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Whisky Whisky Everywhere

I am by no means an expert on single malt whisky*. I have never claimed to be an aficionado of scotch. However, over the past several years, I have become a huge fan.

What started from a tentative fancy has blossomed into a full appreciation of different single malt scotches based on the location of the distillery and the barrels in which it matures. Islay, Highland, Campbelton, Speyside, Lowland and Island whiskys all have their own distinct characteristics, from honey-sweetened to peat-smoke laden and all flavors in between. Some have fruity hints while others leech out the tannins from the wine that had been casked in the barrel prior to being sold to the distillery for whisky maturation.

People often ask me, “How can you drink that stuff?” As in all things, one should sample a wide variety. I can almost guarantee that you will find a distillery or region of scotch that suits your palate! The trick is to start slow and work with someone with at least a modicum of whisky knowledge who can point you down the path of your preferences.

Still my favorite!

I started on my journey with a scotch-tasting and a friend’s house. Along with a mutual third-party, we had purchased a sampler box of single malt and made an afternoon of it. We had some literature (since none of use had that requisite modicum of whisky knowledge) which gave us some ideas of what to expect with each sample. We tried them, one at a time, made our own notes of observation and then shared those with each other. It was quite interesting to see the differences in opinions! To this day, one of my friends is still a big fan of Islay (pronounced EYE-lah) scotches, which are usually are stronger in peat than I prefer.

Drinking quality single malt scotch is an acquired taste. It is also an expensive hobby. I often tell folks that I don’t have many vices, but the few that I do have aren’t cheap. Single malt scotch is one of those vices. I have a profile over at connosr.com which lists my current shelf of whisky, those expressions I’ve tried as well as a wish list. Not all of the ones I’ve sampled have been purchases — the advantage of having a friend who enjoys sharing a dram or two from his own shelf!

So what really brought me to write this post? Well, it’s this: after these past few years of sampling and enjoying many different single malt scotch whiskys, I still have much to learn. Like I said, I am no aficionado.

The lesson learned last night was not to follow a dram of Compass Box’s The Spice Tree with a cask strength Aberlour A’bundah (batch 38). When sampling multiple distillers, it is a good idea to cleanse your palate between them. I should have known better, but I was too excited to dive into a newly purchased bottle. The stark contrast between the ginger spice in the Compass Box expression and the stinging bite of the 60.3% A’bundah made my eyes water! Don’t get me wrong: both expressions are terrific, just not one right behind the other.

It has been a fun ride thus far, as I have virtually traveled all over Scotland by way of the various distilleries I have sampled. My favorite is still the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban (a Highland whisky), although I am finding some interesting scotches in the Speyside region. I will sometimes enjoy an Islay, but usually when I’m really in the mood for that peaty (smoky) flavor like having a dram around a campfire at night in the summer while looking at the stars and enjoying the pleasant company of friends.

I hope that someday, dear reader, that you can enjoy a dram or two with me as well.

*To be called a “whisky” (without an ‘e’), the scotch must be distilled in Scotland. If it is made anywhere else in the world, then it is not a whisky, but a whiskey.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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Kharmin is Blogging Again (As If You Hadn’t Figured That Out Yet)

Just a quick note/post to say that, yes, I am blogging from this site again with significantly more regularity. I have a certain someone to blame for this revival (and you know who you are!).

I had gotten away from posting here because Facebook, and to some extent Google+, are just easier since I don’t have to do any real formatting; however, having posted quite a bit this month I am coming to the realization that I miss the more “formalized” format of blogging on my own site. And, since I am paying to have it hosted, I should use it, right?

Anywho, I think that for the foreseeable future (wow, spell check actually accepted “foreseeable” … there’s a heckuva lot of vowels in there!) I will be primarily focused on posting here and letting the various WordPress plugins do their job of announcing new posts over on Facebook and Twitter.

So, sit back and enjoy! I know that I will.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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Kharmin’s Got Rhythm

I’ve got rhythm, I’ve got music, I’ve got dancing, who could ask for anything more? Actually, I have neither dancing nor rhythm, but with the receipt of my replacement, refurbished iPod I once again have music.

The past week of commercial radio (or the alternative – silence) during my daily commute has been just this side of hell. I cannot imagine how these stations stay in business. Each hour was dominated by at least 45 minutes of advertising and/or disc jockey banter, or so it seemed. How spoiled I’ve become!

I even tried to listen to Pandora on my Droid, despite the multiple losses of signal on my smartphone as I trekked over hill and dale on my drive to and from work. Some days I fared better than others, but I probably averaged 8-10 songs during my hour commute.

At last, I have an iPod in the truck again. Thanks to who shipped it to me faster than it was estimated. For a mere $117, I got a fully functional, refurbished 5th Generation iPod — 60GB just like my dead one. Ocean Reef has a 30 day warranty, which made me more confident in my purchase (most other refurb places only offered 14 days). It arrived packaged well and was in a condition exactly as advertised.

Now, I begin the long, arduous task of loading my music and movies back onto the iPod. Of course, I didn’t have a recent archive of my iPod brick, so I’ve had to start from scratch. Lesson learned — when I’m done, I will make a backup.

Anyway, it has been very refreshing to once again have control of what I listen to in the truck. Thanks, again, Ocean Reef for making my return to sanity affordable.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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Price of a Dime

On my way in to work today, I was stuck with the local radio stations and their incessant chatter, which was only disturbed by a few songs and a disproportionate amount of sales pitches.  Buried in the cacophony of  voices was Tommy TuTone’s classic 867-5309/Jenny (the bane of those who actually held that phone number when the song hit the charts).  One of the later lines of the song is, “For the price of a dime I can always turn to you” which got me reminiscing about those days of yore when a local phone call from a public phone (booth, no less!) was only a dime.

Then, it was a quarter.  Well, 25¢ was a hike, but it made some sense in that you needed only one coin to place a call.  Convenient.  In that era, a common insult was, “Here’s a quarter; call someone who cares.”

Later, it went to 35¢.  Now, I have no idea what a local phone call from a public phone costs.  Heck, I don’t even know where a public phone is around here — everyone is using cell phones nowadays.

So, what’s the common insult now?  Instead of giving someone a quarter, is it, “Here’s a prepaid, disposable cell phone with 8 megapixel camera and GPS tracking; use it and get the hell away from me.” ?

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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Views from Kharmin’s Right

I was able to get my credentials issue resolved over at my political blog site at townhall.com. I hope to be resurrecting my more salient points regarding the state of our country over there in the near future.

Sorry for the delay. I hope that you look forward to my posts there as much as I look forward to writing them.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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Electric Personality

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook already know that my 5th Gen iPod finally conked out.  I’ve had that for … gosh, I can’t remember how long.  It’s been with me almost everywhere including trips to Seattle, WA, Ontario, CA, Phoenix, AZ, Disneyworld and the shores of North Carolina, not to mention my daily commute and other, more local excursions.

My iPod died on the way home from my last trip to Phoenix, which rendered the plane ride much more entertaining since I was forced to deal with the background buzz of the other passengers.  You know, there are certain topics which shouldn’t be discussed on an airplane, folks!

Alpine iDA-X100 from crutchfield.com

The silence in the morning is deafening, to coin a phrase.  I hear every rattle, hum and squeak that my truck makes while driving to and from work.  I hate it.

I would try the radio, but we already know where that got me.  So, I’m stuck.  I am probably going to buy a refurbished iPod since the newer models don’t work with the Alpine iDA-X100 radio that I installed in the truck a few years ago.

Then, last night, Mrs. Kharmin and I were going to enjoy some microwave popcorn and settle down to an episode or two of Farscape on Netflix.  As the popcorn was just getting started, and I was firing up the Wii to access Netflix, the microwave started giving off a loud buzzing noise.  I looked across the room and sparks were arcing all over inside the microwave.

Pilot! Save the microwave!

I ran across the room and quickly shut it off.  When I opened the door, a mixture of popcorn and electrical ozone odors wafted out.  Not trusting the microwave any further, I unplugged it and with much sadness informed Mrs. Kharmin of the unit’s demise.

This microwave had been given to us as a wedding gift almost 20 years ago.  It had lasted through our apartment, townhouse and our single family home.  It replaced the kitchen microwave a few years ago when that one gave up the proverbial ghost.  It has been a staple of our lives in that it has been with us from the beginning where few things in our house have.

