Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One last pitch for Tim Drew

A wonderful way to wake up this morning: laying in bed hearing Frank Deford on the alarm clock talk about former Cleveland Indian Tim Drew. Drew was one of the phenoms Chris followed with devotion (until he was traded with Bartolo Colon to Montreal for (essentially) Grady Sizemore.)

Morning Edition, July 30, 2008 ·
Tommy John won 288 games in the majors, but, of course, he remains far better known for the operation that now generically bears his name: Tommy John Surgery. In 1974, a tendon was replaced in his damaged left arm and, miraculously, he returned to pitch for another 13 years. So no one, perhaps, knows the capriciousness of athletic health better than he.

Today, John is still in baseball, the manager of the Bridgeport Bluefish, who play in the Atlantic League, one of those independent circuits which are pretty much stocked by forgotten older players who've been passed over by major-league organizations but still play for peanuts because they don't know what else to do and/or they let themselves still dream that they'll catch lightning in a bottle.

And, by God, it can happen. A 32-year-old has-been named Brandon Knight was in the Atlantic League last season. Saturday night, he started a game for the New York Mets.

Four nights before that, in York, Pa., John went out to the mound to remove a Bluefish pitcher who had just given up nine runs in barely more than three innings. But this time, when John took the ball from the pitcher, he also paused and embraced him.

The pitcher was Tim Drew. Who remembers now that, 11 years ago, Drew was a glamorous first-round choice in baseball's draft? I only know because of a wonderfully touching story written by Rich Elliott in The Connecticut Post. But, oh, what was written about Tim Drew back then. Not only could the kid throw a baseball 94 miles per hour, but his older brother, J.D., was also selected in the first round. And not only that: seven years later, yet a third Drew brother, Steve, was drafted in the first round.

Well, two outta three ain't bad. J.D., of the Red Sox, was the most valuable player in the All-Star Game a couple weeks ago. Steve is shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks. They made it big.

Tim did get to the majors. He pitched in all of 35 games. Mostly, though, he caromed around the minors until he ended up, 29 years old, pitching in Bridgeport.

The human arm really is not built to throw a baseball. Like Tommy John, like a lot of pitchers, Tim Drew's arm busted. He had an operation: Three tacks were inserted in his shoulder. He came back this year, but it didn't take him long to realize that whatever he had wasn't there anymore.

After the game in York, he only asked John for one more favor: Sunday, back in Bridgeport, to start the game against Camden, he put Eric DuBose, his best friend on the team, behind the plate, and Drew threw one more pitch.

Then Tim Drew walked off the mound forever. He's going to go to community college. We hear about J.D. and Steve Drew. But most ballplayers are the brother in-between. They're Tim Drew, and they hate to leave the game, but one day they realize they must.

Just give me one last pitch and I'll be gone.

It was a strike, right on the corner.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

U.S. Presidents #'s 4, 5, and 3

For those of you playing along with the home game, that would be James Madison, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson. This would also be the order of visitation of their homes that occurred today. Wha???

Chris + a day off + Google Maps = a full day of travel.

An early morning rise. The dogs were fed, watered, and bladders emptied. The Jeep was gassed up and ready to go. Let's hit the open road...

Stop #1: 217 miles northward from Greensboro to James Madison's Montpelier.

$14 entrance fee.

Book purchases? One. Fife purchases? One. (Yes, a fife. Of "fife and drum". Chris bought a fife.)

The furthest of the three destinations from Greensboro, Chris hit this one first then would backtrack southward. Montpelier is undergoing a massive reconstruction project 4+ years in the making. So it was ever so exciting to tour an empty house with plastic sheeting covering doorways, fresh paint everywhere, the smell of plaster, and not one iota of furnishing within the house. Oh, the poor tour guide; trying so hard to liven up an empty construction zone. "This is President Madison's bedchamber. The bed upon which he died would have been here." Or statements such as "The study of nail marks on the walls indicate where the portraits would hang." Construction on the house proper will not be completed until September 2008; and a 100% furnished home will not occur until sometime in 2010. So make your travel plans accordingly, OK?

Stop #2: 29 miles south of Montpelier to James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland.

$10 entrance fee.

Book purchases? None. The gift shop was rather cruddy. Beanie babies? Crystal sun catchers? Come on. Not even a commemorative ticket here. A purple-inked register receipt that is given to the tour guide as your proof of entrance. No trinket. No chochki. No souvenir. Sigh...

A simple home for a president from relatively meager means. No family wealth paraded around. No lap of luxury. A basic plantation farmhouse. An odd, post-death addition of a two-story structure that in no way, shape, or form adds to the beauty of the home. All the "Victorian addition" that the tour guide raved about was lost on Chris; it looks disjointed and out of place. I mean, look at it! At least this home was furnished and fully constructed. 2008 is also the 250th year of Monroe's birth, so the big celebration of this monumental birthday is to have period dress throughout the home illustrating mid 1700's clothing. Really? Not too much of a 250th birthday "celebration" in my book. But to each their own. Easily the least of the three visits today.

Stop #3: a meager 3 miles southeast of Ash Lawn to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. By far the gem of the bunch.

$15 entrance fee.

Book purchases? Two. DVD's? One. (I mean you can't take any pictures INSIDE the house, and there are so many cool, cool things inside that a DVD was a must have! You buying the argument?)

