Kayaking – Allatoona Dam

I’ve enjoyed a couple trips now with the Coosa River Basin Initiative, a conservancy group for the various North Georgia Rivers that form the Coosa River just before it enters Alabama.  Each month, they schedule a group kayaking trip, typically from 10-13 miles.  This trip was on the Etowah River, beginning at the discharge of Allatoona Dam and continuing to Cartersville, GA.

One nice thing about entering the water here is that it is much cleaner than that upstream.  Why?  The dam discharges from the bottom, free of sediment or floating plants or algae.

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Then, of course, you learn that the lack of oxygen in the water forever changes the river and the number of species no longer present.  There were about 50 of us on this trip, and, other than the CRBI leader, no one I recognized as a repeat from my previous trip.  Still, it was an amiable group.  For what promised to be a scorching day, the most pleasant aspect was that when the wind blew, it picked up the coldness of the water, which may as well have been outdoor air-conditioning.  It felt really good.

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Sadly, it’s getting rather mundane to paddle underneath bridges, whether active or forgotten.

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On the other hand, you never know when something will catch your eye.  These pipes were suspended by cables affixed to towers at both sides of the river, with braces to support them.  Cut the cable and… some sort of pollution I guess. 

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Otherwise, it’s a nice, sunny day, with temperatures climbing to the mid-90’s.   The thing about rivers is that you have to pay attention where you’re going.  Tree limbs sticking up, shallow areas with rocks, or… in another 50’ from the below…

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An abrupt and unpleasant ending to the day.  Fortunately, we were forewarned.  So, what do you do to avoid individual destruction or mass casualties?

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You “portage” around the obstacle.  This was much, much safer. That’s a truthful statement, but not as truthful as it should be. There’s a little creek that crosses the narrow loose-stoned path, just for an extra thrill.  Hey guys, help the ladies.  There were several casualties, all favoring the leafy side of the path.

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The river largely is “natural,” meaning that any developments are set back from the river at a distance where they’re never seen.  But then, you come across a good distance flanked by very nice houses.  And, if you should buddy up to the CRBI guide, he’ll inform you how the different choices of each homeowner to prevent erosion actually worsen things downstream for their neighbors and/or cause more erosion on the opposite bank.

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My, that was a nice, vibrant sky.  What’s that thunder in the distance.  It’s just summer.  No threat.  Fast forward five minutes, “Clear the river!” 

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Always, always, pack a rain jacket.  I did.  I still got soaked.  And, I’m not certain that climbing the banks of the river to some scattered trees and Indian mounds are the best spot to hide out from lightning.  Nevertheless, the clouds parted, and may as well explore.

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Actually, a stop at the Etowah Indian Mounds had been planned – a special access privilege from the river, discounted $5 admission, a planned lunch stop.  It lost something in translation.  Still, I learned a bit about the ancient “city,” customs, etc.  So I climbed the main mound, where the leader ruled, raised my arms, and… no one was there to take my picture.  In any case, the depicted dude had no idea his back would one day face a nuclear power plant in the distance.

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In this and the other trip, I paddled over Cherokee fishing weirs, sometimes without ever seeing them depending on the water level.  Weirs are stone funnels/dams laid in the river.  The fish would gather upstream of the rocks due to the current, and then they would be chased to the throat where they would be caught.  Many of these weirs still exist, several hundred years later.  The V wedge below, directly adjacent to the mounds, is clearly visible.  When you’re paddling, it just looks like rocks in the way.  Hint: aim for the middle.

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Later, we stopped for the obligatory biology demonstration, scaring up small fish that stay hidden in the rocks and catching them with a skein.   Some were very interested.

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There.  Genuine Georgia wildlife.

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And, many watched from a distance. 

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All things considered, a great way to spend a day.

