Wine tasting day 2 – Rione dei Dogi Squinzano Riserva

From Cellartracker.com:

Wine: 2002 Duca Bortini di Montebello Squinzano Rione dei Dogi
Type: Red
Producer: Duca Bortini di Montebello
Varietal: Negroamaro
Designation: Rione dei Dogi
Country: Italy
Region: Puglia
Appellation: Squinzano

I thought the wine was less fruity (sweet) than yesterdays Australian Cabernet Merlot blend. The flavour was quite strong, with a slightly bitter after tone. Smooth, and not very dry.

 

IMG_2761 by you.

Very hard to find specific information about this wine. I was unable to find any specific winery it could have been produced at. The brand name appears to be Rione dei Dogi, and it seems to be bottled and/or produced by Duca Bortini Di Montebello but they dont list it amongst their brands.

From Winecountry.it:

Region: Apulia
Classification: DOC (1976)
Area Description: Red clay and sand over limestone soil in the coastal plain of the Salentine Peninsula between Lecce and Brindisi.
Color: Red
Description: Ruby red with deep orange highlights.
Type: Dry still
Taste: Dry, sapid, tannic when young.
Aroma: Intense, of wine.
Alcohol: 13%
Aging: Three years plus, laying. Minimum one year, six months of which should be in wood for the Riserva.
Temperature: Serve at 64º Fahrenheit, 18º Celsius.

From Wikiepedia:

Negroamaro, also Negro amaro, is a red wine grape variety native to southern Italy. It is grown almost exclusively in Puglia and particularly in Salento, the peninsula which can be visualised as the “heel” of Italy. The grape can indeed produce wines very deep in color. Wines made from Negroamaro tend to be very rustic in character, combining perfume with an earthy bitterness. The grape produces some of the best red wines of Puglia, particularly when blended with the highly scented Malvasia Nera, as in the case of Salice Salentino.

Wine tasting with my uncle

With my uncle and aunt in the country, I once again have the chance to hone my wine-tasting skills. The first wine I have had is “Bancroft Bridge” Cabernet Merlot from south-eastern Australia.

This wine combines a cabernet-sauvignon with a merlot. Alcohol content 13.5%. Imported by Marks&Spencer and sold in the UK

IMG_2735 by you.

This wine was produced and bottled by the Bortoli company in Bilbul, Australia for the Marks&Spencer retail chain in the UK and sold under the Bancroft Bridge brand.

 

Going on the information on the Bottle, this wine was at least Bottled at Bortoli’s Bilbum vineyard but this specific brand is not mentioned on their website. H

This wine comes from the region Riverina known locally as Australia’s fruit bowl, watered by the meandering Murrumbidgee River that runs down from snowy Mountains and is a warm, sunny area. The wine maker has crafted a wine of intense, ripe flavour that is balanced and fresh. The flavours of this Merlot/Cabernet blend include black cherry and sun-baked herbs, with a soft creamy note on the finish.This wine has been sealed with a screw cap, our aim is to choose the most suitable closure for each wine.

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Flyleaf, Cassie Bernall, Columbine, and religious themes vs the Atheist position

Baron Soosdon introduced me to Flyleaf, through his awesome machinima video of “I’m so sick”. I got my hands on their special addition album which also includes several acoustic renderings of their songs.

Flyleaf appeals to me in the same way Evanescence, Linkin Park and Limp Biscuit appeal, so you get a sense of the kind of music. Hmm, well actually, you get an even better sense by the following:

(click here if you cant see the video above)

and here is the actual video clip for the song, and a bit from the wonderful acoustic version.

Now to get to the actual point of this post. I am an atheist, and somewhat outspoken about it. Flyleaf has been described by many as a Christian rock band, and its not hard to hear why. Many of the themes of their songs and the lyrics are religious and evangelic in nature.

Now the initial reaction of many would be “who cares”, right? I try to tow that line wherever I can, but I find I am having some trouble in this case.

I am not the kinda guy who treats music, films as just background “noise”. I value the content and the message greatly. I need a good story and narrative to enjoy a movie, I need good and well developed lore to enjoy a fantasy or sci-fi universe. And I spent time understanding the lyrics and message of music I listen to.

