If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue

It’s finally not winter any more.  I can’t believe how warm it was yesterday considering two days ago it was storming so bad that you could barely see to drive.  Nothing squirrelly with our weather patterns.  Nope.  Move along.

At least the weather had the good sense to get it together for Memorial Day.  We didn’t wake up that early today, didn’t have to, about 6am.  The sun is already shining.  I went out and hung my flag, because liberals are Americans too.  My bleeding heart neighbor with all the bumperstickers and signs has a new one.

I love her.

We lost one of my favorite actors this week.

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Rest in peace.  I think you squeezed two or three lives into one.  Godspeed.

And though the sun shines, I see nothing at all

Today I’m going around the horn.

First up, BP.  What’s the matter with you assholes?  I mean, I know, but seriously.  What are we 37 days in to this mess and BP is still shuffling and jerking around.  They fought tooth and nail to keep the scientists from getting involved, they fought the media reporting the truth and they have consistently publicly underestimated the breadth of the event.  First it was 5000 gallons, then 70,000 now 200,000 gallons a day.  What’s amazing to me is how somehow a private company’s behavior is Obama’s fault.  Y’all want less government involvement, well that’s what got us this mess.  So STFU.  Or better yet, here’s a clue, you are full of shit.  Generally, I’m a big Carville fan, but quite honestly, I don’t know what he expects Obama to do.  I would like to think that Obama is beating the snot out of that turd that runs BP.  But does that Army have the equipment they need to do something about this?  Are they trained to work with this stuff?  And Bobby Jindal wants them down there to work on that?  I thought he wanted less Government involvement.  I’m so confused.  Of course if it was up to me Obama would have taken it over on day one, but then the same people who are critizing his perceived lack of involvement would be squacking that he was wasting taxpayer money. And I don’t really know that our Government has the wherewithall to get it any more right than BP has.

The politicians talk about how great this country is, but in truth, we’re a bunch of shysters.  We use the cheapest methods available and cut every single corner we can, while telling everyone how great it is.  And then everyone stands around wringing their hands when something goes south.  The “fail safes” on the rig, which was never supposed to sink in the first place, failed.  And it was off to the races.  Capturing and manufacturing petroleum is dangerous work.  Way too dangerous to be cutting corners, using cheap material and letting guys in board rooms who are beholden to Wall Street and the bottom line make decisions about stuff they don’t know about.  This “new” thinking that’s coming out of our MBA programs is stinking thinking.  An old friend of mine used to say “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

Right now I think the American worker is on the verge of losing over 100 years worth of progress because the greedy corporate shills are too busy lining their pockets.  I’m hearing more so-called “Christian” rhetoric in the public arena than I’ve heard in years, but I’m seeing more behavior from the same people that couldn’t be further from the teachings of the Bible.  It seems like a perfect storm to me.  Self righteousness, meet self loathing.  Let’s load up the hooka pipe and rock and roll.

This shit ain’t going away until we quit suckling on the tit of Big Oil.

I’ve been listening to the statistics coming out of Greece.  Another perfect storm of high deficit, lack of savings and graph.  We should be paying better attention.  We’re on the same path.  Of course Greeks retire at 55 with full benefits and most of us will be working into our 70’s.  At least the Euro keeps them from devaluing the drachma and forging ahead.

The nice thing about owning title company stock is that I get interesting information.  The Bloodless Empire is spinning off their CoreLogic unit.  I think the black out period starts on Friday.   It’s going to include in particular Metroscan.  Should be interesting how this all goes together.  It seems to me like they are spinning off the information services.  Yeah, we’ve seen that before.

I don’t watch American Idol.  Never have.  It’s on Fox.  I don’t watch Fox.  But this gal transcends all that.  24 years old. Amazing.

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Back when I lived in Santa Barbara, I used to go to this liquor store on Chapala.  I can’t remember the name of the place, and it’s long since gone.  They had a huge selection of beer and wine from all over.  That’s where I first got in to good wine and specialty beer.  That’s where I first had Belgian beer, which has become quite trendy.   Beer geeks turn up their noses at lagers, but I like them.  Always have.  I have repaid a kindness offered by the Heineken Brewing Company in Amsterdam back in 1979 probably a million times over.  The beer I really liked that I got there was called Brand.  From Belgium.  It came in a white bottle and it was just smooth and awesome.  That’s where I first learned of Samuel Smith.  Hanging around wine people has gotten me back in to beer too.  I’d been hearing a lot of talk about Pliney the Elder.  I was picking up a video the other day and I saw a case of it in the window of the Wine Thieves in Clayton.  I went in to grab one and started talking to the gal behind the counter.  She told me about this liquor store on Monument that supposedly had a lot of craft brews.  Yesterday I was down that way so I stopped in at Monument Wine and Spirits.  They are one of three businesses with the same ownership.  These guys also own Jackson’s Wine and Spirits in Lafayette, a local wine destination and Moraga Wine and Spirits.  The Moraga store specializes in spirits, and Monument specializes in beer.  How special?  Over 900 different beers.  That’s how special.  I picked up a Dieu du Ciel Aphrodite last night.  It’s a stout with cocoa and vanilla added.  Surprisingly smooth and black as night.  Had it with a grilled pork chop, my fresh maple whole wheat bread and picked from the garden salad for dinner.  Win.