Peachtree Road Race 2016

The Peachtree started off as a bucket list item.  Knees are in good shape, I’m in decent shape…  it was time to do it.  The first year I ran the race, I was very pleased with my overall time.  Having not run a 10k, it took me only three minutes longer than running two 5k races.   That was surprising and encouraging, considering the amount of walking I did.  Last year, it misted and rained.  It took a minute longer, but I had just gotten over a cold and hadn’t trained much.  This year, I started training earlier, but… business travel, shows to watch on TV, and who enjoys running, anyway?  I trained “some.”  In fact, my treadmill experience proved that, if the race were flat and a fan was blowing on me, I could handily beat my fastest time.

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This year, the temperature was 77o at the start.   That’s a great temperature for Atlanta in the summer, but at 8:05 a.m., it means “hot day ahead.”  By the end of my run, it was 82o… with 83% humidity.  There was little wind, and even shadows from buildings were sparse.  Ugh.

Here’s the sports recap.  First, a 10k is hardly that.  Considering the distance from the car to the Marta train, the train to the race start, the race (6.2 miles), navigating Piedmont Park in post-race stupor, the Park back to the Marta station, and the final walk to the car, we have:

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10.9  miles with enough vertical elevation to somehow say I also went up 14 floors.  That’s not bad for an early morning.  You’ll note the other bars in the chart.  These do not indicate a lack of preparation (though they may as well).  I usually don’t run with my phone and debated bringing it.  But, with the threat of terror events, best to have it just in case I needed to check in with the spousal unit.  So, I ran with it in my pocket.  Why? Because I didn’t spare a thought to bringing a fanny pack, which I’ve used in the past two races.   C’mon brain. 

Running with a phone in my pocket is a distraction.  Why?  It’s not because of the weight or any particular movement.  It’s because (see above temperature and humidity facts) I’m sweating profusely, and every mile there is a water station where I take a few sips of water and douse myself with the remainder.  Plus another full cup of water because I’m just that hot, and it feels so good.  If I’m going to be soaked, I may as well go all in, right?  Only… “I hope my phone works when this is all over.”  It’s a mental aggravation.

We line up in queues based on a starting letter, J for me this year.  As the race start looms, I’m thinking… “Why didn’t I use one of the portable potties before the race?”  I know the answer, of course.  The lines are long, I didn’t think I needed to go, and who really wants to use one?  So I ran the first three miles without stopping, in 30 minutes which is a good time for me.  I’ve done it faster, but the J group, however many thousands there are in a wave, didn’t exactly launch from the start.  It’s kind of like roller skating when I was a kid.  I was small and nimble and could zig zag between people.  Not here.  Families and friends like to run side by side, forming a wall.  People suddenly stop running and walk resulting in evasive maneuvers.  There’s feet and legs to be navigated.  It’s like a runner’s version of Frogger, trying to find a passable lane and… it just didn’t work well this year and my pace suffered.  To beat my better time, the few minutes lost in this phase really matter, because 2/3 of it is downhill.

Back to irritants.  At mile three…  pit stop.  The bladder said I had to.   That irritant dispatched, I’m ready to go!… uphill.  Not so much.  I expect to walk up some of the hills, most notably “Cardiac Hill,” but the energy just wasn’t there for any kind of incline.  So I walked those.  Miles 4 and 5… I don’t like them, but I’ve done far better.   And why is it when I’m walking that I get even more encouragement from the crowd?  “Go Clemson!” and “Go Tigers!”  - I’m one of those people who wear their college shirts.  Maybe they like Clemson, maybe they just read something to distinguish runners passing by.  So, I give a thumbs up and keep walking.  Embarrassing, really.  J wave is seeded for people who largely run…   And I did, in the flat parts.  

Usually, I like checking out the crowds.  They dress up, they hand out additional free water, dress up in costumes, carry amusing inspirational signs, and, as noted, shout encouragement.  Bands play alongside the road, church groups hand out free snacks, Mellow Mushroom offers free pizza if you return with your race bib, an Episcopal minister flicks holy water at runners, and there’s a lot going on if you pay attention.  And I should, because I’m only competing with myself.  Why do the crowds do this?  It’s a fairly big Atlanta event (55k-60k participants, not including a horde of volunteers), and many start their July 4th on the sidewalks with Bloody Marys, Mimosas or beer.   I was just looking for a sign that told me I made it another mile, because that matters, as does the water station thereabouts. Anyway, I resurrected myself to (mostly) run the final mile.  The results?  Meh.  However, I think my percentiles are probably the same as previous years, so I guess I wasn’t alone for lack of heat transfer. Or improved training.  Oops.

