Saturday, May 31, 2003

No Doubt the Work of the Saranap Liberation Front

If this fellow felt the need to own a grenade launcher, you'd think he'd want to keep it accessible 24/7 and not just during banking hours because if central Contra Costa ever explodes with ethnic strife, I'm pretty sure the banks aren't going to stay open past about three.

I have a longer rant in me somewhere that will involve Mickey Mantle, Judge Richard Posner, Jerry Garcia, Larry Niven, Michael Jordan and Motorcycle Helmet Laws. But for now, I'll just say that knocking out $5,000 to the families of organ donors is a damned fine idea.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Go Taikonauts!

A great piece on the Chinese Space Program, by former Rep. Bob Walker, one of space's great champions.

Bob Walker thinks the Chinese might be on the Moon in ten years -- a few folks think it could be earlier than that. I still think China's intermediate goal, following a manned flight this October, is to go circumlunar, ala Apollo 8, by the time of the Beijing Olympics.

UPDATE: Cool, Instalanch!.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

The Recall Gains Some Big Mo

I've got no love for Gray Davis, but I'm unalterably opposed to this recall effort, for reasons which I've set forth previously.

But now I've got even more reason to be against it. Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican from southern California, is apparently going to drop $2M into the recall drive to help pave the way so he, himself, can run for Governor. To which I say: over my dead body.

What's my beef with Darrell Issa? I have no particular political beef with the guy, I suppose: mostly harmless. He's not too far off on the issues and, to his credit, was a bomb disposal technician in the Army. But he made his fortune on car alarms. And I don't mean any old car alarms, I mean those miserable fucking Viper car alarms which cycle through ten different tones: breep-breep-breep-breep, doo-na doo-na doo-na doo-na, whu-er whu-er whu-er whu-er, doeep-doeep-doeep over the course of fifteen minutes. Which is to say: that rat bastard sleeps on a bed paid for by my sleeplessness. He's cost me more hours of sleep than any drunken teenager, any low flying airplane or any tricked out, subwoofing Hyundai I can think of.

I've never voted for a Democrat in a California election -- I've voted a few third parties here and there -- but if Darrell Issa is the contingent candidate on the recall ballot, I intend to make an exception.

I, for one, intend to exact my vengeance.

I'm sure they got a great B-Roll

KPIX, our CBS-affiliate here in the Bay Area, decided to go do a story about the traffic problems on Highway 4 between Concord and Pittsburg....and proceeded to cause a very large traffic jam.

"If the story is about traffic congestion, obviously you don't want to create a mess yourself," said California Highway Patrol Officer Cliff Kroeger.

I should say so.

Snuff Box

I had no idea people still made....or consumed.... snuff. It's apparently the next big thing. I'll stick to burning Cuban crops, thank you very much.

(Noted via The Corner)
What if he's got a pointed stick?

Passengers on a Qantas flight out of Melbourne overpowered a would-be hijacker wielding a pointed stick.

Eric Idle would have been prepared for this.
Brighter Days on K Street

I don't have much patience for the Iraqis who thought our special forces should have knocked on the door and asked nicely when coming into Nasiryiah to get Pfc Jessica Lynch, although these complaints seem to be old news.

What struck me was that the Iraqi lawyer, Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief, who tipped our troops off to Pfc Lynch's whereabouts is now working as a lobbyist with the Livingston Group in Washington, DC. Only in America.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Real Tolerance, Real Close

I'd never noticed Jake Curtis' byline in the San Francisco Chronicle before, but I checked out this story about a high school athlete in the East Bay who was going to have to choose between his arranged marriage and his chances to qualify for the state track championship, before SARS put the kabosh on the thing. It's usually odd when a high school student gets married, I suppose, and there's bound to be some interest when the high school student is a member of the Unification Church, headed by the Rev. Sun Yun-Moon. But what I wasn't prepared for was the tone of the article.

Now, I'm no follower of these guys -- so, apart from a fondness for the Washington Times, I've got no dog in this fight -- but I was bracing myself for some cheap slap at the Moonies. Har har. Get a load of these crazy guys! His parents got married in that mass wedding at Madison Square Garden. Can youbelieve it? Yuk. Yuk.

But in an article about a religion that's probably ahead of even one followed by a number of Hollywood luminaries and Catholicism for a religion that you can make fun of in polite company -- this reporter doesn't do anything but take the kid's word for it. There's not an unkind word about it in the entire piece.

Maybe I'm a cynic, but noting the effort the LA Times is putting into cleaning out bias and the New York Times to, well, whatever the hell it's doing, I was impressed to find Jake Curtis of the Chronicle already gets it.

I'll be watching for more of this guy's stuff.
I'm 32.34714% Geek, i.e., Total Geek

I'm so proud.
I've had my glory. The rest of you can fuck off.

