Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What Shakespeare Drank

William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon
In celebration of the 447th anniversary of the Bard of Avon's baptism on April 26, I present this interesting article published Oct 17, 2009 in Beer Connoisseur: HERE

Interesting that ale and beer were once considered two distinctly different beverages. These days, beer is the umbrella term. Two major types of beer are top-fermented ales and cold, bottom fermented lagers. Interesting, too, that the practice of adding hops to beer as the Germans did was resisted for so long by the English.

Bill would've turned his nose up at my favorite hop-bomb! To each his own, I suppose. Or, as the great Bard himself may have said, "But O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Iconic 1966 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide

1966 Harley-Davidson FLH Electra-Glide

1966 was the year Harley-Davidson Motor Company introduced the electric starter, hence the name Electra-Glide. The new, more powerful "Shovelhead" engine replaced the venerable Panhead. This new engine earned its nickname because the valve covers look like inverted shovel blades.

Harley-Davidson: big and beefy, loud and proud. It's America on two wheels!

Buying Rare Beer on eBay

RateBeerian G. T. Wharton has just posted an interesting article entitled "Market Behavior for Rare Beer: eBay Auction Prices in Review." The article is available here:  HopPress.

The article is well-researched and presented with clear graphics and a sparse, academic language free of jargon and emotion. The author makes the observation that the market for rare beer on eBay has some unintended consequences. For one, a new group of people is showing up at brewers' release parties. No longer the exclusive domain of beer geeks, these release parties are being attended by an increasing number of profiteers who only want to obtain bottles to sell on eBay for up to 10 times what they paid. Another: counterfeiting. Who would have thought that someone would carefully open a bottle, "remove" the contents, refill the empty bottle with something else (presumably a less rare beer of similar style), recap the bottle, and offer said refilled bottle for sale? A third: false advertising. Actually, this is pretty obvious and should be expected. The only recourse is to address false claims in the buyer's review of the seller. A seller's reputation is jealously protected, and most sellers are pretty honest. Most.


The 13-month analysis of beers bought on auction provides insights into buyer behavior and the gray market price some of these rare beers can claim.  Before reading this article, I was not aware of people spending $200, $300, even upwards of $500 per 12 oz of beer--erm, for a collectible bottle with incidental contents possibly containing alcohol .

For my part, I would rather trade collectible bottles with people I trust. Trading something of comparable value with a friend is a good way to dispose of excess inventory and obtain something difficult to acquire, while avoiding the risks associated with online auctions.


Of course, there is always the risk that your shipper will not buy the claim that the box contains only  collectible bottles....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Daily Schedule

I ran across this interesting template for daily living. Ben Franklin was a complicated man: successful, worldly, and wise. His method of arranging his days, and the types of activities with which he filled those days, is worth a second look.

Hat tip to Nathan at Flowing Data http://bit.ly/i21mFm

I have pulled the Angels of the Hours into my own daily template. Have a look (and listen) at Angels of the Hours on Gratefulness.org http://bit.ly/gtiqrq 

Change the Way You "View" This Site

You can play with the way this site appears. Just go to the address bar and append "/view" to the URL. You will be transported to a new view of the blog. There's a drop-down menu and you can choose from 5 alternatives. I like Flipchart. This trick will work on all other blogs on blogger. Enjoy!

OCD Poster

Designer Patrick Smith has developed a series of simple graphics to illustrate mental disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).


I think the OCD poster shown above is the most successful of the group. If I admitted how much time I spent trying to "fix" it, one might get the impression that I'm slightly, well, OCD...

Patrick's site is here: http://bit.ly/fB2uts

Hat tip to Nathan at Flowing Data: http://bit.ly/i21mFm

Friday, April 15, 2011

RIP Dave Duerson, November 28, 1960 – February 17, 2011

Sad to learn of Notre Dame classmate Dave Duerson's recent untimely death at age 50. I remember getting to know Dave in our Psychology 101 class. As a freshman, Dave was already a starting defensive back for Dan Devine's Fighting Irish football team. (Another football team member who went on to play in the pros, offensive lineman Tom Thayer, was in Prof Smith's Psych class, too.)  Dave was already a standout player but I got to know him as a bright, upbeat, and intellectually curious student. He went on to star at ND, serving as team Captain our senior year.

