Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why I don't post on the local newspaper forum

Wednesday. The first day of the Stumpjack week...our Monday really. Lots of little and big online tasks to try to get done today (updating blogs and sending out a newsletter), along with the usual in-shop duties like making cold brewed coffee, getting groceries, making a quiche (Kim does that...mmm, mmm, good) and making gelato. Made a yummy cinnamon vanilla, peach, raspberry, and a darn hot and spicy chocolate gelato today. That one is definitely not for sissies, little children or certain online forum participants.

I continue to get asked why I no longer participate on the newspaper chat forum. I don't think I've posted anything other than a couple posts pertaining to Pato Banton's gig at Ethnic Fest last week. The simple reason is that I just don't care for the negativity and stupidity that is now so rampant on the forum. The newspaper's forum has pretty much become a cesspool of negativity largely inhabited by bitter sourpusses who seem to think they possess some special level of wisdom or insight (and worse, who also seem to believe that other people actually want to hear their grumbling dissatisfaction with the world). The forum didn't used to be that way. Of course there are/were always a few grumblers who complain about almost anything. But they have become the overwhelming majority nowadays. There used to be more of a sense of humor, some level of mutual respect and even actual dialogue between opposing views on any particular issue. No longer. Cynicism, rudeness and the desire to yell the loudest and have the last word are the order of the day on the forum now.

People hide anonymously behind screen names and snipe cowardly without accountability or any sense of courteousness. They appear to take pleasure in other people's misfortunes. Gossip has replaced genuine conversation.
I just don't care for that low level of dialogue, where precious few intellectuals are so outnumbered by ill-mannered churls. Conversations that might begin thoughtfully enough become peppered with rude and outright stupid interjection by the unwashed mass.

Thanks but no thanks. I'm generally not interested in even superficially scanning what's on there anymore. Hope that puts the question to rest now. Onto better things...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First homebrew and good news for Dad

Look at that gorgeous color! And the taste was just as great.
Cracked open my first homebrew yesterday. It was freaking great! Brought a bottle up to the cottage. Very tasty and a beautiful color. Enjoyed it with an equally tasty John Bull cigar. Both were great and doubly so because we just got a call from my Mom that my Dad qualified for insurance covered OT and speech therapy. He was happy and we we happy.
Everybody takes a taste.
We're at the cottage, about a half-hour from the hospital in Green Bay, taking care of their dog and their stuff at the cottage before going back to GB tonight to see how he's doing.

The beer and cigar were a nice way to cap the afternoon and enjoy the good news of his being able to get therapy that would be covered by the insurance. The downside is that one of his qualifiers is that he has lost some sight in his right eye.

More on that later. Kim wants to get on her laptop here and I don't want to sit in a coffeeshop too long - it's too nice outside.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spam, one of the funniest foods on the market.

We took a day trip to Door County last week. Kim asked me to get a little something for her to munch for our drive into Peninsula State Park for a siesta. Jesse and I went into the local Piggly Wiggly and got some Spam and a little jar of Gerbers oatmeal and pears baby food for her. Needless to say she didn't partake of those treats. Jesse and I thought it was pretty funny (how can Spam not be funny!), but Kim just looked dismayed and exasperated. So I got her some cheese curds, which made her happy.

The Gerbers was actualy pretty tasty, if you ask me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My latest favorite youtube vids

First, a funnier than hell video by Punks Not Dad doing "In Me Shed." "Stirrin' up some paint!" "Havin' a quiet fag!" "Cleaning a spark plug!" "Sortin' out me cherry jars!" "Where a bloke can be a bloke!"

This vintage cigarette commercial featuring the Flintstones is classic Americana. Too funny and too bad stuff this cool could probably not be broadcast today (you can broadcast animated cartoons swearing, engaging in vulgar talk and overt sexual naughtiness, but showing tobacco is verboten!).
"They sure work hard, don't they Barney."
"Yeah, I hate to see them work so hard."
"Yeah, me too... Eh, let's go around back, where we can't see 'em."

And this one where Jerry, of Tom and Jerry, rolls a smoke like no one else, to impress a pretty female cowgirl cat. 30 seconds of animated beauty.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Some cottage pictures from this past week.

