Beer in the time of plague

Still not back to normal, but getting there. You have to wear a mask to get in, but once you are at the table, you can drink your beer in peace. Hard to drink with the mask.  

We are at the original branch of Caboose brewery, on the W&OD bike trail. I have stopped here a few times when biking, as many of the customers do. Surroundings are pleasant.

Drinking our part against the Corona virus

I am doing my part, even if it costs me some money and mild headaches in the morning.
Chrissy and I like to go to Blackfinn. It is right across the street from us and we especially enjoy eating and drinking out on the patio when the weather cooperates. We know some of the waiters by sight and they know us. They seem content with our tipping policy. Since it takes similar effort to serve a high priced meal as a low one, we have a minimum tip policy of $15 for any check up to $50. This can make a couple beers pretty expensive, but we can afford it.

We cannot eat or drink at Blackfinn anymore, but we are still patronizing the carry out. We are not buying any more canned beer for the duration of this Corona crisis, but rather will get the growler from Blackfinn. The guy there says that they need to empty their barrels and we are willing to shluck down what we can.

Espen bought the growler bottle a couple years back. The guy at Blackfinn told us that they no longer sell them, but they are willing to refill them.

We are currently trying to finish off their Blackfinn Pilsner barrel.

Someday, I expect that Blackfinn will erect a statue of me to commemorate my heroism in schlucking all that beer, risking the personal hardship of headaches and morning sluggishness for the team. Maybe the statue will be very small, maybe made of plastic, an improvised action figure, but a tribute nevertheless.

Anybody who lives near me is welcome to come and help. They have to sit six feet away, but I will provide the beer. We can sit on our deck outside.

My first picture shows me with the growler on the deck. Next is the Lincoln Memorial. Alex sent me the picture. He went down there yesterday to see Mr. Lincoln and be inspired. He kept his distance from others. I have never seen the monument so empty. Last picture is my great-grandfather Haase. I do not recall his first name. Chrissy is doing a lot of house cleaning, seeing as how she is stuck in the house. She found this among the old pictures. It is sort of relevant today.

Great-grandpa was from the old Kingdom of Prussia, from Pomerania. He immigrated to the USA maybe around the 1870s, after being discharged from the Prussian navy. Who even knew they had a navy? The family story is that his father had owned a distiller, but lost his business because he loved his product too much. Anyway, great grandpa felt opportunities in the USA were better, but he never lost his respect for the King of Prussia, and the Kaiser of a United Germany. The Kaiser was not very popular in the USA during World War I.

Great grandpa evidently never got the word and used to voice unpopular sentiments, something like, “the Kaiser is gonna kick Mr. Vilson’s ass,” maybe not his exact words, but you get the idea. The old man evidently went to a local tavern for his daily beer. They filled a bucket he brought along. The story is that he was saying his usual things when someone tossed some old bread into his beer bucket. Not an extremely hostile reaction, since he lived in a predominantly German community, but the story was passed down, maybe apocryphally, to my mother and to me.

On the picture, the old man looks like s sharecropper. Family lore tells me that his trade was a shoemaker. I have no real evidence.

A new town

A whole new town sprung up where there were fields & parking lots not long ago. It is called “the Buro” and it is a mixed use development. Mixed use is good. For many years after WWII zoning rules discouraged or disallowed the mixing of residential, commercial or industrial. This sounded like a good idea, but it is not how people really like to live.
Espen told us about this place. I had been up there maybe a couple years ago when I dropped off my car for service at Honda dealer. I had no place to go, so I just walked around and walked up where Boro is now. I saw construction but didn’t pay much attention.
Whole Foods is one of the anchors. Being inexpensive is not one of the store’s traits, but it is very pleasant with high quality food.

But the thing that interested me (and Espen, which is why he mentioned it) is that they have beer on tap a few places around the store. You get a card and then tap as much as you want.

I am surprised at the flowering of beer culture in the USA. Tapping a beer on a Sunday morning and then freely walking around a store with it while shopping is strange.
I recently finished a book called “Over the Rhine”. This is a history of a German section of Cincinnati, Ohio. Like Milwaukee, St Louis and thousands of other towns in middle America, there where big and dynamic German presence in the 19th Century. The native Americans – the Yankees – often did not like them. For one thing, they came in large numbers and kind of took over. For another, they drank a lot of beer.

There was a strong temperance movement among the native Americans at that time and the beer drinking ways of the Germans was just another reason to dislike them.
Prohibition was a progressive American nativist project. To a large extent, it was aimed at immigrants from Germany, Italy or Eastern Europe, with their love of wine and beer. Prohibition hit these communities hard. (For reference, there is another good book about these times called “Last Call.”) Proponents of prohibition wanted to eliminate the influence of beer and wine and if it took out the culture of the Germans and Italians, that was a side benefit.

But we have now had our vindication. Beer is now firmly ensconced in the American mainstream, even more firmly today than it was when I was young. I just like beer. I no longer drink beer to get drunk, I just like the idea of it and I am glad that I am in tune with the culture around me, at least in this case. We live in a golden age of beer. Savor it; all good things must end and it is the curse of men that they forget.

My first picture shows a pineapple slicer. Pealing a pineapple hard. Brazilian Portuguese even has this idiom – “descascar o abacaxi”, peel the pineapple, to describe a tricky and unpleasant task. This machine just does it. Next is the doughnut shop. They have wonderful crullers. After that is me taping into the beer and finally is the street scene outside.

Busy couple of days

Lots of variety. Thursday I was planting trees. Yesterday, I did some WAE work for State and watched Espen band play. Today, I am writing up. Most of it is just personal, but I need to write up notes for State from the seminar I attended yesterday on “The US-Canada Permanent Joint Board on Defense at 80,” actual work.

Tree planting
Got the last tree in the ground and there was even daylight left. I planted the last box today, 334 trees.

Well, not the last forever. I will fill in a few more longleaf if I can get a few more boxes.
In a couple weeks, I also am getting 50 white oak, 50 swamp white oak and 300 shortleaf. This is mostly an experiment. I want to have some oak because I like oak. The shortleaf can grow with oaks or longleaf. Shortleaf are the most widespread of southern pines, but tends to be in mixed forests. Shortleaf can survive fires, but it is not like longleaf. Shortleaf can burn to the ground and re sprout. This is very uncommon for pines. They also can produce lateral sprout branches. In fact, that is one way to identify them. But shortleaf get no respect. They are not cool like longleaf nor as practical as loblolly. But I think it will be good to have at least a few hundred.

Of course, I have natural regeneration of oaks and shortleaf on the property already, but it is nice to plant some new ones.

My first picture is a selfie with the last of the longleaf. Next is the day’s end coming out of the woods. Last is a frog. I almost stepped on him. He is well camouflaged.

Still (sometimes) working at State Department
I like to keep a few fingers in my old profession and I enjoyed listening to speakers and “networking.” I am not going to post the extensive notes. Suffice to say that Canada is heating up, both physically and metaphorically. The high north is heating up faster than the rest of the world and this is taking the Arctic out of the deep freeze. It could soon become an arena of great power conflict. The Russians are obviously playing up there, but the Chinese are probably more aggressive in the long run. Unfortunately, the homeland of North America will be less secure in future than it has been.

FDR originated The US-Canada Permanent Joint Board on Defense in 1940. He did it on his initiative, inviting then Canadian PM Mackenzie King to meet him on his train, where they hashed out a semi-alliance. This was pre-Nato days and even before the U.S. was in World War II, so was a bold move. Lots of people in those days thought that the Nazis would win the Battle of Britain and that Canada would be next on the Hitler’s list. The invasion probably would have come through Newfoundland or Labrador. These were really dark days. Roosevelt had essentially committed the USA to the defense of North America, as I wrote, it was a bold move even if it seems nature today.

The 80th anniversary of the agreement is coming up, so they had a nice birthday cake.
I went over to the Congressional Research Service after that. CRS is the gold standard of political research. Their task is to inform Congress on key events and issues. The reports are generally available to the public I got to go along with State colleagues to meet a couple of the researchers who cover Canada.

Beer belongs
I caught the Silver Line to meet Chrissy at Gordon Biersch at Tyson. That used to be a regular event for us when Chrissy worked nearby, but now is a rarer pleasure.

Espen sings
The big event of the night was Espen playing with his band. I admit my bias, but I think they did very well. It was melodious music and not too loud (The band just before them produced a jaw-clenching cacophony.) Chrissy and I enjoyed watching Espen and his friends making music.

Unfortunately, I could not understand the lyrics, as the lead singer sings in Persian. I think they did well. The band is called Afarinesh. They just released their first album.

So, it was a busy day. As an old retired guy, I am unaccustomed to going through a whole day w/o a nap, but I made it from early to late.

Pictures are in reverse chronological order. First is Espen and his band. Next are Chrissy & I at Gordon Biersch. You see the Library of Congress in the middle picture. CRS is housed in LOC, although in the less impressive looking Madison Building across the street. The picture after that is cutting the birthday cake and the cake, and last is one of the panels at the Johns Hopkins Canada event.

December planting day-by-day

December & January make up the planting season for longleaf pine.  We planted about 3000 in December of last year, another 3334 this December and will get another 3000 into the ground in January next year.

The kids planted most of the trees last December and will do again in January, but Chrissy and I planted the December 2019 tranche.  It took a whole week plus one day. I picked up the trees from Bodenhammer in North Carolina on Friday, December 6.  It is a long drive, and even though I got them early in the morning, I still had only the afternoon to start.
Winter is the time of short days.  The sun goes down a little before 5pm and it doesn’t get light again until 7am.   We also had a couple days of cold rain.  On the plus side, the rain makes the ground softer and so easier to punch the Dipple bar, but it also makes it harder to see, harder to get around and cold rain makes the work more miserable. I worked alone until Chrissy came down on Tuesday.  It was great to have her, nearly doubled productivity, and I just liked having her with me.

Below are notes from the planting days.
December 6-9

On my way to pick up the first tranche of this year’s longleaf. I stopped off at Freeman to check out the fire results. It is odd. Some places burned a lot and others not at all. It seems like there is dry grass that should have burned easily next to burned areas.

Will get my longleaf from Aaron Bodenhamer & Louie Bodenhamer, BTW. We got all the longleaf you see in the photos are from them.

The fire top killed brambles, but did not burn them away, so it is going to be hard going planting in some of the patches. I am going to be planting all next week and I will push through, but I will use my cutter to make easier paths for the kids when they come to plant. I want them to have good memories. They can get used to the brambles gradually, as I did.

Burning is good, but it always scares me. I inspected my longleaf most carefully. Some of the needles are singed and will fall off. I checked for the buds on some of the lower branches, figuring that that was most likely to be killed and that higher ones would be better. I found that middle was still green and will be growing, so I assume the tops are good.

Longleaf is fire adapted. The needles singe, but when they heat up they release humidity that protects the terminal buds. The buds are what count. If the buds are alive, the tree will grow again

My grass stage longleaf also have green centers. I might lose a few, but I think most will be okay.

First picture is the green center of one of the longleaf branches. Next is the burn-over of the 2012 pines and after that some of the grass stage nearby. Penultimate shows the burning under 1996 loblolly and the grassy hills. I planted some clover on the fire line bare dirt. I know that is not “native” but it is pollinator habitat and generally a good plant for that purpose. I scattered some of the native seeds that I gathers onto the burned areas. I got a lot of rattlesnake master seeds and scattered them. The flowers are not showy, but the bees and butterflies love them. A lot of the native plants come in when you burn. If you burn it they will come. I will plant longleaf in the clearings among the loblolly. Have to push through those brambles.

First planting afternoon

My imagined (wished for) capacity to plant trees is very much greater than my real power. I picked up 3000 longleaf seedlings this morning and got to Freeman around 2pm. I planted steady until almost 5pm. I got around 250 planted.

My challenge, beside being old and slow, is that the fire burned the ground but did not knock down the brambles. It really slows me down when I hit the bramble patches, but even the dog fennel, also often still standing. is a problem. Complain, complain. The weather also is not going to cooperate tomorrow or Friday. But there is nothing to do but go one. I used my Marriott points to stay 5 nights and six days down here, so I can get a lot done, if not all.

I have scouted out the better, i.e. less full of bramble, places to plant. I am going to hit them first. I can take my cutter to the less pleasant places and make paths.
Chrissy will come and help starting on Wednesday, so I may get er done despite the problems.

My first picture shows Aaron Bodenhamer. They grow the longleaf I use. Very friendly people. Next are the siblings of my pines on the Bodenhammer place. My few thousand trees are a drop in that bucket. We plant more than 2 billion trees every year in the U.S. South. Last are some of the pines I planted, in a fairy non-bramble section. If it all that clear, I would be much happier. I am planting them four step apart, but only where they are not directly under the loblolly. I am scattering a few in good places within the stand.

