Monday, November 28, 2011


On the way back to Dumbfuckville the wife mentioned that she might want to start riding motorcycles again. So, I started thinking about what kinds of bikes I could buy for us.
She wants something in the midsize range of cruisers, no more 250cc bikes for her. I think that if I bought another bike it would be a cruiser as well, but something more like a drag bike, or sporty chopper.

For the Wife

My wife weighs under 115lbs so, the size and weight of the motorcycle is of prime concern. I would like to see her on something under 600cc, but it really doesn't look like the manufactures do that size of bike anymore. The midline bikes seem to be around 650cc to 900cc. I think that is too much bike for such a small woman, especially one who last owned a 250cc 330lb bike...

Honda Shadow Spirit 750

The 745cc Shadow Spirits are the midline cruisers that Honda makes. They are a little heavier that I would have liked, but they have all of the features that the wife likes. Smooth ride, easy to handle and more than enough power.

Yamaha V Star Custom

This bike clocks in at 650cc and seems to be more of my liking in terms of style. I am a big fan of the single interior shock on the rear wheel, than the dual exterior shocks. A tiny bit lighter than the Honda, but a lot lighter in the price.

Suzuki Boulevard S40
Suzuki's midline Boulevard S40 is... well... plain. At 652cc it has plenty of power, but its look is just so... outdated. It is a belt drive rather than the other two shaft bikes. Personally, I like the shaft drive for my wife, the chains and belts can catch loose clothing that my wife will surely trail.
The Boulevard S40 also weighs the least amount, and is the cheapest of all the motorcycles I have looked at. I like very much that it is just a few pounds heavier than her old Honda Rebel. However, being lighter with a bigger engine means that it has much more pep than she will be used to. Not a good combination. 381lbs

For Me

My last bike was a Yamaha YZF R1, and I really REALLY liked the power and quickness of that motorcycle. It was uncomfortable to ride, and that made me like it less. But all of those ponies attached to a little twist of the throttle is exceedingly hard to give up.
For that reason, I would be looking for something that would give me the same pep, in a more comfortable package. This pushes me to the "dragster" type motorcycles and the sporty chopper style bikes.

Yamaha Warrior

I put the Warrior first, because it is closest to what I am looking for. Yamaha has not made them since 2009, and the style has become a bit dated, but it still has all of the lines that I like. Single interior shock, wide back tire, and 1670ccs of power!

Victory Hammer S

The Hammer S sits a little high for my taste, but it has everything else that I like. Big power with a 106 cubic inch (1737cc) power plant. Victory has been going over to the chopper look for a while now, so the big back tire is standard on nearly all of their bikes. However, the price of the bike is so much that I would want two more wheels, AC, and cruise control.

Honda Fury

The Fury is Honda's attempt to crack in to the popular chopper market. I have to admit, they did a great job mass producing something that is supposed to be custom. It is a bit under powered at 1312cc, but the look of the bike more than makes up for a lack of zip in the throttle.

In the end, I don't believe that we will be buying any bikes anytime soon. It is nice to look, but I think that the wife was just messing with me when she said she wanted another bike. She has a long commute everyday, and I don't see her tackling that on two wheels. Especially when she has to look forward to that same commute after a 17 hour shift.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Watered Down Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I have several gym mates who when to tournaments over the past few weekends. My gym is a very new gym, so many of the guys haven't been training very long, 9 months to a year at the very most. These guys have been destroying guys from other gyms. Not just guys in their own belt ranks and skill levels, but guys who have been training a while, and have advanced belts. Most recently, one of the guys, who has only been training for about 10 months, beat a purple belt at a tournament in Tennessee.
Now, I am not a great BJJ guy. I do ok, I have been training a while, and I have built up some skill over the years. The guys at my gym are progressing at a rate that I have seen at other schools, but they are nothing special. The guy that did the tournament in Tennessee, is a guy I normally smear all over the mat on a daily basis. This is not knocking his skill or pumping up my own, however this is as it should be. I have been training BJJ for almost 8 years now, and it is expected that I do this to a low ranked beginner.
So, what is the deal? Why have my gym mates had so much success over much higher ranks in competition?
The reason is the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become as watered down and diluted as the other traditional martial arts. It is very difficult to find a karate or taekwondo school in the US that is worth the price of admission. Most are belt factories that will turn out black belts with out really looking at the skill that they are pushing out. Why is that? Because guys who did not deserve to teach opened schools and started handing out belts.
Case in point... We have a guy at the gym who just started BJJ a couple of months ago, let's call him Bill. Bill sucks. As well he should after training for just couple of months. A couple of days ago we learn that Bill owns his own school in a nearby town, and, incredibly, is teaching a BJJ class. This guy who barely knows a sweep from a submission is teaching other people Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wearing a black belt, and PROMOTING his own students.
Now say I am a guy who trains at Bill's school. I don't know any better. To me, Bill seems like a guy who knows what he is talking about. I train for about a month with, Bill and Bill promotes me to blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I work hard, and in another two months Bill promotes me to purple belt. I decide that I want to test myself against others of my same skill level, so I go to a BJJ tournament as a purple belt, that is my rank after all. My first match I line up against a white belt in the absolute division. I get smashed and then submitted within the first two minutes of the tournament. Later on I learn that the white belt has been training for 3 months at a school run by a true black belt.
In the most embarrassing, humiliating way possible I have been exposed as a complete fraud. Why? Because I was taught, and promoted, by a guy didn't know squat about BJJ.

This is not the student's fault. He didn't know any better. He trained at a gym that, to the best of his knowledge, was lead by an experienced, skilled instructor, and taught the proper technique. It is the fault of the instructor. He KNOWS that he isn't qualified to teach that class. He KNOWS that what he is teaching is not the best technique. He knows it, because he knows he is incompetent.

It is very important when you look for a place to train that you are getting what you are paying for. If the guy leading class wears a black belt, he will be able to tell you who he earned his belt under. From there it is VERY easy to verify his status. If the guy is cagey about where he got his belt, doesn't tell you right away, or says he will get back to you, he is a fake. You don't have to even think about who you got your belt from. More than likely, you are good friends with this person, as you have been training with them for years. So why would you have to get back to someone about them? Why would you be cagey? You wouldn't because where and from whom you got your belt is a point of pride.

I will give you an example from my own experience. About a year ago, I started at a new school in Oklahoma City. The BJJ instructor is a black belt, and I asked him where he trained, and who was his instructor. He immediately smiled said he was a Nova Uniao Black Belt under Leonardo Tapias. A quick Google search later, and I found pictures of him with Leonardo, articles about his tournament wins and losses in major Brazilian BJJ magazines. Very easy verification. If I ran in to someone tougher to nail down, you just get on the phone and call the school that he was associated with. Easy, and it ensures that your getting the most out of your training dollars.

This watering down of the belts is something that is sad to see, but was inevitable. Before martial art movies became so popular, martial art schools were very tough to find. Almost all of them were good, because the community was so tight, that the faker would be exposed and shunned. Then the craze hit, and everybody and their little sister was teaching karate. Finding a school wasn't difficult, but finding a good one was. As more and more people want to get involved in an activity, the more people will rush to provide that activity. Some will simply be looking to line their pockets while providing the least amount of content as possible.
Now with the success of the UFC, and MMA as a whole, the styles of BJJ and Muay Thai are getting their watering down as well. People not qualified to teach are now presenting classes in both arts to grab the unsuspecting student.
I find it sad that the belt around my waist is becoming less and less meaningful due to the actions of the unscrupulous and incompetent. However it is best to remember Royce Gracie famously saying "A belt only covers 2 inches of your ass. The rest is up to you."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Killing American Citizens Overseas

On September 30th of this year, a terrorist, traitor to his country, and an all around despicable man was killed by a United States air strike. Typically, I would be forgetting my normal position on the divine to celebrate another terrorist rotting forever in hell. The problem is that this man, Anwar al-Awlaki, was an American Citizen, and the United States of America is not currently engaged in a declared war.
Now, we have been happily killing American Citizens overseas in declared wars since... well, since we first became a country. Famously, in both world wars citizens of German decent went back to Germany to fight for the Fatherland. They were killed right along with the other German soldiers. Ironically, it was only those of Japanese decent who were interned against their will...
However, then, just as now, a question is raised, were those killings legal? In other words, does the Executive Branch, for the President is the Commander in Chief of the Military, have the legal right to kill American Citizens who have taken up arms against the United States of America? Is that not a treasonous act? Are these people not enemy combatants?

