Happy April Fools. I have nothing interesting to tell you about, except to point you at some funnies I have seen on Homestar and Google. I just found out about yet two more trips I'll be taking with the new job, both to the San Luis Obispo area, in California. The first trip will take place in early May, and the second in late June. I am just on the go, lately, or at least I will be.
I went to Des Moines on a whim, on Saturday evening, to go drinking with Alex, Keith, and Sarah, as I had nothing going on at home. While up there, I didn't sleep, because we drank until 3 and gambled until 6. I came back to Kansas City on Sunday morning with more money than I left with on Saturday, so it wasn't a fruitless trip. Brian and I saw Hellboy tonight, and were very entertained. I think I might see it again, but will definitely get the DVD when it comes out.
I just purchased and installed Far Cry on my PC, and it seems to suffer from the UbiSoft brand pain in the butt: checkpoint-style game saves. It gets pretty frustrating when you've come through an area that was hard fought, and you then make a dumb mistake and die, and have to return to where you were twenty minutes earlier. The game, however, is amazing in appearance. The lighting, the water, and the physics are all more advanced than anything I've seen yet. Unfortunately, the AI and the acting are terrible, almost comical.
I'm still at home, waiting for them to get some things taken care of, at work. The days have been boring, to say the least, as I have been busying myself filling out the seemingly endless stream of paperwork required for government work, and fielding phonecalls from people reminding me to fill out said paperwork. It's fine, but I am really looking forward to having some actual work to do. I'm going in on Wednesday, to make an appearance and enjoy a training "primer," with Geoff.
Then, all next week, I'll be going into work to get trained on the system administration duties with the software we'll be supporting. It looks like my days at home will only be interrupted for a while, however, as no projected start date is yet in sight, and they still not have a physical facility for me, TJ, and the 20-30 machines we're going to support.
I have made a couple small changes to some of the backend code of this site, so now, for the .3 people who check this site's RSS Feed can see that each post now has a topic included in it. So now, instead of sifting through completly meaningless dates as topics, you get actual words in English, painstakingly chosen by me, in an attempt to provide value to YOU. I also set up some archiving stuff with the site comments, the functionality of which I will not unveil until I finalize the code, and the use of the new code has gone back quite a while. Considering this site generally gets about 5-10 comments a week, when I bother to update it at reasonable intervals, it should take long before the new feature rears its ugly head.
Oh, and Happy Easter, if you go in for that sort of thing.
Brian and I were up at the veritable crack of dawn today, taking care of Easter business. I made some site changes(and there are more to come), and we had a delicious breakfast at the Corner Restaurant. We even got in some phonecalls, a trip to the ATM, and a game of Warcraft, before heading to Kauffman Stadium to see the entirety of the game that ended in the above score. We got home, and fell heavily to sleep watching something about Nostradamus.
For the inaugural run of the Draught of the Week, I have decided to go and taste the delicious winter ale that New Belgium Brewery, in Fort Collins, CO makes. Before going to Barley's in Shawnee, KS, I had only seen this beer on tap at one other place: Charlie Hooper's Tavern in Kansas City's Brookside neighborhood. Brian and I plugged out to Barley's, and enjoyed a delicious dinner before trying the first draught in unison. First, we tried a couple of beers independently, to get a feeling for beer-tasting.
When we sat down, I noticed that their beer list has this unfortunate notice on it:
Not one to despair, I ordered one of their 99 beers on draught, and washed it down with a KC Strip Steak. At surprisingly regular intervals, our waiter checked back with us, and saw that we seemed overly interested in all the beers they had on tap. At this, he offered us a tour of the keg cooler, a two-story, custom-made room for the purveying and cooling of their 99 varieties of beer.
This is the crane that they use to lift full kegs to the second level.
Anyway, on with the beer! Frambozen is a raspberry brown ale, with a very strong, but addictive flavor. The raspberry flavor hits you hard at first sip, along with the slightly higher-than-average alcohol content(6.5%). The first time I ever tried this(in a bottle), I didn't like it, but as I drank more of it, it grew on me to the point that I loved it. It's very dark, but still very sweet, rich, and sneaky. Here it is before doing its damage.