Gorgeous. Stunning. Beautiful. A home that frankly looks smallish on the outside, but is so jam-packed with rooms and gadgets and studies and books and furniture it is amazing. Honest to goodness Lewis and Clark mementos on the walls, scientific gadgets abound, it is really a celebration of the genius, if a bit distracted, mind of Jefferson.Why have a home that is all one "style", when all sorts of items pique your interest? Native American souvenirs, classical European artwork, new fangled technology such as automatically-closing doors, closet-sized lazy susans, and dumb waiters in the side of the dining room fireplace! All a hodge-podge, but all tied together somehow into the home of a rather intriguing man. This would be an EASY revisit with Kimberly, with a plantation tour, a winery tasting, and more exploration of the gardens involved. A romantic weekend getaway in Charlottesville would seem to be in order in our future...

Today was indeed a hectic, whirlwind tour of mountainous central Virginia and the history that just drenches the landscape. A bunch of fun. Plenty of pictures can be found here. Now, exhausted, sleep beckons. But not the "permanent" sleep depicted below:

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Government" demotivator

Just got this in email today from the company. A new Demotivator is out:

Tee hee hee.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Race to the Dan

The year was 1781. The Battle of Cowpens occurred in South Carolina in January, and The Battle of Guilford Courthouse occurred in March in present-day Greensboro, NC. What occurred in between?

The Race to the Dan.

After recuperating from the January victory at Cowpens, on February 10, 1781 at Guilford Courthouse, NC General Nathanael Greene calls a Council of War to determine the next plan in the Southern Campaign. Stay and fight, or retreat and retool, rearm, and re-energize? It is determined to make a run northward to cross the Dan River.

North Carolina is interwoven with rivers, rivulets, creeks, and tributaries. General Greene studied the lay of the land and is said to have understood the terrain better than some locals; even without personally seeing some of the rivers himself. He had the foresight to acquire ferries and boats and rivermen to aid his army if needed. This foresight served him well.

February 12th, Greene ordered Otho Williams to take 700 or so troops and act as a feint to draw British General Lord Cornwallis while Greene, 1600 troops, horses and wagons made their break for the Dan. It is just a 70 mile race from Guilford Courthouse in February, but roads were semi-frozen, wagon axles break, troops march miles and miles up to 19 hours day, troops sleep on the ground as not one tent is unfolded, just one meal per day is prepared. Between February 12 and February 14, it is rumored that General Greene slept a total of 4 hours.

Once Greene was across, word was sent to Williams who then high-tailed it toward the Dan and made it across safely.

Disheartened and without boats, Cornwallis retreats southward from the Dan River to Hillsborough, NC. One month later in March, Cornwallis and Greene meet for the final time in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse; a technical British victory, but at what cost? Cornwallis must forfeit the victorious battlefield and retreat to Wilmington for troops and supplies, then gives up North Carolina all together in favor of taking Virginia at Yorktown...only to be besieged and surrenders.

OK, now that the history lesson is complete, here's what happened today: an old tobacco processing plant called "The Prizery" in South Boston, VA holds a new display highlighting this military manouever. Chris made the trip today the 27th and found it enlightening and entertaining. It opened yesterday the 26th.

An online story can be found before the opening here and afterwards here.

Displays and maps and artifacts and uniforms and flags; all on display on the third floor of a tobacco building overlooking the Dan River. Chris talked up the curator and she obviously saw the gleam in his eye. "You've heard of the Race to the Dan before your visit today?" Why of course! She then gave Chris directions to the riverbank and see the actual ferry crossing where the last remnants of the Southern Army crossed. Greene and a majority of the army crossed 4 miles down at Irwin's Ferry, but Lighthorse Harry Lee and Otho Williams crossed at Boyd's Ferry, now occupied by a railroad bridge. Wow.

The entire photo set, albeit just a few more than were posted here, can be found here. Truly a nice day for driving and feeding the inner nerd.

The cool thing is that there was a stash of 200 1-cent stamps from 1936 featuring Washington and Greene found, and as a fundraiser they were affixed to envelopes highlighting the opening of the exhibit and sold. Chris got one of the 200 after his visit. Sweet.

As an aside, a monumental occurrence happened to the Jeep during the drive home. Observe:

The Dark Knight

The House of Gordon jumped onto the bandwagon and went to go see the newest installment of the Caped Crusader on Saturday afternoon. Two hours and 32 minutes of a dark ominous film with quite the moving and erratic performance by the late Heath Ledger. Sure, we wondered if the hype concerning his Joker performance was solely based on his untimely death. But really, the effort and immersion he put into the Joker was jaw-dropping. Unsettlingly brilliant.

Before we get too far into it however, as always the trailer:

A "hero" who teeters along the edge of superhero and pained vigilante, Batman plunges into painful depths and tortured inner confusion, desolation, and isolation. Chaotic and dark. Rampant and wild. A crazy ride with a Joker who is by far the best (and darkest) of the bunch: no campy 1960s TV Cesar Romero, and leagues more demented that Jack Nicholson in 1989.

A classic.

An easy Full Price rating by the House of Gordon.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2-Live and his "Crew" invade Greensboro

His Steve.

There was an enjoyable surprise on Chris's cellphone Friday evening. He had mistakenly left it in the Jeep after work, and upon bringing the dogs in remembered to fetch it. In that short time there was already a voicemail.

Fraternity brother "2-Live" called to announce that he and the fam were driving through Winston-Salem at that very moment on their way to the beach for a week's vacation. Could we hook up for dinner somewheres?


345 S. Elm Street was entered into their GPS and Natty Greene's was the destination. Kimberly joined us from work not too too far into our seating. The Gordons enjoyed a few hours with 2-Live, Angi, and their 3 girls over dinner and some craft beers. (2-Live enjoyed their hoppy and unfiltered Full Moon Ale best.)

What a nice surprise and a great time to have a little one-on-one time with a good, good friend.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Our first link from another site.

