Friday, February 24, 2006

Beautiful Boy!

Yes, I make great beer. Apparently I've also been pretty successful at producing male offspring, though I did have lots of help with my assistant brewer on the two greatest masterpieces of my life, my two sons. Michael was born late into the night on February 24, 1985. I remember the wife and I thinking that if the doctor would hold off for a few minutes, he would be born on the twenty-fifth, just like his mom and dad. After two days of labor, mom was not interested in such a silly gesture. As it was he was a difficult delivery. This was in the days before the glut of lawsuits against doctors for any bad consequences, regardless of their decisions during an operation. The doctor decided to deliver Michael naturally, rather than by ceasarean section, even though he was firmly lodged in the birth canal and reluctant to leave those cozy environs.

To make a long (thirty-six hours) story short, he was delivered at 2352 on the Twenty-fourth, utilizing forceps and leaving two deep gouges in the sides of his face and a head that could rival Beldar for it's pointiness. Michael would refer to the scars in his early years as his "wumps". The scar areas turned beet-red whenever he ate anything chewy until he was near ten years old.

I remember recording a cassette tape on the night after he was born, which included such songs as "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon and "It's a Boy" from the Who's "Tommy". I still have that tape. I listen to it now and then. I'll probably listen to it tonight.

Michael was always an amalgam of the best and the worst his parents had to offer. He had my rebeliousness and his mother's need to say what she thought regardless of the consequences; my lack of organizational skills and general laziness and his mother's ability to cut through the nonsense and see the heart of the matter; my need to be appreciated by my father and his mother's ability to do what she thought was right, no matter what anyone cared.

As a child he loved baseball but was tall for his age and unable to gracefully control all of his long and unwieldy appendages. He was a big kid and was always picked early for pickup games but his awkwardness in running and batting made him a disappointment to those who expected so much from an athlete of imposing size. One particularly bad coach, while dad was working second shift (an unfortunate side-effect of the job) turned him against sports for the rest of his youth. He took a short turn at track and field, where he excelled for the short time that he was interested, but quit during his late Junior High days when he discovered Rock and Roll, girls and the ubiquitous highs that are often associated with those pursuits.

Luckily, he found out early that being stoned was an ugly way to miss life as it should be enjoyed and he quit smoking pot and everything else by tenth grade. He was a smart kid, smarter by far than his father. I'll never forget him talking to me when he was about ten. I told him that there were seven "perpetual calendars" and he said, "Yeah dad, I know". Then he said, "Do you know why there are seven perpetual calendars"? I really didn't know the answer, but I wasn't prepared to learn it from a ten year old. He said, "Because there's seven days in the week"! I guess that's about the simplest answer that can be given!

In the summer of 2004, while my wife and I were enjoying a golf weekend at Garland Resort in northern Michigan, Michael called us to say that he was feeling sick with the flu and was going to visit the after-hours clinic. He thought he had pneumonia. The doctors said he had a bad case of bronchitis and gave him a prescription for antibiotics. After a week, with no improvement, we sent him to the doctor ( a new doctor, as we had become disappointed in the behavior of his old doctor). The doctor saw him and determined that blood tests were in order. By the next day we knew something bad was wrong. A week later he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and was in the hospital having a biopsy done of one of his four tumors.

Alot of soulsearching and sleepless nights followed while mom and dad tried to make sense of this new terror. Michael had his own struggles with mortality at the age of nineteen. One year and much chemotherapy and radiation later, he was pronounced to be "cancer free". We will wait for the five year pronouncement to actually celebrate but there has been no recurrence of anything resembling cancer so far. I thank God for the grace he bestowed on me and my family both in giving us this boy to love and cherish and in saving him from the ravages of this deadly disease.

Michael was always very mechanically inclined, which skills he probably inherited from his two grandfathers (certainly not from the knucklebuster backyard mechanic that fathered him). He worked his way into a machining program at his local Vocational Technical school where he excelled as the top student in his field over several years. He parlayed this schooling into a job in a high-tech manufacturing plant in the area, wher he learned to program and run Wire EDM machines, a high-tech metal-cutting tool. He now runs the entire division at his company and will soon be able to name his own salary. He's very good at what he does and he's only twenty-one years old! I am oh, so proud of him!

Today, Michael and his brother Andrew are skiing in Northern Michigan, along with Michael's girlfriend and a friend of Andrew's. This is what youth is made of. Enjoying life as it comes and striking out on one's own to enjoy the pleasures of young-adulthood. My wife and I wanted to go along like we have so many times when the boys were young but I think I like it better this way. They're cutting the ties that bind them to us, just as we trained them to do. I hope they're having a great time and that they're creating memories they'll have for the rest of their long and full lives. Today is my oldest boy's birthday and I hope it ranks up there as one of his very best!

