Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Double IPA Blind Taste Test All-Star Tasting

By coincidence, I found myself with 6 of the 7 currently available top tier beers from our ongoing (three years now), highly unscientific Double IPA Blind Taste Testing. Previous results HERE.

We had five tasters trying 6 beers (not ideal for accuracy) but it's all for fun anyway. All beers were fresh (canned within the last month) except the Viridi Rex which was about 2 months old.  Here were the results:

Burlington Brewing Company It's Complicated Being a Wizard was a runaway winner.

Prairie Phantasmagoria, Alaskan Hopothermia, and Edmund's Oast Viridi Rex were effectively tied for second.

Fiddlehead Second Fiddle barely beat out Coast Boyking at the end of the rankings.

We found this surprising since Coast and Fiddlehead have been consistent winners in our ongoing tests (we always try to include one of the top tier beers in every session for comparison purposes).

Either way, this test was neither scientific nor fair, but it sure was fun!


Watching TV Makes You Smarter and Television is an Evil

This was a journal entry for an English class - but really just a chance to bitch about Magnum PI:

I watched the new Magnum P.I. series premier shortly after reading “Television Makes You Smarter” by Steven Johnson. The producers of the show either never read the article, or were actively attempting to prove his thesis wrong. The show had one major theme, totally spoon fed every bit of information, had literally NO complex themes and was ABSOLUTELY worse intellectually than the original – and that is a HIGH bar. The only part that made me think was the beginning, where Magnum is jumping out of a space capsule. The thought went, “Is this show really going to do this? Is it going to be that ridiculous?” Turns out it was an author’s rendition of one of his past misadventures, dramatized for the book. Then the rest of the show went full vapid and lame, making you wonder which was worse, the fake book or the real TV show.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

I almost missed that you had assigned both “Television is an Evil” by Theodore Dalrymple and the above discussed article. Nice contrast. I went ahead and re-read them together. My first time through “Television is an Evil” I really started wondering if it was satire. It went seriously over the top blaming TV for almost all of society’s ills. Not that this is far from the truth, but TV has brought a lot of good with the bad. How else are we going to find out how truly awful everyone we elect is?


I loved the quote the author laid out at the end describing TV people as awful, though I disagree that they are worse than politicians. Yesterday at lunch, the bartender was a former TV producer, and he was amazingly frank, charming and helpful. Of course, he was bartending because he had to leave TV in order to get sober and is now working towards a degree in Social Work, so he might not be the best example. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Having A Skeptical Mind

Most people believe that they have a skeptical, critical mind. Some because they constantly question the arguments and ideas of people that they disagree with. Others because they adhere to some alternate, non-mainstream concept such as atheism, alternate medicine or even Flat Earth Theory. Most simply assume the existence of their skeptical mind because they’ve never actually challenged themselves on it and it makes them feel smart. The fact is, very few people think critically about the world around them, and even those that do, fall prey to the usual prejudices and biases. In our hyper-partisan world, a critical mind is vital to not getting sucked into the tribalism currently tearing our country apart. You need to humanize opposing viewpoints as the first step to tolerance. Not only that, but failing to think analytically and questioning your beliefs makes you less smart.

The first step to developing a skeptical mind begins with recognizing that most of what you read and hear is either wrong, misleading or incomplete. Find an article in a mainstream news publication on a subject for which you are an expert or very knowledgeable. Read it. Is it accurate? Chances are incorrect or imperfect information permeates the article. Completely wrong might also accurately describe it. Odds are that if you do this often enough, you will start wondering, “If every article I read that I’m knowledgeable of is so awful, what about the ones I know nothing about?” Now you are on the right track. From this point questions will start to flow every time you read something.

Next you start asking questions about things you just assume to be true. Start with minimum wage for an example. If you oppose it, ask yourself questions like: “How is someone with no skills supposed to support themselves without an adequate wage?”, or “If minimum wage earners had more money, would that stimulate the economy?”, or “Would raising the minimum wage reduce the costs of social welfare programs?” You could ask numerous other questions. If you can’t think of any, google it. Literally: “What questions should you ask if you oppose the minimum wage?” For balance, if you support the minimum wage, you might ask, “How does someone without the skills to provide the value of the minimum wage to an employer get a job?”, or “Won’t raising the minimum wage make things cost more?”, or “Won’t employers replace people with machines if we raise the minimum wage?”

