Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hoppy New Year!

After a tough year at the Beerme home, I am looking forward to a better year, starting tomorrow. My oldest son has moved to Atlanta, Georgia to begin his life as an independent man. I'm happy about that and for his continued health since battling and beating cancer a couple of years ago. My youngest son had a tough year last year, as well, but seems to be picking himself up and dusting himself off for a run at 2007. My wife has been fighting the loss of her oldest boy, since the move to Atlanta a couple of months ago, but she is happy and healthy as well. I am working hard at maintaining my professional status with the State and moonlighting as an educator one day a week. All is good.

As for the brewing, it went pretty slowly this past year, but picked up considerably during the last month or two. A review of my brewlog shows the following brew schedule:
1-15-2006-Rye-Rish Red Ale, the eventual blue ribbon winner at the Michigan State Fair!
1-15-2006-Jeff's Amber Ale, a fine Strong Ale brewed with my friend Jeff
5-29-2006-Top-Heavy Blonde, a Belgian Golden Ale that was somewhat disappointing
11-4-2006-The Mild Ale That Wasn't, a brew done at the Teach A Friend To Homebrew celebration at Hopman's Brewing Supply in Waterford Township
11-24-2006-Golem Barleywine, a smokin' strong ale (11%) that appears to be a real winner, so far...
12-3-2006-The Bitter End, an ESB that also looks like a winner (if the judges can get past the American hop presence)
12-3-2006-Honey I Shrunk the Beer, a Small Beer produced by the final runnings of the ESB. Also a fine beer, perhaps a session beer of some prominence.

So there you have it. Seven beers this year. Not much to crow about in terms of production but all were very good, with the exception of the Belgian.

What I hope for in 2007, brewing-wise, is some more consistency. I would like to see better efficiency in my brewing, some new equipment (new or homemade) that will better the product, more prolific brewing, a better hop harvest and some more awards for my beer. I think I may have ensured at least the last wish with at least one of the beers I brewed over the last month, but I'm still awaiting some independent evaluation from my friends before predicting it.

This year is barley over but may the new year be very hoppy for you all!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Corruption Barometer

What with William Jefferson's being re-elected by a substantial majority and Republicans and Democrats all across the country coming under fire left and right for corruption and ethics issues, I thought a visit to Transparency International would bear a look see. From their website: "Transparency International is a global network including more than 90 locally established national chapters and chapters-in-formation. These bodies fight corruption in the national arena in a number of ways. They bring together relevant players from government, civil society, business and the media to promote transparency in elections, in public administration, in procurement and in business. TI’s global network of chapters and contacts also use advocacy campaigns to lobby governments to implement anti-corruption reforms."

Though many of us are prone to argue that a country's politics and economic structure is what makes it a good or bad place to live, in most cases it is the presence of corruption, in its many forms, that truly sorts the good from the bad. "Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority." I certainly would expect that those countries with socialist regimes and economies, or theocratic dictatorships (as in Iran, for instance) would score very high on the corruption barometer, and it turns out, they do. Still, many countries with freely elected governments, with free economic environments score high, as well. What keeps these countries from making the lives of their citizens better is, quite simply, corruption.

Many of us have experienced corruption in our lives, here in the good old USA. When the cop in your hometown pulls people over just to pad his stats on Drunk Driving convictions (yeah, it happens here) or when the local election officials throw your vote away or assist in limiting others ability to vote or get out the vote, that's corruption. We could be much better off than we are, and we're doing great compared to most countries! Just imagine how prevalent and horrific these things are in, say, Turkey or Pakistan.

It is my belief that free economies (and ours is not nearly as free as it should be), rule of law (honestly and fairly enforced) and local control in most governmental matters, are the prerequisites for true freedom in any country. The more I read, the more I feel this way.

For a look at how the different participating countries did in the "corruption barometer" surveys at Transparency International, visit this site and click on "English Global Corruption Barometer 2006" under the segment entitled "Full Report".

Friday, December 01, 2006

Shredded Pork

Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican (or anything in between) you will probably agree that:
1. The government spends too much money, and
2. People who want special things for their own areas should pay for them themselves.

If so, you should be encouraged by some of the actions of a certain junior Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn. It seems as though Coburn has been on a lonely crusade to end pork-barrel spending for a couple of years now, with little to show for it but grief and the wrath of his more senior fellows. He doesn't seem to care, though, because he has stepped up his attack on pork and everything connected to it lately, and is finally getting some positive results for his efforts.

Check out this article from Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward, to get a pretty nifty accounting of his successes in this crusade. From his attacks on the "Bridge to Nowhere" to his collaboration with "Osama Obama" on a pork attachment transparency bill earlier this year, Coburn has been making a name for himself among those who think this federal government has simply gone swine crazy. It is not unusual to see the attachment of thousands of pieces of pork (earmarks) to a large appropriations bill nowadays. These kinds of additions used to-say in times of yore, as recently as the 1980s-number more like a few hundred, at the most.

If you're tired of hearing about the senator from Hawaii or Alaska (or Mississippi or Massachusetts, for that matter) larding on pet projects for their states to be paid for by the taxpayers of the other states, then you should applaud this man's efforts and try to vote in more like him.

Honestly, there's not alot to be hopeful about in our federal government these days, so when a federal politician commits to doing the right thing, despite rocking (more like upending) the boat in the gentleman's club that is the US Senate, it should be noticed and appreciated!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The English (Not So) Mild

I promised to write about the beer I made at Hopman's Homebrew shop on November 3rd, and here I am to do so! I downloaded a recipe from an internet site (Brew Monkey)for an English Mild. An English Mild is a brown ale that is light in alcohol content but malty and roasty and full of flavor. This is a beer that weighs in at 3 to 4.5% alcohol by volume and is a light brown in color. There really are few commercial examples in this country to cite, so I won't. Suffice to say that it is a flavorful alternative to your megebrew low-carb offerings.

When I brewed this beer, I had to double (approximately) the ingredients list to make a ten gallon batch, as the recipe was for a five gallon batch. I was brewing this beer approximately an hour's drive away from home in a parking lot. This is to say that I needed to carry everything I needed with me to Hopman's brewshop. I forgot the hops and the two half-gallon yeast starters I made the day before! I did bring everything else I needed, though, and since I was in the parking lot of a homebrew shop, the hops weren't hard to find (in fact, Rick Hopman gave me the three ounces of English Kent Goldings I needed for the recipe. Thanks, Rick!).

When it came time to heat my sparge water, I second guessed myself and somehow, came up a couple of gallons short on the volume. I can only say that this was a teaching session and I was very busy both brewing and answering questions from curious would-be brewers who were there to learn a bit about the hobby. I screwed up on the calculation and as a result ended up with only about eight gallons of liquor! I could have added some water to the liquor tank and heated it to 170 degrees and added it to the mash tun to gain the expected volume but instead I decided that everything happens for a reason and boiled the volume I had for a stronger but less voluminous batch of beer.

After boiling, I had some problems with my equipment. The homemade screen I use to strain the hops from the wort (unfermented beer) clogged on me due to a kink in the hose near the outlet. Imagine as your hero explains to the adoring crowd that he prefers to use whole hops for their filtering properties and when asked if they clog the runoff, replies, "Nope. Never had that problem". Then watch horrified as the device he proudly points to as something that will do the job quickly and efficiently-that he made himself-clogs and slows to nary a dribble as the runoff commences! Oh, ignoble Law of Murphy! This caused me to have to ladle the wort through a screen into the kegs I was using for transporting the beer home. This certainly was a dangerous practice because it increased the chance that an infection could occur! Remember, this is cooled wort and is susceptible to bacterial invasion at this point. I had little choice, so I did what I had to do and went home with nearly eight gallons of unfermented beer.

When I got home I tranferred the wort to glass fermenters and pitched the yeast starters. The original gravity of this beer was 1.064. This is perhaps twice the normal gravity of an English Mild (normally between 1.030 and 1.038)! I guess the resulting beer could be considered a Strong Ale but really, since it was brewed as a Mild, I think I'll call it an Imperial Mild! Strong versions of normal beers are often categorized as Imperial beers, following an old habit begun when the English brewed strong Stouts for the Russian court, called Russian Imperial Stouts. Nowadays, one can find any number of American craft brewers producing Imperial Stouts, Imperial IPAs and other stronger versions of normal beers. Imperial Pilsners are the current rage.

So, to cut to the chase, I racked the finished beer into a keg and force-carbonated half of it on Saturday. I tried it an hour or so later. It is fantastic! My new favorite beer! I bottled the rest of it-37 12 oz. bottles-on Sunday. It is carbonating naturally now, in the bottles. This one is a winner, folks! I don't know how I'll enter it into any contests, with it's unusual character but I'll have to find a way because this beer needs to be recognized as the star that it is. Strong-at about 6.5 to7% ABV-but so flavorful! I'm certain that it will age gracefully, too.

I'll file this one under the heading of Serendipity. I may call it Kismet Imperial Mild. Or, how about Serendipity-Dew?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day

Although I didn't publicize it as I should, Saturday was Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day. I know, I know, you all forgot. That's OK, you can send the present you got for me now, it's never to late to give the gift of beer, you know. No, actually, the holiday was created to expand the hobby of homebrewing to as many people as possible. The holiday is scheduled for the last Saturday every November so be ready for it next year, OK?

This year I assisted Rick Hopman of Hopman's Homebrew Shop, in Waterford, MI. He held a demonstration behind the store on Walton Avenue, in the back parking lot. Rick did a great job of promoting the holiday and setting the site up for the various brewing demonstrations that were done. Three brewers did batches of all-grain beer that morning, two members of my homebrewing club, The Pontiac Brew Tribe and one member of CRAFT homebrew club. One IPA, one English Mild and one American Barleywine was made "from scratch" so-to-speak! Two other brewers made kit beers, from extract. A great time was had by all.

The cool brew sculpture in the bottom photo is Dale Marquart's rig. He won a blue ribbon at the State Fair for a Belgian Trippel this year! You can see Beerme, himself, wearing the purple sweathirt and hoisting a glass of Rye-rish Red Ale in the top photo, and also checking the mash temperature in the photo on the right.

I'll try to remember to promote this holiday a bit better, next year. Tune in for a report on the English Mild that wasn't. Update expected in a month or so...

Election 2006

I waited to post this because I didn't want to influence any of the Brazillion readers of this blog in any way prior to the actual vote. Now that the election is almost over (all but the lawsuits and the phased redeployment of our Democrat brethren), I think I'm safe.

First, there is no one (really) who is more disappointed in the Republican government we've had over the past ten years or so, than little ol' me. They have been terrible on spending, less than libertarian in pushing projects like No Child Left Behind and the new Medicare debacle, while wimping out on much needed reforms in social security and school funding (how about vouchers, people?). All that said, it is equally certain that Democrats would have been and will be much, much worse in all these areas. At least Republicans talk the talk, even though they limp around a bit when trying to walk the walk. Democrats don't even say they're for the things I want government to do-or more importantly, not do.

So there really is no choice but to vote mostly Republican again. I'll hold my nose and vote for a watered down Mike Bouchard over a raving liberal nutcase like Debbie Stabenow; for a slightly weak candidate for governor over our current socialist, Ms. Granholm; for a number of other less than ideal candidates because they're infinitely better than their opposition. I will post my protest vote in other ways, however.

I am largely libertarian in my political views. I rarely feel safe in voting libertarian, though, because I feel as though I'm wasting my vote and might help to elect some of the morons the Democrats want elected. So I have decided that, until a third party I can see as electable comes to be, I will cast my third party votes for the boards of regents for my state's public universities. In this way I might be able to get some libertarian-minded people elected to public posts and maybe have their "foot in the door", so to speak.

As for the various proposals on the ballot today in Michigan, they were largely no-brainers for me. Prop 1-Yes, Prop 2-Hell Yes!, Prop 3-yes, Prop 4-Hell yes!, Prop 5-Hell NO!

That about sums it up. Hope you all voted and hope you Democrats only voted once!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Michigan's Choice-Update

I guess I wasn't actually done with my rant because I am compelled to return and post this addendum. Has anyone noticed that the one thing Devos hasn't talked about in this campaign, regarding Michigan's economic woes, is the proverbial eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room? I'm talking about unions. Michigan is lousy with 'em and they control this economy and the politics of this state like few others.

Jobs are leaving the state by the truckloads-non-union, over-the-road-carriers, to be more specific. All because the unions have made doing business in Michigan a losing proposal. Ask any Democrat what he hates about Devos and he'll say he's a union-busting Right To Work candidate. Well, then. Why doesn't Devos admit it and point out the obvious to Granholm and her Dem/union flunkies when they attack him? It is them and their philosophy which has dragged this state and the auto industry into the poor house.

OK, I feel much better, now.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dr. Evil Would be Upset at This!

Even Mini-Me would have a hard time keeping a straight face at this project. The Doomsday Vault is a Norwegian government-backed seed bank that will house meelllyons of...seeds. Yep. In the event of a nuclar holocaust, or the inevitable Global Warming debacle, the earth's vast store of crop seeds will be safely house in a gigantic vault hidden in a concrete bunker (eat your heart out Ms. RightWing) under the permafrost near the North Pole.

Now, never mind the fact that if the situation ever becomes as serious as to need these seeds, we will probably be unable to actually a)travel to the vault or b) get into it or c)be able to plant them in the frozen ground of perpetual nuclear winter. This is a feel-good, "hope for humanity" sort of thing. A very expensive, feel-good, "hope for humanity" sort of thing.

I hope they have seeds for two-row barley and Cascade hops in that thing! Oh, wait a minute, can I add some yeast cultures?

Michigan's Choice

Once again, it's election time and we are forced to choose between the lesser of two weevils. In this particular case it's between Jennifer Granholm and Dick DeVos. What makes the choice even more frustrating is that DeVos isn't really nearly as bad a choice as he makes himself out to be. But first, to the former weevil.

Granholm, the pretty, blonde Canadian cutie, who made her name as Michigan's Attorney General, has been Governor of our great state for four years, now. She is fond of offering as an excuse for the current state of the State, that she "inherited" an economy in decline and a gazillion dollar deficit (or something like that). Fact is John Engler, the former occupant of the Gubernatorial Mansion, did cut out like a thief in the night, taking a huge salary increase and leaving the dot-com bust in the hands of Ginny. It made it all the more palatable for the legislators in office at the time, that they themselves received about a thirty percent increase in salary at the same time Engler got his, so "no harm, no foul".

When the current Democrat governor came to power, you didn't hear her talking about the fiscal crisis the state faced. She was talking, instead about all the goodies she would be getting for all of us Michiganders. 'Cause that's what gets ya votes, people! After nearly four years, the state's economy is in the dumper. We are the only state not hit by a hurricane last year to lose jobs. There's plenty more bad news about the state's economic condition but I'll leave you to read about it in the papers. What I want to talk about is what frustrates ME!

I don't know what it is about politicians but they totally piss me off! DeVos, by most honest accounts, is an honest man, with good business sense and a "free market" attitude about the economy. He is well-known in Michigan for working tirelessly to approve vouchers for this state over the past few years, though unsuccessfully. He seems largely to be a libertarian-minded, Christian conservative. He has steadfastly maintained his opposition to abortion, especially any federally or state-funded abortions. On this he has not wavered. But that's about the only thing.

I can forgive him the inability to schmooze as well as his opponent. She is a first-class phoney and able to tell anyone what they want to hear, regardless of her beliefs or the truth. In short, she's the consummate politician. DeVos should not be dissed for looking like a "deer-in-the-headlights" at the debates, because he is not a politician and is not used to lying so much. What I fault him for is his centrist moves to make himself more "electable".

In the first couple of debates (I admit I didn't watch the third, it would have been too painful), he played political softball with his challenger, while she raked him over the coals. She accused him of exporting jobs to China, of being responsible for nursing home patient abuse and of being an "extremist" on abortion (implying of course, that he was a religious nut). All the while you could just watch him staring off into the distance, thinking, "I can't believe this Beeyotch"! He could easily have countered these false assertions by stating...wait for's really revolutionary...THE TRUTH! But he didn't. He waffled and wavered and covered and sounded like he had something to hide, when he actually didn't. He was right and she was wrong. Oh, so wrong, in oh so many ways!

The actual simmering point for me was his waffling on the positions that I know he holds, for political purposes. When he was asked about vouchers, which are the simplest and most effective manner of dealing with failing public schools-effective virtually everywhere they've been tried, he waffled. When asked about his opposition for stem cell research and abortions, instead of articulating his positions and qualifying the issues that Granholm confused (on purpose, of course), he waffled. I was literally going to the cupboard to get the Mrs. Butterworth's, I tell ya!

When are these consevrative politicians going to realize that liberals are never going to vote for them? So why pander to them when all it does is dilute your base?

OK, I'm done with my rant. But check out this article from Sikha Dalmia for a short account of what I'm talking about, OK?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Other Anniversary

Twenty-two years ago today I hired in with the Michigan Department of Corrections. What a wierd experience that was! In those days you were interviewed at the institution at which you were being hired to work (now, you interview at a central location like Lansing). I remember that interview well.

I walked into the Administration Building at Huron Valley Men's Facility and saw a number of people in "uniform", walking around the front office lobby. The uniform at the time was very different from what I would have expected for a law enforcement-type government job. In those days corrections officers in Michigan wore white shirts, black pants and a green blazer, similar to a certain well-known realtor. We had black ties, that clipped on, for safety reasons. I remembered wearing a similar tie to church as a child. All the employees were walking around with these clip-on ties hanging from the top button-holes, with their shirt collars open. Bizarre! I really wondered what I was getting into.

