30 August 2005

jay, my co-head-brewmaster, tried a beer from our first batch today (the pale ale). here's his report....
I cracked open one of our brews today. It looks good, kind of a cloudy amber with a white head. The head didn't last very long, head retention may improve with some longer conditioning. It has a nice hoppy taste. It's got a little sweetness to it too, perhaps because we only had 4 gallons and used a whole bag of sugar.

All and all I like it a lot. Very drinkable. I think it has a clean taste to it, similar to buying a beer on draft. You can't get anything fresher in a bottle than a homebrew. Pretty damn good for a first batch.

i can't wait to try one. we're brewing batch #2 on saturday... a wheat beer.


29 August 2005

i finally got around to checking this film out. what a great film. check it out. it's nothing like fellini's later films. as one reviewer described it, it's from fellini's period before he became to "felliniesque." a great neo-realist film, up there with "L'aventurra," by antonioni. both are great, great films that will change the way you imagine italy to be.

i happened to catch a few minutes of cable news tonight in the newsroom. everyone was working themselves up into a doomsday hurricane catastrophe. it was great. geraldo was on fox news spewing his usual geraldo stupidness. then my co-worker terry mentioned that they're predicting actual alligator infestation in new orleans in the aftermath of hurricane katrina. so here's my final geraldo death scene played out....
geraldo is "mediating" a talk show involving a gang of klansmen, the new orleans black panther party and a 10-foot urban alligator that's survived the last 48 hours by living off oil refinery bi-products
as soon as the chairs start flying and hit geraldo in the face, the 10-foot toxic chemical-burning alligator actually picks up a gun with its new opposable thumb and shoots geraldo in the ass.

so far winamp is pretty good. much better than itunes in the soundquality department. it comes standard with a 9-band EQ/pre-amp to get the levels just right. just a much less gritty/staticy sound. as for the user-friendliness factor: winamp doesn't quite stack up to iTunes. it's a little more complex and confusing, with lots more buttons and windows. it's still better than realplayer, though, with a lot more customizable functions. now if someone could just build a damn audio program as intuitive as iTunes, but with the sound quality of winamp.


27 August 2005

i've been using itunes to play mp3s on my computer for the past 6 months or so, but i'm getting really, really annoyed by the shitty sound quality. i'm diggin on "oh yeah" by foxy brown right now and the damn snares sound like radio static. horrible. i think i might come full circle and install winamp -- the first audio player i ever had on one of my computers. i'll post the results here.

dionne just told me that the movie i was thinking of was "footloose," not "flashdance." apparently my story didn't relate to a female steelworker with dreams of show-biz.


26 August 2005

check this article out. the town of ipswich, mass., which is home of ipswich brewing. apparently the town couldn't handle serving beer at "chowderfest." kinda reminds me of flashdance, when the town fathers banned dancing. apparently in ipswich, serving beer is innappropriate at a "family event." geez.


25 August 2005

i've noticed these new commercials on TV for smirnoff ice... the crappy pseudo-booze drink. the spots feature these two comically-fake looking russian guys with just ridiculous accents. in the commercial i saw this morning, they say their russian village has a festival where everybody throws raspberries at each other -- the idea being to promote raspberry flavored smirnoff ice.
but wait... smirnoff ISN'T EVEN RUSSIAN! the company was originally a french brand that was sold to an american entrepeneur in the 50s. smirnoff vodka has long been made here in the u.s. smirnoff ice isn't even a vodka product and is basically a sweetened malt product that's probably brewed by miller or anheuser-busch. you could probably poll 1000 russians and not one would ever have heard of smirnoff ice. plus do they even grow raspberries in russia?
i know no one else in the entire world cares about this stuff, but for smirnoff to try to pass itself off as authentically russian is laughable.


24 August 2005

dionne and i finally got around to watching the dvd of "monster" last night. we both really liked the film. i expected it to be the typical descent into the mad mind of a serial killer kind of movie. actually, it owed far more to the "tell every side" school of realism. the "monster," prostitute aileen wournous ends up being painted as an almost rational and justified killer. hardly the stereotypical serial murderer of hollywood films.
next up on my netflix queue, coincidentally, is another film about an aging, victimized prostitute: fellini's "the nights of cabiria". apparently this is considered a masterpiece of italian realism. i can't wait to check it out. supposedly it has none of the surrealistic excess of later fellini films. i'll let you know what i thought.

slate has a nice little essay about amsterdam. it's funny how american commentators tend to equate income and personal wealth with a high quality of life. in europe, though, they tend to value other things: vacations, long meals, simple joys like taking walks and riding bicycles. the dutch, apparently, really enjoy what can best be described as "coziness."

The overriding vibe in Amsterdam is coziness. It's like a municipal mission here. Every cafe has a cute little cat in the corner licking its paws. Every canal house blooms with a window box of tulips. Every hooker has doilies on her bedside table. (I'm guessing about this last thing, but it feels right.)

There's a Dutch word for their tyranny of cuteness. The word is gezellig, and it's difficult to translate. You just know it when you see it. For instance: Friends enjoying a picnic on a canal bank, laughing fondly, sharing a bottle of red wine ... this is clearly gezellig. A slob wolfing down fast food as he sprints to a meeting ... not so gezellig.

(This is a side note, but I find it sad that eating while walking—or worse, eating while driving—is the great American pastime. The Dutch almost never do this, except maybe with an ice cream cone. Having been here for a while, I've now decided I'm firmly on the side of the Dutchies in this matter. The notion that you wouldn't take time to slow down, sit at a table, savor your food—and, better yet, break bread with a couple of friends—seems weird to me now. And please don't start in about lost productivity and the demands of ruthless capitalism. I maintain that you can make money and also make time for a half-decent lunch.)

The larger point is this: They live much better here. They carve out cozy, delightful moments anywhere they can find them. They bring their families on candlelit, nighttime boat rides through the canals. They chat with their friends at outdoor cafes as the sun sets. They leave work by 6 every evening. And these are not special, once-in-a-blue-moon treats. This is how they live, all the time. Even in my short stay here, I've found myself drifting into various gezellig moments (involving, for instance, good food, thoughtful friends, copious pints of Heineken, and a rainy afternoon inside a bar that played only Al Green records).

I realize I'm in grave danger of sounding like a Euro-snob. So, let me be clear: I don't think they're any smarter or cooler than us (though they're certainly taller and slimmer). And yes, of course, we're capable of living beautifully in the States. But the gezellig lifestyle is a national priority with the Dutchies. I'm not even sure what our shared priorities are in America. Getting rich? Appearing on television? It's fair to say that coziness is not high on the list.

So, each time I come to the end of an Amsterdam visit, I wait for my plane at Schiphol Airport and I swear to myself that this time I will bring a little gezellig back home with me. That I will slow down, and savor, and live with grace and elegance. And then I land at Dulles and immediately eat fast food in my car."


22 August 2005

i found myself stumped by this question recently: why is "filipino" spelled with an f, while "philippines" is spelled with ph?
no one in the newsroom could answer that one, surprisingly. i did manage to find the country's wikipedia page, which states that the spanish originally called it Las Islas Filipinas. (originally, only the spanish colonizers were called filipinos. natives were "indios.") so it seems to be a case of anglicizing the country's name, yet leaving the people's name with the original spanish F spelling. wacky.

i actually kind of liked the first album by the band interpol. yeah, they're kind of moody and hipsterish, which i find annoying, but they have a few tunes that sorta peak at the far end of the white-guy-rock funk spectrum. i stumbled across the bio today forCarlos D, the band's bassist/keyboardist. and i already don't like him, just judging from his pretentious bio page.


20 August 2005

i just got an update from jay: we're idiots, basically. we measured teh final gravity AFTER we added the priming sugar to the pale ale. idiots. that gave us a much higher FG than we should have read... so basically the beer should still be in the 5% abv range. d'oh!
I can't wait to drink it!


19 August 2005

jay and i got around to bottling our first batch of beer yesterday. it's a pale ale. i don't think it came out quite a good as we hoped, but it shoudl be MORE than drinkable in the end. the final gravity was a bit lower than we expected, which brought the final abv down to the 3.5% range, a little lower than we had hoped.
the color was a bit on the dark side, too, but not bad. it should turn into a nice orangeish/brownish beer. the clarity was actually pretty decent. i didn't see any coagulated funkiness floating around in there.
these beers will take about 2 weeks or so to condition in the bottle and self-carbonate (with the help of corn sugar we added).
we're already excited about doing batch #2. we're going to brew up a weizenbier (wheat beer). we may make it either a plain weizen or brew up a raspberry wheat beer.
i think we're realizing that we need a tiny bit more equipment... especially a racking cane and second carboy to allow us to do a secondary fermentation and get the beer off the dead yeast quicker while helping the final beer clarify.

one of the more interesting world leaders right now is hugo chavez, the president of venezuela. read all about what is happening in that country right now at this great site.


