Lawyer Stories Three

Sparring Partners

By John Grisham

Published by Doubleday

Copyright: © 2022

A trilogy of quick read novellas, although the form is closer to that of short stories; few characters with limited development and abrupt, into the concrete wall endings, detailing new tales of old friends and old tales of corrupt and feeble lawyers all wrapped around a common theme of dysfunctional families.

Digressing a bit, estimates for the number of books ever written, from Gilgamesh and the Book of Genesis, 3500-4000 years ago to the present day exceed 100,000,000 to maybe 150,000,000 with a couple million new titles added every year. I insert this tidbit of data into the discussion because I seldom read anything current in fiction for the simple reason that the catalogue of available books is unimaginably vast, hopelessly unreadable quantities with literature quality spanning parsecs of space and ink. Books of fiction that remain in print for 25-30 years and longer commonly have survived because a large audience has voted favorably on the work. Waiting for others to pass judgement relieves me of the painful task choosing good reads.

Returning to Grisham’s Sparring Partners, as I was hopping around Texas spending uneventful nights alone in uninteresting hotels, I went looking for a quick read from a known author in a shop selling mainly current best sellers. From the cover of this book the publishers state that Grisham has an unbroken string of 47 best sellers, a decent record for believing that the Sparring Partners would provide a fair bit of entertainment, possible reading enjoyment. The jury is still out but reverting to reading old books seems prudent.

A Bygone Era

Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book

By Molly Rockwell

Published by Harry N. Abrams

Copyright: © 1977

A beautiful collection of Norman Rockwell’s Christmas and winter scenes interspersed with Christmas stories, music, and more that you have experienced and loved since you were a little, wide-eyed tyke waiting for permission to tear into your presents.

The book not only contains some great Rockwell snapshots of Christmas but timeless stories of Christmas cheer, that if you haven’t read you should, just for the heart-warming smiles they will bring to your fuddy duddy lips and cheeks. O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi is here along with Moore’s Night Before Christmas, Dicken’s Christmas goblin short story, Virginia’s, “Is there a Santa Claus?” letter, and the newspaper’s response, all to remind and reinforce why Christmas is the world’s favorite holiday.

This book was first published in 1977, which is the one I have, with various reprintings and content expansions through the years, the most recent edition coming out in 2009. The new edition contains additional Rockwell paintings along with poster size prints that are ready for framing. Merry Christmas.

It Happened Already

The Stars and The Earth or Thoughts upon Time, Space, and Eternity

By Felix Eberty

Translator: Josephine Caruana

Published by Comino-Verlag

Copyright: © 2018

A short read reflecting on the information carried by a photon as it reaches your eye from the far reaches of space.

Originally the book was published in two volumes, both together totaling less than 80 pages, in 1846 and 1847. The book sought the union of physics and religion, metaphysics; for God sees the past and the present as a single point in the space time continuum, time stopping when moving with the light, observing all in three dimensions rather than four. Eberty continues his thesis from an all-seeing God to a time when man’s technological progress allows him to see as God sees or the child of God becomes a god.

Eberty knowing that the speed of light was finite, about 300,000 km/s, contemplated that all visuals captured by any type of eye, human or otherwise, happened in the past. The past including an inconceivably, insignificantly small amount of time in the past, such as a plate of mac and cheese in front of you, is still in the past, what you see has already occurred. Jurgen Neffe, author of a biography of Albert Einstein, stated it succinctly “time travels with light”. Observing light traveling from a billion light years away exhibits events as they happened a billion years ago but if you traveled with those photons for those billion years the past occurs at the same time as your present.

Eberty’s thoughts on the meaning of time and space were recognized at the time not only as novel but metaphysical in nature, maybe not so much today.

You Are Here: Now What?

Return of the God Hypothesis

By Stephen C. Meyers

Published by HarperOne

Copyright: © 2021

An interesting if not an enlightening, but thoroughly tedious treatise.

Meyer, in excruciating detail, examines the evidence for a universe designed, created, and set into motion by the hand of God. His proofs assess how the universe is perfectly tuned to foster our existence, how human DNA’s complexity is beyond random chance, and how the explosion of multi-celled life forms during the Cambrian Period (485-539 mya (million years ago)) is unlikely Darwinian in nature.

The first two proofs are plausible, and his arguments are meticulously developed, while the Cambrian explosion of life does not address the hundreds of millions to a billion years of missing rock section prior to the beginning to the Cambrian Period. The explosion of life may simply be a function of where one begins to sample the evidence.

Meyer’s case for God orchestrating our existence is convincing but you only need to read Part II, about 150 pages in the hardback version of the book, while the other 300 pages can be consigned to doctoral students in logic and religion.

Universal Physics and Local Irrelevance

Einstein: A Biography

By Jurgen Neffe

Translated by Shelly Frisch

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright: © 2007

Neffe brings comprehension to relativity but muddles Einstein’s personal life to inaptness.

Neffe’s non-linear telling of Einstein’s life adds little to the story and a lot of unnecessary page flipping for the reader to grasp the author’s intermittent and incomplete style of writing, whereas his layman descriptions of the theory of relativity generally clears the accumulated fog of physics to bring basic understanding Einstein’s science.

Photoshop Beginnings

I decided to add another hobby to my list of things to waste my time on and today I began my journey into learning Photoshop. I may regret starting this.

This short post falls under the heading of ‘You have to start somewhere’ and with software as non-intuitive as Photoshop that more or less means a few steps past launching the program. I began with something simple hoping that it would facilitate learning the interface–but it didn’t.

I started with a photo shown above left of a sphinx I took in the museum at Delphi, Greece ten or twelve years ago.

I wanted to replace the drab museum walls surrounding the sphinx with a more pleasing background. The lower waterfalls from Lombok Island, shown to the right, an island immediately east of Bali in the Indonesian Archipelago, fitted the need for a more interesting background.

Both pictures were imported into Photoshop as layers. I cropped the sphinx pic and removed its background and then I arranged the layers so the sphinx is on top the waterfall pic. The result is shown to the left.

The composite pic only took a few minutes once I understood the Photoshop jargon and found the right buttons, but that took about 45 painful minutes. The software is not for the casual user, and it will take some time reach a proficiency that doesn’t raise my blood pressure every time I use it. I’ll post something a little more involved later on.

Early Italian Renaissance Painting

Piero Della Francesca

By Anna Maria Maetzke

Photographs by Alessandro Benci

Published by Silvana Editoriale

Copyright: © 2013

An art book short on art and long on art history and art criticism.

Piero della Francesca, born in Tuscany in the early 15th century, is regarded as a true master before his time, eerily anticipating post impression by 500 years. Francesca was a major force in inputting perspective into paintings, greatly influenced by an Italian contemporary polymath, Leon Battista Alberti.

Francesca’s greatest works include the painting to the right, Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, and the fresco, The Legend of the True Cross, located within the basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo, Italy.

The book contains all surviving paintings by the artist, about 150, which showcase his genius when compared with fellow artists such as Donatello and Brunelleschi, along with extensive research and commentary on Francesca’s life and art.

Tilla Malbec 2014

W Tilla 2014Malbec from Eastern and Southern Mendoza, Mendoza, Cuyo Region, Argentina

100% malbec

13.0% alcohol

Purchased:  12 Nov 2017  –  $9.99

Opened:  29 April 2018

els:  8.8/10

Robert Parker:  90

Flagstaff Magazin:  90

Vinous:  87

Wine Enthusiast:  87

Wine Spectator:  87

Cellar Tracker:   86

Argentina’s wine history dates back to the 1500s when Catholic priests planted vineyards around their monasteries to guarantee wine for the parish and Holy Mass. The country was the first South American country attempting to commercially grow vines, beginning in Mendoza in the early to mid-1800s.  Many of the initial plantings came from Chile in the early 1800’s but the varietals that would change world wine history came from the Bordeaux region of France in 1853, including the ubiquitous Malbec.  Eventually, Mendoza was producing world-class Malbec wines, on par or superior to those produced in France, mainly due to its high elevations in the foothills of the Andes, well-drained soils, and lots and lots of hot sunshine. Today the country produces 75% of the world’s Malbec.

Argentina is the world’s 6th largest producer of wine by volume, just behind the US and ahead of Australia. It produces about 6% of the world’s total wine. The country has 510,000 acres planted in grapes, 55% in red wine grapes, 25% in roses and the rest in whites. Malbec plantings account for 20% of the total acres planted with Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay accounting for another 20%. Argentina has 4 main wine-producing regions: Atlantic, Cuyo, North, and Patagonia.

