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The End of an Oncall

I'm on call this week, though I'm handing the pager off today. It's been a relatively slow week, especially compared to last time. But on Wednesday night I received lots and lots of pages- one about every 45 minutes, thus never allowing me to enter REM sleep. The last major page of the morning came at about 5:15am, and from that I sat on a call until about 6:45am. I called my boss and informed him that I got fully owned during the night, and that unless he needed me to come in, I would spend that day sleeping. It was too bright yesterday to sleep any later than about 11am, so I contacted Chris about lunch. After some hemming and hawing, we agreed on the Bluebird Bistro, where I enjoyed a bison burger of the highest deliciosity.

A little later in the day, I read a post by a local blogger and internet/drinking acquaintance, detailing his top twenty favorite bars, with an apparent focus on Kansas City. His number one choice was Harry's Country Club, and is one with which I cannot bring myself to disagree. It's a really outstanding bar, and having read it led me to have the following text message conversation with Amber:


Me: Someone's blog post today got me all riled up for Harry's CC. Wanna get some happy hour?
Amber: Maybe. I need a martini tho!
Me: I think they can help you. My stepmother said she loved the martini they made her when the family visited in January.
Amber: I'm sold.
Me: 5:30?
Amber: 5:45
Me: Deal. I'll be there in shorts, as per usual.
Amber: Nice.

So, at about 5:30, I threw caution to the wind and made my way over to the #1 bar in Kansas City. Amber and Heather were a little late, so I busied myself talking with Josh, into whom I ran completely by accident. Robin and Gretchen, two of the many great waitresses there, described Josh as a "man about town." This seems very true.

Anyway, Amber and Heather came in soon afterward, and we took a seat out on the patio. The weather was divine. 73 degrees, perfectly clear, with a slight breeze. For four hours we whiled away the gorgeous evening until my luck ran out, and I got paged. I finished my beer and went home, only to find out that my help wasn't really needed after all. Jeff walked in at that point, and we had a beer and a conversation. We topped the day off with a run to Wendy's.

I had a lovely Thursday.

11:03 AM, Jun 1, 2007

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5-Day IPA

In the St. Louis exurb of O'Fallon there is a brewery that bears the town's name. As of late, this small brewery has been building a reputation for producing truly exceptional beers. For a party that we recently held, we acquired a keg of their delectable India Pale Ale, through a very handy connection at Gomer's Midtown. This was officially the shortest keg we've ever had. It was delicious and it poured well for its entire service, but it only lasted about ten hours from tap to blow. In short, it was a big hit. Unfortunately, that means that all the people that would otherwise be dissuaded from drinking it down were not. At the height of the party, the tap was more or less constantly flowing.

We'll have to get it again sometime.

12:47 PM, Jun 2, 2007
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A Trip, eh!

First, an administrative notice. I haven't posted the pictures from Sarah's weddding or from the big party this past weekend, because my computer's in the shop. All I have at home is my Linux server, and my work laptop, should I choose to plug it in and change its configuration, which I don't. The dude at the computer store told me it would be ready on Wednesday. Administrative sub-notice: screw you for thinking I'm some kind of n00b for paying someone to work on my computer. I know I'm capable of doing the work myself. I've done it before. The issue is that I absolutely hate working on my computer, and I don't mind giving someone else money to do it for me. It's for this same reason that I don't take my garbage to the dump myself.

Now, on to the meat and potatoes...

After a couple months of half-hearted planning, I have made the largest step toward this year's iteration of the Great (geographic adjective) Brew Trip. Erp and I went to the West Coast last year, taking the train from Los Angeles to Seattle, stopping in San Francisco, Chico, and Portland along the way. During and after that trip, we'd determined that it was such an unmitigated success that we started talking about doing it again in 2007.

We started talking about where, and the East Coast immediately came to mind. However, as the weather began to warm up, we pretty quickly eliminated the East Coast from consideration, on the grounds that it would just cost too much and take too long. It would probably have to be a two-to-three-week trip, or have to be divided into separate trips. There's just too much to see.

Our next idea was to do something in the Midwest. Loathe as I was to agree to something like that, I started plotting routes and pinpointing breweries and beer bars to visit in a Chicago-originating circuit of Lake Michigan, including stops in Indiana, Michigan, the Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin, and back to Chicago. It was determined that it would involve some 1600 miles of driving- a greater distance than what we traveled from LA to Seattle last year. So we decided against that, and opted for another idea of mine.

