Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A reminder about the origins of a civic identifier: "The shouts of the New Albanians rent the air for the return of sweet daylight."

The following is a repeat of a previous installment of Shane's Excellent New Words, but because the topic arose on Twitter -- who is a New Albanian, and who is not -- now seems an ideal time to recall that we're all New Albanians, each and every one of us.

(As an intentionally obscure side note for most readers, allow me to observe that "maybe it is something you should have thought about during the settlement.")


This week's words are familiar, with a chronological twist: New Albanian.

New Albanian

[noo al-bey-nee-uh n]


1. of or relating to New Albany, Indiana (as opposed to Old Albania, otherwise known as Shqipëri/Shqipëria), its inhabitants, or their psychology


2. a native or citizen of New Albany, Indiana

For a very long time, we've been speculating as to exactly when New Albanian first was used as a descriptive term.

I've never been shy about my own recent part in popularizing the usage of New Albanian, which became the name of my business in 1994 (of which I'm no longer a part), but was used informally prior to the advent of the company name, often when we'd hoist steins while trying to answer the question, "What is a person from New Albany called?"

"New Albanyite" never seemed right, and New Albanian always was the logical choice. For so long as historical evidence was scant, I was delighted to claim credit, but today, thanks to local physician and city council member Al Knable, there is definitive proof that the use of the term New Albanian to describe a resident of this city extends at least as far back into the life and times of the settlement on the flood plain as the Eclipse of 1869.

It's from the Ledger, a Tribune forerunner. Note the multi-syllable words used in the header, among them obscuration, magnificence, manifestation and protuberances. If cannot be imagined that a newspaper editor today would view these words in any way apart from sheer unmitigated horror. In fact, the News and Tribune recoils in just such a manner, daily.

Thanks to Dr. Knable for making this major etymological contribution to our understanding of the city's history.

Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old: "A visually staggering thought experiment; an immersive deep-dive into what it was like for ordinary British soldiers on the western front."

I find this utterly fascinating. There have been images of the period captured in rare, early color film, and there has been colorization of film.

However, this is a whole new level.

They Shall Not Grow Old review – Peter Jackson's electrifying journey into the first world war trenches, by Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)

Jackson has restored, colourised and added voices to footage of the western front, bringing the soldiers unforgettably back to life

To mark the centenary of the first world war’s end, Peter Jackson has created a visually staggering thought experiment; an immersive deep-dive into what it was like for ordinary British soldiers on the western front. This he has done using state-of-the-art digital technology to restore flickery old black-and-white archive footage of the servicemen’s life in training and in the trenches. He has colourised it, sharpened it, put it in 3D and, as well as using diaries and letters for narrative voiceover, he has used lip-readers to help dub in what the men are actually saying.

The effect is electrifying. The soldiers are returned to an eerie, hyperreal kind of life in front of our eyes, like ghosts or figures summoned up in a seance. The faces are unforgettable.

Watching this, I understood how the world wars of the 20th century are said to have inspired surrealism. Thirty or so years ago, there was a debate in film circles about the sacrilege of colourising classic black-and-white movies. This is different. The colourisation effect is artificial, as is 3D (as is monochrome, too, of course), and the painterly approximation of reality presents a challenge to what you consider “real” on film. After a few minutes, I realised that force of cultural habit was causing me to doubt what I was seeing, because colour means modern. The colourisation, and everything else, is a kind of alienation shock tactic as well as a means of enfolding you in the experience. It is an indirect way of reminding you that this really did happen to people like you and me ...

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: R.I.P. All About Beer magazine.

First issue, 1979.

I'd yet to taste my first Guinness or Pilsner Urquell in 1979. In fact, having consumed a fair amount of lesser beer the previous years, I'd failed to attain legal age in 1979. Two long years of rampant lawlessness remained ahead of me.

At some point in the 1990s, Daniel Bradford and I had a tremendous dust-up about something. I'd tell you more, but it's probably a testament to the many beers I've enjoyed since 1979 that I have no recollection of the dispute.

Julie Johnson was part of the beer writing symposium organized by Jeff Rice at the University of Kentucky a few years ago, and we chatted. She was delightful, and so was her magazine.

At this precise moment, thousands of beer fans believe they're getting the minimum daily requirement of knowledge from the ephemera at beer ratings aggregators. They're sadly mistaken. There is far more to loving beer than crowd-sourced numbers on an app and the ability to memorize images. Monkeys can be trained to do that.

I've always understood that my own skills as a writer come nowhere close to the caliber of those contributing to magazine like All About Beer. In compensation, I've always tried to push attention their way. Granted, it's still possible to read the words written by the pros, as published at various web sites and blogs, but one must prioritize finding these writers, and perusing their efforts past the opening paragraph.

It's one thing to have a score of 95 out of 100. It's another to explain whether this is correct, and why it matters. The herd simply can't do that, hence the job description of the shepherd.

And, by extension, the reason to regret the passing of All About Beer magazine. Too many sheep, not enough shepherds; it's an imbalance impacting wool, lamb chops ... and beer appreciation.


No one likes to talk when things end badly.

Two weeks ago, on October 2nd, I received a tip that the venerable All About Beer magazine—which remarkably preceded the craft beer renaissance—was effectively defunct. I’ve spent the intervening time trying to confirm the news, but those close to the situation didn’t want to speak on the record. Yesterday, however, editor Daniel Hartis emailed to confirm he was no longer at the magazine and that he had been one of the last employees on staff. The “staff” page at would seem to confirm that—the sole name listed is publisher Christopher Rice’s.


Founded in 1979 by Mike and Bunny Bosack, All About Beer was the first magazine devoted to beer. It was a strange time in American brewing. Consumption and sales were at their peak, but consolidation had reduced competition and diversity to all-time lows. There were fewer than a hundred breweries in the country and beer culture, such as it was, had become as mass-market and homogenized as the beer itself. The early issues of the magazine reflected this situation. Julie Johnson, who along with Daniel Bradford took over the magazine and brought it in line with the burgeoning craft beer market, wrote in 2015: “Features on imported beer, beer can collecting or homebrew techniques were interspersed with articles about chili cook-offs, football, barroom lore and other topics apparently tailored for a male audience.”

Despite the desultory launch, AAB had one thing going for it: timing ...

ASK THE BORED: The mayor, the board, his HWC and their insincere speeding study for Spring Street.

Let's see if we have this straight.

The same firm channeling thousands of dollars into the mayor's re-election fund is hired to conduct an insincere two-month speed study on the same street it redesigned for the explicit purpose of NOT hindering speedy pass-through traffic, having previously repeated on numerous occasions that nothing can be done to reduce speeds, and the newest study to determine what any of them -- city officials or contractors alike -- could learn just by walking by Spring Street for a little while, watching and feeling the mayhem.

This is the way your city rigs things.

It doesn't have to be this way, you know. Follow the money ... and in 2019, FLUSH the clique.

Speed study planned for Spring Street in New Albany
, by Chris Morris (Tom May Compendium)

NEW ALBANY — HWC Engineering, under the direction of the city of New Albany, is preparing to conduct a speed study along Spring Street, from Vincennes to State Street.

While officials say speed has decreased on Spring since the street was converted to two-way traffic last year, they want to collect data and see if there are areas that may need more signage or other mechanisms to slow speed.

Sally Hughes, with HWC Engineering, told the New Albany Board of Public Works & Safety Tuesday that radar detection will be placed on poles along Spring "in the next few weeks" to measure traffic for two months. Once data is collected, she will report back to the board of works.

"This will allow us to get a better understanding [of speed] and see if there are additional areas that may need a little more help," Larry Summers, city engineer, said.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Local chain newspaper commences anodyne election coverage with Floyd County Commissioners District 1 contest.

"Anodyne" doesn't merit a "Shane's Excellent New Words" tag, but here's the definition.

1. not likely to provoke dissent or offense; inoffensive, often deliberately so.

Shawn and Jason are competing for the seat held by Mark Seabrook, who'll seek the office of mayor in 2019. Articles like this one are about as substantive as the chain newspaper will get between now and election day.

I'd recommend contacting either of the candidates if you want more information. Both are friendly and accessible. I have my preference, although as noted previously, there'll probably be no formal endorsements at the blog this cycle.

I'm hiding in plain sight, you know.

New face to join Floyd County Commissioners, by Chris Morris (Maybune)

Applegate, Carruthers both want smart growth

NEW ALBANY — Jason Applegate believes in smart growth. He said Floyd County has a comprehensive plan, and that plan should be followed moving forward.

Shawn Carruthers would like to see high tech companies come to the county, and thinks the proposed innovation park in Georgetown is the perfect location for those types of businesses to flourish.

Monday, October 15, 2018

"The Nordic countries aren't socialist. But they're still a living, breathing falsification of the US right's anti-socialist talking points."

Apparently written by real Danes.

The Real Denmark
, by Andreas Møller Mulvad and Rune Møller Stahl (Jacobin)

The Nordic countries aren't socialist. But they're still a living, breathing falsification of the US right's anti-socialist talking points.

 ... What Denmark Is and Isn’t

Denmark is not a socialist country. While it has a strong welfare state and strong unions that make life better for the average citizen (and in the 1970s there was an abortive push to partially socialize industry through wage-earner funds), ownership of the economy remains predominately in private hands. Denmark even suffers from its share of corporate governance scandals. Currently, the country’s leading bank, Danske Bank, is embroiled in what might be the largest case of financial whitewashing in world history.

What Denmark does show is that there are no economic barriers to high taxation, high social spending, and high unionization. Social democracy, contrary to Regan and other right-wing ideologues, does not yield mass unemployment or economic ruin. It’s yielded some of the highest standards of living and freest countries the world has ever seen. Poverty and inequality are relatively low, gender equality (not least because of the welfare state) is comparatively high, and workers have more rights and say on the job than in the US.

Denmark is not unique. Each of the Scandinavian countries have attained similar levels of social equality despite having quite different economies. While Sweden has always been dominated by mining and heavy industry (with industrial giants like Volvo and Bofors figuring prominently), Denmark has relied on agriculture and smaller industrial firms, Norway has been fishing- and timber-heavy, and so on.

Despite these different economic profiles, over the course of the twentieth century all of the Nordics managed to drastically reduce wage inequality and decommodify substantial parts of the economy. The key was unions, popular movements, and left parties. It was these mass forces — not benevolent elites, carefully weighing the alternatives before deciding on an enlightened mix of capitalism and socialism — who were the architects and impetus behind the Nordic model. They are the ones responsible for making the Nordic countries among the happiest and most democratic in the world ...

You should be proud of me. I stayed sober through the entirety of Harvest Homecoming and didn't even say much about our annual harvest festival.

I had a "Charles Emerson Winchester at the phonograph" moment on Saturday evening at the Ogle Center. The Louisville Orchestra launched into its opening piece, ... where unsolvable problems go, and suddenly the concert hall seemed like a last-ditch bastion of sanity amid the tumult.

Apart from the single beer I drank at Pints&union early on Friday morning after tapping a keg of Revolution Oktoberfest (quality control is a professional obligation, folks, and what's more, wasting beer annoys me tremendously), I've stayed nice and toasty dry this Harvest Homecoming in terms of personal beverage alcohol consumption.

I considered walking down on Sunday and buying a rolled oyster, maybe even having one beer -- but didn't. Better to keep a clear head for the clean-up.

Believe it or not, I've worked hard these past few years to achieve a measure of inner peace with regard to Harvest Homecoming, especially as our signature civic festival pertains to a rapidly changing scene downtown.

It isn't my purpose at present to rekindle these controversies, although it should be noted that my core belief hasn't changed.

Some day very soon, it will become patently obvious that the festival no longer is conducive to downtown's best interests, at least as it currently is formatted. There'll have to be major changes. Regular readers have seen and heard it all before, and this is where I'll leave it today.

However, not without a startling revelation about my own personal viewpoint. In truth, apart from everything else that might be critiqued or analyzed about the Harvest Homecoming experience, the festival never really has been MY kind of celebration.

In short, tiny doses are enough for me, at best. This year I resolved to be helpful by refraining from repeating past pronouncements, and apart from what's been necessary for me to do at the pub, I've stayed completely out of it.

I feel better, y'all feel better.

It's a win-win for everyone.

Mind you, I don't dislike festivals as a matter of course.

I've been to dozens of beer events, including the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison WI and Oktoberfest in Munich; observed the running of the bulls from safely afar at San Fermin in Pamplona; experienced May Day parades and parties in Vienna and Helsinki; and wandered accidentally into five or six municipal fests in smaller American and European cities, all of them enjoyable.

It isn't that I don't see the point of such gatherings in a wider sense, just that I find less of interest here at home in ours. Perhaps familiarity breeds indifference, and after all, I'm a natural-born contrarian who revels in the opposing argument.

But to each his or her own. C'est la vie -- of course. If you enjoy Harvest Homecoming, please rock on. Hang out, eat and drink too much with your friends and have fun.

For the sake of Harvest Homecoming's many fans, I'm happy we had traditional, cool autumn weather this year, and rain restricted for the most part to Sunday.

Depending on what is required of me in the future at the pub, it may be time for the Confidentials to implement our long term goal of timing a vacation to coincide with Harvest Homecoming. In 2016, we did this, driving up to Wisconsin's capital of Madison on a non-football weekend and enjoying it immensely. New England would be fun right about now, too.

See? This year I posted none of my notorious screeds, stayed out of the beer walk's path and uttered nary a peep when the mayor kept popping up on television, as though he had anything at all to do with Harvest Homecoming -- because even if the festival isn't my taste, I have enough sense to know who does the heavy lifting.

And it ain't him.


Okay, okay. As a mild postscript, just this one thing to add.

Each year I briefly enjoy a handful of recurring Harvest Homecoming social media moments. It generally starts when a downtown business owner writes about how disruptive the festival can be for bricks 'n' mortar shops and stores, and expresses frustration at being compelled (remember, downtowners have no vote) to pay for booth spaces to access a building being used as well as taxed the year-round.

The business owner soon is answered by John (or Joan) Q. Public, who vigorously defends the festival's critical annual importance, along with chicken, dumplings and doughnuts, and who proceeds to explain how the business owner might easily shift vast profits from booth spaces and those big festival crowds.

This is where I usually enter the discussion.

I nicely ask the respondent: "So, back when YOU owned a downtown business and Harvest Homecoming came around, how did treating the festival as an opportunity work out for YOU? Was the booth fee worth it for YOU? Did the crowds help or hurt YOU? Was it a fantastic marketing opportunity for YOU?"

There the chat ends, nine times out of ten. Every now and then, there'll be a final anguished spasm along the lines of "it's our Harvest Homecoming, asshole, so just take a vacation or something."

It's scandalous. There I was, thinking these social media participants might actually know what the hell they're talking about.

Accordingly, let's come to an agreement: I don't pretend to fathom what greasy street food you like the best, and you don't pretend to know how to run a bricks and mortar downtown business when you're clueless.

See you next year ... unless we're in Wisconsin, Massachusetts or Bamberg. Until then, I promise to keep my big mouth (partially) shut.