A few pics from the July 4th extended weekend up north.
A number of Wisconsin lakes still feel like Canadian shield lakes.

Jesse and Andrea meet a camel near Lakewood.

This camel was unusually friendly.

Kim wants to take him home.

Turtle pancake...the end.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Some recent cottage visits

Still Life with Nature's Medicine
Is it really the 3rd, and almost the 4th, of July already? I mean is it really? Truly this is one of the seemingly fastest moving summers in memory. We've made up our minds that this year we are no longer going to be putting in the 85-hour work weeks, and we're going to take those days that we're closed for some hopefully quality "up north" time for ourselves. The aromas of pine, campfire and wet earth combine with the sounds of crickets, loons and bullfrogs to make us feel the way God intended human beings to feel. Sleep is more peaceful and the days more adventurous. Hell, the beer even tastes better.
Made that bench out of an three tiered branch and weathered board.
Here are a few pics from the last couple of "weekends" (weekends for us run from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening).
If I'd run across this old gal a month later she'd be dinner.
But it was egg laying time and out of season.

A couple of odd ducks at the Shawano Park beach.

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another day in the pines.

Cheyenne making smores.
We hit the cottage again this past Monday and Tuesday. Even more gorgeous out than the week before. Kim worked on her mosaic mirror. I field tested the hammock. The girls did some painting and walking. We took a walk down a trail through the woods, afternoon sunlight streaming through the trees at an angle, and hundreds of shiny little black dragonflies fluttering up from the ground ahead of us as we walked, shimmering in the warm sunlight. A very cool scene.
King for a day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Two beautiful days in the northwoods

Last Sunday Kim and I took off for my parent's cottage outside of Cecil, near Shawano for a couple of days of R&R. We needed to mellow out from the junk from the week before concerning a crummy story about the shop in the local paper and we needed to outline our summer plan of attack for Stumpjack. I also wanted to do a little art work and painting and Kim wanted to start a new mosaic.
Leinies 1888 Bock and a La Vieja Habana

Laying some wood

It was a wonderful 2½ days. The weather was great, with Tuesday morning hitting around 70°. We took a couple of good long walks each day and my knee handled it well, which was a relief. Experimented with some breakfast pizza recipes for consideration at the Stump, made some awesome hamburgers, and enjoyed some mighty fine beer.
Doing some painting while enjoying a Crystal Springs Honey Ale and a 5 Vegas Series 'A' cigar. The ale is a delicious homebrew courtesy of friend Brian Jensen...although there is some question as to how good a friend he really is since he only gave me one bottle of his brew. Not to worry, Brian, I'll give you an opportunity to rectify this woeful disparity. Click the image to enlarge.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Coffee and Cigars

image by Keith Kee Fu Yeung

Below is an essay I wrote for my HTR bi-weekly coffee column a week ago. The editors decided it would go better at the top of the OpEd page rather than in its usual location on the Food page. After it ran I received a number of comments, all of them complimentary and supportive of the article's point-of-view...that is, all except one. The piece also ran in the Marshfield News Herald and the Wausau Daily Herald and caused a bit of a stir up there with at least one woman who not only commented on the article online but also left me a couple of rather nasty voice messages. You can listen to those messages by clicking on the audio gadget in the right-hand column (they're too funny to not share). Here's the article.

Exemptions needed in proposed smoking ban

Coffee and tobacco have surely been bedfellows ever since they first met. They are paired in literature, film and the visual arts, and in our collective cultural consciousness in much the same way that we’ve become accustomed to think of wine and cheese as an ideal pairing. I enjoy both coffee and tobacco, and have participated in paired tastings of the two, but my enjoyment demands a rather specific qualifier: that they be handcrafted or artisan produced.

Specialty coffee is artisan coffee. It is usually grown, processed and produced with more personal, hands-on attention and involvement from small groups of people who are as concerned with high quality and uniqueness as they are with making a living at it. It is perceived as coffee that is, from seed to cup, produced with passion and love by “real people” with their own special stories. This perception contrasts with that of the industrial, pre-ground and canned grocery store coffee produced by huge, faceless corporations. The reality is also that the two end-products, specialty coffee and mass-market coffee, are generally as different in quality as are, say, a fine vintage French wine and a cheap and fruity 4-pac wine cooler. They both use the word “wine,” but are really quite different.

