Happy Halloween to all the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins out there!
Tonight is trick or treat night in Columbus, too. That means we’ll need to lay in a sufficient supply of Halloween candy to distribute to any kids who might come knocking, because you obviously don’t want to get caught short. Then we’ll eat most of the candy ourselves, and after we reach an appropriate level of disgust at our consumption we’ll take the rest of it into the office and leave it next to the coffee station for everyone to gorge on.
Loosen the belts, everyone! The two-month holiday candy, pie, and all things sweet binge period is about to begin!
In Columbus, our mysterious messenger continues to distribute upbeat thoughts here and there in the downtown area. I noticed this pendant of purple positivity in one of the large concrete flowerpots in front of Mitchell’s Steakhouse as I was navigating through the flowerpots and pedestrian traffic on my way home this week.
What’s really going on here, with all of these uplifting messages? Are we talking about one devotee of Norman Vincent Peale, or are we in a cascade effect where other people have caught the bug and decided to post some happy thoughts around town? And why have they decided that Columbus should be the target for these relentless positive messages — as opposed to, say, Washington, D.C.?
Can a brightly colored stone with an inspirational thought in a downtown flowerpot make a difference? Beats me! But it can’t hurt, and it’s nice to know that somebody out there cares enough about the rest of us to make the attempt.
We’re used to “smart” devices these days. Smartphones, of course. Smart TVs. Smart security systems. Even smart refrigerators.
So, is it really a surprise that people have been working on the “smart” toilet?
An Asian company has created a toilet that has built-in sensors that can detect, collect, and analyze waste samples. The test results are then transmitted to an app on your phone, which gives you health advice based on the test results. This particular smart toilet is supposed to be able to monitor heart disease and also to evaluate urine samples for symptoms of cancer and heart disease.
Health advice and real-time test results, directly from your toilet to your phone? We must be living in the 21st century!
But that toilet is not the only “smart” stuff that will soon be available to increase the IQ of your bathroom. Other powder room devices that have been exhibited or developed include a toilet and bathroom mirror that use the Alexa voice assistant (although exactly how Alexa helps in this particular area isn’t clear), a pressure sensor toilet that measures heart and blood vessel information, a toilet seat that checks blood pressure, and toilets that are linked to wi-fi, analyze out sugars and proteins that appear in your deposits, and also evaluate your body-mass index. And some of the new devices even helpfully have LED night lights built in to the toilet lid.
In short, we may be on the cusp of the next great advance in toilet technology, when your home bathroom turns into a laboratory of devices that collect and analyze number one and number two, evaluate the blood flow in your cheeks, and consider God knows what else in order to provide you with a detailed, up-to-the-minute report on your personal health status — all of which will be transmitted and stored somewhere.
Against my better judgment I watched the Cleveland Browns football game yesterday. I’ve watched a few of their games this year, hoping that we would see a change for the better.
Last year the Browns won a few games at the end of the season, and during the off-season the team made some personnel moves that made it look like this might just be the year when the Browns were respectable. Indeed, at least one analyst on one of the network NFL shows picked the Browns to make it to the Super Bowl, for the first time in the team’s history.
I should have known it was all part of the devious plan to elevate the hopes of Browns Backers everywhere. After years of sad, crushing failure, Browns fans had become almost immune to the inevitable losses — and the evil forces that control the fates of professional football, focused as they are upon inflicting as much pain as possible on the hardy fans of this ill-fated franchise, couldn’t have that. The hype was all a ruse to get us to start caring and hoping again — because hopes can only be dashed when they are raised in the first place.
So yesterday I found myself yelling at the TV as the Browns lost again, to the mighty New England Patriots, to fall to 2-5 on the season. Losing to the Patriots isn’t an embarrassment in itself — pretty much everyone loses to the Patriots — but it’s the dismal, humiliating, frustrating way in which the Browns lose. Turnovers on three straight plays. A terrific long run ending in a fumble in the red zone. Countless penalties (some of which seemed pretty iffy, by the way) killing good plays or putting the Browns in too deep a hole. And so, for all of their talent, the Browns are once more on the outside looking in and heading for another awful year.
Well, at least my Sundays are now clear for more positive and productive activities.
On our recent trip to the Pine Tree State, we stopped in Camden, Maine to visit some art galleries. “Stop Wait Wave” is painted on the sidewalk next to the crosswalks on Camden’s busy main street, substituting for a Walk/Don’t Walk sign.
The painted sidewalk notice is similar to the x-shaped “Stop, look, and listen” signs that you used to see at railroad crossings. In Driver’s Ed class we were taught that you were supposed to stop at the railroad tracks, look both ways to see if the crossing was clear, and then turn off the radio and listen for the whistle of an approaching train before you decided to proceed. The “Stop Wait Wave” signs are based on the same principle, except the “wave” is to ensure that you’ve alerted the oncoming drivers that you’re crossing.
