Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31, 2011 - Post-Gig Asian Energy Drinks

My gig on the 30th was the last for the band I've been drumming with for about the last year or so, "Southbound Junkies" and, reportedly, the last for that band ever. It was a long night and when I was finally dragged out of bed on this, the last day of the year I needed a little boost in the form of some of the energy drinks that followed us home from the Far East Market (that I've talked about more than once now).

These two drinks represent the two schools of thought in Eastern energy drink philosophy- overly sweet liquid lolly-pop and strange fizzy malted dark mystery beverage. "M-150" has the first category covered and the second is exemplified by "Hyper Malt".

First up, Hyper Malt. This bottle would prove difficult to open...

Whatta you mean, no twist-off cap?!?!

Not effective.

Then this happened.

I'm suspicious and not very optimistic.

Not good. Not horrible, but not good.

Esther does not want.
Final verdict: thumbs down. Not as bad as some of the stuff we've brought home (see: white gourd drink) but just not very enjoyable either.

Moving on: M-150...


...brain crinklingly sweet...


Esther was not as enthused.
Final verdict: thumbs up with reservations. It's just too darn sweet to drink more than once a week. Daily consumption would turn you into a walking vat of hummingbird nectar.

But did they wake me up? Well, I was a little perky afterwards.

Other scary pictures of us drinking dragon juice can be found here.

December 29, 2011 - Coosa River Annex and Mount Cheaha

Today we explored the ruins of the Coosa River Annex. This site, formally affiliated with the Anniston Army Depot, was once used to store various munitions and explosive ordinance. Dotted along the grid of roads are several trapezoidal-shaped buildings that were designed to contain explosions and located far enough apart to avoid chain-reactions.

One of the "igloo" from the outside.

Interior of the "igloo".
The acoustics inside the buildings are "bouncy" and "slappy". It was like living inside a guitar amp with the reverb turned up to 11.

Alternating wood/metal layers of the door.
I don't know if earth was placed on top of the buildings as part of the original design or if falling leaves and pine needles accumulated over time and and eventually created enough soil, but there are trees growing on top of all the storage buildings. We did not see any indications that root systems were breaking through the roofs and ceilings.

Full-sized pine trees on the roof.
During its operational period train tracks led into the annex and up to raised loading docks.

What remains of the rail system.

Loading dock ruins.
Now you might ask why we were here, but the answer should be obvious- the place is eat up with geocaches. As of our visit there are 31 traditional caches located through the site. Some are simple hides in the trees but others incorporate the ruins and the decommissioned structures.

After making a handful of cache finds we moved along the road, grabbed a bite to eat and stopped by Cheaha State Park. This is the same place that the kids and I visited back in December 2010.

Boardwalk to the Bald Rock overlook.
Us in March 2008.

Us in December 2011.
We watched the sunset from the balcony of the lodge restaurant.

On the way home we stopped to watch the light show at the First Baptist Church in Glencoe. They've got a pretty cool set up- tune your radio to a specific station and watch the syncronized light show dance all around the church.

Here's the complete gallery of pictures from our busy day. RIGHT HERE!

December 28, 2011 - Grass Jelly and Bankhead National Forest: Kinlock, Pine Torch

Today starts with an introduction to yet another Asian drink with slippery jelly things in it. World, meet Grass Jelly Drink from Taisun, Judging by a quick video search, this stuff is commonly selected as "strange new thing to record a video of me drinking for the first time."

Grass jelly looks to be ubiquitous across Asia. It's just one of the many food products that are created from some process that results in something that you can watch both wiggle and jiggle. There's a picture on the can itself, but here's our sample poured into a glass.

Esther was the brave one for this round. The grass jelly itself doesn't have so much a distinct flavor as it does a texture. The liquid portion of the drink she described as "restaurant sweet tea." I think this will resonate more with folks from the Southeast US than other parts of the world. We tend to HEAVILY sweeten our iced tea (about 2 cups of sugar to a gallon is common and 3-4 is not unheard of). Restaurants will tend to mess this up by letting the tea sit too long with the bags still in it. The result is over-sweet, over strong tea the color of 4-month-old motor oil. Now take that and toss some mostly tasteless (but not completely unpleasant) cubes of Jell-O and you get sort of an idea of what's in in the can.

Esther, bless her heart, always smells first.
Point at the can. Good girl.
Maybe not something we'll snag at the market every trip, but not as strange and inexplicable as the Hawthorne Berry Drink I had the other day.