PINTS & UNION PORTFOLIO: Whether it's 1987 or 2018, Pilsner Urquell remains one of the finest beers on the planet.

Normally I'm not prone to hyperbole, but I'll make an exception in the case of Pilsner Urquell.

While Joe Phillips and the boys were busting their buns at Pints&union with the Harvest Homecoming crowds, I was lurking behind the scenes, gaining some valuable yardage toward a few of our beer program goals.

Among these are access to a broader range of Fuller's, both on draft and in bottles; Christmas specialty pre-orders; and prospects for the "three pour" Pilsner Urquell draft set-up in the opening video.

As for the latter, all due credit to our Monarch/World Class sales rep Joe Underwood for getting the ball rolling. We both love Pilsner Urquell, and it's a natural fit for the beer program.

From the moment Joe mentioned it, my mind has been fixed on Pilsner Urquell. It remains a core comfort beer for me, and a love affair that stretches all the way back to 1982, when Big Dave Pelham introduced me to the world's original Pilsner.

On the topic of originality -- we know this beer by its German language name, which translates as "coming from the original source in Pilsen" -- it should come as no surprise that Pilsner Urquell's background has been subject to a degree of mythologizing.

Evan Rail, a Californian maintaining long-term residence in Prague, has written extensively about Czech beer in general, and Plzeňský Prazdroj (the beer's trademark name in Czech) in particular.

On the Founding of Pilsner Urquell, Part I

On the Founding of Pilsner Urquell, Part II: The Request of the Burghers with Brewing Rights for the Construction of Their Own Malt- and Brew-house

On the Founding of Pilsner Urquell, Part III: Mistakes and Misunderstandings

In 2017, Rail returned to the topic.

Well, Actually — Why the Pilsner Urquell Story is still Coming to America (Good Beer Hunting)

There’s something bizarre about a beer with a groundbreaking 175-year history that has to go around introducing itself.

“The most difficult thing is that the brand’s awareness is just really low,” says David Schmid, director of high-end imports for Tenth and Blake, about Pilsner Urquell, one of his company’s premier brands. “It’s a great beer. It’s got a great story. But very few people know about the beer and know the story.”

Schmid is talking about the situation in the U.S., of course, far from Pilsner Urquell’s homeland of the Czech Republic, but you’d still think that most Americans wouldn’t need an explainer for a brewery that gave its name both to a type of beer and a kind of malt, not to mention the traditional fluted Pilsner glass. Pilsner Urquell was being imported to the U.S. by 1873, three years before Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch launched their American Budweiser, and it had become the best-selling imported beer in the U.S. by the time Prohibition darkened our taverns in 1920 ...

Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of Rail's stellar sleuthing last year, when I finally got around to writing about my European travels in 1987.

Complete list of links to the 1987 European summer travel series (30 years ago today).

These wanderings included an abortive attempt to visit the brewery during a day trip from Prague; communism wasn't very conducive to spontaneous decision-making, although I've made it inside on two occasions since the Velvet Revolution.

Following is a reprint of my account of our deterred pilgrimage in 1987. It was an epochal day nonetheless, and is best accompanied by Antonín Dvořák's Slavonic dances, which in my mind always will be synonymous with my passage through the Czech countryside.


30 years ago today on THE BEER BEAT: Worshipful pilgrimage to the Pilsner Urquell birthplace shrine.

Previously: 30 years today on THE BEER BEAT: The Automat Koruna, one of my favorite pubs (?) in the world.


For as long we’d been talking about visiting Czechoslovakia, Barrie and I had considered only two firm itinerary prerequisites. Prague obviously landed at the top of the chart. Perhaps less easy to understand at first glance was the city of Plzeň (or Pilsen), 65 miles southwest of Prague, with a present-day population of 178,000.

As a recorded settlement, Plzeň goes back to the year 976. The city remained Catholic during the Hussite wars and became an increasingly important trading center on the route to Germany. In 1869, the founding of the Škoda Works kicked off an era of rapid industrialization, which made Plzeň one of the arsenals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

All those Škoda automobiles we saw in Czechoslovakia? They were manufactured in Plzeň, but we weren’t gearheads, and preferred to take the train, not drive, because drunk driving isn’t good, and our plan for Plzeň involved drinking a great deal of Pilsner Urquell beer -- or as it was known in Czechoslovakia, Plzeňský Prazdroj.

The very word “Pilsner,” as it has come to English speakers, is both an adjective and an appellation: Beer from Plzeň. Obviously, beer has been brewed in Plzeň for centuries, though the current Pilsner Urquell brewery dates from 1842.

The story goes something like this: Certain families in Plzeň had been granted brewing rights during medieval times, and this functioned as a monopoly of sorts, with no incentive to improve. Consequently, the quality of beer in the city deteriorated during the early 1800s, ironically at the very same time as modern brewing techniques were being harnessed to the scientific method elsewhere in Europe – significantly, in nearby Vienna and Bavaria.

In Plzeň, it gradually dawned on the diverse stakeholders that the spirit of the age, and the “higher tech” direction being traveled by beer and brewing science, suggested a pooling of resources to achieve better quality and competitiveness. The Pilsner Urquell brewery was capitalized and born from this revelation, at an indisputably ideal juncture.

Modern malting processes now yielded consistent, pale malts. The water in Plzeň was soft, and hops grew in abundance nearby. The notions of selectively standardizing yeast strains and aging ("lagering") beer resulted in a mellow flavor profile. It was clear, not cloudy, and brilliant gold. Glassware was becoming affordable for all, and the color and clarity were accented by glass rather than submerged by dense ceramic or wooden mugs.

The new beer’s body was lighter and less sweet. A generous hopping rate helped make the beer crisp, and renewed the palate. Pilsner Urquell represented modernity, and became the prototype and yardstick. Soon dark, heavy beers were all but obsolete. The world wanted golden lagers brewed more or less (mostly less) like Pilsner Urquell.

Needless to say, we'd come to adore Urq, as Barrie called it.

The red star is no more.

When Barrie and I graduated from high school in 1978, Cut Rate Liquors in Jeffersonville was the only package store in Southern Indiana with a selection of imported beers. What we now categorize as craft barely existed, even in California.

Regular examinations of the wares at Cut Rate revealed the existence of exotic, unexplored modes of thinking and drinking. Most of them were golden lagers from around the world, but there also were dark lagers, British ales and even a few Belgians.

Money was tight, and sampling meant splurging. There was no source of information, apart from bottle labels and six-pack cartons. Still, every now and then we took the risk and tried a new beer. The flavors were different, and hinted at broader horizons.

In 1982, two of my good friends intervened with essential personal testimony. Both of them had "gone away" to college, to study in places less parochial than Floyd County. Larry returned to the fold singing the praises of Guinness Extra Stout, and Dave introduced me to Pilsner Urquell, then sold in four-pack cartons for a lofty $3.99 plus sales tax.

I was intrigued. I’d had Molson, Labatts and Beck’s, but what was the spicy character in Pilsner Urquell, that piquant bitterness cutting through creamy grain flavor? It was something I hadn’t experienced in Blatz. Dave wasn’t sure, but he thought it had something to do with hops. Guinness was black like coffee. It was dry, roasty and daunting in a way that defied categorization, and completely unlike any "dark" beer I’d had before.

Insight: You mean there were different sorts of dark beers, too?

These always had intrigued me, along with pumpernickel, rye and other departures from the Wonder Bread norm. Finally, liberated from the longnecks of our fathers, the notion of beer was starting to make better sense.

All I needed was a lot more money and a plane ticket.

