Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nurse the Hate: More WSET Diploma Blues

As I have discussed in my never ending quest for the WSET Diploma, the most difficult exam of the six is the test for “wine” in Unit 3.  The subject matter is so large that it’s almost impossible to cover everything within the realm of possibility.  I went with the strategy of hedging and did deep dives on some areas I felt that would be likely asked and had a more casual understanding of other areas.  For example, if someone wanted to discuss Barolo, I could have gone into mind numbing depth of soil contents, DOCG history and politics, barrel maturation regimes, key producers, climate impact, maybe even pulled off an interpretive dance to illustrate the struggle of the New Wave versus the Old Guard.  Meanwhile if I had been asked about New Zealand, I would have had as much information as a fanny pack tourist on a winery tour.  “Oh!  So you make white AND red wines here?  That’s fun!”

I passed that exam like I did most of my college courses.  It was an odd combination of basic grasp of the material with some random facts that had just lodged in my skull.  I just got lucky in what they asked me.  I pulled a question about the Ahr, a German wine region no one thinks about, but I just so happened to have gone through the area on tour and met a winemaker at a bar.  It’s like the line Clint Eastwood’s character gave in The Unforgiven.  “When it comes to killing folks, I’ve always been lucky.” 

While I was shocked I passed on my first attempt, my classmates and instructor were more stunned.  Most of the people I knew from that group, all of whom had spent a lifetime in the wine industry, failed at least one of the two parts of that test.  There was definitely a perception that I was some sort of wiseass clown that had no chance.  They didn’t know that I read voraciously and tend to remember what I read.  Well, that and I’ve always been lucky.  I still think many of them are sour about the fact that I passed.  I didn’t get the heartfelt “Congrats!!!” text when the group's consoling text messages went around inquiring about how we all did.  I know there was a separate thread which went “Can you fucking believe that dumbfuck passed and I failed?”.  That’s ok.  I would have been bitter too.

The exam was given again last week.  Most of the people I knew went to take it along with a new crop of people that were trying to storm that beach.  I was genuinely interested in how they did, as I hope they all pass.  Despite dire warnings from WSET HQ about revealing the test content, I was able to ferret out what the questions were on the test.  The WSET posted them last week which only confirms what I suspected.  There is no way in hell I would have passed that particular test.

Usually these tests can be counted on to follow a format of questions on major grapes or producing areas, a couple more secondary topics and then a curveball or two.  It makes sense that the test should focus on the wine regions and styles that people actually drink.  While it is cool in certain circles to be able to spout information about the Savoy, the chances of running into one of those wines for most humans that don’t walk into a hipster wine bar in a major cosmopolitan city or the fucking Savoy itself is about the same as seeing a pterodactyl fly past.  Hence, it is key to know about Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja, Barolo, Veneto, Rhone, Mosel, Chianti and probably Loire.  They will never ask you about Napa because the organization is British and the British refuse to admit the importance of this region.  The rest of North America has such a low profile, it might as well not exist in the program.  However, on this exam they really jammed everyone up.

That exam opened with a shot.  It was like Zeppelin walked out and belted out "Black Dog" as an opener.  It must have been quite a shock to open that exam and see the compulsory question about comparing and contrasting the relatively low profile Loire areas of Muscadet, Saumur, and the much more popular Sancerre.  I would have been in trouble.  Big trouble.  There were a few questions I could have handled, such as merlot, the Mosel and Languedoc.  Soil compositions in Bierzo?  In depth discussion of Hensche's Hill of Grace Vineyard Cabernet from Eden Valley in Australia?  Uh-oh.  

At this point I would have felt good to spot an American wine question.  That would have melted away quickly once I read this doozy though...  "With reference to the Americas, write about FIVE of the following: a) Wine production in New York State b) Carmenère c) Wine production in Mexico d) Pierce’s disease e) Wine production in Mendocino f) North American liquor monopolies g) Ice wine"  Ye Gods man!