It's sneaky, because you don't really notice, as you drink it, that it's about twice as strong as a normal American beer. After confidently drinking three of them, talking about politics and rocket design, you get up to pee, and the room seems to have been moved onto the deck of a boat at sea. This is not a beer to follow with an important drive, speech, or sudden movement.
When it's over, it prettily sparkles at you from the empty glass(on special tonight for $2.50), giving you a feeling of guilt and ungentlemanliness at not having another one at the ready. But, we had to get home, and the beer was good enough in memory.
Ratings (out of ten):
Flavor: 8 (Has replay value. Taunts you.)
Body: 7 (The flavor has a 15-second party in your mouth, and politely cleans up and goes away)
Aroma: 9 (Hits you like a ton of bricks, with machine guns)
Smoothness: 6 (because of its initial roughness)
Price: 8 (I can't complain about $2.50)
I have completed writing for a new section of bahua dot com: Draught of the Week. You can see each one, each week(or so), by clicking on the "DOTW" link in the side menu. Enjoy!
I actually went into the office every day this week, for training on the new job. I learned that an install of Red Hat Linux(which I hadn't used in almost four years) takes only 15-20 minutes, while Gentoo, the flavor of Linux I use now, generally takes the better part of a day. I also got to listen to hours and hours of instruction on how to fill out our administrative paperwork. I will be going into the office from here on, and I can't wait to get started. I'll be leaving for Pennsylvania on Sunday, so I think I'll try to squeeze a DOTW in before that, so I can time it into doing one while in Philadelphia, next week.
Last night, I gave Nathan a call, and we went out and spent an ungodly amount of money on beer and fun. We started the evening off at Harry's Country Club, down in the River Market area. When our waitress promptly stopped by to take our drink orders, I asked my default question: "What do you have on tap?" Nathan ordered a Chimay.
She went through an impressive list of about ten beers, and finished off with the one I expected least: Boulevard's Bully Porter. It is brewed in Kansas City, and is available throughout Boulevard's current distribution range, which currently covers several cities, in nine states. However, Bully Porter seems notoriously difficult to find on tap anywhere. I know of a couple of bars that have had it on tap before, but stopped, because they (presumably) just couldn't move the stuff.
This is a shame, because it's one of the tastiest beers I know of, that's made in Kansas City. It's certainly my favorite of Boulevard's all-season beers. It is definitely the heaviest of all their offerings, and probably the least popular, because of this. Anyway, the waitress cheerfully brought out the draught of the week, along with the finest bottled beer available, for Nathan.
The glass sits a dark brown, almost black, and is completely restrictive of any light passing through it.
The flavor is reminiscent of coffee, and stays with you. It has a particularly pleasant bite when you have been drinking it for a while, as it passes over the sides of your tongue and out the back of your mouth, into your throat. It also stains clothes very well. If your plan is to get drunk from drinking Bully Porter, I'd recommend against brightly-colored clothing, as this stuff is about as tenacious in stain mode as motor oil.
Ratings (out of ten)
Flavor: 8 (heavy, dark, and delicious)
Body: 6 (The flavor stays with you, so it doesn't mix with other beers well.)
Aroma: 7 (It's pungent from up close, but you forget about it after a while.)
Smoothness: 8 (For as strong as it is, it goes down remarkably easily.)
Price: 6 (At 3-4 dollars a pull, it is priced normally.)
After that, we met up with Dave and Mickey, and got drunk.
Greetings from Mantua, NJ (a suburb of Philadelphia), where some very generous friends of Geoff are putting us up for a day or two, until we catch our hop back home. The training session was pretty bland, with about three hours out of 40 of those we spent in training actually dedicated to what we do for a living. The part that was really cool was Harrisburg, which was about ten minutes from where we stayed. Their downtown is unbelievable for a city of that size(~50,000), but that topic will be discussed in further detail at a point to be determined.
f you can believe our luck, there is a beer festival here in Philadelphia today. Something like 25 brewers from the immediate region will be here, bent on getting us drunk. There, I have determined, will be the next Draught of the Week.
Here follows the written account it took me the better part of the flight back from PA to write. Lots of pictures are on the way.