When Mrs Earthling and I were at Ayers Rock earlier this month, we wouldn't have climbed up Uluru even if the winds hadn't closed the trail to the top --- it's disrespectful to local custom and, so long as they remove their hats in church, I'm happy enough with that quid pro quo --- but I sure wouldn't want to hear the lecture that I shouldn't go up there by someone on his way back down.

I used to think very highly of Sir Edmund Hillary, the fellow who first followed Tenzing Norgay up Mt Everest -- who did something dangerous and glorious just for the hell of it -- but Hillary doesn't like that people are actually following in his footsteps and (horrors!) drink beer at Base Camp. I'm all for rules about keeping the mountain clean and encouraging folks to be truly prepared for the ascent, but Hillary apparently wants to close off Everest to future expeditions.

Nature is not just for those deemed worthy by the National Geographic Society, the local surfing thugs (more) or the editors of Rock and Ice. I'm not for building condos in Yosemite Valley or building a catwalk all the way up the Narrows at Zion, although I do think it is important to allow for easy access to many of the nicer spots. That said, nature ought to be for those who take the time to get there and know how to treat it. But if you are going to break trail, surf a break, or lead a pitch, don't get pissed off because people follow right behind.

Moving Up in the World

Do a Google Search for "Pathetic" -- by itself -- and I'm #8. Woooo-yah!

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Tim Blair has moved

John Howard apologist Tim Blair has changed his website. Check out his new location here.
Boost My Own Debt Limit

Not counting Casa Earthling and Mrs Earthling's student loans, our consumer debt is pretty much limited to the Honda. But I still think I want to boost the Earthling Family debt limit by $968 billion.
Big City Nights

A great little piece about Baghdad-based Heavy Metal band, A. Crassicauda.

"I think like young people anywhere who are a little different than the kids around them, maybe a little too smart for their own good, Waleed has an uncertain future. I could as likely see him at 30 years old, alone, sitting in a dark room listening to old Def Leppard records, as I could see him running the country."

In the meantime, the band is stuck in Baghdad, with its ovenlike temperatures, frequent blackouts, uncollected garbage and masses of newly unemployed.

"I'll go to Mongolia, man, I don't care. Africa. What do you think?" asks Aziz with a grin. "I know they'll like Iraqi death metal there."

A New Law Blog

My friend and fellow Chicago alum, Lyle Roberts, a partner at Wilson Sonsini, has a new blog focused -- entirely -- on securities litigation. The aptly named 10-b5 Daily promises to do for Securities Litigation what Howard Bashman has done for, well, every other kind of litigation under the sun.

Check him out.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Whiskey of the Week: Old Potrero Single Malt Spirit

[N.B.: I was sure I posted a version of this review several months ago, but it is nowhere to be found in my archives.]

Not that I often do, but now, at 33, I think I’m finally old enough to drink Rye – to order Rye – without a self-consciousness that the barkeep will think I’m doing it just to satisfy decades-old curiosity as to whether Don MacLean knew what the hell he was talking about. The first time I order rye at a bar – most likely Wild Turkey’s Rye – I thought it tasted like pumpernickel toast points in a drano-basalmic reduction.

Now, I've come to like a good rye whiskey. I recommend late afternoons in the summer – when you had too much to eat at an afternoon barbecue and are rather inclined to just skip dinner. With no plans for the night and John Lee Hooker on the turntable. It can be delightful, but it needs to be accepted on its own terms. The taste and the bite (especially if served without ice) can be overwhelming.

Today, I thought I’d talk about an American single malt whiskey made here in San Francisco: Old Potrero, but first, I’ll start with a story of industrial espionage gone horribly wrong.

* * *

Beer can be made with almost any grain. Get sugar out of the grain and yeast will produce two of the pillars of goodness: alcohol and carbon dioxide. Most beer is barley based. Wheat is distant second to barely, but common enough. Ethiopia makes a Sorghum beer which a friend said was virtually undrinkable, but he nevertheless failed (ahem!) to bring me back a bottle to prove his point. The big companies, like Budweiser, use rice and corn as well as barley. Not to knock Budweiser – although it’s not my favorite – their mastery of the brewing process is so complete that they could make a tasty beer out of lawn clippings.

To get from beer to whiskey, you just need to distill beer. And what can possibly be wrong with distilled beer? Nothing, so long as you don’t stop in the wrong place. Jack Daniels starts as a corn beer – which tastes like carbonated corn muffin mix – but if you know where that proto-Jack is heading, it’s like your first kiss - sort of sweet, mostly awkward, but full of promise better things to come.

* * *

The reader may recall that in the early 1990s, Red Hook Brewing Company of Seattle came out with Redhook Rye, a rye-and-barley beer, rolled out with some fanfare along side their existing beers. It was not, as I recall, so much as a specialty beer but meant to sit along side their flagship beer, Redhook E.S.B., and as part of the main line of beers. In the early 1990s the only liquid forms of rye were a few obscure rye whiskeys: Old Overholt for one, and both Wild Turkey and Evan Williams made them. But rye is for men beaten down by life. Rye is a drink for people who find Johnny Cash too uplifting. It’s certainly not a drink for the hip beer snobs. At least that wasn't the way to bet.