That out of the way, we traveled to the Bankhead National Forest in search of pictures, adventure and geocaches.

First stop, Kinlock Shelter, a rock overhang used by the local Native American tribes for thousands of years.

Petroglyphs or graffiti?
I didn't find the geocache that is hidden near the shelter, but I did locate one at the nearby Kinlock Falls. This is a great example of why decommissioned ammo cans are one of the most popular containers of choice for caching. The cache is sitting in the water, but every thing is nice and dry inside thanks to the rubber seal and tight-fitting closure system. These things are designed to keep ammunition functional in all manner of harsh conditions so keeping a log book and some swag safe is an easy task.

Ammo can, I love you, never change.

Kinlock Falls.
I have no idea who these people are.
We hopped back in the van to head to another historical location in Bankhead and then... this happened:

Ladies and gentlemen, the future of our planet.

...but somehow we pressed on and arrived at Pine Torch Church, the oldest standing structure in Bankhead Forest.

More pictures from our trip can be found here.

December 27, 2011 - Shortest Post Ever

This is fruit pudding. It is good. Eat it now.

The End.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 26, 2011 - Rockets, Mogu Mogu, and BAWANG!

Months ago, the boys and I went to the Space and Rocket Center after dropping off Esther at the airport for her exciting scouting trip out west. Today we revisited with both the women. The dinosaur exhibit from September is long gone, but the core collection of aging attractions are still there. Considering that we got in again for free thanks to our partner membership, it's hard to complain too much but as I've said before, the place is in need of an update.

One of the newer attractions that the kids usually gravitate towards is the climbing wall. (Climb a wall- just like the astronauts!) I gave the hardest route a try and a picture of me just before I fell to the ground to my certain death can be found over at Esther's blog entry for the day. The kids did much better than I.

We made the standard walk among the empty shells of rockets and aircraft in the back lot. Both the centrifuge thingy and the shoot you up into the air thingy were closed due to "inclement weather". Oh and Esther and I managed to take nearly the same picture, as we are prone to do.

From there we took a more leisurely stroll inside the Saturn V building.

At this point I'll mention that I'm listening to Casey Affleck's reading of Sex on the Moon, by Ben Mezrich. So I was more than a little pleased in finding a display for an actual lunar sample. I'm always more than a little skeptical when the Space and Rocket Center labels something (case in point, the A-12 Oxcart parked outside that's written up as an SR-71 Blackbird) but I did a little looking around on the internet and found that the sample is indeed legit and identified as "Sample 12065" which means that it's the 65th identified sample and that it came from the Apollo 12 mission. Based on the size of the rock (about that of my fist) and the information in the book, I'd put the value at something near... a few years in federal prison.

Take me, you know you want to. I won't tell.

Somebody put memorial bananas on Miss Baker's monument.

But the real excitement of the day was during the ride home and the obligatory stop at... FAR EAST MARKET! I think it's officially an addiction at this point. We stocked up on mochi, noodles and Mang Tomas All Purpose Sauce.

And now I give you: MOGU MOGU brand drink! In not one, but two flavors!


I'm sure most of you have some passing knowledge of what a strawberry is, but I'm just as sure you have no idea what a lychee is. Well, I'm here to help. Lychee (also known by a handful of other names, all of which sound like somebody trying to spell "lychee" without spell-check or perhaps with head trauma) is a fruit found across Asia, the sole member of genus Litchi in the soapberry family. What? Soap? Huh? It's a little pink fruit. If pink were a flavor, it would taste like the color pink. If bubblegum grew on trees there would be a botanical arms race to hybridize lychee and the bubblegum trees for world domination. Learn more here.

A common theme I've noticed in the Asian fruit drinks (and aloe drinks for that matter) is the use of something floating in the liquid that is kind of chewy and slippery. Like swallowing tadpoles made of pure sweetness and good. Mogu Mogu uses this as well. Reading the ingredients in both of these I saw that they both had something called "nata de coco". Could this be the source of the gummy droplets that hang in a colloidal suspension inside the bottles of sweet yummy juice?? As luck would have it, YES! Nata de coco is made from fermented coconut water and forms a thick jelly-like food. YUM!

But how does it taste?!?!?!

Fermented coconut water = pure joy.

Need I say more?

Another food we selected from the shelves of Far East Market was this bag of... Well. I'll tell you what it is: corn nuts. But what is it called on the packaging?

Esther enjoyed the BOY BAWANG. *snicker*

...and good night folks!

More pictures can be found here.