Sunday, June 29, 2008

Guest Post!

Hi, I'm Teabelly. The Renaissance Man has been kind enough to give me space on his blog for the Twenty Something Bloggers blog swap. Attempting to come up with something to write has driven me mad for the past few days, and after trying to think of something universal that everyone can relate to, I gave up and decided to talk about myself. I'm lazy, what can I say?

In around six weeks I'm going holiday. Actually, I don't know if trekking through jungle can be called a holiday, surely it's an adventure instead? So fine, I'm going on an adventure. On 10th August I will leave this city behind and head off to Belize (with a looong stop over in New York first, and a shorter one in Texas), then across the border to Guatemala, then on down through the country to El Salvador. Just writing that out makes me feel tired, so god knows how I'll feel after two weeks wandering around with all my possessions strapped to my back.

I'm not much of an adventurer, it must be said. I like my comforts, I like having a bathroom nearby and the ability to shower regularly. I like clean clothes and straight hair. The last time I did anything nearly as hard core as this was a school trip to Pakistan aged 17. I hated almost every minute of it, didn't eat for two weeks and came home feeling like death. Frosties and cold milk have never tasted so good, let me tell you. So I'm pretty nervous about the trip, my last few trips abroad have been Europe and New York, nothing too exciting, and certainly no prospects of being stung by a scorpion. And my friend seems to think we're going camping in the jungle. I don't do camping in the countryside here, what on earth makes him think I'll do it there? I need a bathroom damn it, no negotiations there.

I'm trying to tell myself to be brave and go for it, because I'll never get another opportunity like it, but still, nerves are nerves and they don't listen to me trying to be rational. But I've got my trusty guidebook, which fills me with excitement when it describes all the places I could go (Tikal looks like the place to go if nothing else, but watch out for those monkeys!). And I've looked at the stories of people who have been and loved it, who tell you to be careful but that nothing bad has ever happened to them there, that the people are friendly and kind and it's the trip of a lifetime.

I'm ignoring the Foreign Office website with its hurricane warnings and statistics on theft and muggings and kidnappings. They're just trying to make sure I'm careful, right? There's no real cause for concern or anything…

Anyway, I have six weeks to prepare. Six weeks in which to get my injections and malaria tablets, walking shoes and hat, sunscreen, waterproofs (its wet season don't you know), insect repellent, mosquito net, sleeping bag, photocopies of my passport (just in case) and money, mustn't forget money, need that to buy all sorts of tat with which to weigh down my already huge rucksack.

I'm sure that's doable. Now I just need to find an extra dose of courage.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Food for Thought: Beer Muffins

Contrary to popular belief, beer has uses other than inebriation. One of those is cooking. The simplest recipe that utilizes beer is the classic beer muffin. To make beer muffins, you will need...


That's it. Start by getting a mixing bowl. Measure out 2 cups of Bisquick and add to the bowl. measure out 2 tablespoons of sugar and mix it in with the Bisquick. Take one standard bottle of beer and stir it into the mixing bowl. Stir the mixture until it attains a creamy texture. At which point, pour the mix into a muffin tin. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and shove it in. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes, until it attains a light brown color. Take them out, let them cool, and then consume.

They're good with honey or butter. I'm not sure if the type of beer matters in the taste. I've only used cheap beer left from parties. I might try a high end dark beer for the next batch I make.

Intro to Liquor: Bourbon

In a previous post, I ran into a bartender that didn't know how to differentiate Bourbon from other Whiskeys. This is a terrible situation. However, it is one that is easily remedied. Here's the down low on Bourbon Whiskey.

Bourbon Whiskey has been classified as a "Distinctive Product of the United States". As such, there are requirements placed on the production of Bourbon, by Congressional Mandate.

These requirements are:
  • It must be made from a grain mixture of at least 51% corn.
  • It must be no stronger than 160 proof (80% ABV).
  • Nothing other than water may be added to the mixture.
  • It must be aged in new, charred American Oak barrels.
  • Bourbon aged for less than 4 years in must have the duration of aging displayed on the label.
  • Whiskey that meets the above requirements, and has been aged for at least 2 years, may be labeled Straight Bourbon.
Most Bourbon qualifies as Straight Bourbon even though they might choose not to display it on the label. Most Bourbon brands usually up their mix to closer to 70% corn, to make a flavor more distinct from other types of whiskey.

First distilled in the Allegheny Mountains in 1785, in a large county named for a prominent French family called the Bourbons, all whiskey originating from this region had the name of the county stenciled on the casks. The majority of the liquors were corn based whiskeys.

All modern Bourbon is made through the Sour Mash process, originating from the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Sour Mash uses some of the fermented mash from the last run to create a proper Ph balance, and limit growth of bacteria.

The majority of Bourbon is now made in Kentucky, with a few brands operating in other states. Some of the more famous brands include Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and Makers Mark.

Bourbon is either served Neat or on the Rocks. Usually in an old fashioned glass. When used as part of a mixed drink, it can create drinks such as the Mint Julep, the Down Low, the Scrap Wrench, or the Three Wisemen.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Insult People in Style!

Using the Shakespearean Insult Generator!

Thou puking dismal-dreaming mammet!

Thou impertinent sheep-biting flax-wench!

Thou craven dread-bolted codpiece!

Thou errant shard-borne nut-hook!

Thou cockered weather-bitten flirt-gill!

Don't understand what they mean? That's ok, neither will the unsuspecting people you spring them upon! Trash talk like the Bard!

Strangling the Student Athlete.

For those of you who don't follow college baseball very closely, the NCAA has implemented a new policy this past season, known as the "Compressed Schedule".

The compressed schedule is simply the NCAA not allowing teams to start playing baseball until February 22nd, a full 3 weeks after the old opening day of February 1st. What really hurts the schools is the NCAA's unwillingness to push the end of the season back, leading to said compression. What makes this system completely unbearable is the fact that the NCAA requires teams to play at least 56 games, and now, they require it to be done in 86 days.

As this article by Mark Schlabach attests, this is killing the student athlete. The rigorous requirements of the NCAA has some teams going on stretches where they play 15 games in three weeks. That's 3 weeks of class, just gone. You can't survive something like that.

The intent behind the rule was to allow for more equality between southern schools, and their northern compatriots who might not be able to play home games so early in the season do to weather. It's a nice idea, but it puts unrealistic strain on the athletes. You throw in rain delays, and things get even more cramped.

Here's the real problem. College sports schedules are not standardized. Some teams are playing exactly 56 games, some teams are playing well over 60. Some teams have 26 home games, some teams have damn near 40.

The solution is to standardize the schedule. Start the season on February 1st, and every team will play 56 games, 28 home, 28 away. The Southern Schools will host early in the season, and the Northern Schools will host latter in the season. This way, all things are balanced, and we can still carry on the season at a reasonable rate. It eases up on the athlete, and allows for a fair measurement when it comes time to select teams for the post season.

Fuck You, Yvonne, Fuck You.

