Steel City Countdown

Only a few days left before I head for Pittsburgh and the 2007 International City/County Management Association Conference.  The conference program, and location, varies from year to year.  In addition to the educational programs, which are often very good, there are opportunities – both formal and informal – to learn a bit about the host city (and county) and what it has to offer.  As part of one of the “official” tours I will be visiting Fallingwater, one of the most famous of Frank Lloyd Wright’s residential designs.  This will be the first time since taking an art and architecture course in college that I will actually have been able to see an FLW building in person.  (My favorite – so far, anyway – is the Robie House in Chicago.)

Fallingwater - Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr. Residence, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

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A Tale of Two Cities

Shipyard Export

In my usual scan of the New York Times Dining & Wine section today I saw the headline “In Portland, a Golden Age of Dining and Drinking” and I thought, “Cool – um, I mean, really? A golden age of dining and drinking right in nearby Portland, Maine?”  But, no.  Alas, the story is about Portland, Oregon.  I scrolled through the article, though, since I like the idea of great food and wine as much as the next guy, and was rewarded by – yes! – a story about traveling in Maine one microbrewery at a time including Portland, home to D.L. Geary Brewing and Shipyard Brewing Company, among others.

Dining options in a small city like Portland, Maine may not compare to other, larger metropolitan areas (like, say, Portland, Oregon?  Yes, exactly.  But let me continue…) but there are some really enjoyable places to be found in and around Portland (Maine).  Walter’s Cafe, for instance, where my wife and I went before seeing James Taylor in concert in August (see post here), is a nice little place.  I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my Hendrick’s Experience martini (complete with lightly pickled cucumber garnish) and what followed:

  • melon salad with arugula, prosciutto, and crème frâiche,
  • Old port filet with lobster and Stilton “mac and cheese,”
  • Four Vines old vines Zinfandel, and
  • crème brulée and coffee.

The crème brulée was ordinary enough but was well done, and the Zinfandel was exactly what I expected.  The filet, at first glance, seemed smaller than I would have expected, but was quite satisfying along with the caramelized shallot demi-glâce.  The star, though, for me was the lobster and Stilton “mac and cheese.”  Creamy and good blue cheese flavor without being too in-your-face about it, and just enough of it not to feel cheated or like we needed to have some lessons in portion control.

So, maybe it’s not Portland, Maine that’s being written up for its “golden age” of dining, but if you’re on your way through to look at the leaves and/or visit a microbrewery, you should be able to find some tasty places for something to eat, too.

(And, yes, I do appreciate the irony of this post following one about hunger.  In fact, I’ve been thinking about the way I enjoy food and drink and how food has come to be a form of recreation, but I can only take so much guilt at once.)

Where to Start

For I Was Hungry

In my mail at work the other day I received a copy of “For I Was Hungry,” an editorial series run this summer by the central Maine newspapers the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.  The series is about hunger in Maine, manifested in what has come to be called “food insecurity.”  Food insecurity is, depending on who you choose to listen to and believe, just a fancy term for hunger, or a more precise and measurable way of expressing how certain you are of your next meal.

Working in a local government that operates a food pantry, I have some direct experience with poverty and hunger in our area.  But “For I Was Hungry” helped bring into focus many of the causes and effects of hunger in our own country, our own communities, or our own homes.  Reading the comments posted on the articles also left me with a sense of how deeply conflicted we are when faced with an issue like hunger, how easy it is to find fault with other people, and the lengths to which people will go to deny that there is a problem.

Reading this series reminded me of another, “Hunger in America,” run by National Public Radio in 2005.  Honestly, though being busy with work and family has kept me from posting about this sooner, I also have had a hard time figuring out just what I think about this, this and another major social issue I posted about recently, health care (also a subject at BrianKaneOnline today).  Actually, what I think about the existence of hunger, the lack of inadequate health care and a dyfunctional health care delivery system in our country can be summed up in one word:  WRONG.  That said, I have been trying to come up with a more articulate and well-reasoned statement and just can’t.

The causes of hunger, as they are for the state of health care and health care delivery, are many, interrelated, and complex.  But saying that they are large, complex problems simply cannot be an excuse to do nothing.  That we will not be able to come up with the “perfect” solution, a “silver bullet,” does not mean we can’t do anything.

The question is, where to start?

Guess that mailing had its intended effect.

Not Funny

A young woman wearing a computer circuit board, wiring and what turned out to be Play-Doh, over the black hooded sweatshirt she was also wearing, was arrested this morning at Boston’s Logan Airport.

I don’t know if this was meant to be a protest of some sort, a prank, somebody’s twisted attempt at humor, or what.  No doubt we’ll find out more as time goes on but, as for me, it was just plain stupid.  That’s stu-pid, with a capital STU.

Not funny.  Not one bit.

Lucky she wasn’t shot.

Feast Your Eyes or… You Know… Not.

Feast Your Eyes… or Not.

From “The Gallery of Regrettable Food” it’s food styling circa 1959 with, clockwise from the top left, “Holiday Salad” (anything pink with fruit in it was a sure show-stopper, apparently, especially with what look like – I think – green candied cherries on top), “Chicken Curry Salad” (is that what that is?), and the ever-popular “Corned Beef Salad Loaf.”  These entries were from “More Knudsen’s Best.”  Be sure to read the descriptions of each dish.  Very, um, descriptive.

Try it.  You won’t be sorry.  Well, maybe you will.

Boy have we come a looooong way.  Thank you, Julia Child, wherever you are.

Good News

Making my regular check of news on The New York Times web site today I was greated by some good news.  NYT’s TimesSelect premium online news service has been discontinued as of today:

Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs, and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand, and the long-term vitality of our journalism.

We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it. Our highest priority is to increase the reach and impact of our journalism online. The Times’s Op-Ed and news columns are now available free of charge, along with Times File and News Tracker. In addition, The New York Times online Archive is now free back to 1987 for all of our readers. 

When it was introduced in 2005 I was very unhappy about this “walling off” of certain content.  Now, I understand news organizations need to make money to keep doing what they do, and that newspapers are particularly hard-pressed these days.  However, they seem to have recognized that providing “premium content” was not an effective model in an information world that is, to paraphrase Times’ columnist Thomas L. Friedman, increasingly flat.

While I have been able to get access to my favorite columnists through an electronic archive and only a couple of days after their appearance in the paper (or on the NYT web site), it just wasn’t the same.  No doubt there will be more advertising, but I’m okay with that.  After all, the ads don’t keep me from reading the rest of the paper, and it won’t stop me from reading it online, either.

Thank you, New York Times.  Good move.

Holy Support Hose, Batman!

Adam West as Batman

Yes, it’s another birthday, this time for Batman.  Well, okay, not so much Batman as Adam West, who turns 79 today.  Though he has never really been able to escape his association with this particular role, in later life he seems to have made peace with it and has turned the 1960s Batman into a cult icon.

The caped crusader originally of DC Comics fame is actually only 68, making West reasonably well preserved.  Must be something in that tool belt – that, or all the time spent in tights and a leotard.  And the Boy Wonder?  Burt Ward, who played Robin, turned 62 in July.

My favorite thing about the Batman I remember as a kid?  You got it – the Batmobile!