It was left to Michael “The Beer Hunter” Jackson’s original book “World Guide to Beer” (1977), as culled from the remainder table at a mall bookshop, to become the cosmic text that wove all the threads into a coherent whole. An updated “New World Guide to Beer” was published in 1988.

Jackson offered the saga of beer as a long and fascinating one, ranging across all aspects of the human experience.

To him, beer is about science and art, farms and cities, social history, local culture and geography. It's about the places you've gone, and the ones you'd like to go. It's about different textures and flavors to match your mood, the time of day, the season, and the task at hand.

With Jackson’s book as a guide, the obscurities of these imported beer brands gradually became comprehensible. I began working at Scoreboard Liquors, a small store in New Albany, and was allowed to replicate Cut Rate’s import selection just so long as it was kept to one door of the six opening into the walk-in cooler.

Barrie and I drank bad beer often, but when the stars aligned and finances allowed, we drank better ones. My work discount helped, and after returning from my first European excursion in 1985, it became ever more difficult to return to the everyday Bud this, Miller that.

I wasn’t a snob so much as a flavor junkie.

(As an indication of the way one’s memory plays tricks, I was about to add that Jackson’s television series The Beer Hunter was an inspiration for our Ur-Quest in 1987, but it couldn’t have been. The series debuted in the UK in 1989, and in America the following year.)


July 15, 1987

We caught a train from Prague to Plzeň, got there well before noon, and reconnoitered. From the station, the Pilsner Urquell brewery was easy to see and smell, although we knew to inquire at the official state-run Čedok travel agency (actually established in 1920, prior to communism), which surely would be located somewhere in the center of the city.

It was. This task was accomplished in due course, and we were summarily rebuffed. No one at Čedok had the slightest interest in helping us score a brewery tour. The lone English speaker we found was exasperated; didn’t everyone on the planet know that Pilsner Urquell brewery tours only took place once a week on, well, any day except today?

It was frustrating, but this was the nature of things during Czechoslovakia’s final years of erosion prior to the Velvet Revolution in 1989. There was no benefit for a travel agency employee to go out of his way to help us; perhaps a bribe might have helped, but our lone English speaker had a very hard face, indeed.

Plan B was commenced. We walked to the Pilsner Urquell brewery and made tepid inquiries at the guard shack. No English was spoken; at least the rejection was friendlier.

For years afterward, Barrie’s version of what happened next remained consistent and only slightly exaggerated:

“We couldn’t get inside the brewery, so I went over, kissed the lock on the gate, and we went to the tavern instead.”

The forbidden city.

Fair enough. To the left of the gate was the brewery’s “official” tavern. It seemed appropriately upscale, at least in contrast to the next closest Pilsner Urquell outlet, located across the street, which was on the ground floor of a 1920s-era structure, smaller and shabbier, and alluring in a counter-intuitive way.

We opted for the well-appointed “official” brewery tap first, probably because the odors of pork and dumplings were leaking through the windows and clinging to our clothes, and we needed to eat immediately. Once inside, we admired the wooden interior and beautiful windows.

Drinking, dining and pervasive deliciousness was the result, and there even was an inadvertent floor show, showcasing the intoxicated antics of a visiting delegation of North Koreans, who were having far too much fun in a communist country that actually had drinkable beer.

It transpired that using the restroom meant passing the Czech restaurant-standard coat check desk. There were few coats to check in high summer, but full employment meant staffing irrespective of the need, and at one point when the two of us walked past, the coat check attendant addressed us and sidled over.

In a low voice, she asked if we were American, and we nodded assent. She beamed, and proceeded to tell us in passable English that she still remembered the liberation of Plzeň by General Patton’s 3rd Army at the close of WWII.

The 40th anniversary had been only two years before our visit, and she cheerfully recounted the appearance of a handful of Patton’s elderly soldiers for the city’s commemorative event.

In late 1945, US troops withdrew from Czechoslovakia, which had been determined to fall within the Soviet sphere of influence, which of course became the Iron Curtain as coined by Winston Churchill.

The coat check woman preferred to remember how nice the American G.I.s had been, helping to rebuild Plzeň in the months before being withdrawn, and frequently gifting her and other children with chocolate bars.

Before we left the premises, she surreptitiously pressed coasters and postcards into our hands, as if to pay back those favors from so long ago.

It was sincerely moving, and I’ve never forgotten her hospitality.


It was time for a visit to the dive bar, and as we emerged from the restaurant, things were heating up across the way.

Sadly, when I returned to Plzeň in 1989, the entire building was gone, demolished for a street widening project. Looking closely at the photo from 1987, there seem to be few signs of life in the upper three floors, so perhaps the tavern’s demise was a done deal even as we were drinking there.

At any rate, the pub with no name was a delight, and the regular crowd was shuffling in.

When Frantisek and the lads arrived, the party started. He was a cabbie playing hooky, rejecting an afternoon’s fares so he could drive himself and four of his finest friends from one tavern to the next. As long as his communism-pretend credentials were in order, it probably wouldn’t matter whether he worked or not, and if you’re not working, why not have a few beers on a lovely summer’s day?

They spoke no English and we spoke no Czech. Some German words could be shared. The longer we remained, the easier it got. Seasoned drinkers understand that communication becomes immeasurably simpler once all participants have reached the stage of “universal second beer language,” wherein thoughts and concepts expressed in otherwise indecipherable tongues suddenly make perfect sense.

Eventually Franta reckoned we needed an education in the merits of Czech rum.

Tuzemák, formerly called Tuzemský rum (English: domestic rum), is a term for a traditional Czech distilled beverage. It is a substitute good (ersatz) for true rum which is produced from sugarcane mainly in the Caribbean and Latin America. Since the 19th century, Tuzemák became one of the most popular spirits in the Czech lands.

Tuzemský is produced from potatoes or sugar beets, diluted and flavoured by various rum essences. In the 19th century similar substitutes were produced throughout the crown lands of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which had no access to tropical colonies; they were named Inländer-Rum (like Stroh in Austria, today produced from sugarcane molasses and therefore a genuine spiced rum), Domači or Čajni (Croatia) etc.

In 1987, it was simply called rum, and the less said, the better. After a couple belts of it, I undertook a laborious examination of the time, and came to a reckoning of my own: we needed to get back to Prague. As we departed, so did Franta and the gang, motoring toward the next pub on their taxi crawl.

As a final aside, a few architectural details on the brewery's exterior ...

 ... and the early evening return to our sports club hostel beds in Prague.

Next day, we caught the train to Munich, and a meticulously planned meet 'n' greet with our friend Bob and my cousin Don.

Ironically, there was to be beer in Munich, too.

Next: 30 years ago today on THE BEER BEAT: Meeting the gang at the legendary Imbiss by Gleis 16 at the Hauptbahnhof in Munich.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: "The world's most 'hand-crafted' beer is cask ale."

Totnes 2013. This guy cared.

The excellent beer writer Jeff Alworth sets the record straight.

No other brewing genre requires the time and effort required to render proper cask-conditioned "real" ales -- but boy, when done correctly, there's nothing I'd rather drink.


Pete didn’t say it, but I will: cask ale is not just the most important symbol of British brewing, it’s also one of the hardest to make beers, the craftiest beers, and, when it’s made and served properly, the best beers on the planet. Nearly everyone seems to hold cask in contempt, even while they fall in love with Bavarian kellerbier (a poor man’s cask beer) and hazy IPA and rustic saison. If I were English, I’d be swanning around bragging about making the best and most difficult beer. The problem is, that’s not a very British thing to do, is it? Well, take my word for it as a braggy American, it is the hardest to make, and the most hand-crafted.

My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Of course, doing it correctly is not something that we can take for granted. The excellent British beer writer Martyn Cornell explains.

