May 2006 Archives

California to France: Suck It

Thirty years ago, when the California wine industry was just getting off the ground, the Napa Valley wineries participated with the French wineries in a blind, comparative taste-test in Paris. Wine snobs everywhere were stunned when the nine French wine experts picked all California wines as the best of the best.

Earlier this week, the competition was repeated with the same wines (now aged thirty years) and some more modern vintages. It was a double-event: one panel of tasters worked out of London, and the other here in California at Copia, the "wine-and-everything-else-we-act-snooty-about" institute that tried to steal Sofia from me a couple months ago.

You could guess the only reason I'm writing about this is because the California wines took all the top honors again. When the cross-continental results were tallied and combined, Napa claimed the top five of the ten spots. At least the Frenchies were good sports about it this time around. And besides, it's not all lost for them. They know they still have the best fries and toast.


A Wine Expert

What does this mean for us ? Well, the only thing I can bet on is that next year's California wines will cost more. With any luck it will just be those already-expensive bottles I never drink anyway, the ones that wine experts recommend. I just ignore their opinions and drink what I like, and (as they say) I win every time.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. I'm off Monday, hope you are too (if you're employed).

Man Robs Bank, Forgets Step 2

When you're going to rob a bank, you should probably plan your getaway beforehand. In this little Austin suburb, a leisurely walk away from where my brother used to live, a guy walked into a bank and demanded an undisclosed sum of money and then took a seat. He actually sat out in the lobby to read a magazine until the cops arrived.

What is this ? A cry for attention ? Is he lonely or has he just not had a decent meal in years and thought he'd try out jail food ?

Nah, it's none of that. He just read my blog entry from yesterday and decided that jail sounded pretty darn good compared to going back to work at the salt mine.

Evolution of Dance

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If you missed the Internet meme of last week, here's your second chance.

I give you the Evolution of Dance by Judson Laipply, hosted on YouTube. Put on your parachute pants and click through for a high-speed trip down memory lane. Four decades of dance moves compressed into six minutes.

On a slightly related note, this got me thinking. What would my life look like... all 28 years of it... if I compressed it down into just six minutes. Maybe I'll make a video of that, although I don't think you guys could stand even a six minute show of washing cars, playing on the computer, and self-gratification. That's been pretty much it.

My Crime Spree Starts Now

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Just in case you ever get these two environments mixed up, this should make things a little bit clearer....

IN PRISON......you spend the majority of your time in an 10X10 cell.
AT WORK............you spend the majority of your time in an 8X8 cubicle.

IN PRISON........you get three meals a day.
AT WORK...........you get a break for one meal and you have to pay for it.

IN PRISON..........you get time off for good behavior.
AT WORK............you get more work for good behavior.

IN PRISON..........the guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.
AT WORK............you must often carry a security card and open all
the doors for yourself.

IN PRISON..........you can watch TV and play games.
AT WORK...........you could get fired for watching TV and playing games.

IN PRISON.........you get your own toilet.
AT WORK..........you have to share the toilet with some people who pee on the seat.

IN PRISON..........they allow your family and friends to visit.
AT WORK............you aren't even supposed to speak to your family.

IN PRISON........all expenses are paid by the taxpayers with no work required.
AT WORK...........you get to pay all your expenses to go to work, and
they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.

IN PRISON.........you spend most of your life inside bars wanting to get out.
AT WORK .........you spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.

IN PRISON.........you must deal with sadistic wardens.
AT WORK........they are called managers.

Now get back to work. you're not getting paid to check emails!
A Life of crime is looking better and better.

Email forward courtesy of Sofia

Careful What You Wish For

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Work has been keeping me busier than my dog in a string cheese factory, so not much going on here lately. My fellow developers have been quitting like rats jumping a burning ship (not that I think of any of my colleagues as rats), and so we've organized enough happy-hour farewell gatherings to turn the rest of us into alcoholics.

I've been chuckling all day at the Dilbert comic for today. Check it out. I'm apparantly the only one that finds it so funny. I guess it's just a tale of watching what you wish for, because you might just get it.

Better Beer Face

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I was reading an article in Wired News this morning about better beer and thought I would get some great suggestions from like-minded people on new brews to try. The suggestions came in the form of a slideshow of "Cool Beers," which I think conveys a different meaning than "better." I don't know how to measure "cool" with anything other than a thermometer, and if that's not to your liking, it's your own fault for not refrigerating the stuff. I know you're eager to see the list, so here it is. Nine cool beers.

