Invino: A Tale of Customer Service

Octavia Pinot NoirSome years ago my brother-in-law and I took something of a deep dive into the world of wine. It started with a monthly club membership that got us trying new things as a matter of routine.  The came some classes. Then some more classes. Then a test. He took still more classes. You get the picture.

We have both purchased wine from various online sources. I tried wine.woot.com. He tried Lot18. Last year Lot18 stopped shipping to Texas. This influenced my initial move to try Invino.com. I’ve placed a few ordered with them in the last 6 months. I’ve been pretty happy with the profile of their offering. It’s well matched to my tastes and budget.

Having earned my confidence earlier,  on January 3rd I rather impulsively ordered a case of 2009 Octavia Pinot Noir (Wine Searcher Listing) that was offered at a rather  modest $99/case, including shipping. That’s seriously inexpensive, a fact that would certainly temper my expectations.

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Halloween 2013

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Halloween 2013, a set on Flickr.

Here’s a gallery of 140 pictures from Halloween 2013. Many thanks to everyone who helped to make it both spooky and sweet.

A New & Improved Michael

WSET-Level2-LogoIn the spring I decided to do something different. Just for fun I decided to signup for more formal training in wine appreciation. After a couple of years off occasionally taking casual classes at The Texas Wine School  I signed up for the more formal Wine & Spirit Educational Trust Level 2 Award, aka WSET 2.

I undertook this adventure along with my brother-in-law, Fred Salumunek. The WSET 2 classes took six weeks to complete, including a written exam. I happy to announce that I passed “with merit” and Fred passed “with distinction.”

Fred and I dove into wine as an area of interest at about the same time.  It’s funny, back then I had decided to sign up for Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV monthly wine club. That meant a monthly shipment of wines, to be tasted while viewing a recorded tasting online. It was a way to force us to try different wines, and hopefully come to appreciate them. Our first time was in April 2009.

Back then we both such simpletons. Now we’re truly wine-soaked simpletons. Now we are not only certifiable, but actually certified.

The very fact that we’ve gone through this schooling allows me to use the WSET logo that you see here. It remains unlikely that I will ever devolve into a wine blogger, but I thought it fun to use it at least this once.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon.

Hey, Houston! Help Make This Happen!!

There’s a relatively new effort to create a Maker Space for Houston. I’m very excited about this. It’s been a long time coming.

I’d love to partake of some of the activities that would happen in and around a maker space. I could even see it becoming a base for certain community groups, from jewelry makers to textile artists and welder to kite builders. It can only just be one thing…awesome!

There’s a campaign to raise a modest amount of funds to get started. The money will be used to secure a location in the east end of the city, renovate and equip it to get started. Their plans for co-working space could be an excellent opportunity for SOHO dwellers looking for a change of scenery or a little inspiration over coffee.

A Swallowtail Butterfly Time Lapse

This past week we’ve come to have a number of swallowtail butterfly chrysalis in the back yard. I thought it would be nice to capture the process of one of them emerging into the world. To that end I setup our Audubon Birdcam nearby, setting it in time lapse mode. After a couple of days of waiting here’s the result.

The Birdcam was capturing one 5 MP image every five seconds. This sequence is frame 3700 to 4200 in the series. The source images were loaded into Premiere Pro to be down-res’d, repositioned and played back at slower speed. The final result rendered out as a 720p HD clip about one minute long.

Sebastiani’s Cabernet Week Hangout

Did you know that this week was Cabernet week? That caught me by surprise as well. Somewhere in the Twitterverse I got wind of Sebastiani planning a Google+ Hangout with Mark Lyon, Head of Winemaking. As a Sebastiani club member for the past several years, and fan of their Cherryblock Cabernet, I thought it would be worth sitting in on the session.

I was somewhat surprised to be the only one in attendance.

In the course of the conversation I learned that they had a 2009 vintage of their Secolo. We had really enjoyed an earlier release of Secolo, which is an affordable red wine blend. I ‘ve come to wonder which I would appreciate more as a Wednesday night glass; the Alexander Valley Cabernet or Secolo?

There’s only one was to find out. The experimental method! All in the name of science of course.

Magic Beans From Canada

Tim-Horton's-Coffee-BeansOne of my last major projects working for Pixel Power was an installation at WBNS in Columbus, Ohio. I was reminded of this project, which started in August 2012, when I saw that it was recently written up in TVTechnology.

Columbus, Ohio is notable for being the corporate HQ for Wendy’s International. As a Canadian living in the US I’m also mindful that Wendy’s once owned the Tim Horton’s coffee chain that is a long-time Canadian institution.

One of the treats I stumbled into during several weeks in Columbus was the location of a Tim Horton’s very near to WBNS. It became my daily stop on the way in to work.

In my pre-caffeinated stupor one morning I happened to glance around the store and see that they were selling coffee, including bags of whole bean coffee. Further, it was offered at a decent price…cheaper than nominal beans from our local supermarket. I brought back several pounds in my luggage that trip.

Tim Horton’s doesn’t make it as far south as Texas. In fact, although they are reputed to have over 500 stores in the US, they don’t seem to stray too far from the Canadian border.

While invoking my morning grind yesterday I was reminded that coffee beans don’t last forever. I would soon run out of the Gevalia Whole Bean Coffee that I’ve been using most recently.

I’m not much of a shopper. This, and the fact that we’re a one-car family, has driven me to shop online for most things. In fact, I’m a big fan of Amazon’s Prime program. So as a lark I grabbed my Nexus 7 and put “coffee beans” into the Amazon app.

Imagine my surprise when I found that Amazon sells Tim Horton’s Coffee, in whole beans, in 2 pound bags cheaper than I can  buy similar goods at the local supermarket. I executed the patented one-click order and got me some Timmy’s to be delivered. All the way to Texas.

It’s like a little bit of Canada being lobbed over the fence. What an unexpected treat.

Rover Realized in Miniature

I’ve long been a big fan of The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan’s 1967 spy series. One of the strange an interesting feature of the program was a robotic security device known simply as “Rover.” Rover was basically a weather balloon that rolled along the ground or water. Rover was dispatched to fetch people trying to escape from The Village. It seems to me that Sphero has the potential to be a 3” Rover.

I wonder if this could be used to add a new layer of spooky/creepy to our Halloween presentation? It would be really cool to see a herd of them behaving like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

A Little Gratuitous Coffee Porn

That’s about all I can think of to describe the Scanomat TopBrewer. Just $4300. Fortunately, Scanomat products are not currently available in North America.

Amazon & I Have Confused Our David Wilcox’s

Dual-David-WilcoxWhen I was in college I lived in a large student housing co-op in the middle of downtown Toronto. It was dominated  by students from what was then called Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (RPI.)

While I did not attend RPI officially, I attended numerous social functions on the campus. It was there that I was introduced to David Wilcox, one of Canada’s leading blues/rock guitarists. True to the tales of my beer-soaked room-mates, his live show was awesome.

A few years ago I was filling some holes in my music collection and started to seek out some David Wilcox titles. By then I was living in the US and found that south of that border there is another David Wilcox that is a prominent American fold singer and songwriter. He’s not the blues guitar master of his Canadian counterpart, but he is a very good songwriter nonetheless.

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