Friday, April 29, 2016

Old Albania, 1994: Beer in the Land of the Eagle (Part 2 of 3).

Part 2 of 3.

One if by sea, 1985.

My first glimpse of the obscure and mysterious Balkan nation called Albania came in 1985. I was lounging on the deck of the ship traveling from Greece to Italy, eating straight from a tin of tuna with a camp fork and washing it down with Dutch Oranjeboom beer in a can, when the hazy shoreline of Albania became visible to the east.

After confirming our whereabouts on a nearby map -- the Greek island of Corfu could be seen to the west -- I went to the railing to investigate the shadowy headlands in the distance.

It didn't look like very much was there, only barren mountains sloping down to the sea and an occasional village. The bizarre concrete pillboxes and defense emplacements erected by the thousands by Enver Hoxha were not visible from the ship. I knew that Albania was the hardest of the hardline Communist regimes in Europe, and that Americans were seldom allowed to enter, but the biggest question of all was one that was unanswerable at the time.

Was there beer in Albania?

Two if by land, 1987.

My journey through Yugoslavia took me to Lake Ochrid, an ancient freshwater body of water on the border of the now-independent province of Macedonia and still inaccessible Albania. The public bus took me to the last village on the Yugoslav side, where I could go no further, and I was so intimidated by the soldiers and the fences at the crossing point that I was afraid to take pictures. Would they shoot the camera out of my trembling hands? Would it be an international incident?

Would I die not knowing whether there was beer in Albania?

Finally, 1994.

I finally was able to answer the question that had come up years before. By visiting the newly free and non-communist Albania for nine days, charting the progress and the problems in this living laboratory of social, economic and political change, and learning about the long and fascinating history of the Albanians, I now am able to confirm that yes, beer is being brewed and consumed in Albania.

The Korça Experience.

It would seem that Albanian commercial brewing history is entirely confined to the present century. There is no evidence to indicate that beer was a factor during five centuries of Turkish domination, although wine and raki (indigenous firewater of indiscriminate fermentable origin) make appearances throughout pre-20th century Albanian history and lore. For the record, raki is the chill-relieving, euphoria-promoting and paint-thinning social beverage of choice in Albania, and Albanian wine is honest if not spectacular.

The first commercial brewery in Albania in the 20th century was built in 1932 by an Italian company in the southeastern city of Korça (KOR-cha). The city is located in a fertile agricultural valley nestled in rugged mountains and is renowned for commerce (ancient trading routes with Greece and Macedonia), learning (the first Albanian language school was founded in Korça), ethnic culture, and as a hotbed of Albania's 20th-century quest for national identity.

The brewery is located on a tree-lined avenue on the outskirts of the compact city. Bulky iron gates bear the "Birra Korça" name in simple, red block letters. On the side of a building several yards away, a curiously pristine Communist-era historical marker notes the heroic action of anti-fascist partisans in 1945, who helped to liberate the area by burning some of the brewery's storage buildings.

As our guide Agim translated the words, I asked myself: How could this really be a victory if the beer wasn't liberated prior to the destruction of its home? Certainly the ideological struggle against capitalism could be suspended for a few rounds prior to the lighting of the arson's torch?

The Korça brewery reeks of faded, degraded elegance. It is constructed in the traditional tower layout, with the barley conveyed to the top for milling, the mash tun and brew kettle taking up the middle, and the fermenters and lagering tanks at the bottom. The mustard-colored, green-trimmed buildings are in decent shape in spite of the neglect of the past few years, but conditions were chaotic on the day of our visit. A horse and several dogs roamed the compound, and mounds of rusted machinery -- a staple feature of the contemporary Albanian landscape -- littered the yard. Inside, some windows were patched with cardboard and there were more than a few puddles made by leaking pipes

Yet, in spite of it all, the brewery at Korça -- the only one in Albania with a tradition of excellence, according to Agim -- is shuddering back to life following a period of inactivity since the collapse of Albania's economy in 1991-92.

It is being revived by a consortium of eleven investors who were victims of political persecution during the Communist era and who, as a means of settlement, were given a competitive advantage during the bidding to privatize industry.

On the day of our visit, the Korça brewery's first test batch of the new era was boiling in the kettle. The new owners have had to overcome formidable obstacles just to arrive at the point of brewing. The brewery was somewhere in the middle of the process renovation as we toured the building, and it had the littered appearance of a construction site. We were told that until the European Union chipped in several thousand cases of used, East German half-liter beer bottles, there was nothing in which to bottle the beer -- although a few dozen antique wooden kegs were left behind.

We briefly met with three of the new owners before departing. One of them worked in the brewery before and will now serve as the brewmaster, and he told us that they hope to resurrect Birra Korça's three styles: 12-degree pilsner, 12-degree dark lager and a special 14-degree lager. The pilsner will come first, and the others will follow.

