Saturday, January 24, 2009

Green Monkey Numb3r5 Mix

Last month I was a contributor to the Green Monkey Music Project Volume XIV - Numb3r5 over at Splotchy's place. This past Thursday he posted the mix, and one of the requirements is that I explain my choices. Which is funny, because I had little rhyme or reason in the songs I chose, except that they deal with numbers and I love them. But I suppose I owe a better explanation than that, so here goes. I like Splotchy's idea of posting album cover art with the songs so I'm stealing it...

"Zero" by Smashing Pumpkins. My favorite song from their second album, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness". I love everything about the song - the riff, the anger and despair in the lyrics, Corgan's vocal style. It was a very high high point on an otherwise forgettable album. ("Siamese Dream" was so much better!)

"Three Sisters" by Jim Carroll. Carroll's probably best known for the song "People Who Died" but this song is just as good. Three sisters, their lifestyles, and the words they say when they "go down on you"...

"Four Sticks" by Led Zeppelin. A band with four members, releases an album "Four" with a song on it that uses the word "Four". It was a sign that I had to include it. Zep IV was the first album of theirs I bought in high school, and I got it for Stairway to Heaven. This song quickly became my favorite.

"Six Pack" by Black Flag. Originally released on the "Damaged" LP in 1981. Seminal American hard core punk courtesy of Hank Rollins. What do we know about partying...or anything else? I love beer. Song about beer good.

"Louis Quatorze" by Bow Wow Wow. From the "I Want Candy" album it's a punked-up and naughty song about two teens (remember...Annabelle Lwin was only 14 years old when Malcolm McLaren discovered her) involved in steamy role-playing that includes firearms. Oh I love it when he says so seriously, with his gun in my back "Honey, close your eyes and think of England!"

"22 Acacia Avenue" by Iron Maiden. From what is probably their best album, "Number of the Beast". After nothing but new wave, prog rock and classic rock, I figured I needed some metal. A song about a prostitute named Charlotte (aka "Charlotte the Harlot" from their debut album) who lives on Acacia Avenue. It's not a happy song. I remember driving by an Acacia Street in my home town when I was in high school. I never turned down to see if "22" or Charlotte were there.

A mini-mix of the can see the entire mix at the above links to I, Splotchy and I recommend you do - eight different bloggers, six songs each, diverse musical tastes; plenty of awesome music to look over and download.


I was too lazy to upload Four Sticks by Zep to imeem, so I just found the Page and Plant version. Still pretty awesome. After putting this together I realized that 66.666666666667% of the songs dealt with either alcohol or deviant sex. I wonder if that means anything? I really don't think of myself as a dirty old man...

Thanks, Splotchy, for doing this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here's Why Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan for Education is So Important!

After reading what a guy I follow in Twitter showed me, we need it to find and pay better teachers.
However, with an African American about to be inaugurated as president, Foley wonders whether 'Huck Finn' ought to be sent back down the river. Why not replace it with a more modern, less discomfiting novel documenting the epic journey of discovery?

"The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms," Foley wrote in a guest column this month for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the 'N-word' repeatedly need to go."

Hmmm, let's see, how can I put this delicately? Oh, I've got it...

No. You're wrong.

How about, "Only if every piece of literature that has any word that any race or demographic can find offensive, regardless of context, comes off reading lists with it."

See where I'm going? Honors 12th Grade English would suddenly consist of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.
"It's just my experience teaching, especially 'Huck Finn.' Every year, it seems to be a tougher sell to the kids. I have a lot of passion for 'Huck Finn,' and my enthusiasm usually carries the book. But I have kids come up to me, very smart kids, who say, 'Mr. Foley, I hate this book.' " They hate not only the difficult dialogue, he said, but what students -- usually white ones -- object to as "demeaning stereotypes."

First - your students need to grow up. Not everything they read has to be (or will be) easy. I read EVERY FUCKING WORD of The Scarlet Letter and Of Human Bondage without pulling my eyes out (though I wanted to) or whining to my teacher. So can they. Oh, and Huck Finn is a tough read? Are you sure these students are "very smart kids"?

It's sad you have to try and educate the "angry mothers" of your students on the meaning of context as well as try to get your students to understand. You shouldn't have to. But it makes it that much more important that you take the effort to make the students, not give them an easier read. That way, maybe future teachers won't have angry parents asking why a book has the "N-word" in it.

If you can't do it, won't do it, or are too tired to do it, you need to find something else to do.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Girls Get Whiplash

At some point, about 25 years ago, I became enamored with speedmetal, thanks to a kid who sat next to me in Algebra II. I'm making sure my kids don't wait that long.

