Slow Progress

Posted by Jim on Nov 18th, 2014
2014
Nov 18

I wanted to add a new item to the sidebar: a graphic displaying my progress towards running a marathon in all 50 states, plus DC. Unfortunately, the image generator used by this app seems to be a little slow. I don’t want to have to increase load times for every page on this site, so for now, I’ll simply put the image here. Maybe I’ll start including it on Facebook whenever I post one of my post-marathon status updates.


Create Your Own Visited States Map

Is this a triumph?

Posted by Jim on Nov 14th, 2014
2014
Nov 14

Take a look at this new security robot outlined in this post:

K5-2.0-Green

After reading that is uses laser scanning to monitor an area, I’m a little scared to say I immediately thought of these guys:

turrets

Somebody call Chell.

A Commercial Free Experience

Posted by Jim on Nov 13th, 2014
2014
Nov 13

I was just introduced to a piece of software that will be very helpful to the staff and students of Falmouth Middle School. AdwareMedic is a small Mac utility that removes Adware from any system it is run on. In my role as computer tech for Falmouth Middle, I have seen lots of Adware. Occasionally I spend the time needed to search through the system to remove unwanted files, but most of the time, the students’ laptops are so infected, it’s easier for me to reimage the device and let the student start over. We’re a Google Apps school, so all student work is supposed to be backed up to Google Drive, which makes reimaging an easy process, although a long one. I’d rather get the student’s device back into his or her hands as quickly as possible, and I think AdwareMedic will let me do that. It’s made the same person who runs The Safe Mac, a blog I’m going to start reading.

More Cheaters

Posted by Jim on Nov 12th, 2014
2014
Nov 12

Another article that ties into my last post; specifically, about cheating in marathons.

Chickamauga Marathon Winner Disqualified for Impossible Splits

Interactive Results

Posted by Jim on Nov 6th, 2014
2014
Nov 6

I just came across this personalized results page for the Portland Marathon that I ran last month. I really like that it gives a visual representation of my position at various times throughout the race, as well as where I finished it the various divisions (age, gender, overall).

 

Portland Marathon Results Graphic

 

Speaking of running, I created an account at Athlinks, a race results community. I need to track down my results from some Smuttynose 5k‘s I ran in the mid-to-late 2000’s before it will be complete. There are some provisional results that haven’t posted yet as well, mainly because race directors spelled my name wrong in the results, or the races were so small they have never been linked to the site (I’m looking at you Moxie Days 5k).

I also keep an updated profile over at the Marathon Maniacs site, but I believe you need to be another Maniac to see it. If another Maniac comes across this post, please comment!

I was introduced to Athlinks because it was mentioned in this very interesting New Yorker article. It is about a supposed serial marathon cheater—a guy who has admitted to fabricating an entire race, complete with results. The article is worth reading even if you aren’t a runner.

What’s the opposite of Speed Reading?

Posted by Jim on Oct 14th, 2014
2014
Oct 14

I don’t think there is a collectively recognized term that answers the question posed by this entry’s title, because, let’s face it, reading is never exciting when it’s done slowly. Deliberate, careful reading is reserved for dense academic texts, not for the reading material we consume casually. This cannot be said for the moving image—slo-mo can be used to great effect is visual media.

Below is a video from CineFlix that compiles their ten favorite uses of slow motion in films. Check it out!

Although I think the site relies too heavily on recent films for its compilation videos, regularly falling back on its tendency to show what’s hip instead of what is historic, I have to say I was happily surprised to see the inclusion of Leni Riefenstahl shots from a film other than Triumph of the Will. I was mostly angered by the use of the credit sequence from Reservoir Dogs instead of the real classic slow walk shot: the hangar entrance from The Right Stuff. But then I thought to myself “maybe there is a reason it wasn’t included.” I sought out the clip on YouTube:

As you can see, the famous walk shot isn’t actually in slow motion. It is merely the number of shots the this one that inspired that use slo-mo (such as the Monsters Inc. example mention in the CineFlix video). This is a case of me remembering something in slow motion that took place in real time. It reminds me of a story I heard while watching a football game years ago. There is a classic shot of Joe Namath leaving the field after winning Super Bowl III that is always shown in slow motion. See the video here at NFL Films.  As you can see, even in this video, he waves his finger in slow motion. The NFL announcer I remember told his audience that the Namath video is shown in slow motion so often, everyone remembers it happening in slo-mo. This is what has happened to me in regard to The Right Stuff. That made me smile.

