Monday, December 27, 2010

Beer of the Month - December

The Beer of the Month for December is New Belgium Brewery's (NBB) 2 Below {6.6% abv}. As I started getting into last month, NBB has a great story of origin; a brewery started by a married professional couple living the American dream. An artistic neighbor handling all beer label art from 1991 to current. Even better, every employee of this Colorado based company becomes a part-owner after a years employment! Outstanding.

2 Below is one of NBB's great line-up of seasonal brews. It's taste is a result of dry-hopping during the fermentation process and using roasted malts. The flavor profile is in the neighborhood of a stout, but finishes much crisper and cleaner than you'd expect.

If you haven't already snagged a sixer, do so during this lovely holiday season. 3 stars of course. Stay safe during your New Years celebrations everyone.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Falling over.

...I guess that week or two turned into a week or four! The search for the perfect tree and Fall foliage shots got complicated once I got after it. I found myself pulling over randomly to shoot things; my eyes wandering to catch trees turning with great light and composition only to keep get to work on time. I missed out on capturing quite a bit of what I window shopped, but was able to find some cool locations in my area I'll keep in mind going forward. These are a few of my mid-fall stash.

This post couldn't have been timed better given the Winter Solstice is less than 24 hours away. We'll see what the next season has in store soon enough.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Green Thumb - Wrap-up

If you remember where I left off last time, you'll know we were heading into early Fall evening frosts and there were plenty of young maters' on the vine looking to ripen before it was too late. Both Bart and Lisa grew even larger and spread out further, with many new clusters of tiny fruit appearing week after week. Unfortunately as weeks passed, our plants were getting pretty fed up with the limited sun behind the house as the seasons shifted and it got harder to get quality vine-ripening as more days past. At a certain point in we just took off all the tomatoes that were of reasonable size and brought them inside. Before all that happened though...

Week 15:

Week 16:

Week 17:

Week 19:

Week 20:

Right before Halloween we started getting frost warnings. A few of the tomatoes I took off early to salvage are seen in Week 17. At first we thought,'hey we can make fried green tomatoes', but that never happened ha; those tomatoes are on the same stool and have turned red. We worked some of the already ripe maters into some dinner dishes here and there, but the quality of the off-vine-ripened tomatoes was much lower in texture. I think we're ready for the next challenge having done so well with little experience this past year, but I definitely want some peppers in the mix. Hopefully we can get started a few weeks earlier.

All this years green thumb pics are here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Take two sports and call me in the morning.

I know I'm only a few ticks over thirty but damn I'm gettin' old. Years go by faster, memories blend, I can't go out like I used to (without paying for it dearly), I'm constantly feeling new aches & pains and if I don't exercise regularly...double the previous order. And don't get me started on getting up from sitting on the floor for a couple hours...I used to not hear so many joints crackling just a couple years ago. Exercise is really tolerable exercise; if you don't want to run because you can't tolerate running, you need to do something you can put up with. Exercise comes in many forms for many people, mainly depending on what you did athletically in college, high school and even as a five or six year old. I've been playing various sports and running around outside as far back as I can remember. Unfortunately desk-jobs and becoming an adult threw a giant wrench into my previous routine of waiting tables (don't miss it), classes and pickup basketball. I found ways to retrieve and fortify my conditioning and strength of old, but I'd eventually get bored and just stick to diet/moderation which isn't enough to satisfy my need to compete.

A couple years ago my buddy Justin, who I played plenty of intramural sports with long ago as we both attended the same college, asked me to join a coed football league with him. These are the stories from those games. BLUNG BLUNNNG (Law and Order reference, check). Here in Baltimore there are two major coed leagues, SOBO and BSSC; which league is better is a toss up depending on what part of the city you live in or more importantly what leagues more of your friends play in. Back to the point though, knowing I had a Spring football season ahead of me helped the exercise go down easier. I had a goal. I knew I wanted to be faster and quicker than my opponents as well as have the energy to compete until the buzzer as I did in multiple sports during my teens and early twenties. I worked harder than I would've so I could not only live up to my lofty expectations, but contribute to our teams strength.

