Wednesday, October 31, 2007
"Oh no Tim," you say, "We are the smartest and most creative culture on the planet."
Really, well factor these into the equation and consider your answer again: - We now admit that wrestling is fake, and it's more popular than ever in spite of that. We even still believe in the story lines that they spin for us, and require multiple leagues and shows to feed our fascination with this fiction.
- Airlines think that they can save us in a crash situation by instructing us on how to use a seatbelt and breathe through a mask.
- We have more reality shows on TV than Orville Redenbacher has popcorn kernels, with each one sinking lower on the "Jerry Springer Scale" than the last.
- Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, and Ben Stiller are actually considered movie stars!
- We require safety stickers to keep us from putting our heads in the microwave or our kids into the dryer.
- Hollywood has so little creativity left in stories for movies that it has sunk to remaking even bad movies like "Hairspray", with John Travolta in women' s clothing (...and I thought that Saturday Night Fever was a low point for him).
- Minneapolis thinks that the best way to prevent men from picking up each other for sex in it's airport bathrooms is to lower the walls in the stalls.
- "Two and a Half Men" is currently the #1 show on television.
- People applying for citizenship know more about this country's history than it's own citizens do.
- We have designed cash registers to tell the people using them the proper amount of change to give out (and still they get it wrong a fair share of the time).
- Hilary Clinton has a legitimate chance to become president of the United States!
Now what do you think? I thought so. It's pretty hard to remain smug when confronted with the ugly truth, isn't it? This country has begun to enter a period in its history where it's collective IQ is a number far to close to it's average show size.
Well don't worry boys and girls, by the time that this country finally sinks to the level to which we seem to aspire, we will all probably be so dumb that we will barely notice it. Then again, even it we did, we probably wouldn't care as long as we can get our reality shows five days a week, with an Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller movie festival for the weekend. While I still have what little of the brains that I came into the world with (no comments, please), I feel that I can come to only one conclusion: "There is probably no cure for aggressive stupidity."
Saturday, October 27, 2007
As I contemplate that future (and suicide by paper cut), I have to tell you that I have completely had it with the airport security procedures that lie ahead of me. Waiting in line, stripping down my luggage, taking off my shoes, and having my laptop swabbed down for explosive residue make me want to chew my own leg off.
Well, like the character Howard Beale in the movie Network, I want to yell: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this any more!" Instead, I want to make a radical and politically incorrect suggestion here to correct the situation; but before I do I would like to play a little game with you. I would like to have you look at this as a "Final Jeopardy" question. The following events have what in common?
- The attempted attack on American Flt 63 by a man with bombs in his shoes.
- The hijacking of United Flt 175 and American Flt 11 for the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.
- The hijacking of American Flt 77 for the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11.
- The hijacking of United Flt 93, which eventually crashed into a field in Somerset County, PA on 9/11.
- The bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
- The setting off of a car bomb (OK, it was a truck) outside an Air Force housing complex in Saudi Arabia.
- The 1st bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.
- The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
- The bombing of a discotheque in West Berlin that was frequented by US servicemen.
- The hijacking of the cruise ship, Achille Lauro.
- The bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut .
- The bombing of the US embassy in Beirut.
- The attack on the US embassy in Iran and the kidnapping of the embassy staff.
All of these were acts of terrorism committed by Muslim extremists.
In fact, 100% of the terrorist attacks on commercial airlines based in America for the last 20 years have been committed by Muslim Extremists.
(Now here is where the part comes in that illustrates what a cold-hearted, mean-spirited, and politically incorrect person I really am.)
Why aren't we focusing on the only group of people who have been attacking us? Why do we harass old people in wheelchairs and walkers, pat down salesmen, and make small children cry as we force them to walk through metal detectors without their parents? Why is our politically correct society's answer to the question of how to insure our safety to treat us all as if we were suspected terrorists.
I know, I know, this is racial profiling and this is a practice that is simply wrong. Or is it? Would you watch your children more closely if they were playing in a park next to a church picnic or a homeless man in a dirty overcoat? Would you feel more comfortable walking down the hallway of an upscale hotel or the hallway of a cell block in a jail?
We all make informed judgements based on visual cues and experience everyday to insure our own safety and that of those we care about. We do this almost without thinking. Why can't we ask our government (who is used to functioning without thinking) do the same thing? Have we become so politically correct that we will inconvenience everyone for fear of offending some?
Listen, you can say what you want about the fairness of the concept of racial profiling; but in this case I'm not sure that you could argue with its potential effectiveness. Doing so may actually be no more than what Captain Renault sought to do in the movie Casablanca, "rounding up the usual suspects".
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I know that going to more fuel efficient vehicles will help, as will solar and wind power; but I have to ask myself why we insist on ignoring nuclear power as an alternative. France, who purchased their reactor technology from Westinghouse (a US company), now has 56 nuclear power plants generating 76% of their electricity. With an additional 12% of their power generated from hydroelectric plants, this leaves France in the position of being almost completely energy independent. In fact, with this program begun in 1973, France is now exporting power to other European nations.
Now I don't want to be the guy who admits that France might be doing something right (hell, I drink California wine), but I might have to admit that in this respect I am jealous of them. How does the US match up then? After all, we brought nuclear technology (for good or evil) to the world. The first nuclear reactor to generate electricity was done on December 20, 1951 at the ERB-I experimental station near Arco, Idaho. Today, though currently we have 103 nuclear power plants in the country, they are capable of producing only 20% of the electricity required. As for construction, no new nuclear plant has been ordered since 1973, and none has come online in the US since 1996. This means that the following countries have built more nuclear power generation plants than the United States during the vacuum of that period (that I was able to track during just a quick check):
- South Korea
- North Korea
- (and now maybe) Syria
Most of our power currently comes from power generation plants using oil or coal. Coal still seems abundant in this country, but also seems to be the source that generates the most pollution. Oil is a source whose cost seems steadily on the rise, and presents a whole other set of concerns as well. We apparently have only limited interest in drilling for oil in the places where it exists in any significantly amount in this country (for environmental reasons).
Much of the rest of the world's oil is in places of political instability and will be problematic to obtain. The politics of the Middle East does not promise to get better any time soon, and the governments that run these countries are monarchies and dictatorships that we would not normally put up with unless they had something that we really, really needed.
Meanwhile, nobody is going to call Russia, Mexico, or Venezuela our friend; and our opportunities of obtaining oil from these nations are going to remain limited at best.
Solar, hydroelectric, and wind power generation can and are filling some of those needs in an environmentally friendly way. I cannot believe however that we are ready to replace the blighted scenery of oil derricks crowding out the skies in our past with that of dams, solar grids, or wind turbine farms becoming the bane of our future. That leaves the re-exploration of nuclear power generation as an alternative.
Now I admit that nothing is life is danger-free and that no technology is foolproof, but I believe that we do have the ability to use this technology safely (or at least as good as the French). I also believe that we are running out of choices. We had better begin to address this situation soon, or the impending power crisis will be beyond our control.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
- Have you ever actually stopped to think what people who work for tips get in the way of hourly wages?
- Have you ever considered how far below the minimum wage that recompense actually is?
- Has it occurred to you that employers are allowed to pay this paltry rate of pay because of the additional compensation that is supposed to forthcoming through a gratuity?
- Have you ever considered how miserly behavior affects those who count on you to do your part in this process?
As for myself, no one can ever say that I have never been one to follow rules when any reasonable alternative presents itself (or an unreasonable alternative if I am just being stubborn), my disobedience here however is on a more fundamental level. It is based on the fact that:
- These are some of the least appreciated, least respected, and most overlooked jobs being done out there.
- No one has ever convinced me that the customary percentage is enough, or has shown me that those who originally came up with it knew what in the heck they were talking about.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
This article, by James and Stephen Eaves, and goes through the numbers in far more detail than I would care to quote. I would however, like to share the conclusion of that article with you especially: "When we assume that the ethanol production process is full renewable, it would take all the corn in the country to displace about 3.5% of our gasoline consumption - only slightly more than we could displace by making by making sure drivers' tires are inflated properly.
There are also ethical considerations. In particular, the United State is responsible for over 40 percent of the world's corn supply and 70 percent of total global exports. Even small diversions of corn supplies to ethanol could have dramatic implications for the world's poor, especially considering that researchers believe that food production will need to triple by the year 2050 to accommodate expected demands."
Pretty heady stuff... As a sometimes "compassionate conservative" therefore, I must therefore strongly suggest that the country re-evaluate its energy policy concerning ethanol.
- I do not ask this because without government subsidies, that ethanol production is not currently a viable energy option economically.
- I do not ask this because recent studies have shown that ethanol produces more pollution than fossil fuels.
- I do not ask this because current increases in corn prices and corn futures are putting scandalous profits in the hands of evil corporate farmers and speculators.
- I do not ask this because, except as an additive, ethanol does considerable damage to current version of internal combustion engines that is used today.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Activated on December 5, 1943, this unit was deployed the following month to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. After enemy resistance had ceased there (a curiously benign expression considering what was going on, but that is the way it was described to me) the bulk of the 10th, along with Company A of the 11th Battalion was sent to Maui. Company A however, was told to remain with the 25th Marines, set up camp on a little stretch of sand known as Andrew Island, and watch as the departing ships slipped over the horizon.
Left on their own with no spare parts for their (20) LVT-2's (Landing Vehicle Tracked), their maintenance people were forced to scrounge for whatever was required to keep them a fighting force. This scrounging ended up requiring not only stripping the wrecked vehicles on the beach; but eventually diving on the tractors that were sunk on the initial landing and remained under water. When relief finally arrived after a month however, it was painfully short-lived. Before Company A could be more than half embarked on a ship with the 25th, they were told to disembark once again. Returning to their "island paradise", they discovered that their new neighbors were now the 22nd Marines.
