Saturday, April 23, 2011

#102 - Wine for the Active Lifestyle?

Single-serve alcoholic beverages have been around for some time, but you always needed a glass to pour them into. Until now.

Three of the six available varieties, it also comes in
Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling.
Copa Di Vino, a company based in Oregon, has come out with a line of single-serve wines bottled and served in their own recyclable plastic glass. 

The wines have a patented foil seal that, according to the website, keep the wines fresh for up to one year. The container is capped off with a plastic lid that snaps of tightly to keep any leftover wine from spilling whilst you are on the move.

As judged by the comments of some co-workers, these 187ml or 6.3 ounce containers would be perfect for picnics, a trip to the park, perhaps an outdoor concert or other performance.

But what about the wines themselves? I'm not a oenophile or any kind of wine expert, but to my uneducated palate, these wines are okay, but not great. While drinking the merlot, I kept getting hints of a smell that seemed slightly chemical in nature, perhaps to do with the foil seal.

I'm not a big fan of chardonnay to begin with, and the Copa Di Vino chardonnay did nothing to change that, although I did find that the wine took on more of a citrusy note as it warmed a bit. The white zinfandel was sweet, as you would expect, and perhaps a slight cut above Sutter Home and the like.

Part of the presentation of these wines on the company's website touts the idea of bottling premium wines right in the glass, in this case, a recyclable one. But is that enough to recommend any of these wines as more than a convenient novelty?

The answer may depend on the price point. If these are priced at $1.99 or perhaps even less, I could see these becoming quite popular with people who lead active lifestyles - hikers, bikers, and such. Imagine hiking to the top of a hill and once there enjoying a glass of wine while also enjoying a panoramic view or perhaps a beautiful sunset.

I can also see these as a popular choice when the urge hits to have a picnic in the park. As long as people remember that they are buying lifestyle and convenience and not great wine, these have the potential to do very well indeed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

#101 - Some Stuff About Stuff

"I want an iPod. What's an iPod?"

Those words were uttered recently by our son. Yes, we were proud. While humorous, these words also point out what is one of the problems with the mass consumerism mentality some have warned about for years.

We are bombarded by commercials for the latest and greatest this and the new and improved that. The commercials sometimes convince us to buy things because they sound really great and not because we need them. I would not be at all surprised to find that some people buy things not having a clue as to what to do with them.

This 2004 article from National Geographic suggests that consumerism may actually be doing more harm than good in terms of the overall health of our planet. I can't speak globally, but I don't think it does all that much good from an individual perspective.

Jocelyn K. Glei asks "Is Consumerism Killing Our Creativity?" It's an interesting hypothesis that, whether true or not, should make us stop shopping online for a moment to think. I certainly think an argument can be made that stuff is not good for our physical or mental well-being.

Think about it, You buy a house. You buy a car, maybe two cars. Then you buy a bunch of stuff to put in the house. Pretty soon, you've got a lifestyle to maintain, one that might be pretty expensive. So you work. Long hours. Maybe a second job. All to maintain this lifestyle you've "stuffed" yourself into. Long hours lead to increased stress. Perhaps an ulcer. Or worse. Now, you have medical "stuff" to take care of in addition to the stuff you bought.

I'm not saying stuff is inherently bad. I have stuff, lots of stuff. However, I seldom aspire to the latest and greatest stuff, and I almost never aspire to the most expensive stuff. Case in point: I recently bought a new laptop. Did I buy the most expensive one I could find? No, I bought perhaps the cheapest one I could find that would do what I wanted and felt right when I used it. The other thing I seldom do is get caught up in the stuff that other people have.

When I was younger, I tried to fill the many holes in my life with stuff. I never went for expensive clothes or fancy cars or anything like that. Instead, I bought lots of books and records (later, CDs and DVDs). I had plenty of great music and movies, but the holes in my life were still there.

These days, we are working to rid ourselves of some of the stuff we've accumulated over the years. We are finding it is easier to get rid of stuff if you don't have it to begin with. We may be worrying more about what we have than what we don't have.

There is an old saying that money can't buy happiness. It can buy lots of stuff, but stuff will not make you happy. Unless, of course, you approach it with the right attitude.

What is that attitude? If I were defining it, I think it would go something like this: enjoy the stuff you have, don't worry about the stuff you don't have, define your stuff but don't be defined by your stuff. When the stuff gets to be too much, sell it, donate it or, if necessary, throw it away. Think of it as freeing yourself from another chain.

Monday, April 11, 2011

#100 - Working vs. Living

"I'm taking what they're giving 'cause I'm working for a livin'." - Huey Lewis and the News
"Work, work, work. Work, work, work." Mel Brooks as Gov. William J. Le Petomane in Blazing Saddles

Some time over the last month or so, I seem to have crossed the line from someone with a job to someone bordering on being a workaholic. And I'm not all that happy about it.

Last week, I worked a little over 60 hours. Three of the previous four work weeks were over 50 hours, and the remaining week was almost 50 hours.

There are those who say that in this economy I should be thankful to have a job. However, I suspect many employers count on people having exactly that mentality and keeping quiet as more work is piled on them. I know I've kept quiet. Employers rely on our distorted sense of responsibility with the end result that many of us put our employers ahead of our families or our own well-being.

My developing theory about this is that workload is the individual equivalent of the theory regarding highway expansion. That theory basically states that as highway capacity increases (additional lanes, new roads, etc.) the level of traffic or traffic load will increase to fill the additional new capacity.

In terms of the workplace, the way this plays out is that, as you increase the number of hours you work (presumably in order to catch up or even get ahead), the workload increases to fill that additional capacity. As a result, I end up no further along than when I was working 40 hours a week.

That's why I cringe whenever I hear the latest report on productivity in this country. Yes, we all are doing more with our hours at work, but at what cost? In an age where workers are disposable parts, we all try to make ourselves seem more valuable by putting in 60, 70, 80 hours a week, thereby hastening the pace at which we, too, must be disposed of because we've burned out like a light bulb.

There are those who tell me "think of the paycheck you'll get" which contains a tacit assumption that money is the most important thing in life. It's not. It can't buy you love; it can only rent you lust. It can't buy you happiness; it can only buy you stuff to fill the empty spaces and create the illusion of happiness. I know, I've tried that approach.

A former colleague once uttered what remains one of the best pieces of wisdom I have ever picked up. As he was leaving, he told me "I work to live. I don't live to work." I've always thought of those as words to live by. Lately, it seems the balance has shifted in the opposite direction, It's time for me to reverse course and soon.

On a side note: This is my 100th post on this blog. I never thought I'd get this far. At some point, I thought I would become more focused in my posts in terms of topics, but this blog has remained somewhat random, thereby living up to its name. It has in turns been therapy, rant, attempt at humor, heartfelt, but hopefully not boring.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#99 - Where There's a Will, There's a Way - Into Madness

". . . nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin
"And when I die, and when I'm gone / There'll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on." - Laura Nyro (sung by Blood, Sweat and Tears)

For several years now we've talked about writing our wills and getting our estate in order so as to provide for our son when we're gone. For most of that time, talk is all it's been. Until recently, that is.

A little over a month ago, we finally met with a lawyer to get the ball rolling on getting a will in place along with powers of attorney, living wills, and so on. We completed the first phase of that process and have draft documents in hand. Now the real fun begins,

The draft documents we have have several areas where more specific information is needed. Burial or cremation? Open or closed casket? Where should your obituary be published? It's a slow death just getting the paperwork ready so that you are prepared when you actually do die.

And the need for specific information goes on. Who should be your trustee should your original choice resign, die, or otherwise not be able to carry out the duties assigned? What music do you want played at any service? (For the record, I want Elvis Costello's "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes" to begin things, and I want to close with Barber's "Adagio for Strings".) Who do you want as your pallbearers? I don't know; who wants to carry an urn.

If there are specific bequests I want to make aside from the disposal of my estate (at least I sound well-to-do), I need to list them. If there are specific things I want to buried with, I must list those as well.

You get the idea. It's an important task, but it seems like minutiae on top of minutiae. No wonder we put it off for so long. I no longer feel guilty about that, if I ever did. It's important, but it's painful in much the same way having bamboo shoots placed under your fingernails is painful. Perhaps wills and such documents are the revenge of lawyers for having to go to school for so long.

But I suppose we can't turn back now. After all, we have a special needs child to plan for, which I guess makes it all worthwhile. So, this weekend, I guess I'll be doing a little heavy lifting and some less than light reading. As they say, no pain, no gain.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

#98 - Vacation and It's Aftermath

"Vacation, all I ever wanted." - The Go-Gos
"Is that all there is" - Peggy Lee

I'm now through two days in my first week back at work since vacation, a glorious eight-day getaway from it all along the banks of Brownlee Reservoir near Hells Canyon.

It was a wonderful, do-nothing affair, the weather saw to that. It was cold, wet, and windy, and it was great. We read, drank wine, ate well, and listened to music in the comfort of our fifth-wheel trailer.

In other words, we sat on our butts. The couch and recliner became like human battery chargers that we plugged ourselves into in hopes that eight days away from work would rejuvenate us enough to power us through the dozens of workdays ahead.

And it worked, at least for the first Monday back. But after eleven hours at work yesterday, ten and a half more today, and the prospective of many more long days over the next two months, I have to say eight days was simply not enough.

Not that I'm complaining. Okay, maybe I am a little. I came back to work to find myself already behind and ready to get away again as soon as humanly possible. If I can dig out from everything on my desk at work.

The eight days away were not without their own difficulties; the power supply on my wife's laptop died, which led to the purchase of a new machine. Today, her portable hard drive apparently decided to join her old laptop's power supply in technology heaven.

Then, of course, there are all the little day to day things that don't go away just because you've gone on vacation: laundry, housework, dishes, etc. It's kind of like that unpaid balance on your credit card, it just continues to grow and becomes harder to deal with. At some point, the creditors want their money.

That's where we are now. We had our fun away, and now it's time to pay the check. Was it worth price of built-up housework and laundry and falling behind at work? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!