Cuyo is the largest and most important wine-producing, macroeconomic region in central Argentina and includes the wine sub-regions of La Rioja, Mendoza, and San Juan; with Mendoza being the largest of the 3 by area, population, GDP, and wine production. The region produces about 80% of all wine in the country. The area is arid to semi-arid receiving less than 20 inches of rain per year and experiences large diurnal temperature variations of about 35°F.

The Mendoza region, lapping up onto the eastern foothills of the youthful Andes, is the largest wine producer in Argentina, accounting for 65-75% of the country’s total. A third of the country’s vineyards are dedicated to Malbec with Mendoza also producing the lion’s share of that variety with 85,000 acres planted. The Mendoza wine region is partitioned into another 5 sub-areas: Central Oasis, East Mendoza, North Mendoza, South Mendoza, and Uco Valley. North Mendoza, aka Lujan de Cuyo, designated as an appellation in 1993,  contains an additional 6 micro-regions including: Agrelo, Barrancas, Las Compuertas, Perdriel, Ugarteche, and Vistalba.

The East or Eastern Mendoza sub-region, 50 miles southeast of Mendoza, is the country’s largest wine-producing area with almost 175,000 acres of vineyards and is further divided into 3 smaller areas: Rivadavia, Junin, and San Martin. The largest plantings are in Bonarda, Malbec, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards are grown in the foothills of the Andes at 2100-2500′ above sea level with maximum summer temperatures in the low 80s°F and averaging 8″ of rain per year. Because of the low rainfall, the vineyards are irrigated with snowmelt waters from the Andes. The soils are mostly a heterogeneous mix of infertile, sandy loams and rocks.

The Southern Region is located 100 miles due south from Mendoza, at an elevation 3,000-4,000’ above sea level in San Carlos County. Bonarda and Malbec are the commonest grapes grown in the region. The high elevations mean lower temperatures and bright sunshine. The Southern Region is a desert with annual rainfall averaging about 14″ per year and summer temperatures that get up into the high 80s°F.

Malbec, Argentina’s national and highly celebrated grape was brought to the country in 1853. With its introduction, and other varietals, to the country the legislature established Quinta Normal, a school of agriculture, in Mendoza on 17 April 1853 which was to become the date for the annual Malbec World Day.

Malbec is a black, thin to thick-skinned, depending on elevation, grape that tends to ripen early. The wine from the grapes has aromas of cherries, strawberries, or plums; producing soft flavors and mild but meaty tannins. Malbec’s aged in oak keep for a long time and can be kept uncorked for 10 years or more. Malbec has many synonyms including Cot, Cahors, Grifforin, Hourcat and Quincy.

Bodegas Esmeralda, founded by Don Juan Fernandez is named in honor of his only daughter: Esmeralda Fernandez. The winery is located in the city of Junin, approximately 300 miles west of Buenos Aires and almost 800 miles east of Mendoza, producing wines both for the local market and for export. The winery’s Tilia labeled wines, named after the Latin name for the Linden tree, are all produced for the export market.

Tilia’s Malbec grapes are sourced from a variety of vineyards in the 3 counties that make up the Eastern Region: San Martin, Junin, & Rivadavia and San Carlos county of the Southern Region. The vineyards are in a true desert climate, receiving less than 1″ of rain per month and are irrigated with the Andes’ snow melt waters flowing down through the Tunuyan River. Because of the desert conditions the sun shines 90% of time throughout the year, generating hot days and cool nights.

After harvesting and sorting, the grapes are fermented for 12 days in stainless steel tanks at 81-84°F. The wine undergoes a 15 day maceration period followed by 6-9 months ageing in French and American, new and used oak barrels; steel tanks, and concrete vats. The wines are aged in bottles for 3 months before putting them on the market.

A dark purple wine with aromas of black cherries and plums with a hint of vanilla. The wine is medium to full-bodied with flavors of blackberries and currants. A nice finish with easy tannins and a crisp acidity.

Malbec wines go well with simple foods. We served this wine with a simple meal of spaghetti and meatballs in a marinara sauce producing a solid and enjoyable combination.

A good wine at a great price. It should last until 2022-24. Decanting this wine did it a world of good.