Interestingly, the adjective used for "dark" to describe a dark beer is the Albanian word for "black." Owing to Albania's proximity to Montenegro ("Black Mountain"), the former Balkan kingdom and Yugoslav republic -- and more importantly, the birthplace of fictional detective Nero Wolfe -- marketing possibilities flowed liberally through my mind as we sat in the old, musty, high-ceilinged office and listened to the brewmaster explain his choice of German hops, Italian malt and yeast obtained at the brewery in Athens where Amstel is brewed under license.

I left with the impression that the consortium would be able to pull it off and put Birra Korça back on the brewing map.

Next: Tirana's beer.

Let's have a look at "The Singing Revolution" and Estonia's historical experience.

Absolutely amazing stuff; a nation redeemed by song, and nary a voice bellowing, "Play some Skynyrd." We watched this documentary on Netflix four years ago. It may still be available there. I recommend watching it. Each nation slipping Communism's noose has its own specialized story, but this one is utterly unique.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

ON THE AVENUES: You know, the two-way streets column I wrote -- 7 years ago, in 2009.

ON THE AVENUES: You know, the two-way streets column I wrote -- 7 years ago, in 2009.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

These periodic time capsules are worth the risk of repetition.

That's because they have a tendency to vibrantly illustrate a basic New Albany truth: As those in positions of authority dig their claws into the upholstery as you attempt to compel them to gaze past the county line, they like to dismiss the topic of the day as something newly brought to their attention, raised only now by wild-eyed, book-reading radicals with hidden agendas.

They invariably play to the peanut gallery as pitiable victims of fresh thinking and new ideas, when the thoughts expressed actually extend well into the past, even allowing for local standards of comprehensive indifference to modernity.

And so it was April, 2009, and my column in the newspaper, which means that these words were not confined to a blog that no one ever reads until it needs rebutting, in which case someone else reads it aloud to them so they they needn't concede using their own eyes. Nowadays, Steve Price is back to playing music, which he does quite capably, and Dan Coffey -- after four years assisting the Gahan administration in spending more discretionary "quality of someone else's life" money than the Overton, Garner and England regimes combined -- has declared his neutrality, at least until the next paymaster comes calling.

I'm not entirely sure where the bloody shirt has gone, although the odds are it isn't in the landfill.

The two words I'd most like to take back are struck through. Other than that, I'm delighted with being so prescient.

Thanks for asking.

Now, go and read a book.

Any book.


BAYLOR: Two-way, better way ... April 30, 2009.

What is the desired outcome, and how do we get there?

If the desired outcome is boosting New Albany’s future prospects as an urban entity, a key element is improving the city’s quality of life in residential districts adjacent to downtown, and linking their inhabitants to niche-oriented commercial redevelopment in the historic business district.

A restoration of the city’s two-way traffic grid is rightfully viewed by a diverse cross-section of the community as an achievable centerpiece of future downtown redevelopment strategies, with added benefits for residential and business interests alike.

If the desired outcome is doing as little as possible to avoid offending a steadily shrinking minority of city residents who view the future as a threat to be “nickel and dimed” into leaving us alone, the chosen political alternative is lethargic decay management, a strategy preferred by those of our local council ward heelers adept at “boiling the bitter Coffey.”

Who are they, and what is that? Let’s begin with a digression.


Out there – in the wider world, beyond the Knobs, and even past the state line – there is broad agreement as to the merits of slower, calmer automotive traffic patterns.

According to the bigger picture, speeding and certain other manifestations of dangerous driving are viewed as street design issues, not law enforcement issues. To design a traffic grid that encourages speeding and reckless driving is to achieve exactly that. Aggressive law enforcement should be a given, and yet approaching the problem from a design perspective offers more lasting and substantive relief, as well as a long list of added attractions for urban areas.

By requiring greater driver attentiveness, two-way streets and related traffic calming measures lower travel speeds, and lower speeds reduce the number of accidents as well as their severity, further lessening repair costs and the number and extent of injuries. Lower speeds also are green, reducing noise and automotive emissions.

Planners of a previous generation responded to the advent of suburban sprawl and the corresponding desertion of the historic city core with one-way, arterial street refittings, manipulating the transport grid as a means of motoring people in and out as quickly as possible, and jarringly dismissing the patterns of urban life prefacing the city’s original layout.

Now, in 2009, as conditions in the real world outside New Albany constantly change, it’s plainly mistaken to persist with an antiquated one-way traffic pattern that defies all efforts to revitalize New Albany into a human-friendly, future-oriented city, creating a more civilized, less threatening streetscape for pedestrians, cyclists, residents and visitors, improving livability in the city’s neighborhoods, and helping to attract fresh New Albanians by offering them a better quality of life.

The rational future of downtown lies in its transformation into an overtly-stated, explicitly-billed antithesis of the plastic, big-box exurb, and what is more perfectly representative of the soulless exurb than its cruelly auto-centric traffic requirements?

Conversely, how better to jump-start the process than allow the city center to function as the city center was originally designed to function?


Let’s return now to New Albany’s stunted political culture.

The phrase "waving the bloody shirt" came into common usage following the American Civil War. It describes a familiar trait of political demagoguery, wherein a politician points to the bloodshed suffered by “our side,” as heinously inflicted by the enemy (“them people”). The tactic is a conscious effort to deflect criticism and avoid honest consideration of the topic.

In the lexicon of the New Albany Syndrome, the bloody shirt might be paraphrased as “boiling the bitter Coffey,” wherein a local politician attacks the source (“them people”) of ideas, innovations and hope in a conscious effort to deflect criticism, avoid honest consideration of the topic at hand, and protect “our side” from a difficult, demanding future.

Accordingly, to “boil the bitter Coffey” is to be trapped in a state of perpetual political obstructionism, inexorably bound to the nonsensical principle that “them people” – i.e., those residents who are eager, educated, capable and willing to assist in the process of change – are arrogantly and callously demanding unaffordable and effete luxuries, something that the saintly and penurious “little people” must oppose at all costs, supposedly on financial grounds, but actually on ones vaguely reminiscent of the GOP’s culture wars – except that our Coffey boilers are always Democrats.

We’re about to see a high volume of Coffey being mercilessly boiled, right down to the darkest dregs, because these standard bearers of the city’s embittered and increasingly irrelevant wannabeens seem fully prepared to go to their mattresses in an offensive against the current administration’s efforts to rebuild and re-energize New Albany.

In addition to proposals for comprehensive paving and two-way street conversions, a full range of uniformly exciting and long overdue public and private investments currently are on the table, including the second phase of Scribner Place, ongoing riverfront enhancements, rehabs for existing housing, and positive ideas for West End redevelopment, all aimed at improving the quality of life for residents and businesses within the city’s historic core, and providing a platform for future growth.

The two council districts with the most to gain from progress are the 1st and 3rd, congenitally under-represented on the city council by Dan Coffey and Steve Price, surely the city’s most predictable proponents of deflated defeatism, penny-wise, pound-foolish fiscal deconstructionism, and outright malice toward a modern world that neither seems to comprehend.

Decay and death, or progress and life?

Can we afford not choosing the latter?


April 21: ON THE AVENUES: The Green Mouse tells all.

April 14: ON THE AVENUES: Forever NA, the wrong way ... from 2012, through 2014, to 2016 and beyond, forever more.

April 7: ON THE AVENUES: The Six Session Beers of Session Beer Day.

March 31: ON THE AVENUES: Abortion? Wichita, or maybe Targu Mures.

Old Albania, 1994: Beer in the Land of the Eagle (Part 1 of 3).

Part 1 of 3.


The only “corporate” day job I ever managed to hold for any length of time lasted from 1988 to 1989, with a solitary Christmas holiday in between. On the festive occasion of Yuletide, 1988, our office in downtown Louisville declared a contest for best work station decoration.

My friend and co-worker JP, who was well-connected within local radical leftist circles, went to work with entirely uncharacteristic zeal toward his stated goal of winning first prize.

He soon appeared with scissors, glue, armloads of construction paper and dusty old copies of the English-language edition of the “New Albania” propaganda magazine, which he’d borrowed from a socialist workers group somewhere in town.

Who even knew Louisville had such an organization – or that there were publications like this, filed hereabouts?

Come the day of judgement, Jeff had transformed his work pod into a veritable showplace of smudgy, dully-colored agitprop, with a few bright red placards bearing impenetrable phrases in the Albanian language, and photocopied images, stiffly posed, of Enver Hoxha and Ramiz Alia, the country’s Communist leaders.

But it was JP’s genuinely demented final touch that I’ll never forget, because snaking along the tops of his gray office partitions were strands of silver holiday tinsel, wrapped convincingly into menacing coils of barbed wire.

JP dubbed it “Christmas in Albania,” celebrating the world’s only officially atheistic state, and while contest judges couldn’t quite bring themselves to award him the top prize, he was given second place for sheer creativity alone.

It was a landmark moment.

The Albanians call their country Shqipëria.

My first and only visit to Albania occurred in 1994, when the obscure and isolated Balkan nation was struggling for a grip following the collapse of its rigid Communist regime.

Shortly after my ex-wife and I departed Albania, the country’s economy crumbled in the wake of an immense financial “pyramid” scandal, and sadly, boatloads of Albanians again took to the Adriatic, seeking refuge and a better life in Italy.

No sooner had Albania staggered back to its feet than the Kosovo conflict flared up. The NATO bombing of neighboring Serbia in 1999 involved Albania in more than a peripheral way, owing to Kosovo’s predominately ethnic Albanian population.

For 15 years since then, Albania has been reasonably stable, and remains engaged in a long, painstaking climb toward grabbing the economic carrot dangled by the European Union – except that now, in the midst of the EU’s various identity, immigration, ISIS and economic crises, when no one seems to know what being European means, the country’s oft-delayed acceptance into the EU is likely to be set back once again.

Nothing has been easy for the Albanians, arguably the continent’s longest-serving underdogs.

Perhaps that’s why Albania has been a recurring, seemingly eternal source of fascination for me. Three years ago, there was a brief correspondence with a brewpub operator in Tirana, during which we discussed brewing a New Albanian/Old Albanian collaboration beer. Nothing came of it, although it caused me to speculate on the status of people, businesses and breweries experienced so very long ago.

It’s probably time to go back for a follow-up. Until then, here is my account of the 1994 trip. In terms of updates, I’ve no desire to be exhaustive. The two breweries mentioned, one in Korça and the other in Tirana, are operational in the year 2016. There are a handful of others: Norga, Kaon, Stela and Puka among them.

As for the people – Genci, Agim, Nico and many others – I’m honestly clueless. I hope they’re doing well. Now, let's turn back the clock to the summer of 1994.


Introduction: What is Albania?

Albania is nine overheated and gritty days spent in a pockmarked Fiat crisscrossing the central and southern Albanian landscape in the company of two successive guides and a deft, talented driver whose skill at dodging pedestrians, cyclists, horse-drawn carts, herds of sheep and sagging road shoulders put us at "ease" to focus on splendid mountains, peeling buildings, demolished Communist monuments, ubiquitous concrete pillboxes - and most importantly – the hardy, resilient, long-suffering Albanian people.

It is climbing the twisted, shadowed, cobblestone alleyways of the old city of Berat, a short and steep walk away from the rotting 60's-era public buildings and a restored mosque across the main square from the huge pile of gravel and broken concrete marking the spot where the statue of the former dictator Enver Hoxha once stood, and where the people with pick-axes and wheelbarrows could be seen physically dismantling the legacy of Communist rule within minutes (and centuries) of our vantage point amid the Ottoman dwellings that survived earlier tyrannies.

It is driving three hours on the "highway" from the coastal city of Vlore, where broad, shabby, tree-lined avenues lead to the port, a short boat ride from the place the Soviets used as a submarine base in the 1950s, and then ascending the forested mountains, pausing just before the crest to dine on freshly grilled lamb, black olives and tangy feta cheese, washed down with cold Italian lager, before going over the top for the 5 and 1/2 hour descent through a vertical cactus-and-sagebrush landscape giving way to sheer ocean cliffs that somehow had been made to cradle a tortuous and crumbling switchback asphalt ribbon without guardrails that demanded patience and concentration of all drivers, and the necessity of honking at every blind curve to clear the path ahead as the blue ocean incessantly meets the rocks, so far below.

It is being willingly and joyfully hustled by entrepreneurial urchins atop the craggy peak in Kruje that boasts the restored castle of Skanderbeg, national hero, slayer of Turks and role model for generations of Albanians, permitting the aspiring young businessmen to hawk postcards and needlework in fractured English -- but with considerable enthusiasm and a certain innocence, since Albania isn't yet overrun with tourists -- and being sure to sweep away the dried goat droppings before sitting on the boulders to haggle over wares in a midday sun made far more intense by the sleep-inducing beer enjoyed at the privately-owned roadside cafe on the way up the hill.

It is walking along the wharf at Durres and gazing up at the Chinese cranes, watching a handful of shirtless workers lazily chip away at the rust and cracked paint on the hull of a boat that may have witnessed the mass exodus of Albanians to Italy during the problematic winter when Communism collapsed, now reduced to serenely observing the re-enactment of those events by an Italian documentary film crew housed in the same seaside Italianate, pre-war grand hotel with lime green walls and red marble floors where we stayed, the film crew bitterly complaining about the quality of the $2.50-a-bottle Albanian Merlot wine and the greasy "beefsteak" before drinking and eating every bit of it, anyway, and retreating to the bar to watch the World Cup live from America.

It's enough to make a tourist awfully thirsty.

Next: The Korça Experience.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"How East Germany influenced design."

Here's an old East German joke.

A citizen orders a Trabant car. The salesman tells him to come back to pick it up in nine years. The customer asks: "Shall I come back in the morning or in the evening then?"

"You're joking, aren't you?"

"No, not at all. It's just that I need to know whether the plumber can come at 3 p.m. or not."

But there were some positive developments, too.

How East Germany influenced design

Several household items created in East Germany have turned into nostalgic collectibles. An exhibition in Berlin explores how these objects were designed. Some are surprisingly indestructible.


Welcome to another installment of SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these new words? Why not the old, familiar, comforting words? It's because a healthy vocabulary isn't about awarding no-bid consultancy contracts by random spin of the economic dishevelment director's Nepotism Bottle.

To the contrary: It's about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one's pay grade or station in life.

Even municipal corporate attorneys are eligible for this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, for those of us who want nothing more than to understand why we must pay legions of Louisvillians to do what locals can do on their own, for less overall expense, all we have is time -- and the opportunity to learn something.

Today's word is occasioned by an inquiry from a regular reader: "It seems that Mayor Gahan tries to avoid being in a position of spontaneity in a crowd. What do you think causes that?"

One possible explanation is agoraphobia.



"Fear of open spaces," 1873, from German Agorophobie, coined 1871 by Berlin psychiatrist Carl Westphal (1833-1890) from Greek agora "open space" (see agora) + -phobia "fear." Related: Agoraphobe; agoraphobic.

In ancient Greece, the agora was an open space in the city, used for assemblies, meetings and markets. The term agoraphobia doesn't so much imply a fear of the open space itself, but fear of public spaces and crowds occupying them, because these cannot be controlled. If there is no control, panic ensues.

Note the pronunciation. It's not a-GOR-a-foe-be-uh, and as such, is an example of a word I've often mispronounced.

Definition of Agoraphobia By Mayo Clinic Staff

Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.

With agoraphobia, you fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line or being in a crowd. The anxiety is caused by fear that there's no easy way to escape or seek help if intense anxiety develops. Most people who have agoraphobia develop it after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to fear another attack and avoid the place where it occurred.

People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public place, especially where crowds gather. You may feel that you need a companion, such as a relative or friend, to go with you to public places. The fears can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home.

Agoraphobia treatment can be challenging because it usually means confronting your fears. But with talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medications, you can escape the trap of agoraphobia and live a more enjoyable life.

The Mayo Clinic definition contains several examples of the agoraphobia used in a sentence, but here's another one:

I believe agoraphobia explains Mayor Jeff Gahan's reluctance to attend city council meetings, as well as his tendency to avoid unscripted appearances.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This won't mean anything unless you're a Fitbit Fanatic.

Yesterday (April 25) marked my 366th consecutive 10,000 step day. The last week of less than 100,000 steps was June 8 - 14, 2015. The bulk of all this walking comes outdoors, in all weather, although I've learned how to walk in place, indoors -- hence all the educational videos.

Fitbit is a tool, and a means to an end. That's all. The key element to me is the necessity of staying active throughout the day in order to meet goals, but moreover, so as to keep the metabolism humming along.

Intake matters, too, and no, I don't always manage portion controls very efficiently. The point is to at least feel like you've earned the extra pizza and beer.

As Jeff Gahan's chainsaws coo and whirr: "What Are Trees Worth to Cities?"

Take it from me: They're absolutely doomed.

Here's your trade-off: Finally we'll have a walkable city -- just one without any shade trees whatever. That's precisely the ticket for an urban heat island, don't you think? But we all have air conditioned cars, right?


Maybe trees should consider becoming visionary level donors to the local Democratic Party. Mighty shortsighted of them failing to grasp the way things work.

What Are Trees Worth to Cities? Meet the U.S. Forest Service scientist putting a dollar value on urban forests, by Laura Bliss (City Lab)

David Nowak whittles down 30 years of studying the economic value of forests to this advice: If you can only plant one tree, plant it in a city.

After all, in an era of overwhelming need for urban infrastructure improvements, trees offer cities some of the best bang for their buck. Trees remove carbon dioxide, filter air pollution, and produce oxygen. They absorb rainwater, UV radiation, and noise. They slow down traffic, improve property values, and reduce human stress and mental fatigue. And they provide shade, which means we have to use less energy to cool down.

“Trees help us avoid emissions in the first place, in addition to taking out carbon,” says Nowak, a lead researcher at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Syracuse, New York. “It’s a big problem that they help us solve.”

New Albany's Tree Board -- statute, staff and board members.

Below is the ordinance enabling a Tree Board in the city of New Albany. Currently the board is short a few members. City staff for the Tree Board is Krisjans Streips, who sent this:

I am the staff of the New Albany Tree Board. We also contract with Greg Mills who is a certified arborist who advises the Board on all tree matters. The members of the Tree Board are:

Adam Dickey, President
David Barksdale, Secretary
Claudia Shrake
Ann Streckfus
Rick Sizemore

The Tree Board meets the second Wednesday on the months of January, April, August and December at 5:00 PM typically in the Assembly Room on the 3rd floor.

When there's time, I'll connect some of these dots. For now, it's Spring Break.




(A) A City Tree Board is hereby created to operate in conjunction with the Board of Public Works and Safety for the city and will operate in an advisory capacity to the Board of Public Works and Safety in any manner relating to trees, shrubs and other plants which are presently within the purview of the Board of Public Works and Safety.

(B) There is hereby created and established a city Tree Board which shall consist of not less than five nor more than seven members, citizens and residents of the city, who shall be appointed by the Mayor with the approval of the Common Council. The members shall include a representative from the following city agencies and groups: (1) Common Council, (1) Redevelopment Commission, (1) Plan Commission, (1) Utilities and (1-3) citizen members.

