train blog

Amtrak Palmetto by mod as hell
“Amtrak Palmetto” by mod as hell

Left Richmond on time. This is the first time I’ve traveled south on Amtrak, and apparently the system is a little different. For one, the conductor assigned me a seat in the coach car, rather than letting me choose like I usually do on the train to DC. Maybe it’s because the car was full? There also appeared to be designated seat groupings depending on whether you’re going to Savannah (final destination for this train) or Charleston (my destination). Everyone else was fit in where there was room, and one woman kept pacing up and down the aisle saying she didn’t know where to sit, so I guess not everyone was assigned a seat, either.

What is it about train stations being in the ugliest areas of town? The gorgeous view crossing over the James River followed by an amble through the wooded neighborhoods on the south side of the river was a nice balance to the ugly.

After munching on my packed lunch, I pulled out the laptop to work on some to-do items that didn’t get done before I had to leave for the train. Unfortunately, this is not an Amtrak train equipped with wifi (again, another thing different from the train to DC), so all the emails I composed will be delayed until I get to my hotel in Charleston tonight. Same with this blog post, actually.

The view seems to be better in smaller, less industrial towns. The area around the tracks in Emporia (VA), for example, is actually quite pleasant. Pretty sure I saw a deer in a field of corn stubble south of town, too. The tracks here are pleasantly not surrounded by trees on all sides, and we’re clearly in major farm land. Reminds me of Ohio. Except for the cotton fields! So pretty.

Stinky, gassy child across the aisle from me is pleased with her stinky gassiness. Wishing once again for the quiet car option. Or at least a 21+ car.

The late night watching the NPR election page and listening to their coverage hit me. Along with the rocking of the train. Was out cold for a good 30 minutes before I woke up when we pulled into the next stop.

Somewhere in the middle of North Carolina, thousands of beat up cars go to die in a junkyard near the train tracks.

Discovered that the snack car has wifi, and was relatively child and talker-free. Got an hour of online work done. Yay! Also, did some research on beer bars in Charleston. Pleased to see there are several near my hotel.

The train arrived 15 minutes early, and I was at my hotel at the time I originally projected I’d arrive at the station. Sweet! Time for a beer. And thus ends my train blog post.

voting

civic duty
“civic duty”

For someone who votes every year the polls are open, presidential election years always feel like everyone has discovered my favorite bar and now I can’t be assured of finding a seat when I show up on weekday evening. There are lines, and they can be quite long leading up to the opening of the polls at 6am. But any other year I can walk in, give them my ID, and go immediately to a voting booth.

All things considered, though, I wish everyone voted every time. If you’re not sure where to go, here’s a resource that will tell you where your polling place is, and who’s on the ballot. It doesn’t include anything more than the candidates, though, so do your research on any local measures.

food blogging & making things so labor intensive I don’t do them

derby pie
derby pie

I started a food blog on Tumblr last January. Here’s the about statement:

I started this project because after a year of taking photos of myself every day, I wanted to document something else. Over the summer and fall, I had developed a routine of trying new recipes on the weekends and some weeknights. This blog is where I share photos of the results, talk about what went right or wrong, and link to the recipes.

And sometime in May/June, I stopped. I got busy. I remembered to take some pictures, but they sat on my desktop waiting to be blogged for so long that I felt guilty and overwhelmed, so I eventually deleted them.

It wasn’t like it would take all that much time to write up something. And add a link. And format it the same as the previous posts. But it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Also, I stopped cooking/baking as much in the summer.

I have this tendency to make things that should be simple and routine into complex, detailed processes that become burdensome. Is this just some freak aspect of my desire for control and order, or is it simply human nature?

dark chocolate

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve never cared for dark chocolate. I know it’s supposed to be better quality than the milk chocolate, and certainly better quality than most American candy bar chocolate. But, it just never tasted right, and if eaten in the same quantities as milk chocolate, would make me sick to my stomach.

Despite that, I decided last week that I should avail myself of the imported fine chocolates available at a local shop and see if I can find a dark chocolate I enjoy. I aimed for Belgian chocolates sold in small sizes (5-10 grams) for a wide sampling of pure and flavored (i.e. orange). This limited me to two sources: Dolfin and Cafe Tasse.Cafe Tasse Chocolate Noir

Dolfin Chocolate NoirAfter doling them out one day at a time, I’ve finally finished sampling all of them, and it’s pretty much a tie between Dolfin‘s 70% dark chocolate and Cafe Tasse‘s 60% dark chocolate, with Cafe Tasse slightly edging out Dolfin only because it tastes more like a delicious hot chocolate as it melts on the tongue.

That’s the other thing that I learned in this process: I can’t eat dark chocolate like I can milk chocolate. I broke the little bars into approximately 1cm squares, and let each square slowly melt in my mouth (no chewing). This made the small quantity last longer, and I found that even that little amount satisfied my cravings.

I thought that perhaps the flavored chocolates would be more palatable, but after trying about six or seven, I realized that I didn’t like the distraction from the chocolate itself. This amuses me because I usually like chocolates with lots of other stuff in them.

beers, a love story

"11 - beer festival" by Dave Morris
“11 – beer festival” by Dave Morris

I drink beer because I’m a librarian. Or, more accurately, I started drinking beers with my library school classmates in grad school. Mainly because bars in Lexington (Kentucky) didn’t carry wine coolers or Zima. Yeah. It was that bad.

I remember my first NASIG conference in 2002. We were staying in dorm rooms and meeting in classrooms at the College of William & Mary. Back then, NASIG had a tradition of having an evening social with snack food and buckets of iced beer (and probably wine, too, but I definitely wasn’t drinking that then). One of my sharpest memories from the conference is of fishing out a Corona Light because it was all that was left by the last night of the conference. And discovering Purple Haze with Bonnie at the Green Leafe Cafe.

The next year we were in Portland, Oregon. I was introduced to many craft beers, and my journey towards becoming a beer snob was set.

Three years in Washington state taught me to appreciate well-balanced hoppy beer, which was hard to find my first year back on the East Coast. But I soon discovered Mekong, and began my now four-year romance with Belgian beers.

Most recently, I’ve discovered that I do like sour beers, and I suspect that is part of the reason why I’m incorporating more wine into my beverage consumption. That, and maybe the semi-regular meetups with a friend (also a librarian) at Virginia wineries.

Librarians. Who knew they were such lushes?

pitch perfect hits it out of the park

Pitch Perfect Original Theatrical Soundtrack CoverI’ve never sung in a collegiate a cappella group, and have no idea what it’s really like. That being said, I do have years of choral group experience to draw on for comparison. But, do you need any of that to enjoy the movie Pitch Perfect? No. Just a good sense of humor and an appreciation for modern pop music.

In case you haven’t heard of it, and I’m not surprised if you haven’t, there’s a new movie out called Pitch Perfect. It’s about college a cappella, the first year college experience, and taking risks.

It’s also fiction, so don’t take it too seriously. The boy gets the girl. The troubled youth defeats her inner demons. The underdog wins. Typical movie with a happy ending.

The real thrills came from the music. It was fun! Simply fun! Like the performances we saw on the three years of NBC’s The Sing-Off, there’s nothing quite like watching/hearing a group of singers using only their mouths and voices to perform creative arrangements of pop songs.

Simply put, I enjoyed Pitch Perfect. It was funny without being gross, and touching without being melodramatic. Go see it. It’ll be worth the ticket price.