Friday, November 30, 2018

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: In which the quest for draft Żywiec Porter concludes in Gdansk, 16 years later.

Way back in the spring of 2002, I organized a small group tour of selected beer heritage sites in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic and Austria. We flew in and out of Budapest, and rented a mini-bus. A wonderful Los Angeles-based Hungarian expat named Jeno was our guide and master of ceremonies.

In the middle of the 10-day itinerary we spent an evening on the Slovak side of the Tatra Mountains. Some of us had a meal of locally harvested mountain oysters at a restaurant called Stary Mama's (Grandma's), and then the next day the minibus executed a flanking movement to the east and north, winding up in Krakow, Poland.

Our reasons for visiting Poland included mead and porter. We found both, although not without considerable effort.

The city of Żywiec (ZHIV-yets), roughly 65 miles to the southwest of Krakow, was our choice for a namesake brewery tour. We set off for what was billed as a journey of 90 minutes and arrived just shy of three hours later. Luckily I'd factored in some extra time for strolling, so we weren't very late -- and we didn't have time to stroll, just drink beer.

By way of background, arguably Żywiec and Okocim were the best-known Polish breweries during the Communist period. Sporadically during the 1980s these beers and other ones like them from the East Bloc (for instance Krakus, which was a Żywiec label) were available in Indiana, which is nothing short of amazing even though they weren't always in the best condition. I remember the rough cardboard cases and vintage throwback labels -- still in everyday use in Poland at the time.

Most of them had the name of Stanley Stawski attached to them, and therein lies a story.

Stawski Imports’ market of beers, wines, cordials, and spirits started over 50 years ago by the man who’s name is over the company’s door: Stanley Stawski.

Born in Poland in 1924, Stawski survived the 1939 invasion of his country by the Germans. In 1944, he took part in the Warsaw Uprising as a member of the underground Home Army. Captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, Stawski headed to Italy after his camp was liberated, and joined the 2nd Polish Corps.

Two years after the war ended, the British sent his unit to England and when the British demobilized his unit in 1951, Stawski left for the United States. He had $20 in his pocket.

By 1954, Stawski was working as a liquor and wine salesman in Chicago. Six years later, he opened his own company, importing beers from Poland and Austria.

As with any new business, the beginning years were difficult, especially in dealing with countries that were, at the time, run by socialist governments who distrusted anything American. Sales were appropriate for a small operation.

Stawski credits its success to “hard work and perseverance.” This perseverance is now bearing fruit. Stawski Imports’ dealings with the state-run liquor monopolies of the Central European nations are successful because of its product-knowledge and personal contacts to bring over the best and newest products.

I've looked high and low, and there seems nothing reliable to indicate whether Stawski remains in business, although the company seemed to exist just a few years ago. It appears that the company's founder is still alive, now in his nineties, and accordingly, I drink a toast to his health.

After Communism ended, many breweries in the East Bloc were snapped up by foreign interests. Okocim has long since been Carlsberg's possession, and Żywiec has been a subsidiary of Heineken's.

When we finally arrived at the brewery in Żywiec on that day in 2002, the tour was exhaustive and the hospitality bountiful. It was afternoon, and when the tour was over we were seated in a rustic tap room. Draft golden lager beers began appearing, along with platters of hot food, including soup and an entree.

However, I'd been having trouble all afternoon conveying to our marvelous hosts that my group was interested in Żywiec Porter far more than the brewery's admittedly pleasant lagers. As we ate, one of the representatives disappeared, then returned with a single crate of 11.2 oz bottles, which we quickly dispatched.

It was the only case he could find of a beer we thought had been brewed a stone's throw away from our tables, and this discrepancy confused me until I learned much later the rational explanation: Żywiec Porter wasn't being brewed in Żywiec at all. So little of it was being brewed during this period that production had shifted a sister brewery in Cieszyn (CHESH-in).

In 2008, award-winning British beer writer Roger Protz described his visit to Cieszyn in search of the nectar: POLAND: LIVELY LAGERS AND THREATENED PORTERS (All About Beer Magazine).

 ... The opportunity to see Zywiec Porter brewed at source was therefore not to be missed.

But the source had moved. Since 1994, Zywiec has been owned by Heineken and the small volumes of porter did not suit the new plant the Dutch giant has built to churn out millions of hectolitres of pale lager. Porter has been transferred to Archduke Albrecht’s original brewery at Cieszyn.

On the map, Cieszyn looks a short drive from Krakow, but the highways are poor and under repair, causing endless delays. We drove for three hours on rutted roads that curved through dense woods at the foothills of the Tatras. At one point I was given the chilling information that I might catch a glimpse of the towers of the Auschwitz concentration camp through the trees. I couldn’t make out the towers but I needed a calming beer when at last we drove up the twisting road from the town of Cieszyn to the brewery with its mellow brick buildings, cobbled courtyard and a brewery cat on rat patrol.

Protz detailed the brewing process.

Zywiec Porter is now a cold-fermented black lager, but at 9.5% ABV it has all the richness and complexity of the warm-fermented original. It’s made with pilsner, caramalt, Munich and roasted grains, and hopped with Magnum, Nugget and Taurus varieties. As Poland grows hops of excellent quality in the Lublin area, I was surprised to find the brewery importing most of its supplies from Germany.

The porter has an astonishing four-hour boil in the kettle as a result of the high level of grain used. It then has 15 days primary fermentation in open square tanks before it’s transferred to the lager cellar, 15 meters below ground. The cold cellars, with the temperature held just above freezing, holds 100 small lager tanks with a total capacity of 20,000 hectos.

Porter is held in the tanks for a maximum of 60 days to ripen. The beer that emerges has a deep coffee color, with powerful hints of espresso, licorice, molasses and burnt grain on the palate. Dark fruit and hops build in the mouth and a long and intense finish is packed with rich fruit, burnt grain, silky coffee and bitter hops.

I hope this lengthy tale provides partial explanation for the expression on my face on October 31st when I realized the Żywiec Porter on the menu at the bar/restaurant in Gdansk was draft.

I'd never had it before, not even once. One and a half of them left me loopy, but feeling vindicated. I contend that irrespective of Żywiec Porter's brewery of birth, it remains one of our planet's finest beers. Unlike humble Krakus in 1985, we cannot get Żywiec Porter in Indiana.

Can someone book me a minibus to Cieszyn?

An addendum to yesterday's curious case: "Are we supposed to be sympathetic for a driver who was traveling at 144% of the speed limit?"

And ...

We'll continue posting these charts until all our readers have had the chance to learn from them.

In the meantime, let's have a look at another side of the issues discussed in yesterday's post.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: The curious case of the speeding ticket, the honest cop, his fuming chief and the city's abject failure to calm downtown traffic.

 ... (The police officer) comes to the window and says “Ma’am, you were going 36.” After I said ok, he said he has to give me a ticket because the chief of police for Floyd County told him he had to write 5 tickets in that spot tonight.

A regular reader raises this interesting point.

Interesting story. Are we supposed to be sympathetic for a woman who was traveling at 144% of the speed limit? I realize that's not the point, at all. But, still. 144%?

When I was tagged onto the driver's original Facebook post, it occurred to me that (a) when the police monitor traffic on Spring Street, they generally do so from one or the other location, and (b) one of these locations is situated where the posted speed is 25 m.p.h., not 30 m.p.h.

It occurred to me to gently make this point on the driver's post, but before I could get back to it, the post had disappeared. Now we know why; the chief of police intervened and the whole matter was swept safely under the rug.

