Category:Not wine related

More changes at the blog

Those of you who subscribe by email and RSS feed (mostly if you use Google Reader, I think) may notice advertising in the email and on the RSS feed. This is a test, and I ?m not sure if I ?m going to keep it. Like the advertising on the site, it ?s more an opportunity to see how this works.

The third-party vendor that does the feeds was bought by Google, and it ?s now easier to add the ads. Besides, I want to see if the ads are the usual sort of Google mix or if they take a step up for a classy site like this one. Let me know, either in the comments or by sending me an email (that ?s the link on the top of the page), what you think.

I have also added a Facebook link to the posts. This is a major step for someone as cranky as the Wine Curmudgeon, but one must adjust to an ever changing world. It also means that the Wine Curmudgeon is probably close to appearing on Facebook. How will the cyber ether deal with that?

Donald E. Westlake, 1933-2008

image In the early 1990s, during one of my other careers, I moderated a panel about mystery writing. It was my great good fortune that Donald Westlake was on that panel. I barely had to moderate at all.

Westlake died last week, and the obituaries described his talent and his proficiency ? more than 100 books since his first novel was published in 1960. But what struck me about Westlake in the couple of years we kept in touch was how much he enjoyed actually being a writer ? not the seeing your name on a book or signing autographs part, but the staring at the typewriter or going to the post office to see if a check had arrived part. To this day, I can ?t believe that Westlake, who got movie money (a huge, big deal, which made him more secure than the rest of us) would come home and bellyache that some publisher had not sent a promised payment.

Westlake was also incredibly gracious and generous with his time and knowledge. He told about working with director Stephen Frears on The Grifters (Westlake got an Academy Award nomination) and his less happy experience as one of the writers for a TV disaster called Supertrain (he said he got fired). He also shared writing advice and recommended agents, neither of which he had to do.

The author Jo Walton put it best: ?He is a writer that writers like. ? There aren ?t many better epitaphs than that.

Happy Holidays from the Wine Curmudgeon

The blog is mostly off the next couple of days. Enjoy the holiday with people you care about and your favorite wine.

And take a listen to this, from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (courtesy vinylman86 on YouTube). Sadly, the song has been taken down for violation of copyright.

With apologies to Bing Crosby and White Christmas, this is the greatest version of a Christmas song ever. I still have the single — vinyl, of course, the B side of My Hometown — and I play it every year.

Happy Holidays.

Blog housekeeping: Ads and comments

I wanted to keep everyone posted on the two major recent developments, the appearance of advertising and a new comment format.

So far, the ads seem to be what they should be. I ?ve had to block a couple, but even they weren ?t tremendously inappropriate. A friend of mine gets sex ads on the site he runs for his college journalism classes, and he spends as much time blocking ads as he does writing, I think.

My blog is part of an ad network put together by Six Apart, the company that owns TypePad, the blog platform I use. I ?ve been quite impressed, though the money I get won ?t do much to feather the Wine Curmudgeon ?s retirement. A good day brings in about a quarter, though I set a record yesterday with 37 cents. And don ?t worry ? I ?m not going to write something here about how you need to click on the links to save me from penury (or drinking poorly made cheap wine). The ads are more about seeing how the system works than making any money. For instance, I don't get paid until I accrue $200 in earnings — which should take about six years.

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A new look for the Wine Curmudgeon

Call it whimsy. Call it branding, since I'm coming up on a year of doing this and all the experts say you ?re supposed to refresh your look at about that time. Call it TypePad ?s fault, since the platform that I use for the blog has upgraded its design capabilities.

The changes should make the blog more streamlined, simpler to use and and easier to read. The navigation bar on the top has simpler subscription options (no more of that silly-looking box that was always mistaken for a search gadget). Plus, you can send me an email by clicking on the link in the navigation bar in the upper right hand corner. I also added a category on the left sidebar for Texas and regional wine, since that has developed into one of the focuses here.

Still to come: An actual search engine and maybe even some ads.

Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments.

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Asus Eee PC 900: Oh, baby

image The best laptop that the Wine Curmudgeon ever used was a TRS-80 model 100, a Radio Shack product that is usually regarded as the world ?s first laptop. It was awesome ? a little more than three pounds, a 300-baud modem, and a faux leather case. In the 1980s, I lugged it to football games, bike races, and city council meetings, where I would write the story, hook the modem up to a phone jack, and send it to the paper by hitting a row of buttons located just above the keyboard.

I loved that machine, which was affectionately known as a Trash 80. It belonged to the late and lamented Dallas Times Herald, and I still have the instructions for using it (written by the great Kevin Edwards, a sportswriter turned cyber type who went on to fame and fortune at the Washington Post).

Since then, I have owned a couple of laptops, none of which I much cared for. In fact, I haven ?t had one for almost a decade. They were too heavy, too slow, too expensive and too irritating. I made do with an early handheld, an HP Jornada 720, which had a downsized QWERTY keyboard and synced with my desktop (though the modem never really worked). 2015 update: Since the Asus 900, I have owned two other Asus laptops, each wonderful.

But all that has changed.

That ?s because I am the proud owner of an Asus Eee PC 900. It weighs 2.2 pounds, has wi-fi, and came with a faux leather case. It has all the advantages of the Trash 80, with none of the disadvantages of today ?s software-bloated, overweight laptops. It was cheap ? about one-third to one-half the price of a reasonably-configured laptop. It ?s efficient, running on Linux instead of Windows. And it ?s quick, taking just 30 seconds to boot up (I just timed it.)

Are there difficulties with it? Certainly. The keyboard isn ?t full size, and support is non-existent. It came with a bunch of software that I can ?t make heads or tails out of (anyone know anything about something called mediaU?). The battery isn ?t what it could be, and I still can ?t get it to read an SD card from the appropriate slot.

And Linux, for all of its stability, is terrifyingly DOS-like. If you want to add more than basic software updates, command line typing is involved. (Children, ask your parents about DOS, and watch the sweat form on their brows.)

None of which I especially care about. It only weighs 2.2 pounds, I don ?t have to hit control-alt-delete. My $5 USB mouse works perfectly. And did I mention that the Asus comes with three USB ports and an ethenet connection?

About the only thing missing is a $10 bottle of wine.

A great, great look

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Chicago Cubs announcers Len Kasper (left) and Bob Brenley, giving the Wine Curmudgeon a run for his sartorial money. That’s a helluva brown pinstripe that Kasper is wearing. The occasion? The Cubs and WGN, which broadcasts the team’s games, held a 1948 throwback game on Thursday to celebrate the station’s 60 years of showing Cubs’ games.

And why is this post on a wine blog? Because the Wine Curmudgeon has two great weaknesses: white Burgundy and the Cubs. (Note to the faint of heart: The link includes a reference to former manager Lee Elia’s X-rated tirade against Cubs fans.)

Plus, I’m a sucker for fedoras.

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