Thursday, December 30, 2004

Sack of Wood

sack of wood
sack of wood, originally uploaded by pjdwine.

I told Niko that I had blogged about him reading the book (see previous post). He said, "I didn't know you had a blog." I told him I did. So then, a few minutes later, Niko brought me a sack of wood scraps and said, "Blog this!" OK. Here it is. Sack of wood. Plus, there's a little plastic mouse in the sack, which is actually Niko's newest winter cap -- a Spongebob cap.

Luckiest Man on Earth
It's early in the morning, dawn just breaking. Niko is moving back and forth between the dining room table, where milk and toast sit, and the living room, where a whole world of activities are possible. I tell him I'm going to check my email and I move to the office nook on the other side of the kitchen. As I peck at the keyboard, I hear faint sounds from accross the house. Niko talking to himself? After a minute or two, I notice the talking continuing. I sneak through the kitchen and peer through the dining room into the living room. Christmas lights are twinkling all around. And there, in front of the fireplace, sits Niko, reading a book. Saying all the words out loud. Pausing to ponder the plot. Turning pages. Occasionally inflecting his voice to try to match the characters and their actions. What could be better than your five-year-old, on his own, sitting down to read a book? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Will They Never Learn?
Not a big deal, and certainly nothing new. But must East Coast media always be so clueless about something so basic as West Coast geography? One expects them to misunderstand the culture, and of course they almost always do. The lay of the land, however, is easily attainable, maps being widely available in bookstores, libraries, the Internet -- one imagines even at the copy desk at The New York Times. Alas, the latest offense is one I've seen repeated dozens of times in recent months: The placing of "Sideways," Alexander Payne's brilliant little film about life, love and wine, in Northern California.


The film is set in Santa Barbara County's wine country. Not Napa's. Not Sonoma's. Not Mendocino's. Not even the Santa Cruz Mountains' or San Clara Valley's (there really once was a wine country there). Miles and Jack and the gang cavort a mere couple of hours up the 101 from Hollywood, ferchrisakes. Yet here's Stephen Holden writing (and, worse, nobody on the desk catching): "'Sideways': The story of two buddies on a wine-tasting excursion in northern California ... "

No. No!

Well, the good news is that Holden has "Sideways" on his Top Ten list for the year. But still.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Real Action

niko pullying xmas040001, originally uploaded by pjdwine.

What Niko wanted most was a pulley. Not a Sponge Bob Pulley or a Spiderman Pulley or a Superwanker (or whatever the commercial hero of the moment is) Pulley. No, what the lad wanted was a piece of hardware that could be used to raise and lower items of import. Such as: Most of what was in our pantry. Once lowered, it was necessary to "make a display of everything," he said. So that was Niko's Christmas project, late in the afternoon and into the evening. Tomorrow, he wants at the "higher-up cupboards," he says. We'll see.

A Christmas Picture

niko_xmas04, originally uploaded by pjdwine.

My first attempt to add 1,000 words to Whine Country in one fell swoop (assuming that long-standing exchange rate holds in the digital world). This is Niko, celebrating Christmas at the South Montgomery Street digs.

Xmas Pictures
Faithful readers know well that Whine Country has always been a 100 percent photo-free zone. My goal today is to change that. It can't be that hard to figure out, right? Coming later, Actual Christmas Shots of the Kid.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Medals of Failure
Richard Cohen brings it, big-time, in today's Washington Post on the topic of President Bush's bizarre awarding of medals to three men who botched the Iraw effort. The last three paragraphs:

"The White House medal ceremony was really about George W. Bush. It had a slight touch of the absurd to it, as if facts do not matter and failure does not count. The War to Rid Iraq of WMD has now become The War to Bring Democracy to the Middle East. No one is ever held accountable, because the president will not do as much for himself. He admits no mistakes because he is convinced that he has made none. The terrorist attacks themselves, for which Tenet should have been sacked, are no one's fault because they cannot be the president's fault. He was warned. Condi Rice was put on notice. But, still, who could have known?

"To make these awards in the face of failure -- the mounting American death toll, the awful suffering of the Iraqis, the looming possibility of civil war, the nose-thumbing of the still-at-large Osama bin Laden and the madness of making war for a nonexistent reason -- has the creepy feel of the old communist states, where incompetents wore medals and harsh facts were denied. For this reason Bernie Kerik -- three months in Iraq building a police force as good as rhetoric can make it -- seemed as likely and appropriate a recipient of a presidential medal as any of the others.

"Maybe next year. "

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Weekend with Niko
Maybe you have to have a kid to be reminded what Christmas is like for a child. This was the big weekend of holiday decorating for Niko and me, and we went pedal to the metal the whole way. It took several trips to ol' Zeller's Hardware downtown (we avoid Home Depot as much as possible), as well as stops at Target and Rite-Aid. The tree itself was picked out at a corner lot a few blocks from home. I spied a very nice five-footer, but Niko preferred the six. Six it was. A nice specimen, narrow but tight and with no gaps. We had a couple of boxes of ornaments -- more than enough, so we stuffed some snipped bottom branches into a vase and made an arrangement over by the TV, "which needed some Christmas by it," Niko said. Stringing the lights on the house was pretty wild. Niko was flipping out of his gourd with excitement. I just tried to go with the flow, so the arrangement really wasn't much of an arrangement, as arrangements go. In the end Niko pronounced it "definitely the most beautiful Christmas house ever," and I could hardly disagree. Today we did a little touching up (Zeller's and its $1.69 100-bulb light strings makes it pretty hard to say no to the lad), and also much cooking. We made Mardi Gras Chicken with Creamy Polenta, our favorite dish of all time. And we made Maple-Pecan Ice Cream. Niko was skeptical, noting the absence of chocolate in the recipe. But in the end, he waved his hand in the air as he downed a mouthful, his version of thumbs up.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Return Engagement
After banging away at the Tri California server for a half-hour at 8 a.m. this morning and failing to get through, I tried again at lunchtime. Success! I am signed up to do the long course at Wildflower next spring.

A veteran of three Half Vinemans, I did my first Wildflower this year. It was hotter than hell and I screwed up my eating and drinking on the challenging bike leg, taking in too much carbohydrate and not enough water. This left me unable to stomach food or water on the run. Seven miles from the finish I was deeply and irretrievably into full bonkage. I never hurled; perhaps I should have. I couldn't help but walk intermittently just to make it to the finish. My run time was around 2:10, 20 minutes slower than my run-split PR.

Nevertheless, it was great, all great. I learned a ton about racing and, hell, I did Wildflower, famed Wildflower: Such a gathering of a youthful fitness you have never seen. Eight-thousand competitors converging on an isolated lake in the coastal range of California, midway between SF and LA, just as the weather hits the spring/summer crest. Some 1,500 Cal Poly students volunteer to man the aid stations along the bike and run courses. At Mile 5, the do so buck-naked.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting Wildflower right this year. April 30. That's the day.