Knowing that Marines can easily become bored on extended island visits and perhaps concerned that such idleness might lead to misadventure, they were issued orders to make "reconnaissance missions" to some of the neighboring atolls. This resulted in landings at the following Japanese held positions:
Woth Atoll March 7-14, 1944
Ujae Atoll March 7-14, 1944
Lae Atoll March 7-14, 1944
Alinglapalapalep Atoll March 18-27, 1944
Emmuik Atoll March 18-27, 1944
Ebon Atoll March 18-27, 1944
Kili Atoll March 18-27, 1944
Namu Atoll March 18-27, 1944
Rongelap Atoll March 18 - April 6, 1944
Bikini Atoll March 18 - April 6, 1944
Lemuik Atoll March 18 - April 6, 1944
Mejit Atoll March 28 - April 5, 1944
Hiluk Atoll March 28 - April 5, 1944
Uterik Atoll March 28 - April 5, 1944
(The LVT-2 that Company A used)
Forced to leave all of their equipment behind as the part of the price of passage, the Company was transported to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, where they arrived on April 12th. While no garden spot, the Company was at least "found" as far as the Marine Corps was concerned, and able to get their first mail in four months. Since there was not much of the original group left, what was left was detached from the 22nd Marines and attached to the 4th Amphibian Tractor Battalion.
As for the members of "The Lost Battalion", there aren't many of them left these days. Those that are stay in touch with each other regularly though and continue to gather every year they can to renew the bond that they shared during those war-torn days. Many of them died during that war and some have passed away since. All however, share a fierce love for each other; and a equally fierce pride in their service, their country, and the Corps. We who know them can't help but feel pride in them as well.
That pride though, is not for them alone. At this time, when many are currently serving overseas, it's only right to honor all of those who have answered the call of service to their country. It's good to remember those that served then, those who serve now or will be doing so soon. It's likewise important to revere those who made and will make the ultimate sacrifice in the protection of freedoms that we far too often take for granted.
Friday, October 19, 2007
"Go Out and Play" This commercial has been running on the radio the last couple of weeks on the local radio stations and has finally gotten to me. Using a professional announcer to reminisce with us through those "four words" that we have been hearing since we were kids, and to a soothing musical background, we are lovingly allowed to picture in our minds the fields of our youth, sports, apple pie, and a simpler time in our lives. This gentle soul then explains to us that we can return to that feeling by gambling at a Native American Casino in Michigan?
I'm sorry, but that's just wrong! Forget all of the junk about gambling addiction, throwing away the rent money on a slot machine, or the grocery money at the blackjack table. Anyone who feels the need to do so has a personal problem and needs to deal with it. What I object to is the not too subtle play on the memories of my youth (which are now ruined by the way) and the assumption that I am so stupid that I would feel that hanging around inside a windowless casino while losing my last buck would bring them back. Nice try, but your blatant attempt to play on my emotions has gotten an emotional reaction. I will now go across a national border to Canada to throw away my money before I will give it to you.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Well it's official, Ohio State is #1. I'm not talking about the BCS rankings, though OSU should certainly be congratulated about that, even this early in the process. No, I am talking about the numbers being released for the size of enrollment at universities, and OSU came in at the top of the heap. Associated Press just released the numbers, and Ohio State has 52,568 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. The University of Florida at Gainesville was second, with 51,876; and Arizona State University at Tempe was third, with 51,481. Being the top school in enrollment is a laudable accomplishment. Much like the days when Ohio claimed to be the state fair with the largest attendance however, I wonder how much meaning it really has. I will tell you two things that do strike me about the release of these numbers though:
- Providing education on this grand scale does not appear to allow OSU to provide a volume discount or achieve any efficiencies of scale. Normally, one would expect that the larger the group served, or the more something is being done, the less expensive it would become to produce the item or provide the service. Evidently education does not fall under that standard business model. Of course I'm sure that such things as tenure for professors, sabbaticals, countless teaching assistants, and constant new building projects have nothing to do with this. Neither does appear to affect the university's ability to suckle at the teat of state and federal grants and funding, and to ask for more every year both from government and in the form of tuition from its students.
- I saw nothing in the press release about how OSU fares in it's graduation rates, either in comparative percentage or in simple raw number comparisons. Perhaps it's enough that we manage to pack students into the campus, and concerning ourselves as to whether these students graduate with a degree is too much to ask.
- Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
- Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?
- Why did Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
- Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
- When you're are getting your oil changed, what are they changing it into?
- Whose idea was it to put an "S" in the word "lisp"?
- Why do people give you a "thumbs up" as congratulations, when in fact it was the signal for death in the Roman arena?
- Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?
- If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?
- Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use that the bubbles are always white?
- Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, and put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?
- Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?
- Why is Upper Sandusky, OH south of Sandusky, OH? (This one actually has an answer, check it out.)
- In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer, when we complained about the heat?
- How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?
- How did 80% of the people considered poor in the US manage to afford at least one color television?
- Why do people insist that you smell something that they just discovered smells really bad?
- If there is no such thing as a stupid questions, what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart right before they ask them?
Sunday, October 14, 2007
While I am sure that the full editorial will be available in a day or two, I would like to share my thoughts on the subject with you today. (I know that this contradicts my earlier posting today, but I have always been a study in contradictions.)
I have to take exception with this Blade editorial for the conclusion that is drawn and the way that it is reached. While the writer makes on valid point at the beginning saying, "The stun gun can be a useful tool for police to subdue and individual who is dangerously out of control without resorting to standard firearms or risking injury in a fight." They then goes on to destroy their own logic and credibility in the ensuing editorial, especially when concluding, "In the old days, police used hand to hand physical force and billy clubs to bring criminal suspects under control. They need to be firmly reminded that they should still use such means before resorting to a stun gun."
Quite frankly it is difficult to see how the conclusion can be logically drawn from the premise. Additionally one has to wonder whether such a conclusion should be drawn. While it's true that there have been accidents with the use of stun guns, and that instances of abuse of this technology could also be conceded, I fail to see how going back to billy clubs and fists will resolve this.
- Can the writer seriously believe that fewer incidents will occur if we return to using fists or billy clubs on suspected criminals?
- Can the writer believe that using fists or billy clubs will produce fewer or less serious injuries?
- Can the writer believe that the reputation of the police departments will be enhanced by descriptions or pictures of subduing a suspect through the use of either fists or billy clubs?
- If the Blade writer's conclusion is to be taken, and that primitive technology is to be the answer, perhaps the use of brass knuckles, chains, or even fist-sized rocks might also be of benefit as tools of law enforcement.
- Does the Blade subscribe to going back to those 'bad old days' as an answer, or are they perhaps simply looking for pictures of the bruised bodies of arrested criminals to dress up a story?
For any of you who have ever attempted such a thing let me tell you, it is way too much work. Keep in mind that I say this realizing that the posts that I put up are mostly opinion (that's the most polite expression that I can find for what comes out of my mind and into my keyboard), and not the reporting of fact which requires a great deal more effort and research than I am probably capable of.
Anyway, it has been 14 posts in as many days this month, and I need to slow down for a bit. I am therefore announcing for the record that having been sufficiently humbled, I am going to go back to my pitiful efforts a couple times a week (give or take a bit). It is all that I can do to come up with something of relative intelligence, and put it forward in a comparatively literate fashion under these time constraints.
Some day, when (OK, if) I grow up, I may again aspire to reach these lofty peaks. Meanwhile, all will have to content themselves (or more likely rejoice) in the fact that my efforts will be a bit more sporadic.
By the way, for those of you who know me and hold some vague hope of me reaching some higher level of maturity any time soon, you should be forewarned that my goal in life has always been to go "from immaturity to senility without noticing the transition". At my current age and given most of my current behavior, I can't help but believe that I am close to achieving that goal.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
- I can no longer put off admitting the fact that I will be retiring far too soon for the amount of money that I have saved for this purpose. I am therefore terrified at the prospect of resting from labors that are getting harder to perform every year.
- Maintaining my health in order to perform these labors is becoming a more expensive proposition every day. I am not making choices between health care and food yet, but it takes a full-time job to pay the medical profession enough to enable me to work a full-time job.
- Exercise is no longer something that I do to attempt to look good to members of the opposite sex (not that it ever worked anyway), but something I do to keep from falling into further disrepair. My body now has more creaks and groans than a stairway in the before version of a "This Old House" project.
- Eating is no longer a behavior that I look forward to with any real enjoyment or without consideration as to the quality or quantity of what is consumed. Instead it is something that I do with trepidation; fearing that something that I eat might not be healthy enough, that it might not be prepared in the healthful way, or that I might eat too much of it. I know that anything that might be tasty, fun, or bad for me will have an immediate impact on both my health and my weight. (Hell, I can gain weight and cholesterol by even looking at a slice of cheesecake. Fortunately I like to think of myself of living proof of an expanding economy.)
- Any esteem that I am held in at work is as much about my age as my ability these days. I may get called 'sir' from time to time, but not because of any respect that I might be held in. Instead it would more likely only be because my co-workers are younger than my children.
- Not being currently part of a "couple", I am also faced with the prospect of attempting to create a social life without even the limited benefits of my youth. (I would have added "and good looks", but there is no point in lying. After all, my pictures on the blog page.) For those of you who are not in the same boat, let me tell you that this may be the scariest thing of all. I won't bore you with the sad details of my pitiful life (Can you hear the violins playing?), but let me say that whether I have little blue pills handy is the least of my concerns.
In the end, the only thing that comes to mind are the words of an old country song: "My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don't love Jesus". I don't remember any of the rest of the song, but I think that you're getting the message. If these are the Golden Years, then I think that I probably got gypped.
These years could more appropriately be titled the "Oh Shit Years". If I am aging like fine wine, then somebody is letting some air through the cork, and there's the smell of vinegar in the air. Don't get me wrong, this beats the hell out of taking a dirt nap; but I can't say that I would recommend it to anyone I know. The only real positive that I can think of is a bit of wisdom that I came up with some time back: "The only advantages that I may have in an argument are the assumptions of a diminished capacity and memory loss."
Friday, October 12, 2007
A little bit different from the way that I handled the whites, I will cover these from the mildest to the boldest.
Merlot - this is a wine that has fallen on unfortunate times in my opinion, though its popularity is very high. Often used to make Cabernet more drinkable, it has become a pretty generic red for the most part, in order to suit US tastes. Once produced on a level to rival Cabernet, with some very complex flavors, most of the varieties are now "mostly harmless" (those of you who have read Douglas Adams will understand the reference). There are still some good ones out there if you want to spend the time and effort. Look to the Russian River Valley and some of the Washington state wineries.
Syrah - this is a mild and very fruity wine that is is gaining in popularity. Berry flavors tend to dominate on this wine without any acid or oak. You will see this listed as Shiraz in the Australian wines. (There was an argument between the French and Australians on the name, so the Australians just started calling it something else.) It is often used for blending to make Cabernet drinkable more quickly as well, but is a great wine in its own right. Australia does a great job with this, and California and Oregon are beginning to do equally well in the US.
Pinot Noir - this is another of the berry wines and also a lot of fun. Blackberry and raspberry come through, with sometimes a hint of oak. This wine can be a real treat, with the best coming from the Carneros and Russian River regions of California, but the Oregon coast is the best in my mind. Definitely worth the effort, and the more you spend, the more complex and better the wine will be.
Zinfandel - this is not White Zinfandel, for those who missed my white wine posting. It is however, one of the greatest of the reds, and mostly ignored. Topping out the berry wines, this one can also have hints of chocolate, coffee, or even black pepper. Extremely complex, without the Cabernet bitterness and oak, it is one of my favorites. When you can, look for the "old vine" varieties, where the vines are at least 40 years old, producing very small quantities of very small grapes. All of this concentrates the flavors into something special. If you are really lucky, you might find some "ancient vine" Zinfandels, where the vines are over 100 years old. Grab them. The best of these come from the Russian River in California, though there are a couple in Napa.
Sangiovese - this one is relatively new in its use in this country at least and is making some powerful wines. Originating in Italy, it is sometimes called "Super Tuscans". These can approach the oak and tannin of the Cabernets, without costing nearly as much or being nearly as bitter. They have a little bite, but are drinkable right away. They are appearing all over California, with some spreading to the Northwest.
Cabernet Sauvignon - this is the king of red wines and justifiably so. Often blended with other red grapes to speed up its drink-ability, the flavors can be all over the place. There are a few inexpensive blends that are good, but many of these carry a heavy burden of tannin and oak (the stuff that makes you make a face when you drink it) If you want the real thing you will have to pay the price and / or sit on the wine for a while. Aging of a Cabernet causes the bitterness of the oak and tannins to slowly disappear, leaving behind an exceptional wine. Be prepared to store it for at least 5 years though (10 is better if you can stand the wait). The best are called Reserve or Grand Reserve wines, which means that all of the grapes come from the same vineyard. Australia does as good a job as anyone with the blended variety, but Napa and Sonoma are king for the top wines in my opinion.
Port - this should almost be in a class by itself. It is a fortified desert wine with a hint of berries and sweetness. It also has a higher alcohol content, which means that you don't have to finish the bottle right away. Purists will tell you that you need to finish the bottle in a couple of weeks, but I have had some open for months without it going bad. There are a number of versions based on aging in the barrel (6, 12, 20 year old), and vintage ports as well. The 2000 vintage, if you can find it, is particularly good. Most of the best come from Portugal, but there are some US examples worth trying.
Madeira - this is a desert wine as well, though it is sweet without being overwhelmingly so. It is also a fortified wine and can remain open for long periods due to the higher alcohol content. Be careful buying this one, as most of the cheaper varieties are suitable only for cooking. There are a few from California out there that make this well worth the effort to obtain. In addition to the mystery of the wines themselves, there are a lot of myths about the storing and serving of red wines (or white ones for that matter), and some hidden truths as well.
