Sunday, February 26, 2017

Me(ad), a Primer

A bit about me


For anyone that knows me on social media (Google Plus) you'll know that I talk about mead (and beer and coffee liquor), and it has become, in the 5+ years that I have been making it, a passion of mine. Now that I have worked the bugs out of the process of making wine, I wanted to take some time to discuss mead and the process of making it, and possibly pass along my passion for this wonderful liquid to others.

I am a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen, with everything containing a "little of this" or a "little of that" and very few recipes actually followed directly. I see them as mostly guidelines. And, if I do say so myself, it works for me. The trick to any kind of cooking, in my opinion, is to know flavors and understand how they interact. A touch of Worcestershire sauce (go ahead, say it a few times, I'll wait) will add smokiness to a sauce. Molasses will add a touch of sweetness. That type thing. Something the average person can pick up if they spend enough time in one of my favorite rooms of the house. With all that being said, I also travel for a living, so being home for set times to bottle, or even spend an entire day brewing beer, is not always in my time-budget. But I wanted to make alcohol, so I got looking into what I could make that would not require a lot of time away from all of the other activities I do. 

First came a Kahlua clone that I then went mad scientist on. I think at one point in time I had ten bottles of Kahlua, with slight variations on the recipe written on the bottle, before we sat down and settled on what would become the final version. That recipe is now six or seven years old and has been stably producing bottle upon bottle with only one slight hiccup. The United States distributer of the Rum I used had some distribution problems so I had to find a suitable replacement. Fair enough, replacement found, and it is still just as good. The future for this may be bright as I have plans to reach out to a distillery currently under construction near me.

Then came Mead. To be honest, I did not know quite what mead was when I thought about making it either. After the research though, and trying it, I knew it was something I wanted to try.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Call it a re-focusing!

This blog started as a place to post my writing. Plain and simple, and as I find less time to write, I realize that I still enjoy sharing about the things I love doing. So I am going to add some sections to this site in the coming weeks/months and see what happens.

Namely, I am going to add sections on homebrewing (specifically meads and ciders) and probably some cooking, with some gaming definitely thrown in there.

So, with that being said, let's revisit who I am.

I am a father. Of four! I have 2 step daughters, one grown and out of the house, the other one almost gone. I also have two young boys of my own. The older of which loves science, the younger of which is obsessed with Little Einsteins and Scooby Doo right now.

I am a husband. She supports me, she helps me. She compliments me. She is really everything I need and more. Much more than I deserve on most days.

I am an IT Guy. I do IT work for Trade Shows and Conventions. Sometimes it is as glamorous as it sounds. Most of the time it is not.

I am a gamer. I play RPG and action games mostly when it comes to consoles. I also love board games and card games. Gets me away from a screen for a little while.

I am a fan. Whether it's good (or bad) sci-fi, or fantasy. Or good story-telling. Or Transformers. I will give it a shot

In addition to all of this, I also enjoy woodworking, the outdoors, hockey, and a good book. Oh, and hats! How can I forget about hats!

All said and done, I am a man of many interests, and many talents if I do say so myself, and hopefully you will enjoy what I am able to highlight of them in the coming months and years.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Savior

He remembered hearing about some tribes where the old or the feeble would wander off into the ice and snow one night. Just say their goodbye's and leave, to be found days, weeks, maybe months later, dead. He was unfamiliar with snow, and when the storyteller had tried to describe it, he had just laughed. It never got cold enough for water to freeze. But regardless, that was not his tribe's way.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Funeral Dirge

"That's the last of them, sir!" The grey-uniformed man said as he tossed the acoustic guitar, a classic cherry red Washburn, onto the pile.

"Light it up." His name was Adam Smith, that was General Smith, or Sir, to everyone around him. He took a step back to avoid the splash of gasoline as it was poured onto the mound of peoples’s hopes and dreams. 

With a flip of a match, flames begin to spread, leaping first from the guitar to a record player, then to a baby grand piano, to a pile of sheet music, to records… 

On and on the flames spread, the instruments twanging and pinging their dying screams. And General Smith smiled. “Job well done lads,” he called out over the roar of the flames, “job well done. Don’t let the flames die until it’s nothing but ashes.” He added, before turning on his heels.

