Yesterday, the Miami Herald ran an article about wine tastings in South Florida, and my recommendation* is, instead of reading that article and especially instead of going to any of the places in that article, go to the Wine Warehouse nearest you. I cannot think of enough good things to say about the Wine Warehouse here in Boca, and I’ve been to the one in Fort Lauderdale too and had the same great experience. I revert again to list form to detail all of the reasons why, if you drink wine or would like to drink wine and you live in Florida, you need to go to the Wine Warehouse:

  1. They fit my budget. It’s cheaper than anywhere else. The same wines are consistently 2-3 dollars cheaper than other outlets, including overpriced Publix.
  2. They fit my consumer ethic. It’s cheaper because the Wine Warehouse is not a chain, it’s a group of individual owned stores working in cooperation to bargain for the best prices and access to good wine. Each store’s inventory, however, is at the discretion and taste of the owner.
  3. They have tastings all the time, and unlike most of the places in the Herald article, they are free. When they aren’t free (rarely), they’re cheap, like tonight’s which is 10$ to sample wines in the 100$ range. So it’s an opportunity, b/c I won’t be buying wines that expensive for a good long time if ever.
  4. If you like wine, it’s a good thing to go to tastings, not b/c it’s a great way to pick up members of the opposite sex but b/c it’s really educational. You get a much sharper sense of why people say wines have tasted other than “red” and “white” b/c the differences are shocking when they are tasted back to back.
  5. They are the opposite of snobby, but they have the knowledge to help any budget or palate find a good pick.
  6. The owner of the Boca store has called me by my first name every visit since my first.
  7. My first visit was to buy groomsmen and bridesmaids gifts, and it was completely non-stressful, non-snobbish, non-dismissive of my budget (which wasn’t my usual, 10$ a bottle budget, but it was not what a lot of Bocans probably come in with). We ended up with great wine that we felt great about giving.
  8. Outside of my friends, the Wine Warehouse is #1 of my Top 2 things that I will miss when I leave Boca and Florida.

So, I’ve said my piece, and if you’re looking for something to do tonight, there’s a tasting from 5-7 at the Boca WW, where I’ll be sipping on a future Friday Red.

*JG, I know that none of this applied to you.


“Inside I’m thinking”

November 30, 2007

I was driving to work this morning, in my usual on the verge of tears stew about what I’m doing and not doing and should be doing with my life, knowing that I have nothing to complain about and still not able to really give up the chew toy and enjoy the sunshine. I was kind of tuning out the NPR–John McCain talking about how the first thing he would do in office being to undo all the Democrats’ work to set a “surrender date,” the new usual bad news about the economy. And I didn’t even notice this story when it started, b/c I think I’ve gotten used to tuning out the words “Story Corps” too. But once the actual story started, I was stopped in my tracks, which is good, b/c I was at a red light. It’s such a short piece, I urge anyone who reads this to click on that link and read it or listen to. I would almost copy and paste the whole thing in, it’s that good (and short).  It’s a short testimonial by Charles Jackson, a man who at 13 learned that his mother carried the gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s. He spent the rest of his childhood watching his mother deteriorate, and at age 50 he too was diagnosed with the disease.  This sentence, in which he talks about the effect of his disease on his family, is simple and powerful: “I know that when they see my failing, they get really sad and they don’t like to see that. I wish they would try to understand that I may be a little different. There’s a time there where I will forget everybody’s name, but inside I’m still here. I’m still me. And though my speech may be poor, inside I’m thinking how much fun I’m having with them. And I, as much as possible, would like to be treated as [I] had been treated before.”

I think this statement hit me so hard because I often struggle to find a balance between fighting to change things–in my life, in the world, in my family–and remembering that this too, is being alive. Being sick, being poor, being in real danger for extended periods of time–that’s still being alive, even if it is not the life any of us would choose. No one in those situations really chose it, either. There must be ways to salvage hope and potential and meaning even in the worst of situations, and I think that often I don’t do myself any favors with my discontent. Neither does American society. We spend so much time and money on truly misguided attempts to “improve” life. At the same time, there are many, many things in this world that I believe we should not simply accept, that we should fight with all of our emotional and material means to change. I think that anger can be a gift, that being angry is often the first step to improving anything.  Things like the dire state of healthcare in the US, global wage and work inequity, global warming, things about which I think we should recognize the difference between the laziness of calling it “impossible to fix” and the reality of things that are actually impossible to fix. As a society, I often think that we’ve lost our capacity to deal with situations that genuinely fall into the latter category. And instead of mourning and feeling sad that there are basic things about human life that are beyond our control and always will be, we just ignore it and shut the people who are experiencing those things out of our consciousness. We focus on the problem and fixing the problem and protesting the problem and often make little effort to be human beings to each other in the simplest and paradoxically most difficult ways. I felt this way when I was with the kids as we “served” the homeless. It felt much more satisfying to be handing them food than just to be talking to them, but that’s what really impressed them, the fact that we sat down and talked. Do they need food–yes, and they should have it. But they need more just like any of us, they need to feel like human beings. It’s even harder when I think about my own family, and my mother’s longterm health problems and my father’s unemployment. I am so angry at the culture that promotes weight loss surgery as an acceptable surgical intervention for underlying emotional problems and so angry at the marketplace that cannot seem to generate work that allows people laid-off midcareer to support themselves with a modicum of dignity. The thing is, I can’t fix those things overnight, and even if I did, it wouldn’t necessarily help my mom and dad in their moment to moment, day to day experience of life. What I can do and should do more of is remember that my company, my ears, my empathy are not small contributions nor are they always easy to give. Charles Jackson knows that his Alzheimer’s is not going a way. What does he want? To be loved for the person he always was and still is. Why is that sometimes so much harder than racing for the cure?