15 August 2005

don and i are the obit-jockies at the times every night. if you die anywhere in northern rhode island, chances are, one of us is responsible for making sure the last words written about you are pleasant. a part of me, though, wishes we could be a bit more, ahem, truthful. check out this unbelievable obit from the telegraph newspaper in the u.k. the obit is for an actual journalist named graham mason:
"Unlike his friend Jeffrey Bernard, though, Graham Mason did not make himself the hero of his own tragedy. His speciality was the extreme. In one drinking binge he went for nine days without food. At the height of his consumption, before he was frightened by epileptic fits into cutting back, he was managing two bottles of vodka a day. His face became in his own description that of a 'rotten choirboy'. At lunchtime he would walk through the door of the Coach and Horses still trembling with hangover, his nose and ears blue whatever the weather. On one cold day he complained of the noise that the snow made as it landed on his bald head."


12 August 2005

you may have heard about the skateboarder who jumped the great wall of china a few weeks ago. well here's the video of that jump. seriously. click on it. it's worth it.


11 August 2005

on living near the ocean...
i love the beach. di says i'm actually obsessed with the beach. she's pretty much right. i got to head down to scarborough beach (in narragansett) on monday with her. it was my fourth trip to the beach so far this summer. (yes i do count.). i guess it's because, with the exception of the year i lived in nice, france, i've never been so close to the sea. i don't want to take it for granted. plus, it relaxes me like almost nothing else. must be something about the rhythmic sound of waves crashing.

someone stumbled across a site that lets you draw yourself as a south park character.
here's south park joel (as drawn by di, notice the skis and mug of beer.)

and here's di....


08 August 2005

brewing update...
jay and i had a great brew session saturday. our first batch went pretty smoothly for the most part. we used liquid malt extract and dry yeast this time around. the color did come out a little darker than we expected, but we made a lot more wort than the recipe called for.
jay and i think we'll be better next time going to one of the local homebrew shops and picking up better ingredients. liquid yeast, especially, is supposed to give you much better cell counts, and therefore a smoother, quicker and more full fermentation.
so far it looks like we might try to brew an IPA within the next few weeks when this batch is ready to be bottled. here are some pictures of the carboy...



06 August 2005

guess who's here! gatsby the cat joined di and i today when i brought her home from the animal shelter. she's already getting extremely comfortable in our apartment - knocking stuff over and climbing up on top of my keyboard and inadvertantly hitting random letters. she's dope.


04 August 2005

my friend jay and i are gonna brew our first batch of beer on saturday. we went in together on the equipment. our first batch will be an english-style pale ale. i can't friggin wait. jay has done a few batches in the past, but i'm a rookie with this. hopefully batch #1 will be drinkable. we can only hope.

jack shafer, one of my favorite journalists to read lately, has another brilliant little story, this time about newsweek's overhyping of meth madness as the nation's amphetamine epidemic. of course, fewer and fewer people are actually taking meth nowadays, but shafer shows just how the so-called "drug warriors" can make the solution worse than the original societal ailment.

Drug-war measures often do more harm to individuals and society than the original "evil" substance the warriors attempted to stamp out. In the mid-1960s, just before the government declared war on amphetamines, the average user swallowed his pills, which were of medicinal purity and potency. Snorting and smoking stimulants was almost unheard of, and very few users injected intravenously.
Today, 40 years later, snorting, smoking, and injecting methamphetamines of unpredictable potency and dubious purity has become the norm—with all the dreadful health consequences. If the current scene illustrates how the government is winning the war on drugs, I'd hate to see what losing looks like.

while i don't consider myself a libertarian, i do know that the drug war and prohibition and laws against prositution and the abortion ban and similar laws have been nothing but counterproductive. instead of trying to ban away things we don't like, we have a duty to try to mitigate the damage that those problems cause. safe drugs are still better than dangerous drugs and safe prostitution is still better than dangerous prostiution.


01 August 2005

dionne and i went to the providence animal shelter today and picked out a kitten to adopt. really it was her idea, but i don't mind having a cat around the house (even though i've always thought of myself more as a dog person). hopefully we'll pick it up after it gets spayed tomorrow or wednesday. we're not sure of a name yet. i suggested "professor mcgiggles" but di didn't like that one for some reason.

i've been digging the song "bin laden" by immortal technique and mos def. the track is just sick wit it! immortal is sorta in the same mold as dead prez and the coup -- strong political statements that get wrapped up into thoughtful songs rapped over serious funk tracks. immortal is, i think, even more topical and overtly political than any rapper i've ever heard.

i just checked my site meter and we're now getting 22 unique visitors a day! woo-hoo! that means i'm now getting twice as many visitors per day as i was getting a few weeks ago. i hope people keep coming back. and don't worry if i go a day or two without updating. i PROMISE, there will always be something new here at joel's pub.

dionne and like 10 other women all got together last weekend for her wedding shower/bachelorette party. di's sisters simone and keisha both made it to providence. so did her friends kristen and alexandra. here's a foto...


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