As a committed pedestrian, I’m a big fan of the wave when you cross the street — especially in these days of distracted, texting drivers. In fact, I give the wave even when I’m crossing with a “Walk” sign. The wave is a friendly gesture, and the motion can help to get the driver’s attention. If you wave and you get some kind of wave, nod, smile, or other acknowledgement from the driver in response, you can be pretty sure that the driver isn’t going to proceed into the intersection and knock you down. It’s a sound defensive walking strategy, and it was nice to see that the Camden, Maine authorities agree with my view.
If it were up to me, I’d paint “Stop Wait Wave” on every downtown Columbus crosswalk.
On our walk around Schiller Park this morning, Betty and I discovered that an outdoor art exhibition has been installed at various points in the park. I think it’s the first outdoor art display at Schiller in the time we’ve been living in German Village, and it makes me hope that others will be following it.
The exhibition is called Suspension: Balancing Art, Nature, and Culture and it features life-sized sculptures by Jerzy Jotka Kedziora suspended at various points in the park.
As Betty and I walked the perimeter of the park, we caught glimpses of the sculptures in the interior of the park. The pieces had the effect of pulling us into the park, and made a cool, rainy day a lot more interactive and interesting. And now is a pretty good time to see the exhibition — which runs until March 2020 — with the sculptures framed against the remaining colorful fall foliage.
Many of the sculptures have a circus-type theme, but my favorites were the hard-working rower floating above the pond and a headless angelic figure drifting above the Third Street entrance to the park, with the tassels of its dress jostling in the breeze. Kudos to the Friends of Schiller Park for sponsoring a very cool bit of outdoor art.
It’s a tough assignment when a new restaurant occupies the space of an old, beloved, now-closed restaurant. It’s even tougher when the space being occupied is so iconic that both the new restaurant and the old restaurant took their name from the space itself.
That’s the challenge for the Flatiron Tavern, which opened this month at the northern edge of downtown Columbus. It’s located in the Flatiron building — a skinny, multi-story brick structure — and it replaces the Flatiron Bar & Diner, which was one of my favorite lunch spots and also a pretty good place to have a beer on a Friday afternoon after work. The old Flatiron was known, by me at least, for its interesting, Cajun-infused menu and specials and its consistent ability to deliver one of the very best cheeseburgers in town. It was a sad day indeed when the old Flatiron suddenly shut its doors — but my great experienced with the old venue also made me eager to give the new spot a good early look.
The Bus-Riding Conservative and I legged it over to the Flatiron Tavern yesterday for lunch. I was glad to see that the space looks pretty much the same — with the exception of a some TVs added to the walls, which thankfully were not playing at high volume — and that at least one of the old Flatiron staff members was manning his familiar station behind the fine old wooden bar. When the BRC and I got there the place was packed, which was a good sign, so we sat at the bar.
The Flatiron Tavern menu is a bit more limited than the old Flatiron carte, and there wasn’t the blackboard with specials that the old restaurant featured. So be it! Not surprisingly, I ordered a cheeseburger, which is served with chips. In my book, the cheeseburger is a pretty good test of a new restaurant. This cheeseburger didn’t reach the exalted level of the prior Flatiron burger, but it was perfectly good — and the next time I’m going to get a double. It’s pretty clear, too, that the new restaurant is still working out the kinks, with the staff hustling like crazy and things taking just a bit longer than they will when routines are established.
Still, it’s good to see an iconic space filled again, adding to our downtown dining options. I’ll be back.
My post about Julianne’s performance of Gabriel’s Oboe got an incredibly strong positive reaction, and several readers have asked if there are other available videos of her artistry. Yesterday another portion of her recent performance with the Austin Youth Orchestra was posted on YouTube. This video shows Julianne and the AYO performing Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Oboe in C Major. It’s another terrific and impressive performance by Julianne. This time, she tackles a longer, classic piece by one of the great baroque composers that features the kind of intricate structure that is typically found in baroque music. It’s another beautiful piece of work by Julianne and the AYO, who obviously enjoy performing together.
It’s nice to know that oboe performances have struck a chord — pun intended — with Webner House readers!
Meet the newest member of the plant family at Captain;s Cottage. It’s a Montauk daisy, also known as a Nippon daisy due to its Japanese heritage, that we replanted at the foot of the stairs to the down yard this week.
The plant was a gift from a neighbor on the Greenhead peninsula. He was winnowing out his garden, which had gotten a bit overgrown, and this plant was among those to be removed. As we stopped for a chat, he asked if we’d like to have it for replanting. I had some trepidation about it, because I’ve never replanted a plant — but fortunately a horticulturist was visiting us and promised to guide me through every step.
It really wasn’t all that difficult. Our garden-savvy friend first decided which part of the yard would be receptive to the plant, which isn’t an easy task in the rocky Stonington soil. She identified a spot which gets a lot of sun then guided me through the steps, which included digging a hole about a foot deep and 18 inches wide, carefully placing the plant into the hole, filling the edges of the hole with soil and loosely packing it down, and finally watering the plant liberally, first at the time of replanting and then again the next morning. By the third day, when a big rainstorm rolled in to give it another dousing, we were hoping the plant had began to take root and will have a chance to do a little growing before the first hard frost of the winter.