The fans of Gordon Lightfoot have graced us here with their presence via a message board recently. We've been getting a lot of traffic from some "" website. What the hell is that? We investigate.

Well, it appears the post on the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter homebrew session made the rounds in Gordon Lightfoot fandom:

Welcome to our modest little spot on the interwebs!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gordon Lightfoot Porter

Great Lakes Brewing's Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. Yum.

And what wonderful news it was to receive the July/August issue of Zymurgy, the journal of the American Homebrewers Association, and its included recipe for a clone of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.

Wonderful, indeed.

So with all haste, once the 2008 Carolinian Smoked Porter was bottled, the ingredients would be gathered and the burner would be fired up for another round of outdoor garage homebrewing. Giddy with anticipation.

The Great Lakes t-shirt is worn, the Great Lakes pint glass is used to consume some Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, the Cleveland Indians baseball cap is adorned, all in hopes of good brewing karma. The recipe Chris used, although a smidge different from the Zymurgy article due to the hop shortage, is as follows:

55 L Crystal malt, 0.75 lb
Black Patent malt, 0.5 lb
Roasted Barley, 0.5 lb
Light Dried Malt Extract (DME), 8 lb
UK Kent Golding hops, 5.5% alpha acid, 1 oz @ 60 minutes
UK Kent Golding hops, 5.5% AA, 0.5 oz @ 35 minutes
UK Kent Golding hops, 5.5% AA, 0.5 oz @ 10 minutes
Irish Moss, 1 tsp, @ 10 minutes
WLP007 Dry English Ale yeast

It was a fun brew day, albeit a touch muggy with an upcoming thunderstorm. A late afternoon spent sweaty and slaving over a hot cauldron of magic liquid. Speaking of, enjoy the enthralling video of steam from a boil. (No Irish drinking songs as the muse this time; rather, Miles Davis and his Kind of Blue was inspiring the brewer.) Anyway, boiling steam videos? Riveting:

A new twist this time yeast-wise. Instead of pitching two tubes of yeast directly into the wort, Chris made a "starter". Essentially making a mini-wort on the stove, then adding the yeast to that to propagate the yeast and greatly increase their numbers. More active yeast hungry for sugars = a quicker fermentation = less likely for bacterial infection. Pre-brewday planning is involved, as the starter was made two days beforehand. Then once the yeast settle to the bottom, a 2nd "batch" was cooked on the stove the morning of and added to the growler to wake up the yeasties and get them good and hungry for more sugar. Growlers are fantastic for this:

The Therminator again did a stellar job in cooling the wort down to a pitchable temperature. ("Pitching" of course being the fancy term for "throwing yeast in".) Cooled from boiling to 75 degrees in less than 10 minutes? Incredible. (Cooling quickly is another key aspect in brewing good beer, as when it's hot, nasty flavors can occur if it becomes oxidized.) The set-up:

Brewing and clean-up were completed at 8:00pm Tuesday, and as of 5:00am Wednesday morning as Kimberly went downstairs to take the dogs out before work, she discovered "quite a bit of foaminess" in the carboy. By 9:00am when Chris checked on it, the airlock was blown off and there was a bit of gunk to clean-up:

Cosmic clouds in the atmosphere of Jupiter were rolling and swirling in the carboy. The dogs were wondering why in the hell Chris was laying on the floor in the half-bath staring at it (when they weren't trying to lick up the froth and beer off the floor...) The quickest fermentation yet. Starters are kewl.

Can't wait to give this batch a whirl and drink it down. It looks to be a good one. So, the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter clone is hereby christened Gordon Lightfoot Porter. Give a listen:

Satire gone haywire

After a week since the first news snippets over a cartoon hit the airwaves, the damn liberal House of Gordon FINALLY received their latest issue of The New Yorker in their mailbox.

Satirical in its nature, although nobody really saw it that way. What would Joe Belt Buckle think when he saw it on the newstands? Won't it just aggravate his thinking that this cover in fact mocks him for thinking anyway?

Say the magazine roused up a shitstorm of controversy; say the magazine should have been more careful in its cover; say the magazine was irrresponsible in its characterization of the Obamas.

But it sure sold a magazine or two. And it made The New Yorker front page headlines for a few days.

And that in the end was their goal, no?

As Jon Stewart says, "Barack Obama should in no way be upset about the cartoon that depicts him as a Muslim extremist, because you know who gets upset about cartoons? Muslim extremists...It's just a fucking cartoon."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Here's to the State

A 1960s Phil Ochs protest song Here's to the State of Mississippi retooled by Eddie Vedder and Tim Robbins soon after the 2004 election:

Here's to the judges of John Roberts,
Who wear the robe of honor in a phony legal form,
And justices are stranger when the partisans report,
When the court elected a president it was the beginning of this war,
Here's to the land you tore out the heart of,
John Roberts find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the government of Dick Cheney,
With criminals posing as advisors to the crown,
And they hope that no one sees the sights or that no one hears the sounds,
'Cause the speeches of our president are the ravings of a clown
Here's to the land you tore out the heart of,
Dick Cheney find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the churches of Jerry Falwell,
Oh the cross once made of silver now is turned to rust,
And the sunday morning services preach in fear of men in love,
And God only knows in heaven they must trust
Here's to the land you tore out the heart of,
Jerry Falwell find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the laws of Alberto Gonzales,
Congress will pass an act in the panic of the day,
And the Constitution's drowning in an ocean of decay,
And "freedom of speech is dangerous" I've even heard them say,
Here's to the land you tore out the heart of,
Gonzales find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the businessmen of George W,
Who'll want to change the focus from Halliburton and Enron
And their profits like blood money spilled out on the White House lawn,
To keep their hold on power they're using terror as a con,
While the bombs they fall on children don't know which side, don't care which side that they're on
Here's to the land you tore out the heart of,
George W find yourself another country to be part of
Here's to the land you've torn out the heart of,
George W find yourself another country to be part of

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pearl Jam's "Alive"...the lifting of the curse

A while back, we watched a VH-1 Storytellers episode with Pearl Jam. There was a heartfelt moment concerning the song "Alive".

