Friday, August 26, 2011

Brain Food Week of 22nd

1. We think we see more of people’s character than they think we do. And they think the same about us.

2. They should show this at movie theatres right before the previews. Though it may still be too subtle for some people.

3. Us poor introverts.

4. Today I found out about a really cool website.

5. Turns out learners/viewers don’t like indirect language: they like being told what is going on, or alternatively what conclusions to draw. I’ve always enjoyed having spoilers before seeing films, so this makes sense to me. I’ve also always hated the Socratic method (that is to say, the “read-my-mind” method of teaching), so I like it from that perspective as well. The latter is obviously the more important, as this is great to know from a pedagogical standpoint: this teaches us to not let students infer. Instead, be explicit about the conclusion, and work backwards to make sense of it.

6. This is a GREAT article I just found about Philosophy as a discipline. Or really, how it really ought to be done. I am nearly in 100% agreement. Worth your time. So is studying philosophy, which is where the author and I may differ. Logic, in particular, has probably been the most influential subject to ever hit my brain.

7. I really liked The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This article talks a bit about the shortcomings of Pollan’s pithy philosophy“Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants.”

8. Good older essay at Less Wrong about the first experiment every conducted. It’s probably good that we don’t execute scientists whose hypotheses get disproved, right?

9. I am slowly learning Bayesian epistemology. I’m not naturally good at math and statistics, so it’s an uphill battle, but a rewarding one. Here’s an interesting lecture at Google by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, author of "The Theory That Would Not Die,” a history of Baye’s Theorem. Interesting stuff.

10. Great article at Philosophy News on the subject “What is Philosophy.” Forward this to all your friends.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brain Food 8/12/11

Slow week, I guess.

1. A blog post from a guy I just discovered, Ben Casnocha, on the “stability/stimulation tradeoff,” i.e. the either/or situation people find themselves in with regards to careers-do I pick the stable one, or the stimulating one? This is a dilemma that’s hitting me especially hard as I try to figure out what to do with my life.

2. Good article about the things you get to know about someone with years of marriage.

3. Mega Purple is a bummer. I’m not even a real “natural wine” freak, but this stuff is just makeup that doesn’t really help. I vote for the mandatory full disclosure of ingredients on wine labels.

4. Canned Tuna or canned Salmon? Easy. Salmon. Here’s why.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Get It Now. Burgundy is Sexy.

Ok, ok, I get it now. Burgundy is sexy as hell.

All the wine nerds love Burgundy. ALL of them. But until recently, I didn’t. It had just never really done it for me. But in trying to follow my own advice from Things A Wine Newbie Should Do, I went to a Burgundy tasting the other day with my buddy Jonathan (wine tastings are no fun solo). The wines were all Becky Wasserman (the legend) selections, and it turns out there IS IN FACT a difference between New World Pinot Noir (had it...not that exciting...even the expensive stuff), and (even more expensive) Grand Cru Burgundy (hadn’t had it...turns out, it's pretty fantastic).

Overall, my impressions were really positive. Some really fantastic wines, though very few values. Interestingly, a lot of them were sort of “late finishing” wines. Like they don’t have much or any power on the attack, and then they would explode on the midpalate and finish. I’m not sure what causes this, but it’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve only recently put my finger on, and if know anything else about it let me know. In any case, I find that I prefer wines that grab me at the beginning rather than the end. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like surprises. My winemaker uncle has described wines of this sort (up front wines, that hit you right away) as “slutty” (though, probably what he also means is that they lack depth and complexity post-attack...and these wines didn’t lack for complexity). So that's kinda fun.

Anyway, to the wines. We tasted 7 whites first. All white Burgundy is made from the Chardonnay grape, for the uninitiated. Good wines all, ranging in price from about $30 to $120. But because we all know price and quality (especially as a subjective thing) do not correlate very strictly, the most expensive (‘09 Jean-Noel Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Caillerets’) was definitely not my favorite. Instead, the second most expensive was. The $110 ‘09 JP Fichet Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Referts.’ I actually didn't like the Jean-Noel much at all, or at least, it was not what I was expecting, because it was much lighter than the surrounding wines. But it’s obviously fallacious to equate quality with high viscosity, and I wonder if the sort of “Parker effect” is in part or whole the cause of that link in my mind...that “better” (higher scored) wines are the thicker ones. It usually seems to be the case.* Had some other good learning experiences - most importantly, I put a name to a particular flavor that I get in fruity, acidic Chardonnay. Gummi Bear! It's totally yellow or white gummi bear! Go get some gummi bears, you'll see. Actually, knowing the flavors of a bunch of different candies (yes, with artificial fruit flavoring) is a great way to prepare yourself for tasting wine, since those aromas and tastes often show up in wine. For example.

