New Holland Brewing – Monkey King
About a week ago, I tried a homebrew Saison that I considered on par with the best American interpretations of this classic Belgian style. Lacking access to this keg, I added Monkey King to my Summer Beer Quest list. This beer caries a subtle fruity flavor a soft body. I love the gentle opacity of this beer in spite of its light color. According to New Holland’s website, this brew is not “officially” replacing Golden Cap as their flagship farmhouse ale. In any case, I would happily bring a six pack of this brew to any picnic, potluck, or beach party.
Tommyknocker Brewery – Nice Saison
This beer has a mild scent but a tart, punchy flavor. Its body is heavier than I’ve come to expect from saisons – also called farmhouse ales. I had never heard of Tommyknocker Brewery before purchasing this beer – it appears to be one of a handful of Colorado breweries that manages to exist beyond the urbanized front range. While I thoroughly enjoyed my Nice Saison, comparable examples of this style can be found locally through Jolly Pumpkin, Brewery Vivant, and others. Ideally, I would like to find a sour beer that kicks in enough flavor to keep me interested without leaving a saccharine coating on my teeth.
This morning I found myself with the opportunity to shop at Siciliano’s in Grand Rapids. I decided it was time for me to find a new summer beer option. For nearly a decade, Bell’s Oberon has been my go-to choice for a refreshing, light beer when temperatures rise. But lately, I have found myself craving something new. So I picked up six bottles of light craft beers that I had never tried before.
Left Hand Brewing Co. – Good Juju
This brewery’s milk stout ranks highly when I find it on tap. But beyond that creamy head, I knew little about Left Hand’s selection. Juju pours with sharp clarity and a potent aroma. The beer has a spicy quality that causes a light tingling sensation. In spite of a low alcohol content and light color, this beer has a complex flavor profile. I picture drinking this beer in the first inning of a baseball game – it bursts with floral tones and sets the stage for more balanced beers before the end of the game.
New Holland Brewing – White Hatter
Way too long ago, I went camping at Holland State Park and got my first exposure to New Holland Brewery. The White Hatter is a great example of a Belgian style white ale that suits my needs for a great summer sipper. The beer has a hazy glow that invites sunlight. The floral tones are likely a result of Brettanomyces yeasts and a whole variety of spices including grains of paradise and coriander. After one pint, I feel like White Hatter could be a strong candidate for my new summer beer staple.
Lakefront Brewery – Wheat Monkey Ale
Wheat ales have a way of getting my attention. I found Lakeshore’s surprising Wheat Monkey Ale a welcome variation from the standard. This hazy golden brew has a bit of an acidic bite and a potent bubbly mouthfeel. While most wheat ales can tolerate a wedge of orange, I don’t think I would go that direction with Wheat Monkey. As an introduction to the brewery, I was intrigued and curious to find more of Lakeshore’s offerings. This pleasant wheat beer would pair well with a variety of summer dishes and I can easily imagine drinking a couple of these on a lazy weeknight.
Can urban environments be classified according to the types of games they facilitate? Roger Caillois created a typology of games titled Man, Play and Games. I learned about this from my recent reading of Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Games are an important way to facilitate what Mihaly calls “optimal experience” – a condition that he describes:
The optimal state of experience is one in which there is order in consciousness. This happens when psychic energy – or attention – is invested in realistic goals and when skills match the opportunities for action. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)
Play and games provide a shortcut to flow experiences by illustrating clear goals, immediate feedback and the conditions to develop skills. Caillois defined four types of games.
- Agon, or competition
- Alea, or chance
- Mimicry, or role-playing
- Ilinx, or vertigo
Do certain types of built environments support or discourage types of games? If so, can this knowledge help us to design and arrange spaces to increase the likelihood of optimal experiences?
I doubt that even the best physical conditions can generate true flow as Mihaly defines it. While Disney World can play with perception in a pleasant and subtle way, it is a personal decision to generate fulfilling experiences.
In the following weeks I plan to explore this question from a variety of angles to see if there are unifying factors that we can use to organize the built environment.
What good is a public transit system if its users find themselves at the mercy of snow covered sidewalks? This morning I crossed a busy road in Dublin, Ohio to reach a breakfast restaurant in a strip mall. All the pedestrian paths were covered by approximately three inches of snow even though many stores were open.
