Beer Review: Maine Beer Company MO


Beer: MO
Brewer: Maine Beer Company
Source: Draft
Rating: ** (6.2 of 10)
Comments: I tried this beer on-tap at the Dogwood Cafe.  It pours out with a golden amber, no head or no carbonation.  It has a faint citrus aroma and a lot of hop bitterness and graininess in the flavor, with more hints of fruit.  There is light lacing on the glass after drinking.  I thought it was ok, but this style is not my favorite.

Book Review: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins


Author: Suzanne Collins
TitleGregor and the Prophecy of Bane
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2005.
ISBN: 9780739344842

Previously Read By Same AuthorThe Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay, Gregor the Overlander

Summary/Review:

The second volume of The Underland Chronicles continues the delightful adventures and imaginative world-building of it’s predecessor.  Gregor and his sister Boots return unwillingly to the Underland and find themselves drawn into another quest to seek a rat known as the Bane.  [Side note: Being the father of a girl the same age as Boots makes me love her characterization all the more].  The book builds on the Underland with new characters and new locations but at it’s best it develops continuing relationships, especially between Gregor and his bonded bat Aries.  It is also a darker story as Gregor faces a tragic loss and must make a difficult  moral decision that defines his character.  If I have one quibble it is how these stories are guided by prophecies, although there is the counterpoint that the interpretation of these prophecies is often way off base within the story itself.  Another excellent work by Suzanne Collins, go get it now!

Rating: ****1/2

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins


Author: Suzanne Collins
TitleGregor the Overlander 
Publication Info: [New York, N.Y.] : Listening Library, 2005.
ISBN: 9780739344859

Previously Read By Same AuthorThe Hunger GamesCatching Fire, Mockingjay

Summary/Review:

I read this book for the first time in 2006 (my original review is on Library Thing) and was impressed by the adventure set in a fantastical world under the Earth.  I learned a few years ago that it was the first book in a series and have been meaning to try to read through them all.  And so I begin with a reread of this terrific story about a boy named Gregor and his toddler sister Boots who fall into the Underland, where lies a mysterious kingdom with humans allied with giant bats and cockroaches at war with giant rats.  Gregor discovers that his long-missing father is held captive by the rats and thus begins a quest to find him.  The story is a delightful mix of action, humor, and introspection.  I included this book in my list of 100 Favorite Books back in 2009 and I believe it still deserves a spot in that list. Suzanne Collins has become famous for The Hunger Games (and their film adaptations), but I think this is her best work.

Recommended booksAlcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
Rating: *****

Book Review: Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham


AuthorBill Willingham
TitleFables: Animal Farm 
Publication Info: Vertigo (2003), Paperback, 128 pages
ISBN: 140120077X

Previously by same author: Fables: Legends in Exile

Summary/Review: The second volume of the Fables series has Snow White traveling with her rebellious sister to The Farm in upstate New York where the mythical beings who cannot disguise themselves as humans live.  The animals and other creatures are not happy with being imprisoned on the Farm which leads to a rebellion and a plot very much derivative of the George Orwell novel that makes up the subtitle.  I found the story of this installment more engaging and the plotting improved over its predecessor, but I still feel it’s not living up to its great premise.  The artwork can be reminiscent of Apartment 3G, and distinguishing many of the male characters is difficult.  Still it’s entertaining brain candy and I may check out another volume.
Recommended books: The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde and Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin.
Rating **1/2

Dialect Map


The New York Times  recently published a quiz called “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk” that purports to determine what part of the United States you are from based on your dialect. You’ve probably seen it on all the usual social networks.

I had some interesting results, and some questions that were a bit tricky to answer.  So, I thought instead of merely publishing my results, I would also comment on some of the questions that could go either way.

How would you address a group of two or more people?

  • Of the options presented here, I’d probably go with “you” or “you all,” although the seven years I lived in Virginia convinced me of the utility of “y’all.”

What do you call the small road parallel to the highway?

  • Something I didn’t have a term for until about a decade ago when a friend told me they were called “frontage road.”

What is the distinction between dinner and supper?

  • I find myself one of the few people who actually make the distinction (most people I know don’t seem to use supper at all) but “dinner takes place in a more formal setting than supper.”

What would you call a sale of unwanted items on your porch, in your yard, etc.?

  • I’m glad that “tag sale” is an option here.  That’s what they were called in Connecticut when I was young, but I got strange looks when I tried to advertise a tag sale in Virginia, and haven’t heard the term here in Massachusetts.

What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?

  • I’m really curious where in the country are the people who refer to a sunshower as “the devil is beating his wife” or “monkey’s wedding.”  This question has the weirdest options of the entire quiz.

What do you call a big road on which you drive relatively fast?

  • “Highway” is the generic term I’m clicking off here, but also in my vocabulary are “turnpike” (refers to a toll road) and “parkway” (refers to a highway that passes through a scenic and/or historic area).

What do you call the long sandwich that contains cold cuts, lettuce and so on?

  • The correct answer – “wedge” – is not listed as that seems to be limited to a small portion of the small state of Connecticut.  Since leaving Connecticut I’ve had to concede to using “sub” instead.

What do you call a traffic situation in which several roads meet in a circle?

  • I grew up with “traffic circle” but you can’t live in Massachusetts for two minutes without encountering a “rotary.”  Technically, “roundabout” refers to something different from a “rotary” and our city would be improved if “roundabouts” replaced “rotaries” (physically, if not linguistically).

How do you pronounce aunt?

  • I pronounce it “ahnt,” but have to say “ant” when referring to the relatives in my wife’s midwestern family.

