Life of Megan

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Congratulations, Papa!

My dad ran his first marathon!!! He has now run farther in distance races than I have, but I am still really proud! It's yet another reason to open a good bottle of sparkling wine! Or, if you really want to toast my dad, have a good beer!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Good luck, Papa!

My dad is doing his first marathon tomorrow!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I hope you have a great one. I'm sorry I couldn't be there.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Weekly wine update: Champagne and sparkling wine

This week we covered bubbly. We are being trained to be nice to the French and only refer to Champagne if we mean "sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France." Everything else is sparkling wine (or its country's specific term, such as cava or spumante). There are basically three methods for making sparkling wine. The methode champenoise, or the traditional method, is the technique perfected in Champagne. A still wine is made, and then it is bottled with some sugar and yeast to undergo a second fermentation in individual bottles. Then there is a transfer method, which makes removing the dead yeast easier, and then there is the charmat, or tank method. In the charmat method, all the wine is fermented a second time in large vats. These processes affect things like the overall complexity of the wine, the "beads," or bubbles, that form within the wine, and the feel of the wine in your mouth. Generally wines made in the traditional method are the most expensive and also the most complex.

Champagne is special because of the method in which it is made, the grapes used to make it, and the climate in which it grows. The Champagne region is the most northerly wine-producing region in France. It tends to be so cool there that grapes never fully ripen, resulting in wines that would be too acidic to drink as still wines. To add to this, there are only about 18 inches of soil in Champagne, under which lies vast fields of chalk. The grapes used for Champagne are a blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay. If you are thinking to yourself "but pinot noir is a dark grape," you would be correct. Without any skin contact, the wine will be white. Some Champagne is made using only pinot noir. This is called "blanc de noirs," or "white from blacks." Champagne can also be made entirely from chardonnay and is then deemed "blanc de blancs." In other regions, sparkling wines are often made with different grape varieties.

Sparkling wines come in a variety of levels of sweetness. The dryest, naturel, is fermented without the addition of any sugar and is generally too acidic to be enjoyed. Next is brut, followed by extra dry, dry (sec), semi-dry (demi-sec), and sweet (doux). While champagne is a great aperitif and goes well with a variety of dishes, only the sweeter styles should be used to accompany desserts.

Overall, both Jud and I enjoyed the wines we tried today. I thought the most interesting were the Mumm Champagne and the Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto. The Brachetto deserves special mention, because it was actually a red sparkling wine. Ordinarily, it would have been too sweet for me, but I happened to have a little chocolate, and when I tried some chocolate with the wine, both were delicious.

Anyhow, here's what we tried:
  • Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry, Col di Salici, Italy, 2003 ($16)
  • Segura Viudas Aria Brut Reserva, Penedes, Spain ($10)
  • G. H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut, Champagne, France ($35)
  • Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County, California ($20)
  • Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui, Piedmont, Italy, 2003 ($20)
This semester's coming to a close, my mom is having a birthday, mother's day is just around the corner... Do you need any more excuses? Go out and celebrate with a nice sparkling wine sometime soon!

Patience in love

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians contains a long list of qualities that love is or is not and begins, as many of us know, "Love is patient." The last few weeks have drawn my attention to this oft-quoted and oft-ignored phrase. Love is patient... It's a strange assessment, if you think about it. Sure, we say, "Good things come to those who wait," and, "Patience is a virtue," but is it really something we look for in love?

Psychologists teach us that we remember best everything mentioned either at the beginning or the end of a passage. If we want to emphasize an important concept, we should mention it first or last. It seems Paul recognized the importance of this phenomenon in his many talks and writings. The passage in I Corinthians ends with the point that when everything else is gone, when we essentially have nothing, hope, faith, and love will remain, and that "the greatest of these is love." Clearly, this was Paul's main point; thus, it stands to reason that his opening remarks were also important. But why did he list patience first? defines "patient" as
  • Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.
  • Marked by or exhibiting calm endurance of pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.
  • Tolerant; understanding: an unfailingly patient leader and guide.
  • Persevering; constant: With patient industry, she revived the failing business and made it thrive.
  • Capable of calmly awaiting an outcome or result; not hasty or impulsive.
  • Capable of bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance: “My uncle Toby was a man patient of injuries” (Laurence Sterne).
None of these qualities are particularly easy for mere mortals to embody, but in matters of the heart, they are essential. What is love without understanding? How can we say we have love if we are incapable of enduring life's knocks?

