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Free Form Poetry

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A Game

A boy becomes a man.

Along the line,

life grabs him, rattles his innards

like a wooden roller coaster catapulting him into the jaws

of a treacherous society.

As this becomes clear, a reality,

a game if you will,

one he cannot win no matter the effort

or how sly he’s become, begins.

Only then does the risk

become the fuel to survive,

to win.

–C. L. Swinney (c) 2017

Free form poetry.

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Policing a Community

 

A salty policeman struggles to lift his hand

to the hand of a stranger.

Community meetings force him

from the comfort of a cruiser.

He walks along an uneven path

through downtown streets

leaving muddy boot prints,

each one crushing his aspirations.

Stress is part of the deal, but where trust once existed,

media has stripped completely away.

The pride once gained by risking our lives for strangers,

is gone. “Stranger” never meant what it does today,

like it did back in the day.

Back when “neighborhood” meant something.

Back when you didn’t ask police to raise your kid,

or scare them straight because they embarrassed you in public.

Back when civil disputes were handled by adults,

when simple things wouldn’t tear at the very foundation

of our society.

Yes, we’re wired for scary things.

Yes, we hunt active shooters

and run toward the gunfire… the evil you pretend

does not exist, that which looms in the back of your mind daily.

Why I risk everything for people who want me dead

is my own mystery. One for me to work out on my own.

My sisters and brothers will continue to protect the innocent,

enforce antiquated laws, and do what we can to crush

the stereotypes.

So we’re far from simple nuts and bolts,

robotic if you will. Strip away the badge and the gun.

Beneath the pain and suffering is a man or woman,

same as you. Nothing too fancy.

Beneath a ballistic vest and forty-pounds of accoutrements

we want the same thing, and we’re prepared to make

the ultimate sacrifice to obtain or provide it.

-C.L.Swinney (c) 2017

Losing Bella and Light-Ale Bottling.

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Hey folks. Been tied up at work and family stuff so I slipped on posting the latest blog.

Sadly, we had to put Bella, the greatest dog we’ve ever had, down. She had terminal lung cancer and it seemed like she was telling us with her face that she was ready. But we weren’t. It was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. We miss her dearly. If I ever get any good at making beer, the first one will be named after her.

 

img_4516“Bella-dog.” aka, “Bellisimo.”

 

 

Alas, it was time to take baby steps forward. The following is my recent home bottling of a super light ale with a slight hop aroma. Enjoy. I’ll post back on how it tasted. Out of the fermenter, it was superb.

PREP:

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN. If you are home bottling and brewing and you don’t get into the habit of cleaning and sanitizing your process, from start to finish, you are killing the opportunity to create superior beer. DON’T BE LAZY. PBW is the best cleaner I’ve used. Once you clean the bottles, tubing, caps, bottling wand, and everything that is involved in this process, it’s time to bottle.

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A shot of the pre-bottling CHAOS:

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BOTTLING:

I like to set my bottles aside. If I’ve made some adjustments with carbonation tablets, i’ll keep the bottles separated. For example, the bottles with four tabs on the left and the bottles with three tabs on the right. Hook up your tubing, remove the air lock and lid, and insert the bottling wand into the tubing leading from your bottling/fermentation bucket.

If you aren’t giddy at the sight of the tubing charged with beer, well, I don’t know what to tell you!

Most bottling wands have a built-in mechanism that will release beer once depressed (or pushed down on the bottom of the bottle). Once the bottle begins to fill, it will (obviously) rise. As the beer makes it to the top, you stop. Once you remove the wand, it leaves some room in the neck for the carbonation process. THIS IS A GOOD THING. If you spill some beer while bottling, I STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU DO NOT LICK IT OFF THE FLOOR>>Don’t ask….

You’ll get to the bottom of your bucket and the entrance point of the spigot. There is usually a good amount of beer left lying above the trub. Gently pull the bucket toward you and allow the clean beer to fall into the opening of the spigot. This beer will fill the tubing and wand and you can normally get 2-3 more bottles before the yucky stuff. The picture below shows nearing the bottom, pulling the bucket toward you to get more of the beer, and then the layer of trub, aka “yucky stuff.” DOING ALL OF THIS WITH TWO HANDS IS SILLY, BUT WHAT OPTIONS DO YOU HAVE? I’ve spilled some beer trying to manage all of this, but it’s kind of funny and a challenge, so no worries.

 

CAPPING:

*NOTE* Make sure your caps are clean before capping the bottles.

There’s plenty of different options on the market, but I use a very basic bottle cap press that features a magnet to hold the cap in place. Pressing a cap on a bottle sometimes feels like the bottle or capping device are going to break. They likely won’t. Just use some elbow grease and get the darn caps on. Once that’s over, place them in the cardboard bottle box or on the counter and keep them out at room temperature for at least a week, maybe two. After that process is over, called “bottle conditioning,” throw those bad boys into the refrigerator. In two weeks, start “sampling” bottles. Pour and enjoy.

