Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Where Dignity Goes to Die...

So I'm making preparations for Christmas over the weekend and had to make the trip I hope to avoid every year...Michigan Avenue. Unfortunately for my brother's wallet and my dignity, my niece Madison loves American Girl dolls, so I went to pick one up so that Brian can be the great dad he is and make her Christmas a great one. I'm not sure whether this ordeal makes me a good brother or uncle or neither since I'm not paying for it but I'll pretend like it's both. So I put my game face on and make my way down to Michigan Avenue, arriving at 9 am on the dot the morning of December 20 to avoid the throngs of people that will not only make navigation difficult beginning at 11 am, but more importantly will make my remaining sanity impossible to keep.

So I make my way into and through the monstrosity that is American Girl Place, seeing doll hair salons, doll makeup stations, and dolls from every race, every nationality and from every economic background with every single interest under the sun. The politically correct air inside the store nearly choked me to death. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I hear "we wish you a happy kwanzaa, we wish you a happy kwanzaa." What??!! That's not the song! The song basically went exactly like this and I can't believe such behavior is widespread enough that I can find it on youtube. What are they doing to these poor kids? Look at the little blond boy they zoom on who is doing just fine until they start singing "we wish you a rockin ramadan." Poor kid has no idea what's going on or why his teachers won't let him sing the second part of the real song. Doesn't kwanzaa have its own songs that people who celebrate it can sing? I know Hanukkah does. So does Christmas, that's why they're CHRISTMAS songs.

Our world has basically turned into a sick PC joke...a black hole really, with American Girl Place being the singularity. Random sidenote, I saw this bumper just chilling against my building the other evening. Not sure whose it was or why they just gave it up but they left it, license plate and all. Two weeks later, it's still there.

The story ends like this: I'm completely overwhelmed in American Male Hell so I forget which doll I was supposed to get. I have Rebecca in my hand but then I see Felicity, which sounds really familiar. I make a very un-PC executive decision and figure my niece (who's not Jewish) would not ask for a Jewish doll so logically deduce that Felicity is indeed the correct doll. I put back Rebecca and her Chanukkah dress and shawl and reach for $100 Felicity and her $24 Puritan bonnett and frilly whatevers. WRONG! By the time I get the text message that I got the wrong doll, I'm long gone and it is long past the time where going to Michigan Ave means certain death. In my defense, the reason Felicity rung a bell is because Madison already has a Felicity doll and in the irony of ironies, my only other trip to American Male Hell was to pick up said Felicity doll a year or two ago. God (can I say God? Should I not capitalize? Tell me what's right and wrong American Girl Place. Please!) bless Carrie, who went today to exchange Felicity for Rebecca to save me from further agony.

I'm actually happy about Maddie's decision though, despite the inconvience of me getting the wrong doll, for a couple reasons. 1) She selected a doll from another culture without any knowledge or care about religion, culture, whatever. That's 100x better than politically correct, where instead you try to dance around everything as if it's a problem that you need to tread around very lightly. We only facilitate and solidify negative stereotypes by doing this. Hopefully that innocence continues for her. 2) Rebecca is the first American Girl doll I've ever seen that is decently cute but she does still have buckteeth with a gap in between them. After all, you wouldn't want to go too far towards attractiveness - that would damage self-image and wouldn't be PC at all.

So enough negativity, Christmas is always exciting. My mom is coming out to Chicago for the famous Baizer Christmas Eve party on Thursday, then we will drive back to Columbus for the not-so-famous-but-still-very-enjoyable Tracy Christmas on Friday. With that, "Good tidings we bring to you and your kin. Good tidings for CHRISTMAS and a Happy New Year!"

Song of the Day:

Animal Kingdom - Two by Two

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

End of Spain, new material soon...

I'm kind of done talking about Spain as you are also done reading about it but just had to put out a couple more things from the trip. Blogspot.com officially sucks because I can't format anything on here including this centered text and I hate it. I always have. But I love seanbloggyblog as a name so I've stuck with it. But Blogger, you suck so bad, I don't even care anymore so heed my words, if I get iLife for Christmas, you are going down. For all of you who still read my nonsense, stay tuned for a possible new web address, hopefully with archives intact. So with that, I'll leave you with these few videos from the tail end of our trip, which ended in Madrid.


And this serene picture....

Ok, for real this time...

Daniel Merriweather - Change

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Guess Who's Back? (and has been for a week)

Before I move on to the rest of the Spain trip, just a bit more about Barcelona after seeing Carrie's pictures. First, one more thing about La Sagrada Familia. This picture is of the stairwell (with no railing) that wound from top to bottom. I was dizzy by the time we got down. Somehow I don't think this was built to code....

Also, for any food lovers out there, we went to a phenomenal restaurant in Barcelona called Cinc Sentis, where we were notified and showed that it was truffle season.

Yes, that is a massive white truffle that they shaved onto our dish and it was glorious. Last part about Barcelona. Carrie took a video of a choir singing outside one of the many old churches when we first got into town. The only thing goofier than hearing a song from Grease in a foreign country is hearing it sung with an accent.

From Barcelona, we rented a car and headed towards San Sebastian. We tried to take the backroads whenever possible and were handsomly rewarded for this.

We ran into some pretty difficult weather in the mountains on the way from Barcelona to San Sebastian. Had some icy sleety snowy wintry mix type stuff and I was getting nervous. I told our car that if it got us to San Sebastian safely, we would name it. Carrie decided that it was a he. We made it to San Sebastian. Meet Octavio.

We decided to go on a morning run/hike by the sea in San Sebastian the next day. Judging by this picture, it looks like we ran super early at sunrise. We did run at sunrise except it was like 9:30 am. That was a very strange thing about Spain. The sun rose really late. No wonder they don't start their day before 10.

Another great thing about San Sebastian/Spain in general. The ham hocks in the bar. As you could imagine, I really wanted to come home and roll up to customs with one of these things over my shoulder, but I thought better of it.

After San Sebastian, we meandered our way down to the Rioja region. It was on this drive that I executed the elusive quadruple pass where I took down four cars on a two-lane road. Dare I say "Legendary." I'll go into a bit more detail on the wine in the fourth and final post of this trip but below are some pictures of the Castle of Davalillo, which is an abandoned 12th century castle sitting on a hilltop. The cool thing about this place is that there's no guide. There's nothing written. It's accessed via a dirt road, you just walk right up and see no one. The castle from afar....

The castle up close.....

The view....

The wineries were amazing. The architecture was stunning. Below is Ysios, which was designed by Frank Gehry.

And this wasn't the only place. Here is Marques de Riscal. There were so many of these that were just spectacular feats in architecture. The only thing I couldn't figure out was how? A lot of these bodegas are otherwise small and don't produce a ton of wine. There were also some that don't do tours, taste their wines, or even have the name of the bodegas displayed anywhere. How can they possibly afford to build something like that, and moreso, why do it if you're not going to show it off to anyone or capitalize? Reason #272 why Spain is bankrupt. It made no sense, but it was great to see.

Song of the Day:

Passion Pit - Kingdom Come

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Guess Who's Back? Part II - Barcelona

So, after two plus days in Paris, we hopped a plane to Barcelona. Why only two days in Paris you say? Well, we had tickets to see Muse play in the Palau San Jordi, which necessitated going a day earlier than we originally intended. How could we pass up that opportunity? BUT, the Muse concert got moved to a different date because somehow Barcelona had forgotten that they had to host the Davis Cup in the same venue until two weeks before the concert. #56 on the Things That Would Never Happen In America list right after "closing businesses for three hours in the middle of the day." I at least got a refund and we had an extra night in Barcelona, which turned out to be great.

Before anything else, I need to address what is in my opinion the most impressive man made structure that is in existence - La Sagrada Familia. I'll put a bunch of pictures up on facebook about this (soon I promise) but here are a couple. This building has been under construction for over 100 years now and is expected to be completed in 2030. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi and if you ever make it to Barcelona, you MUST go here and learn about this guy. What a visionary. It's 100% safe to say that nothing will ever be built like this again.

Later that same day (it was a long day), we went across town to the the Parc Guell. This beautiful park sits on a huge hill overlooking the city, was designed by Gaudi and contains his former home, which they try to charge you 5 euros to enter. We obviously skipped that. This lizard guy is pretty famous and was his creation as well. Carrie and I snuck in to get a picture in between the hordes of AWC's found here.

The gothic quarter in Barcelona is fantastic. Probably one of the more fun areas to walk around/hang out/eat/drink/shop you'll find. Our hotel was here, which was nice so we got to do all of the above. Since we couldn't eat dinner until at least 10:00 pm lest we give ourselves away as rookie American tourists, we had to knock out a couple drinks in the room while getting ready followed by tapas and some more drinks. We came across this place but didn't go in. A cocktail orgasm just sounded a little bit intimidating, or more likely super fruity and sugary and disgusting.

One of the most fun things that happened while we were in Barcelona was Barcelona playing against Real Madrid on Saturday night. For anyone who doesn't immediately get it, this was a super huge deal. Very much like if it were Red Sox-Yankees in the playoffs. The bars were all packed. This is a local establishment shortly after kickoff. Notice all the heads turned in the same direction. There was no socializing, there was no serving of food or drink, there was just pure focus on the game. This doesn't happen for any sport in America.

When something good happened, you heard cheering all over the streets and by something good, I don't even mean a goal. When a goal finally did happen though, people went bananas. Cars on the street were honking everywhere, the town just erupted. A really cool thing to be a part of. It was like when the Sox won the world series after an 88 year drought in 2004, except this was a single goal in a regular season soccer game. Amazing. As important as this game was to these people, hardly any bars had the game on - I'd say about 1 out of 10. Yet, every one who did was overflowing with people out the door. Those who didn't were empty. This became reason #13 why Spain doesn't make money and has 30% unemployment. It just didn't make any sense. We eventually made our way to an excellent old-school tapas bar we read about in a guide that is a little off the beaten path and we were able to eventually get a sight line to a tv inside the bar from the outside for the last 15 minutes of the game.

Barcelona ended up winning the game by that 1-0 score, which caused another huge eruption akin to if Jesus had just returned to Earth. I caught this video of the celebration after the game had been over for about 20 minutes and we were finally able to get inside. It got cut off at the very end unfortunately, but the last Barca (with a soft c like "facade," but we don't have that little squiggly c key on our computers in America) goes something like BaaaaaaarccAAAA! This is a compete version of the song including the claps (my favorite part aside from BaaaaarcAAA), which I have determined rivals even my love for the Buckeye Battle Cry. I love it because it's basically like a national anthem, except one that's way better than ours and it's for a sports team. It could also be a song played during a parade celebrating a Stalin-ist Russia victory over some poor sap pining for capitalism in Eastern Europe, which would be appropriate since the Catalan people are notorious socialists. Final verdict - I absolutely adored Barcelona and was ambivalent to Madrid even before going there because I was a Barcelona fan and you surely can't like both teams! Barca, Barca, BaaaaaarcAA!!!!!

Song of the Day:

Mocedades - Eres tu

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guess Who's Back?

Here I am, back from my European vacation. There's so much to tell through words, pictures, and even videos so over the course of the next week, I'll be be describing each phase of our trip, starting with Phase I - Paris, France. The most difficult part for me about going to France was toning down all the making fun of French people I had been doing leading up to the trip. For example, I had done a lot of "haw, haw, haw"-ing, a lot of extra vowel pronunciation, and general trailing off the ends of words into a sort of slow motion vomit sound. For example, the Louvre was more like the "Looooooouuuuaaaa" in Sean-speak prior to the trip. I won't lie, some of the jabs continued in private and under my breath with Carrie while we were there but I did my best to respect the French to the extent they deserve it (haw haw haw!!!!).

One thing I realized as soon as I got on the Metro from the airport was that graffiti makes as much sense to me in France as it does when I see it in America, which is none at all. One thing I really liked about France, or at least Paris, is the ambulance sirens. They sound kind of like the sirens from an old Madden video game, like when the ambulance used to drive out on the field and run everybody over. Real old school and I like it. Much less loud and obnoxious than our American sirens. One crazy thing about those goofy French though is that, while the Japanese commit sepuku when they are shamed, it appears that the French go with the more romantic method of poison injection. They even have a poison store!

