Posted tagged ‘Creative Writing’

Day 591: Final day of the program

April 19, 2013

The last day of Exam Week started with a meeting. A few weeks ago, a couple of us Brewmaster students had been asked to discuss the course curriculum with our fellow students. This morning, we brought those comments and suggestions to a meeting with Craig Youdale, the Academic Chair of the department and Jon Downing, the Teaching Brewery Brewmaster. We have already seen changes made to the first year of the course, some of which may have been due to our comments last year, so we hope that the comments and suggestions made this morning will have a similar effect on the second year of the course, and on the program overall.

The meeting ran long, so I was actually very late for my final Creative Writing class–only got there in time to hand in my  portfolio.

And then it was time for the final final exam….errr… last final exam, in Sensory Evaluation.

And that was it for the Brewmaster program.

Done. Finished. Over. Completed. There is no more. Woo-hoo!

Contrary to the title of my blog, it’s not quite 600 days since I started–due to a change in the structure of the spring semester this year, we are finishing one week earlier than originally planned… but “591 Days to Brewmastery” doesn’t have the same ring as “600 Days”, does it?

So what now for this new “brewmaster”? First–and most important–it’s time for a cold beer!

(Okay, let’s admit it–just about any time is a good time for a cold beer. But I digress…)

Over the next few days, I’ll post some reflections on second semester, and some thoughts about the Brewmaster course overall.


Day 584

April 13, 2013

I shed a tear/For I have no beer/What a wretched fate/To cogitate

As you may have guessed, the last day of lectures started in Creative Writing with a brief look at poetry.

In Human Resources, we ended the semester with the process of union-labour contract negotiations and the collective agreement. (I thought it was highly symbolic that my pen ran out of ink near the end of the lecture. I went through almost a dozen pen refills over the past two years while taking notes.)

And in Sensory, my group presented the slide show of our taste results that I had put together yesterday; we then listened to the presentations of other groups.

And that was it. Done. Completed. Finished. Nothin’ left.

Oh, except for five exams next week.

(Cue ominous music)

duh Duh DUHHHH!

Day 577

April 8, 2013

I try to keep my competitive instinct under control, but it tends to surface for things like trivia contests and Rock Band... and chocolate. Our Creative Writing teacher had no idea what she was unleashing when she announced the prize for a quick in-class competition would be chocolate bars.

My vision turned red. MUST EAT CHOCOLATE!

The contest really was quite simple: working in groups of five, we had ten minutes to write the opening lines to a piece of bad genre fiction.

Here’s the thing: I am a grandmaster of bad genre fiction.

Western: The hard sun blazed from the big sky as Dusty rode his deep-chested dun into the small, nameless town in the Sierra Madres, his namesake trail of dust settling on the listless men lounging on benches in front of the saloon as he dismounted. The sheriff stepped out of his office and looked Dusty over with hard eyes, but the cowboy, dog-tired from days on the trail, didn’t stop to talk. Pushing back his white ten-gallon and settling his six-shot hawgs more firmly in their holsters, he strode through the batwing doors of the saloon into the dim interior. Seconds later, shots rang out…

Detective: I looked at the clock on the stained office wall. Although it only read nine a.m., it was probably eleven o’clock somewhere, so I poured myself an eyeopener, then settled back to either read the pile of bills on my desk or contemplate life as a lousy joke. I had just settled on the latter when my next client walked in, a tall cool blonde poured into a tight red dress. “Are you Jimmy Drake the private eye?” she purred, not batting an eye at the open bottle of whiskey. “That’s what the sign on the door says, sister. Drag up a seat and I’ll pour you some breakfast…”

Fantasy: Argalain the Pirate paused as he crested the mountain pass, bewonderment crossing his face at the terrible sight before him. A giant serpent, fangs glistening with black venom, hissed in anger at the unwanted intrusion, the fainting maiden caught within its coils forgotten for the moment. With a cry, Argalain loosed his magical sword Madralin, honed by elvish smiths in the fires of Nithond, and swung it about his head as he charged into battle…

Science Fiction: Argalain the Space Pirate paused as he teleported into the mountain pass, bewonderment crossing his face at the terrible sight before him. A giant serpent, fangs glistening with black venom, hissed in anger at the unwanted intrusion, the fainting fembot caught within its coils forgotten for the moment. With a cry, Argalain activated his laser sword, honed by elvish technicians on the planet Nithond, and swung it about his head as he charged into battle…

You see what I mean. When it comes to bad writing, I can write with the worst of them. The contest was pretty well over before it had begun. Mmmmm, chocolate.

On to Human Resources, where we are finishing up the last few classes with some consideration of union labour laws in Canada.

In Sensory, the various groups presented beers as if the class represented a tasting panel, and gathered information about the various beers tasted. We have a week to collate the results and make a presentation to the class as well as a written report.

Unfortunately the tastings took so long that I had to discard my plan for the evening. Mark Murphy, who graduated from the first Brewmaster class a year ago, has become the very first graduate of the course to start his own brewery. He recently joined forces with his wife to form Left Field Brewing, a contract brewery with cleverly baseball-themed beers like 6-4-3 IPA. Alas, the launch party was in Toronto, and by the time we got out of our final class, it was far too late to make the 150-km trek around Lake Ontario during rush hour.

I’ll just have to wait for another Left Field event and buy two of Mark’s beers.

Day 548

March 8, 2013

In Creative Writing: Point-of-view, and the advantages and disadvantages of first-, second- and third-person.

In Human Resources, we started a unit on performance evaluation.

In Sensory, we first reviewed some of the common beer taints by–what else–tasting them. I didn’t have a cold this time, so all my taste buds were up to speed and able to detect the wide range of awful flavours. Gnrk! Next up, Rob Doyle from the quality control team at Mill St. Brewing gave a talk about the importance of ensuring our processes are designed to produce consistent beer. Even better, Rob brought some samples of Mill St.’s Cobblestone Stout, which we used for a taste analysis.

Afterwards, we retired to the Benchmark (a fancy foodie-type restaurant on the campus) for a beer and food reception and a chance to chat with Rob for an hour. Very civilized way to end the week. However, enough shmoozing–assignments and tests are starting to pile up again, so it’s time to get back to work…

The most exciting thing about graduating in six weeks is going to be weekends without homework.


Day 534

February 23, 2013

In lieu of a mid-term, we handed in two major assignments in Creative Writing, and then I made a presentation to the class about “voice” and “language”. (It was too much fun reading passages from The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler as the hard-boiled detective and from Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I should have been a voice actor.)

In between classes, I checked on my black IPA. (Yes, I need a name for it. Suggestions welcome.) It was bubbling vigourously–a sign of happy yeast.

Then a mid-term exam in Evaluation and Judging.

The final exam completed, the sun came out, the birds sang, the bunnies frolicked (well, the foregoing happened perhaps in a symbolic sense–it was actually snowing), and the students left town for Reading Week.

Yep, an entire week off. Walk around in my pyjamas. Play XBox. Watch TV. Whoo-hoo!

Oh wait, four major assignments to work on. Black IPA at the college to check on from time to time. “50 Shades of Grain” waiting at my summer brewery to be transferred to a cask.

Would anyone notice if I showed up at either brewery in my pyjamas? Carrying an XBox controller?

Day 499

January 19, 2013

In Creative Writing, we quickly reviewed the essential elements of fiction–setting, characterization, theme, etc. We’ll go over each of these in detail in future classes.

Human Resources covered with some of the legalities of employment under the Ontario Human Rights Acts.

Judging and Evaluation reviewed material about designing sensory panel rooms.



Day 493

January 12, 2013

The day started with my new elective for the semester, Creative Writing. I confess that this is a bit of a lark for me; however, the other choices on the electives list–courses like “Philosophy Through Film”, “Vegas—Understanding the Odds”, “Abnormal Psychology”, and “Contemporary Global Issues”–either didn’t interest me or sounded like a lot of research and essays. (I should reiterate that although I took several liberal arts credits in university, I can’t use them to replace these courses because the college doesn’t recognize university credits that are more than ten years old. Who knew there was a best-before date on learning?) I won’t say a lot about Creative Writing other than it is a “hybrid” course–we spend two hours a week in class, and one hour a week writing on-line.

Next up was the third hour of Human Resources. (The 3-hour class has been split into two hours on Tuesdays, and the third hour on Fridays.) Today we started with the difference between a line manager and a staff manager. Essentially, a line manager’s actions have a direct effect on production, and therefore on the company’s bottom line. In contrast, a staff manager’s actions do not have a direct bearing on the bottom line. So a brewmaster is a line manager, while the head of a research team is a staff manager.

The line manager’s responsibilities can be broken down into about five areas:

  1. Determine job design. The line manager knows what needs to be accomplished, and what his workers have to do to get the job done. (However, Human Resources can help design a fulfilling job, or for a very mundane repetitive job, at least design some trade-offs to make up for the boredom.)
  2. Make hiring decisions. However, after telling HR what the job is and what basic qualifications would be, the line manager can leave it to HR to advertise the job opening and conduct preliminary interviews to determine basic employability. Once HR has a short list of candidates, the line manager can conduct the final round of interviews and choose the new employee. (HR can also help the line manager develop better interview skills.)
  3. Coach and develop employees. HR can help a line manager to convince an employee who believes he already has enough skills to take further training or develop new skills.
  4. Ensure health and safety
  5. Review employee performance. HR should make sure the line manager is properly documenting performance reviews, since a new manager will need this knowledge if the line manager is promoted or leaves the company.

On the other hand, Human Resources also has a number of responsibilities:

  1. Align HR strategies with business strategies. (If the company produces whatsits, but wants to move to production of widgets, HR has to determine who in the company has the requisite knowledge of widgets, and either hire or train employees to help with widget production.)
  2. Deliver services. In other words, act as a resource for the line manager who is seeking a correct course of action.
  3. Strengthen employee contributions
  4. Manage change

On to our final class of the day, Beer Evaluation and Judging with Daniel McKinnon. Daniel first earned a degree at University of Guelph before studying brewing at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. After a few years of research in the UK, he returned to Ontario, where he has helped set up a number of new breweries.

Daniel is one of several second-year instructors who were brought on board at the last minute. Evidently the college had not filled him in on previous sensory evaluation course material we had already covered, since his first lecture was an almost exact duplicate of Roger Mittag’s first lecture back in first semester. However, we had a chat with Daniel at the end of the class, and now that he knows what we have already learned, he can skip forward to more advanced material.

This is not the first time that we have run across duplication of course material in various classes. There seems to be little or no dialogue between the various Brewmaster instructors, nor coordination of course material by the college. It is something that will have to improve if the Brewmaster course is to reach its full potential.

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