Belgium: Amber Ale, Brasserie Caracole, Falmignoul

Arrosto misto. That is what the Jamie Oliver book I was thumbing through this morning called it. Mixed roasted meats. What better way to see out January, that month that begins with a hangover and ends with February. The meats were rolled in olive oil with rosemary, lemon and a little smoky chili. They were also wrapped in lean pancetta. Including the sausages. A worthy addition to my life. All slow roasted with thick slices of onion, apple, lemon and carrot. The side dish is a sort of scalloped spud, mushroom and anise thing I made up.

I needed a beer to go with it and the earthiness of Caracole’s amber ale was just the thing. It pours still with a quickly resolved head giving it the appearance of scotch. On the nose, plenty of nutmeggy spice as well as sweet malt. In the mouth, fall apple, cream, nutmeg, raisin with a solid level of twiggy and slightly minted hopping. Really lovely and very good with the smoky, meaty, root veg meal. BAers give solid respect.

The Day After Budget Day And No One Is Happy

I am a little surprised that Iggy is not completely on board but what is the guy to do? What would he look like if he jumped up and down clapping his hands and shrilly screamed “I love it, I love it!!!” like a school girl? He has to buck at the reins but I don’t see an election this spring. Who ever forces an election before 2010 loses. Yet he has to play the game:

Some MPs, speaking on condition they not be named, said all options appeared possible, but that it was unlikely the Liberals would vote for the budget in its current form. It seemed probably they would propose amendments. “Obviously, that could still lead to an election if they’re not co-operative,” one MP said. At the top of the Liberals’ concerns were objections that there was not enough softening of the employment-insurance rules, and that the tax cuts announced yesterday could leave the federal government mired in deficit years from now, even after the economy recovers. Sources said Mr. Ignatieff spent the early evening listening to caucus concerns and did not say which way he was leaning.

See, Iggy listens. He needs to create the aura of being a wise man. Because I think he is a wise man. We have been without wise folk in Federal politics for so long that Canadians have lost their ability to spot one. And I don’t mean ideologically pure, either. Jay isn’t happy but these last years of minorities have basically forced all parties to sell their souls one way or another. Yesterday was just Harper finally being stripped naked of his. He may actually have been flayed. I really don’t want to look that closely to check. It isn’t pretty.

What about the details? Tax breaks? For all that, each family only tops out at 350 bucks. Exactly one-third of the beer and popcorn money. It will stimulate nothing but is a body blow to the budget. Infrastructure? It is merely well placed catching up. Remember the crumbling highways. We need infrastructure spending in any event. Green revolution? I don’t see it – not enough focus but it depends how it plays out. Southern Ontario economic development program? Let’s be honest – I’ve seen ACOA at work and other business development programs at a level above the rubber hitting the road, been in the offices, filled out the forms and seen what it does: weep for Mr. Harper for proposing such a thing. He must feel humiliated.

So, in the end, if the Liberals remove the tax break on the upper end of tax payers by shifting the 22-26% bracket lower again and have all the savings shifted to the rather clever home renovation program and twiddle another couple of things, I think Iggy supports Harper. I think he should for the country and for his own party. That way, Iggy is Prime Minister in 2010 and Harper eats the entire recession personally.


Budget Day: Time To Invest In Concrete Makers

All the town is abuzz with the budget day news. Half the street had their lights on before 5 am, faces pressed to the windows waiting for the newspapers to be delivered. It’s budget day! It’s budget day!!!

Budgets used to be so drab. In the 70s and 80s there was a guy like Marc Lalonde stoking up the deficits like there was no tomorrow. Best wikipedia notation by the way: “He was very important and helpful.” In the 90’s it was all slash and burn as Paul Martin and Big Jean did the impossible and actually turned Canada around from being a rival to Italy in relation to fiscal house mess to being the talk of the G7 water cooler: “Jean said what? Paul said what?? I don’t believe it.” That is what Germany said to Japan.

There has been much made about PM Harper acting like a drunk NDPer at this moment in time, passing out Federal Government credit cards like Santa handing out candy canes. And it is true. But there is absolutely nothing indicating that the proper thing is to do otherwise. Except if, you know, Canada is not really having a recession. So there is more coming today as The Star semi-speculates:

The tax cuts will highlight a massive economic bailout plan with tens of billions of dollars in new federal spending and tax measures, $2 billion in help for the jobless, cash for the auto industry, $7 billion for urban reconstruction and measures to free up consumer and business loans. The budget will project a deficit of $64 billion over the next two years. The government is planning a series of tax initiatives, including incentives for home renovations to revive the building trades during the recession.