Almost nine out of ten pints of cask beer sold in Britain are sold after the cask they came from has been open for at least three days. According to CGA, almost 90 per cent of cask ale brands sold at below the rate of 18 pints per tap per day required to maintain quality. The typical cask of beer is still on sale seven or more days after it has been opened. This is exactly the same as making a sandwich on Monday, and still having it on sale a week later. The bread will be stale, the filling long past its best. Anybody buying that week-old sandwich is unlikely, after trying it, to buy a sandwich from you again. Cask beer is a perishable product: it loses its best qualities very quickly, certainly within a few days. Most pubs ignore this, and as a result most cask beer is sold a long way off from peak condition.

Cornell sees part of the problem in pub landlords and managers who don't drink cask-conditioned ale. He believes concern is merited.

In the past five years, cask ale sales have dropped by 20 per cent, while the overall beer market has fallen by just over nine per cent. At that rate of decline, cask ale will effectively have vanished in a few decades. Meanwhile “craft” beer, defined for the purposes of this argument as non-mainstream keg beers made by small brewers, has leapt from nowhere ten years ago to six per cent of the on-trade beer market in 2018. I drink “craft” beer in a pub occasionally, but I do not believe I will ever have a pint of “craft” as wonderful as the very best cask ale can be. If cask ale disappears, then to misquote Hilaire Belloc, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the best of England.

Here in New Albany at Pints&union, the one genre of world brewing I'd like to do the most is the one I cannot do at all: cask-conditioned "real" ale. America's not built for it, and I regret this almost every single day.

We also aren't configured for stargazy pie -- but at least it's remotely conceivable.

Is anyone at Hull & High Water reading?

Meet Joseph Albert “Trey” Hollingsworth III, the biggest goober in Washington.

As borrowed from Facebook, this profile effectively rests the case. It remains that I have significant issues with the Democratic dumb-ocracy, but voting in favor of Hollingsworth isn't something I plan on doing in this or any other lifetime.   


This is a profile of Joseph Albert “Trey” Hollingsworth III, the biggest goober in Washington.

As his name might lead you to suspect, he has been rich since before conception. His father, Joe Jr., is a prominent Tennessee capitalist who, in addition to owning “the largest developer for semi-rural industrial property in the Southeast,” [1] is known for an “adventuristic nature” that “expands beyond taking risks with start-ups, stocks and investments” to “hang gliding in Rio de Janeiro, racing Formula 1 cars and deep sea fishing off the Great Barrier Reef.” [2]

But Trey overcame his hardscrabble upbringing and in 2005, at the age of 22, founded Hollingsworth Capital Partners, which “purchases, renovates and repositions underperforming industrial and distribution investment property throughout the nation.” [3] His daddy is a silent partner.

A decade later, Trey decided to move to Southern Indiana and buy himself a seat in the US Congress, furnishing his campaign with over $3.1 million of his own money -- 88.4% of the total amount raised by the Hollingsworth 2016 effort. This was supplemented by $1.5 Million that the Hollingsworth Companies donated to Indiana Jobs Now, a Super PAC his father created for the sole purpose of getting Trey elected (and which he terminated weeks after achieving this goal). Mostly, this fortune went to TV ad buys, which were enough to marshal 34% of the competitive Republican primary vote, securing Trey the opportunity to face a Democrat in Indiana’s gerrymandered 9th District. Then, he rode the anti-Clinton wave straight to Washington, DC.

(Campaign finance epilogue: At the end of the race, Trey still owed the strangely repetitive sum of $246,246 to his pollster and other political consultants, so he, of the nearly $60 Million asset portfolio, asked his colleagues for help paying up. “Representative-elect Hollingsworth,” said a senior campaign adviser, “is extremely appreciative of those willing to help retire campaign debt that is owed to vendors.”) [4]

My favorite detail about his 2016 run is his approach to the press, summarized neatly in this excerpt from a profile in Slate: “The 9th District... doesn’t have much local media, and Hollingsworth frequently dodged what media there was. When he did agree to interviews, he often evaded, even on seemingly benign questions. He declined to release his tax returns. When someone asked him to name his three favorite Hoosiers, he declined to do that, too. One reporter asked him where he’d lived before moving to Indiana; ‘I’ll have to go back,’ Hollingsworth said, speaking about his own life, ‘and check the record.’ Pressed on when exactly he moved to Indiana, he finally answered with early summer. Another reporter tried to clarify whether that meant June or July. ‘I think that’s a good characterization,’ Hollingsworth said.” [5]

In his 22 months in Congress, Trey has maintained this demanding level of constituent accountability, appearing in zero public in-district town halls since being sworn in. His sacrifices in the name of transparency reached their peak one week at the end of 2017, during the fight over the Free Millions for Billionaires Bill, or as it was more commonly known, “tax reform.”

One provision of the initial draft of that bill would have taxed tuition remissions, which low-wage graduate students receive, as income, meaning workers earning roughly $15,000 a year would be taxed as though they were earning around four times as much. Indiana University being the largest employer in the district, Trey’s constituents did not all smile on this prospect. Specifically, on the evening of Monday, December 11, Campus Action for Democracy grad students staged a sit-in in his office in Greenwood, demanding to hear from Trey.

Rather than call and speak to them, Trey and his DC-based security chief issued two instructions: 1) that the building manager allow the protesters to stay in his office, but have the police restrict them from going into the hall, where the bathrooms are, and b) that his pregnant staffer supervise the student demonstrators for as long as they continued the occupation. So, as the occupiers explain in this video [6], they spent hour after hour with no access to bathrooms or contact with the outside world, never quite managing to get arrested for the cause.

Four days later, on December 15th, the Scott County Chamber of Commerce announced a Koch Brothers-sponsored “Tax Reform Town Hall” [7] with Trey. It was open to the public, with a few minor provisos: 1) Attendees had to register that very day on Eventbrite, 2) The Eventbrite link didn’t work, 3) The Town Hall was to take place in three days, on a Monday, 4) at 8 o’clock in the morning, 5) one week before Christmas, and 6) in the tiny town of Scottsburg. (Scott County, of which Scottsburg is the seat, gained some notoriety years earlier when then-Governor Mike Pence closed the local Planned Parenthood clinic, the county’s only site for HIV testing. [8] When, two years later, the worst HIV outbreak owing to needle-sharing in US history broke out in Scott County, Pence took three months to permit a temporary needle exchange, in which time nearly 200 Scott County residents were notified of an HIV-positive diagnosis.)

How did the Town Hall ultimately go? Citing a mysterious “threats of violence,” Trey cancelled the event. [9] A spokesperson said that, on the recommendation of Capitol Police, they would not release any details. That very same day, I swear before God, he posted on Facebook that, due to a fire in the building, the Greenwood office -- which students had occupied precisely one week earlier -- would be closed for re-construction until January 3rd.

The fire’s devastation was evidently total: no one survived to manage to get it reported in the local paper.

In the end, Trey voted for the Free Millions for Billionaires Bill, and made out like a bandit, handing himself $4.5 Million via the law’s “Pass-Through Tax Deduction” -- more than any other Member of Congress. The Grad Student Tax was removed from the final bill, and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe me that he personally called Tracey, the lead organizer of Campus Action for Democracy, to explain how hard he had worked to strike that unconscionable provision.

At this point, a lot of people have noticed that Trey spends about as much time in Indiana’s 9th, now that he represents it, as he did a couple years back, before he moved to it. Liz Watson, his Democratic challenger, has repeatedly invited him to a joint candidate forum, as have several non-partisan press outlets and organizations, including Hoosier Action and Campus Action for Democracy. Citing whatever and also this other thing, he has declined these invitations.

