Saturday, November 21, 2020
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Last Thursday, November 12 we had a little rain--about 0.4 inches--but yesterday (November 17) and today we've had a decent downpour. It finally feels like fire danger is over for the year after an evacuation in August (much earlier than usual--because of fires started by lightning in many parts of the state in the absence of rain) and then fire scares again in October.
The last rain we had was on May 13, in the 2019-2020 rain year. This new rain is the first of the 2020-2021 rain year, which goes from October 1, 2020 to September 30 2021. So far there is 1.20 inches of new rain in the rain gauge, bringing our total to 1.60 inches (way below normal for this point in the year), but it looks like there will be at least a little more rain today.
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Next step is to inoculate the new wine with malolactic bacteria to induce malolactic fermentation, which converts some of the malic acid in the grapes to lactic acid, which softens it--standard procedure with red wines. This wine will be ready to bottle in about a year. The 2019 wine is ready to be bottled now--the next wine-related task that awaits me.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Saturday, October 3, 2020
The ash is easily removed. The problem is that "fire taint" is caused not so much by ash from distant (relatively speaking) fires, as in our case this year, but by prolonged exposure to thick smoke, which is absorbed directly through the grape skins and by the leaves, later migrating toward the fruit. I'm hopeful that the grapes we've just harvested won't suffer from taint as we have had only a few days of really bad smoke. We'll see.
The crushed grapes will undergo a two-three day cold soak now (or a cool soak anyway) until I inoculate the must. I plan to use the Rockpile yeast strain this year as my notes say that's what I used in 2015 and our 2015 wine turned out to be very good indeed.
Sunday, September 27, 2020
The Republicans now are, of course, correct in saying that the President has a right and a duty to appoint a new justice. The point is that President Obama had the same right and duty (why does this need to be explained to anyone?). Objections now to appointing a justice so close to the election are based on a sense that to give Mr. Trump another appointment is a double insult to President Obama and Merrick Garland--and that to block another trump appointment is only to right the original wrong. The Republican party has sunk lower than I would have ever thought it could go.
A juice sample before harvest showed a brix of 19.5 degrees, which, corrected for the temperature, is around 20.25 degrees. The crushed grapes tested at 20.25 brix and a specific gravity of 1.080. As I often do with the Sangiovese grapes, from which we make rosé, I bumped up the specific gravity with a small addition of corn sugar (450 grams or so), which raised the specific gravity to 1.090. That should yield a wine of about 12.6% alcohol. The pH of the must was 3.58. I crushed the grapes a little after noon and will press them this evening after they've had about six hours on the skins--which is less than usual. I frequently leave them overnight, so that they've typically had about 18 hours before pressing, but that would mean pressing first thing in the morning and there won't be time to do that before work starts. The color this year is likely to be a bit lighter than usual. We'll see.
Thursday, September 24, 2020
Boyum looks at a series of films more or less current at the time of writing, using them as examples of adaptions well done, adaptions that failed, and adaptations that she contends outdo the original.
Examples include The Innocents, The Great Gatsby, The French Lieutenant's Woman, and Apcalypse Now, which she examines from the point of view of perspective. She looks at Women in Love, Ragtime, Tess, and Daisy Miller in an examination of style and tone. In a chapter that considers metaphor, symbol, and allegory, she uses A Clockwork Orange, Lord of the Flies, Wise Blood, and Death in Venice as examples. Her final main chapter, which looks at the problem of communicating thought, dream, and inner action through film and takes as its examples Slaughterhouse-Five, Under the Volcano, The Day of the Locust, and Swann in Love, is followed by an essay on The Magnificent Ambersons. The author argues persuasively that, contrary to the received wisdom, film versions, while not always successful, can be works of art in every way the equal of their source material and that in some instances they are even improvements upon the original. She is a staunch defender of the adaptation.
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Many of the seeds are completely brown, suggesting the berries are ripe even if the sugar is a little low. Do I wait or do I pick soon and chaptalize, if necessary? A little research is in order. I'll have to go back and look at what I've done in the past. It's hard to remember the details from year to year. I need to refresh my memory.
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Thursday, July 23, 2020
Colville describes himself, again in the preface, thus: "...the money saved by my parents' carefulness (which never verged on meanness) went on providing their three sons with the best and most expensive education available; and though they were far from being cadgers, they had enough devoted friends and relations to provide their children with pheasants to shoot, horses to ride, yachts in which to race and pleasant country houses in which to stay.
"Thus in 1936, when I came down from Trinity College, at the age of twenty-one, I had not been stinted of pleasures and had even, in the days when travel was still an adventure, been to the Soviet Union, steamed down the Danube in a barge, crossed Asia Minor in a third-class railway carriage, spent ten days as a guest in the monasteries of Mount Athos and learned to speak both French and German with fluency. I had also won two scholarships. However, I was well aware that I must soon earn my living with greater urgency than some of my university friends."
While Colville did not come from great wealth, perhaps, his family was comfortable and with numerous connections to people of the upper classes. While at times he sounds a trifle snobbish (particularly to an American) his is the perspective of a man with the kind of education and breeding that it might be nice to see in people in public service again, and some of the most interesting comments he makes are about the US generals and politicians he and Churchill work with when dealing with the United States, particularly later in the war. The Americans, if not laughed at, are generally regarded as sincere but poorly educated and naive.
There is much of interest here about Churchill the man—his quirky habits, in particular—and about the workings of Parliament. The deep respect for and expectation of fine oratory in the House of Commons obvious in the time and effort Churchill and the author put into speech writing will probably seem alien to those of us used to US politicians and, especially today, when we are led (if that's the right word) by a man who is obviously both of limited mental capacity and limited education. If Eisenhower seemed sincere but poorly informed to Colville, how would he have characterized a Mr. Trump?
Some of the diary will sound like gossip—Colville rarely misses an opportunity to comment on the beauty, charm, or intelligence (or the lack of any of these) of the women he meets or on the effectiveness (or lack of it) of the politicians he works with. There is quite a bit about behind-the-scenes maneuvering among the politicians of the day. The coverage is uneven, and there are some startling omissions. For example, while there is a great deal of comment on Churchill's efforts to push Roosevelt into providing Britain with more aid in the early stages of the war, the attack on Pearl Harbor that finally precipitated US war participation is not even mentioned. The atomic bomb is barely noted. That said, a very interesting and entertaining read, not least because of the writer's excellent writing style, a product, no doubt, of that expensive education. Recommended.
Saturday, July 18, 2020
This year has been a struggle on many fronts, creating art among them. The work I’ve done so far this year has been slow in coming and has not come with ease, but, I suppose the important thing is to keep at it. I’m a firm believer in the idea that good work comes from the process, that no amount of planning ahead, at least in my case, is ever of much value. I start with one idea and before long that idea has vanished and something quite different is in front of me and seemingly pulling the strings. I content myself by knowing that I always retain the power of final judgment, that it is I who decides whether what emerges is worth presenting to the world or not.
This is Untitled Collage No. 220 (Santa Rosa). April 10, 2020. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, found paper (handwritten music, postage stamps, wine label), collage. Image size: 19.9 X 12.1cm (7.8 x 4.8 inches). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on reverse.
Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collage work, visit my website. https://ctalcroft.wixsite.com/collage-site
Saturday, July 11, 2020
Friday, June 12, 2020
[Not too long after posting this, I saw a Gulf Fritillary in the garden--which I don't think I'd ever seen before. A very pretty butterfly.]
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
[Edit: Today is June 14, so the bees have been in the new hive for five days now. Today for the first time I noticed bees bringing in pollen, which is a good sign, as it means there is brood to feed or there will be soon. Until today, all the bees I saw coming back to the hive were bringing in nectar only. They need nectar to produce wax. As these were installed on bare foundation (no drawn comb) they will have had to build comb from scratch. It's amazing how quickly they work. They can build a significant amount of comb in a day, so I suspect things are progressing well. I won't open the hive to check on things, though, for a couple of weeks. You can tell everything you need to know usually just by watching the patterns of activity. And, as I say, pollen coming in is a good sign.]
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
[Update: We ended up getting 1.3 inches of new precipitation. That brings our total as of May 15 to 16.85 inches.]
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
For more of my abstract monotype collage work, visit my website. https://ctalcroft.wixsite.com/collage-site
Saturday, May 2, 2020
Shortly after this, I opened a bottle of 1983 Château D'Issan that was even better—and another nine years older. I was too lazy to write down any impressions, but it was delicious. Having been in lockdown now for six weeks, we're beginning to make a dent in all the wine that's in the house. Haven't bought a new bottle for quite a long time. Among those we've been drinking down have been our own wines. The 2015 Clos du Tal Stone's Throw Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc (to give it its full name) from our backyard was especially good—really top notch. Last night I opened a bottle of our 2009. It was not as nuanced and had a distinctly milky quality, which suggests I got the malolactic fermentation to go well in 2009. The grapes were, of course, much younger (the vines were planted in 2001; we made our first wine in 2004). Nevertheless, the 2009 is quite pleasant.
Monday, April 27, 2020
Livio looks at a logical gap in Darwin's theory on the evolution of species, which at the time of its publication, lacked a mechanism for natural selection; Darwin was ignorant of Mendel's research on inheritance which showed that traits are passed on to offspring in a way that allows natural selection to work. Darwin was right in spite of this failing.