See, I don’t think so much that we are having a recession yet but the US is. The equivalent of the entire work force of PEI or Kingston or more was fired yesterday in the US. Home Depot is shutting stores for heaven’s sale – you know, the place you go to do it yourself to save money. The barber in Ithaca (a well off college town) said people who are getting once a month hair cuts are moving to one every six or eight weeks. The beer store owners told me that people are moving down in their buying patterns, too. The grocery store was mobbed on Sunday night but the malls were quiet. It could be January. It could also be the first January of a recession.

So while our biggest trade partner takes a hit, if we bridge build, home renovate, retool the car factories to make engines that run on hydro electricity is that so bad? Didn’t we spend the last 15 years through administrations that ran the gambit from the moderate centre-left to the moderate centre-right paying off the debt just in case this was going to happen? The self-defined “principled” who never have to actually do anything are not amused.

Utterly tangential amen: Amen.


Surviving The Hill From Hell

hill1That is what the boy called it. The Hill From Hell. 1500 feet long with about a 150 foot drop. Some days when the snow blows children play there, tumbling in the billowy fluffy. Other days when the fields are green, rabbits gambol. But when it is a sheet of crusted and lumpy ice, morons from Canada go there and naively accept that speeds pushing the acceptable pace of a car in town are the sort of thing that makes for a fun Sunday morning.








The oldest child afterward noted that the rustic man with the first aid kit at the top of the mountain was not going to have been much help. They were exhilarated after the first run. They begged to stop after the second. The photo in the middle? That is a zoom shot of the lower half. Click on it. See that faint haze of orange at the bottom? That keeps you out from under the wheels of cars and, across the road, the lake. It doesn’t have a hope against an eight year old on a flying saucer.

It is in a park. A park like any other park. It almost ate my family.

Friday Bullets For The January Thaw

Things are loosening up. There is no minus sign in front of today’s temperature and that is in Celsius. It’s back to the deep cold tonight but one day of a lighter jacket and slushy rubber boots not mountain climbing gear is good. Things are lightening in the political world as well. Obama (aka Barry) is at his desk. The clench of fear may be relaxing. It may also be just moving to another part of the body, less about anticipating a body blow and more about handing out what those who wield fear deserve. Up here, Iggy seems to be trying to get us off the roller coaster of brinkmanship that we have be saddled with for most of the decade. “We need an election in February like we need a hole in the head,” Good point:

  • I am learning more about the founding of Kingston and those who founded it. Really really interesting stuff. Go here and search for Cataraqui, the French name for the town. We are Yorkers!
  • I like the ability in the US to break down party lines without causing a constitutional tizzy fit.
  • Looking at the people from space.
  • Reason enough to understand why having some idea that Any Rand offers legitimate ideas is nutty. The ideology of paranoia.
  • This is quite an extraordinary web page if you think of where China has been as a culture in my lifetime.
  • Occasional comment maker and fellow Zapster Ian (and Tesse) know the new US Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, based on them helping her past campaigning. I now have three degrees of separation from Obama…or is it two. Do you count yourself or only the intermediaries?

A busy day ahead. Planning for the weekend. Getting into that relaxed state. Picking out my casual clothes from the pile. A really big day.


Unexpected Truths And The Beliefs Of The Doofus

It is a funny old world. We walk around in a haze of assumptions and build up layer upon layers of accepted truths which can leave us amazed by the unexpected things we hear on any given day, which leave our beliefs challenged:

The Dalai Lama, a lifelong champion of non-violence candidly stated that terrorism cannot be tackled by applying the principle of ahimsa because the minds of terrorists are closed. “It is difficult to deal with terrorism through non-violence,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture here. He termed terrorism as the worst kind of violence which is not carried by a few mad people but by those who are very brilliant and educated.

[h/t M. CT.] Never thought I’d see that sort of thing but it makes sense and, while TDL says he hearts GWB in the balance of the article, he is really stressing that the problem is one of education. Compare this to the surprise I have this morning reading this headline “Liberal-NDP coalition would protect war resisters from deportation: MPs” I am not surprised about the idea of non-deportation. I am surprised that someone actually still believes there is a Liberal-NDP coalition. Apparently someone was sitting near the back when Iggy was talking and missed the message.