Censorshippin’: Update

November 30, 2007

UPDATE: Thanks to Bradley on Incertus for pointing out that “challenge” is really a disgusting euphemism for censoring a book. I had kind of gotten desensitized to that fact. It’s sad that we have a PC word for weakening the First Amendment, a word that gives people who want to limit others’ free speech and access to information a good name. Also, people who want a quarter of a million dollars of public school money to be spent on a lawsuit to keep a book that says people who live in Cuba have lives too off the shelves (see Vamos a Cuba case).

Also, Brian on Incertus seems to have the antidote for people who think Chaucer is too hardcore for public school. Just go and check out the 9 Most Badass Bible Verses. Take a page from Avi’s book and say that if Chaucer has to go, so does the Bible b/c would you look at Ezekiel 23: 19-20!!! Yowza!




November 29, 2007

I know that librarians tend to revel in this kind of stuff, but my most recent American Library Association e-letter is full of censorship news. The most troubling being, this Canadian librarian reports that while outright book banning is becoming less common in liberal Western societies (is the US still included in that list? after the 20 seconds I was able to stomach of the Repub YouTube debate last night, I’m not so sure), challenges on books in public and school libraries are on an upward trend. Pearce Carefoot, author of Forbidden Fruit: Banned, Censored and Challenged Books from Dante to Harry Potter and holder of the best Canadian name of the week prize, explained thusly: “It’s far easier for an authority to just shut down discussion than to enter into an argument.” I can pretty much back that up with personal experience–I’m not on the school librarian, I mean, media specialist track, but my mother-in-law is, and she was shocked to discover that their advice to school librarians was 1) hide the troublesome books as well as you can and 2) give in to challenges if you want your job. See, I told you librarians were practical people.

In other news, this guy apparently lost his contract as a literacy consultant after recommending a sci-fi YA novel that was, gasp, ranked by Scholastic as being for middle schoolers instead of elementary schoolers. Which is why it sucks to be you if you’re a bright fifth or sixth grader I guess. This is just particularly stupid, b/c the guy is a member of the 2009 Caldecott selection committee–I think that means he is good at picking out kids books. Also, the book he recommended sounds like something I want to read: Rodman Philbrick’s “The Last Book in the Universe.”

In more news, of course The Golden Compass just has to go, sez Catholics. This one is disappointing b/c a couple of months ago one of the teachers at D’s school sent a forwarded powerpoint to all the other teachers explaining how the The Golden Compass wants to kill God (?), and we just laughed. What a looney toon! Well…. we laughed too soon. Don’t these people have better things to do than protest books they clearly haven’t even read?

And in the last little censorship item of the day, we have this article about Claudia Hunter Johnson, author of the memoir, “Stifled Laughter: One Woman’s Story About Fighting Censorship,” who once upon a time lived happily in Lake City, Florida, until she got the crazy-ass notion that the high school ought not ban a Humanities textbook b/c it found the excerpts from Canterbury Tales and the Lysistrata objectionable. She fought the school on that, and the school won. No Chaucer for you, North Floridians! The story has a happy ending though: in the next Florida town she moved to, she was able to keep Of Mice and Men from getting banned, and she now spends half the year in Nova Scotia. Which is where I might look into spending all of my year if any of the Republican candidates I saw debating last night turn out to be our next president.

