Friday, December 4, 2015

Three Word Review: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving I stopped in at Mrs. B's after school to pick up some beers for the Holiday. Usually when I go there, it's Friday afternoon and Eli is there. But on this Tuesday, Mrs. B herself was manning the till. Being a Tuesday, they had just received a truck the previous day, so there was new stuff in the store. Among the new things was some limited edition Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, which looked really snazzy in its bottles:

I'm not a huge fan of stouts; I can really take them or leave them. Back when I was on exchange in England during college, I loved having a pint of Guinness for lunch, knowing I was getting the good stuff that you couldn't get back home. The story was that the U.S. got the dregs from Ireland, and that the good stuff stayed on the other side of the Atlantic. I have know way of knowing whether that is true, but I know my pints of liquid bread tasted all the better when I was in England. 

In the intervening years, as I came to know beer better, and came to enjoy other styles much more than Guinness, I kind of forgot about stout. Every now and then I'd have a decent one, but nothing really to make me sit up and take notice. 

Recently I've had a bit of a reawakening, realizing some brewers are doing some pretty great things with stouts. I've particularly enjoyed Founders Breakfast, and a Chocolate Milk Stout from Penobscot Bay Brewery that has won some awards. 

Well anyway, Carol told me that Goose Island (not strictly a craft brewery anymore, but still makers of great beers) had released some ridiculously small number of cases of this stuff to Maine, and she managed to get hold of one of the cases. 

I was intrigued with the bottle, and with the idea of the bourbon barrel aging, and the knowledge that if Goose Island made it, it was likely very good, and with the high ratings it got from Beer Advocate. But at $8+ for a fairly small bottle, and little assurance that I'd like it, I passed. I took home a nice Ommegang Dubbel, knowing I'd be very happy with it.

Between the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and today, I've kicked myself over that decision numerous times. I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to try it. So today, after ski practice, I beat a quick path to Mrs. B's door, and found a few bottles still there. Yes, there are a few bottles still there, and let me tell you now, if you're a stout fan, stop reading this and go get one of them. It's more important than reading the rest of this review. 

By 8:45 or so, my bottle was chilled, and I was home for the evening, and I popped the bottle. This stuff is like motor oil: thick, syrupy, bourbon-smelling, sweet, motor oil. I know that doesn't sound appetizing, but it's perfect for this beer. It's boozy, with an ABV of about 13.5%, which makes it an Imperial Stout. It's delicious. It's a sipper. It's worth sipping, so you can try to figure out all the flavors in there. I can't, but I'm enjoying the attempt. As I write this, I have about a half a pint glass remaining, and another half in the bottle. In all, it's about a pint and a half for about $8. Not cheap, but worth every penny.

Carol, sometimes I'm glad I let you talk me into things. 

My three word review for Goose Island Bourbon County Stout: Stouts are back!

Scott Weiland

A very quick post this morning, on the passing of Scott Weiland.

I never was a Stone Temple Pilots fan. Most of their music was a little too far on the grunge side of things for me, at a time when I was much more power-pop. It's an early 90's thing. But Scott Weiland also fronted the band that produced "Interstate Love Song", which is one of the finest pieces of, well, power-pop, ever created. And it abides by my most enduring law, at just over 3 minutes: always leave them wanting more.

I hope Scott was able to find some peace in his fairly short and apparently troubled life. I know there are people who are left behind, still wanting more.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Someday, I suppose...

I took a break from Facebook earlier tonight.

If I can stand it, I hope it's a more-or-less permanent break. There are things on there that I kind of "have to" use it for, to maintain communications with groups of people and such, but overall, I just don't need it any more. I don't need to share my opinions with people I know longer know. I don't need to pretend to be the "friend" of someone with whom I was only slightly acquainted at a much earlier time in life, when we were much different people, and we still weren't very close.

It's not that I don't value these people, or think they are worthy. It's kind of cool to see what some of my old high school acquaintances became, what they did with their lives. It would be great to see these things at a high school reunion, where we could pretend to remember stories about each other, and then go our separate ways. Later we could think about the evening and think "Hey, I didn't like him all that much in high school, but he turned out to be a pretty good guy". Then we could maybe meet a friend of a friend sometime way down the road, and be reminded that we each turned out pretty well. And all we'd have to remember is that vague feeling of each other's mutual decency.

But in this age of Facebook and social networking, we are still connected, long past our relationships' natural shelf lives. We still have to see each other far more than we ever would in real life. And even when we've long since "unfollowed" some of these people, their attitudes and opinions still show up and rear their ugly heads long after we stopped caring about what these people thought. And pretty soon our musings and comments that were intended for friends and like-minded people from our nowadays-lives are highjacked by ghosts from the past. Oh, him? I forgot he existed!  And pretty soon, we're tiptoeing around the feelings of people who just recently intruded on our own lives, trying to get along, justifying our own opinions and trying to make nice.

Tonight I finally had enough. For one thing, no one really needs to care what I think about anything. But if they do, having a blog is perfect. They can take it or leave it. If they don't like what I have to say, they can just ignore it. If they choose not to ignore it, and decide to leave snarky feedback, I can just delete the feedback.

So if you're with me, welcome. For some reason, a few people still want to hear what I have to say about some things. I'll talk about music here. I'll talk about beer. I'll talk about things I love, things I hate, and whatever else I feel like I need to say. Sometimes I'll even try to leave things better than I found them. Please feel free to disagree with me, but don't try to change my mind. My mind is changed gradually, over time.

Oh, and about the title of this blog: I've been a fan of Ben Folds for quite some time. I've always been a little bit snotty about my tastes. A little bit opinionated and superior. As I've aged I've kind of realized I'm not as cool as I thought I was, and that there is, indeed, always someone cooler than me. And I've come to a point where that's just fine with me. My one dream is to make this blog just big enough that Ben Folds hears about it someday. He contacts me, and being the cool guy I imagine he is, he checks in to see if it is: a) worthy of his song, and b) making any money. I assure him that if I ever make any money from it (yeah, right), I will either pay him royalties, or cease and desist. He's cool with that, and my blog goes on to never make any money, but he becomes a regular reader and commenter.

Is it creepy for me to have a Ben Folds fantasy?

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Mom is in Brewer now, in a memory care facility.

She went there in late July, after her numbers, then her words, then her memory, and finally her sense of reality began to fail her. It was a painful decision to make, but all evidence I have tells me it was the right decision to make.

Ever since things began to go south for her, I've had dreams that made me question her condition:  we have conversations just like when I was a teenage kid, in need of guidance or just a sympathetic ear. Mom in my dreams is the Mom I grew up with, lucid, kind, and one of the most intelligent people I know. It's painful to see this degradation occurring.

Today we went to visit Mom at Woodlands, where she has people around her who are going through the same things. There are staff who lead activities that she seems to enjoy; she always enjoyed watching people before, and even when the activities don't seem to interest her now, she still seems to enjoy watching people.

We brought a couple of bags of candy to her today, along with some sweaters to wear outside as the weather gets cooler. Woodlands has a nice little courtyard where the residents often like to step outside. When we arrived, Mom was seated in the common area, asleep in a chair. The young attendant woke her, and when she saw me she stood up slowly, and gave me a big hug. "I love you!", she said. One of the most lucid phrases I've heard in months from her. After she saw Rach and the kids, and gave them all hugs, we gave her the bags of candy and the sweaters and started to walk the halls of the facility.

She was trying to tell us about someone who'd had two babies in visiting, and seemed to be taking us on a search to find them. It is possible they'd been there recently, and it's possible they were there days or weeks ago. It's hard to know at this point, because Mom has lost the ability to communicate details like that on command. It might come out later on, in random conversation, and no one will know what she's trying to communicate. Early on the frustration of knowing she had something to say, but that it was becoming more and more difficult for her to do so, seemed to be really troubling her. We've come to a point where it doesn't seem to matter or to register with her that her thoughts are seldom finished.

I took the candy and the sweaters to her room and dropped them off, then we walked the halls for a little while, in search of something (the babies?), but I'm not sure what. Then we went out on the gazebo for fifteen minutes or so and talked. This mostly consisted of us just reciting the things happening in our lives recently, and talking about the people who we knew had visited recently. From time to time she would ask an undefined question, and we did our best to give an answer that sounded like it might answer what we thought she was asking about. For the most part she seemed satisfied.

But then she got up pretty abruptly and led us back inside. She was looking for something, but we were unclear about what she was looking for. We wandered around for a while and tried to sit down and talk in a family area, but she was still pretty distracted by what she was looking for. She said the word "two" a couple of times, and gestured something small. I assumed it was the babies she was looking for.

After a while, a fellow resident took her by the arm and they walked around for a while. Mom seemed--well, actually a little happy. It was the first time I've seen her seem at home. She was no longer agitated about whatever she was missing, and she was just sharing the walk with someone else she seemed to like. We took the cue to leave while she was happy and not begging to come with us. Three of us have pretty bad colds, so we didn't want to infect the entire place, either.

On the way home, somewhere around Carmel or Newport or somewhere like that, Rach said: "It was the candy." Two bags of candy. They were small. She was looking for the bags of candy. I'm hoping she stumbles upon them, like serendipity, with no memory of the angst she had while looking for them. There are a lot of wishes I have these days.

Monday, July 29, 2013

It Was a Great Time to Be a Saxophonist

Man, I'm bad at this blogging thing. One year and one month ago I posted about Space Camp, and promised it wouldn't be another whole year until I posted again. Guess what...