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As I look at it, the time could have read 01:12:00 had I not made the pit stop midway… but, there’s an excuse for everything, such as the previously mentioned pokey people and my wet feet from all that water I poured on myself (and the resulting blisters).   Anyway, I had the legs for this race (except Cardiac Hill), but when it comes to mental toughness during a meltdown… Fail.  

After recuperating with a bottle of water and ice soaked towels, I meandered to the Park exit to find that the official path to the Marta station is longer than in the previous year, and, as a bonus, it’s pretty much all uphill… in the sun.  So, thank you Three Taverns brewery for handing out free beer samples along that route.  I then met up with a couple work friends whose spouses claim street side real estate very early in the morning.  Thus was had another refreshing beer, a camp chair, and a pleasant way to unwind.  Also, it offered the opportunity to watch (roughly) Waves R-Y, which are essentially walkers.  Lots of them.  Some are elderly and move their arms like they’re running (which has a certain charm that they’re still “running the Peachtree”), some families choose to walk it together, and a lot of people aren’t fit to run but just turn out for the event (and the T-shirt).

Final note, for any travelers visiting Atlanta on July 4th… don’t use Marta in the morning.  For some reason, there’s a funky smell.

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Campground Association, Martha’s Vineyard

I recently had the opportunity for a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard, making use of Boston’s relatively narrow season of pleasant weather and long days. Having done my research, one place I wanted to visit was the Campmeeting Association in Oak Bluff.  A brisk walk through the picturesque but nonetheless touristy town area led haphazardly to this entrance. 

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What a change of pace.  The use of this area dates to 1835 when New England Methodists spiked their tents in place for organized summer retreats.  Fast forward a bit, and the tent owners visited often enough to warrant bringing boards for temporary flooring above which they kept their tents.  By 1859, wooden buildings emerged to accommodate longer usage by attendees, which earlier included only adults, as well as the introduction of children as families began to recreate for longer than original week to 10 days of intensive religious activity.   Later, cottages emerged partially inspired by the look of the tents that they replaced as well as their close proximity. 

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A formal association was created in 1860 with 21 members of its Board of Directors, which continues to this day.  The Association owns the land (now 34 acres compared to its original half acre site), and tracts are technically leased to the cottage owners.  This also allows the Association to maintain some control of occupant’s houses – i.e. preservation.  It also creates difficulties.  As the houses may sell from $350,000 to $600,000, a loan may be required, and banks are less willing to lend for leased properties.  And to buy, you will need three recommendations, at least one from a clergy member vetting your religious devotion (though not necessarily Methodist) and another from a current campground member.  Of the over 300 homes remaining (there were over 500), only a handful go on sale each year; most are handed down from generation to generation.  Don’t forget to add ~$3,000 in property taxes and ~$2,000 for your land lease each year. All this is yours for a summer home of 650 sq.ft. to 1,400 sq.ft… and for a house built 150 years ago… that isn’t firmly secured to the ground.

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It has its charm, though, and you get to live in a National Historic District.  The houses reflect a Victorian influence and a penchant for scrolled “gingerbread” accents, and the somewhat vertical, peaked shapes suggest miniature chapels, though with balconies and porches.  Though cheaply constructed, the gingerbread scrolls are said to largely have been done by the owners.  Also, the houses were generally painted white rather than the rainbow shades seen today.

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The property is roughly centered around the Tabernacle (1879), an open sided wrought iron worship center, and near to it is the Grace Chapel (1885).  The land is immaculate, though not all houses are equally maintained.  Still, it’s essentially the equivalent of living in a doll house in a nice park setting.  The community does have many religious and social activities through the habitable months.  During the winter, the campground, and most of Oak Haven, is shuttered.

