Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for Browns football

I love the Browns. It is a blessing and a curse. The amount of character-building occurring just by being a Browns fan is immense. Sure I bitch about their shoddy play, their inept skills, their ability to rankle me on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, but they're MY team. MY heroes. MY gaggle of plain-helmeted warriors.

Be that as it may, it gives me permission to scream and bemoan their recent (well, not so recent) stretch of ineptitude. The latest gem? Hometown (well, a town a smidge under 2 hours south of Cleveland) boy Brady Quinn gets to play quarterback for his beloved Cleveland Browns. Every young boy's dream. Played through a broken fingertip on his throwing hand and ended up damaging a tendon. Giving rise to possible surgery and a definite end to his season. Sigh....

At least he's already been named the starter for 2009!

Today, and every day, I am truly thankful for the Cleveland Browns, but am frankly tiring of the bad tidings that accompany my team.

I am not one of the 27.

Way back in April 2008, we had the bright idea to get in ahead of time to try and get Inauguration tickets for January 2009. We were that confident. Before the NC primary, before the general election. So I contacted our Congressman, Mel Watt of the 12th District of North Carolina, and asked for two tickets. We were informed via phone call that official distribution notices would not occur until after the election.

OK. We'll wait.

So the day after the election on Wednesday November 5th, another note was sent to Rep. Watt. We were told they know of our request and we were already "on the possible ticket list".

Fingers crossed.

We just received an email stating that tickets are slim. So slim in fact that a total of 27 tickets are distributed in Guilford County, our residence.

Mel Watt's 12th District is one of the most racially gerrymandered districts in the nation. Seriously. I mean, look at it:


A sliver of darker skin tones all along the I-85 corridor. Charlotte to Winston-Salem? Rep. Watt needs TWO local offices? One in Charlotte and one in Greensboro? Unreal.

Anyway, the email reads thusly:
On November 12, I was informed that each member of the U.S. House of Representatives would receive 196 tickets that we could distribute to the January 20, 2009 inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. When we stopped taking requests for tickets at 5:00 p.m. on November 14 we had received requests from over 5,000 people for more than 15,000 tickets. This, of course, made it an impossible task to satisfy all the requests.

Here’s what we decided to do:

· We decided to allocate no more than 2 tickets to any person who had made a request;

· We decided to allocate 70 of the tickets to elected officials and community, organizational and religious leaders from throughout the 12th District who had made requests; and

· We decided to allocate the balance of the tickets (126) between the 12th District counties based on the relative populations of the counties in the District and conducted a separate lottery drawing for constituents who had made requests from each county. This resulted in the following division of tickets:

Mecklenburg – 44 tickets

Guilford – 27 tickets

Forsyth – 26 tickets

Davidson – 15 tickets

Rowan – 12 tickets, and

Cabarrus – 2 tickets

We are in the process of contacting each individual who was selected to receive tickets based on the above process to confirm that they still plan to attend the inauguration and wish to use the tickets. Some may have changed their mind or may not wish to use the tickets because of the two ticket limit or for other reasons. Tickets not claimed will be distributed based on the county lotteries we have already conducted.


Sigh....granted the inauguration does not technically require a ticket, but to be guaranteed a spot among 240,000 ticketholders when approximately 4,000,000 people will go anyway would have been nice. I still have the January week off work, will still go to DC, and will still stand among the unwashed masses and watch history be made.

At Thanksgiving, ticket in hand or not, I'm just thankful to have a visionary forward-thinking president-elect to help us get through these trying times.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Thanksgiving staple

Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and generally all throughout late autumn and wintertime, famous Pumpkin Dip is unleashed unto the world with great delight and much fanfare. Ridiculously easy to make, ridiculously delicious to consume. Observe:

The ingredients:

Blend the two cream cheese packages and the can of pure pumpkin:

Yum, smooth cream cheese and pumpkin:

Add a clump of dark brown sugar, and healthy sprinklings of cinnamon and nutmeg. There are no standard measurements in my recipe. It's all eyeballed and guesstimated. I'll use the generic, "Add to taste." Experiment!

Blend again until smooth:

Place it in a container and refrigerate. It tastes better after a day of sitting and flavor-melding, so make it the day before you need it for best results. And as a rule of all rules, this MUST be served with Anna's Ginger Thin cookies for dipping. No bulky gingersnaps. Ginger Thins. You will be rewarded.

Now that you know how simple it is, go make some.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shakeup in the routine

The usual Gordonian Sunday morning lineup of scrambled eggs (with cheese, onion, Hungarian paprika, and garlic), Johnsonville breakfast sausage, and waffles has been upended.

Bacon.

A hunk of double-smoked bacon was recently brought back from the German Gourmet market in Alexandria, VA if you remember. The hunk was adequately sampled this morning.

Salivate.....now.
Wow does the house smell wonderful....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Brrrr....

Wake up Friday, and what do we see in central North Carolina? Some strange white substance dotting the landscape. Odd. Quite odd.Anyone with any clues what this mysterious stuff could be please let me know.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

10th annual Palmetto State Brewers' Open

FedEx received a 19.7 lb. box of beery goodness to ship down to Columbia, SC yesterday. It should arrive sometime today. You see, Saturday December 6th is the 10th annual Palmetto State Brewers' Open, a homebrew competition. The deadline for receipt is this coming Monday November 24th.

Judged homebrewing competitions look at beers as they fall under strict style guidelines. There are 28 BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style categories with plenty of subcategories included. Waver or stray at all from the set guideline and your beer score suffers.

Some beers, i.e. my Chocolate-Vanilla Stout are by all accounts an "American Stout", but the BJCP flavor descriptions in this kind of stout do not include any actual cocoa or vanilla notes, so it has to be entered in a catch-all "Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer" category. Even if it's a tasty beer worthy of accolades, as an American Stout it would absolutely tank because it doesn't follow the rigid style guidelines. Similarly, the Honey Molasses Porter is in essence a "Robust Porter", but the addition of neither spice nor herb nor vegetable with the honey and molasses thrusts it into the "Specialty Beer" BJCP category for a proper scoring. It's a porter! But there are no sweet honey and molasses characteristics in a porter.

Some argue the guidelines limit creativity. The guidelines are too structured and rigid for an experimental hobby (and for some, a profession) like brewing. I waffle. The guidelines give you a good base for classic styles. Different brewers aiming to meet the same goals set forth for a particular beer; who can successfully make a consistent stylistic classic? But as homebrewers, and more often than not brewers themselves in this era of "extreme brewing", we often just "throw whatever in the kettle" and see what comes out: a nomad beer, not having a proper "home" within the hierarchy of the Beer Judge Certification Program. So as a result, even with the rigidity, I'm sincerely hoping for good style scores. But more importantly, I'm looking for unbiased honest feedback on the aromas and flavors I'm trying to achieve. Sure, maybe the beer doesn't fit into a particular rigid style, but did you enjoy it anyway? How did it make you feel?

I entered 7 beers, 2 bottles each:

a) Carolinian Slightly Smoked Porter
Category 22B - Other Smoked Beer

b) Gordon Lightfoot Porter
Category 12B - Robust Porter

c) Joe Jackson Tripel
Category 18C - Belgian Tripel

d) Maple Pumpkin Ale
Category 21A - Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer

e) Chocolate-Vanilla Stout
Category 21A - Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer

f) Razzmatazz Raspbeery Wheat
Category 20 - Fruit Beer

g) Honey Molasses Porter
Category 23 - Specialty Beer

Sadly, these were the last bottles in Gordonian inventory of the smoked porter, Edmund Fitzgerald clone, honey molasses porter, and tripel. Hopefully they'll go out with a bang. We'll see what happens. Stay tuned.

Christiane Amanpour and James Rubin

Tuesday night was the next lecture in our Guilford College lecture series. This time, "America and the World" with CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and her husband, former assistant Secretary of State James Rubin.

The discussion was America's place in the world, the world's view of America, and the changing relationships between America and the world.

Amanpour spoke for about 30 minutes, then Rubin for 30, then a Q&A for about 30 minutes.

It was interesting to say the least. Amanpour is truly a world traveler and has interviewed many heads of state and common citizens throughout the world. Her travel resume is extensive. However, it seemed that she was rushing to squeeze in any interview anecdote she could within her time frame. Not too much detail. She could have expounded more on some topics instead of hurrying on to begin the next "Oh and then I interviewed so-and-so...."

Rubin, more reserved and stately, spoke of his experiences in the State Department and the goings on with that cabinet position. I'd hoped to hear more from him about his thoughts and stories, but Amanpour is the face on TV and the star of the night, so it was her voice heard most. A fascinatingly mesmerizing voice, but a little too much grandstanding for our tastes.

Get in Mah Belly! Scotch Ale

Paying homage to that cinematic wonder from the Austin Powers film, Fat Bastard, I brewed up a malty Scotch Ale Tuesday. Appropriately enough, I called it "Get in Mah Belly!" on a blustery and cold 39 degree North Carolina day sitting in the garage performing that magical rite known as brewing.

