Moen is the Apple of Sinks

Our home came with a Moen sink. Nothing against Moen. I like their product, but I didn’t realize (and neither did Mrs. Wine) that their products come with a lifetime warranty and if anything goes bad, they’ll replace it for free.

That’s really cool.

Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that Moen was the Apple of kitchen sinks. And so two days of driving around to hardware stores resulted in empty promises (yes, that’ll work in your sink. spoiler alert: it didn’t). Finally, one clerk was nice enough to inform us that if we have a Moen sink, no one will have the parts we need. But that if we call Moen, they’ll mail it to us.

Doubling down in the realm of unfortunate news, Moen’s call center is not open on the weekend. So we’ll call Monday and in a few days should have the part we need for our sink.

In the mean time, we don’t have a working kitchen sink which, in a family of 7, is kind of a big deal.

It also means I can’t brew my dunkel yet.

Thought you should know.

Sounded like a Gary Burbank

I had plans for today. They were great plans. And the day was going to end with me brewing my Dunkel. I’ve had the ingredients for the Dunkel since last year as I had intended it for winter. But my life is busy. Too busy.

And also, it never goes according to my plans. So this morning I discovered our sink had exploded. Cue the homage to Gary Burbank explosions. It was a big one. Not sure what happened but no sink = no home brew. Cause, ya know, I need water.

Anyways, hopefully brew will possible Sunday evening. Like SpaceX I won’t let a little explosion deter me from the goal of brewing something that will give you an otherworldly experience.

I’ve even started lying myself…

Riley Silverman has a great piece on SyfyWire about atheism and faith in science fiction. She points out something that as a consumer of science fiction in all of its forms, I have noticed lately: that the worlds of science fiction are usually atheistic, but the authors cannot seem to avoid either god-like characters, or the situations which arise from faith.

While not acknowledging it, she seems to be implying (and I’d agree) that the authors of these works are atheist. I’ve been noticing lately that when characters of faith are introduced in science fiction, it is clear that the authors have no idea what they are writing about. They’re trying to paint a picture of a world that they can only imagine and when they imagine it, it is so foreign to someone such as myself (an insider on faith) that I don’t recognize it.

Take the Punisher season 2 for example The Punisher’s villain in Season 2 is a man who is portrayed as being deeply religious, but also deeply troubled and extremely violent. I actually have no problem with that–there is nothing new about that plot. You can easily find people in church history who were deeply devout but also did things that were very wrong out of either a mistaken sense of loyalty or a poor understanding of how such an action actually isn’t part of God’s will. The Crusades and Inquisition are the easy targets but there are ones on a smaller scale too.

The problem with the Punisher is the church scene. Clearly, the writers and directors (and anyone else who has any clout on the set) has never attended a church service.  Pastor’s don’t preach homilies on each song before and after they are sung. And they definitely, definitely, do not recognize someone in the congregation as being a major financial contributor to the congregation and then for that reason, let them come up and preach an off the cuff sermon. That never happens.  There are other details about the church service that are so wrong it is mind boggling but you get the point: they can’t imagine what an actual church service would be like.

While they may struggle with understanding and depicting formal religion they can’t escape the simple beauty of morality. That is, that there is some sort of deeply held absolute value system inherent in the structure of the universe and when we depart from it, things go wrong.

Watching The Tick season 2 really brought this to light. In a scene towards the end of the season, the Tick is lamenting how they have all strayed from the values they held at the start. Tick says, “It seems that we’re all wandering in the woods. You’re living a lie. Dot is secretly turning vigilante. I thought Arthur had been bending the truth to get us into the Five. And now that we have babies I’ve even started to lie myself. To be honest I don’t know what Destiny is trying to teach us in all of this.”

Agent John replies, “Maybe that the truth is precious?”

The truth is precious. And it would be really cool if scyfy could start exploring faith more seriously and intentionally than they currently do. Or maybe there are books out there like that which I’m not aware of? If so, please let me know!

Rumors of my death have been largely exaggerated

So said Mark Twain.

