One of my coworkers was feeling a little uncomfortable about wearing a hoodie in her office, but she’d caught a chill and it was the only thing she had on hand to get warm again. “Mark Zuckerberg wears a hoodie to work every day,” I pointed out. “Who?” she responded.
9:34 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: office work
It’s brewing day! And to make it extra-special, I’m going to live blog it, or as much of it as I can without interrupting the process, because when it comes down a choice between to satisfying you, my faithful reader (you are still out there, aren’t you?), or successfully brewing a batch of beer, you’re going to lose. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.
Step 1: Crush the grains, load them up in an old sock. It’s not literally one of my old socks. It’s a bag made out of cheese cloth that looks an awfully lot like a sock, especially after it gets re-used a couple times. Yech.
Step 2.: Dangle the sock over the edge of a 12-quart ceramic pot, fill the pot with two and a half gallons of water, light the cajun cooker, set the pot on it to boil. The grains are mostly for color. Steeping them for the fifteen or twenty minutes it takes to bring the pot to a boil is just long enough to get all the color out of them that I want.
Step 3: Nuke a brat in the microwave, because I’m STARVING!
Step 4: Open a beer. You can’t brew beer if you’re not drinking beer. It’s a law. A physical law, like gravity. You can’t break it. Don’t even try.
Step 5: Eat the brat and drink the beer. There. Now you’re in the PERFECT frame of mind to continue brewing. Continue.
Step 6: When water boils, remove grains, turn down heat, add malt extract. That’s right, I’m an extract brewer. Don’t like it, don’t have to drink my beer. More beer for me.
Step 7: Add wort chiller of my own invention. Yes. I invented the wort chiller. BOW DOWN BEFORE ME!
Step 8: Put 1/2 ounce hops in an old sock, drop sock in wort, boil for thirty minutes.
Step 9: Repeat step 8. DON’T ASK WHY! JUST DO IT!
Step 10: Add finishing hops during the last 10 minutes of the boil. Because you’re finished, that’s why. MAN, you ask a lot of questions.
Step 11: After boiling wort for one hour, remove from heat, chill to sixty-eight degrees F using wort chiller. If you don’t have a wort chiller, PANIC! Continue to panic for at least sixty minutes. The wort will cool down to sixty-eight on its own by then. Also, it’ll probably be useless. That’s what you get for panicking.
Step 12: Pour wort into big glass bottle, measure original gravity, plug the opening.
Step 13: Slap forehead with palm, unplug carboy, add yeast. You can skip this step if you remembered to do it just before “plug the opening” in step 12.
Step 14: Open a beer, drink while cleaning up mess. Drinking beer is optional this time, but you really want to by the time you get to this step. Trust me on this one.
I was not kidding when I said it was Brewing Day. Everybody was brewing. Wil Wheaton was brewing. If you weren’t, why not?
live brew |
11:42 am CDT
Category: beer, entertainment, food & drink, hobby, homebrewing, play
Behold! The rattiest t-shirt in our laundry basket!
“I thought I had some ratty t-shirts,” My Darling B noted as she was folding the laundry this morning, “but this one of yours has all of mine beat!”
I had a pretty good idea which one she was talking about, but I made her tell me anyway. “Is it the Bucky Badger shirt?” I asked her.
“Yes!” she answered, with no small amount of emphasis.
I don’t know how it merits the honor of being the rattiest t-shirt either of us possess. It’s a little stretched-out and faded, but it doesn’t have any holes in it yet and it’s not stained. It’s well-worn. One of my favorite shirts to wear while doing yard work. In fact, I think I’ll wear it while I’m mowing the lawn today.
10:17 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: clothing, yard work
I dreamed I could fly. A woman I worked with told me how she did it. I ran into her in the break room and, while I was nuking my lunch in the microwave, I asked her what she did last weekend. She answered, casually, Oh, I was flying.
I see, I answered her. Is that right?
Yes, she said, I’ve been doing it for years, but I’ve only recently learned how to fly high enough to do loops and dives. The secret, she said, was to wear a long, loose coat, take a long, running jump, and to square your shoulders just as your feet left the ground.
At least, that’s how it works for me, she cautioned. If you try it, you might have to do it just a little bit differently.
Well. Yes. Ah, lunch is ready! See you around!
I thought she was loony as a Canadian dollar, of course, but it just so happened that I had a long, loose overcoat in my closet, and it just so happened to be cold enough to wear it that weekend when I walked down the street to the corner store. Going the long way around the block on the way home, I turned down a lonely street and picked up the pace a little bit. Then, a couple of times, I skipped high enough for both feet to leave the ground, squaring my shoulders back as they did.
Nothing special happened. I didn’t get any more air than I would have if I’d skipped without thinking that maybe it was possible to fly because some crazy lady suggested that I could if I dressed for it. Of course, she also said I had to take a running jump, not walk a little faster and skip, so, just to prove to myself that she was crazy and I wasn’t, I ran. I stretched out my stride until I was running along at a pretty good clip and then, just before I got to the corner, I planted both feet, jumped into the air and squared my shoulders back, just as she said I should do.
I cleared the treetops by at least fifty feet.
Mine was not a graceful flight. I did not soar through the skies like Superman, one arm stretched out before me, with a look of purpose on my face. I’ve never been a graceful athlete in any case, but when my feet left the ground and I realized that they were going to keep leaving the ground, I panicked, because I had not planned my flight with any kind of foresight at all. There were several very tall trees in my path and I ended up windmilling my arms to thrash my way through the upper branches of the one immediately in front of me. That sent me tumbling through the air so that, as I came back down on a ballistic curve, I was flailing my arms and legs in every direction, trying to regain some sense of balance before I hit the ground. To my great amazement, I landed on my feet.
Straightening my coat, I looked around for anybody that might be staring at the guy who’d just flown a block and a half over the trees, scattering his groceries all over the street. Didn’t see anybody.
Okay. Well. Can’t just go back home and sit on the sofa with a book after that. Could’ve been a fluke. Or a psychotic episode.
Trying a little harder to fly higher this time, I succeeded in shooting almost straight up several hundred feet, flipping end over end as I reached the peak of my flight, and finding myself diving headfirst at the ground. Yikes.
At this point you’re probably thinking: Pffft! You’re not flying! Sounds to me like you’re just jumping real high. And I would’ve had to give you that. However, as I plummeted to the ground, looking directly at the square of pavement I really didn’t want to smash into, I turned my face up toward the sky, focused on the tops of some distant clouds, squared my shoulders again and zoomed back up. And this time I managed to remember to spread my arms, so I even looked like I was flying.
Landing turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Several times I ended up tumbling ass over teakettle when my feet snagged in the grass, but with a little practice I found just the right angle to come down and hit the ground running. The city park turned out to be a much better place to land than in the street, although I did interrupt a Frisbee game once. After offering my apologies I flew away and they carried on, not at all surprised that a flying man dropped right into the middle of their game.
Before I quit for the day I took an especially long running jump and flew as high as I could. I got so high that the cold air froze my breath to the ends of my eyelashes and, at that point, I thought it safest to come back down, but when I looked down I was so high I couldn’t tell where my neighborhood was. I couldn’t even tell where my continent was. It was getting awfully cold, though, so I swooped back down toward the first piece of ground I saw, closer and closer until I spotted what looked like Lake Monona and made a beeline for it.
It wasn’t Lake Monona, as it turned out. It was a frozen lake somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. Finland, I think, because I flew over what looked like Great Britain as I crossed lots and lots of water, probably the Atlantic Ocean, as I tried to find my way back home. I had to stop several times to ask somebody where I was, and two or three times they didn’t answer in a language I knew. When I finally ended up in New York I very carefully pointed myself west and jumped only high enough to eyeball the Great Lakes. After that, it was fairly easy to find my way, but up to that point I sure could have used an iPhone and Google Earth.
I ran into my coworker in the break room again the next day. How are you today? she asked. Nice day.
Nice day to go flying, I answered.
Oh, have you been flying? she asked. I had to stay in and wash clothes.
6:48 am CDT
Category: story time
| Tags: dreams
I drove in to work today instead of riding my bike. The weather forecast called for high winds this afternoon and evening, and I hate biking against a headwind more than I hate biking through the rain, so I gave it a miss. Still left work at four-thirty, though.
This being Thursday, it’s customary for us to stop at our favorite pub, Alchemy, for dinner, not to mention hoist a beer or two. I don’t know how they manage to fit so much talent into such a little kitchen, but their food has never disappointed either of us, and we’ve eaten out in quite a lot of places in this crazy town. The beer’s never disappointed us, either, come to that.