In the interview, I was asked alot of questions about why I wanted to work for the MDOC and what made me qualified. I remember thinking, "Obviously, it's because I need a job"! I didn't say this, of course, but gave them the standard response of wanting to work for a respectable government agency that keeps the public safe and ensures that the "bad guys" are kept where they belong. In retrospect-after conducting dozens of similar interviews on others- I'm certainly glad I didn't say anything stupid like, "I want to help people" or "I think I can make a difference in some of those young mens' lives"! Gag! (Yes, I've heard that kind of response many times and those folks are trouble, with a BIG "T"!)

The most interesting and-it seemed at the time- most important question, came near the end of the interview. One of the questioners, a Deputy Warden at the prison, asked me if I could shoot an escaping prisoner. I told him that I could. He explained that he wasn't asking me if I had the ability to hit a target, but if I had the ability to take a life. Pretty heady stuff! Non-plussed, I answered, "Yes". I could shoot-to-kill a prisoner that was trying to escape. I wouldn't be happy about it and I wouldn't think it a badge of honor but I would be fully capable of doing that part of my job. And I would, still.

At the time I applied for the job, the testing process was much different than it is today. I was way overqualified for the job. I had a bachelor's degree in English and had been planning to go to Law School. At that time only a High School diploma was required to work as a corrections officer ("prison guard" is considered a pejorative term by today's "corrections professional", ha!). I had decided I had neither the patience to go to four more years of school nor the money to do so without going deeply into debt. So, I decided to find a career that would supply me with a pension and a secure income.

I had recently washed out of the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Academy in Oklahoma City. THAT was a blow to my ego! I wasn't quite able to do the job required of me as an Air Traffic Controller. The fact that several former military Air Traffic Controllers in my class flunked out with me, didn't make me any less ashamed. I was newly married and needed a job that paid more with some benefits.

One of my best friends worked in the state psychiatric hospital that houses the criminally insane and those that are incompetent to stand trial. I heard from him that it was a good job and paid well, with good benefits. He spent most of his day playing ping-pong with the "patients, justified as a part of his job in creating a "therapeutic milieu". Hey, I thought, I can do that and improve my ping-pong skills at the same time!

It turns out that the prison system hires from the same test and when the call came for an interview, it was for a job as a corrections officer and not a professional ping-pong player! I was at my job as a small parts assembler for a automobile supplier, when the call came to set up the interview. Interestingly at about the same time, I was hired by a local shop to program and run CNC machines. This is similar to what my son does now. I often wonder what our lives would have been like had I chosen that job instead. But, I chose the prison and the rest is history.

Twenty-two years later, I've risen through the ranks at my job to that of Inspector at my third institution. The highest ranking security officer at the prison. I thought by now, I'd be a warden somewhere but now realize that certain jobs are reserved for those with political aspirations and connections. In a strongly Democrat-run state with strong and long ties to unionism, I am a little under the radar for this type of promotion. Still I like my job and do it very well.

Three years from today, I can retire with a full pension and benefits. Maybe I will and maybe I won't. Who knows what the future brings. The important thing is that I've provided for my family for all these years and earned a retirement to continue to do so, after my death. For all that I've gone through in this job (and believe me there were many unusual and distasteful moments over the years-some even involved the inmates and not the staff!), the State of Michigan has been very, very good to me! I thank the people of this state for providing me with a good income and meaningful work, while assuring them that they've gotten a good employee and a fine job done for the money.

Who knows, maybe I'll decide to go to law school after all...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Go Get 'em, Tigers!

After the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, which cancelled the post-season and wasn't resolved until the next Spring, I swore off baseball completely. I didn't watch a game or pay attention to MLB for the ensuing 12 years. I guess you could say I hold a grudge...

All that ended this year with the Detroit Tigers and their unlikely successes. After losing a record 119 games in 2004 and another hundred games or so in 2005, the Tigers wowed the country by leading the league in wins for almost all of the regular season, before slipping a bit in the last couple of weeks. With all that success and with a team that was short on superstars, and loaded with young, up-and-coming talent, I returned to the fold.I went to two ballgames at the new stadium, Comerica Park, this year and loved every minute of it!

I have watched several games this season on TV, also. This team is exciting and inspiring! How could you script a post-season better than this one has turned out? Taking on the mighty Bronx Bombers, with a lineup of hitters most experts felt was perhaps the best in MLB history, and whipping them convincingly in three straight, after losing the first game, then sweeping the Left Coast's best Oakland A's, in four makes these Tigers something special!

Right now, the Mets and the Cardinals are fighting it out for the National League title, while the Tigers rest up to meet the winner in the World Series. If St. Louis wins, it would be the rematch of the 1968 World Series contestants. That was the first World Series that was important to me. I was 12 years old and a huge Tiger fan. I used to listen to the Tigers games with my Dad, on the porch in Detroit, on an old transistor radio, as those great players won it all that year. Great memories!

Baseball has weathered the storms of player strikes, "juiced" balls, corked bats, and steroids to once again capture the hearts and minds of the nation as "America's favorite pasttime". Now, this year, with a Tigers team that won in spite of all the odds, Baseball is again magical for me. The 1968 players are retired and many have died. The majestic Tiger Stadium has been replaced with Comerica Park, and will likely be torn down next year. Much like the city in 1968, which was recovering from the riots of the previous year, the 2006 city-with dwindling population and soaring unemployment due to the decline of the auto industry-needs a lift. The roles of Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash, Al Kaline and all the others are being filled by Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, "Pudge" Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Joel Zumaya. They seem up to the challenge. In 1968, the overweight Mickey Lolich faced down the best pitcher in Baseball (Bob Gibson)in the seventh game and won. He was perhaps symbolic of the regular guy fighting against the odds. This year a bunch of regular guys will do the same thing. I BELIEVE! How about you?

"I guess you could say I'm the redemption of the fat man. A guy will be watching me on TV and see that I don't look in any better shape than he is. 'Hey Maude,' he'll holler, 'Get a load of this guy and he's a twenty-game winner.' " - Mickey Lolich

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

With Friends Like These...

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker pacifist group, says that North Korea's decision to test a nuclear device, recently, is a result of the Bush Administration's "failure" to develop a comprehensive strategy toward the Korean peninsula. This is a group that has worked for more than 60 years "to end the scourge of nuclear weapons", remember.

To refresh everyone's memory, Bush described three nations in the world as an "Axis of Evil" in his first address to Congress. Can anyone remember which three nations he accused of membership in this unholy alliance? Why yes, they were Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Since that time the world's terrorists have literally crawled out of the woodwork to fight the US in Iraq, Iran is threatening Israel and the rest of the world with its nuclear ambitions and North Korea, well is still North Korea. On December 11, 2002, a ship was boarded, while flying no flag, in the Arabian Sea. The ship was a North Korean ship carrying a bunch of SCUD missiles that had been sold to Yemen, according to the Koreans and the Yemenis. So the North Koreans are demonstrably engaged in destabilizing that very unstable region of the world.

To get back to the Quakers, though, what is it about an axis of evil that troubles them so? North Korea has been proven to be a rogue state, engaged in starving its people, selling weaponry to anybody, counterfeiting money (US), and making and selling drugs. Now it says it wants a nuclear arsenal and if you want to stop it, you better give it more aid or else. Simple, really. Clinton bought them out to the tune of about a billion dollars over the course of his administration. What did that get us? Negotiating with terrorists has a habit of making you look silly. That's why Bush won't engage in bilateral talks with NoKo. He's right.

The guy had prescience enough to identify the axis of evil in his first address to congress. He was almost laughed out of office after that speech, as more nuanced politicians discussed how irrelevant these countries really were. How relevant is a nuclear North Korea? How about a nuclear Iran? Kim Jong Il is a madman. He is an evil dictator who doesn't care a whit about the poor, starving population in his country, as long as he is well-fed and able to grow his military stronger. His buddies Saddam and Ahmadinejad were/are evil, too. But that kind of talk isn't politically correct. You're supposed to be more nuanced when dealing with these folks. Don't call a nut a nut.

The Bush administration has been an embarrassement to most conservatives for its lack of attention to reducing the size of government and its total focus on retaining political power, at the expense of doing the conservative thing. In this situation, it has been all over the right thing, right from the beginning. I just hope it's got the stones to walk the walk. The alternative is a troubled world indeed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Concept Albom

I was driving home from Jackson, Michigan today after doing key audits at three of Jackson's prisons (one of which was at what is left of the great Southern Michigan Prison at Jackson, formerly the largest walled prison in the world), when I happened to hear the Mitch Albom program on the radio. Now, Mitch's show is syndicated and it probably does very well in most areas of the country but long-time listeners know Mitch's politics are left-liberal. I frequently end up screaming at his show which causes my wife no end of consternation. "If you hate his show so much, why do you listen to it?" To which my mental answer is that I need to know that there are people who think this way and that my worldview is still intact...but my actual answer is something like, "Sorry, honey."