Still, our reader's point is valid: 144%?

36 m.p.h. in a 25 m.p.h. zone works out to 144% higher. Speed kills, and the case we've made time and again in these pages is that in densely populated areas, the very least we can do is have uniform 25 mph speeds, because with the requisite traffic calming measures as suggested by Jeff Speck and others, speeds might be brought far closer to the safer, lower m.p.h. than what passes for safety now.

By the way, when's the last time you saw a semi or a wrecker being ticketed for speeding on Spring Street? Yeah, me either.

Unfortunately, another undisputed fact we've reported time and again in these pages is Mayor Jeff Gahan's complete inability to understand any of this. His interpretation of the two-way streets project was to affix a shoddy veneer of action atop an underlying "business-as-usual" version of nothingness.

Or, to claim victory, monetize, rinse and repeat.

We can fix this in 2019.

Until then, yes, it is fairly common to receive speeding tickets when you're traveling 11 m.p.h. above the limit, whatever the source of the police officer's political directives.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

You know Freddie Mercury and Queen stole the show at Live Aid, but what the hell WAS Live Aid?

I spent three hours last night contemplating lost youth, so allow me to explain.

On the one hand, I'm no fan of biopics, and I probably won't watch Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 biographical film about the British rock band Queen. It follows singer Freddie Mercury's life, leading to Queen's Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985.

I find it interesting and instructive that since the movie was released, there has been so much discussion about Queen's performance at Live Aid, but unless you're over forty years of age, it may not be clear to you what Live Aid even was.

The videos pasted here are two parts of a single three-hour BBC documentary, an hour and a half each, and the whole Live Aid story is recapped. It's solid and filled with information in spite of the many too-cute visual flourishes.

Verily, July 13, 1985 was a bizarre cultural landmark. Flawed, but indisputable. It's unclear if the millions raised that day accomplished very much in terms of famine relief for Ethiopia, and yet if you were a music fan at the time, Live Aid cannot be forgotten -- whether you loved it or hated it.

The following was pulled from my 1985 European travelogue and lightly edited for context. One thing that rings true about the documentary are those memories of walking the streets of London and hearing the concert from every window. I was in Ireland at the time, and the interest level was comparable. It was an amazing thing, indeed.

If nothing else, Live Aid will be remembered as a pioneering use of satellite transmission technology. As many as two million people around the globe tuned in, and while we're now connected in far more sophisticated and immediate ways, it's difficult imagining state-of-the-art technology bringing people together in quite the same fashion.

Because: we don't desire being brought together, do we?


At one of the pubs in Sligo, I’d overheard a conversation about a big concert on Saturday, July 13. At first I thought they meant a show in Sligo itself, but then it became clear it was to be televised from Wembley Stadium in London – and finally I made the connection with the magazine I'd previously spotted at the hostel in Paris.

It was Live Aid, Bob Geldof’s epochal day-long, worldwide gig to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief. I was about to learn the importance of being Irish; Geldof was born and raised near Dublin, and as the guiding force behind the punk-era Boomtown Rats, he doubled as curmudgeonly social critic.

It was a quality Irish conservatives found disconcerting – until the hometown boy made good on a larger stage.

So, never discount the power of national pride. Live Aid was the project of an Irishman, and Ireland was preparing to be quite enamored of this fact, whether or not any of them liked the Boomtown Rats.

On Saturday morning I asked Gerry, who with his wife Mary was my host at their informal bed and breakfast, to direct me to the bus headed for Strandhill. It was a settlement by the ocean at the foot of Knocknarea (nock-na-ray), a 1,000-foot tall limestone hill overlooking the Bay of Sligo. My plan was a morning hike to the top, where a Neolithic burial cairn is located, and then a return to Sligo to watch Live Aid.

As it turned out, Gerry was preparing to drive to the golf course, and so he deposited me at the trail head near Strandhill. It was hazy, muggy and fly-infested, and the path well-traveled. The view from Knocknarea was worth the effort, with majestic vistas of green fields, rocky hedgerows, shimmering sea and the ever-present Benbulbin.

I caught a bus back to Sligo after lunch, showered, and found a seat at a nearby pub. Live Aid was showing on a projection TV. The Irish national television channel had preempted all other programming, and between acts, there were cuts from the live feed to the studio, where an older presenter and Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy’s singer and bassist, provided what amounted to color commentary.

It struck me that whenever a set ended, and the two television commentators began talking, voices in the pub would be lowered, and the drinkers would pause to listen. This was interesting, though it still was relatively early in the day.

Live Aid was the most ambitious international satellite television production of its time, and Geldof’s creation was subject to rightful criticism: Wasn’t it the very same group of pious pop stars, pumping up their own album sales by means of a charitable “cover,” with little of the money raised ever actually making it to the intended beneficiaries in Ethiopia?

More pointedly for Live Aid’s connection with Africa, why were the acts almost entirely white? Stevie Wonder is said to have refused a slot at the American venue because he had no intention of being the token black.

Ironically, Lynott was a black Irishman, born in London, and he was in the television studio precisely because his band hadn’t been invited to play. How could Bob do that to Phil? They were mates. Still, as Live Aid unfolded, my fellow pub goers were united in praise for the idea – after all, it was Geldof, an Irishman, who’d organized it.

Unfortunately, illness and heroin addiction killed Lynott barely six months later. Did he and Sir Bob ever make up?

At some point later in the afternoon, I walked back to my room to get more money from the secret cash stash. I heard familiar sounds coming from the kitchen, where Mary sat watching U2 begin its star-making Live Aid set.

“It’s U2,” I said. “I love this band. Are you a U2 fan, too?”

“I’ve no idea,” she replied. “But they’re our lads, aren’t they?” We watched together

Just as I re-entered the pub, Queen started playing. Like much of the rest of the planet, I was spellbound as Freddie Mercury worked the crowd of 75,000. I’d been only a casual follower of the group, and had not witnessed it on stage.

Queen’s 20-minute set at Live Aid is routinely rated among the most memorable live performances in rock history, and while it may have not been the music I came to Ireland to hear, it’s a personal memory I’ll always cherish.

It gets hazy after that. Back in my room, I listened to the some of the Philadelphia portion of Live Aid on a small radio I’d brought along. I fell asleep, and it would be many years, well into the Internet era, before I ever saw video of what I'd missed.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: The curious case of the speeding ticket, the honest cop, his fuming chief and the city's abject failure to calm downtown traffic.

The Green Mouse leaned back and drank deeply from his gunmetal flask, the one with the engraved inscription by Gilby Clarke, former guitarist for Guns 'n' Roses.

"You know, Rog, maybe this one's so bizarre even by New Albanian standards that you tell the story straight, with the minimum of embellishment."

Well, I'll give it the good ol' college try.

As with so many modern morality tales, it begins on Facebook. The post, since deleted for reasons which are about to be discussed, became known to the NA Confidential newsroom when I was brought into the ensuing conversation by a mutual friend.

Good thing I had the presence of mind to make a screenshot.

Here's the text:

I never do this, but I can’t help myself.

As I was driving down Spring Street in New Albany, a cop pulls out behind me and turns on his lights. I pulled over to get out of his way. He pulls over behind me. I thought maybe I had a tail light out or something because I wasn’t speeding. He comes to the window and says “Ma’am, you were going 36.” After I said ok, he said he has to give me a ticket because the chief of police for Floyd County told him he had to write 5 tickets in that spot tonight. He said others were driving the same speed in front of me, but there was space for him to pull out and pull me over. The officer proceeds to tell me that the Mayor of New Albany is up for re-election and there are tons of political reasons why they do things like this. He said he never gives tickets, but had no choice tonight per the chief. AND for 36mph, my ticket was $165 !!!!