Warmth of the sun

We could file this one under “things that make me happy”.   A couple of days ago I got a missive from someone I didn’t know simply asking me if I was going to Barkus and Mutt Lynch.  Barkus?  I hadn’t heard about it, probably because I read about half of my email.  So I check around and they were having an event,  I could drink wine and take my dogs.  OK, that sounds like a good start to the day.  Just before it was time to leave, Bubba found some poop to eat.  The idea of several hours in the car with him after he did that was not attractive so he got the pass.  I loaded up Rita and off we went.  My current dogs aren’t as socialized as Xica and Beauregard were.  Those two could walk through a San Francisco street fair and not bat an eye.  These two are a little more leary.  Bubba is a little more skittish than Rita, so I took the right dog for this adventure.  And right before we left, Rita thought it appropriate to drink a ton of water.

After two hours of driving we arrived at Mutt Lynch.  They are on a little lane just above Healdsburg.  They are a little tiny winery with only three employees, the owners and the winemaker.  The concept was apparently born of tequila and beer.  It makes me like them more.  The event was small but cute.  Everybody had their dogs.  Rita was a little nervous around a lot of dogs on leashes and a lot of people but she did well.  She did not drink from the dump bucket (neither did I) and she didn’t knock over any tables of food.  She also did not like the gourmet dog biscuits.  She straight up spit them out.  I gave it to a sweet Golden Retriever who did like them.

Mutt Lynch has two lines, the regular line and the reserve line which is called Canis Major.  The regular line has great names like Fou Fou le Blanc, their Sauvignon Blanc, Unleashed Chardonnay, Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel, Merlot Over and Play Dead, and Chateau d’Og Cabernet Sauvignon.  I liked their whites, the Sauvignon Blanc had a nice nose on it.  Pears and melon with a crisp finish.  I think it was like $14.  A win.  The Chardonnay was also tasty.  I’d say honeydew, apples and a creaminess to it.  Also a well priced little wine at around $14.  Of the reds, several of them were green to me.  I would pass on the green ones.  The Chateau d’Og, the Merlot and the Meritage were all a little green, but the Zinfandel was a tasty treat.  It was spicy and jammy without being over the top.  There’s a little Carignane in it, which is kind of interesting to me.  Also at $14 a great little wine.  I’d serve it up at a BBQ all day long.

I have forgotten one of the Canis Major’s, but the two I remember are the two I brought home.  Yeah, I’ve got no room for more wine, but I brought it home anyway.  The Syrah was made from fruit from 3/4 of an acre of Unti’s vineyard.  We all know how much I love Unti.  And these guys did a great job with their Unti fruit.  This one had the layers and balance that I expect from Unti themselves.  It was full bodied and I could not help myself.  It’s got some amazing spice on the back palate, this is an amazing little wine for the price of $25.  I also took home a bottle of the Petite Sirah.  I seem to be on a Petite Sirah kick, just for the record.  There’s none left here.  Or if there is I can’t find it.  I drank it up.  Same with the Pinot.  None of that here either.  This fruit comes from Unti and Perotti.  Perotti is well known for his quality fruit.  This one is full of purply, inky, jammy fruit and spice.  It feels perhaps a little young so I am going to try and hold on to it.  We’ll see how that goes.

Next stop Trentadue.  Because I had wine to pick up and I knew they would welcome Rita.  We hopped out of the truck and this boxerish dog came running right at us.  I did what I always do and yelled “No!”  She slowed down but still approached.  I thought she belonged to the party who was just leaving but nope, she was one of the winery dogs.  She wanted me to throw her rock for her.  Yep, that dog played fetch with a rock.

Rita saw the lush grass in front of Trentadue and used that as an opportunity to empty her bladder.  That made me relax because I knew she had to, she was doing the dance but wouldn’t relieve herself no matter how many times I said “Get busy”.  I guess she thought since we were traveling she should enjoy the luxury of long lush grass for her business.  I had a pick up to do there and left with my four bottles of La Storia.  I think I knew more about the line than the staff.

Next stop Longboard Vineyards.  I love Longboard.  They have a huge screen in there where they are always showing surf videos.  Longboard really makes me happy.  We all know I have a great love of all things surfing, even though I’ve only been up on a board a couple of times.  I think I’d like to spend my retirement surfing.