I was thinking of that quote when I read a surprising article this week, published in the Federalist (a publication which I greatly admire) about the death of the Mafia. The author, David Marcus, not only claims the Mafia, with all its magic and mythology, has finally passed away, but he celebrates it. I’m fine with celebrating the death of the mafia. It is involved in human trafficking through forced prostitution, it sells drugs, it has a murder-for-hire component and for much of its history (still possibly today) extorted money out of honest business owners trying to make a living.

None of that is honorable.

Perhaps, given what I just said, as well as my faith and work with the police, it may come as a surprise that I have a slight obsession with the Mafia. I’m currently reading a biography of Meyer Lansky which I highly recommend.  All that to say, I could not disagree more with David Marcus: indeed, I think the truth could not be more further from his own point.

David’s thesis is based upon the death of Carmine “The Snake” Persico, who died in prison. Carmine was allegedly guilty of some things which they used in The Godfather, therefore, he is an old school gangster and with his passing the nastiness of the Mafia is gone. He also references events like The Commission Case and the RICO law and all of those tried and found guilty under it, as proof that the Mafia is gone.

Here’s the problem: the same week the article was posted Francesco Cali was fatally shot outside of his Staten Island home. Francesco was the alleged head of the Gambino crime family. The author acknowledges this, as well as the existence of the Five Families:

The five families still exist, and we still know who their bosses are, but they learned the lesson of camera-hungry godfathers like John “the Dapper Don” Gotti and Nicademo “Little Nicky” Scarfo. They stay off TV and try to keep a low profile. Notwithstanding, that, or the broader desire for the mob to lay low, killings still happen. Just yesterday, reputed Gambino boss Frank Cali was murdered outside his Staten Island home.

So the five families still exist and there are still hits being carried out but because they keep a low profile the Mafia has died. Here’s the problem: with the exception of Gotti, none of the Mafia ever wanted a high profile. They were brought into the lime light by a senator (Kefauver) in the 1950’s who was trying to make a name for it. With the exception of Bugsy Siegel, there is no record that any of them wanted that attention. It was bad for business.

The Mafia is still around and very active.

Exhibit A) In wire taps of Domenico Violi (December, 2018) it was revealed that before he was appointed Underboss of the Buffalo Mafia, permission had to be sought from The Commission (i.e. The Five Families) to make sure his promotion was acceptable.

Exhibit B) Cece Luppino is the third hit in 2 years in Hamilton. But this wasn’t a drive-by Compton hit. This wasn’t two violent gangs taking vengeance. This was performed by a hitman, hired for the specific purpose of eliminating someone and sending a message.

Exhibit C) On March 10th 2019, Napoleon “Nappy” Andrade is shot to death outside of a half-way house. Was this guy in the mafia? It doesn’t appear to be the case. However, he had made the mistake of robbing an associate of the Gambino family. Now, I am NOT saying the Gambino family then retaliated by eliminating him. That’s for the police to decide.

Exhibit D) Four days later, Francesco Cali’s car is hit. Surveillance video shows it was hit on purpose. Cali comes out of the home to see what happened. He and the driver of the other car talk, shake hands. The driver hands Cali the license plate which fell off of his Cadillac. Cali turns around and the driver shoots him to death, then gets in his car and drives away.

Exhibit E) Just for fun, I’ll throw one in unrelated (probably?) to the above links. In the 1990’s, there were a string of break-ins in the Todt Hill neighborhood of Staten Island. Some of the people hit were mobsters. Among the things found in the home of the mobsters was cash and jewelry. A lot of it. In one home they found $250,000 in cash. An associate of the Genovese crime family reached out to the NYPD and asked for information they had on the thieves and offered to eliminate them. Per the detective in the story: “It turned into a kind of race,” Detective Al Guarneri said. ”Who was going to find these guys first? The cops or the bad guys?”

Anyways, the Mafia isn’t dead. But most of the people in the links I just provided are dead. And they aren’t the only ones. I’ve read too many articles on the Gambino hit to find the right one, but one officer who specialized in organized crime said this hit wasn’t sanctioned by the Five Families because they didn’t want the publicity: it is bad for business.

