Viral Propagation

Just doing my part for science.


Pilandro Lugana

Grape: Trebbiano

This is a wonderful perfumed white, with a smooth texture, clean finish, and wonderful fruitiness on both the nose and the mid-palate. The nose reminds me almost of a Riesling, though the palate is unique, and a beautiful accompaniment to any rich seafood dish (I'm thinking a bisque or chowder), or possibly even a carefully prepared veal.

At Olivino, retails for $14.99.


Open letter to the Future of the world.

Learn how to write in English. Please. Chatspeak and l337 sp34k may be amusing amongst private conversations within your group of friends, but in the wider world it is merely aggravating.

Thank you,

Your Future Employer.

Memorial Day

I wish a calm, reflective Memorial Day for you all. I'm spending it honouring my friends who are currently in the service (and cannot read this blog due to firewall restrictions), as well as those who have been lost in service to this country.

I hold great respect for you and wish you all the best. Thank you for protecting our country and our freedoms.


Wine for a Holiday

This coming Monday is Memorial Day. I'll be spending the weekend in Philadelphia, with family, as there are a couple birthdays around this time. Saturday night, we'll be going out to dinner, and I'm providing the wine - wait, what do you mean that's not a surprise?

Ok, yeah. It's a given that I provide the wine these days. I have access to a lot of wonderful wines from all over the world, and I pay a great price for them.

This weekend, we'll be drinking Chateau la Pastorale, Buzet, France, 2000. One of my favourite wines, the blend is 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a mature wine, with a colour tending towards orange brick, and flavours running the gamut from damp soil to a typically Merlot pluminess. At $13,99 it's a great price for a wonderful wine.

I'm a bit surprised I haven't written on this wine before, considering it's one of my favourites. The two bottles I'm bringing to Philly mean I've bought more than a half case of it.


Time flies...

I'm honestly not sure where the last few weeks have gone. Things have been busy, but not so much so that I can offer an excuse as to why I'm neglecting this blog.

Part of it might be that I'm struggling with how much of my personal life to share. I don't plan on sharing much of what goes on in the store, mainly because that would intrude on the privacy of my co-workers, customers, and bosses. I also intend to avoid sharing much about my family and friends, but because this is still a personal site, something of a personal nature has to be posted.

There is a fine line between paranoia and caution, and I'm having trouble walking it.

I'm also trying to avoid serious politics here - there are bloggers with much more political acumen than I, and the analysis is better left to them. However, wine is as much a political issue as it is a social and business one. Some politics are inevitable, and for me to avoid the topic entirely would be unthinkable. Just the American drinking age alone is enough material for its own blog, so is the current fight in France over the anti-drink lobby.

I could go on for paragraphs, explaining my decisions to post or not post certain articles, but I'll leave it there for the moment, and offer up a forum for discussion. How much is too much? At what point does a blog lose focus and become a loose amalgamate of opinion best suited to armchair philosophy? My previous blog became defunct because of a loss of interest in the subject, and because although it was a blog about the ability we have as people to change, I rarely wrote on that topic, instead preferring to bounce from one subject to another.


The fight against the anti-alcohol lobby continues

Today's story comes from Decanter, where finally someone is stepping up and saying that the Lobby is doing something foolish for the French (and world) economy.

The person working against the Lobby is Marie-Christine Tarby, president of the alcohol lobby group Vin & Société who says the following:

'We are in an absurd situation where we have to defend the place of wine in French society.'

She also called for the drunk driving laws to remain at their current level so as to not put an undue influence on bottle service in restaurants.

All I have to say about this is that it's about time. I've been waiting for something like this to happen, given that France has appeared to be going the way of the 1910's USA. One would think they would learn from our mistakes, and realize that demonising alcohol, or any mind-altering substance, has the opposite result from the one desired. It makes the substance more enticing to those whom it is prohibited to. A great example is to compare American youth with European youth, especially those raised to believe alcohol is a complement to environment, food, and situation. The European youth tend to have a better viewpoint of the dangers of alcohol, tending to avoid the levels of alcoholism and binge drinking that American youth are experiencing in record numbers.

As European countries tighten their laws about alcohol, they are seeing an increase in drunk driving, alcohol-related deaths, and alcoholism. Rather than realizing there's a correlation between the two things, they respond by tightening things more. America is doing the same, though I believe we've just about reached the end of the tightening, as evidenced by recent bills to allow military to purchase and consume alcohol, as long as they're over 18. NH just had one killed in committee, though the presentation of such a bill is a step in the right direction.


The business of Wine

So I'm sitting here at work (yes, I know, blogging at work is a big no-no, but I have nothing to do until the people in front clear out and I can sweep the sidewalk), thinking about several conversations I've had recently with customers and co-workers.

Wine is a business.

There have been several posts on this topic from some very good bloggers, and I'd like to add my $0.02 in.

First and foremost, the store I work at is intended to make money. Location #2, having been open only a short while, is already posting a profit, which is a wonderful sign. Location #1 is still a wonderful place to explore and find wines you've never heard of. As I continue to work here, I'm learning the ins and outs of running one's own store, and it is not easy. Seeing as how I plan on opening my own one day, here are a few things I've decided are essential.