Just the act of asking the questions will add to your skepticism, but that’s not enough. Now you need to answer them. Answer them honestly and with as much effort as possible. Here’s the hard part: answer them in a way that directly opposes your current belief. You don’t need a bunch of researching for this part (that comes later) you simply try to use logic. Follow a train of thought that leads away from your current belief. Every time you find yourself drifting towards your original idea, take the fork that leads away from it. You don’t have to agree with the points, just accept that they exist.

Now a true challenge. Take a repugnant or ridiculous belief. Racism, sexism, eugenics, anti-vax, flat earth. Try to figure out WHY someone would believe it. Don’t just assume they are unforgivably evil or stupid people. Very few people are actually bad people – selfish, ignorant and self-involved sure – but not evil. Try to think of a person you know who is both nice, and racist. Put yourself in their shoes. Recognize that calling them a racist is probably not the best way to change their mind. Knowing their motivations, biases and background makes a huge difference when it comes time to change their attitudes.

Which brings us to politics. Chances are, either you or someone you know reflexively disagrees with everything that one party does, and agrees with the other (unless something “bipartisan” is going on). The simple, obvious unanswered question is: “How is it possible that one group of politicians is always right and the other group is always wrong?” I’ll give you a hint…no I won’t, you get it. Take the party you identify with and list ten things they do that are wrong. Take the party you oppose and list ten things they do that are right. Here’s the catch: you can’t use “bipartisan” ideas – the other party must be opposed to the things you select. If you can’t do this, go back and re-read this whole essay and try again. Still not there?

Research. Crank up your Google-Fu and start searching. Read articles that oppose your viewpoint. Go beyond the normal news sources (we already figured out how wrong they were several paragraphs ago). Find academic blogs – professors LOVE to write, especially economics and legal professors. Do NOT make arguments against the points being made while you read. I know that you might find this hard, but try to think about why they might be RIGHT. You don’t have to conclude they’re right, just expose yourself to their ideas. Buy a book from someone you disagree with, preferably someone with a good bibliography. Ralph Nader writes excellent ones for you to try if you are a Republican and Ann Coulter is a good choice if you are a Democrat. I recommend them not because they are brilliant or accurate, but because of their bibliographies – a chance for you to see where their ideas come from.


Having a skeptical mind doesn’t mean changing your mind to another belief. The point is accepting that the other belief exists, and that while the arguments you hear may be wrong, they have at least some merit. Especially important is knowing that a person or group who doesn’t see things your way does so not because they are bad people, or ignorant, but instead they form opinions rooted in valid belief systems. You also might find out that you are wrong about some things, and being less wrong is the foundation of both human and individual progress.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

My Changing Attitudes Towards War

One of the things that I often say about myself is that there has been one constant in my life, and that is that five years ago I was a moron. I strongly suspect that this is not going to change going forward. It has lead to a strong tendency to temper the fervency with which I advocate my opinion, and to cause me to be far more willing than most people to change my opinion. One area in which this has affected my life is in my attitude towards war. Early in my life I was unashamedly, unconsciously pro-war. Later I became a much more measured advocate towards war, but still saw it as an extremely valid and useful tool for world politics. Now, I wouldn’t say am totally against war, but my standard for when it is justified is extremely high. It was the BBC television series Doctor Who which finally pushed my teetering attitude over the edge to my current stance. More on that later.

Like most children, I loved playing war. I always knew I would end up in the military, and, when I was finally allowed to join (The Navy, not the Marines as I wanted – stupid parents) my biggest regret was that we weren’t at war, and it looked like we never would be. I didn’t count the Cold War because it was only proxies doing the shooting, and not Americans. I also was unhappy because as a Submariner, only a big war with a major opponent would get me into any action. I told you I was a moron.

Fast forward to 1991 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. I was stoked. To be clear, my attitude had changed a little bit. Now I was only in favor of war for “good” reasons, though this was a pretty broad definition. The Iraq war was the perfect war. Unprovoked aggression by an evil country against a good country. Yeah, I thought Kuwait was totally innocent. Did I mention I was a moron? Back then, I was gung ho, all go, all in! Best of all, my submarine was tasked with a short notice, high speed sortie to protect our troop transports from the inevitable attacks by Libyan submarines from that devil Quadaffi! My biggest regret back then was that we didn’t get to launch any cruise missiles. The Kuwait war went splendidly – quick, easy and an absolute victory. All my beliefs about war were validated.

