Over the summer, my father, brother and I decided to go on a trip together. Months of ideas, emails and calls finally coalesced into a plan to bike the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD. We would do it over three days, renting bikes and staying in B&Bs and hostels along the way.
I drove out of DC on Wednesday afternoon, intending to leave my car in Cumberland and catch a train to Pittsburgh. Traffic was bad enough that I missed the train and we had to adjust our plans. Instead, I drove straight to Pittsburgh, where Dad and A were waiting with pizza and beer.
We ribbed A about leaving his wedding ring at home, and spent the evening catching up and calling home from our Airbnb (a converted dorm room).
Leisurely morning. Packing up and walking to coffee and breakfast, then bike shop. Quick fitting and packing then back to the Point for a quick photo op. Weather gorgeous as we pedal through and then out of Pittsburgh.
Over the hot metal bridge and past the Steelers’ practice facility, whistles and horns and cameras in the air. Narrowly avoided a large snake across the path. Past train tracks and scrap metal years, old brick buildings, graneries, warehouses.
Through small towns, lots of American flags and bunting, also many signs of urban decay. A train had derailed the day before in McKee sport, and many men in helmets & reflective vests were swarming the bridge with hand tools trying to get it back on the tracks.
Coffee at a tea shop in Boston, lunch in West Newton. Long stretches through woods under canopy, winding so that the sun came from every direction. Conversation dealt mostly with physics, specifically batteries and energy.
Past attractive campgrounds and lovely houses on the river. Photo op at the 100 mile marker.
Started getting saddle sore the last 15 miles. Pulled in to Connellsville, unpacked, grabbed beer from Sheetz, and enjoyed a sundowner on the back porch.
Pasta dinner at Ruvos. Bed at 9:30.
Woke at 7. Talked to Kiran. Great breakfast of sausage, egg and cheese with pesto. Chilly start leaving Connellsville and rode through woods next to river until Ohiopyle.
Stopped for coffee then on to Confluence, a very quiet town that reminded us of Shelton, NE. Fly fishermen stood in the sparkling, wide river. Had lunch at Parkview Grill. Proceeded on. Caused a collision with Dad when stopping short for a (dead) chipmunk. He was OK and we kept riding.
Climbed a ridge to look at the train tracks at Pinkerton Tunnel. Got into Rockwood around 3:30pm and had a celebratory ice cream cone. We also stumped up $2 each for blankets and $1 for towels at the hostel. After unpacking and showering, we walked the main street and had a couple of beers plus dinner at Rock City Cafe, talking mostly of politics.
Back at the hostel, searched in vain for good books or games and all were in bed by 8:30.
Woke at 7:15. Dad turned up The Writer’s Almanac and we all lay listening. Breakfast at the general store: a donut, coffee and breakfast sandwich special. We were cold to start. Saw a couple of deer and an eagle.
Gained elevation, more color, farms, corn, cows, a little cemetery. Into Meyersdale. Found three coffee shops closed before locating one open, but with awkward service and mediocre coffee. Talked to a local who biked a lot back and forth between the towns we’ve passed. Back up the steep hill to the trail, then on to the Continental Divide.
Took a few pictures, then started moving very quickly downhill. In Frostburg, climbed a long, steep hill into town and ate a good meal at Mountain City. Back down and then on to Cumberland, with just a couple stops to read placards and have a look at the Bone Cave. Lots of weekenders on the trail. Finished in Cumberland, dropped off bikes, washed up, changed into clean clothes. Dropped into a sports bar and had beer and watched football. Ate a quick dinner and then walked to the train station on the other side of the tracks, leaving plenty of time for any mishaps.
Waited a while for the train then found our seats. Enjoyed one last brew in the observation car. It was dark, but we picked out some of the places we had been as we rumbled by in the black night, Meyersdale, Rockwood, Confluence. Dozed for the last couple of hours to Pittsburgh. Picked up the car, drove to the airport hotel and got in around midnight.