Sitting around putting Pearl Jam tunes on Chris's iPod tonight brought about the heartwarming story of that song. Here's Eddie Vedder explaining the curse, followed by the music video from 1991.

1991. 1991?

Wow. We're old....

Wherever you are tonight, whatever you're doing, just celebrate being alive.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Got a hankerin' for some NC beer?

Then order it to be shipped to you!

(thanks Sean for the lifted Pop the Cap photo to the left)

New news in the ever-improving world of NC Beer:

North Carolina Beer Shops Get OK to Ship

ASHEVILLE, NC - Word came last night from Julie Atallah, owner of the #2 rated retailer in the world according to RateBeer, Bruisin’ Ales, that North Carolina beer stores will soon be able to ship beer out of state. Atallah says that her Asheville beer shop got its FedEx permit and is awaiting finalization of the states to which she can ship.

Let’s break down what this could mean to beer people around the U.S. North Carolina has had a quietly up-and-coming beer scene for a while now. Unfortunately, some of the better brewers and brewpubs in the state don’t distribute very far, if at all — Pisgah Brewing, perhaps, being the prime example.

Pisgah’s ‘green’ philosophy has been well-documented; the brewery has no interest in large trucks carting its beers around the country. Aside from trading in the forums, this may become the only other loophole in Pisgah’s initiative. A look on the Bruisin’ Ales site shows that the store has previously stocked the brewery’s gem, Valdez. Unfortunately, there is never a guarantee that special releases like these will be made available for shipping. Even so, their other beers are certainly nothing to scoff at and several of them have been bottled. 17 of Pisgah’s 18 brews are rated B+ or better on Beer Advocate. Bruisin’ Ales reported Hellbender, a Barleywine, Cosmos, a Baltic Porter, and Solstice, a tripel, all available on store shelves as of yesterday evening.

This goes far beyond Bruisin’ Ales and Pisgah Brewing though. Ever wanted access to fellow Asheville breweries, Highland and French Broad (who just started bottling their ESB and Wee Heavy-er Scotch)? How about The Duck-Rabbit Brewery? Or easier access to Terrapin beers?

There are four North Carolina retailers in the RateBeer Top 50 and over 30 on Beer Advocate rated A- or better. Hopefully, some of these stores will try out the online beer market. Regardless, this opens up a pocket of the country to which most of us have never had access, and that is pretty exciting.

Featured at Bruisin' Ales:
Highland Brewing
Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery
Pisgah Brewing
Catawba Valley Brewing
French Broad Brewery

For growlers of Foothills or Natty Greene's you'll still have to ask the Gordons to ship you some personally. "Hypothetically" of course since we don't have an alcohol license and neither do you...

Wink wink nudge nudge.

American Originals: Budweiser

It was a big to-do. but wasn't posted here. There was recent news that Belgian (if you could call it that, as the company is rather mysterious and does not really have a "concrete" home office) beer giant InBev has purchased Anheuser-Busch for 52 billion (with a 'b') dollars. Madness.

A massive global fizzy yellow lager company buys a massive American fizzy yellow lager company. Big news in business, but for news of spreading a quality TASTY beer product to the masses? Yawn. Wow, Budweiser will share the locker room with the likes of Stella Artois and Beck's! Snooze...

Anyhoo, giving credit where credit is due, Anheuser-Busch does a phenomenal job of quality control. A Bud purchased that was brewed in St. Louis tastes the same as a Bud brewed in Columbus, OH tastes the same as a Bud brewed in Williamsburg, VA. Quite a feat, even if it is a boring fizzy yellow lager.

Tonight, July 17 at 9:00pm EST, CNBC will air an episode of "American Originals: Budweiser". It will re-air Sunday July 20th 10PM, Sunday July 27th 12AM, and Monday July 28th 9PM. Sure it's crap beer, but it is an American institution and quite an innovator. Did you know that Anheuser-Busch trailblazed the use of refrigerated railcars to distribute their beer nationally? Or that the company is the largest recycler of aluminum cans in the nation?

"American Originals: Budweiser" taps into the beer industry, as CNBC reveals how Anheuser-Busch cultivated its Budweiser brand to remain a leader even as it was losing market share. CNBC gained unprecedented access in order to show viewers how Budweiser executives built the brand and how they respond to one of their most challenging issues yet: how to battle relentless competition from exotic brands from overseas and microbreweries as well as favorite local brands and other national beers. The fate of the last of the independent American beer brands is at stake and CNBC shows you what is being done to maintain market share lead.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Top 10 Will Ferrell scenes of all time (so far)

A sage. A scion. A scholar. A modern day philosopher.

In order:

10. Glass Case of Emotion
9. He's an angry elf
8. Go back to your home on Whore Island
7. I'll murder your family
6. Dust in the wind
5. I want to be on you
4. Ma, the meatloaf!
3. I like you but you're crazy
2. Little tiny baby Jesus
1. Frank the Tank


Monday, July 14, 2008

O come all ye gay folks, come to South Carolina...

