Monday, April 30, 2007

Dark Lord Day and White Sox

We did a lot of stuff this weekend. I had Friday off, so it was nice to be at home with the kids and dork around a little bit. Friday night, my wife and me went to the White Sox game with the company tickets. It was a little cold, so we had a drink in the Stadium Club and then did a round of the stadium before going to our seats. I got a couple of photos.

Contreras on the mound. He walked a guy before facing Vlad Guerrero, who hit into a double play. Beautiful.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 4th, when Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski hit back to back homers.

A.J. hit a homer. They blew up firecrackers.

Sox went on to beat the Angels 7-3. It was a good time.

On Saturday, I went over to Munster, Indiana with a friend to the Three Floyd's Brewery and Brew Pub. April 28 was "Dark Lord Day." They brew a Russian Imperial Stout called "Dark Lord" and sell it in 22-oz bomber bottles for $15 each. They limit you to 6. On the website, people have ranked this as high as the third best beer in the world. I figured since I lived so close to the place, I had to check it out.

I forgot my camera, but a lot of other people didn't.

If you look about the center of this photo, I am facing the camera. I'm in the green shirt and hat with sunglasses in the middle of the photo. When we arrived, people were congregated around many picnic tables. The tables themselves were loaded with bottles of beer that people had brought to sample. Tons of different styles from different places. Being a first-timer at any sort of "beer fest" I didn't partake of any samples. I wanted to let the game come to me.

At around quarter to 11, we started to move up towards a crowd that appeared to dead end at a roll-up door on the right side of the brew pub. From photos I had seen of the 2006 DLD, I knew that you went in and got your beer through this door. Basically, the photo you see above is taken around this time, and yes, that is the line. A guy I was talking to there said there were about 250 people at DLD 06. This year they expected like 500-600 people. I think they got more than that.

Have you ever been to an arena rock show where it's getting close to showtime, and everyone knows it? They're playing some Tom Petty or maybe some tune you never heard over the P.A.? Then all of the sudden the P.A. stops playing music and the lights go out almost simultaneously and there's that uproar of people screaming because the show is about to start? That's the same sound about 400 people made when that roll-up door rose.

I waited in line patiently for about an hour and a half, talking to the people around me and having a good time jawing. When I finally got to the roll-up door, I realized I still had about another 50 feet to go to get to the table, where 2 guys were taking money and a few more were standing around fetching beer. You could buy Dark Lord, but you could also buy other beers in 6-packs and 22-oz bottles. Now most of this stuff I can get in my local grocery, so I didn't worry about it. What I did notice was that they were serving their seasonal Gumballhead Wheat, which wasn't set to be released until May 5. This being April 28, I was thinking that it would be pretty fresh. I wasn't wrong. I tried a cup. My friends, these people make good beer. I would have to say that the Gumball Wheat is probably one of my top 5 favorite beers now.

When we finally got our beer, we walked out and the line went all the way out to the street and down the road 2 blocks. Later, it thinned out to be 2 people wide and moved a lot quicker.

I would totally recommend the trip to Munster to witness this event. I have cellared my six bottles and plan to crack one in about a year, since it's supposed to improve with age.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

You Can't Control 'Crazy'

There's really no need for me to even talk about the Virginia Tech shootings. Suffice to say that it was a horrible thing that happened, and my condolences go out to anyone who lost a friend or family member in that unnecessary turn of events.

However, what completely baffles me is the search for "why this happened." Does anyone one need to spend time or money to get the answer, other than to maybe satisfy some people who look heavenward and ask "Why did this happen?" If so, ask me, I can tell you why.

That motherfucker was CRAZY.

And that's the only answer you get.

I know. It sucks. We will never know why. I mean, I got some theories. And maybe they're well-thought out, or maybe its just based on his heritage, and the fact that he was an English major instead of an engineer, you know, since Tech is a pretty renowned technical school. So technical they even have it in the name of their university. At first, I thought maybe there might be some issues of honor or some shit. But then I found out his dad was a dry cleaner, which is cool, I mean, all jobs are honorable, but I was thinking maybe his dad was some hot shot engineer and now he's all ashamed of his son for being an English major.

