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Monday, December 30, 2002

Post-Christmas Update

Argh---Blogger finally ate a long post of mine; I was too careless to copy it before posting. Swearword swearword swearword, swearword swearword.

Anyway, it was a wonderful holiday, with visits to and from friends and family, gifts given and received, and travel negotiated with a minimum of fuss and muss.

Spoil
First, the goodies. It was a Very Beery Christmas for me this year, with several welcome books from Dad including Designing Great Beers, Brew Ware, and Brew Chem 101. Matt supplemented this with an outstanding example of the amalgam of coiled-copper and silicone tubing called an immersion wort chiller. Mom rounded this all out with a set of four beautiful handblown pub-style beer glasses with air bubbles embedded in artful patterns. Thanks to everyone!

Toil
The kids' gift to the parents this year was a refitting and repainting of one of the upstairs bathrooms. Matt was the spearhead of the project, and under his direction I was able to help with a fair bit of the shopping, sanding, taping-off and initial painting. I had to return to Richmond before the project was completed, but reports from Mom and Dad indicate a very good result. Pending receipt of scans from Dad, I'll post pix of the finished product one of these days.

Foil
Mary (for whom I still don't have a good link; bloody, stupid school administrators) dropped by on her way to visit an old friend in North Carolina, and I managed to cover her with dog hair before sending her on her way - since I've been traveling, there's been little time to do any vacuuming. Mary also was nice enough to present me with a martini-making kit, including a shiny cocktail shaker and two spiffy glasses appropriate for the work. I'm slightly suspicious of the purity of her motives' altruism, though, because she made absolutely certain I had the technique of martini fabrication down during our visit. Very detail-oriented, Mary is...

Boil
Well, Rich's Big Dawg Brown Ale is in bottles, but it's anyone's guess how it'll turn out. Between a scorched grain bag, a quick, then stuck fermentation, airlock-seal trouble and finally some bottling hassle, it's up to the Fates to rescue this brew from the hopper. My next effort (to be begun ASAP) will be a custom-designed India Pale Ale, because A) it's different from my prior efforts so far, B) it'll be a good test of my technique, keeping a pale ale pale and adhering to the prescribed type, and C) Joanie suggested it. :-)

-Rich

[Addendum: This little post from USS Clueless has made my day, especially in light of how unutterably trivial the above post is. :-D]

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Apologies and Belated Thanks

Spoke with Mary today about some holiday logistics, and she tactfully reminded me that I hadn't made any sort of post-Thanksgiving post, and let me know that I hadn't replied to an e-mail that Kate sent (that I can't find! sorry!) expressing concern for my sick self.

So I wanted to take a post to apologize to Kate and her Fam for not managing to thank them for their hospitality and rave about the wonderful time I had. It was great fun to put (moving) faces to names during the visit, meet Paul, Moira and Olivia, and generally make new friends and hang out for holiday fun, eats and conversation. I hope you don't feel too bad, Kate - Mary's right. I do this to everybody. Sorry, and thanks! :-)

Didn't suck meeting Mary in person, either. You meet the neatest people blogging...

-Rich

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Beer Status

Cool. Checked Big Dawg Brown's specific gravity last night, and sure enough, it was down around 1.025. Not quite low enough to bottle, but I'm betting it will be by this weekend. Heh - I have this image of a stampeding horde of yeast cresting the steppe, glistening in leather and bronze and waving axes and spears...

Now if only I could get a good seal on the airlock. Since CO2 is heavier than oxygen I have no worries about contamination, but it's annoying not being able to check the activity from moment to moment. Ah well. If the SG numbers allow, I'm going to bottle on Saturday, and then the airlock becomes superfluous anyway.

I may well start another batch immediately, though. Four to six weeks bottle conditioning... Oy.

Any suggestions as to what type of beer to brew next? I'm thinking an India Pale Ale (high-alcohol and hoppy), or perhaps a porter (mild but flavor-rich). Heck - I could even do an Irish stout...

-Rich

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

PromoGuy's Monday Mission 2.50

(Thanks to sugarmama for the example...)

1. So, what do you want for Christmas this year that you probably won't get? A new computer, or rather the funds to build the one I want to build. My box be boggin'. :-)

2. What do you know you will be receiving for Christmas this year? A week with family. That's enough, really.

3. If you had the means to do so, what presents would you get some of your fellow bloggers? Be specific, it's more fun that way!

Acidman: Several bottles of Zin, a month straight with the Tall Pup, and a no-consequences potshot at the BC.

Joanie: Hand delivery of several bottles of 2Red.

Sugarmama: A shiny new Frisbee, a postage-metering machine, and a front-stoop welcome mat. And I don't need the perfect woman, sweets. Just one like you prefer your men, without issues. Shame I'm divorced and generous about the tum - I appear not to be your type. ;-)

Joie: Minnesota snow and a sled for Michael.

Hunter: Oddly, the same as for Joanie. Best not to think about that one too much. ;-)

Tripp: A stringed instrument, designed by Tripp himself, and built by these folks. (Dangit, boy, where're your archives? The people who build those beautiful compound guitars.)

Sarah: An original manuscript of Don Quixote, autographed by Cervantes himself. Sorry again, Sarah!

Kate: A gift certificate for all the videos of Trading Spaces and The Sopranos.

Mary (sorry, no link as Mary's blog is MIA): A one-way ticket out of the Pokey and into a class full of smart, eager kids with responsible, eager parents.

4. Do you support any organizations that provide for the less fortunate during the holidays? Or do any volunteer work? Nope, I'm a selfish, heartless SOB with too many expensive hobbies and too little expendable income. I'd like to wax eloquent about taxes too, but the real issue is that I've been a poor planner the past few years.

5. Each year about this time, I notice Church attendance seems to spike, then drops off sharply after Christmas. It tickles me that these folks think they are pulling a fast one on the Big Guy. What is the most recent thing guilt has motivated you to do? Guilt? I have no guilt. (Ahem. Pay no attention to the axe-wielding man behind the curtain.)

6. According to the commercials, the only way to truly tell someone you love them on Christmas day is to let them "Unwrap a Jaguar" automobile. Are there any examples of excessive commercialism and/or blatant disregard for the "Christmas Spirit" that really get under your skin? Starting with the Christmas decorations before Halloween. The proliferation of fabricated pseudo-holidays like Kwanzaa by the politically correct. The disallowing of the mention of Christ and even displays of a Nativity creche. To name a few...

7. I remember a song where the singers wished they could teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony. What would you like to teach the world? This simple lesson: get over it. Kick back and have a beer or some cocoa, and unwind. Step away from your pet obsessions for a moment and enjoy the immenseness and richness of the world and people around you. Whatever you're exercised about, it's probably not as important as you think. Relax. :-)

-Rich

More Beer Blather

Heh. Too much of a good thing. Seems my very active yeast may have fermented the whole batch already. When yeast does its initial reproducing in a fresh batch of wort (new beer), there's a head of dirty-looking foam called a "kraeusen" (kroy'-zen) that forms, and a tall or "high" kraeusen indicates a good, lively yeast pitch. Well, in my seven-gallon fermenting bucket there's two gallons (around seven inches) of headroom above the wort that I poured into the bucket, and when I checked the bubbler the other night there was residue from the kraeusen clinging to the bubbler's bottom edge. That is one serious ferment!

I improved the seal around the bubbler's neck with some tightly-wound plastic wrap last night, so it should be pretty close to airtight (pressing on the lid made the airlock's water level rise and fall reliably). This morning there was no appreciable bubbling activity, so I'm going to take a specific gravity reading tonight. If it's below 1.020, then the ferment is probably finished already, or close to it! (For those interested, the original specific gravity was 1.054, and the recipe's finishing gravity is between 1.015 and 1.020, for an alcohol content of around 4% by volume - take the difference in original and finishing gravities and multiply by 105.)

I have no clue how Big Dawg Brown is going to taste - I know what I like in a nut-brown ale, but between the scorch and a possible quick ferment I have no idea what to expect...

-Rich

Monday, December 16, 2002

Full Weekend

Whoof. Glad that's done, though it was a fun weekend.

Saturday was a Brew Day. I put my new Nut-Brown Ale (tentatively named Rich's Big Dawg Brown Ale) in the fermenter, permeating my apartment with that wonderful sugary-grain aroma of boiling wort. I did scorch the grain bag slightly while mashing, though, so BDB may end up a bit more bitter and dark than I planned. Still, no burnt smell or horrific problems otherwise, though I did manage to push the airlock's gasket through its hole and into the fermenter after it'd closed, so the airlock doesn't have a great seal --- I'll have to check fermentation progress with gravity readings, because the bubbler ain't bubblin'. The yeast starter was kicking serious tail when I pitched it in, though, so it looks like this is going to be a quicker ferment than 2Red was. The Nut-Brown recipe calls for a good four to six weeks' aging in the bottle, though, so if I get impatient I may snag another fermenter and get another 2Red batch going (or even a new recipe altogether) while I wait.

Yesterday was Impromptu Concert Day, as well as Clean Up for Parents' Visit Day. The concert went very well, and there were even some new faces in the crowd. Afterwards Mom, Dad and I went out to a late dinner (I try not to eat before singing - prevents those embarrassing "unplanned" low notes ;-) ) and I showed them around the apartment, with all the brew equipment and other stuff lying around. It was great to see them, and it's very good to get the concert behind me so I can concentrate on all the other Christmas stuff going on.

Oh! For anyone interested in hearing a clip or two from the Impromptu CD we just put out, here's a link to our page on CDBaby.com: Impromptu: From the Garden.

Geez. I'm still tuckered. Back to work. :-)

-Rich

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Defunkification

Well, as spurred by Matt, Joanie, Tripp and others, I took a trip after work today and dropped $24.00 plus tax grabbing myself the ingredients for an English Nut-Brown Ale from The Weekend Brewer. I really won't have time to brew it up until Saturday morning, but if there's no interference from Life I should be able to get it in the fermenter comfortably before my 4:30 Impromptu practice.

