Sunday, September 30, 2007
Sazerac Rye really does have a pretty bottle, doesn't it? The color of the whiskey inside is part of the reason, obviously, but there's more to it than that. The long neck and the typeface used on the lettering makes me think of the Gilded Age, and that's not a bad association for a whiskey to make. Sure, most of the whiskey produced back then was absolute dreck -- remember that that George Gavin Brown's sale of exclusively bottled and sealed whiskey and the Bottled in Bond Act were both reactions to the prevalence of adulterated and otherwise disgusting whiskey -- but that was a time when men enjoyed the stuff and were unashamed of that fact. Anyway, it's not just a pretty package; it's also a quality rye. It's smoother and more dessert-like than Wild Turkey, but it still slaps you around and reminds you of the fact that it's rye, not Bourbon.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Last night, I happened to flip to Turner Movie Classics, and they were playing one of Menjou's minor movies, Turnabout. It's a light romantic comedy with rich characters and an implausible plot, but it's enjoyable in spite (or perhaps because) of all that. To me, though, what is memorable is the way Menjou was dressed. He had three separate outfits. The last one was black tie, which he carried off admirably. But the other two were far more impressive. The first was a stroller with a wing collar and striped trousers. I suppose that this was not exactly unusual for the time (1940), but it's unusual to see anybody wearing such a get-up unselfconsciously, as Menjou did. The second outfit, though, really takes the cake. It was a dark tan lounge suit with a buff double breasted vest. A double breasted vest! And one that did not match the suit! It was brilliant. It makes me want one, even though I have utterly no use for it.
Rye has been making something of a comeback recently -- one reads about it all the time in specialty whiskey magazines, trendy bars are emphasizing it more (not that I go to trendy bars -- I just see mention of them in the newspaper from time to time), and, most importantly, there have been lots more rye bottlings available recently, of which Russel's Reserve is the most recent. But it's necessary to put this rye revival in perspective. Heaven Hill, which produces Pikesville and Rittenhouse ryes, used to distill all they needed for a year in half a day. With the rye revival, they now have to spend a whole day distilling it. The situation is similar at Austin Nichols: the number of days per year spent producing rye whiskey can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Just so long as they make it, though.
Friday, September 28, 2007
And another thing: it's simply bad journalism to write about any decision of the Supreme Court (or any other court, for that matter) and not mention the official name and number of the case. Yes, I know that most people would not bother to go look the decision up. But some of us might.
Shell cordovan cannot be stretched over the last like calfskin can be. Consequently, shoes made from shell cordovan tend to fit slightly more loosely than shoes made from calfskin in the same size on the same last. The result of this is that even though Aberdeen is Alden's narrowest last, these shoes are still a bit loose in the heel. They're killer, though, in a good old fuddy-duddy American way.
In any event, there's nothing for me to write about the aroma, flavor, or other characteristics of this whisky that I haven't already written. In my mind, it's the perfect combination of smoke, honey, and barley. If you don't like Highland Park 12, then you don't like Scotch. That's not to say that HP must necessarily be your favorite if you do like Scotch, just that anybody Scotch lover would find something to like in it. At less than $32 a fifth (which is something of an anomaly -- I've seen it for substantially more elsewhere), it's an outstanding bargain, as these things go.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Gaziano & Girling modified adelaide half-brogue bal in fox suede (kind of an orange-y, tobacco-y color) with single leather soles (Hughes model, DG70 last). The shoes pictured above are the same model and last as my shoes, only different leather (obviously). Tony and Dean are scheduled to introduce some boot models in January, and I can hardly wait -- a chelsea boot or a true balmoral boot on this same DG70 last would be perfect.
Martegani six-eyelet plain toe bluchers with a floating medallion in antique tan calf with thick leather soles (Lucca model, 3B last).
Consider Clynelish 14 year old. Its price (for the 700 ml bottle used in the EU instead of the 750 ml bottle used in the US) from Oddbins, a prominent UK wine and spirits retailer is £27.99. From Sam's, a major Chicagoland liquor store, it's $41.99. Now, it's true that the Oddbins price includes VAT while the Sam's price doesn't include sales tax, but when you adjust for that and bottle size, it's still cheaper at Sam's. (The comparison is more even when you compare Oddbins to Spec's -- for some reason, the Spec's price on Clynelish is significantly higher than the Sam's price.) And Clynelish is actually not typical -- the comparison is even worse for some more common Scotches. Macallan Fine Oak 10 year old: £26.99 vs. $39.99. Glenlivet 12 year old: £24.99 vs. $29.99. Glenfiddich 12 year old: £28.99 vs. $29.99. What accounts for the price disparity? I have no idea. Maybe liquor excise taxes in the UK are even higher than they are in the US.