Folks, this is a joke!!!!! If these are the people running the county I live in, I don’t want them to have their positions any longer!!!

So frustrating ......

Shocking, although it makes perfect sense in a demented, distinctly New Gahanian way.

Having failed to implement a panoply of traffic calming measures over and beyond two-way traffic, as suggested by Jeff Speck and others, and with increasing numbers of neighborhood residents along Spring Street beginning to grasp the sheer extent of the engineering debacle, City Hall's improvised damage control is to do what not one street grid reform advocate ever wanted done, which is use police officers better deployed elsewhere to operate speed traps to facilitate the enforcement that might have been achieved with better results through design -- had city officials not been so woefully ignorant of the design principles involved, and determined not to learn anything from the many studies they'd commissioned.

It didn't take long for the post on social media to rouse the ire of Todd Bailey, chief of police.

DO NOT under any circumstances tell a violator I have directed you to write citations. It is YOUR job and to enforce statutes and I will not tolerate any officer giving violators excuses that it is my order that they are getting citations. It is simple to determine who is doing this and in the event you do so you WILL face severe disciplinary action. You enforce traffic laws because it’s your job, not because you have been directed to do so. I have no idea what insanity has led to telling people this but it stops today.

Wow. The pre-election panic by the Democrats may already have started.

The Green Mouse was told that Bailey called the aggrieved party, apologized, trashed the speeding ticket in return for the original post being deleted from Facebook, then had pointed words with the ticketing officer. The memo reprinted above soon followed. 

Let's hope the officer in question, whose inadvertent honesty is appreciated in dissident circles, isn't cashiered. We're already short on police man (and woman) staffing, aren't we? It's a shame available officers are used at speed traps when properly implemented street design might have turned the trick.

Here's another thought.

Gahan's City Hall famously placed Speck's street study in the hands of favored contractor (and huge mayoral campaign donor) HWC Engineering, which fed the report into a nearby sausage grinder and emerged with a plan that has failed to slow traffic, failed to make streets safer for non-automotive users, and failed to enhance walkability.

As such, when the necessary changes eventually must be made, whether during the current occupant's tenure or by whomever follows, will taxpayers foot the bill -- or HWC?

ON THE AVENUES: "That's why I voted no," explains Scott Stewart, pausing to duck rocks feebly lobbed by Team Gahan's propaganda pygmies.

ON THE AVENUES: "That's why I voted no," explains Scott Stewart, pausing to duck rocks feebly lobbed by Team Gahan's propaganda pygmies.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor ... with assistance by the Green, Green Mouse from home.

Here we go again.

New Albany’s suburban-minded, self-congratulatory ruling caste is moving with characteristic pre-election haste to make the city safe for all the people just like them.

Wile E Gahan(Genius) is shining yet another spotlight on the shoddy chipped veneer of his own ego, joining with our culturally illiterate elites to merrily filch someone else’s idea about recreational rails-to-trails, surreptitiously scratching off the serial numbers, and heading down to the Quality of Life Pawn Shop for the cash to pay approximately 3% of a long-term project located almost entirely outside city limits.

Bait, meet switch. Neither a pathway to Bedford nor a series of triumphant press releases will help New Albany residents find alternative routes to work, obtain affordable housing, or keep their porches safe from petty thievery.

But look at us!

We rock!

Huzzahs all around!

Operators are standing by to take your campaign donation, so call BR549 today!

Long live the Bling!

Of course, we're nodding wearily. It’s just another gold-painted brick in the putrid swamp of Mayor Gahan’s burgeoning cult of personality, this all-seeing, all-knowing Great Father of the New Albanians, who recently joined the festive crowds under our municipal Christmas Tree and humbly accepted their beseeching to belt out the Official Anchor Theme.

At least it explains why the animals were howling in terminal distress that particular evening.


Are the scalpels ready?

Let’s get down to the necessary dissection, beginning with this banner on social media, courtesy of the City of New Albany’s propaganda commissariat.

At today’s Redevelopment Commission meeting, the board approved a motion for Faegre Baker Daniels (FBD) to assist with advancing the Rails to Trails project. The vote was 4-1, with the lone dissenter being Scott Stewart.

(As an aside, Faegre Baker and Daniels are not newcomers to our civic circus: Me thinks Coffey knows Gahan's public housing attorneys. After all, he tossed them from Redevelopment's temple just last year.)

Thinking human beings should note an obvious item of importance from the preceding.

Why didn’t Jeff Gahan’s staffer phrase the missive to credit the city’s own loyal bootlickers, rather than imply Scott Stewart somehow is a vile creature for exercising due diligence about this latest pie in the sky?

At today’s Redevelopment Commission meeting, the board approved a motion for Faegre Baker Daniels (FBD) to assist with advancing the Rails to Trails project. The vote was 4-1, with Terry Middleton, David Barksdale, Adam Dickey and Irving Joshua voting in favor.

This is the city's official "feed," as it were, and it isn't the place to pursue political vendettas -- which is exactly what this is.

Isn't shaming the Republican Stewart the sort of thing for the Floyd County Democratic Party's disinformation outlets, as opposed to the city's? Party chairman Dickey's already doing it regularly for the Democrats, isn't he -- even if it didn't avert a third consecutive electoral meltdown earlier this month?

Surely it's a coincidence that Dickey enjoys a lifetime sinecure at the Redevelopment Commission.

I’ve only recently gotten to know Stewart, but his Curriculum Vitae is a matter of public record. He worked in communications for Proctor & Gamble Co., including stints overseas. He worked for Governor Mitch Daniels as senior policy director, and as head of the Port of Indiana.

In short, Stewart has considerably more employment and life experience at far higher levels of The Game than the combined weight of a motley crew of yes-men and sycophants gathered together by Team Gahan to stifle grassroots creativity, ladle political patronage, and make grammar school insinuations about Stewart in their self-serving press releases.

So, Stewart is a dissenter?

Awesome. Can we have more dissent like this, please?

I’m proud to stand with Stewart, whether he’s a Republican, a Kentuckian, a Klingon, or just an reasonably intelligent human capable of looking past the perennial bilge to dispassionately vet a proposed expenditure at the Redevelopment Commission, this being exactly why he was appointed by city council president Al Knable in the first place.

Consequently, seeing as the Redevelopment Commission likes to keep its usual pair of deuces concealed, I did the unthinkable. Let's hope the News & Submitted Press Releases is paying attention, because I actually asked Scott Stewart to explain his dissenting vote.


Thank you for your inquiry about the Redevelopment Commission's action today on a $125,000 consulting agreement pertaining to the proposed trail between New Albany and Bedford.

As a commission member, my initial thought when this proposal was first presented on November 13 was that the concept of converting an unused rail line to a multi-use trail was worth considering.

There is no greater foundational need for bettering our community than a laser-like focus on improving what economic developers call quality of place. For New Albany, such an effort, in my view, would require a comprehensive plan and targeted investment linking our neighborhoods and commercial areas with one another, including downtown and the Greenway, as well as with Indiana University Southeast and the Purdue Technology Center.

As I've discussed the trail idea with others over the past few weeks, I've come to the conclusion that I cannot support using our limited Redevelopment resources to speculate on a trail to Bedford without first making substantial progress in providing safe pathways for pedestrians and cyclists within the city limits. There have been fatalities among pedestrians and cyclists given the failure to effectively address this critical need. Improving quality of place requires making walking, running and biking as safe as possible. Safety and economic development should go hand in hand, and they start right here at home, not on the way to Bedford.