Maine Dream-Team Project

Posted by Jim on May 7th, 2014
2014
May 7

Inspired by this series of posts on If My Coaster Could Talk, I did some ruminating on what brewery collaborations I’d like to see Maine’s breweries involved in. Some of these ideas have been in my head for a while now, others took some thought. The ideas others came up with were quite impressive—many of which I would enjoy seeing come to fruition—but I don’t think you can talk too much about beer, so I’m presenting my responses to these questions as well.

Question 1: What is your all Maine brewery dream team-up? And why?

The greater Portland area has so many new breweries that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the selection and forgo all of the great beer that is being brewed elsewhere in the state that doesn’t get trucked down here on a regular basis. A dream collaboration would allow for some of these less hyped breweries to showcase their talents to all of us in Cumberland and York counties by teaming up with brewers that have name recognition or established distribution channels. Therefore, I propose a Penobscot Bay three-way: Marshall Wharf, Andrew’s Brewing and Rock Harbor Pub and Brewery. All three are located on the beautiful stretch of coastal Route 1 between Rockland and Belfast, which gives them regional unity. Each brewery has their own pub (Andrew’s just opened) where their small batch beers are served almost exclusively, which shows they have an experimental side to exploit in their collaborative brew. Lastly, each brewery has one of the qualities I mentioned above; Marshall Wharf has beer geek credibility, Rock Harbor has little to no distribution or name recognition in southern Maine, and Andrew’s can get its bottles and kegs across the Portland area. I’m sure these three could make something special that would end up in bottle shops and beer bars throughout Maine.

Question 2: What would your Maine + U.S Brewery Team-up look like?

It may very well be that no dreamt up collaboration can top one that has actually happened. Isabelle Proximus, the five-way collaboration between Allagash, Lost Abbey, Russian River, Dogfish Head and Avery, is one of the greatest beers ever made in America; a beer of such renown, legend and rarity, it is a true example of a white whale. But if I have to come up with an answer to this question, let’s not shoot for the moon, but think of something a little more accessible. My favorite kind of beer is a hoppy red ale, so I’d like to see Maine Beer Co., makers of Zoe; Lagunitas, makers of Lucky 13; and Tröegs, makers of Hopback Amber to collaborate on an exceptional example of the style. Those three beers are some of my favorites. A combination of them would be heavenly. Brew it in Hershey, PA to use Tröegs’ hopback, but be sure to distribute it here in Maine. Do What’s Right, make this beer for me.

Question 3: What would your Maine + International Brewery team up look like?

A collaboration across the seas needs to be very innovative in order to justify all the expenses, and when I think of an innovative Maine brewery, I immediately think of Oxbow. Most of what they produce can be lumped under the classification of farmhouse ale, but no two of their beers are alike. They use a wide range of interesting ingredients (local spelt, interesting hop profiles, grain from artisanal malt houses) and have a history of collaborations yielding excellent beers. They also make a beer that I believe is unique to Maine: Sausuga, a rice ale with Brett. Imagine what would happen if Tim and Geoff took their Sausuga recipe to Japan and brewed it at the Kuichi Brewery, home of the Hitachino Nest line of beers? Their experience aging beer in distilled sake barrels could only improve one of the best ales to come out of Newcastle. I’m sure whatever these two innovators brewed up would be epic.

Question 4: Free for all! Anything goes here as long as there is 1 Maine brewery involved.