I do this because the making of beer is one of the few activities I have that is purely and unabashedly fulfilling. It's a sensory carnival right here in my apartment, it plugs me into the life dramas of billions of tiny yeasts as caregiver, it commits me to a few weeks of attention and continuity, and evidently I don't suck at it. :-)

I also dropped by the December meeting of the James River Homebrewers club, and made about twenty friends in the space of two hours down at Richmond's Legend Brewery. I was offered tastes of no fewer than four homebrews (a strawberry mead, a smoked porter, a spiced ale and a Belgian Red faux-lambic ale), and was fed samples of cookies, casserole, bread and (no kidding) tiramisu that were all cooked substituting beer for an ingredient or two, beer-cooked cuisine having been tonight's topic.

Way cool.

-Rich

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Heh

Seems I've finally reached that indefinable cusp where more people respond with "get over it already" than "aw, poor fella."

Duly noted.

-Rich

Monday, December 09, 2002

Back

Well, I survived my flying about with little trouble -- no lost luggage, no missed or delayed flights, and I got to miss most of the clottedness that is Richmond with slow-melting snow. My voice is in pretty much the same shape it was when I left (i.e., iffy), but then I did have a lot of relatives to catch up with, so I suppose a little abuse of the larynx is to be expected.

That said, it was still a wedding. Weddings are hard. I was very happy for Liz and her new hubby Ken, but it's just tough to keep the sorry-for-yerself tendencies from bubbling to the surface during "Ave Maria" when your sister's singing and grandma's crying and the bride is even snuffling as she's walking down the aisle with her dad. Then there was the reception, with bride-daddy dancing, and groom-mommy dancing and garter-throwing and electric sliding and banging of glasses and all that...

...Sigh. Straighten the tie, have another pull of beer.

God help the first woman brave enough to get serious with me. After weekends like this, much as I loved catching up with Mom's side of the family again, I still feel very much like damaged goods.

On the plus side, among dozens of fellow Germanic and Finnish introverts in the Great Midwest, the level of demonstrativeness was just about right. It was good to feel normal, if only for a while. Sometimes I think the entire Richmond area is trying to invade my personal space, and that I must be the weird one. It's nice to be confirmed in oneself.

Dunno. Introspection meter is pegged, and work calls. Onward!

-Rich

Friday, December 06, 2002

Digging Out

Beginning to feel a fair bit better today, and that's a good thing, considering I've got to get on a plane at 4:10 PM and fly out to Detroit for a family wedding. Oy. No rest for the wicked.

Richmond, like most of the rest of the eastern U.S., was blanketed by snow, then ice over Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Richmond, being a fairly wimpy snow town, pretty much shuttered itself yesterday, and is still mostly shut today, though I am of course out and about. There's been a fairly world-ending documentation deadline hanging over the end of today, but thanks to the miracle of XP Remote Desktop I was able to get my parts mostly done, despite all the illness drama. Not having to get gussied up and drive to work saves a surprising amount of time, though I doubt I'm an ideal candidate for telecommuting, because I'm far too easily distracted by the puppies, the kitty and the fact that I have Diablo II installed on my home box, and it's prone to whispering to me when the days get long. :-)

Still, the past few days have been replete with poor sleep, sneezing, coughing, and the baking of cheap storebought insta-pizzas to feed my cold-drug-slackened face. It's nice to think it may be coming to an end, but I'm famous for picking up bugs from crowded airplanes, and I don't doubt I'm doing my own Typhoid Rich thing lately, so don't break out the champagne yet.

Oh, and I had to take down my satellite dish - evidently my apartment complex has grown tired of all the new residents screwing their dishes into loadbearing members, and despite my painstaking efforts to create a freestanding mast-mount, with clearly visible guy wires and everything, they've imposed an additional security deposit and insurance requirement that I simply cannot meet. Jerks. So much for NFL Sunday Ticket. So much for TechTV, SciFi channel and all the extra HBO, Starz and Showtime channels. Paying for the equivalent digital cable package will be just as prohibitively expensive, so screw 'em all. I've gotta shift locations in the spring anyhow - rent's gotten horrendous where I am, and state workers are going to go a second year with no raises.

(For the record, DirecTV was just golden about the whole thing, and was willing to credit me the amount of the security deposit to keep my account alive, but it's the insurance requirement that was the killer, anyway, so no dice.)

But hey, it's the holiday season, so merry Christmas and all that, right?

-Rich

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Ugh

Head hurts... Sinuses throbbing... Throat sore... Drugs... not working...

Did not go to work today; nevertheless, remoted into work thanks to the miracle of Windows XP, so some e-mail got answered.

Things better look up by morning or I'm not going into work then either.

-Rich

Monday, December 02, 2002

Apologies

Sorry for the no-update lameness; am tuckered after a crazy workday followed by errands and rehearsal. Yesterday was filled with pet-retrieving drama and football.

On top of everything, my throat hurts. Evidently I haven't yet fully kicked the bug I spent all last week kicking, and the worst thing is I can't taste beer properly.

Bleah. Off to bed! Tomorrow should offer possibilities for a proper Squeezings update.

-Rich

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Off for Parts North

Well, I'm just about ready to head north to my parents' place for the balance of the Thanksgiving holiday. They do have web access there, so I may get some blogging in, but no guarantees!

Everyone have a wonderful holiday!

-Rich

Sunday, November 24, 2002

So how'd the date go?

This pretty much sums it up.

I am a polite, passionate, intelligent, occasionally genteel, cultured and even sophisticated guy. This has got me nowhere fast. Makes a fella want to don chains and denim, attain a smoking habit, a police record and a 'tat,' and use the word 'bitch' sneeringly in casual conversation. At least those guys get attention from women. Hell, frequently they're fending them off with a shovel.

Instead I end up with this a lot of the time. Well, maybe not that bad, but sometimes. I am currently relegated to the "but I just enjoy talking to you" realm by two really wonderful women, and the fact that out of pure marital self-defense, once upon a time, I had to learn a dozen-plus different ways of bringing an indifferent female to her own personal peak experience never gets a chance to enter the conversation.

I can cook, know hammers from drills, have copious chest hair and love to cuddle. I brew my own beer, can structure a campfire five different ways, and look great in a tux. My dogs love me, and my cat frequently sleeps on my chest.

Dating is beginning to look a lot like bunk.

-Rich

Friday, November 22, 2002

I'm in Love...

I have had my first taste of Rich's 2Red Richmond Ale. It's wonderful. It may be because of its young age, or because of something I did during the brew, but the cidery aroma is still there. The cool thing is that it doesn't carry over into the taste of the beer - the beer has that dark, throaty red-ale taste I was hoping for, with a stronger hop bitterness than I predicted (bingo, Acidman), and surprisingly good clarity considering I didn't go for the Irish Moss to clarify it specifically. I love the crispness that carbonation gives it, too - and it's not done carbonating yet!

Deeper color without all that stuff floating in it...


I daresay I've got a longterm hobby here.

Oh, yum.

Shame Gabby "doesn't like beer."

-Rich

[UPDATE, 11:41 pm: Am chilling two more 12-ouncers. Damn but that was good. Good thing there's five gallons of the stuff, or I might need to be careful to actually save enough 2Red to take north with me. ;-) ]

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Promising

Well, "Gabby" was glad to hear from me, and we're meeting Saturday evening for coffee, catch-up and possibly dinner. Pretty cool. Nice to be welcomed. :-)

sugarmama has asked for advice on how to be unambiguous:
how does a woman withdraw from the running "politely and clearly"? i would like to learn how to be better at dissing someone. seriously.
I'm glad you asked. It's a simple answer, but one that seldom comes to mind, if my own experience passes as any indicator. Here's how.

Honestly. Respectfully.

Don't hide behind a fear of conflict, don't expect him to "get the message" through hints and half-truths. He's fixated on you, more than likely, and may honestly be surprised that you don't think he's the successor to sliced bread; don't look down on his cluelessness--it's probably a great compliment to you. Have the respect for him as a human being (and for your own reputation as a considerate person) to meet him in person or call him on the phone and have the following conversation:
Him: Hi, sugarmama, it's great to see you again. Did you get the tokens of housepet-like infatuation that I left?

You: Yes, I did, and they were sweet, but here's the thing. I like and respect you enough to let you know that I don't think we should see one another any more.

Him: (Pause to react.) Oh, well, that hurts. I'm very hurt by that. Yep, that really stings, and I want you to know that I'm hurting from that.

You: I know and I'm sorry, but I don't want to lead you on, and like I said I respect you-the-person enough to give it to you straight.

Him: Oh. Hurt. Owwie. Ouch. Whine. Complain. Well, thanks, I guess. You know, I'm not used to a woman honestly giving a crap what I feel in a breakup.

You: Well, you're a human being too, and if you're good enough to date you're good enough for a firm, considerate break. Thanks again for the tokens, but if it's OK I'll be going now.
This isn't really how Gabby and I worked (the option was open for the future, for one; more of a see-you-later-tiger than a good-bye, and it was actually a nice little farewell, with no sniveling and lots of wellwishing), but mark my words, unless he's a complete nimrod he'll remember you fondly for caring enough to tell him and not drag things out or just disappear. But he will get the point.

-Rich

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Restless

I don't know if it's the coming holidays, the change of season or just me, but I've got a real case of the gotta-do-somethin's without too many suitable places to lay the focus. Work's pace has slowed for a few days as I catch up on documentation work, the beer is aging (with the first bottle scheduled to be chilled and tasted this Friday, Acidman) but really not anything I can fiddle with, and with the coming holidays I'm trying to keep my personal expenditures down.

So of course my thoughts turn to dating. Sure, great way to save money. ;-) But yeah, autumn (and to an extent, winter) works that way for me, in some ways even moreso than spring. That sharing-body-heat, snuggling instinct.