So, what dialect do I speak?  My parents are from New York (one from the Bronx and the other from Brooklyn).  I was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Connecticut where my education and dialect should’ve been formed.   The Connecticut accent always struck me as what you might call “standard American.”  Like, they send DJ’s and announcers to Connecticut to learn how to talk like they’re not from anywhere in particular.  Seven years in Virginia and fifteen years in Massachusetts muddy the waters a bit.

Here’s my map:

dialect map

I guess this should not be a surprise.  After all, the red zone of “most similar” goes through Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey – three of the four states I’ve resided in.  I’m disappointed that New York and Boston, or for that matter any city in the state of Connecticut are not identified.  But I have to admit that while I haven’t lived in Springfield, Yonkers, or Newark / Paterson, they’re all kind of close to places I have lived.  The least similar are Amarillo and Lubbock in Texas, and Little Rock, Arkansas, which should also not be as surprise.  Perhaps that’s where they say “monkey’s wedding” for a sunshower.

So there’s my voice.  What’s your dialect?  Let me know in the comments.

Beer Review: Left Hand Milk Stout (bottle)


BeerLeft Hand Milk Stout
BrewerLeft Hand Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.5 of 10)
Comments: This stout beer is black, with a thin, buff-colored head and tiny bubbles clinging to the side of the glass.  The aroma is sweet and kind of musty.  The taste is burnt coffee with a hint of a peat fire in an Irish pub.  A fairly run-of-the mill stout, but good enough for a snowy winter’s night.

I previously reviewed the nitro-tap version of this beer.

2013 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

My 2013 list is a typical hodge-podge of activity.  Some of the events have links to when I wrote about them at the time.  Others I wrote a little bit more about in this post.

20 January – A Winter Day Out in Providence  – My wife left for a business trip, and I took the kids out for a successful outing to Rhode Island which included playing at the Providence Children’s Museum, a Providence Bruins‘ game (complete with thunderstix), & Harry’s Bar & Burger for dinner and ice cream sandwiches.

8-11 February – Blizzard of ’13 – also known as Winter Storm Nemo, dumped 25 inches of snow on our hometown making much delight for the children and cooperative snow removal ventures with the neighbors.  The photo below is from our outing to Centre Street in Jamaica Plain to pick up beer & cheese.

28 February – Beck Song Reader Concert – I was part of a 50-voice choir bringing Beck’s songs of sheet music to life.  You can see me singing out from the back row in the photo below. 

Spring & Summer – Peter learns to bike – My son learned to ride a pedal bike.  Now we need to work on braking.

15 April – Boston Marathon bombing – My kids and I were at a playground far from the Marathon route when it happened, and even if we’d gone to watch we’d have been far from the finish line, but it was still shocking to hear of the deaths and injuries.  Especially considering that Patriots Day is a civic holiday that is perhaps the day on the calendar when Boston is at its most joyous, communal, and supportive.  That spirit shined through with the many people – professionals and amateurs – who rushed in to help the wounded.  I was touched by the outpouring of support for Boston, and if anything good has come out of this it is that they typically self-deprecating Bostonians are far more positive and  confident these days.  A few days later, we had the weird shelter-in-place alert, but still spirits were kept up as we shared news and jokes through social media.  Not something I’d want to live through again, but I’m grateful for all the people who chose to help and that the casualties were not as bad as they could’ve been.

language matters


27 April – Regan Youth League Baseball Parade and Teeball – My baseball-obsessed son started playing teeball and we marched through the streets of Jamaica Plain, even stopping to sing.

May & October – Kindergarten Arboretum Field Trips – I stepped into a new role in fatherhood as I served as a chaperon on two school outings to Arnold Arboretum.  I particularly like the spring trip when the kids got to see a snapping turtle up close and personal. 

May to Present – Hope Central Church – We were in search of a new church closer to home and found a new spiritual home at Hope Central.

2 June – Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon – This time my daughter was my co-pilot on this great fundraising ride through the city.

12 June –  US Open Cup game – Professional men’s soccer comes to Boston for one night only and it was great.

16 June – Father’s Day Outing to Wachusett Meadow – Two years in a row makes it a tradition, no?

28-30 June – Family Gathering in New Jersey – Susan’s family gathered in New Jersey to celebrate her Aunt Thelma and cousin Glen.  Peter enjoyed playing sports and video games with his many boy cousins.

14 July – Circle the City on the Avenue of the Arts – Huntington Avenue became a pedestrian haven for just one day.  I lead a walking tour.   Peter played lots of soccer.

12 August – Georges Island – Vintage Baseball – On a beautiful summer day, we sailed to the Harbor Islands and traveled back in time to the dead ball era.

20-25 August – Family Camp at Purity Springs – We spent a week at the Purity Springs Family Camp in New Hampshire with some of the friendliest people ever, our days packed with activities like lake swimming (and jumping), archery, paddle boarding, pooh sticks, canoeing, knee boarding, s’mores making, cookouts, and hiking.

2-8 September – New York City trip – Another great trip to the City with Peter and his Nana.

14 October – Tufts Health Plan 10K – Our friend Sharon coaxed Susan into participating in this run.  I enjoyed watching with the other spouses and children.  And Susan did great finishing all 10 of the Ks.  We are all so proud of her.

30 October – Red Sox Win the World Series – A great season, especially when viewed through the eyes of a five-year-old.

10 November – Claire & John’s wedding – Our dear friend Claire, godmother to our children, married a charming gent and we had a blast.  The kids played their part in the wedding ceremony and then at the reception we played, and hugged, and danced, and toasted the newlyweds.

“Cheers!”

25-31 December – Christmas Travel – We’ve just returned from our annual holiday swing through North Carolina and Virginia.  This year was extra special as the kids got to see all of their grandparents, all of their aunts and uncles, and most importantly, play with all of their cousins.

Goodbye 2013, you will be missed.  Hello 2014, can’t wait to see what you have to offer.

Previously: