Published on August 7th, 2013 @ 08:33:00 am , using 66 words, 89304 views
Thanks to my old friend Exeter, I'm going to be posting my gaming-related stuff at a new site - his blog, Tales of the Aggronaut. My first post should be going live later today!
I wanted a larger reach for my gaming posts. I love writing for it's own sake, but it's nice to have it seen/read too!
All the "personal" stuff will still get posted here.
Published on August 6th, 2013 @ 08:23:00 am , using 393 words, 8159 views
There seems to be two subsets MMO players can be divided into when it comes to what their character uses to do it's job.
One camp only cares about what buttons they press, in what order, and what those presses cause to happen - be that damaging a mob, tanking, healing, whatever. They'll use whatever weapon or class is the "best" at that job, as that's all that matters.
I am not in that camp! To me, flavor matters. In TSW, most DPS characters have a fairly simple rotation (note: most - not all). You build to 5 resources, use your aux attack, then both weapons' consumers. It's called a 5-1-1-1 rotation. (Or 6-1-1 when aux is on cooldown.) Many other games are similar.
So, Camp #1 says "all weapons are the same, so use the 'best." But, to me, it matters if my character is holding a pistol, or a shotgun while he's blowing up the baddies. A sword is different than a dagger to me.
I have a vision of what tools my character "likes" to use to do his job, and I'll equip those, even if they're not currently the "best." Though, I will find ways to finagle my chosen tools into nearly the best. ;)
This attitude also extends to races in games that have different races, as well as classes in class-based games.
To use a very potent example - take Everquest 1. In the beginning, Rogues and Necromancers were "useless." Rogues didn't have Backstab yet (!!!!), so they basically did the damage of a Warrior... but without the Warrior's staying power. And Necromancer damage has always come from stacking lots of powerful DoTs, but in the beginning, that damage didn't show up anywhere! So people thought Necros didn't really do much damage.
But, I love Necromancers, and my wife loves Rogues. So we played those classes, and thankfully over time, they ended up on top of the DPS pile.
People in that "performance is everything" tribe just played Wizards, even if they had no attachment to the concept of a Wizard.
I suppose there is a third camp - those that care deeply about both performance and flavor, and they end up choosing some compromise that makes both sides of the coin happy.
Anyway. This post was epically long in my head, and ended being very short in reality. Oh well. I think this needed to be discussed...
Published on April 8th, 2013 @ 09:58:00 am , using 277 words, 179059 views
Motorcycling, like any outdoor hobby/activity, has some "gear" requirements if you want to participate in it during all weather conditions. Especially if you live in a state that has wildly varying weather like we get here in Indiana.
We've both had leather coats for quite some time - but no rain gear. Not that we actively want to ride in rain, it's just that it if happens to rain we don't want to have to cancel a trip or hide under an overpass for an hour while we wait for it to pass. So now we've both got full rainsuits, kept packed in the saddlebags for "just in case." (Mine's sitting here in my office, as it may be raining when I go to ride home after work!)
Lower body warmth is another issue we've faced in the Spring and Fall. Forgetting the fashion statement, it seems leather chaps are the best way to keep the legs warm - and for the rider, protected from high speed projectiles. We're working with Fox Creek Leather to get a good fit for both of us. Of course, this is a garment that's tricky to fit to the individual, so we've got the first sets (that didn't work out for either of us) on the way back, while hopefully-better-fitting sets are simultaneously on their way to us.
She also picked up a very nice fleece for layering under the leather coat during truly cold weather. That got broken in on the way back from Bloomington yesterday and it worked out great for her.
So hopefully we've extended our riding capability by a large number of days by picking up some proper gear.
Published on February 15th, 2013 @ 09:57:00 am , using 202 words, 64726 views
... why I/we aren't posting thrilling recountings of our beer tourism and homebrewing adventures anymore. So I shall somewhat enlighten you.
The short version: we've given up drinking, at least for the "time being."
Slightly more TL;DR version:
We first noticed the cost. The roadtrips detailed here were not what you'd call "cheap," or even "reasonable" really. Plus, our main "entertainment" was hanging out at a local pub, to the tune of $alot per day, and it added up to $areallyf'inglot. Plus there was all the other purchases and such. So, we had to evaluate that.
The second thing we noticed is that we were having a lot more "bad" nights than "good." Ethanol does some fairly non-good things to the human brain/nervous system/body, and when you have other "issues" (ASD, etc), it's magnified.
We have always said that we value peace and good times over bad, and so, ... we gave up the drinking. :)
Instead we spend time with our pets, game, watch movies/etc, work on puzzles, and ride the motorcycle to healthier destinations, such as State Parks and albino squirrel meccas. We're much happier for the change.
The negative side effect is that the blog has probably become boring to many readers. ;)
Published on January 22nd, 2013 @ 11:07:00 am , using 77 words, 32021 views
Just a quick check-in. I'm still playing The Secret World exclusively. Not since EQ1 has a game "grabbed" me this completely. I have a Lifetime subscription and look forward to all the future content.
Also - my wife began playing TSW with me (she's Lifetime too) and that has been a ton of fun.
At some Soon™ point, I'll write up a full, long, detailed review of the game - but until then - just trust me: the game rocks!
The short version is, we've just been enjoying the summer, riding our motorcycle a ton (4,000 miles on it since we bought it on 7/4). Oh - right - yeah - we bought a new motorcycle. ;)
We were plenty happy with our old bike - a '98 H-D Fat Boy, but it was up to the point of a needing a lot "maintenance" type work done to it. Brakes (front and rear), possibly the engine mounts, the front brake lever, and so on. Plus, a lot's changed in 14 years with motorcycles. So, after trying several different models, we settled on a 2012 H-D Heritage Softail Classic, purchased from Spyke's H-D. We couldn't be happier with the bike. Fuel injection, a little over 400cc more power, and all the other refinements the last 14 years have brought make the bike just amazingly fun to ride.