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While walking around, we found Brian Kirkpatrick painting on his porch.  He’s lived in the house for over 20 years and is a folk ark painter, selling in galleries both on the island and in Islamorada, FL.  He paints early and often, and, given the weather on the day I visited, why not?

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He has to be one of the most accommodating homeowners, freely welcoming conversation including his art and the history of the community.  He points towards the vertical post at the peak of his house as being from the tent originally on the patch of land and also confessed the house, which is obviously thin and narrow, teeters in high winds as it’s set on a stone foundation without straps or other securement.  The painting he was working on was inspired by his grandson holding a frog.

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Unasked, he also offered a peek inside.  And, me without a wide angle lens.  I’ve looked at a few other houses online, and they tend often tend towards feminine delicacy – simple antiques, lace and such.  I much prefer the splash of color and general character of the furnishings here.

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In any case, this area was more special as the downtown area is simply a better dressed Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach, or (name your tacky tourist definition where souvenirs dominate).  It’s a very peaceful place. The complete set of pictures can be seen on Flickr.

Lord Huron–Live at the Georgia Theatre

I’ve been interested in Lord Huron since a coworker introduced them to me, and even more so upon their release of Strange Trails in 2015, my favorite CD of the year, in equal parts due to the music and lyrics about creepy love.  They’ve been through town before, but the timing never worked out.  This time, the timing was good; it just required a drive the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA.  Translated: It makes for a long day.

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We arrived at the venue before the doors opened which worked out perfectly.  The Georgia Theatre has generally been rated a great concert venue nationally by people who like doing such things, and I hadn’t been to a concert in Athens since I saw an acoustic Neil Young show in the University of Georgia’s gym back around 1984.  That show and venue was dreadful, but Athens is considered a music hotbed of sorts, so it (probably) deserves better.  And they have it.  The building was constructed in 1889, and has served as a YMCA, a music store, a Masonic lodge, a furniture company,  Sears, and a movie theater among others.  It’s been a concert hall now for almost 30 years.  Today, it doesn’t look or feel old due to complete renovations following a fire in 2007.

Upon entering, observing hordes racing up the stairs, we smartly followed. Immediate reaction:  Wow.  Capacity is ~1,000, and it has curved tiered balconies where barstools are placed against railings well suited for placing feet and beverages.   So, we scored front row seats (at the 3rd level).  Still, that’s great, both for the view and the avoidance of standing for hours.  Not to be left unmentioned, overhead fans and solid air-conditioning were welcome on this 92o day, and the sound system was very good for a rock venue.  As a last observation, Athens apparently is burgeoning with young adults even in summer, and it was nice to attend a show where I was an elder in attendance rather than the youth movement.  In other words, Lord Huron’s heyday is now, not the 1970’s.
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Waiting for the show, we observed what appeared to be a westerly wind bearing moisture across the stage, to the point of wondering if it damaged electronics.  This is apparently a trademark “fog” that the band prefers, though it never really fogged.  At the beginning of the set, various noises thought to be birds (possibly with a guest appearance by R2D2) set the tone for this band, possibly classified as folk-rock.  And thus begins the strange tales of Strange Trails, their last CD which the band is still touring to promote.  And this was my worry.  I already have a difficult time in deciphering leader Ben Schneider’s vocals in the carefully controlled sonic spectrum of their CD.  How would it work out live?

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At the outset, not so well.  Five songs into it, the band didn’t sound like their recorded selves.  It turns out that vocal effects matter.  Schneider isn’t a bad singer; he’s just not a compelling singer… without the reverb effect.  About five songs in, he sang a spot relatively unaccompanied which alerted someone to note that, “hmm, the reverb switch must be off.”  After being fairly let down, the music I came to hear was heard.  This didn’t seem to matter to the sell-out crowd, who were very enthusiastic from the start.

To the band’s credit, they do color outside the lines, extending several songs or otherwise making minor changes.  The band is more about an overall sound and harmonies than it is particular instrumentation. Of note was bassist/keyboardist Miguel Briseno working the Theremin on “Way Out There,” where sounds are generated by waving hands through electromagnetic fields.  This wasn’t nearly as fluid as the recorded version, but it’s apparently a challenging instrument to execute.

