Friday, December 6, 2013

Back in America & Otto's Apricot Wheat

I have been back in the US for almost 2 weeks and the temperature in Texas has ranged from 20s to 80s and back. I have been busy with Army re-integration classes and medical screenings, befriending Luna, assessing my motorcycle purchase, as well as just trying to relax with Sarah and visiting family.

It's quite nice to not be at work for a few hours.

Otto's Apricot Wheat
Today's beer review is made possible by my fantastic mother, who drove all the way to Texas with a case of Happy Valley's finest fruit beer.

Otto's Apricot Wheat is quite possibly their most successful brew. This is anecdotal, but I feel like most restaurants that carry local beer have it, often on-tap. It pours crisp, clear amber with a lasting, thin head. The apricot flavoring is subtle and more refined than you might imagine. Overall, it's a sweet beer that manages to avoid the saccharine pitfalls of other fruit-beers. With the inviting flavor and 4.8% ABV it's easy to put away several. It was nice to have a taste of home when I arrived back in Texas, so thanks again Mom for making it happen.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Motorcycle Monday: Yamaha TX650A

It was a big week for motorcycle searchin'. I'd learned how to sort ebay by no-reserve auctions and then save searches. Early on the 1st of September, I made a somewhat rash decision. And as a result, I won an auction.

I won a 1974 Yamaha TX 650 on ebay from Lima, Ohio. 16,236 miles, original brown, the only things different from stock form are the modern tires and that rakish padded sissy bar. KBB value: $1900

Okay I know this is an old bike, but that 650 engine is very popular (sold by Yamaha for 18 years) with new parts still being produced. Which is good, because the seller admits the clutch is stuck (complete clutch repair kit: $120). This is almost the same riding position as my dear departed Bonneville, but way cheaper to own and insure while also being simpler to fiddle with. I won the auction at my self-imposed maximum bid of $1200. Payment and shipping arrangements still need to be finalized, but it will be in my garage for well under blue book value. It's quite the relief, really, to get the bike I wanted, within the price I wanted, and be done with part of this vehicle searchin'.

Reference links for future use:

Looking Back & Squatters Hell's Keep

August has ended and I think a general update and review of my goal progress is in order.

My birthday passed pleasantly. Not too much fuss and I received a wonderful carepackage from my grandparents. Afterward (but unrelated to the carepackage, I hope) I was ill for a few days. Later in the month, we got our first casualties of the tour. My old platoon hit a very large IED. The Lieutenant and the Afghan interpreter were killed. 3 others were critically wounded, currently in Germany for surgery and rehabilitation. We were fortunate enough to get out of Iraq without any of that, so this whole process was new for the unit and me especially.

I got these done:
  • Started Deployment Savings Program with initial deposit
  • Re-established contact with my pennsylvania bank account 
  • Re-established contact with student loan accounts 
  • Tracking all account balances
  • Open Vanguard Roth IRA (building ETF portfolio until I can roll it into an IRA)
  • Populated profile with all my accounts
Totally failed at this (more to come)
  • Chill out on Car/Motorcycle shopping
I still have to make a real student loan repayment plan. I'm making greater-than-minimum monthly payments now, but I want to know specifics of how/how long I'll repay those loans. It just requires me to wrestle with Excel in my free time so it naturally gets put off.