Fast forward to a couple months ago we started our Fall season in BSSC. Our team, Back Dat Pass Up, made the playoffs with a late season run, but lost in the first round. The team we would've played if we won that first game was the winner of the match-up in these shots. It's ok though, we'll be better next year and hopefully team attendance will be better as well. We hung out afterwards around the cooler, leaving it on the field. After some great success in 2010 with our crew of vagabonds, we plan on reloading for Spring via free-agency. Looks like I have another excuse to keep my body feeling young...ish.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Beer of the Month - November

The Beer of the Month for November is New Belgium Brewery's (NBB) Fat Tire {5.2% abv}. Looking back to this past July, I'd have to say trying out NBB's Trippel was the beginning of great future beer enjoyment. There was something outstanding about that beer that I couldn't put a finger on, but I did get a taste bud around the unusually clean finish, following bold flavor. Looking into NBB's history gives a great story; a 32 year old professional goes on a beer sabbatical of sorts in Belgium, riding from village to famous beer village, gathering inspiration and ingredients. He returned home to his self-made brewery kit and made two beers, one of which was Fat Tire, named as such due to the tires on his cruiser bike he rode through the countryside with. Fat Tire as a brew put NBB on the map and they went public with the company in 1991.

Fat Tire is an Amber ale with rich flavor and a hoppy soundtrack. Oh and news flash, it's outstanding with hard pretzels. This is a solid all rounder that can be drank in any situation or time of year. It's a great way to get introduced to what NBB is all about. 3 stars.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Toys for Tots.

Along with the inevitable self-indulgence that comes with the automotive enthusiast lifestyle, there are opportunities to turn that energy elsewhere in a positive manner. A lot of you are probably familiar with Toys for Tots (T4T), the U.S. Marine Corps run toy collection campaign with offices and local supporting organizations in all 50 states. This past Saturday I attended a T4T gathering at FDR Park in Philadelphia (PA), organized by DCI VW, a worldwide-known/active VW Enthusiast club also known as Dubsquad. The goal of this event was getting auto enthusiasts to not only get together in late November, but also contribute gifts (or money for gifts) for the many underprivileged children in the U.S. who don't have a real Christmas ahead of them.

While there are cars and the typical action you'd get from a larger Automotive gathering, the biggest difference is that it's no longer show season. Also, there's a skate park under the overpass where this event takes place, so along with auto enthusiasts you also get local skaters and bmxer's all sharing a square acre or two worth of space for an afternoon. It was initially a sunny day, but turned to overcast as time went along. That and the fact we were under a bridge, hampering ambient light, encouraged me to go B&W for most of this set.
It's was a surprisingly good time, mainly because friends from all over the east coast drove down (and up) to hang out all day. My buddy Dan panini'd up some tasty grilled cheeses we all bs'd for a couple hours before heading out for the day. 

For more information on how to donate locally to Toys for Tots, please visit the USMC Toys for Tots site here. Have a great Thanksgiving week everyone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pic of the day - Friday

It's been a great few days. Along with following our smartphone GPS navigation to the wrong places, we got to meet up with some old friends down here which really tied the week together. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Northern Virginia traffic on I-95.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pic of the day - Thursday

I didn't go as crazy shooting in Myrtle Beach as I did in California, because I actually wanted to do nothing. It was awesome ha. However, it's hard for me to pass on photo opportunities when I see them so I tried some new techniques on for size. I'd take one general shot over and over again, different times of the day over the course of the week, in the same places, to push my skills a bit further. Taming daylight outside of golden hour isn't for everyone, but I enjoy challenges and am admittedly hard headed on process. If I want to accomplish something that's outside of Photography 101, because I like what my eyes see, then I'll work at it until I can pull off what most don't attempt. Great thing is it's only digital, developing shots takes minutes and any success is well worth the effort. Then it's rinse and repeat until the desired effect is achieved and reproducible.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pic of the night - Wednesday

The only bad thing about the weather being so nice last week was the fact that daylight savings time (and the time of year) robbed me of a couple hours of sunlight to play with compared to summer. While it felt like June out there while the sun was shining, it felt like early March after the sun dropped. We ended up finding a nice Thai food joint off Kings Highway not long after this shot and ate like...Kings. Damn hell ass Kings!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pic of the day - Tuesday

There's nothing better than turning back the clock psychologically and wearing shorts/flip flops in the warm sun did the was this past June all over again. The thing that comes to mind most when I visit areas that have sweet scenery within minutes, is if the locals know how good they have it; or does their norm, great to outsiders, become boring to the regulars? I can't answer for them, but I like leaving my norm for varieties sake.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pic of the day - Monday

I was finally able to ditch the daily grind for a few days and take a short trip down south this past week. Drove down to Myrtle Beach for a couple of days and was thankfully able to eek out one more set from a lovely locale for the year. 70 degrees and cloudless for five days straight; you couldn't have asked for better. Here's the fullsize wallpaper/pic of the day, retroactive edition.

