Saturday, November 29, 2008

Top10 Nerdy Controversy

I'm going to start rolling out the Top 10 list, also known as the CD that I would carry with me all the time in case I got stranded on a tropical island with a CD player and an unlimited amount of batteries. The list itself is complete. However, when I went to burn the disc itself, I ran into a serious problem - the tracks I picked would not fit onto one CD in standard CD format.

Now, this is a problem for two reasons: 1) I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the list. Specifically, I thought it was important to keep the set on one CD. When we are working on these kind of lists, the limit we set is important. A top 10 list with 12 songs on it rings hollow to me. The interesting part of this exercise is making the hard choices, and if we allow extra songs on the list, then the list itself is tainted. So having 10 songs that all fit on one CD was important to me. The other problem: 2) Since I am iPod-less right now, if I want to enjoy the list, I would need to burn the disc on a CD. If all the songs don't fit, I have to leave tracks off the final production CD, which would be lame for obvious reasons.

So I am cheating, but I think it is ok. I am still keeping 10 songs (although I am including a couple of extra tracks due to the solution I came up with). But I decided to burn the CD in mp3 format. This method means there is no problem fitting all the tracks on one disc (a regular CD could fit 70 or more mp3 tracks). And since most CD players being sold these days play mp3 CDs as well as regular CDs, the format should not be a problem for most equipment I come across on a tropical beach. The main issue now of course is that why keep it to 10 songs? Since the mp3 format would allow as many as 70 songs to fit on one disc, why not just do a top 70 disc? Well, I am not doing that. I'm sticking to 10, and that's that. It's a nerdy controversy after all, so there is no need to stop the exercise altogether.

The picture with this post is from the trip we took to the North Shore with Emily and Jonathan in the fall of 2006. On our way back, we took a short hike at Gooseberry Falls. Very good times!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Schell's Snow Storm

Clearly, we are overdue for another Beer Review post. It's the season to sit at home, by the fire, and drink a bunch of winter brew. Luckily, there are lots to choose from. The goal this winter is to drink them all. 

The guys at the Tonka Bottle Shop had some recommendations for me as we exit the October Fest season and enter the Fest Fest season. I was interested in the back story of the Schell's Snow Storm, because I really like the idea of the local brew. It turns out that before the winter season last year, they hired a new brewmaster. The new guy wanted to play with some of the old recipes, so last year's winter brew from Schell's was really brand new. And it turns out no one liked it, not even the gutter sluts downtown.

So the packaging is a little different this year, because they need to make sure everyone knows the recipe is different. And I think they did a nice job, because this is a very interesting, and very drinkable beer.

The flavor is mellow - this is not an overly hoppy beer. The pour was very smooth, it had a very attractive thickness as it came out of the bottle. There was a slight cloud amidst the rusty brown color, and I found it overall to be very attractive in the glass. 

The flavor was sweet, and slightly fruity. The sweetness is pretty common in the winter beers, and I found this to be a very tasty beer. It wasn't chalky at all. There was a very light quality about the finish. In other words, you could actually have more than one of these beers without feeling like you had just finished your fourth Thanksgiving dinner of the day. 

Overall, this was a good beer, and you should go buy some. I am recommending it highly in part because of the local angle. It's nice to enjoy something that was made close to home. And I don't always look to Schell's when I am looking for a new beer to try. In that sense, I am probably overlooking them because they are local, I think a lot of time we look for the exotic choice when we want to try something we have never had before. I am here to tell you, give this one a shot, you'll be pleased. 

So go out and buy 2 six-packs of this one. You can have a few on a Friday night, and then if you really want to kick it up a notch, you'll be able to start that second six-pack and not hate yourself in the morning. And if you decide to keep it to the first six-pack, you'll enjoy the second one the next night I am sure.

Monday, November 24, 2008

List of 10

There's been a lot of list making going on over at Rolling Stone this year. The Top 100 singers of all-time is the most recent edition. It got me thinking: what are my top 10 songs of all-time? It's a hard question to answer. Too big a project really, because I really think that if you made that list on a regular basis, the list would change every time you remade it. So I decided to narrow my thinking a bit. And since we are about half way through the first season of LOST, a perfect scenario came to mind:

You have crashed on a tropical island, and you can survive, but you are not going to be rescued. You have your iPod, but there is no way to recharge the battery on it, so you won't be able to listen to that for long. But you did find a portable CD player with pretty good headphones attached. Going through all the luggage, you found enough AA batteries to keep the thing running for a LONG time. And you were smart, and a nerd, and you thought about it ahead of time, so you made this one CD that had 10 songs on it, and it almost never leaves your side, because these recordings are that important to you. So what 10 songs did you put on the CD and why?