  • Paulaner Hef-Weizen
  • Konings Hoeven Dubbel Trappist Ale
  • Hoptical Illusion Pale Ale
  • Hoegaarden
  • Grolsch Premium Lager
  • Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse
  • Dinkel Acker CD-Pils
  • Chimay Blanche
  • Boddington’s Pub Ale

I can't say any of these are going to make my top 10. Just seeing two hefeweizens on the list was enough to sour the credibility of the author's opinion. I haven't tried the Dinkel or the Hoptical Illusion, both of which I'm going to look for at World Market the next time I go. World Market has all the rest of the beers on the list, but I'm not too confident about these two because I don't remember seeing them and I've spent enough time in World Market that the work staff there know me.

In the author's search for better (or cooler) beers, he said he was looking for stylistic and geographic diversity, as well as looking for the refrigerated section. He frowned on the idea of choosing a beer based on the design of the label or can. I agree that's a poor assessment of quality, but we all judge the book by the cover sometimes. I will hesitantly admit that I've purchased bottles of wine before because I liked the label. I don't have much else to go on, other than my limited personal experience and maybe the grape variety and growing region.

The author also condemns 20th century beer making, saying that it was focused on reducing cost--at the cost of flavor. This allowed him to get a few cheap jabs in on American breweries, aligning with the unfortunate modern sentiment that anything that is imported is better--especially in the areas of beverages, fashion, and automobiles. I have to say that I really like American beers, especially Budweiser products. Sure, my favorites are mostly imported ales, but the lighter taste of Bud serves an entirely different need. If I've been outside working hard all day (I said if), I'm going to reach for a refreshing Bud Light over the more complex flavors.

Which makes me realize I'm not entirely convinced the lighter flavor was just a cost-reduction measure, but also the result of public preference guided from market research. I would be foolish not to admit cost is a factor, just as it was when Coca-Cola shamefully decided to switch from pure cane sugar to high fructose corn syrup. Or more famously, when McDonald's excessively heated their coffee to extract more flavor from the grounds in order to get more cups of coffee per bean.

I always wondered about that one. As coffee snobs, we know that if your water is too hot, the extraction will be bitter. That means McDonald's coffee drinkers were more willing to accept bitter coffee than bland coffee, or at least this was the perception of management. It was probably right on, that would be my preference too. I used to prefer the dark, bitter Italian roast coffees made in this country. Then I started using beans from an Italian company and realized what we call an Italian roast is kind of a misnomer, as most roasts from that area are not so bitter after all.

Do I have a point ? Nah, I just wanted to ramble about beer, wine, coffee, and polar bears for a while.

Folgers Crystals

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I'm waiting for the news to break on the huge impact of Mexican immigrant workers not doing any work today. In the meantime, those old Folger's Crystals commercials keep running through my head. You know the ones, where they switched some poor family's "other brand" coffee with Folgers and asked, "Let's see if they notice !" as if it were a live broadcast from a hidden camera. So, let's see if we notice anything different today.

I feel insensitive to their cause because every time I see a Mexican today I keep thinking to them, "Shouldn't you be at home or out protesting or something?"

I'll take it even further than that. Today I feel like I invited a bunch of homeless people over to my house, cooked them a nice hot meal (I'm saying hypothetically, as if I could cook), and had to listen to them complain the whole time about not enough cilantro and deal with them spitting in my face while I pour them a beer because they don't like Bud Light. But to tell you the truth, it's worse than that, because they weren't invited at all.

It doesn't bother me that illegal immigrants are here. Although cheap illegal labor is a drain on the overall economy, it allows small businesses to compete and could get my lawn mowed on the cheap. The only complaint and restriction I really have is that they need to respect our culture (not the other way around). This country is the United States of America, and if you want to come here, you need to learn to identify with the locals. That means you must speak American English, you must respect our customs and laws, and you must work toward obtaining legal citizenship. When you sing the National Anthem, you'll do it in English. You're not making a statement by singing it in Spanish, you're just being a disrespectful jerk and spitting on your host. And by God, if I see another American flag being flown upside-down beside a Mexican flag I'm going to flip out. It's like this is a silent invasion.

"There is no place for the hyphen in our citizenship... We are a nation, not a hodge-podge of foreign nationalities. We are a people, and not a polyglot boarding house."
- President Theodore Roosevelt, "The Square Deal"

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