Monday, November 20, 2017

Gratitude Monday: The spirits are about to speak

Gratitude Monday for the Big Week of Gratitude here in the United States, Thursday being the giorno di tutti giorni of gratitude. So I’ll ease into it.

I’m very fortunate to have been invited back for Thanksgiving dinner with friends. My contribution to the festivities will be a couple of pies. So, I’ve been frantically trawling the Interwebz for recipes, and then perusing my gleanings in search of something both traditional and interesting.

A couple of my finds required bourbon, which I do not have. So, on Friday, on a huntin’ trip to McLean (a community blessed with both old and new money, the operative term being “lots of money”) for suet (a story for perhaps another post), I went to the McLean ABC store.

(ABC, in case you do not live in a benighted state, stands for Alcoholic Beverage Control, which is the agency in the Commonwealth of Virginia that runs the only liquor stores in the state. Up until just a few decades ago, you couldn’t buy booze legally here at all. Because God. Then, once the legislature decided that, well, okay, maybe God—and the Baptists—was okay with spirits, they determined that the only appropriate outlet should be controlled by the state. Because revenues. And here we are, entirely at the mercy of what some centralized, Baptist-Methodist bureaucracy decides Virginians should drink, if they’re hell-bent on drinking anything by sweetened iced tea.)

Well, the McLean store moved across the street from where it used to be. Seems like a larger space, and the manager—in a considerable upgrade from the usual good ol’ boy reeking of tobacco exudates whose idea of likker is Virginia Gentleman with a Bud chaser. (Or the newer group, who appear to be from South Asia. And also have no notion of their merchandise.)

Okay, but I went in armed with a list of recommendations from my spiritous adviser. And the manager was very helpful indeed. Buffalo Trace, as it turns out, disappears off the shelves within a day of arrival, but choices two and three—Eagle Rare and Larceny—were available. The manager had a couple of comments on both, which indicates that he at least knew his stock.

I also splurged on a bottle of Calvados, which I have not had since a trip to France in the last century. I thought the holidays a good time to revisit that. Again, the manager was au fait with this—calva, too, disappears quickly, so I was glad to snag this one.

It remains to be seen whether I’ll particularly like either of the bourbons, but they’re good quality, and my guiding principle is that you don’t cook with anything you wouldn’t drink. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to venture out a little into the spirit world. 

Let the baking commence!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Booted out

Let’s close out the week with a tale of suburbia, from the commuter parking lot where I leave my car most days. I got back one evening and saw this:

As I got closer, here’s what they were:

I just wonder what the story behind those boots is? Invent your own answers.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Learning disability

What with successive rounds of the Repugnant attempts to “repeal and replace” ACA, plus just unbelievable nominations to the Kleptocrat’s administration, I’ve made so many calls to my Senators and Representative that I’m now expecting their staff members to start inviting me to weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.

The latest was yesterday when I called yet again to urge the triad to vote the Repugnant tax scam bill back under the rocks where it was spawned. And this reminded me of an attempt by the ‘Pugs back in June to hawk up some support for their ambush of fired FBI director James B. Comey. It was on Twitter, and it did not go well. Viz:

They seriously never learn.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Locked down

It’ll be interesting to see how one of Amazon’s new (well, ish) business models plays out. I’m talking Amazon Locker, the ordering option that, instead of having your purchases delivered to your front door, allows you to designate a secure locker (well, I assume it’s secure) in some location that’s presumably convenient, and you can go there to pick it up.

I get it that there are issues around packages left on people’s doorsteps—big enough issues that Amazon has another delivery option for you: Amazon Key. With Amazon Key, if you’re a Prime customer (and I don’t know why you’d order more than twice without being a Prime customer), you can install an Amazon-provided digital lock on your front door. When you have a delivery, the Amazon-authorized delivery person goes through some sort of authentication process and then is able to open your door and leave the package inside your house. You, of course, can follow all this via an Amazon Key app on your mobile phone.

(I’m seriously not wild about this, primarily because of the third-party delivery services ranging from—at best—FedEx, to—at worse—USPS, who delivers the last-mile for UPS in many cases, and does all Saturday/Sunday deliveries. Well, I suppose there’s one possibility even worse than USPS; that would be DHL. But I’m leaving them out of the equation. My point is, these are contractors or sub-contractors, and I would not want them inside my house under any circumstance. I also don’t see how Amazon can guarantee against theft in these conditions. We’re basically talking a TSA-baggage handler finger pointing ring of non-accountability. So, no.)

