Hell of a Guy
Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window - Steve Wozniak

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home Brewing…


I have heard horror stories about people brewing their own beer at home.  Apparently it is not uncommon to have “mishaps,” “miscues” and even some small explosions (mostly after bottling).  Inasmuch as my experience as a “brewer” is limited to none at all, and recognizing I am more the “brewee,” testing the various offerings of others is my level of expertise.  The mechanical side of the art is to be learned via the School of Hard Knocks.

Cooking is a hobby of mine, an avocation: I enjoy every aspect of being in the kitchen.  Following a recipe is relatively easy if you can read, and I can read a little, so I thought what the hell, I’ll make some beer.  I bought a kit with a recipe that calls for the final product to be about five gallons, or, in terms of those of us who really enjoy it, fifty-three 12-ounce bottles, give or take three-tenths of a bottle.

I steeped the grains and made the wort.  I added the malt and started the boil.  I added the bittering hops for fifty-five minutes, and then the flavoring hops for five more.  I shocked the wort mixture to 70 degrees, and pitched the yeast.  I checked the O.G (1.050) – what ever the hell that is?  The mixture is now in my carboy fermenting away (I hope).  In 4 to 6 days I have to move the mixture to a secondary carboy, hopefully leaving behind any residue of grain and hop parts in the bottom of the fermentation bucket.  Ten days in that doohickey and then it’s time to bottle, and that I am told when the fireworks can begin.

If all goes well, in two weeks or so I will get to enjoy some of this initial offering of the Berkeley Springs Brew Works.  I will keep you posted.

And that is all I have to say about that…

Friday, July 23, 2010

Viet Nam Vets…


I have spent the past two nights in Louisville, KY attending an educators’ conference.  As you probably could guess without my acknowledging it, both nights found my rear parts firmly planted on a bar stool.  The Galt House has a huge bar over the street on the bridge that connects its two buildings. 

My first night as I slowly sipped at my beer I noticed a small group of guys and their wives sitting the other end of the bar.  The guys’ clothing was nothing special but is was adorned with all things military, as was the very military looking caps they had on.  As they laughed and talked it was pretty easy to gather this was a Viet Nam vet’s reunion going on.

My first impression of this group was not wholesome; I thought of them as a bunch of blue-collar types who just couldn’t get beyond the past.  I couldn’t understand how a group of guys dwelled on what was and not what is or could be?  Truth is now very clear to me.  Much like the recent revelations of Shirley Sherrod (the NAACP speaker) and her transformation from racist to humanist, my epiphany regarding these guys was realized rather quickly last night when I engaged them at the bar.

I, too, was in the military during the Viet Nam (1963-67).  Though I didn’t make it to Viet Nam, many of the guys I served with did, and some did not make it home.  These guys made it home, but as I listened to their stories I found many of them left a lot of themselves there.  I was on the verge of tears as one guy’s wife described how he was when he returned home.  Her husband wouldn’t discuss the war with her.  Often he got home from work and immediately began to drink, at times consuming an entire case of beer – 24 of them, until he passed out.  He had nightmares and night sweats.  He began to confront this when he hooked up with the buddies who had formed a group they called the “F Troop.” 

He didn’t tell me the entire story, but one part involved him as a “minesweeper” walking out in front of a convoy detecting mines buried by the Viet Cong.  One day he missed one and a jeep following him hit it and was blown to pieces killing the three GI’s in it – his buddies, all guys he knew.  That is a hell of a lot of pain for a twenty-year old to bear, and a lot of guilt to hold on to for all those years.

My mother used to preach to me “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  My cynicism got the best of me, but just for a little while until some guy from upstate Wisconsin handed me my comeuppance.

And that is all I have to say about that…

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thoughts of My Mother…


My daughter sent this to me this morning.  I think she gets this is how I live my life, and sent this as a reminder for her and to me confirming she will do the same.

Living in the Present

One day at a time,
This is enough.
Do not look back and grieve over the past.
For it is gone. . .
And do not be troubled about the future.
For it has not yet come.
Live in the present, and make it so beautiful.
That it will be worth remembering.

Not long after reading this I saw a commercial on TV showing a lady walking a path in slacks.  I have no idea what the commercial was for or about, but my brain almost instantly flashed a picture of my mother into my consciousness.  It was triggered by the slacks.  My mother never wore them that I remember, and I was fifty-three when she passed away in 1997.  In fact, I do not have any memory of her at all other than in a dress.  She called them “house dresses.”

My mother was a proud person, very proud.  She took great pride in my dad and in their near 68-year marriage.  She took great pride in her more than average children, elevating us to a level reserved for the spectacular.  She took pride in her Christianity and in her lengthy Christian roots.  She took pride in her own mother and father and her two brothers and three sisters.

I know she had pride in who she was and what she was about, though one would not guess it from her appearance.  She rarely wore makeup other than some very lightly applied lipstick.  Fashion was totally unimportant to her, but I thought she always looked nice and never unkempt or messy.

I believe she had great pride in her station in life; quite happy with what God had provided for her and her family.  She never had a job outside of the home, but did a whale of one raising five kids and keeping a happy home for my dad when he got home from work.

She wasn’t the greatest cook in the world, not even close.  She loved plain, country cooking.  She threw a slab of fatty meat in just about everything she did cook, and most of the time cooked vegetables beyond recognition and meat to the leather stage.  She referred to spaghetti and as nice side dish, and her idea of a truly great meal was a Filet of Fish Sandwich, an order of fries and a cup of coffee at McDonald’s.  I clearly remember her watching soap operas at noontime, and sitting on the sofa in our living room eating a slice of bread folded over a chunk of sharp cheddar along with some leftover morning coffee.

Those are fond memories of the lady who wrote beautiful poetry and short stories that I passed off as my own for school assignments.  The lady who dragged me to church every Sunday, but always had paper and crayons in her purse to keep my little brother and me occupied – meaning quiet – during the service.  She was amazing.

The last years of her life were a living hell, a test of her resolve, I suppose.  Thinking that softens the blow for me.  Perhaps this was her path to Heaven?  I do not know, but I know she is in a better place now.  And I know I miss those dresses.

And that is all I have to say about that…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Truly Great Thriller…


Sometimes great stories come from everyday occurrences and are transformed into best selling novels, like “The Hunt for Red October.”  The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico is exactly that, a tragedy, but it offers someone a huge opportunity to promote a conspiracy-theory novel like those of Tom Clancy with his protagonist Jack Ryan coming to the rescue.  Allow me to lay out my idea for one to you?

A “future” administration wants to get legislation passed to encourage (force) the development “clean” energy, of course this story is purely fiction.  The desired result of this new law is be accomplished by charging co-called atmospheric polluters, as described by the government, with huge fees based on the amount of carbons their manufacturing operations and processes release into the air.  This program, as proposed, will probably cause the loss of thousands of jobs, not to mention large increases in the cost of energy to American families and businesses.  The president, due to the overall costs and wariness of the program, doesn’t have the votes in congress to get this legislation passed, so one of his aides comes up with a covert plan to cause an accidental oil spill at an off-shore drilling rig, one big enough to cause the public to cry out for regulating the oil industry, but not large enough to cause any real environmental damage.  The administration believes this incident, along with the vilification of the coal industry, will sway public opinion to support passage of its program.  Unfortunately the execution of the plan goes awry when the oil rig explosion causes a huge loss of life and results in the rig sinking to the Gulf’s floor.  The planned oil spill turns into an environmental disaster with oil gushing into the Gulf at an unprecedented rate nearly a mile below the water’s surface causing billions of dollars worth of damages to the local economy and environment.  The novel would be a story about how the government manipulates the real truth and constructs a cover up, with a “Jack Ryan” discovering it and exposing the truth.   

Sound a little far out?  Perhaps, but the government has done this kind of thing before.  Are you old enough to remember Viet Nam and the Gulf of Tonkin incident?  It was distorted by the government and Lyndon Johnson used it as a basis to garner support to attack North Viet Nam.  While this story would be a work of complete fiction, one has to wonder exactly to what degree that might be.

I can visualize this being made into a film.  We could use some “conspiracy theorists” as cast members: Danny Glover will play the President, with Sean Penn as the VP.  Janeane Garofalo, because she is such a people person, could be the first lady, and Rosie O’Donnell, with all her infinite wisdom, could be the Secretary of State.  We might also cast George Bush as the oil company’s inept CEO, along with Katie Couric as the irate governor of gulf-coast state affected by the oil spill.  The film would have to be directed by Mel Gibson, but only when he is not having one of his dramatic break downs.  We might even find a part as a religious fanatic for Sarah Palin.  Oh, I forgot one character…the part of the “Jack Ryanesque” hero extraordinaire could only be played by Alec Baldwin, since he played this part before. 

I am thinking Oscar, for sure!  Perhaps, a Pulitzer, too?

And that is all I have to say about that…

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