Two electronic devices, that I touched last, died.  Perhaps there is some weird electro-magnetic field surrounding me that I encountered while in the air en route to Arizona?  Or maybe it’s just my electric personality?

I hope for the latter.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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Traveling Again

“Here we go again.” In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the goldenrod droid C-3PO, who hates space travel, resigns himself to his fate aboard the Millennium Falcon. And so it was with me, resigned to my fate to travel to Phoenix, Arizona for work in our data center. It’s not that I hate space travel; having never really tried it, I couldn’t honestly say. But airline travel? That’s a droid of a different color.

Departing from home, I skated through the TSA’s modest security checkpoint and arrived at my gate. For those who haven’t traveled Southwest Airlines, they have a rather unique way of seating: you get your seat assignment when you get your boarding pass. The later you get your pass, the later you board the plane which leaves you with the most undesirable seats. I learned this lesson from my previous excursion to the data center: you can check in and print your own boarding pass online 24 hours prior to departure. This time, I fared much better in my seat selection.

My breakfast with an 11.5oz can? How cheap is that? I want my .5 oz!

The trip had one stop where I didn’t have to change planes. While on the ground, and before the next herd of passengers stampeded the aisle, we who were continuing our flight were allowed to re-seat ourselves. Score! As there were only 11 of us, we had a plethora of choices.

Unfortunately for me, once the next group boarded, I ended up next to the guy who was … well, not grossly overweight, but was broad enough to crunch me into the corner of the window seat.

For the next 4½ hours.

Touchdown in Phoenix, my co-worker picked me up and whisked me to the hotel. A quick shower, and a small dram of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban later, I was off to meet with the rest of the team to plan our assault on the data center.

Since the servers were “live” servers, we had to wait until after 10pm local time before our work could commence. We finished around 3:30am. I had literally been up for 24 hours at this point.

We were allowed to sleep late the next day, but being from the east coast I was up early. I enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and then a company-sponsored brunch (which was essentially a second breakfast for me) and then it was back to the data center.

I don’t want to bore you with the details, so I’ll jump ahead to the travel part, which is really what this is all about (or aboot, for you Canadians reading this, eh?).

Before: What a mess After: Much nicer!

I arrived at the Phoenix airport with just enough time to get through security (TSA got me this time – had to go through the dreaded back-scatter x-ray machine and was briefly searched along my left arm where my digital watch was concealed beneath the long sleeve of my shirt. No “body cavity” search, though, thank goodness!) and find my gate. It was fifteen minutes to boarding, which was not enough time for me to find anything to eat.

We boarded and pushed away from the gate. After sitting in the taxi-way for quite a while, my seat-mate next to the window saw some smoke from the wing. He, and the guy behind him, discussed whether or not that was normal. Then, a moment later, the captain informed us that we had lost some hydraulics and that he was unable to steer the plane while it was on the ground. A tow-car-thingy was on its way to drag us back to the terminal.

We later learned that we had lost an actuator seal in a piece of equipment that caused the A-Hydraulic pressure to drop. I was glad that it happened on the ground!

Luckily, Southwest had another plane into which they were able to migrate all of us travelers. Many of the passengers had already missed their connections, and Southwest had arranged alternative routes for them on other planes. The rest of us boarded and were away from the gate with much haste.

Free 120z cans!
They broke this thingy.

In all, we lost 1½ hours on the ground.

Soon, though, we were “wheels up” and on our way! Exhausted from much work, and too little sleep, I was happy to finally be heading home. In my opinion, Southwest handled the problem with much efficiency and professionalism – I was quite impressed. I got free beer on the flight (hooray, beer! That one’s for you, Rick) and a quiet seat mate who only wanted to sleep.

Which, to me, sounded like a terrific idea!

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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Townhall Blog – Unable to Add

Drat and Double Drat!

When trying to access my Townhall blog to add posts, I am met with the following:

New blog creation is temporarily disabled while we tend to some technical issues. Thank you.

So, I don’t know when I’ll be able to start posting there again. Once it is working, I will post an announcement here.

Thanks.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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