Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Update: Summer Before Spring.

Here in Western Michigan summer seemed to come long before spring had ever sprung! It's now the first week in April, and two weeks ago (in the middle of March) we were in the midst of a stretch of over two weeks with temperatures reaching into the 70's and for a lot of that event well into the 80's! It was unprecented, it was un-real and surreal all at the same time. The grass grew green like May, the trees flowered and started to sprout, and the tulips in Holland sprouted two months early!! heck, the girlfriend and I even dipped our toes into a still icy Lake Michigan.

It turned out to be the warmest March EVER on recorded history in Michigan. EVER. Sink in yet?? Good, because today is Wednesday, April 4th, 2012. The weather is still ahead of the curve. For a while afterward it got rainy and dropped into the deep 40's. Usual late March weather. It is however back up into the 50's and 60's and will be virtually completely sunny for this entire coming week. Yup, that's what the actual forecast is. It's what's for dinner.

Yesterday I not only lifted weights in the morning, but then got a burst of energy several hours later and decided I wanted to go walk around Reeds Lake. That walk turned into a 5K run within 50 meters of my start. The GF and I have been walking the 4+ miles around Reeds Lake a lot lately, and I have taken to jogging around it. It's a marvelous diversion from my normal boring jogging routes. Props to us!

All-in-all things are well. Big changes brewing soon. Love to all!!!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beer Review: Diabolical India Pale Ale - North Peak Brewing, Traverse City, MI.

So the other day I decided to grab a mixed sixer of some beers I had either never tried, or hardly drink. I had always seen North Peak's stubby little bottles and wondered how it was. Knowing I like IPA's, I thought this one would be a good try.

A- The appearance is amazing. The pours a hazy, bright yet deep amber color. The haze hangs around in the beer wonderfully clotting the clarity. The head pours huge! This thing started at four-fingers tall and took forever to fall. A huge, pillowy, white head with great retention stuck around forever!

S- The aroma is nice, but not overly done. I get a lot of citrus and floral smells, and it's light on the pine. Is that the presence of Cascade hops? This thing smells quite juicy, let's see.

T- One word; Yum. This IPA has a "juiciness" about it that is right up front and lasts right through the after-taste. I get a lot of orange citrus, some grapefruits start popping immediatly too. It's sweet, with a definite bite. Then the grassy flavors start coming mid-palate, ooooh and theres the pine/earthiness. What a good flavor, this one is pretty well balanced as I do get some malts in there too, but you know it's an IPA. Delicious.

M- Very coating mouthfeel. The beer is in no way cloying and you can certainly tell there is body to this beer. You can also get a sense for the creamy head in the mouthfeel of the beer.

D- Very drinkable beer. 6.66% ABV and 66.6 IBU's of bitterness (hence the name??)ensure this IPA packs flavor while allowing you to session it.

Overall this is quite an impressive "ordinary" American IPA. It's certainly not watered down, and they know what they're doing with this beer. I would recommend finding some for yourself and giving it a whirl!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beer Review: Leinenkugal's Big Eddy Imperial Stout

This beer is quite the beer. I've always been very impressed that despite having ownership and distribution rights over the Leinenkugal brand, Miller-Coors still allows them to crank out some really good ales, especially this beast! I had the opportunity to try it a few years back for the first time and haven't had the give-a-dang to since. So, for posterities sake, here we go.

A- Pours a molasses-thick, inky black. Am I going to drink three-year old used motor oil?? This stuff lets no light penetrate, period. Dark, sinister and forboding to those too afraid to approach, Big Eddy looms deliciously. A small dark-brown head forms and quickly dissapears.

S- Malty aromas slam my nasal passages in less than a second. Dark roasted coffee beans, rich, dark earthy smells evoke that of hard, crusty black-bread. deeper still rich cocoa lies deep within.

T- Wow what an explosion. I get cocoa-bean and bakers chocolate first. It's dark, super rich and definitly not for the prepared palet. As you let it sit on your palet roasted notes show up to the party. While late, here comes coffee. he's roasted too! Is that toffee with a major malty edge?? He's brought a friend, dark molasses-infused rye bread! Good to see you all here! Yes, they are all indeed here. Take your time on this one!