Monday, February 06, 2006


To most people the word, "beer", describes a yellow, fizzy, soda that has very little flavor and a little alcohol in it. All the major American beer brands brag about how mush taste their beer has as compared to the other yellow, fizzy sodas. What most people don't realize is that beer is so much more.

American beer is a type of beer. It is a variety of beer called Standard American Lager. The light versions of these beers is called Lite American Lager. They are both contained in a larger category of beer called, Light Lager. There is very little difference between all the beers in this larger category. The idea that Miller Light has more taste than Bud Light, is kinda like the conversation at the furniture store where your wife and the salesperson argue over whether the couch she's looking at is "cream" or "wheat" in color.

The standard reference for beer styles can be found at this site. The Beer Judge Certification Program is dedicated to the appreciation of beer. It has codified the different beer styles, taught hundreds of beer judges (certified them, too!) and made it a much more objective and quantifiable process to judge beers.

One look at the site linked to above will give you an idea of the abundance of the rich environment that is beer in the world today. The site lists 23 different styles of beer but that is misleading because there really are many more. Inside each of the twenty-three style categories is a group of styles that may or may not be terribly similar to others in the same category. For instance there is a great deal of difference between all three of the sub-categories of American Ales. The last four beer categories are vaguely defined categories that can include beers that have very little in common. This is said to demonstrate that the true number of different types of beer greatly exceeds the listed twenty-three.

The world of beer is truly grand! It is a shame that most people only think of one style of beer when the word is uttered. The Standard American Lager is a fine, easy-drinking, thirst-quenching beverage. For what it's worth, it is a difficult beer to produce, consistently. I drink this type of beer about half the time and I know about the other types of beer available. It's cheap, easy to find and easy to drink.

Put simply, I love good Mexican food but I'd hate to eat only Mexican food every day. It would become boring and detract from the fine ethnic cuisine that I love. I switch it up by enjoying foods from all countries and cultures because they all have something special to bring to the table (if you'll pardon the pun).

It's the same with beer. Many people enjoy a fine Scotch Ale as an aperitif, a light, thirst-quenching Berliner Weiss on a hot afternoon, a joltingly hoppy IPA after a hard day's work or a smooth, delicious Irish Stout for a hearty accompaniment to a plate of bangers and mash. Beer: it's not just for breakfast anymore.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Book of Mohammed

I wanted to post a photo of the now-infamous Danish Newspaper (Jyllands Posten) cartoons, characterizing Mohammed (Prophet, D-Islam) in various unflattering ways. I couldn't find one. I Googled France Soir, the Newspaper in France that courageously and provocatively re-printed the cartoons, yesterday and found dozens of articles in other papers telling the story of the cartoons and the overblown worldwide Muslim response to their being printed. I dutifully clicked on all of them and learned a bit about the brouhaha but not one of the articles actually featured a photo of the cartoons. Now granted there are twelve of the cartoons and they would take alot of space in a small article but I really don't think that was the reason for the absence of the key visual aid in this international story of interest. As an article in The American Thinker posits, it probably has alot more to do with fear of international Muslim reprisals.

What a sad day when a French newspaper shows more cajones to publish these cartoons than any American newspaper! See the article by Tom Lifson

Since the article was written, many of Europe's newspapers have followed suit in solidarity but still the cartoons are all but impossible to find on the net.

Which brings me to another issue: the recent cancellation of the TV show, "The Book of Daniel". Now, I know that alot of people were offended by this show's irreverent treatment of religion and the immorality of many of the characters on the show. I'm willing to bet quite a bit of money, though, that few of these critics ever watched the show. People do, and should, have a right to criticize and even boycot the advertisers of a show they disagree with. The truth is, though, that nobody forces any viewer to watch anything they don't want to watch. If the show offends you, cut it off. I am not down with attempts to change the viewing habits of others. Of course, I am not defending the show because I never watched it and probably wouldn't.

Let's imagine for a moment, though, another program. This imaginary program could be called, "The book of Mohammed". It could satirize aspects of the Muslim religion and poke fun at an Imam's family by portraying the son as a homosexual, the daughter as a lesbian and the wife as a pill-popping shopaholic. The Imam could drive around talking to the prophet Mohammed (D-Islam) and ask for advice on mundane and trivial everyday matters. Perhaps, Mohammed would advise the Imam to exact the death of an unfriendly party store clerk or something.

How would this show be met by the masses? Of course such a show would never be aired because of fear of retaliation by the Muslim community, not to mention it's being culturally insensitive, but the reaction would be instantaneous and overwhelming. The reaction to these cartoons would pale by comparison.

I salute the papers that are re-printing these cartoons because they are standing up to the overbearing and oversensitive Muslim world community. It is a shame that such a peurile and unintellectual vehicle should be the place where the print journalists of the world make their stand but it needs to be done. The world must show that they will not be cowed by fatwas and jihads against the faintest slights against anything Muslim. Lord knows we Christians receive far worse without much ado.