Or not.  Their wines aren’t the OHMYGODICANNOTLIVEWITHOUTHIS sort, but they are all servicable, some stand out more than others from year to year.  But wine is about the experience and for me, these guys nail it.  I really like the DaKine Merlot.  It’s a good merlot, nice fruit, better balance, decent price and always drinkable.  He makes a nice Pinot but I didn’t have any while I was up there.  I went with the Point Break, a Cab/Syrah blend.  That was a great one.  Lots of layers, nice balance, not too fruit forward, a bit of spice on the back end.  I only had two glasses because they were having an event and selling wine by the glass.  Their tasting room staff were a little unsettled by the idea of putting 6 ounces rather than just one in a glass.  I was a little unsettled holding a full glass of wine.  And a red Doberman.  In a room full of people.  Rita was the only dog there and I thank them for being so cool with her.  They were introducing their Maverick’s Syrah.  It was also a fund raiser for the Save the Waves Coalition.  If you want to know how to put on an event, call up Longboard.  Good wine, check.  Food?  They got these guys from the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market who make fish tacos.  OK easy enough I suppose, well not really, but ok they exist and you hired them.  Good move.  But not these guys, they take it one step further.  The fish was caught yesterday, they do it “Rubios” style and she makes the damned tortillas right there in front of you.  Seriously.  The best fish taco I have ever had and I love fish tacos, especially “Rubios” style.  Food, check.  Surf videos, check.  Surfers, check.  What?  Yep, professional surfers present and accounted for.  Skindog, hello!  Raffle of the surf photos with the photogs present?  Check.  Don Montgomery tooks some shots of Rita.  I hope they show up somewhere, that would be really cool.  And great people to talk to.  A very fine event Longboard.  I wish I could have stayed to the end but I left a little boy home in his crate and he drank a bunch of water right before I left too.

Experiences have a lasting impression

I’ve had a ridiculously long two days, and y’all get to hear about it.  There are really two linchpin events that matter.  First, yesterday, I took the BMW in to have the tires rotated.  Now last week it spent a few days over at M-Service.  This is never cheap.  It’s like a breath under sending it right to the BMW dealership for a service.  They’re independent but they can bend you over a financial barrel with the best of them.  Conversely, while business has been a little rough, they have been understanding and did the things that were mission critical and gave me a honey-do list for the rest.  It had a full service over there.  Those boys are thorough.  They have guys who are only in the office and they’ve been with the firm for a long time.  Not some dufus off the street.  They rent me a car for full services.  (partly because they don’t want to give me a ride back to my house 9 miles away)  But they give me one.  And I trust them.  I trust them with my BMW and I trust Mekatron with the Toyota and that’s saying a lot.  And they’ve never jacked me up.  When I got the inspection I could see that the reading for the front brakes was 7 and the back was 5.  You replace them at 2.  So Monday morning I take the car to Certified Tire Service, which used to be Rynck across the parking lot from the gym to have the tires rotated.  Simple job.  I was the third customer in.  Quite honestly I didn’t know the business had changed names until I came back to get it.  An hour and a half later.  It’s still on the rack.  This jerk-off excuse for a mechanic comes in and I say “Why is my car still on the rack?”  He replies “It needs brakes.”  No it doesn’t.  “Yes it does, do you want to go out here and see?”  Nope, there’s nothing to see it doesn’t need brakes.  “Your car needs brakes.”  Bullshit.  “Excuse me?”  Bullshit.  As a matter of fact, this is such bullshit that I want you to explain to me how that car went from not needing brakes last week at M-Service to needing brakes today at your shop.  “I don’t know but it needs brakes, maybe they missed it.”  Really?  M-Service the most expensive BMW service in Contra Costa County that isn’t a dealership missed an opportunity to squeeze another $1200 out of me?  I doubt it.  Put the goddamn car back together.   Then in comes the manager, Rick.  An ignorant fat bastard who can’t type into a computer and tried that lame customer service resolution dialog with me.  “I’m sorry you feel that way.”  I’m sorry you tried to steal from me.  “Why would you say that.”  Because it’s true?  “I’m sorry you’re so angry, you seemed like a nice lady when you first came in.”  Yeah, that was before you tried to take advantage of me and your dipshit mechanic lied to me.  I’m real nice before that shit starts.  A day later and I’m still pissed at those guys.  Dillwads like them are why I crack my teeth, which gets us to the second issue.

I was out on my ride on Sunday and it was just about time for a Shotblok.