Anyway, after discussing the Mark Foley affair, he ended the segment with a statement that went something like this (I can't repeat it verbatim because I was driving and couldn't take notes, though all the drivers around me were talking on cell phones and ignoring most lines on the road, but I digress):
"What kills me is that when Bill Clinton got into an affair with a young woman all the Republicans thought that was terrible and he should be impeached but when a Republican Congressman engages in sexually suggestive emails and IMs with a sixteen year old page, they don't think it's a problem at all. Aren't they essentially the same thing?"

Mitch, Mitch, Mitch. First they are not essentially the same thing. Foley's acts were much, much worse than Clinton's. Monica Lewinski was an adult, not a child, and even though he carried out his sexual fantasies with her and Foley (probably) didn't (with any of the pages), the idea of treating a sixteen year old page as a potential sexual partner is much more morally depraved than trysting with a young adult tart. Second, I don't believe I have heard any Republicans saying that they think Foley's actions were anything but outrageous and sick, if not criminal. If Mitch is going to accuse Republicans of thinking this is no big deal, he should have produced a name or a quote from someone who had this thought or made this statement. He can't. They didn't.

Finally, it is this completely bald-faced liberal slant that gets a complete pass in the press or in any news coverage that continues to bend the public to the will of these liberal media mavens. Albom is a best-selling author, writes plays and books, has had some of his books made into movies and has a highly rated radio program. He is frequently on TV as a sportscaster as well as a culture critic. What he says makes a difference. The liberals don't need Air America with Mitch on the airwaves. He does it better, in stealth mode, and does it for a wider audience.

One other thing he said was that if the stock market (the DOW hit an all-time high today) is doing so well, why are the people in Michigan not feeling it? I virtually yelled at the radio, "Because they think like you do, Mitch!" An analogy would be that I hire a band to work a party and I promise them to pay them with a keg of fine homebrew (it's my story and I'll spin it any way I like, thank you). Then after they show up at the party, they bring in another guy (let's call him their agent) and he takes a few gallons of the beer from them as his payment for making sure that they are treated right by mean old me. Then, as the party winds down, he takes some more of that beer and gives it away to people that he thinks might be able to help him find more clients like my band and some to people that might want to hire bands for their parties, you know, to form some networks for his own business-which is ostensibly, just to ensure his clients, the band members get "treated right". At the end of the night, when the band is ready to drink their beer, there's hardly any left but the agent is drunk as a skunk and all his future clients and their future clients are in their cups, as well. That's the nature of Michigan's over-unionized workforce and the reason this state is at the dead bottom in terms of job losses in the country, while the stock market and the economy is booming! The unions are drunk with power and the workers are thirsty for a beer.

And, yes, I did yell at the radio. Sorry, honey.

Fair and Balanced, what a concept.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Citgo rolls Snake Eyes

I've never been the biggest fan of convenience stores, even though they have made everyone's life a little easier. I guess I see them as taking away from the mom-and-pop corner stores of my youth. This is of course a silly reason to dislike a store, especially one that exponentially increased the choices to neighborhood consumers over the past thirty years or so, but I am a silly person, I admit. I have a newfound respect for the Seven Eleven chain, though. Recently the company-an enormous chain with over thirty thousand stores, worldwide- made a nice move. They dropped a partnership held with Citgo which was twenty years old. I don't care why they dropped Chavez's government-owned oil company. The company reports that they dropped it because of the anticipated boycott and the harm it would do to the company and its employees, who don't agree with Chavez's sulfurous comments in the UN recently. That's fine. I'll consider the boycott effective and I'll consider Seven-Eleven as an active member of the boycott, whether they say so or not.

Thank heaven for 7-11! I hope more companies jump on the bandwagon!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Back to School

I have taken a teaching job at Baker College again this year, after a sabbatical of three years or so. I will be teaching COF222, Criminal Investigations, a class I taught first in 2001 and last in 2003. It is a great introduction to evidence gathering and criminal investigations and alot of fun to teach. I have only nine students, so far, so that makes it a pretty relaxed and informal atmosphere.

The pay is so-so and the great majority of the work is done at home, with no pay whatsoever, but it is rewarding and a challenge so I decided to give it another go. One of the biggest frustrations is the lack of serious study among the students these days. It is a challenge just getting them to turn out an acceptable research paper. The reading and writing skills of the majority of college students, these days is about on a par with what my High School's tenth graders were producing.

Anyway, with most of the hop harvest bagged and in the freezer, and plenty of beer still in the cellar, I have the time and can use the extra money. Think of me this fall while you're out enjoying the colors or hunting. I'll be the guy at home grading papers and writing tests...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out, Eliot Spitzer!

In "California v. General Motors, 06-05755", U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, California has decided to sue automakers in this country for harming their state. The basis of the suit is that domestic car companies make a product that contributes to global warming and has harmed the health of Californians, while costing the state billions of dollars to combat pollution and erosion. If this isn't the most ridiculous waste of money a state government has exhibited, I don't know what is.

The suit is the latest attempt by California to push business and the federal government to acknowledge and address global warming.They've legislated lower to force utilities to cut emissions, recently and also sued the federal government to for failing to address carbon dioxide emissions. This suit against all domestic carmakers is the latest stunt.

While an admittedly minority opinion among the world's scientists, many of them do not believe that global warming is being caused by human activity at all. Those that believe glbal warming is part of a cyclical shift in temperatures further believe that if global warming is occurring as a result of human behavior, there is nothing that could be done now to stop it. Even if we all returned to the horse and buggy days here, in the US, China and India would continue to increase greenhouse gas emmissions to fuel the effect. This is mainly why a Kyoto treaty is non-workable. It fails to address third world countries and their emissions.

So, if cars cause global warming and contribute to a "public nuisiance", as this suit alleges, why not ban them, California? While you're at it, ban cattle-raising for it's carbon dioxide emmissions? Breathing should be addressed, too. Cars don't cause pollution, driving them does. Arnold, are you listening?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Original Beer Festival

I know many of you might think this post is early, it being September and all, but Oktoberfest began on Saturday in Munich, with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg. In Germany the festival is called "die Wiesn", a contraction of "die Wiesen"-the fields. The original Oktoberfest was held on the fields in front of the city gates which were later renamed "Theresienwiese" (Theresa's fields). The original Oktoberfest was held to celebrate a wedding. Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, who was later crowned King Ludwig I, wanted the people of Munich to share in the celebration of his marriage to Princess Therese (of Theresa's fields fame) of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. He organized a horserace, offered copious amounts of beer and food, invited all the people of Munich and voila! Oktoberfest was born. It was such a success he decided to do it again the next year and a near two-hundred year tradition has ensued.

The modern Oktoberfest involves food, beer and a carnival atmosphere. There are 28-30 tents, six main breweries providing beer, tons of food and about six million visitors consuming about six million litres of German beer. It's a sixteen day festival and the fun flows as freely as the lagers. It begins with the tapping of the first keg by the mayor of Munich. As seen in the first photo above, taken on 9-16-2006, Mayor Christian Ude hollers out "O'zapft is!"-the barrel has been tapped-and the party is on! No, fellas it's the photo on the left...your other left...ahem.

The ladies on the right are wearing the traditional peasant dress, the dirndl. Wear a dirndl or lederhosen, for the men, and you can get in free, I hear. Last year the EU, in its PC frenzy, tried to ban the lowcut tops of the beermaids at Oktoberfest (skin cancer concerns, believe it or not!), creating quite a protest by the men. The edict was largely ignored, though, so no harm no foul. The protests continued until this year, when finally, two weeks ago, the EU parliament rejected the offensive regulation, just in time for Oktoberfest! To top it off, last year there was a group of pickpockets working a con, which involved a buxom, Bavarian maid exposing herself to inebriated men (and there might be one or two around), only to distract him while her cohorts snatched his wallet. Police were on the lookout...

Six Munich breweries, Löwenbräu, Spaten, Augustiner, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr, brew a special beer just for the Oktoberfest. The beer, Wiesnbier is slightly darker and stronger than a normal Pils. It is served in a one-liter-tankard, ein Mass. This year the cost for ein Mass is 7.50 euros. If you don't specify a Wiesn, you'll likely get a lighter lager, so you need to know what to order.

I've never been to THE Oktoberfest, but I am planning to go in 2010, for the Zwei-Hundert Anniversary of Ludwig and Theresa's marriage. That should be fun. In the meantime, I'll enjoy some festivals closer to home.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Beer and Football

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."
Frank Zappa

The hop harvest is in full swing at the Beerme residence! I picked the US Goldings and most of the Hallertau hops yesterday and set them to dry in my garage. The weather has been gloomy, cool and wet here in Lower Michigan for at least two weeks, now, and it doesn't look to be getting any better anytime soon. I figured it was time. I think I was a little late on picking the Hallertau hops, because they were browner, on whole, than I wanted. I got a pitiful yiels on both of these plants, though.

Today I will pick the rest of the Hallertau and try to get all of the Cascades picked, too. The Nugget hops will be fine for another week, I think. I hope to get a good amount of Cascade for some future IPAs and Bitters. They do smell good!