We first have to define what treason is. The Constitution of the United States of America in Article III Section 3 clearly states the critera for treason:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Constitution also gives Congress the power to declare punishments for treason in the same artilce and section:
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
On this matter the Constitution is seemingly very clear. To be convicted of Treason, you need to be brought to court where two witnesses must be produced to testify against you. In the United States, there is no such thing as In absentia convictions. You must be given a chance to face your accusers in public. A trial can not be held if you arn't there to answer the charges. So how can the President think that he can simply drop a bomb on an American Citizen's brain box?
During a Republican debate, Newt Gingrich was asked this very question. Despite the smug look on the moderator's face, he makes a valid point. Here is what Newt had to say: As an enemy combatant DO you give up the right to a trial? The Constitution says no. The Supreme Court says... no. In the famous Hamdi v Rumsfeld SCOUS said that enemy combatants under due process principles were entitled to a written statement of the basis for that declaration, as well as a right to challenge it before a neutral decision-maker in a timely manner. Was Anwar al-Awlaki given that chance? Nope.
Here is what our buddy Congressman Ron Paul said in a letter to the New York Daily News:
As President, I would not hesitate to use decisive force to repel any imminent threat. National defense is a primary function of Congress and the commander-in-chief, and, as chief executive, I would carry out my duties as outlined in the Constitution and in accordance with the rule of law.
President Obama apparently believes he is not bound by the Constitution or the rule of law. When it was reported that Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen last week, certainly no one felt remorse for his fate. Awlaki was a detestable person we believe helped recruit and inspire others to kill Americans through terrorist acts. We have to take the fight against terrorism very seriously. In 2001, I supported the authority to capture and kill the thugs responsible for 9/11. In our efforts we must, however, work hard to preserve and respect our great American constitutional principles.
Awlaki was a U.S. citizen. Under our Constitution, American citizens, even those living abroad, must be charged with a crime before being sentenced. As President, I would have arrested Awlaki, brought him to the U.S., tried him and pushed for the stiffest punishment allowed by law. Treason has historically been judged to be the worst of crimes, deserving of the harshest sentencing. But what I would not do as President is what Obama has done and continues to do in spectacular fashion: circumvent the rule of law.
On Feb. 3, 2010, Dennis Blair, then the country's director of national intelligence, admitted before the House Intelligence Committee that "Being a U.S. citizen will not spare an American from getting assassinated by military or intelligence operatives." This open admission by an Obama administration official, not even attempting to keep it classified or top secret, sets a dangerous new precedent in our history.
The precedent set by the killing of Awlaki establishes the frightening legal premise that any suspected enemy of the United States - even if they are a citizen - can be taken out on the President's say-so alone. Part of the very concept of citizenship is the protection of due process and the rule of law. The President wants to spread American values around the world but continues to do great damage to them here at home, appointing himself judge, jury and executioner by presidential decree.
When Nazi leader and Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann was convicted and executed by the Israeli government in 1962, it was after he was captured, extradited and tried. Respect for the rule of law never has been for the protection of monsters like Eichmann or Awlaki, who should meet their just fate - but for the protection of the vast majority of innocent citizens who should never become subject to mere governmental whim.
Dr. Paul seems to be on the right side of the law here, and if so... Then President Obama has seemingly committed high crimes, thus subject to impeachment. Dr. Paul did, for a time, pursue support for impeachment charges against the President. He ceased his efforts when it became evident that virtually no one in congress would support an impeachment over the killing of a terrorist.

So... where do I stand? This is one of those issues that is just so messed up it is difficult to come out with a view you can live with. On the one hand, if you agree that Anwar al-Awlaki was protected under the Constitution as a citizen of this country, then you must voice protest against his assassination, and petition for the impeachment of the President. On the other hand, he was a terrorist actively working to destroy the very country who is debating if his killing is legal. Very very difficult choice, and, assuredly if you come down against the killing, you are most assuredly helping our enemies slowly achieve their goals.
Again, where do I stand?? When in doubt I default to freedom, and freedom in this case demands that Anwar al-Awlaki be brought in for trial on treason and other criminal charges. His killing, however it may have helped the war effort, was wrong. Just as we must set a child murder free because the evidence that damns him was obtained improperly, so we must hamper our war effort so that every effort can be made to bring American Citizens engaged in acts of war to trial.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What is Your Favorite Beer?

Being a beer snob, you get this question quite a bit. The question is innocent, and, most of the time, asked by those who only know of the major American breweries. The answer is actually very complex, and can't just be answered with a single beer. The more proper question is, What is your favorite STYLE of beer? Even beer snobs will have a favorite style that they gravitate to. I have three styles in particular that always seem to be in my refrigerator.
Most of what I am going to talk about is going to do with hops. Hops are the soul of the beer, and the easiest thing to screw up. If the brewer goes too hop crazy, the beer lacks the sweetness and flavor complexity that comes from the grains. Not enough hop, and the beer tastes like syrup.