M- What a deep beer. This one is molasses and it's a good thing!This one is sweet, almost cloying toward the end if drank too quickly. It sits on your tongue and lingers as well. Quite pleasant if you like coffee though.

D- This beer is mainly for the months of November through April in colder climates. Pick a snowy night and a fire, hopefully a pooch curled up at your side, a good book on your lap. Relax, it's all good with this one.

9.5% Alc. by Volume, sold in four-packs or singles. Consult your highest-quality locale to get one that's been treated properly.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Whatever It takes To Win"

That's the montra in a lot of sports circles, especially amongst fans. That montra is even further evident in the realms of big-time DI-A college football. Athletic department budgets near and over $100 million, multi-million dollar coaches salaries, 100,000 seat stadiums, the best money can buy.

What fuels the need for all this? The money and revenue involved. What fuels that revenue? A crazed, obsessive (to put it mildly) nation of sports addicts who need a 24/7, 365 fix of whatever their allegiance is. They eat, sleep, work, defacate and most certainly bleed their team's/school's colors. This has made God-like icons out of the biggest names in college sports. It's suppost to be clean, moral and "for the love of the game." Well, we all now know it's far from that. College athletics are vulnerable to all of the most ghastly and immoral criminal behaviors that found on the streets of South Central LA. Last fall we got a rude reminder with the Penn State scandal.

Now in the article I am about to post, from Yahoo Sports writer Matt Hinton, it goes on to explain the sheer levels of anger and rage from PSU alumni about the firing of Joe Paterno. Now I'm not going to set the scene and preface this with 3 pages of background you already know, but JoePa (once one of my biggest idols in sports) had complicit knowledge of Mr. Sandusky's behaviors, and covered it up. It's the truth. It happened. One of the most invincible sports figures of all time was felled from his lack of moral action in the situation.

How anyone, after all the facts had come out, could be so blind and single-minded as to not only think it was wrong, but to be ANGRY that Coach Paterno was fired is beyond me. I try to think how, and it's so impossible my brain literally stops. It's un-conscionable that he would be allowed to stay. These angry alums demanding "explanations" are likely donors, some of whom exceptionally well-heeled. Regardless, the Nittany Lion fan-base ought to be hiding in fear and shame. Instead, they're mad that a man complicit in the continued of rape of an un-told number of children for years lost his job because of it. Instead of mourning the victims, the Penn State students went to the streets to riot in opposition to Paterno's firing. Well, that certainly reflects well on their moral standing, regardless of religious affiliation.

What I'm getting at here is that we've reached such a level of fan-dom and blind-ness in the face of winning, that even in the face of such an un-speakable horror as that incident some people say "Screw the victims, who cares if they were children who's innocence was ripped and lives harmed forever! I want my coach whether he's guilty or not!" It reveals a side of our fan-dom that is even uglier than we expected it could be. Dare I say that each one of those people advocating for the guilty be put to the same sexual abuse. Maybe their tones would change after...

God help and have mercy on those students and alums. As Jesus said while being slapped to the cross "Forgive them father, for they know not what they do!". Let's hope more conscienable heads prevail and apologies are given.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year, More Random Ramblings

Hey All!

December 30, 2011 came to and end in most spectacular and amazing fashion at the Inn at St. John in Plymouth, Michigan. One of my closest friends from college was getting married on New Years Eve, and man was that an incredible night. The most wonderful girl to ever grace my life and almost all of my college friends joined in the celebration, and I can say with total certainty that it was the best NYE I have ever had. Congrats Matt and Shannon!

Speaking of that wonderful girl, we've been together just about a year now and come February 5 it will mark the circle to the most amazing year I can remember, with hopefully many, many more to come! She is my better half and true final puzzle piece to my heart.

