Monthly Archives: February 2003

White Hawk IPA

White Hawk IPA pours aromatically, hued yellow from the bottle, but slightly cloudy. The inviting scent is tempting me to taste a swallow. This beer has the sharp bite associated with India Pale Ales, with perhaps a slightly more burnt and fruity flavor, making it somewhat complex. The head dissipated fairly quickly, leaving a nicely integrated carbonation behind. I find the bitterness to be a little on the strong side, but I am sure that over time it would grow endearing.

This ale originates from the Mendocino Brewing Company in Ukiah, CA. Browsing their website, I get the feeling that these are people who really enjoy beer. In particular, I think they enjoy their beer, but not exclusively. Oddly, a link to this particular selection was not obvious. However, their information on their brewing process is interesting.

As I consume more of this Ale, I become more aware of an underlying sweetness, not the syrupy sweet of some beers, but a subtle woody sweetness, pleasant to the taste, yet elusive. The bitterness has tempered itself somewhat against this sweetness, though still present through the swallow and into the aftertaste.

I recommend this beer fairly highly. I believe that it is one which will appeal strongly to particular tastes, it is very much in the IPA vein, which tends towards a bitterness more strong than many other beers. If you are looking for something new, give this one a shot.

What I do

Kay, this was fun. I do Unix systems administration. It was pretty fun to attach this to the products here. It’s mildly entertaining just for the variety of packages and the uses of the word Unix. So when you think of me, imagine me manipulating a gaggle of unisex diapers.

Kasparov vs Deep Junior

Like a cork on water, I followed the latest installment in the Man vs. Machine saga. Following shortly on the heels of Fox’s special of similar name (M vs M, that is), Kasparov and Deep Junior, a chess machine of Israeli origin, squared off in New York. The match was to consist of six games. And it did. The prize for each was some odd hundred thousands of dollars depending whether you win or lose, plus Kasparov got aroung half a million just for showing up. Maybe not Tyson vs. whoever payroll numbers, but not bad for just getting out of bed.

So the series started off with a bang. In game one, Kasparov maneuvered into a strong position, and Deep Junior resigned on the 27th move. Not a bad start, human weakling. Kasparov was white that game, which is generally considered to be an advantage, especially when you’re good enough to keep your momentum going for awhile. It’s sort of like having the serve in tennis, you’re just expected to win that, and winning with black is like breaking. The key is to win when you’re white and draw when you’re black, it seems to me.

Game two was a nice one for Kasparov. He nearly defeated white, but instead was forced into perpetual check, which is a fancy descriptive was of saying draw. Game three, I suppose was a good illustration of how sneaky computers are and how we shouldn’t trust them. Kasparov earned what the experts refer to as a winning position, like “No new taxes” or “Tax cuts for everyone” when all of a sudden he was ass over teakettle, struggling to make ends meet and Deep Junior gave him a sound whooping Turing-style and won as black.

The rest of the games were draws. Deep Junior played some crzy moves, moves characterized as very non-computer-like, and suggesing a new age in computer chess. But that doesn’t do me any good, because I couldn’t even beat the stupid machine at Radio Shack. But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to say on the matter.

Machines (read computers) play a different brand of chess than humas. They are very calculating, and can look at millions of moves per second. They generally play their game by playing a whole bunch of games in memory, and scoring them based on various metrics, like piece value, getting mated, and probably some loose positional concepts. There is probably a huge set of endgame situations that the good ones try to play for, but that’s prety complicated. On the other hand, humans can only look at a few moves per second, so identifying the right ones is really important. Which makes us wonder how the heck we’re able to think about something as abstract as chess at all and not implode. Well, it has a lot to do with familiarity, chunking together particular situations, hunches, weird representations of strategy, and guessing.

Anyhow, I think that it’s really cool that Deep Junior is able to make moves that astound the chess world. I’m more like, hmm, that’s pretty cool that this computer was programmed to check out the random things, and be able to play the fact that the human knows its a computer against the human, because that seems like what it did. Basically the computer played some crazy threatening checking maneuver that radically changed the shape of the game. If he’d been playing a lowlier human, I have little doubt that Kasparov would have recovered from that and given punier human opponent a sound ass whooping. But since Deep Junior is a computer, hence very sneaky, as are all computers, he was llike, holy crap, what if it sees mate in twenty after I open up my Knight. So, he did the safe thing and forced a draw.

An interesting thing about high-level chess is that people play for draws, and they happen often. If you look at my chess history, I probably have like 10 draws out of 500 games or something. If that. And I probably never said, oh, gosh, I’m losing let’s draw this one, but instead said, if I’m gonna pull this out, it’s gotta be a sacrifice, or threat of bodily harm (difficult to pull off over the internet) that’s going to do it.

Cheers, and if you want to play a game sometime my handle is sicrik on the free internet chess server. Check out freechess.org.

The Shuttle Disaster

Having been a science guy and geek, this whole space shuttle Columbia disaster has been on my mind a bit. There’s so much to think about and to say. So many facets of the human experience uncovered. Of course there are the teen-age vigils that bring tears to GWB’s eyes, and the bizarre press coverage of people finding helmets and wheels. Also, the whole hero thing and the family’s stories. And NASA playing CYAssa.

When I was but a youngster, the space shuttle was such a cool idea. I mean, I’d been drawing fighter jets for years and years, and I totally dug the observatory. Man walking on the moon was something that I’d totally missed out on, and there while space travel was romanticized in some of my early favorites like Star Wars and The Black Hole, there just wasn’t much happening with it, as far a I could tell. Then the space shuttle came along, and not only was it something new and something cool, but it was visible, and the idea of an airplane going into space was so futuristic yet tangible. So, I watched the launch, and followed the boring ass progress of it in space every now and then on the news, and then missed the landing, but I was sad about it.

Then there was the Challenger, which was a true tragedy, for science, people, families, education, and NASA. Maybe there was some benefit from martyrdom, but in general that was one of those day whose sadness just sticks with you. My teacher came to class with tears in her eyes, none of us knew yet, nor was the gravity of the situation so clear, but there was something deeply tragic in the air.

Similarly, when I first saw the news of the Columbia on my CNN email, my heart sank. I was astonish, and feelings of that day welled up again. But they stopped. While I felt for the crew of the Columbia, I just didn’t see them in the same light, the same heroism as in the Challenger. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing tragedies, trying to say, oh that ones more Hamlet, that’s more ancient Greek, but really, the romanticism is gone. The shuttle isn”t new and exciting, it’s over twenty years old. There’s no Gene Roddenberry with the prime directive. MadTV does more Neil Armstrong voice-overs than the news. We’re looking at seven people who willingly took a massively high-risk ride that a lot of others (me! me!) would happily take and even do sit-ups for.

The people at the vigil, I don’t know what they’re accomplishing. Sure, it’s sad, but maybe you heard about this flight because of the Israeli on-board, but probably not. Of, course, I’m pretty blase about their situation now anyway, but that’s the topic of another article. But, hearing about sad things on the news doesn’t mean you should go out and hug strangers…except that you might get invited to the White House or State of the Union Address to represent some guy who was told that this is a good PR move.

I try to avoid watching the news. Especially on TV, it’s really so bad it almost makes me want to cry. Not that I’d go watch it live. But I saw one lady, a teacher from such and such, maybe Texas, ironically (don’t quote me there though!), who had her students away on a long field trip to some place or other, and she was being interviewed. I could not believe that she said that she and her fellow teachers had gotten together and decided not to discuss this with their students! That is some lazy, paranoid, mislead teaching! If there was any possible opportunity to get a teachable moment out of this, something that might stick with the kids, it’s to help make sense of the tragedy. Get them together. Show them that this is something that is important to you. Be affected. Let it ruin their day if they want. But crap, don’t hide from it. You don’t need to hold a vigil, but talk about space travel, and the excitement and risks accociated with it. And the possibilities.

The space program is one of those things that we like to think makes America great. Well, we’re falling behind. Plans for the Space Shuttle as a commuter spacecraft are about thirty years old. And N’sync still has to talk to Russia to get a thrill. The space shuttle is old hat. We need to move forward. More Mars talk. More moonbases. It’s about discovery, knowledge, curiosity, power. So many great qualities of Western though.

I found this article which was written many moons ago by a man who felt that the space shuttle project was misguided from the get-go. A risky endeavour, overly costly, extraordinarily risky, and an insignificant step forward. I can’t say that I agree with the thesis of this fascinating article, but many of the points and facts are extremely interesting. The article was written about a year before the first Columbia launch. I do believe that the space shuttle was a great step forward. It is evidence to NASA doing its best, battling, as well as being a part of, horrible bureaucracy, overcoming immense barriers to achieve something quite extraordinary.

But perhaps I was caught up in the romaticism of the shuttle at an early age, and even in light of reason cannot shake free. I don’t think so. Even today, the shuttle astronauts are risking their lives in the space equivalent of VW Bug…sans flower-holder for the advancement of the space program, science, maybe a little military and corporate behemoth wealth, but mostly, I think, for the sake of adventure, wonderment, and romance. Those astronauts were heroes. May their last ride serve mankind.

Homebrew #1 part 2

Finally! The beer is ready to be tasted. And I don’t mean the stray cheat that I’ve been sneaking since last weekend, but it should be sufficiently aged at this point. So, here I go. The pour yields a thick creamy head, with slightly uneven bubble distribution. Whatever that means, just calling as I see ‘em. The ale is fairly dark, and slightly anber-hued. So far, so good. The aroma is is distinct with that unfiltered scent so often associated with homebrew…perhaps slightly unpleasant to those new to it, one quickly becomes accustomed, possibly even nostalgic with it.

