Monday, July 25, 2011

Kawasaki W800 & Brewhouse Brown Ale

This is a stock 2011 Kawasaki W800.  It's a new model for this year, but with vintage styling that mimics the late-60s much closer than the "new-classics" from European companies like Triumph and Moto-Guzzi.  It has an air-cooled 773cc parallel-twin engine with fuel-injection and a kickstarter.  It has more chrome that I'd like, but overall it looks like a fun and functional ride. This is a very tasteful design from a company whose name I generally associate with plastic-covered dirtbikes and sportbikes.  Unfortunately for me (and many others) the W800 is not available in North American markets.

Real Ale Brewing Company is another Texas-based microbrewery.  They operate out of Blanco and have won their fair share of awards in the 15-year existence.  I got to try their Brewhouse Brown Ale as part of a sampler pack.  It's less roasty than some other brown ales but smooth.  Maybe too smooth if you're looking for a more punchy beer experience, but this seemed pleasant and reliable to me.  A good session beer; it doesn't draw too much attention to itself and can be enjoyed without fuss or pretension.
Picture from

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Temperature & Ugly Pug

Forgive me for being unsympathetic to the "golly gee it's hot" statuses and posts from folks back in the states. Yes, I know the dry-vs-humid argument, but you're not wearing boots/cargo pants/overshirt or, as occasions warrant, gloves or body armor either.

This is a Schwarzbier from the Fort Worth brewery Rahr & Sons.  They've only been around since 2004, but seem to be making a splash in the Texan craft beer community.  This wasn't bad, but I felt it was over-roasted in comparison to Shiner Black.  Unfortunate for them because most establishments that carry this will also have Shiner, so I'm afraid I wont be getting it again.  I look forward to trying their other styles, though.
Picture from

Monday, July 18, 2011

Motorcycle and Kosmos Reserve

Is alliteration necessary when starting a weekly series of themed posts?  Probably not, but it sure makes it easier to remember.  Welcome to the very first Motorcycle Monday, or maybe Monday Motorcycle.  I haven't decided yet, but you can expect pictures of stock and customized bikes I've found on the internet in my deployment shopping and research with some commentary and explanation.  Maybe some photos of equipment or events as well.

Today's bike is a modified Triumph Scrambler I found on  It has the factory-option 2-in-1 Arrow exhaust, though you can see the headers have been installed on the wrong pistons.  Custom additions include knobby Enduro tires, improved suspension and handlebars, and the halfway practical solution of a .50 caliber ammo can as a saddlebag.  The most striking feature is how they've covered the painted surfaces with Line-X polyurethane truck bed liner.  It's supremely tough and certainly unique, but a little too utilitarian for my tastes I think.  I would want more road-friendly tires and the bench seat for passengers.

The little brewery in Shiner advertises this brew as a “full-flavored, hop-jacked lager” which immediately made me wary.  I have come to associate phrases like "hop-jacked" with IPAs and strong ales that abuse my palate (and often my wallet).  This was hoppy but really not bitter.  It grew on me.  Similar to Yuengling’s Lord Chesterfield in that respect, though I haven't had ol Chesterfield since our trip to El Paso.  
Photo from Cavalier Beer

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Moongazing, Scrabble, & Vanilla Porter

I made it through the internet drought intact, though it appears we will not be compensated for the days without service.  I really missed having chat contact with Sarah and folks along with generally being able to read about the news or whatever topic came to mind.  It's been just over one Lunar month since the eclipse.  Somehow I find it easier to keep track of time here by the moon rather than the Julian date.  I imagine this comes from many things: our irregular work and sleep schedules, constantly adding/subtracting to find out what time/day it is for you all in the states, but also the simple fact that without the moon it is really dark here at night, so its status is particularly noticeable during those evening trips to the latrine.

Last week my platoon had a lot of guard duties and my roommate and I played Scrabble on the Kindle through most of them.  It might just be the most valuable 99 cents I've ever spent on Amazon.  The benefits are that it tabulates your score and checks the dictionary automatically, saves your game if you ever need to quit suddenly, and is, of course, way more portable than the regular game.  Some drawbacks; only one game can be saved at a time, only one person can look at the screen at a time (so one cannot plan out their next play during someone else's turn), and the curious dictionary it uses.  I have the New Oxford American English dictionary on my Kindle, but the game clearly uses some other reference that can be quite frustrating.  Its selection of Latin, French, and Spanish words that it will allow is bewildering at times and can really change the course of a game.  Still, an excellent way to compete with each other and quietly kill time.

Breckenridge Vanilla Porter is the best product out of the Denver, Colorado brewpub (and barbecue!) I've had so far and worthy enough to be included in the beverage assortment Sarah and I gave my brother for his 21st birthday last month.  It's robust without being too bitter or heavy and still looks good with the dark body and tawny head.  The vanilla flavoring compliments the porter characteristics in the right ways for me.  But I am also a person who would choose vanilla ice-cream over most other flavors in the world, so weigh that assessment accordingly.  This is one I've purchased a few times; I hope it's available in your area.
Photo from

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gear Update & Old Scratch Amber Lager