By the Numbers
7,939 calories burned
8 coffee stops
- Mountain City Coffee House & Creamery, Frostburg*
- Gasoline Street Coffee Co, Pittsburgh
- Springhill Suites, Pittsburgh
- Connellsville B&B, Connellsville
- Sweet Treats, Rockwood
- Market Square Bakery & Cafe, Meyersdale
- Falls Market Restaurant, Ohiopyle
- The Betsy Shoppe, McKeesport
The 2017-2018 EPL kicked off in anger on Friday, August 11 with an enthralling match between Leicester City and Arsenal. Ninety minutes and seven goals later, Arsenal came from behind three times to win, despite some truly comedic passing out of the back by Rob Holding. I enjoyed the match with my brother, Aaron, a Chelsea fan, and was reminded that I have yet to enshrine my predictions for this season. They are:
- Man City – Guardiola to come good in his second season in England. And really, how could he not with the likes of De Bruyne, Silva, Agüero, Jesus, Yaya, Gündoğan, Sané, etc? Their Achilles heel appears to be Ederson in the seemingly cursed goalkeeper position.
Key Player: De Bruyne
- Chelsea – Too much quality in the Chelsea ranks to drop their standards, but I doubt the angel Morata will be as effective as the demon Costa.
Key Player: Hazard
- Tottenham Hotspurs – A solid core with Kane, Alli, Eriksen, and Lloris, but failure to keep up with the spending of their rivals will see them stand still.
Key Player: Eriksen
- Manchester United – Mourinho to drive a small improvement, with the help of wads of cash, but can’t fix the underlying issues this fallen giant.
Key Player: Mkhitaryan
- Liverpool – An exciting side, but inconsistent and suicidal at the back.
Key Player: Mané
- Arsenal – I admire Wenger for sticking to his principles in both sporting and financial terms, but that thrift simply can’t keep pace with the free spending of the rest.
Key Player: Ramsey
- Everton – Despite some solid acquisitions, the Toffees aren’t able to keep pace with the first tier.
Key Player: Siggurdson
- Southampton – Another season in the middle for Southampton.
Key Player: Redmond
- Stoke City – The Potters will bounce back slightly after a difficult 2016/2017.
Key Player: Shaqiri
- West Brom – Assembled of cast-offs from other teams, WBA will continue to punch their weight in the middle of the pack.
Key Player: Rodriguez
- West Ham – Though somewhat haphazardly assembled, there is enough quality to keep the Hammers mid-table.
Key Player: Noble
- Crystal Palace – A slight improvement over last season, but not much progress.
Key Player: Zaha
- Bournemouth – Eddie Howe’s overachievers to sink more to their level.
Key Player: Defoe
- Newcastle – With Benitez at the Helm, the Magpies can be confident in staying up.
Key Player: Diamé
- Swansea – Another difficult season for the Swans.
Key Player: Ki
- Leicester City – Champions of two seasons ago will flirt with relegation before just staying up.
Key Player: Iheanacho
- Watford – The Hornets survive by the skin of their teeth.
Key Player: Deeney
- Burnley – Brave Burnley to sink to the Championship.
Key Player: Arfield
- Brighton – Fans to enjoy their season in the top tier, but it will be short-lived.
Key Player: Bruno
- Huddersfield – A difficult season, but the parachute payments should help them bounce back up.
Key Player: Ince
La Liga: Real Madrid
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich
Serie A: Juventus
Ligue 1: PSG
Champions League: Real Madrid
From the project:
During a time when immigrant lives and experiences are being especially devalued, SAADA’s Road Trips Project aims to reframe a major American tradition by sharing images and stories from South Asian Americans, a community too often excluded from these narratives. The appeal of the open road is deeply rooted in the freedom to travel – safely and without fear, harassment, or intimidation – a freedom, which for many, is currently under question.
I started working with the organization on a variety of design projects several years ago, first providing a new SAADA logo and website. It’s been a rewarding experience, and I always look forward to pro bono work for SAADA and other nonprofits.
I voted on November 8, 2016 to make Hillary Clinton the next President of the United States. In the District of Columbia, where I live, 93% of my neighbors did likewise. Across the country, most Americans did the same. But where it counted, enough voters chose to elect Donald Trump.
The shock in my community is palpable, and primarily manifests itself in numbly trying to divine what caused our nation to take this step and worrying about what might happen next.
I’ve seen several theories that attempt to explain the vote, many of them laced with anger and almost all saturated in the despair felt by those of us who felt that the country was progressing in the right direction, albeit slowly. The most common of these are:
- Racism and misogyny, evidenced by the white male (65%) and white female (53%) vote for Trump
- The intervention of Russian hackers
- The intervention of the FBI’s James Comey
- The proliferation of alt-right news sources available on the internet
- The mainstream or liberal media’s failure to recognize or accurately report Trump’s support
- America’s infatuation with celebrity
- Hillary Clinton being exactly the wrong candidate to challenge Trump
I believe that all of these contributed to the eventual result. The best piece of reportage I’ve read about this is Alec MacGillis’ piece in Pro Publica. It provides a compelling narrative about how huge swathes of former Obama voters embraced Trump. Key themes raised by the subjects of these interviews are Clinton’s perceived dishonesty vs Trump’s straight-talking, Clinton’s failure to deliver anything meaningful (to them) during her political career vs Trump’s campaign promises, and most of all, the dire economic climate in their communities vs Trump’s reputation as a job-creator.
My feeling is that these people will be sorely disappointed in four years, as their personal economic circumstances fail to significantly improve. That is, unless Trump is able to realize his campaign pledge to liberate energy reserves at the expense of the environment.
The social impact of this election is heartbreaking. Bigots will be emboldened. Minorities will be further marginalized. Corporations will benefit at the expense of citizens. America has chosen to elect an almost perfect personification of a business, complete with lack of conscience and accountability.
President Obama was a good, and perhaps even great president. His administration oversaw a number of important improvements to the country and to the world: the legalization of same-sex marriage, the institution of Obamacare, and commitments to controlling climate change. At the same time, he is widely criticized for not doing more, despite being faced with the least cooperative congress in history. Hillary Clinton suffers also from this oversimplification of how government operates, by those who wonder what she has done with all of her years in government.
Trump, with a Republican-controlled congress and at least one Supreme Court appointment (which by all rights, should have been appointed by President Obama), will find it infinitely easier to push through legislation and count of rulings that swing sharply to the right. The only thing more frightening than this paucity of checks and balances is the potential for retaliation if and when Trump antagonizes a person or group willing to commit violence. I certainly fear for my family and my country, which is now a very different place.
All my life, I’ve loved to re-read. When I was 9, I checked out The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss from the school library and renewed it every month for the entire year. Something about the gadgetry fascinated me, and I spent hours poring over the Yooks’ and Zooks’ extravagant armaments and accompanying uniforms.
A few years later, I read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and ended up going back to it again and again. The appeal at that age was clear: solitude, self-sufficiency, and a forest all to one’s self.
I am still a re-reader, regularly going back to favorites just like the swallows of San Juan Capistrano. Some books convey a time, a place, or a culture so irresistibly that I find myself wishing to revisit: the North Africa of The Stranger by Albert Camus and Collected Short Stories by Paul Bowles; the foggy and gaslit London of The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; the artistic melting pot of 1920s Paris in A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.
There are others. I pick up Tenth of December by George Saunders for its razor-sharp wit, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell for its characters, and Narrow Road to the Interior by Matsuo Bashō for its depth and perspective.
Each time I return to these books, I discover something new and precious, while at the same time settling into the familiarity and comfort that they provide. Even as I read and enjoy something for the first time, I won’t forget that these books continue to shape me.