This brings me to my main point, which is that I am incredibly lucky to have Judson in my life. In the six years we have been together, we have spent approximately two of them apart. Jud has endured my desires to spend more than a semester in France and virtually every summer in a different part of the country without a single complaint. To the contrary, he has supported and encouraged each of my decisions. He has respected my choice not to live with him until we are married, even though I know it's something he wants. And on a smaller scale, he listens to me when I am full of self-doubt about graduate school and when I am fearful that I am not smart enough to be successful with my research. Along with my family, Jud is the one great constant in my life, and I am sure I would not be as successful as I am without his support. Love is patient. Judson must love me very much indeed.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Warnings, etc

It has come to my attention that those who don't know me really well are unaware of my great hatred toward writing conclusions and consequental tendency to make sweeping, most likely untrue statements that should largely be ignored, so I wanted to set you straight in case I accidentally insult your field and/or make statements that one of your main goals in life is to prevent.

Hmm. That was a strangely constructed sentence.

Anyhow, I have also decided that I will not be posting any more comments about what software I like or dislike because I have come to the conclusion that I am not normal, and that my musings are too stressful to spautz. I was thinking about software I use, and I came to the conclusion that practically every program I use on a daily basis is not user friendly. I generally consider these things easy to learn, and easy to use once learned, but they're certainly not easy to pick up without references. These programs include Linux, emacs, LaTeX, xmgrace, ssh, sftp, and tar. I think I use two relatively user-friendly applications on a daily basis: Firefox and Evolution (an email client). This is just my uneducated assessment, of course.

Also, aside from the wine updates (which are arguably how I study for wine class), most of the stuff I put up is just stuff I've been thinking about, and is not intended to educate, anger, entertain, or otherwise provoke an emotional response.

You have been warned.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

More uneducated thoughts about office software

This is all spautz's fault, as his comments on my post about Powerpoint made me start thinking more about what I want from my office-productivity software and problems with current systems.

First, thanks to my other complaint, I learned there is a keystroke set for sub/superscripting in MS Office programs. They are ctrl-shirt-- and ctrl-shift-+, respectively.

But that's just the tip of things. Spautz mentioned that most people do not use the quick keystrokes to change character properties. I would think most people would at least want to use the easy ones. He claims it's difficult to memorize them with all the complex combinations these days, but I don't think people actually use that many. Bold, italics, underline, maybe superscript and subscript, and you're good to go. He thinks most people who use keystrokes do so because they have command-line experience. This is not true for me. Back when Word Perfect was still popular, I got tired of repeatedly stopping my typing to move the mouse to select the formatting option I needed. So my dad got me one of the Word Perfect keystroke templates that fit around the keyboard, and I quickly learned all the relavent ones. These days, it's difficult to learn the keystrokes. If you choose Bold from the toolbar, you never learn that there is a faster method of applying the changes. I think that as time has gone on, the developers of office software have made it more difficult to learn the keystrokes. Perhaps this is because most people don't use them. But like it or not, keystrokes are a faster method, and we should have the opportunity to learn them.

I think that developers may think about accented characters incorrectly because countries that use accented characters have these characters readily accessible on the keyboard. In France, for example, you just hit a shift-like key and then another key to get e-accent-grave. So I can see how a developer might think we should have the same letter options. On the other hand, there are really only a handful of accents: ~, `, ', ^, .., cedille, etc. Since most of these accents can modify many letters, it makes more sense to allow users to select an appropriate accent for a chosen letter.