FYI, all of my 'Pic of the day' posts going forward will have a fullsize shot (~1300x800) you can throw on your computer at work or at home; if you're late to the party, the last series was in July. If you're one of those techies with a screen bigger than 19" (higher resolution) and need a bigger shot to fit, just drop me an email using the logo at the bottom of my page or my service inquiry link above. Simply link the post in question and I'll be happy to set ya up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beer of the Month - October

Choosing a beer for October was a tough decision. Oktoberfest is the name of the game this time of year and I tried several Seasonal and Oktoberfest tribute brews, many of which were solid in their own right. Without further adieu, however, the beer of the month for October is...American; to be more specific, Michelob Brewing Company's Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale {5.5% abv}. Michelob, which is mainly known for their self titled Lager (as well as light & ultra variants) and a single red ribbon, also have a full line up of beer varieties including seasonal microbrews, much like Sam Adams.

Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale is named as such, because it's brewed with actual pumpkins and spices typical of the Fall season; cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to name a few. The first sip is fragrant and actually drinks much like a regular Michelob; pretty smooth. While the aftertaste is pleasantly full spice and a hint of pumpkin, rest assured this is not a sweet flavored beer. I had one of these while eating Indian food recently and it was a surprisingly good pairing. This will be a good choice for the upcoming months, especially as the cold rolls in. Or if it's just cool outside and you're in my house where the heat doesn't get turned on until November (ahem). Try a six pack. 2 stars.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Falling down.

With the end of Summer on the east coast comes the beginning of Fall. It's the start of the cold and the end of painless hand washing of your car outside. The house windows stay closed and the furnace shakes off it's cobwebs for it's six month tour of duty. I've taken plenty pics of the seasons changing around Maryland over the years, mainly to showcase a car of mine for a forum post or personal stash. The biggest difference between 10+ years ago and now is that back then October was October. What I mean is September was cold and the first day of October was down right frigid. November was literally freezing overnight and the first snow fall could come well before Thanksgiving.

Before Al Gore screwed up the distinction between seasons (sarcasm), the leaves changed uniformly everywhere in Maryland. Now you have to go further and further north to get this consistency. Of course some tree varieties still respond quickly to the cooling weather and predictably morph before going bald, but if you look outside now you'll see 60% green trees, 15% half changed over trees, 15% fully orange/red trees and 10% bald trees. It makes capturing the season hard to shoot, especially when you're like me and like to get big landscape shots; accordingly I'll likely break this seasons' series into a couple parts...hopefully I can get the dream shot I want in the locations I look for it.

I wandered around my new home town to see what I could find outside before too much time passed last Friday afternoon. The trickiest thing about trying to time fall foliage is that if a tree looks 'perfect' one day, chances are it won't be the next. You have to stick and move and if you're fortunate the weather and sun light will play nice.

While I was walking around shooting I stumbled onto a really cool old building (2nd shot) that I've been driving past, on the way to I-95S, for literally two years now. I had errands to run which kept me from going more in depth; I'll get better shots of it for another post. In the meantime, I'll see what nature brings me in another week or two.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

All good things come to an end.

H2oi 2010 in Ocean City, Maryland - last show of the year. Sigh. Good news is, it was a great weekend as usual. No sleep, about 12hrs+ total put into car detailing over 4 days, 10hrs+ taking pictures all weekend, eating out, meeting up with old friends and meeting new can't be beat. This years turnout was bigger than ever before. I mean, huge. Last year had about 1200 registered cars and this year was a bit over 1500; this doesn't even include those spectating. Like I mentioned previously, the Ocean Downs facility is being turned into a 'horse races and slots' location due to the newly passed law in the state of Maryland. Accordingly, vendors weren't parked in the usual place which was the parking lot of said building. This fact turned the flow of cars in and out of the show grounds into a cluster to say the least. I made sure to get there early on Sunday morning to make sure I didn't become a victim of entry traffic. Thankfully I got screwed later when I left to go home and got caught in Dover Delaware NASCAR Race traffic for 4 hours; it was brilliant.