Here's how I would have answered that one...  a)  New York wine production is focused on the Finger Lakes which makes good rieslings in a few places.  There's a shitload of faux quaint barns that churn out sugary sweet shit wine that they sell to nimrod tourists that don't know any better.  You can also buy some thin rieslings and spooky sweet wines made from grapes with Indian sounding names in the area around Lake Erie.  They cost as much as quality German wines that are usually cheaper, so I have no clue as to why anyone buys any of them.  b)  Carmenere is a grape grown by some of the Rhone Rangers.  They usually blend it in with Southern Rhone knock offs.  If they bottle it as a stand alone varietal, they discover that no one in California wants to buy a Carmenere for $26. They usually dump it onto the secondary market. c)  Wine production in Mexico is headed up by really rich guys in Mexico City that want to do a Mexican version of Napa.  They make some decent white wines around Baja that aren't so much "good" as "better than you expected".  Sometimes you get them poured for you in Cancun when you want something else better.  Visiting the vineyards can be fun as long as you don't get your head chopped off by Narcos.  No one wants to end their vacation as a headless corpse hanging off an overpass.   d)  Pierce's Disease was a plague that left tens of thousands of children without the use of their legs.  I think Pierce's Disease was largely eradicated after the Great Depression when kids had scurvy and rickets, but I might have it confused with something else.  It might be a disease of the vine.  It could be transmitted by a bug called the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter that looks like something you'd use as a dry fly in "A River Runs Through It" by the criminally underrated writer James Harrison.  e)  Medocino makes wine that isn't as good as Napa or Sonoma or Santa Barbara.  It's OK though.  There are a lot of hippies up there growing weed and home schooling their kids.  It's a good place to listen to Zappa records.  I think of Doug Sahm singing "Mendocino" with this question.  f)  The Man controls booze, just like in Prohibition.  What are you going to do?  It takes a shit ton of money to age a billion bottles of whiskey.  The government lobbyists will make sure no one can get in the market even if they can afford the cost of entry.  Welcome to the USA bitch!  g)  Ice wine is made primarily for people that go to the Niagara Falls area and don't know what souvenir to buy at the crummy shops by the border.  Ice wine tastes good but most bottles go unopened sitting on wine racks with Sutter Home and Amish fruit wines in senior citizens homes.  Once in awhile someone opens it at Christmas not knowing what it is and then remarks "Oh my gosh!  This is soooo sweet!".  They pour it out in the kitchen the next morning.   

I feel very confidently I would not have scored a "pass with merit" on those answers, regardless as to how correct they might have been.  Thank God I passed an earlier test.  Even gazing upon those questions would have shaken me to the core.  I learned earlier today that I passed the Fortified Wine exam I needed to retake after my well publicized flame out.  This leaves me with only one exam to go, sparkling wine.  I pray that Mexico isn't making sparkling wine that has met anyone's attention in London.  Worse yet, I hope they haven't believed their own hype in their fledgling overpriced English sparkling wine market and shoot out a lengthy question on that.  I don't want to have to go down in flames on that topic, though I will admit the wines are slightly better than you expect.  Like Mexico.

One to go.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Mistake At Work

We have all had bad days at work. In my years of employ I have made some mistakes costing the company thousands of dollars. Some of those mistakes were errors in judgement. Others maybe lack of attention to detail. I usually repaired the damage quickly and offered up an explanation to my overlords along the lines of “See, what the hell happened was...”. This rights the ship and allows us all to resume our routines.  Sometimes you have to fall on the sword.

My favorite part of making an error is when the anonymous company wide email goes out to clarify the policy without calling the offending party out by name. “To all employees. It is company policy to not allow any use of company vehicles including but not limited to station satellite trucks for employee personal time. It is also not allowed to take company vehicles to Tijuana and transport livestock of any kind. These trucks are important company assets and should not be used as personal transport in any capacity, most definitely not personal time joyrides.” As soon as that email arrives all employees start to swivel their heads looking for a guilty expression on co-workers faces to figure out who got drunk and left the van in Boys Town.  Is that a sombrero in Vince's cubicle?