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Otherwise, despite the animation of Schneider and the band’s guitarists, percussionist Mark Barry was the visual focal point for those with an elevation advantage, supplementing the music forcefully or barely audible, as the songs required.

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The set included a good mix of songs from both of their albums, plus a few others that were on EPs or descended from elsewhere.  Strangely, the closing song and both encore songs were not as strong as others in the set, like “Fool for Love” Overall, this was a good show, but I find myself more interested in what they will record next than the next opportunity to see the band live.  A Blu-ray concert recording with clean sound, though… I’d do that.

A Theremin – you’re curious, right?:


Set list:
The World Ender
Time to Run
Lonesome Dreams
Hurricane
Cursed
The Birds Are Singing at Night
Ends of the Earth
Dead Man’s Hand
Way Out There
Meet Me in the Woods
Fool for Love
The Night We Met
The Stranger

Encore:
The Ghost on the Shore
She Lit a Fire


Santana – IV

I like Santana… but my interest also has a limited shelf life.  Throw me back to Abraxis, Santana III, Caravanserai or the band’s 1974 live album, Lotus – there’s a lot I really, really like.  BuSantana IV CD Reviewt the band changed, and despite Carlos’ Santana’s sizzling trademark guitar, his body of work has really gone nowhere outside of a surprisingly narrow space of peace, love, and harmony.  For that reason, unless I find a re-mastered old CD in a used bin… for cheap…, then Viva Santana, a best of type selection, has been a steadfast placeholder for the rare mood that I find Santana appropriate.
 
Carlos’ Santana’s (often preached) commitment to the worldwide spiritual consciousness (etc.) is both what makes him extraordinary and repetitive.  He’s all about positivity, and while he may venture out and explore jazz or “psychedelic” jams, his guitar tone and note choices are always going to point towards a happy place.  That’s a good thing and has worked well for him, but variety is necessarily difficult lacking, oh, say, a brooding or sinister guitar solo.  They lyrics on this album reflect, in much simpler terms, the deepest romantic thoughts of 8th graders written for an audience of 7th graders.  “Love makes the world go round.”  Repeat four times.  It doesn’t get better, and it doesn’t get worse.  The good news is that, whether in English or Spanish, it doesn’t really matter.  They’re serviceable to Santana’s cosmic feel good approach… which leads to great guitar work.

Santana IV features a return of the early 70’s era band lineup, which is at their best, and picks up 45 years later.  By all accounts, this was a happy occasion for the musicians with much of the recording captured in just a couple of takes.  That’s short for saying that most everything is clicking for the band, and with an added dose of musical maturity (not lyrical, gah!) and studio recording quality, the album as a whole is a joy. 

Guitarist Neal Schon, who with keyboardist Gregg Rolie, left the band after Santana III to form Journey, adds a much needed voice to challenge Santana’s tendency to retread his guitar licks.  The result is often superlative for both.  

The album includes a generous 75 minutes of music and there are musical gems everywhere, even if buried in some of the less interesting songs.  I could trim some from my playlist and will over time, but the Santana “mood” usually isn’t satisfied with a single song.  “Black Magic Woman,” “She’s Not There,” and even “Smooth” usually end with a desire for a little more.  The songs here work as well here for a jogging soundtrack as they do for driving in rush hour traffic.  Whatever mystical place Santana imagines, the reality is the music has to fit the activities we have, and for that, I give the CD high marks. 

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Funky Buddha Brewery

I’m used to trying breweries before or at the same time as others in my beer enclave.  That was not the case for Florida’s Funky Buddha, at this point perhaps the brewery that competes for thFunky-Buddah-Gear-Patrrole State’s 2nd place in recognition, some distance behind Cigar City.

In any case, better late than never.  This brewery wrestles with the dichotomy of inspired creations and the flight from boredom. My first flight sample intended to satisfy my sweet spot: hoppy drinks.

