Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey, I bet you thought I forgot about the holiday. It's been a busy weekend so far, but I did want to wish anyone reading a very happy Thanksgiving. It's traditional to tell everyone that for which you're thankful, but I've never been one for tradition, and I don't want the post to go as long as my list would make it. A short and vague list would be friends, family, home, and opportunities. Yes, I'm missing a lot even in those huge generalizations, but you get the picture. I have a lot of thanks to give.

It's been a busy weekend. We're getting stuff ready for our big tree trimming party next weekend, and we have two families with which to celebrate (both of which like to eat). Getting Christmas gifts is also a high priority, but we need to make sure our house is in order first. So, it's been a busy but fun weekend.

Hope yours was just as good, if not better!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thoughts on brew #2

I recently had a bottle of brew #2, ostensibly my "Christmas Ale." It's a decent ale, but needs to sit in the bottles for a bit longer, to smooth out the taste a bit. But here's the thing: it's not very Christmasy. The spices (which were wrong to begin with) didn't do a whole lot for the brew, and it's still a bit more hoppy than I'd like, but I'm guessing that I can figure that out eventually.

The last bottle of the Irish Red got taken over to a friend's house yesterday, although I have two large bottles of it still in the fridge. Now here's the thing, and perhaps other brewers can help me out with this: The most recent bottle of it I had was slightly more fizzy, and significantly smoother than any of the others I had. It almost tasted like a different beer. It was in a thinner bottle, and had been sitting there longer than any others I had drunk, but not that much longer. My thought is A) more oxygen had gotten into this bottle than usual, therefore mellowing it a bit more, B) the bottle was thinner than usual, and therefore aged differently than bottles with more depth to them, C) I had a bottle of the sorta-Christmas-ale that hadn't been marked, and I just didn't realize it. The more I think about it, the more I think it's C, but does anybody more knowledgeable in brewing have any insights into the other possibilities?

Also, I tend to prefer less bitter and more mellow or smooth beers. So far, I've made somewhat bitter beers, that taste a little harsh. Any input on what I might be doing wrong?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

On being a hero

I saved two kittens last night. Heidi's mother saw some kittens in their storm window (a window in the basement that looks out at the bottom of a four-foot pit). They had only recently gotten there, probably in the late afternoon. Heidi's mom saw an adult cat (presumably their mother) in the window, presumably attempting to save them, but couldn't, and jumped out on its own. The window doesn't open (or at least hasn't in Heidi's lifetime), so it was up to someone going into the storm window on the outside to go get them. I stepped up to that challenge. There was a bush in front of the storm window pit, one that had some pretty sizeable branches right up next to the house. It took me about five minutes to be able to squeeze past it. I lowered a foot down into the pit, and the kittens were well and truly terrified, trying to find a way to avoid me in their little square foot of space. As most kittens are, these were impossibly cute. I nabbed the tabby one first, but it squirmed out of my hand, and I had to go back for it. The second (calico?) was a lot easier, because I picked it up from the back of the neck, like a mother cat would. It tried to squirm, but that didn't do much. Both were set down on the ground just out of the stormwindow, and ran off, but not out of the bushes. I'm guessing that their mother was somewhere in there, and they ran to her safety.

Now, I realize I'm building this up a lot more than it should be. I pulled two cats out of a stormwindow, not two children out of a well. But I don't care.I'm proud of my accomplishment. It makes me feel as though I accomplished something great in a week of relative mediocrity. I'm a hero!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vegas, Baby!

We're in Vegas right now. Heidi has a conference for work, and I decided to tag along. We're staying at The Belaggio, and it's pretty nice. We're on the 26th floor, so we have a lovely view. From high up, however, the city of Las Vegas looks a bit like a giant strip-mall-cum-trailer-park with a few giant neon buildings scattered around, all of which is in a scenic desert valley. Our room is lovely, however we miss our bed at home; this one is comfortable, but not as much as ours (we have a really nice bed at home). Also, the elevators are the fastest and smoothest I think I've ever ridden on. We get to the 26th floor in just under 20 seconds, and you barely feel like you're moving.

So far, there hasn't been a lot to note. Walking up and down the strip has been the bulk of our time here, although I'm taking a lot of opportunities to relax, because I can. Today, we're taking more advantage of what Vegas has to offer; tonight, we're seeing Penn & Teller, and might do a buffet if we have the time, inclination and stomach capacity.