Canada.

I have purchased my ticket, as has Alex. Erp is not inspiring confidence, as he is still unconfirmed, and will soon be purchasing a home. Three would be great, and I really hope Erp can make it, but two will do. Alex and I will fly to Detroit and spend the evening there. The next day, we'll take a bus across the border into Windsor, Ontario, and spend some time there.

Over the next week or so, we'll be showing our faces in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and we'll end up in Quebec and fly home. For the intra-city transportation, we'll be using Canada's vaunted VIA system, along a route that is so heavily traveled in Canada, that it's referred to as, "The Corridor."

More details will follow, but I'll be spending my 4th of July in another country.

11:10 AM, Jun 5, 2007

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I Paid Them to Screw Up

I got my computer back today. I am not happy with what happened. nothing was damaged, mind you. If that had been the case, I would probably be writing this from jail, for throwing a chair through the window of the place where they worked on it. I picked it up on my way home and made conversation with the 50ish dude behind the counter. He's obviously been working on computers for a long time.

This was the same place that years ago sold me a motherboard that burned down, though I wouldn't really call that their fault. It's just indicative of the bad luck I've had with them. I got my computer back to the house, plugged the ridiculous number of cables into it that I do, put it into its impossible, out-of-the-way spot, and turned it on. At least it turned on.

There are three hard drives in my PC. One is for Windows, one is for Linux, and one is for storage between them. Only the Windows drive was visible, and the machine booted into Windows without showing me the grub prompt. I troubleshat it for a bit, and found that the intellectual giants over at the computer store had tried to hook up the other two drives with a floppy cable. I swore loudly and repeatedly, and made myself sweaty with anger as I pulled out the gigantic video card(unplugging everything to do so), and plugged in a proper IDE cable to connect the two missing drives.

Anyway, it's back together and everything's hunky-dory now.

11:08 PM, Jun 6, 2007

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Ecomm Window Tonight

When I started planning my big trip, the group that was planning to go(that then numbered four), agreed that the best time to do the trip would be for the week of the 4th of July, to take advantage of the holiday time off. I put in a vacation request, which was filed away and forgotten by my boss at the time. I too had put it out of my head, just assuming that having gotten the vacation request properly submitted many months in advance would be more than sufficient for getting the requested days off. I was foolish, it turns out. Wayne, a guy at work, drew up the on call schedule for 2007, and had me signed up to be on call for the week starting on July 6th.

At first glance, this doesn't look that bad, but trust me, it is. Being the first full week of the month, that means that the weekend before it is the principal maintenance window for most of our most important systems for which we have very very expensive service level agreements. As such, tons of maintenance work gets dumped into this window. So much, in fact, that the person that will be on call has to basically shut themselves off from the world and get prepared for all the scheduled changes, which usually number around one hundred or so.

So, besides requiring the actual time spent on call, working an "Ecomm Window" demands that the week leading up to it be spent doing roughly 15-30 hours of preparation. The dates for the Great Canadian Brewtrip are from the 30th of June to the 8th of July. I was naively confident when I saw the first draft of the oncall schedule. I figured that there must have just been some mistake. So I approached Wayne and mentioned that he erroneously put my name down for a time period during which I was scheduled to be on vacation, and he assured me that no such word ever got to him.

I approached my boss, and his simple response was, "Oops." It looked like we were going to have to find another time for the trip, only that none of the other times I proposed worked for anyone else. Things were looking grim. It looked like I would probably have to cancel the trip altogether, or go alone. That was when our boss, tired of the increased hours and responsibility without any additional compensation, arranged to get transferred to another group, and management replaced him with our current boss.

Once our current boss had gotten acclimated to his new surroundings, one of his first orders of business, that I saw, was fixing the situation with my vacation request. The unfortunate thing about it was that there was nobody that could effectively switch with me. I asked Eddie to switch and he initially agreed, but got vetoed by his wife. James had successfully asked for the same time off. I suppose he had put more pressure on the previous boss about it. Brad would just be coming off a rotation, and Wayne would be just following the one that I worked. In short, I determined that there was no way to switch with anyone without screwing them over.

The new boss brought it up in a meeting, and Brad spoke up. He had a float trip planned for a weekend that he was rotation in June, and offered to take my July rotation, even if it meant working two weeks in a row. So hooray for him.