Hmf. I can think of one woman I might call ("Gabby," for longtime readers of this blog and the dormant "Mad Method"). Things were actually getting interesting, before life turned upside down on her and she withdrew from the running, but she had the class to do it politely and clearly and not simply stop returning calls. Things change, so what the heck. :-)

-Rich

Monday, November 18, 2002

How the hell can he type?

Well, I think it's confirmed. I'm a severe hophead. Came home after the Impromptu CD launch party (music, y'know) and decided to have a beer while watching the Eagles kick the Cardinals' collective ass.

The first beer was a Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, again a sterling example of the style, but I've discovered that I've come to disappreciate the style (is 'disappreciate' a word? Depreciate? Deprecate? Detest.) Anyway, I've discovered that Hefe-Weizen wheat beers are fruity things, not suited for the beer palate. Phooey.

Then I tried a Stone Ruination India Pale Ale (from the same people as gave us the Arrogant Bastard mentioned before). Manly hops. 100+ International Bitterness Units, and a 7.7% alcohol content. Given that I've barely eaten anything today, Ruination IPA has kicked my posterior, one cheek at a time, back to both Prussia and Finland. I'm three sheets to the winds right now (in case it wasn't obvious), and the wind in those sails is beautiful hoppish bitterness. I'm about three swallows from the end of my Ruination, and in utter bitter bliss.

Booyah, baby. I can't think of a better followup to a fruity pansy excuse for a Hefe-Weizen beer than an invasion of Hunnishly-clad hops, smelling of horse-sweat and gall, riding in from the sunset at the command of such a doughty IPA.

Damn, yo. I may start a garden of hop trellises in memoriam.

Must sleep now. Prost!

-Rich, very inebriated.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Educating the palate

I'm really surprised. I've been trying single bottles of many different types of beer, to try and see what makes certain types of beer tick, and learn what good and bad are in the world of beer.

Tonight I tried a Pilsner Urquell, the quintessential example of the Pilsener style. The first time I had a Pilsener-style beer, I hated it; I thought it was too bitter, too harsh on the palate. Tonight's was the first true Pilsener I'd had in years.

I loved it. There was a sweetness from the barley I'd never tasted before, and the bitterness that had so offended me years back is nothing compared to an Arrogant Bastard Ale, or even a decent India Pale Ale, both of which I've come to love for their hoppy character.

But back to Pilsner Urquell. Evidently the pungent aroma that I remembered and dreaded, but was pleasantly surprised by this time around, comes from Urquell's reliance on Saaz hops, and the particular lager yeast and extremely soft water native to the Pilsen region of what used to be Czechoslavakia. How cool is that?

I also (finally) tried a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and now I see what everyone's been raving about. Surprisingly mild, with a lot of complexity nonetheless, a wonderfully lingering head of foam and a smooth, smooth finish. And bottle-conditioned, just like my 2Red will be.

I'm sure by now people are going to wonder exactly who I think I'm kidding, talking about beer as if it had the refinement and complexity of wine.

Guess what? Beer requires more care and different ingredients than wine, and can absorb just as much personality from the region where it originates as wine can, and from more different directions - hops, water, yeast and grains. Wines only really have yeast and grapes, and from what I understand it's mainly about getting out of the grapes' way. It's even customary to age some beers (India Pale Ales, for example) in oaken barrels, and some barleywine-style ales can age for years before truly coming into their own.

So anyway, I'm fast becoming a beer nerd, and loving every minute of it. :-)

Some additional reading, for those interested. This too.

-Rich

Friday, November 15, 2002

Label Idea

Hmm.


-Rich

And that's a wrap!

First things first: I'm taking a holiday today, so I'm at home. I got a nice little note from HR telling me that I'd lose 32 hours of "personal time" if I didn't use them by January 9th, so booyah!

Well, I was a good little brewer and waited until this morning to bottle, because the literature says to wait a full 24 hours after moving the fermenter. Bubbling was at 3 minutes 40 seconds this morning, so so much the better. :-)

I wound up with slightly more beer than bottles, so - darn the bad luck - I'm getting to drink two glasses' worth after bottling. %-D Not bad for 11 AM on a Friday.

The priming, racking and bottling process went well, though not flawlessly. I got all the equipment, caps and bottles sanitized with no hitches. A nice little plastic "bottle tree" did a great job holding the bottles while I boiled the priming sugar solution. Note to self: priming solution (especially when combined with a bit of the beer) foams like a beast! No boilovers this time, but several close calls, and many times blowing down the foam. When it came time to rack the beer from the fermenter via siphon, that went well, but there was a fair bit of bubbling at the end of the bucket that I wasn't ready for, and I probably aerated the stuff more than I should have. Oh well. "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew," as the HB gurus say. :-)

Stirred in the priming mix (crash-cooled; getting better at this) gently, so the solution was evenly distributed but not aerated any more than it had to be, and began to bottle. I filled about a dozen bottles at a time, then capped them with my shiny red capper, boxed them, and proceeded to the next dozen. Twenty-four 12-ouncers and twelve 22-ouncers total. It went more quickly than I expected.

I'm sitting, equipment washed and yeast sediment waiting for feeding to the dogs tonight, and looking at one of my leftover glasses of 2Red - the other's in the fridge, chilling. It's a very deep red, nearly brown, actually, and cloudy, though it will clarify a great deal during bottle aging. When you hold it up to the light, though, it's a deep red-brown; a beautiful autumn color, not unlike (nonalcoholic) apple cider.

Ain't she purty? Click for bigger pic!


The taste, though, is another thing altogether. That cidery sweetness from a few days ago is diminished, and the hops' bitterness is beginning to come out, though I can certainly do with more, and will do, in future batches. :-D It's my beer, and it's gorgeous.

-Rich

Thursday, November 14, 2002

An Expectant Hush Fell Over the Crowd...

Two minutes ten seconds this morning. The fermenter has been moved back to the kitchen where it will sit until tonight, allowing its yeast sediment to settle from the slight movement. Assuming I get home from work at any kind of reasonable hour, "racking" (transferring to a bottling bucket, in order to leave the sediment behind), "priming" (adding a small bit of sugar solution for the remaining yeast to eat while they carbonate the beer in the bottle) and bottling of "Rich's 2Red Richmond Ale" will occur! Thanks to Mary (whose blog has gone MIA - no link, sorry), by the by, for the naming help!

This way I'll get a good two weeks of aging in before Thanksgiving. If this winds up palatable, I'm gonna need to pick up some labels and come up with a design - there's been a fair amount of interest from people around my humble "blogosphere" in having a taste.

Does anyone have a clue as to what's involved in shipping perishables around the country? I don't want to make too many promises if each one's gonna run me fifty bucks or something, because charging for homebrews is a great way to draw the ire of the ATF Bureau. :-)

OTOH, there are several people in the DC, MD, PA and/or NJ areas who'd be within driving distance over the Thanksgiving holiday if they were interested in a visit and a bottle or two...

-Rich

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Progress at Last

A minute fifteen seconds between bubbles, finally. Must be getting down to the last few percent of fermentables by now.

The pessimist and precautionary within me doesn't want to get too excited (all in its own time, of course), but it'd certainly be nice to go north of two minutes between pops and get this batch bottled and ready for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I'm just sayin'. :-)

And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have anything better to occupy my time. :-)

-Rich

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Ho Hum

Fermenter's bubbling at 23ish seconds, am back at work, day is rainy and am serene.

Busy, but serene.

-Rich

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Instruction Manual for Yeast?

I'm betting there is one somewhere. When I spoke to the people at Weekend Brewer, the nice lady there recommended I gently agitate the fermenter if I wanted things to speed up at all. Just slosh the bucket around a bit.

Well, bubblings are back up to one every 15 seconds or so now. Who knew?

-Rich

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Ah, yes. It's good to have access to expertise.

Called up Weekend Brewer, the shop where I picked up my brewing equipment, and asked whether six days was a long time for the particular recipe I was given to undergo primary fermentation. Turns out that yes, my process is going a tad slowly, but they reminded me of a way to check to see how far along I'd gotten.

First, a lesson in the chemistry of fermentation. Wort (the goop to which I added my yeast) is a sugar solution created by soaking malted barley grains and then adding prepackaged barley-malt extract to water. Water has a specific gravity (a measurement of density) of 1.000 at 60° F. Adding stuff to water, as I did in making my wort, increases its specific gravity. Mine was measured (with a little floating gauge called a hydrometer) at 1.050, which is on target according to the recipe, when I dumped it into the fermenting bucket at 78° F.

During the process of fermentation, yeast converts the sugars in the wort to alcohol and CO2, and the lion's share of the CO2 is vented via the airlock during primary fermentation. This reduces the fledgling beer's specific gravity again, and the recipe for my ale calls for a finishing room-temperature gravity of approximately 1.010 (because, of course, we still have lots of malt proteins and hop oils and other stuff in there that won't ferment but will taste great).

So, using the fermenter's spigot, I poured about a quarter cup of my beer and performed a hydrometer reading: 1.020. So it looks like the fermentation process is only about 75% done. Well, that would certainly explain the lack of dropoff in bubble times; there's still work to do!

Oh, and I tasted a bit. Sort of sweet and slightly cidery (and flat, of course - carbonation doesn't come until it's bottled), but since there's still a decent amount of malt sugar left to convert I imagine that's normal.

-Rich

PS. Caveat: as I'm sure Matt will point out, specific gravity is very dependent upon temperature and altitude, and none of my readings were done at exactly sea level, or 60° F. So take the readings with a grain of salt, but the range of readings looks good.

Friday, November 08, 2002

How Annoying

Well, here it is practically Saturday, and my fermenter's still going at a bubble every 30 seconds or so. No slowing since Thursday morning.

Maybe Mary's right and I 've accidentally bred super-yeasts that are even now manufacturing plutonium via some room-temperature fusion process. Notify NORAD.