Actually, it's "Hit the Lights". Same album, though.

Daddy's little headbangers

Announcing - My New Project

While I've enjoyed writing this blog very much, it never seemed quite the right place to talk about a few of the things that really interest me. It's always been sort of a personal dumping ground for whatever was on my mind, whether it was fully formed or not, let the eclectic subjects flow, and throw in some references to my favorite horror author to boot. And this it will remain.

In my newly launched effort to reinvigorate one of my passions - brewing - I've seen an opportunity to merge it with another one of my passions - ships and naval history. Sorry, but I just don't see those two things fitting here at Cthulhu's Family Restaurant. Maybe it's the title, maybe it's the tone of the place, maybe we don't serve good beer here, maybe Cthulhu or Dagon would rise and utterly fuck-up any ship full of beer-drinking sailors that came by. Maybe it was Crummy's excellent writing about hobbies and getting in the zone that inspired me to focus some extra effort. For whatever reason, I can't put it here.

Enter my new project, Man O' War Brewery. I'll be documenting my efforts to resurrect my dead-but-dreaming brewing hobby, while taking some time to talk about nautical and naval history. Hopefully I'll be able to blend the two fairly well. Nautical themes go good with beer; plenty of breweries put ships on their bottles. It's very much a work in progress, but I figured I'll launch it now, and screw with formats and all the blah-blah as I go along. Oh...and if you know anyone who likes beer and ships, put in a good word for me!

I'll still be posting here of course, and it will remain the same whatever stuff it has been since I started. This is, after all, too much fun.

There. I've done it. Because I don't have enough to fucking do already.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Search For A Free Web-Based Brewing Tool

I've decided to start brewing my own beer again. I once entertained a thought of actually brewing and selling my beer someday, but right now I'll just settle for brewing. It's been about 4 years since I seriously (seriously meaning 2 or more batches a year...which isn't that serious!) brewed, and two since I've made anything at all! But it's fun and easy to do, and I'm hoping to get back on the horse.

I decided to look for an online and free utility for brewing, and after a couple of quick searches I saw mention of Brewtility on a brewing forum. The site first came online as a place to store and share recipes as well as communicate with other brewers. It has a recipe generator (more on this later) and will soon have the ability to log brew sessions. Sounds awesome to me - I'm tired of using pencil and paper, and besides my brewing notes are so scattered, it'll be good to put them all in one spot online.

I've had a couple of glitches with it. I can't seem to upload a profile photo, and the recipe generator crapped out once on me trying to select hops for the recipe. In its defense, it auto-saved what I had done, so I didn't have to go back and rebuild the malt bill. I've emailed support about the picture (Cuz it's that cool picture of sailors drinking beer on shore leave in WWII.)

My first recipe is going to be an IPA. I made one a few years back that came out okay, but I missed my target gravity (that means I didn't have the amount of fermentable sugar I'd planned when I started fermenting and therefore came out "light" on the alcohol content). So, as best I could remember (I have the notes somewhere!) I put together the recipe on the generator and was very impressed.
Adding and subtracting ingredients is pretty intuitive. It flows well from top to bottom, and you can play with everything from mashing efficiency to the alpha acid content of the hops you select. You can also work in whatever scale/measurement system you want to use by adjusting your preferences.

The menus for recipe items (grains, extracts, hops and yeast) are pretty good, they even have "generic" liquid extract values on there, but not dry ones, which I prefer to use. Still, assuming one is like the other I could pick a DME (I used Breiss vice Coopers which I prefer). It would be nice to see a way to submit new items for consideration. The generator will even go as far to predict the final gravity, %ABV and calorie content for your beer.

So all that's left is to verify what I put in with my old notes and go from there. Once I dig up my gear, figure out what I need to replace, and buy the recipe.

All in all, I like what I see so far in Brewtility. It's not a big network - only a handful of active users - right now, but it has what I need so far until I can find a full-blown social network for actual brewers. I'll keep looking.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just Freaking Write Something, Already!

So, with losing home internet from Wed - Fri and being unable to post you'd think I would have tons and TONS of things to write about once I got back on.

Yeah, right...I'm surprised at how much nothing I got. Except for this goddam' head cold. So I guess I'm going with random updates because, you know, I have a blog, and I feel somewhat obligated to write something because I'd be guilty of...well...something, I'm sure, after all I was raised Catholic, so guilt is kind of like a food group.

I mentioned I had a greater than 50% chance of heading to Iraq or Afghanistan after this job was up this summer. Apparently, that meant about a 50.1% chance because the guy who figures out where I go next tells me no, I need to go to a school for a year first. So it looks like 2010 for me to head overseas again. Looks like we'll still be moving back to Rhode Island.

And I still need to get into shape - been a good week, interested to see what my weigh-in tells me tomorrow. I work on a plan where I eat right six days a week, and eat what I want on the seventh. Tomorrow is that seventh day. Fuck yeah, pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs for breakfast, pork chops for dinner, and a trough of gravy-covered twinkies and frozen pizza rolls to consume between the two.

I KNOW you've seen this poor bastard by now. But did you know Brian Kilmeade wants to put two fingers in his frigid crack?

I haven't done a "Songs So Cheesy I Had To Put Them On My iPod" post in a while. This one isn't cheesy, but packed with folksy-dirty innuendo. I have a penchant for old sea songs and chanties, and this is one of my favorites. I especially enjoy the use of 18th century naval gunnery terms as metaphors for post-coital complications. Because, you know, guns as metaphors for penises is a stretch...

While Cruising Round Yarmouth - Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd

Speaking of "fair damsels, the wind blowing free..."

The 2009 Women of Maritime Calendar (H/T @petermello)is apparently available online. I just love a woman who can sweat a halyard and reef a spanker. Look, I didn't come up with the title cuz if I did, the women wouldn't be "of" an adjective. It's kind of like saying I'm a man of sleepy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Focus Has Been Elsewhere Lately

As I mentioned a few days ago, I'm in for some big transition this year, and one of the things I must do to prepare for it is to get in shape. 'Cuz I'm fairly well out of shape. It sucks because I've had a pretty good "fitness" track record. I know how to eat and exercise to get into great shape, and I've "been there". But once I started slipping a couple of years back, the slide was gradual but significant. Yeah we know, you "used to be", blah-blah-blah.

Anyway, I'm back on it. The biggest difficulty for me has been putting everything together into a cohesive plan and TRACKING PROGRESS without it taking up my whole damned day. Writing in printed workout journals, making up spreadsheets to record and generate workouts and track nutrition, it just took up too much freakin' time. Of course, that was before I found out there is a social network that helps you track all that stuff in a fraction of the time.

I found out about it when I was poking around my good friend and cousin's blog and clicked on one of his friends' blogs while going through his blogroll.

I won't go through the technical aspects of it - if you're interested in a good review, go to the link above - but I guess I should try to say something about what I think of it...

The nutrition portion of the site is telling me to eat about 300 - 700 more calories per day than I am normally used to when "on my usual program". I don't think I am going to force them down. I work on a "grazing" scheme - that is, 6 small meals a day - that gives me around 2400 calories a day, and I am comfortable with that. Also, the nutrition recommends a 40/30/30 carb/protein/fat ratio, but I run closer to a 40/40/20. Like 40/30/30, 40/40/20 works well - you end up being a little tighter on fat and more liberal with protein, and I've seen the split recommended more for a muscle-gaining diet. However you chop it up, it makes it easy to see how you're doing. Also, as long as I'm feeding regularly (every 3 hours) my body will be able to sustain a slightly greater rate of fat loss with the greater deficit.

My favorite part of the workout portion is not only that I can actually take a printout of my weight training workout to the gym, but that each printout is in effect a 3-workout record, unlike other journals I've seen where one page is one day. It's good to have several at a glance.

Okay, there. I've managed to NOT go three days without posting, and even said what I thought about something. After two days I'm feeling great. Of course that's the easy part - I'm motivated and I know my first weigh-in will be a lot less than what I weighed Monday because of the excess water and bloat that flushes out when you start regular exercise and up your water intake (I'm probably drinking about a gallon a day).

Seriously, if you're like me - you like to (and CAN) work out effectively, but haven't been able to get motivated in large part by not having the right tracking tool, give this a gander. Look for huzzah70; that'll be me.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Surf, Stoke and Fish Tacos

So this past Monday I get back into the office after an all-too-indulgent Christmas, and among the mail is this letter. I open it and this flimsy little fridge calendar from a Huntington Beach taco stand is the first thing I pull out. Suddenly, I am more stoked than I have been in years.

Photo from

Suddenly in my mind I'm the guy in the lower right. I'm paddling out, maybe for the first time, maybe for the 20th time, it doesn't matter because on a day like that I'm surfing until I think my arms are going to fall off, and then I'm going to surf some more. If it's morning I've been in the water since just before sunrise, if it's evening and the form is still good, I'm going to be in for some time after it's gone down. If it's a weekday chances are I pulled up on the way home from Long Beach, stepped out of the car, wrapped a towel around my waist and pulled my uniform off and wetsuit on right on the side of the road.