In a column released in the Boston Globe today, Yvonne Abraham decides to respond the the recent rioting in Boston by lambasting the everyone as "Neanderthals". Even more infuriating to me, is her opening paragraph...

You're back at your desk now, tapping away. Or you've gone home for a summer as a lifeguard or a retail associate. Or back to your mother's basement to play "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots."

I don't condone the rioting, but what I don't like is the typecasting of the people who play video games as dimwitted fools who only extricate themselves from their caves to commit random acts of violence.

Then comes this extract...

To help make sense of this, I turned to an expert: Dave Czesniuk of
Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

He does not mention the most salient fact, which is that you are dumber
than bricks.

Apparently sports fans are all drooling, uneducated psychotics....

I wish you'd get your press credentials yanked for this one. That column isn't reporting, it's ranting, and lacks even a modicum of the decor needed to pull it off. You're writing for the Boston Globe. That isn't some stand up comedy act, it isn't some radio shock jock show, it isn't a blog, and it's not right. You're no better than Don Imus, but at least people know what their getting when they turn on his show.

When you deal with sports, you are dealing with a phenomenon that affects the lives of millions of people. When there's a major event in the sports world, there are always going to be people who take things to far. It's wrong, but it's a fact. But what it isn't, is an excuse to insult everyone based on those overreactions.

You have disgraced your profession today, Yvonne. I hope it was worth it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Not Really a Debate, but Whatever...

Well, Moxie asked what the best dance scene in a movie is. Kinda vague. So here's the parameters I'm setting. I'm throwing out the dance movies. Half the time the actors in those aren't really actors, they're professional dancers with a teleprompter. Next, I'm limiting it to one style of dance, because sorting out weather a well done jazz dance beats out a well done waltz is too much work. So I'm picking Tango. I'm also limiting it to movies that saw a major release in the US. Finally, I'm basing it on my entertainment, not technical correctness.

So here are the best tangos in film history.

The most recent is the Tango shared between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the 2005 film Mr. & Mrs. Smith. What makes this dance interesting are two main factors. One is the authentic music. The Assassin's Tango by John Powell is a wonderful piece that I actually keep in my music library. The second factor that makes it great is the styling. It's not a dance, it's a battle. The animosity between the characters is palpable. Combine it with some good acting, and you've got a very interesting scene.

In 1993, Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston performed a tango with paso doble elements, and a lot of special effects, in Addams Family Values. While there's some decent footwork, the dance itself isn't the centerpiece, it's how the dance illustrates the characters, and fits within the Addams Family framework. It's macabre, yet romantic, and also endlessly hilarious.

Scent of a Woman had Al Pacino play a blind man. But apparently he had better vision on the dance floor than anyone, including co-star Gabriele Anwar, gave him credit for. It's interesting how the dance starts out haltingly, as each dancer takes measure of the other, and eventually turns into a very passionate and impressive dance as they trust each other more.

In Never Say Never Again, the somewhat misguided 1983 remake of Thunderball, Sean Connery and Kim Bassinger share a tango, portraying 007 and Domino, respectively. it's a somewhat uneventful dance, but it's Sean Connery.


In 2007, Ben Harper released his 8th album, Lifeline. Though the album artist is technically Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, like so many other bands, it might as well be called Ben Harper and the Generic Backup Band. Make no mistake about it, this is Ben Harper's vision, and no one else's.

The California native grew up on a steady diet of blues music, earning his fist big break by going on tour with the legendary Taj Mahal. Harper learned well under Mahal's tutelage, becoming an accomplished guitar player and vocalist. He released his first album, Welcome to the Cruel World, in 1994. His musical style and vocal range are very similar to Eric Clapton. Harper has found much success in Europe and South America, particularly Brasil, where his collaboration with Vanessa de Mata, "Bea Sorte/Good Luck" spent several weeks on top of the Brasil Top 100 tracks.

Lifeline was recorded on analog in one week in a studio in Paris. The Album garnered a 73 on Metacritic. It's 11 tracks, and 40.8 minutes long. It's a mellow alternative rock album with definite blues roots. It's not rigidly attached to that formula though, "Needed You Tonight" definitely is more of a gospel song than anything, and "Paris Sunrise #7" is a gorgeous acoustic instrumental. The lyrics are well thought out, and work well into the framework of the songs.

There are times where the short recording time does stand out, as there are some minor mastering issues, but nothing compared to my last review. If anything, the slight looseness on the album enhances the blues feel, making it seem almost more personal, like he's playing from a seat across the living room from you. However, while it enhances the slower songs, the more upbeat tracks do suffer slightly from it. Another factor of the recording blitz is the strain it puts on vocalists. On the final, title track, Harper's voice has lost significant range and tone. But these issues are really nothing major, just me nitpicking.

My favorite songs on the album are "Fight Outta You", "Younger Than Today", "Heart of Matters", and "Paris Sunrise #7".

You should give the album a listen, regardless of your taste in music. If you're a fan of blues music, like Eric Clapton, B.B. King, or Taj Mahal, or a fan of Soft Rock, like Jack Johnson, America, or The Eagles, it's certainly worth it to buy this album. I'm giving it an 8/10.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Misadventures on Fort Lewis.

Wow, real long drill this time.

The entire battalion hauled themselves up to Fort Lewis, the nearest major Army base, for some heavy duty training. Being already in Washington, I got the go ahead from the platoon sergeant to report directly to Ft. Lewis, rather than driving 7 hours to Corvallis, spending 5 hours going back to Ft. Lewis, riding a bus for 5 hours back to Corvallis, and then driving 7 hours back to Port Townsend. Thank God, he saved me about $200 worth of gas.

We rolled up Thursday night, and immediately racked out. My platoon had to pull guard duty that night. I was practically dripping with excitement... no, wait, that was just the rain that night. I was tabbed to pull guard from 0400 to 0430, and wake up was at 0600. That does wonders for my energy levels the next day.

On Friday morning, we started the day with Short Range Marksmanship, or SRM. It was our only Live Fire range of the drill, and as such, the most dangerous. SRM consists of learning to shoot out of muscle memory at short ranges in different positions. Facing various directions, on the move, behind cover, and through portals. Because my own weapon was deadlined, I didn't get the opportunity to have a weapon that was zeroed to my particular style, so I had to use Kentucky Windage to account for that. It didn't look too pretty. To make the portal firing even more complicated, I couldn't just shove the barrel into the portal like some people could, due to my underslung 203.

After we wrapped up the SRM, the Brigade commander came and spoke to us about the upcoming deployment. I'll cover that in another post.

Because our platoon finished up early, the Platoon Sergeant decided to take us over to the adjacent sewer mock up, and show us how to clear a sewer system. There was no sewage in it, thank God, but the pipes started at a 4' diameter, and got smaller from there. It was hell on my knees.