In other news, I'm sitting here wondering where all my introspection went. I think the problem is that too many people whose opinions I value read regularly. Yes, I care what you all think, so I'm no longer completely open or honest.

Hmf. I'm so restrained I ought to be British:

What, that? Pish tosh, I always did fancy an easier job donning my shirt mornings; I think the loss of a right arm will jolly well simplify my A.M. routine. Oh, and do mind the blood; it's an absolute horror getting that out of herringbone tweed. And besides, I'll either bleed out or clot up soon enough.

...Spot of tea? I hope you won't mind if I make a second trip for the sugar...

-Rich

Thursday, November 07, 2002

The Waiting Game

Seems the fermentation process is taking longer to finish than expected. Per Joanie's and Acidman's fervent urging I'm waiting until pops are two minutes apart, and as of this morning the interval was only 25 seconds or so. Ah well... Patience.

Patience is definitely the word of the day. Waiting on a client, waiting on my next paycheck, waiting for any number of seeds out in the world to sprout...

But I can't wait properly, because for several reasons I've got to multitask. Feh.

This is one reason I doubt strongly I'm gonna have time to read Don Quixote for BookBlog. Shoot.

-Rich

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Kicking off a Wednesday

Fermentation
Looks like the beer is getting close to done. The bubbler is down to about one pop every 12 seconds now, and according to the literature, when it goes more than a minute or two between pops it's supposedly ready for bottling. Acidman is understandably cautious about bottling too early; this is a prefabbed recipe, though, so I'm not too worried.

Elation
Go Buush... Go Buush... It's your birthday... It's your birthday...



:-D

-Rich

Monday, November 04, 2002

Kicking Monosaccharides, Taking Names

Woo! The fermenter's bubbler is up to two "burps" a second, even and steady. I'm surprised by how evenly the fermentation process is proceeding - I would have thought that, being a biological process, it'd have been more herky-jerky (as, for example, my wort-stirring rhythm was), but the bubbler is popping with the regularity of a ticking clock. Very, very cool.


My Equipment

Please excuse the muddy quality of the pictures. I'll try and lighten them up eventually, but for now, enjoy them (click for larger versions). The detail pic on the right is a closeup of the bubbler. You can kind of see that it's half-full of water. The dark strip on the bucket is a stuck-on liquid crystal thermometer.

I'm currently enjoying a glass of Thoroughbred Red poured from a 44-oz. "growler" bottle I collected from the Hops brew pub across the street from my apartment. I hope my red ale is anywhere near as good. Lots of excellent bitterness here - I appear to be turning into a "hophead."

I am brewing this ale from a recipe, but it occurs to me that since I did prepare it myself (and wound up departing from the recipe in one or two small ways), a nice inagurual name for the beer might be in order. The name of the recipe is "Red Red Ale" (a la the reggae "Red Red Wine," no doubt), so perhaps something like "Rich's Red Red Richmond" or "Rich's Red-Squared Richmond Ale."

"Rich's Second-Power Red?" Dunno. Will mull.

(Second power - squared - get it? Hmm.)

-Rich

Go, Yeast, Go

Bubbling of the fermenter's airlock started (one bubble every ten seconds or so) about five hours after pitching the yeast, so I'm guessing this is going to be a good ferment. When I woke up this morning it was bubbling better than once a second, so my fungoid pals appear to be working their little fannies off. The smell of fresh (thank God not stale) beer is hanging around the fermenter too - if it gets too strong I may have to buy off the upstairs neighbors with a bottle or two. :-)

Here's hoping the smell and bubbling don't get the dogs too excited - if I come home to a five-gallon puddle of fermenting malt sugar in my bathroom I shall be quite put out.

-Rich

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Gentleman Brewer

Well, the deed is done. My hopped and boiled pre-beer ("wort"), which wound up being a very well-dissolved amalgam of sugars from A) a malted-barley mixture (several specialty grains) that I "mashed" (soaked) in 155-degree water for 30 minutes, and then "sparged" or washed with 170-degree water for 15 more minutes, so as to activate and then extract all the sugars, and B) two cans of unhopped malt extract syrup (one "plain" and one "amber") for the easier but more bland bulk of the fermentables. The apartment smells like sugary bread is baking. :-) Mmmm.

Add the "bittering" hops for bitterness of taste, boil for 55 minutes, add the "finishing" hops for aromatic effects, steep for five more minutes, then crash-cool the boiling mixture to 100 degrees in a sinkful of ice water (for which I really need a bigger sink, and more ice), then add to chilled water in the 6.5-gallon fermenting bucket to finish out at around 80 degrees. Pitch in the yeast (activated beforehand in 2 cups of water boiled with a tablespoon of the plain extract, again crash-cooled to 80° F), and you're done.

Fermenting should be an interesting process. If all is well the bubble-airlock in the top of the fermenting bucket ought to begin bubbling (releasing CO2) sometime over the next 18 to 24 hours, and from there the process should get to the bottling stage (wherein the bouncing baby beer is naturally carbonated and allowed to mature) around this coming Friday or Saturday.

Give it two weeks or so, and with any luck I'll have some great home-brewed red ale to take home for Thanksgiving. (And before you ask, it's legal to take up to five gallons of beer [and I'm only making five] across state lines, so Thanksgiving won't be a problem.)

Postmortem
Heh. One or two things didn't go exactly as planned. For one, screwing the damn spigots into the holes drilled into the buckets was a chore, and they leaked at first despite their gasketing, but then I discovered that some flanges on the fitting allowed tightening with my big ol' wrench. Problem solved.

Handling the syrup really required a spatula. Since my 2-cup measure was activating the yeast, I wound up with no vessel suitable to pour sparging water through the grain, so I sanitized a small dessert bowl as a ladle and it did fine. I did have one small boilover because I was reading the recipe while the boil was just starting up. Not too big a mess, but still a pain.

As mentioned, cooling the wort was a PITA: I ran through my full icemaker, all my cold-packs and five sinkfuls of cool water. Still, from boiling to 100° in 25 minutes ain't too bad.

I am severely stoked. This has been a blast so far. :-)

-Rich

Friday, November 01, 2002

C'mon, Baby, Let's Be Responsible Citizens

Help Beat the Drought - Shower Together

Stranger than fiction, those Aussies...

But if it truly does save water then people can't be doing it properly.

-Rich

The Little Things

The little diner attached to our building has finally acquired some Diet Vanilla Coke. Mmmm. Vanilla-y bliss.

Caffeine is good for headaches, by the way. Vanilla's just good. Kudos to Coca-Cola for getting it right.

Fortuity
Tomorrow is the American Homebrewers' Association's "Teach a Friend to Brew Day," evidently, and I'm going to visit The Weekend Brewer, which is 20 or 30 miles south of Richmond, to get myself started brewin'. Should be a blast. Meeting new people, playing with new toys, and probably sampling some really nifty beer to boot.

Oh yeah, gotta get that tire replaced, too, before I do anywhere near that much driving. Probably both rears. Pity my bank account. :-p

-Rich

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Arrogant Enjoyment

Aaaaah. Sipping on my Arrogant Bastard Ale right now, and it's good that my palate has grown up so well (considering I want to brew beer and all). Once upon a time I was one of those who thought that the hoppiness (bitterness) of ABA was too much for a civilized person to handle. As 'tis, I'm getting all sorts of great stuff from this beer I didn't the first time around. It's got a light mahogany color to it, and in between the hops (which do jump out from the shadows with Louisville Taste Bud Sluggers and point into the left field bleachers) there's a lot of good, darkish body there.

I quote from the back of the bottle:
"This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory --- maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it's made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better. Perhaps you're mouthing your words as you read this."
Heh. Subtle folks over there at Stone Brewing Co.

Oh, yeah, and it's 7.2% alcohol by volume. That doesn't hurt either. Oh, yeah, and it comes in 1 pint, 6-fluid-oz. bottles. That's (counts woozily on fingers) twenty-two ounces of rather beefy beer.

Next is my same-sized bottle of Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale, which is 9.443% abv. I will not be typing any more tonight, as I had a light lunch and dinner, and am already making too many typos.

Good grief. Who ever heard of a 271-pound lightweight?

Heh. Old Guardian is pumpkin colored. That ought not be funny. Really.

-Rich

Miscellaneous

Some odds and ends on a Thursday...

Puncture
I achieved a flat tire as I was leaving my office building yesterday - there's a sharpish curb along one of the turns leaving the parking decks, and I deftly used that to punch a nice rip in my driver's side rear. Riding on the spare now -- tomorrow's payday, which (sort of) clears the way for replacement tires. Yay. Looks like some of the more exotic home-brew equipment is gonna have to wait, or perhaps migrate onto the Christmas wish list.

Juncture
I've got that funny "life, she is a-changin'" feeling around me lately. Between the highly publicized budgetary problems here at the Commonwealth, my seeming inability to turn the head of a Richmond female, and a shiny new hobby on the horizon, my travelin' shoes are looking mighty inviting.

Tincture
A big thanks to Acidman for his home-brewing explication. I have beer names bouncing around the inside of my head, and have discovered the closest (and I use that term generously) home-brew shop to Richmond, as well as a local homebrew club. Of course I'm discovering all this cool stuff just as my ability/proclivity to remain in Richmond is coming into question, but we'll take these things as they come.

Evidently I need to clear my fridge in anticipation of my first batch of beer (40-55 bottles[!], depending on the bottle size I choose). This looks to be quite the chore, considering it's currently holding several "draught cans" of Guinness, an Arrogant Bastard Ale, and another Stone brewery concotion (perhaps their IPA).

Oh, yeah, and some filtered water, but that's expendable. ;-)

Yep, you can feel the hardship.

-Rich

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Hey, Wow, How 'Bout That?