I even started a WordPress blog a few weeks back, hoping a change of servers would get me back in the game. It didn't. I'm a stinky blogger. When I went back in today, I found that my WordPress username isn't being recognized, and neither are any of my passwords, so I've decided to come back to Blogger. Hope I don't overwhelm their servers.

Anyway, I've been giving lots of thought to my blogging tendencies lately, and have come up with the following observation: no one really cares what I have to say, so I don't have to worry about what I write about! I have the freedom of irrelevance. A forty-five year old guy doesn't have much for a hipness factor. I'm not really on the cutting edge of anything, except nostalgia. I can go on for quite a while about the pitfalls of aging if you want, as I watch my parents' health deteriorate. That could make for some serious belly laughs. Even my kids don't provide quite the same fodder as they used to; sophomores and eighth graders are pretty self-sufficient and aren't quite as prone to malapropisms or missed meaning the way they used to be. They are, however, pretty funny and awesome in their own rights, and I would much rather read what they have to say than anything I write. We'll work on that.

But today I think I'll write about something near and dear to my heart: 80's music.

A couple weekends ago, the family and I were crammed into the pickup, dropping off a bed for my mother for her new room at Woodlands Memory Unit. But I don't want to get off on a tangent on my parents' aging...

On the radio (yes, sometimes we still listen to the radio, rather than plugging in an mp3 player) there was a re-run of the American Top 40 from July 24, 1982. Casey Kasem's voice sounded as vital as it did bak then (probably because it was recorded, well, BACK THEN...) and far better than Ryan Seacrest's ever did.

You know what I found, as my son cringed uncomfortably in the back seat, and I sang along shamelessly to songs that (for good reason, it turns out) I'd forgotten existed? EVERY SINGLE SONG HAD A SAX BREAK. Do you remember the early 1980's, when saxophone equaled emotion? Kind of the same way cello=emotion these days? Strangely, all it took was a bar of each of the songs for me to say "Oh, yeah, 'HEY, PLAY THE GAME TONIGHT/CAN YOU TELL ME IF IT'S WRONG OR RIGHT/IS IT WORTH THE TIME, IS IT WORTH THE FIGHT?/CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE BRIGHT SPOT LIGHT/AND PLAY THE GAME TO-OO-NIGHT...' ", while my wife looked at me quizzically, saying "I honestly have no recollection of this song."*

Beyond that, I was struck by how horribly unadventurous the music was. They were the Top 40 songs in America for that week, and there were maybe ten that were worth remembering. That was somewhat reassuring to me. Back then, the Top 40 was what I lived for. I listened every week. I was just beginning to follow more underground music (I literally cheered when artists on this particular countdown such as Kim Wilde, Human League, Haircut 100, Soft Cell and the Motels made the countdown)** but I was still a Top 40 kid. 

But I could name you hundreds of artists now who were much more influential and important than most of these Top 40 artists, but who rarely, if ever, made the countdown. My education as a music buff went far beyond Casey Kasem. And this is encouraging to me now, as I watch my students, and sometimes my own child, idolize the crappiest music out there. I could tell them they won't remember One Direction thirty years from now, but they won't believe me. However, I have faith that their tastes will, for the most part, improve with time. Their horizons will expand. And yet some of them, will still line up for that 1D/Jonas Brothers/Hanson triple bill tour in 2043. I hope they have fun, and are ridiculed roundly by their kids.

But it really dawned on me, the early 80's were a great time to be a sax player. 

*I don't think this song had a sax break. But I don't want to listen to find out.
**Okay, so not every song had a sax break. But most of them did.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's been so, so long since I last wrote. More than a year...good lord. Sometime last spring, in the middle of writing my Capstone and a couple months before presenting, I made a top ten list of what I would do with my free time when I was done. Re-posting it here would only be depressing, but suffice to say, I've only accomplished about two things on that list. I haven't written more. I haven't written any songs. I haven't played my guitar any more. Mostly my "free" time has been occupied by fretting about things over which I have little control, and playing games on Facebook. Oh, and I have exercised and lost some weight so I could participate in everything at Space Camp. What, you didn't hear? I was chosen to attend Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

A little over two weeks ago, the day after school let out, I boarded a plane in Portland and headed off to Dixie. Honeywell picked up the tab for my air fare, as well as nearly everything else, during this week. More about the great things Honeywell's employees do later on in this post, but for now I'll continue with the narrative.

Upon landing in Huntsville, I was struck by the variety of aerospace and military contractors represented on the kiosks at the airport. Boeing, Grumman, Honeywell, and many I hadn't heard of; all have a presence in Huntsville. The airport itself looked like Portland: neat, tidy, about the same size. Not a lot of direct flights.

We were instructed to find a person in a blue flight suit near baggage claim, who would collect us and get us on the bus to UA Huntsville. I was disappointed to find the flight suits had been foregone in favor of navy polo shirts. It must have been casual Friday there, too.