There are many factors relating to the proposed trail to Bedford that are unknown or speculative. Such a project will be complicated and very expensive. The commission was asked to sign the first of what may become a large number of checks for this project. Given the many needs and opportunities within the city, committing to a project that would cost millions outside the city doesn’t make sense. In other words, there are important needs within the New Albany city limits that will remain unmet if this project moves forward.

That’s why I voted no.


So, rather than vilify Stewart for refraining from participation in the ritualistic mass fellatio that typically greets any pronouncement by the saintly emperor, perhaps Team Gahan’s luminaries might offer some sort of gurgling sound faintly resembling a rebuttal?

They won’t, so allow me to fully agree with Stewart, and add that while perfectly valid in the abstract sense, the rails-to-trails we need most in New Albany would begin at the Greenway, to run along the urban section of the CSX tracks all the way past the currently specified beginning point near Sazerac for another two miles north, to the city limits.

There it would stop, to await action by surrounding governmental units to complete their segments eventually leading to Bedford, Bloomington, Keokuk or Duluth.

First things first, and people in New Albany first -- unless you're a mayor enamored of smoke, mirrors and low-hanging fruit, because what the current rails-to-trails proposal really signifies is the accumulated pain of the city’s TIF One Credit Cards screaming "tilt"; we can't afford the necessary urban route, the one resembling the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple, so we'll settle for the first two detached and isolated miles of a yellow brick road to Needmore.

What does this paltry two-mile stretch have to do with New Albany, apart from one man's engorged megalomania?

In closing, several alert readers who’ve rigorously trained themselves to look past faux journalism and simple stenography, straight to the heart of the matter, have asked precisely the right question.

How much money has Faegre Baker Daniels donated to Jeff Gahan's re-election fund?

Here’s the answer … so far, and not including and cash-stuffed envelopes adorning the monthly fruit basket. You'd think he'd at least give the untouched fruit to a homeless person.

That’s $4,000 total for 2015, 2016 and 2017. My guess is not a single casino on the planet would choose to fix the odds on whether another donation was made in 2018.

Some will find nothing particularly odious or even noteworthy about a mayor's campaign accepting donations just like these from vendors, consultants and contractors just like them.

But you can’t convince me it isn’t pay to play. Read Stewart’s explanation again. It's damned ethical, isn’t it?

We need more like him, don't we?


Recent columns:

November 22: ON THE AVENUES: A few thanks to give before we return to our regular anti-anchor resistance programming.

November 15: ON THE AVENUES: Notes on Solidarity after a visit to the European Solidarity Centre in Gdansk.

November 1: ON THE AVENUES: Three books by Polish writers.

October 23: ON THE AVENUES: I'd like nothing more than to go for another ride with Kevin.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Albany has a pro basketball player right now: Braydon Hobbs, playing in Germany for FC Bayern München.

One of the odd quirks of indulging in off-season travel has been the opportunity to attend European basketball games in Bamberg (2009), Porto (2018), Gdynia (2018), and coming up on December 21, Munich.

Or, as the city is spelled in German, München ... located in Bayern (Bavaria). Munich's pro basketball team is called FC Bayern München, same as its better known soccer/football squad.

As it turns out, one of FC Bayern's players is 29-year-old Braydon Hobbs, a New Albanian basketballer made good, who enjoyed outstanding careers at New Albany High School and Bellarmine University before heading overseas in 2012 to begin playing pro ball.

It's a tad bewildering to me, but many European teams of FC Bayern's stature participate in multiple, overlapping leagues each season. FC Bayern is part of Germany's top domestic basketball league, the Bundesliga, and also plays in the EuroLeague, which is comprised of Europe's top clubs.

Both these leagues have playoffs and championships, and then there's also the annual German Cup competition, which crowns its own champion following a tournament with German clubs from the Bundesliga and the domestic league beneath it. The game we'll be attending is a EuroLeague contest.

FC Bayern Basketball vs. Real Madrid
Round 14
Audi Dome, München, Bayern
December 21, 2018

FC Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid: A new rivalry in basketball.

Despite having been major foes for many decades in football, Bayern and Real Madrid have just played each other four times on the basketball courts in official competition since 2000. The Spanish squad has dominated the series 3-1, to date.

FC Bayern's Twitter jokingly called this a pre-game shootaround. 

I've never met Braydon, but was casually acquainted with his dad when we both were at IU Southeast a couple lifetimes ago. We're hoping to at least say hello to him; mutual friend Steve Laduke contacted Braydon, who graciously offered to leave us comps at the will call.

Professional basketball overseas is a manic, mercenary world; since 2012, Braydon has played for eight different teams in various leagues and countries. He's in the second year of a two-year deal with FC Bayern. I'm guessing the future is uncertain, but as Steve said, he's done good for himself in Europe.

Here's added background.

Braydon Hobbs, FC Bayern Munich, by David Hein (Jan 23, 2018; at

Braydon Hobbs is garnering more and more international attention with each breath-taking no-look pass he delivers in the 7DAYS EuroCup. But the FC Bayern Munich guard should be warned there are pitfalls to becoming too popular. It may limit his career choices when his basketball playing days are over.

Hobbs, 28, had his heart set on a career in law enforcement when he graduated from college. "I was more looking into secret services, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) or DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) - going behind the scenes stuff," Hobbs explained. But his great basketball skills and some good fortune put him on the path to stardom and now he has found a second home in Munich.

Hobbs's numbers may not jump off the page; he is averaging 8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists for a Bayern team that went 9-1 in the EuroCup Regular Season and is 2-1 thus far in the Top 16. At first glance, he doesn't really stand out on the court – that is until he absolutely wows the fans ...

Following the money: HWC Engineering made city streets even safer for speeding cars. Now the company will oversee the Reisz Mahal. Can campaign donations be far behind?

Speaking only for myself, whenever I'm confronted with an anti-climax like this, I reach for my Rice Krispies Treats. HWC's Ed Jolliffe probably does, too.

For many years prior to being awarded so many city contracts that it opened an office within eyesight of the mayor's anchor-bedecked window, HWC annually pumped thousands of dollars into Mayor Jeff Gahan's campaign finance war chest, which at last glance was topping out at around $100,000.

We all know why.

David Duggins was the city's redevelopment director, and his wife worked for HWC. It reeked of nepotism, but who other than this blog bothered to state the facts aloud?

Accordingly, the stenographers strike again with yet another gullible report on the awarding of YET ANOTHER contract to HWC, this time to manage construction of the new luxury city hall.

What will it take for the News & Shambles to inform the public of the many cash-strewn trails running from special interests like HWC to Gahan's Money Machine?

What the newspaper's cloistered management apparently fails to understand is that for a growing number of us on the outside of this enrichment loop, journalistic silence about City Hall's corruption implicates the newspaper itself. Perhaps this is an unjust point of view, but as it stands, it's the only logical conclusion to draw from the newspaper's failure to report facts.

Meanwhile, it appears that municipal corporate attorney and chief sluice greaser Gibson was misquoted.

WAS: "They (HWC) will make sure what we bought is what we will get."

CORRECTED: "They (HWC) will make sure a percentage of what the city bought lands in the mayor's campaign finance account."