All of the tasting notes for Clynelish mention that it's "waxy." I hadn't previously gotten that, but last night I did, at least on the nose. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. It's not that I dislike Clynelish, and I am happy that I tried it, but there are other whiskies in its same style that I like better and cost less. So I will probably not rebuy this once the bottle is gone.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Have you said before why they are called austerity brogues?
Well, no, I don't think that I have. Here's what Nicholas Antongiavanni has to say about them in his book The Suit:
The "full brogue" has perforations along every seam, from toe to heel. The Americans call it a "wing tip" because the toe decoration, instead of being straight, comes to a point and is said to resemble the wing of a bird. During the Second World War, when tight restrictions were placed on leather usage, English shoemakers offered full brogues without broguing, called "austerity brogues." Their distinctively sleek lines ensured their survival beyond the war, and they remain popular with dandies as an alternative to the plain cap toe. (p. 94)
Mr. Antongiavanni asked me to read and comment on the chapter about shoes in his book before it was published, and I remember that I told him that I didn't buy this explanation. I didn't see how the lack of broguing would save any leather. "Well," he said, "that's the story that I have heard from the London shoemakers." But now that I've thought about it, it really does make sense. If you have broguing on a toe cap or heel counter, you have to back it with finished leather so that the proper color shows at the bottom of the broguing. That means that the toe cap and the heel counter on a standard full brogue must be almost completely underlaid with other pieces of finished leather. Not so on an austerity brogue. The overlap just has to be at the seams. Hence, austerity brogues will use less leather.
(BTW, the shoe pictured is from John Lobb St. James.)
Gravati high-lace punch-cap balmoral boots in dark brown calf with single leather soles (10278, 683 last). Gravati's 683 last is my current favorite. It's what Tony Gaziano would call a smart round toe -- slightly elongated, which allows the toe to be narrower, but not needle-nose narrow. It has the same general visual characteristics as the John Lobb Paris 7000 and the Edward Green 82 lasts. It really works on these boots and on most of the other Gravati shoes that I have ordered on it.
Martegani wholecut side-lace bals in waterproof snuff suede with thick single leather soles (3B last). The 3B last is also elongated, only with a square toe instead of a round toe. It works on this shoe. I should wear them more often.
So why do I bring spirit caramel up when writing about the Aberfeldy 12 year old? I should say that I have no definitive evidence that Aberfeldy uses spirit caramel. Indeed, I don't really have the experience or the quality of palate to be much of a judge. However, I will say that it's pretty dark in color, even though it doesn't have many sherry notes; and that what I mostly get on the palate is one-dimensional honied sweetness. It's a tasty whisky, and I like the strong orange notes on the nose. Still, I would be very interested to know for sure whether they use spirit caramel in it.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
When Jay Reinke's July 31 paycheck wasn't automatically deposited into his bank account, the 42-year-old painter at Arizona State University, went to the school's human-resources office. A paper paycheck was waiting for him. For $0.00.Sounds like a disaster, doesn't it? Not being able to pay one's employees correctly or in a timely manner is one of the cardinal sins of any business. How could this happen? Well, deploying ERP software is notoriously difficult, costly, and fraught with peril. ASU originally estimated that it would take $70 million and multiple years to deploy the Oracle HR suite. Instead, ASU's IT department did it in 18 months for $30 million.
Mr. Reinke is one of roughly 3,000 Arizona State employees who have been underpaid or unpaid since the school started using new software from Oracle Corp. to manage its payroll. Others have received paychecks thousands of dollars too high. The payroll problem has caused so much unrest that armed police guarded the university's HR office on several recent paydays. ("Try Software on Workers First, Fix It Later" by Ben Worthen, p. B1)
The information-technology department at Arizona State decided it would be more effectie to stick to rigid [implementation] deadlines, releasing the software on schedule even if all the kinks hadn't been worked out -- and try to fix problems on the fly.
