Monday, February 27, 2006

A Little Tuesday Start Me Up Music, Courtesy of The Religion of Peace

Check out the link above, I found this surfing yesterday and I am desperately trying to remember which site linked to this. I know, bad etiquette but what's a dude to do?

Any how, try it first with the sound off, which was the way it was recommended, and then run through the second time with the sound. Good yucks.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

How To Drink Wine

A few days ago, PDS suggested that as an accompaniment to my Thursday Night Wine Blogging series I also do a post on the "abc's of how to enjoy wine". My initial reaction was, "oh God, now I'm about to be revealed as a fraud" since my knowledge of wine and wine drinking is extremely limited and I'm sure there are those who have more formal training than me. To be completely honest the whole Thursday Night Wine Blog was born during my "blog ennui" period when I was desperate for a subject and buzzed enough to try the wine blog!

This would be an excellent point for me to exhibit my everyman credentials and say something trite such as, "but this is just the point, wine is for enjoying, and no matter how you approach it, if it's right for you then it's right period". Such sentiments, while safe and unthreatening, are 100% crap. While it is true that there is no right way to drink wine, it is important treat wine with respect and look for it's beauty. I wrote not so long ago about the Frenchman I met that said, he felt that when we say wine must open, what we are really experiencing is our need to adjust to the wine and meet it halfway, accepting it on it's terms, and appreciating it's individual beauty. I don't fully agree with his point, there is in fact solid science behind what happens to change wine when it is exposed to air, but he was correct in that wine drinking is a relationship and not something easily done in a room of distractions, or at a party.

This is not to say one shouldn't enjoy wine out with friends or at parties. Any such suggestion would be ridiculous. What I am going to talk about though is different. I am going to discuss what those of us who taste "nutmeg and spice, earth and tannin" in our wines are experiencing and how we get there. I want to relate to you what it means to experience these flavors, and the nuanced difference between the same wines of varying vintages.

To a certain extent then I guess I will talk to you about being what some call a snob. I've proudly proclaimed my snob status before, and I view it as an honor to be a snob, because to me it is the indication that one has standards in their life and appreciates that form and beauty have as much meaning as function. As a caveat I would note that I never hold my snobbishness over others who do not share my pursuits; it is not the elitism which is important but rather the appreciation. Nor would I hold my snobbishness over those who don't share my standards or interests; we're all different and as long as you care, then I'm your brother.

No, I hold my snobbishness over those who simply can't be bothered. Such people are lost on me and they probably shouldn't go further on this venture with me, because I may offend.

Lesson one then is that to properly enjoy wine, you must care. Like my Frenchman above you must be willing to open yourself to the wine as much as you expect it to open to you. You must give it time and attention. For some folks such a suggestion is simply beyond their grasp. Fraught either with an overwhelming sense of self consciousness or the fear of not getting what others get, they withdraw and don't open to the wine. Self limiting behavior such as this holds people back in every walk of life and it will do so here as well. Open yourself to the experience though and you'll be taking the first step on a rewarding journey.

The discoveries you will make will be thrilling. Some wines will reveal themselves to you to be unworthy of your time. Hopefully, you won't have paid too much or saved them for a special moment. Others will surprise, and these will be the times that you will remember the most.

I remember the first time this happened for me. I've always been blessed with a fairly strong taste memory, so once I discovered that the world of wine was full of flavor I began to take some time to experience the differences. It must have been in 1986, I was shopping in my local store and came upon a Chateau Margaux 1982 that was priced at somewhere around $20. I knew nothing at the time, but in retrospect this bottle was clearly priced incorrectly. A 1982 Margaux is one of the all time great wines.

Anyhow, I took this bottle home, and opened it for a Bears game of all things. I have no idea what the Bears did that day, but I can tell you about that wine. Man, it had strong tannins that supported a solid fruit and to a lesser degree earth taste. The tannins receded over the time the bottle was open, but it was clearly still young. What amazed me the most though was how long after a sip was gone, I could breathe in through my mouth and still taste the wine. Not only taste it, but taste the different tastes almost as if they were levels of flavor on top of one another. I was thrilled! I sat there sipping and breathing for the longest time.

I was hooked from that moment on. Since then I've had many great wines and loved each one to one degree or another. Still, that first experience will always stand out.

So enough for today. I thought this was going to be my only post on this subject, but obviously there is much more to say. One more point. I clearly do not have the key to the kingdom and still consider myself a neophyte in the wine world. For those of you who disagree with me on this or future posts, please comment. I want to learn from this experience as well. For those of you with stories to share, feel free.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dude, Like, Do You Have Anything To Eat?

Nice house, right? Well maintained, good neighborhood, new cars. Just the type of folks to welcome into the area. Bar be ques on the weekends, PTA on Mondays, maybe bible study every Thursday.

But what lurks behind the doors? Did the neighbors have any idea? I wonder. I guess all the frozen pizza boxes might have tipped the garbage man off. Check it out, and tell me; will we ever win the WOD's?

Via Instapundit

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thursday Night Wine Blogging

Greatings wine lovers! I think I am on some kind of record pace here with what I think is my fourth Thursday Night Wine Blog in a row. Spains looms ever closer on my vacation horizon and I am remaining true to my committment to explore the various wines of the country right up to our departure in a few weeks after which I suppose I'll be exploring them nightly. For two weeks. Cool.

Tonight I have another product of my trip to Sam's a few weeks ago; a 2002 bottle of Barranc dels Closos. I have no idea what this wine is or what region it is from. As with other Thursday blogs, I'll pop the old cork, take a sip or two, and then investigate what we can find out about our honored guest. Reading the bottle I notice that it says the denominacio d'origen is Priorat, which based on what we've learned in our past Spain weeks is a specific part of a region in Spain. To be honest I can't remember if it is Rioja, or another region. I guess you could say that in all the excitement, I clean forgot. So we'll look into it.