David Russell Duerson (November 28, 1960 – February 17, 2011) was an American football safety in the National Football League who played for the Chicago Bears (1983–1989), the New York Giants (1990), and the Phoenix Cardinals (1991–1993)....Duerson was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1986 to 1989 in his career, and won two championship rings, with the Bears (Super Bowl XX), and with the Giants (Super Bowl XXV). --Wikipedia 

Dave died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Before he died, he sent a message to his family explaining he wanted his brain to be used for research at the Boston University School of Medicine, which is conducting research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease found in individuals who have been subjected to multiple concussions and other forms of head injury. A variant of the condition, dementia pugilistica, is primarily associated with boxing. CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes participating in gridiron footballice hockeyprofessional wrestling and other contact sports, who have experienced head trauma, resulting in characteristic degeneration of brain tissue and the accumulation of tau protein. Individuals with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy may show symptoms of dementia such as memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression which may appear within months of the trauma or many decades later. --Wikipedia

I knew Dave personally as an upbeat, energetic, bright, and positive man. I loved watching him on the field as a member of the Fighting Irish and then as a Pro-Bowl player for the Chicago Bears. When he received accolades for his charity work, I felt proud of him. It saddens me to learn that at the end of his shortened life he was in such physical and emotional pain. Yet I am proud of my classmate for thinking of others in his last moments, and preserving his brain for research that may lead to preventing or curing CTE.

I understand the Church's teaching on suicide--that taking one's own life is a sin. I understand, too, that the basis for this teaching is a solemn respect for the immeasurable value of each human life, and the belief that faith in God is sufficient to endure all trials. Suicide is always sad, but unlike the Church I cannot condemn it. I do believe in the immeasurable value of each human life, but I do not comprehend a God that would say, "Let's give Dave CTE and see how he does with it." I only hope Dave's suicide is viewed as a self-sacrifice, a last act of self-less service by a truly remarkable, successful, and gifted man.



Third Way | Fresh Thinking

Curious to know how your tax dollars are being spent? Enter the amount of your Federal Tax, and see how the money is distributed according to the current budget. It's like an itemized receipt for your taxes!

Try it here: Third Way | Fresh Thinking

Today, April 15th, is traditionally Tax Day in America (because of the weekend, taxes are actually due on the 18th this year). Here in the US our legislative leaders are also wrestling with some divisive budget issues. This website, Third Way, advocates a fresh approach to politics and policy. Data-driven decision-making can get us past the unproductive Left vs. Right ideological divide. The two-party system in this country has too-often produced partisan bickering, gridlock, and indecision. In contrast, such a simple thing as an itemized tax receipt brings the impact of policy decisions down to a very personal level. What an eye-opener! Fresh thinking...

Hat tip to Angelo.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thunder Road

Every time I hear a cover of Thunder Road, I realize all over again just how incredibly powerful the original really was--and still is. No one can scratch and claw like the Boss. No one else but Bruce knows how to cut a six inch valley down the middle of my soul.

"24"

It's been called the most innovative TV show ever: known for its captivating blend of drama, politics, and violence; tension-building split screen views; the "real-time" clock; and the clever fact that each season is composed of 24 hour-long episodes in a sequential 24-hour day.


It's not like I watch a lot of TV. When I do, I tend to go for stuff on PBS like Sherlock Holmes, network drama like NCIS, Criminal Minds, maybe a little House, SNL, and stuff on Comedy Central like The Daily Show. I don't go for American Idol, Lost, or Two and a Half Men (unless Elvis Costello is making a guest appearance). I did enjoy a brief infatuation with Mad Men (might have something to do with Christina Hendricks? (I am only human)). I do watch the occasional Notre Dame football game and some other sports. But by and large, I prefer writing and reading to watching TV.

With those taste parameters in mind, I confess: Fox TV's long-running action drama "24" was the most gripping, suspenseful program ever.  I am completely addicted to it (yes, present tense). The only other program for which I ever bothered to look up the episode guide was CBS' NUMB3RS, and that was mostly because I wanted to continue sharing that show with my then-13 year old daughter while I was deployed to Iraq.

"24" was perfect for its time, the post-9/11 period from the fall of 2001 through the historic elections in 2008 and into the spring of 2010. Considering the real-world events of the day, the need for a counter terrorism unit like the one featured in "24" seemed all too real to me. "THE WORLD NEEDS HIM NOW MORE THAN EVER." Indeed. The parallels between "24," the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), and my life as an Army officer stationed in the Pentagon were at times mind-blowing. I don't see myself as the Jack Bauer character but I know some people who could teach him a thing or two. Nor do I consider Jack a kind of alter ego, doing what I wish I could do, a la James Bond--though I am also a James Bond / Jason Bourne fan. No, I relate to "24" as one of the computer geeks in the CTU, someone who stays off-screen but is indispensable to mission accomplishment. Or maybe in my dreams I am one of the show's writers.... In any case, this show got (gets?) under my skin.