For those who are not indoctrinated, Shotbloks are a carb and electrolyte replacement snacklet.  They have a gummibear like consistency.  And they can apparently pull a crown right out of your mouth.  Yep, first chew and I knew something was very wrong.  I didn’t bite down on the crown and pulled it right out of the jellied mess and stuck it in my pocket.  The remaining part of my tooth was jagged and spent all day Sunday and Monday gashing my tongue.  By this morning I was more than ready to get to the Dentist to get it cemented back in.  I researched local dentists and found a guy at the corner with rave reviews.  Now my old dentist is clear down in Livermore.  I’m not so sure about his skills.  This is the second root canal that he’s done that has failed.  The first one failed a year after it went in, resulting in a horrible infection, abscess and ultimately oral surgery for the removal of the tooth.  The whole process took over two weeks.  I don’t remember what he charged me for his part of the fix, the original root canal was $1500 not counting what my insurance company charged.  Then I went to a specialist who charged $180 before he threw up his hands and sent me to an oral surgeon who removed the tooth.  Under anesthesia.  To the tune of $2100.  So when this guy came in and said “Hey how long has this been out, your teeth seem to have moved.”  I’m like, uh, Sunday.  Rut roh.  Upon further inspection, it doesn’t fit because the tooth is coming apart.  The cement seal came loose or maybe the tooth wasn’t completely cleaned out when the crown went on, anyway, I need a second root canal and another crown.  $3500 total.  From my previous experience I wasn’t too red-hot to dump over a house payment into one tooth that in my mind I was going to lose anyway.  How much to pull it?  $217.  Buh-bye.  I didn’t really think it out much though.  They did it with Novocaine.  And once I realized what I had agreed to I got scared.  Really scared.  And then they pumped me up with Novocaine and started breaking up the tooth and tears were running into my ears and my heart was racing a thousand beats a minute and I thought maybe I should call this off.  Then I thought about dental implants and how it wouldn’t be a problem any more.  He noticed I relaxed and said something to me about it.  I’m acclimating.

Now I’m on a liquid diet for four days.  No milk products today but after the first 12 hours they’re fine.  I had tomato soup for dinner.  And this really cool stuff I found at Safeway.  Coconut milk non-dairy frozen dessert.  In chocolate it tastes just like German chocolate cake.  I’m telling you, this stuff rocks.  This ain’t going to be bad.

And yes, wine works right in with the liquid diet.

We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks

Have you poor schmucks working for Fidelity had enough?  The hits just keep on coming.  BTW, if you don’t go back and read the comments here, you miss some jewels.  Titleslug was on the job in this one, it just took me a little while to find an article that wasn’t password or subscriber protected.  Hello Reuters!   Fidelity National Information Services the target of a leveraged buy out.  I couldn’t have called that one.  Wonder how the leak of protected information in India will play once Blackstone gets a piece of it.  Granted I watch their real estate moves because they are generally very aggressive and right on, they own a lot of San Francisco real estate under the name Equity Office Properties, well, that’s the under under under under lying name.  There is usually 5-9 LLC’s before you get to the actual Blackstone name.  They own the Hilton.  And La Quinta brand. Artisan Partners is already a major shareholder in Fidelity National Financial, with over 13 million shares.  Bill had 3,588,480 shares.  FIS is primarily owned by WPM, L.P. which is Warburg Pincus.  Bill only has 823,315 shares of that one.  FIS is the one that Blackstone is looking at.  FNF holds the title company.  Blame Artisan Partners and Bill.

First American has long been held and beholden to a hedge fund.  Highfields Capital Management holds 7.83 percent, that’s over 8 million shares of FAF stock.  Morgan Stanley holds almost 4 million shares.   Parker Kennedy is down to 124,953 shares, compared to Bank of New York Mellon Corporations 2,527,855.  The grandson of the founder is bailing out.  There’s your feel good story of the day.

This song always reminds me of the Fidelity Title plant in Santa Barbara.  Once upon I was falling in love, but now I only glow in the dark.

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That’s ok, we thought the line in Flashdance was “Take your pants off and make it happen”.  It’s Monday, go ahead, take your pants off and make it happen.

Some people came and listened, some of them came and played

It has been a long week.  I’m not sure why I took a divorce listing.  I guess I thought they could act right for the period of the listing.  Not so much.  Coupled with two and a half days out of town and the house being torn up so that the carpets could be cleaned while I was gone and you can put a fork in this dog.

We went down to Monterey for a seminar.  At the end of the day I believe it’s a system I need to make my business work better. I was even more interested once I found out that a local top producer who I really respect was there and used the system.  I’m not necessarily sure why I would want to give a rich man more money, but  conversely, what I’m doing is only marginally working.  And I really am not doing a great job with the nuts and bolts of running my personal business.

They went into great length about how most real estate agents are average, most people for that matter.  I’d say there’s a lot around here that are less than average, marginal on a good day.  I’m good at what I do, I’m just not great at the part where I do the books, plan the day, that sort of stuff.  I think my clients get exemplary service from a smart negotiator with a good eye for real estate.  My office looks like a crime scene.  That makes it harder for me to be good.  And I typically have no idea what’s in the bank and what bills are due, I don’t know my marketing budget and I’m not getting out on my bike like I want to because of the lack of organization.  What’s worse, I don’t really know how it should be.  So I chose to go with some business coaching to get this thing turned around.  And like I said, one of the area’s top producers was there, a member of the choir.  And it’s not like I don’t see her CLS550 parked out in front of my gym every morning.

