The Young Woman’s Guide to provoking a panicked look from Michael Dorman

It’s easy. Walk up to me and say, “Do I know you from somewhere?”

You see, the problem is that’s either the most cliched pick-up line in existence–and, being realistic, I don’t generally assume women are trying to pick me up–or you at least think you know me somehow, and now I have to figure out how.

So the wheels begin spinning furiously, and if they can’t find any traction, well, it’s like beginning to slowly drift backwards in your manual transmission car in San Francisco–not a good feeling.

Now, in some situations, the questioner might have a name-tag, which is handy except, in one of the universe’s many ironies, in almost all cases trying to read a woman’s name tag is virtually indistinguishable from staring at her breasts–which, while fun, is something you generally don’t want to do very obviously, but it’s hard to be covert when it’s all in small print.

All of which is about the last situation I expected to find myself in today.

You see, I skipped out of much of the morning to go to the Southeast Regional Barista Competition (sponsored by SCAA), because David Chapman, co-proprietor of Bean Traders, the coffee shop I go to, as well as two of his employees (who I know less well), were going to be in it. I went last year, and it was fun, so I decided to go again.

So, I was standing in the door to the room the competition was in (insert plug for Southern Season for hosting the event) when an attractive young woman came up and hit me with the aforementioned question.

In the end, though, I braved social stigma, and was fortunate that, in fact, her name tag gave away the answer–yes, in fact, she did know me, as she was one of the baristas at Murky Coffee, which was my purveyor of choice in DC, and which I would highly recommend to anyone in the Capitol Hill/Eastern Market area.

I still want David to win, but I was happy to wish Katie and Ryan (I never met Aaron while I was there) well. Maybe there’ll be a Murky Coffee/Bean Traders showdown on Sunday. In which case I will show up and do my best to cadge drinks from all concerned.

OK, let’s get one thing straight.

I found it preposterous that anyone could believe there was any urgent need to go to war with a tinpot dictator who wasn’t even in control of the northern third of his country.

And I’m pissed that we’ve dragged our own good name through the mud, with lies, torture, allies who are no better than who we were fighting against, and a stack of civilian bodies that’s got to be quite high, no matter which of many numbers you cotton to.

But if you really, really want to see my blood boil, nothing beats the shitty treatment soldiers have been getting from the government that sent them into harm’s way.

From a soldier sleeping in his car because his credit report was ruined because the Pentagon expected him to pay back his signup bonus even though he was discharged as a result of wounds suffered during his stint in Iraq, to the head of the House Armed Services committee saying he thought it was just fine that families of navy personnel stationed in San Diego–a notoriously expensive place to live, and I suspect they don’t get a higher housing allowance for being stationed there–had to stand in lines at the local food bank, it makes me want to shoot my TV.

This, though, really takes the cake.

The Minor Fall, The Major Lift

I wasn’t actually a reader of TMFTML, but when I noticed a reference to it, I went to see if it had re-opened because Chet had been a fan.

Mostly, I just want to echo the assessment of Modest Mouse’s latest album, Good News for People Who Like Bad News, which was an album I listened to quite a lot during my stint in DC.

I can’t express my feelings towards Modest Mouse. They are an untelegenic band, the lead singer is rather older and not nearly as scrawny as I had imagined. His voice isn’t that great–it’s better than mine, but that says fuck-all–and he mutters indistinctly, and the guitars twang in odd ways, but Lord, the lyrics make me feel 19 again when the lyrics to songs meant everything in the world.

When the idea of Bob Dylan in Victoria’s Secret commercials never would have even occured to rational people.

This is the first album I’ve heard in years that has well and truly taken the top of my head off and set it back down askew.

Woke up this morning
And it seemed to me
That every night turns out to be
A little more like Bukowski
And yeah, I know he’s a pretty good read.
But God who’s wanna be?
God who’d wanna be such an asshole?

The new lead paint?

So, Slashdot has an article about paint that will help you protect your wireless network. By lacing the paint with copper and aluminum fibers, they’re hoping to create a simple Faraday Cage (hey, that’s my first-ever link to wikipedia!), thereby reducing or eliminating the amount of RF passing through your walls.

Hope you don’t watch broadcast television.

But, much more worryingly, am I the only one who remembers the decades of issues we’ve had in this country with lead paint–lead having been a great pigment for getting a nice bright white color–and small children eating the paint when it chipped off, and the neurological problems that that engendered, and at the same time remembering that copper can be poisonous, and aluminum may be connected with Alzheimer’s (though Wikipedia’s article on Aluminum suggests that that’s been refuted)?

I have heard it suggested that Rome may have systematically poisoned itself into irrelevance when they lined the aqueducts with lead. Are we considering doing a similar job?

What strange things you can be lead to on the web

So I idly look on Amazon to see if there’s a release date for the new Nine Inch Nails album With Teeth. No, but there is an album by the same name by another band, so I wonder if I got the name wrong, so I go to nin.com, and look at the pseudo-blog section, which contains a comment about Dimebag Darrell and someone named “Jhonn”. So hit google, and end up being pointed to (among other places) blogofdeath.com, which turns out to be much more serious than its name might imply.

Adventures in wine country

The morning started off early–no appreciable acclamatization to the time change had taken place.

After a nice breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel, Anzu, I went across the street to National Car Rental, got a car, and headed north.

I must say, the drive is fast when you’re going opposite prevailing traffic–I was in Sonoma in roughly an hour, and took the time to stop in a little net cafe there to download some email and post yesterday’s entry.

I then headed to Ravenswood, where I tasted quite a bit of wine, and then, to let my blood-alcohol level get back into a normal range, chatted with the people behind the counter for the better part of an hour and then arranged to have a mixed case of wine shipped back to North Carolina.

The most unexpected wine would have to be a Moscato that you could probably sub in for any non-dry Reisling–it’s sweet, but not cloyingly so. They also had a nice early-harvest Gewurztraminner that is quite dry.

An unfortunate casualty of recent expansions in the wine business is that they are no longer able to get enough grapes to bottle their Amador County Zinfandel, which I rather like. Oh, well.

Interestingly, they were aquired in the none-too-distant past by Constellation, which is the same company that just paid more than a billion-with-a-b dollars for the Mondavi brands.

Already well behind schedule–and I’d only hit one winery!–I decided to skip Arrowood (who had not had anything compelling last time Anne and I were there) and head directly to Wellington Vineyards. The person behind the counter there was not as garrulous as the crew at Ravenswood, but we did have a nice chat, and I picked up two bottles of their Criolla Port–a tawny, a previous bottling of which was the first thing that attracted us to them–and their Mohrhardt Ridge and Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignons each. The Mohrhardt Ridge, especially, is a wonderful wine.

Having gotten out of there more quickly than I expected to, I then headed further north than we usually make it, to Alexander Valley Vineyards. I had a nice chat with the guy behind the bar, and tried several things. Their New Gewurz is nice, but not as good as the Ravenswood–I’ve also seen the label before, so I figured we could pick it up locally if we wanted some. Their 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is an award winner, and I picked up a couple of bottles of that. Their Sangiovese is a nice, light, very drinkable red, of which I got a bottle. What really impressed me, though, was their 2002 Pinot Noir, which I thought very interesting and very smooth.

I was apparently interesting and talkative enough that I also got to have a taste of their 1998 Cyrus–a mostly-Cabernet that is very, very nice. If we hadn’t been going to a vegeterian restaurant, and I hadn’t been sure how it would have stood up to a Cabernet, I might have bought a bottle to drink that night. As it was, though, I just savored my sample.

From there, I headed south through Santa Rosa and Napa. I stopped at Dean and Deluca for a very late lunch and to get some chocolates for Anne in an attempt to atone for the fact that I’d already bought two cases of wine and I had one more stop.

I also called Chet, to inquire as to whether he would be terribly disappointed if I wasn’t able to get him the bottle of the Domaine Carneros La Rev that I intended to get for him and Erin into his hands before the actual wedding. He allowed as how that was OK, and if I picked him up a couple of bottles of their reserve Pinot Noir, they might arrange to come and pick them up before October.

Carneros is always beautiful, and in addition to tasting their Pinot, I got to sample their 1998 La Rev, which is, to my taste, everything a Champaigne should be.

And then I headed back to the city, to drop the car off before the 6pm deadline. I did so, but I failed the IQ test that is opening the door over the gas cap–it turned out to be simple, but non-obvious–so we got reamed a bit on the refill.

After catching up with Anne’s undergraduate roomate, who’s here for her job at Yale Law, we went with UNC’s Associate Dean to Millennium, the only vegetarian restaurant I believe I’ve ever been to. Forget your preconcieved notions, it’s really good. Sometimes it’s hard to anticipate what the dish is going to be like, but they were all quite good.

And then we went back to the hotel and collaped.

Flying

So, we headed out to Cali yesterday morning. Our flight to Newark was uneventful, as was our flight to SFO, although we sat next to a painter and her cat–her husband and her other cat (in a bizarre coincidence, a male named Tucker) were across the aisle.

Her website has some interesting material. She was very interesting to talk to.

We also saw The Bourne Supremacy and Vanity Fair. The Bourne Supremacy seemed a perfectly reasonable film of its type–a reasonable way to pass an hour and a half. Vanity Fair actually left me interesting in reading the book for I wonder how the book itself treats Becky Sharp.

The movie seems to portray her as someone who starts off as a good, if driven, woman who gradually loses her way in the fairly amoral environment she ascends to–her desire to climb socially doesn’t seem as calculating as it might have been, and she shows a lot of compassion to a lot of people during the process, perhaps more than she might be expected to.

Anyway, we landed, got to Hotel Nikko, discovered that we didn’t have reservations–apparently a fuckup on the part of the conference organizers–but we were able to talk our way in anyway. We took a swim, then went for a fairly early dinner at the Tadich Grill.

While it’s probably not a tourist trap per se, it’s probably got a lot of tourists going to it. We might not have gone except for Anne’s mother who seemed to want to experience it vicariously.

The food was good, although it’s a very no-nonsense environment. I had a petrala sole, charcoal grilled, that was quite nice with nothing more than lemon. As a side dish, the spinach with garlic is highly recommended. And we got to see set of twins who are apparently some sort of local institution.

Then we went back to the hotel and slept. Now I’m sitting in a cafe in Sonoma, it’s just hit 10am, and I’m about to go hit a bunch of wineries.

I had one of those back-in-college dreams…

…but this one was different. I was taking a course in writing Humorous Essays, but most class discussion consisted, perhaps unsuprisingly, of one-liners. I was concerned that my work was too bitterly ironic; I wanted it to be a little more generously funny. And Tina Fey was in the class. And she had a habit of standing uncomfortably close to me.

There was more, but I couldn’t remember it by the time I actually got up.

Secondhand Lions

Although there is definitely a soft white underbelly of overblown sentiment in this movie, there’s also a good chunk of Michael Caine and Robert Duvall appearing to be having–and if you credit Caine’s appearance on The Daily Show, having–a lot of fun, along with pretty decent work by Haley Joe Osment, who gives every sign of growing into a credible actor.

I was surprised to find, browsing on IMDb that one of his first film rolls was as Forrest Gump Jr. Oh, well, there’s no accounting for coincidence.

Even weirder is to find that the director is planning to write and direct a film of Piers Anthony’s A Spell for Chameleon, which I think is just too strange to transfer well to film.

Happy New Year

I hope everyone reading is well–all two or three of you.

We had a day of beautiful weather–it was more like January in Miami than January in Durham. Of course, I spent too much of it inside playing World of Warcraft, but Anne and I still got a walk of a bit over an hour and a quarter in midafternoon.

On an amusing meta-note, I can only guess that the person who found this site by searching for “milla jovovich naked” did not get what he (presumably) was looking for, since it probably wasn’t snarky comments about Resident Evil.

I’m vaguely amazed that I have enough google juice that I would show up in such a search.

Oh, and if you haven’t read Moneyball, do. I don’t care if you don’t like baseball, you should still read it. I might do a more detailed review later, but for the moment, I’ll just say that JD and Cory (my sister and brother-in-law–I’m guessing the nephews, Calvin and Nigel had no direct input) got it for me for Christmas, and, well, it didn’t make it through Boxing Day. Generally nonfiction takes me longer than that.

Anyway, get some sleep. I’m going to.