I wish that when you used an Office program for the first time, you had the opportunity to select settings that work best for you. OpenOffice uses many of the toolbar options present in MS Office not because they make sense, but because they're what people are used to. While this might work for many people, I would much prefer a slightly different system that made more sense, and I think the best time to make the changes is when the program is started for the first time. There are so many autocorrect features that seem to turn themselves on again no matter how many times I turn them off. I should not have to be clever to have a lowercase letter after a period.

Overall, I think the OpenOffice layout and toolbars make a lot more sense than the MS layout and toolbars.

Maybe my needs are just so different from those of most users that I'll never really be happy with any graphical program. I type virtually everything in LaTeX. LaTeX is a mark-up language. It's not particularly easy to use at first, but it is easy to get a pre-existing LaTeX document and go from there. You can basically change all the formatting and insert anything you want without having to screw around with character sets and alignment options. It automatically generates a Table of Contents, a List of Figures, a List of Tables, and a bibliography when you ask. You don't have to number and track equations and references. For the bibliography/references list, you can enter the information in practially any order you like by using fields (author = ...), and then select how you want the information to be displayed. For report-writing purposes, these features far outweigh the occasional need to check my handy desk reference about the command to use a certain symbol. Spautz may argue that I shouldn't need a desk reference. Maybe that's true, but if I were using traditional Office software, I would be spending a lot of time in the "help" window, trying to figure out why, for example, the text in my textboxes was always black when I specifically asked the program to make it yellow or how I can have a letter with an overbar.

Maybe my basic problem is that I'm too practical and look at everything through an engineer's feature-driven eye. I don't know how one distinguishes between a user-friendly program and one that does what you want it to do. I would imagine that a program can only be user-friendly if it meets your every need. LaTeX may seem a little scarier than the friendly, icon-laden Word at first, but its commands are typically more logical, at least for me. Want to include a lowercase beta? Just do $\beta$. What if you need a capital delta? That's $\Delta$. Math equation formatting is equally intuitive. And what if you want a table of contents? That's \tableofcontents. It compiles all your section headings (\section), subsections (\subsection), sections within subsections (\subsubsection), and so on, along with page numbers. I ask you, how long would it take to do a table of contents in Word? To me, this is usability. Let's get programs that do what we want them to do first, and then make them easier for newbies to use.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Things I hate about Powerpoint

We do a lot of presentations within my group, and I am preparing for a conference talk at MIT in June, so I have been spending a lot of my time preparing Powerpoint slides. Powerpoint is a crappy product. Microsoft should be absolutely ashamed to distribute (and charge for) such a needlessly trying piece of software. has a similar program, Impress, which is far superior, but because some alignments and symbols are ruined when switching back to Powerpoint, and because my lab has not yet fully embraced open-source software, I am forced to use Powerpoint instead. In an ideal world, I would only create LaTeX slides because of the amount of equations I need to include in my slides. So here is the list of things I hate about Powerpoint, along with some suggestions and comparisons to other products:
  • It is difficult to create "true" master slides.

    No matter what I do, I find myself constantly changing font colors and sizes so that my slides are consistent when I need to add extra text boxes, etc.

  • There is no alignment tool.

    It's bad enough that you can't distribute items in Powerpoint, but you can't even select a bunch of images and quickly ensure their left edge is identical. Instead, you are forced to either create a grid with snap points or to right click and change the positions. This is too much of a hassle for me. In OpenOffice, I can simply select everything and choose to align the objects or distribute them with the click of an easy-to-find button.

  • I would rather get new braces (with chains!) than include equations.

    I don't know if it's just my copies of Powerpoint, but it is seemingly impossible to use Equation Editor (which is also abysmal) from within the program. You are stuck either using a painful copy-and-paste process or sorting through the grossly insufficient symbol collection. Impress allows you to use its LaTeX-like equation editor, and LaTeX was has evolved to make equation-writing a breeze. Microsoft seems unaware that scientists and engineers throughout the world spend hours on their presentations because it has only considered the needs of businessmen.

  • Including subscripts and superscripts takes six steps.