Hi, sugarmama. Good grief, she's mentioned me twice in the past month, I've watched her and Hunter banter back and forth a fair amount on his blog, and yet barely paid her a visit. I don't know, somehow I missed just how interesting she seems to be. Hell, a Java programmer and IDE connoisseur (connoisseuse?), a hot tummy (ahem), excellent taste in glasses and a dog lover, too. Not to mention the intestinal fortitude to buy her own house.

My first perusals of her site didn't grab me as a returning reader. After a read this evening I'm wondering what I was smoking.

Good thing she lives in Alabama or I might be inclined to embarrass the both of us.

Now if only I hadn't been such a pensive dweeb lately. (Brushes off shoulders, grins wide...) Angst? Who, me? :-D

In any event, hi, sugarmama! Welcome to the relatively-more-wakeful portion of my oft-squoze brain!

-Rich

Change of Topic - Something Less Tiresome, and Tastier

I've been threatening to do this for a while, and lately between the Food Network and Alton Brown [blog entry] re-airing his "Good Eats" on the subject, and watching a History Channel "Hands on History" episode on the subject in general, I've decided to take on the mantle of home brewer.

Beer. Just sit back and swish that around in your figurative mouth for a bit. From the dark bitter richness of a stout to the sour bite of a pilsner, from the deep red of a medium-roast ale to the misty honey color of a Hefe-Weizen wheat brew. Aaah.

From the days when clean water was difficult to come by and beer was the safest drink, to the boutique microbrew craze of a few years ago, beer has been a staple of civilized life. I love the idea of boiling some plants for an hour or so, tanking the result for a few days, bottling, waiting a few more days, and by so doing making some small mark on the world of beer.

So has anyone out there had any experience with home beer brewing? I've found a number of promising websites through which to acquire all manner of ingredients and equipment, as well as a few recipes and technique articles, but any stories or cautions would be appreciated.

Oh, and does anyone know a source for Grolsch-style swingtop bottles?

-Rich

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Clarification; Hesitation

Well, the last post certainly generated a lot of discussion, most of it revolving around the supposition that my standards are too high.

That may be so, but a salient fact that seems to get glossed is that I'm hardly interviewing a dozen women a week and sending them all off disappointed because they fail to make some grade of mine. At this point any female with sufficient interest in me to, say, return a phone call will get a serious look, if only because I can use the ego stroke of not experiencing outright rejection. Just as a change of pace.

A point was also made by my dad that it'd be pretty trivial to do a search for me (or my main e-mail address) online and find this site, and contrary to the Goddess' assertion, it wouldn't take too many posts to give someone a dubious first impression if that person had yet to meet me, pseudonyms or no. I confess I'm unsure what to do about this.

-Rich

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Framing the Question

Joie and Joan have both asked me to consider the question of "what sort of person do I want to date?" versus "what sort of person do I want to settle down with, reproduce, and live happily ever after?"

OK, let's work the numbers:

To DateTo Have and to Hold
IntelligentIntelligent
WittyWitty
FaithfulFaithful
PrettyPretty
GentleGentle
"Friendly""Friendly"
Healthy (mental)Healthy (mental)
Healthy (emotional)Healthy (emotional)
Healthy (physical)Healthy (physical)
Healthy (financial)Healthy (financial)
Minimal Baggage (kids, crazy exes)Minimal Baggage (kids, crazy exes)

Not finding any significant differences so far. Little help?

-Rich

Moot Point

Well, for all the wondering and debate about preexisting kidlets it looks like I've scored another non-starter. No contact, despite early indications of interest. Didn't even get to meet this one.

Let's see, four women in the space of three weeks decide they've got better things to do with their time than hang out with me, two sight unseen, two after actually meeting me, despite me feeling like I'm at the top of my social game. It might be them. Yep, might not be me. Yep.

At least work is going well. Computers are marginally more cooperative than females. Working with computers has certainly been more profitable and fulfilling than with females. Computers have given me a lot less grief over any given period of time, and are actually very good about returning calls, given a modem and the right authentication software. Hell, as a hobby they're even less expensive.

When a program falls over, and tells you, "I'm out of memory," it doesn't really mean, "I'm feeling fat, ugly and unloved, and I'm going to make you suffer because you have a Y chromosome and haven't made me happy in the past five minutes."

It means it needs more memory.

In any event, life is still pretty good because it's raining outside. Sleeping with rain outside is the best. Well, right after crashing waves. And maybe wind in trees. Oh yeah, and as I recall cuddling with a female before bed made for good sleep too. But I could be wrong... The subject has gotten so hazy...

No cuddling computers yet. Damn.

Good night.

-Rich

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Thank you, sir, may I have another?

Yep, still plugging.

Have been contacted from the blue by an interesting woman online who liked my profile; she uses excessively polysyllabic words like I do, seems to have a compatible sense of humor, and per her photos, outrageously spiffy eyes. She may even be, though this is as yet uncertain, the bees' knees.

She also has at least one preexisting rug-rat. I'm unsure what to do about this, but for the nonce coffee and convo are certainly harmless enough.

-Rich

Monday, October 21, 2002

Phooey

I had a post written for Friday, but for some reason I never saved it before posting (I usually do) and of course Blogger ate it; I never got the chance to do a rewrite, and now it's Monday again. Ah well.

Wound up going to Walküre alone (female standups for the performance: three), and enjoying the performance anyway, though there was a strong undercurrent of 'boy, it'd certainly be nice to share this with someone' that I couldn't seem to shake. Big deal.

Time Loss (Working)
It was an insane week at work, with long nights and early mornings, because we were preparing for another agency to begin testing on Project, Eater of Worlds. We made it, though, and testing is proceeding as I type, for good or ill. I've got to try and rebuild my blogging habits now, as well as many others like sleeping schedule, swimming schedule and the like.

Weight Loss (Swimming)
Some good news in all this is that my new regimen of swimming a few times a week and abstaining from carbohydrates after about five PM is bearing fruit: I'm in great peril of falling into the 260s, weightwise. :-) Booyah!

Faith Loss (Dating)
In other news, a newfound friend of a friend is recommending that I accompany him to the Philippines and select a wife the way he did. Evidently he made a trip over there, chose from a group of five or so equally qualified women, was a pen-pal with her for a few months, and then returned, tied the knot and brought her back to America. He and his college-educated, English-speaking, same-religion, divorce-is-not-an-option-in-my-culture wife are deliriously happy and have a beautiful, precocious daughter who is going to be a heartbreaker and a half. Someone remind me again why this is a bad idea...

-Rich

Monday, October 14, 2002

Well, well, well

Got a note from "Florence" this weekend apologizing profusely for dissing me with her absence last Saturday. Evidently she caught a stomach bug, just like "Jordan" did. I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt (if only so I don't have to go to the $#^%* opera alone again), but there's no margin this time.

Am I being too nice?

-Rich

Friday, October 11, 2002

Kicking off a three-day weekend

Yep, us gummint employees get three days over the Columbus Day weekend. Congrats and condolences to all who do and don't gert the same, respectively. It'd certainly be nice if I had some sweet young thing to walk with, talk with and get to know better over those three days, but failing that there's laundry to do, videogames to play, football to watch and other time-consumers.

Yippee.

And I still have to find someone to go to the opera with. Dammit. They're great seats, and I don't seem to be able to give the one next to me away.

-Rich

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Back to the Drawing Board

Well, it appears to be official. All three of the would-be women in my life appear to have decided I'm not worth the courtesy of an e-mail or phone call, even to tell me to buzz off. I know the phone works, because I check my home messages once a day from work as a matter of course. I know e-mail works, because I get plenty of spam.

Post Mortem
"Jordan": Faded into obscurity after sending much encouraging e-mail and then mysteriously failing to return calls.
"Kristin": Lapsed into silence after a single coffee.
"Florence": Ditto "Kristin," but with the added filigree of a stand-up for dinner.

Conclusion
Next! There's certainly the temptation to believe that there's something wrong with my manner, or my looks, or something else that has rendered these women too repulsed, cowardly or unimpressed to call, but I'm gonna give this another round before seeking "what am I doing wrong?" advice.

-Rich

Monday, October 07, 2002

Cool once again

Aaah, it's nice to be back in the 70s from day to day. Breezy, cool air - a simple pleasure.

Thanks to everyone who chimed in with support after Saturday evening's non-date boondoggle. I'm still waiting for any sort of call proclaiming her excellent reason for skipping out, but one doesn't appear to be forthcoming. Ah well, and then there were two.

Well, sort of. "Jordan" still seems reluctant to communicate. (Checks deodorant.)

Politics is easier than dating
In other news, Acidman posted a link to this out-freaking-standing article, and I thought I'd perpetuate the meme.

Technology is easier than dating
Had a great time teleconferencing with Hunter on Saturday afternoon. Some cheapo webcams, a little cerebral elbow grease, and we're making like the Jetsons. God, I love being a technophile.

Oh! And as Joie and Kate have discovered, Hunter also has a new blog! Go visit!

Cooking is easier than dating
I've been reading and loving Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food recently, too. It's completely changed my approach to grilling, and for those that know me, that's saying something.

-Rich

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Mmmm. McNuggets.

"Florence" stood me up for Japanese tonight. Not even a phone call.

Nice to know some things are consistent.

-Rich

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

The Standings So Far

Well, per the urgings of Joie, I'm assigning nicknames to all my dating cotérie. Now all I have to worry about is using their nicknames when I talk to them. Thanks, I think. %-) I can try the "pet name defense" if that occurs, but I doubt that'd be any better than telling #1 to "make it so." And initials are too detached, so I'm just gonna go with stage names and hang the consequences. :-)

"Jordan" (5'7", straight shoulder-length dark hair [according to her photo]) is a swim coach and the "faith and morals" girl from a few posts back. So far she and I have only "spoken" via e-mail and phone messages over two weeks of acquaintance, but her schedule is a hectic one and she's been ill, so she gets a bit more slack before being declared a non-starter. She and I are very compatible on paper--I look forward to actually meeting the woman...someday...