They're getting a lot of positive reviews from IT departments at other universities, and the ASU board is ectatic and deems the implementation an astonishing success. I really don't know how it's possible to argue that that is true. Large-scale IT implementations are difficult, and it's very difficult for them to spiral out of control very quickly. More than that, it is impossible to plan for every contingency and be able to ensure a problem-free implementation. At some point, you have to take a leap of faith, implement the software, and clean up whatever problems you find. But for the implementation to fail so badly that it can't accomplish what it's there to accomplish (pay employees) a sizable percentage of the time is not good. For the IT department to fail to plan adequately for what they would do if employees failed to get paid is not good. And for the IT department to blame the payroll catastrophe on others (which they did) is unconscionable. Sure, the project came in $40 million under budget, but who cares? By throwing it out there before they were ready, they seriously damaged some employees, violated the trust of all employees, and have guaranteed that no matter how well they fix the problems, everybody at ASU will be quick to blame any problem on the software and slow to believe that the software is working.
Gravati plain-toe double monkstraps in Radica 033 calf with double leather soles (13618, 500 last). The two straps are parallel to one another, which is a bit unusual -- on a double monkstrap, they're typically a bit skewed.
Gravati half brogue bluchers with a U-like throat in antique tan calf with combination leather/rubber soles (16407, 640 last).
I tried this again to provide a comparison to The Rich Spicy One. The Rich Spicy One aspires to be an aggressively-sherried whisky, and Macallan, whether with their regular bottlings or their Fine Oak line, is the most famous purveyor of aggressively-sherried whiskies. Well, it is true that the Macallan and The Rich Spicy One both have plenty of sherry in them, but they're not really much like one another. The Rich Spicy One is bigger, peatier, and Scotch-ier, if that makes sense. The Macallan is smoother and maltier and has more finesse. Which is better? I guess that that depends on what sort of mood the drinker is in.
Monday, September 24, 2007
On this day in 2005, Hurricane Rita made landfall along the Texas-Louisiana border. It was a Category 3 hurricane when it came ashore, but it had been a Category 5 storm in the days before landfall, with maximum sustained winds reaching 180 mph on September 21. Rita was devastating to the Golden Triangle of Texas, although it certainly could have been much, much worse if it hadn't weakened considerably in the day before it came ashore -- I saw what it did as a Category 3 with 115 mph winds, and I can't even imagine what 180 mph winds would have done.
Despite the damage it did in Southeast Texas (and that damage was extensive and severe), Rita will probably be remembered mostly for the evacuation of Houston that it spawned. For several days before September 24, the National Weather Service forecast that it would make landfall near Galveston, which would have meant that it would have blown by Houston as a Category 3 storm or worse. Having seen what happened to New Orleans with Katrina less than a month earlier, a significant portion of the population of the greater Houston metropolitan area evacuated. Or attempted to. It was a disaster. All of the roads out of town were gridlocked. Gas stations ran out of gas. Stalled vehicles were lined up along freeways and back roads all the way to Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
I have lived a sheltered life, and I am very fortunate that I didn't have to live through a major hurricane hitting Houston. However, that evacuation was the worst day of my life. I left home at around 3:00 AM on September 22, heading for Dallas, where I have family. By 5:00 PM, and still hadn't reached Conroe. Interstate 45 was a disaster area. Traffic was moving at maybe two or three miles per hour. I was still miles south of where the contraflow lanes had been opened up. I realized that I was never going to reach Dallas by the time the storm hit. I made a mid-course adjustment and headed for Austin on back roads with the help of my brother, who relayed directions from Mapquest over the phone. By 2:00 AM, I had reached College Station, but I was almost out of gas. Because they are the best friends a person could have, Mamacita and Papi Chulo, who had managed to make it to Austin on the afternoon of the 22nd, drove back to College Station to bring me gas. We ate at the Whataburger in College Station with a bunch of drunk (but very polite) Texas A&M students and then headed to Austin. We finally pulled into Mamacita's aunt's house at around 6:00 AM, by which time I had been up for 27 hours, was badly sunburned, and was caked in the salt from my own sweat. I called my father, who by that time was downright alarmed, and went to sleep. As I wrote, I don't have that much to complain about in comparison to those who lost loved ones or all of their worldly possessions in the storm; but it was truly a terrible experience.
Edward Green austerity brogue bals in antique burgundy calf with single leather soles (Beaulieu model, 888 last -- the picture is of the same shoes only on the round-toe 82 last). Don't you think that these shoes would be fantastic in Color #8 shell cordovan. I do. If only Edward Green would work in shell cordovan...