I arrived at Philadelphia Airport from Kansas City on a very uncomfortable flight (I'll never volunteer for a rear aisle seat again.) about an hour behind US Airways' purported schedule. Geoff, it turned out, had met a bit more harsh of a traffic menace, traversing New York and New Jersey by rental car, than he had expected. So, we were both just as late as each other in arriving at Philly, so no one was any worse for the wear, except Geoff, having just dealt with 145 miles of hell that is commonly known as the New Jersey Turnpike.
It was a beautiful day in eastern Pennsylvania, with abundant sunlight and temperatures in the eighties. Geoff delegated the bulk of the driving duties to me, having just legitimized my driving status in the eyes of the state of Missouri. The abundant sunlight had retreated back toward Kansas City by the time my plane rolled lazily into the busy airport, and our view, driving through the undulating forests of Pennsylvania was mostly that of the edges of trees stripped of their nighttime disguise by our headlights.
Our hotel in Harrisburg was predictably situated in a completely nondescript suburb, complete with Outback Steakhouse and Walmart. We settled into our less-than luxurious hotel rooms, and slept for the first day of training.
I won't go into the training we received, because for one, I could probably get into trouble for posting the information on the web, and secondly, I have little to no recollection of it, as it was irretrievably boring, and had almost nothing to do with my job. Nevertheless, I'm glad I went, because it was an excellent chance to get to meet some of the people with whom I will be working in my new job. It was a good chance to match up some faces with some email addresses.
Following the first day of training, Geoff and I went downtown, as we had made it a point before traveling that we would make sure to get a feel for Harrisburg. We left for downtown, and promptly got lost, enmeshed in the massive construction going on in the area. Eventually, we found ourselves on Enola Drive, which follows the opposite bank of the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, proceeded southeast, and were initially very surprised by the scale of Harrisburg's downtown, when we drew close.
Pennsylvania's capital city has only about 50,000 people, spread over about fifteen square miles. About twenty-five years ago, it was dubbed, "America's most Distressed City," because of its floundering economy, high crime rate, unemployment rate, and number of people leaving town for greener pastures in the suburbs. Enter Stephen Reed, who, once elected, employed a radical, almost unprecedented bit of government, in an attempt to turn the city around. He championed a tax on the value of the land in the city, in lieu of taxing property owners for the value of the property they own. The result, twenty-five years later, is the city that sits on the northeast bank of the Susquehanna today.
The city today is astounding, for a city of its size. Downtown encompasses an area of about 25 square blocks, and contains almost no vacant properties. Traffic is horrible, and the cost of parking is astronomical. Along Market Street, near the corners of Second through Sixth Streets, is bustling, busy, and full of people walking from bar to bar, sitting at cafes, jogging, and shopping. The buildings are pretty, as is the decor of the streets. Geoff and I managed to find a dive bar, just off the picturesque green in the middle of downtown, and took a look at the tap selection. When we saw, we knew we were definitely not in the midwest. Their selection was Coors Light, Guinness, Appalachian Water Gap Wheat, Troeg's Amber, and Yuengling Lager. There was nothing from Anheuser-Busch or Miller available on tap. I really wish that high-quality beer was as popoular in the Midwest as it is in the East.
Anyway, we returned to downtown on Tuesday night, and a ballgame, in which the lamentable Harrisburg Senators fell embarrassingly to Akron. For a double-A ballpark, PNC Park was very nice. It's located on City Island, in the middle of the Susquehanna, connected to downtown with an auto bridge, and with a disused rail bridge, converted to a pedestrian bridge. There were roughly fifteen different types of beer available on tap at the ballpark, about five of which I had heard of. We adjourned to an Irish pub in downtown for beer and scotch. From the next morning on, getting up in time to get to training became progressively more difficult.
After Wednesday's training, Geoff and I drove down to nearby Gettysburg to see the battlefield. It's a sobering experience, when you think of what scale the battle was, combined with the circumstances under which it was fought. I was absolutely shocked, however, to see a complete absence of memorials to any of the Confederate forces who fought and died there. It left a very bad taste in my mouth, as if even today, the South is viewed by people in the North as a contained enemy, unworthy of our tears, recognition, or even our notice. Nevertheless, I would recommend a trip to Gettysburg to anyone who ever visits the area.