    First you have to type what you want, being sure to include a space. Next, you select the text and right click. Then you choose "font." Next, you click the appropriate checkbox. Finally, you close the box. In OpenOffice, I type ctrl-shift-p for superscript and ctrl-shift-b for subscript, followed by my letters, followed by the same command. I don't have to stop and touch the mouse. In LaTeX, the process is even simpler.

  • You can't add generic accents to letters.

    If the accented letter you want isn't in the aforementioned symbol collection, you're SOL. Forget about using some simple control sequence to add a tilde over your 'w;' it's just not going to happen.

  • Every time I insert a new picture, my other images' alignments are lost.

    I sometimes spend a lot of time annotating my images because I want the fonts to be consistent. When I insert a new picture, the old image is moved, and I have to pain-stakingly move it back to its original location. Not only does this not happen in OpenOffice, but in that program, you can also choose to lock the position of any item in a slide, preventing you from accidentally moving it.

  • Most of the default designs are terrible.

    Who developed these color schemes? People who use Powerpoint are actually encouraged to create illegible slides featuring black text on a navy field. While they offer a suggestion about legibility when you select your layout, most of the color schemes do not follow their rule of thumb.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. I need to hit the hay anyhow. Busy day tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Semantics of crosswalks

Recently, one of my friends mentioned a South Carolina rule by which a driver is responsible for a pedestrian if he waves that pedestrian across the street at a sidewalk. It seems that in South Carolina, drivers only have to yield to pedestrians who are *in* the crosswalk, not those waiting to use one. We attributed this to a peculiarity in South Carolina's traffic laws.

But today, I was helping Jud pick up his bike from campus (we walked to my apartment to get my car after class), and we noticed that our yield-for-pedestrias signs do, in fact, use "in crosswalks." This means that drivers don't actually have to stop and wait for me to cross the road! I've been aggravated all this time for nothing.

Silly prepositions.

Weekly wine update: Argentina and Chile

Today we finished up the wines of the Southern Hemisphere, focusing on (and only tasting) wines of Chile and Argentina. Our professor was joined by a friend (and I think a Cornell alum) who has worked as the wine selector for both Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. Thus we learned some interesting general facts about wine. If you are trying to match white wine to food, for example, a good rule of thumb is that you if your wine is crisp with citrus notes, serve it with food that would be good with lime, whereas if your wine is oaky and heavy-handed, serve it with food that would taste better with butter. We also learned that delicate wines (such as pinot noir) are often undrinkable within 24 hours, but heavier red wines can last several days. If you're looking for value, stray away from both chardonnay and pinot noir. Chardonnay is really popular, so wineries can charge more for it. Pinot noir is extremely difficult to grow and labor-intensive. Combine that with pinot's boost in popularity following the movie Sideways, and you can't find a good pinot for less than $15-$20.

Anyhow, regulations in South America are pretty lax, so there aren't many general tips to pass along. Again, the white wines are best consumed young. I enjoyed most of the wines we tried today, especially the sauvignon blanc (but again, most in the class didn't like this wine). The torrontes was also interesting. I felt the malbec was a little too jammy and that the merlot didn't live up to its "nose," but the cabernet sauvignon was tasty. I just don't seem to like chardonnay, no matter how I try it. I will say that the chard we tried today had a better balance of oak and fruit flavors than most I've tried.

So here's what we tried today:
  • Torrontes, Bodega Lurton, Mendoza, Argentina, 2004 ($8)
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Veramonte, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 2004 ($10)
  • Chardonnay, Catena, Mendoza, Argentina, 2003 ($16)
  • Malbec, "Alto", Terrazas de Los Andes, Mendoza, Argentina, 2003($11)
  • Merlot, Dallas Conte, Rapal Valley, Chile, 2001 ($10)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Puento Alto, Marques de Casa Concha, Chile, 2002 ($17)
And now it's time for me to get back to work...

