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Archive for October, 2017

For the first 30-some-odd years of my life, I never drank alcohol. I didn’t care for the taste, and found it repulsive. I sympathize with those who don’t drink.

That started to change in 2012 when the wife and I went to Argentina. We started to have a little bit of red wine when we went out to eat, but for the most part I stuck to water. I never really found myself enjoying wine that much.

My aversion to alcohol went away after we went to the Czech Republic in 2013 and I started drinking beer. It was there that I realized that I liked beer. I figured out that there are only certain types of beer styles that I like. I’ve kept a list of all the different types I like, and over the next four years I figured I was primarily a liker of beer, and not wine. If I was going to drink wine, I didn’t want to sacrifice a beer for it (my body has a limited budget for alcohol consumption, so I have to be selective).

But last year, we went to France and that started to change. I found some wine that I liked. And then this past year we went to Sonoma in California, which is wine country. I learned that I liked some wines from that region, too.

Since going to Sonoma, I have increased my consumption of wine while decreasing my consumption of beer. I haven’t been keeping track, but I estimate that since June of this past year, I’ve probably had more wine than beer. I’m still a noob when it comes to different styles of wine and estimating what they will taste like, but I think part of the reason that I never liked wine in the past was that I wasn’t drinking good wine. It has to cost at least $10/bottle otherwise it leaves a sticky, cotton-mouth feeling in my mouth.

I’ve told people that one of the best things about wine is that it isn’t mass-produced. It’s made by small-to-medium size wineries by families or small businesses that care about their product.

Big business that mass produces things are in it for the money. And when you scale up, the quality of your product goes down. That’s just the way it is. But when you do things on a small scale, of course you are in it for the money (you have to be, otherwise you’ll go bankrupt) but you’re absolutely in it because you love the product and want to make something people will enjoy. You take pride in your work.

Wineries are like that. If you get too big and the wine gets too corporate, the product quality suffers. I don’t think you can make a quality bottle of wine for less than $3/bottle, because the bottle itself costs $2.

So yes – wine has not yet suffered the same fate as beer where a few large corporations dominate the beer market with an inferior product. When I was younger, I didn’t care as much about supporting small business because I was a strong believer in capitalism, and the market would sort out the winners and losers according to whoever had the best product.

But now, I’ve gained some skepticism about the market. Big business can sort out winners and losers not because they necessarily have a better product, but because they have a better business and distribution channel. They can scale up and get their product out to more people. Quality is a concern, but it’s not the concern.

That’s something that is not the case in wine.

Not yet, anyhow. And hopefully never.

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This past summer, in August, the wife and I headed down to Hood River for a special event. In case you don’t know, Hood River is in Oregon and is one of the beer capitals of the state. There are five breweries in a town of something like 7700.

Seattle-to-MtHood.PNG

But that’s not what I am here to talk about. We didn’t just hang around Hood River, but instead did a hike around Mt. Hood. The wife and I have hiked around Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and Mt. St Helen’s, all in Washington. This is the first (or second) time we’ve hiked around Mt. Hood.

I’m not sure how many trails there are around Mt. Hood, it doesn’t seem to have as many as Mt. Rainier or Mt. Baker. The one we went on started around 5800 ft elevation, and went up 3000 feet (to 8800), and was around 3.5 miles one way. I also forgot my boots, so I had to hike in my runners.

MtHood_4

But the part I thought was pretty cool is where the hike ended. Mt Hood is only around 11,250 feet. When we got to the end of where we were going, I looked to the end and realized that we only had another 2450 feet up to go if we wanted to get to the summit.  From where I was standing, it didn’t look too far of.

The below is a photo looking up to the top of the mountain:

MtHood_2

The next picture is me looking down from the mountain, back the way we came. On the way up, it seemed like it kept going up and up and up…

MtHood_3

But to put all of that in perspective, when coming down the mountain I looked back and snapped a picture just to see how far I really was from the top. As it turns out, I was a long way off:

MtHood_4a

So while was there at the end of the trail, I was thinking “It wouldn’t be too bad to keep going” even though I intellectually knew it would be.