I haven't been back to Crossfit yet. I was feelin' ill after my birthday and then our shifts were changing and then we had casualties to deal with. I know they're all excuses and others here found the time and gumption to get to the gym, but it all culminated to sap my drive from me. Now that all of that is settled, I'm going to start attending the 1800 class.
I have found there's not much room for me to be ambitious with my role in the TOC, but I'm glad I made an effort. However, I can now focus more of my at-work hours into personal professional development:
  • Online Army education
  • Promotion tracking 
  • Studying for promotion board
I found a very promising program at George Mason University. It's a strong state school (between Pitt and PSU in size) located in Fairfax Virginia. It's a good area and Sarah could commute into DC via the metro. All veterans who reside in Virginia are now eligible to receive in-state tuition if they can show proof of residence in Virginia (lease or deed) and proof that they are in fact a veteran (DD214). All in-state tuition would be covered by the Post-9-11 GI Bill, so I could go back to school without incurring lots of debt again. The program is a combined Earth Science BS + Curriculum and Instruction Accelerated MEd which seems perfect for me and my goals. All of this is a ways off, but it's nice to have an answer for one of the possible destinations Sarah and I have discussed. In the meantime, I also got my physical copy of Lindberg's Beginnings of Western Science to reread in the TOC.

Squatters Hell's Keep

Total retro-review here: this Belgian-style pale ale is bread-y in flavor and quite possibly the only libation I've ever had from the exotic state of Utah. Maybe one day I'll make a map of the different states whose beer I've tried. I remember Hell's Keep being good with food, but a little under-whelming for its top-shelf pricing. Still, a top-shelf beer is only maybe 12 bucks per 22oz bottle. Compared to wine pricing, taking a gamble on something new still seems rather frugal.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Awesome August update and Tripel B

Financial Progress
I think I've made the greatest progress here: reconnected with my Pennsylvania Bank, online access to my student loans re-established, opened an account with Vanguard. All of it pouring data into Mint so I can see what's up. I was feeling pretty good about tracking my loan debt on Mint until I reconnected with the owners of my private loans, revealing the full total. I thought I had public loans and private loans rolled over into one location, but I was mistaken. It's an unpleasant revelation, but at least now I know the gory details. I haven't exactly succeeded in the "Chill out on Car/Motorcycle shopping," but I think I'm going about it in a smarter way. I have automatic alerts set from so I get emails when certain brands/models I'm interested in pop up on the Waco, Temple, or Austin craigslists. Instead of just posting/passing those links around, I'm compiling a weekly summary email that I'll send out to interested parties for their thoughts and advice. Let me know if you want to be included.
Still to do:

Army Progress
I've been to Kandahar Crossfit 11:30 class 5 times. Not a great record, but there are no Sunday classes and I've also moved twice this month. In the past week, I went to 4 classes in a row before the Sunday reprieve and it was sorely needed. I just felt beat up. I'm not a huge fan of the Olympic weightlifting, but that may just be because I don't know what I'm doing technique-wise. But my general outlook is that going 6 days a week to struggle is still worlds better than just hanging out in my room. I'm finding little purchase for my intentions to be ambitious and thorough with my role in the TOC. Too many of the changes I think are necessary require more gravitas and authority leveraged on others than a specialist can manage. I have expressed those desires to some of the folks with gravitas and authority, so we'll see how it goes.
Still to do:
  • Promotion tracking (what exactly would I need to make those points?)
  • Studying for promotion board (Dayshift uses my book more than I do) 

Education Progress
This has been the area with the least progress since it requires computer time. My internet usage has been cut shorter with Crossfit and rather busy with financial machinations. I have decided to not try to take any classes this fall because of this shortage in concert with the uncertainty of the job. The financial bits will eventually take less of my time and I can spend more of my energy on program research.
Still to do:
  • Find degree programs for Geosciences and Secondary Education in every destination location (TX, PA, NY, DC, MA?) 
  • Get physical, edifying books to digest in the TOC (not super necessary while I can still use the internet at work, but I'm confident that time is coming to a close) 

I've had more than my fair share of nicknames due to my personality and penchant for certain facial hair, but back in the engineer company, I had been called "Beer Blogger" after some of the guys discovered this site. I want to recapture that one with some new beer posts here. Unless I develop an overwhelming urge to tell you about my recent experience with Beck's Non-Alcoholic, these will all be retro-reviews. Some of them are actually from before my Ambitious March blitz. The Tripel B is one such brew hailing from Adelbert's in Austin. I remember it being yeasty and strong at 9.3% ABV. My picture looks significantly darker than the new ones on their website. Maybe they changed the recipe when they revamped their branding. Unless I visit the brewery (a very real possibility), I probably won't get this again.