Which makes me wonder why David Marcus wrote the article. Please understand me, I am not insinuating he has ANY affiliation with the Mafia. I just don’t understand why you’d write an article saying the sky isn’t blue, when everyone can see the color hasn’t changed.

It’s good. It is really, really good.

Hey so I let my Double Hopped Cider sit way longer than I intended. But I figured what the heck, it isn’t as long as a voyage from England to India during the Golden Age of sail so meh, it should be fine. That’s what all those hops are for, yeah?

But then I bottled it and I sampled some and I was so disappointed I wanted to throw in the towel.

Then, through a cool group on Facebook called Zero Tolerance, I got hooked up with a neat guy in the city here who happened to have a bunch of GF beer for me. So we met up and I got about 15 beers from 3 different breweries. And I started to conduct research (aka drink). Let me tell you what: hugely disappointing! And also encouraging. Because I know I can make something better!

And then, maybe because I’d done too much research I cracked open my cider. And it was good. Really, really good. So good I couldn’t believe it. I’ve shared it with 3 different people so we’ll say what they say although one has already enjoyed it and informed me “it was amazing.” So who knows.

All that being said, there doesn’t seem to be any substitute for cascade hops and cider. I’ve now tried about 5 different varieties and none of them hold a candle to cascade + cider.

 

The Progressive Cisgender’s Burden

So the United Methodist Church was in the news recently. Perhaps you saw it? If not, I’ll condense it for you: they had a special General Conference involving representatives from the globe (their denomination truly is global) who voted on several options regarding the future of the UMC and their position on human sexuality.

The eventual outcome was for the UMC to not make any change on their position on human sexuality. This came largely as a result of votes from members who were not in the United States.

What is of note however, is the remarks by Dr. Jerry Kulah, who is dean of a seminary in Africa and the General Coordinator for the Africa Initiative and as such, represented all Africans at the General Conference.  I want to highlight a few of his remarks:

“Friends, please hear me, we Africans are not afraid of our sisters and brothers who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, or queer. We love them and we hope the best for them. But we know of no compelling arguments for forsaking our church’s understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the church universal.

And then please hear me when I say as graciously as I can: we Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to “grow up.”

Let me assure you, we Africans, whether we have liked it or not, have had to engage in this debate for many years now. We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S.”

Perhaps you missed it? There was a very strong reference to the old Colonial Mindset of the White Man’s Burden.

_The_White_Man's_Burden__Judge_1899

Remember back to US History in High School? The idea that us Western powers (i.e. white people) just had to colonize the poor third world countries because we needed to share civilization with them. They were so uncivilized and we had no choice but to carry them into a better future. Look at poor old Uncle Sam! Look how bedraggled and tired he is! It is a burden! But somebody has to civilize them. It might as well be us!

Please note: everything I just said justifying colonization, while a driving reason for it  at the time, is complete crap. And we know that. Colonialism was wrong. Again, just as a reminder: And then please hear me when I say as graciously as I can: we Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to “grow up.”

So here is the question the good Dr. Jerry makes the western progressives answer: how is their agenda and attitudes towards their brethren in Majority World countries different from the mindset of the White Man’s Burden?

Do they, or do the progressives not see their task as one of advancing civilization? They are spreading peace, love, equality and tolerance for all! And the Africans need to see that this is what is good for them.

Such is the progressive cisgender’s burden.

For your reference.

You suck at drinking, yeah you totally suck

Lately I have been toying with the idea of starting a youtube channel in the vein of the great cooking channel, YSAC, but focuses on mixology instead of cooking.

I probably won’t.

In the mean time, I thought I would inform you of the greatest drink of all time: The Southern 75. Every single person whom I have introduced this drink too agrees that it is delicious.

IPA, Bourbon, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup–how could it work? But it does. Oh it does. Trust me. But careful: have two of these and you can forget about your plans for the evening.

Behold the wonder:

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On Frost and Poetry

So I love poetry. I can’t say I always have. But I can say that since before high school I enjoyed poetry.

