Monday, October 31, 2011

Why Zombies?

It was pointed out on a program I was listening to that zombies are quickly becoming the scary icon of our time. They asked why and I wanted to answer, but of course radio is a 1-way medium so I couldn't. Instead I have a blog, so we'll take a break from the brew blog for something else for a minute. So why zombies? I think the bottom line is that they're safe.

We live in a word of intense motivations, whether religious, political, or financial. We see bad guys in the news every day, killing for power, exploiting for personal gain, or just so desperate/psychotic/greedy they turned to crime to get by. Around the world there are people who believe so deeply in their version of Truth and Right and Wrong and Justice that they feel justified committing all sorts of atrocities. These things are truly scary. But at the same time, there's a part of us that sympathizes, if only in a tiny way. Terrorists are evil, but what would you do if your homeland had been seized by outside forces? Religious extremists are nuts, but what is there that you believe that you would fight for? None of this is to say that there isn't plenty of truly mindless violence on the planet, but there's more grey area in the things we consider evil than we would like to admit.

But zombies are safe. They don't need a motivation, they're dead. They don't have a political agenda, they're driven only by a survival instinct. There's no question of "what would I do in that person's situation?" because the answer is always the same...I'd be a dead shambling zombie. Unlike bad people in the real world there's no moral ambiguity whatsoever in killing a zombie. Their moral compass and free will died the 1st time around, so slaughter away. If you survive the pang of guilt you might have felt with die quickly. It's escapism at its finest.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yes, but Tebow doesn't brew.

The Broncos pulled off a win today. Tebow is now the starter and there's been a lot of talk of the Magic and Intangibles he brings to the offense. For 3.5 quarters this was not visible at all. He sucked, the team sucked, nothing worked at all until the end of the 4th quarter when they got a touchdown, retrieved an on-side kick, got another touchdown, got a 2-point conversion to tie, then hit a field goal in OT for the win. So yeah, crazy ending to a crap game. Tebow Time has been declared loudly from every source that declares such things. All because our 1-4 team pulled out an improbable OT win against 1 of only 3 teams in the nation with a worse record going into the game. Oooooo.

During the Packer game and into the evening it was brewtime! #17- Liquid Cheer was brewed and the wort smells amazing. The last 15 minutes of the boil include vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, fresh ground nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and orange zest. It's definitely not an every-day beer, but oh-so-perfect for the holidays. The original gravity was at 1.066 when it went in the carboy. The spice mixture was added to #15- American Pie and we'll bottle that next weekend. We also managed to bottle #16- The Great Pumpkin before our Sunday evening TV watching commenced. We're now out of bottles. I think I'm going to have to build some new shelves or something...we're also running out of room to store things. 1st world problems. *sigh*

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fermentables ferment

Sitting in Dulles, on the way back from Auburn, ME. Boarding soon...just enough time for an update!

#13- Strawberry Fields is now bottled. We tried some as we were bottling and...we'll see. I think this is going to be a case where we set it aside and open one up every now and then. It had a very alcoholy aftertaste, which covered up the berry and basil flavors. Often (I'm told) with high alcohol contents the aftertaste mellows over time, so there's definitely some waiting to do before it's ready to introduce to the public.
#15- American Pie continues to ferment. We're giving it time. I made the rum concoction last weekend and it made the whole house smell amazing. It's sitting on top of the fridge right now, sealed tightly of course, and I'll add it next weekend.
#16- Name TBD was moved to secondary fermentation last weekend. There was a huge amount of crud caked to the bottom of the carboy and it took awhile to clean out, but it seems to be developing well. The pumpkin and spice flavors were perhaps more muted that expected, but it did have a definite Thanksgiving vibe. It's all a learning process, so we can always tweak next time if we need to!

And that's it for now. I think a batch of Liquid Cheer needs to be next. It's our spiced holiday brew we made last year when we were very new at this and it was a huge hit. The 2012 edition should be delicious as well!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Repurposing begins now!

Hi blog!
I think 6 months is long enough. It's a fresh start, for realsies this time. I think this is going to become my brewing blog. We're brewing more regularly and getting to where we're experimenting, and everybody says to keep a notebook or some such. My handwriting sucks and I type faster, so I'll blog it instead! If the ins and outs of home brewing bore you...sorry! There will probably be other posts as well, but obviously I haven't been updating much lately so this will get me back in front of the keyboard.

So we currently have fermenting:
#13- Strawberry Fields. A conversation at Hailey's work combined with a memory of a strawberry basil drink from her past inspired this concoction. This is a basic porter recipe, with basil and strawberries. We used probably 1/4+ cup basil...everything we could get off the plant without making it look sad. It soaked in vodka for 10 min or so to sterilize and then went into the primary. (On a friend's request we used a bucket for the primary for ease of cleaning. Good idea!) For the strawberries we got a big bag of frozen strawberries at Costco and threw 3 lbs into a food processor, then they went right in as well. The whole thing fermented 4 weeks in the primary, then last weekend I moved it to the small carboy for secondary. The plan is to bottle next weekend.