Monday, April 18, 2005

The great wine tour

Yesterday some of my friends, their friends, and I went on a big tour of wineries on the west side of Seneca Lake. The original plan was to see seven or eight wineries that were all recommended by my wines professor, but I didn't realize when we were planning that we would have ten people in our group, and we had to cut back. Still, we managed to have a great trip.
  • First we visited Lakewood Vineyards, which seemed to offer more red wines than most of the local vineyards. They were out of Riesling, but they offered a decent Vidal Blanc. We were rather disappointed with their pinot noirs. They did have an interesting selection of wines made from native grape varieties (vitis labrusca instead of vitis vinifera). These all taste basically like traditional American grape juice (Welch's, for example, is made from Niagara grapes). I don't care much for grape juice, but some of the people in our group enjoyed them.

  • Next on the list was Glenora Wine Cellars. If you have seen the movie Sideways, you will remember the mass-market winery they visited near the end of their trip. This winery was the first image that came to my mind as I watched one guy serve about 20 people around one table who were getting tastes that were too large, taking forever, and becoming quite drunk. I pushed for us to move on, but a few members of the group were excited about Glenora's ultra-sweet fruit-infused wines, so I was vetoed. I didn't particularly like any of this vineyard's wines, but the fruit wines were a big hit with the half of our group that doesn't normally drink wine. Our friend Matt said the Blueberry version just tasted like juice: not quite my idea of a good dessert wine.
  • The third winery, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, was the highlight of my trip and has restored my faith in German rieslings. Wiemer emigrated from Bernkastel, Germany, where his family had been making wines in the Mosel valley for more than 300 years, back in 1968 and extended his wine-making skills to the tricky New York climate. Today, he makes the best local Riesling and has a booming root-stock business.

    Wiemer's wines are definitely crafted in the German style, and are even named following the German (translated) conventions. Every wine we tried was excellent. The chardonnay was subtle and refined, the sparkling wine was infused with crisp apple and cherry flavors and was well balanced, and the pinot noir and dry rose were sublime. This leaves us with the rieslings, for which there really aren't words. We tried the dry (kabinett-style), the semi-dry (spaetlese-style), the late-harvest (auslese-style), and the select late-harvest (beerenauslese-style). Now I finally understand all the buzz (and Becky's exuberance) about German rieslings. The wines we tried in class were grossly inferior to these. The sweetness was actually balanced by the crispness, and instead of being cloying, it was delightful. And best of all, the prices were decent compared to the German wines. The dry riesling is $16, and the late-harvest is $20. Wiemer's select-late harvest is $52, and the select-late-harvest ice wine is $39 for a half-bottle. I know these prices may sound high, but trust me, they're a good value.

    Wiemer was even a nice place to visit. It was small and staffed with a knowledgeable employee who did a great job telling us about each wine and how it was made without telling us what we were supposed to think about it. The shop was controlled, and the wine bottles were stored horizontally and were completely dust free. The actual winery is a barn (with the free-standing shop nestled within) designed by Cornell architecture students, and Wiemer himself lives in a beautiful house on the property. When all was said and done, Jud and I bought four bottles of wine (two each): dry riesling, late-harvest riesling, dry rose, and pinot noir. These wines sell for $20-$30 in the local stores, and we had never seen the Wiemer dry rose or pinot noir. They should last us a while.

  • I knew the next winery would probably be judged poorly, but I tried to stay open-minded. Still, I tried to give Fox Run Vineyards, which turned out to be the last vineyard we visited, a fair shake. They offered a decent unoaked chardonnay, but overall, I wasn't impressed with this vineyard. They had a $40 meritage (meritage being the American bordeaux) that tasted like a cheap beaujolais. Bleach. :-P Still, they did have a lovely view and a nice cafe, and we were hungry.
Overall, we had a blast. Everyone managed to find a wine he liked, and that's always the most important thing. And I got to meet some really cool people.

And now, I return to making images for my conference presentation...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Ithaca embraces the spring

This is the first time in the last eight years that I've been able to enjoy Spring and run outside without being rashy and miserable. While there's pollen about, it hasn't formed a thick yellow sheet over everything, and there are no stinky Bradford pear trees to avoid. Meanwhile, our weather has been an ideal 55-65 F, the sun's been out, and the snow's been gone for a few weeks.