After the company had their fill of SRM, we were loaded into a few deuce and a halfs, rucks and all, and shipped to our next training. While loading the deuce, one of the NCOs yelled for all the privates to pile on top of the rucks in order to seat all the NCOs. I knew that promotion to E-4 would have it's perks. :)

The next training was the HEAT, or Humvee Egress Assessment Training. One of the leading causes of deaths in theatre nowdays is a Humvee roll over killing the gunner. So they built these simulators. They're a mockup of the interior of a Humvee, but it's mounted on a gimbal so they can flip it and roll it. They stuffed us inside it, and showed us the rollover angles, 25% for an 1151, 30% for an 1114. Then they roll it over, and tell us to get out. If you've ever been inside a Humvee, you know it's a pretty cramped ride. I could barely move, and it took some contortionism in order to sort out how I was going to get out of the thing once it flipped over.

After everyone had their runthrough in the flipper, we piled back onto the deuces, and rolled out to the Convoy Fire range. Once there, we ate dinner, and sorted out who was riding in what truck. As a 203 gunner, I was relegated to being a dismount. Which essentially meant that I sat in the back of the vehicle, and tried not to look too bored. Things happened, other things exploded, I got out, stood by a tree pulling security, listened to other people shooting at the opfor, tried to keep the ants off of me, got back in the Humvee, and that was it. I was thoroughly bored with the whole thing.

Thankfully, that was the last training of the day. We racked out, and second platoon got to pull guard, and I actually got to sleep. Yay.

On Saturday morning, We kicked things off with a mounted traffic control point, or TCP. We rolled out to the site in our vehicles, and rushed to set up the signs and concertina wire to create the checkpoint. As usual, I got to pull lateral security. After the first vehicle passed through the check point, my squad leader came by and told me that they had found a railroad running parallel to the road on the other side, and they wanted me to go secure it to ensure no one could bypass us. Ok. As I pushed through the brush to get to the railroad, I saw a head pop up. The Opfor. I lit him up, and then SPC Munch, who was pulling short security on that side lit him up. In response, he pulled out a grenade sim, and threw it at me. I decided at that time it would be prudent to seek less dangerous grounds. As I pulled back behind cover. The opfor disappeared back into the woodline, never to be seen again. We rolled up the TCP, and called index.

Next on the menu was a dismounted TCP. We came upon our site, and established security. To prevent a situation like had occurred on the last iteration, I got tasked with immediately scouting the woodline for any avenues of approach. I found a nearby road about fifty meters out, so my new task was to pull security on that road. In a grove of Scotch Broom so tall I could barely see over it. Apparently, the search team got hit with a car bomb, then they dialed in some mortars in on us, and the whole time, I there, standing in the scotch broom, not seeing a damn thing. Oh, and trying to keep by partner from dying from his allergies. How fun. We broke contact after the mortar fire became sustained, and headed back to the TAA.

Back in the deuces... I think my foot was sawed off by a displaced KABAR... No, just numb.

We arrived at Leschi Town. Leschi Town is the most awesome urban combat range I've ever seen. Every building has furniture, every door can be breached, it's amazing. We ran a negotiation mission, where we were supposed to march into this neighborhood, while the PL conducts negotiations with the mayor. The goal was to convince the mayor to let us search the houses for weapon caches and insurgents. Each team got assigned to guard a building, and proceed to search it once the mayor arrived. My team got tasked with the two story behemoth. Which also turned out to be crawling with all the insurgents in the village. Fun!

As soon as the Mayor came out of his house, the insurgents decided to try and attack us. My team rolled right into the house, and cleared the bottom floor, leaving a trail of dead opfor in our wake. We killed 3 opfor on the first floor, and went to secure it so the adjacent teams could come in and clear the second floor. As I went to secure a room, I saw a flash of movement outside the window. I went and checked it out, thinking it was another opfor. Then I saw an M-107 strapped to the guys back, and decided that I was outclassed. Turns out that a special forces group was conducting a live fire sniper exercise in Leschi Town, and the sniper team decided to stalk through our AO. They also had the medics doing their training to the east. You don't want to know how the Special Forces Medics get practical experience. Those poor animals...

On the second iteration, things got a little uglier. The insurgents were spread to two different buildings. One was adjacent to the house we were guarding. When we took contact, we stacked at the side door. That door had a window nearby, I took a quick glance, and spotted one of the opfor inside. She pointed something at me, and I ducked back around the corner. A nerf football went flying out the window at incredible velocity. Turns out she had the simulated RPG. The simulated RPG was a piece of PVC Piping attached to an air compressor, with a nerf football crammed down it. It actually launches them pretty fast, and I'm sure it would hurt to get pegged with it. I sprayed her down through the window, and linked up with Corporal McGuffie inside to clear the rest of the first floor. Things quieted down after that, and I spent the rest of the iteration pulling security on the building.

Once again, back into the deuces. This time came with a twist. Because of the live fire sniper exercise, every road for five miles down range was shut down. So the drivers had to find new and exciting routes to get to our next range at Reagansville. They also had to hit every pothole and bump in the road on the way. Deuce and a halfs have no suspension for the rear beds, so every bump is really jarring. After we went up a hill, around the hill, down the hill, only to hit the exact same pothole as we had 20 minutes ago, people lost it. People either started laughing, or cursing, or both. It was hilarious.
After almost an hour crammed into the back of the dusty, overheated, and uncomfortable deuces, We arrived at Reagansville. Our mission was to conduct a raid on a two story building. We moved out into the woods, and setup an ORP out there. As the Platoon Sergeant took the squad leaders on a recon to scout the objective, the NCOIC came by and asked me why I was on a knee, and not in the prone like everyone else pulling security. This lovely little exchange occurred.

"You need to get in the prone, specialist."
"Do you see that, sergeant?" *Pointing at nearby plant*
"Yeah, so?"
"Do you know what it is?"
"That's poison oak, Sergeant, and it's all over the place."
"Oh... Carry on, specialist."

Yeah, I'm not planning on repeating last time I encountered that foul plant. The PSG returned, and we set up our raid. The three key principles of urban combat are Speed, Suprise, and Violence of Action. We had all three in spades. We rolled up on them, and our pointman, SPC White, managed to shoot every last opfor there, before any of us had a chance to get in on the action. We ran in, charged up the stairs, and cleared the whole two story building in about 20 seconds. Personally, I didn't like the lead element going straight to the second floor without clearing the first floor, because if the second element gets bounced before securing the first floor, you have no where to go, and will most likely get killed. But it worked out well.

we went to sleep the night, and woke up the next morning for a battalion formation. Nothing special happened. I got released to return home. Being hungry, I stopped at an IHOP for breakfast. I had a pair of banana walnut pancakes, two sausage links, some hashbrowns, and two eggs sunny side up. So good. I need to eat there more often.

Upon my arrival home, I said hello to the family, dropped my gear, and immediately dunked my sore and filthy body into a bathtub full of near boiling water. Once I was numb to the scalding heat it felt so good.