(Ord. G-92-106, passed 3-2-1992)


(A) The term of the five to seven persons to be appointed by the Mayor shall be three years except that the term of two of the members appointed to the first Commission shall be for only one year and the term of two members of the first Commission shall be for two years. In the event that a vacancy shall occur during the term of any member, his or her successor shall be appointed for the unexpired portion of the term.

(B) The Tree Board members whose terms will continue into the next year or years shall recommend to the Mayor new members. The Mayor must appoint annually at least one person recommended by the Board. In the event that a vacancy shall occur during the term of any member, his or her successor shall be appointed by the original appointing body for the unexpired portion of the term.

(C) Members of the Board shall serve without compensation.

(Ord. G-92-106, passed 3-2-1992)


The city’s Tree Board shall have the following duties and responsibilities:

(A) Advise the Board of Public Works and Safety in all matters relating to the selection, planting, maintenance and removal of trees, shrubs, hedges and other woody vegetation along public ways and on public grounds under its control;

(B) Study and survey the conditions of trees, shrubs, hedges and other woody vegetation along the public ways and on public grounds under the control of the Board of Public Works and Safety;

(C) Review, develop and recommend policies concerning the selection, planting, maintenance and removal of trees, shrubs, hedges and all other woody vegetation;

(D) Coordinate its effects with other city and public agencies including the Park Board, Plan Commission, Redevelopment Commission and Indiana Department of Transportation;

(E) Coordinate its efforts with local utilities;

(F) Review and make recommendations concerning construction projects which may endanger trees, shrubs, hedges and other woody vegetation along the public ways and on public grounds as requested by the Board of Public Works and Safety;

(G) At the direction of the Board of Public Works and Safety, prepare applications for grants from public or private agencies which will further its duties and responsibilities under the chapter; and

(H) Undertake educational campaigns as necessary and work with private and public agencies to establish programs which will further its duties and responsibilities under this chapter.

(Ord. G-92-106, passed 3-2-1992)

Portions: We eat too much, and we exercise too little. It isn't nuclear physics, is it?

It also wouldn't hurt to cut back on the deep fryer, and stuff a few bits of fruit and vegetables into your pie hole. However, as a recovering trencherman, I know all too well that it isn't easy. Long before I drank alcohol, eating was my stress reliever. Nowadays my aim is to judiciously balance food and drink in their recreational senses.

There are good days, and there was yesterday ...

Our gigantic problem with portions: why are we all eating too much?, by Bee Wilson, Jay Rayner, Tamal Ray and Gizzi Erskine (The Guardian)

... In a world where food is ever-present, many of us have become like Alice in Wonderland, controlled by cakes that say Eat Me and bottles that say Drink Me. As the nutritionist Marion Nestle remarked 10 years ago in her book, What to Eat: “It is human nature to eat when presented with food, and to eat more when presented with more food.” The trouble is that we are pushed more food, more often, every day. In 2013, the British Heart Foundation published a report called Portion Distortion on how portion sizes in Britain have changed since 1993.

Back then, the average American-style muffin weighed 85g, whereas 20 years later it was not uncommon to find muffins weighing 130g. Ready meals have also ballooned in size, with chicken pies expanding by 49% and the average shepherd’s pie nearly doubling in size since 1993 (from 210g to 400g). To overeat in such an environment may be less about lacking willpower than being set in your ways. Food psychologists talk about “unit bias” meaning that we are inclined to think that a portion equals one of something, no matter what the size. Even when it’s the 2,000-calorie single slice of pizza that nutritionists managed to buy in New York City: a whole day’s worth of calories in a single snack.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tomorrow at the Carnegie: "Base Ball in a River Town: New Albany."

I hate having to miss this one. After all, I named my keg box after NA's best-ever baseball player.

Now on the Jouett Meekin Memorial Keg Box ...

That's right. Billy Herman was second best.

Here's the lowdown.


New Albany celebrates 150 years of playing baseball this year (1866-2016).

Come find out how it all began in New Albany and who threw the first pitch. Meet some of the first players. See how the history of baseball in New Albany is intertwined with the history of New Albany itself.

Mr. Justin Endres will present the program entitled: "Base Ball in a River Town: New Albany." Mr. Endres is a local attorney and is President of New Albany Little League Softball and Vice President of New Albany Little League Baseball.

Program time is 7 PM in the Carnegie Center for Art & History, 201 E. Spring Street, New Albany.

Note the meeting is not at the library, but at the Carnegie Center at Bank and Spring Streets. Use the Bank Street entrance.

"On a main street, that which looks like 'vehicle delay' to a traffic engineer looks like economic activity and success to a local merchant."

What it looks like to Jeff Gahan is complete and utter  incomprehension.

Tell the Feds: Don’t Turn City Streets Into Highways, by Angie Schmitt (Streetsblog)

Will the Obama administration prod state DOTs to abandon the destructive practice of widening roads and highways, or will it further entrench policies that have hollowed out cities and towns, increased traffic and car dependence, and made America a world leader in carbon pollution?

It can't be stated any more clearly:

There’s a direct connection between how we decide to measure [congestion] and how we choose to address it. If we focus, as this rule does, on keeping traffic moving at a high rate of speed at all times of day on all types of roads and streets, then the result is easy to predict: our solutions will prioritize the investments that make that possible, regardless of cost vs. benefits or the potential impacts on the communities those roads pass through.

USDOT plans to measure vehicle speed and delay seven different ways, while ignoring people carpooling, taking transit, walking & biking or skipping the trip entirely.

Ready those buckets, and meet the Floyd County Democratic Party's "Visionary Level" sponsors.

And there's no better way to be "visionary" than a nice, alcohol-drenched game of See the Money, Be the Money.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Shakespeare and the American elections.

Who else but The Economist would connect Bernie Sanders with the Bard?

Bernie Sanders, the modern-day Mark Antony, by Prospero (The Economist)

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, that master of political theatre whose quatercentenary is upon us, will be delighted to see his most consummate speechmaker participating in the enormously entertaining 2016 American elections. Enter Bernie Sanders as Mark Antony. Friends, Americans, countrymen, lend us your ears.

The democratic socialist—who would certainly look distinguished in a majestically rumpled toga—and the Roman politician have much in common.

Ted Cruz is holding a rally in the Plantation Hall. That's about right (wing).

But when you talk about destruction ... don't you know that you can count me out?

Harris Wofford -- finding love, being everywhere.

The remarkable thing about Harris Wofford's two love stories? They really aren't remarkable.

Finding Love Again, This Time With a Man, by Harris Wofford (New York Times)

AT age 70, I did not imagine that I would fall in love again and remarry. But the past 20 years have made my life a story of two great loves.

Wofford himself? That's a different story. Meet the Zelig of our times, still in the thick of it at 90.

The Man Who Was Everywhere, by Jason Zengerle (New Republic)

The serendipitous political career of Harris Wofford

History will show that Harris Wofford did not split the wood that blazed during Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats. He had no hand in Watergate or in Iran-Contra, nor did he pilot the fighter jet that deposited George W. Bush on the deck of the aircraft carrier from which he declared, “Mission Accomplished.” But these are the exceptions. Pick pretty much any other major chapter from the last 80 or so years of the American political story, and there’s a shockingly good chance that Wofford played a role—tangential or central, onstage or off, but always, somehow or some way, in it.

It's been 210 days since New Albany had a News and Tribune city beat reporter.

Saturday's and Sunday's e-mail teasers add to New Albany's losing streak. But boy, do we have cooking school.

Dear Bill Hanson: Put down that colander, give NA some equality, or just change the damn name back to Evening News.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

R.I.P. Prince.

Someone else said it well.

It's true that we never personally knew the departed artists we mourn, but knowing them personally wasn't ever the point, because they helped us know ourselves.

While my respect for Prince's musical talent and artistic integrity is immense and everlasting, I'm not going to suggest that I was ever more than a casual fan of his music, if even that. Music speaks to you, or it doesn't. Prince's staggering musical output had a deep effect on millions of people, less so on me. So it goes.

Except for one song.

In 1991, I had the chance to fulfill a dream, leaving in August for a few weeks in Austria, Germany and Denmark before arriving in Prague. After a few days in the (then) Czechoslovak capital, which had escaped the Soviet orbit less than two years before, I took an overnight train to Kosice, a city of 300,000 in what is now independent Slovakia.

It was even further away from everything than simple geography might suggest. Hungary was 10 miles to the south, and the Ukraine -- in the process of detaching itself from a dissolving Soviet Union -- lay roughly 50 miles to the east. It was 15 hours by train from Munich, and light years from home.

I'd come to Kosice to teach English to doctors at the teaching hospital on the hill, overlooking the old city. It was September, winter was coming, and I set about organizing the perimeter in the room I'd been assigned within walking distance of the classroom.

Thinking ahead, I'd shipped a few books, and taken some music cassettes. The budget included money for a boom box, which I found at the downtown state-owned department store. It was a dirt cheap South Korean model that few locals could afford, but it would do well enough to play the music I brought, and maybe listen to the BBC from time to time.

What I didn't know was that in Bratislava, a new FM radio station had just begun operations, and was somehow relaying the signal to Kosice.

Cleverly, it was called ROCK FM, and in a strange new era, when no one knew the boilerplate "rules," this station was just fabulous. The play list was organized into hour-long blocks: Heavy metal followed by country, then punk, or classic rock, and after that Top Forty from the American charts,with doses of Czech and Slovak music -- and so on, and so forth.

I heard Nirvana's Nevermind and Achtung Baby by U2 for the first time on Rock FM, along with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and numerous other groups I'd never heard of, or hadn't had time to search out back home.