My friend Mike (Jud's roommate) just created a blog that really shows off the Finger Lakes area. Mike is one of these people who really does a good job with his hobbies, and as hiking, photography, and GPS tracking have all caught his interest lately, the blog is informative and beautiful. Best of all, it is actually representative of the area around me, and not some sugar-coating from a few nice spots on a handful of good days.

And now I'm going running.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Weekly wine update: Italy

Today we had a guest speaker from the wine producer Banfi, and he was great. He didn't promote his company's wines too much, and he was funny and interesting. Italy has twenty different wine regions that produce some of the most enjoyable wines in the world. And most are dry!

Italy's has four levels of wine region. The simplest is vino da tavola. The next category, indicazione geografica tipica (IGT), offers some great values and is the category where "super-Tuscans," or wines made from non-traditional grapes and grape blends, are made. Then we have denominazione di origine controllota (DOC) and denominazione di origine conotrollota e garantita (DOCG). The DOCG classification is not available in all Italian wine regions, but when a wine carries this status, it has actually been tasted and approved by the Italian board that regulates wines. In Italy, the term "riserva" is controlled and carries the requirement of an extra year or two (depending on the type) of aging. Riserva wines can only be made from a vineyard's best wines. "Classico" is another good term to learn. It refers to the original part of a region, where the wine of that region became well-known. And it's generally the best area for that wine.

Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are Italy's best grape varieties.

So anyhow, we liked all the wines we tried today, and the prices are reasonable. Australia, I hate to say it, but I think you've been replaced!

Here's what we had:
  • Pinot Grigio, San Angelo, Banfi Vintners, Montalcino, Italy, 2003 ($13)
  • Il Mimo Rosato, Colline Noveresi, Nebbiolo, Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Italy, 2003 ($13)
  • Col di Sasso Toscana, Banfi Vintners, Tuscany, Italy, 2003 ($9)
  • Chianti Classico Riserva, Castello Banfi, Tuscany, Italy, 2001 ($15)
  • Barbaresco, Batasiolo, Piedmont, Italy, 2000 ($32)
  • Nero d'Avola, Arancio, Sicily, Italy, 2002 ($12)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Life these days

I am still a little nervous about kinetics, but it seems like everything else is coming together for me. I have new direction with my research, and I am understanding my other classes better. More importantly, I feel better. I've returned to an exercise schedule in preparation for my next marathon, and it feels great to be active after illness and injury. I honestly think there's a strong correlation between my activity level and both my success in school and my general well-being. This time around, I'm approaching my running from a smarter, comprehensive approach, and I hope it'll help me avoid future injuries.

My taxes are ready to be mailed. I had a shot today, but the copier was busy creating exams. I have to do both 2004 and first quarter 2005 estimated taxes, but it wasn't too hard to follow the forms. Collecting the forms and resolving the state taxes questions took a while, but all that work has been done for a while now. I decided to pay the minimus required estimated tax payments so that I can make some money on the taxes I'll owe in 2005 through the wonder of tax-free short-intermediate bonds.

Today I did the super difficult Runner's World strenght-training workout again, and this time I was able to do all the moves. It felt really good, and I'm already sore. I think this workout set will really help me with total fitness.

Isabelle finally turned 21, and we celebrated with a wonderful dinner last night. We went to a nice steakhouse and then went all out, from appetizer to wine to steak to dessert. Mmm... This weekend we're all heading out on a wine tour. I'm hoping to visit some of the wineries on the other side of Lake Cayuga or even on Seneca Lake. The Finger Lakes are all 30-40 miles long, so there's a lot of territory to cover.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

All hail the mediocre!

The Boston Marathon is just around the corner, and the Runner's World marathon forum is crowded with posts from good runners looking to improve their times even more or complaining about those who have easier qualification standards. Meanwhile, our news has been littered with comments about fund-raising relays that focus on slow runners and walkers who just want to finish a certain distance and help a certain group of the unfortunate. There really aren't any event geared toward the average athlete. Those of us who are decent, but not good, know we will only win an award if we happen to be one of three in our age group. We will always be entering big events through the luck of the draw or through expensive group efforts. By definition, we are the majority, but at big events, we are literally asked to wait in corrals while the fast people get their early starts.