The author looks at Lord Kelvin's mistakes in calculating the probable age of the Earth. He looks at the eggregious error Linus Pauling made in suggesting a structure for the DNA molecule, a particular interesting case as the error was so glaring. The book presents the curious case of Fred Hoyle who stubbornly attempted to refute the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, and finally examines Einstein's introduction to his equations of the so-called cosmological constant, which he later regretted, although recent research seems to be pointing in the direction of Einstein having been correct. An interesting look at the psychology of scientific thought and, in the current environment, five useful lessons in the importance of dispassionately examining facts with an open mind and a willingness to abandon conviction in the face of contradictory evidence.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Click on the image for a larger view. For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.
Sunday, April 12, 2020
Untitled Collage No. 218 (Santa Rosa). Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. October 12, 2019. Image size 12.4 x 12.0cm (4.9 x 4.7 inches). Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on reverse. Small and simple, but this has become a favorite.
For more of my abstract monotype collage work, visit my website. https://ctalcroft.wixsite.com/collage-site
Sunday, April 5, 2020
1. Black olives (fresh, pitted--not those horrid little black tires they put on pizza at the big pizza chains)
Boil water for pasta. While waiting for the water, chop the olives, capers, anchovies, and garlic finely but not too finely. Set aside.
When water is boiling, add the pasta. If you normally salt your pasta water, in this case don't: the olives, capers, cheese, and anchovies provide plenty of saltiness.
In a large skillet, heat a little olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the olives, anchovies, capers, and chili flakes. Stir. Reserve the garlic and parmesan cheese. Turn down the heat.
About four minutes before the pasta will be ready, make a space in the skillet for the garlic, turn up the heat again (medium-high) and add the garlic and more butter so that the garlic sautés in the butter. Make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Turn down heat if necessary after the garlic takes a little color, which should be just before the pasta is ready. If you add greens, put these in along with the garlic so that they're just cooked as the pasta finishes.
When pasta is ready, drain and add to the pan with the other ingredients. Turn off the heat and mix well. Last, add the Parmesan cheese. The residual heat will melt it. Serve immediately!
I like to make this with baby spinach, which adds some nice color. If you're a vegetarian, you can omit the anchovies. If you don't like spicy foods, omit the chili flakes. If you like things spicier, this works well with fresh minced jalapeño or Fresno peppers (or hotter varieties, if you like). The photo here shows it with snow pea pods instead of spinach. Dinner last night. :)
[Update: More rain on April 6 added 0.20 inches to our total, which now stands at 15.55 inches for the 2019-2020 rain year, still woefully low, but every little bit helps.]
Saturday, April 4, 2020
The book has opened my eyes to some composers I now think may deserve more of my time and confirmed my opinions about others (not that Schonberg is the last word, but he seems to know what he's talking about). I was up to Les Six and the modern French composers when I started writing these notes, I've since finished the book. There have been some surprises. I had no idea, for example, that Berlioz was such an interesting character. He seems to have been a bit crazy but a superb writer about music and about other composers and their work.
The author has much to say about the differences between Mahler and Bruckner that are quite amusing, pointing out that the latter was a deeply spiritual man and suggesting you have to be equally spiritual to really get Bruckner. The author has a great deal of sympathy for those who find Bruckner boring while acknowledging that he can be worth the time. He calls Mahler a whiner and a peevish child, essentially, who reveled in his agony and couldn't stop asking BIG questions about life. He suggests that Mahler and Bruckner wondered about the same sorts of things, the main difference being that Bruckner was sure of the answers to his questions while Mahler never found an answer that satisfied him.
The author has a very high opinion of Debussy as a modernist (calling Mahler the end of Romanticism rather than a forward-looking revolutionary and Debussy the real revolutionary at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th) and has a surprisingly low opinion of Sibelius. Perhaps Sibelius was at a low point in general esteem in 1995, I thought, but I've since found that the first edition of this book, published in 1970, said the same thing. Schonberg also doesn't think that much of Richard Strauss, or at least argues that Strauss peaked very early and that his later works are rather dull, something I tend to agree with, although, because my father was a fan I have a big collection of Richard Strauss discs that I keep trying to like more than I actually do.
Not being a pianist or that familiar with the technical aspects of piano playing, there's much in this book about performance style that has made we want to pull out all kinds of records and CDs and listen for the things he mentions. For example, he talks about Chopin being among the first to write music for keyboard that requires use of the pedals in a way that was entirely new (and suggests along the way that many modern pianists completely miss the point of much of the music of Chopin) and he talks about Debussy's piano music being music that has to be played as if the piano is not a percussion instrument at all--as if the fingers are working directly on the strings.
It's also interesting to read that very well known composers have been contemptuous of the music of other very well known composers almost throughout the history of modern music, which suggests we should perhaps all be confident in dismissing those composers we don't care for! :) Anyway, Very interesting.