I fell asleep at 5 PM out of sheer exhaustion. At 8PM, my adorable little sister knocks on my door, launching my nude form out of bed from the sheer power of suprise. I wasn't sure of anything, who I was, where I was, what was happening, or how to speak english apparently. She got enough out of my raved babbling to figure out not to open the door. She sweetly informed me that Jeff was here. What the hell? Oh well, I put on some clothes, and staggered out to hang out with him.

We went over to his girlfriend's place, and played Super Smash Bros Brawl, and eventually got a raging campfire going outside. We hung out around the fire, smoked some cloves using unorthodox lighting methods, and discussed many random things, including the most morbid, yet ingenious business plan I have ever devised. Jeff produced a flint magnesium block the size of a hand eraser, and chucked it into the fire. That shit burns bright. It was hilarious. Before we knew it, it was 2 AM, and we realised we should probably get some rest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In Service of the People.

The next question in the 20SB debates comes from Vanessa Mason.

I saw in an article that Obama would like to strongly encourage community service in middle schools and high schools and give college students a tax break for contributing community service. I wanted to hear your thoughts on required community service. Thanks!

I would actually take this a step further. In nations like Israel, and to a lesser extent Brasil, there is a universal draft that requires people to commit to time spent in the military in service of the nation. Personally, I find the idea of a military draft to be a measure that should only be required in the most desperate of times, however, I find the idea of universal service a very appealing one.

I think that certain proactive rights, such as voting, holding office, attending post secondary school, and federal aid, should be earned, rather than handed out to everyone. Give back to the nation, and the nation shall give unto you.

I disagree with compulsory military service, as some people are not cut out for the battlefield and forcing them there can be disastrous. However, military service would be one way of satisfying the service requirement. Ideally, a program such as this would also offer a broad range of public jobs, from EMTs and Police Officers, to Bureaucrats, to construction. A wide range of options would not only allow for a wide range of choices, but would allow for all people to contribute in what manner they can. This would also give people valuable training and experience that could aid them in the future.

Taken to the next step, this program would also go a long way towards integrating the problems with immigration. If service guarantees citizenship, then all that is needed is for someone to report to this country, put in their time, and they can be assimilated into society.

Furthermore, it would instill a sense of camaraderie in a nation that, by dint of it's sheer size and ethnic diversity, often finds people having trouble making common ground between other citizens. All people, regardless of race, creed, or gender, would be able to point to their common service as a way to break the ice between themselves.

It's kind of a rough idea right now, but I think that Obama's idea is a good start.

Drink of the Moment: Mint Julep

In an earlier post, a reader expressed his love of bourbon, and I promised to deliver unto him a cocktail which uses bourbon as its base. So here it is, the mint julep, the preferred drink of the proper southern gentleman.

There are many ways to prepare a mint julep. I'll teach you two, the one you can ask for in a bar, and the traditional method you can make when you're feeling decadent.

The more standard method of constructing a mint julep requires bourbon, mint leaves, crushed ice, sugar, and soda water.

First, take 4 to 6 mint leaves and 1 or 2 tablespoons of granulated white sugar. Drop them in the bottom of either a Collins or highball glass, and muddle them. Then fill the glass with crushed ice, and add 3 ounces of bourbon. Stir the mix, then fill with soda water. Add a mint sprig, stir it some more, and the drink is ready to serve. Sip the drink, and picture yourself watching the horses at Churchill Downs.

The more traditional method uses the same ingredients, minus the soda water. You need to get a mint julep glass, basically a silver goblet. Muddle 4-6 leaves of mint and 2 tablespoons of sugar, and muddle it in the bottom of the glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice, and add 3 ounces of bourbon and stir. Garnish with 4 sprigs of mint, and add a short straw. The idea behind the short straw and extra mint is to force the drinker to shove his nose into the mint, and inhale the scent of the mint combining with the scent of the bourbon. Enjoy the drink, and picture yourself on the porch of a Virginia plantation home on a hot summer's afternoon.

The mint julep has been embraced as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby also sells the most expensive mint julep in the world. Served in a 24k gold plated mint julep glass, it used Woolford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, ice from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. Costing a cool $1,000 dollars, the proceeds go to taking care of retired thoroughbred racing horses.

There are seemingly many variations of the Mint Julep, but in reality, they're all members of the same drink family, known as Smashes. A mint julep is a fancy name for a bourbon smash, a mojito is a rum smash, and a Kremlin colonel is a vodka smash. I guess if you used absinthe, it'd be a "Hulk Smash!", Patent Pending. All that changes is the alcohol.

A similar family of drinks are the Stingers. The variation there is that the mint and sugar is replaced with an ounce of creme de menthe. A stinger is usually served in a cocktail glass, neat, rather than in an ice filled Collins glass. It's creamier, and a little less sweet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Intro to Liquor: Cachaça

I've mentioned several Brasilian drinks on this blog before. They all have in common the fact that they are made using cachaça, the premier liquor of Brasil.

Cachaça is the product of the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice, between 76 and 96 proof, with up to six grams per liter of sugar added. The distillation from a sugarcane base puts it very close to rum. The primary difference being that rum is distilled either from fresh sugarcane juice or molasses. Cachaça is traditionally distilled in a copper pot still, this produces three runs.

The smaller cachaça distilleries, the equivalent of American microbrew beer, use only the middle run, as the first and third contain contaminants that change the flavor. The distiller then ages the cachaça. There is no standard for the wood used, so different distilleries use different woods, allowing for a wide range of flavors in the cachaça market. Larger, industrial distilleries use a column still, which produces a continuous run, which alters the taste due to the contaminants. These industrial distilleries also usually don't age their drink, and simply market it straight at the lower class consumer. Brasilians drink 396 million gallons of cachaça each year.

Cachaça has a long history in Brasil, dating back to the 16th century. It was originally derived from sugar mills, where the sugarcane juice was left after the sugarmaking process. It would ferment, and become a low quality alcohol called cagaça. This fluid was given to the slaves to drink. Eventually, someone got the bright idea to distill the cagaça, and yielded modern cachaça.

There are two types of cachaça, white and gold. Gold cachaça is usually aged, and used as a single drink, while white cachaça is used more for mixed drinks. Cachaça tastes similar to rum, but with more depth of flavor. However, it also has a rather unique odor, that some do not care for.

If the odor, caused by the rapid evaporation of the liquor, bothers you, a quick fix is to drink it from a tall thin glass, which limits the evaporation. This is called martelinho, or the "little hammer".

My prefered brand of Cachaça that can be obtained readily in the US, is Leblon Cachaça . Named after the upscale part of Rio, Leblon uses XO Cognac flasks to age their cachaça, producing a smoother flavor than most brands. It also comes with a massive recipe book, that'll keep you occupied for a while.

Cachaça is becoming a popular drink here in the states. Jump on the leading edge of style, and enjoy the Brasilian drink of choice.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Moving On...

My God it's been a long weekend.

Things started on Thursday. Having finished my finals the previous day, that most glorious day that I've had circled on my calendar arrived. The release of Metal Gear Solid 4! Hot damn. This was the first game I actually pre ordered, ever. Nothing short of the Second Coming of Christ would keep me from getting this game. I actually woke up at 7 AM on a day where I was not required to, in order to get this game.

Except perhaps... The sun. After my earlier post, it seems the sun had seen it's shadow, and doomed us poor souls to an eternity of bleak Oregon weather. That is, until the day Metal Gear Solid 4 came out. As a person of Brasilian descent, who has spent a good chunk of his life living in the tropics, I am addicted to sunlight. I can tan beautifully, and it takes months for said tan to wear off. I literally cried when, after over a year in the Pacific Northwest, I was as white as a ghost. I went through withdrawal.

So now you can see my conundrum. Sunlight? Or the awesome power of Metal Gear? These are the decisions that try men's very souls. Fortunately, in a move that had me almost certainly looking like a complete moron, I could have my cake, and eat it too. The most wonderful thing about the seventh generation of consoles is the advent of practical wireless controllers. I turned the TV around, and sat outside my apartment, in the sun, playing the game through the window for several hours. The game is amazing, expect me to drown you with it as soon as I find the time.

As the day went on, I was invited to my friend Alexa's going away party. She was moving on to bigger and better things, like flight school. Lucky bitch. Because of some unrelated purchases, I was in the neighborhood, and stopped by a 9 PM sharp. Apparently I was the only one who showed up on time. Even Kristen, who lives in the house, wasn't ready by the appointed time. How very German of me. I brought along a bottle of Level Vodka. We had some shots, and tried my best to avoid accidentally crushing Kristen's hideous free range cat, Momo. Alexa baked some bread, and made a nice dip out of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It was damn good. She also laid out the remainder of her alcohol, and begged the party goers to consume it for her. She had a shaker, and I went to town on it. I constructed this monster.

2 parts parrot bay coconut rum.
2 parts Grenadine
2 parts bacardi 151 rum.
1 part cran-blueberry juice

Add liquor and shake hard, strain into a frosted pint glass, add juice, fill with club soda, and stir.

That beast was essentially six shots of 90 proof liquor, and it tasted like absolutely nothing. Slight hint of grenadine, but other than that, it was like drinking down thick water. I was terrified, because every sip I took, I wanted to just chug it down because my tongue tells me it's not strong enough. However, my brain, which watched me construct it, knows how strong it is. And after I develop a pretty heavy buzz off of 2/3s of the glass, I know how strong it is.

I met up with Ed, Amy, and Andy, and we talked about Andy's motorcycles, our mutual alcoholism, and the fact that Ed looks uncannily like a 10" shorter me. The conversation continued in interesting directions, until I got looped into a few beer pong games. I would like to think I acquitted myself quite well in those games, despite a terrible foul. I even dragged out a victory with Kristen as my partner, a feat thought impossible. During one rather entertaining game, Jordan had to skip out to puke mid game, and got replaced. An act I later used to sub myself into a game to help Lacey's terrible team.

After my idiot foul got us bumped of the table, I saw CJ had shown up, with Michelle and Bryan in tow. Apparently Michelle no longer wishes for my agonizing death via cancer. Yay! I'm moving up in the world. We shared shots of Level Vodka, which was quite smooth, and I began to set the stage for CJ to come help me move my junk from my apartment to storage. Seeing as he's the only person in our mutual circle who owns a truck, he was doomed to spend the entire weekend moving stuff for literally everyone he's ever met.

At about 1 AM, my friend Tony crashed the party, not knowing I was there, sporting an awkwardly faked Australian accent, and a little blond girl on his arm. Well, I'm not about to try and cock block my friend based on something as little as faking being Australian. So I let them drink in bliss. All of a sudden, Tony grabs me, and mentioned to the girl that I used to live in the south. She asks me where, and I told her New Orleans, Alabama, and Georgia. She saw fit to correct me, "You lived in N'awlins, 'Bama, and that other state."

Dammit woman, not everyone who's lived in the south speaks with the accent of a fucking idiot. She mentioned she lived in Shreveport. Whatever. Then she saw my dog tags. "Oh, you're in the Marines? You know Camp Pendleton? That's me."

At that point I was getting angry. "Don't confuse me with a Jarhead, girl."

She proceeded to go on a rant about how the Marines are her family. I asked her bluntly, "Are you in?"

To which she replied an unqualified no. "Then don't lecture me on service."

She got all indignant about how she couldn't believe I was showing so much disrespect to her family. "What your great grandfather did has no bearing on how I treat you. There is no royalty in America, you earn your respect. You aren't given it."

At that point, she was a awfully flustered, and asked my if I lived here. When I said no, she told me that she thought I should leave. She was trying to kick me out of my friends party, that she crashed? Incredible. I refused, and she grabbed Tony, and dragged him out of the party. Good Riddance.

Immediately afterwords, a guy who was standing nearby, Mark, looked at me. I realised that I was pretty drunk, and I might have been a real jerk. So I asked for a third party perspective from Mark and his wife, Lacey. She was a bitch, and they were surprised I didn't drunk toss her ass out at the word go. Vindication. To be honest, judging from her accent, and lack of any knowledge of military principle, I'd say she's probably some puffed up bitch who was trying to back me down without any actual truth to her stories. Either that, or General Pendleton is rolling in his grave right now. She certainly sounded more like she was from Salem than Shreveport.

The party wound down after that, and the rest of the night was saying goodbyes, and making sure the really drunk people got home safely. Aaron gave me a ride home, and I passed out on my couch.

Friday became game day. I spent pretty much the whole day devouring MGS 4's amazing story.

On Saturday, I prepped my apartment for the move back to Washington.

On Sunday, CJ rolled by, an I traded him two bottles of Irish Cream, a Bottle of Sake, and a bottle of Merlot for his help moving my stuff. As we hauled my futon to the storage facility, we discussed stuff such as Dave Mustain's amazing hair, bands that are essentially a cult of personality around one person, and woodland firefighting.
Monday morning, I rode back up to Washington, and am now frantically attempting to avoid letting the Guard ruin yet another summer. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No Age - Nouns

I recently got my hands on the new album by the band No Age, Nouns. No Age is an experimental rock band, based in LA, and signed to the label Sub Pop.

Sub Pop is known for working with artists like Death Cab for Cutie, Flight of the Conchords, Hole, Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Soundgarden.

The album as a whole is pretty short, burning through 12 tracks in just over a half hour. The whole album has a very unprofessional, garage band type sound to it. Mike static and amp feedback is left on the vinyl, and often overpowers the songs themselves. The album is also very unbalanced aurally, with some very high pitched tones, but minimal bass to balance it out. There's quite a bit of overdubbing done, to make up for the fact that the band only has two members. Nouns pulled in a 78 on metacritic.

The first track, "Miner", is fast, dissonant, lacking in any bass whatsoever, and the lyrics are very difficult to make out.

"Eraser" is a little more coherent. The high strung guitars still drown out most of the lyrics.