So, I'm on call again. It's a rough three weeks. I'm on call for two of them. This is the second one, and is, predictably, a big Ecomm maintenance window. I definitely prefer it this way though. This way, even though I won't really get any solid sleep for the time I'm on call, getting paged every couple of hours or more, I won't be on call again until mid-August. In a couple of hours, I'll be heading into the office for the actual maintenance, and will likely be there through the night, until well after the sun comes up.

I spent most of my work-related time in the last three days writing a script to ease the implementation of filesystem growths. I have been polishing and polishing it, and even though everyone else assures me the commands are all fine, I'm still not convinced that it will work that well. If it does, then I'm in for a much easier time than previous oncalls have had to deal with. If it doesn't, I'm in for a spot of hell. Wish me luck.

2:03 PM, Jun 9, 2007

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My List: Part 1

Inspired by a local blogger and his impressive top 20 list of his favorite bars, I thought I'd go one further(in my mind), and run down my favorite beer bars. Beeradvocate has their own list, which I believe is based on a system that determines points though ratings versus numbers of reviews. At least that's all I can figure. Anyway, I have decided that I need to make a list, a snapshot if you will, of my favorite beer bars. The only empirical qualifier is that I have to have visited there before. Oh, and I suppose it can't be a brewery either.

As I wrote this list(as a top ten), I found that it kept getting longer and longer, to the point that it was just ridiculous, and not at all realistic to post it all at once. So, instead of posting the entire massive thing, here's my list, with the selections of number 10 through 6. I'll post the top five in a day or two, just to make you wait.

#10 Spuyten Duyvil - Brooklyn, NY

I have only visited this place one time, but I knew from that visit that the only thing that I could discover on a subsequent visit that could push it off my Holiest of the Holy list would be if there was a hidden infestation of tribbles, Critters, CHUDs, or Tremors that fouled the incredible array of beers with their saliva, fur, or their natural abilities for mayhem. Otherwise I think it'll remain in my top ten.

Spuyten Duyvil specializes in Belgian farmhouse ales that, but for its distinctively beer-like color and flavor, one would guess that they are being served wineby the attractive hippie women. Smokers would also like it since it has a surprisingly rural-feeling backyard filled with tables at which nicotine fans may indulge to their heart's content.

#9 Back Booth - Orlando, FL

While I worked for the man, my company held its annual contract conference in Orlando every October. After I left the company they moved it to San Antonio's Riverwalk, which is in my opinion a far more appealing place to host any conference-style event than Orlando's depressingly suburban International Drive. However, I took three great memories from those trips to Orlando. The first was some excellent quality time with My Uncle Matt, Aunt Cecelia, and cousins Matthew, Charlie, and Sarah. The second was some great touristic indulgences, in the form of trips to Disney World. The third was the discovery of the Back Booth in downtown Orlando, just off the very fun Orange Avenue designated area of merrymaking.

Geoff and I visited this place so he could show me a beer that he had come to love while he lived in the Orlando area. That beer is no longer in production, but the Back Booth, as far as I know, is still in full flower. The tap selection is largely American, though a number of choices from Belgium and Britain were available. the folks behind the bar weren't particularly knowledgeable, and even with a great tap selection, it seemed that half or more of the patrons were more interested in mixed drinks than in something from their 30 or 40 taps, seeing as how the bartenders seemed to be throwing around liquor bottles and grabbing ice cubs more than pulling taps and flipping pint glasses. But that's okay. The music was good, and so was the scenery. If I'm in Orlando again soon, I will visit the Back Booth again.

#8 La Cave du Vin - Cleveland, OH

This is another one-visit location, but I am illogically resolved to visit this place the next time I visit Cleveland. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone there anymore, so it might be a while. I am so crazily resolved because La Cave du Vin(The Wine Cave) is simply awesome. I visited here with my sisters over Labor Day weekend in 2005. It occurs to me right now that Rachel had only recently turned 20 when we were there, but as with so many things, if you look like you know what you're doing, you'll not likely have any trouble. La Cave has a fantastic atmosphere. Combining a great tap, bottle, and wine selection, a knowledgeable enthusiastic staff, and Cleveland's inexplicable friendliness makes for an altogether excellent time.

I have to make it back to this place, even though they, yes, have a focus on Belgians.

#7 Bukowski's Tavern - Boston, MA

On my half-dozen or so visits to this camoflaged gem, I have grown to like it even more. The beer selection has a decidedly American focus, which is a breath of fresh air after seeing the apparent idea that so many self-styled beer bars have cling to: "Pack as much Belgian beer in as possible, and you will be awesome."

I mean no offense to the Belgians. They make a mean bottle of beer, and a semi-mean keg thereof. But I don't fly to Boston to drink foreign beer. Beer is a highly regional thing, and when I travel to another region, I want to drink beer they make in that region. Tip for beer bars: Want me to think you're awesome? Offer more local beer!

On top of the regional aspect of their selection, the people behind the bar love beer. After they get off work, they sit down on the customer side of the bar and drink wild variations of the available selection, often welcoming well-timed friends. Bukowski's is a real asset to Boston, and at least once on every trip I take there, I will pay a visit.

#6 The Ginger Man - Austin, TX

I've been to Texas a handful of times. They do football very well. They elect Republican Presidents pretty consistently. They open doors for little old ladies, and they love their barbecue. But, God love them, beer hasn't made a particular foothold there. It's a very Budweiser kind of place. With exceptions few and far between in the massive Lone Star State, beer-drinkers are into quantity, not quality. Texas is not a good place to go for good beer. About as good as it gets, if you're on the town in downtown Dallas, is Texas-made Shiner Bock, which is as abundant as Boulevard is in Kansas City. Shiner Bock is a tasty bock beer, and it's a very nice welcome to Texas, but it gets old after a while. Now, please understand. I love Texas. I think it's a beautiful place and I always have a great time when I visit. It's just that I put away my expectations for good beer when I get on the plane.

In 2005 I learned that there is a shining exception to the Texas rule: downtown Austin. Lovejoy's Taproom and the Bitter End make for great parts of a night out, but the crown jewel of the state of beer in Texas is the Ginger Man. Woodgrained from floor to ceiling, it's a megabeerbar(75+ taps) that still manages to keep the selection interesting. It's too easy for a megabeerbar to just load up their selection with 25 varieties of Big 3 macros, or to categorize selections by flavor, and make sure to have three of each flavor. The Ginger Man does not do this. Obviously, they have Bud Light if you want it, and I'm sure they sell a lot of it, but the remainder of their tap selection is creatively chosen, and has specials all over the map. Specials for days of the week seem to be a hit there.

When you walk inside, the people all around you seem to be fully aware of how unique downtown Austin and the Ginger Man are. It was here that I discovered two real gems in Texas brewing: the Live Oak and St. Arnold breweries. If you're in downtown Austin for whatever reason, the Ginger Man is a must.

That's 10 through 6. Here are some honorable mentions from the running for the lower half of my top ten.

  • William's - Minneapolis, MN - There's a great peanut bar in the basement, next to a long bar backed with 70 or 80 tap handles. Thursday is High Life night.
  • Flying Saucer - San Antonio, TX - My favorite chain megabeerbar. Woodgrained and comfortable, one is coming to Kansas City soon!
  • Henry's Tavern - Portland, OR - A very crowded megabeerbar right near 12th and Burnside. A little sterile, but it's a great place for a survey in Northwest beers.
  • Yard House - San Diego, CA and Kansas City, KS - "Upscale" megabeerbar with a focus on overpriced mediocre food.
  • Hilltop Alehouse - Seattle, WA - Neighborhood bar in Queen Anne Hill with 15-20 taps, and three or four hand-pumps! Just feels like a regular bar that happens to have a fantastic selection.
  • Grinders - Kansas City, MO - My favorite bar in Kansas City, I go whenever I can.
  • Essen Haus - Madison, WI - Comfortable German sit-down restaurant that has an inordinate focus on delicious, hard-to-find German beers.
  • Barley's - Shawnee, KS - Suburban megabeerbar that would get much more business from me if it wasn't in the middle of nowhere.
  • Hopleaf - Chicago, IL - Another "upscale" place, but with a very creative tap selection. Improper focus on food, in my opinion.
  • Sunset Grill - Allston, MA - Very busy independent megabeerbar in what is otherwise a rather frightening neighborhood. They categorize their beer very well.
  • Barney's Beanery - Hollywood, CA - This apparently famous place touts itself as having LA's second-best chili. Their tap selection is nothing to scream about, but the atmosphere is unrivaled.

