I hate the ABC

Jacob's enemiesVirginia’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is rapidly rising to the top of my enemies list. First it protected Clarendon from the rowdy pinot noir drinkers who weren’t buying enough appetizers at the Best Cellars wine bar (finally reopened, sans bar, btw), then it got in trouble for selling nothing but Virginia wines in its liquor stores, and now it has shut down the beer pong tables at Arlington landmark Dr. Dremo.

Dr. Dremo, located just two blocks from my apartment, is where I lost my Beirut virginity just a few weekends ago. (Astonishingly, I made it through four years of Vanderbilt and two years of IHS and Cato without ever playing beer pong. The tragedies of a misspent youth.) Sure, the beer was bad and the balls were a little unclean, but it was fun, damn it. And given how long it took my friends and I to make our tosses, playing the game probably moderated our alcohol intake. Not that this matters to the busybodies at the ABC. Despite the arbitrariness of their ruling, they saw people having a good time and stepped in to put a stop to it.

In other bad news, Brooke reports that the fight over the smoking ban is essentially over. The city council is going to pass it.

The D.C. area is disadvantaged enough by having the nation’s largest concentration of lawyers, law students, lobbyists, consultants, politicians, regulators, and ass-kissing interns looking for the next big networking opportunity.* Do we really need our local governments making an additional, conscious effort to make this city boring? No, no we don’t.

*I realize that many of my friends reading this blog fit into some of those categories. I didn’t mean you, of course. You’re the fun law students and consultants!

[Hat tip: Chad.]


More down under beasties from Down Under

It’s weird fish time again, folks! Let’s kick off the new website by catching up with long-time Eternal Recurrence friend Mark McGrouther, Fish Collection Manager at the Australian Museum.

First on the list is the Humpback Blackdevil. This guy looks like Mr. Blobby’s evil brother (actually sister, the males of the species are tiny), a floating liver with teeth, or perhaps a video game villain I can’t quite place right now.

Next is the Black Snoek, definitely one of the least attractive creatures we’ve highlighted here.

This larval basslet is “only a piddly little fish,” but it’s interesting for its remarkably long dorsal spines. Their purpose is still under debate:

Larval Liopropoma have extremely long ornate second and third dorsal fin spines. These spines have balloon-like structures which are held above the fish. The Smithsonian’s ‘Expedition to Galapagos‘ website states that “We don’t know the precise function of these structures, but they look very much like a type of colonial jellyfish known as a siphonophore. Perhaps they look enough like them to deter certain potential predators.” Baldwin et al (1991) state that “The elongate filaments could play a role in energy storage by providing space for the assimilation of excess food; however, long, trailing filaments seem an unlikely place for energy storage because they probably are quite vulnerable to predation. In fact, pigmented swellings or other variations in the shape of the filaments could attract predators, distracting them from the body of the larva. The elongate filaments also might function in predator deception by increasing the apparent size of the lava.”

You may have read about the tongue biters on BoingBoing. These are parasitic crustaceans that clamp onto fishes’ tongues, eventually letting them whither away and permanently taking their place. The museum has some great photos and an article on these buggers right here. Don’t miss the oarfish, which I blogged about here back in February.

Finally, after all this time of posting about fish we at last get to see Mark himself in action. Here [wmv, mov] a strong wind and a dark night conspire to make sorting the catch a difficult endeavor. Oh yeah, that’s grace under pressure! Lots more movies on this page.

So concludes this month’s visit to the deep. More to come, as always, in this feature that ensures Nikki will always keep my blog demoted from “the political” to the “delightfully uncategorizable” (which is exactly where I want it to be).


I can (almost) see my house from here

Google Maps became my standard mapping program the first time I tried it out. The new map service from Amazon’s A9 is a worthy competitor, however, thanks to its block-level photographs. Type in an address in a major city and it instantly calls up photos of the street taken from the window of a cruising SUV. Walk a block virtually, note relevant landmarks before you drive, or spot someone you know (I found one regular in the Murky Coffee photo).

Wired has more.


RSS feed blues

I’m not exactly sure how well the old RSS feed is functioning. It’s working fine in the Pluck RSS reader, but new entries aren’t showing up in Bloglines. If you’re having a problem, please switch to the new feed.

[Update 9/16/05: Bloglines seems to be working now.]

I’ll be on a train to Boston all day, so no updates. Have fun with the del.icio.us links or the blogroll on the right.


Republicans have the strangest definitions of “victory”

The Onion has a hilarious article on Republicans patting themselves on the back for a job well done. The part about Tom DeLay praising his party for keeping government spending in check is especially side-splitting. From “DeLay declares ‘victory’ in war on budget fat:”

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an “ongoing victory,” and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.

Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans’ choice to borrow money and add to this year’s expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn’t seem possible.

“My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I’ll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet,” the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing.

Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, “Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we’ve pared it down pretty good.”

Wait, that’s not The Onion. It’s The Washington Times. He really said that. WTF Tom DeLay?

[Hat tip: Brad Ploeger.]

[Update: Brooke links to this op-ed pointing out a few spots Tom DeLay may have missed.]


A warning label I can get behind

The Prohibition Era destroyed the burgeoning American wine industry, but home winemaking actually increased thanks to an obscure provision of the Volstead Act that allowed people to make 200 gallons of “nonintoxicating” cider and fruit juices each year. Unable to sell wine directly, many growers shipped grapes, grape concentrate, and compressed grape bricks directly to consumers. The bricks came with this helpful warning label:

Warning: Do not place this brick in a one gallon crock, add sugar and water, cover, and let stand for seven days or else an illegal alcoholic beverage will result.

Heaven forfend!

That’s from Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible, which I finally finished this weekend. Though 900 pages long, the writing is lively and interesting throughout and it’s a great resource for wine history and as a guide to the major regions. Highly recommended.


Eternal Recurrence 2.0

And we are back, with a new look, new features, and the long-awaited demise of the yellow masthead. Whaddaya think?

After more than two years of using it, I decided to switch from MoveableType to WordPress. WP is easy to use, requires none of the rebuilding MT does, and is supported by a fantastic community of developers who are doing great things for online publishing.

The only problems with the new site I am aware of are that trackbacks from MT blogs are being ignored, some images still need to be imported, and the RSS feed is shut down very temporarily until one minor text issue is resolved. If you find any other problems, please let me know.

A few new features worth pointing out:

Del.icio.us links — I come across lots of sites each day that I’d like to link to but don’t want to devote an entire entry to. The links at the top of the right sidebar solve this problem by displaying my most recent posts to del.icio.us, a social bookmarking/tagging website. Keep an eye on that section for frequent updates or subscribe to the separate RSS feed. [Plugin by Tom Gilbert.]

Post to del.icio.us — If you’re a del.icio.us user, every entry on this site now includes a link to post to your account. Share the ones you find interesting. [Plugin by Tim Yang.]

Upcoming events — Though I haven’t been blogging much lately, I have been busy. Watch this space for some upcoming announcements about magic and wine events. [Plugin by Firetree.net.]

Rotating masthead — The photos in the masthead are rotated randomly; refresh and they will change. A slightly hacked version of the same plugin that does that displays the alternating endorsements at left. [Plugin by Matt Mullenweg.]

Finally, biggest of thanks to webhost extraordinaire Adam Gintis for putting up with my stupid tech questions and fixing all the things I break. It’s a full-time job.

Note to RSS subscribers: This site now publishes a full feed. The new address is here, though the old address should function for the time being (switch anyway just to make me happy). If you don’t already use an RSS reader, I recommend Bloglines.