So on the way to work, I suggested to B that, if it wasn’t pouring down rain when she left the office, she should just plan on meeting me at Alchemy. She was very agreeable to the idea, and it wasn’t raining after work, so I quit promptly at four-thirty and hoofed it on over, Alchemy being just five or six blocks from the office where I work.
The place was pretty quiet when I got there, not unusual as it was still early. Justin was at the bar and came right on over when I sat down to see what I wanted. There was an ESB on tap from Left Hand Brewing out of Longmont, CO, that sounded pretty good, and darned if it wasn’t just what I needed after a very long day of shuffling papers and answering phones.
I was almost halfway to the bottom of my glass by the time B showed up. I’d snagged our usual table by then, so she knew just where to find me. Not that it’s a very big place. Still, don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be.
The special tonight was NY strip sirloin marinated in bourbon, served on mashed potatoes and sour cream, with a side of radishes baked in butter. Doesn’t that make you drool like an idiot? Me, too. We goth ordered it, and we both loved it. To go with hers, B ordered an oatmeal stout and let me have a sip. It was so perfect with the steak that I ordered a glass myself, so we had to stay long enough for me to finish it off. Since we were staying anyway, I finished off our visit with a slice of double chocolate cake. What decadence.
8:28 pm CDT
Category: beer, commuting, entertainment, food & drink, Guy Night, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, work
| Tags: Alchemy
Know what’s really unusual about this photo? I took it completely by accident. I don’t even know where or when I snapped it, but it’s in my cell phone, so I must have taken this shot.
I don’t even know what it’s about. It almost looks like a comic book cover, but not quite. It looks a lot more like an advertisement pretending to be a comic book cover, so it could have been a billboard that happened to be in just the right place when I was trying to snap a picture out the window of the car while I should have been giving my undivided attention to driving the car.
Or, it sort of looks like one of those graphic distractions they hang over urinals in the men’s rooms at bars that make me pee on my shoes. I don’t remember seeing one like this lately, and I never whip out my cell phone camera in bathrooms – who does that? I’m just saying.
Anyway, if you have any idea who Muffin Man is, I’d be grateful to solve this riddle.
7:25 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
The greatest thing about riding my bike to work is that I don’t have to hang around until five o’clock for my ride. Four-thirty comes and I’m out of there! It’s probably not the greatest thing for my productivity, though. Around three or three-thirty, it starts getting really hard to concentrate. I catch myself glancing up and the clock every fifteen minutes or so.
9:10 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: office work
We just came home from our first visit to Vasili’s Take Five restaurant on Willy Street. The good news is, the food is so good, we can’t wait to go back and try out the rest of the food on the menu. The bad news is, if the service doesn’t improve, our next visit will probably be our last, so we’d better pick something we really want to try.
When we sat down at Vasili’s, there were only six people in the dining room, counting us. One guy came out to welcome us, drop off a couple of menus, take our orders and bring our drinks. No problem.
While we were dining, though, the tables quickly filled up. In the space of about thirty minutes, that one guy had to find a way to take care of fifteen or twenty hungry diners, and frankly he was having a bit of a problem doing it. I’ll give him this: He was never idle, always hustling back and forth, his arms loaded up with plates piled with yummy food, and as far as I could tell he didn’t pop a sweat. I would’ve been wet and limp as a dishrag in that short half-hour.
I ordered the evening’s special,
lamb pork served on a bed of rice pilaf with grilled vegetables. I was thinking gyro when I went in, but when the waiter told me what the special was I thought, Hell, I can have a gyro any night of the week, but that sounds fabulous! And it was! The lamb pork was just fatty enough that it very nearly had way too much flavor, but not so fatty that I wanted to trim it, and it was grilled to perfection, nice and tender. I’m not ordinarily a fan of grilled veggies, but I have to say I really liked the combination they put together for this dish. I recall tomatoes, onions, basil, and maybe peppers, all just crunchy enough to remind me that I was eating fresh veggies. The tomatoes! Oh my goodness, the tomatoes were like slurping up the best home made spaghetti sauce my Italian grandmother ever made for me, if I’d had an Italian grandmother. I would go back just for that.
I had to get up from the table about halfway through my meal, and just after I came back, the waiter stopped by to flip the check at us. I hate to tell anyone how to run their restaurant, but customarily I thought you waited until the customer was finished with his meal before you brought the check, and then only after you asked if he would like anything else. I was sort of looking forward to dessert, but I never got the chance to ask. My Darling B finished her glass of wine while waiting for her entrée and would’ve ordered another, if the waiter had asked. Speaking of which, the drinks were apparently free tonight. They weren’t on the check, anyway. B added ten bucks for my beer and her glass of very tasty tempranillo. I hope that was enough. I was going to ask, but the waiter didn’t stop moving long enough.
And I think it’s only fair to point out that it’s our policy to start knocking a percentage point or two off our usual twenty percent tip for every five minutes that a water glass stands empty on our table. We’ll let a waiter get away with a lot in the way of bad service, but any waiter worth twenty percent should be able to keep two water glasses full through an entire meal. B’s water glass was empty for almost ten minutes when we finally packed up and left.
I hate to dis what looks to be a labor of love and is so obviously a very promising operation. The food really was very delicious, I wasn’t exaggerating one tiny particle about that, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anybody I know who loves Mediterranean fare, but I’d caution them ahead of time about the service so they knew what they were getting into.
8:55 pm CDT
Category: food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants
| Tags: Mediterranean food, Vasili's
For the first time in I don’t know how many months, I turned the page in The New York Times and found a crossword puzzle that I could finish in less than a week. As it turned out, I finished it in less than an hour. Almost made my head explode.
We used to subscribe only on weekends, when the puzzle was nearly so impossible to solve that I could only get one or two words, and they were usually gimmies with clues like, She went up the hill with Jack.” I’d fill that one in, then bang my head against the rest of the crossword for four or five days before giving up without managing to figure out another clue. Not that I felt especially bad about it. They were all as cryptic as “The toenail of the Sphynx, in Latin?” I’d give up in disgust, but the next weekend would come along and I’d do it all over again.
Eventually, though, I gave up entirely. There’s only so much self-defeat a guy can take. I didn’t find out until much later that the Times runs crossword puzzles that start out easy on Monday and get progressively more difficult as the days go on, until by the weekend they’re as fiendishly, tortuously, maddeningly close to impossible as a crossword can be, so it wasn’t me. It was the puzzle. It was. That’s the story I’m sticking to.
Until this spring we only got weekend delivery, and I never picked one up in the store, so I hadn’t tried any of the weekly puzzles until last week Monday, when I turned the page, paused to look at the first few clues and thought, Hey, I know the answer to all of those, and kept on going. When I was pretty sure I could fill the top left corner, I got up out of my seat to look for a pencil. Less than an hour later, the crossword was done.
I’d never finished a New York Times crossword before then. I was so jazzed about it that, as soon as I got home Tuesday evening, I went ripping through the pages, looking for the next day’s crossword. Couldn’t find one. Wednesday, same deal. And again Thursday. Sadly, the Times prints crosswords on the weekend and on Monday, as it turns out. The mid-week crosswords are only available on-line, and I’m very much a guy who pencils in his word. How cruel can life be? Well, now I know.
9:46 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, hobby
| Tags: word of the day
My parents used to ship me off in the summer to stay with my grandparents for a week. I must’ve been a handful back then, although I think they sent my brother off to our other set of grandparents at the same time. My guess is they probably wanted some time together in Vegas, or maybe they just wanted to sleep for a week.
But that’s not why I mention it. On a particularly hot day while I was staying with my grandparents in Appleton, I came in to ask my Grandma Cleo for a drink of water. She let the tap run until it was good and cold, and filled one of the biggest glasses in her cupboard. Before handing it over to me, though, she gave me this warning: “Don’t drink it too fast, or you’ll have a stroke!”
I don’t know if she literally meant I’d get a stroke, or if she was just exaggerating to make her warning a little more colorful, but for years – nay, decades after that, I drank cold water v e r y s l o w l y so I wouldn’t seize up and die! Didn’t even have to be a hot day, or flushed with exercise. I was just too scared of having a stroke after that to gulp cold water.
So there you go, one more arrow in your parental arsenal of things to scare your kids with, courtesy of my Grandma Cleo. You’re welcome.
11:26 am CDT
Category: story time
| Tags: grandma Cleo