I know I am not average in general.  But I am doing an average job of some things right now.  Even my income which took a beating for about six months, was way above average for a Realtor.  I am not an average weightlifter, I am one of the better powerlifters in the country.  In my age/weight class I am the best.  I played for the All Blues when they went to the Nationals.  We didn’t win it all but I played on the second best rugby club in the country.  Not average.  As a Title Officer I never got to put “Underwriter” on my business card, but I underwrote with higher caps than most people will in their entire career.  I did billion dollar transactions, with a phone call.  Not average.  I sent two people to jail earlier in my career for fraud.  One was stealing from private lenders the other was stealing from old ladies.  Both incidents ended up on the 5 o’clock news.  Not average.  As a notary I stopped a major loss.  I was asked to go to the jail to sign off the seller.  I got there and it was a lady probably 50 years old sitting out there in Santa Rita.  I asked the question.  “What’s she in jail for?”  As it turned out, she was in jail for stealing the house she was trying to sell.  No one recorded anything to alert anyone.  Not your average notary.  And I defy you to find someone has blown up a decent title career better than I did. I get asked all the time if I’m a dog trainer.  I’m not.  I have never been trained, but I train my dogs.  Better than average.  Not quite ring quality, but far superior to everyone else.  You should see us walking down the street.  Both dogs are at heel, shoulder to shoulder not pulling and even these two goofballs will sit in unison.  (Xica and Beauregard were precision)

I don’t want an average or even a better than average real estate career.  I would figure it out eventually on my own, but in this economy I don’t have room or time for missteps.  I blow it and we’re living in a refrigerator box under the 680.  I’m going with a new system, I am the converted, and I hope it works.

While we were in Monterey, we spent most of our free time drinking wine.  Except the times we drank beer or in Sonofabun’s case, vodka.  We stopped by a little store called Wine from the Heart.  They did little tastings.  It was kind of wierd in that they poured wine out of the bottles, in to little tiny one ounce bottles or two ounce whatever it was and then served those to the customers.  Those had little bitty lids on them and it all seemed like a lot of labor for not much return to me.  When we arrived there were two ladies at the bar.  Two hammered real estate agents from Cupertino.  The young man behind the counter pulled down a Foley and suggested we try that.  Well, you can only imagine how that went.  I got to preach the gospel to these ladies.  Neither of them used Fidelity, they hated how Fidelity treated their staff.  Hallelujah!  One of gal’s Mom worked for Fidelity.  Preach it Sister Winedog!  Don’t like his business practices in the title industry?  Do your Mom a favor and don’t drink his plonk.  Can I get an amen?  She says “the company is making money but the employees haven’t gotten any of their paycuts back”.  Testify!  It was a good night.

To that end, Fidelity posted a first quarter profit amidst a bunch of leveraging, restructuring of debt and, oh yeah, lay offs and crushing pay cuts for everyone but the executive team.  There is your feel good story of the day.  They did some squirrelly restructuring thing with the tranches, but that stuff has always made my brain bleed.  Suffice it to say it gave them some wiggle room and reduction in debt service.  Naturally with all that executive decision making those boys are exhausted, so giving Foley himself a 170% raise while all of his staff sits there with up to 40% in salary reductions makes sense.  That’s right 170% pay raise for Foley himself.  For the love of God, listen to me, don’t drink his plonk.

Clifford Bay
Firestone Vineyard
Foley Estates
Lincourt Vineyards
Three Rivers Winery
Wattle Creek

And failed me in geometry

And y’all thought I was going to forget to finish my trilogy on Jordan.  Nope.  We’re here to talk about the wine today.

Jordan doesn’t make a lot of different wines.  They do a few things, very well.  Of course, I love that.  Their mainstays are the Cabernet Sauvignon and their Chardonnay.  Occasionally they will make a dessert wine, but that’s only when everything aligns properly.

When we first arrived they were pouring their 2008 Chardonnay.  This is not your big buttery oaky Chardonnay.  This is a Russian River Chardonnay, clean, fresh with a nose full of green apples.  It’s a chardonnay with crispness, bright fruit, and a minerally finish.  The perfect wine on a gorgeous day.