Taking my first sip (of this bottle), I am struck by how yummy this beer is! Sadly, the head mostly dissipated while I wrote the above paragraph, but that is only a slight detriment. The beer definitely carries a bitter flavor, but it washes away quickly like waves at low tide, leaving little aftertaste.
At first I thought there was something pleasantly peculiar about the flavor of this homebrew, and I think I’ve got it: there’s practically no caramel flavor. Beauty! That means that I could drink this all night. And I’m not saying that just because it’s mine and you can’t have any (unless you call me soon), but because it really is a quite tasty beer. It’s not up there with some of the others that I’ve reviewed, but for a reentry into homebrewing, it’s more than satisfying. And I will not claim this recipe as my own, as it came from a kit, as detailed in the first installment of this article some weeks ago.

All the info about where I got it, what kit it was, the various excitements surrounding it, can be found in the first article. I’m ready to give another a go…another kit this time, I think I’ll hang around the beginner level until I have the easy stuff…mostly cleaning, timing, and resource management…until I have it down pretty well.

In the meantime, I’m gonna finish this badboy up and drink the other one I stashed in the fridge.

Blue Ridge Amber Lager

Blue Ridge’s amber lager pours a nice, amber hued beer. The head dissipates quickly, making the fine carbonation of this beer visible. The aroma complements this tangy beer nicely, of which both the scent and flavor have a home-brewed element to them.

The body of this lager is full, introducing itself immediately to the tongue with a rich sweetness, and leaving behind a gentle bitter aftertaste. All the while, the flavor is integrated nicely with the carbonation. The effect is quite pleasant, acually.
As I travel nearer and nearer to the bottom of the glass, I am finding that I ejoy this lager more and more. The initial sweetness, while still present, is less syrupy (never overly so!) than I’d thought at first, has given was to a more complex texture, something of a porous liquid riding slightly above the tongue, exciting parts on its journey through the mouth. This is a truly interesting beer!

Blue Ridge Amber Lager is brewed by Frederick Brewing Company in Frederick, Maryland. They’ve been around since 1993. The amber lager has been recognized with several awards, and I’m thinking deservedly. Here’s a few: gold medal at World Beer Cup (2000), bronze at Cheers Magazine’s One World Beer Festival (1997), bronze at the World Beer Cup (1996), and it silvered twice at the World Beer Championships (1994, 1995).

If you haven’t decided to try this tasty treat yet, you’re probably reading the wrong article. It really is nice. Sad part is that it’s not readily found in stores in these parts of the woods, though I’m actually having thoughts of ordering it.

The Catheters

The Catheters rock. Nedra pointed out their album at a listening booth at Tower Records when I was getting my stereo replaced after some jerk broke into my car and stole pretty much the whole center console, along with the air bags. I only listened for a couple minutes before deciding to buy the album, as it rocked really hard. They have a bit of that rock-n-roll rhythm blended with some searing punk-rock vocals. I call the variety of music punk rock-n-roll for lack of a better term, and alternative ain’t it, DJ spunky.

The album is very melodic with quite a few nice hooks in the tunes. The show was less melodic, and more explosive, high intensity spit flying around singer writhing on the floor. Sadly, the portland audience was pretty passive, and only a few of us were even close to rockin not gawkin. The set was too short, I think that some of the pussycats were just beginning to turn around when the show ended. Like “oh! let’s rock!” and then the dudes left the stage and that was the end. They weren’t the headliners, so that was part of the problem there.

More later…I gotta go play ball!
Alright, played ball, got some new kitchen gadgets, went into work, had a coupla beers, and screwed around on the internet. Now have a few more things to say about The Catheters and their show. Yeah, the Portland crowd was slightly more energetic than the crew at The Viper Room when I went to see Wurkt (update your site if yer still together guys!) there. That was a dead crowd…I had five feet between the stage and the nodding crowd in which to rock out like some LA freakshow. I had a good time, and the beer wasn’t as overpriced as one might expect for a classy place like The Viper Room.

And back to The Catheters. They are sweet. The show was raw, the singer has charisma, but they played around and put on a show for us too. Twice the singer (Brian Standeford) slithered into the crowd…pretty cool, he came up right next to me both times…probably because most of the energy was there, and I was on just the other side of the groupie chicks, so if he didn’t stop where I was he’d have to just keep on going.

So it was a rockin good time, pretty entertaining when Brian tackled the dude up front, I ended up with dude’s hat, but gave it back cuz I didn’t much care for it. The crowd was a bit dull, but it’s portland, and there were small women riddled throughout the standard moshing area like cheese on popcorn, which makes it tough to get rockin, especially with a short set like they had. The sound was quite good, tight or loose when when necessary, contrasting their fabulous tight melodic thrash on Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days.

Catch their show if they come to your town again. In the meantime, I’ll wait for them to get a headline gig. They will. Rock off.