Last season, Leicester City washed away the ennui that had accumulated since 2004, the last time a club other than Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City were champions of England. It speaks volumes about the current state of the game that these rank outsiders, who narrowly avoided relegation the previous season, became every neutral’s second side and plucky underdog against England’s mega-rich clubs. Leicester City are, of course, only moderately rich, having been purchased in 2010 by Thai-led consortium, Asian Football Investments. That sleight of hand was made possible by their affable manager, Claudio Ranieri, and the fact that their team consisted of hidden gems (Mahrez, Kanté, Vardy) and players who failed to make the grade at more glamorous clubs (Drinkwater, Albrighton, Schmeichel, Simpson).
Their tremendous accomplishment should give every team the belief that they, too, can achieve the improbable. More likely, normal service will be resumed, though there are a number of intriguing subplots to this season. Foremost is the renewal of hostilities between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho at Manchesters City and United. Their rivalry comes against the backdrop of some obscene transfer fees, including United’s world record £89m for Paul Pogba, a player who left them on a free transfer four years ago. Pogba, in my view, lacks the consistency and frankly the quality to justify such a price tag. But this summer has also seen the good-but-not-great Gonzalo Higuaín move for £75.3m, and John Stones, who failed to even feature for a diabolical England side at Euro 2016, being bought for £47.5m.
Here are my predictions for how they will all finish, with key players in parenthesis.
- Manchester City (De Bruyne)
- Manchester United (De Gea)
- Arsenal (Sanchez)
- Chelsea (Hazard)
- Tottenham Hotspur (Eriksen)
- Everton (Williams)
- Liverpool (Firmino)
- West Ham (Noble)
- Southampton (Tadic)
- Stoke City (Arnautović)
- Bournemouth (Ibe)
- Watford (Deeney)
- Leicester City (Mahrez)
- West Brom (Rondón)
- Crystal Palace (Cabaye)
- Burnley (Arfield)
- Swansea City (Sigurðsson)
- Middlesbrough (Negredo)
- Sunderland (Defoe)
- Hull (Huddlestone)
FA Cup: Arsenal
Europa League: Napoli
Champions League: Barcelona
La Liga: Barcelona
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich
Ligue 1: PSG
Serie A: Juventus
Growing up in 80s and 90s America, I was starved for televised soccer. The only reliable source was Dutch football at 6am, featuring exotic sides like Willem II, Go Ahead Eagles, and NEC Breda. That was immediately followed by Gaelic football, an intriguing chimera of soccer and rugby, which I’ve never seen or heard of since. On very special occasions, I stumbled across a European Cup match, most often involving Manchester United against a classic club from the mainland. I cursed as Nicky Butt shot high over the bar into a sea of ominous red flares. I swooned as Lee Sharpe used his heel to drag in a cross behind his standing leg against Barcelona. Given a binary choice between English and Dutch football, I chose to bear the cross of St George.
My first real memory of a major tournament was the England-less World Cup in 1994. I drank in even unappealing fixtures like Saudi Arabia vs Morocco and South Korea vs Bolivia. I watched Oleg Salenko put five goals past Cameroon and Diego Maradona enjoy his last, cocaine-addled swansong in the colors of Argentina. My heart sank as Ray Houghton scored to beat Italy in the group stage, while Arrigo Sachi sacrificed my hero, Roberto Baggio, following a Gianluca Pagliuca handball. I was in Foxboro later in the tournament to see Baggio drag Italy through against Nigeria, equalizing in the 88th minute before scoring the winner in extra time. My heart sank again as Baggio’s missed penalty in the final kept rising over the bar, high into the crowd at the Rose Bowl. None of this prevented me from declaring myself Buddhist and seeking my own “divine ponytail.” I’ve never loved another player in the same way.
Technology and television is scarcely recognizable in 2016 America, where I routinely ignore even moderately glamorous ties like Germany vs Slovakia. Having two kids under age two doesn’t help, but the fact is that I’m spoiled for soccer on TV. Still, I try to watch England whenever possible, because the national team continues to feel like an enigma with which I can entirely relate.
The English media, and by extension, English fans, must admit complicity in their team’s pathological failure. Familiar explanations are wheeled out in the post-mortem of each major tournament:
- The players just aren’t good enough, and the European successes of Premier League teams can be explained by a combination of foreign talent and successful marketing.