We won’t know whether the transplant operation was a success until next spring, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Montauk daisies form a mound, grow to a height of about three feet, and produce lots of flowers. The plants are so hardy that you are even supposed to divide them after a few years to keep them vigorous, and thereby create two plants where there once was one — but I’m not worried about that now. I’m just hoping the plant survives, because a thriving Montauk daisy plant would be a great addition to the down yard.
Our daughter-in-law, Julianne, was the featured soloist on this performance of Gabriel’s Oboe with the Austin Youth Orchestra on October 20. I’ve never heard that piece of music before, but it is beautiful — and very beautifully played in this performance. If you’ve never heard the piece, or even if you have, this version is well worth a click and a listen.
Congratulations, Julianne, for your talent and your hard work! You deserved that standing ovation!
In French, the piece de resistance is the most important or exceptional feature of something. At the Harbor Cafe in Stonington, Maine, it’s really the pie de resistance — because no meal is complete without a piece of homemade pie for dessert. Our favorite is the coconut cream pie, which is light as a feather and filled with crunchy coconut. It’s the perfect end to dinner.
Yesterday we took a bit of fall tour, driving from Stonington over to Castine. It’s a roundabout trip that takes you on winding roads that skirt the bays and coves and inlets of the craggy Maine coast. Along the way you see some beautiful scenery — like the view above of the Eggemoggin Reach in the distance and some colorful trees from the commanding heights of Caterpillar Hill.
Castine is a charming town that is the home of the Maine Maritime Academy. It has a long history that dates back to the 1600s. If you walk away from the downtown area you’ll find streets that look like movie sets, with tidy federal-style homes and white picket fences and trees sporting their blazing fall colors. Many of the houses feature signs in front that tell of the history of the area, and the intermittent clashes between the French, the Dutch, the Mohawks, the British, and finally the Americans who fought over this strategic spot on the shoreline from the 1600s until the War of 1812.
As is always the case with coastal Maine, it all comes down to the water. There aren’t many tourist here in October, which makes it a quiet, peaceful time to visit. You’ll get a chance to experience some beautiful colors, but also the serenity of the solitary sailboat moored on the quiet waters of Penobscot Bay.
Yesterday we drove over to the Brooklin Inn to listen to a performance by BOOM — the Baroque Orchestra of Maine.
Heidi Powell, on baroque violin, and Max Treitler, on baroque cello, performed two sonatas by Georg Freidrich Handel and two familiar pieces by Archangelo Corelli, and Ms. Powell also performed a beautiful solo piece, the Passacaglia in G minor for solo violin by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, that I had never heard before. The concert took place in one of the central rooms of the Brooklin Inn with an audience of about 40 people — the kind of intimate, up close and personal setting that was the normal performance venue when baroque music was the prevailing music of the day back in the early 1700s. It was a wonderful performance of my favorite genre of classical music, which Ms. Powell and Mr. Treitler made even better by providing some interesting commentary to introduce each piece, talking about the differences between baroque instruments and their modern counterparts — and even answering a question from the audience. I should add that, after the BOOM performance, we had a very fine dinner thanks to the Brooklin Inn kitchen.
It’s pretty cool that this part of Maine has its own baroque orchestra — but then again this area is full of surprises and interesting things to discover, and there are lot of people out there who have a passion for classical music generally and baroque music in particular. When I thanked Ms. Powell after her performance and asked whether there was a BOOM website where we could make a contribution toward future performances, she said there wasn’t one, but we could send an old-fashioned letter and she’d let us know about future performances via postcards. It’s an example of the kind of old-school, off-the-grid approach to the modern world that you often find in this area — well-suited to a group that performs vintage music with authentic instruments.
Our local newspaper in Stonington is the Island Ad-Vantages, covering all of Deer Isle and Little Deer Idle. It is printed once a week and provides all the news you need to know — and some conversation fodder, besides.
We all try to follow national and international news — to the extent our blood pressure can stand it, at least — but the news we really care about is local. Up here, that means reporting on tourism, the lobster and fishing business, development activities, and coming events. I want to know whether the local businesses and restaurants did a good trade and will be here next summer, and I’m glad to read that they did. I’m happy to learn that a food truck stationed in Deer Isle will be back, but that local labor shortage is a concern. Hey, if you are looking for a job, come to Stonington next spring! Every business is looking for help.
What’s playing at the Opera House over the next few days? Are there any good yard sales this weekend? And the local police blotter and short reports on local closed court cases are always a fruitful source of discussion topics. The latest edition of IA-V reports, for example, that one man from the area was fined $150 for “molesting silver herring gear.” What do you suppose he was doing?
A really good local newspaper, like Island Ad-Vantages, tells you a lot about your community.