Thoughts? Stay tuned for the top five!

11:42 PM, Jun 12, 2007

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My List: Part 2

If you'll recall, I had a list in progress. So without further ado, let's wrap this up!

#5 Come Back Inn - Madison, WI

One weekend early in 1996, my brother and I, along with my cousins Vince and Casey, piled into the gigantic pink conversion van and drove up to Cascade Mountain ski resort, near Wisconsin Dells. After a day of some of the best skiing to be had in Central Time, we piled our bruised bodies back into the pink van and drove back south. After about an hour of driving, we reached Madison, which none of us had ever really visited before. Why would we? I was 17 and the oldest by a year and a half. We followed the signs toward downtown, and saw a sign for a place called the Come Back Inn. Being stupid teenagers, we all tee-hee'ed to each other that with that name, it must be a gay bar. Of course, we went in and got some dinner. At the Come Back Inn, in 1996, at the tender age of 17, I got served for the first time. Without an ID. The beer was a Leinenkugel's Red.

This was all miles from my mind when I visited Madison again a couple years ago for work. I had a free night, and was enjoying a delicious imperial pint of cask-poured ESB at the Great Dane Brewery when I struck up a conversation with the bartender, explaining that I was from out of town(she said she could tell) and was looking for a good place for beer. When she ardently suggested the Come Back Inn, just around the corner, my memory of that night almost ten years earlier snapped into focus. I quickly paid my tab with a generous tip as a reward for the woman jogging my memory, and made a beeline for the promised place.

It was exactly as I remembered it. One thing I didn't notice when I was 17 was that the thirty or so tap handles were wonderful. When I was 17, my only experience with good beer was whatever Sandy from the deli at the grocery store where I worked would buy me. By the time I was 26, I had developed a taste for beer, and immediately ordered a Bell's Two Hearted Ale, which was apparently on special that night for $2. The bartenders, who were beer geeks themselves, quickly noticed that my beer order was never the same twice, and figured out that I was there for the selection. From that point on, they kept bringing me samples. That's one thing I love about enthusiast bartenders. They can't wait to give you things to try. I stayed for perhaps eight rounds before catching the bus back to my hotel. My total bill was perhaps eleven dollars.

I came back the next night, and before I even had my seat, one of the bartenders had poured me a glass of Tullamore Dew. "This one's on the Gipper," he said. I wound up hanging out with the folks that worked there after they got off. I have since heard that it may possibly have closed down. I'll need to go back and find out for myself.

#4 The Blind Pig - Champaign, IL

I was in Decatur on business, and after a short time there I realized that there is nothing to do in Decatur. Coming to this realization one day, I got in my rental and drove the forty or so miles to Champaign. The University of Illinois has its main campus in Champaign, and bleeds over into adjacent Urbana(actually, the administration buildings are in Urbana, so the school is "officially" there). Having Illinois' biggest university in town has a great effect on Champaign. Lots and lots of young people with Daddy's money converging to behave irresponsibly. It's beautiful.

Even so, there's still not a great deal of goodness for the beer lovers. But like so many times before, I consulted beerfly for a great place to have a pint, and saw surprisingly high ratings for a place in downtown Champaign, which is well off the beaten collegiate path. I walked in near opening time, since being on a business trip, I had nothing better to do. I immediately noticed the stunning bartender who, it turned out, was Dutch. Being the only customer there afforded me an easy opportunity for conversation. She was the wife of a very lucky professor at the U of I, and had never been to Illinois before the previous month. Like most Dutch people, her English was superb. She proceeded to walk me through their tap selection, bringing me tastes, and occasionally indulging herself. She knew her beer. She introduced me to the Duchesse de Bourgogne, Cantillon, and various other excellent beers from across the pond that hadn't been addled by flavor-molesting preservatives.

When it came the time to get going, I sorely regretted it, and looking back, I kind of wish I had found a place to stay in Champaign instead, because getting back to gray-skied Decatur wasn't exactly exciting.