Yes, I've gambled a little bit. I had earmarked $40 for gambling, and I've only had a net loss of $30. I've only done slots, because I don't know much about the table games. Maybe I'll read up on those before I come out here next. I have had the challenge of changing some of my perspectives here; when I came here before (moderately frequently when I lived in LA), I was single. I could do pretty much as I pleased, within the bounds of my morals. Now I'm married, and I have to curtail a lot of my habits. When you're married, what happens in Vegas stays in your relationship. So I've been good. No late night carousing, and very limited gambling. We're going to be gluttons, though.

Today, I aslo went to a firing range and, for the first time (and possibly the last), I emptied a clip of an AK-47 into a target that looked like Saddam Hussein. If/when we come back here, I'll try other fully automatic weapons, as they have quite a few there. Really, firing an AK-47 is not much different than some of the more realistic video games. The only significant difference (other than the fact that I was holding a real, loaded assault rifle), was that a casing came up and hit me on the cheek, and those things are really hot! I have a small burn just below my eye from it.

Other observations: the strip is all about soaking as much money from you as they can. In the bigger casinos, most things are roughly twice as expensive as they should be. They're nice, but they're pricey. Also, I was on the bus on the way back from the firing range, and looking around at people. Admittedly, these are people who are taking the bus instead of a car, but I was shocked at the high percentage of people who appeared hopeless and desperate. Lastly, this place is an adult theme park. Nothing is real; it all appears kind of plastic. It's obscenely opulent, and there are a lot of opportunities you wouldn't have elsewhere, and a lot of very cool shows you couldn't see elsewhere, but it seems to be unreal. What it boils down to is that it's a nice place to visit, but not very often.

Monday, November 06, 2006


We saw Borat on Saturday, and I've been trying to formulate a way to write about it since then. I didn't put much effort into it yesterday, as it was an otherwise busy day, but also because I didn't really have words to describe it. In any case, it's intended to appear like a Kazhakstani documentary about America. Borat, the character, is based off a Russian doctor the Sascha Cohen met once, and was the most unintentionally funny person he'd ever met. And now he's made a movie.

I can see why the Kazhakstani government had a problem with this movie. It paints all Kazhakstanis as impossibly anti-semitic misogynists. It is an apalling, crass, crude, obscene and horribly, horribly funny movie.

There's few films which can successfully walk the narrow line of unrepentantly obscene humor. Either they completely turn me off, or their really not that obscene. In this move, I laughed as hard as I've laughed at any movie, even while my stomach was turning. It's primarily sexual and racial humor, which is offensive, but not as bad as it could be.

It seems as if the entire movie was improvised, usually without the people involved being aware of what was going on (they clearly saw the camera, but it appears as if they thought it was actually a Kazhakstani documentary about America, and not the comedy intended). Borat manages to offend innumerable people, most of the time with the interviewees feeling uncomfortable without wanting to show how uncomfortable they actually are. And he really goes out of his way to find easily offended people, and stick it to them.

A fair number of scenes were very likely staged, otherwise the filmmakers would probably have been arrested. And it is a comedy that's pretty much about watching other people be offended, confused or both. At the same time, it was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

I can't say I recommend this film, as it does put South Park to shame, both on the humor and offensiveness scale. So be warned, but if you choose to go, prepare to laugh until you cry.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Brew #2 Bottled

We just bottled Brew #2. I filled the bottles, and Heidi capped them. It moved a lot quicker this time, and it looks (and smells) like it will work out quite well. If there's anything I'm concerned about, it's that the corn suger didn't fully mix in with the finished beer. This shouldn't be a big problem (I think); it should just be a little flat, if there's anything wrong at all. I'm learning that homebrewing is a forgiving activity, so I'm not all that worried.

Approximate final gravity: 1.017
Estimated alcohol content: 6.6%

Lost vs. Battlestar Galactica

I've had the question in my mind which of the shows currently on right now are my favorite, as both Lost and Battlestar Galactica are among the best shows I've ever seen. Both are in their third season, and both have captivated me for a long time (I caught on to Lost late in the game, but spent a 3-day period catching up on it). Both of them have all the aspects that make TV shows addictive: Compelling characters, fascinating plotlines, continuing multiple story arcs for different characters, and mystery and intrigue. Up until very recently, I have been stunned by both, and each time thought that each show must be my favorite. And then the holding patterns started showing up.

In Battlestar Galactica, humanity is stranded on a crappy planet, surrounded by cylons. In the season finale, they jumped forward a year in time in the middle of the episode, in a very "what the hell was that?" fashion. The second season of BSG was split into two separate DVD sets, and you can't even buy them in a single set... and they're $40 each. The people of Battlestar Galactica did get off the planet, and got caught up in some crazy crap, and I'll get to that later.

In Lost, the season ended with the hatch exploding with three of our heroes in it. Three more were captured by the Others. The rest were back at the camp, which is "OK," because they tend to be minor characters. The three primary people are imprisoned, and we get to start a holding pattern here. What will happen this episode with Jack and Kate and Sawyer? Oh, they're still stuck in their cells. The first two episodes, which would have been great as one two-hour premier episode, were weak and flat. Last episode (an episode which seemed like a "hm, this guy is breaking his contract" episode), was about half commercials, and not a whole lot happened, except that it's clear they're introducing new characters, because they're busy killing off old ones. The "Fall Season Finale" is supposed to show next week, and to that I say "Wha? Did the season start?"

There lies the crux of the issue. Both shows started the season out in a holding pattern. Neither of them started out all that interesting, with our heroes being dominated by their respective captors. In both cases, we have a separated cast, each in their own little problem world (to some degree).

In Battlestar Galactica, most of humanity was on the planet, hosed, but fighting back. It ends up being a lose-lose situation, until they manage to break a message through to the people on the ships, who are on a skeleton crew, and soft from a year of doing nothing. But they do something. The two battlestars come back and rescue everybody in a rather spectacular fashion, destroying one of them, but also a lot of cylon ships. New alliances and new rifts are created in the cast, and new storylines and plot devices are created, with all the castmembers that we know and love. We do have a somewhat split cast, but for a very different (and quite intriguing) reason.

In Lost, our three primary heroes are captive to the Others, and they stay that way. They try to get out now and again, but they go back to their cells. Nothing much happens. Some folks try to mount an offensive against the Others, but nothing happens. Other folks try to seek out our heroes, but nothing much happens. Our heroes try to psychologically manipulate the Others, but everybdy's playing everybody else, so effectively nothing happens. J.J. Abrams has a talent for creating these fascinating shows that pull America in for two seasons, and then flush it down the toilet in the third season. I still have hope for Lost, but it seems like it's kind of winding down. I'll watch it for a while, because it has a lot of potential, but Lost is losing me.

So there ya have it. How to screw your characters up with examples of what to do and what not to do. You can hose your characters, but move the plot along. If there is the opportunity for change, take it. Make your characters fight against the odds and accomplish something. Maybe not end the oppression by the bad guys, but let them accomplish something. A lot of us are stuck in situations that we don't feel we can change, and it's inspiring to see people who are in similar situations, but do something, and do it to some result. I'm getting that from Battlestar Galactica, even in the last show, where someone makes a positive change, and someone else in the same place intentionally slides into their own personal hellhole. They made decisions that are going to impact them, but it was obvious that they made decisions, and those decisions changed their situations. Lost is (right now) all about people who are powerless to change their situations. So there ya have it. Battlestar Galactica maintains it's high quality, Lost is slipping.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Goal Update 9

Sorry, I realized that yesterday I should have posted about this, but I'm sure my readers will overcome their anxiety and grief over not knowing about how my goals have progressed. Not much progress in anything. But see for yourself:

1. Get Married: Done
2. Move to a new place: Done
3. Get a different job: Incredibly frustrated with the current one right now, but that's a temporary, today-sucks kind of thing. I have a good job, but this is still an active goal.
4. Get back in the gym, and establish a regular routine: No progress. Working on it.
5. Get at least one Voice-over gig: Had a couple more auditions, and I think I did pretty darn well with them. Still, working on it.
6. Brew at least three batches of beer: Brew #2 is almost done with the fermentation. Bottling will happen on Saturday, to be consumable just before Thanksgiving.
7. Travel at least four times: Done
8. Write a script: No progress.
9. Read the Bible from beginning to end: No significant progress. Jane gave me some good advice, which should make next year an easier time of it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ass Effects

I've been having heartburn regularly, like every day regularly. Recently I had an additional development that if I've eaten within 3-4 hours of going to bed, I'm going to upchuck a little of it. Same if I lie on my stomach at any time in the night. So naturally, I chose to go to the doctor.

He understood the problem, and was checking to see if I increased my usage of alcohol, chocolate, mints, spicy foods, caffeine and a few others which escaped me. None of these changed significantly, but he mentioned that any of them could be triggers. Hm. Good to know. He also gave me a sample of a "proton pump inhibitor" (which is not as science-fictiony as it sounds), called Aciphex. It's supposed to reduce the acid production in my stomach, and we'll see where we go from there. But look at that name again: Aciphex. Say it out loud, and listen to yourself. Sounds kinda odd, doesn't it? I thought I already had enough of that.

But anyway, despite the hilariously sick name, it seems to be working OK. I think it's too early to tell, but so far so good.