Saturday, July 14, 2001


We went to Broomes Island to Stoney's for crabs and other seafood last night. Winter, normally a hard season for me to put up with, went easier this year, due to my newfound enthusiasm for skiing. Now it's summer, and I find myself looking forward to ski season. How, then, to get through the summer?

Crabs, of course! A few weeks ago, we went to Cantler's Riverside Inn in Annapolis. In the past few years, I've generally eaten steamed crabs maybe once or twice a year. That means that when I eat them, I sort of recall how to do so, but not really. So I expend a lot of effort for a little bit of crab meat, and by the last crab I've sort of got the hang of it. Well, this year I determined to eat more crabs and develop my crab-cracking skills. (Such a noble pursuit!)

Unfortunately, this is one of the worst seasons for crabs in memory. Stoney's was selling medium crabs for $36/dozen. We ordered half a dozen, and thankfully, they messed up and brought us a dozen (while charging for half). There's not a lot of meat on the mediums (compounding the work/meat ratio problem), but I could feel my skills picking up as I enjoyed the crab meat. Then I had Stoney's enormous crab cake sandwich. It's recommended as the best in the area by The Washington Post. The only place I've had better crab cakes is the Captain's Galley in Crisfield -- and that's quite a drive for some crab cakes.

By the way, directions were hard to find on-line, so if you ever find yourself looking to get some good crabs and/or crab cakes in a scenic waterfront location in Southern Maryland, here's what you do. Take Route 2 South or Route 4 South (they merge). Make a right on Broomes Island Road (MD-264), and follow that practically to the end before making a left on Oyster House Road (it's a loop). Stoney's should be hard to miss.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

John Adams

I finished reading David McCullough's new biography of John Adams. I enjoyed it greatly, and it's helped solidify where my sympathies in early American history lie.

I had never really liked American history growing up, and as a consequence I hadn't really studied it that much beyond what was required of me. In particular, I took no American history in college. As I've grown a little older (and perhaps wiser), I've become more interested in my country's history. I've tried to remedy my gap in knowledge by going back and reading books, specifically biographies, relating to American history. Originally the plan had me moving roughly chronologically through American history, but I got stuck somewhere near the Civil War -- there was that biography of Grant I never finished. As it turned out, the readings I did about early American statesmen -- Washington, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster and more -- developed in me an interest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in America independent of my original study plan.

So I picked up this latest biography. McCullough devotes some amount of effort to puffing up Adams at the expense of Jefferson. In many cases, he scores good points. Particularly devastating, in my mind, are the reactions the two of them to the French Revolution. Adams, quite early on, realized, "This is going to get out of hand." Jefferson, by contrast, was still cheering it on while the streets of Paris were running red with blood.

It is popular to avoid taking sides in historical disputes of long ago. After all, the people of two hundred years ago lived in an age with its own set of values. Their quarrels are not ours. Some of them may hold views that we find abhorrent today, but we must judge them in the context of their era. True. But some of them were, so to speak, on the right side of history. Jefferson, Jackson, and many of the anti-Federalists were slaveholders. Jefferson famously wrote against slavery ("I tremble from my country when I reflect that God is just."), yet continued to practice it. John and Abagail Adams did not own slaves, and their son John Quincy became an ardent abolitionist.

The Federalists had the foresight to see what a strong national government (as opposed to a collection of strong state governments) could do. If the anti-Federalists had won the historical battle of ideas, we could forget about a Federal Reserve, an Interstate Highway System, and possibly even a strong military. Granted, the Federalists had their flaws. They could be elitists, and Jefferson and Jackson played a great role in making American a more egalitarian society. But I think the next time someone asks me which political party I favor, I'll tell them I vote Whig.

Monday, July 09, 2001

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

I may have only been to 7 World Heritage sites, but I've now been to baseball games in 8 of the 30 major league parks. Baltimore, Cincinnati, Oakland, San Diego, Boston, Minnesota, Toronto, and now Arizona. I like to attend sporting events as part of my tourism. It's fun, and it gives me the chance to see how people in a particular area enjoy their sports.

Well, in Arizona they enjoy it in a brand-new baseball stadium with a retractable roof. You might think the roof was there to keep out the heat. Maybe it does keep out the worst of the summer sun in the day, but at night they are generally content to put the top down and run the air conditioning full blast. Generally. But last night was during monsoon season, so they kept the roof closed up just in case. The windows, though, were a nice touch and gave the place less of a closed-in feeling than other domed stadia I've been to. Before the sun set, I could see the mountains in the distance; that was pretty cool.

Other than that, though it was a nice stadium, I didn't get the sense of a lot of character. It had the famous swimming pool, but we were on the opposite side, and it looked smaller than I'm used to seeing it on TV. It had all sorts of special sections -- restaurants, picnic areas, etc. Each had its own corporate sponsor. We were seated in the "Infiniti Diamond" section. To get to your seats, you went through a special restaurant area -- which held no great attraction for us, as we stuffed ourselves with Indian food at my aunt and uncle's prior to the game. Once seated, we were not beset by vendors, but rather had a chance to order food from the restaurant from our seats -- with a 18% service charge included.

The game itself was entertaining. The Diamondbacks were fairly hapless, not scoring until the bottom of the 9th. (Good thing we stayed.) The Athletics put together a reasonable offensive performance, and there was a nice mixture of entertaining hits and skilled defense. And so after 2 hours and 45 minutes, we headed back to my aunt and uncle's to pick up my parents' dog, and started back through the desert home.