Ah, the beliefs of the doofus. The belief of the doofus is a particularly powerful thing. Consider the need to re-do the oath of office for President Obama. Why re-do even though it was pretty clear that the Chief Justice botched the job the first time? Flakes! Flacks and yahoos and nutbars and dingbats, that is why:

It’s a question being asked by constitutional experts – not to mention Fox News pundits and bloggers – after the man generally considered the finest orator of his generation fluffed his lines while reciting the oath of office on Capitol Hill yesterday. Actually, the blame may well lie with John Roberts, the Chief Justice, whose job it was to guide Mr Obama through the 35-word oath prescribed by the constitution and decided to do it from memory in front of a live crowd of around 2 million people and a further billion or so following via television.

Bloggers! Never mind that constitutional experts had a question but to face the concern of bloggers, well, surely that is too much for the constitution of the most powerful nation on the face of the nation to bear. Never mind that the hand on or off Bible thing is not settled. Never mind that Andrew Johnson, whose “normal oratorical style when speaking extemporaneously tended toward the wild and uncontrolled” was stumblin’ drunk when he took the oath as VP in 1865. Never mind that Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge each also had to do a redo, too. Never mind that other past flubs did not lead to a re-do. Bloggers are restless. Take the oath again.

Interestingly, however, as the oath is in the constitution itself, it has been subject to actual official review based on its actual words:

“Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

See, it is the execution of the office that the oath is about. He is elected and he is made President, according to the constitution, by the stroke of the clock at noon. But expect a bazillion dopey bloggers and Rush Limbaugh, too, to get it wrong for the next four to eight years. Belief systems are powerful things.


Blogging’s Best Upside After Near Six Years Is…

…meeting clever people. I have never bought into the idea that the internet creates community or makes you more clever yourself. But it is undeniable that it gives you a direct connection to clever people whose lives are on other paths than your own. This morning, I got a link to Evan Rail’s new personal blog via Twitter and his summary of his 2008. I know Evan thought the beer blog and played a wee role in getting him into the digital game. Similarly, we have comment makers Ben and Stephen, one of whom I have actually met in person, who both made it to the Inauguration. That’s Stephen to the right in a photo he posted to Facebook with some guy forcing himself into the frame.

And then there is Damian, our comment poster who has found himself on a media tour with the Canadian forces in Afghanistan. I have told you to send him some money. So now send him some more. Because he’s explaining what others can’t explain – how Canada is dealing with the land mines that have been so devastating. As a graduate of RMC – aka “charm school” I am told – he is likely better placed than any journalist to tell that tale. That is him circled in red standing in Kandahar. And make sure you hit the jar to help fund his travels, too. That is that link down at the bottom of the post.

Why do I mention this? Not to appear to achieved some level of vicariously cleverness. It is to remind myself of the good. Among other things, yesterday’s internet traffic includined some of the most shocking displays of mean spiritedness and stupidity I have ever seen. We sometimes can be overwhelmed by the how loathsome people can be through their access to the internet. The outpouring of negativity and just plain dumb that I saw in relation to Obama’s inauguration was as embarrassing a display as I have ever seen. The tedious chicken littles were in fine form. One took the time to say over and over to me that the end of all our freedoms started yesterday. Cluck. These are the dopes, the chaff. But note the neither Ben or Stephen would be a supporter of the new President yet they were there to wish him well not only because there is not much point in the alternative path but just because of that splendid thing that is democracy. Damian is doing what he is doing because of the importance of the work he is witnessing. Evan is doing what he is doing to explain the wonderful and somewhat exotic part of the world he lives in. They are all clever people taking the high road and making a go of it and using the richness of this media to share the view from their chosen path. Stephen recently described the experience of sharing through blogging in this way:

I’ve enjoyed blogging as it provides an outlet for my views and lets me connect with Canadians who either share or don’t share my perspective. I’ve met a lot of interesting people online and offline as a result of this blog and I’ve found that most have been sincere and genuine in their respective views on how to make Canada a better place for Canadians, no matter their prescription for that outcome. I look forward to continuing our conversation.

Exactly. This is not about those echo chambers that people call “community” and it isn’t about wallowing in scorn. It’s about seeing people make something of their lives in ways that you can’t imaging and thinking that if they can do that, well maybe I could do this. It is about ordinary people – people you may never meet face to face – being extremely interesting. That is the best thing about doing this…well, that and beer samples being couriered to your door. That is sweet, too.