If time, space and money were disregarded, I would love to see a collaboration between the Lively Brewing Company and Brouwerij Mort Subite. Lively Brewing is the beer making side of the Ebenezer’s family of beer bars. Chris Lively and Michael Lacharite are making some excellent beers in Brunswick. Brouwerij Mort Subite is a very small Belgian brewery specializing in wild ales. They are owned by a company that is itself owned by Heineken, but don’t let that deter you. I said time and space are no object in this scenario, so I want this collaboration to be with the mid-80’s incarnation of the brewery, when they were producing the Eylenbosch line of wild ales. Chris Lively has a rather large stash of Eylenbosch Gueuze bottles, all made and cellared since 1984. It is an exceptional beer. A combination of the flavors Mort Subite was able to concoct at that time, along with Chris and Michael’s interest in wild ales could only lead to a beer that would blow the socks off any unsuspecting drinker walking into Ebenezer’s. And of course, the beer would have to be released as part of an epic, multiple course, multiple hour Belgian Beer dinner, prepared and presented as only Chris Lively can do.

A lot of information online about Brouwerij Mort Subite is only available in French and Dutch, but here’s one site in English.

There are a few collaborations I’ve dreamt about that didn’t quite make the cut in my responses as they aren’t entirely fleshed out ideas, more like sketches, but I wanted to write them out nonetheless.

  • A collaboration between Alan Pugsley and any one of the smaller Portland based breweries to make an ‘only the location of the brewery makes it inauthentic’ authentic English mild. Ringwood would be the yeast, but it wouldn’t be a rushed fermentation, and the beer would only be served via traditional cask, following strict CAMRA standards.
  • A series of brews made with Mike at the Great Lost Bear (who has brewed at Sierra Nevada) and the various Portland area breweries to be served exclusively at the Great Lost Bear, perhaps for a special occasion; Portland Beer Week comes to mind, or perhaps the Bear’s 35th anniversary, which takes place this year.
  • Freeport Brewing needs to team up with someone to make an imperial, barrel-aged version of their chocolate porter.
  • I’d like the breweries of Maine to collaborate more with our state’s large population of homebrewers. Perhaps a series of brews and recipe kits made in collaboration with Maine Brewing Supply?
  • I’d enjoy more locally made beers aged in barrels used by locally distilled spirit makers. I imagine In’finiti has plans to do this entirely in house. And speaking of Maine’s only combination brewery and distillery…
  • I know it’s not a collaboration, but I really, really want to see In’finiti brew a DIPA using only Galaxy hops. It would be named To In’finiti and Beyond, because Toy Story and Buzz Lightyear are awesome and ripe for exploitation via beer name. I’ve already brewed my own Galaxy IPA and named is Space Ranger IPA, but only In’finiti can give Buzz’s catch phrase the beery justice it deserves.

Cellaring

Posted by Jim on Nov 21st, 2013
2013
Nov 21

I’ve been cellaring beer for five years this month, and all that time, I’ve used one wooden cabinet with particle board shelves and a door and many cardboard boxes to store my collection. This was not an ideal way to view my beers. I had to consult a spreadsheet to see what I had. With our current long-term finishing of our basement, we’ve taken apart the partially completed room which included the aforementioned cabinet. This gave me the opportunity to finally purchase some decent shelving for my beers. Today I ordered a 5ft steel wireframe shelving unit from Home Depot. It only has two moveable shelves, so I also ordered an extra shelf to maximize storage space based upon the heights required by beer bottles. This should give me plenty of space to store my bottles. Some of my verticals may take up a lot of space; I’m not sure if I’ll display them or leave them in cases. This included six years of Anchor Christmas Ale 6-packs and five years of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 12-packs (I’ll add a sixth year as soon as it comes out).

The shelves should arrive the first week of December. Once assembled and stocks, I’ll post some pictures. I’ll want to document it right away, for once my collection is sitting on the shelves, I’ll be more likely to drink it. How long will what I have now last? I wonder if this will be the beginning of a new chapter in my beer cellaring, or the beginning of its end? I’ll have to be good about adding new items to the collection as I drink my older bottles.