Ok fine, so I made that up. It's actually a fish market. Paris was a pretty sweet time but it's definitely expensive. It helped to have Carrie to communicate, though they pretty much all speak English in some capacity. The most disappointing part of Paris was that we could not find a crepe place to save our lives if you can believe that. We walked everywhere and I guess we saw them but never when it was time to eat. This proved to be a running theme as we traveled elsewhere too. Paris is a beautiful city to walk and we sure did a lot of that. We were even treated to a Thanksgiving dinner right by the Eiffel Tower, which was fantastic. Before that though, we paid a visit to the military museum where Napoleon is buried and I immediately gravitated towards the weaponry like the red-blooded male I am. I'll skip this though because there are way better pictures to be had from France, like this one:

That's on the Metro. I can't read French but the message I took from this was that putting your hands in the doors to keep them from shutting will make you really sad. It doesn't appear to hurt though. After Thanksgiving, we took a short jaunt over to the Eiffel Tower, and I must say that if you go, dusk is a great time to do it. It's great when the lights come on.

They also had a cool light show, which caught some of the light rain that was coming down in the light. I took a video found here. Eiffel Tower - not a disappointment, but ironically, on this small, enclosed space, we got more lost than we were at any point during the trip (which included a lot of driving), which I decided to document with this brief video. Now is a good time to mention that all future videos will be on youtube as it's much easier to upload that way. Also, we didn't walk over there, but did you know that close to the Eiffel Tower, there's another statue of liberty, pretty much exactly like ours? I did know actually because I went to Harvard so am naturally blessed with such knowledge as a result of rubbing my diploma every day before bed, but still I think it's a cool fact.

A couple other typical sights from Paris, you can find the rest on facebook soon.....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

AWC's and Superdawg

Last weekend, on what was probably the last really nice day of the year, I took my bike up to a bike trail called the North Branch Trail, which effectively begins at the northwestern boundary of Chicago and extends northward up into the suburbs. Round trip it was about a 30 mile ride. It was a beautiful day and it felt good. I made a brief stop on the way back because I randomly saw a Japanese guy creeping into the forest with a camera. As it turns out, he was taking pictures of a herd of deer. Note: I had to check to see whether to say "pack" or "herd" or something else when referring to deer there. Here's a super fun list I found that breaks down all the different group names of various animals. My favorite? A "richness of martens" because I'll be damned if this isn't the cutest little animal I've never heard of. Also, did you know that 12 cows make a flink? Ok, way off topic here. Back to the deer.

In a trademark "This is why stereotypes exist" moment, as he moved closer and closer to the deer for better and closer shots, AWC (Asian With Camera) recklessly scared them off one by one until they all bolted. I quickly pulled out my camera and captured a couple shots before they were gone. The first one is like Where's Waldo but there's actually two Waldos (deer) in this picture.

After the bike ride, I was absolutely famished. Not sure why this happens after biking and not running, but after I bike, I feel like I haven't eaten for days. So, being that the famous Superdawg from Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (and other shows) was right around the corner from the trailhead, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

The verdict? I'm not sure what all the fuss was about, other than the awesome male and female hot dogs on the roof of the building. I thought about this and I think the reason is it's a hot dog. Hot dogs aren't like burgers, sushi, cookies, or cupcakes. You can't ever really say "wow, this hot dog is the greatest hot dog I've ever had." It's just a hot dog and hot dogs just aren't that special, even when they're really good ones. The only thing that can make a hot dog really awesome in my opinion is chili, but that means we're talking about the quality of the chili and not the hot dog. The hot dog is merely a vessel used to consume the chili in a more manly, sloppy fashion. My disappointment was compounded by the fries, which were not even that great. While I'm glad I finally tried Superdawg, Five Guys would have been much more satisfying after a punishing bike ride. And so it is, my Hot Dog Hypothesis.

Song of the Day:
Florence & the Machine - Rabbit Heart

Sunday, November 15, 2009

And now....