I was happy to have someone else to go over the list with, so Jonathan is going to be announcing his best of list as well. I think it will be a good chance to talk about the music we love, discover some new music from each other, and hopefully, to sit around and have a few beers and listen to music sometime. I'll be announcing the list over the next few weeks - not all at once, because I want to talk a bit about each song. I hope you like the list!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

iPod Blues

I think my iPod is dead. Long live my iPod!

This is a picture from Keri and Noah's wedding. It was March 2005, and this was the first trip that my iPod went on. I purchased it very shortly before that trip, after seeing the wonders it could perform. See, I often struggled to figure out which 24 CDs I could bring in my Case Logic whenever I traveled. I mean, how can you commit to just 24 CDs? What if you leave the wrong one home? The iPod was going to change all that.

So after much consternation, I went out and spent $300 on a 20-gig iPod classic. At that time, I think you could only get a 20 or 40 gig model, and I figured 20 would be enough for me. Now, for some reason, I have become a bit of a cheapskate as I have gotten a little older. Of course, when it comes to food and booze, this is not the case (the more expensive the drink, the more likely I am to buy it), but for material goods, I hav discovered that I have a very hard time spending money. STrange, but true. So that $300 was a pretty big deal to me at the time. I remember going in Best Buy to get it one time and leaving without it, I just couldn't pull the trigger. But in the end, I made the purchase, and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made.

I used to joke that the iPod changed my life. Well, I told people it was a joke when I said that, but the reality is that it did change my life. First of all, loading the iPod with all of my music was a terrific way to spend a month. I had a great time going through all my old CDs. I was sad when I had imported my last one. The ability to carry my entire music collection with me wherever I went pleased me very much. And playlists? I have made and saved more playlists than I care to admit. If a person could invent a reason or theme for a playlist, I did, and made the list. (Then I would go around and tell everyone how great the playlist was of course).

It wasn't long before my iPod went everywhere with me. I listened to it everyday at work. It provided the soundtrack for our living at home as well - why try to pick 5 CDs for the CD player when you can shuffle every song you own? In many ways, it became a very important part of my life. I remember being at a cabin one time for a guy weekend, and someone was looking at my iPod - scrolling through it. I felt as though they were going through a diary of my most personal thoughts. This person was making fun of me a little bit (I have been known to drunk download a bit), and it was as though he were insulting the essence of who I was.

So when my iPod starting acting up a couple of months ago, I was a little bit alarmed. I had never had a problem with the battery or anything - it had performed beautifully for me ever since I bought it. But it was starting to skip songs, end songs early, and just act strangely in general. I restored it, reloaded it, and it was better for awhile, but then a couple of weeks ago, I think it died. It won't play any tracks anymore, and when I try to connect it to my computer, the computer randomly turns off rather suddenly. That's not good. SO I am fearing the worst.

I have been trying to convince myself that the iPod is just a "thing", and not really part of me. It seems so materialistic to talk about a piece of electronics "changing my life" or "making me happy." But the more I fight that feeling, the more real it becomes. I miss it - not like a person of course, even I am not that shallow. But I miss the freedom it gave me, the power to pick whatever I was going to listen to whenever I felt like it. To be honest, I had been thinking about getting a new iPod sometime anyway. I had long since filled up the 20-gigs of space, and everytime I buy more music I have to remove some other music from the iPod, and that just doesn't feel right, since one of the greatest features of the iPod is that you can carry ALL your music on it.

But it is money to spend, after all, and I don't like doing that. Is it worth it? Will I get the use out of it? Even though you can get 6 times the storage capacity now (for 83% of the original price), it is still a lot of money. So I decided to break it down, to prove it to myself:

Original iPod
Purchased: 3/1/2005
Cost: $300
Total number of days in operation: 1310
Estimated average hours of play per day: 5.5
Total number of hours played: 7205
Average Song Length: 5 minutes
Total songs played: 86,460

Cost per day: $0.23
Cost per hour: $0.04
Cost per song played: $0.00347

Yes, it was less than 1 penny for every song I played on that thing. So that does it. The iPod does not make me a better person. It does not complete my life. But it is cool, I do like it, I use it every day, and it is totally worth it. So I am going to go get a new iPod tomorrow.

Plus my wife will be happy because now I can stop talking about it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


For those of you who have not heard, there is, in fact a God, and the people of Alaska are not, in fact, in love with Ted Stevens. The elcetion results are in, and the AP has called the election in favor of Anchorage mayor (and son of the namesake of the very famous Bartlett-Begich High School) Mark Begich. This is truly a great day for the residents of Alaska. Stevens was the longest serving Republican in the Senate, and turned 85 yesterday. We can only hope that he will now be sent to jail to share a cell with Bubba.