End of a Video Game Generation

Posted by Jim on Nov 19th, 2013
2013
Nov 19

With the release of the next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft, I’m feeling nostalgic about my Xbox 360. I bought my console back in 2006 and when it was stolen this past April, I felt incomplete without it, and purchased a replacement device within days. Although I also own a Wii, I never took to it the way I did to my 360, and only played a handful of games on it. And while I’ll never be considered a person who devotes too much time and energy to video games (except by Nissa, who can tell you stories of how I spent more time in post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. and aboard the Normandy than I did with her for months at a time), I do feel strongly about some of the games I’ve played on my 360. Many video game publications are posting “Best-of the Generation” lists, and I wanted to offer my opinions as well.

 5. Bioshock

    I’m actually in the middle of this game right now, but even partway through the story, I can tell this game is epic. Technically a first-person shooter, the game allows you to have genetic modifications that work the way magic does in any RPG. Fireballs and bolts of electricity are how you defend yourself against a dragon, not against a huge robot with a drill for a hand, but in Bioshock, it works. Health potions, weapon upgrades, and powerful tonics also allow for character customization you never saw in FPSes of old.

 4. Portal 2

    The first Portal game was an innovative puzzler that introduced one of the greatest villains in the medium (not to mention the cake and the song). The sequel expanded upon the first’s brilliance by giving you new tools, more challenging puzzles and providing a incredible back-story to GLaDOS. It also introduced a two-player option that allows you to tackle problems in a new way. It took a note from Bioshock and had some great retro-futuristic elements, but also straight ahead sci-fi sequences. Unsurprisingly for a Portal game, these two blended together beautifully. Lastly, Stephen Merchant provided what may be my favorite performance in a video game. He was perfectly cast.

 3. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

    The day I bought my Xbox 360, I left the store with one game, and didn’t even feel need to purchase another for months. Oblivion was the game, and it singlehandedly brought back my love RGs and video games in general. It’s open world nature and dozens of quests and side-quests allow you to truly feel free and immerse yourself in its world. The facial animations and scenery were top-notch, the character customizations bordered on overwhelming (I think I spent 30 minutes deciding what class to choose and how to allocate my initial ability points), and even the most mundane tasks were made interesting—roaming all over the world looking rare plants called Nirnroots was actually exciting. The game was so appealing that Nissa created her own Xbox account to play it. [One of my favorite Nissa moments was when I found a to do list she made on one of her days off. It included the regular mundane activities like sweep the kitchen, wash the laundry, but in the middle of the list was the classic entry “Play Oblivion.”]

 2. Fallout 3

    I don’t believe I’ve ever become more obsessed over a game that way I did over Fallout 3. I dreamt about it. I spent free time at work plotting my next move. I created complex spreadsheets to ensure I was leveling my character the best way possible. It introduced me to the world of video game specific wikia sites (which I’ve linked to all over this post). Before Falout 3, I would read some game guides, but now I approach each game with a strategy. Nissa thinks it’s silly how I now play video games with an open Macbook Air in my lap, but I can’t imagine going back. For me, Oblivion was about exploring, but with Fallout 3, I had specific goals to accomplish (beyond the quests in the game). I wanted to make the best character possible. And after many hours of gameplay, I was able to. That’s not to say I didn’t do my fair share of exploring the wastelands of Washington D.C. in 2277. The setting of this game, and the mutants, robots and evil survivors who inhabit it are very engaging. Despite all of the quests, I could still have fun simply wandering and only completing random encounters. Of all the game saves I lost when my original console was stolen, this may have been the hardest to lose, for I don’t know if I could recreate my character. Maybe someday I will try, but at this point, it’s too much of a time investment. As you will read below, I still have a lot of games to play through once before I can redo this one.

1. Mass Effect 2

    This is it. Never have I felt so involved in a game. Never have I felt such a connection to a character. Everything about Mass Effect 2 is appealing to me, probably because everything you do in the game (or so it seems) has a consequence down the road. The series introduced something that was entirely new to me: importing old saves to determine how the next entry in the series would play out. Not only will my Commander Shepard look the same and have the same backstory, but little choices in optional side quests will cause different events to take place. Speaking of side quests, there are so many in this game. Entire planets are available to explore. The amount of data packed into the game’s two discs may seem overly vast, but I went though it all and purchased the additional downloadable missions.

   All of these aspects of the game were improved over the original game. Mechanics were improved, yet were familiar enough so that this felt like a continuation of the game. Much like how each entry in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy was visually superior, yet all felt like part of one long movie. The new supporting characters were more enjoyable, yet some favorites were retained (and other appeared in non-playable capacities). The ability to create a heroic or evil character was more pronounced and made each conversation seem like it could have serious ramifications.

   When my old console was stolen, I was so afraid that I would lose all my progress through series and have to play ME3 with the default choices (which were vastly different from my own), but fortunately Mass Effect has a well understood save file format that gamers have been able to hack. Using sites like Mass Effect 2 Saves, I was able to recreate my lost character and take her into Mass Effect 3 to finish her story.

   I still have a lot of games I’m looking forward to playing. I have the rest of Mass Effect 3 to complete, as well as the remainder of the Bioshock trilogy. I have yet to play an Assassin’s Creed game, or L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption and the Borderlands games. I’ve only played the first entry in the Batman: Arkham series and am looking forward to the rest of them. As the Xbox One gains popularity, the prices for the 360 games will only get lower, which is advantageous to a gamer like me who doesn’t need a game as soon as it’s released. Will I someday be jealous of the new games for the One my 360 cannot play? Sure. But I see a lot of life left in my now-outdated Xbox 360.  I think I’ll be using it for a long time to come.

Dusty Bottle

Posted by Jim on Jan 23rd, 2013
2013
Jan 23

Tonight I opened a bottle that I’ve been sitting on for at least two years. It’s a scotch ale from Berkshire Brewing that was aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, brewed to commemorate the life of Greg Noonan.

Berkshire Brewing Company Gude Greg’s Wee Heavy Private Reserve
3.83/5
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I received this bottle as a gift from Dave from the Great Lost Bear back when it was released. I probably should have opened this beer before now, but oh well. Better late than never.

It has been cellared since I took ownership and I’ve poured into a pint glass.

The beer has a dark ruby color with lots of clinging carbonation. Holding the beer up to the light reveals its perfect clarity, but in a low light setting, it’s hard to see through it. There is a decent amount of grey foam on top that settles down to a skim. No lacing on this glass, despite me giving it a hot water rinse and dry before pouring. Swirling leaves patchy foam.

Big bourbon aromas emanate form this beer. I could smell them as soon as I popped the cap. The aroma took me by surprise; after two years, I would think the aroma would have mellowed. I can smell, peat, toasted oak, smoke, and warming alcohol. Malty sweetness is very subtle. In a blind smell test, I think I would mistake this for a glass of straight whiskey. The aroma seems appropriate for a fresh bourbon barrel-aged beer, so I’ve docked half a point for the lack of mellowing.

Where the nose may be a bit overpowering, the flavor profile is really well done. There is plenty of bourbon flavor, but not so much that you would mistake this as anything but a barrel-aged beer. It begins with a nice sweetness—velvety toffee and cherry flavors. Crystal sugars mix in before the bourbon makes itself known. It has mellow alcohol, smokey peat, and oak. These bourbon flavors linger on after swallowing. I was afraid this beer would still be quite hot, but it has mellowed into an interesting, balanced ale. The cherry flavor did catch me off guard. It may have a slight tartness, but I don’t think this beer is showing signs of infection.

The beer is a bit stickier than I would have liked to have felt. A noticeable coat remains on my lips and throughout my mouth. The coat holds onto the sweet flavors; very little of the bourbon remains. The alcohol does provide some warmth as I swallow.

This is good wee heavy that is tending towards great, but misses the mark slightly. Maybe it would have been better if I had opened the bottle sooner, but I’ll never know. I will enjoy what I have left to drink though. If you get a chance to try some (and you’re a fan of the style), I’d got for it, but I wouldn’t go as far as trading rare beers known to cellar better than this one.

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