December 11

Chrissy has come down to help plant pine trees, so my productivity will double. Poor girl has blisters on her hands now, but will soldier on tomorrow anyway. I no longer get blisters.
Tomorrow will be a good day, sunny but cool. Chrissy also brought the cutter. I wacked a bunch of brambles. I didn’t have to do a very complete job, just enough to make it easy to get through, so it was well worth the time.

First picture is Chrissy wearing the blaze (hunting season) with the dibble bars. Next is me at the end of the day, followed by sunset on the farms, way to early this time of year. We went for supper at Cracker Barrel. You feel very young when you eat at Cracker Barrel, since the average customer age must be more than that proverbial four score and seven.

December 12
Chrissy’s help is helping get the planting back on track. If it does not rain all day on Friday, we should be able to finish by Saturday evening – 3000 little longleaf pine in the ground.

December 15

We went into overtime (extra day) but Chrissy and I got the trees planted – 3000 longleaf. We planted in openings and in the clearings on the west side of the property.
Google maps are great. I could track where I was in the woods. On the ground, it is hard to see where the clearing start and how to get from one to the others. The Google maps really helped. I think we got them all covered, but I need to get the ground truth. I am sure we missed some.

I constantly marvel at how things have improved. Some years ago I bought a Garmin to help navigate. It had primitive graphics and it was not very precise. And it was not cheap. Now we get a much better picture for free. We live in the best of times. This is just one example.

We planted four steps apart in the clearings and in under planting corridors. The kids will be along for the next planting. I am going to cut paths in some of the brambles so that the kids don’t suffer so much. The brambles were the worst, really slowed us down.

It was very nice today, around 50 and sunny, but Friday was miserable. It rained all day and into Saturday morning. The rain is the excuse for needing that extra day.

Other pictures are Chrissy and I at El Ranchero, a Mexican restaurant in Emporia. I really love being in my woods, but Emporia does not have a lot of things I like. As far as I could find, there is no place to get a good craft beer.

Chrissy's birthday

Have not been posting as many pictures of Chrissy and me drinking beer, since most are repeats, as we go to many of the same places. We went to Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. I have been there with Mariza & Espen but this was first time for Chrissy. We were on the way to Mariza’s Halloween party. She lives nearby.

And today (since it is now past midnight) is Chrissy’s birthday.
First two pictures are our usual beer photos. Others are “ballast,” pictures I took from around Washington last couple days.

We went to Hot Pot for CJ’s birthday. Nice place. You make your own soup, messy but fun. Sorry about the picture quality. Unfortunately, the one with Alex was really bad. My fault. He was sitting across from me and I took it too close and too fast.

Trains, restoration and hotels

We started our day with a rainy walk to the train station in Cordoba and caught the fast train to Madrid. These trains can reach 300 km/hour. They are always comfortable and nearly always on time. I love trains and would always prefer them to cars when I am in Europe.

The challenge for trains is that every train journey starts and ends with a walk. European cities are densely packed. You can walk where you need to go usually. Besides in a few cities, like New York or Washington, once you arrive by train there is often no place to go w/o a car.

I would like American cities to be more walkable, but that is not how they have developed. Building fast trains in most places is and will be a waste of time unless and until this changes.

There was a proposal to build a fast train from Milwaukee to Madison a few years ago. That made absolutely not sense. Most of the travellers would live between those two cities. Even if the train made the journey in zero time, driving to the station would take more time than just driving to the city of your choice.

Restoration or not
There is a debate among antiquarians & archeologists about whether we should restore old structures or leave them in their current state of repair. It is a kind of purist debate.
I fall firmly in the middle about this, maybe a little leaning toward restoration. We should leave some alone as the control, but we should restore what we can, provided that (a big if) we can reasonably know what it looked like.

We still face the problem of “when”. This is very clear in Andalusia, where cultures are layered. To restore the Islamic splendor, we would need to destroy the Christian heritage. To restore the Roman grandeur we would need destroy both Christian and Islamic glory. You get the picture.

In Cordoba, they are restoring the old walls along the cathedral to what they were during Islamic times. This was an easy choice. The restored walls are many times better than the old weathered and destroyed facades.

Beer at the train station
We got some decent beer and good ham sandwiches at a shop at the train station. When you order beer in Spain, they do not ask you what kind. You get the beer they have on tap. So far that has been a brand called Cruzcampo. It is a reasonably good Pilsner style beer. I miss my IPA.