$7.99-9.99 wine-searcher.com

 

 

 

Out of Eden

The Ancient Mediterranean World: From the Stone Age to A.D. 600B Mediterranean 2004

Written by:  Robin W. Winks and Susan P. Mattern-Parkes

Published by: Oxford University Press

Copyright:  © 2004

Homo erectus, an upright fellow, showed up during the Pleistocene about 2 million years ago and quickly dispersed throughout Asia and Africa even though his starting point is ambiguous. After mucking about the tropics, the lack of clothes makes it difficult to take skiing vacations in the Alps, decided to take on a bigger brain and chin with less eye brow protuberance, and developed into our mum: Homo sapiens, a couple of hundred thousand years ago.  Some say we came from east Africa, others say east Asia but regardless of our origins we showed up in what is now Israel around 100,000 years ago and our quest for ever larger cell phone screens and civilized table manners had begun.

Agriculture, originating about the 12th century B.C., traces its roots back to the fertile crescent; beginning at the Jordan River progressing north and northeast to the headwaters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and then back down south to the rivers’ marshlands, eventually pouring into the Persian Gulf.  By 9500 B.C. man was cultivating wheat, flax, rye, peas, and other crops that brokered the way for cities, government, laws, and taxes; otherwise known as civilization.

The earliest civilizations are conveniently timed to the discovery of bronze around 2500 B.C.  Bronze tools and weapons, an amalgam of copper and tin, galvanized the rise of city-states and empires until the tin ran out in 1200 B.C., then the Dark Ages set in. Virtually every major city in the eastern Mediterranean was sacked and burned during the first 50 years of the advent of these interesting times, many to disappear from the map forever. The technology to smelt carbon steel brought a renewal of civilization during the Iron Age and the cementing of the Assyrian Empire–for awhile.

By the end of the Iron Age the bright lights of civilization have shifted from Mesopotamia to the northern shores of the Mediterranean; first settling into the Aegean peninsula around the 8th century B.C. before migrating to Rome in the 3rd century B.C.  By the 3rd century A.D. Rome was a spent force and the remnants of the empire shifted back to the eastern Mediterranean in Constantinople.

Christianity’s rise followed Rome’s decline through the Mediterranean. The rapid spread of Christianity is somewhat of enigma, as are other philosophies or religions such as Buddhism and Islam, but the prevailing thoughts are that church improved the lives of its followers and promised a way to life every after.

The authors, Drs Winks and Mattern-Parkes, professors of history at Yale and the University of Georgia respectively, have written a short history of the region that engrosses and enlightens without preaching.  If interested in the history of the Mediterranean from the Stone Age to Islam, this is quick read and is eminently readable.

 

Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015

W Schug 2015Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, North Coast, California, U.S.

100% pinot noir

13.8% alcohol

Purchased:  7 April 2017  –  $19.99

Opened:  19 April 2018

els:  9.0/10

James Suckling:  93

Wilfred Wong:  92

Tastings:  89

Cellar Tracker:  87

The US, when first discovered by the Vikings, was covered in vines and they named the area Vineland. Unfortunately the early settlers discovered that those vines produced a terrible wine. The effort to find a suitable vine for the US began in earnest in the 1600s with the introduction of the Mission grape to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico and Vitis vinifera to Virginia.  America’s first commercial winery was not established until 1798, finding its home in Kentucky.  Today the US is the 4th largest producer of wine in the world, behind Spain and ahead of Argentina, accounting for 8% of the world’s wine production. There are 89 regions in the country planting 129 prime varieties of grape. The country has almost 8000 wineries that produced 800 million gallons of wine in 2016.

The California wine industry was initially established by Spanish in the 18th century, planting the Mexican sourced “black grape” around their Catholic missions to be used for religious ceremonies and enjoying Californian sunsets.  The “black grape” or the Mission grape, was originally brought to the new world buy Hernan Cortes in the 16th century. It did nothing of note for the Aztecs but it dominated the state’s industry for almost 200 years.

California is far and away the largest grower and producer of wine in the country accounting for about 85% of US production.  The state still ranks as the 4th largest producer in the world just behind France, Italy, and Spain; without including the rest of country. There are over 600,000 acres of vines, 5900 growers and just shy of 4700 wineries in the state producing 285 million cases of wine in 2016. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most common wine varieties, accounting for about 90,000 and 85,000 acres planted, respectively. In 2016 the state had about 44,600 acres planted in Pinot Noir grapes.

The state has 5 main growing regions: Central Coast, Inland Valleys, North Coast, Sierra Foothills, and South Coast.  Within these 5 regions are upwards to 200 AVAs.  The AVAs  are defined by geography only; counties are automatically classified as an AVA without further registration with the federal government.  85% of the grapes used on an AVA that’s smaller than a county, must be grown there but there are no restrictions on what grapes or amounts that can be used. If it is a county labeled AVA only 75% of the grapes need to come from that area.