Then 9/11 happened and I was pissed, and not just because of the attack. I was on SHORE duty, teaching, surrounded by students who would soon transfer to combat submarines and carriers and maybe get a chance to take part in what would certainly be a quick and decisive war with Afghanistan. Even when we went after Iraq I was still sure it would be over quickly, and I would miss out. I was just a little bit off on that one. As the war dragged on for more than a decade, and I exposed myself to new and different sources of information, my attitudes started to shift.

Fast forward ten years and two submarines later and now I’m a civilian. All the same people are making all the same arguments for and against war. The wars are still going on, and I’m paying more attention to the collateral damage. I’m watching the rise of ISIS, the Syrian civil war and the refugees. I can’t tell you exactly when I said, “Fuck This!”, but I can tell you it was while watching the Doctor Who episode called The Zygon Inversion. The Doctor was trying to talk entrenched factions out of going to war and he said: “When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn, how many hearts will be broken, how many lives shattered, how much blood will be spilled until everybody does what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning: sit down and TALK!” Somehow this coalesced the arguments, highlighting the endless war, and the endless repercussions and the feeling that, something just isn’t right into a concrete understanding that it’s just not working. Innocent people get hurt in war, and sometimes that has to be accepted for the higher ends. But for how long, and how many? For what ends?


Nowadays I find myself arguing about endless war a lot on Social Media. I see all the same things said and the same arguments made. Most of them are still cogent, well thought out arguments about deterrence, and self-defense and defense of others. Someone will inevitably ask me how I can’t understand how important it is to end this and that bit of injustice. They’ll talk about how tyrants have to be confronted or they just get bolder and do worse. I tell them, “I would have said the exact same thing as you, SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO WHEN THE WAR STARTED! Talk to me again when the war is over and we’ve actually accomplished all those high and mighty goals.” Thanks Doctor, for helping to straighten me out. Now I just have to figure out the other things I’m still a moron about…

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Double IPA Blind Taste Test Post Summer 2018 Update

This endeavor has grown since it's inception, so I stopped posting individual test results about a year and a half ago (you can still find some of them on the original post HERE).

Now I'm just updating the rankings as groups of taste tests are completed. A few things to note:

1. Within categories, the beers are not really ranked (though I do kinda put them in order based on latest results).
2. A beer doesn't leap to the top until it has been tested at least twice, usually much more often.
3. As often as possible, I try to include an established beer in a tasting with new or new-ish beers as a benchmark. Sometimes this is a huge help, other times it messes everything up.
4. I won't test a beer unless I or a friend I trust really like it, or it has a great reputation. Merely appearing on this list means a beer is good.
5. Taste tests are generally 3 to 4 beers, with at least 4 testers. Testers vary, except I always participate. Occasionally I will do 5 beers, and I will only do more for a "fun" test - I have 6 of the top ten and plan on doing an "all-star" tasting.

Here is the master list:

SOLID WINNERS:
COAST Boyking
Fiddlehead 2nd Fiddle
Odell Myrcenary
Firestone Walker Double Jack (no longer available)
Edmund's Oast Viridi Rex
Burlington It's Complicated Being a Wizard
Prairie Phantasmagoria
Alaskan Hopothermia

SERIOUS CONTENDERS:
AleSmith Double IPA
Evil Twin Lost Souls
Westbrook Two Claw
Maine Beer Company Dinner
Upper Pass Cloud Drop
Frost Beer Works Slush
Frost Beer Works Lush
Single Cut Softly Spoken Magic Spells

AWESOME, BUT NOT BEST EVER:
Russian River Pliny the Elder
Tree House Bright
Alchemist Heady Topper
Alchemist Focal Banger
Lawson's Sip of Sunshine
18th Street ZERO Discipline
Greater Good Greylock
Trillium Melcher Street
Clown Shoes Galactica
Maui Brewing Double Overhead
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe
New Belgium Rampant
Foley Brothers Prospect

MIDDLE GROUND:
Southern Barrel Slippery Slope 
Southern Tier 2xIPA
Trillium Vicinity
Stone Ruination 2.0
Second Fiddle Mastermind
Alchemist Crusher
Boulevard Brewing The Calling
Wicked weed Freak of Nature
Trout River Hangry Angler
Farnham B72
Banded Horn Daikaiju
Melvin Brewing 2 by 4
Lord Hobo Boom Sauce
Bear Republic Racer X Double IPA

BOTTOM DWELLERS (still good but not competitive):
Shmaltz She Brew
Clown Shoes Space Cake
Shmaltz Wishbone
Firestone Walker Leo vs. Ursus Fortem
Foley Brothers Fair Maiden
Foley Brothers Pieces of Eight
Benford Problem Solver
Westbrook Three Claw
Exhibit A Hair Raiser
Heavy Seas Double Cannon
Crooked Run Orbz


Thursday, September 13, 2018

How to Use r/wroteabook to Benefit Everyone Here

There are 4300 subscribers on this thread but it seems like there's not a lot of activity other than posting a book.  Not a lot of up-voting and not a lot of action. 