The odd thing about this show weekend was that there were multiple events going on in Ocean City, MD at the time; Sunfest (still not sure what this is), H2oi and the simple fact that it was a 90 degree sunny weekend with the winter around the corner. There were tons of people, families, teens; and best of all, German Car Enthusiasts out numbering all other groups, everywhere you looked. It feels good to be down there during this weekend.

Well the madness with me wrenching on my project cars and loosing sleep is now coming to a close and I plan on slowly getting back to working on new content. Thanks for everyone who keeps up with this site even though I don't always have new things in large quantities; I guess that's just understood, because we all have lives, families and jobs. Oh and more importantly jobs. Did I say jobs? Working a ton lately, but it keeps me doing what I enjoy. Until next year, show season.

My full show set from the weekend is here. I may sprinkle a few others in here as I see fit; of course I have my automotive blog, but I think variety in here is good as well.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Green Thumb - Ep.4

Looking back to the beginning of this series, I should've named each plant to avoid saying the 'taller plant' and the 'smaller one'. For the sake of making up for lost time, the tall plant typically seen on the 'left' will be called Lisa and the shorter one will be called...Bart. Anyways, Lisa's generous tomato growth became a curse. I looked out the window one morning to see her almost split in two, slumped over by the weight of the pair of tomatoes (see week 9) whose load bearing branch no longer stayed on the deck rail by position and gravity alone. These tomatoes kept gaining weight and all the fruit attached to that large branch swung back and was caught by the rosemary plant; we'll call that plant Maggie. For background, I methodically peep out the window from the bedroom when I get up, daily, to see where things stand with the simpson kids; I've taken over watering duty exclusively since I get up right before the sun appears on the deck where all the plants are lined up (~11:30am). Seeing the problem, I went down to figure out a fix to keep damage to the main trunk minimal. I ended up getting the last few leftover pieces of IKEA strapping twine from the garage and started wrapping things up.

It isn't pretty, but it after a few days everything appeared to be fine. All the branches that were snapped were still connected, most importantly the base branch in the last picture. I was limited on twine but it was enough to get the job done. So the new arrangement is the plants leaning on each other, but rest assured since this took place in Week 12, everything has been fine with both plants. They've kept getting bigger and now Lisa drinks about a gallon of water a day. Bart needs about 2/3 of a gallon, some of which is due to the shade.

The oddest result of this readjustment is that the tomatoes connected to frayed branches seem to have abnormalities in trust that I'm not expert so it could've been an insect or something that ate chunks out of these tomatoes, but what's odd is only green tomatoes on branches damaged by the 'split' had grape sized chunks missing. Upon hand inspection of all the tomatoes growing a week or two ago, all the affected tomatoes where removed to allow more energy to go towards the healthy remaining (and newly growing) fruit. Another odd thing is tomatoes growing with splits in the tops; this appears to have occurred on those fruit growing near the support rods. We'll have to take this into account for next year. In the meantime, let's do a quick recap:

Week 10:

Week 11:

Week 12 (see above)

Week 13:

Lisa's first fruit (a week later)
Bart's sixth tomato

Week 14:

This is pretty much the end of the line on updates as all the tomatoes that are berry sized today have a slim chance of reaching maturity due to the Fall season weather rolling in. The biggest take away was that if you let tomato plants 'droop' on their own as they grow, a split won't happen down the line; Bart is flowing horizontally now and is going as strong as ever. Frost and what not should stay away til closer to November, but we'll see how many more tomatoes can be harvested over the next 5 weeks or so. I finally had one of Lisa's tomatoes and it was pretty good. Bart has the edge on flavor, but they are two breeds of tomato after all; apples and oranges and all that jazz.

This XL post is for my sister Marisha who's recovering from surgery currently. Hopefully this can help ya pass the time sis. Get well soon.

Capturing Life's Fabric with Technology.