As you can tell, we're deep within the haunches of winter in Western Mitten-land. So that means it should be 4 degrees F with 12 inches of snow on the ground....right? While it is FINALLY snowing tonight, GR has had the single most absured and downright strange (almost creepy) start to winter I can ever remember. Aside from two inches of snow that melted immediatly (day after) it's been dry, partly sunny and in the mid-40's most of the last two months!! Conspiracy theories abound, but winter might just finally be here. We shall see about that...

Now on to what you usually expect from me; sports. Way to go Tigers, AL Central Division Champs and you beat the Yankees again in the playoffs. The Wings are the Wings and are where they usually are this time of year. The Lions had tons of hope to start the season and...MADE THE PLAYOFFS?!?! PLAYOFFS!?! Yes, the Detroit Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs, losing however to New Orleans in the first round. The rain-man cometh apparently.

My GVSU Laker football team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since my senior year of HIGH SCHOOL. They still managed to go 8-3, have a torrential 7-0 finish to the season where they bent people over the proverbial railing. On that note, Wayne State (whom we did not play) made it all the way to Florence, Al to the D2 national championship game. Yes, THAT Wayne State in Detroit. Despite returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, they eventually gave-way and the 6th-seeded Warriors (Tartars) fell to powerhouse Pittsburg State of Kansas. But still...what a statement for the conference. A team that made it into the final regional round of six to make the playoffs, played four rounds on the road all over the country and then finally Alabama. Why can't D1-A have this?

Speaking of D1-A, what an interesting year. Brian Kelly's sophmore year at Notre Dame started terrible, just as his first. he righted that ship and finished 8-4, and gettng to the Champs Sports Bowl, only to let a 14-3 halftime lead over Florida State dissapear and lose 18-14.

Welcome back Michigan football! 11-2, They destroy Nebraska, beat Ohio for the first time since 2003, make the Sugar Bowl and beat Virginia Tech in one heck of an ugly game. Brady Hoke is the new ruler of Ann Arbor. Despite getting to the B1G's first championship game, Michigan State was relegated to play in a lesser bowl game, the Outback Bowl. Sparty-nation was rampantly angry and declared UofM to be the blame for the BCS system. There they notched a rare win over an SEC team for the B1G in overtime. Kudos to Sparty and coach Dantonio. I wish you all the best, except when you play my Irish and Cortney's Maize and Blue. oh yes, that's right, my South Bend boys handed you your worst beat-down this season.

Speaking of that BCS system, this year was one for the record books...of screw ups. You realy took Michigan and Va-tech over Boise State and Kansas State/Baylor for the Sugar Bowl?!? WTF is wrong with you?? Oh that's right, it's about money. I forgot for 2.5, my bad. Can you tell I just got done reading Death to the BCS?? Not that I needed that book to get me going on that anti-trust lawsuit of an organization, but DAMN is it ever a good read!

On that note I want to share this:

Dear Alabama Crimson-Tide,

You have an amazingly scary, big, fast and powerful team. The BCS has deemed you best in all the land. However there is a small problem with this logic. Shouldn't you have to beat a team from ELSEWHERE in the country to be a NATIONAL champion?? I understand that because you over-recruit, over-sign and over-commit right up to the very legal edge of what the NCAA allows (and other conferences don't to your extent) your conference has had the lead for the better half of a decade. I know, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying."...well aside from Ohio State and USC, the rest of the country seems rather content with at leats TRYING to stay safely within the rules and until something changes (AKA a playoff) you will remain there.

How on EARTH two teams from the same crime-ridden conference were allowed to play for something so criminally called a "National Championship" is beyond me. Which, BCS-Cartel Committee, was the lowest and worst-ranked in TV ratings yet. The money-grad bas gotten that bad folks. It really has. Why AD's in the MAC and SunBelt aren't crying foul and organizing protests and threatening to walk-out I do not know. It's not like the BCS allows you to drink from that trough which you support, they openly and overtly keep you out while you kneel at their precence.