Folks on the London tube (that's "subway" to you continental types) can see posters proclaiming a fantastic holiday (that's "vacation") destination for those leaning towards a gay persuasion:
South Carolina.

Come see our gay beaches, come see our Civil War era plantations! Come stir up the pot with the conservative bible thumping yokels!

Don't know what's funnier: the straight-laced god-fearing idiots in South Carolina getting their panties in a bunch over their state being called "So gay" for tourism, or the fact that their tax dollars actually paid for it.


The story.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The next Ken Burns documentary

<---Glacier National Park, Montana. Part of the Gordons's Summer 1999 vacation extravaganza.

In the Fall of 2009, Ken Burns is set to release "The National Parks: America's Best Idea". A 12-hour, six-part film. Oh the JOY!!!!!

PBS to air Burns' national parks series next year

Sat Jul 12, 4:21 PM ET

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' new series celebrating America's national parks and detailing their history will air in fall 2009, PBS said Saturday.

"The National Parks: America's Best Idea," is a 12-hour, six-part film that traces the origins and growth of the national parks system over 150 years.

The series will feature Burns' trademark blend of archival photos, interviews and what PBS called "breathtaking images" of the national parks system. Tom Hanks, Andy Garcia and John Lithgow are among the actors who lend their voices to historical figures in the series. The narrator is actor Peter Coyote.

Those who fought to preserve the parks saw in them a "visual, tangible representation of God's majesty," Burns said in a statement released by PBS at a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

The series details the crass opportunism as well as the lofty ideals that became part of the national parks story, Burns said.

"The National Parks," produced by Florentine Films and public TV station WETA Washington D.C., is directed by Burns and produced by him and writer Dayton Duncan, who wrote a companion book for the series.

Burns, among the nation's highest-profile documentarians since his series "The Civil War" created a sensation, has agreed to air his work exclusively on PBS until 2022, the network said last year. His other films include "The War," a 14-hour series on World War II, and "Baseball," an 18 1/2-hour series on the sport's history.

Hagar the Awesome

Yeah. And?.....

The "one to two months until something opens up in Greensboro" saga is over.

Chris is finally moving from the land of John Coltrane back to the land of O. Henry. The busiest pharmacy in the district shall be no more as a place of employ. Post-Target, Chris went to High Point "to get his foot in the door" until a spot opened up in Greensboro "soon". Then, as it became painfully aware that staffing High Point was a challenge to say the least, Chris did his time with a smile knowing that there would be reward soon enough.

That "soon enough" has finally occurred a mere year and a half later. Today begins the era of Chris making a triumphant pharmacy return to Greensboro to another 24-hour store.

A commute just 10 minutes away from home? Life is good.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Beer: Is There Anything It Can't Do?

July 10, 2008

Beer: Is There Anything It Can't Do?

By George Will

WASHINGTON -- Perhaps like many sensible citizens, you read Investor's Business Daily for its sturdy common sense in defending free markets and other rational arrangements. If so, you too may have been startled recently by an astonishing statement on that newspaper's front page. It was in a report on the intention of the world's second-largest brewer, Belgium's InBev, to buy control of the third-largest, Anheuser-Busch, for $46.3 billion. The story asserted: "The (alcoholic beverage) industry's continued growth, however slight, has been a surprise to those who figured that when the economy turned south, consumers would cut back on nonessential items like beer. ... "

"Non what"? Do not try to peddle that proposition in the bleachers or at the beaches in July. It is closer to the truth to say: No beer, no civilization.

The development of civilization depended on urbanization, which depended on beer. To understand why, consult Steven Johnson's marvelous 2006 book The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. It is a great scientific detective story about how a horrific cholera outbreak was traced to a particular neighborhood pump for drinking water. And Johnson begins a mind-opening excursion into a related topic this way:

"The search for unpolluted drinking water is as old as civilization itself. As soon as there were mass human settlements, waterborne diseases like dysentery became a crucial population bottleneck. For much of human history, the solution to this chronic public-health issue was not purifying the water supply. The solution was to drink alcohol."

Often the most pure fluid available was alcohol -- in beer and, later, wine -- which has antibacterial properties. Sure, alcohol has its hazards, but as Johnson breezily observes, "Dying of cirrhosis of the liver in your forties was better than dying of dysentery in your twenties." Besides, alcohol, although it is a poison, and an addictive one, became, especially in beer, a driver of a species-strengthening selection process.

Johnson notes that historians interested in genetics believe that the roughly simultaneous emergence of urban living and the manufacturing of alcohol set the stage for a survival-of-the-fittest sorting-out among the people who abandoned the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and, literally and figuratively speaking, went to town.

To avoid dangerous water, people had to drink large quantities of, say, beer. But to digest that beer, individuals needed a genetic advantage that not everyone had -- what Johnson describes as the body's ability to respond to the intake of alcohol by increasing the production of particular enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenases. This ability is controlled by certain genes on chromosome four in human DNA, genes not evenly distributed to everyone. Those who lacked this trait could not, as the saying is, "hold their liquor." So, many died early and childless, either of alcohol's toxicity or from waterborne diseases.

The gene pools of human settlements became progressively dominated by the survivors -- by those genetically disposed to, well, drink beer. "Most of the world's population today," Johnson writes, "is made up of descendants of those early beer drinkers, and we have largely inherited their genetic tolerance for alcohol."

Johnson suggests, not unreasonably, that this explains why certain of the world's population groups, such as Native Americans and Australian Aborigines, have had disproportionately high levels of alcoholism: These groups never endured the cruel culling of the genetically unfortunate that town dwellers endured. If so, the high alcoholism rates among Native Americans are not, or at least not entirely, ascribable to the humiliations and deprivations of the reservation system. Rather, the explanation is that not enough of their ancestors lived in towns.