HWC to oversee city hall construction in New Albany, Chris Morris (Hanson Capitulation Chronicle)

NEW ALBANY — As work progresses on transforming the old Reisz Furniture building at 148 E. Main St. into the new city hall, the city has hired HWC Engineering to complete ongoing inspections during the construction period.

Shane Gibson, city attorney, told the New Albany Board of Public Works & Safety on Tuesday that HWC will be onsite daily.

"They will make sure what we bought is what we will get," Gibson told the board.

The contract for the duration of the work is not to exceed $154,000.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

LIVE TO EAT: Grand opening for Cox's Hot Chicken today, and good ink for Pints&union's food.

I meant to post earlier than this afternoon about the grand opening, but it slipped through the cracks.

Kindly note the change since earlier reports suggested the name "Big Four" would survive; the owner and namesake chose to identify the entire space as Cox's, with bar areas at both the New Albany and Jeffersonville locations to be branded with the Goodwood Brewing name.

I'm told the Cox's location in Jeffersonville eventually will feature Goodwood Brewing beers brewed on site, but I cannot verify this at present.

Cox’s Hot Chicken is latest in economic boom for downtown New Albany, by Rachael Krause (WAVE-3)

New restaurant in downtown New Albany marks homecoming for businessman

NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - Big Four Burgers is out and Cox’s Hot Chicken is in.

The new restaurant is the latest in a string of recent businesses opening up in New Albany’s downtown.

“We found a niche and we think the area needed it,” Andrew Cox, owner of Cox’s Hot Chicken in New Albany, said.

There’s nothing like it in the community and the trending interest in the downtown area will serve him and his customers well, Cox believes.

Opening this restaurant has been a kind of homecoming for Cox. He’s opened around 50 bars and restaurants around the U.S. over the years, but said he decided to move back home to be closer with family.

“It’s really cool, just to have my family come -- my uncle’s eating lunch right now,” Cox said.

The new restaurant and take-out area will take over the former Big Four Burgers spot on Main Street. It’s the latest in a series of new shops and restaurants opening up downtown ...

Meanwhile Kevin Gibson (writing at Insider Louisville) and his friends enjoyed their meals at Pints&union.

Pints & Union has burst onto the local bar scene with a big buzz, and it has the market cornered on atmosphere with its quirky yet welcoming vibe, replete with antiques, taxidermy, vintage (and sometimes creepy) portraits and a European vibe.

Add to that a robust cocktail program and beer list that explores classic European styles built for the purest of purists, and you’re in pretty good territory. Now add a menu that features pub grub inspired by everything from European cuisine to American classics, and it adds up to, well, deserved buzz.

Belated recognition to city council for its hate crimes resolution.

Someday someone will write an entertaining History of New Albany Common Council Non-Binding Resolutions, in which a panel of experts will seek to unravel the reasoning behind CM Scott Blair's yes/no votes, as opposed to principled abstentions, on such resolutions.

I've never been able to detect a pattern, but then again, I haven't attended a meeting for a while, and maybe a new paradigm has occurred. Insofar as the council's recent hate crimes resolution is concerned, it's wonderful and bipartisan.

Thumbs up.

At the same time, am I the only observer puzzled by Deaf Gahan's willingness to allow a Republican to take credit for opposing hate crimes? Perhaps Hizzoner hasn't noticed any of the swastikas -- or the homeless people, or the opioid epidemic. There's bound to be a demented twist.

By the way, the Green Mouse informs us that Blair will be the next council president come 2019, this being (p)art of the deal securing his vote for Al Knable in 2018. But whose bidding will David Barksdale slavishly spin this time around? Only the shadow knows, and I may be compelled to attend that first January meeting, if only to drain a flask.

New Albany passes hate crimes resolution, by Chris Morris (Biblioteca de Tom May)

NEW ALBANY — Indiana is one of five states in the country without a hate crimes law. Al Knable said it's time for that to change.

Knable, president of the New Albany City Council, drafted a resolution recently supporting Gov. Eric Holcomb's push for the Indiana General Assembly to pass a hate crimes bill next session. The city council unanimously passed the non-binding resolution 9-0 earlier this month and Mayor Jeff Gahan was expected to sign it before it was sent off to the governor's office.

"The governor pushed for that last year and it failed. It didn't get much traction," Knable said. "The governor is still making this a key piece of his legislative agenda in 2019. It's been on my radar for several years."

Holcomb said at the the One Southern Indiana's Governor's Luncheon event that a hate crimes bill was "critically important" ...

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Chasing grandiose white whales is far less interesting to me than nurturing my scruffy little herd of goats.

We returned three weeks ago from Gdansk, Poland. I'm still processing the journey, and so until the words come to me, meet Żywiec IPA.

It's a newer-age beer style brewed by an old-line Polish brewery that's been owned the past two decades by Heineken. The ABV is 5%, making it a Session IPA in my world. It was tasty, and available in bottles throughout the old town in Gdansk.

Now to a larger point. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the deeper I dive into beer programming at Pints&union, the less I've had to say about beer in a more abstract sense.

I'm very interested in what we're trying to do at the pub, less so pertaining to those beers landing outside the newly established perimeter.

Apart from the day-in, day-out tasks at the pub, much of my time has been spent catching up with my past. I've done some reading at the bedrock Beer 101 level, which is to say actively avoiding immersion in this week's beer phenom of the moment.

What's new, different, and the latest, greatest beer to grace Louisville area store shelves and draft spouts?

I've no idea. Frankly, trendsetters, I don't give a damn.

Chasing grandiose white whales is far less interesting to me than nurturing my scruffy little herd of goats. The thrill of the chase isn't entirely tumescent these days, and my preference is to refrain from the heated rush, settling into a nice space at a clean, well-lighted place, and sipping on a bona fide classic.

Yes, craft beer exuberance always will remain a part of my better beer soul. I'm happy we're winning the beer wars, and I'll support the culture while traveling, sneaking a habanero-infused sour pastry Kolsch on scattered occasions just for the hell of it. I'm delighted that so many of the bars and restaurants in downtown New Albany offer these dizzying choices within a minute or three's walk of Pints&union.

However, my contention remains: If beer is "special" every day, all the time, then it really isn't "special" any longer. That bountiful Thanksgiving meal you enjoyed last week materializes rarely, and rarity contributes to the experience. 

From a beer buyer's perspective, it simply astounds me to see kegs of untested craft beer twice the price of a Paulaner Oktoberfest or Bell's Porter. Even if every last one of these beers was spectacular -- and with dozens of them on offer, how could one solitary palate ever really know? -- it wouldn't be feasible to have them all on tap at the same time.

This is why I appreciate limitations, because they have a tendency to restrain urges for overkill. At Pints&union, we have ten draft handles and space for around 50 bottles and cans. That's it. Yes, we might decide to pour beer from sixth barrels only, and add another ten draft lines, except that in terms of everyday pour costs, this would be self-defeating. At the same time, the current configuration allows for two rotating taps.

I think that's enough. There's a daily undertow, and there's some spice. Contrasts are what make the game interesting.

I'll continue to express the wish that our downtown New Albany dining and drinking scene would embrace a bit more of the fixed in beer, and slightly less the kaleidoscope; for instance, that the Exchange would put Firestone Walker Pivo Pils on tap permanently, or there'd always be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at Cox's Hot Chicken (the former Big Four Burgers).

I'd go to these places more regularly if I knew there'd be everyday pints I liked, and I strongly suspect many others would, too.

Contrarianism; swimming against the tide. It's a tough way to be, but someone's got to do it. See you next time.