#3 Beveridge Place Pub - Seattle, WA

Erp and I traveled almost the length of the American West Coast in 2006. We took a woefully slow and consistently late Amtrak train from Los Angeles to Seattle, making stops in San Francisco, Chico, and Portland. We had had just about enough of the train by the time we got off in Seattle, and set to finding our way around a city that neither of us had ever visited. I hadn't been expecting much, which made the shock of reality that much more impressive. Seattle is a sensational beer city. Hale's, Elysian, Boundary Bay, Maritime Pacific, Mac & Jack's, and more whose names elude me at the moment.

After running around for a couple of days, Erp and I parted ways as he caught his flight home a day before mine. That left me a full day to see the city on my own. I enjoyed a burrito from Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen, and walked for a couple of hours before I was tired enough to get on a bus. I got off at a slightly suburban corner in the apparently working-class neighborhood of South Seattle, and looked across the street at a place that I would never have guessed would become my third-favorite beer bar ever.

Beveridge Place Pub doesn't have a great number of beers on tap, but their 20 or so taps are all amazing. On top of those, they have several beers available on cask as well. The place was just opening as I walked in, and there were already some people there. A woman sitting next to me at the bar ordered a hand-pumped pint of Rogue Shakespeare Stout before she told me all I cared to hear about Seattle. The patrons all knew they had a really good thing going with this place, but they were still surprised when word quickly got around that I had come all the way from Kansas City to try it. Some of them started shouting things like, "Harry's Country Club is great!" and "I hate the Quaff!" as I answered questions asked by the curious people. They seemed keen to let me know they had been there. These were not uppity coast people. These were working-class South Seattle residents that considered Kansas City just as interesting as I considered Seattle.

After pint after pint, and many unsolicited tastes brought to me by the friendly bartender, I was very dizzy, and decided I had to head back downtown before bus service stopped, or before I would be too drunk to find my way. As with so many great beer bars, I got the bill for the eight or nine beers I had, and was billed perhaps $20. I will be in Seattle in September, this year, and you can bet that I'll be visiting the Beveridge Place Pub again.

#2 Map Room - Chicago, IL

I've been to Chicago more times than any other city where I don't live. As such, I like to think that I know where to go to get a good pint of beer. But alas, I did not know until shockingly recently, about the Map Room. Besides having the best name any beer bar can have(combining geography and beer!), it is 100% devoid of pretense. Like so many beer geeks, the staff and customers there just can't wait to convert another person, and as such, they are as friendly with beer-drinking strangers as is socially acceptable in our society.

Uncharacteristic of the great things in Chicago, The Map Room is located well off the beaten path. It's still a nice neighborhood, but the nearest El stop is about the same distance as the nearest Metra stop, and neither is particularly close. The best way to get there via public transit would require the use of the bus, which doesn't appeal very heavily to outsiders, even though there really is nothing wrong with it. Nevertheless, no matter how they get there, beer geeks the world over make it a point when visiting the Windy City, to spend some time at the Map Room. I had my first taste of Three Floyds summer seasonal, called Gumballhead there.

It's very much a neighborhood bar, and a corner mainstay. When sitting at their classic varnished bar, especially during the day, it's not at all uncommon in one hour to see a dozen individual people stop in, have a pint, and leave. They're just on their way somewhere, and the Map Room is convenient for them. I have a great envy of these people. Having a place like this nearby would make me very seriously consider buying a home there. Do not miss the Map Room.

#1 Toronado - San Francisco, CA

It was from drinking a beer at Toronado that I first felt inspired to brew beer myself. In short, it is a beer-lover's paradise. It is basically perfect.

To anyone that knows me well, this bar's #1 spot shouldn't be a big surprise. Let's look at the various contributing factors. My favorite city in the world is San Francisco, and Toronado is squarely in the middle of it. I love American beer, and Toronado has it in spades. I like paying reasonable amounts of money for my glasses of excellent regional beer, and I've never paid more than three dollars for a pint at Toronado. They just do it all right.

Their tap selection is comprised of perhaps forty handles, and I'm not certain that any of them are permanent. I was in Boston for a beer fest not long ago, and while there I spoke with the brewers from the sensational Bay-area Lagunitas brewery about Toronado, and inquired as to how the place manages to offer their beer so cheaply. Apparently, they order very few of their kegs, if any. They just present themselves as local distributor warehouses(and from the sound of it, breweries), and ask if there's anything interesting they can take away for cash then and there. Using this approach, I was told, Toronado is able to get great deals on kegs.

I don't make it to San Francisco very often, but whenever I'm there, a trip to Toronado is absolutely not negotiable. It is simply the best beer bar I know.