In other exciting news, you may recognize the picture below from Josephine's birthday party last year. She had an AWESOME time. We are planning another party this year, although we will probably have a cookie making party at our house instead. Not sure of the date, but it will probably be the night of 12/13 (it is a Saturday), if you want to makr your calendars, or if you want to plan something else for that night so you don't have to come. There will be details to follow I am sure.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Flickr Slideshow

In an effort to make this blog almost exactly the same as Jonathan's, I have added a flickr slideshow badge to the sidebar. It was really hard because I am not very smart. Anyone who is smart will be able to add one to their blog in a matter of minutes.

Also, I am going to start adding at least one picture to every post, since pictures are easier for everyone to look at than words. Here is the first one:

This is a pcture of me showing Josephine how to throw rocks during our fall camping trip to Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior. She was properly impressed with my ability, I can assure you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Awesome night at Gluek's last night. H&B put on the usual excellent gig, although I have no idea who the new female lead was. But she could sing, and they all enjoyed themselves. It was great seeing lots of friends - and Nicole was a trooper, as we stayed almost until closing time. And while there was no Taco Bell stop on the way home, we did have a little excitement as Nicole was pulled over randomly as we got to Minnetonka. The stop lasted mere moments, as the cop started to laugh when Nicole responded to his question about whether or not she had had anything to drink with, "no, I'm pregnant." Good times led to grilled cheese when we got home. 


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Predictions - and May God have Mercy on Me If I am Wrong

I know that I should not so this, but I can't help myself...

Electoral College:
Obama 326, McCain 212
(That's the Kerry states plus IA, OH, VA, CO, NM and NV)

Popular Vote %:
Obama 51.3%, McCain 46.7%

Election Called by MSM: 11 pm Eastern - when the polls close in California. The best part of THAT is that the polls will still be open in Palin's homestate.

MN Senate:
Franken 41%, Coleman 40%, Barkley 15%
And THAT result will not be made official for at least a couple of days.

Total Democratic Senate seats
58, which does not, and SHOULD NOT count Lieberman

Also, I just want everyone want everyone out there to think about making sure that they DO NOT rub it in the faces of their Republican friends. If you remember how badly you felt in 2000, 2002 and 2004, they will be feeling that way as well tonight. The peaceful transfer of power from opposing political parties is one the the things that makes America great. No need to twist the knife as the Republicans leave power.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What I want

Well, the time has almost come. I can't wait to vote tomorrow. I won't be able to bring Josephine with me like I did 2 years ago, but that's ok. I suspect that our parents generation never thought an African-American would ever be this close to being President. I know for a fact that our grandparents never thought this would happen. I think that most of us have become so use to the idea that Obama could be President, that we forget how amazing this really is. Maybe that's a good thing, too.

So here is a list of who I want to win, and yes, these are in order. Think of it this way: It starts at the top, with the one I want the most. If all of the rest of the races below each entry were lost, I would be reasonably happy, because the one above each entry won. That's written very poorly, but that's just too bad.

  1. Barack Obama
    Yes, if he makes it and none of the other races below go my way, I will be sort of disappointed, but not that much. This is HUGE.
  2. Al Franken
    I have been nervous about this one from the moment he declared. But you know what makes me mad? Norm ran with Bush A LOT in 2002. You can't have it both ways, Norm. You were with him then, and to me, that means you are with him now. Plus he ran a ridiculous campaign. Honestly, when you have been there 6 years and all you have to show for it is some free suits and a crappy free apartment in DC, you don't deserve to win.
  3. Mark Begich over Ted Stevens
    Few people know that I went to Bartlett-Begich High School in Anchorage. The school was named in part for Mark's father, who died in a plane crash while campaigning for the US House in 1972. Don Young won that election, and has not lost since (the Bridge to Nowhere was his doing). Anyway, don't think that just because Stevens was recently convicted of corruption that this is over. He could still win- it's possible the carrier pigeons haven't reached Alaska with the news of the trial yet. 
  4. Kay Hagan over Liddy Dole
    Dole's recent ad that made it seem like Hagan didn't believe in God is what will end up finishing Dole off, but did you know that in the 24 months of 2005 and 2006, she spent exactly 33 days in North Carolina? If you don't want to live there, then don't run for an officing representing the people who DO live there.
  5. Tinklenburg over Bachmann
    I have a bet with my boss, and so here is my prediction: Bachmann will WIN. The people in that district LIKE the kind of stuff she brings to the table: 3/4 crazy and 1/4 pretty. Here's my advice for you if you ever run into her: If it is daylight, tell her you agree that some members of Congress are anti-American, and that you want to help with the penetrating expose she proposed. But tell her that it would help if she could point you in the proper direction, so if she could name some of the people she suspects, it would be a big help. Then, go donate money to the people she names, because I guarantee you they are doing good work. If you run into her and it is at night, run.
  6. Chambliss loses in GA
    He questioned his opponents patriotism in 2002. That was Max Cleeland, a man who had given three of his limbs in service to his country. They compared him in ads to OSAMA BIN LADEN. How these people sleep at night, I will never know. 

