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17 November 2007

In Memorium: Pete Burks.


"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13.

12:00 AM CST on Saturday, November 17, 2007
By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

Throughout his life, 2nd Lt. Peter Haskell Burks was known as a dedicated team player, a trait he maintained as an Army troop leader in Iraq.

On Wednesday he was commanding a unit just outside the Green Zone in Baghdad when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Lt. Burks received shrapnel wounds to his head, and five of his men were injured.

"Peter's first words when the explosion happened ... he asked his men, 'Are you OK?' " said his father, Alan Burks of Celina. "Then he said, 'I'm OK.' From what we've learned from the officers who were there, he was conscious for a short period of time."

Lt. Burks, 26, died at the scene Wednesday. His body arrived Friday in Dover, Del., en route to Dallas from Iraq.

Lt. Burks' last actions were no surprise to his father.

"He told me, over and over and over again, he said: 'Dad, my job is to get my 17 guys home safe. ... Then after that I'll get myself home safe.' "

Born in Atlanta, he moved with his family to Dallas in 1987. He was a 1999 graduate of Trinity Christian Academy in Addison, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, played football and baseball, and belonged to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

"He's as good as they come," Mr. Burks said. His son was physically and mentally strong as well as disciplined and committed, he said.

Lt. Burks was the ultimate teammate and a man of strong faith "who could always be counted on to do the right thing," his father said.

He received a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University in 2003. He worked in France as a tour guide for a year, before returning to Dallas and a community relations internship with the Dallas Cowboys. He went on to marketing work for the Dallas Desperados and FC Dallas, the Frisco-based soccer team.

Then he joined the Army.

"He'd been talking about military service since he was a very young man," his father said. "He felt the call to serve. He'd tried corporate life and he just said, 'I have to go do this Dad. This is what I've got to do.' "

He joined the Army in 2006. He excelled in training, receiving leadership awards and progressing to Officer Candidate School, where he was voted president of his class, his father said.

Lt. Burks was commissioned in October 2006 and sent to Fort Sill, Okla. In July, he was assigned to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany.

He was deployed to Iraq about three months ago.

Lt. Burks "was like the perfect son," said Daryl Davis, a family friend of 24 years. "He was the epitome of good and value."

He wanted to serve his country and raise a family, Mr. Davis said.

Lt. Burks was engaged to Missy Haddad of McKinney.

In addition to his father, Lt. Burks is survived by his mother, Jackie Merck of McKinney; three sisters, Alison Burks of Celina, Sarah Burks of Dallas and Georgia Burks of Celina; a brother, Zac Burks of Celina; a grandmother, Irene Merck of Fayetteville, Ga.; and a grandfather, Haskell Burks of Fayetteville, Ga.

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Psalm 116:15

12 November 2007

The season of beer: holiday edition.


'Tis the Season. That's right, it's that joyous time of year when those of discerning palates enjoy the gift that quality breweries offer the world every Christmas season: Christmas Ales and Winter Warmers. Mmmm. Winter Warmers tend to be English Ales (or at least in English style) indicative of sweet malty flavor and body typically balanced with low hop bitterness yet often with pronounced hop character. Varying levels of spice exist, from very little to quite robust. Christmas Ales come in a variety of styles, from IPAs to Belgian Dark Ales, so tasting one should by no means make you think you've properly sampled the holiday seasonal. These jewels are largely only available between November and January, so be discerning yet generous in your selection during the next few months. For those of you unfamiliar with his holiday gifting, let me direct you to three offerings (I pulled these reviews off of Beer Advocate, as I have not recorded my own tastings but largely agree with the following):

Affligem Noel

Appearance: Thick displacent mahogany color with semi-glowing dark orange edges. Excellently thick, firm, and creamy light tan yogurt topping that stays and stays. Exquisite capping on this, I could barely bring myself to spoil the appearance by any movement let only sip from this astounding looking nectur. But push on I shall...

Smell: Aroma of softly sweet caramel covered apples and pears, actually, seemingly more plummy and dusted with chocolate, but that dark red apple and pear keeps bubbling up from underneath keeping a dullish tropical nuance thats quite nice with a mildness thats very acceptable to the nose.

Taste: Taste has a very nice softness to its character with some diverse tropical fruityness of tamer darkened orange, solid plum, medium date, hinting raisin, notes of apple and pear united into a chocolate and caramel brigade of brownie-like features. Yum! The softness of the melding flavors are intiguingly delicious and well balanced. Nothing supersedes the other, soon as you have enough fruit the chocolate/caramel kicks in and then the other way around when it gets to the finish. Slow and softer yet yeast softens the finish with a light drying. Yeilding and slowly giving in to, eventually, just a wonderment of fresh, soft flavors.

Mouthfeel: Feel is about medium with one excellent softness across the palate. By far the overwhelming character of this that really sparks a very high enjoyment level.

Anchor Christmas Ale

Appearance: Deep mahogany, tinted with ruby and clear around the edges. Too dark to tell if there's much carbonation or not, and still too conscious of my beer-geekiness to blatantly hold the glass up high and give it the thorough visual exam. Suffice to say, there's a rich and creamy half-finger of dense ivory head, trailing and lightly sticking with soapy lace.