After the hop harvest is done for the day, I plan on watching the Lions/Bears game. Yesterday was a fine one for Michigan college football, as both UM and MSU won their games. UM's defeat of the "Crying Irish" was particularly fine! Coach Weiss was very gracious in defeat, though, so I shouldn't really use that moniker, but what the hell. The win should place Michigan in the top five next week! Look out Ohio State!

In a year where all of Michigan's sports teams have excelled, it is now the Lions' turn to step up. The Pistons, Tigers and Red Wings all held the best records in their respective sports for most if not the entire seasons-though losing in the playoffs has been another common characteristic that may bode ill for the Tigers. Now let's see if the Lions have improved enough to make the playoffs this year. Should be interesting!

Hey, I just noticed that hop cones are shaped a little like footballs...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Gentle Wind

"Gardner Christopher 36 Darien CT Deceased WTC Occupant Christopher Gardner, a senior executive at Aon Corp., was seen on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center trying to escape the aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11. His father-in-law, Kenneth Hecken, told the New York Times that the family has received one or two unconfirmed reports that Gardner got out of the building but returned to aid others inside. "That's the kind of guy he was," Hecken said. Gardner loved to sail and was passionate about his wife, Susan, and his two children, Christopher, 3, and Alexander, 2. -- The Hartford Courant"

I have researched Chris a bit. I do know that he was working in Tower Two of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 when the attacks occurred. Witnesses have claimed that he escaped the tower and ran back in to save others. Judging from the stories friends and family have told of Chris, this seems probable to me.I learned that he was called Sam as a child. I could write about his joys, one of which was sailing, or his work as a senior executive at AON Corporation, but I really don't know much about those things. I understand his business was Insurance (better known in the business as "risk assessment", perhaps).

Now, I have sailed exactly once, in a small sailboat with my wife and a friend who knew what he was doing. It was great fun but one trip hardly qualifies me to write about sailing, though I retell the story often; expounding on my wife's fears as we flew along with the mast tip bouncing off the waves (it does get scarier and more adventurous with each retelling, but that's what stories are for, right?).

I have purchased plenty of insurance and I understand the concept of risk assessment. I've always thought that insurance was one of the more ridiculous things we humans pay for. I mean, if you think about it, when you buy insurance, you are placing a bet with the insurance company that you will die soon and they are betting against that happy occurrence. Kind of wierd, huh? So obviously I have no business writing about Chris Gardner's job as a senior executive at an insurance company.

I'd like to be able to say that Chris loved a good craft-brewed beer or that he was a fellow homebrewer. That would make it easy for me, a homebrewer and beer-lover, to properly connect to the man's life. I'd like to know that he was an avid hunter or fisherman because we'd also have that in common. Unfortunately, I am unaware of his drinking habits or of any hobby he enjoyed other than sailing. The picture at the top of the page is a racing photo taken at the Glen Cove Yacht Club, in Glen Cove, Long Island. Chris lived there as a child and surely sailed this stretch of sea as a young crew hand. He was also known to have sailed at Camden, Maine from the Camden Yacht Club in Penobscot Bay. He still sailed there with his wife and two children up until 2001, I believe. So, while sailing and the sea was Chris's passion, I don't really know enough about it to properly expound on this aspect of his life.

Of course one of his joys was his family, and that I am very familiar with. Chris had a wife, Susan, and two young boys, Chrstopher and Alexander. He and Susan were very dedicated young parents. According to Susan, Chris never golfed a weekend in his married life, as time with his family was too important to him. I understand that sentiment! Many times I have left my family for a hunting or fishing trip or a golf weekend with the boys, only to feel guilty and somewhat cheated by not being at home with the three people I care most about. I suspect this is why Chris didn't golf. At least with sailing, he could bring along the whole tribe and have fun together! I understand that Chris had a Boston Whaler, "Robo Chief" and a sailboat, "Evening Star", and he navigated the waters of Pebobscot Bay regularly in both.

As humans we like to name things because it personalizes those things for us and gives them even more meaning due to the personal connections the names add. The names of Chris's boats is an example. In the same way, in order to familiarize ourselves with people, we need to know who the people in their lives were, as we are a product of those personal relationships. Judy Gardner was Chris's mother. She was married to Jonathon Gardner, Chris's father. They had two boys, Jonathon and Christopher. Chris's wife was Susan. They were married in 1996 or 1997 and had two boys themselves, Christopher and Alexander. I don't know about you readers but that short list of the closest people in Chris's life helps me to understand him better.

This tribute to this particular victim of the 9/11 attacks is meant to celebrate the life of Chris Gardner and not to talk about the attackers. Of course it is tempting to rail on about the ignorant and bloodthirsty savages that perpetrated this crime or to lament the time with Chris lost to Susan and her boys. That would only exacerbate the pain and, in a way, assist those who enjoyed their (limited)successes on that day. I prefer to celebrate the life of an American husband and father, who lived a life of service to his family and his job, while enjoying the beauty and simplicity of the art of sailing and the magnificence of the sea.

I am a working class midwesterner, whose father left the Appalachian coal mining region and drove the Hillbilly Highway north to Detroit during that blue collar migration in the Fifties and early Sixties. I'm about fifty years old and could only dream of ever belonging to a yacht club or owning two boats (other than canoes or maybe a small fishing boat). I work in a middle management position in State government. I say all this to show that Chris and I come from very different worlds. The connection between the two of us is that we were both Americans and family men. We had more in common than we had differences, I believe.

Christopher and Alexander will be eight and seven years old by now. They will remember very little of their father, his having passed away when they were too young to have formed the memories that last as adults. I hope they remember the boating trip they took with Mom and Dad in 2001 on Penobscot Bay, where the two boys got to steer the boat through the crowded harbor. There is very little I can remember from before four or five years of age. I am sure Chris's wife, Susan, has kept the memory of their father strong in those little fellows , though. They now know what happened on that day and who is responsible. I'm quite sure they don't understand how such a thing could happen or why, but that's reasonable as most of us can't.

While I don't sail or even do alot of boating, I understand the lure of the sea and the peace and sense of communion with God and his nature that it brings. I have lost my father and mother and also know a bit about the loss of a loved one. Recently, the diagnosis of cancer in my oldest son, further illuminated the ephemeral nature of life to me and my family. For these reasons, I feel I can better understand what Susan and her two boys are going through. Perhaps a trip out on Penobscot Bay would help. I know just looking at the picture above, with that mast tipping towards the frothing waves, as the boat fairly flies along with the wind, helps me to blend with the nature that surrounds us all. I'll bet Chris would enjoy watching his family take another such turn on the water. He might even lend a hand, now and then, when the going gets tough.

Strange Bedfellows

As I indicated in a previous post, it is apparent that the Leftists are cozying up with the Islamists all over the world. This is especially obvious at any of the recent anti-war rallies and demonstrations across the US. What could make socialists so familiar with Islamic kooks? My previous post indicates it is the power vacuum created when the USSR (and all hopes for a socialist world revolution) went the way of the buffalo (which, by the way, are still doing just fine, thank you).

To expound on that thought, let me say that socialists are expected to be, *atheists-shunning all Godly talk or belief
*liberal-promoting almost complete freedom of choice in almost every aspect of life
*scientific-promoting a belief that an enlightened and scientific collective can organize and scientifically run society far better and more efficiently than "the invisible hand" could ever hope to,
and so on.

While Islamofascists are, well, fascists. They want everyone to do what they are told is the will of Allah, an all-powerful and very vengeful god. They want to restrict the behavior and dress and beliefs of all of the populace and offer no choice in almost any matter.

Why do the two sides seem to be working together? As has been suggested before, they are working toward the same end.

The linked article from The New Left Review, by Malcolm Bull (hat tip to Grim from Milblogs), is an articulation of this strategy. Basically the destruction of the current global capitalist entity by Islamist revolution is preferable to wasting away under capitalist, imperialist domination for even another day. Then, of course, the new utopia will rise from the ashes of the Islamist global society, as Marx promised us so many years ago. It's just that the current political situation has prohibited the proper spontaneous revolution from occurring as Marx foresaw it. So we need the Islamofascists to help us hasten the end. Revolution is revolution, you know.

Reminds me of the old saying "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". It also reminds me of some of the current crop of Democrats who will do damage to this country just to make political hay.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Crikey! Is that ironic, or what?

Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, is dead. He died of a freak sting from a stingray while snorkling in the Great Barrier Reef. The man who endeared himself to millions of people who watched his incredibly dangerous encounters with incredibly dangerous animals, met his death from an animal that rarely even attacks people, and then rarely results in death. Remember, this is a guy who literally dared animals like crocodiles, komodo dragons, vipers and other fearsome creatures to attack him-and was actually bitten, stung and injured by most of them during his career as an environmentalist and wildlife enthusiast.

I have watched this fellow for years and come to respect his dedication to the preservation of these animals that most people fear and want to see hanging from a hook. In his show, he revealed quite a bit about himself and his family. His wife, Terri, and kids, Bindi Sue and Robert, were also a prominent feature in his shows. He was a character, like many Aussies, and a loveable, humorous, incredibly passionate showman. He will be sorely missed in this whitebread world, by many of us humans, the Australia Zoo, and alot of those animals he loved so well.

To quote from a mourner in the above article from The Australian, the world "just lost a bloody good bloke"...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Brewgrass Festival

Last year I saw a mention of a Beer Festival that sounded too good to be true: a craft beer festival that also features Bluegrass music. I am a big fan of traditional bluegrass music and am moderately fond of craft brewed beer, so what could be better than mixing the two activities into one big festival?

The Brewgrass Festival does just that! Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina-a beautiful place to be, indeed-this festival has been an annual event for ten years! This year there are forty-six brewers lined up to present their wares, most of them from the Southeast portion of the US, but some from as far away as the Pacific Northwest. The list is Here. Note that Rogue Ales from Oregon and Sierra Nevada from California are showing up to showcase their very excellent beers! I honestly am more interested in trying the local breweries' offerings, than those beers from the larger brewers that are available at any good beer store. The presence of these big, far-off brewers indicates this venue has become a premier beer festival, fo' sho'!

There will also be plenty of good music to hear.The lineup of acts is listed Here. Again, for me, it is the local, the least popularized and the most eclectic or most traditional of the bands that I am interested in. Still, the presence of some "national" acts indicates that this is a big venue (if that phrase can be uttered in reference to Bluegrass music...). From the link posted above (Bands) you can visit the websites of four of the five featured bands. I listened to examples of each of them. John Cowan Band seems to be an interesting mix of Country and Bluegrass, I'll listen and see if I like their stuff. The Gibson Brothers is the most mainstream Country of the bunch, which means, in this day and age, Pop Country. That is of little interest to me. They may be better than that in concert, though, so I'll give 'em a chance. Robinella sounds pretty darn jazzy to me, but Bela Fleck fits that category and can jam in the Bluegrass vein with the best of them. We'll give 'em a chance, too. The Whitewater Bluegrass Company seems, by the info on the website, to be the only traditional Bluegrass band on the menu. Their downloads indicate a proficient band doing lots of the classics. I'm very certain I'll like them! Finally, the wildcard will be the intriguingly named, Greasy Beans. No explanation or samples of their music is available from the website, so I Googled, 'em. Turns out they are a traditional and talented band. Take a listen, Here! Click on Broken Hearted Woman for a taste of the band, live. In fact, I think they'll be number one on my list of bands to see!

My wife and I will be going along with a beer-loving friend and his wife. We should have a great time and I'll let you all know how it goes after the festival which is September 23rd. Craft-brewed beer and Bluegrass music in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Am I lucky or what?

Friday, September 01, 2006


The results fo the MSF Homebrew Competitions are now posted here. Just click on the button labeled, "results". As you will see when you scan the winners of the different categories, several very good homebrewers won multiple awards at the Michigan State Fair this year. Some of the most successful brewers were, Kirk Rowland, John Applegarth, Jeff Carlson, David Coleman, Phillip Campbell and Robert Krieger. My Brewing Club, The Pontiac Brew Tribe scored with three medals and an honorable mention, thanks to Dale Markwardt's excellent showing of one First Place for his Belgian Trippel and a Third Place in the American Barleywine category, as well as an Honorable Mention in the American Pale Ale category. Way to go, Dale!

In an effort to bolster the public's consumption in good beer, not to mention local beer, these competitions and beer judging in general, are wonderful exercises. The next time you try a beer, even one of the fizzy, yellow sodas that comprise most American examples, try to evaluate it for taste, color, aroma and appearance. Be aware of the subtle hints of barley malt, hops and unexpected aromas and flavors which can range from fruity to caramel to biscuity. See if you can pick out flavors and aromas in one beer style that are not present in another. Go to a local beer store that sells craft brewed beer and mix-and-match a six pack, and perhaps over a card game or a sporting event on TV, join your friends in evaluating a beer or two using these criteria. It's fun and educational.

Watch for some links at this blog to further enhance the beer drinking experience.

Beer. It's not just for getting drunk on anymore! It is a handcrafted drink that enhances the dining experience and provides enjoyment and entertainment. Think of it in the same way oenophiles think of wine. It's really all the same sensory experience.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Blue Ribbon" Beer

As promised, I will now reveal the results of Beerme's entries into the Michigan State Fair Homebrewing Competition. The Blue Ribbon for the best Irish Red Ale at the 2006 competition goes to-drumroll, please-Beerme!

Only one of the five beers entered placed (oh, well!), but that one won the first place award. The beer was called "Rye-rish Red Ale" and was an Irish Red Ale, brewed with thrity percent rye malt. It won in the Irish Red Ale category. I picked up my award yesterday at the awards ceremony.

The beer received 44 points out of a possible 50. As a First Place winner, it was entered in the Best of Show judging but a Vienna Lager took those honors. Some favorable judges' comments were, "Creamy, malty, smooth tofee-like, fruity Irish Red", "Rich & creamy (again w/the high carbonation), medium body w/nice width/depth" and "Just enough bitter to nearly balance the sweet malt. Could be stronger but not necessary". The last two quotes were from a National ranked BJCP judge!

The other beers were treated respectably, with two of them scoring more than 32 points, so all-in-all it wasn't a bad showing. It does make me anxious to start brewing again!

I'll post the link to the website when the results are posted, there.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bliss Defined

I have spent the last twenty-three years married to a wonderful person. She is my very best friend and the love of my life. I know how lucky I am to have fallen into this rare condition. All around me are the pratfalls of my friends and co-workers, who fall victim to temptation and the simple problems of cohabitation, yet here I stand still married and happy after twenty-three years!

My wife is a hard-working, loving woman. She raised two young men to maturity with great facility (some might say three...). She worked most of those years at a full time job, as well as the overtime involved in keeping a home. Good cook, sweet companion, marvelous lover and thoughtful confidant: she's a keeper!

To add to all this, she has done it while living with a narcissistic, ponderous, ne'er-do-well, like me! My God! The woman's a saint!

Wish me a Happy Anniversary if you would, but I really don't think I need it...I married up, you see.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Still Safe After All These Years

"And what [last week's] plot reminds us is that five years after 9/11, the United States has not eliminated al-Qa'ida. We eliminated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in under four years, but five years into this war against al-Qa'ida, they're out there still plotting major attacks against the United States." —ABC News consultant Richard Clarke

Well there's a sane voice in the world, eh? This statement of a career public official, longtime terror expert, Clinton apologist, and Bush critic needs further examination.

What is it that the esteemed terror/security expert draws from the foiled terror plot last week? Not that the world has learned to do a better job in dealing with Islamic fascists, or that a plot of this sort was unable to be carried out in our post-9/11 world but that we haven't eliminated al-Qa'ida! Who thought that we would have eliminated al Qa'ida by now? Certainly not Richard Clarke who has been criticized for riding the fence and worrying about political considerations too much to be bothered with doing anything to actually stop bin Laden. The Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti writes: "Scheuer (former chief of the bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA) believes that Clarke’s risk aversion and politicking negatively impacted the hunt for Bin Laden prior to September 11, 2001. Scheuer stated that his unit, codename 'Alec,' had provided information that could have led to the capture and or killing of Osama bin Laden on ten different occasions, only to have his recommendations for action turned down by senior intelligence officials, including Clarke." I'm certain you could not find any member of the Bush camp after 9/11 saying publicly that al Qa'ida will be completely defeated in five years, so what's Clarke talking about?

Could his comments be nothing more than a partisan cheapshot aimed at the current administration? You betcha! He has been a proven liar in the past few years and every time the lie has been one for partisan reasons. In 1999, he was all for the suggestion that al Qa'ida was in bed with Sadaam Hussein. He changed his mind during the politically heated run-up to the 2004 election, though and said there was no such link. During the aftermath of the 9/11 crisis, it was Clarke who made the decision to fly the bin Laden family out of the country. He stated under oath, however, that the decision was made by someone in the Bush administration before admitted later that he had authorized it himself and still stood by his decision. In his book, Against All Enemies-published in March, 2004, he stated that Donmald Rumsfeld, "who looked distracted throughout the session, took the (Deputy Defense Secretary Paul) Wolfowitz line that there were other terrorists concerns, like Iraq". This meeting was held on September 4, 2001. The only problem with this statement is that Rumsfeld was not in attendance at that meeting. Politicking with the facts, Mr. Clarke?

Yes, the United States and its allies defeated Germany and Japan in four years and we have not finished the war on terror in over five. Is that a news flash? How is it that the war against the Axis powers ended in only four years? Does anyone remember the "disproportionate response" that finished off the will of the Japanese to continue fighting? Perhaps if we fought that kind of war against the jihadists we could win it in les than five years, too. I imagine Mr. Clarke would not be too happy with that type of prosecution of the WOT, though.

When I see the news that this terrible plot was thwarted I am proud that we may have learned a few things about fighting this enemy. I am heartened that some of our techniques for prosecuting this war on terror are working. I am glad that different agencies and different countries are working together to resolve this problem. And I pray that most of the partisan Democrats and nattering, naysaying career politicians in the Executive Branch are either getting with the program or retiring, like Richard Clarke.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Power Vacuum

While waiting to attend the MSF Homebrew awards ceremony on August 26, I continue to study liberal/leftist thinkers to glean what insights are possible from the lot of them. One thing I have come to understand is that the lack of a set system of morals tends to plague most of these thinkers. With God being dead and all, they have no moral compass upon which to rely, falling back on moral relativism and the age-old "might makes right" axiom. If there is no God (or even a moral system which can be agreed upon that is secular in origin, however plausible that concept is) and everyone should be free to decide on their own what is morally right and morally wrong, what decides whose concept of morality is correct? Why, it must be power!

Most leftists will tell you that the old morals are dead. Many will tell you that the idea of a belief in God should be ridiculed as well. In place of these age-old systems of belief, morality and strictures of social conduct, the Leftist places the idea of a "perfectable mankind". In the eyes of the Leftist, mankind is not flawed (weak and stricken with the inability to make moral decisions on his own) but is-through the use of science and technology-perfectable. The only reason mankind has not solved all of its troubles and created the true workers paradise is because we haven't yet quite figured out how to perfect the one weak cog in the machine: Man.

Marx believed that Capitalism was doomed because it alienated the workers as well as the capitalist from their true nature. In this way people became identified with the products they made and/or consumed. This rather metaphysical concept was called "commodity fetishism". He believed that under communism, a planned and organized system of government/economy, man could achieve what it could not under the unorganized, disparate system of capitalism. Since he has been proven wrong a thousand times, his adherents still insist that the perfection of the weak cog has yet to be achieved. What he failed to understand is that mankind is flawed. Call it "original sin" if you like or say simply that mankind is petty and weak for the most part because,'s only human. Whatever your take on the reason for man's fallibility, understand that science can only take man so far. Petty greed, human weakness and prejudice/bigotry will always flaw this grand experiment. Only a system that recognizes that weakness and places safeguards against it, while providing an automatic mechanism for achieving what we want (private property) for ourselves (freedom) without harming our fellow men (rule of law) will ever succeed. Capitalism is the only system to apply these ideals and it works.

Presently in the world we see a strange group of leftist/terrorist bedfellows. In Russia, we have a government that has shaken off the label of communism but remains largely socialist to this day. They freely trade with groups and nations that have stated aims to destroy democratic governments and establish a worldwide theocracy. This is certainly not in Russia's best interest, is it? Take the nations of Iran and Venezuela. The leaders of these two nations are remarkably friendly these days, aren't they? Hugo Chavez sounds alot like Ahmadinajad when he complains about America and its imperialist plans against the rest of the world. Now this complaint is nothing new. Communists have been railing against an invisible imperialism in the USA for nearly a hundred years, now. What is interesting is that Ahmadinajad says much the same when he is asked about America. Perhaps the presence of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan helps to explain this talk of empire but I can't help but think it is a useful appropriation of the old socialist rhetoric.

How does a leader of an Islamic Republic, a veritable theocracy, find a friend in a socialist/communist who doesn't believe in God and wants to erase all religious thought from the world as backward-thinking superstition? It is the filling of the power vacuum, created by the fall of the Soviet Union. Since the fall of the USSR, America's presence in the world as the only super power threatens the world view that has no moral compass to guide it. The communists and socialists, as well as the jihadists, fear the power of the United States because they understand nothing but power: power over their people's ways of life, thought processes and belief systems. If might truly makes right, as we in the USA know is morally wrong, then they had all better work together to make themselves stronger against this powerful foe (us). Don't think for a second that our allies in the European Union aren't thinking along the same lines, either. France continues to trade both weaponry and nuclear technology with Iran, even while working together with the US in the UN to create resolutions to halt the use of these technologies. What does this tell you?

Viewed in this way, the events on the world stage become much clearer, don't they?
As long as we continue to believe in right and wrong, we will be hated by those that think there is only "different", along with their allies who think only Islam is right and everyone else is wrong...or doomed. But take heart because the American liberal establishment is working hard to erase our moral compass so that we can become one with the rest of the world and then we'll be safe...right?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pondering Liberalism

I am always trying to figure out liberals. They confound and confuse me at almost every turn. I mean, do they not see the political pandering behind the leftists in the Democrat Party when they denounce someone like Lieberman as "Bush's lapdog" (yeah, a Senator who votes with his party 90% of the time and has been a liberal stalwart for thirty years, a Republican lapdog!)or stand behind partisan hack like Murtha when he denounces our efforts in the Middle East and palpably prays for our failure in that struggle, just to win a few seats for his party in November? I see similar failures in the Republican Party and am ashamed by them. I also readily condemn those responsible and point it out. Delay's pompous denial that there is anything left to cut in last year's porkfest of a budget was reprehensible. The wedding of so many Republicans to cash-fisted lobbyists and their addiction to pork makes me sick. I condemn their poor behavior and their hypocritical insistence that they're for less government when they're indistinguishable from Democrats most of the time.

Now if I see and recognize these weaknesses and foibles in my preferred political party, why does it seem that Democrats can't do the same when faced with hypocrisy and political slight-of-hand? It doesn't take a genius to see that a constant barrage of "Bush killed my cat" is just so much bullshit, when there are serious problems and solutions to work on. If the Republicans are going to conduct business like Democrats, then what do I care if they maintain their majority? I don't!

I've been reading some historical essays on and by the American Left. Yeah, it's a tough job but somebody has to do it. I pulled out some of my college textbooks recently and thought it would be fun to re-read some of them. It was. It gave me some better insight into what drives liberalism and the relationships between liberalism and communism and the continuing struggle between the forces of government versus the forces of freedom.

One thing I was astonished to read was a part of a speech delivered in 1919 by Victor Berger (1860-1929), Socialist congressman from Milwaukee. In it Mr. Berger states that socialists "never claim that the concentration of capital is the cause of evil...The trusts are the legitimate outcome of competition. The trust is the 'survival of the fittest' under capitalism. The trust appears after competition has virtually destroyed competition." So here is Berger a socialist, claiming that he sees the trust or monopoly as the finest resolution of the business process, the evolutionary pinnacle of capitalism. He thinks it is efficient and modern and economical beacuse of its centralization of control and its "efficient" concentration of work and services. This is the fatal flaw of socialism showing its ultimate product. Socialism bases its philosophy on the abolition of private property which will bring about wealth for all:from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. This philosophy centers around science and the ability of man using scientific methods to both create this utopia and make the citizenry enjoy their new paradise enough to not miss the fruits of their own labor.

In this way, socialists are no different from many other groups whose hubris fools them into thinking their ideas for what the future should be can be anywhere close to the unpredictable, dynamic reality of what is possible. Life and progress are largely self-organizing systems that produce many unpredictable and wonderful outcomes, when freedom, self-interest, private property and the rule of law provide the assist. For more information on this concept, see the wonderful book by Virgina PostrelThe Future and its Enemies.

Back to this speech. Berger goes on to say that socialists "appreciate so fully the advantage of industrial production on a large scale that we wish its most perfect development-and wish to give its benefits to everybody-which is impossible under the capitalist system. For that reason we want to nationalize the trusts". Doesn't that remind you of the old Who lyrics? "Meet the new Boss. Same as the old Boss".

Of course the truth in all this is that this centralization of control and ever growing monopoly of business interests was not the highest form of economic behavior. Smaller, more supple and more decentralized control structures have proven to be far more nimble and flexible in today's economy. These are the corporations that are really making changes in our society, while the Fords, IBMs and ATTs are langusihing and whithering on the capitalist vine. Much of the problem with the old thinking was the fallacy that bigger is better but some of it was in the fallacy that the path to more productivity and more efficiency lies in the direction of ever more centralization of command and control powers. This was also the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Of course the left always has the romantic, Robin Hood theme to unite its utopian followers. Take from the lazy, undeserving rich and give to the overworked and overburdened poor. Who can argue with this? It's always easy to agree with someone who says it's a good idea to take property from someone else who doesn't deserve it. It only becomes a problem when the ruling powers decide that you are the one that doesn't deserve your property. Then we want to abandon those high-minded principles and say, "But that's my property. I worked for that and it's mine". "Imagine no possessions" never sounded much good to me but I guess it floats alot of people's boats, judging from the membership in liberal and socialist groups.

No matter what the leftists and liberals say they believe in, you'll find that many of these core socialist principles are in their political repertoire. That's why they're always for the underdog in political conflicts: Palestinians, Iraqi insurgents, Hezbollah, etc. That's also why they think the Soviet Union, despite all evidence to the contrary, was such a magnanimous and positive force in the world. Likewise the leftists belief in the ability of governments to do all that needs doing in the world, despite all manner of evidence to the contrary, from the failures of Katrina to the laughable losers who pushed for the Big Dig project. They still believe in science and the ability of men, united in political power, to effect real change in our lives for the better, while never understanding that these groups of men also carry with them their own prejudices, greeds and a multitude of ulterior motives.

I believe in private property and the ability of men and women, motivated by their own self-interest, to effect lasting change for the better, in a system that rewards individual effort and protects the lives and property of the participants. It will create more progress and do more good for those less fortunate than any centralized government effort in the world. History and science backs that belief up over and over again. We just have to make the politicians back off and leave us all alone to do what we know how to do. That is a tall order indeed, but I believe in progress and the ability of people to learn what's good for them in the long run. So, I'm optimistic...

Monday, July 31, 2006

MSF Homebrew Contest-Updated

Yesterday I assisted some forty-six others-homebrewers, professional brewers, beer lovers and BJCP certified beer judges-in judging the 570 homebrewed beers entered in the 2006 Michigan State Fair Homebrew Competition. This was the largest homebrew competition ever held in Michigan (by about thirty entries). It also qualifies as one of the largest competitions in the country. We had beers entered in every category sanctioned by the Beer Judge Certification Program, as well as entries in every mead and cider/peary category (28 categories).

My job included judging two categories, India Pale Ales (IPAs) and Ciders/Pearies, along with another experienced judge. In the cider category, there were four of us judging twenty entrants,, two BJCP judges, each paired with a novice/experienced, non-BJCP certified judge (that's me!). We chose the best three entrants in that category, finding three nice examples of ciders/pearies (pearies are ciders made with pears instead of apples). The top three included one from each of three sub-categories: Common cider, French Cider and Peary.

In the IPA competition, there were forty-one entrants, judged by four pairs of judges. Sadly, the eleven entrants I assisted in judging were less than spectacular, having only one entrant reach the score of 39 (top score is 50, though rarely reached). One of the IPAs we judged did make it to the final three, though: a nice English IPA. It came in third, behind the first-place American IPA and a splendid Imperial IPA.

It was fun and educational. And, while I was finishing up the tally on the ciders, I heard a discussion at the next table about a Tamarind/Lemongrass Wheat beer they were judging. Hhhmm, I did enter such a beer into the competition. Wonder how it did?

As soon as the results are in, I will let you all know how the five beers I entered (and the one I assisted in brewing, with my friend, Jeff) scored.

Best of Show awards will be judged at the State Fair on August 26 at 4 P.M. I am going to be there this year, if just to observe the process. Best of luck to all participants!

NEWSFLASH!-I received a call yesterday notifying me that "at least one" of my beers has "placed" in the contest! I have no further information than that and won't until the 26th and the Awards Ceremony.
Man! I hate waiting!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Michigan State Fair 2006

I am submitting several beers to the 2006 Michigan State Fair Homebrewing Competition this year. Many of you will remember that I took Second Place in last year's competition in the American Wheat Beer category. I hope to top that this year with more awards. I submitted an American Wheat again this year-this one with lemongrass in it for a tangy, citrusy kick, an Irish Red Ale with rye in it, an American Amber Ale, a Belgian Pale Ale, and a Wheat beer in the Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer category-it has tamarind and lemongrass in it. I assisted my fellow brewer, Jeff, in making an Old Ale, a strong, garnet-colored ale that originated in England but has become somewhat popular in the US, lately (Third Coast Old Ale, by Bell's is an example. Try it!). He will submit this beer to the competition and I will be listed as the assistant brewer. I hope he wins a medal!

I will also be judging this competition on July 30th at King's Brewery in Pontiac. Of course I will not be involved in judging any of the categories in which I've entered beers.

If you make it out to the Michigan State Fair this year, try coming on August 26. The Best of Show judging will take place that day at 4 PM. You just might see the Beerme team collect at the winner's circle!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Soft on Crime?

Talk Show host, Rush Limbaugh, shown here displaying the vigor of the Golden EIB microphone, has been cleared of all charges against him for possessing a bottle of Viagra with his doctor's name on the prescription label. Paul Miller, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, said in June that the alleged violation could be a second-degree misdemeanor.

Florida Assistant Attorney Paul H. Zacks said in a filing that a case against Limbaugh couldn't be "proven beyond a reasonable doubt." Zacks said that even though one of the Viagra bottles was prescribed to someone else, that person was Limbaugh's doctor, who apparently agreed to have his name on the label "to avoid potentially embarrassing publicity" for Limbaugh.

Of course the truth is that the "alleged violation" is not a crime at all, as it is legal for a doctor in Florida to prescribe a medication in a third party's name as long as everyone involved knows who the prescription is really for. This hasn't kept the Limbaugh critics from pumping up the volume on their calls for his prosecution, though.

After eighteen years on the air, Limbaugh's cadre of listeners continues to swell, despite some stiff competition from other conservative talk shows and the fledgling Air America offerings, which are working hard to recover from limp ratings. He has always been a lightning rod for leftwing critics but has continued to weather the storm with an upright message that keeps his fanbase solid.

While Rush could not be reached for comment, it is expected that he is keeping a stiff upper lip about the situation and will carry on as usual behind the mic at the EIB studios. He was seen lighting a seven inch, fifty ring Honduran cigar after the filing. Perhaps this incident displays some of the impotence of his detractors, dedicated though they may be...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Long, Strange Trip

Summer Vacation, an American institution if ever there was one, has changed considerably over the years with the introduction of the automobile and the US Interstate system. The Interstate Highway System is fifty years old this week, having been begun by Dwight Eisenhower's administration in July, 1956. It served the country well for most of those fifty years, in directing traffic from suburbs to city, from city to city, and around the country. The system was simple in it's spoke-like, hub design, directing traffic around and to the inner cities, which were the hubs of the traffic patterns. Traffic has changed considerably, though, in modern America. The system has lagged behind.

Originally, this system worked well because traffic patterns were focused on commutes from outside the cities to the inner cities, as people generally worked there and lived in the suburbs. Now, however the suburbs are where much of the work is and traffic patterns have changed. The funding for our transportation system is still largely the same as it was in the fifties, also, and it doesn't reflect these changed traffic patterns and has no method of responding to them, either. Many people think a user-paid system would be preferrable to our current funding, and would reflect the usage patterns more accurately, thereby allowing the system to more accurately respond to changes in patterns. Toll roads would be paid for by those using them, and not foisted upon those who will probably never even see them, ala the Bridge to Nowhere. This would shift the payment of roads to the users and eliminate much of the congressional pork we're all so tired of seeing.

My family and I recently went on vacation. We travelled from Michigan through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio, before returning to Michigan again. It was a great trip and we enjoyed ourselves despite the hours of driving and stays in questionable motels along the way. We visited Mammoth Caves and the Heaven Hill Distillery (18 year old Elijah Craig, mmmm-mmm!)in Kentucky; Asheville, the Biltmore House, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina; Bristol Tennessee; Clintwood, the Ralph Stanley Museum and in Ohio, having driven through West Virginia on the Robert Byrd Highway at the fastest possible speed allowed by law.

During most of this nearly two thousand mile trip, the driving was unhindered and enjoyable. I highly recommend the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina as one of the most beautiful and enjoyable drives I've ever encountered. In most of the states we visited, the roads were well-maintained and the signage was accurate and sensible. All of that ended, of course, when we entered Ohio. I've always marvelled at Ohio's road system. It seems intended to cause travellers woe at every turn. Detours and construction are everywhere and the signage announcing turns on detours is all but non-existent. travelling on State Highway 2, towards Toledo, we literally never saw a sign announcing directions to I-75, until we were ON I-75! This is the most travelled Interstate in the eastern half of the country, and yet, Ohio's Transportation Department feels that no one traveling towards it, really needs to know how to get on it. Incredible! But, I digress...

One click on the link to the Robert Byrd Highway should give everyone an idea of why I would favor a user-funded (toll roads, private or state-run)method of highway maintenance over our present system. I know during this summer vacation season many others have driven our national roads for hours, as I have, so I'll put it to you: What say ye?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Beer: A Tool for Change?

Beer can be a vehicle for change. If you think that is nonsense, just look at what happened yesterday in Australia. One of the darkest and most heated conflicts in the modern world was soothed temporarily by the simple gift of beer. No I'm not talking about the War on Terror, but the eternal war between the celebs and the paparrazi!

It seems that the army of paparrazi camped out beside the home of Nicole Kidman, awaiting a chance at a "money shot" of the beautiful actress and her soon-to-be-husband, Keith Urban, were sent a peace offering! The gift soothed the savage hordes of photgraphers and offered a bit of tranquil comraderie between two deeply conflicted opponents.

Now if we can only work on Al Quaeda with this tool...
Click link here

"Pretty women sell beer, ugly women make us DRINK beer" -Al Bundy