As far as gaming goes, I've been playing The Secret World exclusively. The game is fantastic! I've wanted to put up a post detailing just how awesome it is, but so many other bloggers have said it better than I ever could. Take a look at Belghast's blog for details. The cinematic and story aspects of the game are so good that Lizz has been watching along as I play, kind of like an interactive movie. :) It's been a lot of fun.
Not much else to report, really. We have a whole pig, in primals, in one freezer, and we're about to get a sheep (professionally cut into edible cuts) from Thistle Byre Farm as well. Always good to have a lot of meat stocked up. ;)
The short version is "house buying is a pain in the ass, so we're staying."
The long version is a little more complicated.
We own our current house, er, that is, we pretend to own it in a little 30 year game we play with the bank. In a totally recovered market, we'd have good equity and owning the place would be a huge asset, not a liability. But, in the messed up market that exists, it's somewhat of a liability, as we owe probably right about what it's sellable for, perhaps a tad less. But the payment is low enough, and the places we'd been looking at are inexpensive enough that we could buy the new place and then sell our current place. The few months of overlapped payments would not kill us.
Anyway, so, we found a great place out in the country like we want. It is sitting on 1.26 acres backing up to HUGE woods. There's a huge barn in great repair on site. And it was offered at a super low price. The only problem is the house is manufactured, which in a post-crash world is a problem to get financing on. But, we have a GREAT mortgage guy and got that all worked out.
It sold the day we became able to make an offer on it.
Alright, well, that sucked. But, we charged onward and found another place - also a very good deal. This one is right in town; it's only 1/2 a mile from my office in fact. It has an acre of land and needs a lot of mostly cosmetic work but we do have a decent chunk of cash so we weren't too worried. We made an offer on that place. There were two other offers as well, both ahead of ours, and since the property is a Short Sale, we knew the wait would be long. But... our Agent was confident in our offer so we waited.
And then we found out the sale on the previous house fell through! We had to decide - do we withdraw our offer on the in-town place and go back to our first choice? But then if that falls through, we've lost our second choice... We chose to just ignore it. For a while. Then decided to go for it - but then it sold - again.
Then we started adding up estimates on the stuff we'd have to do to the in-town place and realized it came very near the amount of cash we have available, and so we withdrew that offer.
Then another place came up - in the country - 1.37 acres - a VERY nice house and land. We felt very happy touring it, totally at peace, and so we wanted to buy it. When we went to make the offer, we found out the listing Agent let our Agent show it to us knowing there was already an ACCEPTED OFFER on it.
This was the final straw. The stress and annoyance got too much for us to handle and so we decided to just stay put indefinitely. We'll use some of our cash to improve our house and make it even more enjoyable to us. We never "hated" the place, or even disliked it. We merely wanted to get out in the country, on much larger land, and outside of Daddy Government's controls. We'd like to raise animals we cannot raise in town, for instance. But oh well - another year perhaps.
So here we are, in the house we've lived in since 2003. We've gone through a lot of "phases," a lot of life changes in that 9 years, and it is still our home and we'll see where the next 9 years takes us.
So we're trying to buy a new house. We're looking for a place with some land, ideally an acre or more, but definitely over 1/2 an acre - and on the outskirts of town, if not downright "out in the country."
This should be easy, given we have excellent credit and the houses we're looking at are way, way below our means. But many of the houses that fit our criteria are manufactured houses, and apparently post-crash those are pariah. Even though the primary property-of-interest is listed at a price slightly below my gross yearly salary. Sigh.
But we forge onwards!
There isn't much more to say (I don't want to get into linking Realtor.com listings or anything!) - other than "what a pain in the ass."
Just a quickie "we're not dead!" post again. There's just not much going on that's long-form blog post worthy lately. Our main project, if you could call it that, is sort of "downsizing" or "simplifying" our lives. Nothing so dramatic as Cage Free Family's downsize, but for us, it's a big deal. (We're even contemplating selling our TV... >.>)
Mainly it's been identifying "stuff" we own that hasn't been used in any fashion for a year or more, and then deciding what to do with it. Sometimes it's so low-value that we donate it to Goodwill or other sources. Other times, the item has more value, so we sell it - usually via Craigslist. We're contemplating having a yard sale of sorts soon - or at least a day when we'll be mostly home, where we put stuff outside with "FOR SALE" signs on it, and people will come and ask. That's safe to do here, still, thankfully.
Longterm, we've been talking over acquiring some land a little ways out of town, or perhaps an existing house with land. That would get us outside the (sorry, it has to be said) jackbooted rules of in-town. And we don't really need 1,397 square feet just for us two and our animal family.
We've taken a few short and medium length road trips on the motorcycle so far, and as weather gets warmer, we'll be taking more. We also traded in the Kia Soul on a new Prius and have been enjoying the quieter ride and the far, far lower gasoline cost.
Anyway. That's all that's been going on. Peaceful and fun, but probably somewhat boring to outsiders. :)
Published on January 23rd, 2012 @ 11:13:00 am , using 350 words, 27833 views
Ah, you didn't think I'd given up gaming entirely did you?
Gone (and gladly, to be honest) are the days of logging in immediately on arriving home from work (and rushing home to boot) and staying on until sleepytime, but I still do game, and lately, I've been playing SWTOR.
All throughout the development process, I was very skeptical of Bioware's claims that they were going to bring hardcore, deep story to the MMO genre. I couldn't fathom how they'd do it - and their main marketing claim was that it'd be done by making every single quest dialog fully voiced. That didn't seem like it would "do it" to me.