#15- American Pie.* Our 2nd attempt at a hard cider. The 1st attempt was a smashing success, so we're going to repeat it. The 1st time around we were under time pressure to have it ready for a party and it didn't get to ferment long enough. As a result it was delicious, but very low in actual alcohol content. This time we're going to give it time. The idea is simple: 5 gallons of store-bought apple cider. 1 gallon is boiled with a pound of brown sugar to sterilize, then mixed back in. Yeast pitched, then the whole thing ferments (we're giving it a month or so this time). We'll do a secondary fermentation, at which time we add a "rum tea" we'll cook up about a week in advance. Last time this was about 1.5 - 2 cups of rum boiled with vanilla, cinnamon sticks, and allspice. We let this work it's way through the wort for another week, then bottle. The result last time tasted very much like apple pie...we just want a slightly "harder" cider this time around.

And then today we added #16- an as-yet-unnamed Pumpkin Ale. We followed the recipe straight from the book on this one. Holiday beers can be tricky I'm told, with over- and under-spicing causing problems, and the book with the recipe hasn't led us wrong yet so why mess with it? 8 lbs of real pumpkin, roasted for 2 hours with pumpkin pie spices sprinkled on top, then added to the boil right along with the hops and more spices (cinnamon sticks, allspice, and whole nutmeg). It's in the primary and after a couple hours there's already a 2" layer of sediment on the bottom of the carboy. It tastes fantastic!

Next up: bottling #13, then the 2011 installment of Liquid Cheer.

*Where's #14 you ask? It was a 3rd batch of Zombie Cow, our Milk Stout recipe we love. It's a fast recipe...only 1 week in the primary, then into bottles, so it's already in the fridge to drink. Mmmmm.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Can't sleep. We just watched Hereafter...definitely one of those movies designed to make you think. Spoilers follow if you don't know the general gist of the movie.

One of the main characters is a kid, maybe 9 or 10 years old, who loses his twin brother in an accident. He becomes convinced after his brother's death that if he can just talk to him one more time he'll feel better. I remember that feeling. Rebecca died when I was about that age. She was 6 months old. I spent many years coming to terms with the fact that the time we had with her when she was alive was all I was going to get. There's no going back, no redoing things, no final conversation once someone is gone. The experience is over and all you have left are the memories, whether good, bad, regretful, joyful...some endings are final. The choices you make day to day have to be the choices you would be comfortable with if your loved one died tomorrow.

Another thing on my mind triggered by movie-watching...if you know where things end, you can use that to make the present a better place. As the Flaming Lips say "Realize the sun doesn't go down / it's just an illusion caused be the world / spinning round." Life is cyclical. Some cycles last a lifetime and end when you pass the world on to your kids. Others last only a day, starting over when you wake up tomorrow. Embrace where you've been, and use it to inform where you're going, but don't dwell on something which has ended. You've moved on to a new cycle. Who knows how long this one will last? "Realize that life goes fast / It's hard to make the good things last."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Random thoughts on Bin Laden's Death

Do Sasha and Malia have to go to school tomorrow? "Please excuse my daughters from class today. Their father was up late announcing the death of an international terrorist and they didn't get to bed until late in the evening."

One of the clues that led to the identification of this "palace" as Osama's hiding place was that it was a million+ dollar home with 12 foot high walls and no internet or phone lines. Welcome to the 21st century...NOT being connected is more suspicious than being online. In Pakistan.

Obama is a badass. He completely put his presidency on the line with this. Authorizing ground forces to go into a friendly country (even with Pakistan's permission) could have destroyed his administration if things had gone wrong. I'm reminded of the pirate situation awhile back, when he authorized the assassination of the hostage-taking pirates halfway around the world and then gave a press conference where he said "Yes, I authorized that. Buh-bye now." I don't recall in my lifetime a president using our military so effectively and nonchalantly efficiently. He trusts what they can do and really only acknowledges his position in passing when he talks about what they did. I continue to be impressed. Maybe he's not the perfect walking-on-water president we might like, but he's damn good. Easily the best of my adult life.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grey's Anatomy tackles Clinical Trials?!

I came in here to vent. Hailey is watching last week's episode of Grey's Anatomy in the living room and I was having a hard time biting my tongue any more, so here I rant.

Normally Grey's is an OK show. Not what I'd choose to watch in my own time, but an acceptable "sure dear, we can watch that" sort of show. This season the Patrick Dempsey doctor guy is doing a Clinical Trial looking at an Alzheimer's medication. Great! Public exposure for clinical research is a great thing. We currently have several clinical trials for Alzheimer's meds, so I spend a good portion of every work week in this world. But boo to this episode.

