Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How To Brew Beer In Only 4 or 5 Hundred Easy Steps

My long and decorated history of brewing beer has always been of public record. I have nothing to hide. I have already brewed two whole batches and definitely know exactly how to almost do it now.

The first batch I brewed (crafted, really) was skillfully enacted by having my friend Joseph brew it while I very, very carefully didn't pay attention. The results ranged from yummy to delicious. And magically gluten free.

The second batch was a little trickier and I knew this time I wanted to get my hands dirty. So, I jumped in both feet first and several other body part metaphors and insisted that THIS time, the entire thing be done by Joseph again while I took hasty notes, scribbled on the grocery list pad I stole from their fridge.

In other words, I was done messing around.

What not messing around looks like

I know now what is "wort" (pronounced "wort" for some odd reason), mash, yeast nutrient, Whirlfloc (also pronounced "wort") and a bunch of other weird words that makes me even a little MORE cooler than you than I already was.

Am I a master brewer yet? No, I don't think so. Maybe. If you want to slap that label on me, fine. But I think it is a little too soon.

Will I quickly excel beyond that of my mentor, Brau Meister Cooley? Obviously. I master all I set my hands to, but also will never, ever forget my humble beginnings. Just how I roll.

But in only two months of brewing and only gradually increasing applying myself and even paying a little bit of attention, I am the first to freely admit my gains are meager, so far.

I know this, because I also have clear and incontrovertible evidence of what applying oneself wholeheartedly and strenuously to something for several months will in fact yield:

Oh, yeah.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Live At Roots by Brandin Reed

It's been a while since I've done a blog post about a CD review. I need to remember to do it more often, because everybody needs to listen to what I'm listening to.

Brandin Reed just put out his new EP called Live At Roots, which is 5 of his original, acoustic songs performed at the Roots Coffeehouse, not far from where he lives in Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas.

I had a chance to listen to it a couple times and love it. It's great, mellow songs, perfect for summertime and driving in the car.

I definitely recommend it. Give the songs a preview, either in iTunes or at Amazon and you'll quickly agree it is well worth buying, especially at the EP cost.

I think my favorites are tracks one and three, Breeze and No More Doubt. Very catchy guitar riffs and his signature smooth high tenor / falsetto throughout.

I should point out that I hate it when people drop names and I will never, ever do that.

Brandin and I go waaaaay back. It was well over mumble mumble years ago that we both worked together leading praise and worship for the youth / young adults at New Beginnings Christian Center in Portland.

(I won't say how long ago it was, but my now adult kids were still knee high. Let's leave it at that.)

I played electric guitar as well as a little keyboard and bass and Brandin led the singing and played acoustic guitar. He also wrote many of the original songs we did and was a really good rapper, too.

Even now, he leads the music ministry for New Beginnings DFW in Texas, while I fix computers for a living. Soooo, that should tell you something.

But make no mistake, I taught him literally everything he knows about guitar and singing.*

*(This is not even remotely accurate, so I will probably repeat it many times, especially as he gets more and more famous.)

Seriously, it is cool to hear what he is doing now, compared to the already good songs he was writing and singing way back mumble mumble years ago.

Several of the tracks have a unique mix of jazz and gospel influence and yet are very reminiscent of worship songs and charismatic church services, being extended out in length and very spontaneous, from the heart. Definitely a nice side to this being recorded in front of a live crowd.

Which is actually the first thing I forgot! Honestly.

As I listened to the first song and was admiring how good the guitar and harmonies sounded and the overall production quality, I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that it was performed live by the clapping at the end.

Brandin is a great guy with a lot of talent and a really good voice and it really shines through on Live At Roots. Give it a listen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Heaven, Hell and P90X

My results with P90X have been weird and confusing. I have actually gained 5 pounds, but every time I sneeze, my wedding ring slips off my finger and my pants fall down.

I am and have been happily married for over 22 years, so there is nothing symbolic about this. My pounds are apparently just redistributing themselves in other locales and not bothering to ask my input about it.

I ordered P90X about 3 months ago for two very good reasons - because I really wanted to take more control of my health and because I had no clue how bad it was going to kick my butt.

Literally. You wake up the mornings after the "Back & Leg" workouts and you are tempted to hobble to the front door and see if anyone broke in during the night and kicked your butt cheeks for 20 straight minutes and sneaked back out.

Since I have posted about this workout program quite a few times over the last 3 months (the 90 stands for 90 days), some have said I sound like I am just advertising for them. Great! If you are with the company, please send me a royalty check or at least a couple coupons.

But if not, I assure you that the only thing I want to advertise is the advice that eating better and exercising are two of the best things you could ever do for yourself in this life.

Whether it is P90X or something else altogether, do whatever you can to improve those two things a tiny bit every month. You only get one body, so don't throw it away.

I bought the DVDs almost 90 days ago because I saw it as making an investment. By spending the money on it, I was making the commitment to do the entire thing, no matter what. They even say in their ads, "Decide. Commit. Succeed." Deciding first to do it it all the way through, no matter what, is utterly essential.

Even breaking something on my body that I needed to use later in life was more of an option than quitting. Mailing them back was never on the table, or I honestly would not have ordered them in the first place.

Which is good. Because if quitting was acceptable in my mind, then it would have happened about day 4.

But it also helped that at least 3 people told me I couldn't or wouldn't finish it. Since I was a little kid, nothing made me want to do something more than being told I could not. I was a little... "strong willed".

In fact, "Keep Off The Grass" signs were invented for people like me.

Specifically, they are there to tell me exactly where to get off the sidewalk and stomp on the grass.

They advertise that P90X will "get you in the best shape of your life", which is to say some of the best shape you can get yourself in just 90 days.

What they DON'T tell you is that you should not order it if you are really OUT of shape and just want to use it to get IN shape. If you are not already fit to some degree, it will possibly destroy you, kill you or worse.

Luckily, I actually slowly started exercising again for a number of months before even I started P90X. I started walking every day, biking, running and lifting weights a couple times a week.

This is why week number 1 of P90X was only "HELL week" and not "HOSPITAL week" followed by "Amy sending the DVDs back in the mail against my wishes" week.

But then week 2 and 3 were more like "PURGATORY weeks" and about week 4, I even started to upgrade out of that place.

I still have not reached "HEAVEN week" at all, which is fine.

I just am finally increasing the chances that whichever of those places I really do go to after this life, I might be getting there a couple years later than I would have otherwise.

This is day one of week 11 (with 13 total) and I am sick. I have a low grade fever, coughed myself awake most of the night and may or may not have gargled with nails at some point.

So, I feel like I got run over by a Porta-Potty truck, but I am still going to trudge through an hour and 20 minutes of lifting weights and crunches.

Normally, I might be happy with the progress of the last 10 weeks and just take a break for the next week or two, until I feel better... but no.

I already know it will feel even worse than HELL week, but luckily for me, someone told me I wouldn't do it all the way through to the end.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

And the propane's red glare... tanks bursting in air...

The second degree burns are healing up nicely. In my defense, they were inflicted on July 3rd and did not involve fireworks in any way.

We spent some time in Pacific City with friends this weekend and camped with them there on Saturday night. The day was as beautiful and sunny as you could ask for.

But since this is Oregon, it was obligatory that by nightfall a steady mist of rain came down for a couple hours and threatened to quash our S'mores plans. (Maybe. I don't actually know for sure what "quash" means.)

Our firewood had been soaking up the mist for a couple hours and was not willing to light, but I had both modern inventions and a lack of healthy fear on my side.

Years ago, a friend I went hunting with had given me a torch attachment for those ubiquitous (another big word), green Coleman propane tanks. It has been a real lifesaver many o' time, since I am not yet camping buddies with Cody Lundin.

If I use the torch again in the future, I will probably not use a year old tank with dents and rust on it. The torch attachment sounded funny the whole time and the flame was weak, but it was still slowly starting to light the firewood.

After about 45 seconds, the entire tank and my hands became engulfed in flames, but I quickly remembered the childhood safety tip of, "Stop, Drop and Swear".

The tank was still on fire on the ground and since I was worried about it blowing up, I yelled for everyone to get back and threw my body on top of it, like in the movies.

OK, I actually just grabbed it again, still on fire, and turned off the torch attachment. But it was still selfless and valiant and stuff.

I won't "catch a grenade for ya" like Bruno claims he would, but I will, "grab a propane tank engulfed in flames with my already burned hands and turn off the nozzle for ya". (OK, his is catchier.)

Then I continued to light the fire, but I was back to doing it like they did centuries ago whenever their firewood got soaked, with wadded up paper bags from Safeway and a lighter.

I also used the expression "wow, that got me good" about two or three hundred times and plunged my hands into a bag of ice every couple minutes for about an hour.

And then I spent the night sleeping like a baby. Which is to say, I woke up crying every 15 or 20 minutes.

I did not take pictures of the blistered second degree burns on the tops of all my fingers, but you can thank me for that.

Later the next day, enjoying a scotch night with some buddies downtown Portland, they assured me that they were disgusting looking and I was a jerk for showing it to them right before the food showed up.

I definitely learned an important lesson through all this, which is that to be safe on the 4th, I need to stick to only lighting the illegal fireworks I bought out of that guy's trunk.