Downtown stakeholders need to learn about issues pertaining to parking, and stakeholders shouldn't allow the city to conduct this discussion in secret.

"The goal here is to create a virtuous feedback loop, where parking fees are used to improve the downtown, an improved downtown draws more patrons, and those patrons generate more parking fees. This is how we turbocharge downtown development."
-- Charles Marohn

I mentioned this topic just last week.

What's a Parking Benefits District? DNA needs to pay more attention to matters that pertain to merchants.

In the essay linked below, Marohn touches on several sub-topics pertaining to the larger issues of downtown parking. His Brainerd and our New Albany are not directly comparable, but it doesn't mean that aren't parking universals applicable to either city, or both.

Give yourself 10 minutes, pour a coffee and read the whole article. I can't summarize it in a short, glib way, although the quote at the top comes close.

The first paragraph sets the mood, and points to something we're NOT doing in New Albany: having a "healthy conversation." Currently all discussions about parking are occurring within the limited confines of the Redevelopment Commission, so as to be kept safely in-house and controlled by the powers that be.

This is the exact OPPOSITE of how the conversation should be proceeding -- and couldn't Develop New Albany play a valuable role in making the discussion public?

Here's How to Build a Parking Garage, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)

In my hometown of Brainerd, Minnesota, we’re having a healthy conversation about parking. I’m calling it healthy not because we’re all agreeing, but because we’re starting to question things that have long been taken for granted. That is an important first step.

A big part of this conversation is the realization that tearing down buildings to add parking destroys the tax base, makes the city less desirable a destination, and, ironically, makes the parking less necessary. Here parking is having the opposite of the Yogi Berra effect. (“Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”) Here, all the parking lots make it seem so desolate that not enough people want to go there. We’re starting to grasp that parking has become a liability.

That doesn’t mean the parking isn’t needed. Most patrons of our local businesses arrive by automobile and thus have a need to park. Most business owners and employees likewise drive to work. While it is clearly a winning strategy long-term to have more people living downtown and to improve walking/biking connections with the surrounding neighborhoods—both strategies that would add patrons without adding parking—that is not a viable short-term reality.

As cities (including ours) have a tendency to do, there is a push to skip to what everyone knows is the ultimate end condition: a parking garage (or parking ramp, as we call them here in Minnesota). I italicized “what everyone knows” there because I don’t actually agree with this conclusion. But many people in this conversation do, especially the ones who live outside of the city and drive in. For them, it’s obvious that we need a parking ramp, and so the process of justifying more debt to a struggling population in an already highly-indebted city is underway.

Those advocating for big action on parking ramps closely correlate to those calling for big action on a local initiative called River to Rail, a plan to spend millions on a reimagined city (to instantly make it more appealing to those who don’t live here). This past summer, I wrote about this initiative and identified three truths related to parking:

Truth #1: If we ask people who drive to Brainerd whether there is enough parking, they will say no.

Truth #2: If we ask downtown business owners whether the city of Brainerd should provide more free parking, they will say yes.

Truth #3: Whenever I go downtown—which is multiple times per week—there are always plenty of places to park within a block of my destination. Always.

As I wrote in that piece, I can agree with the eventual need for a parking ramp, I just think we have a lot of work to do to get there. Along those lines, I’m going to offer three phases of action that we can take, steps that will be applicable to far more places than my own ...

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Urbanophile nails it: "Louisville Bridges Project Is the Biggest Transportation Boondoggle of the 21st Century."

Go there and read all about it. The Urbanophile is remorseless.

I differ with only one point.

By rights I should be writing this for a major national publication instead of putting it on my personal web site. But I love Louisville and Southern Indiana (my hometown) and don’t want to create negative press for them. I just want it known for the record that this did not have to happen.

Without negative press -- without floggings, scourging and negative feedback in every known public configuration, right here in Louisville and all across America -- these imbeciles will do something just as stupid, yet again.

Louisville Bridges Project Is the Biggest Transportation Boondoggle of the 21st Century, by Aaron M. Renn (Urbanophile)

I have been a steadfast critic of the project to build two new bridges across the Ohio River in Louisville for over a decade. In fact, my first critical post on the bridges proposal was put up in 2007 less than six months after starting my original Urbanophile blog.

The end result was even worse than I anticipated. The project has proven to be a money waster of the highest order, and in fact by far the biggest American transportation boondoggle I can identify in the 21st century so far.

Part of the agreement between Indiana and Kentucky to build the bridges was that they would do official before and after surveys of traffic to determine the impact of the new bridges on traffic flow. The study was published in August of this year.

The result? The two states spent $1.3 billion dollars to build a parallel I-65 span in downtown Louisville that doubled the capacity of that crossing. After spending that money, traffic fell by 50%.

Let me repeat that: Indiana and Kentucky spent $1.3 billion to double the capacity of a road while traffic levels were cut in half ...

Hello, Larry ... and Jeff, and Warren, and HWC: Improve the city by slowing the cars in walkable places.

The folks at the Strong Towns feed at Twitter finished Sunday with two excellent links.

First, something perhaps never before uttered at a Board of Public Monetization Works and Selective Safety meeting in New Albany.

"If you're looking to help small businesses thrive, maybe you should start thinking about how to slow down your commercial streets."

Cyclists Spend 40% More In London's Shops Than Motorists, by Carlton Reid (Forbes)

New research from Transport for London (TfL) claims that people walking, cycling and using public transport spend more than motorists in local shops. Conducted by Matthew Carmona from University College London's Bartlett School of Planning, the research reveals that those not in cars spend 40% more each month in neighborhood shops than motorists.

The research was conducted in areas of London which have benefitted from Dutch-style streetscape improvements, such as the addition of cycleways ...

From London, Strong Towns moves to Italy.

"It's not every day that you hear about an Italian village that followed North America's lead and ran a highway through its downtown. Will they do what most American cities are afraid to do, and use good design to #slowthecars in their walkable places?"

Italian Village Installs Speed Cameras, Records 58,000 Infractions In 2 Weeks, by Merrit Kennedy (NPR)

... "We hope that these speed gauges can be an effective deterrent to motorists and that they can benefit the citizens of Acquetico, because you do not want to make cash with the fines, but it is necessary to protect people's safety," the mayor told the news agency, according to BBC.

Why so fast?

The mayor proceeds to explain that the highway is designed for speed, and drivers use it as designed.

Wait -- might this be the fundamental problem, Mr. Rice?

Cutting loose the anchors: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

The sentiments expressed here by Frederick Douglass are valid at all levels of society, perhaps most of all locally, where big fish in small ponds remain forever keen to preserve their privileges.

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

In other news, I'm updating my neighborhood affairs/politics page at Facebook: Roger Baylor for New Albany.

It may be useful shortly.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Car-centrism: Why does the news media always let human drivers off the hook when non-driving humans get killed?

Can any human (as opposed to his or her word processor) connected with the news media, now or in the past, explain why other humans walking, biking or skateboarding invariably are hit, injured and sometimes killed by vehicles, and not by the humans driving them?

Is this stated somewhere in a style guide: Thou shalt not trouble a driver when a vehicle can be blamed?

Greenville councilman fatally struck by car, by Aprile Rickert (Tom May Unlimited)

Alan K. Johnson was struck Saturday on U.S. 150

GREENVILLE — The Town of Greenville is mourning the loss of a community staple and council member who died Saturday after being struck by a car.

Alan K. Johnson, 66, was crossing the road in the 9600 block of U.S. 150 when he was hit by a 1996 Toyota Rav4, driven by Constance Sue Huber, 69, of DePauw, according to a news release from the Floyd County Sheriff's Department.