Then I got invited to one of the late-stage beta weekends and the doubt all dissolved. I can't really convey in text how well it worked out. Just try the game!
I'm also very impressed with how well done the Sith side is done. So many MMOs and even single player RPGs really sugar coat "evil" character. Yeah, not here. Some of the things you can do as a Sith are truly horrifically evil. They pull no punches. You really are evil - and sometimes I find myself needing a break from it!
The voice acting is top notch, though if you've played any of Bioware's single player RPGs you know what to expect.
The mechanics are very good - nothing super new or innovative, but definitely good, standard MMO type stuff. The classes are well done and fun and different enough to make trying other things worthwhile.
The UI needs work. It's a totally standard MMO UI like you've seen in every other MMO you've played. But you can't change it. There's no user-skinning. Almost none of the elements are moveable or resizeable. There's definitely no plugins. But, it's instantly familiar and useable - so at least it's not some weird, unfamiliar, hard to use, fixed UI. :)
I can't say enough good about this game. I'm late to the party in blogging about it, so just go read other blogs and reviews, and you'll see - you need to give it a try.
This morning, during my shower, while I was getting dressed, and riding in the car on the way to the office, I rough-drafted a post in my head. It was going to talk at length about how the rise of mega-chains has killed diversity and local flavor in pretty much every sector of America - from the megatropolises all the way down to "small town America." Everything's the same everywhere you go blah blah blah.
Then I realized - the reason for that post is that I want to encourage people to support local, independent restaurants and shops instead. And then it came to me that the best way to do that is to focus instead on the positive: why these places are good.
The first reason is simply monetary. When you eat at a locally owned restaurant, all of that money goes to the owner and the staff of the shop. There's no Superbowl ads to pay for, no CEO, CIO, CTO, CXX, CZZ, and so forth, huge salaries to pay. You're more directly improving your local economy by letting more of your money stay in your area - and your local economy is far important than the economy of a city 2,000 miles away from you. I'm not anti-corporation; not at all. I work for a corporation. Many, or even most, people do. But, when you patronize a very, very large corporation, such as a megachain restaurant, most of your ticket goes to feed that huge "machine."
Food quality and freshness is one big reason to eat at independent restaurants. Most of them actually prepare and cook the food they serve. Very little is pre-prepared, pre-portioned, and shipped from a huge central warehouse. In general, they purchase basic ingredients such as meat, vegetables, spices, and so on, and then turn those into the dishes they serve you. You're paying a premium to have food cooked and served to you - don't you want it to actually ... be cooked for you rather then essentially reheated and assembled? I know I do! Plus - many indie restaurants now locally source some (or even all!) of their ingredients - increasing freshness and benefit to the local economy.
You're also more likely to have a good experience at an indie shop or restaurant. You may hear from your server the wonderful story of how the owner learned to cook with his Grandfather and always wanted to open a restaurant, and finally did... and here you are eating there. Or you may ask about a dish on the menu, one you've never seen or heard of before, and you'll hear how it's a generations-old family recipe. Or you may not. You may just hear how the server is working her way through college but likes the family that owns the place, and that's cool too.
Indie shops are generally the same way. Go to an indie comic or game shop - and you'll find the owner and staff are just as geeky about those things as you are. The big box places? "Derp, what's that?"
I think another big thing I'm trying to convey is that indie business owners (and usually their employees) usually care more, and about more than just their paycheck, or what job they'll be at in 6 months. They generally want to build a lasting relationship with their patrons. They want to be the place you go first when you think of whatever it is they sell - be it Mexican food or Magic: The Gathering cards. The chains/big boxers? Meh, there's 1000 other people shopping there and they're all the same. "NEXT!"
I suppose another problem may be that people don't even know where to find the indies. The commercial/retail districts in most cities, from the largest to the smallest, are pretty much laid out exactly the same way, and it's all big box stores and megachain eateries. You've got to get off the main drags.
One big help can be review apps/sites such as Yelp. Most of the reviews on these services are of indie business, and can be a huge help in finding places that are off the beaten path. Plus, you can read what others have said about them, and decide if it sounds like something you'd enjoy. (Full disclosure: I am a reviewer on Yelp [it is a free service, though, and no reviewer is paid], so that's why I mentioned it by name. It's not the only restaurant/business review site/app/service, though.)
Sometimes, though, taking a chance is just fun. Driving around town, and see a Mexican restaurant with a sign in mostly Spanish? It's probably good. Step inside, take a look at the menu. Does it have things such as al pastor, lengua, menudo, caldo de res, or even cabeza on it? It's mostly likely a very good Mexican place. Eat there.
The same goes for anything, really - look for a place that's obviously independently owned and check it out. Even the slickest megachain-pretending-to-be-indie is fairly easy to suss out. The main thing is you have to look away from the "main drag" retail districts.
So, I've been editing, adding to, and re-wording parts of this post for a little over an hour now, and it's still not "perfect" and I feel it's still too negative in parts. I'm so excited about supporting indies, and really just want to convey why it's so important, but it's so hard to convey!
We're still alive. It's just that it's Winter and there's very little opportunity to do much of anything that's "blog-worthy." I'm sure once warm weather returns we'll be posting like mad again!
Lizz and I decided not to finish the long series of entries about our Michigan road trip. The next entry would have covered the Ann Arbor portion of our trip, and the problem is there's no way to convey in text how special Ann Arbor is to us, and without being able to do that, we both felt there wasn't a lot of point in finishing the series.
Suffice it to say, the rest of the trip was hella-fun and leave it at that!
Until next entry... Have fun! :D
Yesterday was "learn to brew" day, and as planned we brewed our first all-grain batch during this event. Everything went exactly as planned and all gravity and yield targets were met or slightly exceeded and the beer is happily fermenting at home in our hobby room.
Before brewing this beer, I read, and read, and read, and read some more on the all-grain process, until it seemed very boring. I really wanted this first batch to go very smoothly, and all the reading definitely paid off.
The main thing we learned about brewing "in the wild" (at a club member's house, instead of at home) is that it's probably a good idea to keep a checklist of everything you might need. We only forgot one thing - a lighter to start our burner. Luckily other club members had them - but next time, we'll make a checklist so we have everything.
All-grain brewing is fun - even more fun that brewing with extract, even though it's more work. You definitely get more of a sense that you're creating your own beer.
Our next batch, a Berliner Weisse, is planned for 11/18!
The next equipment purchase for our homebrewery is likely a new kettle - one with a ball valve and perhaps a sight glass as well. The kettle we have is fine for capacity - it'll hold about 7 gallons - but it doesn't have a ball valve, so we have to use a siphon to transfer the wort into the fermentor. A valve would just make everything easier and more efficient. Kettles are expensive though, so we'll have to plan the purchase.
So we haven't brewed much lately. Our Secret Project IBA is in secondary and will be kegged soon, and thus revealed to the unsuspecting world. Er, at least homebrew enthusiasts in our area, anyway. We'll be brewing our first all-grain batch, an ESB, at Learn to Brew day this coming Sunday.
What we're most excited about, though, is our upcoming collaboration brew with Kopacetic Beer Factory! We'll be brewing a nice big Barleywine on Kopacetic's jealousy indudcing custom-built 15 gallon keggle system. It will be fun, and it will be soon!
Short update for today - I just wanted to let our tiny audience know we're still alive and still brewing!
In non-brewing news, well, there isn't much. Motorcycling season is pretty much over here in Indiana, so no bike road trips to report on. We don't travel much during the cold months, so, no othe road trips to talk about either.
Mainly we've been baking (or, she has, anyway - I watch and help), enjoying craft beer, working on small home projects, and hanging out at our local publick haus. :)
We'd been anxiously awaiting Valpo Brewfest for months! We got VIP tickets which meant we'd get a neat Tshirt, early entrance and access to some food/beer pairings. Huzzah!
It was a cold and rainy morning the on Sept 24th, so when we set forth for Valpo Brewfest. Since we don't have much in the way of wet/cold weather gear for being on a bike for long distances, we opted to take the Kia Soul. No big sacrifice =)
Semi-trucks exploding on the interstate seems to be a big trend right now. We saw 3 in various stages of cleanup on the way up. I'm voting a way thumbs-down to this new trend. I don't like it one bit.
We rolled into Valpo around half an hour before the event started. Anyone that's been around us for any amount of time knows we like to stroll/walk/amble/shamble around so we shambled around Valpo a bit and then said "ehh, close enough" and made our way to the entrance 20 mins early.
So we're in line, we actually *are* the line at that point. Chatted with entrance-guy about Harley's and the risk/reward factor of riding outside of your hometown. We're pro, he's a bit con.
And then yes! Check in time! Woohoo! Our ID's are checked, we wait more, then our tickets are scanned.
Seems the clock on the scanner wasn't informed they were starting to scan a few minutes early!
We get our leet VIP badges on a lanyard and wait in line for our pint glasses. I then spy the most beautiful sight in the world:
Yes! The restrooms!
I mean the Left Hand moomobile!
Mootooth - a Left Hand Milk Stout/Sawtooth concoction is served from this here ve-HICKLE.
Mmm... I'm salivating a little.
We commence the Running of the VIP Bulls and head to the swag/pairing tent where we grab our Tshirts (mine too large, sigh, makes a nice minidress though) and try our first beer/food pairing.
I'm ashamed to admit that I got no photos of it, nor do I remember what it was.
But it was good =)
The thing that I was disappointed about with the pairings is this, and I know, they're on a budget, I *do* understand.
If your beer is good, your pastry/cheese/meat had BETTER be equally as good.
Sadly this wasn't the case for many of the pairings. But free meat and cheese is still good! /nodsnodsnods
Off to Mootooth!
Yes, Mootooth is everything you've dreamt about and more. I highly recommend seeking out the mobile and getting one, or making your own at home.
Frankly, I don't have a lot of photos, and the official site has really good ones.
Here's the standouts from the event:
-As always we love Figure 8's beers as well as the owners/brewers. We spent time enjoying their Black Corridor (Imperial Chocolate Stout, oh goodnesss it was tasty!) and voted for them for the Hoosier Brewer Award. So did a lot of other people, because they won!)
-Devil's Trumpet is not yet open, but they are going to be a brewery to watch for and stalk at festivals whenever possible until they open their doors. Pink Nightmare was an excellent excellent sour, Black Mastermind was an excellent darker beer, and because I have no list I can access of their other beers, I can't name any others. The 2:00 special tappings went out right-quick. Jon and I weren't the only ones impressed by them. Keep your eyes on them folks, especially if you like sours and interesting beers ala Jolly Pumpkin in Michigan.
-The beer/food pairings were a great step in the right direction! More, and I'll pay for better quality food to go with the beer!
-The setting for this couldn't have been better. No long hiking, but enough walking to kind of 'work it off' a bit =) Nice variety of food available, though we did not eat at the festival.
Bummers from the event:
-Despite rumors, too many tables not staffed by people from the breweries. I'm really disappointed about this.
-Some breweries on the list didn't attend. That's fine though because we loved the ones that did =)
The best part of this festival that you missed if you didn't go
If you take nothing else from this rambling post, take this from it:
The people at this festival were by and large REALLY into their beer. Names of beer websites, photos of booths, photos of beer, and people 'checking in' the beers they drank were the norm rather than the exception.
As opposed to, yes I'm going to name names, Broadripple Brewfest, the main point for attendees here didn't seem to be to get smashed. The point was to experience new/favorite beers (and get some merch and have fun of course).
This is the fest that will get our money next year, no doubt about it. If you're a brewer/brewery that didn't attend, make it happen next year. This is your beer-appreciating audience right here.
Post-fest we had a bit of coffee at Cornucopia Coffee and ate at the always fabulous Pikk's Tavern. I way over indulged and we split their frites, a scotch egg (2nd best anywhere), a gorgeous 21 day aged 16oz steak, and my indulgence mainly was their bread. Holy god their bread is good.
And then my eyes wandered near where we parked. Should we? Yes we should!
Off to Valpo Velvet. My dear friends, I'm going to confess to the salad, but not to my dessert. What happens at the Velvet stays at the Velvet.
We had a need for pinball that could not be quenched other than by going to Figure 8 Brewing and finally playing the Addams Family pin. The first time we went to F8, some guy named Tom (kidding!) was on the machine and it didn't seem right to bump him off, the second time the machine didn't want to take money. But ahhh this trip was the payoff! We split a Raven Tor and played the pin! Lynne Uban told us a bit about this particular pinball machine's history and though Mike Lahti admired my playing I just knew that post-festival post-sugary desserts I saw way too many balls drain way too fast.
My friends, if you made it this far though the entry, you love beer too. Go to the Valpo Brewfest next year. This is a place for others who truly love beer in all it's glorious permutations!
Published on September 21st, 2011 @ 12:52:00 pm , using 16 words, 114193 views
Just a hint of one thing that's been (happily!) taking up a bit of our time...
Published on September 20th, 2011 @ 11:38:00 am , using 36 words, 21459 views
Just a quick note to let readers know I'm not dead, and everything's ok. There just hasn't been a lot of time to blog lately. I (or Lizz!) will get back to it soon, I promise!
And so with this post, I risk alienating or even offending 50% or more of my readers.
A month or more ago, I made a post about the original purpose of this domain, and mentioned I may be recovering the magazine's issues from archive.org. Well - I can't. It's not all there, and archive.org isn't spiderable anyway. I'd have to manually download all the HTML files and graphics, and then painstakingly hand-edit all the HTML to make it work outside the archive.org world. It would be too much work, and SoD tradition is a total reboot anyway, so I won't be undertaking the recovery.
Anyway - the time is now to make a post about where things are going in this arena for us. If you're likely to get offended by alternative spirituality practices and the like, you may want to skip this post. We still love beer and "real food" and traveling and the like and you will still see posts about that stuff. But this one's a little different.
I'm inserting a pagebreak to give people one last chance to easily skip this post...
Pages: 1· 2
Published on July 20th, 2011 @ 08:25:00 am , using 1059 words, 21280 views
Armed with some interesting directions, we head out to Stella's Lounge.
To get to it, we walk past Hopcat.
We, well, we get a bit turned around and lost. Jon knows where it is, sort of, and I'm floundering but frankly when you have blue hair people notice you, so when I flounder I try to do it with purpose and style.
"She says its down an alley"
We peer down this rather *large* alley. All along the side of one building is a Little Shop of Horrors-esque mural of plant life taking things over. I didn't get a photo of that as I was kender distracted by:
Classic Arcade games. A pile of skulls on the outside of the building. It's black and looks inviting and dark. This is looking very good indeed.
We enter, and hear:
Yes, The Ramones Beat on the Brat. "Oh yeah, Oh yeah, uh-OH!"
This is looking and feeling great! Nice and dark, with a long bar. We slide up to it.
Clearly fate has brought us here, and I'm getting really Nacho-Night happy. We both order 21 year Bushmill's and settle in to study the menu and the decor.
The decor: The bar has encased in acrylic concert tickets. Bauhaus. Love and Rockets. The Ramones. The Doors. Pretty much any interesting band that fits the vibe has a concert ticket on the bar.
On a board to the back left of the bar are all sorts of interesting vintage/psuedo vintage flyers announcing all sorts of interesting concerts. To the left of that were what seemed like 20+ interesting video games. All operational - and a board over the machines listed high scores. There's some sort of contest regarding scores that the whiskey made it a little bleary to remember. But they're very keen on their video games and pin ball machines.
The jukebox is playing a steady stream of dark wave/garage punk-rock-things/classic weird rock and other things that basically mirror the deconstructed nitty-gritty parts of Jon and I's music library. Morrissey comes on. Bam, it changes. Bartender would have none of it while he was on duty ;). Jon and I nod - we like M and The Smiths but the whining has to go. Especially when we're sipping on good whiskey.
We make our food selections and choose the D&B to start with - fried pickles and olives. *happy sigh* I already knew the joys of fried pickles thanks to our friend Danyel, but I never knew deep fried olives were an option. I highly recommend them.. Just go ahead and buy some olives, batter those suckers and deep fry them. You will thank me.
The main course was their Stella Blue Stuffed Burger. We separated it from the bun and forked it down. *eyelids flutter* Yes its as good as it sounds like it would be, if you love blue cheese and bacon.
Have I mentioned before that it would be pretty much impossible for me to be whatever-weight-I'm-at-right-now if I lived in Grand Rapids? They have some sweet food here.
Most of the menu is vegan. Not vegetarian, but vegan. And, important!, vegan in a way that's tasty to carnivores. The meat menu is called Pet Cemetary. Really if you want a good giggle you must check out their menu linked above on their website. Great names. Good food!
I haven't mentioned their beers yet. Well, they have 6 taps, I think one that day was a Founder's we'd had the day before and I just wasn't feeling the rest. The bartender chatted with us for a bit and found out we, like many other making the pilgrimage to Grand Rapids, were there for the beer.
"Oh! We also own Pyramid Scheme! They have a ton by Shorts Brewing on tap, you ever tried their beer?" We shook our heads "You *have* to go there next, it's just down a side alley"
We linger a bit to soak in the atomosphere more. We'll be back here for the food next time we're in Grand Rapids. It's not gourmet high-class food, but it's our kind of food.
The Pyramid Scheme
We duck down the alley and get to Pyramid Scheme.
We walk in. Lots of taps. Mostly a huge room with movable tables and around, hm, 5+ pinball machines in the right hand corner. Ahh, pins. As much as we love them though, we never did end up playing one there!
The bar has a *ton* of shorts beers on tap. When the bartender hears we're beer-touring, he says:
"You ever tried Short's Key Lime Pie?"
Nooo, we hadn't. He got us a sample.
Though we brew what I'd call 'weirdo beers', we don't generally seek out intense novelty beers. We tried this one. Yes, it does actually have every single Key Lime Pie ingredient in it. I wouldn't drink this with food, and I wasn't in the mood for it right at that moment - but it was very well done.
He lines us up a few more samples and I settle on The Magician by Shorts. It's a very nice Irish Red Ale. I take notes on it. You may have noticed that I'm not linking to Beer Advocate right now. Well, that's because my red notebook has gone AWOL again. I really need to put a belled collar on it or something.
Jon's not really into any of the beers, so I'm somewhat self-consciously drinking The Magician alone and chatting with the bartender. I've got my Three Floyds workshirt on, because I'm part of the cult and like their tainted Kool-Aid. He asks if I work for them, and I state that no, I don't, but wouldn't that be fun!?
He hasn't been to The Mothership so we tell him to get his butt to Three Floyds already since he loves their beers. We talk about IPA's for awhile.
We are, at this point, pretty much guaranteed to get to Short's Brewing Company soon. Well, as 'soon' as a trip to the very north of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan can be planned out =)
We wander back to the parking structure, pay the fee and head back to the hotel for a little regrouping before we figure out what to do next...
In the past, I've had stretches of maybe a few weeks, a month or so tops, where I haven't gamed much or at all - but as of right now it's been several months since I've done any gaming. I did convert my main machine to Linux a month or so ago, and did test some games under it, but it was just testing; I didn't play.
Why? Well, as you can see, we've taken a lot of road trips so far this year, and that's been extremely fun and exciting. There's also the brewing we've been doing, and brewing/beer education when we're not brewing, plus the food stuff (the chicken group, etc) and just other stuff that happily takes up my time, so gaming just hasn't been on my mind.
Another reason is that the games themselves and the way they are played have changed a lot. I don't mind the focus on easier content ala WoW and the rest. I do mind the evaporation of community, though. Unless you have a large guild of friends, you don't get much "community experience" in most MMOs nowadays. It was normal to have open conversations in pick-up dungeon groups or zone-wide chat back in earlier days. Now, not so much. A RDF group in WoW is silent. Zone chat is nothing but Chuck Norris jokes and [Anal] links. And it's not just WoW - that's just an easy example. Ah well, things change!
I still follow the industry in a general way via Twitter and blogs and such, but I haven't had the desire, much less the time, to actually play anything.
It may be that I'll take up single player games, which can be taken in much smaller doses, instead of MMO gaming in the future. Lizz has always enjoyed watching the more "cinematic" games as I play them - Dragon Age, Bioshock, and the like. That may end up being a good winter pasttime when we have to hole up inside much of the time.
So, have I retired from MMO gaming after nearly 14 years? I don't know. If I ever get a desire to play heavily again and the time to do so, I may pick something up. For now though, both the time and the desire to invest that much in a game are just not there.
Published on July 15th, 2011 @ 05:14:00 pm , using 532 words, 35254 views
We decided that Madcap coffee was well reviewed and may have appropriate coffee for us.
As we've said before, when we travel, we bring our own homeroasted pre-ground coffee and our Melitta cone brewer. Most industrial coffee makes me very sick to my stomach.
We walk in, and I'm greeted with this sign:
In case you can't read it in the image, espresso and macchiato are marked 'for here only'.
Yes. This is correct. They are not meant to be nursed. They are meant to be drunk very soon after they're created.
I see to my right a lot of pourover cone brewers.
I sigh happily and choose one of their coffees to drink.
Not much seating, but we take a seat around the counter, near the espresso machine. The espresso machine, it comforts me.
I sip it, black. Jon looks at me quizzically. I shut my eyes and savor. Though I generally like some small amount of dairy fats as a flavor vector (since some compounds in coffee do not come fully forward without fats as a carrier) even black this coffee is exquisite.
I breathe a huge sigh, letting out the tension from the Place That Will Not be Named and offer some to Jon.
We both approve.
We discuss the coffee, how wonderful this place seems, and relax a bit more.
I get an espresso.
Sweet, rich - still a dark Italian style while I do prefer a more carmelly espresso, but oh so perfectly done.
We do what we have done on roadtrips this year - we ask the staff where we should go next, specifying that we want to go to a place that is to beer and maybe food as they are to coffee. We mention proteiny things and I go to use the restroom.
I come out, we're told to go to Stella's. I don't know what a Stella's is, but the Yelp rating looks good, and we're shown a take out menu from them.
Yes! Seems promising! We get vague directions and are planning to mill around and head that way.
During our milling around, I am glomped.