"Teen Creeps" has an annoying feedback in the background that hurts my ears.

"Things I did when I was Dead" features a specifically engineered dissonance, generated by taking the same vocal track, and layering it twice, the second time a split second behind the first.

"Cappo" is the first track that I found genuinely listenable. The drummer is actually fairly talented.

"Keechie" is an okay ambient piece, but it really seems like someone just decided to tape a band's warm up session.

"Sleeper Hold" is a pretty good song. They have solid tempo variance. But the lyrics are a bit repetitive.

The lyrical delivery on "Errand Boy" is really bland. But the guitar work is decent.

"Here Should Be My Home" is dissonant, and the lyrics gradually get buried by the guitar work. It almost seems like the guitarist and lyricist are going through a spat over who's the most important member of the band. It's kind of cute, in a high school garage band sort of way.

"Impossible Bouquet" starts off with a strained amp static noise in the background that really bothered me. It spoiled the song for me, which is a shame, because the string work on the guitar is good.

The cleanest song on the album is probably "ripped knees". Even including the last minute which is just a few guitar chords on a badly tuned amp.

The last track is "Brain Burner", it has the most audible lyrics of the album.

In the end, most of Nouns is noise, and combined with the repetition, it shapes up into an audio assault on your eardrums. I finished listening to this album, and shortly thereafter developed a nasty headache. The image I got while listening to the album was of a couple of high school kids trying to emulate the overdubbing style that made Billy Corgan famous, only to completely forget that it only works if the layers are sonically distinct.

Perhaps you might enjoy music like this, but I do not. It's not Metal Machine Music cacophonous, but you can see it from here. I really can't recommend this album to anyone. I'm giving it a 3/10.

Next Question...

The New Debate is up.

At first glance, I'm sure it's easy to say that, "no, stealing is never okay." Yet, when we delve a bit deeper and throw in a few circumstances this opinion may, in fact, change.

It's a bit like the Robin Hood theory of stealing from the rich to feed the poor. Let's say you're a mom of 6, your significant other has just passed away, you were laid off because of the horrible economy and have no way to sustain the lives of your 6 kids. As a last ditch effort, you begin to nab food.

Is this acceptable?

Or, let's say you're someone that happens to know a little too much about torrents and/or downloading music.

Is this acceptable?

Better yet, what if you or someone you know is just an out-right kleptomaniac? Then what?

Here's my take.

In America, there isn't poverty to the extent that thievery becomes a necessity. There are enough social programs available to take care of the poor that you can get food and shelter. It might not be pretty, but it's out there, and it's legal. You know what they say, beggars can't be choosers. There are soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and getting a job is not that hard. Getting a job that you enjoy is what's hard. If you can't put food on the table, but you think that working at McDonald's is beneath you, that's your own choice.

In Brasil, it's a different story. In the favelas, some people depend on thievery for the basics of survival because the programs that are out there are not enough. It's acceptable when you have no choice, because at that point, it becomes a matter of survival, and if you have to take from others to ensure your survival, well, then they need to protect their stuff better. But by the same coin, you are not entitled to their belongings, so if you can't take it, don't expect to be given it. In places like that, it's a state of nature, and survival of the fittest is the rule. Be glad you're not there.

With regards to digital file transfer of music, movies, or games, this is how I look at it. As art in the public domain, if the artists wish to profit from their work, they need to make it available to the public. If there's a book not being printed, a movie or album no longer being pressed, or a game no longer being produced, by all means, download it. However, if the means exist for you to obtain the work in a manner that keeps the artist in the loop, then you are obligated to take that route.

And Kleptos? Just get some medication, just because it's supposedly a disease doesn't mean it's right.

The Last Weekend.

In more ways than one.

On Friday I met my friends at American Dream Pizza for our usual pre salsa meal. American Dream's latest claim to fame was Obama's struggle to keep their pizza in his mouth. :) The pizza's good, and it's the only place I've found that's willing to put salmon on a pizza. However, the part of the place I like best is the Crowbar.

I found the Crowbar on my 22nd birthday, having no clue about it's connection to American Dream. It has a back alley entrance, and a wrought iron overhang sign that screams old school dive. It looked as good a place as any to finish off my birthday. We staggered in, and it was... surprisingly post modern. However, the bartenders are actually good, and they serve ten different varieties of the Kamikaze. Plus, you can have good pizza, and good booze at the same time. Yum.

However, I digress. We had pizza, and I had a kamikaze. We talked and ate, and laughed at the connotations of the combinations of Tristan and Willow's names once they get married, the names of other people, the fact that my mom wanted to name me Raphael, and as always, time passed. We soon found that it was nine o'clock, and meandered our way to Platinum.

Latin X kicked off, and I drank far too much. Unlike the Crowbar, the bartenders at Platinum are... less than proficient. However, I used that to my advantage. They run a deal that before 11, well drinks cost $1. I managed to convince them that a caipirinha is a well drink. Essentially 3 shots of rum for one dollar! Hot damn. I had 4 of them, and wound up buying rounds for the whole table. I threw in a couple of Vodka and Tonics, and I was unusually drunk, on less than $15.

The hilarious moment occurred when I was talking with Tristan about our experiences in the military, mine in the Army, his in the Marines. As he regaled me with tales of a Marine SGT who was too dumb to live, Chris walked up, and slapped me on the shoulder, and caused me to spill my drink. Oh, well. I switched the drink to my other hand to avoid further traffic from disrupting my alcoholism. Twenty seconds later, Bill walks by, and hits my other shoulder, causing me to spill more of my recently relocated drink. Tristan cracked up. I chugged my drink down, to prevent any further problems.

I drank, and danced, and talked. I tried to find Simona's camera to take some pictures. Someone beat me to the punch, and the camera disappeared for about 2 hours, and Simona got all overprotective of it when it was found. C'mon, I'm trustworthy...

I decided to have a Mint Julep for my final drink. I talked to the bartender, and as usual, he had no clue how to make it. As I walked him through it, this exchange occurred...

"Add Bourbon."

"Which kind?"

"What kind do ya'll stock?"

"We have Irish, Tennessee, Kentucky..."

"NO. Just use that bottle of Jim Beam."

Irish Bourbon? I died a little inside when I heard that. I also cried a little when he strained the mint out of my drink. What the Hell. No tip for you.

As usual, time passed, and before I knew what was happening, the lights got turned on, and Simona kicked us all out. Talking with Nate on the way home, he and Dave invited me over to La Conga for late night Mexican food. At 2:35 in the morning, La Conga was packed. I'd love to see their hourly business estimates. While we were devouring our burritos, we were joined by Roger and Alana, and a couple of Roger's friends. After the food was gone, we went to Nate's house, and danced a little bit more. Dave, being our resident Hawaiian, showed us some Maori dances, and Nate and Alana showed off their rumba skills. I danced a little casino with Alana. Fun was had, and I didn't wind up home until 4:30.