"Kristin" (5'4", curly shoulder-length blond hair and cute-severe horn-rimmed glasses) is a business controller (accountant with teeth), and is the dating-service referral. She plays volleyball and golf and reads a lot of true-crime novels. She and I had coffee this evening. More on that in a moment.

"Florence" (5'8", permed shoulder-length brown hair) is a nurse (heh) and was my "out of the blue" e-mailer based on my Match.com profile. She and I had coffee this past Sunday afternoon and are meeting for dinner this coming Saturday for further mutual study.

Tonight's Coffee
"Kristin" and I met at the local Starbucks tonight and chatted for an hour. Initial impressions: well, our inaugural phone conversation over the weekend was more of a mutual job interview than anything social, but things lightened up a bit after I got her to laugh. Still, that job-interview atmosphere bled strongly into tonight's meeting; luckily I interview well, so it only took ten minutes or so to break us out of shop talk and get onto stuff like music, pastimes, etc.

Long story short: We wound up talking about me a lot more than her, simply because "Kristin" didn't have much to say about herself. She might have been nervous, or I might have been in some jazzy manic state, but she seemed reluctant to talk much, and sort of shy; for once I felt like the colorful one. Still, I was warned about this in the précis I received from the dating service (wow, they do add value!), so I'm going to set things up for another meeting; probably over Thai, as she mentioned being fond of it. Still, she's not much of a moviegoer, music-listener or big conversationalist, so I'm sort of short on raw material here unless something huge dawns when next we meet.

This Past Sunday's Coffee
"Florence" and I decided to do a spur-of-the-moment java-meet on Sunday afternoon. If I'm not mistaken she's new to the online-dating scene, and as such was a trifle nervous, but she seems to be softspoken anyway. In any event, I got her laughing a bit, and things loosened up some; convo ranged all over: from career paths, to places we'd lived growing up, to (oddly) how our divorces were similar and different. Still, things stayed pretty light, and from there we decided to meet for dinner this coming Saturday.

So Anyway...
No real sparks with anyone yet, but the experiences have all been good ones so far. Not much more to cover, but watch this space for more details as events unfold.

-Rich

But... But... It's October!

Today's forecast in Richmond calls for ninety-degree weather.

Tweet. Unseasonlike conduct. Fifteen Yards. I know it's Richmond, but I've been a good boy this summer. I wanna be cold.

Oh, and what Sars said. Only without all the girl stuff. ;-) In terms of clothing, all cold weather means to a guy is that he no longer sweats so much in the stuff he has to wear to work anyway.

But autumn means football, too, and girls' noses getting all pink and the rest of them all snuggly and starved of body heat.

And then there's hot cider, and blowing leaves, and pumpkin pie and it's going to be ninety ^$#@% degrees today.

Grump.

Oh, coffee with Female Number Three this evening. Assessment to follow.

-Rich

[Edit: Ack! I meant Female Number Two. See? See?]

Monday, September 30, 2002

Date update

Well, the lady in question for Saturday sushi had to postpone, as she's come down with some sort of virulent stomach bug, but she wants very much to reschedule, so I'm going to give her another chance.

I spoke on the phone with The Woman Behind Door Number Two for the first time last night, but I think we both were in a "yay, work tomorrow" frame of mind, so it wound up being a two-way job interview for the first few minutes until I got her to laugh a bit. We're meeting for coffee this Tuesday evening.

I also, out of the blue, received a response from my venerable Match.com profile Friday afternoon; Woman Number Three and I met for coffee yesterday evening, and had a nice little chat; we'll be meeting for dinner this coming Saturday (October 5th), and perhaps a jaunt by the Virginia State Fair.

...No, Bre'r Fox, don't throw me into that there Briar Patch! Anything but the Briar Patch...

%-)

-Rich

Friday, September 27, 2002

Cool Article

Sex, IQ & ET: How We Got Big Brains

Heh. Makes a smarter-than-the-average-bear guy feel pretty good about himself. :-)

Just for fun, here's another link: A Girl's Guide to Geek Guys

-Rich

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Pouring

It's fitting that today's a rainy one in Richmond.

I knew this would happen. No sooner do I get a date made for this Saturday than a dating service (non-online) that I joined a year or so ago - and that's been dormant and not referring anyone to me for months, by the way - sends me a letter about my new referral.

Literally the next day they send this to me. I'm looking for surveillance cameras. Someone in that tasteful salmon-and-ecru office is giggling at me right now. Hmph.

I dread these situations - much as it can feel muy macho to date two women at once, I stink on ice at it. I'll do intelligent things like forget which parts of my life story I've told whom (and mix up who told me what parts of theirs; "You mean you didn't get fired last week? Whoops, who else could I have been thinking of?"), and probably end up double-booking them through a brain-glitch some evening because I'm so happy to have females speaking to me at all.

Dammit. This always seems to happen, too. It's the third time in a year and a half - the minute I get some self-confidence women just converge on me, and then I wind up bobbling everything I've got in the air and ticking everyone off.

OK, people, help save yourselves from another year of me wailing, "wah, wah, I'm no good with women, I'm gonna die lonely and never have sex again."

What do y'all consider the right (and correct in terms of etiquette) course of action?
  • tell my new referral (who's probably been waiting just as long for her envelope) in some tactful way that boy, the timing's bad, but I just met someone and I prefer not to multitask; sure, I'll pay for your blown referral, but can I call you sometime if this one doesn't work out?
  • suck it up, rejoice in my newfound luck and magnetism and have a blast; also see what's "in" in Kevlar this season and invest in a security system
  • never call either of them, grab a stogie, a shot glass and a bottle of Wild Turkey, and thank my lucky stars I woke up before allowing women into my life again
  • move to Utah with both of them and try to find a county where they don't keep their law-enforcement too up to date
-Rich

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Cooling Down, At Last

I love this time of year, when the summer finally begins to leave, regular daytime temperatures get into the 70s, and chilly breezes with that leafy smell start up again. Ah, Fall.

I ask myself (the quintessential polar bear) several times a summer why I stay in hot, sticky Richmond year after year. Inertia is my best answer, followed closely by an appreciation for the history, sane traffic and slower pace that Richmond offers, but those reasons are all fading as I contemplate the world at large and rediscover what it's like to go an entire day without feeling hot and sweaty even once.

In particular I miss the ocean: hearing it, smelling it, feeling the crash and suction of surf around my feet. It's not like I can't drive for a few hours and hear Virginia waves, but despite not having grown up around water, my past visits have been on my mind. Not "beaching it" with suntan lotion and towel (that heat thing - still good, but not optimal), but walking in windbreaker and rolled-up jeans through cold surf and a stiff wind, with thunderclouds rolling in and a storm brewing... The majesty and caprice of nature, right there for tea. It messes with my head, and I love it.

...I remember in particular a Spring Break, and a house in what I think was Nags Head; it was a college thing, and as such there was all sorts of personal drama, but the image I've retained best is the beautiful panorama of an overcast, windy day when swimming was a horrible idea, and I took a long walk alone. Didn't have to speak for hours, and it was just me, the irritable ocean, and a screaming gull or two, flying nearly stationary and nearly inaudible in the wind. It was the totality of solitude, loneliness, potential, and a life barely begun; I came back with salt in my collegiate beard, jeans soaked to mid-thigh from the spray, numbness outside and fire inside, and a peacefulness of self that, I think, changed me for the duration. There was life before that, and life after that.

Anyway, that means I should probably head for the Massachusetts coast, but geez, they're all such socialists up there... ;-) Maybe the Maine, Oregon or Washington coasts, or even southern Alaska...

-Rich

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Update

Looks like we're on for Saturday for raw fish; phone numbers have been exchanged, and I plan to annoy her tomorrow evening. :-)

Crap. I need a haircut. And a car wash. :-)

-Rich

So anyway, I met this woman online...

And she and I are trying to make arrangements to meet for coffee and/or sushi later this week. E-mail is a clumsy, inefficient way to do these things. :-\ Nevertheless, we persevere.

I'm sure Acidman will have some choice words based on the whole 'online' thing (reference), but the good news is that unless she's been lying her posterior off from Day One (always a possibility, I admit, given the nature of the Internet) she seems to have her stuff together. She leads with "faith" and "morals" on her profile, which is why someone who's evidently quite the catch might not have been deluged off the dating-site scene yet. Seems like good long-term potential there, and she and I like many of the same authors and movies so far, so here's hoping.

-Rich

Monday, September 23, 2002

PromoGuy's Monday Mission 2.38

1. Do you like to drink warm beverages in the morning or do you prefer yours cold? Cold. Ice cold. Diet Mountain Dew with a Diet Coke chaser.

2. Have you ever been so upset with someone that you wanted to get revenge? What did you do? Or if you didn't, what would you like to have done? Nope. I try to blow my anger off quickly; that resentment stuff eats your soul.

3. Looking back, are there any opportunities you missed out on that you can see now but didn't realize then? Yep - almost too many to count (my general state of residence is cluelessness), but if I had it all to do over again, there's a certain woman I might have tried harder with, and one I should have done less with, both in college. It's not as if there's a cast of thousands there, either, so college pals will probably be able to figure it out.

4. Are there any clothes you refuse to throw away even though they don't (and never will) fit? Why do you keep them? Yup, I've shrunk out of a few pair of pants in recent months, and I'm definitely keeping them as a signpost of where I plan never to go again.

5. Do you have an accent? Are there any phrases or words you say that tip folks that "you aren't from around these parts?" Ah don't thank ah dew, but ah dew ketch maself sayin' "y'all" from tahm to tahm.

6. Are there any words folks misspell or incorrect uses of words that simply drive you insane? Homophone misuse. Confusing "they're" with "their" with "there" and similar. Too, to and two. And gratuitous, obvious misspellings that don't get caught like "teh" for "the." (Ahem.)