It didn't matter what time of day I was in the water - because when I got out, I strapped the board back on the car and headed to Las Barcas for some fish tacos. The best fish tacos in the world. It's a fucking fact. Just look at the goddam thing! I could try to describe the taste, but I would fail miserably. There is good Mexican food, and then there is truly good Mexican food. These things were always fresh and made to order. The corn tortillas were always soft and warm without crumbling, the fish grilled (NOT fried!) to perfection, fresh chips and salsa made right there. Squirt some lemon, take a bite, and I...

Yeah. They're that good. I'm ready to get on a plane now.

My favorite ritual was Saturdays. Hit the water about 6am, get out about noon, head to Las Barcas. Get two fish tacos to go, grab a six pack from the bait/liquor store next door and head back to my apartment. Tacos and beer while I watched Bruce Brown movies until I fell asleep on the couch - salty, exhausted, satiated and mellow. Wake up about 4pm, get my ass back down to the pier and catch the "evening glass" before hitting the clubs with my friends.

That ritual ended for the most part in 1994, when I headed to central California to grad school, but new waves and experiences awaited in Monterey. Since then, I have NEVER missed a chance to have a Las Barcas fish taco. Driving from Rhode Island to San Diego in 97 with my new wife, I introduced her to them. Visiting my Best Man in HB in 03, we met there for lunch and I introduced my son to it. My last ship was in San Diego for a port visit in 2005. One night I decide I need one of these fish tacos so I drive two hours to Huntington Beach, order three, eat three, get in the car and drive right back to the ship.

So back in November I'm talking to an acquaintance and his college-age daughter who happens to go to school in California and living in Orange County. We get to talking about surfing Huntington Beach and I describe the above food of the Gods. Said acquaintance mentions he's heading out to California for some business, and makes note of Las Barcas, saying he'll see if he can get there.

Which brings me back to this letter. He thanks me profusely for my recommendation, completely agrees that they are the best fish tacos on earth, and states he ate three. He also mentioned that he bodysurfed at the pier a bit, and found himself in the rip current alongside the pier and got so tired he needed to hitch a ride in with a longboarder. I warned him about the rip at the pier.

But still...that calendar. That I could share this memory that means so much to me with someone, who in turn could experience it for himself and send me this tiny token of his appreciation that brings everything rushing back - the surf, the fish tacos, the beer, the trips to Mexico, all those memorable waves, the friends, the sheer stoke of youth...

That is truly special.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Change I Can Count On...

Okay, so I have an incomplete post I'm working on, and really want to finish, because it's a great story (well, to ME it is!) but I'm putting it on the backburner for the obligatory "This is what's gonna' be different in the new year" post. No, I'm not talking about 20 January; because this year is going to be really different.

Change - in this case it will be closer to a complete transformation - in life is inevitable. "No change is un-permanent; but change is". Thank you, Geddy.

First, someone is coming this summer to take my job. That's the benefit of my line of work; you know (to within a month or so) when you'll be moving on so you can plan your life around it. The big career-managing office in the sky has paired names with jobs, and in that list is a name next to my job, and I'm just waiting to hear who it is so I can get to managing when it happens. Set a date, make a schedule, show him everything, sign the paperwork, and bam! The show is his. That's the easy part.

The really big change for us is going the transition to MY next job, which will prove ... interesting. I'm pretty sure (I'll give it better than even money) it will involve a place that ends in "-raq" or "-istan", (an outside chance of Southeast Asia or the Horn of Africa), for a year. Setting up my family to get along without me for a year is my top priority for the next six months. Even if I don't go straight out of this job, I WILL go out of my next one. Just the nature of the beast.

So I guess I don't have resolutions so much as I have plans. Get the rest of our debt gone, get the family back to Rhode Island close to our extended family, and set to move into our home once our renters leave, and figure out how the heck we're going to make more living space (either by finishing the basement or financing an addition) for a family of six.

And for me? Get the Hell into shape. While this old sailor's job probably won't be running around the desert or the mountains in "full battle rattle" I hope not to be sitting in cubicles sipping coffee and making powerpoint slides either.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I Will Start the New Year With A Blatant Plug...

...for my better half and her new project, One Moment a Day (A Year of Moments, in Photographs).

Y'see, since I started taking this blog semi-seriously with NaBloPoMo back in November, I've been bugging her to start writing on her first blog again. Well, maybe that will (ahem!) happen again, but she's also started up this new one that showcases her mad camera skills, one day at a time. The first photo is of my four favorite minions; I can't wait to see what the other 364 are...