In the Republican Primary this year, a man named James Dean Alspach challenged Trey. He did not campaign. He barely posted a website. [10] His team, whoever they were, stapled up a bunch of lawn signs that said “James Dean” and showed his face. “If I win this primary,” he told WLKY News Louisville [11], “I’m going to announce my intentions to run for President as James Dean.” Detecting the interviewer’s confusion, Dean clarified: “So my whole focus in the Congress is to legislate for my Presidency.” He got nearly a quarter of the vote.

Trey is vulnerable, especially because he is facing an unusually strong candidate in Watson, a labor attorney who wrote the federal legislation on a $15 minimum wage, a staunch supporter of Medicare for All, and a friend to Pramila Jayapal, Bernie Sanders and around twenty labor unions. Her campaign has been so impressive -- raising over $1 Million, with nearly 50,000 contributions averaging under $40 -- that the DCCC added Indiana’s 9th, which Trey won by 14 points and Trump won by 25 -- into its “Red to Blue” class of swing seats.

In collaboration with the Working Families Party, Hoosier Action is running an independent expenditure on her behalf. Between our work, Watson’s strengths, Trey’s weaknesses, the mood of the country, and Sen. Donnelly’s rise in the polls, I think we might just be able to scale this immense mountain of a political effort and unseat the biggest goober in Washington, Joseph Albert “Trey” Hollingsworth.

The third.


Southern Indiana PRIDE kicked off on Thursday, and this is a good thing.

I regret missing the launch on Thursday night.

Looking over the list of speakers, it looks as though Floyd County's DemoDisneyDixiecrats were represented by district 72 state representative candidate Sam Charbonneau alone.

His November election opponent, incumbent Ed Clere, was there as well, along with fellow Republican Al Knable.

Were other Floyd Demos in attendance? Let me know, and I'll note them in this space.

Best wishes to Evan, Erin and the expanded organization. We can only hope that New Albany's mayor refrains from fighting too openly against it and embarrassing New Albany in the process.

Local LGBT inclusion and equality movement expands reach and alliances, by Melissa Goforth (Tom May Content Aggregator)

SOUTHERN INDIANA – It all starts with friendship.

From there, positive change in society can – and does – happen, despite personal differences, when that change is built upon a foundation of mutual respect.

That’s the philosophical approach Jeffersonville PRIDE Festival founder Evan Stoner is taking as he works to expand his organization’s reach by launching a new era of LGBT inclusion and equality throughout the region.

Thursday night in honor of National Coming Out Day, more than 50 areas residents attended the official kickoff of the newly formed Southern Indiana PRIDE organization at 300 Spring in Jeffersonville.

The event featured 12 guest speakers from different backgrounds and agencies, as well representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

The diverse cultural and political cross-section of society represented at the event was exactly what Stoner hopes to see more of as he works to build bridges throughout the region with this expanded effort ...

Your Sunday must-read: "Relax, Ladies. Don’t Be So Uptight. You Know You Want It."

As a male of the species, one acknowledging his fair share of missteps and imperfections, it's unclear to me how best to introduce this essay apart from stating that it makes perfect sense.

What has NOT made perfect sense to me over the years are lingering and idiotic notions like male chauvinism, toxic masculinity and the doctrine of women as inferior beings, particularly those attached to some manner of supernatural sanction.

Pfui. That's plain rubbish.

Yes, there were times in my youth when I displayed overt symptoms of misogyny. I have no glib excuses for any of it, and I won't cop a plea. I'd dearly love to forget those times, but cannot, because it simply wouldn't be honest of me; besides, I learned from it. Eventually it dawned on me that I was dead wrong.

Being male is one thing, and being a dick is something else entirely.

Ever since then, I've tried my best to learn and improve. It's a work in progress, and a process of awareness, one that never ends. Who wants to be remembered as a sexist, racist, or homophobic turd? Not me. People are people: full stop. We may disagree, but it won't be because of your sex, race, or sexuality.

Your beer, on the other hand ...

Relax, Ladies. Don’t Be So Uptight. You Know You Want It, by Anastasia Basil (Medium)

Remember the ’80s, when men preferred Hanes and could legally rape their wives?

... Movies, ads, and TV shows of the ’80s were tailored to give your dad a testosterone boost and teach your brothers to be men. Strong, no-bullshit men, the kind who say what they think and take what they want. Grab ’em by the pussy kind of men. No way was your brother gay. Or you. Unless you were into threesomes. A girl could be into another girl, but only to feed the male gaze, then it was hot. If two women truly loved each other they were going to hell. Read your Leviticus, but first, let me ask you a little something. You’ve got pretty red hair. Is it naturally red? Why don’t you let me see if the carpet matches the drapes? Relax. Don’t be so uptight. You know you want it.


We are all byproducts of a collective mindset. Those who question the mindset of their time and shine light on its moral defects are considered malcontents. And yet, it is malcontents like MLK who are (later) lauded as heroes — not for upholding America’s values, for shaping them. Here’s a fun game. Ask yourself: What strongly held opinion of mine will my grandchildren one day struggle to understand?

The 23 percent of Americans who supported civil rights in 1963 knew exactly what they were doing. They didn’t accidentally do the right thing. They weren’t accidentally on the right side of history. Instead of bullheaded allegiance, they questioned, examined, and took a knee to the moral defects of their time.


Have you ever known someone who hasn’t changed their hair style in decades? They still have the bangs they had in seventh grade? There are people who haven’t changed their views since seventh grade, either. We shouldn’t use our present-day ideas and perspectives to judge the distant past (the Parthenon was built by slaves), but if someone drags an antiquated moral norm into the present, they should expect to be held in account.

final snip

I wonder… would today’s anti-feminists be yesterday’s anti-suffragettes? #WomenAgainstSusanBAnthony

Want to know what a feminist is? A feminist is a person who, instead of being the docile pet of their generation, rears back and bares their teeth. The idea that we no longer need feminism is absurd — it’s the equivalent of technology stopping at the floppy disc.

City Hall says we have "sufficient" bike lanes to accommodate e-scooters. It's probably a good idea to follow the money before getting excited about the prospect.

Photo credit.

It's difficult to fathom the change.

In 2015, New Albany's Board of Works and Public Safety famously dithered for months about a harmless street piano.

Bluegill summarized:

First, there was a request to place a piano on a public sidewalk in New Albany; a fun, harmless, and completely normal happening around the world. Then there were months of city officials sidestepping and ignoring that request. Then there were additional weeks and multiple meetings of artificially constructed and wholly irrelevant hurdles put in place. Then there was media attention and, by New Albany standards, an expression of public support for the piano and exasperation with the City sizable enough to embarrass the officials involved. And then there was finally approval, with an almost equally embarrassing rearguard attempt to claim officials had supported it all along. I wish any of that was out of the ordinary but it's a near perfect example of what ordinary is here, even and especially when the stakes are much higher. Playing a new tune couldn't be any more welcome.

Now, seemingly at the casual drop of a chapeau, BOW's gatekeeper Warren Nash is striking a youthful pose with regard to Bird e-scooters.

"It's (an up-and-coming) thing, and it's working in other places."

Ugh. Can a hipster beard be far behind?

Before we risk life and limb atop one of the Bird e-scooters to be turned loose to navigate New Albany's streets of screams, let's define the term.

We tried it: How the new Bird scooters work and what you need to know, by Kirby Adams (Louisville Courier Journal)

Courier Journal reporter Kirby Adams and executive editor Joel Christopher try out the Bird scooter in downtown Louisville Kirby Adams, Louisville Courier Journal

Like a flock of starlings suddenly swooping into a city park, a pack of Bird electric scooters are landing in Louisville and a lot of curious Louisvllians want to know how to hop a ride.