7. Are there any pet names that you like to be called? Any you don't? Do you (or did you) have any pet names for your partner? Jennifer and I called each other "sug" and "sugar" a lot, as well as "sweetie." I have no idea how I'll react to pet-names starting up again, though my actual pets get a lot of "bubba," "knuckle-pup" and "pretty-kitty." :-D

-Rich

Friday, September 20, 2002

Slack, Slack, I know...

Sorry, everyone. Life is going cool places. I'll be posting two "standards" today (though this post is marked Friday, I haven't published it until today).

1. Would you say that you're good at keeping in touch with people? Heh, any answer other than "no, I suck at it" will get me mercilessly flamed after the past few weeks. So, nope. :-)

2. Which communication method do you usually prefer/use: e-mail, telephone, snail mail, blog comments, or meeting in person? Why? Huh - fascinating question. It depends on the person, and the reason. I dislike "synchronous" commo (when both people have to be free at the same time, like phone calls or visits) for trivial things, because the setup is seldom easy in today's busy world, and there may be time-zones to take into account and all that. But nothing beats a visit or a phone call for catching up with a close buddy. I don't think I've sent a snail-mail letter in a year. My stamps are all two rate-hikes old, if that tells you anything.

3. Do you have an instant messenger program? How many? Why/why not? How often do you use it? Yep, I've got them all, but I generally don't turn them on because computer time == private time in my mind for the most part.

4. Do most of your close friends live nearby or far away? Far, far away. Chicago, New York, Birmingham, Philly, DC, Maryland, Atlanta. Nobody on the west coast yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are plans. Sometimes I think I personally keep United and Southwest in business.

5. Are you an "out of sight, out of mind" person, or do you believe that "distance makes the heart grow fonder"? Out of sight, out of mind. Period. Well, mostly.

-Rich

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Is it possible for things to be going too well?

Yep, I'm stuck without anything in my craw again. :-)

It's the weirdest thing - I'm doing work I enjoy, swimming for exercise, sleeping better and I haven't had really bad "brain buzz" for a few days now.

Sure, I could use a woman in my life, but there are good things about solitude too.

I could use more money in my life, but living simply has been very good to me of late.

Many are worried about the impending war with Iraq, but I believe it's for all the right reasons.

There isn't much on TV outside of football (and what football - Monday night made me proud to be an Eagles fan). But wait - that's a good thing too.

Sorry, everyone, but I'm at a complete loss for anything to complain about.

Well, my car's wheels do need realignment. :-)

-Rich

Monday, September 16, 2002

He's Back!

Hey, all. Sorry for the downtime, but life got in the way.

Last week was a crazy one, primarily because work mushroomed into an all-encompassing time-eater. An old project came back and jumped me, but as a result I'm now doing all sorts of yummy résumé-enhancing things, so I can't be but so put out. Besides, it involves new, shiny ASP.NET technology, and I do love playing with sparkly new things.

But this preoccupation with work made for a great excuse to grab some real alone-time, wherein I didn't feel the need to play to the blogging crowd, or voice any quasi-controversial opinions. It was good. I began reading a book or two, and did laundry, and other welcomely mundane things. Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. The trick there is distinguishing before from after. ;-)

Thanks to everyone who commented on the September-eleventh post; I really wish I had commented more, but the discussion stood on its own anyhow. Tomorrow I shall continue with things more mundane and yet interesting in that juicy bloggy way.

-Rich

Monday, September 09, 2002

September Bloody Eleventh

I find it truly amazing how people have a need to romanticize and beschmaltz the tragedy of a year ago this Wednesday. Perhaps I don't have the wiring to "get" the need for "closure," the need to sing, soulful and teary-eyed, as I sway and mourn with two hundred thirty million of my closest friends.

On the other hand, I didn't personally lose anyone in the attacks. I had two relatives in New York City on that day; both survived without injury, though one has left the city for good, as the pain from witnessing everything from less than a block away was too much for her. No problem. People for whom this was a nextdoor thing, or who lost someone dear to them, are not the target of this rant.

Thirty-two hundred (ish) dead. A staggering figure, and one for which we should be (and are) kicking posteriors all over the globe. I refuse to understand, however, how Myrna in Mifflinsburg, PA or Jessup in Podunk, Idaho are feeling more vulnerable, or as though they've lost some essential American innocence that they're still mourning a year after the fact. People claiming Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder who wouldn't even know about the attack if not for the evening news. These people are the ones I'm talking about.

Maybe it comes from being a white male of European descent, and thus (according to many) the perpetrator of all the ills suffered by the modern world. I'm used to other people, other cultures, other demographics hating and envying me and what those like me stand for and have accomplished. September eleventh for me was a confirmation of what I already knew: people out there hate Americans and want us dead. Not only that, but it stood to reason for me that if a sufficient population of nuts tried for long enough, they'd eventually kill a significant number of us. I'm even a Clancy reader, so it's not like the transformation of an airplane into a weapon was a new concept for me either.

Yes, to a largely metaphorical extent, we were all attacked on September Eleventh, 2001. Evidently there was a significant portion of rank-and-file America that was honestly surprised --depths-of-the-being-surprised-and-shocked-- by the attacks. Good on ya; sensitivity counts for a lot, and says a lot about the character of a person. America is a nation of big-hearted people. However, we're also a nation of people with a long, distinguished tradition of giving a big collective middle-finger to those who don't hold truck with us and the way we do things. The way to lift that finger is not to sob and sniffle and hold pageants and wail "poor us" a year after the fact if we're not mourning a personal loss. If you don't live in forever-scarred New York City, and didn't lose a friend or family member or co-worker, then guess what? Your duty --the best way to honor the murdered and their survivors-- is to lift that finger. Point your knuckles at Kabul and Baghdad and tell 'em they're number one. :-)

(I wish I had somewhere worth flying to this Wednesday, because I'd be on a plane - I understand fares are a steal. I've made three round-trip flights up and down the east coast in the past year. I'll be flying to Chicago this winter. I refuse to let deranged Arabs half a world away determine my morning shower routine, let alone whether I exercise my freedom of movement.)

-Rich

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Squeezings from a Stone

Strange thing, I've had little opinion to me the few days. Not depressed, or down; as a matter of fact I'm enjoying myself a fair bit, swimming at the gym and generally doing things around the apartment and hanging out.

So I suppose I'll just chat for a bit, rather than leave people hanging...

It's supposed to stay in the mid-to-upper 80s for the remainder of the week and the weekend, and that's a very good thing. Several days of civil temperatures are very much in order. Richmond didn't get nearly the amount of rain it wanted or needed from the big storm of the past week; mandatory water restrictions are all over now, despite the grass being lush and green -- it's odd and off-kilter.

I've acquired a few new neighbors in the course of general turnover around the apartment complex; some of them have brought indoor/outdoor cats with them, and now all the cars in the northern end of the parking lot are sporting cat pawprints on the hoods and windshields. Too funny. I also have a veritable receiving-line of cats to walk by every time I approach the apartment. Needless to say my dogs are in a constant state of near conniption these days as well, wanting to go on cat-chases every time I walk them. It's good for my back and shoulders, I suppose. :-D

In that vein, I may need new Flexi-Leads (retractable leashes, for the non-dogged) soon, though; my current ones are smelling funny in the wake of recent rainy walkies, despite my attemps to soap the nylon up and kill the smell. These Flexis have done their bit for king and country, methinks (they were well-used back in 2000); time to retire them.

I have also discovered a source for a hard-to-find plum wine and real Stilton cheese here in the Richmond area, as well. Combine that with some Ukrop's crostini and you've got some serious good eatin'. Yeah, I can be a food nerd, too, though I'm a rank beginner in some ways; most of my material and technique come from the Food Network.

Snagged my season tix to the 2002-2003 season of the Virginia Opera a few nights ago, too, so I am now officially "po" until the next paycheck. Still, this season's looking good (Wagner's Die Walkure, right here in the Old Dominion!), and the tickets are great, if I understand the description - just off center, two rows up from the front edge of the "loge," or front of the balcony. So - anyone in the Richmond area up for opera?