- Red wine should be served a little below room temperature, not at it. Like the whites, the wine will change as it warms and also as it is exposed to air "breathes". If you want to save it past one night however, you should invest in one of the vacuum pumps and pull the air out. These are relatively inexpensive and will by you an extra day or two at least. (this holds true for white wine as well)
- All wine should be stored below room temperature (around 60 degrees), hence the wine cellars. This slows and enhances the aging process for better wines. - All wine should be stored on its side. This keeps the cork moist. If the cork dries out, it will shrink and let air in, turning the wine into vinegar. My best advice is to take the foil that is over the cork off when you put wine in storage. This will allow you to see if the wine "creeps up the cork". If you see this, open the bottle before the wine seeps to the end.
- Decanting is not always necessary to serving wine, but can be worthwhile. It exposes the wine to air and allows it to breathe more quickly. It also allows you to either filter out or trap any sediment that might be in the bottom of the bottle. Most of us will never see this sediment, but it is in some of the better, older wines.
- Wine glasses are important. Some people like the smaller ones for white wine, the bigger ones for red, and champagne flutes for ... champagne. I have all of the different sizes, but personally I like the bigger ones for all of my wines to concentrate the vapors in the glass. A lot of the "taste" of the wine come through the smell or "nose" of the wine.
- Likewise swirling the wine in the glass can enhance the experience. It coats the sides of the bigger glasses, which enhances the aroma. (It also makes you look pretty cool if you do it right.)
- Never put your wine glasses in the dishwasher. No matter how good it rinses the glasses, over time the soap with permeate the glass and affect the taste of the wine. You should be able to keep them clean enough by washing them by hand in hot water. OK, end of the lecture. Go out there, experiment, and have some fun.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I have always thought that the biggest shame about wine is that so many people fail to stray outside of the traditional Chardonnay / Cabernet offerings when there is so much out there that is really fun to experience. So I am going to touch on some of that variety and share my feelings on some of what is out there in the hopes that some of you out there reading this will expand your horizons. I may only touch on the bare bones of the subject, but this should give you a good place to begin your own journey.
Please remember that none of these statements should be considered absolutes and all are strictly my opinion (good for a cup of coffee at Starbucks if you have $5), but the mistakes can often be as fun and instructive as anything that you could learn from me. The subject is too vast to cover in one posting, so I will do the best that I can on white wine here, and try again with reds on the next posting. I will also talk about some of the BS and truth that surrounds wine in this 2nd posting. Some of it is worth knowing. Please excuse also, my lack of knowledge on the European varieties. I know that they are supposed to be the best, but even after all of this time, I don't feel that I know enough about them to speak on their quality. I should note also, that I will not make specific recommendations as to a particular vineyard, but could be persuaded to part with such information on specific request. I will also try and list these wines in order of sweetness, from driest to sweetest.
Semillon - this wine is often used for blending, but can taste great on its own. It tends to be very dry, with hints of apple and pear flavors and a hint of oak. (I like to say that it is as dry as a popcorn fart, but I tend to use strange images.) There are good ones produced in both California and Australia that are very reasonably priced. Pinot Grigio - this one tends toward peachy flavors with a tart finish. A very crisp wine that's great for sipping on a warm summer night, this one needs a bit of chilling. There are good ones to be found in both California and Oregon.
Sauvingnon Blanc - this one tends towards an acid, citrus-like flavor and probably should be at least lightly-chilled as a consequence. Some of the better ones are labeled Fume Blanc instead, and tend to be a little less tart. My favorites here are from California.
Chenin Blanc - this is an important grape in California because they retain their acidity and they are used a good bit for blending, but there are some goods wines to be had in this variety that are bottled under this name. It is often used as a significant component of White Zinfandel. (Sorry, but this is the only mention you will get from me on this blend. There are some rare examples that aren't Kool Aid, but for the most part, it just scares me.) The best examples of this that I have found were from California.
Pinot Blanc - this wine is a dirty little secret for those who drink ABC wines (Anything But Chardonnay). It tends to be dry, but with little of the oak flavors that can make even Chardonnay a little bitter. It is not widely known, but if you can find a bottle, try it.
Chardonnay - this wine comes in two varieties. The drier version leans towards the acid of a Sauvignon Blanc, having more citrus-like flavors, and sometimes with a hint of oak. There is another, more buttery version of this wine that is not nearly as tart, but retains a hint of the oak. Look for a wine that talks about a Malolactic fermentation if this is the style that you want to try. Surprisingly, this wine should not be too chilled. The better the wine, the less you want to chill it, as the lower temperature the more of the flavor can be hidden. There are so many good ones out there from all of the wine regions in the US and Australia that it would take an entire posting just to cover them. Don't be afraid of some of the blends either.
Riesling - this one comes in a dry and off-dry variety with the sweetness varying accordingly. It tends to a higher residual sugar content though and you need to be prepared for the "pucker". California does OK with this wine, but Washington and Oregon tend to do better and as a rule 'late harvest' ones tend to be sweeter.