After gathering our luggage, about eight of us from flights coming in from Atlanta and Chicago--out of 85 total--got on a bus and headed to campus. My first reaction was that Huntsville looked a lot like Bangor. The dirt was red, and the plants were different, but surprisingly familiar. After a short while the rockets of the U.S.S.R.C. came into view, and what I came to recognize as a Saturn V later in the week, dominated the landscape. Near the Center, we got off the interstate and in a couple of short minutes we were on campus and being dropped off at the dorm.

After a short check-in procedure, and invitation to dinner at 5:30,  I was in my quad, meeting my quad-mate Tyler Johnstone from Sacramento, CA. I took a shower, moved in, and we went down to dinner. I found out Tyler is a teacher in a STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) program called "Project Lead the Way" . His students start out using Sketch-Up to design in 6th grade, but by 7th grade they are using high powered CAD programs. I vowed to find out more about PLTW. So the even cooler thing I found out about Tyler was that he got a grant from Disney some time back, and they asked to film his classroom. Occasionally the ad still airs on the Disney Channel, so now I have to (reluctantly) spend some time watching the Disney Channel in hopes of catching it. Phineas & Ferb it is. But EVEN MORE impressive: he's a private pilot. But STILL EVEN MORE IMPRESSIVE THAN THAT: as a result of being in California, and having some ties with Disney, he was asked to serve on a panel in Los Angeles about having more reliable science in the movies. Did anyone ever see "The Elegant Universe" with Brian Greene on PBS? Tyler was on this panel with Brian Greene. Have any of you ever seen "The Naked Gun"? or "AIRPLANE"? Jerry Zucker directed those movies. Tyler was on the panel with him, too. That was the panel, those three people. Tyler is pretty impressive...for a young guy...and, spoiler alert, he ended up earning the "Right Stuff" award during our week at camp, signifying the camper of the week. I felt kind of like Michael Scott, consoling himself as being the guy who was able to entertain Dwight Schrute: "Dwight gave a great speech. That's the word on the street, anyway. And I entertained Dwight to no end with my bar story, so I captivated the guy who captivated a thousand guys. Can you believe that? A thousand guys."

After dinner we found out there would be a bus running to Wal-Mart at 7. If you know nothing about teacher conferences, know this: teachers love to socialize. And sometimes socializing is facilitated by trips to Wal-Mart. I was relieved to find that Sam Adams has made it as far south as northern Alabama. By the time we were headed back I was already being referred to as "Sam" and "Variety Pack". I also picked up some almonds, cherries, and grapefruit. It wasn't me, but our trip also led to one broken bottle of wine on the sidewalk. It was kindly replaced at no charge by the store, on grounds of "faulty bottle". Point, Wal-Mart.

That night I was able to get in a short run, though the humidity, even after dark, was absolutely stifling. After a cold shower, I repaired to the t.v. lounge, where I met a few more people from Team Destiny as well as people from other teams. We decided to have a door decorating contest, but I think most people chickened out when they realized there were elementary teachers among us. We knew we had no chance. Tyler and I did, however, fashion a little something out of the Sam Adams Variety Pack box for our door. It looked classy. The final thing we decided was that whenever we heard the words "Team Destiny" that we would do jazz hands. It just seemed right. Quite late, another busload came in from the airport, bearing our third roommate, Tim from Washington (state). Later on would come Josh, from Minnesota, sometime after the rest of us had gone to sleep.

The next morning we boarded a bus at 7:30, and headed to the USSRC for breakfast and to start our day of Space Academy. Not long into the morning, we found out how strong fate can be. We filed into the auditorium to meet our crew trainers. Team Destiny (JAZZ HANDS!!!) met our crew trainer, Michael Kelley, who was a microphone guy (male cheerleader) for the Auburn University Tigers. Michael, whenever showing enthusiasm or excitement, gave spirit fingers. Not quite jazz hands, but pretty similar.

I'm going to have to end this entry here, and pick up later on. I promise not to take another year before my next post.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sharpen Your Bubble

The other day at the beginning of school, I passed a couple of my homeroom students in the hallway. One of them embarrassedly said something like "oh my gosh, Mr. Buck, I didn't mean to say that with you there!"

Not having heard what she said, I told her "I don't know what you said, but if it was that embarrassing you should probably be more aware of your surroundings. What I thought I heard you say was 'sharpen your bubble'."

This caused some giggling, and we soon began to come up with different meanings for the phrase "sharpen your bubble", as in, "come on guys, sharpen your bubbles!", or "we really need to get our act together and sharpen our bubbles". It can be an admonishment, or encouragement. I love it, and have been using it since. We've decided to try to make it become a part of the vernacular, so if you hear it being used anywhere please tag me back. You heard it here first, and if it becomes a commonly used phrase, we want credit given to my 2010-11 home room.