Well, okay, back to Locker. I bring it up because for me the whole point of paying for home delivery is, you know, home delivery. As in: delivery to my actual home. Not some locker somewhere I have to drive, park, find, unlock, schlep to my car, drive home and then again schlep from my car to my house. For me, it ain’t “delivery” unless it’s delivered. (I became a big Amazon consumer when I lived in a third-floor walk-up in the Valley They Call Silicon. Other things being equal, I’d much rather the UPS guy carry the laser printer, office chair and 40 pounds of bird seed up two flights of stairs instead of me.)

This is especially an issue in urban environments, like the Metro DC area. Just in the Greater Reston-Herndon Metroplex in Fairfax County, going two miles can take 15 to 30 minutes, depending on time of day, high school sporting events, weather and other variables. I don’t see why I should do the work I’m paying Amazon to do. (I also avoid the self-serve supermarket checkout lanes for the same reason. You’re not giving me a discount for doing that, so I’m not doing it.)

Case in point: I saw this one at the Whole Foods store in Vienna, which is about 25 minutes away from me on a Saturday morning with no football games or Christmas fairs.

Let me just say that there is absolutely no value proposition around making me drive to Vienna at any time to pick up a package of cute socks, or an Italian fountain pen, or 40 pounds of bird seed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

WMATA cocktail

‘Kay, well, I’m thinking that someone on the Metro was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Monday. How do I know this, you ask?

By getting on at Metro Center and finding this in one of the seats:

Man, whoever you are, I feel your pain.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Gratitude Monday: Every rung

How ‘bout them elections, huh? Just one year after America’s psychotic break, the fog appears to be lifting, and voters went to the polls in multiple states last week to begin restoring the notion of government of the people, by the people and for the people.

As opposed to government of the greedy, by the corrupt and for the plutocrats.

Since Tuesday I’ve been thinking a lot about that song we learned in elementary school: “Jacob’s Ladder”, about keeping hope alive while putting one foot in front of the other. It seems an apt reminder after the appalling events of the past year, and I’m feeling that hope revive.

Here in the Commonwealth of Virginia—once the capital of the Confederacy, and scene only last August of willie-waving demonstrations by obese neo-Nazis and pimply white supremacists in Thomas Jefferson’s home town—we made tremendous strides. In the gubernatorial race, Democratic candidate Ralph Northam handily defeated former RNC chief Ed Gillespie, who ran a campaign of vile, racist ads that took many pages out of his idol, the Kleptocrat’s play book—screaming about MS-13 taking over the Old Dominion, even though crime is down here.

(As late as Tuesday morning, the dotard was spewing tweets urging Virginians to support Gillespie. As the returns came in in the evening, and it became evident that Northam was leading, there was speculation on Twitter as to how long it would take him to throw Gillespie under the bus. I may have won the pool with my “in a New York minute”; the first NBC call for Northam had barely been made before Klepto tweeted that it was Gillespie’s failure “to embrace me” that caused the loss. I’m still trying to wash the mental polaroid of what that embrace might have looked like out of my mind.)

In addition to Northam, Virginians voted in Democrats for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, which guards against infighting at the top of the state government structure.

More heartening were the races for the House of Delegates, where Democrats made huge inroads into Republican control—which will have a salubrious effect on redrawing gerrymandered Congressional districts down the road. At time of writing, Republicans were down to 47 (from 66) seats, with votes still being counted in three districts. (There’s some kerfuffle in Stafford County over absent ballots from active duty military that hadn’t been opened, with the county registrar blocking recounts. I hope to God the ACLU is on this.) Pulling to a 50-50 split in the House would mean that newly-elected Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax (only the second African American elected to statewide office in Virginia history) can cast tie-breaking votes.

(There were also reports—too many to be dismissed as a rumor—of calls made to Democrats in different jurisdictions, announcing that their polling precincts had changed and directing them to bogus locations. Other reports surfaced of uniformed law enforcement officers standing outside polling places “directing” Latino-looking voters how to vote. Repugnants do not change their spots.)

But even more amazing was the fact that Democrat Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to be elected, and she defeated incumbent Robert G. Marshall, arch-conservative and proudly self-proclaimed “chief homophobe”, perhaps best known for proposing a law banning transgender people from using public toilets in accordance with their gender identity.

I purely loved the classy way she closed out the race: when asked about Marshall, she replied, “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.”

In other races, Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala both defeated Republican incumbents to become the first-ever Latinas elected to the House of Delegates, and Cathy Tran—who came to this country as a refugee from Vietnam as an infant—defeated another ‘Pub incumbent to join Guzman and Ayala. However the still-contested races turn out, the House of Delegates is losing its pasty complexion and getting some healthy color.