On Thursday night, Geoff and I drove downtown in the rain, to pay a visit to the Appalachian Brewing Company. We stayed there until about midnight, and had an excellent time. The beer was delicious, and I got a chance to ask a couple of Harrisburg natives about the condition of their city. The bartender stamped his foot, and said that the success of Harrisburg, which is apparent to all residents, he said, is attributed to the "mayor mayor mayor." Kate, a very attractive girl who sat next to me at the bar said that though she is only twenty-five years old, she has noticed definite improvement in the city, and has no plans to leave the downtown area, as it's just too fun to leave.
Then, Geoff and I got drunk and returned to the hotel, by way of a hotel bar close to our own.
After training was done on Friday afternoon, Geoff and I enjoyed a steak dinner with some of our co-trainees, and left for Philadelphia. I can't recall when I've driven in such a deluge. It was raining so hard that visibility often dictated slowing down to a snail's pace, just to get our bearings, and sometimes, to regain contact with the pavement. Steve and Steph met us at the airport, where we dropped off the rental, and caught a wide-mouthed glimpse of the stunning Rudi Bakhtiar on Headline News in the Hertz office.
We got our first full night's sleep after a comfortable beer and conversation with Steve, who turns out to be a techie, himself, and a big fan of FreeBSD, the operating system that powers bahua dot com. We all got ready at our leisure, that morning, and got in the car for Manayunk Brewery, where we learned the previous night the Manayunk Brew Extravaganza would be held. The skies, which had dumped mercilessly the previous night, had cleared entirely, and the temperature played ball, too, at about 74 degrees. It was altogether perfect. We tried beers from dozens of regional breweries, and lost feeling in our fingertips.
We came back to Steve and Steph's house in New Jersey and enjoyed some more beer, and the unwavering hospitality of the happy couple, along with some Tenacious D.
On Sunday morning, we got out in Philadelphia, despite drizzly conditions and some uncomfortable winds. I tried by first ever Philly Cheesesteak, at Geno's in South Philly, and picked up some Cannoli at Isgro's, before heading over to Independence Hall for Liberty Bell pictures and such. We finished our Philadelphia weekend with a tower of Yuengling at Chickie's and Pete's, also in South Philadelphia.
It was an excellent trip.
I traveled to Pennsylvania, this week, and drank a lot of regional beer. In the end, I decided that the DOTW winner for the trip would have to be the renowned fruit of the mountains of Pottsville, PA: Yuengling Lager. I drank it a lot, last week, and decided to formally document it at Chickie's and Pete's, in South Philadelphia. Famous for their seafood, they also serve the 120-oz "Beer Tower."
It is a refrigerated, five-foot-tall column of beer, with a tap at the bottom, for easy conveyance. Note the ease of Geoff's conveying.
Yuengling pours a copper color, and loses much of its head in the first couple of minutes of its in-glass existence. This encourages the drinker to keep up, and make the most of their time with Yuengling. The flavor is shocking for how common the beer appears and smells.
The aroma is underwhelming, and makes the drinker think he's got a day-old Bud Light in front of him. Then, the beer hits the tongue, and permeates the entire mouth with its golden, almost honey-like flavor. The finish is a small kiss of the flavor, but little else. It gets out of the way for shots of Crow, or for bowls full of mussels or crablegs.
When it's over, it's sad. Peering at four empty glasses, signifying the end of a great trip is always a melacholy moment.
But, that didn't stop Steph from enjoying her crablegs.
Ratings (out of ten)
Flavor: 9 (like an umbrella that opens in your mouth, without the hassle of killing you.)
Body: 7 (robust, yet easy. A real crowd-pleaser.)
Aroma: 5 (it's not bad, but it's not good either. It just is.)
Smoothness: 9 (a girl scout could drink this all night, and still feel like a man.)
Price: 7 (at $4-5 a draw, I guess it's normal for the east coast, so I'll not hold that against it.)
I got into the code for the comments again, and this time, without managing to destroy anything, I have rewritten the comments yet again to use a flat-file database, and make them look nicer. In doing this, the comments on bahua dot com are unified in functionality, between the comments on the new DOTW page and on the comments for these normal posts. This probably matters little to you, but it's a nice advancement for the site.
It happens when you hang out with people named Nathan.