But that is a potential stew of racial or ethnic sensitivities that we need not stir in this correction of Investor's Business Daily. Suffice it to say that the good news is really good: Beer is a health food. And you do not need to buy it from those wan, unhealthy-looking people who, peering disapprovingly at you through rimless Trotsky-style spectacles, seem to run all the health food stores.

So let there be no more loose talk -- especially not now, with summer arriving -- about beer not being essential. Benjamin Franklin was, as usual, on to something when he said, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Or, less judgmentally, and for secular people who favor a wall of separation between church and tavern, beer is evidence that nature wants us to be.
Copyright 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Denver plans are a-comin' together

If you didn't know, Kimberly and Chris are making their way to Denver next month for the Democratic National Convention. We have plane fare. We have a hotel room. We have a rental car. However, we are not delegates, nor do we have any convention tickets. But just to be there for such an historic event will be ever-so-satisfying. And who knows? Maybe by chance somehow we'll find or talk ourselves getting into something....

If you haven't heard, Barack Obama is moving his acceptance speech from the "paltry" confines of the Pepsi Center to the 76,000-seat Invesco Field at Mile High football stadium. According to Senator Obama's website, the method to acquire free tickets for that historic outdoor encounter will be announced the closer we get to the actual date. To augment our chances on getting in though, we've donated (again) to the cause. Donate by July 31 be entered in a drawing for you and a friend to get in for 2 days and nights to the convention, meet him backstage, and see his speech live and in person. Oh my stars! Donation sent. Baited breath held...

In the meantime, before the convention's festivities begin, there happens to be a little something called a "Rockies / Reds baseball game" Sunday afternoon August 24th at Coors Field. Of course, tickets for that are already coming to us in the mail. Per the luxury of James and Chris's adventure in "Club Level" seats in Baltimore, Kimberly and Chris will have their snacks and drinks delivered to us in our seats for this one too. Section 234, row 11. That's the yellow section immediately to the third base side of the pressbox. Cool.

More Denver excitement to follow....

"This is Killer Willard and this is my husband." SMACK!

Found this old clip on the interwebs this morning from of all places Sports Illustrated online. It was aired on an old Cleveland broadcast staple from 1972-1999, Morning Exchange, that historically was the basis for Good Morning America: the television living room as an extension of your home. It's true! You can look it up.

Anyhoo, the laughter wouldn't stop and "replay" was hit repeatedly this morning:

Our June Newseum visit hits the interwebs

We posted here on June 24th concerning our weekend Newseum trip to DC. Television cameras were arranged in-studio to record the goings-on of the disussions, and we always wondered who would in fact see the video portion of the programs.

Lo and behold, the Newseum has a YouTube channel, posting their various videos.

Pause this exactly at the 50 second spot to see a stunning couple from North Carolina in attendance:

Foothills on the telly

Our local Fox affiliate sent their DESK ANCHOR, not just some rumpled street reporter, to Winston-Salem and interviewed Foothills Brewing's master brewer Jamie Bartholomaus.

And lo, how doth the Gordon male squeal like a girl.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Throwing in the towel.

A write-up in the Miami Herald, of all places, concerning our beloved Indians. Miami! Soem good tidbits concerning the three named minor leaguers we received for C.C., er, CC.

Indians brass has thrown in the towel

By Mike Castiglione, Sports Network
The Sports Network

The end of an era -- and subsequently the relevance of the hometown ballclub -- has come to an end in Cleveland.

Less than a year removed from an American League Central Division title and a near trip to the World Series, the Indians have fallen completely off the map. The team has been in the midst of perhaps its most critical stretch of the schedule, with eight straight against division foes, followed by a four-game set with the Major League-best Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

And basically, the Tribe has blown it. Big time.

Entering tonight's game in Detroit, the Indians have lost eight straight and 14 of their last 18. They are 14 games below .500, and the same amount of games back in the division standings. Compounding matters, they've got gashes that simply cannot be fixed with a Band-Aid.

On the disabled list are starters Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, as well as sluggers Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. Ben Francisco and Jhonny Peralta are batting in the third and fourth spots in the lineup. The bullpen, 8-17 with a major league-worst 5.14 ERA, is now minus closer Joe Borowski, who was designated for assignment over the weekend.

But the move that made every headline, of course, was Monday's trade of reigning Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for four prospects.

And so just like that, the focus in Cleveland has shifted from another deep playoff push, to the future.

The Sabathia deal even prompted a letter from team President Paul Dolan, explaining the team's desire to "add talent that can impact the short-term and long-term success of the organization."

"After keeping the strong nucleus from our 2007 playoff team intact," Dolan wrote, "we all had high expectations entering the '08 season. Unfortunately, the team did not play up to our expectations and we sustained injuries to key players within our starting lineup and rotation."

From management's standpoint, the trade does appear to make sense. While it can be argued the team could have played the waiting game and possibly received better prospects from other suitors, they at least got something in return. In the offseason, Sabathia turned down a four-year extension that would've netted him $18 million a year. Rather than lose their ace to free agency at the end of the season and be forced to settle for two draft picks, the Indians were proactive.

In exchange for arguably the top hurler in the game today, Cleveland gets outfielder Matt LaPorta, pitchers Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson, and a player to be named later.

LaPorta, taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, led the Double-A Southern League with 20 homers and ranked second with 66 RBI. Since being drafted, he's averaged a home run every 13 at-bats.

Jackson was a first-rounder (32nd overall) in 2004, and sprung all the way up to Triple-A after just one season, having gone a combined 16-8 with a 3.92 ERA. The very next year he got a taste of the big leagues, but was sent back down after struggling and has not fared well ever since.