I say we deserve our day in partly sunny skies! And this is why, someday, I will organize a series of road races for the rest of us, culminating in the Mediocre Marathon. We will have strict qualification guidelines. To run in my races, you must fall within the middle 50% of times in your sex/age group division for the distance in question. My race will offer all the standard race awards (first-third for each division), but the grand prize will go to the median runner (the runner who has an equal number of people both ahead and behind him).

It may sound odd, but I think this race would have tremendous appeal to runners, especially with the free beer and pizza I plan to offer at the post-race celebration. Now all I need is time, money, and a t-shirt idea.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Weekly wine update: Germany

Today we learned about the wines of Germany (and theoretically of Austria). German wine labels are pretty complicated, but I don't want to spend a lot of time finding appropriate label images, etc, to explain them. Basically, the quality wines are labeled Qualitaetswein mit Praedikat (ae = a with an umlaut), where the Praedikat is an indication of how ripe the grapes were when they were picked. Kabinett grapes are picked when they are the least ripe, with Spaetlese coming next, then some others that I've forgotten but which would make for really expensive wine anyhow.

Also, I know my dad used to say that the Germans keep all their good wine in Germany. While that used to be true, things have apparently changed, and now the nation focuses largely on producing quality wines for the world market.

German wines tend to be pretty sweet, so I wasn't a big fan of them, but they are often low in alcohol and tend to go with a lot of foods.

So here's what we tried:
  • Gruner Veltliner, "Lois" Loimer, Kamptal, Neiderosterreich, Austria, 2003 ($12)
  • Weinheimer Holle Silvaner Halbtrocken, Qba, Gysler, Rheinhessen, Germany, 2003 ($12--1 liter bottle)
  • "Dr. L" Riesling, Qba, Loosen, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany, 2003 ($11-$12, features a screwcap bottle)
  • Maximin Grunhauser Herrenberg, Kabinett, Carl Von Schubert, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany, 2001 ($17)
  • Nierstein Riesling Spatlese, Baron Heyl, Rheinhessen, Germany, 2003 ($20)
  • Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spatlese, Weingut Johannishof Rheingau, Germany, 2003 ($25)

Saturday, April 02, 2005


I have always prided myself for taking things seriously. If I am working on a project, I try to include all the extras. If I have to make a presentation, I spend a lot of time working on good graphics design and readability. If I get sick, I get really sick. I think that at one point in my life, I was capable of having an ordinary sinus infection that responded well to antibiotics. The last few years, however, have not gone so well for me.

Now I am entering day eight of a sinus infection/upper-respiratory infection that has left my nose incredibly chapped and my body exhausted. I can hardly climb the hill onto campus because of how it affects my breathing. I am forced to use the inhaler I typically use only before exercising every six hours to keep from wheezing and to cut down on the coughing. Recently, my cough has been productive, which is probably a good sign. But now I am taking an antibiotic and prednisone on top of my ordinary meds, and my mom doesn't think I have powerful enough drugs. Meanwhile, I bombed a test and didn't get much work accomplished at all last week because I just haven't felt well enough to concentrate. The cough is driving me and everyone around me nuts.

I feel a little better today after having my first high dose of prednisone, so hopefully I'll get over this thing soon. I am highly disappointed that the medicine community has not advanced to the point that I can get over these sinus infections quickly. My brother and I have both had sinus infections that lasted more than six weeks, and I am just crossing my fingers that this won't turn into one of them. Maybe if the drug makers stopped worrying about erectile dysfunction, they could help cure my allergies. As far as I can tell, the only developments in the world of allergy medicine in the last 15 years have been a few new drugs that are still only good for a few months before the body adapts and rotation is needed.

It's enough to make me wish I'd gone to medical school.