So why the push? Even in those heady days of the 1990s, when you could sell anything labeled as a microbrew and people would be predisposed to think it was good (even Samuel Adams). Still, it was an expensive guess. Or was it possible that Redhook had apparently found a market niche whose depths could be plumbed? A unique beer, perhaps, or just a way to wedge more shelf space at Safeway and draw more beer drinkers to your wide array of craft beers. Whatever their reason, they backed the launch to the hilt. And while I’m all for experimenting with beer for its own sake, spending the money on a big product roll-out suggests that Redhook knew something. Well, the story is, they did.

* * *

Mrs Earthling once told me that the best way to judge the prospects for commercial real estate is to follow the Golden Arches. Nobody does a better job (a least, perhaps, until a few years ago) researching location that the boys from Oak Park and if you can find out where a McDonald’s is going to be placed, you can move your odds ona real estate investment in the right direction. McDonald’s knows this, so its location decisions are a closely-guarded secret.

While, it seems that Redhook bought grains from the same place as Fritz Maytag owner of the Anchor Brewing Company and was tipped off that Anchor had been buying quite a bit of rye. If Anchor - makers of Anchor Steam, Liberty Ale and Anchor Porter - a company that, more than other, had revitalized craft brewing in this country - was buying rye, it stood to reason that Anchor was going to make a rye beer. Since Anchor knows what it’s doing, we’d better get to work on it and beat them to it.

But Anchor never bottled a rye beer, and it certainly never marketed one. I found Redhook Rye to be virtually undrinkable. It was interesting, yes. But not good. And the beer died off ignobly. It might still be available at their brewery, but I haven’t seen it in years and I doubt I would ever buy it again. Redhook got suckered it a market which never existed and Anchor went on with its plans, unabaided.

Anchor Steam made a rye beer, alright, but only so that rye beer could grok its happy destiny and be distilled into one of the greatest single malt whiskeys available: Old Potrero Single Malt.

* * *

Old Potrero is, as the link notes, a 100% single malt (rye) whiskey. It’s a traditional American whiskey - pot stilled, a bit harsh and much closer to the kind of whiskey at issue during the Whiskey Rebellion than is, say, Jack Daniels.

Old Potrero’s rye taste hits you up front – and with the sharper anise-like notes of rye, not the lingering slightly bitter taste you’d get in a rye bread – and the warm after glow is to be savored. It’s definately something to be enjoyed over ice – at 61.5% it’s probably not best consumed neat. And the flavor is so strong than even cooled down considerably, about a broad a flavor to be had in a whiskey. I think it goes best as a nice drink to have when you are reading something very, you know, manly and I had a splash as I started Victor Davis Hanson’s Carnage and Culture. It’s not cheap – at no better than $55 a bottle – it’s an investment, but I think after the last few months events I’ll be buying it just a little bit more often.

* * *

When, a few weeks ago, I watched the icons of Saddam come down around Baghdad, I wanted to drink something, well, American. Much as I love our British allies, single malt Scotch wasn’t quite right. So I poured myself a couple of fingers of Old Potrero. I almost tossed it in the sink.

The only time in my life I’ve really gotten drunk off Old Potrero the stuff was in the waning hours of September 11 (this is my one, and only September 11th story... ever... bear with me, or skip ahead). Mrs Earthling, who lost three coworkers in the South Tower and who had been scheduled to go to that meeting until a few weeks before, had finally gotten to bed around midnight. And I, after a fifteen hour televised parade of horrors, drank three big helpings of the rye. Not surprisingly, I didn’t feel a thing until I’d washed that down with a couple of beers. When I finally got to bed, I cursed myself because I’d ruined one of my favorite drinks. It was a particularly selfish thought, but in as much as my wife (then of less than four months) was with me and not at some pointless meeting in New York, it was a thought that came to me nevertheless. And for the last eighteen months I couldn’t drink it without so much of that day coming back to me.

Mrs Earthling bought me a bottle for Christmas 2001 - 18 months on, I still have most of it.

Well, when I sat down and watched the fall of Baghdad and pushed down a couple of fingers of Old Potrero. I wanted something to rinse away the old flavor and I hope, now, this caustic goodness will be associated here on out with liberty. If the Buddah can be as comfortable in a motorcycle engine as in a mountain stream, liberty can ring out just as well in bronze or with an ice cube. And if I can pour a glass of rye – especially one from San Francisco – from here until well past my three score and ten, and associate it with this... this new birth of freedom. It will be bad for the liver. But it’s good for the soul.

So here’s to Democracy. And Whiskey. And Sexy.

Let Freedom Ring.