Okay, a little conversation over on Incertus has got me jonesing again for this song, “Over and Over Again,” by Nelly featuring Tim McGraw. This song was on the radio right when I got back from Brazil, and I have fond memories of feeling cheesily desolate as I listened to it while driving through the slushy streets of Michigan in December. Now that I’ve rewatched the video, I realize I got a couple of things wrong about it in my memory. It’s TMG who drives the black SUV, not Nelly, and seeing as Nelly sings the whole thing, I don’t think a whole country version of this came out, which makes the split screen video technique even more genious! Look at the way it highlights the markers of living the big pop music life as they span across musical/cultural divides! Look at how funny it is that TMG wears a big black cowboy hat and lives in a log cabin while Nelly wears a black ski cap and lives in a brick house on the block! It’s just fun.

My crankiness came raring back to me as I drove to work this morning, which is good, because for a couple of weeks there I was entirely too happy on Tuesdays. So, time for a list of things in the news that are totally annoying SJ today. There’s a theme: fools.

  • The fool who wrote the Miami Herald article with a two sentence quote from the fool whose unique insight into the Taylor shooting was: “”I am going to make sure my gun is loaded…We never did have any problems here.” Wait, I see three names in the byline–make that FOOLS.
  • The fools who want to destroy more of the Everglades for box stores and homes that no one will be buying any time soon. Seriously, they want to build a Lowe’s. They think this is okay now because they have a water voucher from the state of Fla that guarantees that there will be no water issues in new, expanded Kendall for the next 20 years. Excuse me? Who gave you that voucher? Your fairy godmother? I’m revoking your privileges as an entrepreneur if you think some kind of voucher makes this a better idea than it was last year.
  • Trent Lott and the five other Republican fools who are blatantly quitting their jobs just in time to only have to wait a year before they start 6-7 figure jobs as lobbyists. B/c the rule is about to change, and if they stayed past December they’d have to wait two years before they could get paid enough money to care for multiple working families for doing jackshit. 6 Republican senators total quitting before adjournment this year. That’s 6% of the highest body of elected officials in the land. And I’ll just add in the fool on the radio who commented that Trent Lott was being reasonable to do this, b/c he’s “not that rich”–only 1.6 million dollars in assets or so.
  • The fool (s?–it’s unattributed) who wrote this half-assed NYT Op-ed entitled “The High Cost of Health Care.” The flimsy-ass thinking of this piece boggles the mind. It’s like they asked someone off the street to tell them everything they knew about fixing healthcare. For one thing, it can hardly be called an op-ed, b/c it doesn’t have an opinion other than “fixing healthcare will be hard.” Duh. For another, it leaves out astoundingly basic facts related to many of its observations. It recommends paying doctors less, as they do in other countries, without mentioning that in many of those other countries the doctors’ educations are subsidized and they don’t graduate with 100k to 400k in the hole. It also drops my least favorite piece of non-news, which is that most medical decisions are not made based on evidence-proven care. This is an extremely misleading thing to say, and as a library science student studying health sciences librarianship, I know why. That’s a true statement, but it’s not true b/c doctors don’t do research or don’t care. It’s because the movement toward evidence-based care has only just begun, and information resources that bring together synthesized recommendations based on the mass of available and often contradictory evidence by and large do not exist yet. There are a few, but none that every hospital has access to. Further, there is no evidence yet on whether or not this actually helps. Medicine may be a science, but the practice of it is a very individualized skill that varies from doctor to doctor. Sometimes, they don’t need the evidence, they’ve treated this a hundred times. When they need evidence, they get it, and they spend time trying to figure out what that means. This is not a perfect system and that’s why medical information specialists are going to have job security for years to come–we can do better making evidence-based recommendations accurate and accessible. <stepping down from soapbox–why do I always end up on soapboxes on behalf of the profession that I am so ambivalent about?>
  • UPDATE: I knew I’d get down off that soapbox right quick. I just remembered this article about a librarian who urges us all to “Just Say No” to Wikipedia with brilliant reasoning such as “We don’t see it as an authoritative source.” No way! I’m shocked, just shocked to know there is WRONG STUFF on Wikipedia. Now, I am a firm believer in both Wikipedia and the value of teaching information literacy. Do I use it for certain informal purposes? All the time. Would I cite it in a paper? Not unless the paper was about Wikipedia itself. I think the solution here is to teach kids what Wikipedia really is and use that to link to a broader lesson about how you need to be critical of your information sources, all of them, print and web. Just so you know, she’s not a representative figure… I hope.

Okay, I think that’s enough ire for now. Back to my rice.

Go directly to hoosegow

November 27, 2007

Hoosegow means jail.

Tatterdemalion means rag-tag.

Imprimis means firstly.

A debenture is an unsecured bond.

I know these things now b/c I’m addicted to Free Rice, an online vocab quiz that says it donates ten grains of rice to the UN hunger relief effort for every word you get right…. I’d probably play anyway, it’s so addictive.