Tuesday, August 30, 2011


That's my front yard, after Irene. Maybe a half-dozen good sized branches, up five or six inches in diameter. But better than having the whole tree come down on my house, as it did for a couple of my neighbors.

And now it's the Long Wait for Dominion to do something. Today is Day Four of the hurricane, and they have restored power to exactly one of the ten traffic lights along a four-mile stretch of Parham Road.

Their latest claim is that they'll have restored power to 95% of the Richmond residents who lost power by Friday, and to everyone by Saturday. I'll believe that when I see it, and you shouldn't bet much money on them fulfilling their promises.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Signs and portents.

There are always signs around you, wherever you go. All you have to do is know where to look and how to interpret them.

Take these signs, for instance, from my trip to California in October.

A trained soothsayer would take one look at these and know immediately that they shout out: Danger! Beware! You were exposed to the flu on your flight across the continent, thanks to the person in the row behind you, and it will make itself known to you in about six more hours!

Sadly, I am not trained in the saying of sooth, and had to learn of their warning the hard way.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another minute of fame.

I was in Iowa last month, for a family wedding. My first trip to Iowa since 1964, and while I imagine that it's changed a lot since then, I really wasn't paying all that much attention to the state back then. A fun trip. While in Iowa City, I did a little sight-seeing, taking in the Amana colonies and the Herbert Hoover presidential library/museum.

For me, though, the most entertaining part of the trip was a one-day side trip to Madison, Wisconsin.

Oh, sure. There were fun things to see on the way to and from Madison, like a winery, a well-regarded brewery, and the self-styled "World's Largest M."

But the best part was going to the Great Dane brewpub in Fitchburg, where they were serving the John Stoner's Oatmeal Stout.

No, sadly. Actually named after "the first farmer" in the Fitchburg region.

Still, of the eleven beers they had on tap, I thought this one was the best. So I had a bunch of it the evening I was there. I'll happily report that it was interesting, complex, smooth, full-bodied, and had a fine head, just like its namesake.

They don't bottle or distribute their beer, near as I can tell. You could buy a growler of it at the pub, but there's no way you could get a full growler onto the plane. So any of it that I was going to drink, I had to have that evening.

They were impressed enough that someone would come all the way from Virginia to try their beer that they gave me a t-shirt with the John Stoner's Oatmeal Stout logo on it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sami, 1993 - 2009. R.I.P.

Sami, my senior cat, passed away a couple of weeks ago. He was 16.

His health had been in rapid decline over the previous three or four weeks, getting to the point that he no longer wanted to go up or down stairs. But he seemed not to be in any pain, and still enjoyed getting attention and sleeping where he could sniff the fresh air.

He was a good cat: gentle, and friendly, and agreeable to all - humans and cats, alike. And he always carried himself with a good deal of dignity. He had a lot of feline companions during his life; probably 4 in Florida and 4 or 5 in Virginia (not counting the kittens who came and went). And before moving to Virginia 3 years ago, he was a good companion to my father.

He'll be missed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

... is for Mudflaps.

I guess the winters are long in the Midwest, and you've got to think of something to do. Which would explain all of the "World's Largest ____s" that you can find. World's Largest Rocking Chair, or Ball of Twine, or Hairball. Or, in this instance, the World's Largest M.

There I was, driving along and mostly minding my own business, when I happened upon The World's Largest M. Naturally, I had to check it out.

A giant M on the hillside. And an explanatory plaque. And a cement bench, engraved with an M. And a staircase beside it, so you could climb up the hill and view the countryside from each of the three platforms. (Each stair had a numbered plaque on it, so you'd know that it took 279 steps to get to the top. 279 steps of inconsistent width. And pretty much in a straight line.) And there was a telescope at the top.

I especially enjoyed the plaque which explained that the M was in honor of the University of Wisconsin's College of Engineering.

Friday, July 31, 2009

2009 Vermont Brewers Festival.

Back in 2002, I went to the Vermont Brewers Festival - a showcase for Vermont breweries of all sizes, from tiny little brewpubs to regional breweries (such as Magic Hat or Harpoon). I had a wonderful time, as every beer I tasted was worth trying, and I decided that I needed to go back someday.

Someday turns out to have been this year. I decided to do it up right this time: I bought tickets to all three sessions (Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday night), and stayed at the hotel across the street.

I can report that this year's festival was wonderful, too.

Oh, sure. The weather was quirky - it rained some during the Friday night and Saturday afternoon sessions, but that just made the beautiful weather of Saturday evening even better by comparison. And unlike seven years ago, this year I discovered a beer that I thought was horrid. (To be precise, a dry Irish stout, flavored with raspberries. An Irish stout is a light-bodied and -flavored style, and anything more than a hint of fruit flavor will overwhelm the roasty flavors of the beer. And this beer had about fifty times too many raspberries to be considered subtle. It's not often at a beer festival that I look around for a spit bucket or even a patch of grass reasonably devoid of people, but I sure needed to with that beer. Other people seemed to like it, though.)

Mostly, though, the beers ranged from good to excellent. If I have to pick a couple of favorites, then I'll mention two: a single-hop, cask-conditioned Chinooker'd IPA, from Lawson's Liquids (which appears to be a tiny, production-only facility that had to go to a larger microbrewery in order to brew large enough quantities to come to this festival), and a cask-conditioned IPA, aged with oak and dry-hopped, from Otter Creek.

A wonderful time was had by all. (Well, by me, and that's the only vote that counts here.) I'm ready to go again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

They don't make 'em like they used to.

This would seem to be a movie worth watching: