January 31, 2016
CATCHING UP: I actually made it home for Christmas this season, for the first time in several years. But instead of flying, which exposes one to all sorts of weather-related risks, which I have in fact I have suffered the last two times I flew out to South Dakota (!!!), I took AMTRAK and just relaxed. I got lots of reading done on the way out and back, and did some work on my MacBook laptop computer. Some trains have WiFi service, including the eastbound train from Chicago which I rode. See the Winter 2015-2016 Photo gallery, from which this sample was taken:
I used to love flying, but the security hassles at the airports and miscellaneous inconveniences have soured me on that option. It happens that where I live (Staunton) has an AMTRAK station, so I don't have to drive to an airport and leave a car parked there for days or weeks. Besides, it's just plain fun watching the passing scenery from ground level, an experience you never get from 30,000 feet up. I should also mention that all four trains I rode (Staunton-Chicago, Chicago-Omaha, and then the reverse) arrived within a half hour of the scheduled time, which is not bad for such a lengthy trip. (My last trip on AMTRAK, in the fall of 2008, was plagued by delays of more than two hours.) So, they are definitely improving. On one hand, taking advantage of a government-subsidized transportation system does give me qualms, but I think there is a public purpose to be served in maintaining long-distance passenger train service. Wanna ride the rails? Go AMTRAK!
The Washington Post Weekend Section rated popular-price (i.e., cheap) beers, deliberately omitting the Big Three (Budweiser, Miller, and Coors). The rankings are shown in the list below, and I put the brands I like in bold face. I have to say I am surprised they put Yuengling so low. Back in the 1980s, Budweiser was my usual "regular" beer, and I still like it but I just don't think that it is so much better than some of those listed below that it should be priced almost $2 more per six-pack. Something else that bugs me is how the big brands hog almost all the shelf space in retail outlets. For example, National Bohemian was sold at Food Lion for a while last year, but not any more. Instead there are dozens of cases and six-packs of Bud, Miller Lite, etc.
On a related note, businessinsider.com Top 10 beer brands in America, most of which were imports or high-quality domestic beers such as Blue Moon. Maybe I'll do my own ranking of favorite beers in the future.