The office is quiet as I am it for staff at the start of today and today only lasts until noon. New Year’s Eve is best like this. Never been a greatest night ever even with the firmest of plans. My favorite bad New Year’s party was around 1986 when friends of friends of friends stiffed me for a bunch of tickets for something, hollaring ensured, mascara ran and I stayed in only to have Howie Chen show up and talk me into going out to the Flamingo after all to see I can’t recall who but maybe the Hopping Penguins. We leave the house around 11:50 and a cab is driving by. Cab stops. Drivers says “who the hell thinks they are going to flag a cab at ten minutes to miidnight on New Year’s Eve?” We say “who the hell is looking for fares?” Laughs and tips. After that, I remember Kenny who used to tend at the old Gingers was behind the bar and all was well.

When I was a kid, the folks had a party at the manse for the no-alcohol set but, being Scots, sherry is not no-alcohol and, when a large component of a trifle – actually called “sherry trifle” in our cookery – it is more of a food group. The aim New Year’s morning was to be the first kid up to gorge on homemade sausage rolls and sherry trifle at eleven years old and then lay around snoozing with the first inklings of buzzery. Speaking of buzzery, I read that Ian is getting drunk tonight and Rob spliffed up last night. Both have their reasons. Ian will be a Dad in 2005 and Rob learned that his daughter Hope had moved on to Laos after all, leaving the Thai beaches a day or two before the tragedy. Being a Dad involves a few stiff drinks on occassion it appears.

It has been a good year with us. The immigrations – ours in 2003 and my parents in 2004 – to the start of the big river from its mouth has paid off in many ways which I won’t bother listing except to say that being five minutes drive from a cardiac surgery unit was an extremely good call for my Dad. It is odd seeing the soles of his feet pink. It was a good year for family reunions and 2005 bodes well for that again. Getting back into soccer was one of the best things I have done for myself in years and many short trips with the kids the best we have done ourselves.

Being well, watered and together is good. There are few goods gooder.

Last of the Speakeasies?

Big news from a little place. One of the last vestiges of the prohibition-era speakeasies of the first half of the last century has left the scene in Canada’s smallest province. 
CBC PEI reports

In 1900 Prince Edward Island became the first province to ban alcohol. It was the last to end prohibition almost 50 years later. However, there continued to be dozens of bootleggers around the province…

It seems Charlottetown’s bootleggers have raised the white flag, choosing to close their illegal establishments in the face of tough new legislation passed by the Binns government. The bootleggers run illegal bars in homes. The houses are gutted, a bar is put in, and the people who run them resell liquor and beer. They don’t have liquor licences, and don’t conform to any provincial or municipal laws. They’ve been raided, railed against and reviled. But mostly, they’ve been tolerated, selling booze for much cheaper prices than legal lounges and nightclubs. That’s until this past weekend, when the doors of the known bootlegging establishments in Charlottetown were suddenly locked.

The writing has been on the wall for these illegal bars – one of which is illustrated as shown on the CBC PEI website – for a few years since a man died at a table and was not detected as being dead for some time. It is interesting to note, however, that on the main street of Ogdensburg, NY, one of the last holdouts of British North America in what is now the eastern USA, these sorts of small home-sized bars do operate under license as one might also see in St. John’s Newfoundland. With any luck they will become similarly licensed in PEI but that may destroy some of the attraction to their customers who took advantage of after-hours drinking and unregulated low pricing.

Of somewhat finer interest is the use of “bootlegger” in PEI for an illegal bar. Growing up in Nova Scotia it meant an illegal retailer only.

Stone Brewing, San Diego, California

Two devils for two snowman

Two more from Stone Brewing of San Diego: Double Bastard Ale and Smoked Porter. A couple of months ago, I reviewed Arrogant Bastard here and Ruination IPA here.

The Double Bastard poured deep tea in colour with a beige head. It has the richness of Arrogant Bastard simplictor with something more of the hop whallop of Ruination. It is hot with massive malty flavours of tobacco, leather ballglove, apple butter and fig. Heavy body. At 10% alcohol it ought to whallop but it is a well blanketed bat that strikes. Comfort then good night. Here is what the advocation is saying.

The Smoked Porter was deep garnet, its rich smokiness not overwhelming and not really much in the finish. Below the molassesy deep malt there was some surprisingly fresh grape juiciness, then cola, then dates all laced with the reek. At 5.9% is is one of the more modest Stone brews. Not one of the BA’ers has a bad word to say about it. I think I had a pint of this on tap when I was in Vancouver in 1998 at The Whip, one of the nation’s finer spots, with my pal Robyn on a Saturday afternoon before we retired to Granville Island Market for rhubarb pie. Maybe these happy happy men who teach a beer class at UBC are occassional Whiperonians.


Upon being wakened by herself, I was told that my father, both my brothers and my son were all snoozing this afternoon at various locations throughout the clan’s compound catching up from the rigours of train travel and watching fitba on the TV over mugs of tea. Were every afternoon so well spent. Once my auntie, over from the homeland, rose from a nap at the cottage and pronounced upon joining the rest that, if the Olympics allowed for it, she could sleep for Scotland. Know your strengths, I say.

Dubya the Canadian

I read this morning about what George W. Bush said about lawsuits and the need to cut back on awards being ordered in personal injury cases:

“The costs of frivolous lawsuits in some cases make it prohibitively expensive for a small business to stay in business or for a doctor to practice medicine, in which case it means the health care costs of a job provider or job creator is escalating,” Bush said. Bush spoke at a two-day White House economic conference, reiterating his oft-stated plea for Congress to impose caps on legal awards. “Justice ought to be fair,” the president said. “Those who have been hurt ought to have their day in court. But a judicial system run amok is one that makes it really hard for small businesses to stay in business.”

What a nut, I thought as I always do as a knee-jerk, me being a mere pawn caught between the propagandist intercessions of broadcast news and talk radio. But then I realized on this point he is just being a good Canadian. The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada in the case Ratych v. Bloomer, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 940 found the following:

It is a fundamental principle of tort law that an injured person should be compensated for the full amount of his loss, but no more. This is implicit in the principles governing the recovery of damages for personal injury set forth by this Court in the trilogy of Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229, Thornton v. Prince George School Board, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 267, and Arnold v. Teno, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 287. In the trilogy this Court affirmed that the purpose of awarding damages in tort is to put the injured person in the same position as he or she would have been in had the tort not been committed, in so far as money can do so. The plaintiff is to be given damages for the full measure of his loss as best that can be calculated. But he is not entitled to turn an injury into a windfall. In each case the task of the Court is to determine as nearly as possible the plaintiff’s actual loss. With respect to non-pecuniary damages, the task is necessarily imprecise, and resort must often be had to conventional figures. But where pecuniary damages are at issue, it is the actual pecuniary loss sustained by the plaintiff which governs the amount of the award. The functional rational for the award of damages adopted in the trilogy of Andrews, Thornton and Teno underlines the necessity of using the plaintiff’s actual loss as the basis of his or her damages. The award is justified, not because it is appropriate to punish the defendant or enrich the plaintiff, but because it will serve the purpose or function of restoring the plaintiff as nearly as possible to his pre-accident state or alternatively, where this cannot be done, providing substitutes for what he has lost.

All the US wants is something we have which is not water or mile after mile of untouched woods. Prudence and common sense.