First in the title, then in the opening paragraph -- and for a third time in the opening clause of the second paragraph, it's the car that killed Johnson. Only in the second paragraph is the driver identified.

Wait -- the driver was identified?

Has the driver who killed Matt Brewer in August yet been identified?

Has the Combined Accident Reconstruction Team, the prosecutor's fanciful name for "here in Floyd County we don't prosecute drivers for killing non-drivers," released the report on Matt's death?

In May of 2016, Chloe Allen was killed by a driver named Terra Lawrence while trying to cross Spring Street at the suburban chain hellscape of Vincennes and Spring. The late Branden Klayko wrote about it at Broken Sidewalk.

I'm reprinting Branden's commentary in its entirety, with highlighting of crucial passages.

Woman killed by motorist in New Albany

Chloe Allen, 83, is dead after being struck by a motorist in downtown New Albany over the weekend.

The collision took place at Spring Street and Vincennes Street in the Southern Indiana city at 2:00p.m. on Friday, May 13. Allen was crossing the street in the crosswalk when struck by Terra Lawrence, 42, who failed to observe Allen in the street. Lawrence was driving a 2013 Dodge Ram truck and turning left onto Spring from Vincennes, according to police reports. Allen died after being transported to University Hospital in Louisville.

The incident was reported by the WLKY, WDRB, WHAS11, and the News & Tribune.

While a great deal of information was rendered by an investigation, it’s unfortunate that for the sake of a catchy acronym, the unit is labeled the Floyd County Combined Accident Reconstruction Team. As we have discussed many times, crashes and accidents are very different things and should not be mislabeled.

All of the local news reported that the pedestrian was struck “by a vehicle” rather than the driver of that vehicle. Cars and trucks don’t drive themselves—people crash them into things. Both WDRB and WHAS11 labeled the crash an accident, with WHAS11 going as far as to include a large “Accident” graphic complete with cracked windshield illustrating its report.

Each report duly noted a police statement that said speed nor alcohol are suspected in the crash. From a witness account, the motorist simply was not paying attention when turning, although none of the reports cited that the driver was errant or that charges were due.

New Albany has really let itself go at this intersection, allowing an anti-urban Walgreens, White Castle, and Rally’s to be built behind moats of parking that make walking unsafe. Low visibility crosswalks are clearly worn away by vehicle tires, compounding the walkability issue.

But the city should have seen this one coming. Back in 2014, urban planner Jeff Speck issued a report on the streets of downtown New Albany in which he identified Vincennes Street as “clearly oversized for its traffic.” Speck wrote of the three-lane street: “At no point do car accounts approach the number that would require a third lane. This condition is supported by the fact that the third lane, rather then (sic) being striped for left turns, merely provides northbound redundancy with no southbound counterpart.” He recommended a reconfiguration to improve safety.

Speck had also recommended making Spring Street west of here, among other local streets, a two-way thoroughfare (Spring is two-way to the east). He labeled Spring Street’s design as it moved from a grid to a highway layout as dangerous:

This four-lane section of Spring Street also feels very much like a highway, and experiences a large amount of speeding while creating an environment that is dangerous to walk along or live near. The ideal solution for this street would be to calm the traffic and create an environment of greater safety, without significantly changing its capacity, beyond perhaps a slight lowering of volume to match current demand.

Further, KIPDA has ranked two segments of Spring Street in New Albany—including this intersection—as among the most crash-prone in all of Southern Indiana, spurring plans for design changes on the street. Most of those changes call for lights making driving through the area easier, but buffered bike lanes are also part of the plan, which will be under construction this summer. Even these minor changes were challenged by area trucking companies in court, citing they make driving big rigs through the area more difficult.

New Albany has a long way to go on street safety.

By the way, as City Hall dithers about radar displays to tell them what the man in the moon already knows -- drivers drive too damn fast on Spring Street -- dead man's curve remains a killing waiting to happen.

ASK THE BORED: Faced with 75 signatures on a petition, Nash, Summers and the clueless BOW non-safety board can't muster a single empathetic response.

They're not going to do anything to promote public safety, are they?

"The mere existence of a park does not ensure that a community benefits from it."

Imagine having public discussion and community input before city government borrows millions of dollars, to be repaid by your grandchildren, to construct a parks system via the same old network of special interests.

Not here in New Albany, mind you.

Just imagine.

Are public parks an unalloyed good? Not always, by Thaisa Way (Fast Company)

Cities need parks, but not just any parks will do. How they’re designed plays a crucial role in determining whether they benefit surrounding communities.

In cities, access to parks is strongly linked with better health for both people and neighborhoods.

Children suffer higher rates of obesity when they grow up in urban areas without a park in easy reach. Because low-income neighborhoods have fewer green spaces, poorer children are most likely to face other health problems, too, including asthma due to poor air quality.

But access to green space is not the only ingredient in creating healthy communities, my research on urban landscapes shows. Parks are good for people only if people use them.

And that’s a question of design.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

"Meet the Fatbergs: Digging into the science of three cities’ sewer-clogging blobs."

I should have posted this one on Thanksgiving Day.

In mid-October, workers at a wastewater treatment plant near Charleston began to notice that the water levels were rising fast. They suspected a blockage, and expected the culprit to be a mass of waterlogged wipes. To be sure—and to get it out—they dispatched a team of divers.

A three-person crew pulled on steel-toe boots, three pairs of gloves, and full-body suits (including metal helmets with sealed oxygen hoses), and rode a cage 80 feet down into the wet well, or holding tank. There, they felt their way through raw sewage. “You can’t send a camera down, because there’s zero visibility no matter how much light you bring down; it’s filled with particulate matter,” says Mike Saia, communications manager at the Charleston Water System. This diving company has been inspecting the area’s pipes for at least two decades. Saia says the divers know the topography by touch. They stuffed the cage full of the fetid stuff, and then returned to the surface. “Those people really are heroes,” he says.


Meet the Fatbergs, by Jessica Leigh Hester (Atlas Obscura)

Digging into the science of three cities’ sewer-clogging blobs.

Wherever they’re found, fatbergs—giant mounds of fats, oils, and debris that accumulate in sewers—have many things in common. Stinky, sprawling, subterranean, they start small, then get bigger and bigger, and sometimes grow to gargantuan proportions, occasionally surpassing a double-decker bus or even an airliner in size. They tend to lurk, unnoticed, until they claim so much of a pipe that wastewater can hardly flow past them. Then, they’re investigated and hauled to the surface bit by bit, where they elicit fascination and no small measure of nausea.

They also usually form in the same ways. “Saponified solids are the major pathways to these hardened deposits,” says Joel Ducoste, an environmental engineer at North Carolina State University who studies underground accumulations of fats, oils, and grease (otherwise known as “FOG”). “You’ve got reactions with calcium that can come from the background wastewater, or from corrosion of concrete-like materials that releases calcium and reacts with fat and grease that has broken down to release saturated and unsaturated fatty acids,” Ducoste says. These deposits build up on the sides of the pipes, like plaque narrowing an artery.

The clogs appear all over the world, wherever fats and oils go down the drain, wherever people bathe, wherever we flush things that ought to go in the trash. Cities have been battling gunked-up pipes ever since they began to snake beneath the streets ...

Among Democrats elsewhere, progressive economics are ascendant. Here, it's all about a Baked Sale.

The problem for local Democratic cadres as they approach the rapids (municipal elections in 2019) is that 2018 midterm results gave them nothing (ahem) worth dropping anchor.

Consider for a moment the devotion inspired by epic loser Joe "Slavishly Licking Donald Trump's Loafers" Donnelly among the older Democrats; meanwhile, big losses suffered by somewhat left-of-center female candidates Anna Murray and Liz Watson seemed to suggest the task ahead is hopeless.

After Jeff Gahan and four mediocre council "Democrats," the deluge. How will they compete in 2019?

To the left? They don't know how.

To the right? But as Donnelly proved conclusively, if a pretend-Democrat veers too far Falangist, voters will opt for an unalloyed GOP candidate and not the substitute.

Gahan's assets are a cult of personality and lots of money. Will any of it trickle down to the Democratic council candidates?

The obvious answer: Democratic Bake Sale!

My suggestion is to stockpile Rice Krispies Treats and enjoy the show.

Progressive Economics Are Ascendant—Among Democrats, and at the Ballot Box, by Chris Hughes (The Nation)

It’s good politics and good policy, and should be a winning formula in 2020.

With the results of the November midterm elections, we have officially witnessed the end of Rubinomics. Former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin was the ringleader of an incremental, neoliberal economics ascendant in the Democratic Party in the 1990s and through the Obama years. The Rubin school oversaw the deregulation of banking and finance, free-trade agreements with insufficient worker and environmental protections, and the dismantling of core parts of the safety net with Bill Clinton’s “welfare reform” of 1996. These economists, taking a page from Ronald Reagan, argued that markets self-regulate if we just leave them alone.

History has proven them wrong, and this month’s elections signaled the start of a fresh approach. A decade out from the Great Recession, wages are still stagnant, and the cost of living is spiraling out of control. Even though typical economic indicators, like the low unemployment rate, suggest we live in a strong economy, exit polls show that only a third of voters say their own financial situation has improved in the past two years.

A new cohort of candidates this year chose to run on a clear, unapologetic economic progressivism as good politics and good policy. A new analysis found that two-thirds of the incoming Democratic freshman class in Congress campaigned on some form of Medicare for All or the expansion of Social Security. Nearly 80 percent campaigned on tax credits that benefit working families or on rolling back Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy ...

Silver Creek bridge on nearly completed Ohio River Greenway hailed by area politicians as the solution to our affordable housing dilemma.

No, not at all, but it's the long-awaited conclusion to a 25-year-long project that Germans would have completed in 1998, and a very good thing that took way too long to build. So it goes. Meanwhile ...

Harvest Homelessness in New Albany: Who do you believe, Mayor Gahan or your own two eyes?

The next step will be eliminating the homeless encampments that insist on reappearing within eyesight of recreational cyclists. Unsightliness? it simply won't do with a municipal election year approaching.

Pathway between New Albany, Clarksville now open to pedestrians and new possibilities, by Melissa Goforth (Picayune de la Tom May)

CLARKSVILLE – The completion of a newly constructed pedestrian bridge spanning Silver Creek has opened up a much-anticipated path for foot and bike traffic between New Albany and Clarksville – and it has local leaders dreaming big about the opportunities it brings.

The new bridge, which replaced an old railroad bridge, is the last major phase of a bigger Ohio River Greenway project called the Lewis and Clark Trail.

When completed in the spring, this seven-mile trail will link those two communities together with Jeffersonville along the Ohio River Greenway.

This is a significant milestone for the development because, for the first time ever, it is possible for pedestrians and cyclists alike to travel between all three communities, with access to and from Louisville.

While people have already begun utilizing the bridge, Clarksville’s Parks and Recreation Superintendent Brian Kaluzny is quick to note the overall project is not complete nor does the town have oversight of the bridge or trail at this point.

“It’s not ours yet,” he said. “It will remain under the contractor until next May or so” ...

Friday, November 23, 2018

PINTS & UNION PORTFOLIO: Anchor Christmas Ale is a tradition worth renewing.

My memory is hazy, owing perhaps to periodic episodes of dissipation -- maybe it's just age -- but from the time I began programming beer at the Public House in 1992 (back then we called it "buying" beer), Anchor beers were available for purchase in bottles.

At least some of them were. Steam was a constant, and Porter as well. For many of us, Liberty Ale was the hoppiest beer we'd experienced at the time. We'd have loved to put it on draft. Old Foghorn was Anchor's Barley Wine, and each year right before the holidays the brewery's Christmas Ale would appear. Eventually it became a staple at Saturnalia.

Even before the internet we knew that the recipe and label drawing for Anchor Christmas changed each year. It was different, but within a range. My Beer Ed class tasted the 2018 version last week, and it's still within that same general range, at least to my palate; sort of dark and sort of spicy. This year's Christmas Ale has a noticeable pineyness (if that's a word).

The brewery takes it from here.


2018 Anchor Christmas Ale. New tree. New recipe. Same traditions.

Our annual Christmas Ale is a subtly spiced and sumptuously smooth winter warmer. This year’s brew marks the 44th annual release of this Anchor holiday tradition.

Back in 1975, Anchor released the first holiday beer in America since Prohibition. Year after year, Anchor creates a new, secret recipe with a unique hand drawn label for their Christmas Ale, but the intent with each brew remains the same: joy for the changing seasons and celebration of the newness of life. With a heavily guarded, confidential recipe, Christmas Ale is sold only from early November to mid-January. This highly anticipated seasonal delight is complex and full in flavor, packed with toasty cocoa notes, roasted malts and strong aromas of resinous pine.

Our 2018 Christmas Ale has varying specialty malts, lending rich flavors of brûléed sugars, holiday spices and freshly baked banana bread with a velvety finish. The aromatics are quintessential for the holiday season: nutty candied yams and resinous pine. It pours a nice mahogany brown color with a fluffy, tan head.

As each Christmas Ale recipe evolves, so does its hand drawn packaging, created by long-time Anchor Illustrator Jim Stitt, who has been creating Anchor’s Christmas Ale labels since 1975. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew.

For the 2018 release, Stitt created a brimming Korean Pine Tree for the label. Native to both North and South Korea, the Korean Pine Tree is a symbol of peace and a reminder of the spirit of the season. It flourishes in the picturesque botanical gardens just north of San Francisco, Anchor’s home base.

I couldn't get a keg as originally hoped, probably for much the same reason as Anchor Porter availability has been so unpredictable. However, we have a case of 12-ounce bottles (minus one). Enjoy them while they're here, and maybe next year there'll be draft.

Inhumanely treated Amazon workers in Europe go out on strike because Bezos didn't give them a new city hall.

Good for them -- Amazon's workers in Europe, that is.

'We Are Not Robots': Amazon Workers Across Europe Walk Out on Black Friday Over Low Wages and 'Inhuman Conditions', by Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams)

Amazon CEO "Jeff Bezos is the richest bloke on the planet; he can afford to sort this out," says a U.K. union leader

Amazon workers across Europe staged a walkout on Black Friday—when retailers offer major deals to holiday season shoppers the day after Thanksgiving—to protest low wages as well as "inhuman conditions" at company warehouses.

Eduardo Hernandez, a 38-year-old employee at an Amazon logistics depot in Madrid, Spain—where about 90 percent of staff walked off the job—told the Associated Press that the action was intentionally scheduled on the popular shopping day to negatively impacting the company's profits.

"It is one of the days that Amazon has most sales, and these are days when we can hurt more and make ourselves be heard because the company has not listened to us and does not want to reach any agreement," he said.

Protests were also planned for Amazon facilities in Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany ...