I’ll Go With Carolina, Thanks

Usually I don’t watch the Super Bowl, because there’s always something about the game that reminds me, deflatingly, of the ongoing dismal state of the Cleveland Browns.

PrintWhen the AFC representative in the Super Bowl is the New England Patriots, I recall that Bill Belichick once was the head coach of the Browns.  When the AFC representative is the Baltimore Ravens, I remember that the Ravens once were the Browns, before they abandoned Cleveland and then promptly won two Super Bowls.  When one of the teams in the game is a newer franchise, like the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers, I’m reminded, again, that we have reached Super Bowl L and the Browns have never made to the Big Game — not once, in 50 years.  It’s an amazing, seemingly impossible record of ineptitude and futility that saddles Browns fans with an overwhelming weight of despair and crushed hopes.

So, normally I wouldn’t watch the Super Bowl.  I’m not sure whether I will or not, this year, but it’s not hard for me to say who I want to win.  I’ll take the Carolina Panthers over the Denver Broncos any day, for one reason:  John Elway.  He cut the heart out of Browns fans, two years in a row, and if I have to see his chiklet-toothed grin as he hoists the Super Bowl trophy I’m sure I’ll throw up or hurl a shoe at the TV screen.  Besides, the Carolina Panthers have a lot of ex-Buckeyes on their roster, and all of those players have been big contributors to their success this season.  Ted Ginn, Jr., Philly Brown, Kurt Coleman, and Andrew Norwell will remind me that there is at least one Ohio-based football team that I root for that knows what the hell it’s doing on the gridiron.

Go Carolina!  Make John Elway suffer!

Valter’s At The Maennerchor

Last night we checked out the latest restaurant to grace the German Village venue:  Valter’s at the Maennerchor.  It’s a new food option at one of the oldest, most iconic locations in Columbus — the Columbus Maennerchor (German for men’s choir) building.  The Maennerchor itself has been a part of the Columbus arts community since 1848.

IMG_0443It’s not surprising, then, that the restaurant has a strong German theme, from the Maennerchor plaques on the walls, to the cozy rooms, to the excellent beer selection, and finally to the menu options themselves.  (Although, when we where there, a bagpiper and drummer from the Columbus Shamrock Club stopped by to treat us to some music before enjoying a few pints at the bar, and when they left they departed with a heartfelt rendition of Carmen Ohio, The Ohio State University’s familiar alma mater.  I can now attest that Carmen Ohio sounds pretty darned good when played on a bagpipe.)

We started our meal with the sauerkraut ball and potato pancake appetizers.  Both were very good, but the potato pancakes are worthy of a special note because they were prepared in the preferred way:  crisp, well-crusted, and served the traditional way with dark mustard and applesauce.  For my entree I got the weinerschnitzel and spaetzle, which is the acid test for any German restaurant.  The schnitzel was tender and flavorful with a very nice breading, and the spaetzle was as light as spaetzle can be — after all, German cuisine is of the stick to your ribs variety — and had an excellent, peppery flavoring.  The portions were abundant, too, which is another German trademark, and the prices were very reasonable.

During our meal we met Valter himself, who made the rounds of the tables and later graciously treated us to some very tasty mini cream puffs.  He suggested that we stop by for brunch some weekend, and showed us a picture of a pancake concoction that made having brunch at the Maennerchor look like a very wise decision.

It’s nice to have another fun German food option in German Village.

 

Winging It

The Super Bowl is the greatest chicken wing-consuming event in America.  The National Chicken Council forecasts that Americans will chow down on 1.3 billion chicken wings during the game tomorrow.  That’s four wings for every man, woman, and child in America.  As the vice president for communications of the National Chicken Council aptly stated:  “Any way you measure it, that’s a lot of freaking wings.”

slide_3So, if you’re going to eat chicken wings tomorrow — and chances are, if you are a red-blooded, football-loving, commercial-watching American, you will be — and if you live in the Columbus, Ohio area, why not get your wings from a place that the Only in Your State website recently announced was one of the 11 restaurants with the best wings in Ohio?  The wings from JT’s Pizza & Pub made the top 11 list, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that the JT’s wings are excellent.

In the interests of full and fair disclosure, please note that JT’s is owned and operated by our nephew, Joe Hartnett, who’s been doing a bang-up job as a small businessman.  Now that the conflict of interest disclosures are out of the way, why not stop at JT’s to satisfy that Super Bowl wing craving?  You’ll find JT’s and its magic wings at 2390 West Dublin Granville Road — also know as Route 161 — in Columbus.

The Impossible Challenges Of Modern Parenting

The tragic tale of the stabbing death of Nicole Lovell is one of those stories that demonstrates, yet again, that being a parent in the modern world poses challenges that our parents and grandparents would never have thought possible.

Nicole Lovell was a 13-year-old girl who lived in Virginia.  She had liver transplant surgery that left her scarred, and she took medication that made her gain weight — which in turn caused her to be the butt of ridicule by some of the mean kids at her school.  Like many kids do these days, she turned to social media as an outlet and apparently created alternative personas on-line, on a number of different sites.  Unbeknownst to her parents, for example, she had multiple profiles on Facebook.

nicole-lovellAuthorities believe that Nicole Lovell’s social media activities brought her into contact with an 18-year-old named David Eisenhauer — a student at Virginia Tech.  According to police, Eisenhauer and another Virginia Tech student, Natalie Keepers, plotted to kill Lovell and dispose of her body.  Lovell went missing from her bedroom after midnight on January 27; her body was found days later in a remote wooded area in North Carolina.  Eisenhauer is charged with Lovell’s abduction and murder, and Keepers is charged with being an accessory.