The starting lineup for your Chicago Bulls!!!! Yes, I went to my very first Chicago Bulls game and let me tell you, the intro (which we only heard while walking in) was the most exciting moment of the whole game. Of all professional sporting events I've ever been to, going to an NBA game in November has to be the most underwhelming aside from going to a Cubs in late September. But in that case, at Wrigley Field, at least you have a bunch of bars nearby whereas the United Center just has gang-related violence nearby.

I think what makes the NBA game experience so uninspiring is that the play is so uninspired that they have to throw in all sorts of gimmicks to keep people interested. This speaks to two things: 1) People are morons and need flashy lights and circus acts to be amused and 2) Basketball is boring if LeBron James isn't involved, especially during football season. Throughout the course of the night, we saw endless meaningless giveaways (i.e. buy one cup of coffee at dunkin donuts get the second half off.....at participating locations, 10 cents off a big mac, $5 off tune-up at jiffy lube with purchase of 4 tune-ups, etc). Many other gimmicky things happened during time-outs, quarters, and halftime to keep people from leaving such as bad female dancers (the Luv-a-Bulls), bad fat male dancers (the Matadors), a mischievous looking squirrely bulls mascot, and about six massive inflated friendly bulls mascots along with a massive friendly bull blimp mascot flying around - all of which are in direct conflict with the image of the bull on the logo that has blood on its horns. Why are all these bulls so damn friendly? This is so watered down. What happened to these days when Bill Laimbeer and Isaiah Thomas used to beat up Michael Jordan like he was robbing their houses? I guarantee you there were no friendly inflatable bulls running up and down the arena coddling kids then. That was basketball.

Unfortunately, that's not the NBA we see today. The following is really the case for every sport, but I think the NBA is the most obvious case and the one that spells the most imminent doom for the league. We live in the world of bad cheerleader/dancers, corporate seats, $8 beers, $30 parking, and this monstrosity of a halftime show where some guy who was dressed somewhere between a matador and a chippendales dancer (not that I know what they look like with clothes on, I mean I don't know at all, I mean...Dwayne Zakamore Mr. October 1995, oh god....) did a high wire act, except one that was only about 6 feet off the ground. Just to clarify, that last parenthetical was a reference to BASEketball, the greatest sports movie of our time.

The most egregious offense of all in this spectacle was showing up to the United Center to find a new addition, two actually. On one side of the arena, this:

On the other side of the arena, this:

Ironically, this is the first year for this most eye-rolling gimmick, and it comes at a time when this arena and others are anything but a madhouse. The people who really care stay home because they can't afford to come, or they sit way up in the rafters while assholes like me who are indifferent to the bulls sit in corporate seats down low, or worse yet (and more typically), the seats sit empty. Thus, home court advantage is eliminated, rivalries are all but eliminated, and the corporations transfer their own wealth to the overpaid athletes who are indifferent to the weak crowd because they know they just made $300,000 for this 3 hour game. One day I will tell my son about how John Stockton used to average double digit assists per game, passing to Karl Malone with telepathic precision, how Michael Jordan used his deep-seeded hatred for all humanity to dominate the universe, how Larry Bird just wanted it more than the other guy, how much the Celtics hated the Lakers and how much everybody hated the Pistons, but sadly future generations will never know the NBA my generation grew up with. In memoriam, here's a couple great youtube montages from the days of yore...this is when people cared, honor was defended, and basketball was more like football. If you like sports, you know you miss those days.

Song of the Day:

Cold War Kids - Audience

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Fall!

Well it took driving 375 miles to Columbus but I finally got the perfect fall weekend that I've been missing.

On Friday, Carrie and I went golfing then went for a run in a local park (it was 75 degrees!). We went on swings and did all kinds of fun stuff but you can find that on facebook. More importantly, the jungle gym is ruining young kids' minds. No wonder teen pregnancy is on the rise...or something.

Ok, so maybe that's just an adult who has the maturity of an adolescent boy amusing himself. But still, they could have given it some features. Though it's no longer accurate, I did like the fact that Pluto was still on this little educational tool. Poor Pluto. This band Jimmy and the Keyz created a nice tribute to the fallen planet (now planetoid - thanks IAU bastards). There are also a number of "Save Pluto" websites out there but this one is far and away my favorite due to the ridiculous simplicity. Sure looks like a planet to me.