Bryson, drafted in the 31st round in 2006, is a power pitcher who induces lots of strikeouts. Opposing hitters are batting just .209 against him this year in the South Atlantic League.

Each could very well prove to be an integral part of the Indians' future. Unfortunately for Indians fans, the distant future wasn't exactly at the forefront of their minds at the outset of the season.

And then another smidgen of hope further down in the article:


Hats off to All-Stars Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore.

Lee (11-2, 2.43) went from battling for the fifth slot in the rotation during Spring Training, to perhaps being the AL starter in the Mid-Summer Classic. This will be his first All-Star appearance.

Sizemore (.269, 22 HR, 18 doubles, 50 RBI, 20 steals, 56 runs) is making the trip for a third straight year and may participate in the Home Run Derby. He has blasted 14 homers in his last 34 games.

Both were part of the Bartolo Colon trade in 2002. Tribe fans can only cross their fingers and wait to see if General Manager Mark Shapiro has struck gold again with the Sabathia deal.

Carsten Charles Sabathia...professional Brewer

C.C., erm, excuse me. I meant "CC" Sabathia is now a Milwaukee Brewer. The "mid-market" Cleveland Indians, who claim to have no hope to compete in the wildly expensive free agency signing party, have traded C.C., er, CC Sabathia to the money-soaked huge media market Milwaukee Brewers. [sarcasm delivered free of charge]

The Associated Press story:

Brewers send 4 prospects to Indians for Sabathia
By CHRIS JENKINS – 20 hours ago

MILWAUKEE (AP) — With one XXL-sized move, the Milwaukee Brewers hope to transform themselves from scrappy underdogs to a big, bad pitching powerhouse intent on chasing down the Chicago Cubs and making the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

The Brewers obtained reigning AL Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on Monday, giving up four prospects in a gamble that favors the present over the future.

"I'd say we're going for it," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "That's the way I look at it."

The deal stacks the Brewers' deck with a pair of aces, Sabathia and Ben Sheets — but only for a few months.

Barring blockbuster contract offers from a small-market team that already is stretching this year's payroll into the $90 million range, both players will become free agents after the season.

And the deal hardly assures the Brewers an easy road to the playoffs. Milwaukee began Monday a percentage point ahead of St. Louis for the second-best record in the NL, and both teams are chasing the Chicago Cubs, who are 3 1/2 games ahead in the NL Central.

"Let's face it: This is still a calculated risk," Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said. "The other teams in our division aren't going to sit back and look at this and say, 'Oh, now the Brewers have got CC Sabathia. Let's just roll over.'"

The football player-sized Sabathia, who went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA last season, is the first reigning Cy Young winner to be traded since Roger Clemens was dealt to the New York Yankees after winning the award with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998.

For Cleveland, it's a sign of surrender hardly anyone would have imagined going into the season.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said the team's string of injuries and disappointing performances made it hard to imagine a significant rally in the second half.

"We all headed into this season with what feel are well-founded expectations for a championship-contending season," Shapiro said. "Four core players on the DL — tough for almost any franchise to overcome — as well as disappointing performances from many components of our team, most noticeably in the bullpen, leave us at the juncture we're at. There wasn't much doubt or question in our mind that it was nearly impossible for us to become a contending club this year."

Sabathia was scheduled to arrive in Milwaukee before Monday night's game against Colorado and to pitch against the Rockies on Tuesday night. He also is expected to pitch against Cincinnati on Sunday, giving him a pair of starts for his new team at home leading into the All-Star break.

"We're trying to get four starts out of him before the break," Melvin joked. "But we'll settle for two."

Milwaukee sent Cleveland outfielder Matt LaPorta, pitchers Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson and a player to be named. Shapiro said the player to be named would be among two specified in the deal.

Melvin said the Brewers' strong farm system gave him flexibility to deal away a good

"Matt LaPorta is going to be a good big league player, and I hope he is," Melvin said.

Attanasio said the acquisition of Sabathia will push the team's payroll around $90 million this season. Attanasio said the move might prevent the club from turning a profit this year, but it was made possible by increased fan support and sound financial decisions in recent years.

"We'd always love to go for it," Attanasio said. "But you can go for it in a stupid fashion, and Doug and his group have never done that."

Sabathia had a slow start but is 6-8 with a 3.83 ERA. Cleveland scored two runs or fewer in 11 of his 18 starts.

Milwaukee's starting pitching has been thin ever since Yovani Gallardo went on the disabled list on May 2 with a torn knee ligament that required surgery. His rehab was supposed to take four months, which gives him an outside chance of returning before the end of the season.

Sheets (10-2, 2.77 ERA) is off to the best start of his career, but the All-Star righty is in the final year of a $38.5 million, four-year contract and hasn't wanted to talk about his upcoming free agency.

Milwaukee, which hasn't been in the postseason since Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, fell two games short of the division title last year.

The Indians, who fell one win shy of the World Series last year, are in need of power-hitting corner outfielders and LaPorta is expected to fill that void. He hit .288 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs in 84 games for Double-A Huntsville.

Sabathia rejected a $72 million, four-year extension from the Indians during spring training and announced he wouldn't negotiate until after the season.

Shapiro said seven teams were interested in Sabathia, and the trade came after three to five days of intense negotiations with Milwaukee.

"C.C. made it clear that once the season started he did not want to entertain any negotiations," Shapiro said. "Our exploration of a contract was thorough enough in spring training to understand the combination of our capabilities and C.C.'s expectations didn't align."

