Friday, July 28, 2006

Getting There

Warning -- Corniness alert!

Chamber of echoes,
Moonshine melody,
Multitude of poets,
Mariners at sea.
Close my eyes and wonder,
At a child growing near,
The future holds I know not what,
But that child I'll hold dear.
Imagine tiny hand
Reaching up to mine
A high voice calling "Daddy,"
Angels ne'er so divine.
I cannot call her yet,
I do not know her name,
But already I love her so,
I hope she'll feel the same.
Back on the road tomorrow, be back in a week or so.
Winner of Name My Beer is posted on the right column. When the actual brewer of the beer (rather than just the apprentice) picks a favorite, we've got ourselves a winner.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Myrtle Beach Family Vacation

Perhaps most pictures are worth 1000 words, but vacation photos are lazy -- you can caption them in less than 20, usually much less, but the 980+ missing words tell the real story of the vacation. Especially when it's a family vacation.

The Beach House

Me with Kathy at 25 weeks

My sister Shari with our nieces, Leynie (age 2) and Lauren (age 3)

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Sunrise over the pier up the beach (photo by my Mom)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Name My Beer

Shizuka, one of Kathy's best friends from college, is also expecting her first child (~10 weeks before Kathy's due). Shizuka's husband Eric lives ~20 minutes away, and a couple of months ago I suggested to him that we needed to brew a celebratory beer in honor of the children-to-be and to aid our wives' lactation. Eric embraced the idea. Good thing too, since he's the homebrewer, having made dozens of them over the years (though not that many of late), and he was the one with the equipment. I've helped on a few homebrews over the years but never have done one on my own.

After consulting with Kathy and Shizuka, we decided to go with a stout. Eric proposed a recipe that uses his favorite type of hops, but I didn't like the composition of the rest of it. So I found a different recipe that was more to my liking (and which still used his favorite hops), he suggested a couple of tweaks to it, and we were good to go. The recipe was labeled a "Robust Porter," which might as well be a stout, given that historically, porters came before stouts, and in fact, stout was originally called "stout porter" before the name got shortened. Today, this is what is meant by Robust Porter -- as you can see, the style allows for a pretty wide range of characteristics, most (if not all) of which you'll find in some stouts.

We scheduled a day to brew, and only the day before did it dawn on me that we had coincidentally chosen Father's Day. Over the course of several hours, Eric led us through the necessary steps (and I hope I have them right) -- put the grains in hot water, then let the mixture steep several hours; sparge the mixture in order to remove the fermentable sugars, thereby creating wort; boil the wort and add in the hops; cool the wort and add in the yeast; and seal up the mixture so the yeast can get busy.

After one week, Eric transferred the beer to another container, and two weeks after that, we were ready to bottle the beer. Conveniently, this past weekend Shizuka was in town (she and Eric are professors -- she teaches in Massachusetts, and he's at the University of Maryland), so on Sunday the four of us got to hang out for an afternoon of lunching, talking, bottling, and of course, World Cupping.

I wish that bottling were as simple as pouring the beer into bottles, then cap them, but there's also the matter of cleaning and sterilizing all the bottles before using them (we also had to add more fermentable sugars so the beer would carbonate). The truth is, every step of the process required cleaning and sterilizing, but given how many bottles have to be sterilized to hold five gallons of beer (made slightly less burdensome by our using 750ml bottles), we were at it for a couple of hours. A sampling of the beer at this stage gave us every reason to think we'll have a great beer in a few weeks (which makes the decision to wait until the end of October to open it a little more difficult).

One thing we haven't been able to do is come up with a clever name for our beer (Mothers Milk Stout has been used many times before). If anyone can think of a good name for our beer, let me know. If I use anyone's suggestion, I'll put a credit on my blog, and if you're around D.C., I'll be happy to share a bottle with you.

I'm going to be pretty busy for the next few days, enjoying soccer tomorrow night, followed by the RateBeer Summer Gathering that runs all weekend, and then I'll be going out of town for a week. In other words, I'm not promising any posts for the next dozen or so days. Pictures when I return.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Will my back hold up for the remainder of my life?

Does the fact that I jogged yesterday for the second time in a week mean that I hear the creeping of my mortality?

Will all those games of Sudoku (and its variants) and Boggle stave off Alzheimer's?

Is going skydiving next month a sign of a mid-life crisis?

Will the world avert an energy/population crisis?

Am I saving enough for retirement?

Is it harder getting up the morning after a beer tasting than it used to be?

Can I keep drinking so much beer and avoid putting on too much weight?

Am I too set in my ways to be a good parent?

If I have a birthday cake today, will the smoke alarm go off?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What the Fourth of July Means to Me

The Fourth of July is celebrated by giving us office drones the day off so that we can attend barbecues, parades, free concerts and fireworks in ridiculous heat. Flags are on display everywhere, flown and waved by people, many of whom love their country non-reflectively.

This holiday reminds me of what the founders of this country did, and what they could not do. They provided a form of government that enables us to live freely and to adapt to a changing world, but they could not make the adaptations themselves, or protect us from ourselves. I think of those founders, and their willingness to sacrifice their wealth and safety for ideals and principles. I wonder where such people are today, and why they aren't the ones leading this country, instead of those with narrow vision guided by self-interest.

I wonder what the founders would think of the United States in 2006. Would they be proud of the fruits of their labors? Would they be happy or shudder at the absence of slavery, the rights of women, and the many cultures and races that compose our citizenry? At how our elections and political parties operate, the estate tax, and the "rights" of corporations? Would they take issue with their supposed original intent as courts have interpreted it? Would they think that the government they created is viable with a population 100 times greater than it was in 1776? Would they approve of states with a 50-fold difference in population having equal senatorial representation, or the absence of voting representation for citizens of D.C.?*

In the current atmosphere of this country, this holiday reminds me of what the difference is between a patriot and a nationalist, and how many of our politicians are the latter while claiming to be the former. And I am reminded how valuable our freedoms are, and cannot understand those who would give them away so freely in the name of an abstract War on Terror.

In sum, the Fourth of July serves as a reminder how much I love this country, and why I'm afraid for it. Happy holiday!

* - Or would they fail to notice any of these things, because they'd be too busy staring at women in revealing clothing, playing with iPods and watching TV?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Assistance, Please

The technician at the most recent sonogram, upon Kathy asking if it was a boy or a girl, replied, "I don't see any boy parts." And so in this fashion we learned that in all likelihood we are having a girl. Last weekend Kathy and I pored over long lists, searching for a name that appealed to us both. After much deliberation, we settled on a name. Which is to say that I've settled on a name, and Kathy hasn't yet signed on. But with assistance from the readers of this blog, I have no doubt that I can convince her that the perfect name for our daughter is Kickass.

Now I sense some hesitation among a few of you, but hear me out.

  • We both want a confident daughter, one who won't be intimidated by the world around her. Kathy wants a name that has a meaning along those lines. As a point of reference, Kathy has rejected names of flowers or jewels because they don't convey "strong woman" to her. I submit that Kickass conveys confident, strong woman.
  • We don't want a common name, and Kickass is anything but.
  • If we also select a middle name that begins with E, her initials will be KEG, which is perfect for the daughter of a beer geek.
  • She would have to behave in school, as every teacher would be watching a kid named Kickass like a hawk.
  • Stepford Moms would keep their daughters away from a girl with the name Kickass, thereby making it more likely that Kickass will develop friendships with real people.
You'd think that the sum of these reasons would be enough to sway Kathy, but so far she's remained steadfast in her opposition. So if you can think of any others, please post them (along with your support). The sooner we can get this settled, the sooner we can turn to other matters regarding our child's future, like when she should get her first tattoo, and what it'll be.