I don't do the beerblogging thing anymore, really, but I have to announce that I have--after 10+ of working at it--made a really good IPA. Floral on the nose, perfectly balanced citrus and caramel on the palate, with a crisp finish and a nice lacy head that clings all the way down. Perfect color and damn near clear (though a couple of bottles do seem to have a stray bit of hop from dry-hopping.) Not a tannin in sight.

Also in the bottle: a porter, and a kölsh getting bottled today. And a Belgian-y Frankenstein of beer pieced together from leftover ingredients and some yeast cultures I had sort of forgotten about that may have some fruit added to it at some point is in the secondary.

taqueria lopez is closed

So it appeared when we tried to eat there last night, and their webpage confirms it. This must have occurred very recently; while we were there (waiting for the people we were meeting for dinner), at least half a dozen cars pulled up that hadn't gotten word yet, either.

Does anyone know what happened? They seemed to be doing a pretty brisk business to me...

This is a tremendous loss for good, affordable food in the Bull City.



Writing an NIH grant is like writing a masters' thesis and doing the worst tax return you ever had to do--at the same time.


let the sunshine in

It is certainly premature to declare new era, but the actions taken by Mr. Obama in the first couple of days to limit his own power and that of the executive branch are very, very encouraging.

That being said, Brian Doherty's righteous outrage is sobering reminder to keep one's feet on the ground.


hat trick

So my trivia team (which tonight consisted only of me, M, and a random stranger we acquired at our end of the bar--the rest of our usual team opted out to watch the Carolina game or "work") won tonight for the third straight week.

I financed a good chunk of my beer and burger budget in college on bar trivia...and it continues to be a relatively lucrative diversion.

I honestly don't know why my head is full of otherwise useless facts. But there are definitely worse ways to kill an evening...

Pretty soon, we're going to have to start writing the questions...


random thoughts from my time shirking work today

--A nod to science and a non-condescending acknowledgment of the existence of non-believers in this country--pretty much the highlights for me of an otherwise (surprisingly) dull speech by the new Orator in Chief.

--I don't care who you voted for, this shit is creepy.

--Mr. Bush looked relieved. So am I.

--The crowd booing Mr. Bush was kind of tacky. But I can't honestly say if I'd been there I would have done any differently.

--This is certainly the first inauguration in my lifetime that didn't have carefully chosen people of color conspicuously placed behind the president from the TV camera's perspective. Change we can believe in, people.

--Rick Warren is a giant douchebag. It wasn't enough to invoke "Jesus", he had to make a ham-handed production out of it. He truly is an excellent representative of evangelical Christianity--in all its tedious, inane, superficial, mushy-headed glory.

--Rev. Lowery, on the other hand, was delightful.

inauguration day

Photo copyright 2007 Time Magazine

"May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."

I'll be first to admit that even as someone who voted for Mr. Obama, the lovefest is getting rather old. I am nonetheless cautiously optimistic, and wish him all the luck.

Because he's going to need it.


wilkinson on mlk, etc.

This is excellent:

But thanks to MLK...we have become better. The idea that ours is a culture in moral stagnation or decline is simply preposterous. Martin Luther King Day is an excellent time to expose the silliness of the moral stasists and declinists. It’s an excellent time to celebrate the profound and rapid progress we have made, and can continue to make.

Now, I’m cynical about the romantic personality cult around Barack Obama because I am cynical about the romantic personality cult around the American presidency, which, because it is contemptible and stupid, demands cynicism...

Because I intend to be pretty hard on Obama, the politician, and his starry-eyed, mush-headed followers, I think it’s important to note that it’s not only possible, but morally recommended, to assume a posture that ought to be comfortable, but is in fact culturally awkward. One should both recognize in Obama a real symbol of morally meaningful cultural change and attack the romance of democracy and the cult of the presidency — because that is the direction of further moral progress.


cum hoc ergo propter hoc

It's really pretty astonishing that there is so much crime in Jackson, MS, what with the leadership they've got over there:

Councilman Kenneth Stokes sponsored the saggy-pants ordinance. He said many of the young men who wear saggy pants also get in trouble at school or with police.