I spent a good chunk of Saturday sleeping. I woke up at 1, and dragged myself over to the TV to watch the Belmont Stakes. This was supposed to be Big Brown's triple crown victory lap. As I was watching the warm ups, I was bouncing around on a football message board I frequent when bored. In an off topic thread about the Belmont, I called Da'tara winning. Take that!

Saturday night, well, Sunday morning technically, Mike IM'd me, demanding food. He swung by, and we hung out at his place, as he ordered pizza. Pizza Pipeline said that it would be about an hour for delivery. We figured it was a Scotty-esque overstatement to keep us from getting our expectations up. 55 minutes later, our pizza arrived. Wow. Mike had gotten his hands on a leaked copy of Beast With a Billion Backs, so we watched that. I wound up passing out on the couch.

I woke up at about ten o'clock, and none of Mike's roommates really cared about the giant curled up in their living room. That just goes to show what kind of house it is.
After shaking off my grogginess, I fired up their 360, and played some Halo 3. That's my one regret about going with a PS3. MGS4 completely outweighs it, but I do miss Halo. I love the mythology of the game, and the soundtrack is glorious. I might buy that soundtrack. When Mike woke up, we played some Metal Slug 3. Old school, nintendo hard games, designed to suck the quarters out of you pockets. I went through 39 continues. At 50 cents a pop, you're looking at damn near $20 gone, to beat 5 levels.

After ordering another pizza, we hunkered down to watch the NBA Finals game 2. That game went from a massive blowout, to inexplicably becoming a game at the end. That just goes to show, you really only need to watch the 4th quarter of an NBA game.

I wound up getting home at 10:30, and went pretty much straight to sleep. A good end.

Monday, June 9, 2008


John Burnett is an extremely talented man. He runs his own website at He's a talented musician, a great programmer, a good writer and artist, and certainly on of the best website designers I've ever seen. is a beautiful website. It quietly conceals most of his work under the guise of a sci-fi themed metaplot which is really quite interesting. For those of you who want to cut straight to the content, just click on the green buttons, but keep in mind that you're missing out. The music is haunting, with a kind of sunrise at Mecca feel to it.

His latest project is a Sci-Fi epistolary novella called Planetfall. Planetfall is the story of the crew of the NSEA Demosthenes, an interplanetary vessel with a crew of 64 people. As the ship and crew are pushed to the limit to attempt to meet a deadline, catastrophe strikes. In the light of the new developments, very hard decisions have to be made. The story really deals with how the various members of the crew deal with this event, and how the ties that bind them together as a crew begin to break down when they are forced to place the crew ahead of themselves.

In a way, the Sci-Fi setting is an almost irrelevant MacGuffin. The story isn't about the ship, it isn't about the technology, and it certainly isn't about space. It's about the people. It's about what people are willing to do to ensure their fortunes at the expense of others, and how that can backfire. You could take the same people, and put the on a boat, or an island, or a city, and the social lessons don't change. The work it most reminds me of is William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Just as in Golding's work, this is about civilization.

The story is presented in a very minimalistic and clean flash setup. Burnett also applied an ambient soundtrack comprised of a piano and violin duet that combines the aspects of the page, and makes the story extremely immersive. The story is very well written. The only chink I could find is that some of the characters' mannerisms come off as a little too, I don't want to say snobbish... literarilly experienced? There are times when it seems like it's not a security guard and a technician arguing, but two english professors. But that's a pretty minor flaw.

Planetfall is certainly worth a read. Spread the word.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Beast With a Billion Backs.

Thank God, they're back at it. :)

Thankfully, the fine folks who produce Futurama have finished their second movie. Following directly after Bender's Big Score, they hop right back into it with The Beast With a Billion Backs.

Things are beginning to settle back to normal, despite the hole torn in the very fabric of reality by the thousands of doomed Benders still looming overhead. Fry has a new girlfriend, Kif and Amy are preparing for their Fonfonrou ceremony, and the Professor is attempting to organize an expedition to study the anomalous tear in space.

The Audio and Visuals shouldn't need any explanation. The story is a little disjointed in the middle, but gets sewn up nicely in the end.
While Beast doesn't have the same level of fan service as Big Score does, quite a few of the minor characters in the series make a return. Calculon, Hedonism Bot, Dr. Ogden Wernstrom, Kif and Zap, the Wongs, and Morbo all have significant screen time.

Brittany Murphy guest stars as the voice of Fry's new girlfriend, Colleen. David Cross plays Yivo, a new entity from the other side of the doom rift. Dan Castellaneta returns as the Robot Devil. Stephen Hawking plays himself, for what that's worth.

It's worth watching for a good laugh if your familiar with the series, and certainly worth buying if you're a fan of the series.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The People's Mario

In case you were wondering how dark a cutesy game like Mario can be...

Pretty Fucking Dark.

The End of an Era.

With Metal Gear Solid 4 looming on the horizon, one of the funniest webcomics out there has closed it's story arc. The Last Days of Foxhound is a Metal Gear Solid inspired webcomic, drawn by Chris Doucette, which focuses on the Foxhound unit of the first Metal Gear Solid game. The art is a little pedestrian, but the humor is top notch. Doucette has a sharp sense for sarcasm, and manages to draw together the most convoluted plotline this side of Chrono Cross in a very hilarious manner.

TLDoF ran for 500 comics, and managed to incorporate each of the bizarre super squads from the MGS series. Foxhound, Dead Cell, and the Cobras all make an appearance, as does the most Magnificent Bastard, Big Boss. Solid Snake is never seen directly, but his presence is felt throughout the story arc.

The premise of the story is the background of the Foxhound unit, a super powered black ops team which works in secret for the government. The storyline covers from when Liquid Snake joins Foxhound, up until the events of MGS1.

While Spider Man would say "With great power comes great responsibility", in this case it's more like "With great power comes great insanity." Each member of Foxhound, while supremely talented, also has a psychotic personality flaw. Liquid Snake is an super soldier, but he suffers from an inferiority complex that would take up several floors of a building to catalog. Vulcan Raven is a shamanistic Inuit giant, who is smug beyond belief. Sniper Wolf is the world's greatest sniper, but she actually develops a crush on each target she's assigned. Decoy Octopus is a world class spy and master of disguise, he's also a trickster worthy of Loki, and a complete coward. Psycho Mantis is the world's strongest telepath, but he's also omnicidal. Revolver Ocelot is a master of subterfuge, and world class marksman, but he's also a pathological liar, and suffers from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.

The interactions of these outlandish personalities tie into the extensive metaplot of Hideo Kojima's grand design, and provide nonstop hilarity. Please, check it out.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Because I know that all my readers just have tons of money lying around that they really don't know what to do with... :)

Money's tight with me too, but if you've got some spare coin that you could afford to part with, let me make a couple of suggestions as to where you can direct it.

The first is a conglomerate of non profits called Soldiers' Angels. They have all sorts of services to assist soldiers, and the people who support the soldiers, with the hardships of military service. Pretty much anything you want to do, they can point you in the right direction.