As he walked past his soldiers, they saluted him, and he nodded to them in turn, until a bulge in the grey pocket of the fourth man, the one who had thrown the guitar on the fire, stopped him.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Opening Exerpt

“Just watch,” Clacks said, pointing at a man in whiteface, making balloon animals beside a fountain. 

A group of children stood before him, watching in awe as the man blew up a long, blue balloon. “Ok, who wants a snake?”

A look of disappointment swept over the kids, as the painted man smiled. “Just kidding, I thought we’d start with a doggy. Who would like a doggy?”

Sarin watched as a young boy of about five years old raised his hand.

“Ah, and what is your name, little one?” The white-faced man asked.

“Tommy,” said the lad.  

“Ah Tom, that’s a strong name, and is your mom or dad here?”

“Yeah,” Tommy pointed at an auburn tressed woman, also wearing green.

“Ma’am, is it alright if I make Tommy here a doggy?”

She smiled and shrugged before reaching into her purse. She pulled out a dollar and dropped it into the top hat with a red scarf tied about it that sat on the edge of the fountain.

“Thank you much, miss,” the man said as he began to twist the blue snake into something that quickly resembled a dog.

“Seriously, a balloon artist?” Sarin asked of Clacks.

“First, they call him Loon, and he’s not just any ‘balloon artist.’ He’s a gifted Twister.”

“Twister?” Sarin asked, shifting his oft-patched backpack, the strap more duct-tape than fabric, from his right shoulder to his left.

“Like I said, watch,” he  said as he pulled a pair of scissors out of one of the deep pockets in his too-thick overcoat. He crept up behind the park bench where the old man was sitting with his granddaughter, feeding the pigeons. Slowly he extended his arm and snipped the red ribbon that tethered the mylar happy birthday balloon to the blonde, pig-tailed girl. 

“Papa!” She exclaimed as the balloon began to float away.

Loon looked up and saw the birthday balloon ascending into the clouds and handed the half finished blue dog to Tommy. “My balloons are needed elsewhere, buddy. I’ll finish yours in a minute.” With that, he pulled a pink balloon from a pocket of the tweed jacket he wore and blew it up. His hands a blur of movement, a butterfly swiftly took shape. “Now here’s where the real magic happens.” He pulled a roll of clear tape from his other pocket and quickly made a loop, sticking it to the head of the butterfly. With a tug, he reached out and untied the red scarf from his top hat. Walking over to the now-sobbing girl, he winked at the old man. “Sweetheart, will you hold out your hand?” Loon asked, holding out the butterfly.

Sniffling, the girl did as she was asked, taking the offered rubber creature into the palm of her hand. 

Loon draped the red scarf over the butterfly and leaned in close, whispering something so softly, that not even the girl could hear it. Smiling, he blew on the scarf, which began to twitch. With a flourish, the man pulled the scarf from atop the balloon butterfly, which sprang to life, it’s wings beating feverishly as it drifted higher into the air.

The girl gasped, and then despite her sniffles, giggled. The inflated insect climbed higher and higher, chasing the birthday balloon, which had already drifted out of sight. 

“Now, Tommy, where was I,” Loon turned back to the boy, who stood, mouth agape, holding the half finished dog. Loon took the balloon and after a few more twists, he pulled a black marker from a pocket and drew eyes and a nose upon the canine’s head. “Here you go Tommy,” Loon handed the animal back to the young boy. “Who’s next.”

He had almost finished a balloon sword when one of the other boys in the group shouted.

“Look,” he pointed into the sky.

“Shit,” Sarin followed the gaze of the rest of the crowd, and could not keep the exclamation to himself.

“I told you to watch,” Clacks said as the butterfly floated back down toward Loon, towing the birthday balloon. “Come on,” he motioned to Sarin to follow as he approached the Twister.

The Twister handed the sword to a young, curly haired child as the butterfly landed on Loons shoulder, he reached up a once white, now grey glove, and pulled the girls balloon from the piece of tape. “Here you go sweetheart,” he pulled a new ribbon from his pocket and tied it first about the balloon and then about the girls wrist. “Hope that’s not too tight.”

The girl shook her head and thanked Loon in a meek voice, before giving him a hug. “Papa, look!” she said, more excitedly to the man on the bench beside her.

“I see,” the old man said with a smile and a nod. “Thank you,” he said, turning from his granddaughter to Loon. “Thank you,” he said again as he pulled out his wallet. “Here,” he offered the balloon artist a five dollar bill. “I don’t know how you did that, but it was definitely worth at least this."

With a Cheshire-Cat grin, Loon took the money and stuck it in his pocket. “Thank you sir,” he said with a bow. “Ok kiddies, I’ll be back, looks like Ol’ Loon has some friends he needs to talk to.” 

“That was some- Well, that was something alright,” Sarin said as Loon walked over, “Care to tell me how it was done?”

The man in the white make-up looked at Clacks, who nodded.

“You must be Sarin,” Loon said, extending his hand and ignoring the question.

Sarin smirked as he shook the offered hand. “I wouldn’t tell either I suppose.” 

Loon chuckled, “there’s not much to tell, besides, have you figured out how Clacks here does his trick?”

“Touché. Care if we walk for a minute, I’m not a fan of all the young ears.”

“We can’t go far, I did tell them I’d come back.”

“Fine, once around the pond, then?”

“That’ll work, but first,” he runs over and grabs his top hat, tying the scarf about it as he walks back to join Sarin and Clacks. He pulls a few bills from within the hat, looks them over and shoves them into his pocket before donning the hat.

The three set out, Clacks falling in a step behind the other two as they began the short jaunt. 

“So, Clacks tells me you’re looking for a few additions for your crew.”

“You could say that.”

“Crew for what? I do pretty well for myself up here,” he pulls a worn leather wallet from beneath his jacket and then grabs all of the bills from his pocket. Counting them, he smooths each out against his chest before placing them in the wallet. “This alone,” he says as he stuffs the fiver into the billfold, “will cover all of my balloons for at least two weeks. And I’m not interested in any funny business.”

“Nope, no funny business, at least none planned-”

Clacks smacked Sarin on his shoulder.

“Hey, I’m just being honest.”

“Ok, I hear that, but you still haven’t told me what you need a crew for.”

Clacks stepped forward, shoving his way between the two men. “Sarin here has a boat on the Underground Sea, mainly running supplies between the Black Bazaar and The Outer Gate, sometimes more, sometimes less, if you catch my drift.”

Sarin started to groan at the apparent pun, to which Clacks apologized.

“Ah, and how am I supposed to help?” Loon said, look from one man to the other.

Sarin stepped in front of Clacks and slowed just long enough to fall back into step with Loon. “I’d be lying if I said I knew, but I was given your name and I’ll be damned if you didn’t just impress me back there.”

“I’ll need to think about it. What’s in it for me?” 

“I’d give you some bullshit about seeing the world, but- You’ve been down to the Black Bazaar?”

“A couple of times, I make a lot more up here, but I occasionally have need of some of the services they offer, if you know what I mean.”

“I do,” Sarin said as he lifted his loose t-shirt, showing a pair of six inch scars on his left side. “Martha can work miracles,” he added with a smile and a wink.

Loon winced, “what are you asking me to get into?”

Sarin’s smile widened, “Ha! This?” He laughed as he let his shirt drop, “I got asked to grab one of the sewer gators about three months ago. You should see what I did to it!” He pulled a thin silver necklace from within his shirt, a pair of pointy teeth dangling from it. “Your question, what’s in it for you, well,” he said with a chuckle, “if you run into any sewer crocs, I’ve got them.”

“Frankly, there’s not much chance of that up here.”

“Noted. The Underground Sea is not much for looks, but you’ll get an equal share of anything we bring in as a crew. Hell, here,” Sarin reached into his pocket and pulled an iridescent sphere from his pocket. “Pearl, probably worth enough to keep you in balloons for a year, you can keep it if you come along or not.”

Loon took the sphere, and closing one eye, held it up to the sun. “Thing’s got to be an inch across.”

“Yep,” Sarin said, pulling a drawstring pouch from his belt and opening it. “There’s more where that one came from,” he said, showing a pouch full of what looked like marbles to the painted man. 

“Color me impressed,” Loon said, slipping the pearl into a pocket inside of his jacket. “Clacks, what’s your take on this?”

“I’m the one that arranged this meeting, didn’t I?”

“Guess so. I’d still like to think about it. Oh, and next time you want a demonstration, you can find a better way to get my attention. The ribbon was cut” Loon chided as they arrived again at the fountain. With a slight frown, he added, “What do the tiles say about this?”

Clacks laughed, “see for yourself,” he said, pulling his own drawstring pouch from his belt.  He held it out, open, before the Twister.

Loon reached into the bag, his hand closing about a few tiles. He opened his had as he withdrew it and shook his head. “How do you do it?” The white-faced man asked Clacks as he looked at the word the tiles formed in his open palm. ‘JOIN’

Sarin smiled, “So?”

“I said I wanted to think about it, and I still do. I’ll be here tomorrow with your answer. I have one more question though.”

“Yeah?” Sarin said as Loon returned the tiles to Clacks’ pouch.

“Who told you about me?”

Sarin motioned for Clacks to hold the pouch out, and reached his own hand within, pulling out seven tiles. “Ask him,” he said, opening his hand and revealing the word 'BALLOON.'

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sarin - Backstory

“Excuse me sir, do -“

“Get lost.”

“Already am,” I mumble under my breath. I have my story, if anyone will stop long enough to listen to it. I’ve boiled it down to bullet points, I can get it out in less than a minute now.

But this is not that version.


“Are you coming or what?” The old man called to me.

I shrugged, the too big coat I wore almost falling from my shoulders with the motion, the duct taped together strap on my weathered backpack preventing it from sliding too far.

“Well, you better make up your mind fast kiddo, this train’s leaving, with or without you.”

I gave one last longing glance backwards, told myself that if dad was there, I’d go back with him.

“Suit yourself,” the old man said and stood.

“No wait,” I called to him, running and hurling my backpack into the moving freight car.

“Here,” I’d later learn his name was Tobias Shade, or ‘Lampman,’ held out his hand, which I grasped and held on tight as he pulled me into the boxcar.

As I knelt there on the hay strewn floor of the railcar, Lampman slid the door shut behind me, but not before a far off shout reached my ears, or was I imagining my father calling my name. I tried to look back, but the door had already slammed shut.

The old man held out his hand and introduced himself.

“Nice to meet you sir,” I shook his offered hand, feeling the calluses, “I’m Caesar Ingram.” I said with a smile.

“That won’t work, will it Hayseed?”

I looked around for the first time, light peeking its way into the car through the spaces in between the slats, illuminating nearly a dozen other people huddled in the darkness of the railway car as it chugged along.

“Don’t think so,” a man with a wispy beard the color of hay stepped forward, lighting a lantern that sat on an upturned crate. “Caesar Ingram you say?”

“Uh, yes sir.” I squirmed beneath his careful scrutiny, causing him to laugh.

“Whadoyoutinkof Sarin?” His breath reminded me of my father’s, after a beer or two, when he would get in my face to yell at me. I shrunk from the man known as Hayseed and glanced at the door again. 

“Give the lad some room.” Lampman pushed the blonde back into the corner he had come from.

“Ignore him, he’s harmless, but he has a way with names, don’t he.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“Then it’s settled, Sarin, let me introduce you to the rest of my family.”

“Your family sir?” I regarded him again, his ebony skin, his nearly bald pate.

“Bah, they’re who I spend my nights with, and they help me out when I need it, that’s what family is, right?”

“I uh, guess, sir.”

“If you ain’t going to call me Lampman, at least call me Tobias.”

“Why Lampman sir?”

“Cuz I didn’t like Lampshade,” he said with a chuckle that brought a laugh that turned into a hacking cough out of the dark corner Hayseed had disappeared into.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Storycubes Week 5


It started with a knock on the door. Any other day and I would have ignored it, probably another salesman trying to get me to upgrade my satellite package or offer me a free estimate on a new roof. You know what, that is not where it really started, let me take a step back.
It really started with a loud thud as my whole house shook.
“Honey,” My wife, Sonya, called out, “what was that?”
“I don’t know dear, let me step outside, could you get Abbey?” I called over my screaming two year old.
“What?” Sonya yelled, but I was halfway out the front door.
“Hey Tom,” Jason, my next door neighbor, called out to me. “You heard it too?”
“Yep-“ I started to add a smart ass comment, but Jason’s wife called out from behind the fence to their backyard.
“Hey Tom, whatever you’re grilling smells great!”
I sniffed the air, she was right, something did smell good, but it was not from my back yard and I told her so.
“Then you better get back there, because there’s a lot of smoke.”
I broke into a run, calling for Dezi, the toy poodle my wife insisted we had to have. Luckily, or unluckily I thought to myself, she greeted me at the fence’s wrought iron gate, her stubby tale vibrating with excitement. “Your mom’s gonna have to bathe you,” I said as I nudged her out of the way with my leg, rounding the corner of the house, the smell getting stronger, smokier.
“Everything okay?” Jason called from the fence line. I appreciated his respecting my boundaries, but, unsure of what I was about to uncover, I called him back, figuring an extra set of hands could not hurt. 
I was still trying to wrap my head around the scene when he too rounded the corner.
“What is that?” He pointing at the crater that occupied most of my backyard. “You been digging a pool?”
I shook my head, not sure what to say as I edged closer to the edge of the hole.
“You sure about that?” Tom grabbed my arm, holding me back.
“I, I don’t know,” I admitted, but I took another step forward, pulling my arm from his loose grasp. Black, acrid, smoke poured from the gaping hole, blocking my view of how deep it was, and more importantly, what had caused it.
“What is it?” Jason asked again, his voice barely more than a whisper.
“Honey?” It was Sonya, sliding door open, Abbey on her hip.
“Not sure yet hon, go back inside, just to be safe.”
I heard the door slide shut and I peered over the edge again, trying to make something, anything, out in the smoke.
I jumped, almost falling in to the hole as my cell phone rang, the device vibrating in my pocket. I slid it out and answered it, knowing who it would be without looking at the caller ID. “Yeah, Frank, I heard it - No, I don’t know what it was, at least not yet - Yeah, I said yet - Whatever it is, it landed in my backyard - Nope, you don’t need to come over - Fine, see you soon.” I turned to Jason, who just nodded at my exasperated look. 
“So, what do you think it is?” He asked, taking a step closer to the smoking crater, the ground giving way beneath him.
I managed to grab his arm before he slid too far down.
“Pleasepleaseplease,” Jason whimpered as I pulled him out of the hole.
He hugged me tight, mumbling “thank you,” over and over again as Frank came running into my yard.
“Dude!” He exclaimed before taking a sip of his beer. 
“I’m glad you got dressed before you came over.” I said, looking at the ripped sweatpants he wore, the armpit stains in his t-shirt turning my stomach.
He started to reply, but a roar blasted us from our feet.
“Was that from?” Jason asked, point toward the smoke.
I nodded and watched as a crow swooped down and began pecking at an exposed worm, dangling still from the craters wall. My mouth dropped open as a pair of jaws reached out of the smoke and clamped down upon the bird, pulling it back into the depths.
“Oh shit!” Frank exclaimed, dropping his beer as he scrambled for my back door. Jason and I were close behind him, slamming the sliding glass door shut and dropping the security bar into place. “What was that?” he was wide eyed, his hands shaking, one of which he brought to his mouth before remembering that his drink lay out on my lawn.
It was then that the knock on the door occurred and the men in black suits showed up. The one in charge called himself Agent Kay, but I was not sure I believed him, he did not look like a Smith. He was older, his grey hairline receding, but he knew how to give orders, and not one of his men questioned his decisions.
“The good news is that you have no out houses or hen houses,” he said with a smirk.
“Who are you guys?” Frank asked, getting a little to close to the Agent
“Have you been drinking? What about you,” he pointed his finger at Jason, and then at me, “and you?”
Frank was the only one that answered in the affirmative and that did not sit very well with Agent Kay, I could tell by the way he shook his head.
“Hey boss,” a pug said from my back doorway, you were right, it’s a dinosaur all right.”
“Did that-“ Frank began but I cut him off.
“I thought meteors killed the dinosaurs. That’s what this is, right? A meteor?”
Agent Kay put his sunglasses back on, “You see son, that is what you were taught but that is not really the case,” He began as he reached into his pocket. “Now if you’ll look right here, I’ll explain to you what really happened to the dinosaurs is that they stopped coming to Earth.”

I blinked away the bright flash, trying to make sense of who the strange man in my house was, and if my daughter was still asleep in her crib.