Monday, December 03, 2007

On the opening of a Hilton Hotel in Vietnam's capital

The brand managers of the Hilton chain evidently thought it would not induce
cognitive dissonance to open an opulent Hanoi Hilton.>

--Daniel Gross, for Slate's Moneybox.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Free books! That is all.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cider, The Underrated Alcohol

Since it's fall again--The sun low in the sky, a minor light, a cooling star. Gust after gust of disorder. Trees restless, temperatures falling, the whole northern religion of things coming to an end--it is apple season, which means cider. Sure, there is sweet, fresh cider, apple juice's rustic cousin, but we want to talk about cider, the lightly alcoholic fermented kind.*

In the UK, there is an ages old love of the stuff. Also in Normandy, where the climate doesn't allow grape-growing, so the apple is the source of the region's alcohol and the farmers take as much pride in their cider (although the French insist on calling it "cidre") as the Burgundians take in their wine. Supposedly, every American homestead had an orchard back in the day; every fall, they'd bake up a bunch of pies and make cider with the rest. The cider from 50 trees was barely enough to last the average family through the year. It was, apparently, the 19th century's Coke, and the Amish still drink it like that, to tell from Lehman's selection of cider-making hardware.

Last fall, after the woman of our dreams rejected us, we put out the flames with a truck load of cider, an exercise we rationalized as an in-depth taste test. (Sublimation, n. The refocusing of psychic energy, which in Freud's theory was finite, away from negative outlets to more positive outlets.) Magners, mass-produced in Ireland, where they drink it over ice, is our favorite. Strongbow, an English import from the same conglomerated corporate overlord, is drier but has less apple flavor; it is the most beer-like cider we know. Woodchuck, from Vermont, has the most pronounced apple taste, and their Granny Smith varietal is particularly good, although overall we find their brew too sweet. Cider Jack is perfectly serviceable for getting undergrads drunk but we can't recommend it beyond that, but you can tell that right away by the prominence of the raspberry flavored swill on their website.

A week or two back, we found a lone bottle of French cider (ahem, cidre) at Trader Joe's, carbonated in the bottle champagne style, with the lees of the second fermentation still in the bottle. If we had been more patient and let the bottle stand long enough to settle the lees after getting it home, we suspect this would have been spectacular. As it was, it was intense and rustic but overshadowed by a too-strong yeastiness.

*There is also a distilled form, variously called hard cider, apple jack, or apple brandy. Calvados is a famous example. George Washington was supposedly a huge fan of Laird's, and back in his day, the standard method of distilling the stuff was to bury a cask in a snowbank for the winter, digging it up periodically to scoop out the ice on sunny days and then re-burying it. After a hard winter, the remaining liquor was 80 proof come spring. Simply magical.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Best Argument Against National Healthcare

I call the VA because I need to fax something over to their primary care office but didn't have a fax number for them. The operator connects me to the AOD, or Administrator on Duty. The AOD patches me through to the primary care offices (why the operator couldn't do that is the subject of a separate discussion). The voicemail at the primary care office says, "The Primary Care Clinic is now closed. To have your call transferred to the Primary Care Office, press 1. To repeat this message, press 2 or simply stay on the line." For giggles, I press 1. "The Primary Care Clinic is now closed. To have your call transferred to the Primary Care Office, press 1. To repeat this message..."

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Lynching of Saddam Hussein

Milosevic, Pinochet, now Saddam--2006 was a bad year for Reagan's puppet dictators. Saddam, though, was hanged because Bush thought it was really important to give the Sunnis in a Iraq a big fk-you; the others got to die of old age.

Baghdad Girl is all over the situation in Iraq, including the victory that Bush is so proud of:

The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.
While the war's supporters argue over whether it has spawned a "civil war" or "sectarian violence," she's unraveled the spin:
The Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?
And that is the essence of Bush's foreign policy--he'll make any alternative to his infantile desires look like hell. And if you have a problem with that, the US Army will make it so.