Muscat - this one is really sweet, and really should be served as a desert wine. Unless you really like a sweet kind of wine, it can tend to be sugar water. I always recommend that you share your first bottle with friends, as a little bit can go a long way. That being said, it can be fun, served chilled on a hot day. I have found more from California than anywhere else.
Ice Wine - this is sweetest of the bunch and is not to be taken on lightly. It should be consumed in small quantities both because of this sweetness, and because it costs a fortune. It is called ice wine because the grapes have to be left on the vines until the temperature is below freezing for 24 hours. The freezing removes some of the water from the grapes and concentrates the sugars unbelievably (and also makes picking them one of the most miserable jobs on the planet). Even a half bottle can go for a pretty steep price, but it is a fun wine with some apple pie or vanilla ice cream. The best come from the Niagra On The Lake region of Ontario, Canada; though NY does some respectable wines as well. My recommendation with most of these wines would be to chill them pretty well to start with, then taste a little bit as you go along. You will be amazed at the change in the flavor and complexity as the wine warms up a bit.
The most important thing to learn is that more expensive is not always better, and that the best wines are the ones that you like. I hope that you get to take advantage of this and taste a wine that you haven't had before. I will finish up with the reds tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
- That tax dollars would used to provide a forum for liberal indoctrination on any subject. I am especially concerned that this would be done to those at such an impressionable age.
- That facts currently in debate on the potential impact of Global Warming on polar bears should be used to scare children into accepting the opinion of the presenter.
- That fourth grade students would be asked to copy a letter to Rep. Marcy Kaptur word for word on the subject of the "Safe Climate Act", just another meaningless law to make us feel better about ourselves.
- That the principal agreed that the students in question were not doing these letters voluntarily, but were instead doing what they had been told to do and that this was "part of the learning experience". (By the way, what kind of learning experience are we talking about here?)
- That the school brought in not a professor or teacher; but a student and a representative of Greenpeace, an organization that has often been categorized as an "eco-terrorist group".
- That no opposing point of view was brought in for discussion and the principal laughed at the idea of doing so.
- That the superintendant of the district said that an opposing point of view might be brought in, if one could be found that was "credible". Are we talking truly credible, or simply as credible as Greenpeace?
I can only hope that the report on this presentation stirs some additional debate. I would also be interested in hearing what the local Board of Education has to say on the subject and that Channel 24 takes the opportunity to follow up with a response from them.
- There are too many reality shows on television! It shows that television has become a lot like the movies, and can't seem to come up with an original idea. It is actually a shame that either there is so little creativity left in Hollywood, or that corporate ownership has taken over so much that all we are left with is the spectacle and the gore as they incestuously feed on each other.
- It is scary to think that so many people have so little of a life themselves that they would find the lives of a former rock star, a former wrestler, a couple of washed up child actors, a tattoo artist or two, a bunch of arctic fishermen, or a few complete strangers living together in a pretty neat house or on an island (the list could go on and on) a substitute for that lack in their own life.
- The behavior exhibited on these shows might be used by religious fundamentalists as evidence that Evolution does not exist; or if it does, that God has nothing to do with it by choice. It's a shame that casting directors feel the need to seek out the "culls" of society for these shows. There can be no art in a form of media which exhibits the dregs, freaks, and mental and moral midgets of a society. These people should only get credit for performing the same task that the recruiter in a circus freak show does.
Adding to the ludicrous nature of the whole thing is the feeding frenzy of the rest of the media. Instead of decrying the behavior depicted as examples of anti-social lunacy, like dung beetles many of them crawl over these bits of natural fertilizer in a feeding frenzy. Touting these performances as if they were bits of Shakespearean theatre, they gasp in breathless anticipation of the next episode's shenanigans.
You know, the Roman Empire truly began to die when the morals of its society decayed beyond healing. What followed was the growing spectacle of the arena and the slippery slide down the slope of societal degradation where brutality and victory were all that mattered. Well as the old Emerson, Lake, and Palmer song says: "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We're so glad you can attend, come inside, come inside."
Enjoy the show my friends, because the hordes of barbarians not actually participating in these shows are standing right outside the gate, waiting to move in.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Here In Toledo:
- Any member of City Council (or that of a Lucas County Commissioner for that matter). Such a costume will allow you to take as much as you wish from any household that you visit, since 93% of them don't seem to give a damn who you are or how much you take anyway.
- Mayor Finkbeiner's dog Scout. Walking around with your tongue hanging out and panting, you should engender a great deal of sympathy and might even get something interesting to drink. (Do not wear this costume near city hall however, or you may end up locked in the back of the mayor's car.)
- Bill Dillard, the majority owner of Southwyck Mall. Be careful with this costume, as someone may try and take away your "Trick or Treat" bag through Eminent Domain.