But I knew that I liked white Burgundy. It was the reds that were the real eye-opening experience. Good overall, and the barnyard was under control (not a fan of the poop). My favorites were the 2008 Digioia-Royer Chambolle-Musigny VV ($65) and the 2008 Camille Giroud Corton ‘Le Rognet’ Grand Cru ($95). The two really expensive wines ($198 and $180) were both good, especially the 2008 Cecile Tremblay Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru. Pity they’re so expensive, because unless someone else is buying, I'll never get to drink them at home. And that’s really in essence my problem with Burgundy. It’s hard for me to get really excited about these wines, because most of them I simply cannot afford. In fact, most of them I would not purchase if they were HALF their listed prices, and at their current way. There were maybe two wines at the tasting that I would buy, out of 20, and both were under 30 bucks.

But all in all a great learning experience, and fun to get to taste $1300 worth of wine for a small fraction of the cost.

Ok, wrapping up, OH YES. ATTENTION SINGLE LADIES! Wine tastings are a GREAT place to meet men! Not only is the crowd 75% male, but they’re automatically men of (at least some) taste, (at least some) sophistication, and (very likely) vocation (i.e. they have jobs...cause wine (esp. Burgundy) costs some serious cash money bling bling).

Finally, I learned something from Jonathan, that Teetoalism was actually named like "Tea total-er" in, the total stimulants we consume are tea and only tea. Apparently the pledge of the first teetotal society was "We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine." I actually think I can get on board with that, allowing a someone loose definition of "medicine." Also, you should check out that Wikipedia link because it contains a list of famous teetotalers, like Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Billy Connolly(!), Natalie Portman, and Bruce Willis. Some real surprises. Poor lambs...don’t know what they’re missing**

*There are several cases of the Robert Mondavi chard (a big, oaky monster of a wine) beating out the world-renouned Raveneau Chablis (a delicate, elegant, and apparently quite enchanting wine) in blind tastings with both American and French tasters who would be quicker to praise the Raveneau if they had known what the glasses contained.

**Obviously, abstaining from alcohol if you’re an alcoholic is different, and very possibly the cause of the teetotalism of some of the people on this list. It goes without saying (but this is for the public, so I’m saying it) that they have my full support.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Brain Food 8/4/11

This is really a couple of days worth of stuff, because I didn’t get around to posting yesterday or the day before.

1. Philosopher argues that evolutionary metaphysics isn’t akin to the faith claims of religion, specifically advancing the thesis that “every question that used to be answered by appealing to God can be answered better by appealing to some form of evolution.”

2. You could be wrong. Really. Consider it carefully, because it’s better to know sooner than later. The best part of this is her “Series of Unfortunate Assumptions” people make about why people disagree with us: the ignorance assumption, the idiocy assumption, and the evil assumption. Nicely done.

3. El Bulli has closed, which is sad. This is a great post outlining one diner’s experience at the legendary restaurant.

4. Bertrand Russell: not right about everything, but a wise man nonetheless.

5. This is pretty fascinating. An article about the difficulties cryonics faces in attempting to market itself to the world.

6. An interesting article about the frustrating and endless task of trying to find out what is REALLY wrong with or about religion (as a whole or in general). The conclusion he come to and only briefly comments on is that faith is the only truly unsalvagable part of religion.

7. Some video highlights of Jancis Robinson’s keynote at the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference

8. I wish I had been at this concert.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Brain Food 8/1/11

1. A good listing of the up and comers of the Washington wine scene. I’ve tried a few of these wines, and they aren’t joking around.

2. Great article in the New Yorker which summarizes the May 1st mission that ended in the death of Osama bin Laden, and the events preceding and following. Excellently written.

3. A video of the legendary Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards (one of my favs - Central Coast CA represent) talking about the history of Ridge.

3. A security expert talks at TED. Best quote “It if happens in the news, don’t worry about it [happening to you].”