- The players are technically good enough, but haven’t the mental strength to handle the pressure of expectations.
The solutions are equally predictable:
- England must invest in grassroots football and coaching.
- England must embrace its historical strengths of athleticism, power, and directness.
- England must copy the style and structure of Spain/France/Iceland/latest winner.
- England must drastically reduce the proportion of foreign players in the Premier League.
- England must lower its expectations.
Each of these theories contains some element of the truth, but all are born of the obsession of England’s press and public with the national team. Given the talent at the disposal of so many managers from Erikkson to Capello to Hodgson, I’d conclude that the true barriers to success are psychological.
Monday’s defeat to Iceland gives credence to this theory. Clearly, England have hugely experienced players in Joe Hart (two Premier League titles), Gary Cahill (one Premier League title, 1 Champions League title), and Wayne Rooney (5 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League title). They have talent and dynamism in young players like Raheem Sterling, Eric Dier, Delle Alli, and Harry Kane. And yet they not only failed to perform against inferior opponents, they were absolutely embarrassed by them. Pity is the greatest form of contempt, and it was indeed pitiful to watch Kane blooter a free kick several yards wide. Rooney consistently sprayed passes into touch. Sterling couldn’t beat 31-year-old Birkir Sævarsson in a footrace. It was an astonishing collective collapse.
Barney Ronay’s excellent piece in the Guardian apportions the blame properly:
In the end the players are us and we are them. Like ill-mannered parents enraged by their ill-mannered kids, we stand there wondering why these normal, receptive human beings – not the best, but not the worst – play with such fear and angst in a knife-edge fine‑detail knockout game ringed by hostile faces.
This angst makes the English national team more complicated and compelling than any other, a subtext that in turn makes their matches more fascinating. At least for me, the day they break free from those shackles and win a tournament or even make a final, will be, at best, bittersweet.
The project was a full website rebuild with new e-commerce functionality, all within a responsive design. It took a great deal of time and effort, but the client was ultimately very happy with the finished product. In the process, I was able to sharpen my front-end development skills and learned a lot about handwriting instruction frameworks. There is still a standard that seems to be ubiquitous mainly because it was marketed effectively by the creator. Appy Therapy is, to my untrained eye, a far superior framework that is fighting an uphill battle against an established brand. I hope and believe that my work on this project will expose more children and instructors to an easier way to learn and teach handwriting.
Each autumn, my friend Carl notes and ranks the pumpkin beer he drinks. He invited me to join him this year and so it was that an otherwise quiet Saturday night was spent ingesting an alarming amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and alcohol.
Eleven different beers comprised the rogues gallery, and each was carefully graded from 0 to 5 on appearance, nose, tastiness, finish, and what we called “Platonic Pumpkin.” To infuse the proceedings a whiff of scientific method, my wife agreed to pour these drinks in another room and prevent names, reputations and label art from biasing our ratings.
Given the high degree of subjectivity and sheer quantity of beer, our marks revealed a surprising amount of consistency with three distinct groups emerging.
Clear worst of the bunch was the Sam Adams Pumpkin Batch, an odious concoction with soapy overtones and a cumulative score of 11 from a possible 50. The Blue Point Pumpkin Ale (18), Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat (18), and surprisingly the Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (19) rounded out the losers.
The divisive Southern Tier Pumpkin (23) was denounced by me but championed by Carl, ending up in limbo. The only non-ale tasted was the Redhook Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter (24), a disappointing effort with trace amounts of pumpkin flavor. Neither the New Belgium Pumpkick (25), Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale (26), or Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale (27) made much of an impression.
Two beers stood out from the rest: Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale (31) and our winner, Alewerks Pumpkin Ale with 35 out of 50. These finely balanced beers struck the best balance between expression and restraint, offering full pumpkin flavor but remaining drinkable.
I thank Carl for including me in this exercise, but I have vowed never to drink a pumpkin beer again. The cloying aromatics and dreadful puns are simply too much for one sitting, and the time has come to cut the gourd.