Gravati wholecut cap-toe bluchers in navy blue Lama calf with leather soles (15537, 640 last). An interesting feature of these shoes is the sole configuration: in the forefoot, the sole is double thickness, but it narrows to single thickness at the waist, allowing it to be close-cut and beveled on the inside of the foot. It's very attractive, and it's something that Gravati did on their own without any prompting from me (these were special order shoes, which means that I specified all of the details). Amazingly enough, they have developed quite an aesthetic sense after nearly 100 years of making shoes.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
As I wrote, this whisky is pale, probably paler than any Scotch I have ever seen (and that includes Ardbeg 10 year old, which is pretty pale). That says two things to me: first, that it's not very old; second, that the barrels this was aged in weren't very active. From the color alone, I would doubt that this has been aged in ex-sherry butts (unless the sherry was so many fills ago that the barrels don't have any of it left in them). I can't imagine that first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels would give this little color, either. The little neck tag that comes with the bottle says that the dominant characteristics are lemons, vanilla, and coconut. I get the lemons -- this is a sharp little whisky -- but I don't get much vanilla and coconut. When someone mentions vanilla in conjunction with a whiskey, I think of Bourbon. I suppose that I can smell a bit of vanilla in The Smooth Sweeter One, but it's nowhere near as potent as it would be in a good Bourbon: the vanilla in Bourbon is a three hundred pound body builder slapping you around, while the vanilla in this is scrawny guy at the beach yelling "Look at me!" in a squeaky voice. To tell you the truth, this is just too light for me. There just isn't much there, at least that my leaden palate can pick up on. I don't mind drinking this, but that's about all I can say.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
There is no doubt that this version of jasmine tea has a more potent jasmine aroma than the Fujian Butterfly that I tried earlier this week. That's to be expected since the Rishi is fresh and the Fujian is not and since it seems highly unlikely that the Fujian sells for $58 a pound. However, the problem with the Rishi version is that it's all aroma. It doesn't have much body, and there's not a whole lot of flavor there. Maybe that's due to the fact that the Rishi appears to be made from green tea instead of pouchang tea, I don't know. But it was disappointing.
Friday, September 21, 2007
At 8:50 a.m. on March 15, 2006, Luis Saavedra and Carlos Roca began going from bank to bank in Queens, New York, depositing cash into accounts held by a network of other people, according to law-enforcement officials. Their deposits never exceeded $2,000. Most ranged from $500 to $1,500.
Around lunchtime, they crossed into Manhattan and worked their way up Third Avenue, then visited two banks on Madison Avenue. By 2:52 p.m., they had placed more than $111,000 into 112 accounts, say the officials, who reconstructed their movements from seized deposit slips.
That's right: they made deposits into 112 different accounts in six hours. And when they were caught shortly after this spree, they still had $283,000 in cash left to deposit.
Obviously, all banks have software that is designed to detect suspicious transactions, and it is possible for this software to be modified so that these kinds of microtransactions are detected. The problem, as with any security measure, is the risk of false positives. If the software is too sensitive, too many legitimate transactions will be flagged, resulting either in the banks being unable to give the proper attention to the ones that really are sinister or in honest customers being harassed. And, of course, that's exactly what the people who designed this particular money laundering scheme were trying to do. I deplore what they're doing, of course, but I respect their ingenuity.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
In 1990, he became a head coach for the first time, leading the University of Toledo to a 9-2 season. He celebrated his success by dumping Toledo for a job as the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator the next year. When that job didn't turn out so well, resulting in him getting fired after the 1994 season. He managed to get the head coaching job at Michigan State in 1995. The next four seasons were the very picture of mediocrity, with the Spartans never finishing better than 7-5 or worse than 6-6. Then in 1999, he got lucky: Michigan State went 9-2 during the regular season and were invited to the Citrus Bowl to play Florida. Saban didn't coach that game because he jumped ship to Louisiana State University after the last regular season game. He spent five years at LSU, four of which were good and one of which was excellent -- LSU shared the national championship after the 2003 season. In 2005, he decided to try his hand at coaching the NFL's Miami Dolphins. That wasn't exactly a success, so he jumped ship to Alabama in January 2007 after repeatedly claiming that he had no interest whatsoever in doing so and that he would come back and fulfill his 5-year contract with the Dolphins.
You see, contracts apparently don't mean much to Nick Saban. Neither do the commitments that he has made over the years to the high school players that he has convinced to accept scholarships at the schools he was coaching at the time. Whenever the prospect of a more desirable job has come up, Saban has been after it like a dog after a bone. He's the epitome of the modern mercenary football coach, and I don't think that the world of sport is better for it. And I'm upset that I can no longer root for Alabama, about whom I had been moderately enthusiastic for years. Go Auburn and LSU!
