General Archive

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Buy White Wine in the Sun, Support Autism Society

Cover Art - White Wine in the SunIf you've followed this blog at all, you might have noticed that I began a tradition of posting a YouTube video of Tim Minchin's song, White Wine in the Sun, every year around Christmas (I'll be posting it shortly this year). As described on Minchin's site, "This is a captivating song and a beautiful and intelligent exploration of why Christmas can still be meaningful even without religious beliefs. There's just the right amount of sentiment and some very gentle humour illustrating Tim's feelings about Christmas and the importance of family and home. It is a heart-warming song and may make you a little bright eyed."

Tim Minchin has begun his own tradition, of donating all the proceeds from the sale of the song in the month of December to the National Autistic Society. This year is no exception. And to make it even more attractive this year, he's finally released a studio recorded version of the song. So go buy the song and help support a good cause.

More Info:
White Wine In The Sun [2012] - Now Available on iTunes

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

!$#%!#@$ Beavers

Our backyard backs up to a small lake/pond. We haven't been back there in a few weeks, but my wife and daughter took a little walk down there today. Here's what they saw:

Beaver Assaulted Tree

Here's a close up of the carnage:

Beaver Assaulted Tree

If that looks big next to the benches beside it, it is. That's only slightly a trick of the perspective. It is (was) a big tree.

Here's where they were coming in and out of the water, right by the deck we just built this year:

Beaver Assaulted Tree

That tree had actually made it onto this blog once before in the entry, Flooding. Two weeks after we moved into this house, Wichita Falls had its worst flood on record. I took a picture of that tree to show how high the water got. Here it is again:

Flooded Backyard

Our next door neighbors were victims of a beaver a couple years ago, but it was a smaller tree in an area of their yard where it wasn't as big of a deal. This was our only shade down by the water. And it had a perfect little nook for holding my beer. Oh well, I guess this is going to force me to build a little pergola or roof over the deck. Maybe I can turn the stump into a little seat. And I'll definitely have plenty of firewood this winter.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, 2012

TurkeyHappy Thanksgiving a day early. Even as an atheist without any deities to give thanks to, I still think it's a good idea to stop and reflect on all the good fortune we've had, and take some time to appreciate it. Granted, there's no reason this should be limited to one day a year, but setting a day aside to force us to pause isn't such a bad thing.

While I won't be heading back up north to visit my family up there, we're still going to have a nice Thanksgiving celebration down here in Texas with our friends. The turkey's thawing out as I write this.

And I don't want to turn this post bitter, so rather than complain too much about Black Friday, I'll just link to a post where I've already done that, I Hate Black Friday. Like in years past, I'm boycotting all the door buster sales. I may go out Friday afternoon after I've had a chance to sleep in, but I'm not going to ruin my Thanksgiving celebration just to save a few bucks.

So, happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you have much to be thankful for.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Reflections on Halloween

I posted this as a comment on Pharyngula earlier this month, and to be honest, it will probably be read by more people there even buried in the comments than it will here as its own entry, but I still wanted to include it here, and maybe expand on it a bit. I have written along similar lines before in Halloween Recap, which also has a few pictures of how we've decorated the house the past few years.

Jack O'LanternI've always liked Halloween. Part of the fun is the costumes. I've always made my own, and some have been pretty involved. One year I was a werewolf, where my parents put a prosthetic nose and ears on me, along with a bunch of extra facial hair (I didn't need a wig thanks to my unruly natural hair). Another year I made a dinosaur, starting with some boxes, plastic grocery bags, and cotton balls, till the final costume was over 6' tall. My daughter has had some pretty good costumes, too. My wife helped her out a lot when she was younger, one year sewing her a mummy costume that had her bandaged from head to foot.

Between the different places I've lived, I've gotten to experience Halloween different ways. In elementary and middle school, we lived out in the country. Not backwoods deep country, but rural enough that walking around my neighborhood wasn't much of an option. So, trick or treating those years consisted mostly of driving around with one of my friends to houses of people we knew and knocking on their doors. (The corllary is that we never got many trick or treaters at our house, so we had left over candy every year.) We always saved a certain house for last. There was an old couple that lived there, and they'd invite us in for hot spiced cider and cookies.