- A downtown storefront. Hey, it's not a great costume, but it is a simple one. All you need is a sheet of plywood in front.
- Larry Dillin, developer. This one is easy. Just do your Trick or Treating at city hall and they will give you millions.
- A Cubs uniform. There ought to be a great deal of sympathy out there for any team that hasn't reached their championship in almost 100 years.
- Rex Grossman, former starting quarterback of the Bears. People will give you all kinds of candy, but you will probably throw it away before you get home.
- Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House. (see Toledo City Council) This costume will also allow you take as much as you want. If anyone questions you, just tell them it's for poor children.
- A "poor child" (Sorry, I know this one is wrong, but I couldn't resist). This costume goes with the Pelosi costume. You may not get any candy, but you will get free health care.
- Bill Gates of Microsoft. You don't have to go out and Trick or Treat in this costume. You already own all of the candy.
- Any second tier presidential candidate. You won't get much out there, but the advantage is that you can look like anything that you want and no one will recognize you anyway.
- Bill Clinton. Everyone will like you and give you something, but you probably won't be allowed to do your rounds near anyone's wife or daughter.
- A smoker. This is actually a version of a martyr's costume. You probably will not get anything in this costume, and won't even be allowed to stand near the doors of the houses you go to. (I didn't say it was a good costume, did I?)
- Hilary Clinton, presidential front-running candidate. This may be the scariest costume of the season, but should allow you to get candy from houses that you haven't even been to through bundling. The only trick to this one is that you have to say "Trick or Treat" and then cackle in a demented fashion.
Monday, October 8, 2007
I can and do say things or make decisions without wondering whether anyone's feelings will be hurt.
I often seem to have a great deal of difficulty engaging my brain before I speak or act. As a consequence I sometimes say and do things that hurt others feelings. It's a character flaw I admit, but my intention is never really to offend (well sometimes, but I usually make that pretty clear to those involved right up front). As sorry as I am that I may hurt someone accidentally, I prefer being occasionally insensitive to mostly dishonest.
I do not apologize to any minority group for anything that might have happened to them in the past, nor do I feel that I should make it up to them.
I don't believe that I am prejudiced against anyone, with the exception of those who appear to have adopted laziness or aggressive stupidity as a way of life. Bad things have happened in the past. Black people put up with slavery, Indians dealt with the lies that the US Government told them, the Irish and Indian peoples put up with abuses by the British government, much of Eastern Europe put up with Russian's cold war policies, the French and the Germans put up with each other, and women put up with men. Sorry people, all of these things were really bad, and all of them are in the past. Beating your breast and declaring yourself a victim does nothing except give you an excuse for self-pity. Get over it and move on, the world doesn't owe you anything!
I don't believe in "popular" causes and the badges of them.
I believe that there are wrongs to be righted in the world, and in my small ways I do what I can to seek meaningful change. I do not however, wear ribbons on my clothes or bracelets on my wrists. It is not that I am insensitive to the causes espoused (OK, I am sometimes, but only the really silly ones), but more that I think that many of the people wearing these items are doing so only because they want to be seen as doing so. This is not to say that there are not people that genuinely care about legitimate causes, only that society today is mostly more superficial than substantive. The wearing of these symbols is often the full extent of their efforts at solutions, supplying them with a modicum of self-esteem for showing their compassion. The few genuine causes and the truly dedicated people who work toward real answers easily get lost, buried under a pile of tripe too odoriferous to contemplate. I don't want to save the the farting cockroach, the only known stand of 'piano leg' trees, or the survivors of erectile dysfunction.
I do not engage in discussions of feeling, only fact; and have little respect for those who do.
A local talk show host here in Toledo, Brian Wilson on 1370 - WSPD, (yeah, I know, a pretty shameless plug) often talks about the difference between what people "feel" and what they "think" and dismisses the former. He is absolutely right. Discussions of feelings can be amusing, but are usually not worth the spit that carries them. They are semantic exercises that hold a null value as logical argument. Discussions of what someone thinks are always of value, even when those involved do not come to agreement on the subject. Discussions of thought concern facts which can be agreed upon or disputed in a rational fashion (except on TV talks shows). They offer at least the chance that the subject in question can be advanced towards resolution.
The bottom line here is that Political Correctness has turned mankind into a bunch of spineless jellyfish. It has become a disease that leaves many people unable to do, think, or say anything. Be afraid of it people, for it allows those who would do evil upon us to shame and berate us into immobility while they perpetrate their nefarious acts upon us. This bit of distraction likewise diverts and dilutes our attention from legitimate concerns. Any complaint against this shallow form of misdirection is met with scorn and ridicule for those not willing to accept what the politically correct deem to be right, and the fear of offense prevents us from calling out these villains and carnival con-artists.
As for me, the definition of a Curmudgeon is a cranky, old man. By self-definition therefore, I am only doing what I am supposed to.