Today's tea is a jasmine-suffused pouchang (I think) from Fujian Tea Import & Export Co., Ltd. What's pouchang, you ask? Well, I didn't know until this morning, either. The big division in the tea world is between green tea and black tea. According to the Harney and Sons website,
To make green tea , the fresh tea is briefly cooked using either steam or dry heat. This process "fixes" the green colors and fresh flavors. For black tea, the tea is left outside and becomes limp (withered), then put into machines that roll the leaves and damage them. The damaged leaves change color to brown, then black. This natural process is called oxidation and is similar to the ripening of a banana (from yellow to brown and finally becoming black.)
Oolong tea, for the most part a Taiwanese specialty, is halfway between black tea and green tea: it's been oxidized, but only partially. Pouchang tea, which apparently is halfway between green tea and oolong tea; in other words, it's only slightly oxidized. To make jasmine tea, fresh jasmine flowers are packed with pouchang tea; every night, the jasmine flowers open and their scent suffuses into the tea. The grade of the tea is partially determined by how many nights this process is allowed to continue. I have no idea what grade this particular tea (Butterfly brand, ref. 1030, if you're curious) is because most of the text on the tin is in Chinese and the website has next to no information, but I can tell you that I like it. It brews fairly light and doesn't have a whole lot of body. What it does have is a whole lot of jasmine aroma. I happen to like jasmine, and I like this tea. I didn't think that I would, but I do.
The tea was a gift from Mamacita's friend Letitia, who apparently found it while purging her linen closet (why there was tea in her linen closet is good question, but perhaps it is better not to ask) and realized that she would never use it. Well, I thank her, and I can promise that I will use it.
Edward Green double monkstraps with a pie-crust-style handsewn apron seam and a reversed, ghosted toe seam in an medium brown antiqued calfskin (EG calls it burnt pine antique) with double leather soles (Fulham model, 82 last). One reason that I wore these shoes today, aside from the undeniable virtuosity of the design, was that I am considering another EG shoe order, and I wanted to confirm my impressions of the 82 last before I ordered something new on it. 82, you will recall, is the narrow round-toe last that Tony Gaziano designed for EG. It being a Gaziano-designed last, it's a bit on the long side, at least when compared to other EG lasts. Aesthetically, it's also my favorite, at least right now. In any event, if you're between two sizes in other EG lasts, I would go with the smaller of the two on 82.
Gravati bal austerity brogues in red-brown Lama calf -- Gravati calls the color larice -- with double leather soles (14953, 640 last).
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The system was junked in 2004 through a $9.6 billion buyout of tobacco growers and farmers who owned quotas, with tobacco companies funding the payments. Thousands of tobacco farmers, many reaching retirement age, collected their checks and stopped growing the crop. Some farmers planted strawberries or tried to raise catfish in their farm ponds.
In 2005, tobacco acreage dropped 27% from the year earlier, to 297,000 acres. With the government no longer supporting prices, those dropped too, to $1.64 per pound, from $1.98, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Cigarette makers worried that they wouldn't have enough supply.
But predictions from some quarters that tobacco farming was headed for extinction inthe U.S.. proved incorrect. Today, farmers can grow as much tobaco as they want, wherever they want. Economies of scale have kicked in.
("U.S. Farmers Rediscover the Allure of Tobacco" by Lauren Etter, p. A1)
The acreage under cultivation is rebounding, according to the article, although it is not back to its 2004 levels, and larger farms are now beginning to be seen. In addition, farms are cropping up in states, like Illinois, that had not seen tobacco cultivation in decades. Tobacco requires a different sort of farming than Illinois farmers are used to -- less mechanized, over a longer season, requiring more intense supervision from the farmer -- but the profits per acre far exceed those for traditional Illinois crops like corn and soybeans: $1800 per acre for tobacco versus $250 per corn. It seems to me that everybody is happy: the farmers are taking home more money (including those who were tobacco farmers before 2004 who had to rent their tobacco quotas), the tobacco companies are getting reliable sources of tobacco, and the taxpayers aren't being hit for subsidies. Well, everyone except the anti-smoking zealots.
As I was waiting, a man came out of a side room, and at a glance I was sure he must be Long John. His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham--plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling. Indeed, he seemed in the most cheerful spirits, whistling as he moved about among the tables, with a merry word or a slap on the shoulder for the more favoured of his guests.
There is plenty of mention of the crutch throughout the rest of the book, but nothing whatever about the pegleg. So the picture to the left is only half right.
(As an aside, I should mention that I had never read more than the first two or three chapters of Treasure Island, although I had tried more than once as a child. I found an online version -- click the link above -- a couple of days ago and have been spending spare moments at work reading it since. It's the perfect book for young boys. I especially like the moral ambiguity of Long John Silver's character, the sort of thing that is sorely missing from a lot of literature for children. Sure, he's a murdering pirate, but that's not all he is.)