Back to Alabama. Folks, my alma-mater has won four REAL national titles in your beautiful state. I respect the tradition and the fan-base. However this year, all you are and will EVER BE are SEC champions...until a full 16-team playoff at on-campus locations is in-place like in all other divisions. Enjoy the crystal ball SEC Champs...God Bless.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BCS: Beauty Contest Session

Well it's true. You know it, I know it, and EVERY SINGLE DI-FBS school, administrators, atheltic director and coaches know this. They all signed on completely aware of the flaws, the inequities, and the ugly truth that it is nothing but a giant cash grab for the most popular teams. The system is designed to make money for itself. If your school and fanbase is deemed to not be profitable and there is another choice that would provide a bigger crowd, more hotel rooms sold, more merchandise and better TV ratings guess what; you're getting bounced!

The only ones who are satisfied with the system are those who are currently profiting from it hansomly. Well, at some time down the road they will get screwed over. The time will come.

So my frustrating is now boiling over with a certain school and it's fan base. Yes, you did get the shaft on this one. However Michigan State fans need to leave Michigan out of their mouths right now. Michigan did not curse you, they did not cause you some mystic harm. You beat them four years in a row. The University of Michigan did not create the BCS, not the circumstances that have prevented you from getting a rightful invite the last two seasons. Just like UofM, you Michigan State, signed on the line which is dotted. You went along like the rest of the FBS programs, like it or not.

There has always been a thing with Michigan State fans (see: massive generalization) and a complete fixation and obsession with the University of Michigan. Despite beating the Wolverines four years running now, there are two things that prove to me that Sparty has not yet "arrived" as some believe. One; you still talk constantly about the school in Ann Arbor. It is THE most important game on your schedule. You could go 1-11, but if you beat Michigan it was a good year dang it all! When you were left out of the BCS schedule this year, you immediatly deflected all of your anger and frustration toward Michigan. Two; despite winning the Legends division and losing to Wisconsin by only three points you were STILL the ugliest of the three sisters. Despite beating UofM four years running, the BCS still grabbed the Wolverines in a no-brainer financially.

Someone posted on their Facebook Sunday night "Don't thank your coach Michigan, thank your fan base...". Well...he's partially right! Michigan's fan base is partially what got them that bid with the system being what it is. Come on Sparty, get your fans out of the tailgating lot when the game starts and into the stadium. You can't even sell it out every game now! No wonder a profit-based system looked you over twice.

Chris Petersen, I wholly agree with you! If you want the system changed you have to speak out and ACT. If not you have no right to complain. YOU signed on for it.

Just thought this was funny:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Their Own Worst Enemy: Michigan State

I know I'm going to take a lot of heat for this, but it's how I feel. It's my opinion. I don't want Michigan State fans I know to take this personally, because it's not personal, it's what it is. So sit back, and enjoy.

So yesterday 6th ranked Houston was upset at home by #24 Southern Mississippi, ruining the then undefeated Cougars chances of going to a BCS game. As expected, #1 LSU destroyed 12th ranked Georgia in the SEC title game. Third-ranked Oklahoma State embarassed #10 Oklahoma in the bedlam game in Stillwater last night 44-10. Why does any of this matter so heavily to Sparty-nation today? Well last night 13th ranked Michigan State had a 36-28 lead going into the 4th quarter of the inaugural BigTen(12) Championship game against 15th ranked Wisconsin. The Spartans had already beat the Badgers earlier in the year on a last-second hail-Mary in East Lansing. They had also beaten Wisconsin last year, gotten a piece of the BigTen crown title. Well last year Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl, and MSU got left by the side of the road with the Capital One Bowl. The discontent in East Lansing was growing, especially after getting railed by Alabama in that game.

Now going into the innaugural conference championship game in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Spartans took the first ever Legends division title and beat Michigan for the fourth consecutive year. On top of all of this was an added pressure. The Michigan Wolverines had a 10-2 record, and were ranked 16th in the BCS listings as of Dec. 3rd. Yup, they were right there, the BigTen's only other ten-win team, so close that MSU could feel them breathing down there neck, despite having beaten them 28-14 back in October. What if MSU lost? They were a 9.5 point underdog going into the game despite having beaten Wisconsin the last two times they faced them. Sparty was feeling disrespected and they had every right to be. On ESPN's College GameDay all four anchors picked Wisconsin to roll the Green and White.

