Monday, January 5, 2015

Visiting Andy twice, and other stuff in between

To grab your attention, here's a picture of a few of us hanging out drinking (excellent) DC Braus with Anthony Bourdain.

Ok I wasn't actually there when Anna and Andrew met him, but hey, I thought this was just as good a lead-in as urging everyone to stop being so defensive (yes, underemployment is still too high) and to start emphasizing what a solid recovery we've had (to say nothing of a record bull market). The U.S. economy grew at a 5% clip in the third quarter, the best in 11 years. Hey Dad, remember all that Republican talk about how Obamacare was going to ruin the economy? But I promise, that's my last political comment of the entry ...

I've been on deadline for the last month, which doesn't mean that I wrote the essay I needed to (a chapter called "Malthus Today" with my friend and population-debates-comrade-in-arms Tom for a collection to come out on the 200th Anniversary of Malthus's death in 2016), or my nine-month-late review, but it does mean that I got stressed and started to complain a lot to J about my workload and didn't manage to blog. If J wasn't the best cook I know, I'd be in serious trouble right now.

In late November I was invited to give a talk on Hoover's response to the Great Depression at a conference at Williams College celebrating the release of the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Oxford, Harding, and Coolidge. Despite strong holiday sales, copies are still available if anyone wants to brush up on their 1920s First Ladies, the 1930 tax increase, or Hoover's relative and generally exaggerated embrace of Keynesianism (my essay). The Kindle price is down to $117.49.

The conference was tons of fun. I always love a forum where conservatives and liberals can engage in real dialog based on facts and research, not cable news. And I got see my grad school friend Chris (here enjoying an excellent Uinta Detour Double IPA, perhaps my third ever real Utah beer on tap).

After years at big universities, I always enjoy soaking up some of that east-coast small-college feel.

Williamstown also has the brilliant Clark Museum, named for the heir to the Singer Sewing Company fortune who also helped create the Baseball Hall of Fame. I love the mid-century-modern grounds. 

And the Clark not only has a bunch of Homers, Monets, Pisarros, Renoirs, etc. (and possibly a Rembrandt, though that's a matter of some debate) but also a Breughel the Younger to boot.

So I was pretty much in Dutch Masters heaven ... until I paid $4 for an espresso in a paper cup. Note to U.S. museums: if every third-tier German museum can have porcelain espresso cups (and real silverware), so can you. And also, as J pointed out, check out the lousy human factors design of the silverware display. How many times does the average fork get turned over before it gets used?

From Williamstown it was a half step to the Adirondacks. Andy (arguably this blog's greatest supporter), Mary Moore, and Gibson stopped by for a night. Gibson was happy because he managed to get rid of both the ants on his belly button and the monkey on his back.

Mary Moore practically started Schenectady's farmers market, so in addition to her should-have-been-photographed lasagna, she brought some local bacon to complement an iconic New England breakfast. Andy brought over the beer of the trip: nearby Chatham Brewing's Imperial IPA.

 Ok forget that, how about just the glorious bacon.

Tom came over, too, to map out our chapter on a hike. 

I also saw Andy's sweet set-up at Union College (from which a teetotaler grandfather pastor of mine graduated in 1826, but I digress). $7 for an all-you-can-eat lunch! You might think I'm kidding, but I miss the incredibly nasty freezing-rain-to-miserably-cold-rain-to-slush kind of day upstate New York excels in.

The holidays were one big blur. Pat and Bill came for a fun Thanksgiving few days, though I managed to get food poisoning (I think), and all I really remember is that, well, I gave back my Thanksgiving dinner to some bushes outside of a hotel in Park City while Pat and Bill were enjoying the view ...

Soon it was time for J's remarkable Christmas cookies, and our neighbor's even more remarkable light display (which, just for the record, and at the risk of sounding like Scrooge, I consider unethical given our pollution here).

Dad and Laura came for a 6-day 7-day Christmas visit. As many of you have heard already, I managed to record their day of arrival incorrectly, and when they landed 24 hours sooner than we expected, J and I were in yoga and away from our cells, prompting Dad and Laura to think we'd been in some sort of accident. But all ended well, especially when J whipped up a couple batches of her homemade pasta (to say nothing of the crab ravioli she made later in the week).

And to say nothing of the nearly-as-good pasta we had at Valter's ...

Gratuitous Christmas season shot of Ben below. Because really, who wouldn't?

After Christmas it was time to visit Andy again in the land of shrimp scampi. This year marked only the second time in a decade that the guys had been invited on the annual girls' New Year's trip, so we had to be on our best behavior. For example, we didn't let Jack and Leo out of our sight as they enjoyed the bar at Royal Ski Mountain, aka the most blissful 550 feet of vertical drop (and the most fun ski bar) in America. The place sends off such powerful 1970s-skiing-nostalgia triggers that even God-awful LaBlatt blue tastes great there.

Look, can you blame us for hitting the bar early after conditions like this? 

Jack did superbly his first time on skis, including skating off the lift effortlessly!

Leo, meanwhile, was on the phone ... after all, these were the final trading days of the year. 

It's a cornocupia of cuteness with Leo and Jack.

And that's before you throw in Gibson, who came along with Andy and Mary Moore for their second visit to the Adirondacks in a month. They also brought along some delicious local Mu Mu Muesli, to which I am currently addicted and which people should buy.

For all of us, despite the snow melt, New Year's meant a trip to Lapland Lake, one our happy places, where Jack ice-skated for the first time and I concentrated on the Finnish Platter. 

 For some, New Year's met ice cream. I declare this one of the best ever videos on NPLH. 

For Anna, J, and Jane, it meant a drink at Dick and Peg's Northward Inn. 

For the guys, well, if you look closely, this picture says it all. 

For Andrew and me, New Year's meant a stop at my favorite Adirondacks Road House (thankfully, J's uncle -- no kidding -- had negotiated a tax settlement with them a few years ago so they could stay in business) ...

... followed by a Chatham 8 Barrel, the ultimate fireside sipper. 

After a second trip to Paul and Robie's in Albany -- and a Capital's win in the Winter Classic which netted me $5 (thanks Uncle Paul!) -- the party was over. Too bad, as it was finally starting to look like winter again ... 


  1. Great post! And I think your neighbors' Christmas lights are unethical anywhere these days. And maybe a wee bit tacky, environment aside?

  2. I think it is spelled ¨Labatts¨ with an ¨S¨ Derek.

  3. Funny, I thought so too but then checked ... maybe they changed it? Or maybe Canadian for LaBlatt is LaBlatts.