Pliny the Younger… and More

After twenty-plus years in northern California’s wine country, I recently returned to Oregon. I got out just in time. (In time for ice and snow in Portland.) Five years of drought has given way to rain, lots of rain, bringing landslides, flooding and washed-out roads. When I arrived in Sonoma County, its transformation from a richly diverse agricultural area – apples, cherries, pears, prunes, hops – to wine grapes was nearly complete. I watched as most any bare patch of ground was planted with vineyards.

The recession in 2008 brought new planting to a halt. Sonoma and Mendocino and Napa and Lake counties were awash with unsold premium wine. The recession’s upside was several years of cheap wine made with blends of exceptional-quality grapes. Which brings us to the current time and a different type of diversification.

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Christo & Jeanne-Claude and Artsy

About a year ago, we reported on The Floating Piers, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s participatory installation in northern Italy. As with their other public projects, The Floating Piers was temporary, removed last July. If you want to keep up with the artists or purchase some of their work, check out

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12 Things for a Better World

  1. Plastic wrap in packaging that has an edge to tear off the needed amount in a straight edge – and really works – to put an end to struggling to rip off a piece and end up with a crumpled mess folded over on itself.
  2. A communications company – cellular phone, cable television – that will communicate. You could call and speak with an actual person without wasting a half-hour of your life responding with keypad or voice (that is not understood) to computer-generated prompts.
  3. Specialty contractor you can hire to come to your house and remove all no-longer-used cable – telephone, cable TV, satellite TV, Internet, power/transformer cords – that are hiding behind furniture or inside walls
  4. A smartphone app: English-Starbucks dictionary so a neophyte can place an order without embarrassment at one of the ubiquitous coffee stores where “Tall” means small. You could order with confidence a “double-shot grandé frappe no foam with room” and no one would look funny at you.
  5. A portable Transporter like what is used in Star Trek. When you find a Yukon XL S.U.V. parked in a space – likely in a space and a half – labeled “Compact,” you can dematerialize the over-sized beast and beam it to a field of weeds, then park your Prius in the space that is rightfully yours.
  6. Costco shuttle – a vehicle – preferably electric powered – to carry you, and the giant-size items you purchased, from the store to your vehicle, parked far away at the other end of the dangerous parking lot. (Inside the store, traffic signals at aisle intersections and painted lines on the floor, like on highways, with no-passing zones, wouldn’t be a bad idea either.)
  7. Standardized bath fixtures in hotels. This would avoid the danger of breaking the shower control by turning the handle when it must to be pulled to start the water. Or avoiding the perverse trick where the hot is on the right and on the left is cold.
  8. Warnings on beer labels: “This is not locally-produced craft beer. It’s made by a giant multi-national conglomerate but packaged to make you think it’s a small brewery. The money you spend on this will leave the country.”
  9. A No-Children section in restaurants, preferably with a soundproof wall separating it from the other diners. Because the food in bars – where people younger than twenty-one without fake ID are not allowed – typically is not very good.
  10. Smartphone, tablet or computer setting that blocks emojis. Because the emoji is the harbinger of the end of language. Texting has already replaced speaking to each other anymore, or writing in complete sentences. If we don’t stamp them out, in the future we’ll communicate without using language at all. Future historians will be able to do little more than interpret the cryptic symbols.
  11. Lengthy prison terms for bicyclists who come up from behind pedestrians without giving warning. Capital punishment if there is a bike path separate from the walking path.
  12. An app that will delete something you posted on the Internet and now want to remove… Ha! Ha! Ha! Just kidding! Nothing says “Forever” like what you put out on the Internet.

Public Service Announcement

Feeling secure because your new credit and debit cards have the state-of-the art chips? Well, don’t; the crooks are relentless and are working to steal that from you also.

Here are two links that are helpful:

How to spot a card skimmer

Helpful advice to protect yourself from identity theft

Question: When paying your restaurant tab, why does the server take your card away and then bring it back with your receipt? Outside the U.S. the norm is for the server to carry a handheld device to read your card and print your receipt. Your card is never out of your sight. The U.S. was behind other countries in adopting chip technology; maybe some year we’ll catch up with card-reader technology..

Because All Black People Know Each Other

It’s still Black History Month and our president is still honoring it. From yesterday’s press conference:

“We’re going to do a lot of work on the inner cities. I have great people lined up to help with the inner cities.”

“When you say the inner cities, are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda—” American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan asked.

“Am I going to include who?”

“Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus—”

“Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?” Trump said, speaking over her. “Do you want to set up the meeting?”

“No, no, no, I’m just a reporter,” Ryan said.

“Are they friends of yours? No, go ahead. Set up the meeting.”

“I know some of them, but I’m sure—”

“Let’s go. Set up a meeting.”