On Saturday (Halloween), we went to see Ohio State put a thumping on New Mexico State. While the game was a laugher, halftime was super entertaining. The Best Damn Band in the Land (TBDBITL) put on a great show in honor of Halloween. Much like something you'd see at an Ivy League game, they put on a drama in addition to the music. However, there were a few major differences (this is where I finally have to be a super exclusive Ivy League kid - those who haven't been to an Ivy game wouldn't understand).

1) The band members knew how to play instruments so you could tell what song was playing.
2a) The jokes were funny.
2b) The band didn't try to outsmart the crowd.
3) Band members could walk and play instruments at the same time.
4) The formations actually created what shape they were intended to create.
5) Crowd reaction was laughter and applause versus puzzlement and embarrassment.

Ghostbusting "Michi-gouls"

Entombing the Michi-Gouls

For the most part, Ohio State fans are obnoxiously anti-Michigan 365 days a year. The stories abound and I'm not going to even go into them - some are awesome, some are funny, some are shameful and embarrassing. As shown above, Michigan does not need to be involved in the situation at all in order to be booed or chastised. The only thing I can compare it to is Red Sox / Yankees where a "Yankees Suck" chant could break out anywhere from Rhode Island to Maine at any given time year-round for no particular reason other than a deep-seeded hatred for the other team.

Lastly, on Saturday night, we saw a lot of great costumes while out on the town with friend Jacquie and her fiancee Jeffrey. One of the most convincing was this girl who dressed like in-his-prime Michael Jackson and was singing and dancing down the street in character as we left the bar.

Other highlights: my mom made homemade pumpkin cheesecake, and it was amazing. I feel like only moms can make something that they've never made before and have it be phenomenal. Now that I've been away for a number of years, I definitely have a greater appreciation for my hometown than I did growing up. The air is a little fresher, the people a little nicer, and general satisfaction with life a bit higher (except when Ohio State loses).

Song of the Day:

The Low Anthem - To Ohio

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Obama Handball

There's two words you won't ever see side-by-side again nor two pictures that are similarly juxtaposed. First, I find it super amazing that Barack finds time to be president AND run a hair salon next to a building my company owns in Chicago. How many people do you know who have a Nobel Peace Prize that can also install a weave?

For those who don't know, Graham Beatty is on the USA handball team (that's him in the beard in the picture above). Yes, this means he could potentially be in the Olympics. That is, if Team USA weren't one of the worst handball teams in the world. In other words, if you go to wikipedia, you'll note that we weren't even in the 2009 world championships. That's because, primarily, the most successful players and teams are from the eastern bloc (when you were formally part of communist Russia, block is bloc I think?). But let's backtrack. How many people do you know who are on the national team for anything, especially after only playing the sport for a year? So mad props to my boy Graham.

Now, it's hard to see in the picture above but below the photo, it says "More then just a game." This was clearly written by aforementioned eastern bloc European who speak English well, but not that well. Furthermore, I've never really understood what it means when people say that. If it's more than just a game, what is it? If it's more than a game, more than pride or money has to be at stake. So, knowing this, is handball like the Aztec ball game? From what I remember, in that game, the winners got sacrificed. What a terrible reward. Score the game winning goal, and you get your still beating heart ripped out. Glad I wasn't an Aztec. I'll have to ask Graham about how this works in handball. Below is a good photo of the backup goalie for one of the teams. This guy is about 45, has a super creepy moustache and comb-over and is clearly not in the best shape. Maybe, instead of "More then a game" the slogan should be "Handball - child molesters welcome." This guy was a legend as were some of the other participants. Bottom line: I officially love handball and plan to watch a lot more of it.

Song of the Day:

Grizzly Bear ft. Michael McDonald - While You Wait For the Others

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I made beer!!!

As a product of a drunken conversation during a fantastic beer tasting hosted at my apartment in August, John Baker, homebrewer extraordinaire and me, decent chef who's always up for an overambitious task, decided to create our own homebrew. John has all the equipment so we spent a day buying ingredients and making it happen. My idea was to come up with a chocolatey beer that would also have a big spice kick since spicey chocolate is very popular these days. This idea was all the more intriguing because I don't think there is any precedent for doing this. This was also a reason to be nervous because let me tell you, making beer is not easy. So, if this beer turned out like crap because I wanted to infuse it with roasted cacao nibs, vanilla bean, and chiles, then we would not only be out 75 bucks, but would have also wasted a lot of time.

Here's an abbreviated version of how it goes down:

1. Pour the malt mix into hot water. This becomes the "mash."

2. Stir the mash.
3. Let the mash sit covered for a while.

4. Take the liquid from the mash and siphon it into a huge pot (or in this case hollowed out keg). Boil it for a while.

5. Create the super secret chile mixture. I took three different kinds of chiles and toasted them, then crushed the toasted chiles into a powder. I roasted cacao beans and crushed them up into a fine mixture as well.

6. During the last 15 minutes of the boil, add some hops but be sure to smell their hoppy wonderfulness before you dump them in (see below). The chile/chocolate mixture from step 5 goes in at this time too.

7. Once the liquid has cooled from the boil, then you pour the yeast in. As John describes it, the yeast are having a massive party and they're pooping out alcohol and CO2. This goes on for a couple weeks and is known as "primary fermentation." During this time, we added some vanilla bean and some whole chiles.

8. Bottle that shit. Leave it sit for a couple more weeks. Yes, at this point, it has been a month since that first day of inspired beer creation.

9. After much anticipation, drink and hopefully enjoy.

In our case, we had a pretty big scare. John called me saying that we "had to talk about the beer." Uh oh. We talk and John explains that the night before, he tried the beer for the first time, then got violently ill about two hours later, which lasted through the night. After a moment of panic, I calmed myself and did some research. My research determined that there is no way one can get sick from a few sips of spoiled beer. In addition, you would know if it was bad immediately by the taste.

I decided to roll the dice and try this beer for myself. I can now report, after consuming four of these precious beverages, that I did not get ill in any way. In fact, the beer is delicious. The aroma of chocolate and spices is fantastic and the taste backs it up. It's got big cocoa and coffee flavors and hints of caramely sweetness with a spicy kick at the end. As it turns out, some bad chicken caesar salad was the culprit of John's malady. So, a deep sigh of relief because all that work going for naught would have been devastating.

Song of the Day:

Stereophonics (covering Rolling Stones) - Gimme Shelter

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Exorcism of Bad Music

A while ago, I wrote a blog talking about a lot of the music I was listening to at the time. I will probably do the same thing again soon. However, before I tackle that, I need to clear the air and today's a good day to do it because I'm in a foul mood, though I'm not sure why. I hate music today. I think the record industry is a joke and I think we, as humans, are a joke because we buy this junky music they force-feed us. They should make foie-gras out of us because we're stuffed so full of it. This is epitomized by a radio station here in Chicago that I am unfortunately subjected to every single day, all day, because of our admin at work, who sits about 10 feet away and has the radio on and tuned into this station non-stop. I am forced to desperately try to avoid hearing this putrid music by wearing headphones, but alas, I can't always wear headphones. Thus, I can't help but hear this garbage. Since I've been hearing the same songs on this God forsaken station over and over every hour of every day for the last six months, I thought I would put together a "worst-of" list, which will hopefully have a purging effect on my brain, allowing me to rid myself of the heavy burden this music places on my soul.

This may be hard to understand as I don't really know the names of any of these songs, but I figured I'd name them by their most repeated and annoying lines. I wanted to put them in order of hatred but it's kind of like my friend KC once said, "It's like asking a kid, what do you like least - long division or state capitals?" It's hard to choose so I'll just list them all out:

All American Rejects - Hope it gives you hell, hope it gives yooooouuu hell (officially the worst song ever made)

Kings of Leon - Use Somebody

Lady Gaga - Poker Face

Nickelback - their latest single, and every other song they've ever made

Black Eyed Peas - Tonight's gonna be a good night

Pink - Something about not feeling good sober and party being over

Unknown - Please don't stop the music....music

The Fray - Everyone knows I'm in over my head, over my head

Unknown - Sometimes goodbye is a second chaaance...

The Fray? - You found me, you found meeeeee....

Taylor Swift - Why can't you seeeeeeeee, you belong with meeeeeeee

Unknown - And the suuuuun will shine for yoooouuuuuu......whine whine whine

Unknown - I'm livin without you babyyyy, but you're still with me all the time

I want you to knooooowwwww.....something something something.....I'm already gone

You can allllways turn the car around......

....brella brella brellla ay ay ay ay brella ay brellla brellla ay ay ay ay ay brella....ay...ay....AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So anyways, that's what sucks in 2009. I guess a lot of people probably said the same thing about Christopher Cross in 1980 when he did "Sailing" but at least he's wearing an Earl Campbell jersey, playing a double necked guitar, and looking like he just did a two minute kegstand. I don't hate you Christopher Cross.

Song of the Day:

Anything but any of the above.....please

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tim Hardaway

So lots to cover here. First off, when starting to do this post, I noticed that I inadvertantly spelled Elisabeth's name wrong for the millionth time on the last post. I'm still not used to the British spelling after a lifetime of being conditioned on "Elizabeth" but I love it. I wish I were British so I could have the accent, eat prawns and put my bills in the "post" instead of the mail. Anyways, I'm sorry. This has been corrected.

So my mom came to visit Chicago this weekend and we decided to take a trip to the museum at the Art Institute to show her how cultured I can pretend to be when she visits. Normally, I don't read the descriptions of the artists and artwork but this time I did because the ladies were and I had to wait on them anyways. The reason why I don't read these descriptions is because they just say nonsense like this:

"...challenging the reductive formalism of minimalism"

This seems like it would have been part of a good rebuttal to a poor paper grade in college. As in, I don't really know what it means but I think it sounds good, which is the name of the game when you want to get a good paper grade at Harvard. Something like:

TF: "This paper lacks direction, organization, and support"
Me: "Precisely. That's intentional. My objective was to challenge the reductive formalism of minimalism by writing a paper that may, on the surface, imply a haphazard effort at a thesis with an apparent lack of organization and support. However, this was merely a satirical commentary on the fallacy of the American education system."

Another good art museum quote:

"...takes pleasure in perversion and embraces bad taste."

My question is, if something is in bad taste, then why is it in the museum? Does this mean we are to appreciate bad taste? If so, wouldn't that make it good taste? When does something become so bad that it's good? Is there an inflection point somewhere near airport food, Sandra Bullock movies, or death metal? My head hurts. Moving on...

On Saturday, after watching Terrelle Pryor continue to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad quarterback, we went out to dinner at May Street Cafe. In addition to the phenomenal Puerto Rican food, they had a unisex bathroom with what looked to me like an observation or waiting stool right beside the toilet.

Talk about uncomfortable. Can you imagine doing your business with a critic sitting on the stool judging the whole time? I sure can't. Now apparently this is a frequent appearance in a women's bathroom and according to the ladies, it is used for "putting down one's purse/jacket/whatever." It's a decent alibi but this is clearly a cover up. If no one was sitting there, why would there be a seat cushion on the stool? Huh? A trip to the art museum and juvenile toilet humor in the same blog. That just happened.

Highlight of the weekend: finding this 1991 Fleer Tim Hardaway card in a flower bed on Division Street. At first I was so thrilled and grabbed it to take with me just because of the novelty of finding a 1991 basketball card. However, I put Tim back in his flower bed because I can only imagine how happy this made any number of people who walked by it that day.

For those who don't know Tim Hardaway, he's famous partly for having a sweet crossover dribble and a long NBA career, but mostly he's famous for this. I thought I'd title this post "Tim Hardaway" because I figure how often does Tim Hardaway get to be the title of a blog or any conversation whatsoever now? I remember when this happened but listening again, I actually laughed even though it's not funny because it's just so appalling and it's unimaginable that anyone would say that out loud on national radio. Anyways, time to stop before any sort of serious discussion starts on homosexuality....not that there's anything wrong with that.

Song of the Day:

Zero 7 - Mr. McGee