When I saw an "Everything Must Go" sign outside the neighborhood Blockbuster I had to go in. After much frantic searching and pawing through the remnant bins I got a great deal on scavenged complete sets of Seasons 3, 4, and 6, and Redemption, the movie that preceded Season 7. I could only find odds and ends of the other seasons and left them for other fans. Complete sets of the other seasons are available on eBay ($15 to $35 plus postage) for about what I ended up paying ($13.50 to $16), much less than the original retail price ($50 per season for Seasons 1-7 and $60 for Season 8). I prefer to get complete sets and I can "always" pick up seasons 1, 2, 5, 7, and 8 on auction.

We'll see. Some day, any day--often turns into never....

One thing I like almost as much as a really good story is stumbling upon a really good deal in the spur of the moment. Plus, they threw in these great shelf markers for free...











Bottom Line: I want to explain why "24" is more than a TV show to me. That'll take more than a single post. In subsequent posts, I will write a bit about each season and the parallels to real events and events in my life.



Monday, April 11, 2011

Happiness!

Today I bought a new book via Kindle Singles. Amazon's Kindle "Singles" are short stories--the book world's equivalent of a single from a music album. This marketing idea is, in and of itself, an interesting topic. Genius fitted to the typical American attention span....

And the short book which caught my eye is the Happiness Manifesto, by Nic Marks. I am captivated! I'm ready to announce my second career as a traveling Happiness Manifesto consultant. And by traveling, I mean via 2008 Harley Road King or 1979 Catalina 27' Sloop or 1984 Fuji Touring Series IV or perhaps company Bombardier Leerjet 85 (no offense, 2006 Subaru Forester). And by consultant, I mean guy who gets paid tons of cash to show people and groups of people (some really BIG groups of people) how to get and stay happy the Nic Marks / New Economic Foundation way.

Timeline:

  • On 18 March 1968 Robert Kennedy said the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) "measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile." 
  • In 1972, the term Gross National Happiness was coined by the former King of Bhutan, as a way of shifting the emphasis from material goods to the well-bing of his subjects.
  • In 2001, Nic Marks starts the Centre for Well-Being at the New Economic Foundation (NEF). 
  • The NEF developed the Happy Planet Index (HPI) in 2006. The HPI measures the amount of health a population is able to extract per unit of Earth's resources. In general, Latin American countries are the "happiest" and African countries the least happy. Developed countries are in the middle, penalized by their larger carbon footprints. 
  • Nic was asked to give a TED Talk on measuring happiness, which he did in 2010. Then he was approached about writing a short book about the talk, which he did and that result was just published in January of 2011. I now have it on my Kindle. It's called, The Happiness Manifesto: How People and Nations Can Nurture Well-Being. 

More about the life and times of Nic Marks is on his website here: http://www.nicmarks.org/

Nic Marks' TED Talk is here: http://www.ted.com/talks/nic_marks_the_happy_planet_index.html

Happiness is ...
                    ...  a sense of purpose.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Movie Trailer: There Be Dragons

Watch for this movie, coming to theaters in May.

New Labels

In an earlier post I described my Ba-gua Cube-inspired blog labels used to categorize posts according to my personal assessment framework. http://philosfx.blogspot.com/2010/08/how-do-i-organize-my-blog.html



For review, established labels (categories) are: 
  • Center: health, balance, physical, spiritual and mental fitness
  • Purpose: passion, career, motive
  • Introspection: spirituality, self-improvement, education, meditation
  • Support: family, friends, community, neighbors, church
  • Gratitude: reward, making, saving, investing, spending, giving
  • Authenticity: production, work, foundation, outreach, legacy
  • Receptivity: relationships, love, companionship
  • Joy: creativity, music, art, children, dance
  • Awareness: travel, helpful people, new ideas, gurus



I have not changed the assessment framework, but I have come to see the need for a bit more clarity in the categories. I have interests that span multiple categories. Now that I have so many posts, it can be hard to find posts about favorite, recurring topics like beer, statistics, measurement systems, or philanthropy.

