I Love Scotch. Scotchety Scotch Scotch.

Posted on

In honor of my Aunt and Uncle gallivanting around Scotland right now, I’ve decide to post about one of my favorite drinks in the entire world (and to quote from one of my favorite movies Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy): Scotch whiskey. I love single malts, double malts and blends.
I love the smokey and peaty taste of whiskeys from the highlands. One in particular, Laiphoig, loves me as well. The distillery, and their customer relationship marketing program, has deeded to me a small plot of land near their water source. If I show up at the distillery, they owe me a dram. Lovely.
I also love really old and expense whiskeys. For my 30th birthday I asked for and (surprisingly) received a bottle of 30 year old single malt scotch. Even more surprising was that the distillery it came from was located in Invergordon, the small Highlands town 45 minutes north of Inverness where I stayed on a small croft of land back in 1998 thanks to my college’s H.O.S.T. program./ I wound up touring the Highlands, visiting Ullapool and other out of the way towns and watched “Four Weddings and a Funeral” with the family I stayed with at night after dinner. The only thing that wasn’t perfect about the visit was that the family I stayed with were from a centuries old Scottish clan, they were English who moved to Scotland to practice dentistry.
I also love simple whiskeys. In thinking through what whiskey I wanted them to bring back for me, I immediately thought of Bailie Nicol Jarvie, a blended whiskey that the dock workers used to drink way back when. It was revived in the 70’s and recommended to me the first time I went to Scotland. I brought back three bottles to London – one for me, one for my dad and one for my Uncle who is now in the land of Scots (and no, the trouble with Scotland is not that its full of Scots like Longshanks said in “Braveheart”)

Lastly, to recap what I stated at the start, I just love scotch. I love talking about my love with my sister-in-law, who annoyingly keeps being pregnant when we hang out thus negating our ability to enjoy a wee dram together. England’s newspaper “The Independent” seems to love scotch whiskey as well as it has a listing of what they are calling the ten best scotch whiskeys – yum! – but you need to click through 11 pages to see the 10 choices. I know this type of article increases ad impressions and therefore ad revenue for the paper and these “top 10” lists are catnip but it still, it’s annoying. So, in case you don’t feel like looking at the pretty bottles, I’ve posted the list below.

  1. Johnnie Walker Black Label:Perfectly rounded, deep and full, this is the blended Scotch most admired by blenders. If I had to take only one whisky to a desert island, it would probably be this one.
  2. Lagavulin 16 Year Old:The prince of the Islay malts, this is deep and dark, with notes of fruitcake and sweet seaweed. A voluptuous texture and a fragrant, smoky finish. For drinking with poetry, late into the night
  3. The Glenrothes 1985: A big, rich Speyside, with notes of dried fruits and peel and some spicy or tannic dryness. Drink with roast Aberdeen Angus beef. The last remaining drops of this vintage have now been bottled.
  4. Old Pulteney 12 Year Old: An elegant malt from Wick in the far north of Scotland, this has a lightly “maritime” character and goes well with fish and seafood. The distinctive bottle features a traditional Wick herring drifter.
  5. Clynelish 14 Year Old: A North Highland malt, from the coast of Sutherland. Fresh and heathery, with waxy notes reminiscent of a High Church. Drink from the deep freeze in chilled glasses with dessert ? you will be amazed! 46 per cent ABV
  6. Auchentoshan 18 Year Old: A triple-distilled Lowland single malt, from a distillery overlooking the River Clyde. Refreshing, even invigorating, and light in style, this makes an excellent apéritif.
  7. Asyla: An uncommon (and uncommonly good) blended Scotch, from the Signature Range of the artisan whisky maker Compass Box. Sweet and delicate, this is ideal as an aperitif.
  8. Highland Park: 18 Year Old bA distinguished, rich, complex and slightly smoky malt from the Orkney Islands, to accompany coffee, dark chocolate and cigars. A most satisfactory balance of sweet and dry, with dryness winning in the finish.
  9. Bailie Nicol Jarvie: An entirely different creature ? light in style, clean and zesty. Easy to drink, this is a blended whisky from the Glenmorangie distillery in the Highlands, named after a character in Walter Scott’s novel, ‘Rob Roy’.
  10. Talisker 10 Year Old: From the Isle of Skye, this is THE malt to accompany haggis (and many other dishes). Sweet and lightly smoky, but watch out for the chilli-pepper hit in the finish. Robert Louis Stevenson regarded Talisker as “the king of drinks”.

Drink up! Slainte! L’chaim!


Over The Edge

Posted on

Yesterday’s New Jersey Transit train derailment at Penn Station, coupled with the Tea Party and Media manufactured debt crisis, finally has sent me over “the edge.” Of what edge do I speak you ask? The edge of the societal cliff where on one side you have secrecy, where you are keeping your head down and out of trouble, and the other where you are exposed, where you’ve stuck your neck out and where it might get cut off.
While I have always tried to have a say in both the way the world around me affects me and the issues that I care about and believe in, I have not taken as active of stance as I could have. I freely admit this and there are many reasons as to why this has happened but but mostly they have been driven by fear.
I have feared how what I say or do could be used against me in the future – the old law of unintended consequences as nothing is now unknown – technology chronicles all.
I have feared how what I say or do could negatively affect my current or future employment opportunities – what would have been unknown would instead be easily findable for those who want to put in the effort.
I have feared how hackers who disapprove of what I say or do could negatively affect the way I live (see the harassment that Anonymous have conducted against Wykcoff resident Parry Aftab, a well-known lawyer and television commentator who is considered an expert in Internet security who runs, for example) and the way that family lives.
Lastly, and understandably ranking highest on the paranoia scale, I have feared how various government alphabet agencies, such as the FBI, CIA and NSA, could use this information that I voluntarily give to develop a profile, case file and to track me. In the post 9/11 world we live in, people can disappear down a rabbit hole very quickly and I have been loathe to provide any information that could lead to me falling down one of these holes.
All of this fear negates the positives that could be gained and frankly considering I’m already worried about the grilling my children are going to give me about “what type of a world have I left for them?” I believe now is the time to act.
So, I vowed yesterday to stop living in fear and to move from simply being a critic and a point and click activist (i.e. donating money and/or signing petitions based on emails I’ve received) to more of an active activist.
My friend Brian, someone with which I email frequently about the political issues that we as individuals as well as a nation face, said a few weeks back that,

We do need to organize, become active and make our voices heard. Part of the problem is us. We are silent writing back and forth without making any change. We must become more active.

He now knows how much I took to heart his words. I took them as a call to action and acted. My first act was a simple one: I wrote my own letter, and not a form letter that some special interest group had prepared for me where all I needed to do is “virtually” sign my name to it, about the transit issues that New Jerseyites faced yesterday when a train derailment knocked out one of the two train tunnels that run under the Hudson River, and sent it to Governor Christie. The letter is posted below:

Dear Governor Christie,
Today there was yet another train derailment that occurred in New York’s Penn Station. Since I moved to New Jersey’s Bergen County last year, train derailments at Penn have been happening frequently – basically once a month.
These derailments negatively affect my family as both my wife and I commute into New York City in order to earn our living – we are consistently late to work and/or missing important meetings due to these transit issues.
This is not just our issue; this is an issue that affects the entire state of New Jersey. My family’s income, which is taxed by the State of New Jersey and which New Jersey relies on to fund its many different obligations, is generated in New York City. As these consistent commuting issues are affecting my career and my wife’s career, they are therefore by proxy affecting New Jersey’s tax revenue.
Reliable on-time access to New York City is vital to New Jersey’s bottom line and I therefore strongly suggest that you revisit and restart the ARC Tunnel project which you cancelled. Additional tunnels into and out of Penn Station will alleviate future derailment issues.
Here are two news articles which are related to today’s issues:
1. NJ Transit Derailment Snarls Train Service
2. Evening Delays Expected After Penn Station Train Snarls Morning Rush
Thank you very much for your time and attention to this matter.
Jeff Lipson

I plan to write Governor Christie every single time there is a train issue in the future that the cancelled ARC project would have (eventually when it was completed in 2014) resolved.
However, this is just the start of things for me. I also plan to work on codifying a manifesto which might eventually lead to a platform for a new political party. Maybe I’ll even run for a major political office one day using the process that Americans Elect is starting or even better and probably more effective, I’ll effectively form a think tank like Grover Norquist. His “no tax” pledge is the driving force in pushing the Republican Party toward an ever-more rigid position of opposing any tax increase, of any kind, at any time which has completely altered the way the business of politics is conducted. Considering I want to do the same, which is to “completely alter the way the business of politics is conducted,” he is as good of a role model as any. I’ve put this little nugget at the end of the post as a reward for reading all the way through. Raise your hand and post a comment if you want to be intimately along for the ride.
I’ll close with a Teddy Roosevelt quote which another friend of mine (who is involved with politics but from the “inside” as a Democratic party) has as his email signature:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
~ Teddy Roosevelt from his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech at the Sorbonne, Paris from April 23, 1910


Change I Cannot Believe

Posted on

Obama’s campaign slogan of “Change You Can Believe In” has become “Change I Cannot Believe.” The conclusion of the debt ceiling debate is an utter debacle and the way it has gone down has utterly shocked me – while Democrats control the Presidency and the Senate somehow, they could not use any of this power and basically just rolled over and played dead (or bent over and got screwed like an inmate to be more crass) to the Republican extremists in the House of Representatives.
As Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone wrote,

The general consensus is that for the second time in three years, a gang of financial terrorists has successfully extorted the congress and the White House, threatening to blow up the planet if they didn’t get what they wanted.

What a deal! It will provide more millions for millionaires, more billions for billionaires and more pain for the majority of this country’s citizens. The deal will hurt our “recovery” (which now features at a fake 9% or “real” 16% unemployment rate) where the only thing that has really recovered are the bank accounts of high net worth individuals. I feel like our country’s reputation as a “stable and safe investment option” to the rest of the world has truly jumped the shark and everyone will start to look for a new reserve currency. If you were a foreign national or government, would you trust the US now? I thought so…
What could Obama have done differently? He didn’t need to force a bad deal, period. As Joe Nocera in the NYT points out,

My own view is that Obama should have played the 14th Amendment card, using its language about “the validity of the public debt” to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. Yes, he would have infuriated the Republicans, but so what? They already view him as the Antichrist. Legal scholars believe that Congress would not have been able to sue to overturn his decision. Inexplicably, he chose instead a course of action that maximized the leverage of the Republican extremists.

It is sad that the Tea Party and the hedge fund managers out there do not realize how badly they are undermining America’s power in the world in the name of the almighty dollar. In a generation we’ll be England. Lovely.