2017 Will Be One of Those Harvests You Never Forget

Saturday evening we attended a “Release Dinner” for one of our favorite wineries up in Napa. That’s where they roll out the vintage they’ll sell in the upcoming year (in this case, the 2014 vintage), sip some samples of the vintage, and maybe some past vintages, enjoy some food, and hobknob with the owner and the winemaker and the staff and other fans of the winery. They are fun events.

Midway through the evening each of the principals stood up and said a few words. The winemaker, Ricardo Herrera, was third or fourth up, and he said, in his quiet, shy way, that he told his staff and his colleagues that 2017 would be “one of those harvests you never forget.” He was referencing the difficulties they had with the weather, which was warm all summer and featured late rain, and a delicate balancing act. The grapes hadn’t ripened fully due to the odd weather, but the unusually high heat they experienced in September presented the possibility that the fruit might not fully ripen before it was shriveled by the sun. So it was wait and risk a severely reduced yield or harvest early and try to work with under ripe fruit. They decided to wait and risk it, but hedged with some extra irrigation. (They are loathe to do that because they prefer that the vines drive their roots down to find their own water rather than rely on irrigation.) There was a lot of discussion among winemakers and vineyard managers about which course was correct, and not everyone decided to wait. We’ll have to see how the wine turns out to know if Ricardo guessed right. He said he thought we would be rewarded.

Of course when he spoke, Ricardo could not have known about the wildfires that were to sprout a night later, the unforgettable unwinding of the deal he had struck with nature.

Important Lexicon Update

I’m retiring “awesome” from my lexicon. It’s been a good long run, some fun times — a couple of actual I’ve really been gobsmacked by that whatever it is authentic usages (mountain, cool jet airplanes overhead, big steel boat right up close)   — but it’s time for something newer and fresher.

So, sayonara “awesome” and greetings to a few probationary replacements: “superb” “splendid” “majestic” “glorious” and “magnificent”.

Watch for the hopefuls in regular usage in the coming weeks, and expect a final decision on a permanent replacement by month’s end.

Don’t Rinse the Bird

It’s bad for your health.

Contrary to what most of us believe, rinsing before cooking does not remove harmful bacteria or reduce the risk of food borne illness, and in fact may increase the risk by spreading bacteria throughout sink and kitchen. The only safe way to eliminate harmful bacteria is to kill it with fire — by cooking the meat to a minimum safe temperature (165F for poultry).


Bedbugs? Find Out With a DIY Bedbug Detector

No, really, from a post I wrote:

Make Your Own Bedbug Detector

To make the detector, turn the dog bowl upside down to create a moat and a dome. Next, mix water, sugar, and yeast in the coffee cup, and rest the cup on the upturned bowl’s dome. The researchers covered the outside of their bowl in cloth tape painted black; bedbugs are attracted to the color. The cloth tape made it easier for the bedbugs to climb the sloping wall before falling into the well. To trap the bedbugs inside, the researchers coated the well with sticky resin. For DIYers, a sprinkling of talcum powder will make the walls of the moat too slippery to climb back out. In fact, talc is what’s used in the ClimbUp Interceptor, the most popular commercial bedbug trap on the market.

The Science Behind It

The researchers experimented with a variety of chemical bedbug attractants, but none were more effective than the simple DIY mixture. Bedbugs are drawn to the CO2 a sleeper exhales, and the combination of sugar, water, and yeast produces prodigious amounts of it — that’s how beer gets its fizz and bread gets its rise. Hungry bedbugs on the prowl for CO2 and human blood crawl up the sides of the bowl and fall down into the well, never to escape. The scientists used large quantities of sugar, water, and yeast to generate the CO2 in their experiments. Smaller amounts — such as those one might mix in a paper coffee cup — are safer, although may not be as effective.

Yet Another Thing I Wrote

For a regular client (I’m usually just editing posts over there rather than writing them). It’s part of a new feature we’re testing:

Stuff We Love is a collection of Wise Bread bloggers’ favorite products and services, the stuff we use and know and trust. These are the things we recommend to friends and family when they ask — and sometimes when they don’t.

This one’s about the Easy Walk Harness, and I really do love it. So does my dog Doughty. Here’s a snippet:

What’s Great About It

The Easy Walk looks like all those other dog harnesses you’ve seen that loop over the back, under the chest, and across the breastbone. With those, the leash attaches to a ring on the dog’s back, the whole setup sort of like a draft horse’s harness. In fact, while those harnesses prevent the dog from choking itself, they make pulling easier, while also encouraging the dog’s instinct to pull.

It Prevents Pulling

Instead, on the Easy Walk, the leash attaches to the harness with a ring on the breastbone strap. The dog is still secure in the harness and still protected from choking. However, attaching at the breastbone makes pulling more difficult because there’s much less to pull against. Plus, whenever the dog pulls, the effect is to turn the dog in toward the handler’s legs and feet, no place a dog wants to go.

Put those two effects together and suddenly you’re the neighborhood’s model dog-walker.

Donkey Paintings, Photos of Italy, Memories of Pharmaka

handmade furniture, more paintings, all that plus my friend John Scane’s efforts to build a website (and blog) audience at

Add the blog to your RSS feed reader, visit the url daily, friend, circle, and follow him wherever that’s done, and if you like what you see, buy a painting or a poster of a painting or photograph.

What’s in it for me? Nothing until John figures out how to setup an affiliate program.

Overheard Outside Polly’s Coffee Roasters

Two middle aged dudes who look like they could be brothers climb out of a silver MBZ SUV and step across the sidewalk toward Polly’s front door. I’m seated on the park bench, flipping through Twitter on my phone.

Brother passenger with the paunch says, “Smells like a skunk.”

Brother driver with his shirt tucked in says, “What?”



“Oh. It smells like coffee if you get closer.”

He’s right.

Jury Duty Survival Kit

I’ve been on jury duty for a week and a day as an alternate juror. Here’re some survival tips.

  • Bring bottled water. And drink it. It’s more valuable in your body than in your canteen.
  • Arrive early. You’ll find a better parking space. More importantly, you’ll be able to park yourself near one of the few available power outlets for your laptop.
  • Bring a book. This is a great opportunity to cull your need-to-read pile. Nook, Kindle, smartphone are also options although you may need to bring along a charger if you’re gonna be here all day.
  • Take the stairs. There’s a lot of sitting around and waiting and the exercise will feel good.
  • Communicate with employers/clients. Everybody understands that you are in limbo and can’t be as productive as usual. Still, keep them updated so they know when you will be returning to the real world. Your absence is tough on them, too.
  • Don’t be surly. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve on a jury and help your community find justice, even as an alternate.

A Thing I Wrote: Market Clones

Hey it’s a post I wrote for another site. Read it, it’s fun.

A recent question posted to “AskMeFi” — the popular crowd sourced question and answer subsite of — asked users to suggest products that were priced differently, depending on market and intended use. The example offered was food-grade mineral oil, which is costly when marketed and sold as butcher block oil, but inexpensive when marketed and sold as a laxative (as much as $1.74 per ounce versus as little as $.29 per ounce).

Same product, different market, different intended use, different price. The next time I buy a bottle of butcher block oil, I’ll visit RiteAid instead of Williams-Sonoma.

How many other bargains like this are out there?