Municipal codes in snowy cities typically outline the requirements placed on property owners for clearing sidewalks and the penalties for ignoring hazardous conditions (Ann Arbor and Chicago are two good examples). But few towns have the resources to monitor the vast network of sidewalks inside their boundaries – as witnessed by a recent snow storm in Buffalo. Instead, code enforcers respond to complains from unhappy walkers – but these are few and infrequent. After all, who wants to talke the time to report a minor civil infraction when the evidence may melt away in a matter of hours and there is no incentive to notify anybody?
At this rate, snow-affected cities might be better off lending snow shoes to transit riders so they can overcome the risks of walking.
How can code enforcement be transformed into an activity that benefits pedestrians in this regard?
Perhaps community members need a better way to communicate timely information about property conditions. There is a danger that this method would encourage a “tattletale” element in society – vindictive people may use such a system to spite neighbors or competitors. A more ideal approach would help code enforcement officials identify the highest priorities for their limited attention – the un-shoveled walkways that affect the most pedestrians and transit riders. Communication from code enforcement to the reporters of information is also critical – if there is no feedback about the status of a complaint, then reporters will lose efficacy in their city officials.
Yesterday I organized all of the apps on my phone by their sensory mechanism: taste, sight, and hearing. I already had all of my music apps in a single folder and a collection of camera apps grouped together – so it was a natural transition to add taste.
The topic of augmented reality is a well explored aspect of science fiction and technological speculation. Dozens of futuristic movies feature high tech heads up displays and data rich environments. Are smart phones truly augmenting our experience for the better or are these devices a novelty with negligible ability to improve upon our daily lives?
I am encouraged to believe that smart phones are truly enhancing “reality” with examples like the Lockitron and StreetBump which seem to have a better ability to enact desirable physical changes. In addition, devices like Spark and Nest are giving people a lot more control over devices in their homes and offices. But I have the nagging feeling that these are the exception rather than the rule. These pocket-sized mini computers are great at finding movie showtimes, rating your favorite hamburger, or listening to music but they are barely able to enact any real effect on our physical reality.
The ability for technology to enable or facilitate changes to our built and functional environment is something I have a deep interest in. While there appear to be several options available for mobile devices to augment experiences, I believe there are dozens of unexplored ways we can embrace highly portable devices to improve our lives.
The last two months have been absolutely consumed by the Kickstarter campaign for Pint Craft. The project reached its funding goal and will be produced in early 2013. (You can follow Pint Craft on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the latest project updates – there’s also still some time to pre-order the game.)
- Find your audience before launching on Kickstarter – The best thing I did for this project was to identify a core group of people interested in the game. These contacts came through the early Print and Play game release and some initial outreach on Board Game Geek. While I don’t know exactly how many people in this group pledged toward Pint Craft, their interest got the project going at a high speed!
- Stick to 30 days – It’s tempting to stretch out to the full 60 day window allowed by Kickstarter. But it’s not worth it. Looking back at my funding progress, the middle three weeks were painfully slow. (Granted, there was a national election in there, too.)
- Thank your backers early & often – About mid-way through the campaign I came up with a template email to send out to all backers within 24 hours of a pledge. The simple message gave them lots of ways to share the project over social media. These messages helped me to form a better connection with backers as they decided to contribute to the project in the arduous middle weeks.
- Don’t be afraid of media attention – An oversight of mine was not reaching out to local and national media outlets earlier. While Pint Craft got covered by AnnArbor.com and Good Day Sacramento, I think I could have triggered this coverage much earlier in the campaign.
- Get out there! – For a product to succeed, people need to experience it. An impromptu game at Bill’s Beer Garden and a planned game at Vault of Midnight were both instrumental in attracting the right kind of attention to my project. Ideally, these events should be planned out to coincide with the launch of your Kickstarter campaign.
- Make a great video – If I could do it all over again, I would find somebody to help me make a spectacular video. My barebones iMovie did just exactly as much as it needed to do – but there was a lot of room for improvement.
- Advertising is for suckers – In the course of the Kickstarter campaign I learned about advertising opportunities through Board Game Geek and several other websites. During the slow middle of the campaign I seriously considered spending real money on ads. I am glad that I didn’t.
- Remember International Shipping – When backers add this to their pledge, these funds effectively become a pass-through. If it’s at all possible, limit the availability of international shipping or provide a separate method of payment so that backers from New Zealand and the Bahamas are each paying their fair share.
Now that I am wrapping up Pint Craft, I hope to get back to updating this website with some great, fresh content!