Similar realities color the world of tobacco, but public perceptions of this product are not nearly as sophisticated as they have become for products such as coffee, wine or craft beer. I think these days most people understand and would readily agree that there are clear differences between artisan products and their mass-market counterparts. Tobacco, on the other hand, is generally viewed solely via the image of a cigarette, and is perceived as only bad.

That is unfortunate, because just as is the case in the fields of coffee, beer, wine, cheese or practically any organic, consumable item, so too under the general umbrella of tobacco there are very different products produced by very different methods, using dramatically different source materials, and by philosophically opposed producers. I am talking about the differences between mass-market cigarettes that are produced by the “big tobacco” companies, and fine, handcrafted cigars produced by smaller companies and family-run operations. They are two different animals in just about every practical aspect, including, I would argue, their effects upon one’s health and well-being.

The adverse effects of cigarette smoking upon a smoker’s health have been apparent for decades and most would argue that those ill effects outweigh the positive effects. However, cigar smoking, as a pastime and social activity has both scientific and empirical support for positive benefits upon one’s physical and mental health, including in the areas of longevity, disease resistance and anti-depression. The primary attraction of a good cigar, however, if the delightful variety of tastes and aromas that it produces, which are not at all unlike those of a fine coffee.

The proposed smoking ban that is included in the State of Wisconsin budget is supported by incomplete and even misleading information, nor does it differentiate between two very different products and their attendant risks or benefits. It is also a direct assault on entrepreneurial freedom. Cigar bars and lounges, opened by Wisconsin entrepreneurs specifically with cigar lovers in mind will likely become extinct. Cigar lounges, such as Manitowoc’s Lakeshore Cigar Company, serve much the same function as coffee shops in that they are “third places” that bring people together, foster social well-being and enhance community. The loss of such places, if this proposal is passed without exemptions, would be most unfortunate and wrong.

One of my more treasured pastimes is the joy of experiencing excellent coffee and cigars with friends in a setting that encourages stimulating conversation, relaxation and a sense of community. I do sincerely hope that common sense prevails and that the smoking ban does not pass as it is now written. Our community will be the lesser for it if it does.

image by Abstract Gourmet
I've included below the additional online comments (copied just as she posted them) from this woman that she posted on the Wausau Daily Herald's website following my editorial. My replies to her goofy comments follows after.

1HardWorker wrote:
You are CLUELESS David for writing this article on Smoke & Coffee, you lost your mind from inhailing all thoughs DEADLY TOXINS you talk so fondly about. Who cares about the past time between the two! It was proven decades ago the deadly effects it causes to the body affecting lungs, heart, arteries, throat, blood pressure,skin etc. We need the smoking ban to protect us from people like you who refuse to see the OBVIOUS DEADLY EFFECTS it causes to yourself & more importantly to us innocent non-smokers who are forced to breathe in YOUR RIGHT! As us non-smokers hear all the time: It is your right to smoke & slowly kill us innocent people off by polluting the air we are trying to breathe. WAKE UP DAVID-YOURS IS A NASTY HABIT THAT HARMS OTHERS & INCASE YOU FORGOT ABOUT THIS WHEN YOU WERE DOING ALL THAT STUDYING ON TABACCO PASTIMES AND YOUR STINKY COFFEE -CLEAN OXYGEN IS A NECESSITY FOR US TO LIVE! Where does OUR RIGHT TO BREATHE fit in your boring,babbling history lesson?! YOUR NOT SMART
4/1/2009 7:27:47 PM

1HardWorker wrote:
Another thing-were I work I am forced to breathe in smoke for almost 14 hours a day, I have actually vomited at work several times breathing in that "aroma" you talk about it severly effects my work & my body-I always feel like crap, I have to use one hand to cover my face so I can take short breaths to breathe. I am forced to be exposed to harmful air in order to make a living usually by people milking the system on unemployment, disability or SSI checks while they complain about the failing economy but they always manage to get their cigarettes, while I have to work for my money & breathe in toxins. I've lost 6 babies because I inhail so much second hand smoke while I'm at work, that it caused my blood to thicken from all the toxins I breathe and it killed my innocent babies. What rights did we have? It's not the pleasant experience you talk about in this article-in reality it's horrifying & deadly! I don't share your fond opinion of this silent KILLER! I can't wait for the ban!
4/1/2009 7:52:15 PM

StumpjackCoffee wrote:

Replying to 1HardWorker:

"You are CLUELESS David...[semi-coherent ranting]... YOUR NOT SMART"
Why thank you, 1HardWorker, for taking the time to edumacate me. I had no idea...what are these...toxins(?) speak of? I suddenly feel so enlightened and I owe it all to you, dear lady.

Seriously, you only know a small portion of what you speak here. I understand your position and I do empathize with it. However, when writing a comment on an article it would help if you actually read the article first. If you had, in fact, read the article you would know that 1) I am not a cigarette smoker and 2) my call is for exemptions for cigar bars and cigar lounges, places I doubt someone like you would be interested in going to and which are designed specifically for cigar smokers. Thus, your much of your argument is irrelevant as it does not address anything related to my article anyway.

Again, please try to think before speaking next time. Rabid emotion doesn't improve your position.
4/2/2009 12:33:28 PM

StumpjackCoffee wrote:

Replying to 1HardWorker:

"Another thing-were I work I am forced...."
I am sorry to hear of your troubles and challenges with your place of employment. But again, the points you raise have nothing to do with my article. I won't get into the issue of you supposedly being "forced" to work at such a place, but will simply repeat that you might want to actually read and think about what you read (it's called reading critically) before opening your mouth or touching a keyboard. When you just rant and rave and shout things that are irrelevant to what you're supposedly commenting on you just sound...well...a little "extreme," shall we say?

Also, if you are going to make comments either here or by phone (got your voice message...very entertaining, thanks much), you might want to have the courage of your convictions and use your name. If you stand for something then don't hide behind a screen name or make anonymous calls. Anonymity weakens your argument. Good luck to you.
4/2/2009 12:45:54 PM

Note: I'm also proud to note that I just found out that the column was also reproduced on the Cigar Rights of America (CRA) site as well as Sweet! 4/13/09

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Madtown ain't really mad town

Kim and I went to Madison for a couple of days to unwind after a particularly high tension two or three weeks of work. Haven't been to Madison for a while. It was a fun and mighty rejuvenating little trip, even with a drizzly rain day on Monday. Here are the highlights.
Sunday night
A slice of the Maduro Cigar Bar.

Bartender Lucas at the tap. He knew his beer and where to send us for a bite.

Sunday night at Maduro Cigar Bar on E. Main. This is a fantastic place, very cool ambiance...dark brown or burgundy decorative tin ceiling; exposed brick on one side & golden-hued wall with big poster art on the other; rustic wood, ceramic inlaid bar; requisite heavy padded leather couches; an awesome selection of spirits and some mighty fine beers; and best of all, cigar smoking allowed and encouraged!
Kim tells the Wisconsin legislature to vote down the smoking ban. Damn right.

I am very distressed over the current proposed legislation to ban smoking in all businesses. There are no exemptions for cigar lounges like Maduro in the legislation as it stands now. This nonsense is a direct infringement on entrepreneurial freedom and will adversely affect or even put out of business places like Maduro and Lakeshore Cigar Company in Manitowoc. It's wrong, folks, just plain wrong. Even my wife, Kim, who is not a cigar smoker, is very upset over this infringement on our rights. She had a great time at Maduro with me, enjoying a couple of fine ports while I had a Samichlaus Dopplebock followed by a La Chouffe Golden Ale. Both were outstanding.
Pondering the next beer from the wall board.
We took a break from Maduro to grab a quick bite around the corner at Natt Spil at Lucas', the bartender's, recommendation. It's a funky little space that's so hip it hurts (yeah, they know it, but I kinda like that). A yummy little greek pizza did the trick and it was back to Maduro for another stick and a couple final libations. The place filled up for an hour or two then quieted down for a very fine end to the evening.


Marked espresso from Café Soleil...tasty. I think they use Just Coffee Co-op.
Hit Café Soleil next to the capital in the morning for espresso and cappuccino. Outstanding espresso (tasty enough that I had two marked dopios) and Kim's cappuccino was mighty good too (I tasted it). I feel bad that I don't recall the barista's name (I did ask her...I want to say Mandy, but I'm not sure) because she was doing a wonderful job keeping up with a steady line of customers at both the register and espresso machine, and her drink prep was consistent and smooth.
Sitting by the front window.

Kim's cap...

Café Soleil straight ahead in the narrow pink and red brick building.
It was a little drizzly with rain outside, but still nice for walking. We left Soleil and headed across the square to Fromagination, a wonderfully interesting and friendly artisinal cheese shop. This place fired us both up to get into the artisan cheese thing a bit more seriously at the Stump. We got so carried away with sampling and looking and chatting that I forgot to take any pictures (check out their website link above). Met a fine fellow by the name of Patrick who gave us the "tour" and let us sample a bunch of different cheeses (which caused me to spend way more than I should have, but what the heck, it was dang good cheese and I was in the moment). Also chatted with the owner/head cheese monger, Ken, who appears to have a well-defined aesthetic and vision for his business and really knows cheese.

After getting to know Patrick a little bit he suggested we have dinner that night around the corner at the Tornado Club Steak House, as he was the sous chef there. We ended up doing just that, arriving at the Tornado at around 7:30. The Tornado used to be Crandall's, a place that had the absolutely best Friday night fish fry ever. Well, the place looks exactly the same as it did then, and probably the same as it did when it first opened back who-knows-when? (late 50s/early 60s maybe?). Which is to say that it looks awesome, with an effortless retro vibe that comes from the various owners maintaining what was there.

We sat at the bar for a while before being seated, which was perfectly fine by me as it gave us a chance to check out the bar layout, discuss which of their menu and drink ideas we could co-opt for the Stump, and try a few drinks.
Tornado Club frog's legs in syrup to kill for.
Kim had escargot, which she loves and which always reminds me of that scene in Trading Places where the rich snob tells Eddie Murphy the "S-car go" joke at the restaurant table while Dan Akroyd looks on woefully from outside in the pouring rain. I had frog's legs, a treat I've always liked since I was a little shaver and my Dad and I would regularly go bullfrog gigging and bring back a couple gunny sacks full each time. This dish, however, was no ordinary crispy fried frog's legs dish. They were indeed breaded and crispy fried but they were also lying in a pool of the most exquisite, sticky sweet, garlicky sauce. I finished the legs and when our waitress (maybe her name was Mandy?) tried to remove my plate that still held the golden nectar I covered it with my arm like Dracula covers his face with his cape. "No way!" says I, "Please just bring me some bread, coz this is gonna be my dessert." Oh so good.
Salad architecture.
Next up, a spinach and bacon dressing salad for Kim and a wedge salad for me. I've never much card for french always tastes like I'm putting a vinegary ketchup on my salad. But I asked the waitress which salad she liked best and went with her suggestion. It too was awesome. A big chunk of lettuce cut off the head, set upon the plate like a little building, over which blue cheese, carrot slices and french dressing were added. Fresh, succulent and crunchy.
Steak for a man (or a really interesting woman).
Patrick came out to say 'hello and nice meeting' you before the main courses arrived, which we appreciated...we were impressed with his friendliness and confidence. Kim had duck with cranberries and it was buttery smooth and tender, and looked like a breast fillet spread out on the plate. I had a big honkin' steak that was charred and smokey on the outside and bloody rare on the inside, just like I like it. Had to be two inches thick and nicely marbled. It was the best, most delicious and enjoyable meal we have had in quite a while. Everything was simply fabulous, from the food and drinks to the people to the atmosphere. We both left comfortably full and feeling like the king and least for a day or two.
Ate some Dunbar Blue Cheese and honey from Fromagination on the way home.
Back to bizness now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's warm outside! YEEHAA!

Dang near 60 degrees out today (Tuesday the 17th). This calls for a good brew and a good stick.
Enjoying a Leinies 1888 Bock and a Drew Estate La Vieja Habana while the snow and ice melt around me.