So here we sat at the beginning of the final quarter of play. Sparty has the lead and the chance to end all criticism, end all curses, end the disrespect and shove everything down the media's throat. It was there, for the taking. The next fifteen minutes the Spartans would have only themselves to blame for how it all ended.

First task: All MSU had to accomplish was stop a driving Wisconsin team. Russell Wilson and Monte Ball drove down the field and pulled within two, 36-34. Showing signs of hope that things would break their way, Wisconsin's two point conversion attempt failed. the feeling that this would haunt the Badgers later hung heavy in the air.

Second task: Respond. Kirk Cousins and his offense had to answer the Wisconsin score in like-fashion. Not only that, but they needed to grind some time off the clock. They ate up 4:57 off the game, but having gotten down to the Badger 8-yard line and facing a 3rd and 5, Cousins threw an incomplete pass to KeShawn Martin. 4th And 5, eight yards away from six points and a two-score lead a decision had to be made. Do you take the points with a field goal and trust in your defense, or go for it and have good field position if you fail? Coach Dantonio and Sparty went for the points. An easy FG made the game 39-34 8:28 remaining...an eternity.

Third Task: Stop Wilson and Ball and the Badger offense. Prayers were not answered on this drive and MSU could not stop the Badgers on two third down plays and they converted a fourth down play which set up the go-ahead score with 4:43 remaining. Wisconsin 42, MSU 39. Still tons of time.

Fourth Task: Respond again. :54 Seconds later the Spartans had only moved the ball two yards in three plays. Stuck on their own 39 yard line facing 4th and 8, they seemed to have capitulated the game and punted with 2:51 remaining. Sparty-nation fell silent and ill.

What happened next brought renewed hope for MSU. With just over two minutes left, the Badgers had been stopped cold! The MSU defense has risen to the occassion! Had they been given a last breath? Was this the epic final turning point? Was this the legendary drive that would propel MSU into the history books??

At about 1:57 Wisconsin punted the ball away from their own 24 yard line. The next few seconds witnessed Sparty-nation explode into a frenzy of exuberance. They had taken the kickoff and returned it all the way to the Badger 10 yard line!! the script for Michigan State's coming-of-age was being written. A sure ESPN Classic was in the making. Only ten yards for all the marbles!! Then yellow was spotted on the field. Silence among the green and white...a block in the back? Holding on the return team? A late hit??? Worse...Michigan State's Isaiah Lewis broke through the line on the kickoff and his momentum carried him into the kicker. Whether purposeful or more likely on accident, a roughing the kicker call was issued. That was it...it was over. From exhaltation to sheer pain and shock. It was over. Wisconsin was going to the Rose Bowl and Michigan State had no one to blame except themselves.

Sparty-nation's anger and pain was evident in the minutes that followed on Twitter and Facebook. "The kicker flopped!!" "He dove!!" "Total B.S.!! The refs decided the game!!"...all sentiments were flying fast and furious. Right or wrong, you have to admit, that if the setup was revered MSU's kicker would have done the SAME THING.

What could be worse than this?? There is something that East Lansing fears that may be brewing tonight. Remember all those other scores I layed out at the start of the story? Here's where they matter. They matter because along with a Michigan State loss, those were all things that needed to happen to help MICHIGAN possibly move up in the rankings and snag an at-large BCS birth, while MSU is left with possibly the Outback Bowl, or worse, the Insight Bowl. The biggest insult could come around 8:15 tonight. The final pound of salt into an open, bleeding and festering wound. What was a wonderful opportunity for MSU might actually set the program BACK if their nightmare scenario is played out tonight. Michigan waits...and licks it's chops.

Such is the backwards world of the BCS. It's a beauty contest they've put together. The prettiest, wealthiest and most popular profit from the system designed to keep any smaller programs from eating at the dining table of FBS success. That being said, Michigan State has no one to blame but themselves. Michigan State hasn't been to a BCS bowl since 1987 when they beat USC 20-17. That 25-year streak will very likely continue tonight.

Best wishes to all, and to all a good night!