 

I hope this was informative and helps with your journey into home brewing. Shoot me an email or comment if you have any questions.

Remember to listen to people who care about you enough to speak to you.

-Chris

 

The Pitfalls of Workman’s Comp.

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The suspect, after robbing a bank and holding an elderly female hostage, sprang to my left almost daring me to chase. I could hear the sirens of my partners coming quickly but a voice inside told me to pursue. We leaped over fences like Gazelle and I caught up with him with ease. We began to wrestle on the ground, it’s then that I realized he was a mountain of a man. He clearly had MMA training, as did I, and we took turns trying to pass each other’s guard- looking for an opportunity to end this. He made a move for my sidearm and that’s when the bell in my head said, “Do something now!” When it was over, I pulled myself up from the ground and instantly felt shooting pain in my back, shoulder, and arm. Uh oh.

Okay, okay. It didn’t quite go that way…

I’d like to say I was doing something great when I injured myself at work, but alas, I was not- in fact, it was as ordinary of a Thursday as one might imagine. The Ford Taurus (at least the law enforcement version) is notoriously narrow in the driver’s seat. For a fella like myself with many tools on my belt and perhaps a few extra pounds, it’s EXTREMELY narrow. In fact, most guys I know have to twist and contort their body to get out without hanging up on  the steering wheel with their gun or radio or some other piece of equipment. And that is what I did. I contorted and twisted and got out of the car near the end of my twelve hour shift and grimaced after something popped in the upper right part of my back. Fearing the fellas would “clown” me, I continued my shift and went home to pop Motrin and chase it with Makers.

Later that evening, I woke up with tremendous pain, but not just in my back, but my shoulder and elbow felt like a jackhammer was repeatedly hitting my bones and muscle. Oddly, my index finger and thumb on my right hand were also tingly and numb. Like most men, I called myself plenty of unspeakable names and sloughed off to the couch “to sleep it off.” I had hoped whatever it was would go away soon as my mom was coming to town for a visit.

I managed to make it to Saturday morning. The pain made my eyes water and took my breath away at times. I went to urgent care, and although I know the doctor meant well, he managed to make the pain almost unbearable. He shewed me out of his office and like the pill junkies I used to chase, I drove as fast as possible to Walgreens to “get my fix.” Unfortunately, the pharmacist reminded me I couldn’t drive if I took two of the medications. I drove a bit too fast and rather rudely home, ripped open the pill bottles, and took them hoping for a miracle. NOTHING HAPPENED.

Fast forward through six weeks, three doctor visits, three physical therapy sessions, two changes in medications, a pending acupuncture session, and STILL, the same pain in the same spots (and no x-ray or MRI). The only change being that instead of sleeping like a posed murder scene on the couch each night, after four weeks, I finally managed to sleep one night in my own bed. I’ve been going through Kaiser because the injury is work-related and being handled through workman’s comp. I originally bad-mouthed some of the staff to my wife, but honestly, it was the pain, lack of sleep, and my own lack of understanding my injury that was talking. Overall, the people there seem knowledgeable and friendly.

However, the pitfalls of workman’s comp is that THERE IS NO ONE TO TELL YOU WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE. Sure you can ask around and put bits and pieces of the puzzle together, but that’s not enough.

I’ve worked most of my life, beginning in high school. I’m known for being a hard worker and helping others- it’s what I do. So sitting at home has taught me a valuable life lesson: You must be about you, and not about your job. Your job cannot define you completely. You must realize that family and friends, coupled with other interests, must remain your focal point, not the job. I’m not saying my job isn’t important and I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your very best every single shift. But, if I don’t ever go back, no one will miss me. The machine will continue to run…and prosper. My employer will actually save money if I’m forced to medically retire. I’ve left no legacy at the office. I’ve built a strong and admirable reputation sure, but some kid coming up through the ranks will meet and eclipse what I’ve already done in a shorter amount of time- making most of what I’ve done obsolete. And, THAT’S OK.

I’m making dinner, even recipes off Pinterest (don’t judge), more these days. I’m reading more, helping more around the house, helping more with the kids, and I actually feel better. Having said that, there’s been moments where I’ve walked the block looking for mischief and my eyes have burned from watching too many shows on television (many of which I had no idea would EVER be on television. I’ve even cracked a few brewskies, helped my buddy with his startup company, and sketched out the outlines of a few more books. This has been an eye-opening event, one that I started out wishing like hell never happened. But now, I’m enjoying the change and looking forward to the future with an open mind.