After the initial reception they lead us into the dining room.  The tables were set up with six wine glasses and a water glass.  Nothing good could come of this.  I was seated next to Alan Kropf, Editor in Chief of Mutineer Magazine.  I didn’t know who he was, just a young guy full of exhuberance.  Click the link, read this guy’s bio, he’s the real deal.  And he’s a super fun dining companion.  Each table had a steward from Jordan, mine was Brent Young, their Viticulturist.  Brent is a great guy and has the über-geekiness that’s necessary to make for an interesting dinner conversation, if you’re a geek, which we all know I have my geeky streak.  We had a great conversation about stressing the vines.  He had experimented with a few vines at the estate to see how far they could push them.  He knows that place now.  Stressing the vines will create more vibrant fruit.  The more interesting the fruit, the more interesting the wine.  Stress them too much and it’s “thanks for playing our game this year”.  Brent got there.  I learned something.  Life is good.

Our first course was accompanied by three of the Chardonnays.  The 2005, 2007 and 2008.  It’s thought that Chardonnay cannot be aged, but wine folks know that it can.  Not that 2005 is that old.  But the color darkens over time and the wine picks up viscosity and mouthfeel.  The 2005 while similar to the 2008 had the pleasant addition of a little honey on the front palate and a little toastiness on the finish.  It had become a little creamy over time and I think that’s a good thing.  The 2007 was a crisper wine that had a hint of the creaminess as well.  It was actually my favorite of the three.  But by then we’d all seen the menu and I was itching to get to the Cabs.

They served their 1999, 2005 and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2006 was a little young, but it was a glass full of potential.  Bright blackberries, dark cherries and decent balance made this a wine that I would like to lay down for at least five or six years, possibly longer.  I would later find out that my answer was longer.  The 2005 was starting to show the softening that I would be looking for in cellaring the 2006.  Now the wine was starting to show some real nice structure, gentle tannins, beauty and grace that I love in a good Cab.  But really, I was all about getting to that 1999.  I expected this to be a very elegant old Cab.  Wrong.  Alan said it best.  He gushed “This wine is like a street fight!”  Now there’s a Somm that’s going to go far.  The fruit was dark and luscious, the wine complex and balanced and seductive all at once.  Dark fruit, chocolate, vanilla and that aged wine mouthfeel that really is like a street fight.  I wasn’t expecting that from this wine, it was amazing.

After lunch, Brent took us for a walk in the vineyards.  Brent brought along his vineyard helpers on our walk. He followed the burrow of something.  He never got it, but it was interesting to see this little dog do what he’s bred for.  I hope whatever it is sticks to the weed roots and leaves those beautiful vines alone.

I was interested in how different portions of the same block behaved differently.  He was pointing to a natural depression in the land where he said that the water tended to run off in that direction.  It gave that portion of the block more water than the rest of the block so the fruit grew and ripened differently.

They don’t pick all of the fruit in a single block at the same time.  They go through with Rob Davis the winemaker and decide how much of the block to pick at a certain time.  This attention to detail in the field makes all the difference in the world in the bottle.

You set out to outrage but you can’t get arrested

There are not words for how much The Brother pissed me off today. He’s a really smart man and when he posts something up, it’s worth a look or two. He posted up this video, which comes with every freaking caveat and warning I could possibly assign to a video.  Now we both do the same thing, when we’re sent or see something that sends us to the moon, we do a little research.  And I did a little research.  What I found was that Police routinely murder family pets.  Basically they bust down around 100-150 doors a year, just like they did to this poor family in Missouri.  Yeah, the Columbia, Missouri Police Department shot a corgi to death.  A corgi.  The Queens freaking dog.  Then they shot a pit bull in a crate.  Yep, they shot a caged dog.  Because they were so threatened.  Every single officer on that raid should be relieved of duty and have their pension shitcanned.  Every freaking one of them because it was not proper use of a fire arm.  Furthermore, they should have their firearms all taken away because they do not understand proper protocol for a gun.  They are stupid and shouldn’t even be allowed around sharp objects, nevermind a firearm.

But they aren’t the only ones.  The Mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland was completely innocent and then entrapped by the Police.  They shot both of his dogs while they forced him and his mother-in-law to lay facedown next to their dogs who were laying in and finally died in pools of their own blood.  His crime was accepting a box that contained 32lbs of marijuana, which sat unopened on his kitchen counter!  Anyone that knows anything about drug dealing knows that they send the package to homes assumed to be empty during the day.  Yet this was the SWAT teams response, they shot his dogs.   He’s suing but that doesn’t bring his dogs back and everybody knows that dogs are property in the eyes of the law.  One of the dogs was running AWAY.  It’s time to get out God’s flashlight.

Let’s not forget, let us never forget Jax.  The crippled Doberman shot and killed by the New Orleans Police.  And NOPD defends the asshat.  Actually that’s what happens every time, the circle of blue closes and nothing is ever done.  The public is all worried about spay neuter bans and pit bull bans and the Police are shooting our dogs.  Don’t forget these jackasses.  Or worse yet, this asshole.

