Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day and Amish Four Grain

Despite what some crabby people will tell you, it's Pi day. And since it only comes every hundred years, we decided to celebrate a bit.

Pillsbury cheery-blueberry filling recipe
I was not successful centering my Pi symbol
Pizza Pie from Rollo's
Eleanor smelling our Pi Pie
She's too young to partake in either pie, but at least she can tease her future brother/sister about being there for a 5-digit Pi day.

Amish Four Grain

This Pennsylvania pale ale pours reddish amber with a thin head. What are the 4 grains? I assume there was wheat and rye in there, but they balance each other out too well. A little sweet, not bad, but I was expecting more flavor from the multitude of grains. 5.6% ABV. I wonder what the Amish community would think of the name, though. Maybe the grain were purchased from Amish farms?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Red Nose Day and Leute Bokbier

Red Nose Day is a charity telethon done every two years to raise money for children's medical research. It's produced by British charity Comic Relief and broadcast by the BBC and commonwealth affiliates, but hasn't had much traction here in the United States. I only know of it thanks to the Flight of the Concords song which I'm compelled to share with you:

Leute Bokbier

Photo from
This is another Van Steenberge product, but one I failed to capture on film. I tried it in my Chimay chalice, not the goblet pictured. It pours a rich mahogany with towering rocky head. Flavor is sweet, malty, and a little sour, but not as harsh as Monk's Cafe. 7.5% AVB. Not my favorite of the group, but an interesting inclusion in the sampler pack.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ranger Museum and Ranger IPA

Photo from
Eleanor's official first museum visit (of many, no doubt) is the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco.

Photo from
I'm not going to recount the illustrious history of the Rangers here. Go to the museum or wikipedia for that. But I'll tell you some things that stuck with me:

The organization is older than you think (1823).
The early Rangers were also surveyors documenting the Republic for settlement.
The 7.62mm AR-15-style carbine was created for the Texas Rangers.
Individual Rangers have A LOT more autonomy over their personal equipment than other law enforcement officers. Some of them like to look flashy. Lots of personalized etching.

Eleanor and Grandy
New Belgium Ranger IPA

This is a prime example of the American IPA style that I don't much care for. Hops just because they can. This was part of a New Belgium sampler, so it was fortunate for me there were only 2. It pours golden with a half-finger of head that dissipated to lacing. Floral hops, if that's your thing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kabul and Krombacher Alkoholfrie

Back in November 2013 I had a layover of a few days in Kabul and realized how poorly I had documented the deployment. I tried to take a bunch of photos to capture the atmosphere of the area before I left the country, but I am not very good at it.

Before our flight to Kyrgyzstan
Krombacher Non-Alcoholic Pils

It's not good compared to real beer, but surprisingly competent as an imitation beer. Krombacher is a German brewery and as such strives for a continental Pilsner with this brew. It looks like prop beer from a theater production with its bright golden hue and 2 fingers of foamy head.  Taste is a bit bready or hay-like with clean hops finish when drank properly chilled. Don't let it get warm, as the inadequacies of the non-alcoholic recipe become more intrusive. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

ICON Alliance

A lot of cruiser/classic bike riders don't wear full face helmets. I was one; my first helmet is/was what's called a 3/4th style where eyebrows to jaw is open to the road. It afford great visibility, feels very free, and I'll still wear it on a low speed excursion around town or on a back road.

But highway riding is a different beast. The above picture is the same model full-face helmet I wear, taken from a Reddit thread thanking the manufacturer. The what-if-you-crash reasoning is sound enough and needs no re-hash here, but the secondary benefits have their own immediate value and importance. Full face helmets cut the wind much better than open helmets; your neck will thank you after long rides. They can be cooler since they have more directed vents and air channels or warmer if you close those vents up. they keep bugs and road grit from getting to your eyes/face far better than any bandanna/sunglasses combination ever will.