I cannot imagine the email that came out this morning for the person that sent out the imminent nuclear attack warning across all communication platforms in Hawaii.  "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL" went out to everyone's phones.  Now THAT was a major fuck up at work.

The State Agency in charge of this put out a statement today saying the worker "feels terrible" about the mistake.  I would imagine there was a spirited conversation about the mistake in the supervisor's office.  "So when you got the prompt the second time that said "are you sure you want to send out a nuclear attack alert to everyone on the islands?", you just clicked it and hoped it would be OK?  You stupid motherfucker...  You goddamn stupid asshole..."   I like to think the person that did it was named Jeremy, as that is an absolutely perfect name for some sheepish looking guy that is now looking over his shoulder in a cubicle in the basement as employees all whisper whenever they see him.  Hopefully there was a nice matronly woman named Nancy that offered some lip service along the lines of "Well, we all make mistakes Jeremy.  Don't feel bad about it." that even she doesn't believe.  I would also suggest that Jeremy focus on a new career path as this little mishap is sure to pop in his personnel file.  "Well Jeremy, I see you applied for the assistant manager job!  You've been here a long time and... Wait...  What is this incident in 2018?  Hmmm... Ohhh.... Well... ah...  jesus.  That was you?  Well...  We will let you know after we have evaluated all candidates.  Thank you for your interest Jeremy."

There is no coming back from that mistake.  There is nowhere to hide as EVERYONE in your world knows you made the biggest fuck up of all time.  Every single person on those islands must have been freaking the fuck out.  I think had I been at the Four Seasons and that alert came up I would have calmly ordered a nice bottle of Dom Perignon and sipped that on the beach waiting for The Big Show.  My guess is that the Four Seasons likely doesn't have a nuclear fallout shelter, though if they did I am sure it would be lovely.  But what about those of us that are a bit more high strung?  I would think there were some actions taken and things said that afternoon that can't be taken back.

"Now it's the end, there are a few things I want to get off my chest.  I just want to let you know that I spent half the retirement savings on my boat, I do think those jeans make you look fat, and I am in love with our son's teacher.  Oh, and I never liked your father."  Then the phone pings again.  THE LAST MESSAGE WAS SENT IN ERROR.  THERE IS NO THREAT OF ATTACK.  Things get quiet for a moment.  Maybe a nervous laugh.  "So... Let's forget about this whole incident.  Things were said in the heat of the moment.  Crazy things.  They don't mean anything.  Do you want to go to Outback Steakhouse?  Let's go get one of those Blooming Onions.  Honey?  Baby?" 

Sunday must have been a hell of a day on the islands.  It is tough work trying to put a genie back in a bottle.  Guys like me are at the front desk at hotels trying to get overpriced champagne orders waved off the bill.  "Sir... When I made this order for this wildly overpriced Dom Perignon money was no longer of consequence.  Surely you will agree that we can at least meet halfway on price as some sot of gesture given the circumstances."  Employees of the hotel are trying to resume normal activity despite the fact that a half dozen of them had sex with co-workers in the lobby fountain assuming that this was the end.  Guests averting their eyes from other guests in shame after they were observed abandoning their kids while sprinting for the hills in desperate attempts to save themselves.  Meanwhile the recreation director is trying to recruit people for water aerobics trying to pretend nothing happened.

The important thing to focus on is this.  That Hawaiian Emergency Management employee feels "terrible".  Today they will send out the email.  "To all employees: To clarify, when making a shift change, do not double click on the "send nuclear attack" email alert.  This goes against policy.  Also, remove old food containers from the refrigerator in the break room."    

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Shithole Revelation

There’s no getting around it.  The American People elected a racist for president.  Whereas we used to be able to at least pretend that this was a debatable point, this “shithole” incident puts any of those fantasies to rest.  The White House didn’t even try to deny it at first either.  After Trump defended Nazis in Virginia and he didn’t get run out of office, I suppose the thinking in the White House PR corps was “yeah, he said it.  What are you going to do about it?” after he asked attendees at a meeting why America had to admit Haitians and Africans from Shithole Countries instead of nice pale Norwegians.  By this point anyone with any sort of moral sensibility is so fatigued by outrage against the constant attack at what we thought were our shared core values that the incident just spurs some talk on cable TV for a couple of days.  There is no real action.  I guess America is trying out “Nazi Lite” for a while to see how we like it.   

The Shithole comment was bad enough that even the most reptilian Republicans in Congress tried to distance themselves from it at first.  Within 24 hours though, the Spin Machine had been revved up and Far Right memes and talking points had been distributed to the Faithful.  Personally I don’t think that it’s an effective argument to distribute photos of Third World poverty and then somehow suggest that Trump was on target in his desire to focus immigration policy on skin color.  Yet, some people I consider friends are on board with Trump’s vision.  I can see their views parroted back on social media platforms and quiet acceptance from others of these new norms.  It shouldn’t surprise me that people I know feel this way.  About a third of Americans approve of Trump, as unbelievable as that seems to me.  Yet, it is a huge group of people. 

I have to admit that I feel differently about some people after seeing their defense of this latest pure act of racism.  Trump has now made it OK for people to trumpet ideas that not long ago were considered ignorant and old fashioned.  If Trump is an indefensible racist, and a person supports Trump, are they not a racist as well?  It’s really something I am struggling with right now.  If Jim from work is a Trump supporter, does that mean Jim is a racist?  I think it does.  I don’t know how to get around it.  I don’t want to hear any of that horseshit about “Well, I support the tax policy and blah blah blah…”.  When you are on board with Trump, you are in for the whole package Buddy Boy.  “Hey, Mussolini was a fascist, that’s true, but he did make the trains run on time.  I supported him while he was on office, but just because I liked the train thing.”  Oh, my mistake.  I thought because you supported Fascism that you were a Fascist.  You’re just passionate about public transit.  

I do not understand how Republicans can continue to sweep this continued behavior under the rug.  Each day of their inaction makes it evident that they are an organization focused on white supremacy, erosion of individual rights, and a vision of America that has nothing to do with the sterilized ideal which we were all taught.  The only conclusion is that this is what the Republicans were always all about in the first place.  More saddening than that is to see the inaction of our population.  Our society is slipping away and we are doing nothing.      

Friday, January 12, 2018

Nurse the Hate: NFL Playoffs Divisional Round

Life is unfair.  At one point last weekend I was at the peak.  The Cowslingers show was a packed house at the Beachland filled with longtime friends and supporters of the band.  I even think we played pretty well.  The Boy was on fire.  Krusty delivered.  Leo and I do what we do.  It was all backslaps and belly laughs my friend.  Free drinks for everyone.  It is only when we are at our moments of greatest revelry that we should pause and see if something is amiss.  

I should have known the rest of my weekend would go poorly.  As a precursor, when I went to start up the old Whiskey Wagon to haul the gear over to the Beachland, I found the van encased in ice, much as I expected.  Unlike the Cuntwagon, the Whiskey Wagon roared to life with confidence when I turned the key.  Always buy Chevy trucks.  I plowed forward out of the area where the van sleeps and got into the general parking area so I could chip away at the ice on the windshield.  As you recall, it was quite cold last weekend.  When you find yourself repeating profanities the entire time you are exposed to the weather, it is cold.  So I scraped at the ice muttering "fuck fuck fuck fuck" as the van ran trying to get warm.    