I know, I know, that's pretty stereotypical of me, and it's not right, but this is the primary reason why asking "what happened" will not do you any good. Oh, and all you English majors can just settle the fuck down, because I know that its tough being an English major. EVERY major is tough. And you snickering engineers can go pound sand if you don't think so. I know each and every one of you hose-grabbers is ecstactic you got out of basic college English with a C+.

Then on the way to work on Monday, I'm listening to this guy on Chicago sports radio that used to be a hot dog vendor (also an, um, honorable job, especially if you don't have a high school diploma, which is the case for this individual) asking why the Asian community isn't decrying the actions of this single individual. What? Are you kidding me? You think the Asian community is responsible for moving this kid from Korea when he was 8 so he could shoot up a college campus when he was 23? You need to go back to your old day job.

But apparently, there is some line of thinking about linking this kid to the Asian community out there, as this article states:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine met with Korean-American leaders to assure them that Virginians do not hold people of Korean descent responsible for the tragedy. Cho was a South Korean immigrant who came to the U.S. at about age 8 and was raised in suburban Washington.

"I can assure you that no one in Virginia -- no one in Virginia -- views the Korean community as culpable in this incident in the least degree," Kaine said.

Jesus! Are you shitting me? Did the Governor of Wisconsin come out and assure all the white people in America that Wisconsinites did not hold all white people accountable for Jeff Dahmer's actions?

It is shocking to me that some people would make this connection. If anything, they should be asking for a statement decrying his actions from the Crazy People of America Foundation.

So far, we got nothing from them.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Define Your Life in a Song

Yesterday, my wife asked me over coffee if I could choose one song to define my life, what would it be.

This just made me laugh, because at any given moment, I'm hearing music in my head. My niece once said, "You could say the word 'the' and Jesse would come out with some song that referred to it." So for me to sum it all up with one tune would be pretty unlikely.

Then, as I was checking my email, the daily digest of Drive-By Trucker messages was discussing the new Wilco album that is coming out. Some people said that they did not enjoy the latest Wilco studio release, "A Ghost Is Born." While I agree that there are some songs on there that are grating to me, there are some good ones as well. But my favorite, by far, is the 2nd tune on the disc, "Hell is Chrome."

"Hell is Chrome" is probably one of the greatest songs (not just Wilco songs) ever written. Those lyrics are pure poetry. And I usually don't like poetry as lyrics, but in this case, the meaning is perfect to me.

When the devil came
He was not red
He was chrome and he said
Come with me

The first time that song meant something to me, I had just done a job interview in central Illinois and was driving into a Wal Mart parking lot in Mt. Zion, which is a southwestern suburb of Decatur. At the time, I had been living in Arkansas, pretty much dreading the job and the community of Arkadelphia (known to some as Arka-do nothing). It was September 2004, so the weather was starting to get the chill in the air, but you could still make it without a jacket. I was reminded again of why I missed living in the midwest.

I have a better handle on that part of the country now (if you're going to live in Illinois, live closer to Chicago, or if you can help it, north of I-80) and wouldn't really recommend central Illinois to anyone. But after living in the south for 8 years, it was nice to actually feel the fall weather coming.

The air was crisp
Like sunny late winter days
A springtime yawning high in the haze
And I felt like I belonged
Come with me

When I got the job in Shelbyville, I didn't realize how fucked up that place was. I was really going to try to stay at that job for as long as I could. We lived in a small town in the south, and I figured living in a small town in the midwest would be just as good, especially since Mattoon was twice the size of Arkadelphia. But the stress of that job was just draining the life force out of me. Nothing like a call at 3:00 a.m. to let you know that someone went to the hospital. Up and at 'em. Gotta go write the investigation and then deal with the fallout.

Despite that fact, the guy who had the job before me was such a monster that after about 6 months, people felt like they could talk to me, and I felt like I was appreciated.

I was welcomed
With open arms
I received so much help in every way
I felt no fear
I felt no fear

After a year and almost 6 months, I found my current job which is a lot less stressful. It is challenging, but now that I've been here just over a year, I am getting more control over the day-to-day stuff and am making progress. The nice thing is that the song carried over with me. We go to Chicago, and every time I'm downtown among the towers of the city, I feel peaceful, and I'm in awe. The song is overwhelming in my head.

You must go
So I went
Where everything was clean
So precise and towering

I think the city of Chicago is the cleanest big city I've been in. The thing that I think makes me so loyal to it, however, is the fact that I'm from Iowa, the midwest, and it's a sense of pride, I guess. It's sort of cheesey, I know. But I've moved to a lot of different places in my life, and now that I'm back in the midwest, close to Chicago, but without having to deal with the day-to-day traffic, I'm really happy.

The final thing I like about the song is that it involves the devil, which is kind of cool in a Ronnie James Dio sorta way.

Apologies to Jeff Tweedy for restructuring the verse order to make it fit my blog.

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Moving the LPs to the Computer

I set up my amp and record player up in the basement. Set up the old computer, too. Went through, removed the programs I no longer needed and defragged the hard drive. Got a copy of Audacity (freeware) and set everything up. I even had some success recording my first LP song to digital. Only problem is, I think I'm only getting the left channel through the mic input on my sound card.
In the picture, you see the white cord coming out of the sound card. This cord goes to the computer speakers, as there are no speakers hooked to the amp. The black cord comes from my headphone output on my amp, as I have no other means for a line out on the amp. Both jacks on the cord have two lines, which means it should be in stereo. Only the left channel shows up on the red bar in the Audacity software, though, and listening to the Descendent's "Coolidge," I can tell the right channel ain't there.

So I'm wondering if there is some way to utilize that 15-pin input (the polygon shaped yellow thing on the left) of the sound card. Surely, if I had some kind of quarter or eighth-inch output from the headphone jack, and an adapter, it would work, right?

Any help anyone could give me on this would be GREATLY appreciated. If this doesn't work, then maybe we could all chip in (about 5 or 6 of us) and get one of them ION TT-USB things, which is a turntable that hooks into a USB port on your computer. Only, I don't want to end up with the thing after I'm done. Why aren't there used ones out there? Isn't the idea to load up all the vinyl and then sell it?

Sunday, April 15, 2007



Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Person in a Band You Don't Know is No Longer in Said Band

This is Jason Isbell. Doesn't he look happy? This apparently was taken shortly after he was told he was no longer in the Drive-By Truckers. For those of you who have never heard of the Drive-By Truckers (DBT for short), they are one of, if not, my favorite band. One thing that makes (or made) them unique was that they had 3 guitar player/singer/songwriters. Jason was one of the 3. He is probably younger than the other 2 by maybe 10 years.

Jason is coming out with a solo album, but that's not necessarily why he is no longer with the band. In fact, it appears that nobody knows why he is no longer in the band, that is, except for the band. While I guess I can get by not knowing, I would just like some closure. Patterson Hood, the patriarch of the band, put up an "important announcement" on the band's website, stating, "The split, which I consider extremely amicable is the result of a period of personal and artistic growth from all sides which has left us with differing dreams and goals."

Maybe on Tuesday, after 4 days of thinking about it, Jason thinks it's amicable. Looking at that picture, which was posted on his myspace webpage late Friday night after the news went out doesn't look like it so much. Looks like Jason was caught a little off guard. Or maybe that's just coincidental that he's holding up an announcement of his solo album and looking all defiant with the middle finger and cigarette dangle. Right.

I've only seen DBT once, almost a year ago in Chicago. They played pretty much everything I wanted them to. Not a lot of filler, in my opinion. The thing that I enjoyed the most was the backing vocals Jason provided. I actually think there was some harmonizing going on in "Zip City," one of my top 3 favorite songs by them. So, yeah, I kind of will miss some of those minor nuances that Jason provided.

I don't mean to stir shit up, but I just would prefer some closure. That standard Patterson prattle about "roads and dreams" sounds like bullshit to me. Yes, I will still like Jason's stuff and DBT stuff. To be honest, Jason had some great songs, but then, all three have great songs.