It's my birthday in just a few hours here; hopefully it will pass by pleasantly without fuss.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Awesome August and a furry friend

Yesterday, I decided to be better in everything I do. Like BOOM; gonna be awesome. It's a deliberate mindset change that declares in no uncertain terms that it's both possible for me to achieve and that I will do it.
I found it hard to not pepper this declaration with jubilant expletives.
I found myself in a 3-week slump of not doing PT, spending too much time browsing the same familiar websites while somehow feeling like I both wasn't getting enough sleep and that I was too busy to tackle personal tasks/projects. I'm not sick, but it was still uncomfortably similar to the lifestyle pattern that lead to me falling out of sorts and eventually withdrawing from Pitt.  I could make excuses and say "work is hard, I need to decompress/relax" but it's just not true. Work is hard, but when I work harder and do PT I sleep both better and less and every day will be more productive and efficient. I think of how good I got at basic training; fitting my "me time" into a packed schedule and getting so much done. I know I can do better here without the military ritual and pageantry. This will probably include less time chillin' on the internet, reading the everything people post, and having languorous Facebook-chats.

To this end, and for my own accountability, I'm putting some goals out here on the interweb for all to see.

Thus far I think I've been generally frugal in life, but willfully ignorant of financial machinations. I think it's time for me to put on my big-boy pants and change that. Sarah and I are already planning on a concrete family budget for when I return. I feel like it's time to really grasp what we spend on and be deliberate about goals and saving. In the meantime:

  • Start Deployment savings program allotment
  • Re-establish contact with my pennsylvania bank account
  • Re-establish contact with Student loan Accounts
  • Track balances and make a student loan repayment plan
  • Open Vanguard Roth IRA
  • Populate and maintain profile
  • Chill out on Car/Motorcycle shopping (won't need it for many more months)

I've known all along that I wasn't going to be a career military guy, so I didn't really worry about jumping through the right hoops to be promoted. But after reenlisting to 2015, I now really need to make at least corporal for my termination of service documents to pass the resume sniff test. I should have made a much bigger fuss about not getting any personal award for my tour in Iraq; those are promotion points down the drain.

  • Serious PT for an hour a day at Kandahar Crossfit (rumor of September PT test & I'll sleep better)
  • Promotion tracking
  • Studying for promotion board (do more than carry the book around)
  • Be ambitious and thorough with my role in the TOC

I'd decided on education and leaning towards earth science in particular months ago, but I'd not been using all of the considerable family, personal, and institutional resources at my disposal. Sarah's Social work career will be in the driver's seat soon enough and I want to hit the ground running when I part ways with the army.

  • Find degree programs for Geosciences and Secondary Education in every destination location (TX, PA, NY, DC, MA?)
  • Get physical, edifying books to digest in the TOC (I truly love my Kindle, but I cannot take it into secure areas with Secret computer systems)

There are many things outside of my control that will affect this. I am still one of the lowest ranking people in my area, I can't change when the bad guys will interrupt my day with mortars, and I expect the pace and load of my job to increase significantly when Ramadan ends. But can at least be prepared to meet these challenges with a full head of steam.

We got a Boxer-Labrador puppy from the Fort Hood shelter.
And by 'we' I mean mostly Sarah, given the situation
Her name is Luna and she's a little over a year old. She knows her name, how to sit, and where it's generally okay to poop.

So far Luna and the cats have been very good together. The cats are curious and the Luna is rather indifferent. I'm already imagining she and miss Darwin becoming pals.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kandahar, The Ryca option, & Piraat

It's true! I am in sunny Kandahar, Afghanistan. Shoot me an email for details. Still no mailing address.

Since Bonnie's demise, I have been without a vehicle of my own. Now, I want another bike, but I don't know if I'm really interested in the commitment of being an everyday rider again. It was nice on to ride on so many of those days, but the extra clothes, preparation required, and occasional inclement elements or luggage restrictions made it just a little burdensome. My notion is to let the insurance money from Bonnie accrue interest while I'm overseas and then get both a cheaper/older car and a cheaper/older bike. I wouldn't have the expense of outfitting the bike as a daily rider/utility vehicle and I could afford to tinker with it a bit since I'd still have the car to commute.

Checking the cheap and tinkerable boxes with bold strokes is the Suzuki S40 and the kits from Ryca motors. The S40 (also sold as the Savage) is a reliable single-cylinder 650cc entry-level cruiser that Suzuki has been churning out since 1986. Since it's so easily outgrown and it's been produced so long, they're easy to find used like this Craigslist item listed at a hopeful $2200 near my house in Texas.

Not ugly, but generally unremarkable. But with one of the Ryca kits, hand tools, and a trip to a paint shop, the S40 can be turned into something lighter, unique, and fun-looking:

I would probably get the CS2 Standard/Scrambler with the 2-person seat and normal handle bars or just order parts piecemeal (new seat and foot-controls first, of course). We're still months away from any decision-making opportunity, but this is the way I'm leaning right now.


This Belgian Ale is a hefty 10.5% ABV. It's related to that biere du boucanier that I didn't like. I'd describe it as bread-y, with a rocky head and an unmistakable alcohol punch.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Update, Reminder, & Gulden Draak

I'm back in Texas after 3+ weeks at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Highlights: our wargame opposition did not breach our base defenses this year and I got to watch a wild bobcat hunting rabbits with our night-vision overwatch camera. Lowlights: no laundry facilities and a guy in my platoon had an emergency appendectomy while another contracted a flesh-eating bacterial infection also requiring surgery. Overall, it was vitally necessary training for me in my new role, but I really wished we could have kept our slot to train there in March. The well-populated deployment timeline would have been much more agreeable with those additional 2 months.

I know this is tiny, but I really like USGS topo maps.
It's about that time to remind my dozen or so readers that there can't be any operational details published here or on Facebook. If you want to be included in my more substantive email updates, please shoot me an email. Any details I include in letters, phone, or skype shouldn't be mentioned online either. Keep it vague or ask me first. Fortunately, this time I expect to have internet access during the whole tour.

Since I interact with most of you entirely online anyway, the deployment may not seem like a huge change. However, for Sarah this will probably be more rough than the 2011 Iraq tour. She's developing friends and a support network through her Masters' program at Baylor, but it's not as well-established or geographically dense as folks she could rely on in Pittsburgh and State College. I'm sure I'll find my fair share of adversity, but please remember to support her as well.

Gulden Draak

If it were merely a 10.5% ABV beer called 'Golden Dragon,' it would still be extremely cool. But Gulden Draak is more than that. It's "named after the golden statue at the top of the belfry in Ghent;" leaving the name untranslated is much more powerful and the opaque packaging is at once both iconic and mysterious. And it keeps UV light from skunking your beer. The beer itself pours with a rich color and rocky head. I didn't take notes on the aroma, but I remember it being appealing. The flavor is full of sweet malts that don't stray over to the saccharine line. That 10.5% goes down smooth.

Is it a Tripel? A Barleywine? I don't care, but it's definitely a brew worthy of a chalice.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Total Loss: Adios Bonnie

Bonnie is officially a total loss. Cause of death: bent frame. If it weren't for my forthcoming trip to Afghanistan, I still might have tried to get her appraised by the folks at Grove Cycles to see what it would cost to get her rebuilt. But right now, it's better for me to just take the insurance return and start looking at my post-deployment options and needs.

Despite the good return, it was hard to just let her go in that impound/junkyard. I'd spent a lot of miles with her and learned a lot about motorcycling. I'm a little afraid that this will be the end of my chance to have a toy while I'm young. The benefits of a roof and 4 wheels might be too much to resist and it could then be a long time before I get another bike. I guess we'll see.

