Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Memorial Day weekend.
This photo shows many elements of my Memorial Day weekend: playing with the kittens, seeing the latest Star Wars movie again, and sleeping. The photo doesn't show a few other things I did this weekend - watching a couple of movies on DVD and playing computer games - but accurately shows that I didn't do any yard work, much to the dismay of my neighbors.

And the kittens are six weeks old today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Brief kitten update.

Yes, they're still around. But in the past few days, they've learned how to run, which makes it even more difficult to take photos of them that I'm willing to post. (On the other paw, it makes it much easier to take blurry photos of them.)

Five weeks old today, and they'll be old enough to be adopted out in about three more weeks. Mia will be more than ready to see them leave. I've found homes for a couple of them, but I don't expect it will be all that difficult to find homes for the other two. And the Outdoor Cat is ready to be elsewhere, as well. Having been used to the Great Outdoors, she's getting a little stir crazy now that she's been shut up in her room for almost seven weeks, five of them with kittens. Luckily, I've got a home for her, too.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Which wine to pair with "Revenge of the Sith"?

Anthony Daniels - the man inside the C-3PO suit - has some suggestions. Red wine. To be precise:

"I think it would be a rather heavy Merlot or Syrah -- though maybe Syrah would be too rounded. It's got very spiky moments, so maybe something with a bit more tannin -- a rather tannic red, I think. Slightly uncomfortable, this film, rather dark. Yes, so I think a rather heavy, tannic red. Mmm," Daniels says sagely.

Champagne while you're waiting in line, and for the beginning of the movie. But halfway through, "hit the red in a major way."

I dunno: since this movie is about the Fall of Anakin, perhaps one of the deadly Zins would be more appropriate.

Ten seconds more of fame.

A local Jaycees group was doing a fundraiser for some disease of the month or another, and it happened to be something I'd be interested in doing: a blind taste test of beers. They very carefully avoided calling it a competition or having any tangible prizes (Virginia's ABC laws prohibit such inducements to drinking beer; your tax dollars at work), but that's what it was.

Taste 12 beers and identify the (a) style, (b) brewery, and (c) name of each. (Scored at one point for each item, so three points possible per beer and a perfect score was 36.) Harder than you might think, especially when you have to identify them with no assistance (no list of 50 beers that they were chosen from, for instance). All you knew was that they were currently on tap at that particular beer bar, which has 70 taps, and you didn't get their current beer list to help you, either. So sometimes you were left figuring, "It's a crappy hefe-weizen - so what crappy hefe-weizen do they still have on tap here?" (Answer: Widmer, and no, I couldn't think of that one.)

I came in second, out of the 20 or 25 participants, with a grand total of 12 points, probably 2/3 of which were from recognizing styles. (And 3 of 3 for identifying Pilsner Urquell.) The guy who took first place had 13 points, so it was close. And since he's a professional beer writer, my story will be that he won the professional division, and I won the amateur division. I was especially pleased to beat the people sitting at the next table: home-brewers who were loudly convinced they had the entire contest completely sewn up.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wow. Absolutely tremendous.

I was just hoping that it would redeem the series for Episodes I and II, and at a minimum be a better final movie in a trilogy than Return of the Jedi was. This blasted through those lowered expectations and left them in the dust.

I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

There are times when I feel like I'm living in the middle of a Disney movie. Newborn kittens at home, and even newer born baby birdies at work. There's a peregrine falcon nest on the floor where I work. And not merely on the same floor - it's about 8 feet from me. Behind a protective barrier of shelves and boxes, so we can't see them. But we can sure hear them when they screech; sometimes, they're loud enough to drown out the banal conversation in the room. Not often enough, alas.

About three weeks ago, the female falcon decided to take a closer look at us, and swooped up onto the ledge right outside my window. Right outside. They sure have an intense stare when you're only three feet away from them. You could tell that the little wheels behind her eyes were going round and round: "If only I could get this window open, I'd have good eating for months."

Anyway, the falcon eggs hatched over the weekend, and the little puffballs are kind of cute.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Thirty-six hour countdown.


Refresher viewing of original trilogy. Check, over the past two months.
Refresher viewing of Episodes I and II. Check, last weekend.
Get advance ticket. Check.
Take day off from work for doctor's appointment. Check.
Prepare Jedi Knight robes and lightsaber. Overruled.
Buy Episode III M&Ms (the dark ones) to smuggle in as a snack. Check.
Find Star Wars t-shirt from original movie. TBD.
Avoid all reviews and articles. Ongoing, other than noting that Roger gives it 3.5 stars out of 4.
Turn off cell phone. TBD.

I'm ready.

Raise a glass!

Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in the wine shipment cases was good news, at least in the limited context that the Court didn't uphold the status quo of different treatment for in-state and out-of-state wineries. But it wasn't great news.