Massachusetts: Beer Of The Gods, High And Mighty Beer

botg1What to have for the day Obama gets to grasp the brass ring? Something from a blue state, that’s obvious. And something that doesn’t look like one of those designer beers. And one with a name that speaks to hyperbolic hope. High and Mighty’s Beer of the Gods passes the test on all counts.

At a pleasant and prudent 4.5%, this take on “kolsch meets alt” works wonders. The beer pours a slight lemony light amber with a snow white billowy foamy head. There is plenty of steely-twiggy hopping going on as well as a lighter yet creamy touch of malt all within a fresh moreish body. In the malt there is light plum and apple and plenty of grainy texture. A great session beer.

Ridiculously good value at $5.50 for a 22 ounce bomber. BAers are oddly not amused.

Seven Things For Happy Confusing-To-Canadians Day!

OK, this is when it gets a bit embarrassing to be a Canuck. Things like knowing your own history, celebrating your own country and its traditions or celebrating what you have in common is all so, you know, blurry around the edges for us. We need to have a sit down on a day like this. Heck, we get confused if someone offers us a Dr. Pepper, worrying so that it is far too American for us. So, seeing as I was tagged by Dandy Dan the Dandy Man, had the computer eat the draft a bit ago to tell you seven things about myself and, because of the day, I am going to make them seven things about me and the USA:

  • We traveled to Cape Cod from suburban Toronto for a number of summers before we moved to Nova Scotia when I was seven. Crabs nipped at my toes. The Holiday Inn in Utica had a kidney shaped pool. My mother needed to see the sea and as a result I think that real things happen near the ocean. Not sure about mid-continent though the Great Lakes help.
  • One year we didn’t go east. We drove to California. I think I was three. I still recall the horror of driving through the desert in a station wagon and watching the crayons liquify in the sunlight through the window.
  • I have more relatives in the US than in Canada – more in South Africa, the UK and Australia for that matter. The Canadian wing of the clan is a bit of a blip of the tartan diaspora of ’56.
  • I enjoy watching Canadians being served northern US unsweetened iced tea about as much as anything else. At the Irving truck stop in Calais Maine there is a non-stop performance of screwed up faces, confusion and head shaking on display all for the price of your own lunch and a chair in the corner.
  • When I was ten, I saw my only Red Sox game at Fenway and it was perfect. Tiant pitching versus the Yanks, I sat in the top single bum seat of the bleachers, saw the game won in the tenth inning with a home run over the Big Green Monster. I have an untold affection for my Boston cousins because of the opportunity to have that memory.
  • I went to Washington on the same trip as the Fenway game. Saw the Smithsonian and bought astronaut toys when the Apollo missions were on. Space was cool when I was a kid, before the Canadarm, before Marc Garneau. No one bitched about the US when it was about space.
  • Seven….seven….seven…hmmm. Oh yes, Americans make far better beer. Some of it quite nearby.

There you go. Hug a Yank today. Learn your own history and thank them for the difficult and wonderful friendship we share. And did you know that our great friend Damian is already over in Afghanistan? Don’t you dare forget to donate.


Group Project: How Americanified Do You Feel?

Being in a border town where I can see another nation out my office window, I suppose it is not odd that I am affecting by doings down south. But sitting here between the AFC and NFC championship games and the Superbowl as well as the day before the inauguration of their next President, this is a pretty USA-ified point in the calendar. Heck, they even have a holiday Monday today. Am I jealous of that? Of course. But am I also jealous of their strength of affiliation to the football, to the republic? Do I wish I was a Yank? Some days, I think I do.

This is supposed to be a hard thing for a Canadian to admit or even imagine. Sure, we are grateful to the nation to the south for the military security blanket – you know, ever since it stopped being about smothering us into capitulation. And we should thank the Lord for the economic power they extend to us as their greatest trading partner, even during a recession. But should we seek to even be closer? Do you want to? Frankly, ever since we Canucks stopped caring in any way for a national championship in any sport – do we deserve our own country? Plus, given all the tepid but easily tossed around separatist movements – Quebec, western and even Newfoundland – not to mention the lack of respect, dignity and even administrative skill that is the hallmark of the Federal government these days, what is left to love to fill that nation of love of country? What is left of that chip all Canadians got somewhere along the way that told us no matter what we are better. Than America.

Dontcha wish when you called yourself a Pittsburg Steelers fan there wasn’t that little cringe inside that you weren’t talking about the Ti-cats? Dontcha really wish you had the pomp and ceremony of the new Presidency to call your own? How jealous are you of the folks down south? And even if you aren’t jealous, aren’t you really culturally speaking 98% American now anyway.