Final Odometer: 14729

Here's a video from the Austin motorcycle show I didn't make it to on the day of the crash. Unfortunately, it looks like it was pretty awesome.

Revival Does the One Show Austin 2013 from Revival Cycles on Vimeo.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Motorcycle Monday: Bruised and Frustrated

As you may have heard from facebook, I had a motorcycle accident Saturday in Round Rock, Texas. I was southbound on Interstate 35 going to see the The 1 Motorcycle Show in Austin when traffic went from 75 to zero mph faster than I could comply. I ploughed into the back of a red Challenger, went over my handlebars, onto their trunk, and off to the median side.

Scene of the accident; right in front of the Harley shop. Click to view larger Map.

Fortunately, the cars behind me were able to stop in time. Two guys hopped out to check on me and were rather surprised that I got up cursing like a sailor. Emergency responders got to the scene very quickly. I accepted an ambulance ride to the trauma center at Seton Williamson Hospital where they checked me out. They got some x-rays to make sure nothing was broken, gave me a prescription for Aleve and some muscle-relaxers, and let me go home.

So now I'm wavering between "I'm glad my bones are intact and can go home; interstate motorcycle accidents don't usually go so well." and "Why couldn't I see it sooner/brake sooner/swerve left onto the shoulder? Now I don't have bike, and it hurts to move, and I'm gonna have a bunch of army and insurance paperwork to do, etc"

I was too scatter-brained to think of taking a picture of the damage, but here's a by-memory rundown of things what would have to be replaced:

Front Forks - One was torn open and leaking dampening oil, so they're done for.
Front Wheel - Smashed in. Fender destroyed. Disc brake might be salvageable.
Rear View Mirrors - I remember seeing one bend backwards
Oil Radiator - The way the front wheel was pushed in, I have no doubt this will need to be replaced.
Exhaust - I remember seeing a pinch in one of the exhaust headers.

From the engine on back looked alright save for the strip of rubber I burned off while braking. I'm sure it will have to be checked thoroughly to make sure the frame is still true and none of the welds have been weakened.

I did grab a "before" picture, though.
I'm still waiting on the insurance assessment process, so I don't know if Bonnie will be deemed salvageable or not. But in the meantime, I've started speculating on what a custom re-build on the front end might look like. I'm fond of this look with twin headlights with stockier sportbike/dirtbike front forks.

Yamaha XV 750 by Classified Moto. Photo from Pipeburn
Starbuck's personal Honda XL 600 by Classified Moto. Photo from BikeEXIF

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reflection and Sierra Nevada Tumbler

Happy Easter everyone; we made it.

The Penguins did too. Get better Sid.
I'm not super proud of the some of those mid-week posts, but I am proud of fulfilling the overall commitment. Here is the spreadsheet I used to plan out the month; I changed each day to gray (or orange for  motorcycle mondays) after posting. As you can see, there are still topics I didn't get to. mostly because they'd demand more thought and research than I felt I could spare. Maybe you'll see those topics sometime soon. As of tonight, 30 minutes before the Walking Dead season finale, these are the 5 most popular post I made in the last month:
  1. Schott 585 and Brooklyn Local #1
  2. Ruck March and Flat Tire
  3. Slippers and Blind Ambition
  4. Reenlistment and Unibroue Éphémère
  5. Jurassic Park and Monk's Cafe
Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

This was a great American-style brown ale. The head lingered more than traditional brown ales, and it had a slightly higher hops profile, but I found those to be welcome improvements. It's a autumnal brew from Sierra Nevada, so unfortunately it may be quite a while before I can get it again. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Modern Dandies and Pilsner Urquell

There is a movement gaining momentum that encourages men to dress "better." At least, it appears that way to me. Perhaps the inter-connectivity of these voices is just more visible to outsiders in the blogger/wordpress/tumblr age. Or it's possible I'm just reaching a stage in my personal/generational development where one's sartorial decisions have greater consequences.

Image pulled from Pinterest. Originally from
I am at once feeling pulled to move beyond my college-inspired, t-shirt based wardrobe and repulsed by what the high and low ends offerings of the fashion industry are telling me. The high side is browbeating or shaming folks into overspending on low-batch, boutique, and heritage goods while the low side is churning out cheaply constructed, shapeless, and under-functional garments. It feels like they're both trying to make a buck reversing cultural expectation on how and how much men should invest in their clothing. This concern beyond basic functionality is foreign and burdensome to me. I don't want to look like a schlub, but I also rile at the notion of "you mush spend XX on a non-functional item to be presentable" attitudes. I know some people revel in that; in the minutiae and creativity and honestly, good for them. Everyone needs a hobby. But I don't want to see it go mainstream, I don't want that advertising attitude to take root and compel people to spend more. On one hand I'm fortunate that most of my out-and-about time is spent in outfits designed at the Pentagon, but I also recognize this will not always be the case.

Pilsner Urquell

This is the Original Pilsner, as in from Pilsen, Czech Republic. Unfortunately, the Pilsner that started it all bears that old-world hops profile that I've never developed a palate for. Still, it's like tasting a bit of history. I'm sure the light head a super-clear body were innovative marvels at the time. Like a historical tour, once is enough; I wouldn't get it again.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cadence and Honker's Ale

Cadence, in it's most basic sense, is a call-and-response work song that sets the pace of a running or marching formation. While there's no manual or regulation for these, they serve to keep people in-step, but the shouting also serves to enhance the aerobic difficulty of the task. The cadence caller can gauge how strenuous a run is by how loudly and clearly the group calls back. Cadence calling also serves another purpose, though.

Once upon a time in the Honors College at Pitt, I attended a lecture by William Marcellino, a professor visiting from Carnegie Mellon. He described the tradition of cadences and illustrated how they serve as oral cultural transmission and reinforcement within those populations. It's amusing in retrospect that I was part of such cultural analysis from atop a literal Ivory Tower.

Some time later, I joined the Army. This gave me a participants' view of the oral cultural transition. I had become part of the intended audience as well as a potential editor and propagator. Marcellino's focus was on the Marine Corps (where he'd served) and their "Jodie" cadences. The Jodie cadences are about esprit de corp, but also about betrayal and alienation from the population they serve. Army cadences, in my experience, are less like this in theme, but the delivery and impermanence is the same. I've decided to record some here for posterity: these are simple repeat-what-I-say running cadences.

I wanna be a Sapper-Ranger
Live that life of sex and danger
Sex and Danger
rollin' rollin' rollin'
along; my knees are swollen

I wanna be an SF Medic
Shoot that funky anesthetic
Sex and Danger
SF Medic
rollin' rollin' rollin'
along; my back is swollen

And one day when I retire
Here's the job that I desire:

I wanna be a forest ranger
Chipmunks are my only danger

Sex and danger
SF Medic
Forest Ranger
Chipmunk Danger
rollin' rollin' rollin'
along; my neck is swollen

I wanna be a UPS man
roll around in an ugly brown van

Sex and danger
SF Medic
Forest Ranger
Chipmunk Danger
Ugly Brown Van
rollin' rollin' rollin'
along; my hips are swollen

When I get to Heaven
Saint Peter's gonna say
"How'd you earn your livin' boy?
"How'd you earn your pay?"
I'll reply with a whole lot of anger
"I earned my livin' as an Airborne Ranger."

When I get to Hell
The Devil's gonna say
"How'd you earn your livin' boy?
"How'd you earn your pay?"
I'll reply with a boot to his chest
"I earned my living laying souls to rest."