I just want to know a basic reason why this happened, and I'll never know. Somehow, if it ever does wash out, it will more than likely be the stupidest reason for letting somebody go. Something, that given time and some perspective, could have prevented this split.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

2007 Baseball Predictions

Here's where I think the standings will be at the end of the season:

National League

I love minor league baseball. The only thing about the National League (or 4A) baseball system is that you have to pay admission prices equal to major league ball. What's that you say? The Cardinals are an NL team and they won the World Series last year? You're right. They won 86 games in the regular season, beat some worn down teams and then played the Tigers, who worked hard to beat other tough teams in the AL, like the Yankees. Is this what Major League Baseball has come to? Running a marathon? Hopefully things will return to their old ways this year, when the AL sweeps the NL in the World Series.

NL East

Mets - Should continue to build on last year's success if they don't fade in the end
Marlins - Shouldn't surprise anyone. Could be a wild card in the NL
Phillies - The ultimate farm team for the AL
Braves - Nothing to say here, really. The team doesn't make me think of the Braves teams that went to so many world series. Atlanta has a stranglehold on the deep south. You got Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay down there. Who do you think people are going to pull for? The Marlin contingency is growing stronger, though. Hey Bud, how about moving the Cubs to Birmingham, Alabama or Jackson, Mississippi?
Nationals (Expos) - I want to get a fitted, 7 3/8 sized Expos hat. And when I say Expos, I mean the red, white and blue one you see. I would wear it to White Sox games just to get "that look" from people.

Last year, we were in the parking lot waiting for some people to show up. The Sox were playing the Yankees. There was some dude walking around in a Phillies hat and shirt. Talk about confused.

NL Central

Cardinals - This division is the lamest in all of baseball. I think the Cardinals will just find a way to win it, even though they suck on paper. Especially that pitching staff.
Cubs - Cubs will come close, but in the end, they will stink it up. Not even a chance for a wild card here.
Reds - Baby, if you've ever wondered...wondered whatever became of me. I'd like to go down and see a Reds game this year. The stadium looks like it would be an awesome place to enjoy the day.
Brewers - These guys will start off big and then fade after the All-Star break. Then they'll trade all of their good players to the Yankees.
Astros - The good news is the White Sox play Houston this year. The bad news is they will probably only win 1 of the 3 games.
Pirates - This is Uncle Rukies "secret" favorite team. He figures he needs to like one team from each league, and why not the Pirates? He can actually drive to P-burg and watch games there.

NL West

Padres - I don't know much about this division, but I think it's pretty safe to say that the Padres should win this one outright. Then fall in the first round of the playoffs.
Diamondbacks - For some reason, I get the Angels and Diamondbacks mixed up in my head. Maybe it was the whole "A" (Arizona, Anaheim) thing. Looks like a good young team. Should be better next year.
Dodgers - You'd think the Dodgers would be more of a contender in baseball. Weak league, second biggest city in the nation. Nice weather. Too many hippies and movie stars, I guess.
Rockies - Here's the nation's only Christian baseball team. I heard on the Chicago sports radio station that they actually look for players that are heavy into Christianity. I don't understand how this happened in a state with a bunch of granola-types.
Giants - Barry Bonds can go to hell!

American League

You know, I'm just okay with the Yankees. Some people hate them, but as a White Sox fan, I have to appreciate Steinbrenner, because I feel he made the rest of the AL better by making them compete with his teams. So thanks for that, George. Now I hope your teams never go to the World Series for at least another 50 years. Sorry, Adam. I'll still watch the Yankees with you when they do go to the playoffs.

