Watercooler Stories

March 10, 2008 at 6:30 AM
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Syrup demonstration frozen-out

HOBART, Ind., March 10 (UPI) -- People who turned up at an Indiana park during the weekend to see how maple syrup and sugar are made were disappointed -- it's been too cold for sap to flow.

The demonstration was supposed to be done at the Deep River County Park Saturday, but nighttime low temperatures have been below freezing. Volunteer sugar boiler Rick Narjes told the Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune the sap flows best when nighttime lows are in the 30s and 40s.

Many buckets hung from maple trees were full of ice, the newspaper said, since 97 percent of what is collected is water.

Volunteer Larry Ard said it takes 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup or eight pounds of sugar.

That's why maple syrup and maple sugar are so expensive. Deep River County Park employee Bill Brissette said it takes at least eight hours to get it 40 gallons of sap.

Grocers might give free beer, wine

OLYMPIA, Wash., March 10 (UPI) -- A handful of grocery stores in Washington state could be allowed to offer customers free samples of beer and wine under a proposed pilot program.

Thirty stores statewide could participate in the controversial pilot project, The Seattle Times reported. Under the program approved Friday by the state House, tasting areas will be segregated and advertisements will be restricted to inside the store.

"You won't be seeing signs out on the street: 'Come and get your free wine sample,'" said Republican state Rep. Dan Newhouse.

Other lawmakers say the one-year pilot, modeled after a program in neighboring Oregon, is a bad idea.

"Let's take a look at this bill. It's about drinking -- in grocery stores," said Democratic Rep. Roger Goodman. "What are we thinking?"

One lawmaker from a wine-growing region said critics are being a bit overzealous.

"Wine is a legal product," said Republican Rep. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla. "And if we quit putting such a stigma on that, maybe our kids, when they grow up, would not think that it was such a great thing to have alcohol."

Scottish leaders: Scotch is no 'cash cow'

LONDON, March 10 (UPI) -- Scottish officials say British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling is trying to milk Scotch whisky as a "cash cow."

Darling is expected to include an increase in taxes on whisky in the budget he is to introduce Wednesday, The Scotsman reports. The tax has remained at its current level for about 10 years.

Scottish National Party leaders suggested a tax increase might trigger a border war.

"Scotch whisky is already unfairly taxed. It would be entirely wrong to further increase punitive taxation on one of Scotland's premiership industries," said John Swinney, the Scottish finance minister. "The Scotch whisky industry must not be used as a cash cow to solve the Treasury's financial bungling of taxes and the economy."

Darling is reportedly considering tax hikes on all liquor. From the government's point of view that could have two desirable results -- raising revenue and discouraging binge drinking.

Nantucket sheriff has $7M in reserve

NANTUCKET, Mass., March 10 (UPI) -- The governor of Massachusetts is trying to get control of the Nantucket sheriff's $7 million reserve fund.

Sheriff Richard Bretschneider, like other sheriffs in the state, gets the money from deeds excise taxes, which kick in when real estate changes hands, The Cape Cod Times reported.

Nantucket Island -- a town, a county and a summer playground of the rich -- has the state's most expensive real estate, providing Bretschneider with a good source of revenue. With no jail and only four employees in the sheriff's office, including the boss, expenses are low.

Bretschneider has been generous, buying bicycle helmets for Nantucket children, sending two local cheerleaders to a competition in Florida and contributing to other worthy causes. The sheriff's office also pays $150,000 to house Nantucket prisoners in the Barnstable County Jail.

Gov. Deval Patrick wants the state to take over fiscal management of county sheriffs. That rankles some locals.

"For a lot of people, it's gone from being a little ticked off at Richard for not spending the money in the community to being ticked off at the governor," said Grant Sanders, a founder of YACK, an online forum based in Nantucket.

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