Clink, Clink Another Drink

On our way home from our vacation in Ireland last month, we bought a sampler of four Irish pot still whiskeys to try.  I’ve never been a big drinker, but I have developed an appreciation for whiskey in the last few years.  I prefer Irish whiskey, but about all I ever see in the liquor stores in my area are the big names — Jameson, Bushmill, Tullamore Dew — so it was fun to learn a little bit about pot still whiskey at the Irish Whiskey Museum and be introduced to some brands that are less familiar to Americans.

This is the sampler we bought:


Of the four, we had already tried the Powers during the museum tasting, and we had also gotten to sample the Green Spot at a whiskey shop we visited on a foodie tour.  The Redbreast had been strongly recommended by the tour guide at the IWM, and my friend Mig had spoken highly of the Midleton.  You’ll note that they are all made by Midleton, which also makes Jameson , so it’s all simply brand differentiation.  Sort of like how a bunch of the so-called “craft distillers” in this country are all made at the same distillery in Indiana. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good, just that you’re being marketed to maybe a bit more than you think. As ever, capitalism ruins everything.

So far, I have tried the Redbreast and the Midleton and enjoyed them both, though probably the Redbreast was a bit more to my liking.  I already know I like Green Spot and have been trying to find a local source where I can buy it.  Irish whiskey doesn’t have the same cachet as Scotch whisky or the hipster cred of bourbon and rye, so the “packies” in my neck of the woods are not deeply stocked.

There was much made about the difference between “pot still” versus “continuous still” whiskey on our tour, so I found this webpage quite interesting, as it explains that the difference in modern production is more about the mash bill than the actual distillation process.  I imagine there are probably some Irish whiskeys being made by actual craft distillers using actual pot stills, but I doubt any of these were.  Again, capitalism.

Once I’ve tried all four, maybe I’ll post some notes about the differences.  Meanwhile, the search continues for a bottle of Green Spot.


Remembering The Parker “51”

Here’s a very nice piece about the iconic Parker “51” fountain pen from a woman who inherited one from her father. I don’t have a Parker “51” in my small collection, although they are apparently not too hard to come by.  I never really got into buying vintage pens.  There’s a whole website devoted to nothing but the Parker “51”, if you’re interested. Looks like you could pick up a decent one for $150-200 from that site.

Arma virumque cano…

I began studying Latin 41 years ago. I started ninth grade that year, and we had two foreign language options — Latin and French. The Latin teacher was a polar bear of a man named Reginald Hannaford, and he lured dozens of incoming freshman into studying Latin with him through his bombastic and generally entertaining presentation during the class selection day.  The first day of school, his classroom was overflowing with kids expecting to be amused.  They were not.  By the time I got to my senior year of high school, there were only three of us in Latin IV (though Mr. Hannaford was still packing them in at the junior high).

I did not continue with Latin into college. Latin did help me immensely when I started Spanish later in  high school, and the two of them made French and Italian pretty easy to pick up many years later in adult-ed classes.  But when we finished The Aeneid, that was pretty much it for me and the mother tongue.


Earlier this week, though, someone posted a question on AskMetaFilter about re-teaching themselves Latin after a long time away from it and what introductory texts they should look for.  It got me thinking about doing the same thing myself, and so, following the consensus recommendation there, I ordered a copy of Wheelock’s Latin, which for many years was a pretty standard textbook, and decided to see just how much I still retain after all this time and how much I could re-capture.

One thing you could say about Reg Hannaford is that he knew how to drill material into your brain.  I haven’t even looked at the textbook yet, but I know my noun declensions and present-tense verb endings like I know my own name. I feel like this should make the re-entry process easy.  Beyond that, I’d like to pick up the vocab, relearn the various irregular things, and then try my hand at some of the Roman texts that are part of the typical high school Latin curriculum — Ovid’s Metamorphoses comes to mind immediately, or maybe some Cicero. I doubt I’ll even try to read The Aeneid again.

If it works out, I might try the same thing with Spanish, which I feel like I retained even more of and might just need a brush-up.

Blank Like My Mind

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While I’m on the subject of pens and paper, a few months ago I bought a package of these little notebooks. You can buy them here, 3 notebooks for $9.95. I threw this one in the bag I carry to work every day with the thought that maybe I’d use it, but I haven’t written a single thing in it yet.  The top corner has gotten dog-eared just from being in the bag. I’m loathe to take the notebook out of my bag because I’m sure if I do, I will develop an immediate need to write something down and not have it available.

Around the time I started writing with fountain pens, I also started carrying around an even-smaller notebook that would fit in a shirt pocket and I used it at work to make little notes to myself of things that I needed to refer to a lot (IP addresses, network ports, hardware settings, and other technical stuff).  When I left that job, I got out of the habit of doing that, too.  Once I went back to IT, instead of little paper notebooks, I started using Evernote, which became even more useful to me with the advent of smartphones.