Today I am adding four seven new labels. These are more topical. The Ba-gua Cube helps me answer the question, "How am I doing in my journey of personhood?" Those labels are still good for that purpose. The new categories give a bit more information about my interests. I want to cover all 9 areas expressed in the Ba-gua Cube, while drilling a little deeper in these four seven topic areas:
  • Food and Drink: beer, wine, spirits, and cooking--all with an eye to regionally available products and craftsman-like technique.
  • Visual Evidence: displaying data for analysis and decision-making 
  • Fun, Travel, and Adventure: Movies, motorcycles, music, camping, kayaking, photography, running 
  • Deep Thoughts: Philosophy, religion, politics, and economics
  • Rants: Occasionally, it helps to let off a little steam
  • Technology: Applied science, preferably artfully done
  • Humor: recognizing the important role of sharing a good belly laugh now and then while living a happy and full life.


I am also planning four new blogs at some point in the future. PhilosFX is an overarching blog about a wide variety of interests. However, I have noticed that successful blogs are more focused. People do not come to the Brookston Beer Bulletin http://brookstonbeerbulletin.com/ to read about philosophy, fatherhood, art history, motorcycles, divorce, cancer, genealogy, politics, statistics, economics, movies, books, gardening, cooking, philately, travel, NCIS, golf, Calvin and Hobbes, AND beer.

  • Penta: National Security Strategy, National Military Strategy, International Relations, Globalization,  Macro-economics
  • Praxis: Value-Focused Thinking, Measurement Systems, Lean Six Sigma, Continuous Process Improvement
  • Prism: Investing strategies and portfolio management, investment math, sector analysis, risk management, optimization 
  • Pronto (Adventures in direct and multi-level marketing): Blastoff Shopping Network, Pre-Paid Legal Services, Rich Dad Investment Education, 4th Generation Six Sigma, eBay, CafePress



Note: last edited on 2 Oct 2011

Remembering Pierre Celis

Brewer Pierre Celis slipped off this mortal coil Saturday, April 9th, 2011 at the age of 86. He will be fondly remembered by the many brewers and beer lovers so inspired by his story.

I met Pierre Celis at the tiny brewery that bore his name when he visited Austin in the mid-nineties. This was before you could find Hoegaarden on the shelves in this country, before Allagash White, and way before Blue Moon. It was a big deal in weird and wonderful Austin when Celis Brewery opened. It was a point of pride for Austin that our water was specially selected because the chemistry matched that of Pierre's hometown of Hoegaarden, Belgium.

It was in Hoegaarden that Pierre launched the first Celis Brewery to produce a spiced wheat ale that was so well-loved in the local area. When Pierre's brewing mentor closed shop in 1955, no one brewed this type of wit bier any more. It was on the verge of extinction. Pierre started Brouwerij Celis in 1965 to revive the refreshing and popular style.

Everyone was excited when Pierre came to Austin. His voice, along with that of his daughter Christine, was all over the airwaves in many radio commercials in the mid-90s. But to meet the man in person: what a treat.

He gave a tour and talked about his brewing experiences. He described his beers as we tasted them after the tour. I never saw him after that day.

I remember later, in the late nineties, finding a pub in Belgium which had among its taps the following two side-by-side: Hoegaarden and Celis White. I did not see Celis White available anywhere else in Belgium. That was the only place I was able to do head to head taste testing of the two similar beers from the tap.

Of course, there is the whole sordid tale of woe with Miller mangling the brand after Pierre sold out. Miller eventually discontinued the brand in 2001. Then Pierre came out of retirement in 2002 to revive the brand under Michigan Brewing Co.

Through it all, Pierre Celis was a gentleman craftsman brewer who inspired many. As a matter of fact, we have a new brewery in my current town of Alexandria. Port City brews a beer called Optimal Wit, and I am having one today in honor of the man who inspired it, Pierre Celis!


Pierre Celis
21 March 1925 - 9 April 2011
Rest in Peace

Movies Are Getting Worse

Matt Huang writes the Moki Blog which purports to be the "ultimate guide to online entertainment." Matt has graphically represented the 20 most popular Hollywood movies over the past 20 years. His revealing analysis captured my attention. I am intrigued by the technique he uses to display the analysis. For each movie, the size of the circle represents box office haul. The color represents the average rating. The location of the circle from left to right indicates the year in which the movie was released. The location of the circle from bottom to top indicates the degree to which the movie polarized critics: consensus on the bottom and a high standard deviation on the top.

Have a look at the evidence and see if you agree with the hypothesis that movies are getting worse http://moki.tv/blog/visual-evidence-movies-are-getting-worse

Remembering Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter

Long-time friend Angelo and I recently got together to celebrate our friendship and to commemorate the life of a man we both admire, the man who came to be known as The Beer Hunter. Michael Jackson was a British journalist with an interest in beer and a passion for sharing that interest with the world through his writing, speaking, TV shows, website, and mail-order Rare Beer Club. As the Beer Hunter, MJ inspired our mutual interest in Belgian beer and Cuisine à la Bière

Back in the mid-90s, Angelo obtained the VHS version of Michael's video series entitled The Beer Hunter. As new friends and neighbors living and working together in Germany at that time, Angelo and I enjoyed watching these episodes together and planning our beeriological excursions into Belgium. 

And so it was only fitting that Angelo and I should meet in a British-themed Pub for some typical British pub-grub and a pint (or three) of cask-conditioned ale. 

Our venue of choice: Public House No. 7 at 7 Corners in Falls Church

Angelo displays the cloudy cask on the left and the clear, foamy draft on the right.


Cheers!


Michael was only 65 when he died of a heart attack at his home office in England. He also suffered from Parkinson's Disease and diabetes. Though taken from us all too soon, he will live on in his many books and in the hearts of his many admirers.


Here are some things you can do to remember Michael Jackson, aka The Beer Hunter




Michael Jackson
March 27, 1942 to August 30, 2007
Rest In Peace

Making the World a Better Place: Architecture, Math, and Science Fiction

A conversation with my daughter inspired today's post about Christropher Alexander and the mash-up between Pattern Language, architecture, QWAN, math, computer programming, urban planning, California, theoretical physics, religion, and science fiction including Star Wars and the wisdom of Yoda.


PEOPLE
  • Joseph Campbell, b. 1904, d. 1987 (24 yrs ago @ 83). American scholar of mythology and religion best known for the mantra, "Follow your bliss." Many creative people have studied Campbell's writings about mythology to understand how people make sense of their world and put meaning on events and places in their lives. More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell 
  • Christopher Alexander, b. 1936 (74). British mathematician, architect, philosopher. Born in Vienna, Bachelor's of Architecture and Master's of Math at Cambridge, first ever Harvard PhD in Architecture, professor of Architecture in 1963 at UC Berkely near San Francisco. Now semi-retired and living in England. His so-called Quality Without A Name (QWAN) has been applied to architecture, urban planning, anything designed for people to use (computer programs) and even religion, especially mystical religions where pattern-making and mythology are important. More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Alexander
  • George Lucas, b. 1944 (almost 67). American filmmaker, writer, director, and producer. Now lives in Marin County near San Francisco. Raised a Methodist, he became interested in Eastern religions including Buddhism. He publicly credited Joseph Campbell as a religious influence. More http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lucas
  • Ward Cunningham, b. 1949 (almost 62), is an American computer programmer who developed the Graphical User Interface (GUI) and pioneered the wiki program that runs Wikipedia. He cites Alexander's influence on computer programmers. More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ward_Cunningham
  • Richard Feynman, b. 1918, d. 1988 (23 yrs ago @ 69). Professor of theoretical physics at Caltech in Pasadena near LA. Like Alexander, he was a firebrand. Alexander has warned that Architects are not properly educated and may do more harm than good. Similarly, Feynman was a very unconventional physicist who warned that people should be wary of physicists who attempt to intimidate rather than serve.  More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman
  • Peter Eisenman, b. 1932 (78). American architect. He is world famous--every architecture student in the past 30 years has studied him, yet many have never heard of Christopher Alexander. Why? Alexander believes that people already know how to design things: good design is in human DNA. We don't need architects to tell us what is good design. "The Force" (QWAN) is already in us. Meanwhile, architects, architecture schools, and the profession of architecture benefit from people like Eisenman who turn this pattern-making into a highly codified professional language. More:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Eisenman
EVENTS


The desire to make the world a better place for ourselves and our progeny seems an innately human desire. There are so many fascinating, often competing ways to realize this desire. The many paths illustrate the complexity of humanity. Yet when one pulls together a few seemingly unrelated people and events, one can often find correlations that underly the commonality of purpose that unites all of us around this most basic human goal.



Friday, April 1, 2011

Schlafly's New Swirlie Bottle with G.U.L.P. Technology, Available April 1st

Forget the MillerCoors Vortex bottle! Who needs the Sam Adams / TIAX / Rastal Beer Glass? Those innovations are now rendered obsolete. Behold Schlafly's brand new Swirlie Bottle with G.U.L.P. Technology, available starting today, April 1st.



With a hat tip to Dansting