A rather intoxicated rather homeless person who is walking with two friends comes up to us and .. I can't really make out precisely what he's saying, but he's saying something about my hair and that it's really great and awesome and Jon is wonderful too, because we're both really cool! Then he does the semi-drunken thing of putting his arms on our shoulders and hanging between us.
"I love you guys!!1.1..."
I pat his hands/arms. He loves a lot right now, but seems to love the concept of people who don't look like everyone else. His two friends, more sober than he, are hanging behind giving Jon and I the look of 'He's OK, just humor him'. I'm not going to be mean to him, he's had an interesting life that led him to this point, and maybe two people being nice to him that day will be a good memory for him when he wakes up the next day.
His friends gather him and he stumbles off.
So do we. We're Stella bound.
One thing we've always noticed about our local food business community is that, at least to us - admittedly outsiders, not employed in the business - it seems that the businesses are very friendly and supportive of each other. There does not seem to be any of the hyper-competitiveness you see and read/hear about in other areas - and that's a very cool thing to see. We've even seen a restaurant stop selling a certain type of dish that was a new restaurant's specialty. That was truly wonderful to see.
Now we're being offered the opportunity to collaborate with a much more experienced homebrewer, who also happens to be employed at a brewery. It's an amazing opportunity, and we're both kid-at-Christmas excited about it. Just another example of the food/beer community around here!
So now of course we have to decide what style to brew for this project, as that was left up to us. Assuming the system can handle the grain bill, we're currently thinking of an American Barleywine. It's a style that everyone involved enjoys, and something Lizz and I wanted to brew anyway, so it should be a good choice.
Speaking of brewing - we have numerous beers planned for the future, including a Coconut IPA, a re-tooling of Fucking Ball ov Sunshine, among other things. We're also planning to brew a Kolsch. Yes, just a normal, unadorned Kolsch. We typically don't "dream" up "normal" beers, as we certainly share FFF's motto, "It's not normal!", but sometimes, a nice, easy drinking, low ABV brew is needed and Kolsch fits the bill perfectly.
For those waiting on the edge of their seats for Lizz's next travelog entries, fear not, they are coming! She's been ultra-busy with work and keeping the house guest-friendly, so hasn't had a ton of blogging time. She will not disappoint you though, and the entries will come soon.
Published on July 13th, 2011 @ 08:05:00 am , using 768 words, 66698 views
We head out to The Place Which Will Not Be Named.
And this is where the entry gets a bit reflective.
To malaprop-paraphrase the late great Bill Hicks - if you're here for beer chat, we're getting to that. I got a *lot* of that. But this is good too, so hang in there.
We get to the dining establishment and are seated.
This is a non-chain establishment, and it's around late-lunchtime. I've checked reviews on Yelp and the majority of reviews are that the food is a bit overpriced for what it is, but generally good. I'm sharing this so you know where maybe my expectations are when we enter.
We're seated by the window. The sun has finally come out, a relief as we were ducking absolutely pouring rain going into Hopcat (karma for the giggling at the rained on club girls the night before? Probably!).
The server comes up. Young, attractive, no body art, 1 unusual adornment. Over-made up for the weather outside. Over-made up compared to all the places we have been in Grand Rapids.
(We all profile by appearance, even when we try not to, so no judging for me trying to describe her so you get the mood of the thing. If it makes you feel better, she probably profiled us too.)
We study the menu. We order 2 things that seem rather proteiny and filling to people who are used to splitting entrees. They're appetizers, but sound promising. We're pretty excited at this point!
At our usual places in Lafayette/in Indiana, the staff knows us and I know that all waitstaff has their mask/barrier up. It's part of survival. They're not acting, they're not being fake - they're being who they are while in the role of service-industry. I respect that, I have to do that in my business too to a certain extent.
Some people are more willing to share their selves with you than others are. This is true within a service industry/customer relationship and out of it. Everyone has a different set of social barriers. Things one person shares readily, another may never share except with their most intimate friends.
This server felt very.. angry. Her body language and the way she moved wasn't just matter of factly, it was as if she was angry at the water. Angry at the floor that she had to walk on. Angry at the staff, angry at the customers.
This was swimming under a very lovely but very 'over produced' facade. She's conventionally lovely and the role she chose is a 'cute wait staff that dots her I's with flowers' kind of person. But her entire being doesn't match it.
My lower, middle and upper systems of interpreting emotions are a little overloaded. The lizard, child and higher being are trying to figure this stuff out and it's a little too much for my brain to deal with.
Did we do something wrong? Is she angry at us? Is she angry that she's working?
Jon and I dig into the food, which is a *lot less food* than expected in all cases. The first course was good, but not exceptional. I don't usually mind restaurant tricks to make things look larger than they are, but today I resent what they've done.
The 'main' meat course comes out and is smaller than expected. It was good, but Jon and I have done similar things to both courses at home and been much happier with it. I've now had maybe 3 oz of protein total and I'm not a happy woman.
I believe people probably like this eating establishment, but the wait staff is really confusing me, and I'm not happy with the food.
I have no unrealistic expectation that wait staff be thrilled with their job or with serving me.
I do my best to make the experience generally pleasant, as I don't view staff as machine-like things that are meant to serve me. I view them as people, and I try to treat everyone well.
I don't feel like we were treated well. We were treated as 'things' not as people. Since I do my best to not treat people as machines or things, I felt a bit put off and slightly offended.
We pay, and leave. I'm really bummed out at this point.
I won't tell you about my mini breakdown, but it involved cheese, and a nice but confused person who wanted to make my day brighter, but could see that probably the best thing to do was disengage.
We decide to go to a place that may or may not feel like home.