Interesting permutation. We were going into a better restaurant, but they shooed us away, claiming they were full. There were lots of tables. We could see the place from the shop we finally ended up. The tables did not fill. Not sure what happened. If I was the paranoid type, I would think up lots of reasons why we were “denied” service. Probably something prosaic.

The Marriott Auditorium Hotel is a giant hotel. They say the biggest Marriott in Europe. Rooms are kind of in “Mad Men” style, as you see in the last picture. I used Marriott points and not many points at that.

You can benefit for point-money arbitrage. Presuming you have point enough, you need to look both to point and cash. Sometimes the cash price is low but the points are high, and sometimes vice-versa. My general observation is that you should pay money in the USA and use points in Europe. Of course, sign up for whatever points promotions are available and check all the dates. It can be a lot cheaper one day to the next. It takes some time to get the best rates, but it is fun to play the game.

It really does not matter which hotel chain you choose, but you should stay mostly at only one. I achieved lifetime titanium status at Marriott (it took me more than 30 years), so I get lots of stuff free and they treat me royally when I show up.

Luggage people

Chrissy has a theory – more a superstition really and like all superstitions it is right enough of the time that confirmation bias can provide sufficient proof to keep it viable. Her theory is that you can follow people dragging luggage – luggage people – to the train station and alternatively, you can follow them to the center of town.

You can see the flaw in this thinking, since it is confirmed by observation of people going either direction, but it sort of works to make you feel more comfortable. And people dragging luggage indicates that you are probably near a hotel or a train station.

Her other luggage people theory is probably true, although not easily testable. She thinks that the proliferation of wheeled gear and backpacks had cut into the business of taxi drivers. This makes sense.

You can drag wheeled luggage a fairly long way. It can be a little annoying when sidewalks are rough and it is a lot annoying to drag across cobblestone streets, as they have in old town Cordoba, but it works. We dragged our luggage from the train station to our hotel, a walk of about 25 minutes, accompanied by the click-clack of the luggage wheels, and by the sight and sound of others doing the same.

Seems like a lot more old people are travelling these days and walking with wheeled luggage and backpacks. I suppose that they are people like us who learned the travel business as poor college kinds and now return to the habits of youth. Not all the way, of course. Now we stay in actual hotels and can afford to eat in decent restaurants.
I recall first time I travelled overseas, when I went to Germany, I spent a lot of time looking around for a place to sleep and the options included youth hostels or isolated park benches, not nice hotels. I also ate so little that I lost about ten pounds in my month in Germany. Unfortunately, I will not be losing any weight this time. In fact, I expect to come back more “robust,” since eating good food and drinking beer is a bigger part of travel pleasure when you have a little more money.

My picture is my usual drinking picture. I posted Chrissy at the same spot yesterday. Next are luggage people in Granada, followed by olive groves taken from the train between Granada and Cordoba. It can be very arid in this part of Spain. Some of the land looks like Arizona, complete with prickly pear and agave imported from the new world. In places with enough water you find miles and miles of widely spaced olive trees. Next is a picture of the Marisa Hotel, for Mariza. Last is another night street scene. More people pack the streets at 9pm than 9am.


They say that the Alhambra is the must see attraction in Granada. But only so many people can go in each day. Tickets sell out. That is why I signed us up for the three hour tour in advance. Chrissy & I got to the meeting place well in advance, but no guides showed up. When we inquired and looked closer at the electronic ticket, I learned that I had signed up for the right date and time, but the wrong month. We probably will not come back on October 21.

I immediately began the rationalization process. I messed up big time, but …

We did get to have a beautiful, if arduous, walk to get up to the gate, through a wonderful hardwood forest. And we did have a couple of beers in a pretty place. And we did get to walk around the walls and contemplate the ephemeral nature of earthly power. And there were lots of nice sights in the city on the way around. And it was still enjoyable. And Chrissy was very understanding of my folly. I usually do a good job of double checking these things. Crap.

We will have to get a book and read more about it. The trip has made me want to learn more about Spain in general and Andalusia in particular.

Jet lag

Tired from jet lag and a full day. Will write more tomorrow. For now, I will note the Seville is a delightful city, certainly one of the most pleasant I have ever seen.

Evidently, it was the set for many movies and TV shows, including “Game of Thrones” where it was the headquarters for Dorne.