Springtime In January

As I write this it’s 67 degrees outside — in Columbus, Ohio, on January 11 — and the weather app says we’ll hit a high of 69. The photo above aptly captures my reaction to this development.

Alas, it’s temporary. The temperature is supposed to plunge down to the 30s overnight, and then we’ll be back to winter again. Enjoy the fluky weather while it lasts!

Seattle’s Darkest Day

Last Friday was a pretty dark day for Seattle.  Literally.

seattle-1In 1996, the University of Washington installed three pyranometers on the roof of one of its facilities in Seattle.  The pyranometers measure the amount of solar radiation (also known as sunshine) that reaches the surface of the earth.  On Friday, the devices registered an output of only a measly 0.37 megajoules of solar radiation per square meter — the lowest recorded daily measurement for the devices since the date of their installation.  The culprits for the dismal results — literally — were the very short day caused by the approaching winter solstice, heavy cloud cover, and heavy rain, too.

I can sympathize with the Seattle residents who cursed the infernal darkness last Friday.  I’m not sure whether we’ve got any pyranometers measuring the solar radiation in Columbus, but if there are, they’d be measuring pitiful amounts these days.  In the Midwest, our winters tend to be pretty gloomy affairs, too.  It’s not that we get a lot of snow — typically, we don’t.  Instead, it’s the unrelenting damp, heavy grayness that makes you feel like you’re living and working under a wet woolen blanket.  When the sun actually shines, all too briefly, it’s a cause for riotous celebration.

There’s a reason so many Midwesterners are snowbirds who head south for the winter.  Sure, they’re searching for warmth, but they’re also on a quest for much-needed sunshine.  Their internal pyranometers are telling them that they need to up their personal exposure to those bright, happy megajoules.

A Day In The Life

We had a great time at the Sgt. Peppercorn’s all-day Beatles Marathon at the Bluestone. I was there from 11:45 to 11:45, hanging in from the great introduction to the show from Sir Paul McCartney though all of the early songs and Sgt. Pepper, to the second disc of the White Album. At that point, with my feet aching from standing for 12 hours straight, Revolution No. 9 dead ahead, and looking at about 2 a.m. as likely target for the end of Abbey Road, I decided to call it a day. We left hoarse but happy.

But what a day! If you like Beatles music (and singing aloud with a group of friendly, lubricated, singalong strangers), it’s a must-attend event. It’s impossible to go, listen to that music, and not be happy — and impressed at both the musicianship and stamina of the great band. It will definitely put you in a holiday mood!

Next year we’re going to get there even earlier in hopes of getting actual seats.

Trash Tax

I’m a big believer in the “user fee” concept of funding governmental services.  The underlying notion is simple:  many governmental services benefit us all, but some benefit only the specific users of the service — so why not have them bear the lion’s share of the cost of providing that service?  If a municipal government operates an airport, for example, it seems eminently fair to fund its construction and operations through taxes and charges to the passengers who fly through the airport and the airlines, rental car companies, and other who profit by doing business at the airport.

I think governmental entities also should consider expanding the “user fee” concept to look not only at who benefits from government services, but also at who causes the need for the government service in the first place.  I’m thinking specifically about the trash that you find at the parks, and on the streets and sidewalks, of Columbus and other American cities.  At some point, for example, somebody from some governmental entity comes to Schiller Park, empties the refuse cans, and picks up the random bits of trash to be found on the park lawns and sidewalks.

As a dedicated litter fighter who tries to pick up and throw away the random trash found at Schiller, I know first hand that much of the contents of the trash cans, and virtually all of the litter on the lawns and sidewalks, is fast food debris — coffee cups and lids, cheap styrofoam containers, straws, straw wrappers, sandwich wrappers, napkins, and carryout bags.  It’s virtually inevitable that at least some portion of fast food carryout will end up as litter, and as you move from the area around the McDonald’s to the area around the Starbucks you see the change in the litter patterns that reflects that.

So why not impose a targeted “trash tax” on fast food restaurants that helps to defray the cost of picking up the litter that those businesses generate?  It would be different from any fees paid for maintaining dumpsters at the fast food restaurant that get emptied from time to time, and would instead focus on the cost of the consequences of fast food carryout from a neighborhood trash standpoint.  And if fast food restaurants wanted to pass on the cost by charging carryout customers a bit more, I’d be fine with that, too.

Litter is a curse that can ruin enjoyment of parks and neighborhoods.  It seems eminently fair to require the businesses that cause the litter problem to pay for addressing it.

The Random Restaurant Tour — XXXIV

When a neighborhood restaurant closes, you want to see another dining venue move in so ample nearby lunchtime food options remain.  Those of us who toil in downtown Columbus therefore were happy to see that when Oliver’s on Lynn Alley closed its doors, it wasn’t long before another restaurant took its place.

The new restaurant is called Belly Burger, and the B.A. Jersey Girl and I paid it a visit on its opening day.  I’m not sure that Belly Burger is the greatest name — it definitely made me wonder whether, from a fitness, weight, and waistline perspective, I should really be gobbling down another lunchtime burger — but if Pot Belly Sandwiches can be a thriving business, having “Belly” in the name clearly is not a barrier to restaurant success.

Belly Burger offers a limited menu, so you’re not overwhelmed with choices.  There are burgers, and there is a chicken sandwich, and you can get fries — and that’s about it in the food category.  You can also order a Cheerwine slushee (Cheerwine being a southern soft drink that tastes somewhat like a Dr. Pepper), milkshakes, or soft drinks in the beverage category, and Belly Burger has a full bar, too.  In fact, you can combine the slushee or milkshakes with a liquor of your choice to make them “boozy.”

The BAJG and I passed on any boozy beverages and went straight for the burgers and fries.  The Belly Burger burger was large, juicy, cheesy, and excellent in every respect.  I particularly want to give B.B. a hat tip on the bun, which was buttery and soft on top, well-toasted and crunchy next to the meat, and very flavorful in its own right.  The fries similarly were crunchy and well-textured and in a reasonable portion.  And the friendly bartender offered us a taste of the Cheerwine slushee, in its unboozy form, so we could toast Belly Burger’s grand opening.  I’m not a fan of slushees generally, but if you like them I’d guess you’d enjoy the B.B. Cheerwine version.

Welcome to the ‘hood, Belly Burger!  The burger fans among us are glad you’re here.