    Aside: It's strange that all these Senate seats up in this cycle are reminding us of the history of the 2002 election. The one where Bush was floating the idea of invading Iraq, and anyone who wanted to question that idea was called Anti-American. It's time for those people to get what they have coming.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Before I let the election get in the way too much, I thought I would make my first real Beer post. Not that Sierra Nevada needs anymore propaganda from the likes of me. And I am happy to report that this post will likely turn most of you off to the beer blog, as it is very unlikely that you will be able to get any of this beer for yourselves.

I have absolutely no idea what form these beer reviews will take. My hope is that by not sticking to an exact formula, I will be able to post about more beer. Too often, we let perfection get in the way of actually doing things. That is shocking coming from someone like me, but it is true. Sometimes you just have to put it out there, and not worry if it is ready or not. You can always fix it later. 

The first beer I want to tell you about is from the Sierra Nevada Brewery, in Chico, California. I am sure you have all had their Pale Ale. This is their 12th Release, Harvest Wet Hop Ale. It was recommended to me by the beer guy at my local liquor store, and if I had a will to include the man in, I would. This is the first time that their wet hop ale has been available outside of California. You had to go to a bar out there to get some, as it was only available in kegs. It was only bottled this time in 24 oz. bottles, and they retailed for $4.99 each. A steep price to pay maybe, but it is less than you would pay for a good beer at a bar, and truly worth the price. I went back twice to get more, and only stopped buying it then so as not to deprive others of this very special beer. Yes, this beer brought out the Socialist in me.

What makes this beer so special? So expensive? So exclusive? Wet hops. Apparently, almost all beer is made with dry hops - that is, the hops are picked and dried before they are used to make the beer. But this beer is different. The hops are harvested and within 24 hours they are being used to make the beer. It might seem a little silly, but this beer proves that it makes a big difference.

When my wife saw the notes I had made while drinking this fine brew, she asked if I had taken up writing poetry as a hobby. I am happy to report that I had never even thought of something like that - I am 100% certain that any poetry I create would be poor at best. But I can see others waxing nostalgic after trying some of this tasty, hoppy goodness.

COLOR: This beer is of the most beautiful Golden Red that I have ever seen in a beer. It is dark but not cloudy at all. You can see right through it, but you won't look at anything on the other side. I took four (8) pictures trying to capture its essence. Not even Monet had this color on his palette.

SMELL: I like hoppy beers. Some people don't, and that's ok. But my taste buds have been scarred over the years, and they need to be smacked in order to have flavors register. Hoppy beers seem to be the key. You can definitely smell the difference that the wet hops make in this beer. There is a freshness in the smell of this beer - I felt as though I were right there in the fields at the harvest, grabbing a big handful of hops and rubbing them all over myself. It was as wonderful as you can imagine.

TEXTURE: Just a wonderful pour from this bottle. Looking up at the head from underneath the glass, I saw a beautiful blanket of bubbles that was as consistent and even as could be. It looked like your unshoveled yard after a heavy snowfall. And while I don't think anyone would want to drink more than 3 or 4 of these at a time, they really weren't that heavy. There was a very smooth finish to the beer.

TASTE: If it were possible to drink a color, drinking this beer would like drinking a red-brown crayon. There was a crunch to the taste too - it was crispy but not too sweet. Again, I felt like the wet hops were right there in my hand, and that I could chew on them while the migrant workers finished their labor for the day. I was left with a feeling of complete and total satisfaction. 

VERDICT: Um, in case you haven't been able to gather yet, I really likes this beer. But how do we properly judge beer? This may be a bit of a moving target as I get into this blog more, but one way we can judge a beer is by deciding how much to buy. For this one, I recommend you go out and get at least 2 bottles, if you are fortunate enough to find any. My local liquor store is just about out - they said that it was unlikely that they could get any more from the distributor because the employees there were probably taking it all. But if you can, pick up two bottles. If you don't like the first one, you can always give the second to me.