Smell: Served at a perfect temperature, loads of spice and toasted malts rise from the glass. Smells spot-on like gingerbread, a bounty of nutmeg, ginger and molasses, with a rooty anise/licorice. Nothing too sweet or 'fake' about this spicing either; it's rich but restrained all at once. Fleeting orange and an earthy/peaty finish. I could smell this for a long, long time.

Taste: Hard to top that nice aroma, still this has a wonderfully dark roasted caramel malt structure, draped with light citrus and sprinkled with spices. Towards the end of the glass, warming causes some intriguing tart fruitiness to open up and a zesty ginger begins to take shape. Only enough hops to provide some malt-balancing bittering.

Mouthfeel: Creamy carbonation and medium mouthfeel. Dark roasts stay sugary and linger a while in the mouth, a little tingly spice. Modest amount of malt stickiness in the finish.

Drinkability: A fine ale, warm and delicious, with a remarkably low ABV for a 'Winter Warmer'. A savory sipper and certainly one easy to have seconds (or thirds) of. Anchor has a winner with this year's version; I'll be sure to get more in bottles and (I hope) more at the Taproom. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year indeed...

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Appearance: Amber chestnut hued brew with a mild chill haze that does not seem out of place. Fluffy froth foams up to a thick rocky head that subsides to a sticky lace that leaves trails all the way down the glass.

Smell: Coarse hop aroma with fresh herbs, citrus and a touch of spiciness in the nose. Fruitiness is deep with in the hops but is still noticeable, big on the hop aroma.

Taste: Stable medium to full body with a creamy smoothness, moderate carbonation that is at a perfect level. Flavour explosions of fresh hop invade the palate with a bitter sweet oil flavour. Malt flavour flexes hard to be noticed, suggestions of a nutty whole grain breadiness and a vague hint of caramel. Hop bitterness is not huge but is still strong and intriguing. Malt sweetness makes more of a presence when the brew warms up a touch though hops still have a strong hold on the taste buds. Esters are there but are held to a light fruity alcohol. Flowery hop flavours as well as citric show further how complex the hop profile is. Soft and rounded maltiness remains an underlying flavour but does fine to hold this beer together.

Notes: Hop smacking good, if you dig hops then you’ll be satisfied. The softness of Cascade hops really shows off in this stellar brew, this should be on you must have list every holiday season.

11 November 2007

The ever obnoxiously dressed LSU fan.

What's the deal on the LSU fan? I swear his wardrobe consists of only purple and yellow. Forget wearing a class ring - the LSU fan wants to make sure that people have no doubt of his alma mater...and ideally to be able to proclaim it from a good 50 yards away. No matter where he's going, he honestly feels that purple and yellow is the classic combination for the event. Thinking about dressing for success? Sure, put on that yellow tie that you haven't worn since yesterday. Thinking about going in casual? Yeah, the blinding purple polo looks great with those jeans. Going to church? Yup, throw on that LSU hat. Classy, just as always.

06 November 2007

Thank you sir: an open letter the mystery man who leaves the USA Today behind in the men's room.

Thank you, sir. Yes you, the anonymous man who leaves the USA Today paper in the back men's room stall. Because of you, I can relax and enjoy my time in the back stall a little better, armed with the ability to read front page stories about Joe Torre and Hannah Montana. After a while, however, I start feel a little disgust at the American Media that while actually important things are happening around the globe, front page news here still consists of a guy that manages a baseball team and a fourteen year old singer. I digress further and begin to wonder why only the front section of the paper is in the stall. What about the sports section (so I can no doubt read more about baseball managers) or the finance section (so that my quick break from work can be filled with reading about my work)? What of a section telling me about life and entertainment? Of all the sections you choose to leave in the men's room and not keep with you, why is it the front section? Isn't the front news section of the most importance? Wouldn't it be this section you keep with you? Ah, but then I consider that you're leaving this section to continue later. This, however, strikes me strange as well. I mean, seriously - how many times are you planning to go to the bathroom today that you leave the paper in there? Every hour? Twice an hour? Surly going once in the morning and another in the afternoon doesn't warrant leaving your paper in there to continue reading, does it?

After processing these questions, I have come to the realization I feared the most. Surely, there is some sort of espionage occurring at the Turtle Creek Tower. The only logical conclusion is that the paper is left as some sort of drop - like I see in those spy movies and tv shows. There must be some sort of hidden message buried within the text of these articles - left perhaps for an undercover agent by you, his handler.

Well, maybe not. But maybe...

*update: This afternoon I went to the men's room on the floor below (cleaning lady was occupying my normal men's room) and found in the back stall the USA Today Money section. Seriously - how weird is that?!

04 November 2007

Katie's half.

This morning, Katie ran her first official half marathon. It was great to see the fruition of all her time, work, and discipline the last few months. Kent, David, and I drove around (Emily and Nicole were running as well) and were able to see the girls five times, which is pretty good, especially considering the race route. Katie did great, of course, and it definitely counted as one of those times a husband is very proud of his wife.

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