A brief rundown of some of the fortunes of select items I brought on this adventure.
Left in shower during a particularly harried morning; discovered missing upon my return.  It was a really nice towel, though perhaps bigger than I needed.  Not to fret; I have regular old army brown towels instead
I still have some hope for finding this one, since I don't remember ever using outside my barracks area and I don't think any of my roommate's visitors would walk off with it.  It has since been replaced with a much cheaper on from Amazon.
The red LED setting died first and then it did not turn on at all.  Fortunately this was just a dead-battery problem, but I'm surprised at how quickly they died compared to my previous PrincetonTec headlamp.  perhaps there is a reason so many 3-AAA style headlamps are popular.
This is probably the most saddening loss because I really liked it and chances are very slim that I'll recover it here.  The blade was beginning to get discolored and I had tighten the scales once, but it was otherwise a perfect knife to carry every day.  Since its disappearance, I have acquired two other folding knives.  One is a cheap little Chinese stainless pocket knife; too dull for any delicate work and too flimsy for tough work.  The other is the a nice Benchmade Griptilian with a chipped tip.  It's a very solid knife, but too thick and heavy to carry around clipped to my pocket as I'd been accustomed.
  • Dell Inspiron E1505
She's old and prone to fits.  Bizarre behavior with the display and internet access have been patched/fixed as warranted with hard boots and free antivirus from Google.  My custom paint job has a habit of making the once-handy media control buttons stick, causing unexpected music to play or speakers to mute themselves.  The battery seems to have finally died after a long trend of diminishing battery life.  It's downright inconvenient restart whenever the plug to pops out
    Amber lagers are pretty much my standard of what beer should be.  I think this may come from my beer education process in which Yuengling’s amber lager was golden contrasted with the harsh malt liquor and natural light options.  This in particular reminded me a lot of Saranac’s Adirondack Lager.  It was good, but not overwhelming or something to put on a pedestal in a fancy chalice.  The right balance of beer flavors and lightness to make it a beverage to go with any meal, game, or long afternoon.

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    Rivalry and James Boag's Lager

    What makes a Rivalry?  I've dropped quite a few paragraphs over at the Penn State sports blog Black Shoes Diaries on the matter from the conference expansion rumors up through the recent schedule announcement for 2016/17.  It may be better to start with what a rivalry isn't.  A rivalry between two teams/clubs/schools does not come from geography, playing each other frequently, or exchangingtrophy (though such things can help get one started and keep a rivalry vigorous through down years).  A lasting rivalry requires meaningful or memorable games, such as standing in each others way toward post season glory or controversial antics or calls.  A contest need not be especially close or have dramatic implications, so long as there's a memorable narrative fans can take away.  Once you have those memorable contests, you need to keep playing, giving fans an opportunity to relive and expound upon those memories, whilst passing the feelings and sense of community on to younger fans.  It's that sense of community and patriotism (for your team and against that team) that builds a strong and enduring fanbase.
    Pitt and PSU had this for a while, year after year of close games and shared memorable experiences.   But Pitt lost it's mojo for a decade with some bad teams and diminishing fan support in a region dominated by pro franchises.   All the while PSU grew more distant in the Big Ten until they eventually decided to drop the Pitt series for more variety and national appeal in their schedule.  There will always be folks who work with fans and graduates from the other school to keep the conversations alive, but without new contests the memories of past games will grow stale while new fans have nothing new to contribute and resort to academic comparisons and empty what-if scenarios.

    It's a bit different with pro teams, since the scheduling is usually out of their hands and they have more simplistic organizational goals, but the principals of shared memories and opportunities to relive them as a group are just as true and just as important to the organization's popularity and bottom line.  Savvy owners and commissioners seek to promote and protect these rivalries and sometimes succeed (keeping Dallas in the NFC East) and sometimes fail (Separating Oklahoma and Nebraska into different divisions).
    If this image just feels wrong to you, you certainly understand what a rivalry is.
    James Boag's Lager was another Outback Steakhouse find.  It's brewed in Tasmania and that is its most distinguishing characteristic. I found it to be a refreshing, archetypical pale-lager.  I'll call it "the Heineken of the southern hemisphere," though perhaps with smaller production and less of an ad campaign.  Nothing special and inflated in price do to its origin on the complete opposite side of the world; I wouldn't get it again.

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Internet, Mustache, & Incubus

    Some have said that I'm online as much from Iraq as I was back in garrison.  That may be true!  But it's quite a bit different for me due to the time difference (7 hours ahead of the east coast) and slow internet speeds (alas; no youtube, hulu, or netflix).  The best way to contact me is through my gmail account, either email or chat.  I have tried and failed to install google voice and video, but skype will sometimes work for voice and video calls dependent on weather and network traffic.  However, I do not always stay logged into skype because it slows my computer down.  She's about to turn 5 and running an operating system that didn't exist when she was built, so I don't hold it against her.

    The mustache is reborn once again.  Although it is much more tidy this time in accordance with army regulations.  That and my practical-but-nearly-bald haircut sparked a bit of nostalgia for my civilian hair styles.  My squadmates were amused to see these pictures featuring previous iterations of my mustache:
    One of Sarah's visits, Fall 2008
    Spring Break 2009
    December 2009
    Spring Break 2010
    Sly Fox Brewery's Incubus is a fruity, ester-y Trippel that didn't suit my palate. The reviews on BeerAdvocate are all over the place with flavor descriptions and I'm finding it difficult to remember if it was pears or coves or banana that I was tasting. But to be sure, there was an abundance of extra flavors to taste though not enough "beer" flavors (the traditional hops, malt, grains, etc). I wouldn't get it again, but I'm still curious about the brewery and their other recipes since this seems to have been a small-batch experiment.