Goose Island Honker's Ale

I've read only good things about Chicago's Goose Island brewery. So, I couldn't pass up trying Honker's Ale when I saw it on sale. I really liked this. It's clear with tasty malts and a hop profile that lures me to drink more. This 6-pack disappeared far too quickly. To my memory, this is the first English Bitter I've had, so I can't say how true-to-form it is, but it's definitely intrigued me to try more varieties.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Quadrophenia and Well's Bombardier

After seeing the Who's set during the 12.12.12 fundraising concert, I added Quadrophenia to Netflix que. Last weekend it arrived and today I finally got a chance to watch it. I'm not sure what I expected.

Image from
I don't have any nostalgia or connection to 1960s working class England, so a lot of the ambiance was lost on me. I did enjoy the music and spotting the different British motorcycles the Rockers rode.  Jimmy's just and angry little shit for most of the movie. Maybe that characterization is supposed to show how his constant pill-popping affects him. All the roles are really well cast, especially Sting as a vaguely Nazi style icon. The Criterion commentary revealed that Johnny Rotten was almost cast as Jimmy, but the studio wouldn't assume the financial risk. So, while I'm not lining up to become a Mod or a Rocker, but I'm glad I watched it.

Well's Bombardier

This is a tasty ESB with a distinctive British character. Malty, but less than a brown or Scottish-style one. I had it on-tap at BJ's Brewhouse some time ago and I've been meaning to try it again.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reenlistment and Unibroue Éphémère

Today I committed to extending my enlistment until March 27th 2015.

It wasn't a decision undertaken lightly, but this is a solid course for Sarah and me. I've been researching and considering alternatives since January and this will be good for both of our careers. My speech was unimpressive and our names were misspelled on the certificates, but I got an extra day and a half off of work.


This is an unfiltered apple brew from the fine folks as Unibroue. It's cloudy, with subtle tartness, and a strange flavor. Not bad, but not to my tastes, and certainly not apple-y. I don't know. I've tried it 3 separate times hoping I somehow remembered it wrong.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Army Terms to Know Part VI

I'm pretty tired and the evening is ending fast. Here's some Acronyms!

COTS: Commercial Off-The-Shelf. Equipment that's designed and produced for non-DoD purposes.
ASAP: As Soon As Possible but also Army Substance Abuse Program
AWCP: Army Weight Control Program
RCCC: Reserve Component Career Counselor
ADSO: Additional Duty Safety Officer. Company officers and NCOs responsible for teaching various safety requirements.
BOSS: Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. A volunary program to engage single soldiers in social activities.
CPOF: Command Post Of the Future. Fancy battlefield command tool.
RFI: Rapid Field Issue but also Request For Information
COA: Certificate of Achievement but also Course of Action
BFT: Blue Force Tracker. Fancy battlefield networking tool.
NAI: Numbered Area of Interest. A building or compound that has tactical value. Allows forces to discuss topography cogently without having to learn complex local names.
TA: Training Area but also Tuition Assistance

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Engine

On a motorcycle, the engine is everything. It's not like a car where the works are hidden behind a hood (or two)the physical attributes of the engine dictate frame geometry, cooling, fuel consumption, powerband, acoustics, and of course appearance. People can develop strong opinions. 

Photo from Cycle World
Above is the new Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin made by Polaris for their re-created Indian marque. On it's own, it's a pretty gorgeous engine. I'm sure Polaris will build a big, heavy, expensive, Harley-imitating cruiser around it. It's unfortunate, but for now we can hope something better, lighter, more unique to cradle that engine and put the 111 cubic inches to work. I've assembled some inspiration:

1930 Indian Scout. Photo from
1953 Vincent engine in a 1973 Ducati frame: Vincati
Walt Siegl Harley-Davidson Shovelhead "Rivera"
Odometer: 13459

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sam Adams Winter Classics

I like what the Jim Koch has done with Sam Adams' brewery and ad campaign. It takes some institutional commitment to stand toe-to-toe against the Coors/Miller/Bud media presence with a fraction of the revenue. If there's gonna be one craft/regional/good brewery to fly the flag in the national spotlight I'm glad it's them. With dinner, ice cream, The Walking Dead, and a haircut the evening kind of got away from me. Here's a review of the whole Sam Adam's Winter sampler I had back in December.