Before I got the ICON Alliance, I had a different brand full-face helmet for my commute. On the ride to work one day, the visor on my helmet came free on one side. I was able to secure it with duct tape, it it's still an unnerving thing to happen at 70 mph. While the duct tape would hold for a few days, I'd decided to shop around for a better helmet. Safety and design details are what drew me to the Alliance; price is what made me choose it. They're both mediums, but the Icon fits more snugly. The visor mechanism feels more secure and it has a steel retaining pin to lock it in the down position. It's $40 more expensive, but I feel like I'm getting more than $40 worth of improved design features and functionality. This is what's good for me and my head, but there's no replacement for trying on helmets in-person. Heads vary in their shape and proportion and it's safer to have a cheaper helmet that fits than an expensive one that doesn't.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Grandparents Visit and Fat Tire

This weekend the newly-appointed Grandy and Grandpa Tod came down to Texas to visit their new granddaughter.

The weather hasn't been super hospitable, by Texan standards, but it's been fun to watch baby E interact with my parents. I'm really glad they were able to make this trip to see her at this fascinating age and that I am free from army obligations to spend all my time with them during the visit. It's all smiles and reminiscing (only interrupted by meals and diaper changes) around here. Also, it was fun to watch Luna go from scared/antagonistic to having new best friends to play with.

Eleanor & Grandy
Eleanor and Grandpa Tod
Fat Tire

This is quite possibly New Belgium's flagship recipe and for good reason. It's a clear-copper colored ale with lacy head. Flavor is full and refreshing with just a little hops bite in the finish. At 5.2% ABV it won't slow you down. A good pairing with lots of different meals; it'll satisfy beer snobs and macrobrew luddites alike.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Anniversary and Augustijn Grand Cru

On this day in 2011, Sarah and I got married in a courthouse in Killeen. Happy anniversary babe, and thank you for bringing this little one into my life.

Also on this day, but in 1945, General Omar Bradley and III Corps crossed the Rhine at Remagen before the the Nazis could destroy the Ludendorff Bridge.

Ludendorff Bridge
Augustijn Grand Cru

Here's another from Brouwerij Van Steenberge's Augustijn series. Compared to the blond, this pours with a rockier head that lingers and darker golden hue. The strongest of the bunch in both flavor and 9% ABV. I thought it was very good.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Camp chair and Devil's Backbone

Once upon a time I came across a small chair for sale on the internet.

Photo via Wood&Faulk
Amazingly, the list price for this item is $165 before shipping. Which is absurd. I was mad enough to use my internet powers to find the guy who would put such a value on a simple stool. When I found him, my opinion softened because he seems like a cool guy and he wrote a tutorial how to build the chair. So I decided to make my own instead of being an internet complainypants.

I started with Ash shovel handles instead of the hardwood dowels he prescribed. My reasoning is that these are a bit thicker and therefore less likely to split under sheer strains and they're already sanded smoother and treated with a weatherproof lacquer. I scored them with a knife and cut them with a Bahco Laplander camp saw (it's a great little tool that's well worth the price).

Pivoting hardware was installed following the tutorial

For the seat, I decided to do a combination canvas/leather. It's a bit more laborious than using a single piece of hide, but cheaper for me. I got a bag of leather scraps and synthetic sinew from a craft store and the heavy cotton canvas comes from old saddlebags that a previous employer was throwing out. I cut equilateral triangles from the leather scraps and drilled the hole pattern to make the sewing easier. Sewing through the leather and two layers of canvas was tedious, but I have zero fears that the materials or my workmanship there will be the source of failure.

Finished chair, about 2 years later
For mounting the seat to the legs, I chose galvanized finishing washers and weather-proof decking screws instead of the soft brass hardware he recommended. I had intended to also do a blanket stitch around the raw canvas edges to reduce fraying and keep the layers together, but it doesn't seem to need it. It also doesn't need that dumb lanyard/leash that the original has. This chair is nearly 2 year old now, including a deployment to Afghanistan, and still going strong. It's an easy little perch to move around the yard or garage. I haven't calculated my time or materials invested, but I'm pretty confident it's less than $165 even if you include the cost of my drill.

Devil's Backbone

This Tripel from Blanco, Texas-based Real Ale Brewing Company pours bright like a golden shepherd with almost no head. It's got light carbonation with a floral and fruity flavor that embodies the abbey style. BeerAdvocate reports 8.1% ABV and it's masked well. I find finishing the larger 22oz bottles of Belgian-style ales to be somewhat difficult by my lonesome, so this 12oz size is more convenient. Definitely a great value for your money if this style is something you enjoy. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Terminal Leave and Augustijn Blond

Today I signed out on leave from active duty. I'm not quite done with the necessary separation briefs due to limited/inflexible scheduling, but I will be completing them on my own before my contract ends.
"The Charge" - 1st Cavalry Division Association
But it means I don't have to go to PT formation at 0630. I'm no longer responsible for any equipment or other personnel. I can't be tasked out with guard duty or other inane drudgeries. It's strange to think about my active duty service coming to a close or my place in the greater legacy of the division. Despite being here for over 4 years, the name still conjures images of Vietnam. Apocalypse Now, We were Soldiers, Tropic Thunder. Perhaps with time I'll have greater perspective on the period of time and different deployments.

Eleanor Pic of the Day
Augustijn Blond

I tried this ages ago and all I wrote is "smooth 7% ABV." So... there you go. Based on that description and a general fondness in my memory, I'd get it again. But I don't think I've seen it here in Texas since that sampler pack.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cadence 2 and Shiner Haymaker

2 years ago I published a selection of running Army Cadences. The following are some marching-speed cadences. They're more ponderous in delivery, but are still illustrative/informative about the Army culture.

The army colors
The colors are Red
To show the world
The blood we shed

Left, your left-right
left-right your left
Left, your left-right
Stay in step

The army colors
The colors are White
To show the world
We're fit to fight


The army colors
The colors are Blue
To show the world
That we are true


The army colors
The colors are Gold
To show the enemy
That we are bold


The army colors
The colors are Black
To show the enemy
That we fight back


The army colors
The colors are Green
To show the enemy
That we are mean


They say that in the army the Coffee's mighty fine
It looks like muddy water and tastes like turpentine
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won't let me go
Oh, o-woe, o-woe-oh-oh-oh-oh, hey

They say that in the army the Food is mighty fine
A chicken jumped off the table and killed a friend of mine
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won't let me go
Oh, o-woe, o-woe-oh-oh-oh-oh, hey

They say that in the army the Boots are mighty fine
How they hell would they know, they've never marched in mine
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won't let me go
Oh, o-woe, o-woe-oh-oh-oh-oh, hey

They say that in the army the Pay is mighty fine
They give you a hundred dollars and take back ninety-nine
Oh Lord, I wanna go
But they won't let me go
Oh, o-woe, o-woe-oh-oh-oh-oh, hey

Big Red One
Patch on my shoulder
Pick up your guns and follow me
We kill the enemy

Patch on my shoulder
Pick up your ropes and follow me
Air Assault infantry

Patch on my shoulder
Pick up your 'chutes an follow me
Airborne infantry

Tenth Mountain
Patch on my shoulder
Pick up your rucks and follow me
Alpine infantry

First Cav
Patch on my shoulder
Get in your trucks and follow me
Mechanized infantry

Tropic Lightning
Patch on my shoulder
Pick up your rucks and follow me
We live in Hawai'i

Shiner Haymaker

Here's a Pale ale from Shiner's "Brewer's Pride" collection. Pours blonde with a half finger of white head that dissipates to a ring of lacing. The flavor embraces the Pale aspect of pale ale: little malt flavors and mild soapy hops. Pretty underwhelming for something touted as "Brewer's Pride Craft Beer #6." I guess it's good they're willing and able to take risks like this, but this one isn't for me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Expendabelles and Westkust Troubador

Sarah and I have been fans of Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables" since since a street promoter gave me a free t-shirt in a Pittsburgh bar. I mean, I had been intrigued by the trailer, but that sealed it. And we were not disappointed. It was pulpy, over-the-top, absurd, and fun. We've since made each  sequel a special type of date night tradition.

Cast of The Expendables 2
But they all fail the Bechdel test. Badly. Now a female-ensemble version of The Expendables is somewhere in the development process. Last week IMDb reported  Kate Beckinsale and Naomi Watts are in for "Expendabelles."

They're... ok. I was never into Underworld, but it's all action has been a juggernaut of a franchise. Watts is a good actress, but for this to succeed (and I hope it does), Stallone needs to reach way back for some actresses known for badass roles. The cast's previous resumes and audiences' recognition of them is part of the Expendables magic. To achieve that, I think there are two names he has to get on the poster: Linda Hamilton and Sigorney Weaver.