So they have a guy on the table and it's time to "Randomize" the patient. This involves opening an envelope which says "He gets Placebo," pulling out a syringe labeled "Saline" and administering the treatment. Um, no? Why isn't this double blind? Why does the injecting and evaluating physician know what the treatment is? Oh, right, because later it's dramatic if a grieving wife can plead with the assistant to swap the medication if her husband is assigned to the placebo group. No. Just No. Randomization. Blinded trials. Important, no?

They spend a bit of time on the placebo effect, also good if not totally twisted. Dr. Dempsey (I don't know the character's name, whatever) even goes so far as to tell his helper dude that he should be encouraging! He should be more positive about the trial because that will lead to better outcomes if the caregiver thinks it will work! Helper dude is trying to give a realistic assessment of the potential benefit of this new med and he's shut down and told to be more positive! Um, ethics much? You don't enroll someone in a trial with unreasonable expectations.

A more minor quibble is that they don't talk at all about how the endpoints will be measured. Sure they're surgeons, but the amount of cognitive testing that goes into efficacy assessments in real life is totally ignored. I guess that's not good TV.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stuff to do, stuff to do...

Now that I live with Hailey I have a whole new house to subject to my home-improving ways. Of course we're working on paying for a wedding too, so the funds are maybe not what they could be, but there's always stuff to do.

Saturday I need to fix the drywall in the office. My dog, in his persistent gigantitude, kind of fell through the wall when trying to bolt out the door to explore a noise in the kitchen on Christmas. Oops. He's really just trying to help me learn a new skill, I'm sure of it. (Another new skill learned due to Obi's to apologize to my fiance for a nipped finger due to over-exuberant treat-taking...)

After that I get to build shelves in the guest bedroom, then...we'll see. Hardwood floors are somewhere in the future, but then so's a honeymoon. Hmmm...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The engagement story

Hailey has gotten to tell this story many times, so I thought I'd share my version for posterity.

We've been talking about marriage for awhile. We'd been looking at rings together and then Hailey had the audacity to guess, to my face, the date on which I was going to propose. I had a choice at that point: I could just suck it up and acknowledge that she tends to be right about most things (which would also make the whole proposal entirely predictable) or I could move the date. Pushing it back just seemed cruel (to both of us), so I had to move it forward.

The plan all along was pretty normal: dinner at the sushi restaurant where we had our 1st date, with a proposal half a block away under a tree where we chatted for an hour on that same date. Then a friend of a friend had a spectacular idea; why not do all that and then *NOT* propose! Do the date, go through the whole thing...but then don't do it until breakfast the next morning to retain the surprise factor.

This seemed like a brilliant idea the more I thought about it. Not only because I might achieve some element of surprise, but because breakfast is completely Hailey's thing. Since dating she has introduced me to all of the most delicious brunch places in Denver and I've eaten more breakfasts in the last 7 months than in the prior 5 years combined, thanks to her influence. We'd already discussed having brunch food for our wedding reception, so asking her to marry me over breakfast seemed like the perfect thing.

So last Friday the plan was set in motion. I watched Katie until 5:15 as usual, then stopped to get a dozen roses on the way back to Hailey's. I got back to her place with the roses (and a snowman cookie jar that was a post-Xmas gift), we went out to Sushi Hai in Highlands, walked by the tree where I was going to ask, and came home. We watched some Netflixed Dexter and then went to bed.

This is where I had not thought my plan through. It turns out that building up expectation and then not following through provokes some anxiety. Also, oddly enough, planning on proposing 1st thing in the morning when you wake up does not make for a restful slumber. As a result Hailey and I got almost no sleep Friday night. By 5:30 AM Hailey was ready to give up on sleep and I was ready to get up and get breakfast made so that I could finally give her the ring I'd purchased the weekend before.

And that's what happened. We got up, I made breakfast, and once she was through eating I asked her to marry me. She said yes, there were tears...and then the phone calls started. First her mom, then East Coast friends (it was early!), then everyone else. I think Hailey spent 75% of Saturday on the phone, and about 80% of the day staring at her ring. I guess that means I did good :-)

Wedding planning has now started officially...the contract for the reception location was signed today and I think we've found a location for the ceremony as well. It's still a long way off, but it's nice to be this excited and hopeful about the future.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


What to say here...I'm happy. Hailey is awesome and I asked her to marry me on Saturday. She said yes, which wasn't too suspenseful since we'd been ring shopping and such.

Logistically...I'm moving in and we're going to actually tie the knot on 3/17/12. It's St. Patrick's Day, which makes for a fun anniversary, and it's coincidentally the birthday of one William Patrick Corgan who keeps showing up at significant points in my life.

Between now and the big day there's a lot of planning to be done, a lot of living to do, a lot of happiness ahead. I'm doing this one right...I've managed to land a great girl, we're going to do this right and start our life together the old fashioned way (aside from the whole "yeah, we're living together now" thing...)