The muse? Scottish Bagpipes. Bagpipes on the iPod. The music library is indeed immense.
video

The recipe:



8 oz. Crystal Malt 60L
4 oz. Chocolate Malt
1 oz. Roasted Barley

3.3 lb. amber liquid malt extract
2 lb. amber dry malt extract

1 oz. Glacier hops 6.0% alpha acid at 60 minutes
1/2 oz. Glacier hops 6.0% AA at 5 minutes

1 Whirlfloc tablet at 15 minutes (to clarify)

WLP028 Edinburgh Ale yeast


Use your best Scottish brogue to roll that yeast name off your tongue.

In preparing the yeast starter a few days ahead of time (as usual), the corresponding "step up's" to grow the yeast cell population really took off this time. The highest cell count I've had in quite a while. A good healthy slurry of yeasties settled to the bottom: Fermentation began in earnest within 2 hours once again. With using a yeast starter, gone are the days of the wort sitting and sitting and sitting all night long until the following morning when fermentation activity would begin, giving the opportunity for bacterial infection to take hold and choke out the yeast. Now, within mere hours a frothy head occurs and there's no chance of bacteria to thrive. Nice. As you can see, there's even one cluster of pre-yeast-pitching aeration froth that hadn't slid completely down off the glass yet, and fermentation has kicked up enough to visibly see its progress:
Looks to be another success. Weighing in at a starting gravity of 1.040, it won't be a thick huge malt bomb, but rather should be an easy-drinking slick smooth Scotch Ale. Can't wait.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

College football play of the year

Chris "Beanie" Wells of The Ohio State University.

Last Saturday afternoon.

OSU vs. Illinois.

Wow.

I am a complete dufus for not posting this earlier.

"A Better Brew"

(Photo taken by yours truly at the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church, VA.)

Sometimes it pays to be a lefty liberal beer geek. The New Yorker magazine arrives at the house each and every week, and this latest issue has a rather lengthy article about brewer Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head Brewery.

Read it. But set aside a good chunk of free time. It's long.
The article.

$500 well spent.

Over on Facebook (yes I am indeed on Facebook, and actually one of the last of the ONU pharmacy group to sign up), regular HofG reader and commenter "Duke" wrote:


Come on Flash...hows about a picture of the $500 money shot from your concert a few days ago?

The Dresden Dolls tune Coin-Operated Boy is funked up and disco-fied to a bass-thumping rave beat while the $500 breasts appear. Hazy and fuzzy, but technically NSFW (that's "not safe for work" you n00bs!)

One to never disappoint the readers, here you go:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hunter's Pie, nifty lights, and blues.

Sounds like a full docket, huh?

Saturday night, I drove over to Winston-Salem and the outstanding Foothills Brewing to meet friends Greg and Louise for dinner. Hunter's Pie, with beef, ostrich, buffalo, and I forget whatever else gamey meats thrown in. Pretty good, been wanting to try it for some time now, but in the grand scheme of things the meat was rather bland. Garlic mashed potatoes and broiled mozzarrella cheese on top gave all the flavor. Oh well. Next time it'll be the beer brats with saurkraut.

After dinner and schmoozing with Scott the Foothills sales guy, we made our way a little further into downtown to view "light painting". What's this you ask? Arts students from University of North Carolina School of the Arts have "painted" the Millennium Building with color. Pretty damn cool. Read the story here.

Greg got some new nifty camera lenses and whatnots so he went to town while Louise and I watched the master at work plying his craft in the cold. He took some really outstanding shots. Incredible.

Shamelessly stolen (I guess it's not "stolen" if he knows about it) from his online Flickr account:
One of the artists saw (how could you NOT?) Greg's mammoth photographical equipment display and came over to chat. Cameras can be used as a great pickup line: "Hey what kind of lens is that?" Anyway, Alex Fogel came over to talk with us about the displays. Pretty interesting guy. Graduating this year. And of course, Greg had me pose in the street with him while his display was lighting up. Notice the contemplative pose peering away from the camera that Alex gives. I mean, he KNEW where Greg's camera was at. You couldn't miss it. What's he looking at? He's so artsy, pondering life and the goings on. Not content to look directly at the camera and into your very soul, but rather, looking (literally) down the road wistfully into the future, wondering what promise is held for tomorrow.

Whereas I am just a big oaf and smile grandly directly into Greg's lens like a frickin' groupie. Once the final display was over at 11:00pm, we made our way BACK to Foothills for a nightcap and a great North Carolina blues band, WSNB, "we sing nasty blues". So true. I first saw them a year or so ago at the Hickory Hops beer festival over in (appropriately enough) Hickory. Loved 'em. Every time they played Foothills on their usual bar circuit, I always had to work or was out of town. Last night however, I was off and they were there. Couldn't miss them.

We hung around and listened to some really heavy bluesy bass lines, some wicked harmonica, and just generally had ourselves a good time. Foothills Mug Club mug #17 certainly got a workout. Chatted with Jamie the brewer for a little while, learning that he's really good friends with one of the band members, which lends itself well to having WSNB play Foothills so often. Louise liked them so much, she asked me to burn a copy of their CD for her.

My musical tastes are all over the board as you may well know. And blues may be a revelation to you. But this band just "clicks" with my head. I love listening to them.

All in all, another wonderful late, late evening.

Ampersand

I'm not gonna watch you while you burn yourself out baby
No I'm not gonna stop you
Cause I'm not the one that's crazy


Asheville Q&A with Amanda Palmer


Article hits the paper before the show Friday night:

Amanda Palmer gets some unexpected help

Jedd Ferris • published November 14, 2008 12:15 am

Amanda Palmer wanted to make her debut solo album a personal bedroom-style affair - just her quietly banging out some songs at home on her piano.

But then the singer of the punk cabaret group the Dresden Dolls got an unexpected call from Ben Folds expressing admiration and offering his Nashville studio to make the record. As a result, “Who Killed Amanda Palmer?” - a reference to the ‘90s serial drama “Twin Peaks” - turned into a much more multi-faceted artistic expression than initially expected.

With Folds producing and lending his talents on a handful of instruments, the disc jumps from whimsical indie pop to mellow piano ballads to moments of orchestral bombast. Palmer is about to release a companion book to the album with the help of graphic novelist Neil Gaiman, and she is currently touring behind the disc with some visual enhancement from the Danger Ensemble theater group.

Palmer visits the Orange Peel on Friday night. She shared some thoughts on a variety of subjects.

On Ben Folds

“The disc evolved into more than I initially anticipated when Ben called me up and asked if he could produce my record. It was a blessing that came at the right time. As soon as he got involved, the project really took off. It was going to be short and simple and uncomplicated, but it blossomed into a full production monster. I just started saying ‘yes' to spontaneous randomness that Ben was suggesting. I was up for anything.”

On recording in Nashville

“Nashville treated me just fine. I was living in a straight line between Ben's studio on Music Row and a yoga studio. I was planning on recording at home, but Ben's studio had a really inspirational vibe. It was old school and storied. It felt like walking into a church. I felt honored to be there.”

On the Danger Ensemble

“I'm bringing a crazy theater circus with me. It's been hard to try to describe to people what exactly it is. It's like a weird Madonna show meets 'The Wall' in three dimensions. There are definitely moments of solo piano in the show, but interspersed between every other song there are four actors on stage doing beautiful choreographed theater. It feels like a live music video. Some of it is very slow and reflective, and some is fast and furious. Every show feels like we're really putting something on.”

On the companion book

“It came about just as randomly as everything else. I had a collection of photos I wanted to use for the album artwork, but the record label cut the packaging budget. In typical Amanda Palmer style, I decided to do it myself and put out a book. I asked Neil to write some text, and miraculously he said yes. I wanted a touchable piece of art to go along with the music. It's exciting, especially in these times of trying to figure out where the income is going to come from, now that the chances of selling a CD, even to one of your fans, is slim.”

On enhancing music with art

“I was brought up in the early MTV days, when every artist was a multimedia artist and wore cool costumes. I was also started doing music theater when I was a little kid. I put music and theater in the same box, and I think they enhance each other naturally. I'm excited about things that add to the atmosphere of a band. I'd be bored just writing songs and delivering them.”

Who Killed Amanda Palmer?


Friday was a busy night. I worked 8-4, raced home to let the dogs out, feed and water them, then hit the road for the 2 & 1/2 hour drive over to Asheville for a concert.

Amanda Palmer live at The Orange Peel - Social Aid and Pleasure Club. The lead singer of the duo The Dresden Dolls out on a solo tour for her CD Who Killed Amanda Palmer?.

Show starts at 9:00pm, doors open at 8:00. Got to downtown Asheville by 7:00. Time for dinner! But where? Hmmmm....I vote Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria. A good choice. 55 taps of good beer, great pizza, and walking distance to The Orange Peel. Big win. Huge score. Catawba Valley Brewing's Uber Pale Ale and Hyper Monkey Coffee Stout were consumed. Tasty wares from a western NC brewery.

Then it was off to the show. The Orange Peel was a warm and personal arena. Standing room only, outside of some tall tables with swiveling bar stools in the back. Bar stools because The Orange Peel had a full bar....open throughout the entire show. Western NC's Wedge Brewing's Porter and Pisgah Brewing's Pale Ale, plus Sweetwater (GA) Brewing's 420 Pale Ale all quenched the thirst just fine in the venue.

Two bands opened with 30-minute sets each: the sister cabaret act Vermillion Lies and then The Builders and the Butchers. Vermillion Lies was kitschy and intriguing, but just odd enough to not want to buy anything off iTunes to add to the collection. One of the sisters (Zoe) was just pretty enough to gawk at, and became even prettier when she worked the crowd and hugged me. (I am a starfucker.) The Builders and the Butchers was rocking and hippie enough to warrant a $9.99 purchase online for the iPod. Thunderous percussion as a backdrop for banjo and ukulele. Enjoyable.

Then at 10:00pm, the beautiful Amanda Palmer took the stage with the "Danger Ensemble". Four performance artists from Australia who would, appropriately enough, perform during some numbers. Solo works from Who Killed Amanda Palmer? plus older works from The Dresden Dolls were played for 2 hours and 45 minutes. One of the encores was Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer, which was interrupted for an onstage deconstruction of the lyrics: "It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not" followed by "take my hand and we'll make it I swear". Well, which is it Jon?

The Danger Ensemble is unabashedly a "street performance troupe", coming on tour with Amanda for no pay. This is no big budget tour. There may have been 800 people total at the show. 800. So the troupe made their way through the crowd with their boots off soliciting donations for the tour. Amanda made the proclamation that if someone gave $500 she would show the audience (her words) "[my] tits".

Someone gave $500.

The final encore was a mini-rave onstage which ended with Amanda doing a burlesque routine and removing her top. She is a woman of her word. There was thunderous approval.

An intimate performance. Great sound coming from just a piano (plus the occasional accompaniment by a violinist).

Then, it was the 2 & 1/2 hour drive back home to Greensboro. 3:30am and I fall into bed with the dogs. Kimberly is out of town in Florida for yet another healthcare PAC conference so she missed out. When we saw The Dresden Dolls open for Nine Inch Nails on a small club tour in Chicago a few years ago, Kimberly wasn't that impressed. Chris was. So it worked out well for seeing Amanda perform once again for those who enjoy her.

A great time in, according to Amanda, "this blue oasis in a red sea".

Back in action!

One can wallow in self-pity and wonder what in the world one has done wrong (even though it has been verbally documented that one is not indeed the offending party, introducing a good portion of confusion to the proceedings), or one can suck it up, say fuck it, and go on living. Indulge in what brings one joy. Trump what brings sadness with what brings joy. Never mind that one's relative status or rank in life has sunk to depths unheard of and unseen before, this will be overcome with head held high. This blog, though ultimately unimportant and quite minor in the grand scheme of things, brings your fair blogger joy. So it shall go on. Regardless of what forces try to plunge the blogger into depths of despair and sadness, it shall go on.

The funk (though still hanging overhead) is, for the purposes of this blog, over.

Flash is back.

I'm sure all 4 or 5 of you are happy as clams. (And what makes a clam so goddamn happy anyway?) You may be scratching your head, wondering just what the hell is going on. Wondering what sort of angle this is coming from. Suffice to say, you'd have to ask others involved just what the hell is going on. Choices made that adversely affect my mood have not been mine.

Some changes have been made to the blog's online description. As I, your fair blogger, am the only one to really contribute to the posted goings-on in this rather riveting existence, the content and focus will be on the pharmacist portion of this healthcare household.

I hope you'll still read this unimportant and minor use of interwebs bandwidth. I hope to post as regularly as I had previously. I apologize for being cryptic, for being coy. Suffice to say, the wildly exciting edge-of-your-seat antics of this fair blogger will be reported in earnest once more.

-Flash

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wow!


Recent hiatus

Sorry to have been so long in between posts. The inspiration to type on these pages has dulled considerably. An official "funk" has occurred.

I'm sure the process will revert and blogging will return in earnest, but for now it's just not there. The House of Gordon will try to trudge through the fog and dark clouds, so hopefully all 4 or 5 of you will check back occasionally for updates.

In the meantime, what we've been doing this past week or so:
- Triad Stage's performance "Bell, Book, and Candle"
- sampled the carbonated Chocolate-Vanilla Imperial Stout and declared it awesome
- weekend jaunt to Alexandria, VA
- Nine Inch Nails concert here in Greensboro
- bottled Razzmatazz Raspbeery Ale
- bottled Vintage Hop (2007) Pale Ale

-Chris