So, we took a ride on a Bird scooter (when they prematurely arrived a few weeks ago!) to give you the ins and outs on what to expect.

Here's how it works

First and foremost, riders must have a valid drivers license and be 18 or older to use a Bird.

When Courier Journal Executive Editor Joel Christopher and I decided to take a couple of Birds to lunch, the first order of business was to download the Bird app on our smartphones and locate where two scooters were parked.

See the interesting thing about Bird scooters is they're not parked in any particular spot, like the bike sharing racks that dot Louisville's downtown. (In case you didn't know, Louisville's bicycle sharing program, LouVelo, has been in operation since May 2017 and has more than 25 docking stations or kiosks around the city.)

Instead, with Bird, you cruise the app to ping a scooter's location.

We got lucky and found a couple just a few blocks from the Courier Journal on Fourth Street near the Louisville Palace, 625 S. 4th St.

There are certain parallels between the advent of e-scooters and ride sharing. One thing to bear in mind is the existence of more than one e-scooter supplier seeking a piece of the action. Because cities have since learned the rules of the game, regulators are involving themselves with the laborious task of picking winners. 

The bare-knuckle tactics Uber used to get its way with regulators are not going to work for scooter startups, by Johana Bhuiyan (Recode)

Cities have the upper hand this time.

... Cities are also not instating an outright ban on scooters — regulators are simply being selective about which companies will operate those scooters. And governments, like Santa Monica’s, are using their power to demand compliance, collaboration and a commitment to equitable access to transportation — not just in their cities, but everywhere.

Having watched Uber and Airbnb grow around the world, these lawmakers are under no illusions that a noncompliant company in one city will magically be compliant in theirs. Santa Monica’s scooter permit process, for example, included a scorecard, where companies were judged on how well they comply with local, federal and other laws.

Bird scored among the lowest.

We all know what this means. What do you do to improve your performance? Hire a lobbyist, of course.

Exclusive: Bird plucks prominent Nashville lobbyist to lead regional efforts, by William Deshazer (Nashville Business Journal)

Sam Reed has left The Ingram Group to lead a new government relations team for his former client, Bird.

Accordingly, we already know the likely next step in this process; insert Gahan re-election fund donation here, because it's almost certain to appear on the mayor's 2018 books.

I'll let you know when this can be verified, but I'm supremely confident it will.

Apart from the near certain donation, the Bird scooter discussion is surfacing at this moment because of several considerations unrelated to tender concern toward the commonweal.

For one thing, I'm not the only critic of the city's street grid neglect. Officials have been thin-skinned about those pointing to their lack of resolve to make the city safer. I think publicly dabbling with scooters sends a message to the doubters, and also hoists a tepid middle finger: "See, the city is so very safe we can allow scooters to dart through it with no worries."

Be scared ... very scared.

There’s also an election coming, and local Democrats want desperately to believe in the possibility of a "blue wave." Mention of e-scooters is code language directed toward a handful of purported progressives, implying that in spite of the dull sluggishness of the city's and party's pay-to-play patronage machine, bureaucratic local Democrats are achingly hip to modernity.

Total fabrication, zero intent.

The article below duly notes an ongoing examination of liability being conducted by the city's corporate attorney, which is likely to translate into draconian restrictions on usage even if the requisite donations are made, and the city actually approves e-scooter use.

Here's the part that should give you pause.

E-scooters are required to ride in the bike lanes or close to the right curb. New Albany officials say the city has sufficient bike lanes to accommodate the scooters.

Sufficient bike lanes?

How much Bud Light Lime has to pass down one's gullet before our bike lanes are sufficient for bikes, much less e-scooters?

Recalling that Spring Street already is the nexus of justifiable complaints about City Hall's unwillingness to protect all users of the street grid, it's also the only downtown street with bicycle lanes -- in spite of Jeff Speck's recommendation that we include them everywhere.

One can readily imagine Nash and Gahan, beaming happily as e-scooters travel up one side of Spring Street and down the other, pausing only to be obliterated by speeding drivers whenever they try to cross to the other side.

Will attorney Gibson also be researching what's likely to happen if a Bird inadvertently wanders into one of New Albany's signature non-functional sharrows?

New Albany officials look to bring Bird scooters across the river, by Jessica Bard (WDRB)

Officials in New Albany are trying to determine whether they should make a push to bring e-scooters to southern Indiana.

 ... Louisville Public Works announced Monday new rules for riders, including where they can’t ride. Waterfront Park is off limits.

“You're allowed to ride generally within the Watterson Expressway,” Adams said.

Across the river, officials in New Albany are keeping a close eye on what's happening. They’re trying to determine whether they should make a push to bring e-scooters to southern Indiana.

The president of the New Albany Board of Public Works, Warren Nash, said he supports the movement, and the city has reached out to Bird. The city attorney is doing research on what happens if something goes wrong.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Excerpts from Jeff Speck's new book, Walkable City Rules: "Many cities have a downtown speed limit of 25. All should—or lower."


Jeff Speck takes to CityLab to offer excerpts from his new book, and here are the ones I won't be covering in this post.

  • Rule 9: Fix your codes -- Eliminate legal barriers to mixed use.
  • Rule 53: Understand that cycling follows investment -- Topography, climate, and culture can’t compare.
  • Rule 88: Make sticky edges -- Energize public spaces with active, deep facades.
  • Rule 100: Don’t give up on sprawl --- It’s where most Americans live.

Click through to read them.

Here's one big thing worth a snip: "Street improvements should be linked to keeping speeding in check."

Not coincidentally, it's the one least understood by City Hall in New Albany. Shall we join together to reduce illegal speeding?

A Step-by-Step Guide for Fixing Badly Planned American Cities, by Jeff Speck (CityLab)

An excerpt from Jeff Speck’s Walkable City Rules, a step-by-step guide to fixing America’s cities and towns.

I published the book Walkable City in 2012. Since then, many of our leaders have realized that establishing walkability as a central goal can make cities better in a whole host of ways. That book did a decent job of inspiring change, but it didn’t tell people exactly how to create it. My new book, Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places (released on October 15 by Island Press) is an effort to weaponize Walkable City for deployment in the field. An excerpt follows below.
—Jeff Speck

Rule 31: Focus on speeding

Street improvements should be linked to keeping speeding in check.

“It’s the speed, stupid.” Roughly half of this book addresses different aspects of the street and how they are designed and managed. Many of these points may serve multiple objectives and audiences, but they all aim back, in one way or another, at a single issue, vehicle speed.

While many different factors influence the safety of humans in cities, none matters nearly so much as the speed at which vehicles are traveling. The relationship between vehicle speed and danger is, to put it mildly, exponential.

The diagram below is one of many that can be found to communicate this relationship. (Other diagrams show people falling out of buildings, with 20 miles per hour equaling the second floor and 40 miles per hour equaling the seventh.) The basic message to remember is that you are about five times as likely to be killed by a car going 30 as a car going 20, and five times again as likely to be killed by a car going 40.

The risk to pedestrians from vehicles takes a dramatic upturn at 25 miles per hour, as this chart based on data on pedestrian casualties (collected by S.J. Ashton) shows. (The dashed lines are confidence intervals.) (D.C. Richards Transport Research Laboratory)

This threshold zone of 20 to 40 miles per hour is basically where it all happens—the difference between bruises, broken bones, and death. And 20 to 40 is roughly the range of speeds that we find cars traveling on the best downtown streets. Keeping cars on the lower end of that range, therefore, must be the central objective of urban street design.