Below we have, clockwise from the lower left, More Moro Blood Orange IPA (with an orange flavor lacking subtlety and at the cost of any tasted IBUs, but still enjoyable), Cornholio IPA (a surprisingly tasteful beer for one so clear, perhaps due to being brewed corn grits?), Hop Stimulator Double IPA (a fine example of the style), and, a No Crusts Peanut Butter and Jelly Brown Ale.  It doesn’t really have a Gulf oil spill sheen as suggested below – there’s a reflection from the blue lights illuminating the company’s brewery tanks.  It tasted like my wife’s PB&J sandwich, not mine as I prefer more jelly.  To call it a brown ale speaks more to the color, I suppose.  It’s already apparent that this isn’t the place for those yearning for authentic German lagers or is otherwise horrified by adjuncts.

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Speaking of those blue lights, here they are, a portion of the production area visible from the bar area.

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Back to business.  The second sampler, again starting in lower left, includes one of their staple beers - Doc Brown Ale,  Nikolai Vorlauf Imperial Stout (very good, free of any brewmaster curve balls), 42 Truths Pale Ale (perhaps they were bored making flavored beers and overindulged in the pale) and On Top Blonde, a beer far more suggestive in title than it is in taste, which is regrettably ordinary.

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Elsewhere, I tasted the Hop Gun IPA, their flagship IPA, which is suitable at a bar where other local beer offerings are limited, and the Floridian Hefeweizen, which is a style that I don’t favor but a friend who does likes it a lot.  Those with me tried the Blueberry Cobbler Wheat Ale, the Bonita Applebum, and the Pineapple Pilsner among others.  They would probably be happier at a beach rum bar, but perhaps that’s why Funky Buddha frequently shops in the fruit section.  I prefer a hint of these things; the brewery obviously has an audience who prefers bolder tastes. 

This comes from a brewery that doesn’t look funky at all but blends in with the South Florida utilitarian building design approach of “here today, may be gone tomorrow.”

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I don’t think they’re going anywhere, given the sizable tasting room and ample offerings.  Overall, I’d expect to find this brewery in Orlando, where the tourists seek the thrill rides, but I guess Ft. Lauderdale shouldn’t be without its own attraction.

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It’s not much…

… but it’s something.  A search for a former topic on my blog displayed a bunch of other contexts that I hadn’t expected, specifically sites that track blogs.  So, first some from Google, which hosts the site.

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331,000 page views?  Are you kidding me?  39 followers… well, I know six, and the others span the globe.  Speaking of which, it seems people tune in from everywhere.  The below is since I began the blog in 2008.

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Now let’s take a look at the last month.  What’s up Russia!  It’s not like it’s winter over there right now.  Go outside and play! 

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Now let’s check out my most popular posts.  The Hoover Dam… come on people.  It can be seen anywhere.  Maybe you like the pictures?  Now, Zenith Watches… that’s a fine post.  It is.  And it strongly suggests that I should never allow a friend a “guest spot” position on my blog.  Really, if any friend can get more hits than the other 714 posts that I’ve made…  Go get your own friggin’ blog.  Dan. 

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Elsewhere, we learn that “amusedtolife” is too long for a domain name.  Why do I find this out now?  Why didn’t Google tell me this when I set it up?  Thanks for nothing.  Stay tuned for A2L.com.  Not. (Besides, it already exists. That’s why you need more characters in your domain name, folks!)

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And here we find that my novice coding actually worked for meta tags.  Maybe I should add others.  Someday I will.  Really.

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And, yes, we’re up and running! And in the countless hours of writing 717 posts, I’ve created a value of $1,026!!!  Let’s see that’s… oh.  $1.43 per post.  I’m not going to even bother figuring out what the hourly rate is, but… it’s something.  Only serious offers accepted!  Anyone?

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Perhaps the location analysis should be more clearly labeled to reference wherever Google is hosting my server this week.  I’m not in California, folks, but, then… location, location, location.  My blog is probably worth about $650 in Georgia.

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And, finally, I’m safe and perfectly reputable.  That’s not something you can find just anywhere these days.

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Whoever you folks are, hey.  Maybe comment every once and a while to a post.  It gets lonely in Caligeorgia.