Further honorable mention must go to the following bars. They are all great places to get a beer, and some are certainly better than others. But I have now visited so many great beer bars that when I have to name the top ten, some great places will have to be omitted from the list.

  • Alberta Street Pub - Portland, OR - Small friendly neighborhood pub with 15-20 beers on tap, with no Big Three selections. Usually has live music.
  • Hessen Haus - Des Moines, IA - German beer bar with about 30 beers on tap- all German. Would rank higher if it wasn't usually filled with fratty jackasses.
  • Beer Sellar - Nashville, TN - Basement beer bar in downtown Nashville. It feels like a very cool dungeon.
  • El Bait Shop - Des Moines, IA - Independently-owned megabeerbar in downtown Des Moines. Closest Dogfish Head/Lagunitas taps to Kansas City.
  • Rogue Ales Public House - San Francisco, CA - While technically a brewery-style place, they also host a number of off-brewery taps, and they're all delicious.
  • Library Alehouse - Santa Monica, CA - Very cozy bar with a beer selection that had a lot of thought put into it. It's kind of surreal, next to the bustling frattiness of Main Street Santa Monica.
  • Mugs Alehouse - Williamsburg, NY - This place must have ten IPAs on tap, besides everything else. I found it to be a hop-head's dream. Selections are indicated on a chalk board. Very intimate.

Like I said, there are some really good bars in that list, and I highly recommend visiting them if you're ever in their cities. It was a shame to omit any of them, but ten is ten.

So how's 'bout you? What are your favorite places?

1:21 PM, Jun 14, 2007

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IM IN UR FONTZ

So, since Vista came out, I've kinda sorta given up on keeping up with current games and things any more, if that's the direction they're going to take. The adoption of Vista takes us into a world where I don't want to be. So with that in mind, I have installed GNU/Linux on one of my spare hard drives, and have been dual-booting on my PC, to give myself some familiarity. As plenty of you know, I love linux and unix, and draw my living from supposedly being an expert on them, but that knowledge is with the command line. When plunged into a graphic mode, I become as bewildered and useless as an old man on ether.

This website, for example, was written entirely from the command line, and the tools that I use to update it and maintain it, even the web-based ones, were originally written on the command line, by me. The graphical interface for Linux is something that I have never quite gotten into. And to be honest, I've always found it clumsy and rather ugly. Nevertheless, I am now determined to make a serious go at it, and fashion myself a real, permanent desktop using Linux.

As such, one of the first, required pieces of software to, "make my own," is a web browser. And when I first try a web browser, the first url I manually enter is always http://bahua.com(or I just type 'bahua' and hit ctrl-enter). For some time, I've been frustrated with how my site looks using Linux. It looks wretched, or at least it did, because Verdana, the font I sloppily specified to use around the site, often isn't even supported, so it just falls back on some ugly Times New Roman kind of font. So this time, I took a look at the attractive landing page for when a user first starts Firefox, and lifted the "font-family" line from there, and spent the next twenty minutes cleaning up my terrible css code. I still have a lot more cleaning to do with it, but I have fixed all the lines that specify font usage, weight, and size.

The site should be much more attractive now when viewing it from a browser in Linux, though we'll see how it looks in Windows when I boot back into that.

12:21 PM, Jun 16, 2007

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Wanted my Ticket

This must be a busy flight I'm waiting to board. a guy just offered to give me a jaw-dropping amount of cash to switch with him, plus the cost of changing my flight. I'm in the C group, which means I'll probably sit between two fat people.

Let it officially be known that this is the first website update I've ever done with a phone. I'm modern.

4:30 PM, Jun 21, 2007

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Free to Be ... You and Me

Through the waning audacity of the Russians, I managed to get my hands on an album we used to sing along to when I was very little. I would venture a guess that the last time I'd heard any of these songs was 1986 or 1987. No more recently than 20 years ago have I heard this music. I remember sitting in the back of the big blue conversion van with Brian and Julia, acting out the speaking parts, and enjoying the thoroughly innocent feelgood music from the van's tape deck.

I'm not sure how it reentered my mind, but it did recently. Especially the song "When We Grow Up," lingered just behind my eyes, and pestered my memory when I would be outside on green sunlit days, especially kickball days.

Anyway, I downloaded it last night, loaded it onto my player, and listened to it all the way on my commute. I'm still listening to it now. It's a piece of my childhood that I had all but forgotten except in fleeting temporary thoughts. Was this album part of anyone else's childhoods?

10:16 AM, Jun 26, 2007

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Erin's Wedding Pictures

Oh right, I owe you pictures. Here they are. Enjoy.

11:14 AM, Jun 26, 2007

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McDonald and Schlafly

I drove home in the rain yesterday. It would seem that rain has an adverse effect on Kansas City's stoplights, because I sat impatiently idling at Swope and 59th, and again at Swope and Benton for minutes longer than usual. It almost made me angry. Almost.

I got home, hastily changed into shorts, broke out my umbrella, and joined up with Jeff and Chris. I would never have had the common sense to purchase an umbrella on my own. I got it for making a lucky shot in a golf tournament last year, and never used it until this year when it started raining enough for me to say, "oh! I have an umbrella!"

Anyway, it was in sodden conditions that the three of us walked up to the Central Library on 10th Street, and therein met Josh, who had enthusiastically decided to join us. We were there to see Tom Schlafly, the founder of the excellent St. Louis Brewing Company, speak before about 200 people about operating a brewery in the 50%-nationwide-market-share behemoth brewery that's also located in St. Louis, pursuant to the selling his book, A New Religion in Mecca. In the hour preceding the event, the folks from St. Louis had set up a buffet line of cheese and giant pretzels, seasoned ribs, various flavors of sausage, and of course, beers from Schlafly.

We helped ourselves to the favors and made banal smalltalk with the others in attendance. After a short time, the crowd was unmistakable. A lot of people were apparently interested in small breweries, and more specifically, good beer. I remarked, "look at these people, they look normal."

Boulevard founder John McDonald, who was accidentally introduced as local kadrillionaire Tom McDonald, formally introduced Schlafly, and noted that if it hadn't been for a nick-of-time request for beer in the early 90s from Schlafly, Boulevard would probably had gone out of business. Tom Schlafly spoke for about 45 minutes or so, and fielded questions for another half hour or so.

We ran into Matt as we were leaving the library, and he rebuked us for not having attended the Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting. These things happen, of course. We walked over to 12Baltimore for some proper dinner, and to enjoy the fact that they had Schlafly APA on tap. Josh bade us a good evening, and went to catch his bus. That left Chris and Jeff and me, exiting the sauna-like humidity and entering the hospital-approved air conditioning of the Hotel Philips. We sat at a table and waited for perhaps ten minutes before we decided we didn't want to wait anymore, and went to Grinders instead.

When we sat down at Grinders, we had a waitress at our table in under a minute, without any hand-waving, eye-contact, or signaling of any kind. She took our food orders when she brought our beers soon after, and within five minutes, we each had our food. After an evening eating smoked meats, drinking beer, and then eating a grilled-cheese sandwich and tater tots, my plumbing announced that a call of nature was in order, and it was relatively urgent. The men's room at Grinders has a stool on the floor, and a urinal on the wall, but the door locks.

It's terrible to monopolize a bathroom at a bar, but a colon's a colon. As I walked toward the bathroom, a man that looks like a woman stood up and followed me in. I went to the urinal and waited for him to finish, but whil he was going, two more people walked in, and then two more. It was not going to work out. I miserably walked back to the table, my face turning green, and patiently waited in quiet agony for the checks to be paid and for the ride home to be done.

Anyway, we made it home and I went to bed early. Now get back to work.

1:28 PM, Jun 28, 2007

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Good Morning From Detroit

It's a beautiful day in the Motor City.

dtdetroit

This city really surprised me. I thought we were going to have to find the good stuff- to look for it. But no. Downtown Detroit is a really excellent place. As Jeff offered via text message, "it must have been the super bowl." Side-splitting comedy aside, this downtown has apparently gone through a remarkable transformation in the last five to ten years.

We had some lamb in Greektown, walked down Monroe, wandered around looking for a place with local beer, and finally decided on the Detroit Brewing Company, near Comerica Park. I'm now sitting at the desk in room 606 of the Hilton Garden Hotel, putting off packing all my stuff back into my bag for our impending international crossing in a few hours.

More to come when I get access to the interprons again.

8:38 AM, Jun 30, 2007

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We went out back, to the rooftop deck, and the locals began chatting with us.
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