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Weekend Reading, Volume 15

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I haven’t posted a collection of links in awhile.  I’ve just been too fixated on the Phillies, I guess.  No—wait!—it’s not even possible to be too fixated on the Phillies.  Anyway, I haven’t stopped wasting spending time on the web, so there’s quite a backlog.

  • What’s the best thing in this week’s New York Times Magazine?  I think it has to be this piece on doughnuts, which, among other things, has Washington Irving saying that a New Amsterdam table “was always sure to boast an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat and called dough nuts.”  Be sure to check out Stephen Lewis’s accompanying photographs, too.  They’re amazing.  (That’s not one of Lewis’s above.  Sadly, I can’t afford food porn of that quality.)
  • I’m becoming a big fan of “The Wild Side,” evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson’s NYT blog.  A few weeks ago, Judson blogged about a gene variation in men that was associated, in a Swedish study, with an inability to maintain long-term monogamous relationships.  The very next week, she wrote about the evolution of male-only asexual reproduction in a few unusual species.  It’s good to be reminded just how freaky nature truly is.
  • It’s certainly been a long time—too long—since my last date, but I’m not ready to resort to a cuddle party to get some basic human contact.  Bizarrely, the local paper, The Inky, devoted many, many column inches to the topic.  The article just made me want to buy gallon after gallon of Lysol, hand sanitizer, and various other cootie-killers.  Ewwww.
  • Americans can get married nearly anywhere they want—the backyard, Las Vegas, the halftime of an Oklahoma City Thunder game.  It seems like a basic human right, doesn’t it?  (For straight people only.  Hmmm.)  It’s not that way everywhere, of course.  In England, the rules have loosened up just a little bit, but there’s a long way to go.
  • Pop or soda?  Or just coke? As I’m sure you know, what we Americans call our, um, soft drinks varies pretty dramatically from region to region.  In the Midwest, it’s pop.  In the northeast and California, it’s soda.  In the South, it’s coke.  Strange Maps recently featured a great map that shows off this regional variation.  I grew up in Oklahoma, which, as you’ll see, is one of the places where pop and coke collide.  I grew up with “pop,” in one of those counties in northeastern Oklahoma where 50-80% of the population prefers that term.  But it’s not what I say anymore.  After a decade-plus in Philly, I’ve converted to “soda.”  I’m a traitor.
  • Speaking of great maps, I enjoyed the NYT‘s interactive map showing how well nations have done at the Summer Olympics over the years.  Now is a good time, of course, to get a good view of how the Beijing Games played out.
  • Like any good devotee of Belgian beer, I’ve been closely following the political upheaval between the country’s Flemish and Walloon populations—and just hoping it doesn’t mess up the beer.  If you haven’t been following the steady slide toward devolution, here’s a good primer from BBC News as well as an article on political unhappiness in Flanders.
  • Etan Horowitz, who writes for the Orlando Sentinel and who happens to be one of my “buddies” on Twitter, explains how to change your email address as painlessly as possible.  This is something I need to get my parents—who insist on sharing an email address provided by their small-town ISP—to read.  Horowitz, by the way, is a fan of Gmail.  Me, too.

Written by Jay

October 4th, 2008 at 8:39 pm

The Funky Monk

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Having neglected my all-important beer education for most of the summer, I knew I had to attend last night’s beer class by Tom Peters—the renowned owner of Monk’s Cafe, the premiere Belgian-beer destination in Philly (which is really saying something in this Belgium-crazy city)—at Tria Fermentation School.  Peters wanted to show off sour flavors, and he brought nine examples.  I’d tried four or five of them before, but it was still a real pleasure to be able to easily compare and contrast so many sour ales.

Of the nine, I’d say the biggest revelations were the Goudenband from Brouwerij Liefmans and Russian River’s Supplication.  I hadn’t heard good things about Liefmans previously, but the Goudenband, a classic Belgian brown ale, was absolutely delightful.  The “sweetest” beer of the evening, it was still sour enough and offered up some interesting wine and cherry notes.  I’d have to describe the Supplication with similar terms—in that it’s made with sour cherries and aged in pinot noir barrels—but it struck me as a lot more wine-like than the Goudenband.  Sour and delicious, that’s for sure.

On my next pilgrimage to The Beeryard in Wayne, the beer distributor of my dreams, I may be bringing a case of the Goudenband home with me.  The Supplication isn’t generally available west of the Mississippi River, but I believe it can be had in the Philly area, too.  Those crazy West Coast brewers have realized what a market we have here….

Of the beers I knew already last night, my favorites were the Cantillon Gueuze and Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen’s Kriek.  The Cantillon is one of those beers I’d put on my desert-island list (i.e., what five beers will you take with you to the desert island along with the sexy, athletic nymphomaniac?).  I liked the Kriek from 3 Fonteinen much better than I did a few months ago when the brewery’s Armand Debelder was in town for Philly Beer Week.

So I enjoyed myself last night.  I have to say, though, that I’m sometimes a little bit uncomfortable with the way that beer snobs (and I say this with love, as a bona fide beer snob myself) fetishize some flavors, like sours, over others.  I like sour flavors as much as anyone, but it ain’t heroic of me.  If you listened to some of my classmates last night, you’d think that only the most gauche beer drinker in the world would enjoy sweet flavors.  Well, hmph.  Different types of flavors are just different types of flavors.  Can’t we enjoy sour flavors, bitter flavors, and—hey—even sweet flavors sometimes, too?

P.S. I really enjoyed one of the cheeses provided by Tria last night—Beehive Cheese Company‘s Barely Buzzed, a cheddar cheese made nearly irresistible with a coffee rub.  Put some of that in my fridge, ok?

Written by Jay

September 17th, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Beer,Food

Weekend Reading, Volume 10

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  • Post-Katrina New Orleans still struggles, of course.  And now there’s an oil spill in the Mississippi River!  But there was good news on Friday.  The Times-Picayune is again awarding beans (here in Philly, the Inky awards Liberty Bells) in its restaurant reviews.  According to the T-P‘s food critic, both he and the local restaurant scene are finally ready.
  • In news that’s not, a study finds that many NYC men don’t tell their doctors they have sex with other men.  Despite what the headline on the NYT blog-post says (“many gays don’t tell their doctors”), though, you’ll see that the vast majority of gay men are out to their doctors.  It’s the bisexual and “straight” men who aren’t being candid.  That’s not all that surprising: Some portion of these men simply haven’t come to terms with themselves.  And for some of these men, too, they’d be in the awkward position of having to admit adultery.  Still, doctors could make this easier.  I’m certainly out to my doctor, and, for an uptight, middle-aged straight man, he’s remarkably dispassionate about my sexuality.  But when I was freshly out, one of my doctors—a formidable woman with a thick Russian accent—didn’t make it very easy to talk.  “Are you still practicing homosexuality?” she’d ask, in a tone that struck me as, well, more inquisitorial than inquisitive.  “I wish,” I’d say, and then we’d move on to how my sore back was probably the result of my unfulfilled sexual desires.  Ugh.
  • One of my Twitter buddies is mentioned—by, of all things, his screenname—in this NYT piece on Comcast’s online attempts to reach out to customers.
  • Another NYT piece mentions Absaroka, which would have been a state—carved out of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota—if a few early-20th-century romantics had been in charge.  Absaroka makes a certain geographic sense, as you can see in this Strange Maps post, in the way it gathers up square miles dominated by tall grass.  (If Absaroka appeals to you, check out the somewhat similar movement in northern California and southern Oregon for a State of Jefferson, too.)
  • In some respects, anyway, rock drummers may be fitter than professional soccer players, BBC News reports.  I’m obviously missing out, since I don’t seem to be crushing on any drummers right now.  Who are the fittest, sexiest drummers?

Written by Jay

July 26th, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Weekend Reading, Volume 9

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  • Roger Ebert writes about movies that hurt too much to watch.  I can’t bring myself to re-watch either Brokeback Mountain or Schindler’s ListBrokeback breaks my heart or, rather, reminds me too much of my broken heart.  And there’s the recent loss of Heath Ledger, too.  My feelings about Schindler’s List are a little bit complicated.  At the theater, I cried so much that I considered leaving; I felt like I was bothering everyone else.  It wasn’t so much the inhumanity depicted in the film, though there was that, of course.  I was crying in response to the good things that some characters did, at enormous risk to themselves.  It’s a manipulative film, spectacularly so.  (Link via PeaceBang)
  • Mamihlapinatapai: (Yaghan) a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start; eye-contact implying ‘after you…'; ending up mutually at a loss as to what to do about each other (Link via Kottke)
  • In Japan, Buddhism is one the wane, according to this NYT story.  I’ve always really appreciated the “easygoing, buffetlike approach to religion” taken by the Japanese.  We Americans could learn something from that.
  • When I was a kid, way before it was cool, my dad was an organic gardener.  We lived out in the sticks, and no one else got it.  At all.  Least of all me.  So, anyway, this list in the NYT of the 11 best foods we aren’t eating has some, er, special resonance for me.  Actually, though, I already like, and eat, several of these foods.  But Swiss chard?!  Please, God, please tell me I had enough of that stuff in my childhood to last a lifetime.  Please.
  • And another NYT story that I can recommend this week—can you tell what I was reading this week?—details the recent collapse of catfish farming in Mississippi.  Times are hard in the Delta.  Eat more catfish, people!  (Check out the cool slideshow accompanying the story, too.)

Written by Jay

July 19th, 2008 at 8:58 am