Cleveland has seen Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle leave in free agency.

Associated Press Writer Joe Milicia in Cleveland contributed to this report.

All we read about during the failed runs at World Series crowns was pitching. If only we had some pitching. So we deal away the best pitcher we had. I guess it coincides well with the Indians' offense going into the crapper this year. Sigh...

4 minor leaguers. The best of the bunch from AA. For the reigning Cy Young Award winner. This stinks.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Carolinian Smoked Porter

In Chris's humble opinion, one of the tastiest brews in this country is Alaskan Smoked Porter. We sampled it right from the source in 2001 on vacation in Juneau after a brewery tour. A taxi from the cruise ship to the brewery, then afterward a public bus back to the port. Fun stuff! Anyway, Chris immediately fell in love with it; both the story of its brewing and the beer itself. Tasteeeeee....

So Saturday, Chris broke out the brewing gear and set up shop in the garage to brew a "clone" of Alaskan Smoked Porter. Brewday pictures can be found here on our Flickr account.


The recipe:

Steeping specialty grains (from two different recipe batches)
- Black Patent Malt, 1 cup + 1 oz
- 60L Crystal Malt, 3 cups + 12 oz
- Chocolate Malt, 1 cup
- Smoked Malt, 3 cups

Light Dried Malt Extract (DME), 6 lbs

Chinook hop pellets, 12.0% Alpha Acid, 1 1/2 oz (bittering)
Hallertau hop pellets, 4.5% AA, 1 oz (bittering)
Fuggle hop plug, 5.4% AA, 1 oz (aromatic)

WLP023 Burton Ale yeast

1 Whirlfloc tablet (clarifying)

And you can't brew (well, I guess you "can") without good Irish drinking songs to accompany you:

Basically, add 5 gallons of water to the brewpot. Add the specialty grain bag and add heat to 158 F. Steep for 20 minutes at 158 then remove bag. Add DME and stir constantly to dissolve. Heat to boiling. Add Chinook pellets at "minute zero" of boil. At "minute 45" add Hallertau pellets. At "minute 80" add Whirlfloc tablet. At "minute 90" add Fuggle plug and turn off the burner.

Cool quickly as possible to 70-75 F (Chris raves about his Therminator). Transfer to primary fermenter. Add enough cold water to reach the 5 gallon mark. Take Original Gravity reading (actual 1.051, goal 1.055). Aerate. Add yeast. After 8-24 hours, fermentation begins vigorously a la the photo on the left. Just leave it alone for one week.

Chris follows the 1-2-3 rule: After 1 week in primary, we'll transfer it to a secondary fermenter for 2 weeks to settle it out some more and get it even clearer. Then we'll bottle it and let it carbonate for 3 weeks. Finally, chill and enjoy.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy birthday!

James calls Chris to say that there is "something for him at Foothills". What? Explain. Just there's something for him to pick up next time he's there.

A couple days later, the manager of the restaurant calls and leaves a message to say that "there is something here for [Chris] for his birthday, and to just let the bartender know you're here." What?

So Kimberly is not around one night, and Chris leaves work to head to Winston-Salem and Foothills Brewery for dinner. Mug #17 is requested to be brought down for the 20-oz. pour for a 16-oz. price, and lo and behold. Two growlers were bought and paid for via telephone from the Brannons in Alexandria, VA. Nice! THANKS!!!!!!


"Take two and hit to right."

Tuesday and Wednesday saw Chris off of work, so what better way to spend that time than to travel up to Washington, DC and be in the audience for NPR's Talk of the Nation live at the Newseum?

An early departure Tuesday got Chris into Alexandria, VA and the Brannon household at 11:15am. Then it was a quick trip to Merrifield and Sweetwater Tavern for lunch and to fill up some of the gobs and gobs of growlers James owns (with his neighbor Paul). Insane.

Afterwards, it was a trip into DC for a leisurely stroll on Theodore Roosevelt Island on the Potomac. Sadly, Chris was unaware that this was a National Park, so he did not bring his nerdy National Park Passport to get stamped. Drat. Next time....

Wednesday, it was a Metro ride into DC proper for an afternoon of National Public Radio groupie-ness with Neal Conan and Talk of the Nation. But first, breakfast at newfound favorite greasy spoon Lincoln Waffle House for some good waffles, eggs, and delicious sausage. Then, some sauntering through DC streets to the District Chophouse & Brewery for beers and a pizza. And finally, our main destination for today's quest: the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the weekly live-from-the-Newseum Wednesday broadcast of Talk of the Nation.

Broadcast from 2p-4p daily, but on Wednesdays they take a break from the "home office" on Massachusetts Ave NW to come to the Newseum. Giddy. An email RSVP to reserve seats and Newseum Press Pass members James and Chris are there to schmooze and hobnob with broadcast and political elites. Usually, they are in a larger studio, but this week for some reason they are in the smaller studio at the Newseum where This Week with George Stephanopoulos is taped.

Chris got his Neal Conan book autographed. James got the Neal Conan placard autographed. And the producer remembered us from the last time we were there and asked for Chris's contact info so she can mail Ted Koppel's placard as he fills in next Wednesday at the Newseum broadcast. Sa-weet!

Enjoy the beginning of the broadcast:

And here's an interweb link to the first 1/2 hour of the program. Pay special attention to the absolutely stunning voice heard live on the air at about 27m 35s:

Afterward, it was dinner at Gordon Biersch (10% discount for members of the American Homebrewers Association) for some grub and brews. Then sadly, it was 7pm and time for the 4 and 1/2 hour drive back to Greensboro.

A whirlwind trip, but one full of groupie-ness and fun.