A good friend of Jon and ours commented thusly on my Facebook wall:
"Thanks for all the commentary from the road. I enjoy your ramblings. It makes me think I may have missed something - not having drunk any beer since college. -)"
The thing is that the roadtrips aren't really about the beer.
That's just The Man Who Travelled in Elephants 'hook' to make the road trips possible.
- It's about finding something, anything, to get your mind working in a different direction.
- It's about looking around the world a bit
- It's about meeting new people.
- It's about "Getting out of Dodge" and experiencing new things.
- It's about shaking things up a bit.
- It's about learning about new cities and states.
- It's about seeing someone's passion for their job shine through.
- It's about learning to literally or metaphorically taste new things in life.
- It's about firing up your creativity (ask us how many beers we now have planned? *grin*)
When you come back home, it's about appreciating where you live, who you are, and how you got there.
It's not all about the beer. It's about us all.
Published on July 12th, 2011 @ 08:07:00 am , using 1023 words, 21791 views
I call Hopcat, and I imagine that I'm sounding a little weird. I had my potatoes thankfully, but I'm a little edgy when I lose things, especially important things.
Me: "I left my red notebook there last night and all my beer tasting notes are in it"
Person_on_phone: "If I had known that, I probably would have read through it! It's here behind the bar, just ask about it when you come"
Back to the scene of The Crime
Indeed they did have my notebook and I thank them profusely. I know most bars take their lost and founds rather seriously - since one person's written on dirty napkin is another's plans for world domination, but I appreciate it.
And, holy "Bob" Dobbs, the person that was behind the bar was the beer buyer! He introduced himself and shook my hand and asked me what I was planning to drink. I told him honestly that I had no idea.
That wouldn't do, not at all, nosirree - so he lined me up some samples. I'm always so very thankful to get to try samples before I commit to a full pour, so I thank him probably 10x more than I need to and start sipping.
Two were from Atwater Block Brewery in Detroit. One was Grand Circus - a lovely pale, and Teufel Bock. I liked them both, but Teufel Bock gets my most excited noises between the two. Molassses and earthy tones, picking up the wood of the Hopcat bar. Yes! We will be visiting Atwater on our next SE Michigan trip.
I mentioned my sour beer obsession. Oh, the buyer knew exactly what I'd like
"Have you heard of Jolly Pumpkin?"
Heard of them, we had vague plans maybe of going there. They're kind of the 'sour and interesting beer people' and since we tend to like sours, and we're both vaguely interesting maybe we were pretty keen in getting to know them and their beers better.
We knew Hopcat had quite a few on by them so were going to sample their lineup there and skip the trip this time. Maybe.
Bam Biere is a good Saison. Bam Noir knocks my tastebuds into high 'must have more' gear.
Madrugada Obscura gets its own paragraph. Imagine a rich very sexy stout. Because stouts are sexy, what with all the body and lovely rich malty notes. But, there's a sour tone to it, and it's a rich sour. A rich sour that somehow goes with and contrasts the malt at the same time that it's making friends with it. It's a sweet courtship ritual in your mouth and you're lucky enough to witness it. Finishes beautifully.
Yes. That is coming home with us in a growler. We think of Danyel who loves malty beers like Jon and I do - and also loves sour beers. This is the beer she's going to try from the trip.
In the meantime, I'm going to make friends with Bam Noir. I get a full pour and start enjoying the wonderful sour notes of this beer. It's making me miss baking bread, since it reminds me of the sour rye starters that the wild yeasts in our kitchen are happy to help us produce.
A palate cleanser? You bet.
"Crack Fries, please!"
Were they as advertised? I think you'll have to see for themselves, but yes we did want more... =)
Down the bar arrived two other travellers. I always eavesdrop so I heard that they'd travelled from up the coast of MI down to Hopcat and were 'going home'.
I'm part kender. I swear to you, minus the topknot. I always play a rogue in online and role playing games, and I have the somewhat charming propensity to just start randomly talking to people. A bar is a nice place for that, since it doesn't seem unusual. I don't think.
So I strike up a conversation. They're from Dayton, OH and went to Traverse City (to Shorts Brewing, if I remember correctly). We talk about the beers they've met along the way. A really nice couple - they're witnessing a revitalization of Dayton, OH that sounds exciting. Independent bars with craft taps are opening and the music scene is being expanded. They take their leave soon and he leaves me with his card, which I'll pass on to you in digital form here: http://ghettoblastermagazine.com/. I wish them all the luck in the world in Dayton - I really think that the city is due for some more indy love.
I get back to talking to Jon and enjoying Bam Noir. At this point in the trip, I'm already starting to have the odd reaction that I get to industrial oils. As if you didn't think I was odd enough already, my mouth gets absolutely inflamed and painful after I've had fried food or a lot of chips. The Crack Fries are actually fine, in fact they're helping me in many ways!, but the oils from the day before are punishing me.
Girl needs protein, badly, frankly. I've been slacking on it, because it's hard to get lean protein without any wheat and adjustable carbohydrates/fat at restaurants. To say I'm a little of a nutrition geek may be an understatement, but when the atmosphere allows, I'm happy to just nibble and have a good time. It was time, though, to start listening to my macronutrient hunger signals.
I admit to the lovely bartender (the buyer has moved on to buying) that I'm about to break a golden rule, but I'm looking for protein in the fair city of Grand Rapids that doesn't come in the form of a sandwich or can be wheat-free. Her and two regulars down the bar from us think about it, and ask us a few questions. They make A Recommendation Which I Won't Name Here for Purposes to Become Clear Later and Jon and I figure it's worth a try.
We nab the growler of beer and thank the bartender and the local people. We head out to the Place Which Will Not Be Named.