Want to help soldiers wounded in the line of duty? The Eagle Cane Project sends hand carved canes to soldiers with leg injuries. First Response Backpacks provides a bag with everything an injured soldier needs in his initial days of treatment while still in country. Valor-IT gives a soldier with a hand injury a laptop computer designed to be operated with his injury.

Perhaps you want to help those left behind by deployed soldiers? Operation Outreach provides for the families left when soldiers deploy. Guardian Angels looks after the pets that soldiers have to leave behind.

For the more traditionally minded, Adopt a Soldier is always a classic. Angel Bakers is a tasty alternative. Operation Phone Home provides one thing that a lot of people don't think about as a real need, phone cards.

No matter which you choose, you can feel comfortable that your donations are going to a worthy cause. You can find all these programs, and many more, at the Soldiers' Angels homepage I linked to earlier.

The second group is the United Service Organization, or USO. While Soldiers' Angels allows you to specify what your funding goes to, the USO does it all. They give shelter from the mind numbing boredom of the airports we frequent during TDY flights. They bring out Actors, Athletes, and Musicians to keep morale high. They help soldiers put a roof over their head during overnight layovers. They offer emergency support, support groups, and even nursery care for military families. They have facilities in 21 states and 10 countries. The USO knows how to help the soldiers, better than any organization out there. They've been at it for 67 years now. Wherever the military is sent, the USO is there to support them. As the USO says, "Until Every One Comes Home."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The slings and arrows of outrageous drama.

Deutlich posted another debate on 20SB, and I find myself in desperate need to defray the neurotic pressures of the end of school. So here's the question.

Do you pose questions to your boyfriend or girlfriend's friends to figure out what to do within your relationship? Do you think it's all right to do so?

To Ask or Not?

That is the question.

Well, personally, I don't do that, but that's more a matter of my own flawed personality than anything. It seems I'd rather crash and burn spectacularly than ask for help in most things. It's irritating, and I'm working hard to improve in that respect. But that's neither here nor there, because we're arguing what I think, not what I do.

As with most topics, I fall somewhat in the middle. I think that third party perspective is one of the most powerful tools you can have, if used properly. It's a lot like a light post, use it like a traveler, for illumination. Do not use it like a drunk, for support. When you talk to a mutual friend about the relationship, don't try to get them to take your side, try to get some perspective on the situation. If you're looking for support, or somewhere to vent, get a blog, because real life is more difficult to keep under wraps. Get a blog anyways, it's fun.

The side of this debate that I have a lot more experience with is playing the part of the man in the middle. One relationship in particular, I'm very good friends with both sides, and as such, I think I know more about the relationship than either of the people in it. I like to think that I've helped their relationship survive. The key thing to remember when you get to play Henry Kissinger, is that you're being trusted with sensitive information. You need to be careful with what you say, and you will wind up keeping secrets. If you just push everything through, you will wind up alienating one, or both, of your friends. That's never fun. If you can't handle that, you need to let them know, so you can dodge that particular topic.

In a perfect world, such subterfuge wouldn't be needed. But this is far from a perfect world, and it has imperfect people in it. People present a different face to different people, so talking to another person can give you a new perspective on the relationship. Just be smart about what you do, and try to avoid putting your friends in compromising positions.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Flash Full of Wing Wong.

I woke up on Saturday morning with what seems to be the beginning of a sinus infection. Well, shit. However, my friend Mike had a "surprise" birthday party, and it was my job to get burgers to the barbecue, and I'd be damned if I would let there be a barbecue without burgers. That's just unamerican. Salt water gargles do miracles for cleaning up the throat.

So off I go to Fred Meyers, to purchase 34 burgers and 32 buns. Stupid packaging disparity. I rolled up to the house, and dropped off the food with Sarah, and we got the party preparations set. There was pizza, chips, hot dogs, hamburgers, dirt cups, beer, and lots of other good stuff.

When Mike arrived, the festivities started in earnest. Thanks to the decent weather, we set up shop outside. I played a game of outdoor beer pong. It's a whole different animal outdoors, accounting for windage wreaked havoc on everyone's shots. Fortunately, I'm used to dealing with windage, so I played pretty well. We got the grill fired up, and soon the scent of formerly frozen beef patties crackling over a charcoal flame wafted throughout the yard. I put together a nice cheeseburger, with colby jack, lettuce, horseradish sauce, mustard and ketchup. Delicious.

Nick had brought over his full Rock Band setup, drums, bass, guitar, and mike. Everyone had snapped up the instruments, and as soon as I walked in, I got pegged with the vocals. I made it through the songs I knew pretty well, In Bloom, The Hand That Feeds, Creep, all went well. The songs I didn't know... Not so much.

Andy unveiled his new toy. A 3 foot long blow gun. We had a field day with that one. We shot pretty much everything we could spare, and even popped each other with the blunt tipped slugs. It was fun, in a sadistic sort of way.

Forrest Gump came on TNT. I love that movie, and believe that it is possibly the best movie of our generation. There's so much innuendo that I never picked up the first time I saw it.

After some of the party drew to a close, we headed over to watch the acapella show. The ladies of UO opened, and were pretty damn good. The Divines, the OSU womens group, went on next. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Ducks did a better job. Outspoken, the OSU mens group came up, and did an excellent job. acapella shows, by their nature, are a little campy, but Outspoken embraced it. Their rendition of Life is a Highway was superb, marred only by the feed cord accidentally being pulled from the mike, making it sound like someone had been shot.

After the show ended, Mike came up with a crazy idea. It was 11PM, and we were going to a hot spring. Serena rolled in with her mom's minivan, we piled the eight of us in, and we were off before we really understood what happened. Half of us didn't have bathing suits, and shamed the other half into ditching theirs. It was pretty dark out, starlight only, so we really didn't see anything. But hey, skinny dipping in a sulfur hot spring is always fun. We passed around a bottle of cheap red wine, and played the stupid games that inevitably happen when you mix nudity, alcohol, and steam. Truth or Dare, yippee. Fortunately, things didn't get too inappropriate or uncomfortable. We played two rounds, and I picked truth once, and dare once. For truth, I got asked if I ever wished I was shorter. I certainly wish I had a more standardized body type when it comes to buying clothes. And for a dare, I was challenged to hop into the spring above us, which was much hotter, and occupied by a couple that was getting a little *ahem* friendly. Good for them, I just hope that the sulfur killed off anything that got released.

As we were trying to get back to the bench from the spring, Serena turned around with Mike's camera, and FLASH. Well, there goes my modesty. Thank God for my Brazilian side. On the ride back, we discretely checked which pictures were appropriate, and which weren't, and deleted the one's that didn't spare someones dignity. The others were kept for posterity, and no, they will not be posted here.

Mike drove us home, and the rest of us slept in the most uncomfortable positions possible, we made it back in town just before five AM, and began the frantic race against time to get everyone back to their homes, and more importantly, beds, before the sun rose, and screwed up any chance at sleep. It was so worth it.