Or the Westlake, Ohio Police Department. Or Pacific, Missouri.  (Do watch the video, I think the cops are full of crap on that one)  Or how about these jackasses.  You know, Sonofabun’s rat terrier has bitten me three times.  I haven’t felt the need to shoot him yet.  How about Sgt David Bush who shot Smoak the family dog who was running around and wagging his tail. He is a man who should be thrown off the force and into jail.  He should never own a firearm for the rest of his life and God help him if it were my dog.  These assholes always say “self defense”, but it’s a bunch of bullshit and they need to be held accountable for their trigger happy behavior.  How about this idiot?  She’s right, it’s about accountability.  Don’t show the video to anyone?  Oh hell, put it on youtube.

When I moved to Concord I tried to tell our ignorant Police Department that my dogs are friendly and please don’t shoot them and all I got was the same sort of jackass response I’ve been typically getting from CPD every time I talk to them and ever since I moved to this town.  All I need is some drug dealer to decide that I’m the house they’re going to have their stash mailed to and it’s on.  PETA and HSUS and all the other ones are busy screwing around with screwball campaigns that marginalize animal protection while the Police are shooting family pets.  It is my biggest fear living here.  I’m not afraid of burglars or robbers or criminals, I’m afraid of the Concord Police.

Hello, hello, is there anybody out there?

Even though I turned off my cable, I still get the news.  I probably get better news than I was getting.  I also started listening to NPR.  It’s gentle cadence and lack of driving beat slows down my driving.  I can’t afford another ticket or I’ll probably be looking at losing my license, so that helps.  Instead of blaring headlines, I hear real stories, real interviews and I don’t have to deal with “If it bleeds, it leads” type leaders.  I’ve heard amazing in depth stories about things going on in other countries.  I actually think I have a pretty good understanding of what is happening in Greece in spite of my lack of follow up on that story.  I know who Goodluck Jonathan is.  All and all, this is a good thing.  And I haven’t heard a real commercial in at least a month.

Naturally the story that interests me the most is the spill in the gulf.  Whenever something like this happens, we can all expect the usual hand wringing, posturing and knee jerk reactions.  And I see a giant disconnect.  Disconnects have been the theme of the week.  I watched Super Size Me over the weekend and have been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on Hulu.com.  I spend hours trying to find homes in areas that are just out of my client’s range because they want the very best schools their little tykes, who they all think are the next Sergey Brin.  Newsflash: Probably not.  While my high school class of misfits features a nuclear physicist and a captain of industry, those were the two really smart nerd guys.  Most of the Irvington Class of 1976 are just working stiffs.  And it was not the best school to go to back then.  I think it was three or four on the depth chart back then.  Anywho, these people drive me nuts trying to find a home they can afford in these school districts and then I watch them feed their kids chicken McNuggets.  And it makes the needle scratch across the record player in my head.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Beyond Awful
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

The natural extension of that thinking this week is Arnold Schwarzenegger, the reason the Hummer took off in America, canceling drilling contracts off of the coast of California in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have to drive from point A to point B like everyone else, or at least every other Realtor.  And I drive a sedan, a BMW sedan.  And I get pretty decent mileage in it, for what it is.  (The safest car on the road the year I bought it)  But I have been opposed to expanded drilling off the coast of California since I knew enough to oppose it.  I remember as a child my mother cleaning the tar off my feet after a trip to the beach in Santa Barbara.  Santa Barbara the scene of the worst oil spill in history in 1969.  I wonder if there is a correlation.  I remember Secretary of Interior James Watt drawling “they’re kinda pretty at night” about the rigs off of the coast of Santa Barbara.  I thought he was a moron.  Here we are 25 years later with another moron declaring “drill baby, drill”.

But Schwarzenegger is a dichotomy.  He had all of those Hummers and then spent $60,000 to convert them to hydrogen.  He sold the fleet in 2006 based on environmental concerns, but the damage was done.  While the BMW was in the shop this week I had a Dodge Dakota pick up truck rental.  I didn’t do my run, I just made the stops that I had to, and went through $35 worth of gas in a little more than 24 hours total.  Including the ten plus hours it sat in my driveway.   In the BMW $35 will take me four or five days.  I drove further in the BMW yesterday then I did in that Dakota in two days and barely moved the needle.  The United States builds crap cars.  There is no reason in 2010 that Chrysler can’t make a lousy pick up truck that gets better than 11 mpg.  That’s obscene.

Yesterday I was sitting at a red light an intersection on my bike.  I was stopped on the white line between the right lane and the turn lane.  I’d pulled up so my front wheel was in the crosswalk.  I do that so there is plenty of room for the folks who want to turn right to do so.  If they are timid about pulling up, I’ll actually wave them up to make their turn, I’m considerate like that.  Yesterday as I waited for the light an F-350 pulled up in the right turn lane and the driver told me “That’s a good way to get yourself killed”.  Really?  I’m legal I shouted back.  “No you aren’t” he said.  As he pulled around the corner in his giant diesel F-350 I saw the disabled plates on it.  I thought, here’s a guy taking more than his share, because he isn’t using that truck for work if he’s got disabled plates on it, and he thinks he deserves more.  He’s bullying bicyclists, he hasn’t bothered to learn the law and I bet he’s a teabagger.  (he had some bumper stickers that tipped his hand on that one)  And I’ll bet he doesn’t connect his SSI or SDI payments with a government run program.  And he was getting around 11mpg to shuttle around his stupid ass.

We can’t stand around and wring our hands about oil spills and wars over oil unless we’re ready to make the changes as a nation that we need to.  And we’re not.  As long as ridiculously large SUV’s and trucks compensate for nature’s shortcomings and blare social status, we will be slaves to foreign oil and off shore drilling.  Because destroying the Alaskan wilderness for a non-renewable resource is such a great idea.

In 1985 BMW had a directive to their engineers to find a way to build more fuel efficient vehicles without compromising performance.  They have done some amazing work there.  The US carmakers solution was to lighten up the cars as much as possible.  My BMW gets 32 on the road and weighs 4250 pounds.  The hood weighs a ton, actually more than the hood of my 1966 Mustang.  They’ve built a 7-series that runs on water.  That’s engineering.   Our energy problems are solved with ingenuity and engineering.  The auto industry has become sloth.  I think they should have let GM go under.  Toyota has their place in the market right now not because of engineering, they’re weak on engineering, their place is based on the fact that 30 years ago they made a dashboard clock that actually kept time.  What a stupid thing to lose market share over.  In spite of an engineering screw up that kills people, Toyota’s sales were up last quarter.  And they build one of the most fuel efficient fleets in the world.

As long as there are oil rigs off shore, there will be accidents.  As long as we consume foreign oil, there will be war in the Middle East.  The solution is engineering and alternative fuel sources.  It’s time that we quit being a bunch of self centered bloated petulant children and started behaving as if we cared about our planet and each other.

She wants to make every stray a pet

One of the big questions being asked is “What are we doing in Afghanistan?”  Fear not, PBE is on the job.  Video from the front.

[youtube haHXgFU7qNI]

Don’t ask, don’t tell.

I just go back from Dunnigan, CA.  That’s where the hand off occurs for dogs heading north on the Doberman underground railroad.  I drove down to Pleasanton and picked up this poor little soul and drove her to Dunnigan where I handed her off and she is now resting comfortably in Red Bluff.

Her eyes are almost green.  I like this picture much better.  Ann was trying to get her interested in treats so we could trick her into getting into the crate.

I ended up shoving her butt into the crate and that was that.  We also had to wait for another dog from Sacramento that was an owner turn in.

On some levels I can understand that there is a lot of shit going on right now and it’s possible for people to have lost their homes and be in a situation where they can no longer keep a family pet.  Personally, I would live in my truck before I would give up one of my dogs.  That’s why I keep the truck.  (Which incidentally got registered yesterday)  I also think that getting a dog is not a decision to be taken lightly.  If you’re going to get a dog, you’d better be prepared to live in your truck or have other arrangements in place.  You don’t just give the dog back.  But people do.  Or they think somehow it’s better if they give it to a rescue.  It’s nice that rescues have gotten some good publicity and it’s thought of as a good thing, but really, most rescues are run on a shoestring, if that.  They’re not some government funded non-profit entity with benevolent providers.  They’re usually one or two people who really care about dogs or cats or horses or ferrets or bunnies and dedicate every penny they have to saving lives.  So when I see some jackass giving up their dog on craigslist and say “asking for a small rehoming fee” I think I believe that they are the lowest life form on this planet and should not be ever allowed to have another animal.  You’re not rehoming the dog you jackass, you’re dumping it.  When a rescue charges a rehoming fee, it’s so that they can feed the other 10-15 dogs or more that they are currently housing.  Dogs that have been pulled from shelters, SPCA’s, off craigslist so they aren’t used for bait and owner turn ins.  If you aren’t a rescue you don’t get a rehoming fee for dumping your dog.  You’re just a dirtbag.

Now with all the dogs out there that need homes, there’s a dog who has since passed away, but I can’t believe that this dog never found a permanent home and ended up living out his life in a sanctuary.  Newman.  I would have loved to have owned that dog.  Yeah I said owned.  I’m not the guardian, my dog doesn’t have any legal rights, I own them.  They don’t own me, they might run me, but they don’t own me.

Since I’m on the subject of dogs, Courage, a GSD who was left for dead.  But he had other ideas.  The poor animal was so starved he ate dirt.  His abuser has been caught.  I hope they put her in a crate in a garage for five weeks with no food or water.  OK, and let me come in and kick the crate every now and then.