Note the irony: The by-the-numbers radio stations in Louisville were playing 1970s-era Bad Company and Led Zeppelin. I traveled to a recently liberated Communist country, and heard grunge.

And this song by Prince and the New Power Generation, which probably won't ever be confused with his best work even if it reached #3 on the US chart: Diamonds and Pearls, from the album of the same name.

I've no idea why this song spoke to me when so many other of Prince's compositions didn't, although it is inextricably bound with those months in Kosice. There was no singular epiphany -- not a particular girl, or a special moment. It may have been the weight of distance, and the sort of loneliness that comes when you begin thinking about time and distance.

All I can do is offer you my love. 

In the aftermath of his death, it's taken me until today to dare listening to this song of Prince's. In fact, I'd never seen the 1991 video until moments ago, just a few months shy of a quarter century after my teaching gig in Kosice started.

Those months taught me far more than I managed to convey to my students. Diamonds and Pearls is but one song on a lengthy soundtrack, but hearing it again brought back memories in waves.

Know thyself.

Prince's music helped so very many people make sense of their worlds. Let's give thanks for that, and for him.

Thunder THIS.

It's the least wonderful time of the year
With the fighter jets screaming
And everyone drinking the shittiest beer
It's the least wonderful time of the year

It's the dumb-dumbiest season of all
With those circle jerk fireworks and throngs of stone drunk jerks
When Thunder Day falls
It's the dumb-dumbiest season of all

(with apologies to Andy Williams)

I'll be in or near the perimeter of the 1117 E. Spring Street Neighborhood Association, guarding the premises with a bottle of gin in one hand, vermouth in the other, and recalling what it was like during the London blitz.

Move on ...mind the gap (in consciousness) ... nothing to see here.

Previous outbursts at NAC:

"These aircraft ... are normally used to do stuff like carry troops, bomb buildings and kill people."

Yo, Jeff Gahan -- meet Jeff Speck. Remember when Speck told you how to avoid bad street design? Oh, I see.

Jeff Speck provided New Albany with a detailed plan for reverting our streets to a sensible design, one capable of supporting and enhancing quality of life in neighborhoods, instituting multi-modal uses and contributing to indie business success.

Jeff Gahan handed it to an engineering firm that employs the wife of Gahan's economic dishevelment director. There'll be ample monetization of campaign finance, but thus far, there's no indication of substantive, transformative reform.

You'd expect such from a local Democrat?

For those keeping score, it's an example of copying the municipal governance designs that DON'T WORK, not the ones that do.

The Simplest Way to Avoid Bad Street Design: Copy the Ones That Work, by Jeff Speck (City Lab)

Models matter. Let’s design more streets like the streets we already love.

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when you’re a traffic engineer, it seems, everything looks like a highway.

If traffic engineers did not control the design of so many of our public spaces, this might not be a problem. But they do—and that’s especially true here in the U.S. Even when traffic engineers have the best intentions, too many simply lack the tools to make successful places. In the typical American city, asking a traffic engineer to design a walkable street is like asking a hammer to insert a screw.

Cutting to the chase. Have past practitioners of city planning in New Albany ever learned from their mistakes?

Have they ever been held accountable?

Let's ask John Rosenbarger and Scott Wood, shall we?

City planning is not just an art, but also a profession, and like in the professions of law or medicine, its practitioners have a responsibility to learn from past successes and failures.

Study of precedent makes it clear that boulevards create street life and enhance real estate value, while highways obliterate street life and sunder real estate value. It is not too late for Lowell to embrace a model that will transform this site from a place that is easy to get through to a place worth arriving at. Similarly, all of our cities, as they contemplate expensive reconstruction of obsolete roadways, have two models to choose from, one led by engineering, and another led by precedent: the study of places we love.

As we move ever closer to bridge tolls, Team Gahan remains AWOL.

NaNa Anchor City, too: "Commentary: A River City Shakedown."

Are we Breaking Wind yet?

In Louisville, the out-of-town developer menacingly waves the gun.

In New Albany, we helpfully excise the "armed" segment of the forthcoming robbery by approaching the out-of-town developer, offering the city's wallet, and subsequently hailing the transaction as another successful "public-private partnership."

There may be a slight difference in degree, though I may need a bout of daytime drinking to locate it.

Commentary: A River City Shakedown, by Dan Borsch (WFPL)

The threat: abandonment of two major development projects after tearing down historic buildings and closing a popular night spot. The payoff: $10.4 million in public money. The Mark: Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration.

Edwards Companies, a developer from Columbus, Ohio, has proposed major new projects at the sites of the Phoenix Hill Tavern and Mercy Academy. The company has already cleared the Mercy property.

Now, after city officials agreed to offer the company $7.5 million in tax incentives, Edwards is asking for nearly $3 million more – and suggesting it will abandon both properties without it.

After all, why spend your own money when other people’s money is available?