1. Hire a manager for day-to-day business, general bookkeeping, and other paperwork. Said manager should NOT be responsible for ordering.

2. One person should be responsible for ordering. Whether it's the owner, or a buyer, that person should have no other responsibilities.

3. Communication is key. If the manager is responsible for all hiring, firing, raises, and other personnel issues, then they should keep the owner/s updated on all discussions relating to those issues.

4. Keep staff to a minimum, and do whatever you can to keep them full-time.

5. There must be schedules in place, and everyone must know them. This goes not only for shift schedules, but cleaning, general maintenance, and delivery.

6. Every week should see a new wine. If there isn't room on the shelves because of single bottles left, find a way to get rid of those single bottles. Put them in a bin for people to hunt through.

7. A bottle of something that isn't selling (and is stocked heavily) should be tasted every night.

8. Hold classes. More informed customers means more sales, and higher-priced wine.

9. Taste the staff on what is in-house. Encourage them to go to trade events, and make sure schedules are shifted to accommodate tastings. The staff must be educated. If that means having a rep in to taste everyone on what they have in-house, then so be it.

10. Have books and publications about wine available for sale, and for staff use. See #'s 7, 8, and 9 for reasons.

Those are my 10 points on running a wine store. Obviously some of them are general, and I may add to this later as I think of more, but for now this is good.

Now, to convince my landlord to allow me a kitten so I can rename this blog what I wish to have my future store named: Athena, Nico & Petite Sarai (Aglianico & Petite Sirah - two unusual grape varietals).


Spring has sprung...

And boy is it causing me problems.

Allergies have me down for the count. I'm really not drinking much wine right now (and after spending two days tasting a couple weeks ago, I'm not up to much anyway), and there are many good discussions going on in the wine blogosphere that I don't feel qualified to enter into at the moment, so I'm in a holding pattern until my sinuses decide to stop encroaching on my ears.



Wine Blogging Wednesday, take two.

So the last WbW I considered participating in was supposed to be French Cabernet Franc. I wasn't able to get my hands on a good Chinon, although I did end up having a wonderful one the weekend after, thanks to my aunt and uncle's fantastic wine cellar, and their willingness to put up with the whole chaos-loving family for the Easter holiday.

This week, however, I am able to get my hands on the theme: Old World Riesling.

The website doesn't actually have the theme up yet, although Alder over at Vinography mentions it. So I'll probably head into Manhattan and pick up an interesting one from either Chamber Street Wines or Crush, two of my favourite stores. I've basically exhausted the stock of Rieslings here, mainly because I absolutely love the ones we carry.

Riesling is a fascinating wine. Low in alcohol, usually, it still carries a wonderful body and very smooth mouth feel. Some Rieslings will have a bit of tingle, just enough to make you question your senses. This is normal, as the QbA classification calls for a small dosage to be added as the wine is bottled.

A dosage is added to wines that come from underripe grapes. Champagne and other sparkling wines made in the traditional method will have a dosage, usually a combination of a sugar concoction and yeast to trigger a second fermentation in the bottle, and other times just a bit of unfermented juice from a previous year with yeast (Brut Natural). QbA and QmP Rieslings are underripe grapes, though QbA has a dosage, whereas QmP doesn't. Another wine that has a dosage added is White Zinfandel. Made from underripe Zinfandel grapes (which are *always* red), White Zin is a sharp, acidic wine with little to recommend it. The wineries add a high-sugar dosage to impart some sweetness, which leaves the final product being a clash of flavours and textures, unsuitable for drinking. In the future, instead of grabbing that bottle of Sutter Home, head over to the Italian and Spanish Rosé section. Much better, and for about the same price.

Now that I've gone off-topic, I'm going to go research this. I have a few weeks, and I want to make sure I choose a good, preferably aged, wine.


Italians 'spoofing' wine

This doesn't seem to be a new story, though it is interesting that it comes on the heels of most importers raising prices. There are two stories here; One is about companies like Banfi and Antinori blending their Montalcinos (which should be 100% Sangiovese), the other about cheaper wines having chemicals added.

The latter story isn't anything new at all. To save money, cheap wineries boost certain flavours of wine with chemicals. A decade ago, we were hearing about oak chips being used to 'adulterate' wines. Everyone was up in arms over the concept that California wineries (and Australian, to a lesser degree) were putting oak chips in their must, rather than fermenting in a new oak barrel. As it has been discovered, it makes for pretty terrible wine.

What I'd like to know (and probably won't for a while) is which vineyards are accused of doing so. My guess is that it's the more commercial cheapies, which means none of my wines are affected. I should probably make some calls, though, and find out directly from my distributors whether my two cheap wines are at issue.

In regards to the former story...

Duh. There is more demand for wine these days, especially from the big guys like Banfi. Their vineyards are not getting any bigger, and their vines are getting older, and producing fewer grapes. Which means less must, which means less wine. With the current obsession by collectors of buying futures, less wine is available for public purchase. So they turn to blending to have enough wine for everyone who wants it.

Capitalism strikes again. And they got caught. Oh, big surprise. The Italians aren't very good about things like quality control (their DOC and DOCG classifications don't really mean a whole lot when it comes to quality), but they're great about policing after the fact.

I'm going to go pick up a bottle of tasty Dolcetto. They can keep doing what they want. As long as it tastes good, people will buy it.

ON EDIT: It should be Brunello, not Montalcino.


California wine country

I'm in the middle of planning a summer vacation to California. Although I'll be there for about a week, only a couple days are being spent *in* wine country.

I believe we're staying in Healdsburg, so if anyone has recommendations for where to visit nearby, please leave comments. I really would like to know which wineries are interesting to visit, and preferably not too expensive to taste, although I'm sure I can get some trade tastings set up.


Quiet days

Huh. I just noticed how long it's been since I've really posted. Between illness, the holiday, and taking on more responsibilities at work, I've had little time, though much inclination, for blogging.

At the same time, much of my life beyond necessity has fallen by the wayside in recent weeks. I've found myself with an almost lackadaisical attitude towards anything other than work and taking care of the basics. I haven't wanted to go anywhere, see anyone, or do anything. Even my video games are being ignored.

Hopefully this is just a brief respite, and I'll be back full force soon.

In the meantime, however, check the blogs on my sidebar. They're great people, and have had quite a bit to say recently. I'll also be posting my list of webcomics to pay attention to, as there have been good ones I've discovered lately.

I also need to get my camera up and working, because signs of spring have been showing up, and there are some great shots out there.

Major Distributor, Mini Rant

I'm becoming very upset with one of our major distributors. I won't use the name, but suffice it to say, they're one of the biggest national distributors, and one of the three biggies in NYC. Two weeks in a row, they messed up my order, and while it isn't the first time, it is becoming more frequent.

This week, I asked them to pick up their most recent mistake (they delivered a 2000 Rioja Riserva instead of the 2003 regular, and the cost difference is astronomical), and said it was because they delivered the wrong wine.

The return invoice says "ordered wrong," which means they made it MY FAULT THAT THEY SCREWED UP!

I'm really sick of dealing with these people, and I really wish we didn't have to order so much wine from them. Either the orderboard workers are morons, the shippers are morons, or the warehouse workers are morons, on a regular basis.

Another example: A while back, when I received the order, one of the boxes was damp. I checked the bottles briefly, but I didn't see any obvious evidence of breakage. As I was putting out the wine, however, I had the side of one finger split open by a broken bottle FROM A DIFFERENT BOX. They had deliberately hidden where the broken bottle was so they wouldn't have to pay for it. So not only are we out the money for the bottle (luckily it was one of our most inexpensive, only costs us $3.00/bottle), but I ended up with a nice gash in one finger.

They can get away with all this crap because they're so huge, and because they carry most of the wines that people demand. If one of the smaller distributors carried on the way they do, they'd be out of business before the first complaint started coming in. If I could get away with not ordering from them, I'd probably recommend that we stop carrying their wines.


Spring Holidays








Wine Blogging Wednesday

So I'd love to participate in this week's Wine Blogging Wednesday, but I don't have any Loire wines hanging about, and I just discovered I have no Loire Reds in the store.

Ouch. Rectifying that ASAP.

Anyway, I'm back, somewhat. I have a ton of energy, but I also have a ton of things that fell by the wayside over the last week, not the least of which is figuring out what gets ordered for the store next week.

I can do this. Really I can, I'll just not sleep until Easter.


Easter? I have to deal with that too?



In honour of EATAPETA

That's all I have, as I'm fairly sick at the moment, having been laid flat by a fever.



I didn't vote for him.

That's really the extent of my opinion on the issue.

Want more? Go read Elisson, who has much to say, and says it well.

I aspire to his wordplay.



Eliot Spitzer may resign.

Should I be surprised by this?

I'm resigned to believing that NYS cannot elect a decent governor to save its life.


Nanny-Statism strikes again

I found this article on Fox News, though I imagine it's discussed elsewhere, about London attempting to protect people from themselves again.

Go ahead and read the article. I'll wait.



I text more than I should, mainly because I need a new phone, as my battery is shot. But I have never walked into a lamppost because of typing out a message or dialing a phone number. I've walked into scaffolding posts because I was caught up in a conversation with a friend walking next to me, but I've never been so distracted by my phone that I would do something so patently stupid.

How about, instead of protecting people from themselves, you let them walk into the posts so they learn some common sense?

Ach. I give up. People will always be stupid, and politicians will always try to protect them from their own stupidity.

New York Wine Expo, March 7th-9th, 2008

I'll be attending the trade day at the Wine Expo, although I have my reservations after reading these comments on Vinography. Given the overall negativity regarding other events from the same people, I'm going in with my eyes open. I certainly expect it to be a fairly corporate event, but that's what exists on the east coast these days, unless you're going to shell out money for one of the food & wine festivals that can be found all summer and fall. The two I'm most interested in are the South Beach Food & Wine Festival and the EPCOT Food & Wine festival. I went to the latter last year and had a fantastic time. Hopefully, this year will be the same, though I don't think I'll be able to make it the one in South Beach.

Why is it that the events I'm intrigued by are all in places that are too warm for my comfort? I'm a cold-weather girl.

I'm trying to talk some friends of mine into going for all-you-can-eat sushi on the Upper East Side after the Expo, but one of them wants to go to Sushi Yasuda, which, while I'd love to try it, would require more money than I currently have on hand in order to eat the way we tend to. Which is to say, we gorge ourselves on sushi. Mmmm.


More alarmist news from the autism front

Autism is a terrible disorder, one that causes many families each year quite a bit of trouble (to understate the facts).

However, the following story buries the true news below the fold.

The lede brings us to the conclusion that a girl definitively developed autism from childhood vaccines.

In a move autism family advocates call unprecedented, federal health officials have concluded that childhood vaccines contributed to symptoms of the disorder in a 9-year-old Georgia girl.

Further down, buried as an off-hand reference, is this line:

The language in the document does not establish a clear-cut vaccine-autism link. But it does say the government concluded that vaccines aggravated a rare underlying metabolic condition that resulted in a brain disorder "with features of autism spectrum disorder."

So here we have a case where the girl had an underlying mitochondrial condition, unnamed, perhaps one that should have been tested for, and one that could have perhaps eventually lead to autism on its own. The issue here is that her condition may have been avoidable, and, due to what might be incompetence on the parts of her doctors, caused a secondary condition that appears to be autism.

Even further down, past where most people would read, this is said:

Hannah, who has two older brothers, continues to have mild to moderate symptoms of autism.

Her symptoms are mild to moderate, but she needs one-on-one care? That doesn't seem right. I've known a couple of autistic kids, and beyond the basic "keep an eye on them so they don't hurt themselves or others" situation, I haven't seen an excessive need to watch them. Certainly not one-on-one.

Perhaps NH State of Mind could respond with his opinions. I'm curious about how much care an autistic child needs, and getting an expert's point of view on an article like this is always helpful (yes, he's an expert. When you have a child with a disorder, you become an expert on it by virtue of dealing with it every day of your life).

Foot, meet Mouth

I have this talent for saying things that will get me yelled at or shunned. By sheer virtue of opening my mouth, I am likely to either offend or confuse someone. I'm not as self-aware of this as I was in my teen years, but I still can't seem to look as good as Simon Cowell when I shove my toes so far back into my throat I can feel my sinuses.

Anyway, now that wonderful picture is in all your minds, so I'm going to head off and try to remove my toenails from my tongue. They aren't very tasty.

Amazon to partner with Satan

Ok, not really The Adversary, at least not in a religious sense. Wine.com has, in the past year or so, the company known for it's innovation in interstate wine mailing has been running a sting operation, targeting small retailers, intending to shut down their above-and-beyond concept of customer service by asking them to mail wine to states where it's illegal to receive out-of-state wine shipments unless you are a wholesale distributor/importer, then reporting them to the state authority. Not only have they pushed the envelope when it comes to what a private company (even a massive corporation) can legally do, they are doing so, not out of respect for out-of-date laws, but to eliminate their competition. It is, in brief, an anti-trust issue.

However, this is about the story that popped up as soon as I opened Decanter's news section this morning. Amazon moves into wine with wine.com.

I like Amazon. I use them often, and not just for books. Hell, I have several different wishlists, and they grow on a monthly basis. So this story causes a problem for me. I feel the need to join with a number of other bloggers who refuse to buy from Wine.com as a result of their sketchy business practices. But, with Amazon now partnering with them, I feel like Amazon has become the enemy.

Huh, that reminds me of the South Park episode where we first see Satan and Saddam in bed together.

Anyway, I'm just not sure what to make of all this. There's far too much imbalance of power in the wine industry, most of which comes from these outdated and nanny-statish laws in effect in many states.


Another post about "how we eat" and "those damned French"

Michael Ruhlman writes about the paradox of the French diet, and how our low-fat, low-salt, high-sugar diets are killing us.

I've been attempting to increase my intake of fresh foods, eliminating the processed, boxed, and tagged crud from my shelves and my fridge. To this end, I've kept only a few items in boxes and bags in my cabinets.

1. Wheat Thins (preferably reduced fat, I actually enjoy the taste better), to be paired with Wispride Port Wine cheese spread. I've been addicted to this combination since I was a kid, and it doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.

2. Thomas' Hearty Grains English Muffins. Put peanut butter, cream cheese, jam, or regular old hard, aged cheddar (Cabot) on these and I'm in heaven.

3. Kellogg's Raisin Bran. Love that stuff. I know it's loaded with sugar, but good lord I love that stuff.

4. Amy's frozen dinners. Namely, the Vegetarian Lasagna (it's just so time-consuming to make, and then most of it gets frozen and forgotten. There are only two of us in the house), and a couple of the other dishes. If it's been a long day, it's easy to just throw this in the oven and wait the hour for it to be done.