They're icons from the right era of action films and their team-up is the only thing that can compare to the original Stallone/Lundgren/Li/Schwarzenegger-type hype. Once they're on board, you have some wiggle room to round out the cast. If you'll indulge me:
Ronda Rousey was in Expendables 3, of course.
Lucy Liu has a strong action pedigree.
Grace Jones would be great to see back in an action role.
Maybe a reunion of Lucy Lawless and Renée O'Connor?

We can hope, right?

It's labeled a "Black Imperial IPA," but Beeradvocate classifies it as an American Black Ale. Tasty. similar to Great Divide's Belgian Yeti. Thick head tawny that dissipates to a half-finger. A bit more pungent on the hop profile than I normally enjoy, but the smokiness offsets it.

* Imperial IPA is one of those acronym-based redundancy missteps that bothers me the more I think about it. ATM Machine. CAC Card. PIN Number/VIN Number. HIV Virus. LCD Display.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Status of the Yamaha

I haven't been riding as much as you might think. Hardly at all, really. It's downright depressing in contrast to how often I was in the saddle with the Triumph.

I've never rode the Yamaha on-post, even though I got it registered there. I've never put in more than 40 miles in a single ride (and that day I blew a fuse and had to be rescued on the roadside by a empathetic Boozefighter). The one time I took it off a paved road, I layed it down in the mud. I got it up to 80 on the freeway once, but experienced some scary high-speed wobble. I haven't even fired it up since Eleanor was born.

Maybe it's revealing that the Yamaha is still "it" while the Triumph quickly became "her" or "Bonnie."

Cutaway engine poster from The XS Cafe
Still, it's a good-looking bike and I hope to rectify this lack of riding as we pivot towards the Texan springtime. I might have over-estimated how much I enjoy tinkering with the bike vs riding it. The Yamaha now has its third set of mirrors. This pair come off a crashed WR250R and feel rock-solid; they shouldn't flop around at highway speeds like the cheaper ones I had before. We're finally running the correct-size battery (instead of the Triumph battery kept in place by a small section of cedar 2x4). I've got an undamaged replacement headlight bucket and instrument bracket (with rubber mounts!) off of Ebay to install for a weekend project. It's getting there.

There might be a bunch of Eleanor pictures unrelated to the post content this month. I hope you don't mind.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Eleanor and Big Flats 1901

There's been months of silence around here, and I mean to rectify that. But first, allow me to introduce Eleanor Mae McPherson:

She was born by Cesarean section early last month and our lives have scarce been the same since. Sarah has been a champ throughout the whole process and I find it difficult to express my pride in her. The Army was very supportive, especially considering how long after her due date she was born. I did not have to report from when Sarah entered the Hospital until we were discharged and then began 10 consecutive days of free paternity leave to facilitate the transition to home.

I'm bringing back the Ambitious March. In March 2013 I successfully posted once a day for all 31 days, and I think it will be worthwhile to get to that level again. Articulation in text is a muscle I've allowed to atrophy, but the coming months and years may call for its exercise. I've amassed a considerable back-catalog of beers tasted, motorcycle improvements, trips, and such that I can hopefully draw on to complete the month and maybe get back into a regular writing rhythm. We'll see, I guess. I'm trying the upfront/public commitment style of self-motivation to tackle this in contrast to BC's stealth commitment of October 2013.

Big Flats 1901

This beer is here because of its price. There's no way around that fact. I would not have tried it if not for the astounding regular, non-sale price of $3.49 per 6-pack here, which is a mere 58.17 cents per can or 4.85 cents an ounce. World Brews can achieve this price point because it's only distributed through Walgreens pharmacy/general stores. BeerAdvocate says the brewer is in California, but the cans I got are labeled Rochester, NY. It pours bright straw with a finger of frosty head that dissapates down to a lingering lace. The flavor is very light, almost forgettable, but not offensive or overly carbonated and 4.5% ABV makes it easy to have several without noticing. It will leave those in the mood for bold hops or complex malts thoroughly disappointed. But in the limited realm of budget adjunct lagers, it's much better than relatively more expensive brews like Busch and Milwaukee's Best.