But taking a step back and getting some perspective, it would be a difficult climb to go the rest of the way.

You win, Mt. Hood.

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I don’t know what it is, but I really like fancy doors.

A couple of years ago when the wife and I were visiting Budapest, we had the chance to walk through one section of town where I took a photo of a fancy door and said “That’s the type of door I want on our house.” Of course, I’m never going to get a fancy door since they cost more than I am willing to spend on one.

Be that as it may, I like looking at fancy doors.

Last month (in September 2017) we were visiting the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was there on a work trip and the wife came along. We really seem like visiting art museums, having visited the Orsay Museum in Paris last October (the wife also went to the Louvre), the British Museum this past May, and a copper museum in central Arizona this past April.

Anyhow, we were in the Metropolitan Museum when I came across a door I really liked, so I pulled out my phone and snapped a selfie:

Me_with_a_door_in_NY_Met

You can’t really see the entire door, but you can see the intricate carvings on it. I like the fine attention to detail doors like this. I don’t know why but I think part of the reason is that it’s non-utilitarian. Doors are for getting into and out of buildings, so you make something that’s secure and attach it to the frame of the house.

A fancy door is about so much more than utility; in fact, it’s non-utilitarian. That is, it doesn’t add any functionality whatsoever, it’s just there to look nice. You’ve now put in time and effort into decorating a door beyond it’s original function.

And this door fit that description.

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I’ve been fortunate this year to have traveled for work to a number of different cities – Cologne, Germany; Toronto, Canada; New York City, New York; Sonoma, California; and San Francisco, California.

Because I’m reasonably well-known in the antispam filtering space, and because I work for a big company, I’m often taken out for lunch or dinner (along with many other people). This past week, I was in San Francisco and got to go dinner to Gary Danko, one of San Fran’s premier restaurants.

I had never heard of the place before. Of course, why would I? I don’t know that many restaurants in any city other than Seattle (and maybe Winnipeg). But Gary Danko is close to the waterfront, just across the street from the Ghiradelli chocolate factory.

I’m not a food connoisseur, but I do enjoy fine dining. The portion sizes are smaller but they are cooked with more spices and less salt/sugar/fat meaning that it’s not as bad for you as, say, McDonald’s. McDonald’s makes food you like only because it has so much salt and fat. Without it, it simply doesn’t compete with fine dining.

My meal was three courses. It started with appetizers and while there were several things on the menu I could have selected, I went with the bisque.

GaryDanko-Bisque

I don’t often get soup with my dinner. I will eat it if it comes with it, but I usually don’t select it over other things. I decided that since I had a salad for lunch, and I was getting meat for my main course, I would go with the bisque. I was glad I did, because it was really good.

For my main course, there were many different selections. Duck, lamb, steak, quail (I think… I can’t actually remember now) but I decided to go with bison. Why? Well, I never have bison in real life so I figured I would give it a shot now.

GaryDanko-Bison

I didn’t have the option of picking how I would like it. If I did, I would have picked medium-rare. But the way they cooked it was between rare and medium-rare, so it was rarer than what I would have selected.

That’s a good thing, because it turns out that bison is a tougher meat than regular steak.

On my plate, the thing on the right is a portobello mushroom, while the green things underneath the bison are not vegetables but instead a type of soft egg noodle called spätzle. I had never had it before, it was kind of chewy.

For dessert, there were a lot of different sweet things on the menu, and from what I know about fancy restaurants and dessert, they can go all-out. I opted instead to go with the cheese-tasting menu. I like cheese, and I knew it wouldn’t be too sugary.

My plate came with some grapes, four different types of cheeses, and then some raisin bread (yuck!). I strongly dislike raisins, but I finished most of the cheese and the grapes.

GaryDanko-Cheese

There was an extra bonus dessert plate afterwards, so I snagged myself a chocolate treat.

GaryDanko-BonusDessert

My group was pressed for time so we were in-and-out in 1 hour and 45 minutes. But I enjoyed my time there. If I had to do it again, I’d probably get the lamb instead of the bison. But nevertheless, no regrets. Any time I can go for fine dining, I jump at the chance.

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