits the lagering tank.

So drink what you like, but Coors Light is not fucking 'brewed really cold.'

But Sam Adams' marketing crew seems bent on making Coors' agency look like geniuses.

From the blazing yellow of the afternoon sun to the fiery orange of an evening sunset to the electric blue tint of a summer night, the colors of Summer Ale and its crisp, citrusy flavor, are your perfect companion anywhere, anytime.

Okay, I can buy yellow and orange being colors you'll encounter in something Sam Adams brews. But blue?

When I got into brewing in 1995, not every liquor or grocery store had a bunch of craft beer styles on offer. I drank a ton of Sam Adams' Boston Lager back then, in part to harvest the bottles for my homebrew, in part because it was such a better beer than most of what was on the shelf. Why buy Sam Adams? Because it's an all malt beer with enough flavor and aroma hops that you can actually tell there are hops in it. It's just like how you subscribe to Playboy because then you get to see still photographs of nude women. Well, the way things have worked out Hef had to sell the Playboy Mansion, but Sam Adams has just become another version of Coors Light, selling beer that has, as its principle ingredient, advertising.

Advertising written by yahoos who think some blue on the six-pack carrier is a feature of the beer in the bottles.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tour de Bier Weekend

One thing and another, I got really out of shape. Last summer when election work got busy I drove way too often trying to make up time, then after the election, the weather was blah and I was out of the habit, bike commuting no longer felt like the default setting it once did. I suffered a bit on Bike MS last fall, but then lately I've realized I continued to slide into sloth through spring. Now, I'm less than three months from RAGBRAI, and basically a tub of goo.

RAGBRAI two years ago was by far the best vacation I've ever taken, but I have to get back in shape or this year's will be miserable.

So this weekend was my bachelor weekend, and after riding more through the week (my target is generally 100 miles per week, last few months I haven't even threatened that, but this week I had over 70 coming into the weekend), me and Corinna did almost 30 on Saturday. Which is a PR for her for this year, near it for me. She's struggled with stamina since her brain injury but lately has been bouncing back in big ways.

So after that Saturday ride my ass was kicked way out of proportion to the ride, even if I have gone soft. I took an anti-inflammatory and went to bed ridiculously early. So early Corinna came in and asked me if I was sick or something. But I had a great sleep of 9-1/2 hours and got up early and got out of the house on the bike a little after 8:00 on Sunday morning.

I hadn't signed up for Tour de Bier, RAGBRAI is eating all my disposable income and then some, but I wanted to swing by and say hi to my friends who were working it. Which I did. Then I rode out, started following the route but then decided to go out agains the wind on Southwest/Merriam Lane, then back downtown, then up through Westport, then back downtown and into the East Bottoms and back by Knuckleheads. Then up through Northtown, before heading home.

Ended up with a little over 46 miles in the saddle, got home in time to grill a mess of chicken, do some laundry, listen to the Royals and Pirates both win.

Now I think I'm ready for an anti-inflammatory and an early bed time. Again. But if I crash out early tonight, maybe it'll be easier to get up and bike to work tomorrow. That early alarm has taken some getting used to as I try to get back into the swing of things.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Scribe at Work

So riding home from work, looking to meet up with Corinna, she texts me that Scribe is working at Foxx down on the Boulevard.

Scribe is one of my favorite artists, a national treasure really. I've done my best to photograph all his work, but he's too diligent for that to be a real possibility. But I do have a poster sized print of a photo I took of his Resound Fields II billy goat on the All Packaging building on my living room wall. You might notice it on this blog as the wallpaper, too.

When you have the chance to witness greatness, you do it.

Thursday, May 04, 2017


Kegged up the meads I made last fall, and there are issues. I didn't put pectic enzyme in the primary, and the pear melomel is showing it, even after DualFine, it's hazy as a hot day in Shanghai. It tastes pretty good, but I think I might rack it back out of the keg and into a carboy with a new dose of pectic enzyme and let the summer work on it a bit.

The other batch, the autumn olive, crab apple, pear and apple melomel, it's clear as a bell but has a flavor I associate with yeast under stress: plastic/bandaid phenolics, more in the flavor than the aroma. That's the whole point of the degassing wand and staggered nutrient additions, but I can't tell if it's actually yeast produced phenols or if maybe this is the character of autumn olive. Which, if that's the case, I may have screwed up the other day when I started another batch that included a fair bit of autumn olive juice. The juice, pre-ferment, has a pleasant, tart, dry flavor, lots of acid and tanin. But grape juice and wine ain't the same flavor, so if it turns out this is just the flavor of fermented autumn olive, I might avoid that fruit from now on.

Arguing in favor of it being the fruit and not the yeast is I'm not getting that off flavor in the hazy pear melomel and they were pitched with the same yeast on the same day, got the same treatment as far as degassing and nutrient additions, side-by-side. And it's not undrinkable or anything, but with the amount of work I put in on these things, I kind of expect something near perfection.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Went to my brother's to celebrate his birthday.

Guitars were played, food was grilled, beers were consumed. Corinna doesn't do beer because she seems to get migraines from yeast (doesn't eat a lot of bread for the same reason). Luckily, I'd just been to Trader Joe's and had a liter of their very decent blended scotch in the car. They've got solid single malts at about half the price of name brand, too, but their blended is a nice, big smoky mess at $9.99 a liter, and side by side I prefer it to some of the more famous single malts. It's bolder than Glenlivet or Glenfiddich, but it's not all the way to Laphroig with its burning-car-tire-extinguished-in-brackish-water character.

And I had fun taking pictures of my nephew on the swing set. My own kids outgrew going so high on the swing set you'd swear they're going to do a 360.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Critical Mass April '17

I love Critical Mass. It's a highlight of my month—I made all twelve of them in 2016, missed a couple so far this year but working on it.

I learned at this mass that one of my favorite massholes is moving away to Florida, and that's a damn shame.

Worse, I learned that a cop told one of my fellow travelers that charges against Anthony Saluto's killer are incredibly unlikely. It's been thirteen months since Joseph B. Lasala crossed the center line of Independence Avenue, two lanes into the wrong direction, struck Anthony Saluto on a bicycle, shattered two light poles and drove another block before his car quit on him. He still hasn't been charged with anything.

Anything. I've made multiple calls to the Jackson County Prosecutor's office, where so-called 'victim advocates' have told me it takes months to get toxicology reports back, that the police still haven't turned over files to the prosecutors, etc. This is criminal malfeasance on the part of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and Jean Peters Bakers' office. Don't take my word for it, here is the (heavily redacted because they claim they're doing something about this) police report.

I'm no lawyer, but toxicology? I don't care if Joe Lasala was intoxicated, he crossed to the far wrong side of the road and killed a person, even if he was sober that's at least manslaughter. Charge the piece of shit: it's unacceptable that he's still walking around free and probably driving. He's a killer and he needs to be locked up. If you get toxicology back and want to hit him for DUI to boot, great. Drove a block after shattering light poles and killing a person? How about a charge for leaving the scene? Felony hit and run, hello?

Apparently cyclists' lives don't matter as far as Jean Peters Baker and her minions, and the Kansas City Police Department are concerned. It's been thirteen months and they're allowing a known killer to continue to menace society. I'm not asking for much, all I'm asking is Do Your Fucking Job. When a cop gets shot, they have capital murder charges filed in less than 24 hours (as they should).

If you wonder why some people don't get super helpful with law enforcement, this is where it starts: when a friend or family member is murdered and the law takes it less seriously than someone betting on an NCAA bracket, you know that you're not among those being protected or served.

Anyway, back to positive territory. It was a beautiful evening to ride bikes with friends, have a couple of beers.