Contrary to some of the reports I heard yesterday, the ruling does not create an unfettered right to order wine on the internet or for wineries to ship wine anywhere in the country. It only requires that a state have consistent regulation for all wineries, whether in-state or out-of-state. Those states that already have a consistent set of rules - like Maryland, which prohibits all direct shipments to consumers - won't be affected, and states with inconsistent rules only need to make them consistent. Thus, in Michigan, one of the states that lost in yesterday's ruling, the state's alcohol regulatory commission wants the legislature to change the law and prohibit all sales that aren't face-to-face at retailers. (In Michigan, then, yesterday's ruling was good news only in the short run, with the potential for being bad news in the long run.)

And the ruling is not going to do away with the "crazy quilt" of state regulation, as other reports indicated. A winery will still need to know all 50 states' shipping regulations in order to avoid sending their wines into states where such shipments are illegal, the same as today: An Oregon winery would need to know that it could ship direct to the consumer in North Carolina with no problem, that it is commmitting a felony if it ships direct to a consumer in Maryland, and that it needs to have a $65 annual license to ship direct to a consumer in Virginia. Still sounds like a crazy quilt to me.

Ultimately, though, I'm not sure it will make all that much difference, at least here in Virginia. Under the regulations in effect before yesterday's ruling, if you wanted to have a winery ship a bottle or a case direct to you, you already could - provided the winery had that $65 license for direct shipment. (And as a rule of thumb, a winery probably needs to sell 2 or 3 cases a year in Virginia to break even on that license fee.) So, if you wanted a bottle of the 2003 Cakebread Rubaiyat, which I've never seen available in a wine shop in Virginia, you were already permitted to do so. If you wanted a bottle of Zinfandel from the Hart Winery, you'd be out of luck.

I'm not sure that yesterday's ruling will change that situation much: Arguably, all wineries need some sort of license to ship within Virginia - the out-of-state ones need the $65 license, and the in-state wineries need their annual winery license (at a substantially higher fee). At most, Virginia might change to require an additional shipment license for all in-state wineries wanting to ship direct to a consumer. The end result would be the same, though: a winery without a shipping license won't be able to ship to a Virginia consumer.

Further, it probably won't make that much difference for the individual consumer. The cost of shipping a single bottle or case will add significantly to the price of the wine; enough so that you probably won't want to order direct from the winery all that often, and only for more expensive wines. You wouldn't buy a $10 California chardonnay and have it sent to you for an additional $8 or $10 very often when you could get a better one for $15 at your local wine shop.

It may make a bit more of a difference for the small or medium-sized winery, to be able to sell wine to an out-of-state customer who tasted it at the winery on a trip last year and now wants more. Probably not a lot of difference, at least to a winery that now sells out of its vintages at the winery, which will now sell a slightly larger portion through out-of-state shipments instead of immediate, face-to-face sales.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Technology just moving too darned fast for you?

Then you can turn your cell phone into a portable black rotary phone, guaranteed to act just like the official Phone Company-provided phones of the 1950's. You can actually dial out with the dial, and incoming calls will cause the phone's bells to ring.

The cost of bringing back yesterday's telephones? $399. It can be expensive to slow down the advance of technology.

No telling whether their next product will be a Princess model.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Three weeks old yesterday, and they're starting to explore. Can't explore very far when you aren't able to climb out of your box, of course, but they're working on it.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Why did the chicken cross the road?

In California, at least, apparently because the chicken didn't know that jaywalking is illegal.

The state that gave us the Governator is now forging new jurisprudential precedent: issuing citations to chickens for impeding traffic. Trial is scheduled for May 16, although apparently the owners will be the ones to appear in court.

I'm not entirely sure how chickens impede traffic: don't you just drive around - or, more efficiently, through - them? (Making sure you don't suck one into your jet engine, of course.)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Eleven days to go.

Now that filming for the Star Wars series is completed, it comes as no surprise that many of the principals have time on their hands. And what better way to fill up free time than to have a blog?

A couple of the more notable are Darth Vader's blog (sample quote: "I will say this for being a tyrannical dark overlord: you get great service at restaurants.") and Yoda's blog (sample quoter: "Often this comment people make to me, "Yoda, every day the same clothes you wear." Well, finding adult clothes that fit me you try! Make fancy suits for someone who is 2' 2" tall Armani does not!")

Friday, May 06, 2005

They eat, they sleep, they play.

And when I try to take their pictures, they squirm around a lot. Unless they're asleep.

They've started to play with each other, and are trying - unsuccessfully for now - to get out of their box.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

For those without a job, in the DC area.

Or a life. The organized waiting-in-line-for-release of the next Star Wars movie is about to get underway. Waiting in line for Star Wars movies is now an organized event, not something spontaneous, it would appear. Kind of takes the fun out of it, I'd think.

The best part? One of the organizers claims a last name of "Maul-Sari", so perhaps she's the daughter of Darth Maul.

Update: From the "Truth is Stranger than Fiction" file, it turns out that prior to getting married and hyphenating her last name, the organizer had, in fact, legally changed her last name to "Maul" due to her attachment to the character from The Phantom Menace.