-Rich

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

My Top 100

1 I am six foot two inches tall.
2 I currently weigh 275 pounds.
3 My hair is brown.
4 My eyes are blue.
5 My eyes have gotten some great reviews from women.
6 I am rather furry, but the hair that's exposed tends to turn tastefully light in color.
7 People also seem to like my voice.
8 I've had several women tell me I should open a phone-sex line for women.
9 This is because I worked as a software support guy for four years and was frequently on the phone eight hours a day.
10 I wound up hating that job, but I've reaped the benefits from it ever since.
11 My shoes are size 12 wide.
12 My hands are nine and a half inches from thumbtip to pinky tip when I spread them out.
13 This hand measurement has increased an inch since I was in high school.
14 I love mint.
15 I mean I really love mint. My desk has no fewer than five tins of different sorts of mints at any given time. Peppermint is king, but spearmint and wintergreen will do in a pinch.
16 I'm also a big vanilla fan.
17 I can't wait for Diet Vanilla Coke to arrive so I can stop rotting my teeth.
18 Myntz Co. Makes a sugar-free VanillaMyntz mint. I should be a stockholder.
19 I have a love/hate relationship with caffeine.
20 I wean myself completely off caffeine about twice a year so I can sleep.
21 Penguin Mints each have the caffeine of a third of a can of Coke and are sugar-free. Again, I should be a stockholder.
22 Bawls is a guarana drink that has nearly twice the caffeine content of Mountain Dew.
23 A typical cup of coffee has more caffeine than a bottle of Bawls.
24 I like to know my enemy.
25 I don't particularly like coffee, though it makes a good after-dinner drink, and with enough stuff added (milk, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon) it can be pretty good.
26 If I could, I'd live every day from noon to 5 AM. Sunlight is overrated. ;-)
27 I'm a big fan of Daylight Savings Time as well.
28 I am divorced. This becomes less of a big deal every day, though you might not think so if you're a regular reader here.
29 I am a polar bear - I like cold, damp weather. Paradoxically, I live in Richmond, Virginia.
30 I like to use words like 'spiffy' and 'gracious' in everyday speech.
31 I think it's quaint. Many think it's weird. One person has begun to call me old. This will not change the behavior.
32 I'm a very quiet person, except when I'm around someone I like, in which case I don't shut up, even when I probably should.
33 I program computers for a living.
34 When I actually get to write programs, I really enjoy it.
35 I like gadgets and gizmos and fixing things.
36 Most of the lights in my apartment are remote-controlled. The utility of this is dubious, but at least I don't need to buy separate timers when I go on a trip.
37 There are so many fans and machines around me from day to day that silence is startling to me when it actually happens.
38 I really like the quiet.
39 I don't get enough quiet.
40 I like the noises of ocean waves and crackling fireplaces, too.
41 I don't get enough of those either.
42 My favorite color is blue. Somewhere between navy blue and royal blue.
43 I like to decorate (when I do decorate - heh) with maroons and hunter greens.
44 I live in my apartment with two medium-large dogs and a cat.
45 They do a lot to keep me grounded, but logistically I find myself with a lot of kid-like problems like needing to find a petsitter for trips.
46 A pair of wagging tails and goofy puppy grins can do a lot for you after a long day.
47 A kitty sleeping on your chest is a wonderful reminder that you're depended on.
48 A kitty sleeping on your chest is also an accident waiting to happen if she's a clumsy kitty.
49 Sushi is a clumsy kitty.
50 I grill a mean steak.
51 My ideal steak is done Pittsburgh rare. Charred on the outside, purple on the inside.
52 The only truly correct Pittsburgh rare I've had was at Gene and Georgette's in Chicago.
53 I have turned into a decent cook since turning single.
54 I seldom cook.
55 I have two pizza-delivery places and Chinese delivery on my home phone's speed-dial.
56 I'm also a fan of sushi - nigiri and sashimi.
57 Wasabi is good for the sinuses.
58 I like to sing.
59 I sing with an a cappella group named Impromptu.
60 Despite this, I listen to a lot of "hard pop" like Rob Zombie, Godsmack and Linkin Park these days.
61 I also listen to Rachmaninoff, Bach and Mozart from time to time.
62 Irish and other Gaelic music rocks my world.
63 My sister is a professional opera singer.
64 I have learned to like opera for its own sake.
65 I had season tickets for last year's Virginia Opera season, and am getting them for this season as well.
66 Yes, I'm straight.
67 I like girls quite a lot, actually.
68 I need to get better at expressing this to them.
69 If a woman murmurs in my ear I'm in deep trouble.
70 If she murmurs how much difficulty she's having with the database she maintains I'm in even worse trouble.
71 If she hums or sings to me it's time to call the National Guard, I'm in so much trouble.
72 I'm not in that sort of trouble nearly enough. :-)
73 The most trouble I can think of involves a campfire on a cool windy beach with storm clouds in the sky, and a long-haired woman in a heavy sweater humming and singing about unruly Irish databases in my ear.
74 I may require professional help. ;-)
75 Smooth vanilla ice cream trumps chocolate for me.
76 I really want to be a novelist.
77 I certainly write enough.
78 But it's all in e-mails and blog entries.
79 And top 100 lists...
80 I typically am in the middle of reading six or eight books at once.
81 Without finishing it, I can only maintain the context of a book for six months before I have to start over.
82 I have started The Lord of the Rings trilogy five times.
83 I have yet to finish.
84 Even as an (unabridged!) audiobook.
85 I find I type faster and with fewer errors if I'm listening to music - the more rhythmic the better.
86 I think it drowns out random thought-noise.
87 I often have trouble sleeping due to "brain buzz," when I can't stop going over stuff from my day.
88 Perhaps I should sleep with speed metal going.
89 Actually I think the dogs would kill me.
90 Or the neighbors would.
91 I like to exercise my subwoofer, you see.
92 I am thus fortunate to live on the ground floor.
93 I am fortunate in many ways.
94 Many new ways are blogging friendships.
95 Friends teach you things about yourself you're too close to the action to see.
96 I think Tripp has been trying to tell me this.
97 Tripp says I'm smarter than he is, and I won't question his judgment.
98 However, I think Tripp is wiser than me in many ways.
99 Though not all - he is a Democrat. ;-)
100 I have now completed a Top 100 List. :-D

-Rich

Monday, September 02, 2002

My Neglected Fans

Yes, yes, with all the human drama occurring on other sites and in grand volleys of instant messages, I have neglected my own space. I do not split my attention well.

Fear not, I shall be back soon enough with a not-at-all lemminglike Top 100 List, and more general opinion, so as to better irritate feminists and Generation Y-ers alike.

-Rich

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Community

Tripp has been harping on "community" and how A) it's impossible to live outside one's social milieu, and B) despite this fact, too many people do (?!?), and this is a problem.

Community, in terms of a group of people who appreciate, welcome and support you, can be a wonderful thing. The friendly group of bloggers that I've discovered over the past month or so has been very good for me, and if I'm not careful, I may find the seedlings of some lifelong friendships there.

However (and I'm NOT referring to my online group of friends here, I'm back in the realm of theory), in the immortal words of Ben Franklin, guests, like fish, stink after three days. Community is frequently a pain in the ass. There are many times when the ability to shut the world the hell out and be alone is a useful and healing thing, too.

Personally, I know I spend far too much time alone, but everyone has to come to terms with their own level of "gregarity." Mine happens to be low compared to the norm. I don't crave the company of people for its own sake; I am frequently lonesome, but that's for one-on-one company: I seldom enjoy groups comprising more than, say, ten people (I tend to withdraw into myself and just watch if I'm not engaged with a smaller subgroup), and I certainly don't miss such groups enough to seek them out on my own. Bars? Clubs? Sure, with a group I like and that wants to go, perhaps, but just for meeting people? No way. Ditto for churches, concerts, classes, etc. I'll go for the material, but in terms of belonging to a big theoretical group of people, who have an investment and say in how my life is going, I don't like it.

If some "community" of which Jennifer and I had been a part had seen that we were in trouble, burst in and started helping us "fix" things, I'm pretty sure both of us would have politely told the community to get bent, and oh yes mind its own business too. Being private people is one of the things we had in common.

Where do people like me go for the panacea of community, Tripp? If I was going to discover some great need for groups in which to immerse myself, I would have by now. Invasive, busybodying, "guardrailing" community of the type you describe is not at all a welcoming idea for me; in fact, it's faintly creepy in a spidery, "resistance is futile" way. I have no basis for it, and no wish to acquire one.

Please, tell me what I'm missing about this concept.

-Rich

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

More on Marriage

Mary take note: I'm talking about society and baby-making again. Have a Zantac.

Tripp's trying to run with a debate that arose from a comment I made for this week's Monday Mission.

My stated position is that since a primary obligation of a society is to perpetuate its population, the incentives for and privileges of marriage exist by and large for that reason - marriage (in its inaugural role as a primarily financial institution) was created to render relatively trouble-free the business of societal perpetuation, by providing a structure of rules and traditions for both the creation of new generations and the orderly transfer of wealth to those generations through inheritance.

Sarah raised the point that marriage has benefit as a social stabilizer, regardless of participants' gender. Other than (again, theoretically) smoothing the turbulent atmosphere around the reproductive business, what stabilizing influence does marriage provide? I don't see it.

Romantic notions re: love, and whether two persons' devotion to one another "deserves recognition" from the society in which it exists need not apply. Love as a significant motivator for (hell, even a factor in) marriage is a fairly modern invention, and I doubt cuts much mustard at the legislative level.

...Which brings me to the question of what exactly marriage is in today's non-theoretical American society. Considering that 50% of American marriages do not perform their stated goals (presuming that divorce constitutes on its face a failure in keeping procreative behavior orderly, and that inheritance can be horrendous among sundered families), it would appear that we have a societal problem, certainly outside of any monetary stimulus our government provides.

Tripp offhandedly raises the question of whether our society's divorce rate should be considered a bad one. If marriage is transforming into something like "going really steady," with attendant party and presents, then perhaps a one-in-two failure rate is indeed to be expected and a healthy thing; it's a simple extension of the dating ritual, after all, and dating is a fleeting and impermanent thing. Considering the raw pain and suffering divorce entails at the personal and familial level (not to mention the universally agreed-upon damage inflicted on children forced to suffer through divorces) leads me to believe this isn't the case.

The sentiment behind Ms. Rodham Clinton's averring that "it takes a village" is the foundation of the rest of Tripp's entry, and I'm afraid that I have to disagree. The most important grounding a child receives occurs when the child is largely pre-verbal, in his/her first three to five years. A village that pressures (through feminist insistence that stay-at-home motherhood is a demeaning or otherwise unworthy choice) or forces (through excessive taxation) utilization of cookie-cutter day-care facilities before the child is a year old is hardly helping in the effort. The best parenting jobs I've witnessed have come from a married mother and father who have stayed married, sacrificed, set their personal agendas aside and otherwise done the best they can to prepare a child before releasing him/her to the predations of the "village."

Tripp also mentions that most wedding ceremonies require witnesses, and abjure the community represented by the witnesses to help safeguard the union. It's Tripp's contention that this makes divorce a failure of the community's as much as that of the couple involved. I only agree with this in the most abstract sense: inasmuch as a society elevates and perpetuates a moral structure painting marriages as disposable, and individual desires more important than marital commitment, then society has in fact failed the couple. But when it comes down to it no amount of community interference, or goodhearted busybodying will keep a husband and wife married that've decided to sunder.

(Between 60 and 80 percent of divorces are initiated by the wife, depending on whom you ask. No, the incidence of adultery among soon-to-be-divorcees isn't appreciably higher on the male side than the female. Since women stereotypically have the market cornered on maintaining a support community for themselves, how precisely is a "village" helping again? No, this isn't woman-bashing. Read it again.)

-Rich