My other car was idling as well.  I needed to take the CDs and shirts from my car and move them into the van.  I opened the back cargo door of the van and placed the CDs on the floor by the gear.  I looked at it for a second and figured that the open box of discs would spray everywhere on the first turn.  I looked for something to wedge on top of the box to keep it in place and grabbed the blue nylon bag where we keep XXL sizes, a.k.a. "The Husky Men's Shoppe" and shoved it into place.  It was so cold that the bag had frozen into a stiff husk.  This is something I should have noted more carefully.  I closed the door of the van.  The bag offered so little give and was placed so perfectly that it hit the automatic lock button.  It immediately flashed into my head something was wrong.  I walked to the driver's door and found it wouldn't open.  "No no no no no no!"  Yes.  I had locked the van shut with the keys in it while it was running.  I also needed to be at soundcheck in 20 minutes.

I called the police to see if they would help me out.  I have found that if you need a cop, there is no chance one will be nearby.  If you are walking down the street out of your mind on hallucinogens with an open beer, you can be assured an entire squad will descend on you with batons.  This was the case this night as well.  A half hour went by as I watched the exhaust rise from the van's tailpipe.  A sluggish officer finally appeared and popped the lock after some tribulation and paperwork.  Nothing happens without paperwork.  After 45 minutes I was on my way.  Of course I left my mic bag in the car and had to turn back to get it after driving 15 minutes towards the club.  I was rather discombobulated when I arrived at the Beachland.  I had assumed this would be the low point of the weekend.  Well, as long as I didn't forget all the Cowslinger lyrics on stage like some sort of bad dream.  I had no idea that this was only a tease to how wrong things would go in my NFL wagering.     

I hesitate to throw out the term “bloodbath”, but if ever there was a time to do so, this is it.  I was heavily on the favorites last weekend as “the chalk” has covered an astounding number of times in the Wild Card Playoff round.  I really got my arms around the numbers, did a real deep dive.  I analyzed my analysis.  It was inconceivable to me that I would go 0-4.  I also made the cardinal sin of chasing once I got behind.  I wasn’t even angry by the time the Saints failed to cover in the late game Sunday.  I just sat there and took it.  I had made that transition that a prisoner makes when they believe they deserve the beatings they are receiving by the hands of their captors.  I should have been strung up from the ceiling with a ball gag in my mouth.  I had made the complete transformation into a gambling submissive.  I need to pull myself up by my bootstraps.  Jump back on the horse.  Dust myself off.  I am going to deal with this setback the way I generally do most setbacks.  I am going to throw money at the problem. 

I am going to stop worrying about football.  I am now going to focus 100% on betting against The Public's perception.  These playoff game are over analyzed to death.  ESPN is playing Devil's Advocate all day every day.  The Patriots can't lose BUT Brady is getting older and his production is falling off BUT the Patriots haven't lost a home playoff game in a decade BUT there is internal fighting in New England which is a big distraction BUT that is when they tend to rally the troops BUT Tennessee has a good defense that isn't afraid of the Pats BUT since they called out Brady he is going to drop 35 points on them.  It's too much.  I am going to assume that every person on the planet is going to bet on New England and Pittsburgh.  That's why I am going to tease the underdogs.  Bad weather all weekend should help keep scores down and promote running game plans.  I will take the points.  I just need these teams to keep it close.  Tennessee +20.5/Jacksonville +13.5

It is assumed that Philadelphia has no chance whatsoever without Wentz.  The Falcons are back!  They can't lose!  They are the team of the moment.  I don't want to have to hitch my wagon to Nick Foles, but I am going to do so.  Let me clarify.  I am hitching my wagon to the Eagles defense.  The Eagles only gave up an average of 13 points per game at home all year.  Prior to last week's big breakout game, the Falcons had averaged 17 points down the stretch.  No One thinks the Eagles can win.  There has never been a #1 seed getting points at home versus a #6 seed before this.  I'm going against The Public.  Eagle fans will be in a lather.  They are drunk right now getting ready to fight somebody.  Eagles at home.  Philadelphia +3.