But first, lets taste this baby, shall we?

I've popped the cork, and it is a real cork thank goodness and before I've poured a drop I'm smelling fruit, very reminicent of strawberry. This has been a consistently interesting aspect of all the Spanish wines that I've tried in this series. Each one, to one degree or another has had very strong fruit scents out of the bottle. This one, as with the first wine in this series is very strong. I won't say it fills the room, but as I type this I can smell the scent coming out of the bottle.

I've poured a glass and the fruit remains strong, but is complimented by an earthy tone....I'm picking up Grenachey overtones which is odd. Very odd. First, I didn't know that the Spanish vintners used Grenache, and I'm guessing there is some in this wine (perhaps a lot, but we'll have to see how it tastes) and two, I've never smelled strawberrys in a Grenache wine. So, you know, I'm a bit confused here. Lets taste it.

The taste is kind of flat on the front. Not bad, just a bit flat. I'm getting a hint of something, but it disappears and comes back. I'm not so sure about the Grenache either. Another sip seems to be in order. Maybe it's some blueberry and there is that crispness that I've gotten in the other Spanish wines, it's a clean taste, crisp on the tongue. This is definately the lightest of the wines that we've sampled over the last few weeks. It is very refreshing, quite tasty but does not have the lasting mouth that the others had.

None-the-less, I would recommend it. I paid $15 for this bottle and I would describe it as very drinkable. Certainly not great, but quite pleasing. Ok before I surf for some info, lets guess the grape(s). I'm going with Grenache, because I definately smelled it, and what lingering taste is there has it. The fruit tells me there could be some Syrah, but since we know its Spain I'm guessing there is Tempranillo. Although, thinking about it I'd expect that smokey aspect that the other Tempranillos had. So I'm a little stumped. 100% Grenache? Geez, I don't think so yet nothing else seems to work. I'll go 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache.

Well here is some interesting information on the Mas Igneus vintner who produced this wine. It looks like Prioat is a wine that is produced in the Catalonia region, which if memory serves is near Barcelona. The soil is clay and mineral and and the grapes? Something called Garnatxa and Syrah. I have no idea what Garnatxa is, but at least I got the Syrah right. Here is the site for the actual bottle.

On further tasting, the mouth is now a little spicier than before, although I'm a bit suspicious of this reading since I now know that Syrah is definately in the wine and I would expect to taste the spice. I'm enjoying this wine quite a bit. It is not a great wine by any stretch, but for 15 bucks it is a nice wine to enjoy on its own, or perhaps with a bit of cheese. I don't think I would recommend it with a meal since it might get overwhelmed by any strong food.

So, another Thursday, another bottle of wine. I think I better work on killing the rest of the bottle with Mrs. P.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Ports Scare

I first heard of this UAE ports deal last week on FOX’s morning news. There, having trudged through a record snow fall, was Senator Chuck Schumer outlining the outsourcing deal. I must admit to being a bit dumbfounded at the time by the whole thing. For one thing, I couldn’t believe the insanity of outsourcing port operations to a bunch of Arabs, and secondly I was even more stunned that I seemed to be in agreement with Schumer!

If I’ve learned one thing in the year since I’ve been blogging here, I’ve learned that writing based on first reactions is a dangerous and often irresponsible thing to do. Sure it’s cool to have something up on my site before anybody else does, so immediate action is somewhat satisfying, but once it’s there it’s there for good. Like the proverbial bullet that can’t be called back, a hasty reaction published to the web can end up embarrassing the writer, and that embarrassment can easily overcome the momentary elation one gets from being first.

It’s much better to be thoughtful.

With over a week’s worth of reflection now in the bag it is safe to say my position on the ports issue has evolved. To get the easy stuff out of the way I will stipulate that yet again the Bush administration mishandled a dicey PR situation. How it could have possibly escaped this administration that its political opponents would use this issue to demonstrate their bone fides on the WOT is simply beyond me.

I will also point out quickly that now that the administration has its bearings back in place on the PR issue, there is the very real possibility that this could be yet another loss of credibility for the Democrats on the issue of national security. Party big shots such as Hillary, the aforementioned Chucky and others have made a big deal about how this deal hurts our national security, yet as the facts become clear it is fairly obvious that nothing could be further from the truth. What initially looked bad is upon thoughtful reflection, not necessarily bad at all.

So at best Hil and company look to be playing politics with national security and foreign policy, and at worst, the gang that won’t allow us to profile at airports, seems to be promoting the profiling of an entire country! The problem with Democrats is that they truly believe the entire populace is basically stupid enough to believe whatever comes out of their mouths. Sadly for them, this is only the case with the truest of believers. The rest of us, having caught on somewhere around 1978, no longer look at agreement with Democrats as an agreeable finding of common ground across the political divide so much as we view it as an indicator that we need to look for the rest of the story.

And the rest of the story is somewhat compelling. We know that to win the WOT we need to kill the enemy and recruit the hearts and minds of those decent enough to want to be our allies in a civilized world. This deal represents an opportunity to do just that.

Some facts:

  • We use the UAE to service our military in the middle east already.
  • The UAE runs ports that load, seal and ship cargo headed for the U.S. today.
  • The UAE has been a fairly reliable supporter in the WOT.
  • We already sell the UAE our most advanced fighters.
  • The UAE has supported us in Iraq and has trained Iraqi troops as part of that support.
  • This is a business deal that does not include any authority over security of the ports
  • In some cases the UAE will only be responsible for some terminals in larger ports, not the whole port.

Knowledge of these facts clarifies the issue and makes it a much more reasonable transaction. The key point here is that in this deal we conduct proper due diligence and remain consistent to American principles of free minds and free markets. The UAE deal from my point of view seems to accomplish this goal. In doing so, it also helpa our country continue to build bridges to a moderate, albeit imperfect, Arab culture and to one that is as much of an ally as we’re likely to have at this point in the struggle.

Democrats have been eloquent on our need to build these bridges to moderate Arab countries. Their position, which is long on words, is short on ideas; an indication that they’re in the argument from a political and not a national interest point of view.

Lets do this deal, monitor the results and spend our time working together to win the war.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Isaac Hayes, Shot Gun Dick & My Revelation

Wally, a new and valued visitor to the sight took issue in the comments section below with my depiction of Uncle Dick the Gun Happy Veep as a guy "who at one time seemed reasonable". I stand behind that description and I am having thoughts about another post that maybe I should work on:

"The Vice Presidency; The Office That Leads Men to Madness."

See my recent Algore remembrance/Tipper sexual fantasy post for more evidence.

But I'm getting off track. To give me a subtle jab, Wally points out that Ole 12 Gauge once told Pat Leahey to "F-off" on the senate floor. While we can all agree that this was terribly inappropriate, and decidedly uncivilized, I must confess that I was never able to work up the requisite level of outrage that I probably should have over Shotgun Dick's remark.

Well, in a moment of white hot clarity it all came to me. I hate to always quote movies as a template for explaining life, but they are art, and art exists not only to entertain but also inform. Tonight, we learn that that famous Blacksploitation classic, "Shaft" held the key to the underlying reasons for my ambivalence. Allow me to paraphrase Isaac Hayes and his back up singers in the film's title song:

"Hey Leahey, F-off!"

"You watch your mouth"

"Baby I'm talkin' about Leahey"

"Then we can dig it"

See? It makes total sense. Good lord, were it me, I'd have probably given the guy a swirly, or maybe a nuclear wedgie! Talk about indecorous, I doubt anyone has ever attempted those moves on the Senate floor!

As for Cheney, the Shaft example works for me. Some guys just deserve the abuse for being insufferable prigs, and there is little doubt Leahey is one of those guys.

One recommendation if, unlike me it's not too late for you. Try not to picture Uncle Dick in the gold chain outfit sittin' behind the electric keyboards. Because let me tell you, that is one very disturbing visual brother, very disturbing indeed.

I'm going to have to go fantasize about Tipper now.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Good Yucks

I received this little graphic on my email the other day and thought you would enjoy it. We've been on the road this weekend up in Door Country Wisconsin, for some sledding and cross-country skiing. It's been cold - Saturday's high was something like 3 degrees - but a lot of fun. We had a chance to visit some land we have here, and while we can't afford to build a vacation home, it is fun to come up and look at our trees.

On the way home we stopped at Il Retrovo in Sheboygan Wisconsin for some excellent Italian pizzas. This is one of our favorite places and is the companion joint to Trattoria Stephano which I've written about before. Today we started with two Antipastis; PD2 & I split a Mozzarella Pizzaioloa which is fresh mozzarella, sauteed with tomato oregano and olives, served with crusty toasts. Mrs. P and PD1 split Fonduta al Forno, which is smoked mozzarella, oregano and San Marzano tomatoes, topped with prosciutto and baked in a wood fired oven. It is served with toasts and a salad. Both were excellent.

Mrs. P and I then each had a bowl of soup. I chose the lentil, which was quite good with vegetables and potato, while Mrs. P had a mushroom soup, that was made with a chicken stock base and included pureed white button mushrooms and reconstituted porcini's. Black truffle toasts floated on top.

We each finished with a wood fired pizza. I had Quatro Stagione; a pizza with tomato, mushrooms, ham, mozzarella and artichoke, with PD1 had the Bianca; a combination of rosemary, black truffle cheese smoked mozzarella and pancetta. Mrs. P had the Lombardo....sorry I can't remember the details there and PD2 had the Salsiccia; a pizza of tomato, mozzarella and sausage. Folks, these pizzas are just like you get in Rome. They're thin crust, light on the ingredients, packed with flavor and cooked in a wood burning oven....a real wood burning oven, not the gas assisted kind. Stephano truly understands his craft. Every time I go there I think I should talk to him about opening a place by me.

So, that was my weekend and it's back to work tomorrow with an 8a.m. breakfast meeting. Yikes!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thursday Night Wine Blogging

Cherries, some blueberry and vanilla.

I just popped the cork on tonight's selection a 2002 Pasquera Tinto Ribera del Duero. Heavy floral scent filled the room immediately and I can still smell it. The wine itself was a little tight on opening but has that lasting mouth that the previous to Tempranillo selections had.

Off the bat I'd say this wine is better than last week's, although it is a year younger, and it has the potential to be as good as the Rijoa of two weeks ago.

It's been open about 10 minutes now, lets try another sip. The previous two weeks I tasted smoke, tobacco, fruit and some menthol. Not so tonight. There is definately fruit, but instead of smoke, I taste a bit more earth, and perhaps some cedar. Oh, and there is vanilla out the wazoo. Especially in the lingering mouth the vanilla ultimately takes over and makes the mouth pucker a a good way.

Yes, I like this wine, and I'm beginning to think that Spain is going to be a whole lot of fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hot Lead On A Cool Texas Evening

I wasn'’t going to comment on Dick Cheney'’s waxing of a good Republican supporter the other day, but the ongoing controversy has just gotten a bit to rich too ignore.

First, for the record, allow me to say that Cheney, who at one time seemed to be a reasonable man, has behaved like an idiot in this incident. Make that a callous idiot.

First, we have the shooting itself. Now I am not an overly experienced hunter but I have taken up the sport in the past few years, and I can tell you that very few things can be as rewarding as bird hunting. Waking early in the morning, witnessing the sun rise, walking the fields in coordination with your pals and the dog; well it may not seem like much, but life'’s true pleasures rarely do from the outside. Hunting puts you at one with nature….even if you'’re out their trying to kill it.

Clearly though hunting is about more than pleasant walks with your pals. It'’s about killing. Woe to anyone who ever forgets this simple fact. It is the basic truth of the sport; something is gonna die, and it better not be you or your pals. This fact is what separates hunting from hiking, and I can tell you as a person who enjoys both activities, it makes all the difference. Hunting requires your attention, it forces the party to work together, and it unites man and beast in a common quest.

Accidents happen, and when they do hopefully somebody isn'’t going to pay for them with their life. This seems to be the one happy outcome of Cheney'’s weekend ambushing of his bud. Yet the truth remains, accidents happen almost always out of stupidity on behalf of one or both parties.

In reading the reports of events that led up to Cheney gunning down his lawyer pal in the cold Texas evening, it seems clear that several things went wrong. First and foremost of these was that the group separated. Apparently, Cheney'’s human target went looking for a bird he had shot, and instead of waiting for him, or more appropriately, GOING TO HELP HIM, Dead Eye Dick and his trigger happy pals went off in search of more game.

I think I know why they did this and the time of day at which Cheney filled his pal full of lead has a lot to do with it. According to the Wall Street Journal this morning, Whittington became Cheney'’s unwitting victim at approximately 5:30 p.m. in the evening. I'’m not sure what time the sun sets down there, but I think it is safe to assume that daylight was on the wane. Trigger happy Dick and his band of bird blasting maniacs no doubt didn'’t want to waist any of the remaining time trying to find one bird when so many more were waiting to be shot.

So, probably without even thinking about it they took the risk to move and leave their pal behind. This to me is the most profound question of all that happened, and one that the press will never ask. Why did they leave their buddy behind? Hunting is supposed to be about the group. The dynamic between the men and the dog(s) is critical, and an outlier can cause enough disharmony in an otherwise well functioning team to create real danger.

Funny things happen to men though when the smell of gun powder and pop of shotguns fills the air. The excitement builds, and you simply can'’t wait to get another shot off. The combination of adrenalin, skill, violence and death is a heady cocktail that tempts the hunter away from his balanced center and into the realms of potential disaster. Quails complicate the matter because they'’re quick and they'’re smart enough to remain in the air for only a very short moment until they land again and hide in the grass. Split second decisions are required, and mistakes come at a high price.

The second issue in this matter is Cheney'’s handling of the shooting itself. The idea that some sort of cover-up was involved here seems silly. Accounts I'’ve read indicate that the Secret Service informed the local authorities almost immediately, and while fools such as Andy Sullivan may want to ignore this fact, it does tend to burst the whole idea that there was a cover-up. Why the press wasn'’t informed until the next day, from an "“it'’s just good PR"” point of view more than anything else, though is inexcusable. While I harbor no ideas that immediate public disclosure would have calmed the presses outrage, I think it is safe to say that they wouldn'’t have been able to paint Cheney with such diabolical motivations.

This isn'’t what bothers me though. What bothers me is that the man shot somebody and then left town the next day. This is incredible to me. If I shot a guy (other than that dude in Reno; I just wanted to watch him die), especially a guy who was part of my hunting party, you can darn well bet I'’d stick around to see how he was doing. Heck, I'’d even take this one step further. If I shot some guy, and for some reason didn'’t give a hoot, I'd still stick around and pretend to care just so it would look good!

Incredibly, this never occurred to Cheney, who sends his victim his "“best wishes and prayers"”. I'’ll tell you what, if this lawyer fella recovers and the decks the S.O.B with a good right hook the next time they meet, he'’ll get a little cheer from me.

Finally, we have the press. God, just when you think these people can'’t sink any lower.

I have a slightly different view on their reaction than I'’ve heard elsewhere so I'’ll present it here for your consideration. I have been under the impression for several years that whenever the VP traveled he had a press core that traveled with him and reported on his activities. Because of this arrangement we citizens have been treated over the years to the various feckless goings on of great Americans such as Dan Quayle and Algore.

So my question is, "“where was Cheney'’s press entourage?"” Did they not notice a flurry of Secret Service activity that evening? Did they somehow miss the fact that the Veep'’s medical team was a little pre-occupied? Is it possible that they could have missed the flurry of activity surrounding the HELICOPTER EVAC OF ONE OF THE VEEP'’S SHOOTING PARTNERS? Good lord, I'’m left here wondering what in the world these people must do all day if something like this doesn'’t even register on their radar screen.

Of course we all know that the press no longer reports the news, but instead waits to have it spoon fed to them by the various press secretaries that fill out the administration. Here then I think we have the real source of the media'’s outrage. Instead of getting a notice on their Blackberry at Saturday'’s cocktail party, they had to find out through the Sunday edition of the local Texas paper that something big had happened the previous day.

Most of us, being normal and decent human beings would have silently bowed our heads in shame that we had failed at the most basic requirement of our professions. Not David Gregory and the rest of the Washington corps though. No sireee. Instead of shame they felt the adrenalin rush of outrage and began peppering the air with their ill considered questions, shooting their mouths off at will.

Come to think of it, the press at least did us the favor of providing us with the final irony of this whole sorry event. This indiscriminate firing of theirs was the same reaction that got ole Dick in trouble in the first place!

They'’ll never learn, will they?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It's Late and I Got Nuthin'

Well almost nuthin.

I had to go to a dinner tonight, Jerry Reinsdorf was speaking about the business of baseball. Black Tie, salmon, actually managed to get a decent Manhattan so all was not lost. Reinsdorf was good, and I was struck at how a boy born in Brooklyn could end up sounding so Southside Bridgeport.

Anyway, the link above should be at least slightly entertaining. Click at your own risk though, it is an animation demo for a female urination product. Yes, I'm pursuing the urinal project and frankly there is some real disturbing stuff out there people. I've run into a band called the Urinals, I've seen a urinal photo project that focuses on dirty urinals, I've run into a three day seminar held in 2003 that was intended to improve urinal design, and I've learned all about all sorts of things this innocent Midwestern boy never even imagined existed. In short it ain't pretty.

Still, a quest is a quest, and I aim to complete this one. So, enjoy the lovely lass above who just wants to......well I'm not sure what she wants.....or actually I know what she wants, but I have no idea why. Frankly the whole thing seems vaguely Japanese and after the Functional Ambivalent's recent series on Japanese men, well I'm getting a little concerned for our Asian friends.

See you tomorrow

Monday, February 13, 2006

Urinals....An Idea Who's Time Has Come

Come to the Pursuit household that is.

We're in the middle (actually just starting, we've demo'd our bedroom and bathroom) a major remodel and already controversy has reared it's ugly head. Yes, it's true somebody might get pissed off before this is all done, and already emotions are trickling and could possible build to a head.

What am I talking about? Why the great urinal debate of 2006! It all started with Mrs. P's request that we install a bidet in our our new bathroom. I, being the wonderful husband that I am agreed that this was a capital idea. Then I got to thinking. "Hey, what about the big guy....I'm tired of the whole raising and lower of the seat thing; I should get a urinal". Having already agreed to the bidet though, I was in a bit of a jam.

Then, I remembered my trip to the Hotel Okura in Tokyo. They had the most amazing toilets there. Fully computerized jobbies with remote control, heated seats and most importantly....bidets! Fortune had smiled on me yet again. I found this little model and immediately informed my wife that she not only was getting a bidet, but heated seats to boot!

Then I brought up the urinal. Men, I mention this as a warning in case you didn't know. Women have got some emotional issues around the whole urinal thing. I mean like real gut reaction sort of stuff.

Silver tongued devil that I am, somehow, against all odds I actually got Mrs. P to agree that fair was fair and if I could find an acceptably designed urinal, it would have a welcome (sort of) spot in our new bathroom. If you want the honest truth, I think Mrs. P doesn't think I'm up to the task.

Mistake number 1. See those babies at the top? That's my goal. I can't get the view, but I can get the cool granite urinal, and I aim to do it.

So far the search has been....interesting. I've found these flower based jobs from some dude in San Francisco (natch), but I can't see myself taking a leak in a flower. Not that I haven't done that sort of thing in the great outdoors, but those things are just too girlie for a manly guy like me.

Then I found these urinals that were obviously created by some female loathing Neanderthal. Amazingly, Virgin thought it might be a good idea to install them in their airport lounge. Guess they figured the men would keep it "our little secret". Right.

So, at this point I'm still searching. I've gone to the top ten urinals sight - love the Afghanistan one - but no luck there. I have found these numbers and the shapely ones, although a bit feminine, I believe will past muster with both of us.

People, I need your help. Lets call this task, "Get Pursuit a urinal". Put out the call far and wide; I need somebody to find me a urinal design that is artistic, manly functional and not insanely priced....although there might be some flexibility in that last requirement. After all, is there anything that I'm buying in this remodel that I'll use more?

Go forth and send me your ideas.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

Uh, on second thought, just send the lawyers and money

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Thursday Night Wine Blogging

Tonight we return to Spain for the second in the series that will lead up to my trip in March. Last week, when we last left our intrepid taster (that would be me) we were in Rioja. Tonight we're in Ribera del Duero which as best as I can tell is just to the west of Rioja.

Ribera is similar, although it seems that the altitudes at which the grapes are grown is higher that those of Rioja. This difference has apparently led to a slightly different grape, that while similar to Rioja's Tempranillo is different. Ribera grows the Tinto del Pais, which is a thinner skinned grape and slightly more acidic; or at least that is what these guys say. Frankly, this sounds a little like product line differentiation, which I can appreciate from an MBA point of view, but I will test from a wine drinker point of view.

As the great man once said, "trust but verify". So let's get down to verifyin' shall we! (Another man once said, "verify early and often". That was me about 30 seconds ago)

Ok, popped the cork, and my first impression is that the wine is not as fruity as last week's initially was. Remember how I popped the cork on the Rioja and the scent of fruit filled the room? Not so tonight. Instead there is a subtle fruit scent in the glass, some earth and a bit of chocolate. There is a little spice too.

Now for the intial taste. Hmm, not bad, but nothing really notable either. Still there is a lingering in the mouth that is very pleasant. Perhaps some hope for this one? Second sip, same impression. It's a good, very drinkable wine, but not particularly notable. Let's let it rest a bit.

Oh, I almost forgot the details. Tonight's wine is a Vina Sastre Crianza 2001. The Crianza is one of three types of wines produced in the region with the others being the Reserva and the Gran Reserva. This Crianza is aged in new American Oak for 12 months, and then spends another 12 in the bottle prior to release. This is less than the Reserva and the Gran.

Ok, I must say that the flavors in my mouth, not having had a sip in about 5 minutes are still lingering. I'm getting a little blueberry, and a little menthol and tobacco smoke. Weird huh? Somehow, this flavor is very clean and refreshing. Call me nuts but there is some grilled meat flavor here as well. Lets try another sip.

The nose has relaxed and is talking a little more of the smoke that I smelled in last week's tempranillo. I gotta tell ya folks, I don't see a whole lot of difference between these two grapes. A difference in the wines? Yes, but clearly the grapes are very related if not the same.

Man, that mouth is still going strong. This is not a complex wine. Last week's, which was a Gran was much more structured. This week's wine is good and very drinkable, but not as artfully crafted. Interestingly they both cost $25. I better get back to Sam's and pick up the rest of the other wine!

If i were pricing this baby, I'd pay 15, American, so I suppose this one is over priced in my view. It is so drinkable though, who cares? Lets have another glass.

I just found this site. Very interesting background on the Sastre family. If you scroll down you'll find they're thoughts on this wine. They give it 90 points......this is crazy talk. While I steadfastly refuse to give a numerical rating, this is not a 90 caliber wine in my view; perhaps it's a case of reputation extending down into a respected vinter's lower line offerings?

As Tom said in last week's comments, the Tempranillo is clearly one of the world's under rated varietals. Two wines in two weeks, and I find both more than acceptable. I'm looking forward to next week's session!

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

What Is Wrong With Liberals...I Mean Besides The Obvious Stuff?

I have always loved a good car trip. When I was a kid I think may parents drove my sister and I to or through at least 30 of the lower 48, and it could have possibly been more. Back then I wasn't as thrilled with car trips as I am today, but still, there was a certain adventure to hopping in the car and driving to a new destination. Clearly some of those drives were pretty boring - I hadn't yet learned that the fun is the journey not the destination - but still the I have to admit that the destination always held some cool surprises. I saw the Bonne Terre Mines in Missouri, the hot springs in Billy BOHICA's home state. I drove through the General Sherman tree, marveled at the bad lands, and yes made the obligatory stop at Wall Drug. These trips instilled in me a love for the road that simply can't be sated by a plane trip.

While the reason for my road trip yesterday was sad, I must admit it was good to be on the road again. Since I spent most of my time driving after dark I was also able to indulge one of my other favorite pastimes; scanning the AM radio waves for local stations both near and far. Oh, it was great. I heard St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Boston and I think Baltimore as well as one or two central Illinois stations.

To be completely candid scanning the airwaves isn't quite as great as it was when I was a kid. Today so many of the small local stations are part of a larger corporate network it is hard to get as much local "flavor" as once was possible. Still, there was enough to satisfy as I heard about a local school controversy in St. Louis, reports on the big Super Bowl parade in "The Burgh" and other little tid bits of the Americana that makes AM radio so cool.

The drive was great; it gave me time to think about my day, my uncle and the beautiful funeral service that was held in his honor. A lot of thoughts can go through your head as you drive through the Illinois night in mid February, but the one that kept popping back in my head every hour on the hour was, "what in the world is wrong with modern liberalism"

Really, I just couldn't believe my ears. You see, most of these rural stations had CNN Radio news on at the top of the hour and of course the big news of the day was that other funeral, Mrs. King's. I must say, as I heard the reports from the funeral, complete with playbacks of President Bush's speech, as well as Reverend Lowery's and Jimmy Carter's I just couldn't believe my ears.

As is typical of Mr. Bush and his writers he once again displayed their combined ability to rise to the occasion. It really is an amazing trait of W's; when he wants to put the effort behind standing and delivering the goods, few are better. I doubt that many would disagree that he did exactly that at the service yesterday.

I won't waste time here repeating what Lowery and Carter said, except to say that anyone who chooses to turn a funeral service into an opportunity to attack one of their fellow mourners is a complete ass. Of course we knew this about Mr. Carter already. Mr. Lowery was a bit of a surprise.

So I wondered, what has happened to American Liberalism that causes it to repeatedly be expressed in so many inappropriate ways. There was the Wellstone funeral, of course, but there has also been so many other instance of inappropriate behavior or the association with so many bad actors that one really does have to begin to wonder. If you need some examples just visit any public declaration by Howard Dean, or review Teddy Kennedy's questioning of Justice Alito.

As I considered this question though I realized that liberalism has been in this state for at least 30 years. I joke that Jimmy Carter turned me into a conservative, but to give him credit for this would really be lending too much authority to the highest performing offspring of a pretty wretched gene pool. No, I left liberalism because it was a hollow, pointless ideology that had pretty much run it's course by the mid-seventies. I mention this because liberals in particular have been using racial politics in lieu of any real ideology for a long-time, and their treatment of the King's in particular is quite instructive.

We all know today, that despite their insistence that they were big supporters of the King's, the Kennedy boys were quite the opposite behind closed doors. Bobby had MLK's phones tapped, and he and Jack tried to discredit King by suggesting that MLK had ties with communists. Bobby was famously heard to say at one point that if the country knew what they knew about King, King would be finished. Doesn't sound like much of a fan to me.

Then, of course, there was LBJ. We all know that LBJ passed the Civil Rights act, but what we all forget is that he did it with broad Republican support. In fact, a higher percentage of Republicans voted for the act than did Democrats. Still LBJ was a big fan of King, right? Well, maybe, but he couldn't be bothered to attend the funeral and instead sent his Vice President.

So President Bush's appearance at Mrs. King's funeral was all the more important yesterday. Certainly Mrs. King was worthy in her own right of Presidential honor, that it also helped make up for the slight of her husband at the time of his death made it all the more important.

Perhaps we'll never know what really set liberals off, but we do know that for at least some of them, honoring the King's was never really as important as using them to promote an unrelated, hollow cause.

Monday, February 6, 2006

My Uncle

I’m Blogging from the road tonight; the result of the death of my fave uncle who passed away over the weekend. Friday afternoon I received word that the end appeared near and Saturday morning it was over.

So this morning found me wrapping things up at work, and then I made the four hour drive down to southern Illinois for the wake and funeral tomorrow.

My uncle was an interesting man. Smart, witty and a little rough around the edges he was a man’s man, which as those of you who have been readers of mine will know, is high praise in my book. He could have done anything that he wanted, and had several opportunities to leave this small burg and venture for something that held greater reward economically, but he chose to stay here. A small town business man, who took care of his clients, raised a family, and made a good living for himself, it’s easy to overlook one simple fact:

He did do exactly what he wanted, and he was a rich man because of it.

When he is finally laid to rest tomorrow I have no doubt that his town, a town that he left just about one year ago to be nearer to his kids in Kentucky, will turn out en mass to say goodbye. He was a presence here, first as a kid running the streets, then as the high school football star who liked to shoot pool down at the hall. He gave up college to marry the girl he met while life guarding and he diligently saw after his mother in his early twenties when his father dropped dead in the coal mines of a heart attack He built an insurance business, raised a family and managed to see a little of the world along the way.

People have told me that we were similar in many ways, and I guess I know what they mean. I remember when I was a kid that we’d come down here every year and I would always look forward to seeing him. I would be a bit nervous about it too. He seemed like such a tough guy…it was a bit intimidating.

For years we would have the annual arm wrestling contest. He knew I played football and would tease me about seeing if I was strong enough to beat the old man. Every year it was the same; I’d get killed. When I got to high school things began to change. I found the secret to weight lifting, and being the competitive guy that I was I had two goals. First I wanted to bench more than any other guy in the school. Second, and much more importantly, I wanted to beat my uncle at arm wrestling.

I don’t remember when exactly it happened, but it did. One year we were engaged in our annual battle and I noticed that suddenly he was playing not to lose. I could tell that he couldn’t push me over and was just holding on trying to outsmart me by conserving his energy and wearing me out until he could move in for the kill. This was new, and in that moment I could tell that my triumph was near. With every ounce of strength I engaged the battle and pinned him there in his own living room.

Talk about bittersweet.

This is what it is to be a man. Set a goal, accept the challenge, and play to win. We don’t take prisoners, and second place is just the first loser. My uncle understood this, and more importantly he knew it was important for me to understand it too. That victory so many years ago was not just mine. It was also his because in those contests he passed a little bit of himself over to me. It is a piece I will always love and cherish.

Part of being a man is also being honest. With your friends, with your family, and most importantly with yourself. The honest truth, my friends, is that I missed a chance with my uncle. The years following my youth went by so fast. My visits down here which weren’t often enough when I was young became increasingly infrequent. I’d hear news of my uncle through his sister, my mom, and I’m sure he kept up with me in the same way. The man, who taught me so much, who so many said I was like, became an update item in my mother’s conversations with me.

What a loss. We had so much that we both liked. Football, hunting, a cold beer and watching our families grow. We both turned down lucrative careers in other cities to be nearer to those we loved, and, of course, we both liked a good arm wrestle once in a while. Somehow, we let that get away from us.


Word came late last summer that my uncle had lung cancer. I put the girls and Mrs. P in the car and went down to Kentucky with my Mom and sister right away. It sounds strange, but it was a wonderful weekend. My uncle was in good spirits, and my kids got to see what a wonderful family he had raised and how close they all were. Here was family that in many way was so different than ours, but you wouldn’t have known it to hear us out on the back deck late that Saturday night, yuckin’ it up like we were old friends.

My uncle and I also got to spend a couple of hours earlier in the day alone. We had gone over for breakfast, and after we ate, the rest of the family went inside, one by one, until the two of us were alone on the back deck. We drank coffee, enjoyed the summer breeze and talked about stuff. I was nearing my deal to start working again, he was complaining about the Democrats and we both talked about investing our nest eggs. Mundane stuff yes, but also the stuff that men talk about with their equals.

We left that weekend and my uncle’s last words to me were, “I’m going to beat this” and I really thought he would. Sure, I knew the odds weren’t good, but I damn well thought I’d see him again.

Soon thereafter life got busy, I started working, the kid’s sports teams got busy, we began remodeling our house and the holidays came and went. Now he is gone. One phone call would have made a difference. It might have started a series of calls. We could have talked sports, complained about my mother (his big sister), or talked about our kids, but I kept putting it off. As I sit here tonight I wonder what in the world could have been more important.

So I have regrets. Big regrets. The truth is though, that I also have memories. Wonderful memories of a man who was in many ways a larger than life figure to me. It is these things that I will choose to hold on to. I can’t let my regrets go I can only understand them and hope I never make the same mistake again.

Although I didn’t realize it until now, I guess I was a little intimidated by him all the way to the end and I hope that wherever he is he understands that.

I also hope that someday, my nephews say the same about me.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Hmmmm, It Seems There's Been Some Inaccurate Reporting...

....about that whole no pictures of Mohammed thing. You know, with the angry crowds, the signs written english, well one could get the impression that this is nothing more than a contrived effort to give the masses something to do. "Ignore the repressive political climate and the backwards culture, we must slay the true infidel!"

God, where's Winston Smith when you need him?

via: Protein Wisdom.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Thursday Night Wine Blogging

Welcome once again my friends to another edition of Thursday night wine blogging. Tonight, as promised, we begin our tour through Spain and where else to begin but in the region of Rioja.

Unfortunately, I haven't done as much research as I would have liked to in order to start the Spain series, but this week has been very busy. All culminated today with a presentation where, in the imortal words of Webb Wilder (last of the full grown men), "man, I blew the folks away". So to celebrate I pulled into Sam's Wine on the way home a bought up a mess of Spanish wine.

I'm intrigued by tonight's selection, Faustino Tino Gran Reserva 1995 because it only cost me 25, American. Seems odd, don't you think? A Gran Reserva which means it was a decent vintage, spent 2 years in oak, and three in the bottle before it was released, and yet its only a cool 25 bucks. Go figure!

Rioja is the region in north/central spain and is known for it's full bodied red wines. Made primarily around the Tempranillo grape using techniques important from bourdeax ages ago. Here is a little more on the region if your interested.

But enough of my yappin, lets pop this baby and see what we have.

Zoinks! Thats a big nose. Ok, the minute I popped the cork both me and Mrs. P could smell the bouquet. It is a bit fruity, I hope there is more compexity, but wow that was a nice surprise. So ok the nose is fruity, maybe some rustic scents as well upon further examination.

Fist sip......interesting....the fruit isn't there as much as on the nose and the taste is a bit tight. As I type I can feel it opening in my mouth a little. I'll try another sip. Ah there the nose has really calmed down. The taste is developing as well. Fruit, rustic flavors such as an earthy back taste that is maybe a tad mentholish. Nice. It definately lingers in the mouth, this is a wonderful wine.

I'm going to continue drinking for a bit, and give you an update in a bit. I did want to tell you a little story about a conversation that I had with a sommilier last Friday at a wine dinner. The dinner featured the wines of bourdeax, I can't remember if it was the right or the left bank, but we had medocs and Margauxs so you can look it up if you wish. Thats not the story though.

The story is that we were enjoying our first course accompanied by a white bourdeax, and the somolier comes over to me and opens a bottle of Margaux, I think it was something like L'Argentine, but I can't fully remember. Anyway, he mutters something in French and asks me to try it. Well, it was very acidic and I really did not like the nose at all. So I said, "perhaps its a bit tight and needs to breath". It was either that or it wasn't a very good wine which I think was his real concern. Anyway, he said something interesting, and I thought "oooh, I've got to remember this to tell my wine buddies".

So the guy says, "I don't know how much breathing makes a difference. Sometimes I think it takes time for us to come to a wine too. It is like a woman, they are as they are, and we have to appreciate the beauty they bring and meet them where we work best together". Well, as you can imagine it was an intersting thought taken to French obsurdity, but in a way I do think he has a point. We do have to be ready to accept a wine as it is, and sometimes that does require us in the immortal words of the prison warden in Cool Hand Luke, "get our minds right".

That said, I was really tempted to say to the guy that he better hope breathing will help cuz there was no way I was likely to enjoy that wine otherwise. Turns out, it never got better than crappy. The dinner was good though.

Second glass now and the wine has really come into it's own. It is smooth, full bodied and very long in the mouth. It is not super structured, but it is very elegant. I really enjoy it. The bottle has been open for about a half an hour and it really is something to appreciate, to experience this wine come alive. I tell ya, I think my somollier buddy is nuts. Good wine is, to a certain extent, alive and good wine does grow and develop in the glass.

I'm often struck by people that say they cannot taste things in wine. While I understand that it is unussual for people to remember exact tastes years after they experience them, I do think people can get more from their wine experience than perhaps they are allowing. It depends on attitude, and attention. If you are distracted or too busy, it ain't gonna happen for you. Wine, as with good food, or art requires your attention and expects your appreciation. It's the same difference as the experience of running or walking through the woods. The runner gets a great workout, but the walker sees the beauty. Neither experience is necessarily better, but the focus and concentration are different.

Ok, last comments. A cool thing kind of happens with this wine when you let it sit in the glass. A scent builds up that is not unlike smoke. As I pick up the glass and sniff, I'm reminded of a fall day with the scent of burning leaves coming from somewhere in the distance. The taste is as elegant as before.

So thats it for tonight. A good bottle of wine and my nutty ramblings. Aren't you glad you stopped by?!

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Snore of the Union

"When did the State of the Union speech get so popular?" I found myself wondering last night. I'm really curious about this because as a life long political junkie, I've probably seen every speech going back to the years when the odious Jimmy Carter was giving them. Here is a little secret:

They always sucked.

It's a stupid speech born of some constitutional obligation that the pres will go before Congress and let us all know how we're doing. For me a "we're still here, market is up, Super Bowl is this weekend, and American men are still the world's number one love making machines" would pretty much suffice.

Instead though, we've got this event that is akin to the "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" papers every elementary school kid used to have to write on the first day back at school. We didn't much like those papers, and I doubt the president or the Congress for that matter, look much more forward to this event.

Yet somewhere along the line people seemed to get the idea that the State of the Union, which at best is manufactured news, was a big deal. Good Lord, we've got wall to wall coverage and analysis, we have bloggers "live blogging" for God knows what reason, and worst of all the Democrats (Republicans when they're out of office) feel the need to extend our pain by issuing some half baked response. Hell, they can't even get somebody decent to give the response so we're treated to some yokel governor who, since he has been given so many constraints by the party, can't come up with anything better than, "there must be a better way".

The whole thing is a nightmare, but as a card carrying political junkie I've got to sit through the disaster, and worse, insist that my family join me. I made sure the guns were locked up just in case Mrs. P and the PD's (cool name for a band eh?) were moved to attempt some sort of coup. They had that look in their eyes.

Any way I was left with one impression from the night. The Democrats are dumb as a sack of hair. Yup, I'm talking stupid beyond all comprehension. For a party that has got it into their minds that they are the intellectuals I can't figure out for the life of me why they can't run rings around this president.

For example Bush complained last night that they didn't do anything on his social security proposal. This was an enormous opportunity. They could have had governor yokel talk about how Bush's policy was wrong for America and propose a high level alternative, they could have sent out talking points to their friends in the media for the "analysis" shows later, hell they could have done anything except the one thing that they actually did do. They applauded their own in action.

Here we sit in this country with a real problem on our hands. The retirement system is in need of serious reform; social security is underfunded, the pension guarantee system is underfunded, pension plans are underfunded, and people haven't saved enough on their own for retirement. Yet there they were, the poor dumb bastards, in all their glory applauding their inaction. Hillary in particular look like some sort of Monkey trained to clap in Skinner Box sort of stimulus/response repetoir. What a marvelous commercial that will be this fall.

So congrats boys and girls, it looks like two more years in the wilderness. For everyone else, can we let this thing drift back into obscurity? Please? Sure I'll go on watching, but without all the hoopla it will be like a quick dental check up. 45 minutes of scraping, a slightly unpleasant interaction with a guy we don't really know that well and then blamo; we're outta there until the next appointment.