5. Ben & Jerry's. 'Nough said.

6. The odd container of a Pillsbury product, like Grands' biscuits or cinnamon buns. Again, time-consuming and more than I'm really capable of handling in my little New York kitchen.

7. Fluff. Again, 'nough said.

8. Fried tortilla chips. Tostitos, usually. Paired with Muir Glen medium Salsa, great snack.

Beyond those, and the occasional chocolate bar (I love you, Dove), I think we do alright.

1. Fish. Lots and lots of fish. Mostly salmon, since we're trying to keep my heavy metal-intake down (and no, I don't mean Pantera and Slayer), tuna on occasion, shrimp, and whatever strikes our fancy at the market this week.

2. Spinach. I loves me some of that. Baby spinach, tossed with broccoli, cherry/grape tomatoes, a bit of balsamic vinegar, and a touch of feta cheese is wonderful. Add in some bell peppers and shrimp and I have a meal.

3. Asparagus. Make it and I'll eat it.

4. Whatever fruit/melon looks good. We eat a ton of berries, apples when in season, and only when we're in NH, since I'm spoiled, and some citrus in the winter, supplemented by a lot of melon.

5. Cheese. Have I mentioned how much I love cheese? I eat more of this than anything else.

6. Chocolate. Wait...does that fall under processed?

7. Occasional meat. I'm mostly vegetarian (as I mentioned in the EATAPETA post), but I also have some iron issues, so I'm not above eating a bit of meat every now and again. Mostly lamb and beef, but occasionally some bacon will find its way into a stew. If I hadn't lost the enzymes necessary to digest meat, as can happen with long-term vegetarians, I would eat it a lot more often. There aren't many ways you can substitute vegetables in a meat stew and still have the heartiness.

8. Milk. Lots of milk. Skim.

9. Whatever Jason feeds me. The man is a genius in the kitchen. Out of the kitchen too, but especially when it comes to food. In many ways, he's the one who taught me how to cook creatively.

So there you have it. A basic look at the pros and cons in my cabinets and fridge. I left out the spices, but be assured, they're in there.

Added Tannins

Alice Feiring, a great name in wine, has an interesting story from a week ago. I excerpt the relevant portion to my comments (emphasis mine):

I proposed that she might be allergic to added tannins--those nasty ones so common in modern wines. The tannins are added because some winemakers are obsessed with pumping up their color and believe this can do this or cure sunburnt grapes and also adjust mouthfeel. The tannins available are grape, oak and chestnut. This woman had some of those clients and drank mostly Californian and Australia wines. I ordered a bottle of Genetet Pansiot Gevrey and asked her to call me in the morning if her husband complained. I was the writer and she could blame me, so we ordered the wine.

There was no problem. She was really happy about the outcome. Red wine was hers again, (as long as she didn't have to drink her client's)

I'm allergic to nuts. They exacerbate my already existing eczema to a point where I can't function. As a result, I'm finding that there are many things I can't eat or drink, because of added nut oil, or other elements that we don't think of as coming from nuts.

Chestnuts are a particular evil for me, followed by walnuts and almonds. If I'm allergic to the proteins in nuts, will I be allergic to the tannins as well? Is there now an entire region of the grape world I cannot consume?

Can I have his character sheets?

Gary Gygax died yesterday. While I'm enough of a geek to have loved the concept of D&D, I've never been able to put together a group to truly learn how to play.

Interestingly enough, I took a quiz (link on my computer at home, to be posted later) which established me as a Neutral Chaotic Human Ranger/Wizard (2nd/2nd), which probably fits me very well. Though I thought I'd be an Elf. Humans are whiny.

UPDATE: Here's my sheet

Chaotic Neutral Human Ranger/Wizard (2nd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength- 13
Dexterity- 13
Constitution- 14
Intelligence- 16
Wisdom- 13
Charisma- 14

Chaotic Neutral- A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal. However, chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Rangers- Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter's dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Secondary Class:
Wizards- Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)


Meryl, in her infinite wisdom, is sponsoring Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA day, yet again.

I'm mostly vegetarian (basically only when I'm around family do I consume tasty, tasty animal), but I'm willing to put aside my personal convictions to show that not all vegetarians are pro-PETA. I personally find them abhorrent and disgusting, as well as hypocritical.

On that note, anyone want to do a meat-up (pun intended)? I can think of a couple places here in Brooklyn, and I welcome any recommendations.


Who are these 'experts' anyway?

Latest news from Decanter.com: Health expert wants smaller bottles to stop binge-drinking

From the point of view of a wine professional, this is stupid. Smaller bottles age faster, and are much more likely to go bad. Even from a health point of view this is stupid. There are so many products out there these days, like Vineyard Fresh that use a combination of argon and nitrogen gases to keep wine fresh for as long as you can conceive of. If one's reason for drinking the whole bottle is that it would go to waste otherwise, one is either drinking wine outside one's budget, or one doesn't want to spend the $15 on a product that can be used for four cases of wine.

Full disclosure: I work with the local rep who sells Vineyard Fresh, although this is an unpaid endorsement. I do feel it's the best of the available products.


Twinkly bits

One of the things I miss about living in New Hampshire, where I grew up, is the sheer abundance of stars. I step outside and the entire sky is filled with them. And I can still identify most of the major constellations.

I also miss the snow, but after driving through the tunnels created by the 7+ foot snowbanks, I don't miss it quite as much. However, it's still an incredible sight, and I do wish I had been able to go skiing this trip. Next trip, maybe. I expect this snow to be around for a couple months.

On that note, I'm off to bed, have an early flight tomorrow.


Controversial issues

Usually, I agree with Michelle Malkin, and I'm happy to say so. However, I've found that I just don't support the classic Conservative view on abortion. To compound the disagreement, birth control is again under attack from the same quarter. The comments on that post range from defense of cheaper hormonal birth control because abortions (or alternately, college tuition) are more expensive and more destructive long-term (oy), to declaring that all college students and young people should just abstain.

I present, as an alternative defense of cheaper hormonal birth control, the following situations.

1. A married couple, in which the woman would die if she became pregnant, and is allergic to latex (it happens more often than publicized). Her only option is hormonal birth control, but her low-cost insurance refuses to pay for it (as many do) and she cannot fit anything extra into her budget if she wishes to be able to save for emergencies.

2. A teenage girl who needs it for skin problems, but her parents don't have insurance and she is unable to get it herself, because she doesn't have a job, nor will her parents allow her to have one.

3. A woman who has tried several different hormonal treatments to limit her severe PMS-related mood swings and debilitating cramps, but is intolerant to many of the mainstream methods available. The options left are extremely expensive, and her insurance will not cover, because they deem it unnecessary, since hospitalization is not required on a monthly basis, and therefore it's cheaper for them to do nothing.

Those are just a few examples. Ask the women around you what they pay for their birth control, and they will probably tell you they can't afford it without insurance, and insurance only pays for the bare minimum.

In addition, some studies have come out recently that say women who use hormonal birth control have a lower risk of some cancers. A pound of prevention, after all.

It isn't just high school and college students who use birth control. It's the rest of us who actually need it in our everyday lives, and to deny it to us on the basis of price makes very little sense. The overall continued idiocy from many voices on this topic makes me shake my head in disgust.

Can white wines age?

A coworker of mine recently was surprised when we started stocking the 2002 Riesling (reviewed previously), claiming that "white wines don't age."

On the contrary, some whites age very well. It is not the grape, although some age much better than others, but the level of acidity, and degree of complexity that determine how well a specific wine will cellar. Just like reds, whites are made to either drink young, or age well.

Chardonnay, especially a well-made Bourgogne Blanc or Macon Blanc-Villages, or even some of the higher-end Californias, can age beautifully, taking on a golden-straw hue that almost shimmers in the light (perhaps that's the oak?). Riesling becomes almost toasted brown, while Pinot Grigio turns a deep lemony-orange colour. The flavours tend to develop length on the palette and finish, with floral and mineral notes mellowing and becoming secondary to the fruit. Sauvignon Blancs do tend to go through a dumb stage for about four or five years, but by seven years into it, the citrus has overtaking any lingering herbal excesses, while the acid has smoothed out and become a soft complement. I personally prefer older Sauvignons, as the young ones are far too crisp and sharp, and the grassy notes are overwhelming on my palette and retro-nasal passage.

So, on that note, throw that interesting bottle of white into the cellar, and let it age a few years!


Out of town

I'm going out of town for a few days, hopefully I'll be able to post, but given that it's a family thing, I may not get to the computer.

I fly out at 7am tomorrow morning, so off to bed with me!

Dr. Deinhart Riesling Kabinett 2002

This was such a spectacular wine, beautifully matured with green apple prominent both on the nose and the palette, accented by lovely floral notes (I believe I was getting a bit of something very white and perfumey, but I can't place the exact flower) and with a finish that lasted somewhere around a minute, although the last 20 or so seconds were very mild and required concentration to notice.

I had thrown this into my fridge for a day or so before tasting, so it was a bit colder than it should be kept, though I don't believe it adversely affected the flavours. The complexity and fruitiness of the wine is exactly what I expect of a Riesling, being nicely medium-full bodied and with a touch of sweetness. The sugar isn't cloying or overwhelming, instead being more like biting into a well-made complex fruit salad. The overall impression is that of an early fall picnic in an orchard.


Patterns and Fur

I'm a cat-obsessed crank. I admit this freely. Anyone who has followed my writings before understands this, and possibly remembers when I adopted my two furballs.

Though they aren't so much furballs as they are freakishly old kittens - littermates who are now about 2 1/2 years old, but still act like they're 5 mos old. Ah, cats.

Anyway, this post isn't about them, it's about another set of sleeping lumps. No matter how sweet they look, just remember they rule our lives, not the other way around, and they are always willing to prove it to us. Taking our beds for their naptime is only one way of reminding us of their superiority.