This is not taking advantage of what this thread could be.

Here's what I would like book posters to do:

1.  Find a book someone has posted that you might like
2.  Buy it or borrow it
3.  Read it
4.  If it's good, review it on Amazon and tell the author
5.  If it's not good, tell the author via the book's reddit thread to help them out
6.  Provide some useful feedback either way on the reddit thread for the book
7.  Repeat as often as you can.

If you post a book, you should do this at least once simply as a point of courtesy and with the hope that someone will return the favor.  It's hard to get quality reviews, so let's leverage this community to help each other out.

As an aside, Kindle Unlimited is $10 per month and you can read as many books as you want for free (assuming the author activates it, which most do).  You can have 10 books at a time. 

I also think people should add KU to their title if their book is available for free so we can read as many of those as possible.

Feel free to read and review my tax books (written for normal people):
amazon.com/author/kirkea

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Impeaching Trump

So I'm reading and hearing lots of speculation on if Trump is going to be impeached. Lots of analysis of laws and precedents and who said and did what.
It's all bullshit.
The most important factor in whether Trump gets impeached is who wins the House in November. Whether he gets convicted: Who wins the Senate.
Laws don't matter. Truth doesn't matter. This is all typical Dem/Rep partisan fuckwaddery designed to keep you distracted and aligned with the proper tribe.
And if the Dems impeach Trump, the Reps will pull the same crap on the next Dem President if they own the House.
Sure, Trump is making it easier on them by giving them stuff to work with, but let's not pretend or be fooled into thinking that this has anything to do with anything other than control and consolidation of power.
Stop voting for D's and R's. None of this will stop until at least 15% of you wake up and smell the stench of the Big Bucket of Fuck they're feeding you out of.

Monday, June 25, 2018

I am NOT a Libertarian

Though I agree with them on many things, and vote for them often.

More to follow...

An Exercise in Not Being Hopelessly Partisan

List ten positive things about your favorite and least favorite politician.  List ten bad things about the same two people.  Get mad about all 20 bad things, give credit for all 20 good things.  If you can't do this, you are hopelessly partisan and are part of the problem.  You do not have to do this publicly.  If you can't think of them off the top of your head, spend some time researching.
It is simply impossible that your political opponents are wrong about everything.  It is absolutely possible that you think they are wrong about some things simply because they are your political opponent and that's what our government wants.
Who wins when a country is divided?
It's the people who want more power and control and less accountability.  I'll give you a hint: when you see their name in print they have a D or an R after their name.
Break the cycle of assuming a PARTY wants anything from you other than your vote, and will offer you anything more than a reason to hate the other party enough to keep you voting for them and not noticing that they never actually FIX anything they proclaim to be so badly broken that it is literally a TRAGEDY if it isn't fixed immediately.
Another exercise to help you to stop vilifying the PEOPLE (actual human beings) who don't vote the same way you do.  List ten GOOD reasons that someone might vote for the politician you hate.
Let's try to remember that PEOPLE are generally good, and want others live's to be better. 
Let's also remember that it is a pretty good time to be alive. 
Let's personally help others better their lives. 
Leave jealousy and anger behind. 
Make ONE person's day better today, and make NO person's day worse.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Double IPA Blind Taste Testing - Update

For the last couple of years, we have been doing blind taste tests of Double IPAs.  The original post is HERE (with the full rankings).

This summer we will be doing a bunch, always trying to include previously tested beers so we can roughly rank them.

Here's what we are doing this summer (at a minimum):

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature
Edmunds Oast Viridi Rex
Burlington Wizard (it's complicated)
Clown Shoes Galactica
Boulevard The Calling
Coast Boy King
Crooked Run Orbz
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe
Westbrook Two Claw
Fiddlehead Second Fiddle
Maui Double Overhead