AL East

Yankees - I drafted Wang in my fantasy league and he immediately went on the DL. Trust me, these guys are heads above the rest of the teams in this division.
Red Sox - I'm just so glad we got one team that doesn't talk about the curse anymore. I'm interested in seeing how well the Japanese pitcher (now known in the sports media as Dice-K), Matsuzaka does.
Devil Rays - Carl Crawford is fun to watch. He is just so fast and steals bases with ease. The Blue Jays could just as easily come in third here.
Blue Jays - Not a very interesting team.
Orioles - As much as Uncle Rukies hates Baltimore, I think Camden Yards is a great place to watch baseball. And, as I think I've mentioned before, Baltimore is a great beer-drinking town.

AL Central

Twins - The younger guys are gonna hit the hell out of the ball this year. As long as they don't poop out in the playoffs, they go to the World Series.
Tigers - I don't think this team is as good as the Twins, and I also think that Kenny Rogers won't come back in July. The dude is 41. I know, they have good pitchers, but I just think Rogers meant more to this team than most people realize. He also makes good chicken (or so I've heard). AL Wildcard.
Indians - This is by far the toughest division in baseball. The Indians are not as banged-up as they were last year. Still don't think they'll do as well against the other teams in this division.
Royals - Pitching not so great, but man, can they hit the ball.
White Sox - I don't know what it is about the Sox this year, but I think that the current players might be somewhat overrated. I think they'll be back on top of the division in 2 years, when some of the younger talent in the minors starts coming up. Garland is the only decent pitcher. I think Danks starts slow, but finishes strong.

AL West

Angels - These guys appear to be back to their 2003 form.
Mariners - Stronger than the A's and the Rangers, and that's pretty much all I have to say about that.
A's - These guys won the division last year, but I don't see it happening this year.
Rangers - Yep. This is pretty much the standard location for these guys. Just like the Cubs lose games because they mostly play during the day, the Rangers lose games because it's just so hot in Dallas in the summer.

World Series: Twins in 4 games over the Mets

Final Comment: How hard would it be to have the Houston Astros move out of the NL Central into the AL West? You have a natural rivalry with the Texas Rangers then, and you even out the divisions. I've only paid attention to baseball for 2 whole seasons now, and you would think that it might be that easy/obvious to Bud Selig. Worst.Commissioner.Ever.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Beisbol Been Berry Berry Good to Me

I was never much of a baseball fan. Always looked like a bunch of standing around. My brother-in-law moved to St. Louis and started showing a big interest in the Cardinals about 5 years ago. So I started sort of following the Cardinals, but not really still understanding the sport, and still not really getting into it.

A few years later, in 2003, my Dad moves to Missouri. He has every Cardinal game available to watch on the local FOX Sports affiliate. He has hernia surgery, so he starts watching the Cubs on WGN. Suddenly, he is the biggest Cubs fan. This, of course, is the year when the Cubs piss the final two games of the NL championship series down their collective leg, and the Marlins went on to top the Yankees. Suddenly, my son has a Cubs hat, and I have a fitted Cubs hat that no longer fits him. At this point I'm still leaning towards the Cardinals.

In 2005, the White Sox won the World Series. What is interesting about this is that at the time I was living in central Illinois. I was 2 hours from St. Louis, and 3 hours from Chicago. I would say that in this part of Illinois there are just a few more Cardinals fans than Cub fans, but I never took an official survey. I arrived at this opinion through keen observation of hats, flags from both houses and cars, t-shirts, and some minor sports conversations. I see one White Sox flag hanging from a house, and a Commiskey Park photo in an Occupational Health Doctor's office. Nobody in my immediate area seems to give a shit.

In 2006, I moved to northwest Indiana. The company I work for hands out White Sox tickets every month (they buy 4 season tickets and hand out 2 pair for each game, including a parking pass and a pass to get into the Stadium Club). I began checking out the games on TV. I actually start seeing the strategy of putting in different pitchers and different batters later in the game (instead of saying, "The only time someone comes out of a football game is either when they're hurt or the game is in hand. Why can't pitchers finish an entire game?"). When I went to U.S. Cellular for the first time, I was amazed at how big it felt. It was totally awesome. It was kind of cool out, but it was nice to be able to spend time outdoors and actually enjoy being in Chicago. I was hooked.

I got my first set of tickets for April 27, which is a Friday. I'm so glad baseball season is finally here.

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