Wines I need to try, Part 1

Oh good lord, there are so many wines I need to try. And I really should do this methodically, though I don't think that's going to happen.

On that note, let's begin.

2001 Punk Dog Wines "Sophie's Riddle" Red Wine, Sonoma - I love the name of this, and it was received well at the San Francisco wine festival in September. Beyond which, I have an affinity for 2001 California wines, though more specifically Napa than Sonoma. In general, I find Sonoma wines to be overblown and far too hot for my tastes. Napa's tend to be a bit more balanced and have enough fruit to balance a 14 or 15% alcohol content.

2006 Thomas Fogarty Winery Gewurztraminer, Monterey - I'm incredibly curious as to how California does Gewurtz. I love it as a grape, am particularly obsessed with the German (vs the Alsatian), and thoroughly fascinated as to how cooler-weather grapes would do in California, especially such a warm area as Monterey.

2003 York Creek Cellars Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain District, Napa - I adore the Spring Mountain appellation in Napa, and I adore Cab Franc, so this is a match made in heaven.

2005 Orin Swift Cellars "The Prisoner" Red Blend - Although I've tasted this before, served at Telepan in the Lincoln Center neighbourhood, I've never really sat down and evaluated it before. However, it seems to be a wonderful wine, and one I'd like to get to know better.

2002 Dr. Deinhard Riesling Kabinett, Pfaltz, Germany - I have a bottle of this at home, waiting for the weekend. The colour is a beautiful autumn gold, and I expect it to be fully mature and ready to drink. Since the store just received two cases, I'm looking forward to selling it.

2003 Graves Syrah, Paso Robles - I've had the 2002 of this wine, and am very intrigued by what I read about the 03. In general, this seems to be a region overlooked for Syrah, although the Merlots and Cabs are fairly boring.

So there's part one. I'm sure there will be a part 2, 3, 4, etc, and I'll try to link them all up through a common tag.

Dunning-Kruger effect

Recently, I read this article from Barry Campbell, and was pleased to find out that the phenomenon I've encountered in my years of study (and my years of working in the service industry) has a name and has been extensively studied.

I've just come across another example of it, this one from a member of NYRA. Not that I'm overly surprised by where I found him, given my history with that organization. In this case, the person in question seems to be a relatively new member (at least since I left off working with them a few years ago), so perhaps there's hope.

Maybe this is why teens and young people are seen as being stupid or incompetent. In their need to be seen as mature and intelligent, they (we? Can I still include myself in this?) overcompensate through excessive self-confidence, bordering on arrogance. So older and more experienced heads push the younger one into a box labeled "young and stupid" and leave them there.

Seems to be a circular argument, with no real solution. Orgs like NYRA are good, just like the ACLU is good, but there needs to be temperance. At least NYRA is a bit more moderate and neutral than ASFAR (no, I'm not linking to them).

The question is, at what point will people start taking responsibility for their ignorance and working to change the circumstances. Age has nothing to do with that, only determination.


France and the anti-drink lobby

Apparently, France has a very strong anti-alcohol lobby. One of their recent moves was to have a couple of major names in the alcohol business fined for promoting the consumption of alcohol in their advertising. What they mean by that specific phrase, is that the companies involved associated alcohol consumption with having a good time, rather than just stating the facts of the product, which is evidently all that French law allows.

Heineken, one of the two companies fined tens of thousands of euros, responded by appealing the decision.

They just lost.

I'm more than a bit disturbed by this prospect, especially considering that some of my favourite wines come from French appellations. This sets a precedent that is patently anti-alcohol, and is somewhat reminiscent of the early pre-Prohibition actions. Considering that there has also been a push lately to establish drinking ages throughout European countries, and I feel like we're seeing motion in the wrong direction regarding individual responsibility for self.



Wow, so I really shouldn't say I'm so tired of arguing, then start an argument with someone.

I'm a hypocritical idiot. As usual.

I am tired of arguing though. I'm even more tired of people trying to shut me up because I don't agree with them. And I have a headache for the ages. And no more coffee. So I'm going to take myself off now, and do paperwork.


Muhammad cartoons

I've been following the Muhammad cartoon stories in Europe for the last long while. It's such an obvious suppression of speech that it fits in nicely with my major focuses these last several years.

Today, Fox printed this story about Danish newspapers reprinting the cartoons that started all the trouble.

At least three European newspapers — in Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain — also reprinted the cartoon as part of their coverage of the Danish arrests.

The best defense against suppression of speech is to speak. The best way to ensure that we are still able to express ourselves in the years to come is to stand up and yell. This is a pretty good start.


Thoroughly disturbing commercial

Make the people on the AT&T commercials stop abusing the internet, please. No one should ever have to see an abortion like that.


Just pretend the above header is centered. I can't get the damneable image to do what I want, and it's driving me nuts.


It's odd...in all my years of on-and-off blogging, I've always had one thing common to all my sites - a healthy dose of vitriol and bile. Suddenly, I find it unsatisfying to get into arguments over points that, in the end, are just my opinion vs. theirs. I'm not a relativist, but I do believe that people hold their opinions dear, use them to define themselves, and become very, very scared if someone challenges those ideas. I could quote a hundred sources, obscure and well-known, and my opponent(s) in the debate will just counter with ideas that support what they say. It is rare to find the person who can debate with a truly open mind. As a result, I find myself, lately, associating only with those who share my opinions, or those who really are willing to listen and adjust what they believe based on my arguments.

I'm not sure anyone will actually read this. There are so many blogs out there these days, and I'm just one of...well, not counting the splogs and marketing failures, let's say millions. Maybe not. I don't really know, but that isn't the point here. I need a space where I'm not confronted with vitriol and hatred just for trying to open people's minds or challenging what they believe.

I guess I'm a skeptic in the Classical sense...believing nothing till it is proven to me, and assuming that even if it's been proven, it hasn't really been proven. Perhaps, in some ways, this is a bad thing. It keeps me from just sitting back and enjoying what life hands me.

Though if life handed me something more than lemons, maybe I wouldn't have to spend so much energy making lemonade. No, I'm not being negative. I'm actually quite enthused about life right now, and things do seem to be going my way for once. Though I'm fairly convinced it's just a mischievous sprite or god deciding to keep me off-balance by making things go well.

See? Skeptic.

I guess I can go from here into a bit about my comment policy (not that I expect any, I don't think people will be reading this often): I reserve the right to delete any comments that are hateful, bigoted, violent, or spam. If they are threatening, I may report them to authorities for appropriate action. I also reserve the right to edit your comment if you're an idiot, and tag you as an idiot for future readers to learn from. Don't be an idiot.

I guess I should throw a disclaimer in as well.

My opinions and thoughts are my own, and do not represent the company I work for, nor my co-workers, nor my friends and family. Hell, I think most of them would disagree with what I have to say. I am not paid for this (yet) and receive no monies or other compensation for reviewing books, wine, or other products, though I wouldn't turn down compensation either. Please note that all writings here belong to me (unless otherwise noted) and my permission MUST be received before re-posting anything in large part or in it's entirety, unless you are just responding and need to quote relevant sections. If I find any of my writings being reproduced without my name attached, I will take whatever action necessary.

There we go. I think that does it.


Game weekend

I've been playing Final Fantasy XII all weekend. Blogging to resume when I get back to work.


Drafts, Drafts, and more Drafts.

I swear, I'm actually working on this essay. It has turned out much longer than I expected, and I have a couple of people editing it along with me. Keep your fingers crossed, and it should be up sometime today.

False information

The front page of www.redsox.com has false info about Curt Schilling's injury. In the article, they admit that no one is saying what exactly is wrong, but the front page (which is where most people get their info) they are saying it's a torn rotator cuff.

So I wrote them a letter:

I find myself extremely upset at the moment that, contrary to everything the club and Curt Schilling both say, RedSox.com has the nature of his shoulder problems as "torn rotator cuff" on the front page, whereas in the article there is a statement that the "nature of the...injury is unclear." This is not only shoddy reporting, but a patently false statement on your front page that should be remedied immediately. To continue to perpetrate the rumours that have been floating around for days serves no one, especially the fans who pay your lovely club money every year and keep it going.

Please fix this glaring error immediately.


Drafts and difficulty

I've been working on this draft for the entire day. There are multiple threads, and at the moment they're unraveling. I'm going to spend the next day or two getting the current draft edited, and I'll post the final result. The problem with writing an entry in Classic Essay style is that there's a limit I have to set myself, and I'm not used to that.

In the meantime, I'm going to go finish this bottle of Jules 2005 Syrah/Grenache blend.



Free Expression

Listened to George Carlin on The Brian Lehrer Show last night. He just said something that illustrated why I cannot consider myself a part of the Left, politically, anymore.

As he says, historically, censorship comes from the Right. However, due to the overwhelming belief of the Left that Political Correctness Is All, speech codes have infiltrated college campuses and have started to ooze into the workplace and the talk shows and the politicians have started to attempt legislation to ensure that words that they don't like, for whatever reason their odd logic has established, never becomes a part of everyday language.

--There is a lot more here, and I'm currently working on a draft of it. When done, it will be posted later today. Expect a fairly lengthy dissertation on the subject.


I have this tendency to re-start my blogs every so often. Usually, this is predicated upon some major change in my life, whether a move, a new relationship, a new job, or other major event. Saoirse na hOige was my first "real" blog, as opposed to online journal, followed by a couple of fairly idiotic and extremely personal blogspot blogs (all are now defunct, and I'm not feeding traffic to the URL's). Then I picked up http://www.karukeion.com, also known as "The Wisdom of Change," and it was intended to illustrate my growth into young adulthood. Well, I seem to be well on my way there, and now it's time for another change. For the moment, all posts will be here, then when the URL is up and running, at http://www.fallenicarus.net.

With any luck, I won't lose interest in this quite as fast as the others, and events in my life seem to have stabilized enough that I should be able to keep this up fairly easily.

But good lord, I really want Moveable Type back up. I'm really sick of using blogger. On that note, let's get on with it.