Columbus Microbrew Festival

This afternoon I stopped by the North Market to pick up some wine and cheese to consume tonight — it is a holiday weekend, after all — and I picked up a flier for the Columbus Microbrew Festival.

It’s the 8th annual Festival.  The 8th!  I’ve been blissfully unaware that the Festival even existed, so I’ve missed the first seven.  The very thought gives me an empty, gnawing feeling.

As any reader of our little blog knows, I am a big supporter of local businesses and downtown activities. I also love beer, so the Festival is right up my alley.  My question to our readers — and I’m thinking here of the Biking Brewer — is:  what is appropriate behavior at a Microbrew Festival?  Are attendees supposed to sip the brews and comment daintily on the “nose” and whether the taste has hints of raspberry and anise, or is it acceptable to guzzle every adult malt beverage within reach and thank the ancient gods that they taught the fine art of brewing to our ancestors?

I’m also very intrigued by the names of some of the microbrewers who will be participating in the Festival.  Who wouldn’t want to sample a porter brewed by Weasel Boy Brewing Company, or Thirsty Dog Brewing Company, or Seventh Son Brewing Company?  What central Ohioan wouldn’t feel compelled to sample the product of Mt. Carmel Brewing Company, or Buckeye Lake Brewery?

If you’re intrigued, too, mark your calendars — the Festival is September 13, 14, and 15 at the North Market.

Great Expectations

Tomorrow the Ohio State Buckeyes kick off their 2013 football season with a home game against the Buffalo Bulls.  In Buckeye Nation, expectations are high.  In fact, “high” really isn’t an accurate description.  Many OSU fans think that this team should go undefeated, crush every opponent, make it to the BCS title game, and win handily — and they’ll be disappointed at any other result.

IMG_3091Most of the pressure will fall on one man:  quarterback Braxton Miller.  Miller is the elusive run-pass threat that college coaches dream about, able to convert a busted play into a huge gain through his speed and scrambling abilities.  The true believers think that another year of seasoning and practice in the passing game will smooth the rough edges off last year’s erratic passing performances and make Miller an unstoppable scoring force.

The fans also believe that the Buckeyes will have a grab bag of game-breaking offensive talent — at running back, tight end, and wide out — and a tough, experienced line.  Add in the standard freshman phenom (this year, its speedster Diontre Wilson) and you get the sense that some Buckeye supporters think the offense should score every time it touches the ball.

If the offense is a potent as fans anticipate, it probably will be a good thing — because the defense is a bit of a question mark.  The defensive line and much of the linebacking crew will be starting for the first time, and while the starters look to be talented, there is no substitute for experience.  When the footing gets treacherous in sloppy, Big Ten weather in October and November, scoring machines can grind to a halt.  That’s when defenses need to show up and win games for teams that hope to be contenders.

Last year the Buckeyes unexpectedly went undefeated, but in the mind of many fans it really didn’t count because the team was ineligible for the Big Ten championship game or any bowl contests.  If the Buckeyes are to make it to the national championship game this year — when they are playing a soft schedule — they’ll need to win every game again.  That’s a tall order by any measure.  I can’t remember the last time a college team did it, and I’m not counting on it happening this year, either.

We’ll start to find out tomorrow.  I’ll be there in the Horseshoe, ready to cheer.  Let’s go, Bucks!

Black Budget, Black Box

Edward Snowden’s leaked information continues to gradually make its way into the public eye.  Yesterday the Washington Post ran a carefully worded story discussing the “black budget” for U.S. intelligence agencies for fiscal year 2013.  It’s called the “black budget” because very little light is shed on what the intelligence agencies are actually doing with the money they are receiving.  And it’s a lot of money.  According to the Post story, the “black budget” for fiscal year 2013 was an eye-popping $52.6 billion.

Spending on intelligence has skyrocketed since the September 11 terrorist attacks, and you get the sense that the intelligence community saw the attacks as an opportunity to expand their manpower, their budgets, and their influence.  They were hugely successful.  There are now 16 federal agencies involved in intelligence gathering, and they collectively employ more than 107,000 people.

The Post story focused on areas where the intelligence community apparently is unable to provide much meaningful information — like North Korea — but I think the real story is the size of our spy operations.  From the President on down, I’m skeptical that there is much in the way of meaningful oversight of what those 16 different agencies are doing — to say nothing of coordination of their activities.  How much assurance can we have that the agencies are complying with laws and directives, including those that prevent routine intelligence gathering about Americans engaged in domestic activities?

Size and money may allow you to buy neat spy gizmos and establish operations in faraway lands, but they also have a disadvantage.  Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying:  “Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”  The more people involved in secret activities, the less likely it is that they will remain secret for long.  With 107,000 people involved in intelligence gathering, is it any wonder that our government leaks like a sieve and people like Edward Snowden can collect and disclose reams of classified information?