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Pregnant women already have plenty to worry about. But now some doctors are pointing to another potential problem: tattoos.
The issue is whether it's safe to stick a needle through a tattoo in the lower back for an epidural -- an injection of painkilling medicine that can ease the discomfort of labor...
In 2002, a pair of Canadian anesthesiologists published a report that questioned whether administering an epidural through such a tattoo could be risky. The doctors speculated that complications like inflammation or nerve damage may arise if the needle pulled a bit of dyed skin along with it, and then deposited it into the nerve-rich region outside the spinal column.
The small study of three women -- which concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to determine if the practice is safe or not -- set off a mini-wave of panic among expectant moms.
("Why Some Expectant Moms Are Worried About Tattoos", p. D1)That's right. The study included three women. How on earth could a study of three women tell you anything? The story then goes on to quote a single anecdote from a California anesthesiologist where he speculates that it could have been a woman's tattoo that caused the problems with her epidural and more speculation about the possible effects of tattoo ink from a Canadian doctor. So, the sum of evidence that Zimmerman presents for the potential danger of combining epidurals with tattoos is a pitifully small study, an anecdote of epidural complications that a doctor speculates might have had something to do with tattoo ink, and more speculation from another doctor. There may be more evidence that would support concern, of course, but Zimmerman doesn't present it.
Look, I lament the trend in recent years toward tattoos. They look stupid and trashy, and I think that most people who get them today will have cause to regret them in later years. Furthermore, as the article correctly points out, the tattooing process itself is fraught with peril, largely due to equipment that has not been properly sterilized. But come on. Don't we have enough bad medical journalism without this pointless and misleading story?
Monday, September 17, 2007
Let's face it: fall clothes are better than summer clothes. In fall, you can wear tweed and flannel and cashmere and corduroy and Aran sweaters. In summer, you can wear... polo shirts and linen. I like linen as much as the next guy, but it's a island paradise in a sea of banality. Watching football over the weekend, I noticed that fall has apparently come to wide swaths of the country, with temperatures in the 50s and suchlike. Alas, such is not the case in Houston: we're due to see highs around 90 for the foreseeable future. So I can't wear tweed and flannel and cashmere and corduroy and Aran sweaters, at least if I don't want to me marked as a freak. But I can wear shell cordovan boots, which most people consider appropriate in the fall and winter. Alden cigar shell cordovan wing-tip high-lace boots on Plaza last with double leather soles, to be precise.
Vass five-eyelet plain-toe bluchers in burgundy pebble-grain calf with double leather soles (Budapest last).
My younger, 13-year-old sister is having a slumber party for her birthday, and invited three or so of her 13- to 14-year-old girlfriends to our house. Shortly after, "Sara's" mother suggested that my sister's party should be held at "Tammy's" house. Why? Because Tammy has a single mother. Sara's mother is concerned that my father will be in his house during the festivities. There is no reason to be concerned about my father doing anything inappropriate to any of the girls (all the parents have met each other), but she is just uncomfortable about the idea of her daughter sleeping in the same house with another nonfamily man. She has also convinced the other parents that a change of venue would be a good idea. Although Tammy's mother is willing to host the event, my family is offended that the situation has come to this. Since when is it a crime to have a happy two-parent household? Should we cancel the event altogether, at my sister's expense? Ask my dad to go on a mini vacation? Go along with the venue change? Tell this lady she is overreacting?
I'm speechless. I don't know what to say, except that I'm appalled. (Via Instapundit.)
Sunday, September 16, 2007
There are a lot of Patriots apologists out there, both among the general public and in the sports punditariat, who say that this was a dumb rule and that violation of it really didn't upset the competitive balance in the game. They're all missing the point. The rule is explicit, and Belichick new very well that videotaping from the sideline was illegal. Nobody has presented any evidence that this kind of miscreance has been perpetrated by any other team. In fact, the reason for the league's warning in 2006 were repeated complaints that the Patriots were doing this. Not only that, but other complaints of systematic, intentional violations of the rules have been buzzing around the league for years. See Paul Zimmerman's Sports Illustrated column for more details. Bill Bellichick intentionally violated league rules that were meant to ensure a fair game, and he did it right in front of everybody's face. The man is a cheater, and he's arrogant. He deserved a much more severe punishment than he got, and he has solidified his position as the most offensive coach in the NFL today.
