Guerneville Adventures

This weekend we’re headed to Guerneville for a couple days. I haven’t taken a proper “break” since starting my new job. Not that it has been very long, but I’m still looking forward to it. 

Of course, every time I plan an adventure, there ends up being a million other things going on that same weekend. This time in particular, given that its Veteran’s day weekend. And I’m not even taking Monday off (It’s a “float” holiday–explain that to me? I thought Veteran’s Day was always honored). I have trouble following through on plans I make for myself. It probably all equates back to self value. If someone’s enthusiasm for an activity is slightly diminished compared to mine, I tend to give up efforts and try to avoid any potential for being disappointed.

So fingers crossed for a successful weekend! I’m hoping for hot tub time, tasty food, some nature, and some intense wine tasting. I’ll update from the front as possible.


Oprah: My New Boss

As everybody knows, except the people under rocks, yesterday was election day. Now that this Duh moment is past us, let’s get to the real stuff.

I got a new boss today. Her name is Oprah.

Hear me out. 

The organization I work for is overseen by a board of directors, composed of elected officials of the various jurisdictions we serve. Yesterday, a few of those positions saw some big changes, with incumbents being defeated and new names taking the seats. One of these is Michael Tubbs, a 22 year old, Stanford educated male from the south part of Stockton. He is one of 15 voting seats on our board. Ergo, he is 1/15th my boss.

One of Tubbs’ achievements this campaign was a pretty decent fundraising effort. And the most notable? Oprah, with a $10,000 donation to his campaign. Yes, the Oprah. Her donation constitutes roughly 12% of the donations to his campaign.

That makes Oprah WInfrey 12% of 6.7% my boss. Which if my math is correct, means she is .8% my boss. Right? Maybe I’ll get a fraction of a car from her. Or at least a hot wheel.

Old Fashioned Voting

I vote in person.

I don’t deal with mail-in, absentee, voting. I really like to go, and vote at my polling place.

Somehow that makes it seem more real to me. It raises the stakes, when you’re standing there, awkwardly crouched over a plastic table corner, trying to bubble in your circles just so. Somehow age regressing to elementary school, and worried you’ll get docked voting points for improper bubbling. And lately, sneaking peaks at your iPhone, looking up that one last proposition because how in the heck did it get on there and what was I planning on voting.

Some of my friends, the small and growing number that have children, take their kids to the polls with them. One has been doing it every year she’s voted since having them, just to instill in them that it is their civic duty, and something that they can look forward to when the time comes. So neat to me.

And just like those kids, I love getting the sticker. I proudly stuck it to my lapel, and paraded around in my cheap blazer like I was a senate nominee.

I won’t be sad to see the election done. I’m tired of the politicking, tired of disliking some of my friends and relatives, tired of the ire and the weird fiery opinions that politics brings up in me, when few other things do. It will be nice to have my cell phone back for personal calls, and my commercial breaks back for other forms of annoyance. But if you’re going to get selectively passionate about something, politics is a place to start I suppose.

And besides, you get a sticker.

Wine a bit, you’ll feel better.

We’re very fortunate to live in an area full very productive, very unpretentious wineries. Add that to the fact that we’re experiencing a bit of gorgeous fall weather this week, and as Patrick put it, “wow, California is just a terrible place to live.”

So we spent today (and a short time yesterday) meandering our way through a few nearby Lodi wineries. I’ve decided one of the things I can do with my new “big girl” job is to join a wine club, so this could be considered an excuse to vet some of the options. Granted, we seem to be very good at buying wine when we taste it, but not so good at drinking it once it gets home. We actually have one of those cheesy little 18 bottle wine fridges we found in a friend’s garage, not to mention a couple other racks acquired in similar fashion. And it seems to be our mission to fill every space.

One of the places we visited today actually took us out into the vines and explained the pruning process to us. And yes, I should have taken pictures. He said that by now the plant has already decided what its grapes and leaves will look like for next year, and if you look close enough inside the little nodules on the branches you could see the microscopic tiny buds waiting to get their start.

Now, before those start to unfurl, a team of professional pruners will actually come through and select one nodule to keep for each branch, trimming off all the remaining leaves, branches, and any grape clusters that stayed on the vine. And the same pruner will tackle the same rows each year, knowing how he likes to prune each specific plant. I believe he said it would take an experienced pruner less than a minute per plant, but it could take a week to complete one vineyard.

The one in discussion was a 78 year old plot of zinfandel, used specifically for their reserve zin and sweet zinfandel dessert wine (not a port because of 1. the alcohol content was .2% shy of port status, and 2. I’m pretty sure ports have to come from portugal). Our guide, Chuck, also mentioned a pruning process the grape clusters themselves go through early in June. Any clusters that haven’t begun to turn purple, or with a high percentage of green still on the grapes, are clipped off and thrown on the ground. This process essentially cuts their yield nearly in half, but ensures that the remaining grapes get all of the focused energy from the plant, and a more concentrated flavor. For the same reason, they only give each plant about 12 gallons of water throughout the entire summer (and thermometers in the valley spend many days above 100 during growing months). This intensifies the flavor and allows them to use a single vineyard for their reserve zin, not just using it as a base then adding other fillers or grape blends.

In the end, that’s just a fancy way to say it tastes good in a glass. But having the background, and seeing the labor of love it is to make my 3 ounces of wine, makes my slurping that much more appreciative.

Saturday Nights

Saturdays are busy days for me right now. Having given up the luxury of a multiple part time job schedule, I’m relegated to living my life on the weekends (sarcasm).

Tonight the BF and I went to a Colt Ford concert, who is best described as a country “hick-hop” artist. Regardless of your taste in music, I’m hopeful most people can at least appreciate good musicians, and the entire group was fantastic.

We’ve got a long day of relaxing and wine tasting planned tomorrow, so that’s all for tonight. Happy Weekend and happy daylight savings time y’all.

“I’ll modify your genetic organisms!” …or, Prop 37 and why I may or may not care.

I spent a good portion of today doing my due diligence on the California propositions and election issues. Like many, I try to be an informed voter, but the honest truth is that I’m not. My “research”, if you can call it that, is usually haphazard at best, and chiefly done the night before I report to the polling place.

Generally I try to learn enough to grasp the basics of each issue. What is at stake, and what are the effects. But many times I show up to the polls and vote based on whatever arguments are listed in the ballot. And yes, I still vote in person; it just seems more real that way (and I get a sticker).

For California in particular, there are a good amount of issues we have to decide on this year. Some are fairly cut and dry for me. Repealing the death penalty, for instance. From there it descends into varying shades of gray–Education funding is something I fully back, but making sure it goes to the right place is key.

And then there’s Prop 37, about labeling GMO foods. That’s where it gets tricky for me.

Food is something I’m passionate about. I eat it, buy it, study it, and occasionally obsess about it. When I’ve taken those online quizzes that stick you into the levels of hell from Dante’s Inferno, I always end up with the gluttons. I’m a firm believer in the power of buying locally above all. Health issues I deal with now (chiefly Thyroid) I suspect stem in part from dietary choices I’ve made throughout my life.

But my diet has been my choice. Sure, I could have been better informed. And how informed can you really be as a kid, when fish sticks, boxed mac ‘n cheese and frozen peas seems like a real deal meal. And I’m not sure that the most effective way to modify our food system is to get the government involved. Our most direct impact comes when we decide to take actual, real control over what we’re putting in our mouths. And I mean beyond just fork to face.

Much of my family is in Kansas and make their living growing wheat, milo, soybeans and corn. A cousin of mine does USDA research on the genetics of wheat strains. They search for things like drought hardiness, which is a make or break consideration in seasons like this past one. It’s a livelihood concern for them. It is an issues of putting food on their own tables, and it is rooted in history. We are century farmers, meaning that for over 100 years my family members have been farming the same lands.

Truth be told, I can’t begin to fully wrap my head around the complexity of these issues. But Michael Pollan, one of my favorite writers, made a good point in a recent interview. He noted that regardless of whether this is the “right” way to have this conversation, a passing vote for Prop 37 will do exactly that–stimulate a conversation. It’s a national chat that we’ve all been needing to have, and this may be just the push we need to make it happen.

If we slapped a sticker on a McDonald’s cheeseburger, would that stop someone from stuffing it in their face? Probably not. But maybe someone will at least think about where that product came from.

[Sidebar; before I went veg a few years ago a McDouble and diet coke were the only things capable of curing my collegiate hangovers. Please don’t judge. And if you’re looking for a great hangover cure, yes, I still recommend it.]