Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Photo credit:
The first time the home brew tour was mentioned, we were told that "Tickets sell out fast." I logged on 3 minutes after the virtual ticket window opened. Already sold out.

Personally, I was done. Offline, I don't wait on line. Online, I don't participate in "refresh" skirmishes. Tom, on the other hand, succumbed to the whispered lure of malt liquor begat upon the stove in a stranger's domicile. After three months of trying, his nimble fingers scored us tickets. Saturday at the crack of noon, we were on an F-train to Brooklyn.

Josh, the tour organizer, proved a righteous shepherd of drunken beer aficionados and those of us who were more like just drunk. He marched at the fore bearing a long stick with a beer can stuck on the end of it. Over the course of four hours, he guided us to the apartments of three home brewers with plenty of product. 

Mostly, my fellow beer marchers talked about APV and sugar content while they lovingly caressed hops in plastic baggies. There was a lot of finger smelling. That's what you do after you touch hops, you smell your fingers. Next time I see someone smelling their fingers I will ask them if perchance they recently fondled a hop. 

Completely unqualified to discourse with people wearing "Brewklyn 2014 Award Winner" T-shirts, I participated in several sidebar conversations. I met a grad student named Erica studying technology for the home, like thermostat apps or ones to fire up your disco ball while you're still over at Duane Reed buying snacks. Erica called this "mobile home technology." You could tell she grew up on East 23rd Street. She had no idea that those of us from the shtetl might think she spent her days out in the trailer park wiring up double wides. 

I spent a good ten minutes in wondrous awe listening to Erica talk about this mobile home technology of hers. Last time i enjoyed an evening in a trailor park, I recall old Milwaukee pounders and Tang with grain alcohol and as a rule, baggies did not contain bespoke hops. My world did a little twerk as I studied what I thought was a new kind of trailer folk. One who had cut off her mullet, turned off Nascar and now attended tres fancy nerd events in south Brooklyn. I was sad when things got cleared up.

Soon after that, I told Josh he had a nice voice for podcasting. He was singularly unflattered so I skulked off and picked a small fight with a doctor about electronic health records.

Then the DSTAKK crew ate some great noodles at this Italian joint in Park Slope.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Old Enough to Count

Aside from burns and deafness (so prosaic they don't even count), the most common blacksmithing injury is getting cracked in the head by the back of your hammer when it bounces off the anvil. A good anvil, one with a forge-welded rolled steel face plate, packs a fierce kick. It can knock your block right off. This is what I told my nephew Jackson yesterday. He's a newly minted 1st grader and certainly should know these things by now. 

I gave Jackson a helmet and safety goggles and told him to put them on. I gave him one West Chester 6030 Grain Deerskin Leather Top Reverse MIG Welding Glove so he wouldn't lose his grip and fling the 3lb Norwegian raising mallet I also gave him across the shop and possibly take out a wall. Then I gave him some earplugs, mainly because of Sharon. 

We banged on a piece of pipe for a while. We worked on throwing our body weight into our swing. Good form packs way more juice than arm strength, I informed Jackson. And right then I should have known. I should have thoroughly analyzed his slack jaw, his head tilted slightly to one side and the extreme concentration cooking his beady little eyeballs. The kid was paying attention.

Next up, we discussed the blow torch. We merely looked at it because I had already told my nephew 400 times he was too little to fire it up. Nonetheless, we took some time to inspect various items lying around the shop and talk about whether it would be possible to cut them in half with a blowtorch, or if they would just instantly disintegrate into a pile of ash, possibly after a small and noxious explosion.

Jackson asked when he would be big enough to cut things in half with the blowtorch. I said, "in five years." Five years has been my stock child-friendly euphemistic response to indicate, "A really fucking long time, kid." It's never failed me. Five years is a lifetime when you're five. Except Jack is now 7. Old enough to count.

As we trotted across the yard with our hammers to smash a hunk of sheet metal into a flatter hunk of sheet metal, my nephew says, "Aunt Stacey, when I turn 12, I'm going to cut a lot of stuff in half with your blowtorch."

Great. Somehow I suspect I won't be winning the Aunt award this week.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

One Thing About Men

Let me tell you one thing about men. Later. 

First let me tell you one thing about me. Moderation is not my middle name. I commit. This is not news. It runs in my family. All you people out there who only buy one bottle of grape juice when the sale price is a veritable steal?

You are lackadaisical and complacent. I take after my grandfather. He liked grape juice. During a clearance situation, Grandpa Frank would buy as many bottles of grape juice as could fit into his Datsun. He would haul them home, carry them into the house and duct-tape them to the walls of his hall closet so he could fit more in there. If you're going to do it, you might as well do it right.

By now, you must know I'm into audio equipment. Let's start with my passion for headphones. Currently I own three pairs I actually like.

My Earbuds: After destroying 18 pairs of earbuds over an 8 year killing spree, I finally found the Klipsch x11i's which I adore. I got these after I ruined the Klipsch X5s although I was highly satisfied with the X5s since it took me a record 3 years to do them in. 

My Closed Ear Headphones: A few years ago, I picked up the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones. I like them for listening to music in loud situations or for listening to loud music in quiet situations. They don't play so nice with my glasses. That's why I also have:

My Semi-Open Headphones: I went with the Sennheiser HD 558 Headphones. I purchased these after thoroughly considering the Beyerdynamic DT-990s. I did not get the 990s because reviews said they run hot and I hate hot.

I use a headphone amplifier. More Americans go to the ER each year for injuries resulting from sound equipment than for injuries resulting from chainsaws. Headphone amps can prevent this medical catastrophe in case you were dangerously unaware. Besides a safety first attitude, an amp makes music sound fucking great.

In my podcasting studio otherwise known as the closet in the guestroom, I just upgraded to a new Electro Voice RE320 Dynamic Microphone. It's an XLR so I need to plug into my DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor which has a great de-esser and a noise-gate that saves me hours of editing. From there, I use a Shure A15AS Switchable Attenuator (15, 20, 25 dB), Passes Phantom Power, which I found out the hard way is what's needed to lower the noise floor on my Zoom H4N Handy Portable Digital Recorder. Balanced Cables are also super key otherwise you get feedback, I have learned.

Over dinner, I complain to Tom that I did a pre-interview with a man who asked me how I record my podcast. To keep it simple, I just said I use an external recorder. The man replied that he uses Sound Recorder Free. It's a free app he installed on his computer and he likes to use it to record research interviews so he can transcribe them. He recommended it to me.

I said we use Ecamm Call Recorder in our office sometimes for shorter podcasts, but I prefer my set up for what I'm doing. The man then took it upon himself to attempt to convince me that Sound Recorder Free is really the right way to go about this. He also suggested I consider picking up a nice headset with a microphone.

I end my recounting to Tom with a quick show of jazz hands.

Tom shrugs and puts down his fork. Then he says in a grave voice, "Men like to give technical advice." 

Thanks, honey. Now I know.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

RIP The Popcorn Popper

Our crotch-height Polish landlady hobbled down the rickety stairs of our walk-up, banged on our door and treated us to a moment of high-pitched hyperventilation. She had pulled this stunt every night for a week.

The landlady did not enjoy the stench of burnt microwave popcorn. Neither did my college roommate. This was 1988 and I was in the middle of my popcorn phase. I have gone through a lot of culinary phases. Here are the most notable:

  • The carrot phase
  • The garlic toast phase
  • The peanut butter ball phase
  • The brick of frozen kale phase
  • The Cheerios phase
  • The naan bread phase
  • The chicken liver phase
I enjoy a great capacity to eat one food for weeks. Many of you may be daunted by such dedication; you will need to find the light on your own time.

Meanwhile, my college roommate feared we would be evicted, so she purchased for me a Black & Decker Handy Pop 'n Serve. It remained functional for 2.5 decades. Until last week, when the engine shrieked like a little girl and ceased to administer a pop. 

I unplugged the unit and plugged it back in just to check if sparks would continue to shoot from the electrical outlet. But alas. The Pop n' Serve had passed on. 

I kind of miss the old guy, but Tom insists that our new Great Northern Hot Air Popper produces a crisper kernel which he favors, the traitor.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Review of Steve's Review of his Blind Date

My most favorite thing about Steve is his mean streak. He is so charmingly the opposite of self-aware. It is irresistible. 

Steve's ideal date is "Going to her room and getting naked." What a coy little sex pot! I can picture it. He kicks closed her bedroom door and flings off his 50% polyester tartan plaid button-down. Wafting from his slender white chest is so much animal magnetism that a girl could stretch out her two hands, wring it from the air, and mop it back up with a swiffer picker-upper. At least Steve will imagine the scene this way.

Ariana: “We didn’t stop talking until we left. It wasn’t awkward. He was kind of like a male version of me. My chemistry tends to come from personality, so that was definitely there.”
Steve: “She was talking a lot but wasn’t earning the real estate her mouth was snatching. I’d rather find a conversation topic naturally, not just keep the motor spinning so things don’t get silent.”

In the conversation portion of the evening which apparently was quite extensive, Steve had sufficient downtime to craft a terrific metaphor. "She wasn't earning the real estate her mouth was snatching." SnapSteve's motor was spinning for a different kind of snatch. Steve's ideal date night certainly does not include vapid chatter spewing from a chick so self-absorbed she doesn't realize she's being played by a lusty young natural conversationalist.

Steve: “Girlfriends aren’t like lemons—you can’t just go pick one up.

From this, I deduce that Steve's dream girlfriend is lemon-scented and can be returned like a Ford Pinto if she repeatedly fails to meet standards of quality or performance.

In three words
Ariana: Steve is " Witty, attentive and an instigator."
Steve: Ariana is "Jovial, talky and big.”

I love these two. They should cage fight. Ariana will bosom Steve's face, going for auto non-erotic asphyxiation. And Steve, with narrowed eyes, will calculate, as best a liberal arts major can calculate, how big a waste of time this hand-to-hand combat shit is.