American Pale Ales

If I had to pick one style of beer to live with my whole life, it would be the American Pale Ale.
This style is in my refrigerator more often than not, and my first choice of style when I am testing out a new brewery.
The American style of Pale Ale is a uniquely American derivative of the English Style Pale Ales. However, the American variety is an all grain brew that does not use syrups to sweeten the wort and kick up APV. They are also heavily hopped with modern American hops, and typically shun the traditional European "Noble" style hops. As such, the American version have a stronger hop bite, and less sweet malt front.
The hop bitterness should not overpower the malts, and the beer should always finish clean, meaning the after taste should be pleasantly malty, and not burn with hop oil.
The aroma of the American Pale Ale should be slightly piney from the hops, personally I like the dry hopped APAs the best, as there is a very strong aroma of hops left behind.
Of this style the best representatives, that I have tasted, and in my opinion, are
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Boulevard Pale Ale

Anchor Liberty Ale

Great Divide's Fresh Hop Pale Ale

Of these ales, my all time favorite of this style is Great Divide's Fresh Hop Ale

India Pale Ales

I freely admit that I am a hop head, and when I want a healthy dose of hops, I turn to IPAs to get my fix. Personally, I don't like the IPAs that are brewed with syrups to sweeten them up, and I like best the IPAs that finish as cleanly as possible. I like my IPAs to extensively use American hops, Cascade in particular. I also like my IPAs to be dry hopped. It only seems fitting that a beer that uses so much hop in the brewing process, smell like it is full of hoppy goodness.
The history of the IPA starts with the English trying to ship large barrels of Pale Ale to their colonies in India. The voyage was so long that much of the sugary Pale Ales spoiled on the trip. Something that the brewers discovered was that beer that had been more heavily hopped tended to spoil later than beers that had not. This is due to the antibiotic affect of the hop oils, but they didn't know about such things at the time...
Anyway, the brewers began to heavily hop the Pale Ale they sent to India so that it would last the voyage and be enjoyed at the other end of the trip. Thus the IPA was born.
Americans being Americans, took the idea of the IPA and went to the extreme. Using the much more potent American hops, American IPAs tend to be VERY bitter and all around awesome.

My favorite examples of this style of beer are:
Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA

Boulevard Single Wide IPA

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Stone IPA

Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA

I don't think I can pick a favorite here... They are all just so awesome.

American Porter

The American Porter is what I start to grab when the weather turns colder... Or I just want to sip on something for a long while. I love the porter's complexity, its smoothness, its rich flavor. It is one of those styles of beer that you feel genuinely sad about finishing a glass of it, one because there is no more beer, and two because you have just taken something so beautiful out of the world.

The history of the porter is very strange, and kind of gross... Back in the good old days, a porter was someone who worked on the docks moving cargo on and off ships. It was back breaking work, literally and figuratively, and did not pay very much money... Remember that part, it plays a part in the grossness...
Tavern owners were loathe to waste any money at all, so after they finished a barrel of beer they would pour the remnants of the barrel, despite the style, in to another barrel.
Remember that beer was fermented and stored all in the same barrels, so the remnants would be heavy with yeast and whatever dregs of grain that got through the filters at the time. So... yuck.
After they closed, they would also pour all of the undrank beer from the mugs left on the tables in to the barrel... Ewwwwwwww...
So what you had left was a barrel that had a mix of styles in it. The Pale Ales, the dark and pale lagers, and the stouts all went in to this mixed barrel. Of course this mix was the cheapest drink in the house, and usually the ones who drank it were... You guessed it, our poor unappreciated Porters. Eventually the drink itself became known as a "Porter." Just... yuck...

Today's Porter, thankfully, has very little in common with its predecessor. What the porters of yesterday, and the porters of today share is that they hang somewhere between the pale ales and the super dark stouts. The Americans have taken their Porters and infused them with their strong hops to really make the dark brew sing. Many of the best porter brewers have added dark fruits to add rich sweet complexity to their brews.

My favorites of this style are:
Boulevard Bully! Porter

Sierra Nevada Porter

Anchor Porter

Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter

I have a tie as to my favorite porter, between the Maui Coconut Porter and the Anchor Porter. They are just so good. The Anchor Porter has that rich sweetness that comes from using figs to the wort, and the bitter bite from using Cascade hops. The Maui Coconut Porter is so smooth and easy drinking that it almost wins you over with mouth-feel alone. The coconut complements the chocolate malt to a point that you wonder why all brewers don't use coconut in their porters. The hop usage by Maui leaves their porter just a bit wanting, but you hardly notice.