This is the first time I have been exposed to music where my enjoyment of it is coming into some conflict with its message. I listen to the lyrics, and immerse myself in the feeling of what they are trying to convey, and I am feeling conflicted about the songs in this case.
The music is very good, and the both the music and the lyrics convey a very powerful feeling. You get drawn in. But at that level, it comes into conflict with my disapproval of the message; mainly the subjugation and surrender to God and Christ. Especially the song “Red Sam” is very strong in this, and the acoustic version is one of the best on the album. 

However, something that surprised me a little was that these songs are giving me a level of understanding and sympathy for believers that until now was purely and intellectual understanding. I believe I am more or less able to understand the need of believers, from a purely academic point of view. Physiology mostly, the works of people like Steven Pinker and Andrew Newberg, amongst others, have always been the way I have looked at these issues.

The music of Flyleaf (and i am sure many other bands) shows you the other side of the coin. Placing yourself in the mindset of the “born again” evangelical Christian, you can begin to somewhat appreciate the emotional appeal the unconditional belief and complete surrender to the embracing and loving higher power.

In this emotional context it becomes very apparent how and why Christians have serious serious issues with criticism and any attack on their religiosity. All of it cannot be interpreted as anything else than a personal attack. Anyone who has even tried to have an intellectually critical discussion about religion with a believer will know this. There are very few who are able to keep their cool talking about their religion subjectively, because of course, it cannot be subjective to them in any way. Its become part of their own self-identity, a total intertwining of values and world-view. No wonder people have such a hard time giving up religion.

There is a problem with this, besides the obvious objections of reason applied to all of dogmatic belief. That problem is how I as an Atheist, am automatically positioned in regard to these people and their value system. As Atheist in strong religious communities no doubt already know, there is an immediate conflict of values of morals when strong believers are confronted with a person who denies the very  existence of the structure these people base their personal religious experience on. For many believers, the Atheist position is nothing less than a denial of, what to them is, the most basic tenets of moral and “whole” existence. 

The very idea of non-belief is therefore deeply offensive in and of itself. We don’t even need to open our mouth to already be distrusted and cast into a negative light in a very fundamental way by the deeply religious. Spending any time at all on the internet shows you many examples of this plainly. The sentiment is often expressed in terms of distrust, of not being able to identify with someone who does not share the same basic value system (even though we often do). The point is, that many expositions of belief include the underlying criticism of un-belief, the distrust and contempt of the “outsider”, who does not, and can not, be viewed as equal, because he or she does not hold true to the tenets of the faith. The person who has not chosen to be saved is therefore not worthy of being held in the same regard.

Now let me it clear that the above view is probably not held by most believers in such strong terms. But my experience that it is true to some degree in the opinion of almost all believers toward the non-believer. Even here, in the extremely liberal, non-religious central west-Netherlands, I frequently run into people, usually colleagues at work, mostly of the Muslim faith, who, if probed, will reveal what they actually believe of those that do not share their faith and associated values. They may joke about it, they may dance around it, but one does pick up on the underlying tension. This brings me back to Flyleaf and their lyrics. Here are some copy pastes. Now, taking into consideration what i have written above, can you see what my issue is with some of the lyrics?

From “Red Sam” :
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/flyleaf/redsam.html

But who are you
You are the truth (you are the truth)
Outscreaming these lies
You are the truth (you are the truth)
Saving my life

From “Cassie”:
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/flyleaf/cassie.html

The question asked in order
To save her life or take it
The answer no to avoid death
The answer yes would make it
Make it
Do you believe in God
Written on the bullet
Say yes to pull the trigger
Do you believe in God
Written on the bullet
And Cassie pulled the trigger

How many will die
I will die
I, I will say yes

The accusation in “Red Sam” is plain, and I cant help but feel personally insulted every time I hear it. No one likes to be called a liar, but more to the point, is that many Atheist and those promoting the rational and scientific world-view are as convinced of the truth of our ways as the believer is. The fact that we have the fundament of reason on our side doesn’t faction into the discussion of course, much to our continued frustration. How can it compete against the ingrained emotional  meaning that is so valued by believers.

“Cassie” is a slightly more interesting case. Listening to the Lyrics, and the scenario described, one cannot help but wonder what is going on here, what dramatic circumstance has lead this girl to be put in this position.
Cassie Bernall, 17, was one of 12 students killed the Columbine high school massacre. The circumstances surrounding her death are now legendary within the US Christian community. From Wikipedia:

Initial reports suggested that one of the assailants, either Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold, asked Bernall if she believed in God moments before fatally shooting her. She was reported to have answered "yes". This story led to Bernall being presented as a martyr by some Christians, and served as the inspiration for several songs, including Michael W. Smith‘s "This Is Your Time"[1] and Flyleaf‘s "Cassie"[2].