(I should also admit here that I have a bunch of Moleskine notebooks in a box at home that I never quite found a use for either.  The struggle is real.)

A Pen and a Piece of Paper

I used to collect fountain pens.  I do not remember now what enticed me to even try using a fountain pen in the first place, being a left-handed person, but I do remember the first fountain pen I ever bought.  It was a Waterman Phileas from Levenger (which they don’t seem to sell anymore, though Amazon does).  Unlike a lot of lefties who learn to use a pen by crooking their arm around and writing like a rightie, I use a grip that lets me push the pen, and so I didn’t have the problem of getting ink on my hand from dragging it through the fresh ink.  Which means that I quickly came to love writing with a fountain pen, and that Phileas became my go-to pen.  Side note: one way to prevent your co-workers from borrowing your pen and never returning it is to use a fountain pen. Heh.

That would have been some time in 2000, and it wasn’t long before I had bought several other pens.  It was mere coincidence I’m sure that the Colorado Pen Company opened a store in our nearby mall right around the same time. Some of them were great pens for writing, some most definitely were not.  Style-wise, I tended to prefer (and still do) sleek, elegant, minimal styling. Most of the pens I bought were Watermans. Another one of my favorites was the Waterman Carène. Before long I had seven or eight nice pens.  I could usually justify spending up to a bit over $100 for a nice pen, but some of my favorite ones (like the Phileas) were much less.  The most I ever paid for a pen was a Dunhill pen I bought at Harrod’s in London and spent around $300. That was in 2003, and to be totally honest with you I don’t think I have ever used that pen even once in the intervening fifteen years.

The years 2003-2004 were definitely Peak Pen for me. I didn’t buy many more after that, and basically gave up using them not too much later.  I’ve had a persistent issue with a nerve in my left arm that pinches easily, and writing by hand for any length of time (regardless of the type of pen) would cause numbness, so I stopped my lifelong-til-then habit of writing in a journal, which was my primary use for the fountain pens.  By that time I had been blogging for a few years and had grown to be much more comfortable with using a computer for extensive writing anyway, but I missed using the fountain pens. Sometimes I still do.

I still have them all sitting in a lovely collection case my wife bought me for Christmas one year. They collect dust on the top of my dresser.

When I did keep a journal, I mainly used legal pads.  The long ones, if I could get them.  In college I had gotten into the habit of using legal pads for taking notes in class instead of using spiral-bound notebooks because I hated the way that the spiral wire always got bent and twisted out of shape. The downside to the legal pads was that the loose ends of the pages often curled up or got a bit dog-eared as I got deeper and deeper into the pad, but that bothered me less for some reason.  I was a prolific letter-writer in college, too, and would gladly spend an entire Saturday afternoon writing a letter to one of my friends, pages and pages worth sometimes.  Some of my friends were pretty good at keeping up correspondence, others not so much, but I churned out the letters anyway.

Same with the journals. Pages and pages.  Nothing anyone in the world would ever want to read, nor anything I would ever WANT anyone to read, but the writing was therapeutic and practically a compulsion for many years.  Couple of times I tried using those bound books of blank pages instead of the legal pads, and may have even filled one up once.  Ultimately, though, the legal pads were a more satisfying experience.  As noted above, I stopped journal writing around the time I started blogging for both the physical reason and because I was posting to my blog every day.  By the time I shut down my blog, after twelve years of nearly daily posting, I had finally burned out on writing. Though I have occasionally made a longish post on Facebook now and then, in the last six years I really have not written anything of substance at all. In fact, this blog post might be the longest thing I have written since 2012.

I know that I had a box full of my saved journals up until the point where we moved to our current apartment in 2013.  I *think* I threw the whole box away when we moved, but I am not totally sure (we threw away so much stuff with that last move).  If I didn’t, they are in our storage locker, buried under other boxes, and, if they do exist, it’s my intention to destroy them before anyone else gets to them. The next time we have to dig something out of storage, I’ll look to see if the box is still there.  I’d prefer to burn all the paper, leave no trace of it whatsoever.  It’s a metaphor for my life.


Once More From The Top

Okay, I’ve been mulling it through and I think I’m ready to give this another shot.

One of the roadblocks I hit almost immediately when I launched this site a few weeks ago was that I am not entirely sure exactly what things are indeed “relevant to my interests” at this stage in my life. The world has changed and I have changed along with it, probably not for the better in either case.  Back in the beginning, in the 2000s, it was as easy as surfing the web for something that caught my fancy and posting some links, but the Internet is now nothing but a flaming garbage heap.  Also, the last few years of my life have been a very empty time and some of the things I was into then aren’t a big draw for me any more.  However, there are some things that I put aside that I wouldn’t mind reconnecting with, and there are maybe a few new ones carefully peeking out from under the bed.

So let’s consider this a re-examination, a voyage of re-discovery. Along the way, we may also stop to fondly remember the things that are no longer part of that journey.