Archive for February, 2013

This is why college teams should not use uniforms to attract recruits

Posted in college basketball with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2013 by cueball

As a college football and basketball fan, I often hear someone say how all these uniform changes are great because they attract recruits because they are cool.  First, most of the uniforms aren’t cool.  Cool is classic and never really changes.  Blue jeans will always be cool.  Second, changing your uniforms in order to change the minds of 18 year old American males is a slippery slope that leads to this:


Examining A Sometimes Over-examined Life

Posted in life with tags , , on February 28, 2013 by cueball

Not retreating is hard.  Stopping yourself from falling back into the safety of old habits is one of the things you have to work at everyday if you want to move your life forward.  Sometimes life makes it easy for you to do that.  You work a schedule every day that is eerily similar to the same schedule you worked on the same day a year ago.  In one way that pattern makes it easy to live your life, but in another way it makes it easy for your life to anesthetize you.

The best coaches (and leaders) figure out a way to break these patterns to keep their players (or workers) fresh and interested.  They do things to make practices stimulating and keep their charges a little uncomfortable.  They know when to change up the daily monotony and shift roles and assignments.  Doing so not only keeps them from being bored, it also makes them constantly pay attention and make sure they know what is going on and what they need to do to get better.

Everyone likes to feel comfortable.  That is the state we all most covet in our lives.  It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, you always seek comfort.  It is in those days when everything seems the most fucked up and ridiculous that you most want to fall into the thing that makes you the most comfortable just so your mind can take a break.  You just want to find that place where it all goes away for at least a few minutes and you can just be a happy little lump somewhere.

The thing you can’t tell people, the thing they must learn on their own, is that those moments when you want it all to go away the most might be the moments when you need to step out of that comfort zone the most.  It is those times when you define yourself.

Everyday can be a struggle to not just go through the motions and do the same thing you did the day before which is the same thing you did a month before which is the same thing you did a year before.  It is easy.  It is safe.  It is comfortable.  Even when you know it is the wrong way to act, you do it anyway, because sometimes you don’t want to think.  You just want that comfort and that safety.

How do you keep that from happening daily?  I don’t know.  Be conscious maybe.  Being conscious most importantly means being conscious that you are making a decision.  Then you ensure that you understand why you are making that decision.  It seems like such a simple act, thinking about what you are doing.  However, again, sometimes we desire the comfort of not thinking and simply doing what makes us feel the best.

These thoughts creep in when you know you are the end of something.  You don’t know when it will end, how it will, and you certainly don’t know what is next, but you know the end is a lot closer than the beginning.  You really start thinking about how are you going to get out, what legacy are you going to leave, and most importantly what do I want next.

Sometimes I think and unexamined life is a happier life.  Then I think, is it a life worth living.

Happily Ever After

Posted in Daily Prompt with tags , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by cueball

Happily ever after doesn’t exist to me.  Not that happiness doesn’t exist, but the conception of happily ever after doesn’t exist.  Happiness is a fleeting emotional spike.  It is like a drug high that you must continue to chase until it eventually kills you.  It is impossible to stay in a constant state of happy without using lots of substances or perpetually fooling yourself or both.

Happiness is not something I consistently strive to achieve.  Again, it isn’t that I don’t think happiness exists.  It does exist.  I prefer contentment.  That is the idea that you are in the place, emotionally, psychologically, and physically you should be.  Your life is what you want it to be.  You will have moments of happiness, but you will also have moments of trial and pain.  However, you know that you will make it to the other side because you are where you are supposed to be.

My favorite movies and literature almost never end with happily ever after.  The characters always end up in a different, sometimes better place than where they started, but rarely do they end up happy.  The lucky ones end up content that they have done right and comfortable with where they have landed.  These characters either already know or spend the bulk of the movie, book, or short story learning who they are.  Once that is achieved whatever happens helps them turn out all right.

I love romantic comedies and my favorite is Roman Holiday.  My second favorite is probably When Harry Met Sally.  We all want the When Harry Met Sally ending, but most of the time we get the Roman Holiday ending.  Harry and Sally are soulmates destined to be together.  Everything that happens points to the inevitable end.  Joe and Ann are also soulmates and have a wonderful time and a wonderful moment of happiness together as Joe teaches her how to be a human and not just a princess, but it has to end and they both know it and they both accept it.  It isn’t without pain, but it is necessary for their lives to continue and they will both look back at it with fondness.  (The best time of the year for these movies is Christmas.  The Hallmark Channel and Lifetime run them constantly starting Thanksgiving week.)

Whenever someone asks me if I’m happy, I usually lie so as not to have the debate.  I won’t here.  Am I happy?  No, but I’m not trying to be.  I’m just trying to find my place in the world and be content with who I am.  Don’t get me wrong, I know myself and I like myself.  I just don’t constantly strive for momentary emotional satisfaction because there is so much more.

That sounds bad.  I’m not Eeyore.  If you want to see me happy, talk to me after a big Tar Heel basketball win or the moments after the USA/Algeria World Cup match in 2010 or find me when I’m two hours into listening to my favorite albums.  Those are just moments in a much longer life.  The emotion I think of when hear happiness is fleeting, and while it is worth finding it is not something I chase or hope for constantly.

So, no, I don’t believe in happily ever after.  I believe in finding your place and finding your contentment and letting the moments of happy find you.

Beer Tasting Notes: Bell’s Porter

Posted in beer with tags , , , on February 25, 2013 by cueball

Bell’s Porter Tasting Notes

Bell’s Porter, Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI

Robust Porter

5.6% ABV

Purchased at Dragonfly Wine Market, uptown Shelby, NC

What It Looks Like

It has deep brown almost black look with garnet highlights and a light tan head.  Head retention wasn’t great, but it was probably more the glass wasn’t completely clean.   Which is the fault of the person washing the dishes.  I’ll give my self thirty lashes.

What It Smells Like

A good roasty coffee and chocolate aroma comes through immediately.  There are hints of hops in the background, just enough to let you know they are there, but they do not get in the way.

What It Feels Like

It isn’t heavy or chewy on the mouth.  A medium body experience.  Not much carbonation and not a lot of alcohol taste/warmth.  A very easy drinking dark beer.

What It Tastes Like

The aroma is indicative of the taste.  You get a lot of the roasted coffee and medium sweetness of dark chocolate.  There isn’t a lot of hop presence, just enough to highlight the coffee and chocolate tastes.

Do I Like It

This a good by the numbers robust porter.  It hits all the notes correctly.  It would be a great everyday drinker if you are a lover of the dark arts of brewing, and I am.  It isn’t too heavy and avoids the  Americanization of the style of adding too many hops and too much malt to make it bigger and tastier.  The easy drinking nature of this makes it a good beer after a long day at work or a night cap after a night out.  This is a last call at some dark bar with a bearded sad guy on a small stage playing his last song of pain and heartache for the night kind of beer.

Maybe it is.  Maybe it isn’t, but it sounded good.  Go enjoy one.

Why I Love Beer and Other Stuff

Posted in beer, Fiction with tags , , , , , , on February 25, 2013 by cueball

Saturday afternoon I drank a Michelob Ultra.  That is easily the lightest beer I’ve had since college.  I graduated in 1996.  Then, 24 hours later, I drank a Bell’s Porter.  The difference between those two beers is the reason I love beer.

They are essentially the same thing.  They are both water, malt, hops, and yeast.  They were both boiled and fermented and bottled.  Yet, they could not be more different.  The Ultra is exactly what the label says it is: a light low-calorie beer, or as it is known in BJCP style guidelines a “Lite American Lager.”  It is filled with mostly water and little more alcohol then you would expect.  You can drink it ice cold because being mostly water warmth does not improve the taste.

The Bell’s Porter is also exactly what it says on the label:  Robust Porter.  It is made with dark malts and has a lot of alcohol. It needs to be drunk at a higher temperature (50-55 degrees) to bring out the roasty coffee and chocolate flavors of the malt and the fruity bitterness of the hops.

It is as if they are two entirely different substances when they are not.  They represent the range of possibilities that fascinate me about this simple substance.  In that way, beer is kind of like fiction.

There are only a few stories to be told and most of them have already been written a thousand times.  If the plot summary of one book sounds remarkably like the plot summary of ten books before it, it isn’t a coincidence.  The plot summaries are alike.  The devil, as always is in the details.

Every writer has the coming of age story they want to tell just like every brewer has the pale ale he wants to brew.  These are both part of the rite of passage/apprenticeship stage of these two careers.  Every writer spends his whole life writing the story of how he came to be and every brewer wants to brew you the beer he has been planning in his head since his first sip of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

What makes each of these products special are the individual ingredients and how the writer or brewer chooses to put them together.  Each brewer chooses this malt, that hop, these hop addition times and this yeast strain to get a different product then what any other brewer might bottle.  Each writer chooses this detail of home life, mixed with that detail of love lost, these details of loneliness and puts them together in this narrative style, to write a different story from any other writer with the same type of details.

You may love IPAs, but that one you tasted with rye malt made you wretch.  Or, you may hate red ales, but this brewer’s take on it makes you want to drink a whole keg yourself.  By the same token, you may love Romeo and Juliet type stories, but this one you’re reading is off-putting and annoying.  Or, you may hate science-fiction, but this writer has made you see past all the technology and weirdness to find the humanity of the characters.

In the end the quality of any beer, meal, short story, or song comes down to the talent and individuality of the person making it.  It is about the seeing, reading, or tasting something that could only come from this person at this point in time.  Each experience is new, exhilarating, and fleeting.  Making you want to find it again and again.

Stuff You May Need To Know About Craft Beer

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by cueball


Beer Styles

  • Indian Pale Ale (IPA) – Originally, a British Pale Ale with a lot of hops added so that the beer could last the long trip from Britain to India before the advent of refrigeration.  Now it is a hoppier version of a pale ale.  Currently, there are 3 sub-styles: British IPA, American IPA (hoppier), and the Imperial (or double) IPA (hoppier still).
  • Pale Ale/Brown Ale – The basic British tradition beer styles.  The difference between the two is the brown ale is darker (of course) and a little sweeter due to the different malts used.  As with most beer styles originating in Europe the American versions are more.  More hops, more malt, more alcohol.
  • Porter/Stout – Porters are strong, dark beers first brewed in Britain with little hop profile.  Stouts are a darker, even stronger tasting version.  Often described as chewy or meaty.
  • Pilsner – A lager.  Usually pale in color and rather light in taste.  The most popular beers style worldwide.  Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Heineken.  Often described by craft beer aficionados as “fizzy water.”
  • Lager versus Ale – This difference is due to the yeasts used to brew these styles.  The lager yeasts ferment longer, at colder temperatures, and provide a “cleaner” taste.  Ale yeasts ferment quicker, at warmer temperatures, and give off more flavors.

Style and Tasting Stuff That Can Make You Sound Kind of Smart

  • IBU – International Bitterness Units, the measurement of the hop bitterness in the beer.
  • ABV – Alcohol By Volume, how much alcohol does your beer contain.
  • SRM – Standard Reference Method, is a measurement of the color of the beer.  The higher the number the darker the beer.
  • Lacing – The bubbles left on the side of the glass from the head as you drink your beer.  A good beer in a good clean glass will leave a nice lace.

Pretentious Style and Tasting Stuff You Don’t Need To Know Yet But Might Hear If You Hang Around Any of Us Homebrewers Too Long

  • Diacetyl – A butterscotch flavor found in some beers.  If too prominent it is an off taste and signifies an unsuccessful beer.
  • DMS – Dimethyl Sulfide, definitely an off taste found in lagers that are fermented at too high a temperature.
  • Original Gravity – Original gravity.  Basically, the amount of sugars in the wort before fermentation.
  • Final Gravity – Final gravity. Basically, the amount of sugars found in the beer after fermentation.  Helps tell you how much alcohol is in the beer.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2013 by cueball

Some time soon, I will take a beer tour vacation.