The North Coast region, just north of San Francisco, includes the counties of Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano. The area stretches 100 miles, north to south, and about 50 miles east to west. From Clear Lake on the eastern boundary to the Pacific Ocean on the western edge, the area includes the valleys just north of the San Francisco Bay to the North Coast Mountains in the northern part of the region. The North Coast contains almost half of all the state’s wineries spread over 3 million acres with more than 130,000 acres dedicated to vineyards within 50 smaller AVAs. The predominate grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Sonoma County wine history dates back to the early 1800s when a Catholic priest established a vineyard around the San Francisco Solano Mission which is now in the city of Sonoma. By the early 1920s the county boasted 20,000 acres of vines and 250 plus wineries. Prohibition knocked Sonoma’s wine industry down to a shadow of its former glory and it took almost 60 years for the county to recover from that social experiment.

Sonoma County has a rich, heterogeneous geography of mountains and valleys that present a profusion of soils and climates that make the French landscape look like vanilla pudding.  The area’s soils are heavily influenced by volcanism along the county’s eastern boundary in the Mayacamas Mountains.  The volcanoes include the Plio-Pleistocene aged Mount St. Helena and Hood Mountain which, among others, spiked the surrounding soils with ash and other wine-loving volcanic ejecta. The climate of the area is a product of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean which has endowed the area with foggy mornings, warm days, not too hot, and cool nights.

Sonoma County is the North Coast’s largest AVA, about 50 miles on a side, containing more than third of North Coast region’s grape acreage, along with 1800 growers, and 400 wineries. The county grows 66 varieties of grapes on 60,000 acres but just 7 of these account for about 90% of all the wine produced.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the top 3 grapes grown. The area produces about 6% of California’s total wine production versus 4% for Napa.

The county is further subdivided into 3 large AVAs loosely based on geography: Northern Sonoma, Sonoma Coast, and Sonoma Valley with each of these containing an additional 15 distinct AVAs within their borders. These include:  Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Carneros Sonoma, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Fort Ross-Seaview, Fountaingrove District, Green Valley, Knights Valley, Moon Mountain District, Petuluma Gap, Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Mountain. Petuluma Gap was granted AVA status in 2018.

Sonoma Coast, awarded AVA status in 1987, has about 2000 acres planted in vines and around 10 wineries. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most planted variety in the AVA with Syrah coming in third. The climate in this area is cooler and wetter than the rest of the county with lots of fog.

Pinot Noir, native to the Burgundy region of France, is a cool climate, thin-skinned, fussy grape. It is a popular drinking wine, ranking as number 10 in the world by acreage. France and the US are the largest growers of the vine, each with about 75,000 acres under cultivation out of 215,000 acres worldwide. The grape produces a garnet to ruby colored wine with low tannins and medium-body.  The low tannins generally mean it does not age well but that property can be quite unpredictable. Young wines have aromas of cherries and raspberry but older wines tend to acquire more earthy smells.

Schug Carneros Estate Winery, a family operation, with strong wine-making roots in Germany has been making North Coast Schug wines since 1980. In 1989 the family purchased 50 acres in the Sonoma part of the Carneros Sonoma AVA from which winery has grown to its present form of old world tradition and new world wine-making techniques.

This Pinot Noir is sourced from several owned and non-owned vineyards in the Sonoma Coast AVA area including: 29% Ricci, 16% O Tirado, 13% Stage Gulch, 5% Schug Estate, 4% Sangiacomo, 15% Russian River, 14% Sonoma-Carneros. The grapes were harvested from 24 August through 19 September 2015.

After harvesting, the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks with pump over occurring 2-4 times daily, followed by malolactic fermentation in neutral oak casks. Aging was in neutral French oak barrels.  The wine was released for sale on 1 October 2016.

A dark garnet color with aromas nuts, chocolate, cherry and a hint of oak.  A spicy medium-bodied wine with a medium finish.

We enjoy Pinot Noir as a sipping wine, indulging in them in the late afternoon, slightly chilled, with a plate of sliced fruits and chocolates nearby to provide some contrasting tastes to this fruity wine.

An outstanding wine at a fair to good price. It should last until 2019-2021. Decanting this wine did it a world of good.

$16.99-29.00 wine-searcher.co

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