Anyway, Anchor Porter is a product of Anchor Brewing Company, based in San Francisco. Anchor Brewing Company is the brainchild of Fritz Maytag, and is, along with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of the most important pioneers of the American craft brewing revival in recent decades. Anchor's main claim to fame is their Steam beer, which is brewed using lager yeasts at ale temperatures. Porter is another one of Anchor's continuously-brewed varieties, and it is pretty popular, too. I don't have the breadth of experience or the tasting vocabulary to do much with beer, but I can tell you that Anchor's porter share one thing with the myriad of microbrews that are on the market today: it's extravagantly hoppy. American brewers seem to think that the hoppier the beer, the better. Well, that's okay, at least in this case. I enjoyed it -- it was dark and chocolaty, with a nice hop kick.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
As I have written before, the "Dew" part of the Tullamore Dew name is supposedly an acronym for Daniel E. Williams, a general manager of the Tullamore Distillery in the 19th Century. That sounds just a little bit too pat to me, and I had originally thought that "dew" had to refer to whiskey. After all, American moonshine is sometimes called mountain dew, and more than one Scotch distillery has the Gaelic word "dhu" in the name (Dallas Dhu, Tamdhu, and possibly others). However, the Internet assures me that the Gaelic word "dhu" means black, and I can't think of a legitimate way to twist that into whiskey. So maybe the story about Daniel E. Williams is true after all.
Friday, September 14, 2007
It is a fact, childhood cliches notwithstanding, that a book's cover does matter. I like good packaging, and I know myself well enough to realize that good packaging increases my enjoyment of the spirit inside. The packaging of Ridgemont Reserve is just about perfect. I like the flask shape of the bottle. I love the fact that the bottom is nicely weighted to give it considerable heft. I like the understated labeling. I don't particularly like cork closures, but this one is at least attractive. Just about the only thing to complain about is the burlap band around the neck -- it's not in keeping with the rest of the packaging. Ridgemont Reserve would be good Bourbon even in a crappy bottle, and a good bottle could not save crappy Bourbon. But I am very pleased that Barton paired very good Bourbon with an excellent bottle.
Crepe rubber soles are extremely cushy. The positive thing about this is that they are comfortable, particularly when walking on hard surfaces. The problem is that it can sometimes feel like walking through loose sand, which can get tiring. The complete lack of arch support doesn't help, either. Still, these are good boots, at least for my purposes -- I'm not exactly going on campaign in them.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Edward Green chasse bluchers with pie-crust-style handsewing on the apron and a ghosted toe seam in antiqued tan calf (EG calls it Edwardian Antique) with a double leather sole (Dover model, 808 last). The shoes to the left are Dovers on the 808 last, but they're in a leather that EG calls Brandy Willow, not Edwardian Antique. The pictures that I could find online of shoes in Edwardian were significantly lighter in color than mine, which points out an important fact about Edward Green: there is a tremendous of variation in their different colors (except for black) because most of that color is hand-applied during the finishing stage. My Edwardian Dovers are about the same color as my Chestnut Antique shoes, but that's not typical. 808 last was Edward Green's first attempt to update the classic 88 last, and I believe that it started being made in the late '90s. It apparently did not fit most feet very well because they quickly replaced it with the Tony Gaziano-designed 888 last. I like it, though. It fits me well, and it offers a more shapely square toe than the 606 without being as severe as the 888.
John Lobb Paris split-toe penny loafer in dark brown pebble-grain calf with a single leather sole (Campus model, 3198 last).
The picture to the right shows how Buffalo Trace currently packages this Bourbon. The bottle that I have is in the original packaging, the only difference being that mine was sealed with gold wax rather than gold-painted aluminum foil. There has been something of an explosion of wax-sealed Bourbons in recent years, imitating, I would assume, Maker's Mark, which seals their bottles with that distinctive red wax. Just off the top of my head, I can think of the old Elmer T. Lee, Baker's, Knob Creek, the various Black Maple Hill bottlings, some bottlings of AH Hirsch, and Evan Williams Single Barrel. I will admit that the wax looks cool, but it is annoying as hell to open. The fabric pull tabs that are embedded in the wax frequently don't work, and I end up having to chisel away the wax with a knife. I do not like it, Sam I Am. Well, evidently, Buffalo Trace realized the error of their ways, because they stopped sealing Elmer T. Lee with wax and started using the gold-painted aluminum foil. Not as cool-looking, but much more functional.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Update: Similar to what happened with Hurricane Rita two years ago, Humberto turned east and came ashore near the Golden Triangle early this morning. The extra time over water allowed it to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane. Eric Berger from the Houston Chronicle reports that winds in Orange haven't gotten too high. Let's hope that the principal problem continues to be with rain, not wind. We can handle ten inches of rain; hurricane-force winds, not so much.