Old Fezziwig Ale
Beeradvocate tells me this is a "Winter Warmer," which I don't think I've ever had before. I can't say how true to style it is, but I like this one. It's mostly malty with hops flavors, but no hops bitterness.  I can feel the alcohol and spices; it makes me wish it was cold here.

White Christmas
The holiday spices really pop on this Witbier. It's not bad, but it's a little floral for me, especially for just watching football. This is well crafted and certainly palatable, but not something I'd get outside of a sample pack.

Photo from
Winter Lager
It's a dark wheat bock with a deceptively simple name. I was searching for adjectives, but I ultimately ended up just telling Sarah "this is a good beer." Maybe I've been living in Shiner Bock country for too long, but this style is becoming my ideal all-arounder beer. Flavorful the way beer ought to be, but not too bitter, heavy, or boozy. A hint of seasonal spices blended well. I'm sad to finish this one.

Photo from
Chocolate Bock
It's no secret among those that know me that I'm not a fan of chocolate (with notable exceptions). However, I've never had an aversion to chocolates in brews. This is a pretty chewy and sweet bock; good for slow drinking after a meal. Kind of like a rich dessert; I don't think I'd ever have more than 12 oz at time, but it's nice to let it linger.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Schott 585 and Brooklyn Local #1

In January 2012 I made a post about my then-new Schott 585 jacket. Since then I've been wearing it a lot. It goes on every time I ride on the highway; about 300 miles a week for work plus whatever pleasure riding I get in on weekends. In addition to that protective duty, it's my go-to jacket for errands around town or going out with Sarah.

I still love the color and cut, but the antiquated design does make it hotter in the summer months than modern ventilated jackets. I would have liked to try out something like the Roland Sands Ronin or the Icon Chapter jacket, but I couldn't take a chance on those without trying them on. I'm very happy with this Schott, but it is showing some wear from the heavy use:

The arms are more weathered than the torso chiefly from riding. The torso has a measure of protection from the sun, wind, and rain thanks to the high-visibility vest Uncle Sam requires me to wear on the motorcycle. The arms also bear some cat-scratches and scuffs from leaning on brick walls.

One of my photos from last year made it to a thread on The Fedora Lounge, possibly taken from my query on Some of the Fedora Lounge folks had disparaging things to say about Schott, but I can confirm that there's no foam, plastic, or felt fused to the hide. I don't have an appropriate caliper to measure the leather thickness, but it's as-thick or thicker than anything I've come across in the motorcycle shops I frequent.

The thin lining might have taken the greatest beating. I'm sure it wasn't intended to be worn over Army uniform tops with coarse nylon and laden pockets. This tear in the right shoulder is most definitely a result of the notebooks and such I have to keep in my right shoulder pocket.

I think that whenever Sarah and I move back north I'll get it re-lined with something sturdier. Maybe flannel or fleece with those wear points reinforced. But until then, I'm still happy with the purchase, significant as it was.

Brooklyn Local #1

Photo from
I first had Brooklyn Local #1 with my dad at Kelly's Steakhouse in Boalsburg, PA many moons ago. This is not another retro-review because it is delicious and I've got it again several times since. What we have here is a Belgian-style Golden ale weighing in at 9% ABV, though the alcohol is deftly blended. I never bothered to take notes on the flavors and scents, but the brewery itself only describes it with vague description of alluring aroma, a dynamic complex of flavors. Their bottle conditioning gives it a higher internal pressure than others in the style, so be careful with the flying cork and overflowing froth. Such hazards are worth it; this is one of my all-time favorite beers and a welcome treat even on a weeknight. I drank a 22oz bottle Thursday night and still won the team relay for Company PT Friday morning.