It turned out the exchange did in fact not take place between her and the killers, and she was shot dead with no words being spoken between her and her assailant.  In fact the words where directed at another student, Valeen Schnurr, who did answer in the affirmative, but was left alive and survived.

The issue is that this specific part of the Columbine tragedy fed straight into that negative undertone I have been trying to describe. The Columbine killers where Atheists and Nihilists and severely  troubled. Much like Stalin and Hittler are often touted as the poster children for the “harm” of Atheism (Hitler was roman-catholic, btw), the Christian right wasted no time in zeroing in on this alleged aspect of the killers motivations, much like many other things where, such as their video game playing (another thing I have a problem with).

Salon has a very excellent article on this that conveys far better than I can here, what the exact issue is. In short, the circumstances of her death were exploited very plainly by the evangelicals, going so far as calling her a “martyr” of modern times. Her mother even went to far as to publish a book about it. Especially considering her conversion from former troubled youth to a born-again Christian. Everything about the urban legend of “Do you believe in God”  was a fantastic showpiece for them. But as the Salon article illustrates, this view and the associated evangelic agenda did not sit at all well with even the other Christian denominations in the area.

To my surprise, there is not even a mention of Atheism in that particular article, but its not hard to find the evidence of the immediate backlash against the Atheist position as a result. This youtube video very nicely shows the general sentiment, if not the overall knowledge of the facts of the producer.

The point is, that many believers position the Columbine massacre generally, and the death of Cassie Bernall specifically, as exemplary of the “war” of Atheists on the religious. This post is a good example of the position, and I agree with its authors that the “debunking” of the Cassie Bernall “martyrdom” by Salon, and the subsequent embrace by the Atheist community of those facts, is entirely beside the point. Harris’ particularly included his hatred of all those with religious convictions amongst the many things he hated about mankind in general.  For that reason of inclusiveness and not exclusiveness  of that opinion to the detriment and others he held about people, I don’t agree with the authors view that an Atheistic world view by the killers was the cause of the the Columbine Massacre, but that is a separate discussion for a later time.

With all that, you can now understand what makes me uncomfortable about Flyleaf’s song “Cassie”, where this sentiment is very very strongly presented. I have very little doubt at all about the opinion the members of Flyleaf would have to the average atheist such as myself. Knowing this, makes listening to this song in particular, and all of their music, a little uncomfortable on some level, even though I would call myself a fan at this point.

Its a strange contradiction that I didn’t expect I would have to deal with. It makes me a little worried about the effect this will have on my enjoyment of other music i have yet to discover. In the meantime I just try to drown out the nagging discomfort, maybe eventually I will be able to not “hear”  that message anymore, but somehow I don’t think that would be true to myself.

Full text of “Cassie”  by Flyleaf (Acoustic version from the Special Edition DVD”

The question asked in order to save her life or take it
The answer no avoided death and yes would make it

Do you believe in God?’
Written on the bullet
Say yes to pull the trigger
And my Sister Cassie pulled it

They didn’t love their live so much
As to shrink from death
Inspired in their footsteps
We will march ahead
Don’t be shocked that people die
Be surprised you’re still alive

All heads are bowed in silent reverence
The floor is wet with tears of sorrowful remembrance
The alter is filled with hearts of repentance
Perfect love kills all fear, rejoice in this deliverance

They didn’t love their live so much
As to shrink from death
Inspired in their footsteps
We will march ahead
Don’t be shocked that people die
Be surprised you’re still alive

The rest of my Middle-Earth stuff arrives

Today I finally received the rest of my Middle-Earth books.

This was the first time I could actually SEE what the “History of Middle-Earth” books actually looked like.. on the entire internet I could not find a single picture of them apart from the cover.

IMG_2718 IMG_2719 IMG_2723 IMG_2722 IMG_2720 IMG_2724 IMG_2725 IMG_2726

Well, as you can see, they are rather big 🙂

Below is the second unpacking video, click here if you cannot see it:

Splitting my online identity in two: Private vs Professional

I have always been a great believer in openness online. This partly stems from my wish for acceptance and to be liked by others. In order to gather more attention to oneself, you need to expose more of yourself online. If I communicate to the world my likes and dislikes, it is easier to meet people who have similar interests. I have always believed this and continue to.

However, there are some challenges here. For one, you cannot please everyone all the time. The most potent example for me is my recent interest in “new atheism”. I have always had strong feelings about religion, superstition and critical thought, but found a voice for these feelings through the writings of Dawkins, Hitchens and others. This is a subject that very easily offends people.

The problem though, is that my blog, my Twitter account and other places I post content to, have garnered a very mixed audience.
– A part of my following is my family.
– Then there are close and less-close friends.
– Then there are acquaintances and people I know through gaming, mostly WoW
– Then there are several sysadmin/geek types, who follow me out of professional interest.
– Then there are several web20/geek types, who follow me in the web20/social media context.

The content I wish to provide these different groups does not often cross the boundaries of these groups very well.
For example, I know that if I where to post more on my Twitter account about the above mentioned religious stuff, I would soon loose a number of followers from the geek groups.
However, if I post to much on my primary blog and Twitter account about sysadmin stuff, gadgets, geeky things, I will bore to tears most of the first 3 groups.

When it came to the blog, I ran into this dilemma a long time ago. This is how http://www.geekswithblogs.net/jemimus came to be. A blog dedicated to my sysadmin stuff. The early idea was to join this community to gain some exposure.On the site, my blog would be amungst “peers” and fit well in.  However, it soon turned out that the geekswithblogs community consisted mostly of developers of the Microsoft flavour. I was more or less the only sysadmin that posted there regularly.

I also came to grow frustrated with the lack of platform maintenance the owners of the site paid to it. The blogging software there is totally outdated and of course add-supported. Even now I don’t have a way to export all my old blog posts from it, something I feel I will need to do at some point.

But as the social media landscape evolved, only segmenting off the blog content is now no longer enough. As described above, different content for different audiences means I cannot just create a separate blog. If I want to maintain and increase the level of online social interaction based on my professional life and my technical interests, I must create a separate space for these contexts on social media networks also, Twitter and Facebook mainly.

Another good reason is privacy. Perhaps the best reason.
I have had colleagues who wanted to add my on Facebook. This might be a little awkward if your personal  blog and Tweets are turning up there aswell. I made a very deliberate decisions to keep my Facebook page pretty much clear of non-friends. People I didn’t know somehow in RL usually dont survive long on my Facebook page.

I cannot be totally private of course. This very blog is public and will remain so. But its plugged into all kinds of places online. Cross posts to Twitter, imports into all kinds of other social media websites including Facebook, Hyves, etc.

I have though, decided to make the split between my personal life and my private life more defined.

My sysadmin blog, for now still hosted at geekswithblogs, will be re-launched under a new domain, and this time hosted my myself.

http://thefluffyadmin.net

To go along with that, I have created a new Facebook profile, and a new Twitter account.

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681541544
https://twitter.com/thefluffysysop

Together, these 3 places will be the core of my Professional and Geek/web2.0/Social media identity.
All my old stuff, which I now term my “personal” stuff, will remain, but I have started making some small changes. I have locked down my personal Facebook profile, the one listed on the sidebar of this site, and more or less brought down the privacy options to “friends only".  I have started removing my full name from several places, so that a Google search on my full name will, in time, not immediately turn up my personal content. There is no way to hide anything I posted over the years of course, and this blog will remain public. The idea is though, that through my professional life and related tech interests, the first place people will eventually run into, will be the professional content.

Twitter is a challenge right now. I would actually like to lock it down also, making it private “friends only”. However, several ways my Twitter feed is consumed by other online services, is rather dependant on it being public. I will have to investigate exactly what the impact will be if I make it private.

I don’t yet know how all of this will work in practice. The intended effect is that I feel more free to speak my mind at the places where it is appropriate, to an audience that is more appropriate. The other effect should be that I will be able to give professional contacts a better place to interact with me, confining them somewhat to my professional side. I know that on Twitter especially, I will have some cleaning and migrating to do.

I will, of course, let you know how this works out over time.

Starting work again

On Wednesday I will start work again, first time in 3 months.
I will start at the "Nederlandsch Octrooi Bureau" as a senior Systems Administrator.

Established in 1888, Nederlandsch Octrooibureau is one of the larger agencies providing specialist advice in the field of intellectual property. The key members of staff are patent agents, trademark agents and lawyers, who act on behalf of clients in applying for, and obtaining, patent, trademark and design rights in The Netherlands and other countries.

They also advise on scope of protection, infringement, nullity, licenses, software protection and copyright. Clients include many Dutch, foreign and multinational organisations engaged in a wide variety of commercial activities and specialist fields. Nederlandsch Octrooibureau has offices in The Hague, Ede and Eindhoven and employs a staff of over 120.

I wont deny I am apprehensive. The last months I was at DHL I felt at the top of my game. I was the most knowledgeable person in the department. People came to me with all kinds of things, and I had my finger in just about everything. After a time on a job, you start to “fit” and you are kinda synced up. The requirements of job are what you know and are familiar with, and the job knows what to expect of you.

When you start somewhere new, you need to find that balance all over again. It makes me feel very unsure of myself. I start to remind myself of all the things I don’t know and all the experience I don’t have. I am embarrassed about some very basic stuff I either never knew or have forgotten. There are so many areas of knowledge I feel I should  know far more of, more areas than are probably realistic to expect of myself.

You would think I would have taken the last 3 months to improve myself in this way, to learn some things to get some study in.
Alas, my complete and utter lack of willpower has won. Combined with feeling overall very depressed and lethargic, I have done not much more than hung around and spent money on things I cant afford. Such things at least made me somewhat happy.

I am also worried about the job I am going into, its a lot smaller scale than I was previously in, and I know I prefer larger environments. I took the job not so much because I wanted to have this job specifically, but because I knew I desperately needed to get back into work, to keep myself sane and occupied. This job was one of several that came along that was interesting. I was rejected from the others so this one remained as the default. I could have waited longer, waited for something with a large company to come along, or datacenter work, I dunno.

As always, its not about the money, which is about the same as what I made for DHL. On the other hand, I see the job, as I see every new job, as an opportunity to learn new stuff, to grow, if I can remain enthusiastic. And that is the problem with my current state of mind. I have no enthusiasm right now, but I know that I may well in a few months time, once I am settling into the job and the routine. So its hard to have good perspective right now. The only thing I know is that I know myself, and a few months into the job, I should be in the “zone” for a while. Its at that time I want to start studying again. 

The plan for now is to stay in the job for as long as it is interesting, which is always the plan of course, and to get myself out of the various debts that I have once and for all. For now, that means staying here, living with my mother and sister for a time longer. I don’t mind that so much right now, though the first irritations are starting to creep up on me. Might come a point where the scales tip and place my financial situation against my wish for freedom and independence. We shall see, I am not there yet.

Another cause of sadness to me is that I will be partially losing the friends I have made online in the wowcast bindpoint chat. I even went as far to create a new WoW character on the US realm they all play on, just to spend some time playing with them. The obvious problem is the time difference, which I was able to overcome the last months by simply staying up and sleeping in. That wont be as easy anymore, and I am afraid I will loose a lot of the contact with them. They have been a good emotional support for me, and have been a bit of much needed company and solace in these weeks following my breakup with Lia, whom I still miss terribly.

I know that is going to be an issue too, when I do move out of here. I know the freedom comes with a price, that of loneliness. I don’t look back on the years before Lia with a lot of joy, they where incredibly empty years for me. A can’t but think a lot of that was wasted, but I knew I would not have been able to do otherwise. For now, I am going to take one day at a time and see where it leads. I have reminded myself that this is basically a reset for me. I have no restrictions really, no responsibilities, nothing holding me down except for the money, which, realistically, should be sorted in 6 months. I am gonna look back again at that time, probably a very different person, again.

nosce te ipsum

First Tolkien books arrive! Pics and video

So, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I had ordered a bunch of Tolkien books from Amazon.

None of those have arrived yet, and I am getting a little anxious. However, as I also said, that I was considering getting this collectors edition set, while they where still available.

Well I took the dive, and ordered it from Tolkienlibrary.com

It arrived yesterday, and I am very impressed and very happy!

First, the pictures:

IMG_2696 IMG_2692 IMG_2700 IMG_2687 IMG_2686 IMG_2685 IMG_2701 IMG_2699 IMG_2691 IMG_2684 IMG_2697 IMG_2688 IMG_2694

I am very impressed with the quality. The paper is a bright white and high quality. Illustrations are color printed and the maps are highly detailed, and the detail is not lost as the paper quality is so good. Each book is held in its own container that is tough cardboard.

Here is my unpack or “Haul” video:

(if you cant see the video above, click here for the video on Youtube (click the HD button for high-def) or Facebook)