The speed of the impact itself is not the only factor. As cars move faster, the likelihood of a crash also rises. Drivers and pedestrians alike have less time to respond to conflicts; stopping distances lengthen; and the driver’s cone of vision narrows. These factors multiply the impact of speed beyond those indicated in the above graph. It is safe to say that a car traveling 30 miles per hour is probably at least three times as dangerous as one going 25. Many cities have a downtown speed limit of 25. All should—or lower.

These limits simplify the conversation, because it is no longer necessary to talk about “slowing drivers down.” Who wants to be slowed down? That sounds like congestion. Instead, we can simply talk about “reducing illegal speeding.”

I'm supporting Carrie Klaus for New Albany Township Advisory Board because I believe she'll come to agree with us about social justice and the street grid.

Expensive and useless. We can do better.

I've been sitting on this for almost two months, thinking about it and trying to come up with the best way to be constructive in my critique of a letter that appeared in the local chain newspaper on August 19.

If the writer weren't a Democratic candidate for New Albany Township Advisory Board, I probably wouldn't even have noticed the letter. Because Carrie Klaus is running (as an aside, she is a founder of Soindivisible), it strikes me as important, if for no other reason than my preference in voting for those who are informed and aware of contemporary trends in street grid thinking.

And, by extension, we take these trends very seriously at NA Confidential. Keep reading, and I'll explain why I support Carrie's candidacy even though we seem to disagree on this particular issue ... so far, at least.

Let's begin with the letter itself, reprinted here in full.

4-way stop on busy street bad idea

In response to Wednesday's article "New Albany to monitor road......" * and Ron Howard's suggestion to consider a 4-way stop at Fourth and Spring due to parked cars blocking the view at the intersection. As a downtown resident and business owner who travels these roads often, I think a 4-way stop on a major thoroughfare is a terrible idea, and one that will just shift the problem the residents of Spring Street are experiencing to neighboring streets, such as Market Street, where I live and work, as people try to avoid the congestion created by a 4-way stop.

A better solution to the problem of not being able to see around parked cars would be not allowing cars to park all the way to the street corner. In some locations downtown there is such a small buffer between the last parking spot on a block and the corner that it is nearly impossible to see oncoming traffic without literally being in the driving lane. Take the corner of Holy Trinity Way and Market Street for instance, and go see for yourself.

As a pedestrian and biker in downtown, I agree that something needs to be done about the speed of cars traveling on our streets, but shifting the problem off on other downtown residents doesn't seem the solution. On Market Street we already struggle with vehicles traveling at high rates of speed, including law enforcement that are not out on runs. Creating congestion with a 4-way stop will only make that problem worse for us. And quite frankly, as a motorist, I don't want a downtown filled with 4-way stops. If we start making motorists stop at every intersection, it won't be long before they decide to avoid our downtown altogether.

— Carrie Klaus, New Albany

In effect, Carrie is saying that while speed may be a problem on Spring Street, anything the city does to reduce it would have the effect of sending traffic to other streets, like hers, and this would be improper because that's what Spring Street is for -- to carry a high volume of high traffic speedily from one side of town to the other, come what may for those trying to develop safe and healthy neighborhoods along the way.

The easiest way to counter Carrie's argument is to become familiar with Jeff Speck and read his New Albany Indiana Downtown Street Network Proposal.

New Albany's Downtown Grid Modernization Project in 2017, which conceptually owes its existence to Speck's opening proposal, was not fully implemented. In fact, it was barely implemented at all, owing to the local Democratic Party's stubborn unwillingness to challenge rampaging car-centrism, but still the stated intent of the project was to spread local traffic among four two-way streets, rather bottleneck it on two.

Four thoroughfares are better than one -- IF they're designed to reduce speed. Unfortunately, the latter was ignored by Team Gahan.

Actually, the problems we've had since implementation in terms of persistent speed and recklessness on Spring probably can be attributed to there being too little congestion, not too much. The same applies to Market, and Elm, and even Main.

Traffic always is slower during peak commutes; the speeds (and danger) increase when there are fewer cars during the other 22 hours in a day, hence Speck's original intent of bicycle lanes on Market and Elm as well as Spring, and the current need to replace the feeble yellow-light pedestrian crossings with bolder and safer four-way stops.

Yes, we need at least two of them on Spring between 15th and 7th, and maybe a third between 7th and Bank. Pass-through drivers need to be using I-265, not Spring Street.

A very useful article to supplement Speck's thoughts can be found here. I'm including what seems to be a relevant concluding excerpt.

The Causes of Traffic and Congestion, by Andrew Price (Strong Towns)

 ... At the end of the day, we should not worry too much about congestion or traffic. Congestion is part of the solution, not the problem. Congestion is feedback that we have built a place people want to be. The response to congestion should be to allow that Mexican restaurant to open up 3 blocks away rather than 2 miles away. To create bus lines and bike lanes that give people alternative ways to get around. The incorrect response to congestion is to build faster and wider streets, because that just reinforces car dependency and all of the negative consequences that come with it.

To summarize:

  • Development can add traffic. However, development that brings amenities and people closer together and reduces the need to travel so far can actually reduce traffic. With a mixture of uses, you can achieve a high population density with very little motor traffic.
  • A highly-connected street network (either a street grid or organic) with many redundancies better distributes the load of traffic and is more resilient to disruptions.
  • Designated thoroughfares and bypasses create an illusion of traffic because they funnel the traffic through a single point (and with this comes the fragility of a single point of failure that can bring down the system).
  • Attempting to address congestion with solutions that make it easier to drive can make the problem worse by continuing to make the car the preferred way to get around.
  • We should not worry too much about congestion, because it creates demand for other modes of transportation and for amenities to be closer.

In summary, New Albany's more densely populated districts -- generally, inside the beltway, and most of all downtown -- need to function as a city, not as a suburb. The conversion of Speck's recommendations into a two-way paving project cost us the chance to make more progress toward urbanizing the street grid in a shorter amount of time. We've no choice at present apart from applying Band-Aids (for instance, the four-way stops) until another opportunity for advancement comes around.

I use the word "progress" in the preceding purposefully. Speaking for myself, I have a strong desire to identify with progressive policies, but they must be comprehensive and inter-related. To speak of social justice needs without applying these precepts to the way people move around is to neglect a very large piece of the puzzle.

I'll be voting for Carrie Klaus when we make it down to the clerk's office in the coming days. I know she's strong on the more commonly discussed social justice issues, and although we haven't met, it's clear to me that she's perfectly capable of seeing that the safest possible street grid for all users is a vital component of the larger social justice picture.

I'll stop there. Let the discussion begin.


* the original newspaper article to which Carrie's letter referred:

New Albany to take road, speed counts on downtown grid, by Chris Morris (Tom May Sussudio)

NEW ALBANY — Several residents, including a city councilman, asked the New Albany Board of Public Works & Safety last week to do something to slow traffic along sections of Spring Street after a man was hit and killed at Spring and E. Ninth streets on Aug. 6.

Officials heard their pleas and steps will begin soon to get a better grasp of traffic and speed on the downtown grid.

City engineer Larry Summers told the board Tuesday that traffic volume and speed will start being monitored immediately on all the streets that were converted to two-way last year, which includes Spring, Elm, Market, Bank and Pearl with "intense focus" on Spring.

"We want to get a better understanding of the traffic counts and speed so we can get an appropriate plan in place," Summers said.

Radar enforcement, similar to that on McDonald Lane, is a possibility.

Ron Howard asked the board to also consider a four-way stop at Fourth and Spring streets. He said cars parked along Spring make it difficult to see oncoming traffic.