He said the ordinance was an attempt to "save all the children we can."

I think this is roughly equivalent to treating AIDS with collagen injections.

What's even better is that there is actually discussion over the constitutionality of the ordinance, leading the mayor to remark that "I certainly respect the Constitution, but we have some issues that are much bigger than the Constitution." Note that His Honor is not arguing that, you know, the Constitution is pretty much mute on the issue of whether the waistband of your skivvies is showing (go ahead, call me a strict constructionist), but that this issue is bigger than the United States Constitution.

We tend to get the government we deserve.



next week in d-town

I am definitely going to see this:

Repo! The Genetic Opera. Mon-Thurs only, at the Carolina.

UPDATE--Saw it last night (Tuesday). It's pretty good--I would say if it appeals to you in the abstract you will probably enjoy it, and if it doesn't then probably not. The "musical" bits got a little long winded in parts, but were overall entertaining. Not nearly as gory as I expected. Visually, it's really quite spectacular.

Also, Paul Sorvino can sing. Who knew?


your (and my) vietblogging fix for now

I am buried under a grant application at the moment, so I am just going to post a few of my favorite pictures. All of these (except one) were taken by my beautiful and talented wife. If you want to see the less filtered albums on flickr, let me know (there are a few hundred more shots).

BTW, half of our photos were taken during our three days in Cambodia. Those will get a post of their own...


The Temple of Literature, Hanoi

Sunrise, Ha Long Bay (one of the few pictures I took)

Elsewhere in Ha Long Bay

If you're wondering what he's looking at...

She had a lot of "medicine" for sale, presumably.

Our view in Hoi An

Me, working on a sunburn in Hoi An

Bicycles rented for $0.60 each, with no paperwork...

Preparation for New Years (I think)

One of many smiling faces in Hoi An

Bikes are used for all sorts of things in HCMC...

The view from our favorite perch in Ben Thanh Market

Christmas evening, Saigon (this one's going on the wall)


...plus i got depression

I'm trying to decide what the most depressing thing I've read today is. It's a tossup between this:

Most of the commentary is focused on [Obama nominees Leon Panetta and Dawn Johnsen's] opposition to torture. Again, that is great news. However, I can remember a time when opposition to torture would have been a no-brainer. Now it’s apparently a bold stance...I wonder how much can be repaired in a country where opposition to torture is bold.

and this, which claims that the only jobs better than the one I currently have are mathematician, actuary, and statistician.

Maybe it's just the weather talking. Dark, rainy and cold tends to amplify the worst tendencies of my personality.


Gym time. Need endorphins.

(headline explained here)


why are you going to vietnam?

I can't tell you how many times I heard this question in the weeks leading up to our departure. It got fairly grating, especially when it was inflected in that way that implies "are you crazy?" This generally didn't come from close friends or family, who are at least accustomed to our incessant novelty-seeking, even if they don't completely understand or appreciate it. More typically, this question came from the sort of casual acquaintances that fill the gaps between the times I get to be with people whose opinions I actually care about.

Unfortunately, life is full of these people.

It took all the self-control I could muster to not say "because you would never go there," even though there is more than a little truth to this statement. (Someone even asked me if we were going there to adopt a Vietnamese baby. You can't make this shit up.) Even the travel agent M spoke with was perplexed. Needless to say, this travel agent did not get our business.

I could give you a lot of high-minded stuff about broadening horizons, challenging assumptions, testing the limits of ones comfort zone, etc., etc. And all of that would have a kernel of truth to it. I could also point out that while getting there is expensive, being there is terribly affordable, and you get tremendous value for your money.

But the honest answer is that we went there to eat.

If you know anything about Vietnamese food, you know about pho*, the beef noodle soup that is generally consumed for breakfast in Vietnam. To be sure, we had plenty of pho, though to be honest, I've had it just as good in Vietnamese restaurants here. Soup for breakfast is highly underrated in the west.

But really, pho is just a good place to start. Vietnamese food is all about flavor and freshness. It is very light. Fresh herbs (especially basil, mint, and cilantro) abound, as well as very flavorful lettuces and varieties of green onion. Fish sauce is the main condiment (try it on pizza!) Meat is typically marinated without oil, and grilled. Seafood is big on the coast. Pork is big everywhere. And of course, rice is the main staple, though often in the form of noodles, wrappers, dumplings, buns, or cakes. There is little in the way of "added fat": no cheese, little cream, and even things that are fried are typically done very fast at very high temperatures so that little oil is absorbed.

It is actually quite difficult for me to say what the best thing I had was. The truth is, we never had a bad meal in Vietnam. Probably the worst thing I ate was a banana crepe I had at a hotel breakfast one morning that was cooked in too much and/or too cool vegetable oil. And even that was pretty good.

Highlights (far from exhaustive):

--The food counters at Ben Thanh market in Saigon. We ate here a lot. There are probably two dozen stalls you can sit at that serve up various specialties. Wander into this section of the market, and you will soon find yourself seated on a tiny plastic stool with food in front of you, whether you are hungry or not. The ladies behind the counters will point you to what they are most proud of. Just go with it. Spring rolls. Pork skewers. Banana leaves wrapped around some delicious concoction of meat and fruit. Meat paste wrapped around bamboo shoots and grilled to perfection. And, yes, they all have pho...

--Banh mi: the Vietnamese equivalent of a sub sandwich. A baguette (God bless French colonialism!) typically filled with grilled meat or pate, vegetables, herbs, and (I think) some sort of vinegar-based dressing. Generally found on the street, and well into the night, typically for about 10,000 dong ($0.60) each.

--Banh xeo: rice pancakes filled with bean sprouts, pork, and shrimp, fried, wrapped in lettuce or mustard greens and dipped in fish sauce.

--Banh beo (see the picture above): steamed rice buns filled with all kinds of savory goodness. Regional variations exist...in Hoi An, they had pork, bean paste, fried shallots, and a boiled quail (or some other small bird) egg. Also available on the street. They sell out quick.

--Cha Ca La Vong. A Hanoi institution that serves one dish, a fish fried in a hot oil pan at your table. You add herbs, greens, and noodles. It's stupidly good. They re-named the street for the restaurant.

--Quan an Ngon. A massive restaurant near the Reunification Palace in HCMC. Everyone will tell you to go there. Everyone is correct...but go for lunch, or an early dinner at a minimum. We went there (for the second time, thankfully) after 8PM and 2/3 of the menu was "finished". I ate a lot of different stuff there, but the best was snails stuffed with pork, which nearly moved me to tears.

*Apologies to any Vietnamese readers/speakers...I just don't have it in me figure out the coding for all the inflection marks that would make this and all other Vietnamese words I'm going to use correct.


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Alberto Gonzales: Harvard grad. Judge. Attorney General. Putz:

"What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service...for some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."

Just to be crystal clear here, Gonzo is complaining about the fact that the cushy job at a DC law firm to which the political class is apparently entitled upon leaving government has thusfar eluded him.

It is difficult for me to muster the appropriate level of profanity to accurately convey my contempt.


happy new year

7:30 pm on New Year's day, and the cobwebs are just now starting to lift. Yes, we had fun last night.

M and I went to the 80's-themed party at Bull McCabe's. In keeping with my long-standing ambivalence towards mainstream 80's music, I went the hair metal route. (Zebra print spandex is disturbingly comfortable.) M wore her Motley Crue shirt and crimped her hair.

The Bull was pleasantly crowded...we headed down the street around 11 to catch the Wusses at the Pinhook. The 'hook, unfortunately (for us, not them) was unpleasantly crowded, so we didn't stick around, and rung in '09 back at the Bull. Then we finished the night at a party in our neighborhood.

Today my big project was going to Bojangle's for biscuits, followed by a viewing of 4 straight episodes of Battlestar Galactica (thanks, sis!) Then a nap.

I'm not feeling particularly reflective today. I know '08 sucked for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. For us, it finished a hell of a lot better than it started, so I really can't complain. You've got to get the good stuff when and where you can, you know?

Here's hoping your 2009 is healthy, enriching, and prosperous.