All parents know there are bad people out there.  That’s always been true.  The difference now is that social media makes it so much easier for the bad people to find your children, interact with them, and lure them into danger.  In more innocent days, parents could ensure their children’s safety by making sure they stayed in the neighborhood.  In the modern world of America, however, physical location is no longer an assurance of safety, because the computer in the family den can be the gateway for predators.

Nicole Lovell’s story involves a lot of common, nightmare scenarios for parents: unfair bullying at school, a child entering the teenage years who feels lonely and friendless at school while feeling liberated by the anonymity and possibilities for self-reinvention that social media and the internet offer, and, in all likelihood, that youthful confidence and certainty that nothing bad will happen to them — until it tragically does.

Modern parents know of these risks, but how do they keep them under control with so many social media options available in the modern world?  One of the social media options mentioned in the news stories linked above is called Kik, which is a messaging app that allows its users to remain anonymous and send photos that aren’t saved on the phone.  Have you even heard of Kik?  I hadn’t until I read the stories about Nicole Lovell — but I bet many young teenage kids have heard about it at school.  The kids are always way ahead of the adults on the social media/technology curve.

Our children survived the teenage years and made it out into adulthood.  I’m grateful for that, because I really don’t know how modern parents are supposed to thread the needle and allow their children enough freedom and self-sufficiency to develop as autonomous human beings while ensuring that they don’t fall prey to the evil people that we know are out there.  Sometimes, as the story of Nicole Lovell suggests, modern parenting just seems impossible.

Big Boats

IMG_0202Freeport, Bahamas is a significant port.  No surprise there — presumably, that’s how Freeport got its name in the first place.  It’s very close to the American mainland, and a convenient stopping point for ships coming and going to the U.S. of A.

During our recent visit to Freeport we had the opportunity to take a boat trip past the port, thanks to our gracious hosts the Bahamians, and therefore got to see some of the larger ships up close.  What’s interesting to me, as a dry landed Midwesterner, is the many different kinds of big boats you see around the Freeport port.  Tankers, tugs, and tenders, construction boats and unloading boats — each with its own special design related to its specific function in making the port work.

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Unfair Pitch

I think Hillary Clinton can be criticized for a lot of things, but one criticism is particularly unfair — that she becomes “shrill” when she raises her voice during moments of stress, like during the early part of last night’s debate with rival Bernie Sanders.

hillary-angryI agree with people who contend that “shrill,” “grating,” “braying,” “tone it down,” and similar terms are code words for sexist notions.  And when people start talking about things like Hillary Clinton’s “pitch” or “tone” or “volume,” they’re really communicating that they don’t think women should speak up and be heard, whether they intend to convey that message or not.  It hearkens back to Victorian times when women were viewed as delicate flowers who couldn’t undertake vigorous physical activity and shouldn’t venture their opinions about politics and other subjects that should be reserved for a male-dominated society.  It’s antiquated thinking, and comments about the volume of female politician voices are a byproduct of it.

No one criticizes the likes of Donald Trump or Chris Christie or any other male politician for yelling on the stump; it’s pretty commonplace at a noisy political rally where you are trying to be heard in a large room filled with people.  At debates, male speakers often increase their volume and talk over their foes.  Telling female politicians they can’t yell under the same circumstances puts them at an unfair disadvantage.  If we tolerate booming volume from male speakers, we can tolerate it from the female side, too.

So yell away, Hillary Clinton!  I may not agree with your positions on the issues, but I’ll defend to the death your ability to voice them as loudly as you please.

The Never-Ending Surge In Gun Sales

The American economy isn’t going gangbusters, but at least one area — gun sales — is an apparent exception to the overall economic malaise.

According to data released by the FBI, firearm background check requests, which are a kind of rough proxy for gun sales, keep setting records.  December, 2015 was the first month ever where more than 3 million background checks were performed, and for the year 2015 more than 23 million checks were performed.  Guns seem to be a popular holiday gift, because every year background checks spike during the holiday period — but this year the surge is continuing past the holidays.  The FBI reported doing more than 2.5 million background checks in January, 2016, which is the ninth month in a row that background checks have set a monthly record.

somervilleguns-thumb-520x292-81559It’s not clear why people are buying so many guns, but one theory is that gun owners fear that President Obama will take unilateral action to hurt their gun rights.  There’s statistical support for that notion, because President Obama’s years in office have been record-breaking for firearms entering the market according to statistics maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Whereas 40 million new guns entered the markets during the 8-year presidencies of President Clinton and President George W. Bush, 68 million guns entered the market during the first five years of the Obama Administration.  The key test for whether the “Obama effect” is the real motivator of gun sales will come, of course, when the President leaves office in a few months and a new President moves into the Oval Office.

Who is buying the guns?  Surveys indicate that the number of households that own firearms is either flat or trending downward, and that the surge is coming from existing gun owners who are simply buying more guns.  According to those surveys, the average number of firearms in households owning guns increased from 4.1 guns in 1994 to 8.1 guns in 2013.  And, because that number is an average, that means there are a lot of American households that own more than eight guns.

In short, we live in a country where many of our neighbors have assembled large arsenals and seemingly are always ready to buy more guns.  I’d say our citizenry is ready for the Zombie Apocalypse or an attempted invasion by the Russkies, but it doesn’t exactly make me feel more safe walking around on an average day among a population where some people are armed to the teeth.