Gravati split-toe monkstraps in caramel brown Radica 03 calf with a combination leather/rubber sole (17194, 697 last). The apron and toe seams are machine stitched. 697 last is a bit long, and it has a bulbous toe, which is not particularly noticeable on a split-toe shoe but which calls attention to itself on a plain-toe. I can't really imagine a cap-toe on this last, but a wing-tip would be interesting -- sort of an Italian rendition of a Budapester.
Santoni two-eyelet chukka boot in dark brown suede with a thick, cushy, latex rubber lug sole. These shoes are from Santoni's mid-level Goodyear-welted line and are very nice.
Lord Conyngham, the Lord Chamberlain, was looking everywhere for pure Glenlivet whisky; the King drank nothing else. It was not to be had out of the Highlands. My father sent word to me -- I was the cellarer -- to empty my pet bin, where there was whisky lond in wood, long in uncorked bottles, mild as milk, and the true contraband goût in it. Much as I grudged this treasure, it made our fortunes afterwards, showing on what trifles great events depend. The whisky, and fifty brace of ptarmigan all shot by one man, went up to Holyrood House, and were graciously received and made much of, and a reminder of this attention at a proper moment by the gentlemanly Chamberlain ensured to my father the Indian Judgeship. (p. 98)
What does this have to do with Redbreast, which, after all, is Irish whiskey, not Scotch? Absolutely nothing, with the exception of the phrase "mild as milk," which came to mind while I was enjoying a dram of this last night. It is indeed mild as milk -- smooth, sweet, flavorsome, and pleasant. If someone doesn't like Redbreast, he will not like whisk(e)y of any sort. It's simply wonderful.
But some countermeasures provide the feeling of security instead of reality. These are nothing more than security theater. They're palliative at best.
In 1970, there was no airline security in the U.S.: no metal detectors, no X-ray machines, and no ID checks. After a hijacking in 1972 -- three men took over a plane and threatened to crash it into the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, nuclear power plant -- airlines were required to post armed guards in passenger boarding areas. This countermeasure was less to decrease the risk than to decrease the anxiety of passengers. After 9/11, the U.S. government posted armed National Guard troops at airport checkpoints primarily for the same reason (but were smart enough not to give them bullets). (p. 38)
My godchildren are in kindergarten and first grade, and they get homework every night, and often times not just a little. This is a significant change from the way things were when I was in elementary school, and I don't think that it's a positive change. I seriously doubt that it actually helps them to learn anything or do much of anything other than frustrate them and their parents. A growing body of evidence seems to give credence to my doubts -- see, for example, The Case Against Homework by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish and The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn. I'm not saying that homework is pointless for all students of every age, just that it makes no sense for five- and six-year-olds, especially in significant quantities. I strongly suspect (although I have no evidence for it) that teachers and schools realize that it's pointless but assign it to create the image of academic rigor for parents and others evaluating the school. In other words, I suspect that it's education theater, not really education.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Gravati three-eyelet wholecut bals in burgundy Lama calf (14391, 683 last). I like wholecuts better in theory than in practice. The problem is that there are no seams or decoration on the uppers of the shoes, which means that there is nothing that can hide creases or imperfect fit. More than that, there's also nothing to give the shoes shape, and they tend to bag. They don't ever look as good on the foot as they do on the shelf.
Crockett & Jones Handgrade split-toe bluchers with pie-crust-style handsewing on the apron seam and a reversed toe seam (Cornhill model, 330 last). My feet have two principal problems with the 330 last. First is that 330 is to wide in the heel, like lots of lasts designed for European feet. The second is that there's not enough room over the instep, which can make the laces uncomfortable after a period of wear. This is a pity. While Crockett & Jones doesn't do this model nearly as well as Edward Green does (Dover model for EG), these are great shoes.
Cragganmore is one of Diageo's Classic Malts (which, of course, is more a marketing ploy by Diageo than some sort of historic designation; it's not that the Classic Malts aren't good, just that they have not traditionally been regarded as superior to their competitors), and one of the marketing ideas that has come out of that program over the past couple of years is to bottle and sell a Distiller's Edition of each of the distilleries in the group. Cragganmore's Distiller's Edition was distilled in 1992 and probably bottled in 2005 or 2006. It was finished in port casks; and by all accounts, it's really, really good. At the very least, it should be an interesting experience.