I wasn’t your normal child.

I played sports growing up. Was quite good actually. From a young age I played on a select soccer team that traveled all over the state and out of state and won a good number of tournaments. From six grade on I was also a referee. At 14 I started to play guitar. I had a friend give me lessons who actually went on to be a mildly successful musician. He’s released several albums and resides in Nashville. All that to say from what I just wrote you might think I was “cool.”

Let me assure you: I was not. I have always been someone that is hard to pigeonhole. Video games, board games, fantasy and science fiction are things I enjoyed growing up just as much I enjoyed the locker room camaraderie of sports.

One day I was snooping around my older sister’s room (yes, I was that kind of a little brother) and I discovered a book that had poems in it. Not sure why she had it but I sat down and I started to read it. The poem was “Memory” by Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

My mind lets go a thousand things
Like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
And yet recalls the very hour–
‘T was noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue noon in May–
The wind came briskly up this way,
Crisping the brook beside the road;
Then, pausing here, set down its load
Of pine-scents, and shook listlessly
Two petals from that wild-rose tree.

Perhaps it is because my mom used to call me “Forgetful Jones” when I was little but something about that opening line caught my attention. Ever sense, I’ve enjoyed poetry.

I like lots of poems and poets, but I should probably clarify: I rarely enjoy free form poetry. I think there is great talent displayed in someone communicating through the form of a sonnet. It is like a canvas: their is only so much space they can use to communicate their message. And over time, one of my favorite poets came to be Robert Frost. Perhaps that is cliche but he is a wonderful poet.

Maybe it is because of all the snow we’ve had lately but Stopping By A Wood on a Snowy Evening has been on my mind. And so this past Monday I woke up and had a poem in my head.

Digression: the creative process for me works in an odd way. When I wake up the idea is there, sometimes fully formed. I don’t mean I dream it because I often remember my dreams. Let’s say I watch too much Seinfeld. Then I’ll dream about Seinfeld. But as my alarm goes off and I wake up–my mind will suddenly be filled with an idea; a story; a poem. That’s what happened this past Monday, as my mind and body seemed to fuse back together and I became aware of the world once again I had the following poem fully formed in my mind. And when I say fully formed in less than 5 minutes I wrote this down and I haven’t changed it since.

Here is mine (left) and the master’s (right) so you can see how my poem is a homage to the master:

“Over sleeping on a super bowl Monday”
What day it is, I think I know

It’s Monday! Oh how I hate it so!

Oh why did I have that last beer

Instead of water? Oh my head, oh!
My wife must think it queer

The way I stand and stare at this mirror

Hoping soon my mind will awake

“Honey, the alarm? Please be a dear?”
I give the alarm clock a shake

To ask it if there is some mistake

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of soft sheets and downy flake.
Snow? My bed is lovely, dark and deep

And this headache promises to keep

Me in bed and still asleep

I’ll stay in bed and go back to sleep.

“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   
He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

Best laid plans something something

Well, no one is perfect, right?

I used to say I suffered delusions of grandeur. Mrs. Wine told me I used that phrase too often so I’ve stopped so I guess I’ll say sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. My mind is under the impression that my calendar is more clear than it really is. Or I underestimate my motivation. Whatever.

The point is simply this: my hopped cider has yet to be bottled. It should have been bottled a little while ago. I racked it to the secondary. Took a sample. It tasted amazing! I added the centennial hops. Or chinook–whatever the 2nd stage hops were. And then…forgot about it? So I have no update on that right now except to say that if things ever go the way I plan I probably won’t know how to handle it!

In other news, my reading plan IS going well. I read 5 1/2 books in January. If I can keep that pace I may just meet my 2019 goal. In case you are wondering I read:

The Thirteen Child, Beyond the Great Barrier, The Far West all by Patricia Wrede. These books were…good. She did a fantastic job imagining a new world. It was a very fresh take on magic. The character development was…pretty good. Although there was almost no physical descriptions of the characters. But the plot was…a snail. I read the entire trilogy and I’m still not sure there was much of a plot. It was a bit like Seinfeld: books about nothing. But the world she imagined was fantastic and that’s why I stuck with it. If you like westerns and magic and alternative history, I’d recommend the books.

I also read The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. This was a re-read which is something I rarely, ever do. But I’m so glad I did. What a wonderful book. If you’re a new Christian, a seasoned Christian, a burned out Christian, or a non-Christian I recommend this book. Philip and I have some significant theological differences but that doesn’t mean he can’t communicate truths about Jesus in a beautiful and accessible way.

I also read a graphic novel. Yup–what I wrote earlier about those still stands. This one was a Christmas present from Mrs. Wine. Dark Lord of the Sith Vol I: Imperial Machine. I’m really, really enjoying the graphic novels about Darth Vader. Kieron Gillen got it started and I devoured those. Charles Soule has picked up where he stopped and it is just as good.

The half book was Romans for You (1-7) by Timothy Keller. I read half of it last year, hence the 1/2 in 5 1/2 books. I can’t speak for the books in this series by other authors but every single one by Keller is outstanding. I’ve read Judges, Galatians and now part I of Romans and they are just…unbelievably good.

 

Stranger than Fiction

Becky Chambers has written three exceedingly excellent science fiction novels. I highly recommend them. This past year I read the latest installment in her series, Record of a Spaceborn Few, I had an insight into something that has been troubling me for a long time.

You see, I’m a member of the clergy. And it is hard. It is very hard. It is hard on me. And on my spouse. And on my children. Those are obvious reasons to wrestle with it. While many jobs are hard, not all jobs are hard on your family the way one such as this is hard on my family. But something else was bothering me.

The story focuses on the life of the humans living in the Exodan Fleet. One of the characters is named Eyas and she is a caretaker. Caretakers are functionally like clergy in our contemporary context.  During a conversation Eyas says this:

“‘ The caretaker I encountered that day, he was a …symbol to me. This symbol of fearlessness, of…harmony. He took a terrifying ting I barely understood and he showed me it was okay. It was normal. And that feeling was reinforced by the way adults treated him. They didn’t pull away. They weren’t repulsed. They embraced him- in both senses of the world. He was life and death walking as one, and they wrapped their arms around him and gave him gifts, and by extension, showed me I did not have to be afraid of our reality.’ She paused again. She’d never talked about this with someone outside of her profession, and certainly not to this degree. ‘I am that, now. I am that symbol to others. It’s exactly what I wanted, what I worked for. But there’s this other side to it I didn’t expect. I’m a symbol, yes, but a symbol wearing my face and my name. Myself, but also not. Mostly not. People know, when I walk through my district who I am, what I do. Doesn’t matter if I’ve got my wagon or am wearing my robes. they know. And so I always have to be Eyas the symbol, the good symbol, because I never know who’s looking at me, who needs to see that thing I saw in a caretaker when I was six. It doesn’t matter if I’m having a bad day, or if I’m tired, or if I’m feeling selfish. They look to me for comfort. I have to be that. And that is me, in a sense. That is a genuine part of me. But that’s just it–it’s a part. It’s not–‘

‘It’s not the whole,’ Sunny said.

Eyas nodded. ‘And that aspect of my work, I wasn’t ready for. I never thought about who my aunt’s caretaker was when he went home.’

Sunny held the bowl of his pipe in his palm. The smoke ascended as if he were conjuring it. ‘Sounds lonely.'”

And there is where my story and Eyas’ diverge. She didn’t feel lonely, just incomplete. I feel lonely and incomplete. I can’t have any real friends. I tried, it got messy and bad. And every person I encounter I’m supposed to be leading to Jesus/the church. And so if I can’t befriend people in the church, then anyone outside the church is a potential member and so I’m alone.

And incomplete. I’m a symbol that wears my face and lives my life and has my marriage and my children but I can’t be myself because you never know who is watching. That isn’t to say I would bathe in total depravity but simply that in my vocation, I am judged harshly by others. Fortunately, I’m not worried about God’s judgment.

But it makes this hard. Very hard. And it has me wondering how long I can last.