And—one of my favorites—down Blacksburg way, former news anchor Chris Hurst, whose girlfriend Alison Parker was shot dead on live TV two years ago by a former colleague—defeated yet another Repugnant incumbent. The delicious kicker? Hurst’s opponent, Joseph R. Yost, holds a “Grade A” stamp of approval from the NRA.

There were other amazing stories around the country from last Tuesday’s election, including more transgender wins in Palm Springs, Ca.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Erie, Penn. Charlotte, N.C., elected its first black mayor, and Hoboken, N.J., elected the first Sikh American mayor in the country—despite a vicious, fear-mongering racist campaign waged by his opponent. Women and underrepresented minorities made gains across the country, despite the perceived wisdom that non-presidential elections are lackluster.

I take real hope from these events—even though I well know that these wins were the result of hard, slogging work by thousands of individuals, and we will need to replicate this work in next year’s elections, where one third of the Senate and all the House are up for grabs. Even so, I’m savoring this moment, and I am grateful for all that work that got us this far.

Like that old song says, every rung goes higher, higher.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A real classic

It’s hard to know whether this UK registration plate is by design, or because the vehicle was registered in Inverness between September of 2001 and February of 2002, but either way it’s amusing.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Frozen surprise

On Wednesdays, the Washington Post’s food writers moderate an online chat session (called Free Range) with readers. They typically invite questions/comments on stories that have run either that day or recently, and take general cookery-related questions.

So, you’ll find exchanges around how to adapt to modern food availability:

Or recommendations on cooking equipment:

Or even the occasional…outlier:

Yesterday there were comments and questions about freezer management—inventory, safety, decluttering, etc.—with helpful responses.

And then there was this:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Fairfax County is in the midst of trying to figure out how to pile more taxpayers into already well-populated areas while protecting the space of the wealthy in places that have a density of about three people per acre. Toward that end, there are a lot of initiatives aimed at handing over my community to developers to turn it into another Ballston: basically, a faux city with over-priced high-rises unencumbered by things like improved roads, schools or other amenities that go along with real cities.

They try to obscure this, of course, which was the point of a recent survey pushed out on social media.

This survey pretends to ask residents what our priorities are, but that there’s no intent of paying attention to our responses was clear because it served up multiple screens without any explanation of what the individual choices were. (Also—the fact that people only know about the survey if they have Internet access and are on a neighborhood social media site is telling.) Either we’re already supposed to know every potential road project across a county that covers 406 square miles, or we’re meant to give it up as a bad job.

It was also clear to me that they didn’t bother having anyone even remotely versed in survey design (or, even, logic, tbh). I often test surveys to see how tightly they’re controlled to not return useless data, and when I messed with some of the answers, here’s what I got by way of an error message. Which did not comport with the instructions on how to respond to the choices on each screen.

Like I said: just political theatre. As with developing the hell out of the People’s Republic of Reston, the Board of Supervisors is going to do whatever makes their big donors happiest.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Not a pretty picture

You might have gathered that I’m more of a words-and-pictures girl, rather than a numbers one. But in the wake of Sunday’s mass murder-by-AR-15—and the completely predictable outpouring of platitudinous “thoughts-and-prayers” from our spineless Congressmorons—I thought I’d lay a few figures on you.

These are cumulative totals of top ten recipients of NRA largess in the House and the Senate, both cash contributions and other monetary support. They were collated by the New York Times in the wake of the last mass shooting—hey, only a few weeks ago—in Las Vegas.

You’ll note that the platitudes vomited forth last month are interchangeable with those spouted since Sunday; just swap out Las Vegas for Sutherland Springs.

The Times notes that (as you can see) the top trough-snorters are all Repugnants; no surprises there, eh? The highest recipient in the House is Sanford Bishop (Georgia); he ranks 43rd on the list. The top two Democrats in the Senate are Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. They are 52nd and 53rd, respectively; that’s to say—behind every Republican except for Alaska’s Dan Sullivan.

So, you can plainly see why a Replicant-controlled Congress will never pass reasonable gun control legislation. They even get twisted up in the surreal world of writing off white men shooting scores of civilians not as terrorism, but as acts of the mentally-ill—even as they pass legislation that makes it easy for the mentally ill to buy assault weapons.

The most we’ll ever get out of this lot is thoughts and prayers, which cost them nothing, while they deposit the next round of NRA checks.