My freshman year of high school, we'd moved to a traditional suburban housing development (Lake Linganore for anyone familiar with Maryland). A girl and I were the only high school students on our street, so we were the chaperones, taking all the smaller kids around the rest of the development. That was the most candy I've ever gotten on Halloween.

The rest of high school and then college and immediately afterwards were understandably devoted more to parties than trick or treating. I do remember though, when they brought underprivileged kids trick or treating in the dorms.

The first few years taking my daughter trick or treating were here in the city of Wichita Falls. It's not a very urban city. Our neighborhood at the time was a lot of nice houses on small lots - pretty much like the setting in most Halloween movies I've seen.

When we moved to a different neighborhood with a reputation as one of the nicer neighborhoods in town, we were completely unprepared for our first Halloween there. We ran out of candy within half an hour, and when my wife ran out to get more, it took her over half an hour to get back in because of the traffic. We were prepared the following years. I weighed our candy once, and we gave out over 40 lbs. A neighbor who was strict about giving out 2 pieces of candy per kid gave out 1600 pieces, and he ran out about half an hour before us. So with the amount of kids going through, it makes it more worth getting into the spirit. For the past several years, we've done up the house pretty good, and I'll stand out there in a costume to scare the older kids. It's scary enough that a few younger kids refuse to even walk up our driveway.

So we're looking forward to Halloween again this year. My daughter already threw a party with one of her friends last weekend, and we're busy planning a party for this weekend. And of course, we're trying to come up with new props for our house for the big night.

And for the cynics, most of the kids do have decent costumes, with a large portion still being homemade. It is irritating, though, to see high school kids walking around without being dressed up at all, but still asking for candy. Damn punks get off my lawn.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2012 Great American Beer Festival

Great American Beer FestivalIf you know me in person, you know that I really like beer. And I'm not too picky, either. I'll drink anything except Miller High Life (including things like Lone Star and Natty Light). But obviously, some beers are better than others, and all the different types add variety, so I was interested to see the results of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival.

Of course, the first thing I checked was to see how many beers from Texas won prizes. Here's the list:

Medal Beer Name Brewery State Category Year
Bronze Uberbrau Humperdinks Restaurant and Brewery TX American-Style Amber Lager 2012
Gold Shiner Bock Spoetzl Brewery TX American-Style Dark Lager 2012
Gold Royal Scandal Peticolas Brewing Co. TX Classic English-Style Pale Ale 2012
Gold Shiner Oktoberfest Spoetzl Brewery TX German-Style Märzen 2012
Silver Hans' Pils Real Ale Brewing Co. TX German-Style Pilsener 2012
Gold Shiner Bohemian Black Lager Spoetzl Brewery TX German-Style Schwarzbier 2012
Silver Firemans #4 Real Ale Brewing Co. TX Golden or Blonde Ale 2012
Gold Bottle Rocket Uncle Billy's Brew & Que - Lake Travis TX Kellerbier or Zwickelbier 2012
Silver Iron Thistle Rahr & Sons Brewing TX Scotch Ale 2012

Not too bad. I've tried all but three of those (Uberbrau, Royal Scandal, & Bottle Rocket). And I have to admit a soft spot for the Spoetzl Brewery. I've joked that it's one of the best parts about living in Texas, and a few years ago, I actually made the pilgrimage to Shiner to tour the brewery. Here's me inside, right before they shooed us out for separating from the tour group.

Jeff at the Spoetzl Brewery

It's kind of fun browsing through the results state by state, looking to see the good beers from the different regions. I checked Hawaii since we were just there for vacation this summer, and saw that they had three winners (two of which I tried when there).

There are 84 categories total in the Great American Beer Festival, with gold, silver, and bronze medals in each one. I've tried a lot of them, but there are even more that I haven't. So this is a great guide for the next time I'm at the beer store.

Photo © Brewers Association - Source

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